A Psych Story
Prologue: So You've Heard, I Crossed Over The Line
Perhaps their first mistake was following the signs— official looking yellow caution diamonds and squares, or orange triangles with large, black lettering: "Detour", "Road Closed Ahead".
Carlton Lassiter cursed. "What the hell is this? Doesn't the road crew know we have to get to a crime scene here?" He may have attempted to maneuver his red Crown Vic around the barriers, cursing again with his foot stomped down heavily on the brake, but gazing ahead of them at the solid forms of road blocks, gave in.
Juliet O'Hara eyed him without a word from the passenger seat. Just like her partner to believe the world around them should accommodate his needs at all times.
They turned left, off the main road and onto one less well maintained. Juliet was thinking, instead, as her partner made his choice, How strange. The GPS directions she had gone over had mentioned nothing about roadwork or a detour.
* * *
They wouldn't have had any way of knowing; the knowledge was secret for a long time because the prison transport bus lay at the bottom of a ravine, its metal front concave by the force of the impact, its windshield smashed. Both guards, the driver and the back-up, wore identical bullet holes between their eyes, though the driver's torso was halfway through the window, his neck stretched to an unusual angle. It didn't matter— he was dead before the bus rolled off the edge of the cliff, but she knew, if she could have seen it, the human body twisted about unnaturally, it would have given her a moment's smile.
The bus had had to swerve to avoid the green VW Beetle, the dark green of deep summer foliage that had been neatly hiding away in a patch of bushes and trees on the side of the road.
Escape— her accomplice surely didn't seem the type to even be capable of holding a 12-gauge shotgun in his thin arms, let alone to have such an accurate aim to shoot out the passenger side tires all before the occupants could even reach for their dispatch Walkie Talkies. Later, she had to ask, quizzing him excitedly like a child, as it had been such an expert job for an amateur— were these really the first people he'd ever killed? How many times had he made it look like an accident? What about hiding the bodies, did he have experience in that too? She, of course, had been ready, waiting as patiently as one who is shackled— a known and dangerous murderer— can wait. She had entertained herself with closed mouth smiles, silent riddles, and mental picture after picture of the very last time she had been face to face with Shawn Spencer.
He was the reason she was getting out. Not the means of her escape; for that, she had another, someone wholly devoted to her and her actions. (It seemed, without her, his life had been quite dull.) Years and years passed where everyone had assumed the Yin Yang killer was a man. Light inside darkness, darkness inside light— the perfect balance. Not one without the other. Or, precisely according to Chinese philosophy: "How seemingly disjunct or opposing forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, giving rise to each other in turn." She laughed at herself. Through the years she had crafted her clues and crimes, her kills— but she had not found her equal until six months prior. Then, she had let him best her— perhaps a mistake— a weakness for not only his good looks which were only enhanced with his fear and disgust— but also the way he'd kept up— unyielding, to assure a stranger, then his mother, would stay alive.
Another weakness; she would have done anything to have him sit with her; he resisted, repulsed. He had been too close to the danger— perhaps it had been a mistake taking his mother. Still, she was not the least cowed. He had denied so strongly that they could be evenly matched, because she was a killer and he was not. Who would want that, or could appreciate it, just after the seconds the sentiments have been uttered, the admiration of a serial killer?
She had to face it— their games were not done. She felt towards him the way a panther hungers towards its already wounded prey, with lust for taste of that first blood. He belonged to her, because she had made the deepest cut, she had marked him, and she must be there to claim her possession. He was the only one, in all her years in this business (the business of pleasure), able to keep up, able to fake out his police allies, act unafraid possibly causing the death of a stranger by tossing a cell phone into the ocean. He didn't even know her— no, not the waitress, but she, his match— but he did. It had certainly surprised her; she'd felt a little flutter that he really was earning the treasured space of her one material possession on the shelf inside her chest— where others, non-sociopaths or killers, may have placed their hearts.
He had also done the one thing that no one had ever been able to do— spare her hand. It had been, had she declared death, then death it was, regardless of the so-called actions of her targets. She was sometimes easily bored, but never once, had Shawn Spencer let her be. He was special— she had been correct in choosing him to play for other reasons than just liking his hair.
