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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

A Hunting We Will Go

 

Flashback

 

Santa Barbara, 1987

 

Shawn was sitting at the kitchen table, his math book open in front of him and a bored expression on his face when Henry returned from his shopping trip. He looked up as his father entered the kitchen, two large brown paper bags in his hands.

"Finished your homework yet?"

"Hey Dad. Did you bring Crunchy Pops?"

Henry put the bags down on the kitchen counter and crossed his arms in front of his chest.

"I asked you a question, Shawn. What about your homework?"

Shawn rolled his eyes. "It's done."

"Really done or I'll finish in a minute-done?"

"Nearly really done. Now, did you bring Crunchy Pops?"

Shawn got up from his chair and walked over towards the counter where he started to randomly pull things out of the paper bags. But his fingers only closed around a loaf of bread, some frozen peas and a package of cheese before his father's hand closed around his wrist and stopped him.

"Shawn, don't throw the food around the kitchen. Put it away where it belongs."

Henry started pulling things out of the second brown paper bag, and with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach Shawn realized that neither bag contained a box of the desired cereal.

"Dad, why didn't you buy any Crunchy Pops? I told you we needed Crunchy Pops!"

Henry went over towards one of the cupboards and put away some canned vegetables. When he turned around, he held a box of Crunchy Pops in his hand and shook it to demonstrate that it was still nearly full.

"I only bought a whole box of that stuff a few days ago, Shawn. Why don't you eat those first? By the time you're done with them, you'll probably want another kind of cereal anyway and I'll have to throw the stuff out. Believe it or not, cereal is expensive."

"But I need it now!"

Henry put the box down in front of Shawn.

"Go ahead and eat a bowl then. There's plenty left."

Shawn rolled his eyes again. "I don't need it for eating."

Henry's eyebrows went up as his forehead pulled into a frown. "If you don't want to eat it, then what do you need all those boxes of cereal for?"

Shawn took the box out of his father's hands and turned it so that the back of the box was up.

"I need it for the prize!"

"What prize?"

Shawn held the box out to his father. "Here, look! There's clues on every box of Crunchy Pops." He pointed at the letter 'L' that was printed on the left bottom corner of the box. "There's a clue on every box, and one more on the inside. You need to collect the letters, and once you figure out the sentence they form you send it in and you can win that totally awesome bike!"

Shawn pointed at the picture of a racing bike on the side of the box, above a two lines of dashes, each representing one of the letters of the solution sentence.

"I already got six letters," Shawn continued. "And I know that the last two words are "Crunchy Pops". It's always something with the brand name in it. I only need one more box, maybe two, to figure it out."

Henry shook his head. "But what if I had bought a box with clues that you already had?"

Shawn shrugged. "We'd have had to buy another box then."

"I don't think so, Shawn."

"Awww, but Dad! It's such a great bike, and there's only two more weeks during which you can send in the solution."

Henry picked the box out of Shawn's hand, put the cereal down on the kitchen counter and gently guided Shawn over towards the kitchen table by his arm. Once they were both seated, he leaned forward in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

"Now listen to me, Shawn. First of all, you've got a perfectly good bike. You don't need a new one."

"But Dad, I…"

"No Shawn, let me finish. This stuff, the cereal company doesn't do it because they want to give you something for free. They do it so that kids start pestering their parents to buy much more cereal than they actually need. This isn't even a real competition."

"Yes, it is." Shawn protested. "You need to figure out the entire sentence, and if you don't get all the letters then you have to deduce the right words. It's just like the stuff you teach me."

Henry shook his head. "No, it isn't. This isn't about who's the smartest, Shawn. And it's not about who is the first to figure out the clues. Those competitions always run long enough that even the dumbest kid can pester its parents into buying enough of those cereal boxes to win. It's just about selling their cereal for them. And what is the prize? One bicycle, which probably is sponsored anyway. Look here."

Henry pulled over the cereal box and pointed at the dashes where the letters of the solution had to be filled in.

