Present Day - Thursday a.m.
“Jules?” Shawn asked. His voice was low and scratchy, as if he’d lost his voice but was still worried someone would overhear.
“Shawn, is that you?” Juliet responded, not amused.
“I can’t find Gus,” Shawn said. ”Which is good for him, probably, but I don’t know what to do.”
“He’s probably at home, in bed,” Juliet said as she pushed herself up so she was sitting in bed. This didn’t sound like it was going to be a short conversation. ”It’s two a.m., you know.”
“I . . . I can’t remember the hotel,” Shawn continued to ramble. ”I thought of it, and I had it, but I can’t remember. And I have absolutely no idea how many hats are in the room. Which is . . . just don’t tell my dad, Ok? I can’t handle him right now.”
“I’m hanging up, Shawn,” Juliet said.
“No, no, no, no, no!” He sounded desperate. ”I don’t know if I’ll get another call. I’m so sorry I called you but . . . but Juliet. I’m so scared. And you . . . I trust you.”
“Where are you?” she asked.
“If I knew where Gus was, he could tell you. I just . . . I can’t remember.”
“Are you in trouble?”
“I’ve got to think so,” Shawn admitted. ”But I didn’t do anything—I don’t remember doing anything.”
“Ok, Shawn, I really want to help you, but I have to know what’s going on.”
“I don’t know, Jules,” he said. ”I can’t think. I’m really scared and . . . and I . . .”
“Fine, if you could just tell me where you are, I’ll be right there,” she said, pushing herself out of bed and turning on the light.
“Mexico,” Shawn said.
“You’re in Mexico?” Juliet asked.
“I think so,” Shawn said. ”No one’s speaking English and I’m starting to really regret sleeping through Senora Anderson’s class.”
“How did you get to Mexico?”
“Gus drove,” Shawn said. ”I don’t know where he is. I don’t think he’s here but I don’t know.”
“All right,” Juliet said. ”Just calm down and give me an address. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”
“Jules, I don’t know.”
“Is there anyone there you could ask?”
“Not without being hit.”
“Being hit?” Juliet asked. ”Shawn, are you in physical danger?”
“Most defiantly,” Shawn said. ”or, at least, it feels like . . . Jules . . . I . . .”
“I’ll find you Shawn,” Juliet promised him. ”Don’t worry.”
“I can’t go . . . I mean, I’ll be here. Please hurry.”
“I’ll be as fast as I can, Shawn. Don’t worry.”
“Thanks Jules,” Shawn said. For the first time during their conversation, he didn’t sound absolutely panicked. ”I’ll wait for you.”
“That’s right, just wait for me,” Juliet said. ”I’ll be there soon.”
Shawn hung up, and Juliet took a deep breath. She’d never heard him sound like that—helpless and terrified. She’d seen him stare down assassins and serial killers with calm bravado; she couldn’t imagine what would make Shawn Spencer scared.
She checked her caller ID and wrote down the number, then she called the station.
“Santa Barbara Police,” a desk officer said. Juliet didn’t immediately recognize his voice, and she didn’t bother to place it.
“This is Detective O’Hara. I need you to trace a number for me,” she said before rattling it off.
“Ok,” the desk officer replied. ”That’s coming up as the, ah . . . Tijuana Municipal Jail.”
“Jail?” Juliet asked. Things were worse then she’d thought. ”All right, thanks. Can you transfer me to Chief Vicks voicemail?” She was going to have to take some time off.
* * *
“Hello,” Juliet said sweetly, though she did not feel sweet—she felt jittery and anxious. She’d left her house at 2:30 a.m. and driven 370 miles through the dark to arrive at the jail at the break of dawn. She’d had eight cups of coffee but nothing to eat. “I’m here to see Shawn Spencer.”
“Is he a prisoner?” the officer at the desk asked.
“I believe so, yes,” Juliet said. ”He called me from here last night.”
“Visiting hours are from one to three. You can come back then.”
“Oh my god,” Juliet muttered, rubbing her eyes. “Can you at least confirm that he is here?”
The officer looked at her computer. “The last name again, please?”
“Spencer,” Juliet said “S-P-E-N-C-E-R.”
“Yes,” the officer said after a moment. ”He is here.”
“I don’t suppose you could tell why he was arrested.”
“Umm,” she said, scanning her computer screen. “It looks like he caused a public disturbance, resisted arrest, and was in possession of over 600 grams of prescription drugs, without a prescription.”
