Detective Carlton Lassiter had been more than a little irritated when Shawn Spencer, their supposedly psychic police consultant, had connected the dots between five seemingly random deaths. Three of which the Santa Barbara police department hadn't even known were homicides until Spencer had one of his 'visions'.

Each of the victims had been carefully posed like the cover art on a series of bad, pulp detective graphic novels. How Spencer had figured that out, Carlton had no idea and that was very irksome. Especially since knowing this signature had not prevented their killer from adding two additional bodies to his/her tally.

He/She had even begun tweaking his/her MO by sending several letters and threats to them. Everyone in the department was on alert, though the killer had, of course, chosen to focus on Spencer and those close to him. Chief Vick had sent her husband and daughter out of state to visit family, while Henry Spencer had begun carrying his service weapon again.

Which actually might have been of some use if the elder Spencer had accompanied O'Hara, Spencer Jr, Guster and himself to the old Snorkson Shipping and Receiving warehouse. They had been following one of Spencer Jr.'s hunches and, of course, stumbled upon the killer, who, unfortunately, had several intended victims to use as hostages.

"Your weapons! Drop them!" The psycho (and really, psycho was the proper term, because what self respecting serial killer committed his crimes while wearing a Little Orphan Annie costume? Carlton had seen a lot of disturbing things over the course of his career, but this one ranked pretty high on his list.) screeched, holding a bound woman in front of himself, a human shield O'Hara and Carlton couldn't shoot through.

Little Orphan Nutball also had a Magnum pointed at a large gas tank to which two crying children were lashed.

Crap.

"Look, you're caught, why don't you…." O'Hara began, but was cut off by the Bozo wig wearing freak.

"No, you look! Either you two put down the weapons and kick 'em away or the last thing you see will be those two little sweeties turning into a fine, pink mist."

The way he said it, Carlton knew he wasn't joking, hell, he sounded like it was something he was looking forward to. Sick weirdo. "Damn it!" Carlton cursed, knowing they really had no choice. They just had to hope back up would arrive before anyone got shot.

As he and O'Hara began slowly lowering their weapons, Spencer began to talk. "See, guns down, no need for anyone to blow anything up. Love the costume by the way. Brave choice not to wax you legs. An anti-patriarchal oppression homage, perhaps? And why Little Orphan Annie?"

"You're the psychic," Little Orphan Asshole sneered and Carlton knew what was coming next. Not that he was psychic, but they'd all heard it before. "Why don't you tell me?"

Spencer looked the Nutjob in the eye and touched the fingertips of one of his raised hand to his temple. "You grew up in state care. Always yearning for someone to save you, to take you away from that life. But your Daddy Warbucks never came, so you had it rough, grew up to hate those who were dealt a better hand. All your victims…they were adopted and you were left behind. Being Annie gives you power, makes you strong, cause she got all the things you didn't but knew you wanted…."

Again Carlton wondered how Shawn seemed to always pull something like that out of his ass at the last moment, but the inarticulate bellow of rage from Little Orphan Idiot let them know the fake psychic was not far off the mark.

"Shut up, Shawn!" Guster hissed urgently, as usual trying to instill some sense of reason in Spencer. It rarely worked.

"I think things would work out better for everyone if you…." O'Hara again tried to use her soothing, talking to psychotic people voice, but this particular weirdo was too close to the edge. By speaking, she startled him and he swung his weapon around to get a bead on her.

A single shot rang out.

The woman being used as a shield screamed, though her gag somewhat muffled her, though Guster's accompanying wail was loud and clear.

A body fell to the floor.

Carlton blinked as Spencer bolted forward, kicking Little Orphan Deadie's gun away from his now slack fingers. A deadly Smith & Wesson M&P was held in the psychic's hand, grip practiced and precise, one that would make any academy graduate proud.

As was the clean tap between the eyes that had put their killer on the ground.

"Everyone okay?" Spencer asked as Carlton and Juliet swung into motion, retrieving their own weapons and getting to work. O'Hara went to the sobbing woman as Guster rallied his nerves and made his way to the children, carefully avoiding the cooling body on the floor.

