Henry turned toward Gus, seeing relief wash over his son's best friend. "That's Shawn?"
Henry nodded, listening to Shawn's answer. All traces of Henry's concern from the moments before Shawn's call disappeared.
His son was cracking a joke.
"Shawn, you can't just drop off the face of the earth like you did. Gus was worried sick."
Shawn paused before he answered. Shawn hardly ever hesitated. "You… you say something?"
A mix of suspicion and irritation jumped into Henry's tone as he said, "Shawn, where the hell are you? Gus has been calling you."
"I-I don't know. I don't know where I am." Henry's expression shifted. Something was wrong. Shawn never stuttered. Something was… wrong. "Do you know where I am?" asked Shawn softly.
Henry's expression deepened in skepticism. Why was his son talking like that? It was almost as if—
Henry sighed, the frown returning on his face, finally understanding what was wrong with his son. "Are you drunk?"
Upon hearing Henry's question to Shawn, Gus massaged his temples, leaning against the wall. Gus had been so worried. So, so worried, and Shawn was just out at a bar getting wasted. That was perfect. Just perfect.
Shawn didn't deny it like Henry expected him to, as Shawn always had in his teenage years. Instead, he repeated, "I… I don't know where I am."
Henry rubbed his face. Now he was going to have to track down his son in one of the hundred bars around town. This was not how he was expecting to spend his afternoon. Well, thought Henry, grabbing for the handle and opening the door, might as well find out how bad he is. "Shawn, how much have you had to drink—"
"Doors," said Shawn suddenly. Henry stopped halfway through the doorway, and Gus nearly walked into him again. Henry tried to swallow his annoyance. His son was incredibly wasted. Didn't that bartender know when to cut him off?
"Doors…?" repeated Henry, shaking his head, resuming his walk to the truck. "Shawn—"
"I think they're… moving." said Shawn. God, he better not be trying to leave the place and get to his bike, thought Henry suddenly. Shawn was delusional. He was in absolutely no state to be driving. Henry was about to command that Shawn sit down and wait patiently for him to pick him up, when Shawn continued, "But that could easily be the… the concussion talking."
Concussion? Shawn had a concussion? Oh, no, thought Henry. Please tell me he didn't get into a bar fight.
Before Henry could say anything, he heard a pained cry from Shawn. Henry froze on his walk to the car.
"Dad," said Shawn quickly. Fluidly. Almost as if he'd sobered in the past two seconds. "Dad, I… I need help. Call Lassie. Call Jul—" Some commotion sounded from Shawn's line. Loud. Fast. Noises Henry couldn't make out.
Well, all except the grunt of pain.
"Shawn!" exclaimed Henry, heart picking up. "What's going on? Shawn!"
It took a long moment for Shawn to say, in a very small voice, "Da—ad?"
Shawn's tone of voice terrified Henry. The last time he'd heard that voice, Shawn had been shot, ready to pass out next to Lassiter's car.
Quickly discarding the theory that Shawn was drunk, he thought back through the conversation.
Dad, I need help.
"Shawn!" said Henry, still hearing Shawn's faint groan of pain. He turned to Gus when Shawn didn't answer.
"Is he okay?" asked Gus, picking up Henry's change in tone. "What's wrong?"
"What are you talking about?" asked Henry, louder, momentarily ignoring Gus.
"I… I don't remember all of it," said Shawn, his voice unable to mask his obvious struggle to form the words. "They don't like me very much. But I doubt I should care if my kidnappers like me—" Shawn's words were cut off by a grunt. "They said they want to use me as—as ransom—"
Henry's heart had frozen in his chest. "Shawn, please tell me you're kidding. This is another one of your jokes. It's a prank. And if it is, you need to stop it right—"
"It's not a joke!" hissed Shawn, biting off each word, making Henry's breath hitch in his chest. "I got out of the room, but… but he's not unconscious, Dad, he's still up there—"
"Get in the truck, Gus!" yelled Henry, throwing open his own door. Without question, Gus let himself into the passengers side. Henry pulled himself into the driver's seat, fumbling with his keys.