“Prescription drugs?” Juliet asked, baffled. ”Why . . .”
“That’s what it says,” the officer told her. ”You can come back at one and ask him yourself.”
“Um, how about Burton Guster? Was he brought in?”
“Spell the last name.”
She typed the name in. ”No, no one named Guster.”
“That’s something,” Juliet said, taking a deep breath. ”Thank you.”
Frustrated, Juliet returned to her car and thought. She couldn’t believe how stupid she’d been. He’d sounded scared and she’d dropped everything, rushed to Mexico, only to discover that she couldn’t even see him for seven hours. She should have done her research, her due diligence. She should have known what she was getting into. She was a better cop then this.
Still, she was not without leads. Shawn and Gus went everywhere together—and last night, Shawn had been very worried about his friend. Shawn believed that Gus was wandering around Tijuana and Gus might know what had happened. She tried his cell phone, only to be transferred to voice mail. Unfortunately, beyond that, she had no idea where to start. So, like any good cop, she started with the basics.
Shawn had mentioned not knowing the name of their hotel. If she could figure out which hotel they were staying at, that would at least be something. She decided to assume that Shawn had been cogent enough to know the difference between a motel and a hotel, and that he and Gus were staying at the latter. She also decided to assume that they’d stay at nice one; Gus didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would tolerate a roach-y motel.
Juliet’s first stop was the Tijuana Board of Tourism, where she picked up a list of five, four and three star hotels. Her next step was to call them, one after the other, and asked to be transferred to Mr. Spencer or Mr. Guster’s room. One after the other, she was told that there was no one by that name staying at the hotel. Then, on her 14th call, she was actually transferred.
“Shawn, is that you?” Gus’s voice said, as soon as he picked up the receiver. ”Because I waited for you to get back all night and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button makes even less sense in Spanish.”
“No, Gus, it’s Juliet, Detective O’Hara,” Juliet said quickly. “You don’t know what happened to Shawn?”
“He brought me to Mexico, against my better judgment, then he ditched me,” Gus said. “Why, do you need him for a case or something?”
“No,” Juliet said. ”He called me last night from jail.”
“Jail?” Gus asked, his anger disappeared and his voice became concerned. ”Mexican jail?”
“Yeah,” Juliet said. ”He called me at 2 a.m. I rushed down here only to find out visiting hours aren’t until one. I was hopping you would know what happened.”
“I don’t understand,” Gus said. ”Why wouldn’t he call me?”
“He said your phone was broken,” Juliet told him.
“It’s not broken,” Gus said angrily. “He hid the battery because I was making work calls on the drive down.”
“And he couldn’t remember the name of the hotel,” Juliet finished.
“He couldn’t remember?” Gus asked. “Shawn Spencer couldn’t remember where we were staying.”
“He knew you were in Mexico,” Juliet supplied.
“But he didn’t know the name of our hotel?” Gus said. “That’s not like Shawn at all.”
“He seemed pretty out of it,” Juliet said. “He also told me he didn’t know how many hats were in the room.”
“He didn’t even know that?” Gus said.
“I’m just saying, he didn’t seem connected to reality. He might have been hit on the head—he was charged with resisting arrest. Or . . . .”
“He had some drugs on him. Maybe he . . .”
“Drugs?” Gus asked. “No way. Shawn doesn’t do that.”
“They were prescription,” Juliet said. “Is there anyway he could have, somehow, gotten . . .”
“You think he stole them from me?”
“I don’t know Gus,” Juliet admitted. “All I know is that he sounded scared and he begged me to help him. But now I’m here and I can’t even see him.”
There was a pause as Gus considered her information. Finally, he said. “Do you know where the hotel is?”
“Yeah,” Juliet said. “The Hilton, right?”
“We’ve got room 438,” Gus informed her. “Why don’t you come over? You can have Shawn’s continental breakfast and we’ll figure out our next steps.”
“Sounds good,” Juliet said.
* * *
Shawn had seen enough prison movies to know that his best chance of surviving was to make friends with the biggest, baddest, meanest prisoner possible. He also knew he could make friends with anyone he needed to—it was a life skill he’d developed to an art. But this plan had a major flaw—he’d always assumed he’d end up in an American jail. While many of the residents of this border town were bilingual, the lower dregs of society, the ones who found themselves in the high-security holding cells, tended to have very poor English. Shawn’s Spanish was barely any better and people just looked at him funny when he spoke in Portuguese.
