The Blackberry Cobbler Affair
Psychfic 2010 Secret Santa Exchange
"Good Morning, Gus!" Shawn said brightly as he entered the Psych office.
Gus looked up from his laptop and rolled his eyes. "'Morning' ends at 11:59 am. It's three in the afternoon, Shawn."
"Picky, picky. Can't you just be grateful that someone is giving you a warm and kind greeting?"
"Whatever. Where have you been all day? Wait, let me guess. You just woke up twenty minutes ago," Gus said accusingly.
Shawn put a hand to his chest, looking hurt. "Are you accusing me of being lazy? I'll have you know that I was up all night working on the Bridget Lear case."
"You mean you were up all night following Bridget Lear's cheating boyfriend around."
"Yes, like I said. I was working."
"And, she was right about him. I caught Mr. Simon Quinn taking not one but two women back to his place last night. And I don't think they were there to play Bridge."
Gus nodded. "You need an even number to play Bridge."
"Exactly!" Shawn flopped into his chair and powered up his computer to check his email. "I delivered the evidence to her this morning and then went home to catch up on my sleep. I was exhausted after working tirelessly to catch yet another cheating scumbag. Granted, he's a cheating scumbag who clearly has game. Which is more than I can say for you."
Gus narrowed his eyes and looked annoyed. "I have more game than the entire NBA, Shawn."
Shawn looked confused for a second, then shook his head. "No, I mean the part about working tirelessly. Sorry; my insults came out in the wrong order. What have you been doing all day?" He raised his hand to his temple, as if divining information. "The spirits tell me that you're currently playing Bejeweled 2, and that you have been playing since 10 am. You can't seem to get past level four."
Gus quickly shut the Bejeweled window on his laptop's browser. "No, I started work at 8:30 this morning. Caught up my entire route. I've only been here about half an hour."
"Any new cases?" Shawn asked as he scrolled through emails promising cheap prescription drugs, hot single women, and miracle weight-loss pills.
"Just another woman wanting us to follow her husband around. I thought we weren't going to take any more of these cheating cases, Shawn. We're better than that. We solve real crimes."
"The chief hasn't called us in almost two weeks, Gus. I can't make real crimes happen for us to solve. Well, I could, but that would be a crime in and of itself. And then I would have to accuse myself, and let myself be arrested and thrown in jail. Frankly, all that work would be exhausting. And Lassie would enjoy it too much."
"You know that's right."
Shawn turned from his computer and began sorting through the pile of envelopes in the "IN" mail box on his desk. He tried to keep the place as messy as possible, but Gus kept going around and trying to organize everything. In boxes, out boxes, file folders, filing cabinets. It was like living with his Dad again.
"Oh, yeah. You did get a package."
Shawn looked up, interested. "What is it?"
"How should I know?"
"Didn't you open it?"
"No," Gus said indignantly. "Some delivery guy dropped it off right after I got here. It was addressed to you. I don't open other people's mail." He picked up the plain white cardboard box from a table on the side of the room and carefully handed it to Shawn. "It smells delicious, though."
Shawn studied the box in his hands. It was over a foot long and a few inches deep. The top was stamped with a gold seal proudly proclaiming "Copper Kettle Bakery." Taped to the box was a thank-you note with Shawn's name written on it in black pen. The inside of the card read: "Thank you for everything you did for me. XOXO, Bridget."
Shawn set the box down on his desk and pulled off the lid. His eyes widened in delight. "Blackberry cobbler!" He took a deep breath through his nose, inhaling the heavenly aroma of tangy blackberries and delicate crust.
He glanced over at Gus, who was watching him with a bemused expression on his face. "Gus, look! It's like we're old-fashioned country doctors who get paid with pies and milk and chickens and stuff."
Gus frowned. "I hope she's planning to pay us with an actual check at some point."
"And did you see what she wrote? 'XOXO.' Hugs and kisses, Gus. You think she meant that literally?"
"I think she just got out of a bad relationship and is vulnerable right now. At best, you would be a temporary rebound guy."
Shawn looked even more delighted. "I love being the rebound guy." He looked around for a spoon, ready to dig into the sweet treat.
"Well, her timing is good. You can take that cobbler with us tonight."
"We're going somewhere tonight? Somewhere where cobbler will be needed?"
Gus nodded. "You're supposed to have dinner with your Dad tonight. You roped me into going, too. In fact," he glanced at his watch, "we're supposed to be there in half an hour. He wants you to help him move some stuff out of the garage first. Remember?"
Shawn had finally found a spoon and had made it back to his desk. At Gus's words he stopped, hand in mid-air over the dessert. "I had forgotten, until you brought it up. Thanks a lot, Gus. And I still don't see what this has to do with my cobbler. The cobbler that Bridget Lear sent to me, and me only, with hugs and kisses attached."
Gus shrugged. "It might be a nice gesture to share. He feeds us a lot, and we never bring anything. Well, you never bring anything."
Shawn took one last longing look at the cobbler and sighed. "Fine," he said, dropping the spoon and pushing the box lid back down. "We might as well go ahead and go now."
"Bringing dessert and getting there early? Are you sure you Dad will even recognize you?" Gus teased as they locked up the office and headed to his car.
"You're early," Henry said accusingly as he opened the front door.
Shawn shrugged. "I can leave and come back in a few hours if you want."
Henry rolled his eyes and motioned his son and his friend inside. "You brought dessert, too? Who are you, and what have you done with my son?"
