Part I: Family Jules, Chapter 1: Intruder
Henry had initiated weekly dinners between himself and his grown son several years ago in hopes that it could save their rocky relationship, and by now they were routine and expected. These regular Friday dinners were normally anything but a typical family dinner. Thanks to Shawn's career as a "psychic" detective, Henry's home had become a hide-out for various off-the-wall clients, such as wanted criminals, an insolent reality TV show host, a football legend, and even a polar bear. Whoever-it-was usually ended up crashing their Friday dinner, and sometimes with unfortunate results. Lately, though, the dinners had been surprisingly normal.
Over the years, the dinner guest list had changed from just Henry and Shawn to regular inclusion of Shawn's life-long buddy Gus, and now both young men and their girlfriends.
Shawn had been involved in a steady relationship with his long-time colleague Detective Juliet O'Hara. And more than that, Shawn was head-over-heels for his 'Jules.' He worshipped the ground she walked on and wanted to spend forever with her, even if he didn't know it yet. In fact, he had been holding onto that ring just in case the perfect moment came for popping the question. Unfortunately, Shawn's issues with being truthful had led to a heartbreaking separation, and they were only recently reunited and getting back on track.
Gus, having been single for a while, was finally in a healthy relationship with single-mom Rachael. Currently, though, Rachael and her son Maximus had returned to her birth home, England, to sort out some visa issues and wasn't present this particular evening.
Henry slapped several pieces of baked fish onto four plates and set them around the table for his guests, while they all began to fill the rest of their plates with rolls and side dishes.
"So Dad?" asked Shawn. "Stop N' Shop fish or Henry Spencer original?"
"Stop N' Shop, Shawn?!" said Henry, insulted. "You know me better than that! I wouldn't serve a fish I haven't caught myself. This is quality perch with lemon and rosemary rub, my own recipe," he said proudly.
"It sounds delicious!" said Gus as he moaned in delightful anticipation.
Silence filled the room while the group started digging in, Henry taking deliberate bites and savoring each, while Shawn poked each piece, inspected them from the corner of his eye, and popped them into his mouth. Gus shoveled the food into his face, while Juliet simply pushed the fish and potato salad around her plate, a queasy look on her face. Shawn, getting fed up with only the sound of chewing and clinking silverware, spoke up.
"So, Dad, how are things going with the new boyfriend?" he said, causing Gus and Juliet to stop mid-bite and look shockingly at Henry, and Henry to scoff annoyingly and drop his fork on his plate with a clang.
"Shawn, what on earth are you talking about?!" he demanded.
"You know, that heavy-set dude you've been meeting with," Shawn elaborated. Henry was dumbfounded as to how Shawn had any knowledge of the man. Apparently he had trained his son well.
Henry scoffed again. "Ed? You mean, Ed Harrison?" said Henry. "Ed is my fishing buddy, Shawn. That's all it is."
"Really? That's all?" Shawn questioned, solely for the purpose of pushing his father's buttons.
"Yes, Shawn. I've been meeting with Ed in the mornings to catch some fish and have a little man-to-man conversation, something that I completely failed at getting you to appreciate!"
"Man-to-man? How long has this been 'going on'?" Shawn asked with sarcastic air-quotes, his best friend and girlfriend holding in their snickers.
"Nothing is 'going on' except catching fish, including the one on your plate." Shawn looked at the fish on his plate in revulsion and pushed it away. "Ed is just a freshly retired guy looking for a hobby and I offered to teach him how to fish. I figured I couldn't teach you, so why not Ed? Besides - "
Henry's next argument was cut short when a thump resounded from outside the house, causing everyone to freeze and take a defensive stance. All of them, accustomed to regular interaction with even the worst of criminals and having been responsible for putting many of them behind bars, were always on guard.
"Did you hear that?!" asked Gus in a semi-whisper, enticing a simultaneous "Shhh!" from Henry, Shawn, and Juliet. Through the silence of the room, a slight creaking could be heard from what could have been the front porch.
"Dad, I keep telling you that getting an online subscription to the Santa Barbara Sun will resolve the issue of Clark Higgins stealing your paper," Shawn whispered.