"Mr. Spencer, you're scaring me," said Gus, watching him warily. "Where's Shawn?"
"He's in trouble," muttered Henry, finally getting the keys in the ignition. "He's been kidnapped."
"He's been what?!"
"Shawn," said Henry, starting his truck, tearing out of the driveway and onto the street. "Gus and I are headed to the police station. Do not hang up this phone. We're going to get a trace on your call." He took a sharp right, nearly throwing Gus against the window, saying a word that gave himself chills. "Run."
Shawn paused, and Henry could hear his staggered breathing. It terrified him. But not as much as the next words Shawn spoke. "I can't."
"Why not?" asked Henry, his voice clipped, knowing he wasn't going to like the answer.
"I… can't really… see… straight…"
Henry stepped on the gas, hearing Shawn's strength draining through his voice. "Shawn! Stay with me, here, son! You need to get out of there—"
"Oh my god," whispered Gus, making Henry's head whip toward him.
"Oh your god what?"
Without another word, Gus snatched the phone from Henry's hand and pressed it to his ear, ignoring the older man's protest, saying, "Shawn!"
Gus listened to silence for a moment, ready to shout his friend's name a second time, when he heard Shawn's voice. "...Gus?"
The weakness of Shawn's voice was unsettling, and Gus felt a cold chill slip down his spine. "Yes!" he said. He didn't want to ask Shawn this question… but it would make so much sense. It fit. "Shawn—"
"I called my—my dad," said Shawn suddenly, and Gus could read the delirium in his voice. "Was I talking to you the whole time?"
Gus grasped onto his seatbelt as Henry passed cars around them, weaving dangerously through the lanes. "No, I'm with your dad. But, Shawn—"
"With my dad?" asked Shawn, confused. "D'you guys hang out often?" The slur in his words tripled the rate of Gus' heart.
"Shawn," said Gus exasperatedly, taking a short breath. "Please tell me you weren't in a car accident this morning."
There was a terrifying second of silence. Gus's chest constricted, forgetting to take a breath. And then, finally, Shawn said, "No."
Gus sighed in relief.
Until he heard Shawn's next words.
"It was a cab."
The line clicked off. Gus shouted Shawn's name, but the dial tone played back at him.
"I lost him!" exclaimed Gus, dialing Shawn's number. "The line went dead!"
"What?!" Henry whipped back toward him, barely keeping an eye on the road. "Call him back!"
"I'm trying!" stressed Gus, slamming the phone back to his ear, ignoring the dull pain, and hearing the dial tone again. "He must have lost service!"
"How far are we from the station?" asked Gus, dialing Shawn's number again.
"Five minutes. But I can get us there in two."
"God, I can't believe it was him," whispered Gus, his face twisted in worry as the call dropped a third time. He dialed again.
"You can't believe what was him? What are you talking about?" demanded Henry.
"That case Lassiter and Juliet are working on," said Gus, listening to the call drop a fourth time. He kept at it. "There was a second person in the cab, but—"
"They didn't find him," sighed Henry, remembering the files on Juliet's desk in perfect detail. Hit and run. One dead.
"God," breathed Henry, speeding his truck to a speed he'd never gone before. The truck shuttered.
"Come on, Shawn," whispered Gus, dialing the number again. "Please."
Shawn listened to the silence on the other line. Fear spiked into his veins like a string of adrenaline. His heart beat furiously in his chest, making his head pounded harder and the room sway faster. He swallowed hard against the sudden nausea. "Dad?" he asked, his voice—dare he admit it—weak.
He didn't get an answer. Did his Dad hang up on him? A spark of irritation surged through him. Of course his Dad hung up on him. He was angry with Shawn. He seemed far happier with the idea that Shawn was pulling a prank on him. But his dad hated his pranks. Why was he begging Shawn to tell him he was playing a joke?
The coldness from the wall was long gone and Shawn wished for it back. His head seemed to be ready to explode. The pain ebbed behind his eyes and at his temples, searing straight through his every nerve. Was that what was making him so tired?