Shawn set the box down on the kitchen counter. He raised a hand to his heart, as if wounded. "I'll have you know I spent all day baking this. It was supposed to be a special treat, just for my pop. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
Henry glanced at the white box sitting on his counter. "And you just happened to put it in a box that says 'Copper Kettle Bakery' on it?"
Shawn turned away and lifted the lid. Once again, the tantalizingly sweet aroma wafted out and tickled his nostrils. He grabbed a spoon from the dish rack and prepared to dive in. His hand was almost to the crust when he felt a larger, meatier hand grab his wrist.
"Uh-uh, kid. Work before play. Garage before dessert."
Shawn glared at his father and tried to tug his wrist away, but Henry's grip held firm. "I'm not 12 anymore, Dad. I'm a grown man. I can have dessert first if I want. That's part of being an adult."
"So is responsibility," his father lectured, pulling Shawn's hand away. "You and Gus get your butts out to the garage and help me move those boxes full of your old junk. Unless you want it piled up for the garbage man to pick up tomorrow."
Shawn could feel his mouth watering involuntarily, like Pavlov's dog, as he stared at the cobbler. He gave a long exaggerated sigh of exasperation, but obediently shut the box lid. "Fine. Whatever. Come on, Gus. Maybe we'll find those Voltron action figures I've been looking for. They're probably worth thousands of dollars by now."
"Those were my action figures, Shawn."
"No, you never took yours out of the boxes. You were the only eight year-old that was worried about the resale value of your toys…"
Henry chuckled at the argument that gradually faded from earshot as his son and his friend headed to the garage. Glancing behind him to make sure they were out of visual range, he picked up the discarded spoon and lifted the lid. The cobbler did look delicious. Carefully he broke through the crust with the spoon and pulled up a small bite. Mmmm… sweet, tangy, blackberry goodness seemed to dance in his mouth. He took another, larger bite, then carefully moved the crust around to cover the hole. Despite his best efforts, the crust still looked disturbed. There was no way his observant son would miss that. He would have to make sure to cut the dessert himself, so Shawn wouldn't know that he had cheated.
Henry tossed the dirty spoon into the sink and went to join the boys in the garage. Moving the cartons of Shawn's old junk out shouldn't take too long. That is, as long as Shawn didn't turn it into a two-hour trip down memory lane by taking every item out of every box and giving them a ten-minute reenactment of whatever show or movie it was from.
Twenty minutes later, Henry was finding his fears confirmed. The first box Shawn and Gus had found contained cassette tapes of some of their favorite tunes from the 80's. The boys were loudly belting out their favorite songs from each album, and it was giving Henry a headache. In fact, his headache had come on quite suddenly within the last ten minutes and seemed to be growing steadily worse. Then again, being around Shawn for that long usually had that effect on Henry.
"Taaaaake onnnnn meeeeeee!" Shawn sang loudly, drawing out the words.
"Take! On! Me!" Gus interjected.
"Could you two keep it down?" Henry complained. His head was really starting to pound. He paced across the room, looking for more boxes to move. But which one had he been going for? What was he doing again? It suddenly seemed hard to remember. His head hurt, and his stomach was churning and rolling, making him feel sick.
Shawn and Gus looked at each other.
"Taaaaake meeeee onnnnn!" Shawn started again.
"Take! On! Me!"
Henry took a breath, determined to give them both a thorough tounge-lashing. But the breath didn't seem to want to go into his lungs the way it should. He took another shallow breath, then another, then another in rapid succession. He could hear his heart beating loudly and too quickly in his chest. And his knees were shaking…
"I'llllll beeeee gonnnnnne!" Shawn sang happily, then turned to his best friend to deliver the high notes. But Gus was watching Henry.
Shawn turned just in time to see his father drop to his knees and vomit onto over the garage floor.
"Geez, Dad…I didn't think it was that bad."
Henry tried to answer, but he still couldn't catch his breath. He felt week, too weak to even stay on his knees. He leaned over, letting his body fall to his left side, away from the vomit puddle in front of him.
Distantly, he heard their shouts of "Dad!' and "Mr. Spencer," barely audible over the sound of his pounding heart. But he couldn't respond. No words would come out. He was aware of Shawn and Gus kneeling next to him and rolling him carefully onto his back. He felt someone, most likely his son, grip his shaking hand. He tried to squeeze back but he was too weak. He could only gasp for breath as his vision grew darker and he slipped into unconsciousness.
Shawn stared, horrified, as his father passed out in front of him. He gripped his dad's hand harder, but got no response. "Dad? Dad?!"
Gus knelt across from him and felt Henry's neck. "He's got a pulse, but it's really fast." He leaned down next to Henry's mouth. "He's breathing really fast, too. And shallowly."
Shawn continued to stare. He couldn't think, couldn't figure out what he should be doing to help. His dad was just lying there, unmoving. He had never, ever seen his father so helpless before.
Gus pulled back from Henry's face and furrowed his brows, confused. He leaned in again and sniffed, and his eyes widened.
"Almonds…" he mumbled. Lifting his head, he looked Shawn directly in the eyes.
"Shawn, call an ambulance."
Shawn blinked a couple of times, confused.
"Shawn! Call 911. Now."
Shawn finally seemed to understand as he reached into his pocket. "Is he having a heart attack?"
"I don't think so." Gus rose up to his feet and turned to run out of the garage.
"Wait! Where are you going?!"
"To get my sample case," Gus explained calmly. "I may have something that can help slow the spread of the poison."
Shawn looked up, eyes wide, as he hit the "SEND" button on his phone. "Poison?!"
"Yeah. I think he's somehow been poisoned by cyanide."
END CHAPTER ONE