Juliet gazed blankly at the paper, looking at the words but seeing straight through them. She saw the words. She knew what they meant. But it wasn't just another case anymore. It was so much more than that. This time…
It was Shawn.
She must have read the address wrong. Juliet refocused her eyes on the letters that Hal had scribed into the box in untidy handwriting. But… there it was. It was the address of Shawn's Psych office. Juliet stared at the letters, willing them to shift. Form a new address. Anything.
"Is she alright?"
"Shut up, Hal."
Suddenly, a hand was on Juliet's shoulder, and the papers clutched so tightly in her hand were slowly tugged out. She let go of them, noting vaguely the spiderweb of wrinkles her crushing grip left on them.
Her head snapped up. Lassiter never used her name. He was looking at her, the slightest worry in his eyes. She opened her mouth to say something, but…
Nothing would come.
"Something wrong?" asked Hal, his eyes darting between Lassiter and Juliet, worry crossing his face.
"What do you know about this client?" demanded Lassiter, thrusting the papers in front of Hal's face roughly, his thumb indicating Shawn's address.
"I—I don't know—I'm no driver." said Hal nervously, sinking back into the wooden desk. He looked toward Juliet, as if she'd protect him from Lassiter's glare, but she was staring into space, seeming lost in a world that was entirely her own. Hal shifted his gaze back to Lassiter. "I don't—don't know any clients, it's not like clients pass through here."
Lassiter's glare intensified, his eyes narrowing into slits. He took a breath in such a frightening manner, Hal sank further back into the desk. Lassiter pushed the papers closer in Hal's face. "I need you to tell me something," he said dangerously. There was something deep in his voice that was past irritation. Past angry cop. Past interrogator. Far beyond anything else Hal had seen in any cop he'd ever encountered in his life—which had been quite a few.
It was fear.
If the desk wasn't solid oak, the amount of weight Hal leaned into it would have pushed it across the room. He cowered under Lassiter's glare. "I—I don't know anything, Officer!"
Lassiter bit his tongue to stop the vulgar response he was ready to fire back at the young, trembling man. Lassiter shoved the papers into his jacket and said, "We're going to have to take you down to the station for questioning."
"I don't know anything!" exclaimed Hal, continuing to bruise himself on the desk.
"You were sharing an office with five million unmarked bills, sure you don't." spat Lassiter, though he wasn't even sure himself where the sudden venom in his words came from. But he didn't have time to decipher the things he was feeling.
He never did.
"O'hara," said Lassiter, turning to her. She blinked, slowly looking at him as if she'd just woken from a dream.
Or a nightmare.
"Yeah?" she asked, her voice small and quiet. She cleared her throat, shaking herself, straightening.
"Take him to the car. I'll grab the money."
After a moment's hesitation, Juliet nodded. "Uh—okay. Hal, please come with me."
Seeming overjoyed to be out from underneath Lassiter's terrorizing gaze, Hal hurried to the door. Juliet turned and followed him out. Lassiter watched the door swing closed.
He stood in the middle of the room, completely still. He was unsure of what was possessing him to stop moving. He had bags to check. People to call. Suspects to question. He didn't have time to stand around.
So what was he doing?
And why the hell was Spencer taking a cab?
Lassiter shook his head, mentally removing himself from the case. It was getting personal. He didn't let things get personal. And he didn't even like the kid. He bent down and started searching through other bags in the corner of the room. He unzipped a mud-stained red suitcase, pulling out old sneakers and gym clothes that smelled horrid. He held his breath, stuffing them back in to the bag and zipping it shut. He grabbed the next bag and sifted through old papers, which by the dates seemed to be years old. How long were these bags collected and kept? Lassiter tossed the next one aside and moved onto another.
Spencer had a motorcycle. What would have made him call a cab? And a cab from a shady place like this?
Lassiter shut his eyes, sighing, stopping his thoughts. He was doing it again. He shoved Spencer from his mind. He couldn't think about that right now. Now, he was looking through bags to double check that the money he found was the only one there like it. He went through four more bags, only finding more clothes and useless items. One of them had an old vodka bottle, half empty. He almost considered taking a swig, but threw it back in the bag. Not the brightest idea. Lassiter picked up another bag.
