Juliet raised her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun as she approached the equipment table. Was that Lassiter and Gus coming back so soon? Couldn’t be. They hadn’t been gone nearly long enough to get through Lassiter's initial ‘speech’ that he gave anyone he was instructing before allowing them to lay hands on a loaded weapon. The closer she got to the table and parking lot, the more sure she was that it was indeed them she was seeing. Finally, once she confirmed it was them, she raised her hand in a confused greeting.
“Hey guys!” She called, breaking into a jog for the last few feet between her and the equipment table. “Back already? I was just getting ready to start Shawn on a few live fire exercises to warm up while you were gone.”
Lassiter had a decidedly disgusted look on his face. “Guster insisted on coming back for some nausea medication.” He grumbled. “I guess it wasn’t like he could have said something before we got to the range and I was unpacking my gear.”
“Hey, I was doing just fine.” Gus defended himself. “But when you brought out that big ass gun…”
Lassiter interrupted “I wasn’t going to make you shoot the tactical rifle, Guster! I was just moving it out of the way so I could get my other equipment out! I was actually going for a training gun to help you learn some basics of form first, or would that be too intimidating for your delicate sensitivities too?”
“Some clear communication would have been nice!” Gus stood his ground, albeit a little more shaky now. “Saying ‘let me grab what you’re going to use’ while pulling out that big ass gun…”
“You know what I mean!”
“Ok, guys…” Juliet decided to intercede, but was cut off unexpectedly by a loud crack ringing through the air. Lassiter and Juliet immediately looked towards the direction of the shoot house, where the sound appeared to have come from.
Gus looked from one Detective to the other. “Was that…”
“A gunshot.” Lassiter confirmed, still looking towards the shoot house. “And it came from over there.” He finally tore his gaze away from the direction of the house to look at his partner. “O’Hara, you left Spencer alone with a loaded weapon?!” He demanded.
Juliet shook her head vigorously before finding her voice again. “No. No! I didn’t!” She gestured at the equipment table. “All the magazines are right here!”
Lassiter looked at the table for a few seconds, silently mouthing numbers as he counted the magazines, then looked back up at Juliet. Before she could say a word in response, her partner was gone- headed straight for the shoot house at a full sprint. Gus barely had a second to look back at Juliet in surprise before she took off after her partner. Whatever fear had made him nauseous before was now completely gone as he immediately ran after both Detectives.
The remnants of the gunshot were still ringing in Officer McNab’s ears as he tried to reconcile what just happened with the image that had materialized in front of him only a second before. It had been a mere moment in real time, but he could swear it felt like an hour with the thoughts that had time to run through his mind. That figure looked remarkably like Shawn, but it couldn’t be him. No way. The house was empty, Detective Lassiter himself said so. It had to be one of the targets. His mind was playing tricks on him. Of course it was one of the targets. But it moved! Easy explanation. The targets were moving targets. Someone must have come in to set up already. But it looked JUST LIKE Shawn! Well, Detective Lassiter helped put this new remodel together. Maybe it’s his idea of a joke. But it specifically raised an arm with at gun AT YOU! But that’s what they’re supposed to do…kind of…maybe if Detective Lassiter had decided to… Then why did you try to pull back?!
Buzz snapped himself out of whatever daze he was in long enough to lower his gun and look past it, fully expecting to see a target with a bullet hole through it. For half a second, he thought he might actually even laugh at himself for his silliness. The rest of that second, on the other hand, brought with it the kind of shock and horror he had ever only felt in his worst nightmares. Shawn himself lay before him, bleeding heavily and only barely moving.
“Shawn! Oh god, Shawn!” Buzz raced forward towards the fallen consultant. He tried to make eye contact, but Shawn’s gaze appeared unfocused from shock and…Buzz was terrified to think what else. He instinctively began looking for the wound to assess his friend’s specific condition. Lots of blood. Damn there was so much blood already. It was definitely not coming from the head. Good. Very good. Not from the chest, or from the abdominal area, either. Another stroke of luck. But…so much blood. It’s coming from somewhere! Scanning further downward, he felt his heart drop as he discovered the source of the bleeding. It was coming from the right upper leg, and with so much blood, that could only mean one thing. Even still, his mind raced and begged him not to believe it. Not the femoral artery. Please let it not be that. If you hit the femoral artery, you’ve killed him.
