Written for Shion during PF's Secret Santa Fic Exchange '09. Betaed by veggiewoppa.
Disclaimer: All recognizable content belongs to the creators and owners (Steve Franks, USA, and all them). No profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
"Open your eyes!"
Shawn obeyed with a groan. His head hurt, and he wanted nothing more than to just go back to oblivion. "You really need to work on your hospitality, dude. I've been here for over a day, and this is the first time I've seen anyone."
The man ignored him and produced a box of cigarettes and a lighter from his pocket.
Trying to ignore his parched throat, Shawn shifted his arms slightly, wincing at the pins and needles he felt. While he was glad to be sitting down, his muscles weren't too happy about the position they'd been forced to maintain for the past 24 hours.
He'd spent a large portion of his time studying his surroundings, trying to discover a way to escape. So far, he hadn't had any success. The room in which he was being held looked like a room in an old warehouse or something similar. Other than several piles of old packing materials strewn around the room, there was nothing in the space with him other than the chair on which he was sitting. It was backed against a pole in the center of the room, to which his hands were fastened above his head. His kidnapper had used a length of chain and threaded it through a metal loop that was bolted to the pole.
There was no chance of loosening his bonds in the slightest.
"I presume you know why you're here, Lou?" the stocky man asked, taking a drag on his cigarette.
Shawn cleared his throat. "Excuse me?"
"Don't play these games with me, Lou. I don't have time."
"I'd be happy to oblige, but I'm not Lou."
The man's face grew hard. He stepped closer and blew a smoky breath into Shawn's face. "I'm not in the mood for this!"
Shawn coughed as the cloud of smoke slowly dissipated. "Look, I can promise you. I'm not Lou – whoever he is. I'm Shawn Spencer. Check my driver's license!"
Sighing, the man yanked Shawn's arms up, forcing him up from the chair. He dug Shawn's wallet from his pocket and released him. Shawn fell back onto the seat, wincing in pain, as his captor opened the leather billfold.
"Huh." He held the license up, looking from it to Shawn and back again. "Isn't this your job, Lou? Starting people's lives over from scratch? I wouldn't be surprised if Shawn Spencer is either a really old geezer in a retirement home or dead."
"I object to that."
"Of course you do," the man waved his hand in the air. Blowing another cloud of smoke in Shawn's direction, he leveled a stern glare at him. "Tell me, Lou. Why?"
"Why'd you pick Santa Barbara for a base? Why not Las Vegas or Los Angeles or even Seattle. What's up with this place?"
Shawn took a deep breath. "Look, dude …"
"Dennis," the man corrected. "You should know that."
"I told you, I don't know who Lou is!"
Dennis stomped his foot in frustration. "I've spent too long hunting you down for this to happen. You owe me money. I want it now."
"No, I don't!" Shawn emphasized each word. Why couldn't this guy understand what he was telling him? "I'm not Lou!"
Dennis grunted in frustration, leaning into Shawn's face. "You had better tell me, or I will make things very bad for you." His stringy brown hair fell over his eyes, and the cigarette drooped from his teeth as he spoke.
Shawn found himself staring at the glowing end hanging from Dennis' mouth. He knew he should be paying attention to the other man's words, but something about it was intriguing.
Following his prisoner's stare, Dennis grinned evilly. Shawn felt quite unsettled at the look that entered the man's eyes.
When Lassiter saw Gus' name on his caller ID, he was tempted to ignore the call. His day had been going so well up to that point. He'd managed to close a robbery case, as well as make some progress in the murder case they were currently investigating.
The two consultants were supposed to have arrived right after lunch for a meeting the chief had called, but there had been no sign of them – until now.
Knowing he would regret it in one way or another, he pressed the talk button.
"Guster, you'd better have a good reason for not showing up for the meeting! The chief is quite irate with you two."
Gus thought Lassiter sounded happy with the statement he'd just made. "Shawn isn't there?"
"Of course not. Do you think the station would sound so peaceful if he were?"
"It's just … I haven't seen him since yesterday afternoon when we left the station. I'm getting worried."
