Saturday night turned into movie night at Juliet’s, but Shawn didn’t miss Lassiter slipping out in the middle of the second Clint Eastwood movie. Seeing as Lassiter would never bail on Eastwood, this was a red flag to Shawn.
He waited a bit before following, not wanting to be too obvious, and found Lassiter out on the balcony just putting his cell phone away. He made no move to come back inside after that, and didn’t even seem to notice Shawn was there.
That wasn’t normal at all. As much as Shawn hated to admit it, Lassiter was usually on top of things like that.
“What’s going on, Lassie?”
Lassiter started, but recovered quickly. “What do you want, Spencer?”
“I want to know what’s up; didn’t I just ask that?”
“Yeah, which is totally why you’re here in a rented car, you keep checking your phone every five seconds, and you’ve been glued to Marlowe and Lily like...you know, glue.”
“And let’s face it; I could spot nervous ticks on a stranger a mile away, and I’ve known you eight years.”
Lassiter glared at him briefly. “No pretense anymore, then?”
Shawn waggled a finger near his eyebrow for a second. “What, this? Come on, you and I both know—”
Lassiter held up a hand. “Stop. You’re an idiot, you know that? If I’d finished watching that video do you have any idea how much trouble you would have been in? I can’t just let things slide, Spencer. I’m the chief of police now.”
“So what are you saying?”
“I’m saying I had to throw it away! Plausible deniability, Spencer.”
“Aww. See, Lassie? You do care,” Shawn grinned.
Shawn let his grin drop and shrugged. “No, you stop changing the subject and tell me what’s got your panties in a twist.” Lassiter just rolled his eyes, leaned into the railing and looked out into the night. “Lassie…”
“Salamatchia escaped from prison.”
Shawn blinked. “What?”
Lassiter looked back over his shoulder. “Salamatchia. Escaped. From. Prison.”
“Salamatchia the guy who tried to killed you like three times in two days four or five years ago Salamatchia? That guy?”
“That’d be the one.”
“Oh.” Shawn grimaced and found a deck chair to drop into. “Oh.”
Lassiter let out a breath and scrubbed at his face. “Yeah.”
“But he was…like...an old guy.”
“An old guy who used to be special forces. Not that old, either. And he didn’t do it alone; it was him and two others. That was Brannigan on the phone. They’ve found the other two and taken them back into custody, but Salamatchia’s still out there. He split off and the other two supposedly have no idea where he went.”
“Look, man, if you guys need to stick around longer—”
Lassiter shook his head. “No, that’s all right. They’ve been keeping an eye on the condo, your old house, and where I was living at the time, in case he tries something. We figure he would have by now if he was going to. He hasn’t surfaced. Besides, I’d rather not be gone any longer than I have to be.”
Shawn couldn’t help smirking at that, and he leaned over his elbows on his knees. “How much convincing did it take to get you to leave town at all?”
Lassiter’s gaze strayed to the glass balcony doors. The blinds obstructed the view of the living room, but they both knew his family was on the other side. “Not as much as you’d think.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay longer?” Shawn asked.
“I’ll discuss it with my wife, but she wasn’t entirely keen on running away, either. If it was just the two of us...”
“Yeah. So Marlowe knows everything, then.”
“Of course she does, Spencer!” Lassiter answered, suddenly heated. “I aim to protect the woman I love; not keep her ignorant.” It came out more vehement than Shawn really thought appropriate, and then the dots connected.
“Whoa...we’re not just talking about Salamatchia anymore, are we? Or maybe we never were. Or we swung back around. Something of that nature.”
“It was entirely your fault when you and O’Hara went your separate ways last year, wasn’t it?” Lassiter questioned, as if remembering an argument he’d meant to have a long time ago.
“I’m getting whiplash here, Lassie. And I don’t think that’s any of your business. But if it makes you feel any better, yes, of course it was. But we’re fine now. She knows everything, and we’re fine. Totally fine. Great. Fantastic. Re: getting married.”
Lassiter advanced on him anyway, stabbing a finger at his chest, and Shawn scrambled up out of the deck chair and backed into a potted plant. “I warned you not to hurt her.”
“Then why didn’t you freak out on me a year ago when I actually did that! Geez, man!”
“Because I was a newlywed in a blissful state of happiness and I didn’t have time for your nonsense then, Spencer, but right now I’m upset as it is. You’re just a convenient target. You’re also planning to marry my former partner and current closest friend, and I cannot allow that to happen without making certain you’ve had the fear of God stamped into that skittish brain of yours.”
Shawn threw up his hands. “Ok! Fear of God stamped, Lassie. Big brand. Right there on my brain.”
“My previous threat still stands. If you hurt her again, in any way, I will shoot you.”
“Yes. Repeatedly. I remember. Duly noted.”
Lassiter nodded and took a step back. Shawn raised his eyebrows and batted away the potted tree he’d been run into. “So that was my talking-to?”
“It’ll have to do for now.”
