Lassiter Rides the Pineapple Express
Rating: M for male nudity, sexual situations, drug consumption and drug references.
Pairings: Shawn/Lassiter. Foreshadowing of Gus/Juliet. Tiny whisp of Shawn/Buzz.
Warning: Shassie. Hurt/comfort (if you construe being high as a form of hurt). Contains potential spoilers for Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Piece, Lassie Did A Bad Bad Thing and Poker? I Barely Know Her. Also has spoilers for the film The Breakfast Club.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Lassiter has eaten the wrong brownies. Shawn steps in to help a very stoned Lassie solve a murder at the Cancer Run.
Carlton Lassiter first noticed something was amiss when the air around him started to breathe. By the time he noticed that his body was floating he knew he was in serious trouble. At first he thought he might have sunstroke. It was a hot day, but he'd been slathering on sunscreen and staying hydrated. Despite this, he was definitely having dizziness and mental confusion, two key signs of sunstroke. He moved to the shade and finished the remains of his bottled water and tried not to think about what other medical emergencies might have the same symptoms.
It could be stroke or a heart attack. You need to see a doctor.
It was when he'd finally decided to make his way to the paramedic tent that he'd remembered the brownies.
Lassiter had been participating in the Cancer Centre Run every year since he'd first joined the force. Chief John Fenich had impressed upon him that a police officer had a calling to serve the community, and it didn't stop at the end of his shift. Lassiter had run in the 5-mile race that morning with The Flying Pigs, a running group organized by officers from the SBPD. Lassiter thought the name was ridiculous and unprofessional, but everyone else seemed to think it was cute and clever.
Despite the name on the registration sheet, he had enjoyed the run. His time had been good; a little over 35 minutes. It had also been his best fundraising year. Instead of the usual Cancer Run sweatshirt his pledge numbers meant he would receive a one-month membership to the Santa Barbara Athletic Club. He was already looking forward to checking out their cardio boxing classes.
His own achievement was overshadowed since one of the runners this year was celebrity chef Vince Gabriel. Lassiter wasn't impressed.
The man's an attention sponge, he thought.
Vince Gabriel's television show was all about healthy eating but what he was really selling was himself. With his blonde hair and veneered teeth he was as photogenic as an active lifestyle and millions of dollars could make him, and his happy tanned face smiled out from every magazine cover and newspaper. This week alone he'd been on three radio stations and a breakfast television show in addition to his own timeslot.
The guy was shameless.
Vince Gabriel was known as the Pickle King because his father and grandfather had made a fortune in the pickling business. He often finished his recipes off with a pickle, waxing enthusiastic about their low fat and calorie content, and their antioxidant qualities. To make things worse, Lassiter couldn't even feel good about disliking him. Vince Gabriel was also famous for being a philanthropist. He donated to hospitals and schools, but he also swooped down like a cash-wielding superhero to save the unfortunate and reward the deserving. He'd bought a new house for a family who'd lost theirs to an arsonist. He'd bought a new car for a man who dived into a river to save a drowning child.
Where was he when I got stuck with an outrageous hotel bill while investigating Grand Larceny and Homicide? Lassiter wondered.
This year Vince Gabriel was running the 10-mile race, doing interviews about cancer-fighting foods, and generally hogging the spotlight. He'd probably cross the finish line and pull a gigantic cheque out of his shorts. Lassiter couldn't fault him for being generous, but he hated the smug way he played up to the camera.
The Cancer Run isn't about self-promotion, Lassiter grumbled to himself. It's about raising money and awareness and morale.
That sounds like jealousy talking, his superego chided.
I am not jealous, he added defensively.
While the runners in the 10-mile race continued their route he hung around the refreshment tables drinking water and looking glumly at the food. It wasn't a bad spread. The sandwiches looked good. There were some interesting salads. But as he often did after a run, he really wanted something sweet. Lassiter examined the dessert table critically.
Great. Half a dozen kids are putting their germy fingers all over it.