“Ok, Shawn, just stay with me, buddy. Help is coming.” He said with as much control as his voice would allow, which admittedly, wasn’t much. There’s no help coming, you idiot. You two are all alone and miles from any kind of useful help. He shook his head, determined his words would not turn into empty comfort given to the dying. Femoral artery or not, he had to do something to get the bleeding under control, and his only option right at that moment was to apply pressure. He positioned himself closer to Shawn’s leg and looked back up at the young man’s face. “I’m just gonna put some pressure on your leg to control the bleeding.” He explained. Shawn was now ghostly pale, and Buzz highly doubted he really was interested in any explanations, so he just went ahead and did it, ripping off his uniform shirt- seemingly the only cloth/bandage type option within reach, and used it to press down firmly on Shawn’s leg. Immediately as he did so, the consultant finally came alive, letting out a loud and agonized scream that startled Buzz into momentarily letting off the pressure. It was at that moment that Buzz recognized Shawn’s upper leg didn’t actually feel as ‘solid’ as any other person’s upper leg should feel. Couple that with the immense pain that Shawn was in, and that led Buzz to only one conclusion. Shit…his leg’s broken. His FEMUR is broken. As if things weren’t already as bad as they could get. He had just started to consider the need for a tourniquet when he heard hurried footsteps rushing inside, accompanied by the Head Detective’s voice.
“McNab! What the hell happened?!”
“It’s Shawn, sir.” Buzz struggled to explain, but Lassiter was already on the radio, calling for emergency help. As soon as he finished, the Head Detective was on his knees next to Buzz, assessing the situation.
“His leg’s broken…and his…” Buzz struggled to speak, even as Lassiter moved forward with removing his own belt in order to fashion a makeshift tourniquet until help arrived.
“Get them out of here, O’Hara.” Lassiter ordered as soon as Juliet arrived and Gus joined them. He didn’t have to see Gus’ reaction to know what it would involve, and Buzz himself was already beginning to fall apart. Those two were the last issues he needed to deal with at the moment, not to mention he didn’t trust O’Hara to fare much better, either.
“Spencer, it’s me, Lassiter. Help is coming. Just hang on, now.” He spoke, primarily to try and keep the younger man as alert as possible. Looking up at Shawn’s face, Lassiter saw that his eyes were open, but he hardly seemed conscious. At least his chest was still moving. His breathing was uneven and seemingly getting worse, but at least it was still there.
“Stay with me, Spencer. Look at me.” Lassiter spoke again, mostly as an attempt to drown out the increasingly loud and panicked voice of Guster outside. He breathed a sigh of relief at hearing the oncoming sirens of emergency vehicles, thankful that he had alerted them to a scheduled training exercise ahead of time. Obsessive tendencies or whatever else people liked to tease him with be damned. This was the reason for having EMS on standby even when they were not needed 99.5% of the time. He continued to do what he could until the medics arrived, then stood back to give them room once they entered the house.
“Gunshot wound to the leg.” He described as they converged upon Shawn. “Fractured femur, possible hit to the femoral artery as well.” Possible my ass. His mind argued, and he knew it the moment it escaped his lips. No way would that kind of bleeding be caused by anything other than a hit to the artery itself. He finally took a moment to take a deep breath and step outside to see how the rest of his group were.
He found Juliet desperately trying to console a downright inconsolable Guster, while Buzz sat on a rock just a few feet away, staring into space, his face almost as white as Spencer’s had been. Assuming Juliet had things covered as well as she could with Guster, he stepped over to Buzz and stood over him without saying a word. The enormity of what had just happened was beginning to dawn on him, and even without knowing any of the details yet, he already knew there would be a lot of explaining to do.
