“I know the rest of the world loves this game, but I just don’t get it,” Henry said as he and Shawn watched a soccer match on the ten-year-old TV that hung precariously on a stand attached to the far wall of Shawn’s hospital room.
“You kick a ball into a goal,” Shawn said. “It’s not that hard to understand.”
“Yeah, but it lacks the strategy of football, the speed of hockey, the poetry of baseball.”
“The thrill of Nascar, the elegance of MMA.”
“Go ahead, make you’re snide comments . . .” Henry started.
“Thanks dad, I think I will,” Shawn said quickly.
“I’m just saying, real sports can’t be played by 5-year-olds who are taken to practice by their mother’s in mini-vans.”
“Or, apparently, poor village children who only have one ball,” Shawn said.
“I don’t understand why you’re defending soccer. Your mother signed you up for it when you were a kid and all you did was complain about how boring it was.”
“I was seven,” Shawn said. ”I didn’t understand the beauty of the world’s pastime.”
“Oh, and now you do?” Henry scoffed.
“Not really,” Shawn admitted. ”But now it pisses you off, so it’s more fun then ever.”
“Har har har,” Henry said as Shawn chuckled. ”Get a rise out of your old man. Always good for a laugh.”
“Usually,” Shawn said. ”And I heard laughter is the best medicine, so . . .”
“You know, I don’t need this, Shawn,” Henry said. ”I came all the way from Santa Barbara to be here for you when you needed me, even though it was your own stupidity that got you there.”
“My own stupidity,” Shawn nodded. “Naturally.”
“What, did that cross a line?” Henry asked. “You can piss me off, but I can’t piss you off.”
“I defended a sport beloved by millions the world over. You insulted my intelligence.”
“You think I’m happy that my only son is an idiot?” Henry asked.
“In the matter of seconds I went from stupid to an idiot. Eventually, I’ll have to hit bottom and then I’ll only be able to go up.”
“Well, what do you expect? You let a stranger buy you a drink and slip you a mickey. That’s pretty stupid.”
“You’re right. I failed freshman co-ed 101.”
“This is serious Shawn.”
“Look, Dad, I’m the one who was put in jail, then in the hospital,” Shawn said, loosing some of his playful glibness. “I don’t think I need your lectures to tell me I made a mistake.”
“Really, because if I don’t tell you, who will?”
“Apparently, the criminal justice system in Mexico.”
“Well, it was bound to happen, eventually,” Henry said. ”I knew you’d end up in jail.”
“Yeah, when you arrested me it was only a matter of time.”
“You can’t blame me for that,” Henry said. “You stole the car.”
“I borrowed the car and you didn’t cut me a break.”
“I don’t cut anyone a break, kid.”
“I’ve noticed that about you. It’s not your best characteristic.”
“I bet you wish I was a big softy, like your mother.”
“Yeah,” Shawn said sarcastically. ”That’s what I needed. Two parents like mom.”
“Figures,” Henry said, though he could have said much more. After all, he’d come all the way to Mexico to sit by Shawn’s sick bed, and Madeline hadn’t even called. “As fun as this conversation’s been, I’ve got to pee.”
Without another word, Henry pushed himself out of the chair and briskly walked out of the room. Shawn sighed and watched him go. He wondered if he should have acted a little more grateful, perhaps not brought up the most bitter moment of their relationship, when he destroyed his father’s dreams for him and Henry had destroyed Shawn’s hope that his father cared more about him then about his job.
As Shawn waited for his father to return, he wondered if he ought to apologize—but he wasn’t sure for what. For defending soccer, for being the victim of a frame up, for pointing out that his first night in jail was as much his father’s fault as his own. Shawn couldn’t bring himself to apologize for any of that. He started to think of other ways he could possibly offer an olive branch to his father when he heard someone come into the room. Shawn turned to look at his visitor and immediately knew that he was in trouble.
“Officer Prize,” Shawn said, forcing a friendly smile, even as the policeman ominously closed the door to Shawn’s room behind him. “I didn’t expect you to come visit me.”
“I need you to sign something,” Officer Prize said, pulling a slip of paper and a pen from the pocket of his standard issue, navy-blue pants.
“I have no idea what you just said,” Shawn lied. “I’m going to pretend it was ‘I’m so sorry to have planted evidence on you, Mr. Spencer, please forgive me.’ In which case, you are totally forgiven and can go on your merry way.”
