Previously, on Psych:
"I do not require your assistance with the other case. What I do need is extra manpower to assist with other cases we are dealing with. That is where you come in. We are dealing with a rash of home and business break-ins. The thieves are targeting copper wherever they can find it, including wiring and fittings. They appear to be loosely organized. They leave behind no evidence to speak of. Your job, Mr. Spencer, is to get a psychic reading on who is behind the activities and where their next target may be.”
"Well, isn’t this just our lucky day?" The punk couldn’t have been older than twenty one. His age was tricky to determine as his stringy hair was pushed over his features by the ratty knit cap. The fact this kid was high on something took no time at all to discern. His erratic behavior screamed druggie. Henry refused to acknowledge any weakness they could feed from. However, he would have to be very careful not to push this kid too far.
"You hurt my son. I guarantee your luck ends today."
“He was going to snap her neck, Jules!” he straightened himself, no easy feat as he lay on his side. The move may have made a point, but his back flared with renewed pain; the last dose of meds now completely worn off. “What more do you want? Is that justifiable enough?!”
Oh God – I just killed someone.
It hadn't been her idea of a week long family outing. For her, fun activities did not involve bug spray and heavy boots; no sir! She would have been perfectly content with a quaint bed and breakfast near the water. Soft blankets and pillows; delicious meals prepared by someone else for a change... But when her husband and Henry Spencer had put their heads together a few weeks ago to make this plan, her desires had not been considered. Men! The two of them were well past the age where this sort of thing should have left them so giddy. Bill had practically been bouncing off the walls in anticipation. When asked if he'd even thought about whether or not Burton would want to participate, the man had actually had the nerve to scoff. “Of course he'll want to go! Why wouldn't he?” Why indeed?
So here they stood. Well, here she stood – gazing around the kitchen by herself after Bill had gone haring off to find Henry. The boys were nowhere to be seen – no doubt hiding somewhere in hopes that they wouldn't be located until this traveling circus left town. There was no sign, yet, of the last member of their party. Not surprising though, and Winnie actually felt some relief that she wouldn't yet be required to interact with someone she'd barely known in spite of the friendship of their children.
Inactivity grating on her, Winnie set her purse down on the kitchen table and headed to the counter where food items had been laid out. Bread, a variety of lunch meats, cheese, mayonnaise... not much in the way of vegetables. She'd see to it that Bill ran out to pick up some additional supplies before they left. She should have known better than to let Mr. Spencer handle the food; not all of them were carnivores after all. Tucked behind a mesh bag of potatoes, she found a small paper sack that hadn't come from the standard grocery store. Inside, it was filled with a wealth of brightly wrapped candies and confections. Though she'd just berated Henry for his lack of healthy choices, Winnie couldn't stop the little quirk of her lips as she helped herself to a toffee. Henry hadn't considered her need for lettuce and tomatoes when he'd picked out sandwich fixings. He certainly wasn't the one to purchase her favorite sweets.
That boy was bound and determined to melt her heart.
Rolling the buttery candy over her tongue, Winnie sorted the food items; making a mental list of what supplies were still needed based on the appetites of their group; specifically her son. Outside she could hear voices talking and things scraping on the concrete. Bill had apparently located Henry. She could clearly hear their conversation even with the door closed. Bill had a terrible habit of raising his voice when he was excited, and Henry wasn't a great deal better. Lord, you'd think the two of them were losing their hearing the way they carried on.
The task of organizing their meals was mindless and expedient after years of creating dinners for her children and husband. Only a few minutes were required and then she was back to having nothing to do. All of the heavy gear would be handled by the men and everything Winnie may have had to do, she'd dealt with the day before. They should have left two hours ago but, as was typical, there were dozens of small details that others of the group had left until the last minute.
She may as well see if she could locate her son and get him to move his father along. Burton could get his father to listen even if she couldn't.
She'd been planning to go upstairs, convinced the boys were hiding out in Shawn's old bedroom. But two steps into the hallway, she froze.
The couch was new. Though it occupied the same space as its predecessor, the deep green patterned fabric and thick cushions were an improvement over the previous design.
She wasn't aware of stepping further into the room. Her hands clasped together over her breasts. The floors were cleaned, the walls repainted...