A freckle faced boy licked the top of a lemon square and then ran around trying to touch the other kids with it before putting it back on the table. He watched another kid wipe his nose on his arm then touch all the cookies to select the one with the most chocolate chips.
Oh for crying out loud! He thought. That's it.
To quote one of his favourite movies, "If you're afraid of getting a rotten apple, don't go to the barrel. Get it off the tree."
Lassiter turned and made his way to the catering tent. It was deserted. Everyone was out watching the Pickle King run. A long table held trays of savoury edibles covered in plastic wrap. Along one canvas wall a small refrigerator was plugged into a park outlet. Lassiter opened it and looked inside. There were trays of hors d'oeuvres, and Nanaimo bars.
Stupid Canadian squares. He still remembered how a Nanaimo bar had ruined the end of the Police Benevolent Fund Dinner for him two years ago. His lips had swollen up like balloons before he'd reached the hospital. Although Burton Guster had tried to convince him that an authentic Nanaimo bar recipe doesn't use mint, Lassiter wasn't about to risk it.
Is it too much to find a classic old-fashioned brownie around that hadn't been groped or licked by half a dozen children?
Lassiter spied a small foil-wrapped package down in the crisper. It had a white label stuck to it that said "P. McSweeny" in a loopy feminine hand. He unwrapped it and looked inside. It was brownies. Beautiful dark chocolately fudge brownies. He hesitated, and his conscience had an argument with itself.
This feels like stealing.
No, this isn't stealing. They're all going out to the refreshment table after the second race finishes. We're just getting to them early.
That argument doesn't apply to Christmas and it shouldn't apply to food.
But there are extenuating circumstances. Those kids have touched all the food.
These brownies have someone's name on them. You wouldn't take something from the fridge at work with someone's name on it, would you?
That's ridiculous. Who has brownies for lunch? P. McSweeny is probably a fluffy haired elderly woman who baked them from scratch and donated them to the Cancer Run.
He was about to take an appreciative sniff when he heard someone pulling back the tent flap. Panic made the decision for him. He pulled off a square and quickly stuffed it into his mouth. Franticly chewing, he re-wrapped the foil and dropped the package back in the crisper. As three women in aprons entered the tent Lassiter left through the back door flap. He wandered through the park, killing time waiting for the race to finish. O'Hara was running the 10-mile for the first time. They had agreed to go to Willie's Crab Shack afterwards with some of the other Flying Pigs.
Looking back, the brownie had tasted off. But he'd been so preoccupied with exiting the tent that he hadn't really thought about what that meant. Now, as he examined the strange floating sensation and the suddenly living condition of the air around him, it all became disturbingly clear. He had been dosed with something—probably marijuana. He quickly manoeuvred away from the crowd and down a trail past some large evergreens to a secluded area and sat at a picnic table. The plan, if he could be said to have one, was to sit quietly and wait for the effects to pass. He was in no shape to walk, and he certainly couldn't drive anywhere. He clung to the rough wood of the picnic table. The world seemed to be spinning slowly in a circle around him.
Is it possible, he wondered, that I'm feeling the rotation of the planet?
That's ridiculous, he assured himself. You're just high and imagining things.
He reviewed what he remembered reading about marijuana in university. Effects could include auditory and visual hallucinations, confusion, amnesia and paranoid delusions.
Great. How can I tell the difference between paranoia caused by the drug and the paranoia I'd naturally feel about being caught high as a kite at the Cancer Run? He'd just have to be on his guard.
Suddenly he became aware that someone was standing behind him. He turned on the seat, forced his head up and willed his eyes to focus. The sun had emerged from behind the clouds and framed whoever it was as a dark shadow against a bright burst of light. Even with his sunglasses on, it was impossible to make an ID. He shielded his eyes with a hand and waited for the brightness to fade. When it did he saw the smiling face of Shawn Spencer.
Spencer. Great. Now my day is perfect. I hope this is a hallucination.