"You already figured out that the last words are Crunchy Pops. It doesn't take a genius to figure out the rest, Shawn. It's an advertisement slogan, something like "All the champs eat Crunchy Pops" or whatever other crap they're broadcasting during the ads on TV. If you want to win that bike, sit down with what you have and focus, and I guarantee you that you'll have it figured out in less than an hour if you just put your head into it. But you know what?"

Shawn looked up. "What?"

"You still won't win the bike, Shawn. Because by the time the deadline for the competition runs around, there will be thousands of kids who have sent in the solution. So it would take a stroke of pure luck for you to win that bike, nothing else. This isn't about using our brain, or sharpening your skills, and it's not about winning a bike either. It's all about selling cereal."

Henry got up from his chair and put the box of cereal back into the cupboard. Shawn couldn't stop the disappointed pout from creeping on his face, and Henry stepped back up to the table and ruffled up his son's hair.

"A real winner knows which competitions to pick, Shawn. You don't pick the ones that rely on dumb luck. You don't run along with the masses just because something seems too good and easy to be true. You pick the contests that challenge your abilities. The ones where you know that you are going to win because you're better than the others. Being able to make that distinction is what makes a real winner, Shawn. And in the meantime, go and finish your homework."

 

Chapter 1 – Thursday

 

"And that was Asia with their big smash-hit Heat of the Moment here on WKLX Santa Barbara, with your favorite DJ Billy the Whiz. Scavenger hunters beware! It's time for another round in our big ongoing WKLX Scavenger Hunt! WKLX celebrates the start of its California-wide broadcast, and if you want those 100,000 bucks you'd better get ready, because within this hour we will reveal to you today's second clue. It's the 80's hour on WKLX, and we follow up with two smash hits in a row that take us on a little trip around the world. First we go on a trip to the pyramids with The Bangles and their song "Walk Like an Egyptian" followed straight up by German export Nena sending out her "99 Red Balloons" in a protest against the Cold War. This hour of the finest music is brought to you by Alfred's Deli on State Street. Rock the music!"

"Rock the music?" Gus snorted. "Yeah right. What does that even mean?"

Shawn leaned back in his office chair and put his feet up to his desk as the DJ's nasal voice fell silent and the first bass lines rang out of the speakers. A frown settled on his face as he thought.

"It means…well…to tell you the truth, I have no idea what it means. But that's not what matters. We're not listening to this because the DJ's pick in music is so awesome."

"Yeah, I was hoping you'd say that, because otherwise I'd have had to hurt you. That station is crap. It starts with the DJ – who in their right mind picks a guy with such a voice as their main DJ? And his taste in music is just as crappy as his voice. A trip around the world with The Bangles and Nena? Wrapping up the worst of the eighties in one hour and then trying to give it all a deeper meaning? How can somebody do that? Shouldn't there be a law against it?"

Shawn shrugged and folded his hands behind his head. He was slowly getting the feeling that listening to WKLX for more than a few minutes at a time were not doing anything for his friend's mood.

"Gus, we're not in this for the music. Though I was always wondering about those 99 red balloons. I mean, why that number? Why not an even 100? And what are those balloons there for, anyway? It's not as if a balloon can do really much besides floating through the air. Certainly not stop a war or something."

"Shawn!"

Shawn rolled his eyes.

"Anyway. You heard him, Gus. The next clue for the scavenger hunt will air soon. Once we got that, we'll figure it out and won't have to listen to that station again until tomorrow morning."

Gus sighed. "We've been stuck in front of this radio for three days now, Shawn. Three days of being stuck listening to DJ Billy the Whiz! The Whiz! What kind of a sane person calls himself that?"

"Maybe that's his real name. Maybe Mr. and Mrs. Whiz had a little boy some twenty-something years ago and decided to call him William the. Or maybe they were called Mr. and Mrs. the Whiz. Could be Dutch. Maybe an old royal title. Stranger things have happened."

"Shawn!"

Shawn sighed. "Gus, $100,000. They're throwing that money out just because the station is new. The winner of that scavenger hunt gets $100,000. That should be worth listening to Billy the Frizz for a couple of days. That check has our name written right on it and you know it, Gus."

