Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. I do not own any of the characters of Psych and am not affiliated with the show or USA Network. 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. I do not own nor am I associated with Superman, Batman, the Spirograph, Etch-a-sketch, or the Muppets.
Sam the Eagle: http://www.palefirer.com/images/sam_eagle.jpg
In case you're wondering what one looks like, this is a portable "key and sounder" set:
SPOILERS: For Psych season 4 episode "High Noonish".
*AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place after my three previous Psych Fan Fiction stories "Choose It Or Lose It", "It Can Happen", and "This Stalker Thing Kind Of Sucks". Events affecting the Lassiter/Shawn dynamics that take place in both of these previous stories are mentioned in this one. You might want to read them first. Doing so is not a requirement to understand what is going on in this one, but it will help alleviate any confusion that might occur when the references pop up.*
ENJOY! Please be kind enough to review. All feedback, good or bad, is welcome.
"Buzz! Give me an update!" All heads turned as Detective Juliet O'Hara came bounding up the stairs leading from the front door of the station and jogged into the conference room. Having tied her hair back into a simple ponytail and donned an SBPD sweatshirt, jeans, and hiking boots, it was obvious she'd dropped everything and left at a moment's notice.
Chief Vick turned to look over her shoulder. "Officer McNab, bring O'Hara up to speed." She resumed leaning over the conference room table, carefully studying a large map alongside two officers that O'Hara recognized as Game Wardens from their green and tan uniforms.
"Yes, ma'am." Buzz turned and motioned for Juliet to join him in front of the GPS display as she entered the room at a brisk walk.
"Where is he, Buzz? Did you find him?" she asked hopefully.
The younger officer couldn't help but notice the undercurrent of worry in her voice. "Not yet, but we do have a fix on his car." He pointed to the dot on the display showing the vehicle's location. "It appears to have gone off the road. It's here, on the mountainside, about sixty feet off the highway."
Juliet's face blanched and her mouth hung open as she stared at the dot on the screen.
Buzz saw her reaction and tried his best to reassure her. "We do know that he activated the emergency button on his car's radio, so that means he was still able to function after...well, whatever it was happened. So, just concentrate on that," he added, giving her a sympathetic smile. Buzz didn't say it outright, but Juliet knew what he really meant with the words 'still able to function.'
'He was still alive.'
Juliet swallowed hard. "Thanks, Buzz," she said, even as she tried desperately to bury the mental image of her badly injured partner, alone and in the dark, trapped inside the twisted remains of his wrecked car. "No contact with him yet I assume?" She forced back the worried friend threatening to consume her thoughts and pulled forth her professional persona. That's what her partner needed most right now and that's what he was going to get. She could always revert back to the other role after he was safe and sound. "Do we have anyone on the ground up there yet?"
Buzz shook his head. "No, not yet. But we're working on it," he added in an apologetic tone.
With a heavy sigh, Juliet turned her attention to the Chief and the two visiting Game Wardens. Officer Bailey, the taller and younger of the two, was a rather large man, almost equal to McNab in height, build, and age. Officer Miller was about average height and much older, probably in his early fifties, with a heavier, stocky frame and a good amount of gray peppered throughout his dark brown hair and mustache. He bore the look of a seasoned veteran and experienced outdoorsman. Several large maps had been rolled out onto the conference room table, and Miller was busy marking areas with a pencil while Chief Vick watched in earnest.
"Just got another report of the road being washed out here as well," he said as he drew two parallel marks over the blue line representing the road. Looking over his shoulder, Juliet could see the new area being marked was farther down the mountain than the other damaged areas of road. "Landslides here are pretty bad. There's no way we can risk a land rescue right now, maybe not for the foreseeable future. Even if they were still intact, the roads are unstable and Its just too dangerous. There's no way a vehicle can get to him." He shook his head in sympathy. "Not looking too good right now. I'm sorry, Chief Vick. I wish I had better news for you."
The Chief nodded. "What about aircraft?" she inquired. "Can't we get a helicopter, or at least a search plane in the air at sunrise?"
Both Miller and Bailey shook their heads. "Don't know. Air rescue is looking like your best bet right now, but it'll have to wait until the weather clears. If that weather report is accurate, it's going to be at least a couple of days before it's safe enough to fly into that kind of terrain. Maybe more."