"Why would I want to fiddle with one of those new-fangled gadgets to read the news, when I can use good old paper and ink?" argued Henry quietly. "Anyway, it couldn't be Clark. I already picked up today's paper and the next won't be here until tomorrow morning. Not to mention, I threatened to have him arrested next time he sets foot on my property, so I don't think he'll risk coming back.
"That dude has been stealing your newspaper for over 20 years," said Gus. "He seriously has a problem! He could probably benefit from a prescription of naltrexone. It's shown great promise for treating kleptomania."
"It's not Clark! Now come on," prompted Henry." You two make sure the back entrances are clear and Juliet and I will get the front."
As quietly as possible, the two Spencers and Juliet rose from the table. Shawn fought through indecipherable whispers with a hesitant Gus to get him to leave the table and follow him toward the back entrance. Henry and Juliet, who pulled her Beretta from her purse on the way, approached the front door.
While Shawn and Gus inspected the backside of the house, Henry crouched and peered through the window to the side of the door looking for any signs of movement, but not seeing a thing, shook his head 'no' towards the young detective who had one hand slowly turning the door knob and the other clutching her weapon. Juliet nodded to him that she was ready, and then pushed the door open swiftly with her shoulders, holding her gun in front of her steadily with both hands. Henry, who followed her through the doorway, spotted a man in black crouching at the corner of the porch. The man, knowing that he had been spotted, stood and took off at full speed, jumping the fence and turning towards the street. Juliet, followed by Henry, ran across the yard and partway down the road as fast as their feet could take them until realizing that they had lost track of the mysterious black-suited man.
Shawn and Gus, who had failed at finding anything suspicious at the back of the house, joined the junior and retired detectives in the front. Shawn held out his arms as if to say 'what happened?'
Henry panted, "Intruder…got…away."
Juliet hunched over, her hands on her knees as she caught her breath.
"You ok, sweetheart?" Shawn asked coming closer to her, not accustomed to seeing her out-of-breath. She was usually quite spry.
"Yeah, fine," she said standing and putting her arm around her boyfriend. She leaned against him lightly as they retreated back to the house with Gus and Henry. They spent the next 30 minutes or so scouring the area for clues as to who might have been roaming around Henry's yard and why, and without any leads went back inside to their cold dinner plates. The uninvited event ruining everyone's appetite, Henry and his three guests cleaned up the table and the kitchen.
"Who do you suppose it was?" asked Gus apprehensively.
"Who knows?" answered Henry. "…probably, just your average miscreant…I doubt anything to take too seriously, but we should warn the department about a potential burglar in the area."
"I doubt he'll be coming back here, said Shawn confidently. My smoking-hot-badass-detective girlfriend made sure of that!" He hugged Juliet closer to his side, while she smiled proudly at him. The rest of the room nodded in agreement.
"In any case, we should all be getting home and to a good night's sleep," said Henry with a yawn.
"You sure you'll be ok here on your own tonight, Henry? I could call in an officer to stand guard for the night if you want," Juliet suggested.
"Nah. Thanks Juliet, but I can take care of myself. I'll call the station if I notice anything else suspicious."
With that, they all said their good-byes, Gus heading towards his blue Echo, and Shawn and Juliet to her green Bug. Juliet sighed as she reached for the handle of the driver's side door, and before opening it asked if Shawn could drive. "I'm just so tired tonight for some reason," she said and yawned. Shawn agreed and took the driver's seat while Juliet slumped into the passenger side. Before inserting the keys into the ignition, he stopped and analyzed his girlfriend's appearance.
"What?" she said, noticing him looking at her oddly.
"You ok?" he asked attentively.
"I'm fine," she shrugged. "Just a little tired. That's all." Juliet turned her attention to buckling herself in and faced forward, ready to begin the short drive back to the rental home she shared with Shawn. However, Shawn's attention was still on Juliet.
"You sure? You hardly ate any of your dinner, you were oddly out of breath from chasing after that mystery dude, and I'm pretty sure you look almost as pale as post-1980s Michael Jackson"
Juliet considered his assessment and nodded. "Yeah, I guess I have been feeling a little off today. Nothing is agreeing with my stomach. It's probably nothing serious, but hopefully it won't turn out to be a nasty bug or something."
