The questions that bombarded Shawn’s head just would not stop. Put one piece together and you lost another part of the puzzle. He was fairly certain he had all of the pieces…mostly. But the picture that started to form from the patchwork of his memory was strange, disturbing, and so very far away from the collected evidence that there was just no chance that anyone was going to see this his way.
What he needed was some perspective, some reassurance that his theory, though incomprehensible, was based in some kind of logic. But Shawn also knew that he was heading into dangerous, uncharted waters here. While their relationship had come a remarkably long way, this was bordering close to the forbidden zone.
He finally decided that he should just go ahead and jump in. The water may not be ‘fine’ - but then again, the water already knew his dad personally. The water would know that ‘fine’ was something you only aspired to. To be really good, you had to be ‘adequate’. But he was stalling and he knew it.
“Hey, Dad?” The mashed potatoes offered no resistance as they were herded into three different camps, separated by a border of green beans.
“Are you going to eat, or are you just going to play with that?” Henry looked pointedly at the untouched plate.
“Oh yeah – no – its fine. I was just wondering…”
“Well, spit it out, pal. Your food’s getting cold.”
He looked up in confusion. “But I haven’t eaten anything yet.”
Henry sharply raised his head and narrowed his eyes, “Shawn,” his tone offering no alternative but to get to the point.
“Fine, fine. I was just wondering…what was it like living with mom when she was expecting?”
“I’m just going to look in the fridge for…something…” Gus scurried out of the room, leaving no time to waste.
Henry just stared at his son for a long minute before his fork fell numbly from his fingers. “What are you trying to say…are…did you? Of all the irresponsib-“
“No! Dad! No, nothing like that!” Shawn hurriedly assured him.
“Get to the point then.”
“Did she act out of character - like she was another person?”
“Sometimes, yes. I remember walking on eggshells, running to the convenience mart at three a.m., and sleeping on the couch on more than once. If there’s one thing you need to remember it’s this kid, pregnant women go crazy. If you’re lucky, it’s worth the wait.”
Shawn let the bait slide. It had taken too long to work up to this question and he didn’t want his father steering him off course just yet. “Were you ever afraid she might have…hurt you?”
“Alright, kid – the point. Find one now.”
“It’s this case-“
“I’m serious, dad,” he rushed before Henry could get in another word. “I think the mother-to-be did it. I don’t know how and I don’t know why.”
“Well until you do, she didn’t. Remember that. Now, are you going to eat that or just keep moving it on your plate?”
“You know, I’m really not hungry right now.”
Shawn didn’t notice when Gus had made his way back into the room, but he didn’t miss the shared looks between the other two men. Whatever.
“Are you feeling okay?” Gus stared at the uneaten before turning his gaze at Shawn.
He wasn’t feeling well - not really. He wanted nothing more than to crawl under the table and curl up in a ball. That wasn’t really an option. This case wasn’t going anywhere and he knew he wouldn’t get anything in the way of real rest until he at least got the ball back on track. He needed a hook, a way to shake up the department a bit. Shawn raised his head slowly in realization, relishing the shared expression on Gus’ face. Yeahhhhh….
“No, Shawn. NO WAY!” Gus’ head whipped from side to side, as if the very loud verbal declination didn’t make his point just fine.
“Uh, actually, no Gus. I’m not feeling okay. This baby is draining the life out of me…”
“Shawwwwn,” the patented Henry Spencer warning voice punctuated the air; not quite to the levels of calling the authorities…but close. There was still room to push the envelope just a bit more.
“You too, dad? I thought you would be happy for me. Don’t you want to support your grandchild?”
Henry threw his napkin on his plate before beginning the task of gathering up the dishes. His movements were jerky and stilted. No doubt, Shawn delighted, resisting the urge to hurl the pieces across the room. He made his way around the table and roughly pulled away Shawn’s untouched plate.
“But I wasn’t done with that!” Shawn yelled to the retreating figure. “I have to eat for two now!”
The dishes were set rather indelicately on the counter, porcelain rattling dangerously on the edge. Their owner stalked back into the doorway pointing towards the door. “Leave, Shawn. Now!”
“Are you ashamed of me, dad?” He called to the kitchen. “Just because I got myself in a little bit of trouble. I need your support, you know. The baby needs you to be a strong role model.” Any retort he might have had was cut off as Henry ran the garbage disposal. Classic move, Dad. Shawn would let the old man think he could drown him out with a little noise.