Where had Spencer been going? Hal mentioned that the usual drop-of spots were airports. But Spencer hadn't planned on going anywhere, he hadn't mentioned anything. Gustor and Henry didn't know where Spencer had been—
Lassiter's head snapped up. That had to be it. Spencer and Juliet had broken up. It wasn't mutual. Lassiter didn't know the details, but he knew that much. Would that have driven Spencer to board a plane? Lassiter considered. It wasn't an outrageous idea. It had definitely crossed his own mind several times as he went through his divorce.
Lassiter tossed the last bag—a drawstring bag with nothing but a bag of potato chips and Nintendo DS—back into the pile.
What the hell did Spencer get himself into?
Lassiter shook his head, rubbing his temples, trying to fend off the headache he knew was coming. He shouldn't be this bothered. The kid was a pain in the ass.
So why was he feeling that tightness in his chest all of a sudden?
Lassiter grabbed the money and was about to stand when the door opened again. Lassiter turned, raising to his feet as two men walked inside. They obviously didn't expect to find anyone in the office. They stopped short. One was on the taller side who walked and carried himself with a sort of purpose that Lassiter could only describe as… dangerous. The man beside him was shorter, dark-skinned and had tattoos galore. The taller man gave Lassiter a smile.
"Hello," he said, putting his hands casually in his pockets, somehow making his muscles stand out. "Can we help you?"
Lassiter raised an eyebrow. "I don't know. Do you work here?"
"Yeah," said the man, gesturing to his friend. "My buddy and I are drivers here. Need a ride?"
Lassiter held in a bark of laughter. "No." He looked between the two, feeling a certain tension envelope the room. It was a strange tension. The kind of atmosphere that told him something was…
"I'm Detective Lassiter, I'm with the Santa Barbara Police Department. Have either of you seen Juan Matis today?" asked Lassiter, ready to get information from whoever he could get it from.
The taller man squinted as if thinking back on the day. After a moment, something seemed to dawn on him and he nodded. "Yeah!" he said slowly, drawing out the word as he nodded. "Yeah, saw him this morning. Why? He in some sort of trouble?"
"He was involved in a hit and run this morning. He's dead."
The men paused, and Lassiter searched their eyes. He watched the recognition sink in. The taller man recovered first. "Juan's dead?" He looked at his buddy. "He's dead?"
"Do you know any of his clientele?" asked Lassiter, trying to figure out why these men seemed so strange to him.
"Some," said the taller man. He scratched his head, letting some of his dark hair fall across his forehead. "You're saying he was killed?"
"Do you know who he drove this morning?" asked Lassiter, ignoring the question.
"I think I remember him telling us he had a guy this morning. Said he was going to stop back here, and we… we were supposed to meet him for lunch break."
Lassiter pulled out his wallet. He held up a crumpled business card that had been jammed behind old coupons and credit cards. Shawn and Gus' Psych business card. A photo of him and Gus back-to-back was on the back. He pointed to Shawn. "Was this man with him?"
Both men looked at the photo. For maybe a while too long. After a moment, the taller man and his friend both shook their heads. "Yeah, didn't see any of his clients." The taller man paused, then asked, "Why? That guy missing or something?"
"Something like that," said Lassiter. He put away his wallet and grasped the money again. Both men's eyes briefly scanned the bag. Lassiter pretended not to notice. "Excuse me."
"No problem, Officer," said the taller man as Lassiter walked between them. Lassiter swallowed a retort. He made his way to the squad car, wondering what that strange, unsettled feeling in his gut was. He shook it off. He was distracted. Paranoid. That feeling was nothing.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Javier and Shawn both jumped, startled, at the sudden voice. Javier whipped his head backward, and suddenly the van door was standing open.
Shawn felt relief flood him as the cold metal of the gun was slowly drawn back. The weapon was still near, but not half as close as it had been. Shawn shut his eyes, letting his head fall back to floor of van, releasing the breath he'd been holding. He wasn't safe yet, but he'd dodged a bullet.
"What do you mean, what am I doing?" demanded Javier, and suddenly the gun was back under Shawn's chin, the abrupt violence making Shawn groan in response, his eyes snapping back open. "I'm taking him out. What does it look like I'm doing?"
"Did I tell you to kill him?" the taller man demanded, stepping onto the van and grabbing the gun from Javier's hand, shoving the man aside. Shawn coughed, looking cautiously up. The man glared at him.
"We don't need him anymore!" exclaimed Javier. "He's dead weight. You found the money, right?"
"Oh, we found the money." he said in a low voice, his eyes not leaving Shawn's. Shawn didn't look away, afraid to move. His head began to throb again, painfully and consistently. The cool, metal floor attempted to suppress the burn, but with his heart beating furiously in his head, the pain seemed to only get worse.