Gus raised an eyebrow. "You are aware that half of Santa Barbara is participating in that scavenger hunt, right?"

"But nobody else in Santa Barbara is as good at figuring out clues as I am. Come on, take one for the team."

"Take one for the team?" Gus bristled. "I've been taking more than one for the team since this whole thing started. I've been losing brain cells listening to that station, Shawn. And speaking of the team, that's another of those things."

Shawn looked a bit taken aback. "What does that mean?"

"Don't pretend that you don't know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about that awful name that you've come up with for our team!"

"What's wrong with The Magic Heads? None of the other teams have their own cartoon heroes that go by the same name."

"Magic Head is no cartoon hero! He's just something you came up with on a case!"

"Oh yes? Then why do I have the a copy of the Psych Man's Adventures with his trusted sidekick Magic Head at home to prove Magic Head's existence? I wanted to call us Psych Man and his Magic Head, but that name was totally too long. Billy the Kid is talking too much as it is."

"The Whiz."

"What?"

"Billy the Whiz. That's bad enough, don't make it even worse. And don't try to change the subject."

"What subject?"

Gus rolled his eyes and waved his friend off. "Forget it. But for the record, it's a stupid name."

"Gus, stop being a sour-dough breakfast roll. You just wait until you see that name on the check for $100,000, then you won't think it's stupid anymore."

Gus laughed. "Yeah, sure. Seeing The Magic Heads in writing is going to change my mind, I'm convinced of that."

Before Shawn could respond something to that, the last chords of 99 Red Balloons faded through the speakers, and WKLX's jingle announced a commercial break.

"I just hope they hurry the hell up with that next clue. If I have to listen to Billy the Whiz for another hour, I think I'm going to have to strangle someone."

Shawn shook his head. "He's not that bad, Gus. You might be in danger of losing your taste in music after a while, but definitely not your mind."

"Rock the music, Shawn. That's all I'm saying. Rock the music."

"Rock the music, Santa Barbara!" Billy the Whiz's voice yelled from the speaker. Gus flinched, then turned to glare at the radio on Shawn's desk.

"See?"

"Shhh!" Shawn shushed and waved Gus into silence. "We need to pay attention to the next clue! Three days in the competition, and we haven't come in first just once."

"There are thousands of people participating in this treasure hunt Shawn. What did you expect, that we're the first to figure out every single clue?"

Shawn stared at his friend. "Yes, of course. We're the only psychic team participating in that treasure hunt."

"Shawn, you're no psychic."

"No, but I'm the next best thing. So now listen."

Another jingle and a sponsor advertisement later were the only reprieve Gus was granted, then the Whiz's grating voice sounded through the speakers again.

"Welcome back Santa Barbara. You're listening to WKLX, the newest hit station in all of California. It's 80s hour with your favorite DJ, Billy the Whiz. Attention scavenger hunters! To celebrate the birth of California's best brand new radio station, WKLX brings you the incredible Santa Barbara Scavenger Hunt! Just solve the clues that we bring to you each day, find the hidden locations and with a bit of luck win $100,000! No other station in all of America offers you such a huge prize for just a few hours of listening each day."

Gus snorted. "Yeah. No other station in all of America is bound to drive you mad by listening to it for just a few hours each day, either."

"Gus!"

Gus rolled his eyes but fell silent again as Billy the Whiz continued.

"Every day we broadcast a musical clue in our Wake Up Santa Barbara Show at 8 am sharp. Each and every clue leads to a location in the Santa Barbara area. The teams have until 8 pm to figure out which hidden location the clue is pointing to, get there and take a picture of themselves at the location. Every team who sends in their picture at the correct location before 8 pm advances to the next round. But stay sharp! Only the first picture you send in counts, so you better make sure you decipher the clue correctly. As of now, there's still nine hundred and seventy-seven teams or single participants in the race and let me tell you Santa Barbara, I'm disappointed in you today."