As Juliet looked at the map she felt a slight twinge of fear beginning to make its presence known in her gut. The red 'x' marking the location of Lassiter's car was at least twelve miles away from the very first damaged section of road. Twelve miles of harsh, rough, unstable mountain terrain. She must not have been hiding her emotions nearly as well as she thought, because Officer Miller was studying her carefully with compassion behind his wise eyes.
"You're his partner, aren't you?" he asked as he glanced at the dot on the map.
Juliet bit her lip and nodded solemnly.
Miller patted her softly on the shoulder. "We'll find him and bring him home, ma'am. I promise."
Juliet noticed he didn't promise to bring her partner home alive. One of the first lessons every officer learned in the Academy: 'Never make a promise unless you are one hundred percent sure you can keep it.'
"Um, Chief Vick?" Buzz spoke up.
"What is it, Officer McNab?"
"I know we're assuming that this," he pointed to the dot on the screen, "is Detective Lassiter's current location. But what if he's not in the car? I mean, his vehicle has slowly moved over sixty feet from the roadway over the course of the last hour. I would think if he's able, he'd get out of the car. It's too dangerous to stay with it." He paused, then added hopefully, "Maybe he's trying to find help? For all we know, he might be walking down the road, or climbing back down the mountain right now trying to get back to town."
Vick nodded. "All right, let's firmly establish a safety zone and stage emergency personnel in the immediate area. I want them surrounding that accident scene and on that road absolutely as close to the car's location as possible without jeopardizing their safety." She nodded at an officer who scurried out of the room. "And McNab, I want Mr. Spencer here now. Maybe he can..." she waved her hand next to her head, "divine Detective Lassiter's exact location. If he can tell us whether or not he's still with the car, and possibly what condition he's in, that would be extremely useful information to have." She pointed at the large officer. "Find him and bring him here." She jabbed her finger at a spot on the floor next to her feet.
"You mean, he's not here already?" Juliet asked.
Buzz shook his head. "No, we haven't been able to reach him yet. He's not at home and he hasn't answered his phone."
Juliet's brow furrowed in confusion. "Well, he's bound to be around here somewhere. His bike is parked outside the station."
Lassiter sat in the chair in front of the stove, warming his hands and feet while he heated up a small pot of beef stew. He'd wrapped himself in the wool blanket and tied it to his body using the leather reins from the bridle, leaving both his hands free from the burden of securing the cloth.
"You know, Lassie, that 'mountain man' toga of yours looks kind of ridiculous, but it is practical. Extra points for originality," Shawn said with a smirk. He was sitting up in bed, propped against the headboard with a pillow behind his back and a blanket around his shoulders to keep him warm. "You're totally working that look, by the way. Found object fashion. Who knew that street bums had it right all along? When we get back to civilization, I'm sure it'll be all the rage."
"Really," Lassiter replied flatly as he briskly rubbed his hands together. "As fashionable as 'Batman' underwear?"
"It's 'Superman' underwear," Shawn corrected. "And I'll have you know, it is awesome."
Seeing the stew was properly heated, Lassiter stood up and poured a generous amount into one of the tin cups he'd found with some cookware and utensils stored underneath the stove. He dropped a spoon into the cup and brought it over to Shawn. "It's hot," he cautioned as he handed him the container. "Don't burn your mouth."
'Because Heaven forbid you'd burn it bad enough to keep you from talking and give me some damn peace and quiet,' Lassiter thought to himself.
Shawn accepted the offering, taking hold of the handle with his left hand. His bruised ribs made it too painful to move his right arm much, so he cradled the cup against his chest with his right hand while operating the spoon with his left. He was a bit awkward, but he managed to deposit the first spoonful of stew into his mouth without any mishaps.
As soon as Shawn began eating, Lassiter returned to his task of searching the cabin. The Detective had just finished conducting an inventory of almost everything within their temporary home before taking a break to warm himself again. It was still pouring rain outside, and he knew full well they would probably be stuck there for at least the next several days, if not longer. Lassiter wanted to know every resource they had available to them in case their situation took a turn for the worse.
The small cabin was sparsely furnished but surprisingly well-stocked with provisions. The cabinet in the corner by the stove had turned out to be a pantry full of various canned foods, spices, flour, and salt. Lassiter estimated they had over two weeks' worth of food for the both of them, more if he rationed the supplies. Several cases of bottled water were stored underneath the pantry as well as the rather well-supplied emergency medical kit. There were some buckets for carrying well water in the corner full of crates and equipment in case they needed it. They also had an abundance of wood for the stove, so they had a reliable source of heat for the foreseeable future.