"Well?" Javier glanced from his boss to Trent, who was suddenly in the driver's seat, starting the engine of the van. Shawn winced as the vibration angered his head. Javier's voice raised. "Well?"
"Our money is now in the hands of the Santa Barbara Police Department." he said slowly. His hand tightened on the gun. Shawn fought to keep his vision steady and his heartbeat slow.
He failed at both.
"What?" exclaimed Javier. Trent took a sharp turn, nearly making Javier and the man lose their balance as they stood on their knees. Shawn tried to use the distraction to slide himself away from the man, but the gun pressed harder into him, stopping his movements. He winced, vaguely hearing Javier demand, "How?"
"The police beat us to it." said the man. "Some cop, Lassiter."
The man watched Shawn's eyes. He watched the recognition flash through them. He grabbed Shawn by the shirt collar and lifted him with surprising ease, and threw him against the wall of the van. Shawn grunted as a fresh wave of pain erupted in his head. The man pinned him to the wall with one arm. The gun rested on Shawn's chest. "Sawyer here hasn't been very truthful."
Shawn winced again, waves of pain burning behind his eyes. They couldn't know anything. There would be no reason for them to know who he was. Before he could stop them, words flowed out of his mouth. "No," said Shawn, blinking his eyes open, "maybe I haven't. See… See, the story of Tom Sawyer was that he actually didn't paint a fence—that wasn't the whole truth. He—he convinced some poor sap to do it for him—"
Shawn hadn't expected the man to move so quickly. The man pistol-whipped him across the face, killing whatever nonsense Shawn would have finished his sentence with. Shawn cringed, tasting blood. The van hit a pothole and the three of them fought to keep balance. Shawn's vision swam. He could barely remember what the point of his rambling was. If there was a point. Damn concussion, he thought irritably.
"What are you talking about?" Javier asked his boss. "Who is this guy?"
"His name is Shawn Spencer," said the man, making Shawn flinch at the sound of his own name. The man's gun-hand twitched, making Shawn sink involuntarily back into the wall of the van. The man laughed humorlessly, noticing. "This man, gentlemen, is our golden ticket to getting that money back."
"Who is he?" demanded Javier, obviously not satisfied with the answer his boss had just given him.
"He works with the police department." the man said. Shawn sighed internally. Not good, not good, not good…
"He's a cop?" asked Javier, anger elevating.
"Nah," said his boss, replacing the gun on Shawn's chest. Shawn's heart raced and he hoped the man couldn't feel it. His eyes darted around the van, trying to find something to save him. Anything. But the van floor was bare. His hands were tied.
There was nothing he could do.
"Nah," the boss repeated, and Shawn met his eyes. "He's some sort of consultant."
"That's—" began Shawn, but the man cut him off with a harsh jab of the gun, nearly winding Shawn. He gasped.
"The cop had your business card." The man went on, "Turns out the department is looking for you. How touching." He grinned. "You're going to get us our money back."
"I'm—" began Shawn, cringing from the pressure of the weapon. "I'm flattered that you'd think I'm worth all that money—really. I'd always—always priced myself out at around six million." Shawn considered. "Maybe—maybe bump it up to seven, but, you know, that's your call—"
"Shut up." said the man, seeming ready to pistol-whip Shawn again. Shawn reluctantly complied. "The police want you, we want our money. Seems like a fair trade."
Police don't negotiate with kidnappers, Shawn heard hopelessly somewhere in his head. Shawn took a breath, still slightly winded, and said, "How—how about you let me go, and—and I'll have my friends at the department mail you the money. I'll—I'll even throw in an Edible Arrangement." He looked from the man to Javier. "You guys like pineapple?"
"Enough!" exclaimed Javier, slamming a fist into the wall of the van angrily. "Can we gag him? Please?"
"How—how about we don't gag him," suggested Shawn. "I still fully believe that we should—should forget this thing ever happened and let him go—" Shawn nearly choked as Javier lunged across the van at him, stuffing what seemed to be a damp, greasy, gasoline-stained rag into Shawn's mouth. The odor alone immediately overwhelmed Shawn's senses, burning his head. His vision swayed violently. His headache tripled.
"Finally," Shawn heard a distant voice—that sounded much like Javier—say. His eyes fell shut. The fumes killed his head and the strength quickly left his body.
He didn't even feel himself fall.