“I’m a good shot…I never miss…I’m over the yips.” Gus mocked to himself, partly in an effort to control his anger, partly in an effort to ignore Shawn’s incessant chatter.
“Gus, the silent treatment isn’t exactly fair anymore. Two hours is more than long enough. It says so in the Bro Code.” Shawn continued whining and tried for the dozenth time to capture his best friend’s attention. Gus simply sighed and focused on the TV mounted on a platform high on the wall across the room from them.
“Gus!” Shawn whined again. “Guuuuuus!”
“The Bro Code is much stricter when someone, like me, ends up in the emergency room, Shawn.” Gus finally spoke up.
Shawn lifted his arm to display the IV prominently inserted into his vein. “I’m here too! That’s gotta count for something! At least we’re roomies, that makes it better, right?”
“It would be if they’d used the knock out drugs I told them to give you.” Gus grumbled.
The tense conversation was broken up by Juliet’s brisk entrance.
“Ok, guys…you two have gotta be the only ones I know who are able to leave behind a scene that’s totally undecipherable. What the hell happened out there?!”
“We….” Shawn began, then took a moment to reorganize his thoughts. “We were following our Olympic dreams. It was epic!”
Juliet chuckled. “Yeah, I can see that. Gus, what meds is he on?”
“Not the right ones, apparently.” Gus never even removed his gaze from the television.
“Gus, what were you guys doing out there?” Juliet asked again. “I mean, he’s got a dislocated shoulder, bruised back, broken ankle, and who knows what else, not to mention your cracked ribs and…”
“Yeah, don’t mention them. Please.” Gus interrupted.
“He decided he could beat me in the 100 meters.” Shawn explained.
“And I did!”
“Yeah. You did.”
Juliet stopped them, confused. “I thought you guys were watching the Olympics.”
“We were.” Gus replied quickly. “Until he decided the track & field events are easy.”
“Ok, so…running I can see. But it’s just running.” Juliet argued. “There’s a whole lot more that went on there than running.”
“Yeah. He shot me.” Shawn laughed.
“You didn’t get shot, Shawn! It’s called the shot put!”
“Where’d you put it then?” Shawn challenged.
“You said you put it. So, where’d you put it?”
“I didn’t put it anywhere…”
“Except my back…”
“That was an accident! The shot was way too heavy.”
“See, you shot me.”
“No…the ball is called a shot.”
“Which you put in my back.”
“Yes. I mean…”
“That you shot me.”
Gus threw his arms up in exasperation while Juliet suppressed her laughter. Obviously, he was either not on pain medication, or not on anything good enough to help him have a better sense of humor. Clearly Shawn had fared much better in that regard.
“So, I can assume that the shot…put…ball….came in contact with his back at some point.” Juliet attempted to clarify to Gus directly.
“Yeah.” He nodded. “I was trying to throw the shot like they do on TV. You know, from the neck and all? Looking all cool? Turns out there’s a reason the guys on TV are so big. That’s a damn heavy ball…shot.”
“Ok, but that doesn’t explain how it ended up getting thrown into his back.” Juliet questioned. This time, Gus actually looked somewhat embarrassed, and hesitated before speaking.
Shawn let out a loud belly laugh. “He spun out of control! It was awesome!”
“It was not awesome, Shawn!” Gus argued. “And I would’ve been fine if you would have just left me alone!”
“So you…spun out of control?” Juliet asked tentatively, holding on to the one part of the statement that Gus didn’t deny. Shawn laughed even harder.
“There was…some spinning going on…”
“Like a top!” Shawn added, now doubled over from laughter and pain. “Oww!”
“Spinning?” Juliet was wondering if getting to the bottom of what happened was really a good idea.
“Yeah.” Gus hesitated. “You know, they kind of…turn…to get momentum. Except Shawn, like the idiot he is, decided he would…help me along. But then he wouldn’t let go.”
Images of Shawn and Gus engaged in an awkward dance-like spin, trying to throw a shot put filled Juliet’s mind, making her unsure if it was funny or disturbing. What was disturbing was her knowledge that this could not possibly be the end of the story. She surveyed the injuries that were visually apparent on both of them, combined with the damage done at the local college’s track, and she knew she better get a good story out of them before her partner arrived to demand his own answers.
“Ok, children. I want answers, and I want them now!”
“Lassiter! I was just in the middle of questioning them myself, while you spoke to the college people. I figured it would help to save some time.” Juliet scrambled to appease her partner, who was extremely irritated at having been called away from his regularly scheduled time at the shooting range.
“Gus shot me!” Shawn spoke up loudly.
“I did not!”
Juliet dropped her head. “Guys! Gus, you said Shawn was accidentally hit with the ball, and that’s how he got the bruise on his back, right?”
“I don’t care about injuries right now.” Lassiter growled. “The college is asking about the damage to their property. They’re calling it vandalism. What do you have to say about that?”
“Umm…it’s not?” Shawn offered. “Lassie, those things attacked us! It was all I could do to save Gus from them!”
“You didn’t save me from them, Shawn!”
“I did! You couldn’t even lift the grownup ball!”