Lassiter wondered how long Spencer had been standing there. He was having trouble judging the passage of time. He seemed to be trapped in an everlasting present tense.
"Hey Lassie. Nice race this morning. You made good time." Shawn was drinking a smoothie and bouncing slightly in place. He just radiated suppressed energy.
Was he always like this? Lassiter wondered.
"Thanks, Spencer." He hoped that he had responded in a timely fashion and sounded less panicked than he felt. "You didn't run?"
"Naw. I've got a highschool football injury that prevents me from doing marathons."
"I didn't know you played football in highschool." I thought you just put the uniform on to prance around trying to impress O'Hara.
"I didn't. I was hit by a football while trying to rewire the scoreboard to display a picture of B.J. and the Bear."
"I remember that show. The Bear was a monkey." Lassiter laughed at the memory.
Shawn looked at him quizzically and took a sip from his smoothie.
"Those are some short shorts, Lassie. You're breaking my brain. It's like seeing the Queen in a bathing suit."
Is it my imagination, Lassiter wondered, or did Spencer's gaze linger on my legs? He shook his head. Ridiculous.
Lassiter looked at Shawn. He was wearing jeans and a green plaid shirt over a light brown t-shirt. It made him look like rumpled laundry. Did the man even own an iron? He was also wearing some kind of a small beaded necklace. Is it significant or merely decorative? Spencer doesn't wear it all the time. Then he wondered why any part of his brain remembered how often Spencer wore jewellery.
"I didn't know you could go this long out of uniform," Shawn said. "I thought you'd have been home, showered and back here in the suit and holster by now."
"No such luck." Lassiter said. "I'm supposed to meet up with O'Hara and…" He paused. He could not say the ridiculous name of the SBPD's running group in front of Shawn Spencer but his brain couldn't think of a suitable substitute for the term Flying Pigs.
"—and…the Flash?" Shawn jumped in to complete the sentence when Lassiter paused.
"—and the Muffins?"
"What? No." Lassiter looked at Shawn and furrowed his brow. Was Spencer even making sense?
"—and then there's Maude? Come on Lassie, throw me a bone here."
"…and the rest of the SBPD runners. We were supposed to meet for dinner." Lassiter clenched his jaw. He'd have to find some excuse for getting out of that commitment. Ideally an excuse that didn't mention the words 'high' or "stoned.'
"That sounds like fun."
"I'm not going to go." He turned a sour look in the direction of the catering tent, although it wasn't visible from their location. "Something came up."
Like I don't know if I'll still be breaking Penal Code 647F, Being intoxicated in a public place. Although I may have a good argument that I don't meet the "willingly ingested" requirement.
"Gus is running the 10 mile. We're going to go get dinner afterwards. Wanna come with?"
"No thank-you. I'm fine."
"Delicious jerk chicken." Shawn made the disturbing orgasmic sounds that Lassiter assumed were meant to imitate the enjoyment of jerk chicken.
Lassiter licked his lips. He had eaten pasta for breakfast, in preparation for the race, but that seemed like a long time ago now. Jerk chicken sounded really good.
No! Lassiter shook his head to clear his drug-addled mind. I am not going for chicken. I am going to go home as quickly as possible. And if I make it home without humiliating myself or ruining my career then I'll order pizza.
"I said no, Spencer. Now turn around and walk away." He illustrated the order with a twirl of his finger.
Lassiter felt a pang of guilt for being so mean without the usual provocation, but this was an emergency. He needed to get rid of him before he…did whatever it was that he did that enabled him to know things…and revealed it all to everyone within shouting distance. His gut clenched at the thought of it.
Shawn cocked his head curiously. Lassie wasn't usually this abrupt, even when he was annoyed. Something was definitely up. He walked over to Lassiter and pulled the sunglasses from his face.
"Hey!" Lassiter protested and made a half-hearted swipe at him, but Shawn jumped back, just out of reach.
Then Shawn looked, and he saw. Lassiter was licking his lips, beneath his heavy lids his pupils were dilated and his eyes were bloodshot. Also, he looked like he was having a panic attack.