"Doesn't he have a thing for running off with no advance notice?"
"Not in the middle of an ongoing investigation. Besides, he had plans for dinner at his dad's house last night, which he missed. For now, Mr. Spencer just thinks Shawn's avoiding him. They apparently had a fight recently."
"You are aware that we can't do anything for another day or so?"
"Officially, you can't. I know. But can't you look into it unofficially?" Gus' voice was filled with bridled hope.
"It's important, Lassiter. I think he's in trouble."
Lassiter had been right. He was regretting the conversation already. "Fine, fine. Do you know where he was last?"
"He was leaving Psych and made a comment about checking out a possible lead at the old warehouse Taylor owns."
Scribbling the information down in his notepad, Lassiter sighed. "I'll see what I can find out."
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Yeah, don't bug me. I'll call you."
Snapping his phone shut, Lassiter got up from his desk with a sigh. This was just the way he had planned on spending his afternoon – tracking down the station's most annoying consultant.
Shawn's startled, pain-filled scream was muffled by the hand Dennis pressed across his mouth. The man stepped back, and Shawn's chest heaved as he tried to quiet his breathing.
Tossing away the now-crumpled cigarette butt, not caring that it had landed inside an old cardboard box, Dennis studied his prisoner's face. Shawn's eyes were squeezed shut, and he was bouncing his leg up and down in an attempt to alleviate as much of the pain as he could.
"You liked that, didn't you? I can tell," Dennis cackled. He slowly pulled out another cigarette, staring at the small charred circle on Shawn's jeans, a contemplative look on his face.
He lowered the fresh one back towards Shawn's leg, chuckling as the other man jerked away. Before he could do anything more, the sound of a ringing phone filled the room.
Dennis pulled a cell phone from his pocket, mashing down a key and pressing it to his ear. "Yeah."
He listened for a moment, and Shawn could tell the party on the other line was the bearer of some bad news.
"They what?" he yelled into the mouthpiece. "Fine. Fine. I'll come over. Just give me five minutes." He ended the call and shoved the device back into his pocket.
Turning to Shawn, he smiled. "I have to go, but I'll be back soon. Don't you worry, Lou. We have a conversation to continue." He walked back to Shawn's chair, reaching over to rattle the chain.
Shawn grunted as his arms protested. They'd grown numb from the lack of blood, and the movement seemed to remind them of that fact.
His grunt turned into a scream as something burning hot touched his right arm. The pain lessened as it reached his elbow, and Dennis stepped back, taking another drag.
The man waggled the cigarette in his face. "Don't forget, Lou. I want my money."
With that, he walked out, slamming the door behind him.
As the echo made its way around the room, Shawn dropped his head to his chest and squeezed his eyes shut. There was nothing he wanted more than to forget the pain that felt like it was cutting through his limbs.
Fingering his keys, Lassiter walked over to Juliet's desk. "O'Hara."
She looked up, catching the tone of his voice. "What's wrong, Carlton?"
"I just got a call from Guster. Apparently Spencer went off on his own to investigate the case and disappeared."
A worried look crossed her face. "Why are we just now hearing about this?"
"You know Spencer," Lassiter said, as if it explained everything. "I wouldn't be surprised if he just ran off to have some fun, but Guster insists that he wouldn't leave a case."
"It doesn't really seem like him," Juliet nodded.
"Spencer may have gone to Taylor's warehouse to check out a lead, so we'll start there."
"Got it." Juliet followed him as he headed out of the station to his car.
When Shawn first smelled the smoke, he didn't think anything of it. After all, Dennis had lit up several cigarettes in the room. The smell of smoke was to be expected.
He ignored it and kept his eyes shut, trying to imagine something to keep his mind off of his plight. A sunny day at the beach, the seagulls screeching overhead, the sun's warm rays beating down on his upturned face ...
His imagination must be better than he thought. He could literally feel the warmth. But did the sun make that kind of noise?
His eyes flew open. There was no way that was his imagination.
The sight that greeted him was anything but comforting. Flames were beginning to crawl up one of the walls.