The only part of the dwelling Lassiter had yet to fully investigate was the sturdy writing desk against the left wall. The center drawer under the desktop was open, but the main top panel and side drawers were locked. The writing desk was old and well constructed, so bypassing the locks posed a bit of a challenge. And Lassiter was extremely interested in gaining full access to it because of something he'd noticed while conducting his search. He didn't see it at first because of an old framed wall poster from the Department of Fish and Game detailing 'new' catch and release sizes for fish from 1983 mounted above the desk. But on the second pass his sharp eye caught the extremely important detail. The wires from the telephone pole outside were routed through the wall near the ceiling, tracked down behind the large picture frame, and fed into the back of the desktop through a hole drilled into the wood. That meant it was highly likely there was either a telephone or some other form of communications equipment locked inside. One way or another, the Detective was damn well getting into that desk.
Lassiter grabbed his knife and small flashlight off of the table containing the parts of his disassembled Glock, and kneeled down in front of the desk. He wedged the knife blade between the panel and the frame then used the light to examine the lock in an attempt to figure out the best way to bypass it. It was an old but simple lock with a metal bolt that extended up into a reinforced hole in the desk frame. Unfortunately Lassiter had no idea how to pick it. The rest of the locks on the desk were the same. After unsuccessfully searching for a key he'd hoped might be stashed in the immediate area, he decided he'd have to pry it open. He shoved the blade into the crack by the lock again, wedged it to force the panel down, and pulled hard. The panel shifted enough that the bolt slipped free of the hole and the top popped open with a loud 'thud.' He flipped the writing panel down, wedged open a second drawer, and immediately repeated the action until every locked compartment was open.
"You know, I don't think whoever lives here will appreciate that very much, Lassie," Shawn volunteered around a mouthful of stew. "They're probably gonna be pissed you broke their desk."
"They can bill me," he replied as he pulled the chair over, sat down, and began searching inside. "Besides, I didn't break it. The locks still work." He pulled out some booklets and several pieces of printed paper and began examining them.
"Well I guess it's not 'breaking and entering' if you didn't break anything when you entered," Shawn added helpfully. "Guess you're safe from the cabin peeps pressing charges, then."
"I don't think anyone actually lives here, Spencer," he said as he leafed through the papers in his hands. "At least it's not a home. Looks like it's some sort of research station for the Department of Fish and Game. Guess that's why it's so well-stocked." He rummaged through a large drawer on the bottom left and pulled out a pamphlet with an old black and white photograph printed on its cover. The picture showed several people in older style suits standing in front of what appeared to be the cabin when it was brand new. The caption read "WPA dedication ceremony for DF&G facilities, 1937."
Lassiter smirked, clearly impressed. "Damn. This cabin was built by the WPA, it's older than both of us put together." He looked around with newfound appreciation for the solid construction. "Surprised it lasted this long. Guess they don't build them like this anymore."
"Ewww! Lassie! Don't ever say that again! 'Both of us put together' sounds like some horrible medical experiment gone awry! It's like Re-animator!" Shawn looked distastefully at his stew. "Great. Now you put me off my food. Nice going, Lassy-face."
Lassiter ignored him. Something much more interesting inside the top portion of desk had caught his attention. He'd found the hole where the wire entered the desk, and saw it was spliced, running in two directions. The first part terminated in the unused plug for a telephone, which unfortunately was missing. The second part of the wire led to a locked wooden box, slightly smaller in size than a small shoe box. Judging by the amount of dust under the unused plug, there hadn't been a phone there for quite some time. But what Lassiter found particularly interesting was the fact that there was almost no dust on or around that mysterious box. He immediately began rifling through the desk drawers, hoping to find the key. He didn't want to try forcing the lock this time for fear of damaging what he hoped might be radio or communications equipment inside.
"Hey Lassie, aren't you going to eat something?" Shawn asked. "You have to be hungry by now. Come on, man. Soup's on."
"I'm busy, Spencer," he replied impatiently. "Food can wait." Lassiter finally found the small skeleton key in a cubby hole in the back of the desk, and eagerly unlocked the box with a small *click*. He carefully raised the lid, and what he saw made his eyes grow wide in complete surprise. "Oh, you have got to be kidding me..."