It was another long minute before it seemed that Buzz noticed Lassiter’s presence, but instead of looking up at him, the young officer looked down at his hands, still covered in Spencer’s blood, as was the previously white undershirt he had left on after stripping off his uniform shirt. Lassiter sighed and crouched down to McNab’s eye level.
“What happened?” He asked as simply as he could.
Buzz shrugged and shook his head. “I…I don’t know, sir.” He stammered. “I got here…I went in…and then he just…and I…” his voice trailed off, clearly not ready to continue. Continuing to talk would make what just happened a reality, and that was just not an option right now.
Lassiter patted McNab’s shoulder as he stood and walked away. In his head he had pretty much already figured that the officer had shot Spencer, but the confirmation was no easier to accept. Whatever had happened here, it was big. An officer had just shot a civilian in training, leaving him with life threatening injuries at best…assuming Spencer even survived this. Even so, McNab was obviously in no shape to give any kind of a statement right at this moment, so Lassiter resigned himself to looking around at the rest of the surrounding area for any clues as to the happenings. The safety measures taken would surely be questioned, and they would all start with a particular red flag that he now noticed was nowhere to be seen.
Juliet continued trying to offer comfort and reassurance to Gus, even as her own nerves were violently shaken and threatened to break down right along with him. At least keeping her attention on him kept her own head from going off into too many panicked directions, meaning she could stay somewhat grounded in keeping control of herself. No need to react until you have something firm to react to. She told herself over and over. It was little consolation, but it would have to do for now. Her fragile hold on a modicum of calm finally began to break when the medics emerged from the house, hurriedly taking with them a stretcher with Shawn on it. She wanted to see her boyfriend. She wanted to see that he was ok, but all she could see was how covered in blood he was. And for all the times she had witnessed Guster nearly fainting at the slightest hint of blood, she could hardly believe it when he tore himself away from her to go with the medics and remain with his best friend. Only when she was left empty handed did she look up to see that Buzz was equally covered in blood, as were her partner’s hands. How could there be so much of Shawn’s blood in so many different places? This just couldn’t be good. Not at all.
She took a few tentative steps towards her partner, but suddenly felt as if something was holding her back. His body language. There was so much more to it than what she expected to see in her concerned comrade. There was something about him that was screaming out to her, but she just couldn’t place it. What could it possibly…
The moment she saw him standing in front of the doorway, looking up at the spot where the red flag should have been, she knew. He blamed her! No wonder he wasn’t calling her over to assist with looking around the place! She had half a mind to march over there and shove the red flag in his face to prove to him that she did take every safety measure possible. She likely would have done just that, if the flag was anywhere to be found. Where is it?!
“I put it up!” She finally got up the nerve to run over to him. “I swear I did! The holder up there isn’t in yet, so I put it right here!” She motioned to the now empty spot where she had stuck the flag into the ground. Lassiter followed her gaze and looked towards the spot, but said nothing. “Lassiter, you’ve got to believe me! It was right. THERE!”
Lassiter simply looked back at her and nodded. “I got it, O’Hara.” He knew he had no reason to disbelieve his partner, but the fact of the matter remained that there was no flag outside as a safety signal. How this could be explained along with her panicked insistence, he had no clue, but things didn’t look good. He swallowed hard in an attempt to avoid the anguished sobs that he knew she was desperately trying to hold back, choosing to focus once again on the spot that she had pointed to. This time, he noticed it- a distinct, yet small hole in the ground that looked like what would have been left by the flag having been staked in the dirt. He quickly took out his cell phone and took a picture of it, fully aware that something this small might not last another few hours in the wind and other outside elements.
After a couple more minutes of looking around, he stepped back to Buzz, hoping that the young officer would at least be able to answer one question. There was already something about the scene outside the house that was bugging him, but he had to get this one question answered first. “Was there a red safety flag up when you entered the house?” He asked.