Shawn shifted on the wall, trying to find something to soothe the pain. Anything. But he'd shifted too far and was suddenly hitting the ground, falling on his right side—luckily his uninjured side—and he gasped from the sudden transition. The same shift in his mind occurred now as it did on the staircase and suddenly reality was flooding in, and Shawn opened his eyes. The room seemed more vivid now.
The phone connection broke. Now he remembered. No one hung up on him. On the contrary, Henry said they were going to track his phone. They were going to find him.
He was going to be okay.
Shawn sighed, relieved.
And then he heard it.
The stairs were creaking, as if someone was descending them with caution. They probably knew about the rotting wood that caused Shawn to fall through the step. White-hot adrenaline was shooting back through his veins and Shawn found himself scrambling to his feet, fumbling with his lack of coordination. He pushed himself off the ground with a grunt, quickly throwing a hand over his mouth as he pushed himself up. He had a chance against Trent if he hid.
Shawn half-pulled, half-dragged himself to his feet, biting his lip to keep from groaning as his side stung. He reached out toward the wall as he stood, his legs shaking beneath him.
The stairs continued to creak.
Heart slamming in his chest, Shawn shoved himself down the hall, staggering to the first door he found. He twisted the door handle and fell inside, not even bothering to cushion his landing. He hit the ground, his teeth clamping together so hard he nearly broke them. Shawn just barely held in a cry of pain. He tasted blood in his mouth.
He was so tired. So, incredibly tired. Shawn's eyes drifted shut. He would only lay here for a few seconds. Just to rest. He'd just absorb some of the cool relief the floor gave him to soothe his head, wait for the pain to subside in his side, and—
Another stair creaked, followed by a grunt in pain.
Trent was getting closer.
Shawn's eyes shot up, and he was suddenly aware of how close he had been to passing out. No, thought Shawn, shoving himself up off the floor again, feeling the pain reverberate within his skull, you need to hide.
With effort, Shawn shut the door, turning around, heaving out a shallow breath. Still on his hands and knees, Shawn looked around the apartment. It looked like the one he'd been in upstairs, except this was smaller and less furnished. The window wasn't just of sky, it showed a few more buildings, and a—
Trent was in the hallway.
Driven by pure fear, Shawn crawled to the closest doorway he could find—a closet. He dragged himself inside, grateful he could kick the doors shut. He pushed himself into the corner of the small closet, wishing there were coats hanging that he could hide himself with. He settled back into the corner, pushing against it. It was cold in the closet. Dark. Quiet.
Shawn opened his eyes to the darkness. The phone was still clutched tightly in his hand. Feeling as if it were made of lead, Shawn lifted the phone to his eyes, hitting the home button. The screen flared to life, burning his eyes, sharp pain attacking his head. He squeezed his eyes shut instinctively, then cracked them open, trying to find the numbers again. It was so blurry.
But the bars of signal were unmistakeable.
He fumbled, holding the phone as close to his eyes as he dared, the pain intensifying, his fatigue sneaking up on him. But finally, he heard the dial tone, and pressed the phone to his ear. He shut his eyes and waited.
Time had frozen.
Just stopped. The world ceased turning. Everything in existence just seemed to pause. Because this was crazy.
This couldn't be happening.
And yet it seemed like it was. Juliet walked in tow of Lassiter as they strode into the SBPD. Juliet subconsciously picked up her pace to match Lassiter's. Sound came as echoes to her ears, only hearing snippets and distant voices and conversations around her. Officers turned and stared as Lassiter led a handcuffed and desperate Hal. He was going on about wanting a phone call. Lassiter shoved him to an officer in front of him and Juliet. It took her a moment to realize he stopped walking and she almost ran into him.
Of all the people in Santa Barbara, of all the cab stations in the city, it had to happen to Shawn.
It had to be Shawn.
Someone spoke her name, and cut through the distortion that had been her temporary reality. She blinked and looked up as Lassiter stared at her, in the doorway of the chief's office.
"Sorry," mumbled Juliet, following him inside.