"Whoa…you been smoking a little Pineapple Express there, Lassie?" Shawn was half joking. While the symptoms were there, he knew Lassiter wasn't the type to get high recreationally, particularly in a public park during a cancer fundraiser.
"I haven't smoked anything, Spencer. Go away." Lassiter crossed his arms defensively, realized how Spencer might interpret that, then uncrossed them and tightly gripped the edge of the picnic table seat to keep his arms from moving. This did not communicate tranquillity and composure.
"I used to work at a Ben and Jerry's, Lassie. I can spot someone who's high when I see them." He waved a hand, "Or at least when I see them cleaning out the entire stock of Half Baked."
Shawn closed the space between them and placed a hand, palm downward, onto Lassiter's chest. His heartbeat was pounding.
"Come on. Level with me. You look like you're having a serious meltdown."
Shawn had switched to his rarely seen serious face. He also hadn't removed his hand. Lassiter could feel the heat from it radiating through him. He was suddenly aware that his whole body seemed to be tingling. He grabbed his sunglasses and put them back on. He wanted to yell at Shawn to go away. But it had also occurred to him that Shawn might actually be able to help.
You can't ask Shawn for help. He's irresponsible and unreliable and can't keep his mouth shut. All of Santa Barbara would know about this within an hour.
He's been helpful before. He trusted us when that whole Drimmer situation went down.
Fine. Tell Spencer. But don't say I didn't warn you when it all goes to hell.
Spencer's not so bad. It could have been worse. Chief Vick could have found me.
He looked around to ensure they were still alone, then motioned Shawn closer. Shawn sprang lightly off the ground, sat on the picnic tabletop and loomed over him. Lassiter could smell his cologne, hair paste, and a hint of fresh sweat. His breath smelled like fresh pineapple.
"What's up? Did your ceramic elephant lamp not light when you pulled the trunk?" Shawn's seriousness was gone again. Lassiter wondered if he had imagined it.
"I ate some brownies from the catering tent." Lassiter took a deep breath and steeled himself for the onslaught of teasing he knew would come. "And I'm pretty sure they were dosed with marijuana."
Here comes the mocking, Lassiter thought. But Shawn didn't say anything. The lack of response was almost worse. Lassiter felt like he should fill in the silence, but everything he thought of to say was transparently defensive.
They were just there in the fridge without any kind of warning on them. Just out where innocent people could accidentally eat them. And the other desserts were all being manhandled by grubby kids. And what kind of a person brings pot brownies to a Cancer fundraiser?
"Oh oh oh! I know this one." Shawn flailed his arms excitedly. "What is a person with Cancer?"
Lassiter looked at Shawn with a confused stare, which was almost invisible behind the sunglasses. Only his furrowed brow gave him away. He hadn't realized that he'd spoken out loud until Shawn responded. Oddly enough the knowledge that he was speaking without meaning to was less disturbing than the other possibility—that Shawn had somehow read his thoughts. Even stoned, Lassiter didn't believe Shawn's psychic act.
"You did want the answer in the form of a question, Jeopardy style, don't you?" Shawn asked.
"How long do I have to wait before this stops?" Lassiter asked him.
"When did you eat it?" Shawn was smiling.
"Just after the 5-mile race." Lassiter decided he preferred the amused look to the serious look. If his predicament was bad enough to wipe the smile off Shawn's face then he was really in trouble.
"You'll probably be fine again in four hours or so." Shawn put his arm around Lassiter's back and clapped his hand on the detective's shoulder reassuringly. It sent a warm vibration throughout his body that meshed with the tingling.
This would almost be sort of pleasant, Lassiter thought, if I wasn't stuck in a public park surrounded by co-workers and members of the public.
Then the meaning of what Shawn had said sunk down into his consciousness.
Four hours?" Lassiter almost yelled it. " I can't just sit here for four hours." No wonder drug addicts never get anything accomplished.