Carlton moved quickly towards Spencer, who continued to stand over Little Orphan Corpsie, weapon aimed, as still as Carlton had ever seen the younger man. When he got closer, he realized that, while the psychic's hands, tight on the pistol grip, were steady, the rest of his body was trembling slightly. Not one of his usual spastic fits, Carlton realized as several facts gelled in his brain.

Spencer had a gun.

Spencer was carrying a gun.

Spencer had shot the cretin.

It had been a hell of a shot and had probably saved their lives.

"Spencer," Carlton said, deciding to wait until later to process this new information that seemed so at odds with Spencer's usual behavior. In the distance, he could hear the wail of sirens. A little late. "What are you doing with a weapon?"

Possibly not the most pertinent question, but he had to ask. From their respective positions comforting the woman and children, O'Hara and Guster glanced over, clearly curious as well.

The fake psychic blinked, then looked at Carlton. "I killed him," Spencer said softly, suddenly taking a step back from the body, weapon falling to his side. The detective followed the motion, saw the way Spencer automatically set the safety, saw the ease with which he held the gun at his side.

Clearly he was comfortable with the weapon but not with having actually used it to harm another human being.

Why should he be? He was a civilian.

"I can see that," Carlton said, pulling an evidence bag from his pocket and took a step towards Spencer. "I'm going to need to take your weapon. For the OIS investigation."

Spencer wasn't an officer, but he worked for the department, so Carlton assumed the same rules applied.

Without hesitation, Spencer placed the weapon in the bag. "It was the only shot," he said faintly, wide eyes still staring past Carlton at the still form on the floor. "He was gonna shoot Jules."

Finding himself in the odd position to feel sympathy for the psychic, Carlton nodded, "I know. It was a hell of a shot."

No pithy comment about the compliment followed, which was vaguely unnerving, and Carlton was thankful that, at that moment, a dozen officers, Chief Vick and Spencer Senior poured into the building.

"Detective Lassiter, report!" Vick demanded as she and Henry approached, most of the officers fanning out to clear the building while McNabb and another hurried over to gather the woman and children to take them to the paramedics.

"We were following up on one of Spencer's leads," Carlton said briskly, "The suspect was here with three hostages. He used the woman as a shield to coerce Detective O'Hara and myself into laying down our weapons…."

"You put down your gun?" Henry Spencer asked sharply, looking away from his son, whom he had been eyeing curiously. He was, like Carlton himself, of the belief that an officer should never surrender his weapon. But there had been no choice.

"It's not like we wanted to!" Carlton snapped, not liking Henry's implication that he'd somehow failed to do his job. It seemed that, along with eerie investigative skills, the Spencer men were genetically inclined to annoy him. At least Spencer Jr. was less demeaning and judgmental.

"He would have killed us all, Dad," Shawn piped up, still strangely serious and grim. O'Hara and Guster joined their little circle, nodding to confirm what was being said. "That guy was on a rapid downward spiral about two seconds from crashing."

Henry's eyes darted back to his son, clearly aware of his progeny's out of character behavior. Vick's eyes, however, focused on the evidence bag dangling from Carlton's hand, more specifically on the weapon within.

Carlton saw a flash of comprehension cross her face. "Shawn," she began, voice kind but firm, "That's your weapon, isn't it?"

Vick was aware that Spencer Jr. was running around armed and had done nothing about it? The though was not entirely comforting. O'Hara and Guster seemed surprised to see the weapon, as did Spencer senior and he was the one who asked, "When did you start carrying that? And you know it's illegal for you to carry a weapon."

This at least shook Shawn out of whatever funk he was in and he proceeded to roll his eyes at his father. "I have a CCW permit," he huffed indignantly, some color returning to his pale features as he finally stopped staring at the body. "After the thing with Yang…the whole being-taunted-by-another-serial-killer thing became even weirder, so I started carrying a piece. Just in case."

"CCW permit?" Guster asked just as Carlton exclaimed, "Who would authorize that?"

"I did," Vick informed him, raising a brow as though challenging him to say something more. He could hear Juliet explaining that a CCW permit allowed a civilian to carry a concealed weapon. Of course, Carlton knew that but Guster would have no reason to.

