Chapter 18: Something's Fishy
Life had changed considerably for Shawn and Gus in the last few months. Now that both of them were coupled up and their relationships getting more serious, it was hardly ever just Shawn and Gus anymore. Now it was usually Shawn and Juliet and Gus and Rachael, and even sometimes Maximus. Double dates had become a regular occurrence. Without Juliet working in the field, and Shawn’s and Gus’s lightened load, life was becoming more easygoing.
Sure, both Shawn and Juliet knew that before long they would both be itching for some quick-paced crime-solving action again, but for now the slow pace was nice. It gave them a chance to enjoy some much-needed couples time before life got crazy again…before their lives would be filled with bottles, dirty diapers, and sleepless nights on top of the usual sting operations, interrogations, and mountains of paperwork.
It was a bright and sunny Saturday afternoon of doing nothing. Maximus was spending the day with friends, which Gus and Rachael thought was the perfect opportunity for a double lunch date on the pier. Shawn and Juliet were glad for the invitation and joined their friends on the patio of one of their favorite spots overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
“Rachael, you might not know this, but Gus was actually a back-up dancer for Destiny’s Child during his college days…stage and video. So next time you are watching the Bootyliciousvideo, that is if MTV ever starts playing music videos again, keep an eye out for a sweet high top fade.”
“Suck it, Shawn!” said Gus. “Rachael, I was never a dancer for Destiny’s Child, andI shaved my high top fade in 1995, two years before Destiny’s Child recorded their first album. Plus Bootyliciouswasn’t released until 2001.”
“And yet...you know that,” said Shawn.
Gus clicked his and tongue in annoyance and embarrassment. “Suck it, Shawn!” Rachael and Juliet laughed.
“Oh!” said Juliet in surprise, and placed her hand on her now obvious baby bump. “Shawn, feel this!” She said excitedly putting his hand on her belly.”
“Whoa! My boy has some strong leg muscles!”
“Or girl!” added Juliet
“Either way,” said Shawn. “Narwhal certainly has inherited my calves of steel.”
“Narwhal?” questioned Rachael.
“The baby’s name is notNarwhal, or Starfish, or Flounder, or any sea creature for that matter,” clarified Juliet. “He orshe doesn’t have a name yet.”
“When will you find out the sex?” asked Gus. He was almost as excited about it as the parents, themselves.
“Gus,” Shawn laughed. “Obviously Jules and I already know about sex. You don’t need to give us ‘the talk’ again. It’s a little late for that.”
“No…Boy. Or. Girl., Shawn!”
Juliet answered, “Threedays! I can’t wait!”
“You’ll be the first to know, buddy,” said Shawn.
“You know that’s right!”
“Gus, Rachael! This is fun. Thanks for inviting us out!” said Juliet.
“Of course!” said Rachael with her English accent. “You know, when I first met Shawn…well, I didn’t like him that much.”
“That’s because he accused you of murder the first time you met him,” Gus pointed out.
Juliet rolled her eyes. That sounded just like Shawn.
“I accuse all of Gus’s girlfriends of murder,” said Shawn, “It’s like a rite of passage.”
“That’s true,” agreed Gus.
Rachael continued, “But, it turns out Shawn isn’t so bad, and if I hadn’t given him a chance I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of getting to know Juliet. It’s hard making friends as a single mom.”
“Aww…thanks!” said Juliet. “It’s hard making friends as a cop too, especially female ones. To be honest, I don’t really have any close female friends, so it’s nice to have another woman to talk to, especially another mom.”
“It’s my pleasure, Juliet! Don’t hesitate to call if you ever need to talk.” The girls started chattering about babies, childbirth and breast-feeding, while Shawn and Gus sat by awkwardly.
“Ohhh…ok!” interrupted Shawn. “That’s enough estrogen for today…” he paused when he saw a familiar face in an unfamiliar location. Everyone turned to see who he was looking at.
“McNab?” said Shawn to the large, buff-looking waiter approaching their table.
“Oh. Hi guys, Juliet. It’s good to see you. You all look well, andradiant.” He directed the last word toward Juliet, who blushed.
“Thanks, Buzz,” she responded, “and, no offense, but you look awful!”
“Yeah, man,” added Shawn, “You haven’t been playing Grand Theft Autoagain? Do we need to have another intervention?”
It was true. The usual very chipper and clean shaven police officer was now disheveled and sporting a 5 o’clock shadow and bags under his eyes. He looked embarrassingly at the floor. “Is it really that noticeable?” he asked sheepishly.