"That's for sure." Shawn laughed. "It'll probably feel like four days. Still, it could be worse. You could have eaten brownies laced with acid. Or shrooms. Can you put those in brownies?"
"How would I know?" Lassiter grumbled.
"Well, Spicoli, you are the only one of us who's stoned."
"I need to go home." Lassiter fumbled in his pocket for his car keys and looked at them with resignation. "I hate to ask, Spencer, but can you drive me home?"
"No problemo. I'll plunk you down on the sofa and we'll watch Zoolander. You'll like it. It's very colourful. And then I'll do your makeup so you can hook up with the captain of the wrestling team."
So much of what Shawn said on a normal day made no sense to him, so the fact that he had no idea what Shawn was talking about now seemed almost reassuringly normal.
"I…don't think I can move."
"Sure you can, Lassie." Shawn jumped to the ground. He grabbed Lassiter by the arm and pulled him to a standing position. Clinging to Shawn's arm in what he hoped was a casual fashion, Lassiter moved as swiftly as possible toward his car. They hadn't gotten far before the sound of shouts and people running sounded nearby.
"That's odd," Shawn said. "It's too early for the run to be over."
Just then Juliet O'Hara came around the corner. She was still wearing shorts and a t-shirt but now also had her badge and gun. She was looking around frantically and making a call on her cellphone.
"Lassiter! Thank God." She approached them breathless and flushed and put her phone away. "I've been trying to reach you." She looked curiously at Lassiter's hold on Shawn. Lassiter dropped the arm and tried to act nonchalant.
"My cell's in the car," he said. "What's up?" Please oh please don't let this be something that will interfere with my going home.
"Vince Gabriel collapsed partway through the run. He's been rushed to hospital. We just got word he's been poisoned."
"Poisoned?" Oh what wonderful timing! What have I done to deserve this?
"Yeah," O'Hara said. "It looks like one of the water volunteers might have tried to kill him."
Lassiter thought back. Remembering the run was almost like reliving it. He could recall the hot sun, the feel of the pavement under his runners, and the cooling breeze. He remembered feeling excited about the time he had shaved off his previous years run. Every half-mile there were tables where volunteers filled paper cups with water and passed them to the runners. The poison could have come from anywhere.
"Has anyone else been poisoned?" he asked, bringing himself sharply back to the present. This could get very nasty, he thought. Staying hydrated during a race was essential, and volunteers had been providing water for years. If this poisoner wasn't caught people might be afraid to enter future marathons.
"No, it doesn't look like it," O'Hara said. "Two other people collapsed but the paramedics have confirmed they had sunstroke. One woman was taken to hospital but she was hit by an ice truck. No sign of other poisonings."
"So it looks like Vince Gabriel was targeted," Lassiter said. This was good news. A suspect with a grudge would be easier to find than one who simply poisoned at random.
"That's crazy," Shawn said. "Who'd want to hurt the Pickle King?"
Anyone with a television or a radio, Lassiter thought. Out loud he asked, "Is he conscious?" If he lived, Gabriel would be their best witness.
"Not yet," O'Hara said. "But they've promised to call me the minute he's awake."
"Good." Lassiter tried to ignore the sensations that were coursing through him. The breeze hitting his skin felt like it had a texture. If he could just get through this conversation, he could get home.
"In the meantime," he said, "we need to get the footage from every station that was covering the race. We need to see everyone who passed Gabriel a cup of water. Chances are good that our poisoner was caught on tape."
Lassiter hoped his words had come out properly. He was having trouble remembering the beginning of his sentence by the time he reached the end of it.
"Already on it," O'Hara said. "I've got Buzz and some unis gathering all the reporters and anyone with a camera. He's corralling them into the press tent by the park entrance."
"Good work, O'Hara. You go on ahead," he said. "I'll catch up with you in a bit."
"Okay." She looked confused, but turned and ran off.
Lassiter grabbed Shawn by the arm and pointed a finger at him.
"You know what I'd like, Spencer?"
