Something woke Juliet, and she didn’t know where she was at first. She expected to find herself in her bed. The case was wrapped up and she was going to finish her paperwork, and then go home and crash...but her back and neck said otherwise. Then she thought maybe she was at her desk, but she was leaning back rather than forward. The colors around her were wrong.
The chair was fake wood, hard arms and a bad cushion. Her feet were propped in another. What happened?
It came back when she registered the hospital equipment beeping and humming. She sat up, pulling her feet out of the other chair and lowering them back to the floor. Her neck twinged and she groaned a little. When her vision cleared Carlton was looking at her. He hadn’t moved from his station at Marlowe’s bedside.
“I fell asleep…”
Her former partner’s eyebrow went up, clearly saying now you’re just stating the obvious.
“When was the last time you slept?” he asked.
“Um...Thursday night?” It was still coming out scratchy, and she cleared her throat. “Thanks for the prop-up.”
“You were about to end up on the floor, and I thought that might be embarrassing.”
Juliet snorted in amusement and stretched. “How long was I out?” she asked, looking for her phone.
“An hour or so.”
“Shoot. I was supposed to go back out there long enough to let Shawn know how you were doing…” At that both of Carlton’s eyebrows went up, and then drew together. “What? Shawn can’t care, too?”
Lassiter let out a breath and shook his head. He looked away, studying Marlowe’s still fingers in his. “Maybe I should stop letting things like that surprise me.”
“What do you mean?”
He still wouldn’t look at her. “I mean...most of the time I’m not very good at telling people what they...mean to me. I told you that before you left. And...Marlowe is the exception. It’s so easy…” He trailed off, grimaced and reigned himself in. Cleared his throat. He glanced up at Juliet, but not for long. “I’m not any better at noticing how people feel about me. Most of the time I don’t care.”
Now she knew how exhausted he was himself. He was getting personal. Juliet leaned over her knees, resting her elbows on them. “Well I think that last part’s a lie.”
Maybe he would have answered. Maybe he even would have admitted it. But a nurse knocked on the open door to get his attention, and the conversation was over.
Juliet sat back in her chair, trying to be unobtrusive as Carlton got up to speak briefly with the woman at the door. She didn’t get up until something in Lassiter’s posture changed. She didn’t know what it was, looking at his back. She hadn’t meant to be staring at all, but now she couldn’t stop. The nurse was leaving, and Carlton was leaning heavily in the doorway.
His shoulders went up and down and Juliet’s stomach dropped to her shoes.
“Carlton?” Her shins banged the chair as she tried to get around it and to his side. “Ow...Carlton!”
She grabbed his shoulder, and she realized she was terrified of what she’d see when he turned around. As soon as she saw his face she would know. Lily…
Juliet blinked. “What?”
Lassiter turned enough to press his back into the doorframe instead of a shoulder. There were tears on his face, but he was smiling weakly. “Lily’s going to be fine,” he breathed, like he’d been holding a breath before. “She’s um...she’s been stable since she came out of surgery. They’re expecting a full recovery. They’re sure now. She’s fine. She’ll be fine…”
Juliet hugged him, leaned into him maybe more than she’d intended, and maybe this time she needed the support as much as he did. She gasped a breath of her own, and she didn’t know whether she was laughing or crying.
This wasn’t over, but knowing that was so much better than nothing.
O’Hara ducked out to check in with the others in the waiting room. Carlton planned to see his daughter, but first he went back to his wife’s bedside.
“Did you hear that?” he asked. He took her hand again and sat on the edge of the bed this time. “Lily’s going to be fine. Our daughter is ok.” He wanted to say more, but he didn’t know what, and his throat was clogged as it was.
Carlton kissed the hand in his. “I’ll be back soon. I love you…”
Shawn was the only one awake when Jules finally came back out to the waiting room. Gus was snoring again and even Henry had dozed off over his crossed arms where he sat.
“Hey,” Shawn said quietly. He reached out for her hands and Jules took them and sat beside him. She still looked tired, but she was smiling. “What’s up? Good news?”
“Lily’s fine,” she said, and kissed him.
“Awesome. That’s something. Where’s Lassie?”
“He was headed over to see her.”
“Do they know anything else about Marlowe?”
“Not yet.” Jules cocked her head at him. “What are you still doing here? You could have gone.”
“We’re your ride, sweetheart.”
“Your dad is here.”
He shrugged. “So? Anyway, as long as you were back there please tell me you at least fell asleep or something.”
“Yeah. I got some rest. You didn’t tell me why you’re still here.”