Time for a change of tactics.
“Hey Gus, I should call my mom and see if she still has any parenting books.”
“Why call your mom? Won’t that take too long?” Shawn smirked as now he had set the hook and Gus had taken the bait.
“Well you don’t think ol’ Henry has any laying around, do you?”
“I don’t know, Shawn. Dr. Spock was practically required reading around that timeframe.” Gus seemed to mull it over for a while, “and you know your Dad doesn’t throw out anything. He probably has a copy in the attic.”
“Gus, don’t be a silly mongoose. Dad doesn’t read science fiction either.”
“Dr. Spock is a noted parenting expert, Shawn.”
“Really? I thought he was that pointy-ear dude from Star Trek.”
“That’s Mister. Spock.”
“Ohhhh, well that makes a lot more sense,” Shawn admitted.
Now time to reel ‘em in. His eyes brightened in anticipation. “Gus,” he whispered. “Watch this…hey Dad!”
“What are you doing?” Gus hissed in response.
Projecting his voice louder,“do you have any Miste-”
“Doctor, idiot” Gus hissed again in his ear.
“Doctor Spock books?” he finished and waited for the eruption. Three, two, one…
Henry stalked back into the room, a sopping wet dish towel slung over his neck. “Shawn – leave – now. I don’t want to know where or how far you’re going to take this. Just go.”
The man was getting closer to full on Vesuvius mode, but still held a remarkable amount of restraint. Shawn found himself suitably impressed. Still, this was good training for Henry. Old pops wasn’t the only one with a character building program. And now, dear father, we go for the jugular.
With glittering eyes, he pressed in. “Would you really send me…us…out on the streets? Alone? You would do that, really?”
“Shawn,” Gus warned. Shawn waved him off.
“You, Mister Responsibility. I need you to know that I’m in a very vulnerable state emotionally right now. I need guidance, someone to hold my hand; and wipe my brow; and tell me it will be ok during the delivery because Gus vomits at the mere mention of placenta.”
“Shawn, you promised not to tell!” Gus exclaimed.
Shawn waved him off again. The interruption nearly destroyed his dramatic center. Like a professional, he never broke character. Slowly, he rose from the table and walked to the doorway where Henry leaned with crossed arms and a pained grimace. Preparing for the finale, he fell to his knees and cursed the rough landing. He dug down deep and continued with gusto. “I need you to tell me it will be okay; that you still love me.” Reaching out, he grabbed his father’s arms and held the gaze, never blinking. “Tell me you still love me.”
Henry quickly slapped the arms away, disgust plainly evident on his features. “I told your mother that acting workshop when you were ten was a waste of money,” he snapped. “You want help, kid? Go to the YMCA. I think they also have summer acting camps – but you’re paying for it on your own.”
“The YMCA? Can I be the Indian chief?”
“The Young Men’s Christian Association, Shawn,” Gus supplied helpfully. “And the name of the group is the Village People, but feel free to be their idiot.”
“Ohhh!” Unable to resist one last dig, Shawn pressed forth once more. “Hey dad?” Shawn felt a tug on his collar and turned to check out what had nearly pulled backwards, only to see Gus turning tail and walking quickly away. Turning back, he was just taking in what had Gus so spooked. Henry had pulled the wet dishtowel from his neck and was now near record breaking eruption levels. A strategic retreat was now in order.
“Shawn, we should go now.” Gus said, already halfway to the door with car keys in hand.
“You’re right, Gus.” Shawn winced at the motion of rising from the floor while Gus rolled his eyes. He really did feel nauseous at the sight of food. The ache he’d been ignoring all morning was starting to make itself fully known. “We should let gramps absorb the good news for a while. After all, it’s not every day your only son announces he’s expecting!”
The steps of the Santa Barbara Police Department had duplicated themselves since he was here yesterday. Must be the hot California sun; good for growing things, Shawn mused. He wiped growing trails of sweat from his forehead. He squinted as the brightness focused into his eyeballs like laser beams burning away at his brain.
Why is it so hot?
He turned to ask Gus the very same question he couldn’t answer for himself. To his surprise, Gus was the very essence of cool. His long sleeve oxford shirt didn’t appear to bother him at all. His friend didn’t seem to be the least bit affected by the twin suns gone super-nova. Wasn’t that deserving of a least a little attention? Didn’t Gus notice these things?