She hadn't been serious about the book, of course, but she felt that, because he was her match, he deserved a warning: they would be seeing each other again.
She occupied herself while her accomplice dispatched the guards by reliving the moments of the briefest touch they'd shared— the one delicious moment of electrical charge as she readily handed over the device. It was all worth it, she decided, to be here, at this moment. She escaped, an orange stain into a perfect day, bleeding from its twilight. It would be dark soon.
* * *
It was deliberate, but neither Carlton nor Juliet knew that— not until much later, after they'd woken. Because it was a back road, Lassiter had accelerated to fifty, which was steadily climbing to fifty-five as he debated if attaching his lights and cranking the siren would have any merit in speeding up their journey. He wasn't going to admit it to his partner, but this road wasn't familiar. O'Hara seemed to sense his frustration; he glimpsed her retrieving her cell phone from the pocket of her gray pants suit, about to open it, when he questioned her.
She tried not to let her exasperation show. "Aren't we lost?"
"We aren't lost," Lassiter snapped. The Crown Vic's two front wheels had just crossed into the middle of a blind intersection. He jerked his head in her direction and it was only out of reflex that she looked towards him, their dark sunglasses glaring at each other for a second as if this were an ordinary moment.
A horrible squeal of tires and a revving engine got their attention. Juliet opened her mouth to cry out; Lassiter tapped the brake but only managed a half turn of the wheel to his left, intending to accelerate and zip away on the diagonal, before a dark green 1968 VW Beetle doing at least forty mph rammed the Crown Vic, T-boning the red vehicle at the driver's side, spinning it a full 180 as the Beetle pushed their car several feet before halting. The occupants of the Crown Vic had been thrown about, despite their seatbelts and the deployed airbags pressing them against their seats, because the car had rocked, teetering on two wheels before dropping, earthbound, with a thud. Juliet's scream was that of a silent film star, her arms flailing as metal crushed metal, the aggressor seemingly the victor though she couldn't see what the damage had been from here. Lassiter's hands had been lifted from the steering wheel by the force of impact, though he'd wanted something to hold onto. His stray fingers had grasped the gear shift for dear life; sometime during the spin, he'd lurched the car into park.
Lassiter's head bounced off the driver's side window with a sickening thud, the deployed airbag inadvertently shoving his head and shoulders towards the door. He groaned as a bright yellow pain exploded in his forehead. He tried to speak, but his tongue was thick and dry in his mouth.
Juliet managed a few intelligible words, sounding dazed and shaken. "Carlton, you okay?"
Lassiter tried to mumble a response, but figured his words went unheard. He was trying to reason with the part of his brain that was demanding he state the obvious: What kind of idiot would hit a police car? Instead, he started to fumble with his seat buckle, then the door handle, ignoring the dizzying roar of O'Hara's voice to stop. Once he'd pushed the door open, he wriggled out, almost losing his balance as his brain tried to process the hard metallic color of the late sixties model Beetle, its front end accordioned into driver's side wheel and hood of his car. Both vehicles were smoking and seemed totaled; the white swirl of clouds above his head blurred into grayness. Lassiter yelped when his knees slammed into the pavement, the fresh pain reminding him to wonder why the windows of the Beetle were blacked out; he hadn't been able to make out anybody behind the wheel.
Juliet hadn't wanted to move just yet; the crash had made her skin hum and her teeth chatter as if she'd spent much too long in a cold pool or outside in a chill night without a jacket. Her partner was a man of action, but she had wanted him to stay still because his words had slurred. The glance of him she'd managed through her half closed eyes had told her the five second tale of his likely injury: at most, a concussion, with two jagged streams of blood snaking down his temple from his hairline. She hadn't noticed, until he was gone, that his window had been marred with spiderweb cracks; it made her shiver. It was still going to be hard to convince Lassiter that he'd need to lie down but that he couldn't sleep, not just yet.