It was an old telegraph. And it appeared to be in good shape, too. The label inside the box lid identified it as a Bunnell portable model, circa 1937, complete with sending key and sounder. As he looked closer at the device, Lassiter could see the shine of new copper wires where old parts had been replaced. Feeling his hopes rise, he opened the center desk drawer and pulled out the pencil and pad of lined yellow paper he'd seen just minutes ago. He worked the side of the pencil lead over his finger tip then lightly rubbed the dark graphite across the surface of the paper, exposing the last words that had been written. He saw a series of capital letters with slash marks drawn between them at certain intervals to designate words. It was something one would do when translating Morse code.
It meant that telegraph was still in use.
"Well I'll be damned..." Lassiter dropped the pad and turned around in his chair with a small laugh, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "I think I may have found our way out of here, Spencer."
"What is that thing, Lassie? A radio or something?"
"It's an 'or something', all right. It's a telegraph."
Shawn frowned in confusion. "You mean one of those things where you draw cool shapes using the little disks with teeth on them? How the hell is that going to get us out of here?"
Lassiter rolled his eyes, his elation momentarily dampened. "That's a Spirograph, and it's a toy. This isn't—"
"I think you mean that red thing with the knobs that makes little black lines."
"No, that's an Etch-a-sketch, Spencer." He was trying his best to be patient, but quickly losing the fight.
"Again, not helpful! Drawing kiddie pictures won't get us home any faster!"
"What the— I'm not...will you shut the hell up?" Lassiter barked as he turned his attention back to the newly discovered device. "It makes perfect sense," he said, speaking to himself as he went into the 'ignoring Spencer' mode he'd perfected long ago as a means of preserving his sanity. "These were still in use for long distance communication when this place was built, cheaper and more reliable than a phone would be in a remote area like this. And most cell phones can't get a signal up here." He ran his hands over the dark stained wood, admiring the craftsmanship. "God, I used to love playing with the ones they had at Old Sonora when I was a kid. They were more elaborate than this one, but..." his voice trailed off as he fondly remembered sending messages on the devices used for souvenir telegrams. "Never thought I'd see another one outside of a museum after that place finally closed."
Lassiter grabbed the pencil and poised his finger above the pad of the sending key, hoping desperately someone was on the other end of the line. He rapidly tapped out a series of dots and dashes, using the standard International Morse code he'd learned in his youth to send out a distress call. He smiled with satisfaction, feeling slightly vindicated. "And to think my dad said all those weekends at Old Sonora were a total waste of my useless time," he muttered to himself.
"Awww, that's so sad, Lassie."
Lassiter froze, slightly horrified that Spencer had overheard him. He hadn't meant for Shawn to hear that. "What the hell are you talking about, Spencer?" He stammered, trying to cover his mistake.
"It's sad that your father called your time 'useless', that's not a very nice thing to say."
Lassiter wheeled on Shawn. "He simply said that Old Sonora was a totally useless waste of my time. He just didn't appreciate it like I did, that's all."
"No," Shawn corrected, "you specifically quoted him as saying, 'weekends at Old Sonora were a total waste of my useless time.' That's what you said."
Lassiter opened his mouth to rebuke his statement, but he couldn't think of an adequate defense. "Then I misspoke," he insisted flatly. "I made a mistake."
"I don't think you made a mistake, you meant exactly what you said," Shawn continued. "I think you—"
"My father did not call me useless!" Lassiter spat back vehemently. Suddenly mortified when he realized exactly what he'd said, he quickly turned back to face the desk, feeling heat rise to his cheeks.
Shawn paused, his mouth slightly agape. After a brief awkward silence, he ventured cautiously, "I didn't say he did, Lassie. It's just..." He thought for a moment before continuing. "That's just so wrong to say to a kid. As a matter of fact, it's kind of mean."
Lassiter sighed in frustration and rubbed his hands over his eyes. It was bad enough that he'd accidentally said what he did. The sympathetic undercurrent in Shawn's voice made it even worse. "Drop it, Spencer," he ordered curtly. He did not want Shawn Spencer's pity. He did not want to discuss it any further. And he was becoming increasingly annoyed with Shawn's refusal to take the hint.