“For a moment I thought you were Nick Nolte,” said Shawn.
Buzz, ashamed, said, “Well, I’ve had to pick up a couple extra jobs since Trout fired me.” He frowned. “I’ve hardly slept in three days, and I haven’t been able to spend time with my Francie in weeks.”
“I’m sorry, Buzz,” frowned Juliet. She couldn’t help but think that Buzz’s misfortune was partially her fault, a little more Shawn’s fault, but hers too. “On the bright side, there are only two more months of Vick’s suspension. I’ll talk to her. I am sure she will hire you back. You may have to quit your ‘night job’ though.”
“Didn’t you hear?!” said Buzz, surprised.
“Vick’s suspension has been extended another 6 months and, you didn’t hear this from me, but it sounds like Trout is trying to make it permanent.”
“What? No! That can’t be true!” Juliet panicked, “I would have heard…” She started to wonder about the stability of her own job and whether she and Lassiter would ever be partners again. Shawn, too, couldn’t hide his worry.
“Well, maybe you wouldn’t have heard, I guess. It’s not exactly general knowledge,” said Buzz. “The announcement hasn’t been made at the station yet.”
“McNab, how do you know this?” asked Shawn.
Buzz looked as if he had been caught in a lie. His eyes darted back and forth across the outdoor patio, and he leaned in closer to the table, whispering. “Don’t tell this to anyone, but Lassiter and I have been working together on an investigation of sorts.”
“You and Lassiter?” Gus piped in. He needed to know if he’d heard correctly.
Shawn stood up and started squinting into the bright blue sky.
“Shawn, what are you doing?” asked Juliet.
“Oh, I was just looking for pigs.”
“Yeah…like maybe some potbellies or even those adorable teacup-sized ones, preferably with wings, or maybe even flying a tiny propeller plane! Gus, how cute would that be?! Quick, call Hell and find out what the weather is down there!”
“Ok, I get it,” said McNab. “Why would Lassiter want to open an investigation with me? Honestly, I don’t know for sure. He just showed up at my door one day, going on about his new partner and something about an M-O-M.”
Juliet’s heart raced at the reminder of the mysterious phone calls. It seemed her sudden change in lifestyle had completely pushed it out of her mind.
Buzz continued, “Lassiter was suspecting that his and Juliet’s new partners were involved in some sort of criminal activity. My guess is that he wanted someone no longer associated with the SBPD to help him out.”
“Why didn’t he call ME?!” asked Shawn.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t think he wanted there to be any chance that Detective O’Hara would find out what he was up to. Oops… Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything to you guys.”
“Why wouldn’t he want me to know?!” exclaimed Juliet.
“He was protecting you Juliet,” said Gus.
“That’s absurd!” said Juliet.
“Can you honestly say you wouldn’t have gotten involved in the investigation if you knew about it?” argued Gus.
“Well, no…But I didknow about it…I mean, not that he was investigating with McNab, but I knew about M-O-M. I was the one who first brought it up to him.”
“Jules, if you suspected that your partner was up to something, why didn’t you ever say anything to me before?” asked Shawn.
“I don’t know…I guess I wasn’t really sure about it…it was just a little suspicious behavior…a feeling…but nothing concrete. I mentioned it to Lassiter right before we left for the warehouse that day…the day of the…” Just thinking about the event was bringing back the fear that she thought she had gotten over.
“It’s ok, Jules. I know what day you are talking about.”
She continued, “Well, with everything that happened and then being put on desk duty, I guess I just…forgot.”
“What is it that you forgot, sweetheart?” asked Shawn.
“The phone calls,” she said. “Crofton and Wallace were both secretly communicating with someone called M-O-M at a specific number…um, it was…555-0..9…uh..”
“555-0967,” said Buzz.
“Wait! I know that…” said Shawn
“You do?!” Juliet asked, stunned.
Shawn put his fingers to his temples as he tried to remember where he had seen it before. It had been a few months earlier. They were in Chief Vick’s office. There was a half-eaten Balancebar next to the ringing phone. A large, pale, veiny hand reached for it.
“They were communicating with Trout’s mother?” he concluded and questioned at the same time.
“What are you talking about, Shawn?” asked Gus.
“555-0967. That is Trout’s mother’s phone number. I am sure of it!”
“Or, maybe it wasn’t really his mother…” said Gus, “M-O-M.”
“Oh, no! McNab, this thing may be bigger than you think.”