"Yes, I do. You'd like a package of Ding Dongs and a bag of Funyuns. Maybe order a pizza to be delivered to your U.S. History class."
"No." Although now that he mentioned it, a Ding Dong did sound pretty good. "I'd like…" He had forgotten what he was going to say.
Quick, he thought, say something.
"I'd like to get a drink of water." This was true. His mouth was dry and parched. He felt like he'd been eating newsprint for a week. He looked around the park desperately. Didn't the city have water fountains anymore?
"Pineapple slurpee?" Shawn held out his bright yellow drink. The air had condensed on the cup and was slowly dripping down the sides.
It must be ice cold, Lassiter thought. He grabbed the drink and took a hard suck. It tasted sweet and soothing and was indeed very cold.
"Don't worry about backwash," Shawn said, bouncing in place again. "I have a low quantity of saliva production. So drinking my slurpee isn't at all like French kissing me. It's more like a chaste peck on the lips."
Lassiter finished the slurpee and dropped the container into a refuse bin.
"And now I'd like to go home," he said, pulling the keys from his pocket and dangling them in front of Shawn.
"No," Shawn said, laughing up at him. "You can't go home. You need to stay here and solve this thing." He grabbed Lassiter by the arm and tried to pull him in the direction of the press tent.
"I can't lead an investigation, Spencer," he hissed. "I'm high as a kite. "I'm in no condition to solve a crime." Maybe I could fake an accident. I could call O'Hara from home and claim to have sunstroke or say I've been hit by an ice truck.
"You can do it. I'll help you."
"You will? Why?"The paranoid part of him suspected that Shawn just wanted him to be exposed in front of his co-workers. He could almost see Shawn flopping around in that infuriating attention-seeking way he did, having a 'vision' that Lassiter was high.
"We're friends," Shawn said. "Amigos. Buds. You be Cheech and I'll be Chong."
"I don't want to be Chong." Although the idea that Shawn thought of them as friends did fill him with a warm fuzzy feeling. Or that feeling might be the weed.
"Why not? He's a musician, you know. He had a top 40 hit in the '60s."
"He's a felon." Lassiter suddenly noticed that they were walking again, arm in arm, toward the press tent. He felt like a balloon floating on a string held by Shawn.
"Yeah. The Justice Department spent twelve million bucks on Operation Pipe Dreams and all they did was arrest Tommy Chong. I'd seriously suggest someone audit those books. Do you have any connections at the IRS?"
"Are you babbling, Spencer?" he asked, irritated. "Because I'm too high to tell."
"You're right. Forget about the political persecution of Tommy Chong." Shawn fluttered a hand to clear the air of the topic. "Let's focus on this poison case first. You can do this."
"No. I can't," Lassiter said, stopping and digging in his heels. "I need to pass this off to O'Hara. Or at least someone who isn't under the influence of a controlled substance."
"Are you going to let a little THC kick your ass? No! You're SBPD's head detective."
More like pothead detective. Did Spencer even realize what would happen if it came out that he resumed duty while high? That wasn't wacky hi-jinks funny. That was career-ending serious.
"I've totally got your back on this." Shawn pulled him along again and Lassiter's body went with him although his mind really wished it wouldn't. They would be at the press tent in minutes. "Unless of course you want to tell Jules that you're high from stolen pot brownies." He looked expectantly at Lassiter. "And if you choose that second option I want to be there when you tell her."
"I can't have anyone knowing about this," Lassiter said in what he hoped was coming across as a stern tone.
"I'm like a vault of secrets, Lassie. Did I tell anyone about Gus' tangerine incident?"
"What tangerine incident?"
"Exactly. See? I'm a great secret keeper."
Shawn's phone rang, playing Freaky Behaviour by the Bar-Kays.
"Gus! Dude! I was just talking about you. Where are you?" He wrapped his arm tighter around Lassiter's to prevent him from wandering away. "Okay. We're heading there now." He laughed at whatever Gus was saying on the other end. "I know. I know." He shut the phone. "Gus is meeting us at the press tent."
