Chapter 25: Catching a Trout
Shawn felt a little woozy, not having eaten all day, but at least he had been allowed to empty his bladder and felt much better for that.
“How ya doin?” he asked Avery, who had finally had the tape removed from her mouth. Both of them were still tied up though.
“I’m scared,” she said. “What are they going to do to us?”
“Hey! Don’t you worry. You are looking at a man who once talked himself out of a beating from a gang of biker thugs…who once escaped from the trunk of a moving vehicle…and outwitted the Yin-Yang killers. I know my antics make it seem like I am not taking this seriously, but that’s just how my game works. It throws them off and gives us a leg up. Just trust me.”
“Also, I happen to know some of the best detectives in the country and they will stop at nothing to find us. As hopeless as it may seem right now, believe me, it isn’t.”
“Ok, I trust you,” said Avery.
Shawn’s eyes wandered around the basement of Mabel O. Miller’s house. As he looked around, he realized the contents of Mabel’s basement were not the typical contents of a basement. Sure, it was filled with boxes, crates, and containers just like any other basement. But these containers were different. They were fresh, not dusty and mildew, like things that had been sitting in the basement for years would be. Some of them were partially opened and he could see what was inside. There was new stuff inside…electronics still in the box…shiny, sparkly jewelry…designer clothing with tags still on. He even thought he saw a bag that looked much like stacks of cash were piled inside.
He thought back to his evening chats with Juliet and what she had told him about all of the robberies that were taking place around town. A lot of the items in this room sounded much like the stolen items that Juliet described. Everything was finally starting to make sense. He frantically added up all of the clues in his head and constructed a perfect explanation. Now all he needed was an audience to witness his spectacular breakdown.
Right on cue, Crofton and Wallace made their way down the rickety wooden stairs, followed by Harris Trout.
“Ok, you two,” said Trout. “It’s time to go for a walk in the woods.” Crofton and Trout hefted Shawn onto his feet, while Wallace picked up Avery.
“OOO! A walk!” said Shawn bouncing around like an excited puppy. “Can I bring some trail mix and my army canteen?!”
“Shut your mouth, Spencer!” said Trout, angrily. “You’ve been enough of a thorn in my side already. Don’t think I’m above adding some torture to your miserable ending.”
Shawn was surprised to hear Avery’s voice next. “Well…uh…you should know better than to use the word W-A-L-K in front of him. That’s a sure-fire way to get him wound up.” She smiled at Shawn who returned a proud wink.
“You too?! Oh god! Let’s just get this over with,” complained Trout.
“Well, wait…” said Shawn. “Don’t I at least get to guess what bad juju you’ve been up to?”
“Ain’t nobody got time fo dat!” shouted Wallace.
“Hey! Good one WaWa! I’ve been waiting to pull out that reference for a while now, but you beat me to it!” said Shawn. Wallace grinned for a half second until he felt Trout’s and Crofton’s death glares shoot in his direction.
“The answer is no,” said Trout. We’re going now.” He began to pull Shawn by the arm, but Shawn suddenly began to writhe and flop around like a fish.
“Whoa! Hey! What’s happening to me? Avery help me!” Avery’s eyes and mouth gaped, as did Wallace’s. Trout’s expression increased in annoyance.
“What is this?!” demanded Crofton.
“I think he’s having a psychic episode,” said Avery in astonishment.
“She’s right!” huffed Shawn as he continued to flop around like a fish out of water. “I’m channeling someone…who am I channeling?” His flopping stopped suddenly. “Gulliver? Is that your name?”
“Who’s Gulliver?” asked Wallace curiously.
“Don’t humor him!” said Trout
“Gulliver is a goldfish!” said Shawn. “He says he died here many moons ago and his spirit has been lurking here ever since.”
“This is ridiculous,” said Crofton. “Get him off the floor.”
Shawn ignored him. “Gulliver saw and heard everything. He saw you plotting all those months back…making a plan to put yourselves in the best positions for carrying out your devious crimes without having anyone to catch you in the act. And, what would be the best possible way to get away with this much burglary without the risk of getting caught by the cops? Of course! You had to bethe cops. But this is even bigger than that isn’t it? All of this stuff”— he motioned around the room with his head – “what’s it doing here? I mean, why steal it and then keep it stashed in a basement? Sure, you might be able to set up an Ebay account and sell off some of this for cash, but who has the time?