Whatever. He had a case to reinvigorate. Besides, the sooner he made his way into the building, the sooner he could take advantage of the gift of air conditioning.
With a final tug on the railing, he pulled himself up the final stair, only slightly out of breath. He looked to Gus out of the corner of his eyes. Gus’ resigned expression told him he didn’t really want to go through with this, but knew that the quicker the better. Shawn placed a hand on his lower back forcing out a kink with a satisfying pop! Ahh, that’s better. Actually, that could work too, he thought. He hadn’t spent too much planning on how to present his case to Vick. After all, he had no evidence to justify such a dramatic shift of focus. But he knew, really knew, that there was much more than what they were being told. The only way to get evidence was to make a very convincing argument.
It would be a tough sell. But he’d managed tougher.
He and Gus negotiated the busy hallways. The department was full of nefarious and sundry people, all in various stages of being booked. Thankfully most were handcuffed, as most looked like they wanted to hurt someone. He certainly couldn’t allow that in his delicate condition. Pushing one’s way through throngs was hard work. The A/C was most definitely not keeping up as Shawn’s internal heat sensor continued to climb. Why was no one storming the maintenance department? Why did no one else appear the slightest bit uncomfortable? Why did he let Gus talk him into the egg salad sandwich last night, he thought ruefully as he rubbed his abdomen.
He was too worked up over this case, he decided. He would have to relax if he was going to piece it together. Working his stomach into knots over it wouldn’t get it solved any faster.
“Shawn are you sure you want to do this? If you’re wrong and point the police in the wrong direction…”
“No, man. This is the right direction. I know it.” The sharpness in his gut intensified another notch and he reflexively rubbed his abdomen with a wince.
“Ok, so even if this is the right direction in the case, are you sure you want to do this?” Gus gestured towards his stomach. Self consciously, Shawn looked down and abruptly stopped rubbing the ache.
“Come on, man – don’t tell me this isn’t gonna be dope!” He couldn’t keep the excitement out of this voice, already picturing the throbbing veins of Lassiter’s neck.
“It’s not going to be dope. It’s going to be lame! Arnold couldn’t pull it off, either.”
“Gus! You and I both know that movie was tragically underrated!”
“It was officially listed as the second-worst comedy ever made, Shawn!”
“So I won’t name the baby Junior, you happy now? Can we get this done?”
“Whatever, Shawn. Let’s just get this over with.” Gus brushed ahead of him with a huff.
Once again, he placed his right palm flat in the hollow of his back, forcing his stomach out, as he lowered his center of gravity. With slightly bent knees, feet pointing slightly out, he allowed Gus to open the door ahead of him. He put his left arm out in front of him for balance as he waddled into the office. Three heads popped up in surprise as he shuffled his way in.
“Mr. Spencer!” Vick’s surprised tone never failed to amuse him every time she said his name, starting out in the mid-upper range before falling lower. It was a pleasant sound; very soothing, much like whale songs, but faster.
“I’m sorry I’m late chief. Morning sickness. You, of all people, know how it is.”
“Oh for the love of Mike. Chief, can I-” Lassiter’s question was interrupted by Chief Vick immediately.
“No Detective, you may not. Mr. Spencer, I trust you have a very, very, good explanation for the meaning of this.”
“Here Shawn, let me help you.” Gus had closed the door gently behind them and then rushed to Shawn’s side. Taking the outstretched arm by the elbow, he assisted his friend the remaining two steps to the chair.
Exuberant groans echoed in close quarters as Shawn eased himself down with Gus’ assistance. The back of his shoulders settled first, followed by the back of his calves against the chair legs before allowing his hips to slide down. Certainly, it was a lot harder than it looked. Muscles pulled along his back and the motion didn’t do his gut any favors. Who knew this was such a workout?
He cleared his throat in preparation for ‘the talk’. “Ah, yes Chief, an explanation. See, when two people love each other very much…,”
Lassiter stalked closer with clenched teeth and fists. “Spencer!,” he growled.
“Lassy! Now listen closely, because someday you’re going to need to know this and I’d rather you hear it from me than the other kids.”
“Mr. Spencer, either you tell me why you’ve entered my office uninvited or I will have you forcibly removed. Am I clear?”