“Write your name,” the officer said forcefully, throwing the piece of paper and the pen on Shawn’s lap
“Do you want my autograph?” Shawn asked, picking up the pen and paper. “Should I make it out to José, or do you want it for someone else?”
Prize pulled a small gun out of his pocket and pointed it at Shawn. “Write your name!”
“What is this, a suicide note?” Shawn asked slowly. “Will you kill me if I don’t sign the suicide note?”
“Yes, I kill,” Officer Prize said in his weak English. “Write your name!”
“See, that’s just idiotic,” Shawn argued. “Because, if I sign the suicide note, you’ll still kill me. And, really, I’d rather die knowing that you’ll go to jail for a looooooong time.”
“Write you’re name!” Prize insisted, pressing the gun against Shawn’s temple.
“Though, you do make a compelling argument,” Shawn said. “But, if you don’t mind, I don’t like to sign anything before I read it.” Shawn unfolded the paper slowly and reread it several times.
He knew that his father would come back eventually, and Jules and Gus were due back soon, and it’d been a while since he’d seen one of the nurses who were supposed to check on him every half an hour. If he could stall long enough, someone was bound to come in and rescue him.
The letter he was supposed to sign was neatly typewritten. Like most real suicide notes, it didn’t wax poetic about the pain of life or sweet release of death. It was very practical and very informative. Shawn deducted Ruiz must have written it—as a psychologist he would know what the investigators would buy and what would scream ‘fake’. It read:
I made some big mistakes here in Mexico. They caught me with a stash, and I was still high during the hearing, so I think I said some stupid things. I don’t think I’m going to get out of this, but I couldn’t stand jail. This isn’t your fault or Dad’s, so don’t blame yourselves.
I did manage to get one last shipment to you—it’ll probably arrive before this letter, but not before the bad news. Think of it as my parting gift.
Take care of yourself, Mom.
“Nice note,” Shawn said. “But, ah, I’m not going to sign it so you can have it back.” He folded the note, clipped the pen onto the paper, and held the note up for Officer Prize to reclaim.
“I’ll shoot!” Prize said between clenched teeth.
“I doubt it,” Shawn replied coolly. “Because if you shoot me, people will here and come running, only to find you with a gun and me with bullet in my brain. But, perhaps more importantly, if I’m dead I can never sign that letter, and you and Ruiz will never be able to frame my mother for your little drug ring, and you’ll both go to jail and never get out.”
“I didn’t want to do this,” Prize said, putting his gun in his pocket. “I wanted it to be clean.”
“I’m glad to see you’re listening to reason,” Shawn said slowly. Prize had given up much too easily. “Why don’t you just leave and we can pretend this whole thing never happened.”
Shawn watched nervously as Prize pulled his hand out of his pants pocket and reached into the breast pocket of his standard issue blue button-up t-shirt. He pulled out a small cylindrical item, which Shawn had noticed, and assumed was a pen. But it wasn’t, it was a syringe filled with a clear liquid.
“What the hell is that?” Shawn asked, feeling really frightened for the first time.
Prize didn’t answer; instead, he turned towards Shawn’s IV bag.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Shawn said, but he didn’t get to say much more. Prize clapped his left hand over Shawn’s mouth, effectively stopping any cries for help. His fear became panic as Prize injected the liquid into his IV, where it mixed, invisibly, with the water.
Shawn’s first instinct was to pull the IV’s out of the back of his hand, but his left hand was still cuffed to the bed. He started moving his right hand towards his left, when Prize’s right hand grabbed his wrist hand held it down.
“It won’t hurt,” Prize said softly, as if he were trying to be comforting.
Shawn looked at him accusingly and thought there’s no way you know that. He struggled with all his might to free his hand, but he had no leverage, and Prize seemed to be putting all his body weight on Shawn’s wrist. All Shawn could do was watch the fluid slip down the tube and into his body.
* * *
“Excuse me,” Juliet said to the first young woman in scrubs who happened to pass Shawn’s room. “Why is the door closed?”
“I don’t know,” the nurse said, not even bothering to pause and look at the door. “Perhaps the patient is sleeping.”
“In that case, I don’t want to wake him,” Juliet said to Gus as she let the nurse hurry away.
“I don’t think opening the door will wake him,” Gus said. ”And even if it did, maybe we should. You do think his life is in danger, after all.”
“His dad should be in there,” Juliet pointed out. “He wouldn’t let anything happen to Shawn.”
“Except,” Gus said. “Henry just walked around the corner.”