It took Buzz a moment, yet again, to register the Head Detective’s presence, but when he did, he looked up at Lassiter and shook his head slowly. “No. I looked for it on my approach. There was nothing there.” He whispered. He started to lower his head again, well on his way to sliding back into his stunned state, when his eyes caught glimpse of the blood stains on Lassiter’s knees, then looked again at the blood stains all over his own clothes.
“I killed him, didn’t I?” he asked no one in particular.
“What was that, McNab?”
“I killed him. I killed Shawn.” He spoke again, louder this time. He looked up to make eye contact with Lassiter, as if to confirm for himself that what he was saying was true. His breathing increased, then he stood and raised his hands up to his head, grabbing on to two fistfuls of hair in the process. “Oh my God!! SHAWN!”
Lassiter immediately ran up to Buzz, hoping to get to him before he actually managed to pull out those two fistfuls of hair, or do anything else crazy for that matter. “McNab! Stop it! We don’t know anything yet. Get a hold of yourself!” He demanded, but the young officer was beyond any semblance of calm. Buzz looked back at the Detective, this time making Lassiter actually take a step back at the look in McNab’s eyes- a look he did not recognize and would have never expected to see from Buzz of all people.
“You.” Buzz accused, catching Lassiter so far off guard that he couldn’t even respond. “YOU told me the house was empty! WHY?! WHY didn’t you tell me Shawn was in there?!”
“McNab, I didn’t know he was in there.” Lassiter replied, keeping his voice as calm and rational as he could. “I honestly thought he was not even on the range, much less in the house.”
Buzz shook his head, unable to accept Lassiter’s explanation. “You LET me go in there when HE was alone in there too! What kind of SICK game was this?!”
Lassiter focused on maintaining as calm a posture as possible, hoping to keep the situation from getting any worse. “McNab, this was a terrible accident.” He explained again. “That’s all it was. I didn’t know he was in there, he didn’t know you were coming, and you did what you have been trained to do. Spencer was only alone because O’Hara had left to go get the ammo so they could load up and start training.”
Finally, it seemed that Lassiter’s words registered with Buzz. He turned to make eye contact again with the Head Detective, his demeanor suddenly no longer angry. Instead, Lassiter could have sworn he just witnessed the younger man’s heart drop.
“You mean…” He whispered as he slowly raised a hand to his mouth. “You mean…he wasn’t even armed? The gun was…empty?” This time, he didn’t wait for a response. He ripped his arm away from Lassiter’s attempt at placing a hand on his shoulder, then stepped a few feet away before dropping to his knees. Even after all his experience at hardening his emotions in the field, Lassiter still had to bite his lip and turn away from the now weeping officer.
It was all he could do to avoid letting himself get carried away with the enormity of what had just happened, so Lassiter automatically switched into doing what came naturally. He would continue to review the scene until more units arrived to begin the investigation. He glanced over at Juliet, who was now leaning against the outside wall of the house, hugging her shoulders tightly. Immediately, he felt bad for having let her believe that he blamed her. Even if she had somehow forgotten to put up the flag, now was not the time to show any kind of reproach. He stepped carefully in her direction, hoping to avoid any kind of blowup similar to what he had just seen from Buzz, and couldn’t help breathing a sigh of relief when she seemed to accept his presence.
“I believe you.” He said before she had the chance to try and keep defending herself. “I have no idea what the hell happened here, but I believe you.” He pointed at the small indentation he had noticed before. “That hole there, and the fact that I know you take safety as seriously as I do, it all says to me you’re telling the truth.”
Juliet looked up at him now with a look that appeared to be a mixture of gratefulness and pain. “Thanks, Carlton.” She sniffed and wiped a tear away, then shook her head. “But it doesn’t matter, does it. I could have put up ten flags and a flashing neon sign, but he was still all alone in here…and I was the one who left him…”
“O’Hara, it’s ok. C’mere.” He pulled her in close, choosing not to say anything more about how he thought the investigation would go. That was his own logical need to get things straightened out. He could see that Juliet was not in the least bit interested in that right now. Her mind was with Spencer, and as much as he wanted to, he couldn’t tell her that Spencer would be alright. Hell, he couldn’t even assume that Spencer had made it to the hospital alive.