“Chief, I can’t explain it. I’ve been psychically overcome by the spirit of Tabitha Krimmon’s unborn child.”
“Psychically overcome?” The skepticism in the room hung heavy.
“Yes ma’am. I trust my sudden pregnancy won’t affect my position or duties here at the SBPD.”
“Your…pregnancy, Mr. Spencer? You do understand how that sounds, do you not?”
“Oh believe me, Chief. I’m as shocked as you are…maybe more. As a mat-,” he stopped suddenly as his eyes widened.
“What’s wrong, Shawn!” Juliet, though previously confused and possibly slightly horrified, leaned forward in expectation.
“Wow…that’s…that’s amazing! Here Lassy,” Shawn reached over and grabbed Lassiter’s hand, placing it on his stomach, trapped underneath his own palm. “Do you feel that? The baby’s kicking.”
Lassiter, after two unsuccessful attempts, managed to pull his hand out of Shawn’s two-fisted grip. “So help me, Spencer. I will have you arrested for assault.”
“Well if you’re going to be that way, Lassy, I won’t give you the honor rubbing my feet. You wouldn’t believe the strain on your back, let me tell you.”
Lassiter said nothing, apparently beyond the ability to do so. Instead he moved closer, Shawn noted, with the intention of removing him from the office chair and all.
“Shhhhh, little one, don’t be scared. Uncle Carlton is just being Uncle Carlton. You’ll get used to him soon enough,” he continued speaking in high-pitched baby tones to his stomach as he continued to rub. “It will all be fine. I told you the nice chief lady will be happy to find out what’s wrong with your mommy.”
Juliet began shaking her head in the negative. “Shawn, you know we can’t. We’ve already talked about this. There’s no evidence and we need something concrete to justify a warrant.”
“Jules, come on! What am I supposed to tell the baby?” He forgot himself for a moment in his outburst. “Shhhhhhh…daddy’s sorry,” he whispered and rubbed.
“I’ll tell you what to tell ‘the baby’,” Lassiter reached for his handcuffs with a feral glint in his eye. It didn’t take a psychic to sense the negative energy in the room.
“Detective-” the Chief cut off with an outstretched warning finger while the other hand massaged her temple.
Ignoring the glares of doom directed his way, Shawn began patting down his pockets until he found the source of his search.
“Chief, you can’t be considering this!” Lassiter sputtered, “Spencer, what in God’s name are you doing?”
“Gus, tell him,” Shawn finished untangling the last of the ear buds from the errant iPod, sticking each one underneath the hem of his shirt.
“It’s an early education enrichment exercise. Studies show that children who listen to classical music in the womb grow up to be smarter.”
“First of all, the negativity in this room is dampening my precious angel’s psyche. Second, my baby is getting the best cultural exposure imaginable. Right now little Xavier is listening to classic eighties. Is Michael Jackson classic enough?”
“You know that’s right.” Gus gave a single nod of agreement with his fists on his hips, daring anyone to refute the Kind of Pop.
“Chief, I’m telling you that there is something seriously unnormal…unnat…not right with the Krimmon’s woman. I’m not saying she necessarily did it, but she is the key.”
“I’ve told you before, you give me something concrete, a shred of evidence to present to a judge, and I will be happy to bring Mrs. Krimmins in for questioning. Until then, my hands are tied.” The chief said no more, but raised a pointed finger towards the exit.
Awkward silence hung in the air; until dramatic sniffling broke the peace.
Never let it be said that Shawn Spencer couldn’t take a hint.
“I see…,” Shawn lovingly rubbed his belly in slow circles. He pointedly looked at Lassiter. “And here I thought you would be a strong male presence in my child’s life. Guess I was wrong.”
He ignored the low growl as he looked askance at Juliet, betrayal shining in his eyes. “And you…I thought little Michael Knight-”
“I thought his name was Xavier?” Juliet asked confused.
“The name isn’t a definite, and I thought little Michael…or Xavier would have so much fun on his play dates with little Millicent. Well fine, just…fine,” be brought his fingers up to pinch the bridge of his nose and blinked away tears. “I’ll find your shred, Chief. I’ll do it with the baby’s help, though when we solve this case – without your help - I claim immunity from any violation of child labor laws. I leave that on your heads!”
While in Chief Vick’s office, Shawn had enough fun and activity to distract him from the growing ache in his stomach. He found that he could ignore the light earthquake centered near his navel. After all, the baby was pretty active!