Her eyes wanted to close as her feet carried her deeper into the space. In spite of the changes, the smell was the same. Gunpowder and metal – a sweetness that made the taste in her mouth suddenly vile. She could hear the gasping draws of breath... the laugh... Oh God, that laugh...
Her arms flailed out to her sides at the quiet address. Turning away from the dark maw of the fireplace, she had a smile in place before catching sight of her son at the base of the stairs.
“Burton! I was just looking for you, sweetheart.” The worry creases on his forehead smoothed as she reached up to pat his cheek. “I was wondering if you could help your father outside.”
There was a creak at the top of the staircase and she looked up to see Shawn hovering there. The rumpled shyness was not something she was used to seeing in him. Most of him was hidden behind the edge of the wall, though she could see his right hand curled around his other arm, which was still in a sling. She smiled at him as well, and was rewarded with a glowing lift of the corners of his mouth in return. Stripped of his typical smarm and charm, this pure expression of delight made her mother's heart lurch with both love and pain that only a mom could relate to.
A moment later, his eyebrows lifted and his lips quirked into one of sneaky conspiracy. “Gus and I are thinking of ditching the old guys and having a camp out in my room. We got popcorn and s'mores and a bad-asss...” Winnie saw his eyes flick to Burton, who was frowning as he gave his head a sharp shake, “...sssooo totally cool collection of movies – everything from Harry and the Hendersons to Ernest Goes to Camp. What say you?”
The burst of warmth and amusement in her chest drew a giggle and she could feel her cheeks warm. Shaking her head, she shook a finger at the young man.
“Oh no, you aren't drawing me into your little plot.”
She spotted the wink shared between the two boys and realized that a different conspiracy had just taken place, one that had more to do with the past than the future.
Letting the moment pass by without comment, she turned back to her son as Shawn proceeded down the stairs.
“I'm starting to think we're never getting out of here.” She swallowed at the double meaning her words registered in her mind, but thankfully neither of the young men seemed to notice her mood shifting back towards its earlier state.
Shawn patted her son on the back after easing his way down the rest of the flight. “No worries, Mrs. G. Gus and I will get this party started!”
His enthusiasm seemed to feed into her son, who grinned back and shared a clumsy version of their fist bump handshake. However, when Shawn held his knuckles out to her, she waved off the contact with both hands. At least, until his face seemed to fall just a bit. How that child could appear so wounded with the barest curve of his eyebrows...
Holding back the eye roll, she smiled as she shook her head and reluctantly held up her fist.
The world brightened on his face once more as Shawn met her knuckles with his own. Then, with one last slap against Burton's shoulder, he jogged towards the door. A quick peck on her cheek and her son followed after.
As for Winnie, she was not about to let some room filled with dead fish and flannel curtains rule her for the rest of her life. They'd all made it through just fine. It was time to put the past in the past and move forward. After all, she had a weekend with her loved ones to get ready for.
Without glancing behind her, she headed back through the kitchen and towards the screen door.
Maybe those boys could use her help after all.
In an ideal situation, Henry would have made reservations months in advance. The best campgrounds filled up fast and by the time the plan had formed to get out of town, it had already been too late. Personally, Henry didn't mind roughing it. As long as his air mattress stayed inflated he had no problem sleeping in a tent. But, he hadn't been the only one going on this trip. Winnie had adamantly put her foot down at the notion of allowing one on one contact with the wild outdoors. Take them wherever he wanted, she'd said, but they'd be doing so with whatever civility she could bring along.
So, burying his irritation at having his week hijacked by camping rookies, he'd gone along with Bill to the RV rental place and had picked up a monstrosity on four wheels. He hadn't even argued when Bill had insisted on putting his credit card on the paperwork; the man could certainly afford it. In exchange, Henry had insisted on picking up the grocery tab. This one he had fought for – the last thing he'd needed was to feel like a charity case. So, of course, Winnie and Bill had gone behind his back and bought extra groceries anyhow.
They'd been four hours behind schedule in leaving his house that morning. He'd wanted to be on the road by six, but getting the boys to wake up before eight had been an impossibility. Then there was the wait for his ex wife. Madeleine's plane had been delayed because of bad weather in Colorado, so she hadn't made it in until nine thirty. And, finally, there was the second stop for groceries – much to his adamant complaint.