Shawn tugged at the chain, ignoring the pain that flared through his arms. Even the burns Dennis had given him seemed trivial now, compared to the prospect at hand.
It was bolted into the pole solidly. No matter how hard he tugged, he couldn't get the chain to budge an inch.
Meanwhile, the flames gathered a hold and began moving along the wall much more quickly. In hardly any time at all, they would spread to the two adjoining walls of the structure.
His panic began rising as he watched their progress. Then his survival instinct kicked in, and he twisted against the chains even harder than before, yelling for help as he did so.
This time, he felt a small movement. Hoping it wasn't just his imagination, he tugged again.
Nearly crying in relief, he realized the screw had started to loosen from all of his tugging. His arms protested again as he twisted his body to face the pole. It took some creative maneuvering, but he was finally able to do it.
Now, with his hands more or less in front of him, it was easier to study his bonds. Well, easy as it could be with a fire roaring around him.
His mind began screaming at him to GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT! That was easier said than done, however. His thoughts tripped over themselves as he tried to work out a way to get the hook unscrewed from the pole.
If it had been a normal hook, he could have just pulled his arms up and over, but this was different. This was one of those that was a full circle welded together and set atop a screw. The only way out was by unscrewing the entire piece.
Sweat was rolling down his face as he twisted his body around once, testing his idea of unscrewing the restraint. Much to his joy, the hook was now a little looser.
He twisted around again, this time a little faster. The progress motivated him even more, and he began twisting as fast as he could, loosening it even more.
Pausing to catch his breath, he yelled for help again before renewing his efforts.
Lassiter was trying not to look worried, but Juliet knew her partner. She could tell he was at least partly concerned about Shawn's wellbeing. For as much as he complained about the other man's antics, those who knew him well enough knew that the consultant held a special place in the detective's heart – even if he would never admit it to anyone.
They were still several blocks away when they saw the smoke. Concerned, Lassiter pressed the pedal harder. Juliet reached for the radio to call the fire department.
The car rounded a corner and the burning warehouse came into view. Screeching to a halt, the detectives threw open their doors. The hungry flames had already begun consuming the structure, rushing towards the sky.
A sound broke through the flames just then, causing them to freeze. They held their breaths, waiting to see if they heard it again.
There it was. Lassiter and Juliet recognized it at once.
"Shawn!" Juliet's eyes widened. "Carlton, he's in there!"
Her partner nodded grimly. He raced to the side of the building, searching for a possible way in.
Rounding the corner, he noticed with relief that the flames had only just begun to eat at the far wall. There was a door about a quarter of the way along the wall. He rushed to it, kicking it open when it wouldn't budge.
He covered his mouth with his sleeve as he entered, listening intently for another call.
Shawn was soaked with sweat as he turned the screw for what seemed like the billionth time. He'd thought the smoke from Dennis' cigarette was bad; this was a thousand times worse. It seemed to seep into every pore of his body.
His eyes burned and his throat ached. His calls for help were now so diminished he doubted anyone could hear them.
Not that anyone would hear them. Shawn was pretty sure Dennis wouldn't have left him without a gag if they were in a location where there were other people nearby.
To top it all off, the increasing temperature was causing the metal around his wrists to heat up. He tried to ignore it, but he could feel it burning into his skin.
Coughing and panting, he paused. He needed to rest.
Dennis had used a particularly long screw. His mind was whispering doubts to him, telling him he would never succeed. Part of his mind urged him on, though, telling him it was do or die, but he didn't care.
His arms hurt, his back hurt, it all hurt. He just didn't have the energy to go on.
Taking as deep of a breath as he could without hacking out a lung, Shawn called one more time, then sagged against the pole.
It was faint, but Lassiter heard the call through the flames. He was able to determine the basic location of the sound and forged ahead. Ducking out of the way of a falling beam, he coughed into his jacket.
"Spencer! Spencer, where are you?"
No answering voice returned the call, only the crackling of the flames and the collapsing of the building met his ears.