“It’s not the ‘grownup’ ball, it’s the men’s ball, and it’s a shot, not a ball.”
“Fine. You could only lift the women’s ball.”
“Fine! So you’re out there throwing these things around?”
Shawn giggled. “Only the little one. But he couldn’t even throw that straight. Or forward.”
“So you’re the one that knocked down the equipment rack then?” Lassiter focused on Gus while placing two fingers on the bridge of his nose. Why must interviewing these two always be an exercise in seeing how fast a migraine could hit?
“I didn’t mean to. It was an accident, I swear!” Gus insisted. “It’s just harder than it looks, you know, keeping track of where you’re at when you’re spinning so fast. I could have sworn I was facing the right direction.”
“Which is why I helped him with the grownup ball. But then he shot me with it instead.”
“Fine!” Lassiter interrupted. “You’re so bent on getting shot. How did that happen?” He knew from hard experience that just letting him say what was on his mind and get it out of the way was often a bigger time saver than trying to avoid it in favor of his own planned questioning.
“I’m not bent. Well, I was…backwards I guess…”
“I was helping him spin…” Shawn stopped and giggled, highly amused at his own words. “But then I kind of fell, and that’s when he…”
“When the shot slipped out of my hands and hit him. The bigger shot hit Shawn. The smaller shot hit the equipment rack first. That was when Shawn said I needed his help to try the bigger one. Obviously that didn’t end well.”
Lassiter nodded. “So you’re basically saying that you couldn’t handle the men’s balls.” He knew it the moment the words were out of his mouth – right around the time it was too late to take anything back. And suddenly, Spencer was laughing so hard he could hardly breathe, while all the color seemed to shockingly drain from Guster’s face. Juliet closed her eyes and bit her lip so hard she was sure she’d be tasting blood very soon. The last thing anyone needed was for this to be any more painful on her partner than it needed to be.
When she finally composed herself, she decided to make her own effort at rephrasing the question. Shawn was still hopelessly lost in laughter, but it was Gus’ answer she needed anyway. “Ok…” She tried. “So, you tried to use the smaller one, but you couldn’t control it, so it ended up flying through the equipment rack.”
“Yes.” Gus confirmed.
“And, when you tried to use the larger one, it was too heavy for you, so Shawn tried to help you with it?”
“I wouldn’t say it was too heavy for me…”
“It was!” Shawn countered, suddenly back in the conversation. “Remember when that 16 pound bowling ball was too heavy for you? And then you…”
“We agreed not to ever discuss that again, Shawn!”
“Ok! But that’s how he ended up hurt?” Juliet ran interference again
“You could say that.”
Lassiter sighed. This still wasn’t quite as clear as he’d like it to be. So far, he had an explanation for the broken equipment rack, and Spencer’s bruised back. There were still several injuries unexplained. “Fine. What about the dislocated shoulder?” He asked. “I thought it was Guster throwing the shot, not you.”
“When someone forcefully reaches beyond their shoulder ability, that can cause a dislocation.” Shawn offered in a slightly slurred, authoritative tone.
“You’re just reading that from the papers the doctor gave you.” Gus objected. “You tried to grab me is what happened.”
“I thought he already had a hold of you, didn’t he?” Juliet asked.
“I did! I held on for dear life! Did you know I never understood centrifugal force until now?”
“So how did you ‘forcefully reach’ for something that you already had a hold of?” Lassiter asked, carefully ignoring Spencer’s superfluous babble.
“Because he broke my ankle.”
“I didn’t break your ankle, Shawn! The block did!”
“The block didn’t step on my foot.” Shawn giggled.
“What block are we talking about?”
“The parking block of course!”
“Where the hell did a parking block come from?!” Lassiter put his hands on his head and paced around the room for a couple turns, taking a deep breath as he did so. When he felt like he had a reasonable chance of continuing this conversation without exploding on anyone, he came back to Spencer’s bedside, using as calm a vocal tone as he could manage.
“Ok, Spencer. Far as I know, up to this point, you and Guster were on the college’s field when all this was happening, right?”
“So, I’m a little confused as to why you’re all of a sudden talking about a parking block.”
“Because it broke my ankle, Lassie.” Shawn answered matter-of-factly.
“Ok, Shawn, it’s just that we’re a little confused about the connection here.” Juliet could see the vein pulsing in Lassiter's temple, leading her to believe she better get involved once again before another incident happened. “How did a parking block get onto the field? And how did it break your ankle?” She knew the question probably sounded incredibly silly to her partner, but she hoped it would get her further than the questions he had been using. Questioning Shawn and Gus, after all, often required less than common interviewing techniques.
“It was already there.” Shawn answered.
“It’s not a parking block.” Gus now spoke up.
“Then what was it?” Lassiter demanded
Gus sighed. “It looks like a parking block, you know that thing they put at the front of a parking space so you know how far to go?”
“I know what a parking block is…”
“Ok, so it looks like that, except shorter. And curved. It’s at the end of the circle that you’re supposed to spin in to release the shot.”
Lassiter nodded. Finally, something that made sense…considering the circumstance. “Ok, so how did it break your ankle?” He asked of Spencer now.