“Fine. And if you’re going back to Santa Barbara tomorrow, at least keep us posted, ok?”
“Fine,” Lassiter agreed. “Just don’t tell O’Hara anything about it until we’ve gone; she’ll try to make us stay.”
“Fine.” Everything was quiet for a moment or two after that, until Shawn spoke again. “You really threw it away?”
“You didn’t give me a choice, did you?”
“Did you at least listen to the rest before I got to the—?”
Shawn shifted on his feet awkwardly. Lassiter’s hands were already on his hips and he was doing the pointedly-staring-nowhere-in-particular thing.
“Right. Good,” Shawn said. “That means this is weird now. I’m gonna...go inside.”
Lassiter cleared his throat. “Sounds good.”
So Shawn went, but then he stuck his head back out briefly. “You still missed us.”
“I will throw something at you.”
Three weeks passed, and Lassiter kept his promise. Every evening at precisely 4:55 PM Shawn and Juliet both received an email telling them that nothing had changed—Salamatchia had not been found—but everything was under control and there was nothing to be concerned about. It was literally the same email, forwarded to both of them every day, with the last sentence promising that the formula would change if anything in Santa Barbara changed. On the weekends they called for details.
By the the time the third weekend was upon them Shawn was antsy. Friday morning he tracked his best friend into the kitchen, interrupting him in the middle of his cereal.
“Hey, Gus, so you remember how we planned to go back and finish packing up your place next weekend before your lease is up?”
“We’re not waiting. We’re leaving now.”
Gus protested, waving his spoon in the air. “Shawn, I have two interviews this coming week I have to prepare for. I’m not going anywhere.”
“You’ll be back for them! The first one’s what, Thursday?”
“Fine. Whatever. You’ll be back!”
“Why do you want to go now?”
“Because we can. Don’t want to cut it too close, do you? Responsibility and...all that.”
Gus narrowed his eyes. “You want in on finding Salamatchia, don’t you?”
“What? No! I mean if we’re in town and I happen to gather some information on how the case is going...or come across a lead...well, hey, I won’t complain.”
“I knew it!”
“Come on, Gus. You know you want to.”
“I want no such thing.” He went back to eating his cereal. But Shawn stared him down, and finally he paused again. “It is kind of...concerning, that they haven’t found him yet.”
“My point exactly.”
Gus rolled his eyes. “Shawn, Lassie has Brannigan. If she hasn’t found Salamatchia yet, he’s probably not even in the area anymore. And if there was any evidence of where he’s gone, she’d have found that by now too.”
“She not that good.” Gus gave him a ‘really?’ look. “Ok maybe she is…”
“You know that’s right. We’d have been out of a job if we stayed in Santa Barbara, and you know it! What do you expect to find she couldn’t?”
Shawn smacked the counter. “Gus! Just…ok? Please? It’s Lassie.”
“If the guy’s run off somewhere I doubt he cares about Lassiter anymore.”
“Well we have to pack your stuff anyway...”
“I thought the original plan for next weekend was to pretend we were packing ourselves, hire someone instead, and play video games all weekend.”
“We’ll still hire someone else; we’ll just be investigating instead of playing video games. Just as fun, right?” Shawn paused. “No. Wait. I have a better idea.”
That was when Jules emerged from the hallway, ready for work. “What better idea? Carlton will know what you’re up to the second you hit town. He’s probably wondering why you haven’t shown up in Santa Barbara yet as it is.”
“I’ll figure it out,” Shawn insisted. “Why don’t you come with us? Lassie would be much happier to see you and besides, Jules, you can’t tell me you don’t want to be all over this.”
She made a face and sat down at the counter across from Gus, who handed her an empty bowl and pushed the milk and cereal box at her. “Of course I do.”
“Want us to wait until you’re off today?”
“I still haven’t agreed to this,” Gus put in.
Jules sighed and shook her head, quickly pouring herself a bowl of cereal. “I couldn’t come anyway,” she said between bites. “The chief just called; it looks like we’ve got a big case. I am inhaling this cereal and then I’ve got to go.”
“Me and Gus it is then. You’ve got your department car; can we borrow yours?” Shawn asked. They’d already sent back the driver’s ed car, seeing as Gus didn’t want to be arrested.
Jules’s phone went off. She checked it, groaned, and abandoned her half-eaten breakfast. Shawn followed her into the entryway, where she collected her work keys and tossed the keys from her personal car in his direction. “As long as you promise to find the guy,” she said, flashing him a knowing smile. “Keep me posted, and be careful.”
Shawn didn’t let her out the door without a proper kiss, and once she’d kissed him she held on a little too tightly, just a little too long. Enough for him to notice.
“Whoa. Hey. We’ll be fine, Jules.”
She let go and shook her head, confused. “I know. Sorry. Bad feeling all of a sudden…”
“No bad feelings allowed. Now you go catch your bad guy, and we’ll go catch ours.”
“I still haven’t agreed to this!” Gus called from the kitchen.