But Shawn continued to explore the subject, thinking of it as his best shot to finally open up a friendly dialogue with the gruff Head Detective. As much as they'd worked together, he still didn't really know the man. He'd already accidentally received a spontaneous confession, and he felt if he could just talk his way past Lassiter's initial resistance, he might succeed in his mission. "So, your papa wasn't around much, but he didn't like you spending your weekends there? I can't see why he objected, at least your time with Sheriff Hank was constructive. He was a positive influence on you. Not like you were out stealing cars or anything." He thought if he showed approval for how Lassiter had spent much of his youth, he might not be so defensive about the subject.
Lassiter's jaw clenched so tight he thought his teeth were about to break. Then his eyebrows dropped and his face curled into the particular angry frown that only surfaced when Spencer was infuriating him, the one Shawn claimed made him look like Sam the Eagle from the Muppets.
"Did your dad not—"
"We're not doing this," Lassiter growled.
"Doing what?" Shawn asked innocently.
"This bonding crap. Or whatever the hell it is you're trying to pull." He whipped around in his chair to face Shawn again, his expression dark and angry. "Drop it, Spencer. I'm not in the mood. Now be quiet and finish your Goddamn soup. If it gets cold, I am not heating it up again." He turned his back to Shawn, indicating he considered the conversation over.
Shawn saw the Detective's hands were gripping the desktop so tightly his knuckles were white. 'Okay, so Lassie's daddy is apparently a pretty sore subject,' Shawn thought. Realizing it was best to refrain from talking about Lassiter's father for the moment, he decided he should talk about his instead. Maybe after hearing about his own less than stellar upbringing, the two men could find some common ground?
"You know Henry locked me in the trunk of a car once?" Shawn smirked. "Your dad may not have been around much, but I couldn't get rid of mine."
Lassiter let go of the desk and picked up the pencil again, slowly breathing in through his nose and out through his mouth in an attempt to calm himself. It wasn't working. Because Shawn kept talking. The incessant chatter was as grating to his ears as fingernails raking down a chalkboard.
"He was always on my case, he never let up. Everything I did with him, he had to turn it into another lesson."
Lassiter kept his back to Shawn and his mouth shut. He knew that if he tried to say anything, he would lose his temper completely. Why the hell couldn't the kid take the hint this one time and just shut up?
"He never let me be a kid, you know? He wouldn't even let me read comic books. Dad said, 'Forget this make-believe crap! The real heroes are cops!' Man, he was relentless."
'At least he cared about you enough to be there...'
"I think he was so busy trying to turn me into the perfect cop that he forgot I was just a kid." Shawn fell silent as he grew pensive. He ate some more stew, chewing slowly as he lost himself in deep thought.
For a few blissful moments, Lassiter thought Shawn was actually going to be quiet and finish eating. He was sorely mistaken.
"So, Lassie...your father wasn't around much when you were a kid?"
Damn it! The Muppet frown was back again. Lassiter was gripping the pencil in his fist so tight he thought it was going to break.
"So where was he? Was he a traveling salesman, or a workaholic, or something? Was he absent because of work or by choice?" Receiving no answer, Shawn continued to fill in the blanks on his own. "I'm going with workaholic, it makes perfect sense. You're pretty obsessed with your job too, Lassie. There's probably more of your dad in you than you realize." As misguided as it was, he'd meant it as a compliment, trying to point out a small connection between the man and his father.
*SNAP* The pencil broke.
Shawn thought back to what Lassiter had said about his father's opinion of his time in Old Sonora. 'A total waste of my useless time.' He was right, that was a pretty mean thing to say to a kid, especially at that age, and he had a sudden realization. "Lassie? Was your dad kind of abu—"
"Shut. The fuck. Up."
It was the menace in Lassiter's voice that made him pause. Shawn looked up to see the man with his back to him, wickedly glaring over his shoulder with only one eye visible beneath a sharply arched brow, his tone an ominous warning. The Detective's hands were clenched into fists and he seemed to be radiating furious anger. Shawn found himself shrinking back in the bed and trying to sink down into the blanket around his shoulders. He'd seen Lassiter incensed plenty of times before, but until this moment, he had never seen the man look vicious.
Lassiter slowly turned back around when he was satisfied that Shawn had been sufficiently cowed into finally dropping the subject. Carlton closed his eyes and took a few slow, deep breaths to regain his composure. The patter of heavy rain on the roof was the only sound filling the cabin for several tense minutes.