“Well where else am I gonna go? Unless they get a hit there’s nothing we can do in the middle of the night.”
Jules’s interest seemed piqued. “There’s something you can do in the morning? Do you have another lead?”
“Not so much a lead as a hunch,” he admitted. “Brannigan got us into the files last night. Or the night we got here. Whatever you want to call it. Anyway, I read Lassie’s report from what happened with Salamatchia in the graveyard—what went down before we got there. Salamatchia was talking about going through a divorce.”
“So his ex-wife’s place would probably be the last place he’d think we would think he was. It’s too obvious.”
“I’m sure they checked with her after the escape.”
Shawn nodded. “The LAPD did. She’s down in LA now. He wasn’t there. And he probably didn’t think anything of not cleaning up Petrovich’s place when he was done, cause he knew we’d know who did it, but being able to confirm he was there did one thing, Jules. It tipped his hand. We know his strategy now.”
Jules looked at him for a minute, frowning, tired and trying to catch up. But she was her, and she was amazing, so of course she did.
“He’s doing exactly what we would assume he wouldn’t do—everything that should be too easy, but if you add time…”
“He thinks that’ll throw us off,” Shawn finished, agreeing. “But it won’t. We’re onto him now. Or I am. Because I’m that awesome.”
“You want to go find the ex-wife. You think he went back there.”
“Or maybe not back, just there now.” He yawned. “I’ve already got the address.”
Jules seized his hands again. “You’re not going by yourself.”
Shawn grinned. “Of course not; I’ll drag Gus along.”
“No. I’m serious. It’s the LAPD’s jurisdiction; we’ll call and get them to get a warrant and check again. Thoroughly. I mean…” She made a face. “I mean we’ll get Brannigan to call them and...everything. Since she’s the one who actually works in Santa Barbara now.”
Shawn wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her down to rest against him. “It’s ok. It’s fine, Jules. Can we talk about this in the morning?” He yawned again.
“If you’re going to drive tomorrow you need real sleep in a real bed,” she mumbled into his chest.
He snorted. “Said the pot to the kettle. It’s only like an hour or two! And what, you’re gonna let me now?”
“No. I don’t know.”
“Go to sleep, Jules.”
Juliet rested on her fiance’s shoulder, but she couldn’t go back to sleep. Shawn fell asleep, finally, which she was glad of. Gus snored on. Henry woke up and waved at her, but stayed quiet. Juliet waved back.
She didn’t know how long they stayed there, but she was the first on her feet when Lassiter hurried back through the waiting room. He wasn’t looking for them, and he wasn’t stopping. He was headed back in the direction of his wife’s room, and Juliet could already hear the commotion coming from the corridor on the other side of the double doors.
“Carlton?” she called.
“Marlowe!” he called back. Then he was gone.
“Shawn! Wake up, get up! Gus!” Juliet twisted to shake them, but Shawn was already awake from her pushing off of him. She hauled him up.
“What?” he was asking.
She didn’t know what. And if it was bad there was nothing they could do, but she wasn’t just going to sit here.
“Marlowe. Come on,” she said urgently, dragging him for the door. Henry had Gus.
Someone tried to stop the four of them at the doors, and Juliet was glad she still had her badge in one of her pockets. She waved it just long enough for the nurse to tell what it was, but hopefully not long enough for her to really look at it. If she did, she’d know it was the wrong city.
“I can’t let all of you—”
“Can it!” Juliet growled. She shoved the badge back into her pocket and didn’t break her stride. They pushed through the doors.
“Jules, you’re so sexy,” Shawn said. He was definitely awake now.
“Not the time, Shawn.”
Carlton was already halfway down the hall at Marlowe’s door, shouting because he wasn’t in yet. “—chief of the Santa Barbara Police Department, and that is my wife!”
He disappeared into the room.
“He’ll be in the way in there,” Henry said, anxious.
“I’ve got it,” Juliet answered, as they caught up.
It was exactly as bad as it could have been. A crash cart and a whole team were in the room. The monitors were screaming. She swallowed hard, and Shawn froze beside her. She didn’t like the look on his face, but she had to let go of him. She found Henry’s eyes, and didn’t let go until he’d nodded at her and taken his son’s arm.
“I’m going in. It’ll be ok; stay here, ok?” she asked. Shawn didn’t meet her eyes for long. He barely nodded in answer and she didn’t want to go until he did, but it would have to do.
Juliet ducked into the room under the radar. Lassiter knew enough that he’d found a corner to back into out of the way, but he was still shouting at people and that couldn’t be helping.