There would be time for the investigation itself soon enough. Right now, as he stroked his partner’s back, he realized his primary duty was to look out for McNab and O’Hara’s needs, given their extremely emotional and mental states. Questions would be asked and answers would be given in their own due time. He would take the brunt of that responsibility if need be, even as far as explanations to Chief Vick would go. The thought of having to face the Police Chief after such an occurrence would be enough to shake anyone, and surely, Lassiter would never lessen the gravity of doing so. On the other hand, he soon found himself much more nervous at the thought of having to face Henry Spencer himself with the news.
Chief Vick hung up the phone as an officer opened her car door to let her out at the hospital’s trauma center. The words training accident and severe gunshot wound were still resonating in her mind after receiving word of what happened, as was the difficult initial report of how it had happened. McNab had been brought to the emergency room to be medically cleared on a precautionary basis. Good thing, that meant he’d be right here and within easy access of her. She was approached and flanked on both sides by two Lieutenants as she stepped to the entranceway, making her thankful that her staff didn’t need her to actually call them over or even have to utter a word for them to get down to business.
“They took Spencer into surgery about 20 minutes ago.” One of them reported. “I let them know we need an update on his condition as soon as they have something to report, even if they’re not done with surgery yet.”
“Good work, Carson.” Vick nodded in approval. “So what do we have here?” she stopped once inside the trauma waiting room, where there was already a large handful of officers present.
“From what we have learned so far,” The second Lieutenant spoke up, then commenced describing the details of the event as they had been reported to him by Lassiter, O’Hara, and Gus. He hesitated at having to admit he had not had any luck speaking with McNab yet due to his extreme emotional state.
“I can’t say I blame him.” Vick shook her head solemnly in reply. “I’ll go ahead and talk to him myself. You all can leave him be for now. In fact, hold off on calling Henry Spencer as well until we know more about what’s going on with Shawn.”
“Yes, Chief.” He gave a quick nod, then stepped away to relay Vick’s order to the rest of the officers present.
Vick was in the middle of checking messages on her phone for any further information, when a doctor appeared and began looking around, as if wondering who he should be speaking to. Vick immediately approached him herself to request an update, but felt her heart drop at the sight of the doctor’s body language. She had seen this kind of behavior enough times before to have an idea of what was coming. It couldn’t be good news.
“I’m Chief Karen Vick.” She introduced herself. “What’s going on with my consultant?” she could feel the eyes of every officer in the room on her as the doctor motioned for her to follow him to a secluded corner of the room.
“I’m Doctor Stevenson, Head Trauma Surgeon.” He began. “Mr. Spencer arrived with a severe gunshot wound to the upper thigh that pierced straight through his femoral artery and fractured his femur. Right off the bat, that’s an extremely unstable injury to address.”
“Doctor, I can appreciate and understand the gravity of the injury.” Vick responded. “But I really need to know exactly what Mr. Spencer’s condition is right now.”
Dr. Stevenson sighed and nodded. “Of course. Chief, I’m very sorry to have to tell you that there was nothing we could do to save him. Mr. Spencer died about five minutes ago.”
Whether she was actually expecting to hear that news or not, Vick couldn’t be sure. Even still, the words felt like a sudden lead weight in the pit of her stomach, causing her to wrap an arm around her midsection as she took a deep breath to maintain her composure. Instinctively, she looked over at the rest of her officers who were watching her intently. She assumed, as they lowered their heads in response, that her body language had not been difficult to figure out.
Soon enough, Lassiter himself emerged from the triage area where he had been offering support to McNab. He had seen it as a saving grace that all he could do for the young officer was offer blissfully ignorant comfort as far as what was going on with Spencer. That blissful, albeit tense ignorance ended the moment he met eyes with his Commanding Officer and she motioned for him to approach her. The look on her face in that instant was all he needed to know as his mind formulated the outcome that he had been dreading: Spencer had not survived.