She had also hit her head on her door, but her neck had jerked to the left during the spin. As she ran her fingers over her bump, she felt a small patch of wetness which could only be blood. Juliet moaned, pressing her back against the seat as she fumbled with her own buckle. Carlton wasn't in any shape to be wandering about; she would have to be aware that she might have whiplash— oh. A thought whispered to her as she shoved open her door. The other driver. Was the other driver hurt? She wasn't that badly— and being a police officer, still had a duty. This was now the scene of an accident— had the other driver lost control? It seemed too early in the day to be intoxicated, though she knew time had no bearing on habit. Though, had she imagined the Beetle's "purpose", how the car had bored down upon them without even trying to stop or swerve?
Once outside, she blinked in the sunlight, feeling heavy on her feet. She, like her partner, tried to comprehend the smushed 1968 model of her own car, though hers was newer, seemingly joined at the hood to theirs— a sick thought rumbled in her stomach, but she fought it until it passed. She had to find Lassiter. Juliet approached the Beetle, stumbling forward once but managing to catch herself. Maybe that bump she took was a harder knock than she'd first thought? She froze just before the Beetle's driver's side door when she heard Lassiter's sharp hiss.
Juliet jerked her head over her left shoulder, wincing hard as her eyes stung. Already she had forgotten about the whiplash, but she tried to ignore her pain as she saw that Lassiter was on his knees in between the two cars— and he wasn't alone.
She gasped as she fully took in the figure in head to toe black clothing, the build seeming square but thin, the height not more than five foot eight or nine. The figure was standing only about a foot from the Beetle, his left hand clutching a compact gray-brown stun gun with its two metallic prongs charged. The figure was, she realized instantly, going to try to use that on her partner, whose blue eyes had paled; he implored her for assistance. Juliet worked to swallow a growing lump in her throat as she fumbled to unbuckle the holster at her hip; it was possible Lassiter had a serious head injury if he was resorting to minor pleading. She didn't like it that he couldn't get her name out right either.
Juliet yanked her gun out and was in the act of raising it when quick movement to her left caught her eye. She turned towards it, her intention to deal with whatever may be threatening her before she helped Carlton, but the unseen thing shoved a hard, cold metal square against her neck. Juliet was in mid gasp when the electric current ripped through her body. She was singed from her hair to her toenails, her organs protesting as she crumpled into a heap next to her passenger side door.
Lassiter saw the whole thing; a fury threaded through the haze and nausea— O'Hara had just been attacked. He tried only once to gather his long legs underneath him to stand; it wasn't going to work. When he'd last brushed the side of his face, the smallest shards of glass had rubbed off on his fingers— and they had been specked with blood.
Juliet's body was jerking on the ground as if there were minnows beneath her skin that wanted to jump out. She was breathing heavily, her eyes not completely closed. She could make out the minute details of the pavement's makeup, but she couldn't make herself understand why she was staring at it so closely or why her limbs weren't obeying her; not even her lips or eyes would close. She wasn't aware of what was happening, but she could feel something patting down the shell of her body, detaching undesirable accessories, such as her badge, her spare guns, her keys— these things all clattered on the road's surface in a heap in front of her open eyes.
Lassiter wondered vaguely as the figure approached him why neither of them had thought to communicate with their radio before getting out of the car. He knew he must still have his cell phone on him, but he wasn't certain if he'd be able to focus on the buttons, both the seeing and the pressing. To clear his head, he shook it hard and reached into his jacket to retrieve his Glock. Shaking was a very bad idea as it intensified the roaring in his ears, loud enough so he assumed it was a paralyzing, around-the-world heard noise. Though the figure in front of him wasn't reacting to this screeching moan, so he wondered if it were self-contained. As he was struggling to level his Glock, the figure had raised his left arm and was using it as a lead towards his intended victim, closing the small gap between them with ease.
Though he couldn't see everything as clearly as he wanted to, Carlton took aim at his assailant and fired, squeezing off one shot before becoming a slave to the vomit which flew up from his stomach. He bent forward, retching, his long fingers still wrapped around the trigger. He realized as he hurled that he hadn't heard the gunshot or experienced the usual kickback (though he was most always braced and was used to the bark of the weapon in his hands), and thought vaguely if he'd imagined firing at all. He couldn't see the right hand of the figure clasp its left shoulder, or the left arm dip to its side.
