Keep your cool.
Of course, that’s so much more easily said than done. Even my dad, in all of his training exercises over the years, has never once expressed just how difficult the whole ‘staying calm under pressure’ thing actually is. Or, well, maybe he has. It’s hard to remember exact details while you’re facing down the business end of a shotgun.
Meanwhile, my best friend and crime-solving partner extraordinaire is close to hyperventilating next to me. “I told you we shouldn’t have come here, Shawn,” he scolds. “I thought you said no one would be home.”
“Well,” I shrug. He has a point, although I’ll never actually tell him that. “You know, in my defense, I didn’t think anyone would be home.”
“Hey!” the man with the gun shouts at me. “I’m standin’ right here!” He’s about my dad’s age, with stringy blond hair and in desperate need of a shave. He’s wearing a dirty plaid shirt and jeans that have definitely seen better days. Basically, he has ‘creepy squatter from a horror movie’ written all over him. Since we’re in the middle of the forest, with his weathered tent pitched behind him, the label really does fit.
The guy doesn’t look too happy to see us.
In his defense, if I were a murderer trying to stay unarrested, I’d be angry at two detectives knocking on my canvas flap of a door too. Or sneaking around my campsite looking for clues. I’ve heard it both ways.
“Now ya two get outta here before I hafta make ya.” To accentuate his point, the man shakes his gun at us menacingly.
Gus takes a step back and bumps into my right side. He jumps at the contact and glances over his shoulder to see me, at which point he narrows his eyes and tilts his head to indicate the trail back to the car. “Come on, Shawn; let’s go.”
But I’m not about to leave. Not yet.
Not when I have a case to solve and Jules and Lassie are on their way. “But Gus! I’m getting a very strong feeling about this place!” I exclaim. I raise my right hand to my head, my middle finger bent to touch my temple in a gesture that feels so familiar now after all of the cases we’ve handled through Psych. “Yes! Yes, I am sensing that this is where poor, poor Tom Murray was killed!”
Crazy Shotgun Man’s eyes widen slightly as he watches me. I have this gut feeling that he’s superstitious and decide to play to that assumption. If I’m wrong, he’ll just roll his eyes and insist we leave again. Well either that, or he’ll shoot one of us, but my money's on superstition. Even still, I take a step in front of Gus, just in case, and wave my arms as if I’m having a vision. “Ah! It’s horrible, Gus!” I yelp, throwing my arms up in the air as I move forward.
“What do you see, Shawn?” Gus sounds uncertain as he asks the question, and I know he’s seriously weighing the pros and cons of ditching me and racing for the car.
My mind spins, assembling the final pieces of the puzzle it has been studying for the past few days.
A body had been found by some hikers, halfway in the creek under a bridge. There had been no drag marks to the spot. My working theory up until now was that an exceptionally strong person had done the killing and then carried the body to the spot. The weird hairs on the victim’s shirt had me convinced that there was something more nefarious afoot than just a man who had slipped and fallen into the creek.
Of course, because I could, I had looked straight at Lassie and declared that Bigfoot was our culprit. I mean, he’s tall enough, and if Murray had invaded his territory, it could have spooked the poor creature enough to bash the guy’s head in with a rock. Then, because Bigfoot is smart enough not to lure more humans to his home, he’d made sure to take Murray’s body elsewhere so that anyone looking for the missing man wouldn’t find Bigfoot as well.
Lassie had scoffed at my theory, which I had expected him to. I mean, it’s not like I actually believed Bigfoot was to blame. That would just be silly.
It would have been even more silly if Lassie hadn’t thought it was silly. Gus, on the other hand, had presented a binder full of articles and photos as soon as we got back to the office. I think he’d actually been preparing for that day.
At that point, it was up to me to prove that Bigfoot hadn’t actually done it so that Gus would shelve his ridiculously color-coded binder and forget the whole thing. So I had done what any self-respecting private detective who did not want to go traipsing through the woods on a wild Sasquatch hunt would do: I started delving into the victim’s life -- and his trash, although that didn’t turn up much. The guy seemed to compost everything.