Digging through the refrigerator, and Henry's face crimped at the notion of anything other than a cooler to carry their food, he collected a few packages of steak as well as the potatoes before nudging the door shut again with his hip. He'd purposefully ignored the bundles of carrots, broccoli, zucchini, and lettuce. If anyone wanted lawn clippings they could grab a knife and prepare their own dish.
Madeleine and Winnie were setting snacks out on the picnic table when he stepped out of the motor home. The bowl of chips in Winnie's grip hadn't even made it to the table cloth before two hands were plowing into it, scattering the corn snacks as double handfuls were dragged away.
“Hey, hey there!” Winnie swatted at the boys but Shawn and Gus skipped out of her reach while stuffing chips in their mouths. Maddie, standing on the other side of the table, smiled at the play while Henry just shook his head.
Avoiding the table as the boys circled the perimeter, Henry made his way to where Bill had filled the grill with charcoal. The small blaze he'd lit had yet to fully catch on the briquettes and only a couple of flames, slender and willowy, had risen from the mound. Unless they wanted to serve dinner at midnight they'd need to step this up.
“Here hold this.” Passing the steaks to Bill, Henry traded for the lighter and small bottle of starter fluid. The older Guster may by adequate in the field of life and death, but when it came to grilling, he was about as useful as slingshot in a shootout.
Within moments the charcoal had been redistributed and flames had spread through the mound. Laying the steaks out on a platter, Henry grabbed the salt and pepper and gave each side a light coating.
“I've got some cumin and thyme in the RV.” Bill didn't wait for Henry's response before jogging across the grass to the vehicle. Rather than yell back that he had things covered, Henry finished up seasoning the meat. Just as he put the final touches in place, an arm looped over his shoulders.
“Hey pop, how long before dinner's ready?” Shawn's question was accompanied by a brief rain of chip fragments – some of which sprayed across Henry's sleeve.
His son bent towards the steaks, his nose wrinkling. “Looks like they could use more rosemary. And possibly her baby.”
Shawn grinned as Bill returned; several spices in his hands. The younger man abandoned his father – though not to a great distance as he settled himself against a nearby tree to watch. If it wasn't for the very strict orders of his doctor, Henry would have put Shawn to the task of chopping wood.
“You are gonna love this!” While Henry was glaring at his son, Bill had slipped in and begun adding several layers of seasoning to the steaks. “Winnie's old man gave me this recipe; trust me, you'll be blown away!”
Too late to chase off the unwanted help, Henry mentally threw his hands in the air and decided to shuck the corn instead. Given the way Bill was now massaging spice into the meat, it would be a while before they were added to the grill. Still leaning against the tree, Shawn appeared to be fighting a fit of giggles. Gus wandered over to stand beside his friend and now Henry had two idiots grinning at him.
“Sweetheart?” Four male heads swiveled towards the summons. However, it was Shawn that moved from his spot and headed towards his mother. Saved from the silent taunting, Henry resumed peeling the fibrous husk from the corn while, over by the grill, Bill had finally begun laying meat out on the hot surface.
Soon enough the various irritations began to smooth out as the scent of cooking meat added to the tang of the late afternoon air. Henry even managed to smile – the expression widening a little when he glanced towards his son and his ex wife. Maddie had given Shawn the task of helping her fold napkins into origami cranes. Completely ridiculous, and yet, Shawn seemed absolutely engrossed by the activity. Then Madeleine looked up and caught his eye – returning his bemused gaze with a wink.
Chuckling, Henry turned back to the bowl of corn. On the other side of the clearing, still prodding the steaks, Bill started to sing –
“So I'd like to know where, you got the notion... Said I'd like to know where, you got the notion...”
– joined seconds later by Gus and then Shawn, who kept his eyes on his task but let his voice rise and blend with the other two men.
“To rock the boat-”
“Don't rock the boat, baby-”
“Rock the boat-”
“Don't tip the boat over-”
“Rock the boat...”
Karen sat at her desk with her phone tight to her ear. Just outside her window, she could see her detectives at their desks. She resisted the desire to pinch her eyes.
“God, that's three of them. Alright, just keep me in the loop, understand?”
After hanging up, she pushed away from her desk and opened the door to lean out.
“Lassiter, O'Hara, in my office.”
The two of them shared glances before standing and heading her way. She left the door open, returning to her desk to rest her fingertips on the edge. The moment her detectives entered, she tipped up her chin to speak.
“We have a problem.”