"I'm sorry, Lassie," Shawn said timidly. "I...I didn't mean to..."
Lassiter opened his eyes and caught sight of Shawn's reflection in the glass of the picture frame above the desk. He was staring down at the cup he held against his chest, seemingly at a loss for words. He looked vulnerable, and weak. Completely dependent. His eyes moved over the shape of the splint on Shawn's leg underneath the quilt. Swept up in the rising tide of his anger, Carlton had forgotten how badly injured he was.
He felt like he'd just stepped on a puppy.
Lassiter sighed, regret filling the hollow space previously occupied by his indignation. "Just...go to sleep, Spencer," he said quietly, deliberately keeping his tone even. "You need it." He felt awful, but that was as close as the kid was getting to an apology.
With considerable effort, Shawn managed to set the cup down on the crate next to the bed. Lassiter heard wood creak and the soft swish of fabric as he tried to get himself settled. He looked to the reflection in the glass again and saw Shawn struggling helplessly, trying to use his one good arm to push himself away from the headboard so he could lie down.
Lassiter lowered his head to rest his forehead in the palms of his hands. God, did he feel like an ass. He felt like a bully picking on a defenseless crippled kid. He raised his head and reluctantly stood up, then after a brief hesitation, slowly moved towards the bed. Shawn looked up as he approached, and to his shame he detected a hint of fear in the young man's eyes.
Unable to look him in the eye, Lassiter averted his gaze as he leaned over and removed the extra blanket from around his shoulders. He carefully lifted Shawn and moved him down the bed so he could lie flat, making sure to move his splinted leg as little as possible. He stood up to leave but paused, looking down at the fake psychic and studying him intensely. Shawn regarded Lassiter with slight apprehension, unsure of what he might do.
With a tired sigh, Lassiter sat down on the edge of the bed. He knew he couldn't let this go on any longer. He reached over and pulled up the thick quilt to cover Shawn, gently tucking it around his shoulders to keep him warm. When he finished, he looked up, and was relieved to see Shawn was no longer afraid of him.
"You comfortable, Spencer?" he asked. Both of them knew he wasn't actually asking about the bedding.
Shawn hesitated, then nodded slowly. "Yeah...yeah, I'm good."
"Get some rest, Spencer." He patted Shawn on the shoulder in an awkward, somewhat affectionate gesture before standing up and striding back over to the desk. He sat down in the chair and began sending the distress signal again, repeating it every thirty seconds before stopping for an equal amount of time to listen for a reply.
Juliet was ready to start pulling her hair out in frustration. They couldn't get anyone close enough to get a visual on Carlton's car, the rain wasn't letting up, and the forecast called for rain and low-lying cloud cover for at least the next four days. She'd asked Officer Bailey about the possibility of using ATVs to form a rescue party. He'd said even if there weren't any landslides and too much mud for reliable hillside traction, several portions of the terrain were too rough for even those vehicles. The only progress that had been made was the safety zone had been established and mapped out with emergency personnel staged on scene.
Buzz lumbered into the conference room and made a beeline for Chief Vick. "We still can't find Shawn Spencer, ma'am. We've sent units to his apartment, Gus's place, the Psych office, even Mr. Spencer's house. We haven't been able to locate him."
"Damn it, Shawn," Karen swore under her breath. "This is not the time to pull one of your disappearing acts!" The Chief ran her hand through her hair in frustration. Nothing about this rescue operation was going right! She reasoned if she wanted to find Shawn, the best way to do it was to locate his keepers. "Where are Henry Spencer and Mr. Guster?" she demanded.
"Mr. Spencer is in the Gulf of Mexico on a fishing charter boat, and Gus is in Las Vegas for a business convention, ma'am. We haven't been able to reach either of them, either."
Juliet's brow furrowed. "Well, maybe Shawn is in Vegas? I mean, he didn't mention anything to me about it when I saw him yesterday at lunch, but they are best friends. Is it possible that Shawn left his bike parked here and caught a ride to the airport with Gus?"
"Knowing Shawn Spencer, anything is possible" Chief Vick lamented. "All right. Dobson! Let's contact the airlines and see if Shawn Spencer was on any flights leaving Santa Barbara starting yesterday. And just in case, put out a local BOLO for him as well. I damn well want Shawn Spencer found. Do you understand?"
The officer nodded in acknowledgment and hurried off to carry out his orders.
"Chief!" Buzz's urgent cry filled the room.