The monitors were still whining, still blaring the fact that his wife had no pulse. Juliet got to him just before he surged forward.
“Carlton!” She caught him, held him back. “Carlton, let them do their job. They know what they’re doing. Don’t...”
Thank goodness, he didn’t fight her. He knew she was right. She held onto him and felt him shaking, breathing too hard.
“What’s happening?” he gasped.
“Dad, what’s happening?”
In the corridor Henry still had Shawn’s arm, lest he launch himself into the fray. “Her heart stopped, son.”
Shawn would know that. Surely Shawn Spencer, of all people, had watched enough television to know what was happening. Henry knew that. He also knew that his son didn’t deal well with the harsher parts of reality—not when they affected anyone he cared for. Shawn could hunt murderers all day, even put himself in danger, but endanger anyone he cared about and he unraveled at the seams.
“But they’ll start it, and-and she’ll be fine. She’ll be fine, right?” Shawn demanded.
Henry looked at Gus, and Gus shook his head.
“I don’t want to hear they’re trying! She’ll be fine. She has to be. Right, Dad? Dad?”
Henry didn’t answer, because he couldn’t.
Juliet went in to support her partner, but she was the one who was already crying when the medical team stopped trying to revive Marlowe. When they shut the whining monitors off and the room was suddenly, strangely quiet.
It wasn’t quiet for long. Carlton shouted at them. Juliet still had to hold him back when the doctor came to speak to him while the others cleared away. The man was trying to apologize.
“Just go,” Juliet snapped at him.
It wasn’t his fault, but she had to say it. She had to make him leave. Lassiter would have yelled at him all night.
“No! Hey! What are you doing?” Shawn was trying to stop the medical team leaving. He was grabbing at scrub sleeves, motioning wildly back to the room.
“Shawn,” Henry said. He was trying to pull his son back, farther from the door.
“Where are you going! You have to get back in there!” Shawn protested.
Henry was apologizing to the nurses, urging them on, still tugging Shawn back. “Shawn!”
“You have to save her! You can’t just—!”
“Shawn!” He wrapped his arms around his son and pulled him close. Shawn fought him.
“We can’t let them—!”
“Shawn, it’s over! It’s over…”
No beeping monitors left, no doctors or nurses. Only Lassiter’s harsh breaths and Juliet’s own sniffing.
There was noise in the corridor, maybe shouting. Definitely shouting. Shawn. Henry. It was right there, but it seemed so far away.
“Carlton…I’m so sorry.”
She didn’t know what else to say. The only time in her life she’d felt more helpless was bound and gagged in a chair, dangling from a clock tower.
Shawn wrenched away from him. He just stood there for a moment, looking at them. At Henry, at Gus. Henry had nothing else for him, and neither did Guster.
Then Shawn spun and kicked the wall.
“Ow!” He hopped once or twice, cursing.
“Shawn!” Henry said.
“Shawn?” Gus echoed.
He ignored them. He walked away.
“Shawn, where are you going!” Henry called.
Shawn twisted, walked half backwards. “Somewhere I can do something, Dad! I can’t do this! I don’t do…” He motioned toward the room. “This.”
“No! Ok? I don’t. You know that. You both know that. Gus, come on! We’re out of here.”
Henry looked at Gus, who shrugged apologetically and moved to follow his friend. Henry caught his shoulder. “Gus, don’t let him do anything stupid…”
“He doesn’t listen to me!”
“You’re the only one he does listen to, other than Juliet.”
“Then we’re in trouble.”
“I’ll do my best, ok? That’s all I can do.”
Henry swallowed and nodded, and let him go.
“Gus!” Shawn called, from the main doors.
Gus bounded after him. “I’m coming!”
A loud banging from the corridor, an impact on the wall, and Carlton started and seemed to snap from the stupor he’d been left in once everyone else had cleared from the room. Since he suddenly had no one to yell at anymore.
He pulled in an uneven breath and broke from Juliet’s side. She let him go—let him go to the bed, to Marlowe. There were no tubes or wire or needles anymore. Just a silent, still form. Lassiter sat on the edge of the bed, but Juliet followed only to the end of it.
Some of the yelling from outside started to make sense. Shawn was leaving.
No. Don’t leave. Where are you going? I need you.
“I don’t understand,” Lassiter said finally. His voice was flat.
Juliet’s throat tightened again. “Carlton?”
“I don’t understand,” he said again. This time emotion creeped back. His voice broke. “This isn’t the way it was supposed to end.”