Gus sighed. "Don't get me started on disappointed. Just don't."
"It's 2 pm folks! Six hours have passed since this morning's clue has been broadcast, and so far not a single picture from the correct location has been sent in. Come on folks, what is wrong? The clue wasn't that hard."

Shawn laughed. "Yeah, right. Not hard at all. God save the Queen. Now that's a great clue. If we were in London, that is. Get the laptop ready Gus."

Gus pulled the laptop in front of him and opened Google in his web browser.

"So for those of you who couldn't figure out our first clue of the day – shame on you! But we're not heartless here on WKLX. We've got those 100,000 bucks lying around, and we really, really want to get rid of them. So pay close attention scavenger hunters, because you'll be given a second chance. And if it isn't as clear as the Californian sky on a clear summer day, then folks, you're in the wrong business!"

"I swear if he calls us 'folks' one more time, I'm going to drive to that studio and take a picture of myself strangling the Whiz."

"I'd need to check in with Jules, but I'm fairly sure that'd be a felony."

Gus thought about that for a moment, then nodded. "Some things are worth it."

"Coming from the guy who missed the beginning of a The Who concert because he didn't find a legal parking spot."

"Exactly. That should show you how serious I am about shutting that guy up."

Shawn nodded. "Fair enough. Now could we please listen to the clue that's going to bring us a big step closer to earning a tax-free $100,000 so that we never have to listen to that radio station again?"

Gus shrugged and turned back towards the radio. "All right. But don't say I didn't warn you."

At that moment, the program was interrupted for yet another station break, the third in the past ten minutes. Shawn rolled his eyes as he swiveled in his chair.

"If that list of sponsors goes on for any longer, we're going to miss the clue because I've fallen asleep."

Before Gus could respond anything to that, Billy the Whiz's nasal droning thankfully fell silent. The silence lasted only for a second, then a low bass-line started playing. Both Shawn and Gus listened with frowns on their faces for a few seconds.

"They've got to be kidding." Gus pressed out.

Shawn nodded in silent agreement, but his mind was already working overtime, trying to figure out what that newest clue was supposed to tell them.

"The theme from Mission Impossible?"

Shawn shrugged. "Obviously. In the U2 version, nonetheless, which doesn't exactly raise my opinion of WKLX. I mean, people still know the original TV-series, right? Please tell me that they do. Or at least the remake from the 80's. I mean dude, two words: Peter Graves. I mean, we're talking TV-classics here, even though the special effect department left a lot to be desired. But either of those shows had a soundtrack, I believe. I distinctly remember them having a title theme that was way better than what some record producer forced U2 to come up with so that it could be played in the background of Tom Cruise playing the tough guy."

Gus raised both eyebrows. "Wow, I didn't know you were hating that much on the Mission Impossible movies."

"They killed Emilio Estevez not even fifteen minutes into the first movie, Gus. Do you honestly think there was any chance of redemption after that?"

Gus cocked his head to the side. "Now that you're putting it that way."

"Exactly!" Shawn rolled his desk chair over towards Gus' desk and the laptop with his finger outstretched.

"And now, while hating on Tom Cruise movies is a lot of fun, it won't get us $100,000. Well, not for as long as we don't get a primetime talk show on national television. But until then, we should maybe try to figure out what those clues are trying to tell us."

Gus nodded and started typing the two song titles into the google search line. He hit the 'search' button, and together the two stared at the results popping up on the screen.

For a few seconds, the two of them stared at the screen in stunned silence.

"Huh," Shawn said after a time. "Who would have thought that so many people want the British national anthem for their ring tone? I mean, even the Sex Pistols version kinda sucks, don't you think? Gus, get me my cell phone, would you?"

"I most certainly won't! Could you focus for a moment here?"

Shawn read the entries on the first result page, then shook his head. "This is getting us nowhere. Add Santa Barbara to the search."

Gus typed in the two additional words and hit search again.