The chief was standing in front of her desk, watching the officer lead Hal away through her windows. "What the hell is going on?" she demanded.
"We have good reason to believe we know who else was in that cab," said Lassiter, pulling out the cab station driving records Hal had given them. He held them for Vick, both he and Juliet hesitating. Juliet said it.
"It's Shawn," she said, barely choking out his name. Up until now, she'd felt numb. But… this was happening.
Shawn was in danger.
Karen Vick took the paper and found the address. She looked between her detectives. "How the hell…?"
"We don't know anything," said Lassiter, "nothing telling us what Spencer could have possibly wanted with this cab station."
"Shawn… I think—I know I need space."
Juliet bit her lip.
"Well, what have you found?"
Juliet shook herself and answered. "We found this." She dropped the bag of money onto the table in the corner of the chief's office. Juliet zipped it open and handed the chief a wad of cash. Vick's eyes narrowed in confusion.
"What does this have to do with a cab station?" she asked incredulously.
"I don't know," said Juliet. "Hal—the kid in interrogation room A—was there. He's the nephew of the owner. All he told us was that there was money trouble and sketchy business transactions."
"And the missing person," said Vick, "we're assuming that it's… Spencer?"
"Yes." said Lassiter. "Somehow, Spencer, five million unmarked bills and a dead Mexican are related."
"He was Indian, Carlton," muttered Juliet.
"This is officially too priority then," said Vick, and she rushed past them, calling the officers of the SBPD to attention and briefing them on the case.
"Oh, god," muttered Lassiter suddenly.
"What?" asked Juliet, following his gaze. Over by the main doors, Gus and Henry Spencer were running inside the building.
Lassiter and Juliet left the chief's office, hurrying to Gus and Henry. They stopped them before they could interrupt the briefing. Lassiter held out a hand to stop them, and said, "Spencer, Gustor, what are you—"
"It's Shawn," panted Henry. "Shawn's been kidnapped, we—"
"Yeah, we know," said Lassiter. "We're already trying to—"
"You know?" exclaimed Henry, straightening, taking a step toward Lassiter. "You know my son has been kidnapped and you don't have the sense to contact me? Are you out of your damned mind?"
"Please," said Juliet suddenly, taking a quick step forward, effectively standing between them. "We just found out, Mr. Spencer—"
"He was in the cab, Juliet!" said Gus, still out of breath.
"How did you two know?" asked Juliet suddenly, making Lassiter end his glaring contest with Henry to look at Gus.
"Shawn called me." said Henry heavily.
"He did?" breathed Juliet. "When? Where is he? Is he hurt?"
"Maybe ten minutes ago." sighed Henry impatiently. "He doesn't know where he is. He said he was kidnapped. He was delusional—I thought he was talking crazy."
"What else is new?" muttered Lassiter.
That earned him a slug on the arm from Juliet, and a near-tackle from Henry if Gus hadn't latched onto his arm and held the man back.
"Carlton!" chastised Juliet, stepping in front of him as Lassiter's scowl deepened.
"The call dropped," said Gus, still not removing a struggling Henry, who was determined to land his fist in Lassiter's face. "We haven't been able to reach Shawn since."
"What is going on here?"
Everyone turned to see Vick approaching them. The office had suddenly become busy with newfound purpose. She looked between Gus and Henry and her two detectives. "Henry, Mr. Gustor—"
"Shawn called them," said Juliet quickly.
"Is he alright?" she asked, concern etching into her professional demeanor.
"No, he's been taken and he's hurt," said Henry in a strained voice, finally letting go of his attempt to clock Lassiter. Gus released him and Henry massaged his shoulder.
"What exactly did he tell you?" asked Vick.
"He…" Henry thought back to the conversation, sifting through the dialogue. "He said he didn't know where he was but there were doors. He wanted me to call the SBPD, and that he'd been kidnapped. He said—" Henry stopped speaking when his cell phone, still in Gus' hand, went off. All eyes darted to the device. Gus read the screen, his eyes snapping up to theirs as he answered the call, hearing words he'd never been so happy to hear.