"And hopefully I won't catch it," Shawn added leaning away from her and holding an 'X' composed of his two index fingers between them. This earned him a light slap on the arm. "I deserved that," he said. "So…we should get you home and into bed…just in case this is a nasty stomach bug. You'll need your rest. Don't worry about running the dishwasher and feeding the cat tonight. You just get straight to bed."
"Thanks, Shawn," she said, yawning, closing her eyes, and intertwining her fingers with his. "I love you," she said as easily as she had before the break-up. She seemed not to have noticed that it was the first time she had said it like that in months.
"I love you too," said Shawn as he caressed the back of her hand with his thumb. He regretfully let go of her hand so that he could start the vehicle and drive home.
The next morning Shawn awoke to find Juliet absent from his arms. With bleary eyes, he reached towards her side of the bed, only to find cold, empty sheets. His sudden concern for Juliet's whereabouts bolted him from his grogginess, and he threw off his covers, leapt out of bed, and sprinted into the hallway. He found Juliet on the floor of the bathroom, even paler than the night before.
"It's a nasty buuggg…" she groaned and frowned. "I feel awful."
Shawn entered the bathroom and joined his girlfriend on the floor. "Never fear! Doctor Shawn is here!" he said. Juliet chuckled carefully so as not to upset her gurgling stomach and smiled at him. She wearily leaned her forehead on his. "Seriously, though. I mean that," he added softly. "Whatever you need…some toast, Pepto Bismol, an a cappella rendition of Beyonce's version of 'Fever'…I am here."
"I know. You are good to me. I'm sorry it took me so long to say it again…"
Immediately knowing that she was referring to the "L"-word, Shawn cut in. "Jules, Stop. You shouldn't be apologizing to me. After the way I lied to you, I don't even deserve an "I kinda like you" let alone an "I love you."
Juliet frowned. "Don't say that, Shawn. You know that it's going to take some time until I can fully trust you again, but…I know you're trying, and I'm trying. And even though I haven't said it in a while, I never…" Juliet paused abruptly as her face sickened and she turned to the toilet to relieve herself of whatever remnants of food she had managed to keep down from the day before. "…stopped loving you," she finished.
"I love you too, Jules. And, much like Timmy Schmit, I'm gonna 'Keep Tryin'."
"A POCO reference, Shawn? I didn't take you for a 70s country rock fan."
"I'm not, but what can I say? When you're a kid you're gonna end up listening to whatever your parents listen to. Anyway, I am saying that I don't want to lose you again…even when you are losing your lunch…which is really gross by the way." Juliet gave Shawn an insulted look. "Just being honest," he said holding up his hands defensively. She laughed lightly and let him have that one. "Come on, let's get you feeling better," said Shawn, pulling his girlfriend up from the floor.
About a week earlier
"Is that what you are wearing?" Henry asked Ed while he dropped two fishing rods and a tackle box into the bed of his truck. It was 5:00 AM and Ed had just arrived at Henry's home for his first fishing lesson. He was dressed fancily for a fishing outing, a sleek button-down shirt, black dress pants, and shiny loafers. His sleeves were even neatly held in place by a pair of gold cuff-links, though in his credit, he had forgone the tie.
"Is there something wrong with it?" Ed asked, looking himself over, seemingly thinking that there wasn't any other way to dress.
"It's just…fishing can get messy. You may not want to soil your nice clothes," Henry explained.
"These?" asked Ed puzzlingly. "These aren't my nice clothes."
"Uh..ok," said Henry shaking his head behind Ed's back. "At least wear this," he said tossing his old fishing vest to him. With an uncoordinated motion, Ed caught the vest, held it away from his body briefly as if it were a dirty rag, then shrugged, and slung it over his shoulders. Both men got into the truck and Henry drove them to the pier and led him to his personal fishing boat. After using his Fish-finder to rest the boat at a suitable location, and showing Ed how to bait his hook and cast his line, both men stood in silence waiting for a fish to catch one of their lines.
Henry broke the silence. "So Ed, what brings you to Santa Barbara? It's obvious you're not local," he added in response to Ed's wonder at how Henry knew he was from out of town.
"Oh, I uh…like I mentioned previously, I'm recently retired and needed a change of scenery. I thought the sunshine would be beneficial for my health."