"Huh," Shawn repeated after yet another stunned moment of silence. "Well, this isn't helping. You can type in all kind of crap at google and get about a million hits that have nothing at all to do with what you're looking for. We don't have the time for that, we need to be the first to figure it out first for a change. Now, let's try to do it the way people did before you looked everything up online. There was a time when you couldn't look up everything online, right? I mean, I can't really remember, but there must have been. They didn't exactly have electricity to recharge their laptops in the Middle Ages." He frowned. "But then again they also had the Bubonic Plague in the middle ages. That's a virus. So maybe they had computers back there, and that's where the term computer virus came into being."

"Shawn! Could you focus? The bubonic plague is no virus, it's a bacterial infection of the lymphatic system. And they didn't have computers in the Middle Ages. That's a fact, accept it. The first home computers became common in the 1980s. You grew up without a computer in the house Shawn, don't pretend that you don't remember what it was like."

Shawn frowned and thought for a moment. "That period of time is a bit fuzzy, but I guess it must have been boring. I mean, what did people do before the invention of online Tetris?"

"Shawn!"

Shawn raised his hands in a placating manner.

"Okay, we have God save the Queen and Mission Impossible. Somehow, that has to lead us to a place somewhere in the Santa Barbara area. Come on Gus, think. God Impossible. Impossible God. The Impossible Queen. The Queen's impossible Mission. Save the Mission."

Gus shook his head. "I don't know about the queen part. We've been independent since 1776, no queens since then. So if at all, that queen clue should lead us to a place that's older than that, or some famous sight that was visited by a foreign queen or something. Could be anything really. But maybe the God part refers to some place of worship. But there's just too many of those in the area. None of it really rings a bell."

"Of course!" Shawn exclaimed.

"Really? It's one of the churches?"

"What? No."

Gus rolled his eyes. "Then what?"

"Rings a bell! You're a genius, Gus! That's it!"

Gus frowned. "What's it? There's nothing about a bell in either of the clues."

"No, but the proverbial bell started ringing in my head just now. It's the Mission, Gus. Forget about the impossible, it's Mission that's the clue."

Understanding dawned in Gus' eyes. "Mission as in Christian Mission, of course! But there are a few of those in the greater Santa Barbara area."

A huge smile spread on Shawn's face. "Yes, there are. But only one of them is called The Queen of Missions by the natives of our wonderful city."

Gus' eyes grew even wider. "The Santa Barbara Mission!"
"Exactly!"

Shawn jumped up from his chair, Gus following suit.

"Get the keys! We're going to the Santa Barbara Mission!"

Gus stopped short halfway to the door. "You are sure about that, right? Because we only get one shot, and if you're wrong, we're out of the competition."

"I am sure. Believe me Gus. My Dad drilled all those lessons about the history of Santa Barbara into me, something about a cop having to know his turf inside out. I couldn't forget it even if I wanted to. The Santa Barbara Mission, the Queen of Missions. I'm sure. Let's go. Let's jump into the car and be the first to get there. There's only one thing you need to keep in mind."

"What's that?"

"For a professional psychic / scavenger hunter, the speed limit is merely a friendly suggestion. We cannot afford out success to be delayed by midday traffic like mere mortals."

Gus stared at Shawn for a moment. "And you nearly fluked your honors English class because Mrs. Bowers thought your language was on the level of a fifth grader?"

Shawn shrugged. "I wasn't too sure her weak constitution could bear the full extent of my linguistic abilities. And now could we please go? There's a check waiting for us."

Gus wordlessly strode out of the office, and Shawn hurried after him. If Gus for once drove like a normal human being and not like a snail, chances were good that they could make the Santa Barbara Mission in about half an hour. They still had a chance to come in first today.

 

OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOo

 

"Good work on the Brannigan case." Chief Vick said from behind her desk as Lassiter closed the door to her office behind himself and O'Hara. "With the confession we can put the case aside and hand it over to the DA as soon as the lab results come in."

She closed the file on her desk and put it to the side, looking from O'Hara to Lassiter and back again.

"What does your remaining caseload look like?"