"Do not tell him about this, Spencer, or so help me I'll dump your body in the water and claim it was a shark attack."
"Lassie! You're so sexy when you're homicidal."
Lassiter relinquished Shawn's arm and walked in what he hoped was a sober and serious manner toward the press tent. The area was a mass of reporters, media techs, spectators and runners. Officer Buzz McNab was guarding the door of the tent.
"Buzz! Buddy!" Shawn greeted him and performed a complicated handshake. "You made great time in the 5-mile today."
"Thanks Shawn. I got a sweatshirt too." Buzz grinned proudly and thrust out his chest to display the Cancer Run shirt handed out to participants who raised over $300.
"That's awesome." Shawn punched Buzz playfully on the shoulder and the big cop blushed.
Carlton rolled his eyes. Does McNab always act like a teenaged girl around Spencer? I've never noticed it before.
"Shame about this thing with Vince Gabriel," Shawn was saying. "Is Jules inside?"
"She is. Gus is there too. The 10-mile finished up a few minutes ago."
"If you're about finished flirting could we please solve this crime?" Lassiter grabbed Shawn by the shirt at the back of his neck and pushed him inside the tent.
I am not jealous.
O'Hara was at a table with a stack of papers and evidence bags containing video tapes, video discs and memory cards. She looked up as they entered.
"You're here!" she said.
Lassiter was pretty sure she meant 'Where the hell have you two been?' He groaned inwardly. Why did I think I would possibly be able to keep this situation from O'Hara? She's a detective. In fact, he looked around the tent at the milling uniforms, I've just walked into a space filled with people who made a living spotting clues and drawing conclusions. I am doomed.
A petite dark haired woman with a clipboard pushed herself in front of him. She reminded him strongly of his third grade teacher, Mrs. Pilgrim, a demanding and critical woman who smacked kids with a ruler for slouching or passing in messy work. On the positive side, he had developed good posture and penmanship.
"Are you Head Detective Carlton Lassiter?"
"Yes." Lassiter had never been more tempted to lie.
"I am Mr. Gabriel's personal assistant. I want assurances that none of the poisoning footage is going to be leaked to the press."
The best defence is a good offence.
"Right now all footage of the run is evidence in an attempted murder investigation," he said loudly. "So none of it should be going anywhere except with us. Anyone who doesn't cooperate will be charged with obstruction." He looked meaningfully around the tent and a few people came forward with tapes and put them on the table in front of O'Hara. "In case you don't know how serious that is, it carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison." Several more people handed their tapes to O'Hara.
He turned back to the Mrs. Pilgrim look-alike.
"After the investigation is closed you can fight it out with the media and the spectators over who owns the content of the tapes. But it's all footage of a public event and I don't like your chances."
"We have very good lawyers, Detective Lassiter." She pulled out her cell phone and stepped out of the tent.
O'Hara was talking. "I've heard back from the hospital," she said. "Vince Gabriel was poisoned with cyanide. They administered hydroxocobalamin."
"Hydroxycut?" Shawn looked at Gus. "That makes no sense. The guy's 5'10" and he only weighs what, 160lbs? How much skinnier do they want him to get"
"She said hydroxocobalamin," Gus said. "It's a form of vitamin B-12. It binds to the cyanide molecules and is then excreted in the urine."
"Okay," Shawn said, raising his hands to his ears, "Could the scientific explanations not include the word 'urine' from now on?"
"They think he's going to be okay," O'Hara continued. "He's still asleep. It'll take a while for him to ur…for his system to clean out the cyanide."
"So in the meantime we watch all this footage looking for our poisoner," Gus said.
Lassiter noticed that when he wasn't looking at Shawn, Guster was looking at O'Hara. The man was obviously infatuated with her. He had to admire the way he had insinuated himself into the investigation with the judicial use of the word 'we.'
"Must you be so sexist, Gus?" Shawn interjected. "It could be a poisoneress."