"What is it, McNab?" she inquired.
"It's Detective Lassiter's car, ma'am!"
Chief Vick and Juliet swiftly converged to stand next to him in front of the GPS display. Juliet looked at the screen and felt her stomach drop.
The car was sliding down the mountainside again at a rapid pace. Juliet watched in horror as the vehicle moved another one hundred and twenty feet in less than fifteen seconds, then stopped. The cause of the sudden shift was obvious - the car had to have been caught in a landslide. Juliet felt a large hand on her shoulder as she choked back tears. She looked up to see Buzz's friendly face staring down at her in sympathy.
"Remember what I said about him probably abandoning the car by now," he said, trying to keep her fears in check. "He's too smart to stay there. I just know it."
As Buzz returned his worried gaze back to the screen, Juliet thought he was trying to convince himself of that fact just as much as he was her. She forced herself to turn away and tried to find something else to do. She looked at her watch and saw it was just after three in the morning. Feeling exhausted, she decided coffee was a great idea. No way in hell was she going to sleep until her partner was found, anyway. As she turned to leave the room she noticed the two Game Wardens off to the side, carefully studying one of the maps on the table as Officer Miller spoke on his cell phone. Juliet approached them and asked Officer Bailey what was going on.
"Oh, Miller has a hunch about something," he said, nodding towards the older man.
Juliet pressed closer and listened to Miller's conversation.
"Well when can you get someone up there? This has to be done ASAP." He paused. "Okay, first light, then. And no, he doesn't have to know what he's doing. Like I said, all he has to do is listen. Anyone will do. Understand?" He looked up and saw Juliet watching him. "Okay, thank you Jerry." He hung up and acknowledged her. "Yes, ma'am?"
"What are you doing, Officer Miller?" Juliet inquired politely.
"Well, I kind of have this hunch based on what your big man over there said." He nodded, indicating Buzz McNab. "He thought your man might not be with the car anymore, and I'd say it's a fair bet that's true. So here's what I'm thinking." He pointed to three spots on the map that were in the middle of the dangerous red zone, marked with little squares labeled 8, 11, and 12. "Our department has a few small research cabins up there that are usually pretty well-stocked with provisions. This one," he used a marker to cross out number 11, "was destroyed in a landslide a few hours ago. But these other two are still intact. See this cabin 12 here? It's got a large rocky hillside behind it, so it's stable and pretty safe. It's also only a few miles away from your partner's car." He scratched the stubble that was beginning to show on his chin. "Now they're really small, so the chances of finding them in the dark is about slim to none. But I figured there's a chance he might get lucky and be holed up in one of these spots. I'm sending someone to the base research station located in the safe zone as soon as possible just in case we hear from one of these satellite stations." He looked at her and shrugged. "It's not much, but I figured it's worth a shot."
Juliet felt her hopes rise. There was a chance, as small as it was, that Carlton might have found one of the cabins. If not, that meant he was out in the storm somewhere. Or worse... She tried to force out the image of her shivering, rain-drenched partner stumbling blindly through the wilderness and focus on the map in front of her.
Miller turned to Officer Bailey. "You going out on that errand you were talking about?"
Juliet looked up to see the two Officers share a knowing look. She recognized it as the same one she and Carlton usually exchanged right before they did something sneaky. Juliet immediately knew they were up to something.
"Yeah, think I will," he replied casually and headed for the door.
"Wait a second," she stopped Bailey by blocking the door with her comparatively diminutive frame. "If you're up to something, I damn well need to know about it," she whispered harshly.
Bailey and Miller looked at each other and laughed. "You gotta admit, she's got spunk," Miller said.
Bailey looked down at her, acknowledging the determination in her eyes. "I'm going out for a walk." He covertly showed Juliet the small pair of night vision binoculars in his hand. "Trust me." He stepped around her and strode out the door. Juliet let him pass without incident.
As soon as he was out the door, Juliet turned to Miller. "Okay, where the hell is he going?"
"You don't need to know any more than you already do, Detective O'Hara." He cast a quick but meaningful glance at Chief Vick. "I promised I'd find your partner, and that's what I'm gonna do."
Juliet knew that look, too. It meant they were breaking a few rules and wanted to keep her from getting in trouble as well in case their plans were discovered. Juliet had the sneaking suspicion that Officer Bailey needed rain gear where he was going.