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The next time he wakes up, his eyes are immediately assaulted by the sunlight pouring into his humble little wood-room. His forearm goes up on its own to shield his eyes. Thankfully, his headache seems to have gone down—but not enough. The light is painful.

Finally he manages to open his eyes enough to actually see what's in front of him, and it takes him a while to process it when he does. An entire wall has been removed from the cart or whatever it is that he's in, and outside, he can see a wide stretch of… not much. The landscape is not terribly exciting; not flat but not all that hilly either. Grass spots the ground, but there's a lot of brown and red. He sees no sign of civilization.

Directly in front of the opening, in a cheap-looking blue and white lawn chair, sits a man. If Shawn had to guess he'd say he were in his mid-thirties, though he could easily be twenty-five or forty based on what Shawn can see. His skin is very dark, but Shawn thinks that it may be due to very long hours in the sun. He can't be sure, though. His hair is about as black as hair gets, and thick, but meticulously gelled so there is not a flyaway to be had. He wears dark, simple sunglasses, so Shawn can't see his eyes, which doesn't help with gauging his age. His outfit is simple—a white T-shirt, cargo shorts, and flip flops. When he smiles, his teeth are startlingly white, especially against his dark skin.

"Good morning, Mr. Ronaldo," he says, and his accent is evident straightaway. Shawn isn't quite sure of its origin. Indian? Russian? Neither sounds quite right. He quickly reminds himself that he's heard only four words so far, and moves on to the next thing—confusion. He turns to check behind him, looking for the Mr. Ronaldo whom this man has just addressed. But there is no one.

He points to himself, silently asking, Me? The man only smiles again and continues, "It is good to see that you are all right."

Shawn nods slowly, not sure what else to do. "Thanks."

"I would like to personally welcome you to The wreestelowitgabahiku Freak Show."

What? Shawn didn't quite catch that. But he immediately dismisses it, and zeroes in on the last part.

"Freak Show? As in, putting people with deformities on display? Those are still around?"

"Well, yes, they are actually." His voice has a maintained and apparently very natural quality of sereneness that unnerves Shawn a little bit—not that he'd ever let on.

"That's sick, man."

"Irrelevant is what it is. We don't do anything like that here."

"That's great, I'm real happy for you. What I'd like to know is why I woke up inside a…" He trails off, and suddenly leans forward and glances back and forth to each side. He's in the back of a truck. They're by an open road. There is nothing for miles. "Wow."

"Incredible, isn't it?" the man asks, also surveying the asphalt stretching to either horizon. "I just love the feeling of the open road. I was born to travel. I hear you've done quite a bit of that."

Shawn is starting to get very nervous. He's in the middle of nowhere, so taking off at this second would do no good. He doesn't have his phone or even his shoes. Damn smart kidnappers. And apparently this strange man knows something about his past. "Who are you? What do you want with me?"

He's itching to crack some eighties reference or tangential comment—he's already let about three opportunities slip by—but he knows that's not going to help him get information. At least the last time he was held against his will for this long, he knew why.

"I merely want your services, Mr. Ronaldo. I have done a bit of reading on your accomplishments. Quite impressive, really. I want you to do readings during our carnivals."

Wait, what? Carnivals? Readings? …Mr. Ronaldo? "If you've read up on me so much, you should know my name."

"Certainly. Arashk Ronaldo."

Shawn furrows his brow, more confused than ever, but he files the name away, thinking it might be important later. "Try Shawn Spencer."

The man only gives a calm and patient smile. "I am very much looking forward to having you on our team, Mr. Ronaldo. I think our guests will very much enjoy your readings."

"Hold up, now. Let me get this straight. You kidnapped me so I could do psychic readings? For the benefit of your show, or carnival or whatever?"

"Your services will be well loved by all, I am sure of it."

"Pass."

"It was not a request, Mr. Ronaldo," the man says, and he's still smiling, which is starting to creep Shawn out severely.

"Look, dude, I'm flattered, really. From the heart. And let me return with a compliment of my own: you have the weirdest motive I've ever come across."

The man cocks his head, waiting for Shawn to go on.

"But I have a life I'd like to get back to, so if you don't mind pointing me to Santa Barbara, I'll be on my way." He pauses, and, deciding that asking can't hurt, says, "Where are we, anyway?"

"We passed through the city of St. George in Utah this morning," the man says, surprisingly forthcoming. "Our first stop is about 70 miles from here, tomorrow afternoon. You will not be giving readings then; you will be among the crowd, getting the feel of how we run ourselves. After that, you will start earning your keep."

"I don't need to earn my keep!" Shawn blurts, just this side of angry. "I need you to start making sense." He can't get anything out of this guy. And he's straining to try to figure out anything, anything at all from his appearance, but nothing sticks out except that dental care is really important to him.

"Okay. That I can do." The man seems to take a moment to think. When he speaks, his easygoing smile has melted away completely, but his voice and expression remain perfectly calm. "Maybe you can understand this. You will cooperate. You will be obedient and quiet and you will do as you are told. You will not try to run. You will not do anything at all that you think I wouldn't like. Because I have connections, and I do not think you would want anything to happen to, say, your partner, or your pretty little detective girlfriend."

Shawn is suddenly sick to his stomach. The man's entire demeanor has changed. He is clearly dead serious. But then he smiles again, serene and unruffled, and holds up a few photographs that Shawn didn't notice him having before. Shawn glimpses one, and snatches them out of the man's hand.

The photos are of decent quality, probably taken with a smart phone, and clearly without the subjects' knowledge. One is of Shawn and Gus leaving the Psych office. Another is of Shawn, Gus, and Jules talking outside the station. Another was taken through a window, and shows Lassie and Jules inside the precinct. The final photo is of his dad as he locks his front door, fishing rod in his hand and tackle box at his feet.

Shawn looks back up at the man, suddenly feeling nauseous. The man's face is still calm as ever, not a twitch or a blemish to be had. "Act as my loyal psychic," the man says, "and your friends will be left alone. It's as simple as that."

Shawn tries to speak, but he finds that he can't. He wets his lips. He clears his throat. Finally, "What do you want with me?"

The man raises one eyebrow. "I want only your cooperation as a psychic. Entertain people. Give them a good time, and tell them their futures. And in return, the people you love will be left to live in peace. Does that sound fair?"

The man is tucking the photos neatly back into his pocket. Shawn doesn't even recall giving them back.

He doesn't answer. He just asks, "Who are you?"

The man offers nothing but another peaceful smile, and very suddenly, Shawn is left in the dark. He stumbles back, eyes wide, wondering when the opening was sealed off and how he missed it. Just as he reestablishes balance, the purr of an engine reaches him, and the truck starts moving again.

He vomits the meager contents of his stomach onto the wood floor. Trembling, he wipes his mouth with his hand, and goes to find that awful blanket again. He's exhausted, but when he curls into a ball on the floor, sleep does not come.


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