"We're pretty much stuck on that hit and run that occurred Saturday night," O'Hara fell in before Lassiter could say anything. The head detective struggled not to wince. O'Hara was a good cop, but there were still a lot of things she had to learn. Like the fact that you never told your superior officer that you were stuck on a case.

Besides, they weren't stuck. Not really. The just hadn't found a witness yet, the driver in the other car had been unconscious and couldn't be questioned, and the forensics report on the traces of the car that had caused the accident and fled the scene had come back with too generic results to present a real lead. But he certainly wouldn't call that being stuck.

Vick merely nodded, her face expressionless, and Lassiter jumped in before O'Hara could say something else.

"We're still running through the list from the DMV on that one, but there's a large number of grey Ford Taurus of that year in the greater Santa Barbara area. We're cross checking that list against drivers with a prior conviction for DUI, maybe that will get us a step closer."

Vick nodded. "Assign that task to an officer or two. I need the two of you to focus your entire attention on the Walsh case now."

Lassiter's interest was piqued. Walsh was the owner of a warehouse in the harbor district that had burned to the ground last weekend. There had been signs of a break-in and spray-painted messages that suggested the fire was an act of vandalism, a misplaced environmental protest against Walsh, who amongst other things also dealt in high-class hardwood furniture. No environmentalist group had come forth to claim responsibility yet, and while the Fire Department still conducted their arson investigation there had not been much the SBPD could do to work the case except for the usual legwork and search for witnesses. Which had provided no clues so far.

But if the arson investigation was finished, that meant they could finally start working the case in earnest. Maybe the investigation had even found some physical evidence that would get their investigation going.

"So it's proven that it was arson?"

Vick nodded.

"Chief Stetson from the Fire Department just called. They have the result from their investigation and he wants to meet for a briefing at the scene. I'd go myself, but I have a meeting with the Mayor. Get a team of forensics down to the warehouse to gather the evidence together with the Fire Department."

Lassiter nodded and got up from his chair. "Of course."

"Good. That's been all."

The two detectives got up and left the office. Outside, the squad room was in the usual mid-day buzz.

Lassiter went over towards his desk and picked up the file containing the long list of possible suspect vehicles that the DMV had faxed over earlier that day. He looked around the squad room for a few seconds, and when he didn't find who he was looking for immediately turned towards his junior partner.

"Have you seen McNab today?"

O'Hara thought for a moment. "He was at the reception desk with Officer Allen when I came in earlier."

"Again? I thought I had been explicit about that."

O'Hara opened her mouth to say something, but Lassiter didn't even wait around to hear what she was going to say. This wasn't a joke anymore. He was head detective of the Santa Barbara Police Department, he was not going to stand for something like this happening in his department. It was bad enough that the whole city was going crazy, somebody needed to keep a clear head in all this madness.

He indeed found Buzz McNab right where O'Hara had said she had seen him, at the front desk with Officer Allen, staring at the screen of her computer monitor and talking quietly amongst themselves. To the casual observer it looked every bit as if they were talking about something work-related, but Lassiter was no casual observer. He hadn't become head detective by observing things causally.

He immediately noticed the radio standing on Officer Allen's desk. Not the kind of radio that belonged to the standard equipment of every officer at the SBPD, but the kind of radio that was needed to listen to that horribly awful new radio station that had everybody in this town going totally crazy for the past days.

The two officers were so occupied with what they were doing that they didn't even notice Lassiter's approach.

"McNab!"

Two heads snapped up in unison, but Lassiter didn't miss how Allen clicked something with her mouse before she looked at him. Hiding the evidence of what they had been doing, no doubt.

"Detective Lassiter?"

The guilt was written plainly in McNab's face. Lassiter only hoped that the kid would never decide to play high stakes poker. He'd be cleaned out within minutes with a face as incapable of hiding things as his.

"McNab, what did I tell you about behavior unbecoming of an officer of the law?"

McNab flinched back a little. "I…erm…Officer Allen and I sir, we were…going through…she had some computer trouble, and I…"

"Cut it out, McNab."

"Yes sir."