The old warehouse was quickly giving way to the fire, and Lassiter knew he didn't have much time left.
Shawn heard a voice calling through the noise of the fire but chalked it up to hallucinations. The situation was getting to him, he told himself. No one was there. No one knew. They wouldn't get there in time.
Then he heard it again.
"Spencer, I'm going to shoot you if you don't answer me right now! Where are you?"
That had to be Lassie.
Shawn had never thought he'd be quite so happy to hear the head detective's voice as he was right then.
"Lassie? Lassie!" He coughed, then yelled again. It came out all scratchy, and Shawn wasn't even sure the other man could hear him.
It gave him a renewed energy, though, and he began twisting the screw again. The door burst open just as he was nearly done.
"Spencer!" Lassiter charged to his side. "Are you all right?"
"Wow, Lassie. You do care!"
"Spencer, the place is burning down around our ears! I came to take you out."
"Take me out?" Shawn panted, twisting his body to turn the screw again. "To dinner and a movie?"
Lassiter glared at him. "Look, we don't have time for your stupid puns right now. If we don't get out of here in the next few minutes, we never will."
"Almost … done."
The screw finally came free of the pole, causing Shawn to fall backwards at the sudden lack of tension. He landed in an ungraceful heap on the floor and scrambled to his feet.
"Let's go." Lassiter pushed Shawn out the door towards freedom.
They carefully maneuvered the maze of burning wood and plaster, covering their mouths and noses as best they could. Several times, small pieces of flaming building materials fell onto one or the other of them, spurring them on that much faster.
Finally reaching the doorway, they stumbled into the sunlight, gasping and coughing as the fresh air hit their lungs.
Shawn let himself be led off in daze. He vaguely felt someone remove the chains around his wrists, hissing in pain as the burned skin was disturbed. As soon as he lay down on the stretcher, he let himself drift off into the darkness.
It was over. He was safe.
It was late when Shawn finally opened his eyes. He knew because of the lighting in the room. As soon as he woke, he could tell he was in a hospital. The smell of medicines and chemicals, the beeping of machinery, and the feel of an IV in his hand all contributed to his deduction.
Something was pressing against his face as well. It wasn't hard enough to hurt, but he could feel it over his nose and mouth. He raised a hand to brush it away.
"Don't even think about it."
The voice made him pause, hand in midair. It sounded like Lassie … What was he doing there? Shawn would have thought his dad or Gus or even Jules would have been there with him. Somehow he didn't think the head detective would have willingly done more than stop by for a moment.
As if reading his mind, the other man spoke up, "I'm only here so the others would take a break. They needed it."
Shawn just nodded. His throat hurt too much for him to say anything.
"So," Lassiter cleared his throat, obviously uncomfortable with the silence. "How are you feeling?"
"All right," Shawn replied, coughing a little.
"They said you'd inhaled a lot of smoke," Lassiter's voice was a little raspy. "It's a good thing you got out when you did."
Noticing the difference in the detective's voice, Shawn looked over, taking in his appearance with a quick glance. He was wearing an impeccable suit, as usual, but there was a thin, clear tube snaking below his nose.
Lassiter caught the look in Shawn's eyes. "It's nothing."
"You get that saving me?"
"I told you, don't worry about it. I'm fine."
"You did, didn't you? Lassie, I'm flattered."
"Well, don't be. If the department doesn't cover my medical bill, I'm sending it to you."
Grinning, Shawn cocked his head. "Why don't you ask Dennis to pay it? It's really his fault after all."
"No, Spencer, it's yours. You're the nosy one who can't keep yourself from getting kidnapped."
"Hey, I had nothing to do with that. He thought I was somebody else."
Lassiter shook his head. "I should've just left you in there." He spun on his heel, headed for the doorway. "Doctor!" he called into the hallway.
"What?" the detective asked, turning back.
"I'm glad you didn't."
At that moment, the doctor bustled in, accompanied by several nurses. They soon shooed Lassiter from the room so they could work. He made his way down to the cafeteria, wiping the small smile from his face. By the time he reached the others, he was back to his normal self.