Two months had passed since Avery walked into the Psych office asking for Shawn’s and Gus’s help, and still the identity of her creepy dude was a mystery. In fact, Shawn was starting to see why the SBPD had turned her away…besides the fact that the place was currently run by an incompetent bunch of boobs.
It made sense why her friends and family refused to acknowledge that she was in danger. So far, Shawn could find no evidence that anyone was trailing her or had attempted to hurt her in any way. He was starting to wonder if she was making it all up, or imagining it. She did seem to be a troubled girl. Maybe she was just trying to get attention or she was just paranoid. On the first day of the investigation, she had taken Shawn to the marina where she said she saw the man. Shawn, however, wasn’t able to find anything to suggest that anything was going on down there, besides normal marina goings on. Shipments going in, shipments coming out, nothing remotely suspicious.
Avery’s “accidents” seemed like just that, accidents. The first one was when her car swerved off the road and hit a tree. She claimed that she saw a suspicious man standing in the road and she swerved to miss him, but by the time she had gotten out of the car, the man was gone. The second time, she nearly fell off of a bridge while walking across the interstate. She said she felt like she had been pushed by someone, but there was no sign of anyone who might have done it in the vicinity. The third was a bicycle accident. Then she thought someone had poisoned her school lunch. In every case, there wasn’t any evidence of foul play, only her word. And being that she was known among her friends and teachers and her father to often “stretch the truth,” it was no wonder nobody believed her. He was considering giving up on the investigation and instead suggest she find a therapist.
It was late and the sun had disappeared behind the ocean adjacent to the Psych office. Shawn was wrapping up some Google searches that were getting him nowhere and was about to head home. His cell phone rang in his pocket. He was certain it would be Jules, asking him to pick her up some pickles and strawberry ice cream, or whatever she happened to be craving at the time. But it wasn’t. He didn’t recognize the number. “Hello?” he asked cautiously.
“Shawn, Help me! Please!” said a somewhat familiar voice in a panicked whisper.
“Yeah. Shawn, I am at home. There is someone here. I saw him outside, I think he’s trying to break in. I’m scared!
“Avery, are you absolutelysure? Where’s your dad?”
“Yes, I’m sure! Dad’s out of the country at a conference. I’m here alone. Please just do something!”
“Ok. You just keep yourself hidden and I’ll be over right away.” He suspected she was just over-reacting or asking for attention, but didn’t want to take the chance that he was wrong.
Shawn’s motorcycle pulled up to the luxurious Spanish home overlooking the Santa Barbara skyline where Avery lived with her father. He expected to find the home standing quietly and to find Avery inside, maybe a little upset, but otherwise safe and sound. But he was wrong. As soon as the house came into view it was clear that something was seriously wrong. The backside of the house was engulfed in flames and he heard screams emanating from an upstairs window. After quickly dialing 9-1-1 and reporting the incident, he headed inside.
“Avery?! Where are you?”
“Shawn! Help me!” he heard her muffled voice scream. “I’m up here! I’m trapped! Help!
Shawn raced up the stairs and saw that the far end of the hallway was red with flames, and the fire was starting to make its way in his direction. He carefully headed towards it while covering his face. Checking inside each room and calling for Avery as he did.
“I’m in here!” he heard coming from one of the far rooms. Although the room was not yet fully engulfed by the fire, a burning beam was blocking the doorway. He peeked into the room and saw Avery huddled in the corner, trying to keep as far away from the flames as she could.
“I see you!” he said, “Just sit tight.”
Shawn doubled back into what looked like her father’s room and ripped the comforter from the bed. He took it to the bathroom across the hall and proceeded to soak it with cold water and then draped it over himself like Harry Potter donning his invisible cloak, then forced his way through the flames and to Avery. She had stopped screaming and appeared to be having trouble breathing.
“He did it,” she wheezed.
“Who did what?” asked Shawn.
“The man…wheeze…the creepy guy…wheeze…he was here.” She coughed and then said through another wheeze, “he started the fire…I know it.”
“Ok. Ok. We can talk about this later. First we have to get you out of here.” He picked her up, pulling the comforter over both of them and forced his way back through the flames and out of the house.
By the time he reached the driveway, there were already fire trucks and ambulances waiting for them. A couple of paramedics rushed to assist Shawn and Avery and before long the two of them were on an ambulance and on their way to the hospital. Just before the vehicle pulled out, Shawn was sure he saw from the back window a person, a muscular blonde-haired someone, slinking creepily into the bushes.