"Poisoner is a gender neutral term, Shawn."
"I've heard it both ways." He walked over and placed an arm on his friend's shoulder. Actually, Gus, I need you at the hospital."
"What? Why?" Gus looked as if he'd just been told that not only was he not going for ice cream, but also he'd have to stay home and do math problems while everyone else went.
"Come on buddy," Shawn begged, bouncing in place again and tugging on Gus' t-shirt sleeve. "I need your pharmaceutical know-how. You understand all the technical lingo and can explain it to me. Just try not to sound condescending when you dumb it down."
"I do not sound condescending," Gus said angrily.
Shawn pulled Gus aside and spoke in quick, hushed tones. The din in the tent was too loud for Lassiter to overhear, but Shawn kept looking over at him in a peculiar way.
I knew he couldn't keep his mouth shut, Lassiter fumed. They were probably laughing about it. Although Gus didn't look amused. He looked annoyed, and kind of exasperated. How that man puts up with Spencer is a total mystery.
When they returned to the table Gus gave Lassiter a glare.
What the hell was that look about? Lassiter wondered. He hadn't seen Gus make that face since he'd caught Lassiter talking to his sister.
"I'm glad to go to the hospital," Gus said in a tone that wasn't convincing anyone. "I'll let you know if anything vital comes up."
O'Hara cut in. "Since Shawn's here maybe he can help me interview some of the water volunteers. Read them for guilt."
"No." Lassiter cut in, hoping his voice didn't express the panic he was feeling. "I need Spencer with me. He's…uh…." His mind blanked and he could feel a sweat breaking out on the back of his neck as his panic level began to rise.
"I'm detoxifying his aura. It's all gummed up." Shawn made motions with his hands like spiders shampooing his hair.
Juliet made a face that even Lassiter could read as sceptical.
Maybe she doesn't buy every word that comes out of Spencer's mouth, he thought.
"Gummed auras can have serious side effects." Gus said solemnly. He looked at Shawn. "It could lead to life altering consequences."
"Relax, I know what I'm doing," Shawn said.
"I hope so," Gus said. "We wouldn't want anyone to get hurt, would we?"
"Okay. Fine." O'Hara said. "I'll interview the spectators and volunteers by myself." She began to pack up the stack of papers with short, aggressive movements.
"Before you go all Little Red Hen here," Shawn said, "I can assure you that the spectators and volunteers don't know anything."
"Really?" O'Hara and Lassiter both responded at once.
"Really." Shawn put his fingers to his temples and closed his eyes for a moment. "They know zip. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Big waste of time talking to them."
"Are you sure?" O'Hara asked. She wrinkled her forehead.
Lassiter felt proud of O'Hara for not letting Shawn steamroll her police instincts with his psycho-babble. Of course if they did have to interview all the volunteers they might be there all day and night.
"Do we have their names and addresses?" Lassiter asked her.
"Absolutely. But I thought since they're here, we might as well screen them for suspects or witnesses."
Shawn put a hand to the side of his head and tapped the evidence bags on the table with the other hand. "I have a strong psychic impression that what you need will be in the footage."
"These tapes are from a spectator's camcorder," O'Hara explained. "We've got more footage coming from the television stations. They'll courier it over as soon as it's been transferred."
"Great." Shawn stood next to Lassiter, well within his hula hoop of personal space. "I'll accompany Lassipants here home to change into something less comfortable. I'll quickly detox his aura. Then we'll meet you at the station for videos and crime solving." He clapped his hands together as if the matter were now settled.
Lassiter wondered why anyone ever believed a word Shawn said. It must be the hair, he thought. It distracts people while he talks, hypnotizing them with its wild spiky abandon.
Wild spiky abandon? Lassiter reflected lucidly on his thoughts, realizing how bizarre they were becoming.
He walked around the table and pulled O'Hara aside to speak privately. "Spencer is probably right. But just in case, have the unis screen them before they go and make note of anything important." He might be high, but he wasn't stupid.