McNab looked actually relieved. Lassiter handed the file over to the young officer. "Here. That's a list of cars that could possibly be involved in our hit and run case from last Saturday. I need you to cross-check the owners with prior DUI convictions and then go through the list of suspects and check for alibis."

McNab took the file with a nod.

"Yes sir."

"Get another officer to help you. And that doesn't mean Officer Allen, she has her own duties to attend to."

"Of course sir."

"Good. And Officer Allen?"

The black woman looked up at Lassiter from her position behind the reception desk, and contrary to McNab there was no trace of guilt for being caught in the act in her expression.

"Yes, detective Lassiter?"

"I don't want to see that radio here anymore when I come back later. And if I ever catch you listening to that station again, I'll make sure that you are going to alphabetize the entire department archive. Do I make myself clear?"

"Of course, sir."

Her tone suggested anything but compliance, but if that radio vanished and he never had to hear the words "scavenger hunt"  again, Lassiter wasn't about to complain. It was bad enough that the entire city seemed to have lost their mind and were now chasing brainless clues. He wasn't going to have two of his officers participating in this wild goose chase. Definitely not on the clock.

O'Hara was watching him with that expression that clearly said she was going to go into another rant about how it would be better if he showed some understanding for the two officers, that for as long as it didn't affect their work he should let McNab and Allen participate in that scavenger hunt. But of course O'Hara would say something like that. She always did, because she still kept missing the point. It wasn't about whether or not a police officer should get involved in something like this. In fact, Lassiter was convinced that if anybody, a police officer was better equipped to solve those ridiculous clues than those mindless amateur treasure hunters out there were.

But it was a question of principle. An officer of the law should stand above a temptation like that one. Being a cop was a full time commitment, and it was a fulfilling profession. $100,000 should not be temptation enough to give in and try to throw all that overboard.

Lassiter gestured for O'Hara to keep going and get to their car. Chief Stetson from the Fire department was waiting for them, after all, and the last thing Lassiter wanted to do was to keep him waiting because two of his officers had their priorities wrong. But just as he turned to follow his junior partner, McNab called out to him once more.

"Detective Lassiter?"

Lassiter turned around. "What is it, McNab?"

And in the name of all that is good, please let that next question be connected to the DMV research, otherwise Lassiter didn't know what he was going to do.

"There never was a royal family in Santa Barbara, was there?"

Sweet justice, they still had tests on basic knowledge in the Academy, didn't they? What had happened to reading a paper, or a book, occasionally?

"McNab…" The tone of his voice was sharp, and the younger officer seemed to notice.

"Sorry. It's just that I was really wondering if there…you know what? Forget about it." He waved around the file Lassiter had handed him. "I'm going to go check on those now."
"You'd better," Lassiter forced out from between clenched teeth. This stupid scavenger hunt was only supposed to last for another four days, but Lassiter wasn't entirely sure if he was going to get through this without shooting somebody. All too often, Lassiter had the feeling that he was the only sane person left on the face of the planet. Moments like this didn't exactly help deterring him from that assumption.

Outside, O'Hara was already waiting in the car. And true enough, Lassiter had barely fastened his seat belt when she cleared her throat from the passenger seat.

"Don't you think you've been a bit harsh with them, Carlton?"

"No. They need to focus on their work, O'Hara. I can't have them chasing all over the city because they're hoping to make a fortune by listening to the radio. Officers need to keep their head, not go chasing after such a stupidity. I'm going to check if that whole scavenger hunt business is even legal. It's a menace to society, that's what it is."

O'Hara looked at him with that expression in her big blue eyes that Lassiter knew so very well by now. It was that slightly pitying expression, the one that said he was missing an important point here and it was a sad thing that he was. Lassiter had no idea what she could possible mean, and he didn't particularly care about it, either.

Before O'Hara could get it into her head to discuss this even further, he quickly started the car and drove off the parking lot. They had an appointment to keep, and a case of arson to solve. That was more important than a childish scavenger hunt. This wasn't a child's birthday party, after all.



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