So instead of being the gregarious, helpful, and hilarious psychic, Shawn chose to be the quiet observer—the guy in the back of the cell who glared at everyone, and yelled nonsense in Portuguese if anyone came near him. People left him alone, which was all he needed for the time being. He had to think.
The previous night was hazy, which was upsetting. The HD, surround sound, smell-o-vision memory he was so dependant on had failed him for approximately an eight hour period. Things had started to go bad around 9 p.m.—when he was in the bar across the street from his hotel. He could remember feeling panicked, unexplainably and uncontrollably panicked. He remembered yelling at the man next to him at the bar—maybe even yelling threats. He remembered a big, burly cop coming in and arresting him. He remembered being handcuffed to a bench for hours while they dug up a translator. He remembered being processed, trying to explain himself, but totally unable to form coherent sentences. He’d known at the time that he was speaking nonsense, but he couldn’t get his brain to work. He could remember calling Juliet, but he couldn’t recall what she’d said to him. Then, finally, they’d thrown him into a cell with a bunch of drunks and, around 5 a.m., the haze lifted. He could think clearly, but the night had been lost to him. All he knew for sure was that he was in big trouble.
* * *
“So Monday, Shawn calls me and says we’re going to Tijuana for a four-day weekend,” Gus explained to Juliet as they sat in the hotel’s beautiful outdoor dinning room and ate the complementary breakfast. “He said his mom was giving him a hotel suite for the weekend for his birthday.”
“That’s a nice gift,” Juliet said as she dug into her omelet. She had not realized how desperately hungry she was until she’d approached the buffet and detected the fatty smell of bacon. “But wasn’t Shawn’s birthday last month? We went to the arcade, then back to your office to watch Goonies and Gremlins.”
“She’s usually late, but she makes up for it with generosity,” Gus said. “We drove down Wednesday night after my rounds and got here around eight. We had a late dinner, then I went back to the hotel to get dressed for clubbing. Shawn was supposed to meet me in the lobby by 10 p.m. but he never showed up.”
“What was he doing while you got ready to go out?”
“I don’t know, it’s Shawn, he could have been doing anything. Buying sombreros, hitting on girls, stumbling upon a murder . . . it’s Shawn.”
“Yeah,” Juliet agreed with a sigh. “He is unpredictable.”
“As we were leaving the restaurant, he told me he had to take care of something, so I think he had a plan. I mean, I think there might be someone out there who knows what happened.”
“Well, that’s one thing we’ll have to ask him when we see him this afternoon. How about the drugs?”
“I checked my case after you called. Nothing was missing.”
“You said you left after your rounds—did Shawn . . .”
“I met him at his apartment,” Gus said. “He didn’t go near any doctor’s offices or my office. Not that it matters, there is no way Shawn would steal drugs—he’d be hurt to know that you even asked.”
“I understand that,” Juliet said. “But if we want to help Shawn we have to eliminate the obvious and narrow scope of our investigation to something manageable. If he didn’t get the drugs from you, he must have gotten them from somewhere.”
“Did you check his luggage. Was there anything suspicious?”
“Shawn packs like a ten-year-old,” Gus said. “He forgot a toothbrush, but did remember to bring a case of plastic soldiers, which he set up all around the hotel room to keep watch.”
Juliet chuckled at the childish behavior.
“It’s not funny,” Gus said. “It’s annoying. They keep falling on the ground. Do you know how painful it is to step on an army man?”
“I had three brothers, of course I know,” Juliet said. ”But the point is, could he have brought the drugs?”
“Let’s step back,” Gus suggested. “You do remember, we’re not talking about just any suspect—this is Shawn. Shawn isn’t into drugs.”
“I’m not saying he’s a junky or a pusher,” Juliet said. “For all I know, he was trying to bring them back for some sweet, sick grandmother who can’t afford her medication. But, if we knew where he got the drugs and why he was carrying them, we’d have a much better idea of why he was arrested.”
“Do you even know what kind of drugs he had?” Gus asked.
“No,” Juliet said with a yawn. ”I’ll try to get a copy of the police report when we visit him this afternoon. Until then we should . . . “
“We shouldn’t do anything,” Gus said. ”You should go up to the room and take a nap. You can’t detect anything when you’re half asleep.”
“I can last a little longer,” Juliet insisted.
“We have five hours and no idea where to start,” Gus said. ”Once we do have a lead, you need to be ready to follow it.”
“All right,” Juliet said, with another yawn. ”A short nap, then we’ll hit the streets.”To be continued . . .