"He shot me!" a voice squeaked from under the black mask. "I'm— it's gushing here. Shit!" High pitched, but male, Juliet noted, trying to furrow her brow with confusion as she tried to place why the voice seemed familiar. The voice continued cursing and complaining, but she the more she heard it, the less real sounding it became. She wished she would lose consciousness already— being awake was too painful right now. If she couldn't go to sleep, she was going have to get up, and she didn't think she could physically do that.
Juliet was just getting her wish when a second voice snarled, "Get a grip!" She tried to profile it, or at least glance in its direction but the dark was pulling on eyelashes, and she was going under.
Lassiter pressed back on his heels, releasing his non-dominant hand from his Glock to wipe the stray vomit from his lips. He spit into the pavement, squeezing his eyes shut tightly and trying to focus. O'Hara. O'Hara needs me. He had to get up, and he had to help her. It had been a long time since he last heard her voice— long also, since he had watched her collapse. The gun in his hand was taking on an unpleasant weight, but he tried to keep his grip despite how slick it was becoming in his fingers. Lassiter forced his eyes open, trying to get steady in his crouch by leaning on his arm; he couldn't gauge how the assailant had gotten so close so quickly. He couldn't suppress his straggled gasp or flinch when he felt the metal prongs of the stun gun dig into his cheek.
Carlton yelled out thinly as he was thrown onto his back, the level of voltage sizzling through his limbs. His nostrils burned, then wetness dribbled from one or both, he wasn't sure. He'd jarred the back of his head, but that was one of the least of his worries. Lassiter didn't know he was whimpering, or that his fingers and knees were jerking about as if experiencing individual seizures.
"Was that necessary?" the second voice asked sharply. "He had better not be dead."
"He's not dead," the squeaky voice replied with a sniffle. "That was— pay back." The figure knelt down next to Lassiter, patting him down in the same manner as O'Hara, ridding him of his guns, cell phone, keys, badge. It was easy to wriggle the Glock from Lassiter's writhing fingers. The figure removed Lassiter's belt and cut the holster from his shoulders, then patted him down a second time in case there was something missed. "He's clean," the figure called.
"She is too. Get him— we have to go."
Lassiter was, as Juliet had been, still partially conscious after the electroshock. That didn't mean he could move or form any lucid thoughts; it must not have helped that his head had already been burning with pain and dizziness. He wasn't able to register the figure's actions of removing his things, or now, when a handful of shirt was clutched from the back of his neck, and his body jerked and scraped along the pavement. His exposed skin, in the dragging, was getting chaffed, but he couldn't separate those little pains from the rest. Carlton tried more than once to close his eyes, but his pupils kept gazing upwards, at the bright white clouds.
After what seemed a long time had passed, the dragging stopped. A couple muscles in his face released, and he blinked. The minor action took a lot out of him; so did the focus on the thin, gray heap of fabric lying motionless near his head. Carlton couldn't place what it was, not even when it was lifted from the flat plane of the road and a few long yellow tendrils arched towards his face. This time when he blinked, he tried to force his eyes to stay closed, but they wouldn't obey. They sprang open just as he registered the heft of his own body from the ground. He was weightless, but it still ached, then he was dropped onto rough, hard carpeting.
A pale face was turned towards his. An engine rumbled, or it may have been some loud churning in his brain. The ground beneath them shook. Carlton blinked, his eyelids growing heavy. He knew that face. He blinked again, and then his eyes remained closed.
* * *
She'd had time to think of a new logo— and had chosen the two elements that best embodied her own concept on Yin Yang. These elements were both powerful and potent in their own rights— and they each quenched the other. Water changed fire to smoke and ash, but she had also seen burning water, flames spiking high into the sky, changing its properties to vapor. This idea excited her too— that though they were each a dominant element, they each bore a little of the other within them. It should disgust her that she had a little bit of Shawn's essence inside her, but she delighted that he too, bore some of hers within him.
And so, this was the signal she left on Lassiter's broken Crown Vic, stuck against the windshield by one of the black wiper blades. A Yin Yang, one side orange flames encroaching upon swirling blue— with a little circle of each contained within the other. And beneath her new symbol, these words: "Psychic— do you want to play?"