"Where you from?" Henry asked.
"Let's say, the East," said Ed. "I'd rather not elaborate…meaning no offense to you, of course."
Ed's answer made Henry slightly uneasy, but he didn't question further, allowing the man the right to his privacy. "I take it your old man never taught you how to fish then?" he asked.
"That's true," admitted Ed. "I will be honest about the fact that I come from a well-to-do family. My father would have considered fishing below his stature. Though, I think I might have enjoyed the activity as a boy."
Henry nodded. Perhaps Ed was simply escaping his formal life-style for which he was never really suited…looking for a simpler life.
"How about you, Henry? Have you always lived in Santa Barbara?" Ed asked.
"Yup, born and raised. My grandfather was a fisherman at Stearns Wharf by trade. My father, after returning from the war, took up the trade as well but struggled to make a living for us."
"The Second World War, I assume?" guessed Ed.
"Yeah. That's the one." Henry didn't notice Ed's satisfactory nod at his answer. "Anyway, he eventually joined the police academy. 'As long as there is crime, I'll have a job,' he always said. 'And as sure as the sun will rise and fall each day, there will be crime.' He always had a fondness for fishing though, and taught me how. I tried to teach my son, but he had no interest."
"Oh! You have a son?" Ed responded jovially. "I never had a son myself…two daughters, though. They are the world to me, but it would have been nice to have a son."
"Yeah, I guess you could say that I lo…love…my son," Henry said hesitantly. Of course, he loved Shawn. It just wasn't his style to say it out loud. "He was a pain in the neck from the day he was born, though, and he's a pain in the neck at age 35 too."
Ed snickered. "I believe that's true for all children."
"You've never met Shawn!" stated Henry steadfastly
"Ha ha!" Ed laughed again. "Well no I haven't. Ha ha. What does he do for a living?"
"He's a…psychic detective…" Henry emphasized his son's profession with embarrassment and a little bit of disdain.
Ed's expression at this statement was priceless. Henry might as well have told him his son was a leprechaun or a Christmas elf.
"To be honest, Shawn is as smart as a whip. I trained him up to be a cop like his old man, and he truly could be one of the best detectives out there…and I guess he kind of is…" Henry smiled a bit out of proudness. "But instead of joining the academy and going about his career in the proper way, he had to go and make up this ridiculous profession, and trounce around town having ‘psychic visions’ or whatever other unprofessional nonsense he uses to solve crimes. He never was one for following the rules…but…I suppose he has saved a lot of people in the process, so at least he has that."
"You don't believe your son is a psychic?" asked Ed.
Henry, suddenly worrying whether Ed may be an undercover informant aimed at exposing Shawn for what he was, did his best to fix the situation. "I suppose he believes it," answered Henry untruthfully. "…and he certainly does seem to know things that even I haven't trained him to detect. So, I guess…maybe…he could be, but I've never been one to believe in such things. He could at least do with less of the theatrics, though. It's embarrassing to my name."
Ed laughed again and didn't pry any further, which eased Henry's suspicions. "Well, has he at least given you some grandchildren?"
"Ha! Shawn? A father? That's hard to imagine. I'd even question whether he could ever settle down… However, he has been seeing someone…in fact, they are living together, so I suppose it's getting pretty serious. She's actually quite a mature and respectable woman, a real detective for the SBPD. I am honestly baffled at how he managed to score her and why she even keeps him around. She must see something in him that I don't. Anyhow, if anyone could get him to settle down, it would be her."
The conversation seemed to have come to an end when both Henry and Ed had managed to catch a few tiny mackerels and Henry concluded that the big ones were just not biting today. He steered the boat back to the pier. After getting off the boat and walking partway down the pier something caught Henry's attention from the corner of his eye. He couldn't be sure, but he thought he saw a man near the base of his boat, as if he had just descended from it. As quickly as the man was there, he was gone.
"Did you see that?" he asked Ed.
"Did I see what?"
"I thought I saw…" Henry was bewildered at how someone could just appear and disappear so quickly and even more so that a man could have been on board his tiny boat without his noticing. He decided his eyes were playing tricks on him. "…oh, never mind. It was nothing." Henry and Ed left the pier with a promise to resume fishing lessons the next morning.