Juliet turned and saw Shawn’s father walk up from the direction of the public bathrooms. “Why is the door closed?” she asked anxiously.
“I don’t know,” Henry said, looking at her curiously. “I left it open.”
Juliet rushed to the door and threw it open to see a man standing over Shawn, using one hand to keep Shawn from screaming and the other to pin Shawn to the bed.
“Get away from him!” Juliet yelled, rushing into the door. Henry pushed past her, garbed the man’s shoulders and pulled him off his son, who started yelling as soon as his mouth was uncovered. “Gus, get a doctor!” he yelled as he reached his right hand to his left, grabbed the IVs, yanked them out of top of his hand, and screamed in pain.
“Shawn what are you doing?” Juliet asked. ”You need those.”
“There’s something in there,” Shawn said breathlessly. “He put something, something bad, in the bag.”
“What did you give my son?” Henry demanded, as he pressed Shawn’s assailant forcefully against the wall.
“You are assaulting a police officer,” the man, who Juliet recognized as Officer Prize, said. ”You will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
“No, he won’t, no,” Shawn said. “Because you are a drug runner and a prisoner, and . . ah, a addict, and just . . . not a nice guy.”
“Shawn, are you ok?” Juliet asked.
Shawn shook his head. “Did Gus get a doctor?”
“He’s looking for one,” Juliet said. “And I’m calling the police.”
As Juliet reported the crime, and begged for an officer to come as soon as possible, she kept her eyes on Shawn. Whatever had been put in his IV seemed to be having an effect on him. He was becoming pale and he kept blinking, as if he suddenly didn’t trust what he saw. “How are you feeling, Shawn?” Juliet asked once she’d been assured that a police officer would be there momentarily.
“Really sick,” Shawn admitted. “And do you know what color the wall is?”
Juliet glanced where Shawn was staring. “It’s off-white,” she answered.
“Like, how off?” Shawn asked. “Because it looks really yellow and . . . I don’t know if that’s because of the afternoon light or . . .”
“There’s something wrong with your eyes,” Juliet concluded. “That must be a symptom of whatever drug he gave you.”
“I don’t think it’s the only symptom,” Shawn said. “I can feel my heart—”
Before he was able to explain his heart to Juliet, a man in a lab coat rushed into the room with Gus quickly on his heels and a middle-aged woman in scrubs and a bright pink nurse’s jacket following him.
“What is going on here?” the doctor demanded. “Was this patient injected with something?”
“Yes,” Juliet answered. “That man,” she said, pointing to Prize, who Henry had managed to handcuff to a chair, “put something into his IV—we have reason to believe he was trying to kill him. His eyes have been affected, and his heart. But the perpetrator won’t tell us which drug he used.”
“It’s affecting your heart?” The doctor asked as he put on his stethoscope.
“Can you translate?” Shawn asked. “I have no idea what he’s saying. “
“He wants to know what’s going on with your heart.” Juliet said quickly.
“It’s slowing,” Shawn said. “I’m terrified, my heart should be racing, but I swear I can feel it slowing down.”
“Oh God,” Juliet said softly, before turning to the doctor. “He says he can feel his heart beat slowing.”
“Hmmm,” the doctor said, pressing his stethoscope against Shawn’s chest. “That is lucky. Very few drugs cause the heart to slow down. He said there was a solution injected into his IV?”
“Yes,” Juliet answered without fielding the question to Shawn.
“And what effect did it have on his eye sight?”
“Jules, what’s he saying?” Shawn asked.
“The room appeared yellow,” Juliet said.
“He was almost certainly given some type of digoxin,” The doctor said, taking off his stethoscope and putting it around his neck. “Nurse, call down to the pharmacy and have a pharmacist bring up a dose of DigiFab. We need a real pharmacist, not an assistant.”
“Jules?” Shawn asked eagerly.
“They’re getting the antidote,” Juliet assured Shawn. “You will be fine.”
Shawn looked at her and tried to smile, though she could see the fear in his eyes. She smiled down at him encouragingly.
* * *
Shawn felt sicker then he’d ever felt in his life. If he’d had anything to eat for the past 36 hours, he would have certainly vomited it up. As it was, his stomach was cramping painfully as it tried to expel whatever horrible drug Prize had pumped into his system. It would have been all right if the cramps were his only problem, but the drug seemed to be affecting his brain, too. His ability to comprehend Spanish had quickly descended from poor to non-existent, and everything he saw had a greenish yellow tint.