While Lassiter had scoffed, the production of getting out of the chair hadn’t been near the put-on that it appeared. He really did need Gus’ help as getting up while pregnant was even harder than sitting down. As his friend helped pull, he felt a tangible shift in the location of the former ache, now bordering on a full blown throb. Pressing his hand deep into the area, he shuffled towards the door in earnest, only half playing up the groans. The effort to make his way out of the office took sincere and earnest concentration; which explained the delay as he finally registered the slamming of the office door behind them, followed by the rapid closing of window blinds.
The pair made their way back through the crowded throngs, bumping shoulders and exchanging sweat. Though, again, Shawn noticed, he seemed to be the only one sharing in that regard. Weird.
The outside brightness had not dulled during their time with Vick and the others. He hadn’t thought it possible but in the last hour the sun seemed to grow a brighter and hotter Siamese twin. He grabbed the hand rail for support and dragged his feet down the stairs.
“You can stop playing it up now, Shawn. We’re outside.” Gus was already next to the car with the driver’s side door open.
“I’m coming man, I’m totally coming. Give us a second.”
Exasperated, Gus quickly climbed in the car and sat waiting as he impatiently tapped the steering wheel. Seriously, it wasn’t as if he were trying to move slower. This wasn’t fun, moving like a turtle. This latest vision really took a lot of effort. Though Shawn didn’t think it possible, he found that you really could pull a belly button. Even as the thought entered his mind, said belly button flamed with intensity, causing Shawn to pause in mid-motion and firmly grab the handrail for support.
He ground his teeth; waiting for the gopher gnawing at his gut to get his fill, before straightening and closing the remaining distance to the little blue car. He ignored Gus’ expression of annoyance and the pitiful revving engine. It had the intimidation factor of a constipated miniature lop-eared rabbit.
“You know you can lay off the act now, right?”
Biting off the whine before it had a chance to take over; Shawn glanced over his shoulder to the busy steps of the SBPD. As good of a cover as any, he looked back to Gus. “You just never know who’s watching, buddy.”
Shawn cursed errand day. As with all of life, everything was a trade-off. If he wanted a ride in Gus’ car on errand day, he was at Gus’ mercy. To date, they had been to three banks. Evidently, foolish people kept all of their money in one account, in one facility. ‘Diversity was the key to stability,’ Gus had said over and over as he pulled into each bank’s parking lot. The gas station on the other end of town was next, including the car wash for only $1.95 with a fill up. ‘Three dollars and fifty two cents saved is three dollars and fifty two cents earned,’ Gus had said.
The highlight of the afternoon was the post office, watching the old beater car getting towed away; its owner chasing the tow truck, red-faced and hurling obscenities. Gus didn’t say anything to that one, choosing instead to point and laugh hysterically. Ah yes, this was the life. Normally, he could manage stops of his own along the way. Creative sabotage was an art and he was the maestro. Smoothie runs, the video store, a quick stop to the McDonald’s Play-land; whatever fun activity happened to catch his eye and his mood. Today, he just didn’t feel like it. He just focused on keeping his forehead attached firmly to the passenger side window, his only cool comfort in the world.
“Shawn, you look awful. I’m taking you home.”
Shawn startled in response. So lost in his own world of growing pain, he never felt the rocking of the car announcing Gus return to the driver’s seat.
“Yeah, I think I can go for a nap right about now. How about we…aaauummMMMMmm…,” words were cut off and he doubled over in agony. He vaguely heard Gus’ shouts of concern, but they didn’t register as words. Right now, Shawn felt much more like a pet goat. “It’s not so much that they understand the words as much as the tone of your voice,” he had heard during the summer of ’97 during his brief stint at a small, family run petting zoo.
He came to himself a few minutes, possibly hours, later. His breath came in hard pants as he had to make up for the period of time in which the ability to breathe was beyond him. Carefully, so as not to trigger another attack like that, Shawn leaned back against the seat and let the head rest cradle his neck.
“Shawn, talk to me,” Gus urged – his cell phone at the ready.
“Gus, we need to go to the hospital,” Shawn panted. “It’s time.”
“What? Shawn! Time for what?”
He couldn’t answer the question right away, though he knew by doing so he was only fueling Gus’ panic. He winced hard as he bit back another groan, working hard to get back some control.
“I think I’m going into labor.”