“Ain’t nobody got time fo dat!” chimed in Avery.
“Exactly!” said Shawn with a nod to Avery, who grinned.
“No,” he continued. “This is all practicefor something even bigger. I mean, come on, you started with something as brainless as a convenience store knock off. Even a chimp with one leg could knock off Bob’s Minutemart. No offense to Bob, of course. You pinned that one on Diego Lopez. He needed to go to jail anyway, I know, but he had nothing to do with that crime.”
“Why are we standing here listening to this?!” said Crofton.
“Because you can’t help yourself. I’m just thatintriguing.” Shawn tousled his hair and pouted his lips.
“But anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Then you worked your way up to more difficult things…a department store…a jewelry store…a shipment of Japanese electronics. I’m pretty sure that’s the one Avery happened to walk in on while she was doing things that I’m sure her father wouldn’t approve of if he had known, by the way.”
Avery frowned grumpily.
“Each time, you pinned the crime on some other, not-so-innocent, but unsuspecting criminal.
That. Is. The. Question. Isn’t it? Well, to know that, we’d have to ask the mastermind of this plan, which is neither you, you, or you.” He said nodding to the three men one at a time.
Shawn glanced up the staircase, and noticed just at the top a very familiar black shoe. He knew for sure that it was the always-freshly-polished shoe of a certain tall lanky detective, and that his rescuers were lying in wait for the right moment to make their move.
“Who was the mastermind?” asked Avery.
“They call him Swaggs. But I believe they are referring to the big cheese himself, Mayor Swaggerty. And let’s not forget about Swaggs’ right hand man…I mean wo-man…the infamous M.O.M., or Mabel O. Miller, whose basement we happen to be standing in right now…well, me laying.
Swaggs replaced not only the head of the city himself, but also used his dirty henchmen to replace the chief of police, the head of internal affairs, and the two best detectives at the SBPD (One of whom happens to be my beautiful fiancé who is currently carrying my first born, and the other I am proud to say I have no relation to whatsoever).
You see, the mayor had some big plans for the city of Santa Barbara – devious plans. What were they, you ask? I’m not sure. Maybe he wanted to turn this place into a major port for drug trade, or weapons, or illegal knock-offs of designer eyewear. We may never know, because everything started to fall apart with their most recent crime. The bank robbery that was supposed to be pinned on the El Chotacabras…”
“How do you know all this?!” shouted Trout.
“Gulliver told me. He’s a smart fish, and he’s got nothing to do but hang around this place all day so he can’t help but listen. And by the way, fish-to-fish, Gulliver wants me to tell you that he finds a nice swim through a miniature model of a medieval castle will do wonders to calm those nerves of yours.”
“Grrr!” growled Trout.
“This is all your fault Wallace!” shouted Crofton. “If you hadn’t missed that shot, the blonde detective would be dead and we would have apprehended El Chotacabras.”
“I wouldn’t have missed if yourpartner hadn’t pushed her out of the way.”
Shawn seethed when he realized these guys were the reason he almost lost his Juliet and unborn child.
“If either of you were realdetectives, you wouldn’t have underestimated the loyalty between long time partners.”
“That’s enough of this! Let’s get going,” said Trout.
“Hmmm. Gulliver says he wouldn’t do that if he were you…” said Shawn.
“And why is that?”
“Because you might run into us!” shouted Lassiter who was storming down the stairs followed by Vick, a number of SBPD (including McNab), and – was Shawn seeing clearly? – the FBI.”
“It’s all over, Trout,” said Karen. “FBI has recorded everything and taken down Swaggerty. Read ‘em their rights, Lassiter.”
“Gladly,” he said.
“Chief, how did you…?” started Shawn.
“Once Lassiter and McNab realized Swaggerty was in on all of this, we called in an old friend from the FBI,” answered Karen. She motioned to a tall dark-haired man as she helped Shawn off of the ground.
“Detective Ewing!” exclaimed Shawn. “That’s awesome. Let’s keep him away from Jules, though. By the way, whereis Jules?!”
“She’s safe. I’ll let these guys explain,” she said. Gus and Henry were pushing through the crowd to reach Shawn, and began untying his bonds.
“Dad! Gus! Thank God you’re here. Avery and I have been waiting for someone to take us out for jerk chicken all day!”