Juliet and his father looked jaundiced, Prize and the doctor both looked like yellow-skinned super villains, but, thankfully, Gus’s skin was dark enough that the slight change in pigment didn’t make a difference.
“They think you were given a digoxin, probably Lanoxin,” Gus explained. “I saw a presentation on it last year. Basically, it’s a highly processed digitalis.”
“Digitalis,” Shawn said. “That sounds so familiar.”
“That’s what the astronomer died of,” Juliet supplied.
“Great,” Shawn said with bitter sarcasm. “That’s . . . just great.”
“The pharmacist will be here soon with the DigiFab—the antidote. They’ll just give you the injection and you can sit back and wait to feel better.”
“That’s what I was doing before,” Shawn said. “It didn’t turn out to well.”
Shawn noticed commotion at the door. A white-haired woman in a lab coat walked in, followed by several nurses. The woman and the doctor started talking quickly in Spanish. Shawn tried to catch some of the words, but between his tenuous grasp on the language and drug playing tricks on his mind, it was all incompressible.
“What are they saying?” he asked Jules, who looked like she was following the conversation intently.
“I’m not totally sure,” Juliet said. “There’s a lot of medical jargon . . . I think they’re discussing how much to give you.”
Shawn sighed with frustration and closed his eyes. He was dying. Perhaps it was psychosomatic, but he could feel his life ebb out of him as his gut twisted in pain and his heart slowed to a stop. In his more rational moments, he would have admitted that dosage was important and he didn’t want any more drugs in his body then absolutely necessary. But he was not rational at that moment. After what seemed like ages, but was probably less then a minute, the doctor and pharmacist stopped talking and produced a hypodermic needle.
The doctor spoke to Juliet, and she translated. “They think this will probably help you,” she said. “If you don’t feel better in ten minutes, they’ll have to give you another injection.”
Shawn nodded. “Bring it on.”
The doctor tapped then needle, squirted out a few drops of the medicine, and then carefully injected it into Shawn’s forearm. Shawn winced at the pain when the needle penetrated his skin but he didn’t make a sound. Gus, on the other hand, whimpered and turned away.
“You’re not even the one getting the shot,” Shawn told his friend scornfully. “Man up.”
“Oh, that’s funny coming from you,” Gus replied, though his back was to Shawn, so it seemed like he was talking to his reflection in the window. “Every year you chicken out of getting the flu shot.”
“First off, I do not chicken out,” Shawn said, addressing Juliet, not Gus. “It’s a choice. Do you know how they make the flu vaccine?”
“No,” Juliet admitted.
“They make it out of chicken fetuses. Poor little chicks who never had the opportunity fly free in open skies of a poultry farm.”
Juliet smiled. “Chickens can’t fly, Shawn,” she informed him. “And I don’t remember you being a vegetarian. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you eat chicken on several occasions.”
“Those were mature chickens who’d lived their life and died with honor,” Shawn said. “It’s totally different.”
The doctor interrupted their conversation, speaking to Juliet in a measured, calming, almost hopefully voice. But before he was finished saying whatever he was saying, there was a knock on the door frame of the now, very crowded, room. Shawn turned and saw two uniformed police officers, who were sussing out the situation and looked confused. Behind them, there was a woman in a dark suit, looking suspicious. Shawn didn’t know why, but he figured her for Federal.
His father approached the officers and started speaking in Spanish.
“Jules,” Shawn said in a hushed voice. “You gotta translate for me.”
“You’re dad’s just explaining about the IV and how we found Prize standing over you,” Juliet said.
From the corner where he was handcuffed to the chair, Prize responded. He sounded angry.
“He says it’s not true,” Juliet said. “He says he was just standing by your bed, talking, and Henry attacked him, stole his handcuffs, and kept him there without reason. He accused you of being a drug smuggler and says poison in your system is probably something you took yourself.”
The woman in the suit spoke next. She sounded authoritative.
“She said . . . ” Juliet started.
“Who is she?” Shawn asked.
“Agent Swanson of the FBI,” Juliet explained. “She said she received a tip that there would be an attempt on your life.”
“Did she say who tipped her off?” Shawn asked.
“No, but it was me,” Juliet explained.
“I love you, Juliet O’Hara,” Shawn said as he smiled up at her
“Hush, I’m trying to listen,” Juliet said dismissively.
The elder of the two police officers was saying something in a very reasonable tone of voice, apparently trying to pacify everyone in the room.
“He wants to know what was in the IV,” Juliet explained
Then the doctor chimed in, he almost sounded angry.