“Well, actually, Gus did, remember?” Shawn grinned.
“I didn’t break…”
“Enough!” Lassiter halted their argument before it could start again. “Spencer, how the hell did your ankle get broken?”
“While he was grabbing me and dislocating his shoulder, I accidentally stepped on his foot, and it got caught between the block and under my foot. He kept moving, his foot didn’t…expected result.” Gus explained.
“There, was that so hard?” Lassiter asked, thoroughly exasperated. “So the dislocated shoulder happened when he was trying to grab you, and as he was falling, his foot was trapped, and ankle broken as he fell. His back was bruised when you released the shot accidentally and hit him with it. Please tell me this is at least close to what happened.”
“You’ll make Detective very soon with deductions like that, Lassie!” Shawn congratulated. Lassiter ignored him. Juliet fidgeted. They still didn’t have all the information they needed, meaning the interview wasn’t over. She couldn’t help wondering how much more of this her partner could take.
“So…Gus…” She began cautiously. “About your cracked ribs. How did that happen?”
Shawn laughed out loud. Juliet’s heart sank. She had been so hopeful they were done with the hard part now that his injuries were accounted for. She looked up to see the same pained expression in her partner’s face.
“He couldn’t lift the kiddie ball.”
“I could too!” Gus countered. “And it was the women’s ball, not the kiddie ball!”
Shawn doubled over in laughter again.
“I just kind of lost my balance with it.” Gus tried desperately to explain over his best friend’s belly laugh.
“So you dropped it on yourself and cracked your ribs.” Lassiter offered, praying and hoping he was right.
“No!!” Shawn practically fell out of bed and gasped for breath through his laughter. Lassiter wondered what he had ever done to deserve this. Some deity, somewhere, certainly was enjoying this heartily.
Lassiter rubbed his temple and sighed. “So what happened, then?” He asked, resigned to whatever was coming.
“I kind of fell backwards with it and it landed on me.” Gus replied sheepishly. “Hard.”
Lassiter threw his arms up in the air. “So you did drop it on yourself and crack your ribs then! And how the hell does that happen, Guster, it’s not that big!” Both Shawn and Gus suddenly became quiet, leading Lassiter and Juliet to experience a much deeper sense of fear than they expected.
“Hmm. Good question.” Gus replied thoughtfully.
“Yeah, it might have happened when he blacked out.” Shawn offered.
“When did he black out?!” Juliet demanded
“How would I know, Jules? I was in pain!”
Both Detectives exchanged looks, each one at a loss as to how to continue. Clearly this wasn’t going well at all, and the odds of them leaving this room with a halfway clear picture of what happened were dwindling sharply. Lassiter motioned for Juliet to join him in a corner of the room where they could discuss their strategy privately.
“We have a decent idea of what happened to Spencer, and how the equipment was damaged.” Lassiter suggested. “They’re both on meds right now…well, Spencer is. Guster might be. Maybe we can wait on clarifying his end of the story until later.”
“At least I’m sure we don’t have a case of vandalism here.” Juliet agreed.
Lassiter sighed and nodded. “You’re right. Damn it. This is just a case of them being idiots. As usual.” He stood up straighter as Chief Vick suddenly entered the room.
“Chief! Hi!” Juliet hastened to greet her. “We were just finishing up here, hoping to get it over and done with quickly.”
“Thank you, Detective. It’s ok.” Vick replied with a smile. “Turns out, I talked to security and the people in charge at the college. Considering the case that Mr. Spencer and Mr. Guster solved for them last month, and considering that the college did give them an open invitation to visit any time, they’ve agreed to drop any charges that might have been filed. It was a pretty easy decision for them, once they realized who was involved.”
Lassiter felt like he could finally smile, even if his night wouldn’t get to end with him arresting Spencer. “Good! Thank you, Chief. We’ll be on our way then.”
Vick smiled and nodded. “Of course, Detective. All I’ll need is a full report on what exactly happened out there, and we’ll be all set. I need it for my records, and of course the college will need it for their incident and insurance report. So, Mr. Spencer and Mr. Guster, just tell us what happened, and we’ll be on our way. Or…I assume you’ve already been discussing it?”
“Yes, Chief!” Shawn answered cheerfully. “It all started when Gus shot me…”
Lassiter felt like the skies were closing in on him. No way was he going through this all over again. He didn’t even notice the stares of everyone in the room as he talked to the door, paused just before stepping out, and looked back at the Chief. “Good luck with that, Chief.” He announced.
Vick would not allow herself to be left in the lurch like this. “Excuse me, Detective, what do you mean by that? It’s just a few questions.”
Lassiter took his turn to laugh now, albeit sarcastically. “Sure. Of course, Chief. Oh, and be sure to ask them about handling men’s balls. Apparently that’s a big part of the story.” He glanced at Juliet in expectation of her following him before completing his exit. Juliet dropped her head and followed him out, deciding he needed her more than the Chief did right this moment. Vick would certainly appreciate and understand their need to leave the room, given about 20 minutes with Shawn and Gus. She was sure of it.