"When did you get that?" Guster asked, somewhat indignant. "And why didn't you get me one?"

Shawn shrugged. "Not too long after we got our PI licenses. And you don't have one because I've seen you try to shoot. The thought of Iris with a gun scares me less."

Iris was the chief's three year old daughter and Carlton was fairly certain the little girl hadn't had any formal weapons training, so from that he could assume Guster was a terrible shot. Either that, or pre-pre-schools had added small arms use to their curriculum and little Iris was a good study.

"The suspect must not have thought Shawn would be armed and, after Lassiter and I surrendered our weapons, I was trying to talk to the man and he turned his weapon on me. Shawn got him first," O'Hara finished telling their little tale, picking up where Carlton had left off after being rudely interrupted. "It was a good shooting. Clean."

"It was," Carlton agreed. He might not like Spencer Jr., but it had been a clean shot, the only shot that could have been made to save O'Hara and possibly all of them. It wouldn't sit right with him if the fake psychic got into hot water with the OIS board over this.

Spencer Sr. looked torn between worry and pride. Worry because Shawn was clearly effected by having shot and killed a man and pride over his offspring's skill. Henry had probably taken his boy with him to the range while Shawn was still in diapers. Getting to know the older Spencer had actually provided Carlton with a lot of insight into why the younger Spencer was the way he was.

God only knew, if Carlton had been forced to deal with Henry on a daily basis during his formative years, he probably would have taken a sniper rifle up to the top of a clock tower long ago. Spencer's juvenile antics and general spasticity seemed to be a far less violent, but no less intense, a reaction.

"Come on, let's let the SOC guys do their jobs," Vick said, catching Shawn's elbow with her hand and leading him away from the rapidly cooling corpse of Little Orphan Wacky. Woody would be along soon to retrieve the body and conduct one of his usual, mildly stomach turning autopsies.

Not that Carlton was particularly squeamish around dead bodies, far from it, but the coroner ate in the same room as the deceased. He detective had once witnessed him set a hamburger down on the chest of a unknown, unwashed, vermin covered John Doe, then pick up the burger and continue eating as though nothing amiss had happened. That day, he'd almost followed Guster's example and los his lunch in one of the big basin sinks.

Once outside, Carlton said, "We should go interview the surviving victims." He glance over to where the woman and children, still clinging to McNabb, were being checked over by a paramedic. One of the little ones was still bawling and the other had her face hidden against the officer's blue shirt. They probably wouldn't be the most reliable witnesses. "Or maybe just the woman."

The chief nodded her approval and Carlton hooked O'Hara's arm as he passed, drawing her away from the huddle. Guster was telling Henry and the chief exactly what had gone down, with Shawn adding his opinion and occasional details, though the psychic was once again quieter than usual.

Several things had happened that day, the most obvious of which was the fact that a killer had been taken off the streets…though by a fatal bullet instead of the justice system. Either way, Carlton couldn't drudge up any sympathy for an animal that liked to ruthlessly murder innocent women and was about to add 'child killer' to his resume.

The other event, though far less pressing to the general public, was the revelation that Shawn was armed (legally and without Guster's knowledge, meaning the man had the wherewithal to fill out the proper forms, get them approved by the county sheriff and then inform Vick of his status. Not typically Spencer Jr. behavior, actually completing a multi-step task like that.) and a crack shot. Also, Spencer's gun, the one in evidence that had been handed off to one of the wind breakered SOC guys, was a fine weapon, not one to be handled by an amateur.

This was one of those occasions when Carlton had to wonder how much of Spencer's persona was an act and how much was real. Sometimes he felt like the younger man was putting on a play, for whose benefit Carlton would never know, but he figured no one cold get trough life with Henry for a father and be as…flaky as Spencer seemed to be.

For today, Carlton would let those questions o unanswered, but he swore to himself that someday… someday he'd figure out what Shawn's secrets were. Someday he'd know the whole truth.

Today he could be content with making Santa Barbara a safer place. Everything else could wait.