“He explained the drug and said there is no way anyone would take it recreationally.” Juliet said. “He also said anyone who knew anything about drugs would never take it without physician oversight because it’s a well known toxin.”
Prize looked startled and stammered a reply.
“He said you’re framing him,” Juliet told Shawn. “He says it’s a plan to make you look innocent.”
The officer started talking again.
“Juliet,” Shawn said. “I’m getting a vision, and I’m going to need you to translate.”
“You’re getting a vision?” Juliet asked, she looked concerned. “Can you handle one in your current state?”
“I’ll be fine,” Shawn insisted. “Just translate.”
“Ahhhhhh!” Shawn screamed as he squeezed his eyes shut and his hands flew to his temples. Everyone’s attention was pulled off of Prize and the police officer and directed back onto him. “I’m getting something, something strong.”
He waited while Juliet translated and Gus explained.
“Prize was framed,” Shawn said. “But not by us, no . . . not us. Someone else, someone who will do anything to shift blame. Someone who had done . . . Ahhh.”
Juliet translated quickly, while the doctor grabbed Shawn’s shoulder, forcing him back to the bed, and spoke quickly to the pharmacist.
“They’re going to sedate you, Shawn,” Gus said. “If you know who the bad guy is, you’d better talk quick.”
“There’s a note!” Shawn said. “A note, in Prize’s pocket. A note written by the mastermind of this whole drug smuggling ring. Written by him, to shift the blame to someone else. Find the note!”
Juliet translated and Shawn could see that everyone was interested. The lead police officer walked over to Prize, and they started having a heated conversation.
“What’s going on?” Shawn asked—his heart was starting to beat faster, not as rapidly as it normally did during an exciting and suspenseful reveal, but fast enough to know that the medicine was working.
“The officers want Prize to empty his pockets,” Juliet said. “Prize refused and the officers said that, no matter what, they’ll have to take him down for questioning and anything would be found at the station.”
“And OxyContin,” Shawn screamed. “He has the pills on him and you’ll find more, in his car, in his house! Oh, I see it so clearly! You were a good cop, weren’t you, Prize? You walked the beat every day, laying your life on the line until one day . . . one day it all changed.”
“He was shot in the back,” Gus supplied quickly.
“Yes!” Shawn yelled. “I see it but, no, I feel it!” He leaned forward and grabbed his back with his free right hand. “Oh, the pain it was excruciating!” He sad, his own voice warped with pain as the cramps in his stomach and his broken ribs protested at the theatrical movements.
“They gave you crap pills,” Shawn continued. “And told you to tough it out, but they didn’t understand, they didn’t know how much it hurt! So finally someone came along and gave you the OxyCotin—” Shawn leaned back and forced his voice to change from a rough scream to a calming lilt. “And suddenly, you could work again, you could live again. But the drugs, the drugs that you needed so badly, they came with a price—and I’m not just talking about the shaky hands and the constant need for more. No, you had to protect the man who gave them to you. So, when his drugs killed a girl in Texas and the FBI came in like a tidal wave, he asked you to draw in the scapegoat he’d picked out years and years ago. Then when that scapegoat wouldn’t play, he asked you to do more, he asked you to commit murder so the investigation would end and he could slip away with the millions he’d gotten form his illegal trade.”
Shawn waited, while Juliet translated his tirade. He watched Prize’s face follow the now familiar pattern of shock, defiance, fear, and eventually guilt. As soon as Juliet finished speaking, Prize started talking quickly and mournfully. Shawn had heard that tone of voice offend enough to know that the criminal was coming clean and, with any luck, pointing the finger at Ruiz.
“You were dead on,” Juliet said, looking at Shawn with a relived and almost joyous smile. “He admitted everything. Ruiz gave him the OxyCotin for the past four years in exchange for protection. He was supposed to plant drugs on your mother, but when you came, they had to improvise. The whole thing, the arrest, the assault, it was all an attempt to draw out your mother and frame her. He claims he didn’t know what he was injecting in your IV, but he did know it would kill you.”
Shawn let out a sigh of relief, leaned back in his bed, and closed his eyes. The world was loosing its yellow tint, his heart was beating at a nice steady rate, and the criminal had confessed, fully clearing him and his mother from any wrongdoing. He heard people speaking very quickly in Spanish, it seemed that everyone had something to say, but he didn’t bother asking Juliet to translate. He’d done what he came to Mexico to do—he’d kept his mom safe.The End