Normally, the clue to a murder lay within a victim’s life, even if it turned out to be some weird needle hidden in a weird haystack inside of another haystack. This time, I had no such luck. And since I couldn’t dig up any actual clues that were worth following, and since we were still waiting on the lab to tell us what those strange hairs were, I let Gus talk me into trekking through the forest with him.
Okay, wait, that’s a lie. I didn’t actually let him talk me into it. I somehow got tricked into it. Or, well, okay. Maybe not somehow. Those Snickers bars are just so good…
But anyway, so yeah. That’s how I ended up here, in the middle of the woods, facing down a shotgun-wielding maniac and trying to stall until Jules and Lassie show up with the cavalry. It’s a lot easier said than done, I know, but you gotta do what you gotta do. And right now, I gotta keep this guy from shooting either Gus or me.
That’s a reasonable request, right?
Speaking of which, getting back to the moment at hand, Crazy McTriggerfinger is waving his shotgun even more now as he glares at me. “I… I don’t care what you think you see. Saw.”
“I’ve heard it both ways.” My nervous verbal slip wasn’t worth the bony elbow Gus put into my ribs.
“Hmph! Whatever! Get out of my woods!” He doesn’t sound too stable. Oh boy.
“Uh, well, you see,” Gus tries. He sends a desperate look my way, and of course I oblige. I’m not about to admit to him that I’m a little rattled by this whole thing; one of us has to be strong and dashing and the savior of the day. Since those qualities seem to be inherent in my genes, along with fantastic hair, I suppose it’s up to me to handle things here.
And when the man snarls and raises his gun at Gus, I make my move.
“Okay, okay, okay!” I exclaim, stepping forward and putting my hands up in front of me. It’s the universal gesture of ‘please don’t shoot me’ that usually works for me; hopefully this guy isn’t so crazy that he ignores it.
Thankfully he doesn’t pull the trigger, but he does swing the gun in my direction. Okay, I can work with that. I’ve already gotten a glimpse inside of his tent and noticed the coonskin cap sitting on top of his sleeping bag. That would explain the hairs we’d found on Murray’s body.
Of course. I should have known raccoons would be to blame.
I wave my left hand at the guy and put my right back up to my temple. “Shhh, stop moving! Stay there!” I say, squinting one eye closed. “The spirits are talking to me!”
He doesn’t lower his gun, but his eyes widen a little. “The… spirits? You kiddn’ me?” His voice wavers slightly. It seems I’m right about the superstitious thing. Not that I really doubted my intuition, but it’s always nice to be validated.
“Oh yes!” I reply quickly. Gotta keep him off balance. “The spirits are talking, bub, and they are saying oh so many interesting things!” I grin, then tilt my head as if listening to a voice that only I can hear. “You don’t say?”
My attention is mostly focused on Crazy Shotgun Man, but I’m trying to keep an ear out for any sounds that would indicate Jules is here. Nothing other than Gus’s breathing and my own pounding heartbeat meets my ears, unfortunately. It looks like I have to keep stalling.
That’s okay. I can handle that. Just amp up the spirit stuff -- but probably don’t overdo it and scare the guy too much. He’s jumpy enough as it is…
“You don’t say?” I ask my imaginary ‘spirits’ with a gasp. Then I look at Crazy Shotgun Man. I try to put enough accusation behind the word to rattle him as I exclaim, “You!”
He blinks. “Me?” The gun doesn’t waver though. Not what I was going for.
“Yes you!” I glance over at Gus behind me then back to our culprit. My friend has taken a few steps back, away from my waving arms, and that’s fine with me. The farther away he is, the less chance he’ll get hurt. “The spirits say you’re a dirty rotten scoundrel who would rather kill an innocent hiker than risk letting him expose your secret!”
At that, Crazy Shotgun Man’s eyes widen just a little, but it’s enough. I know I’ve hit a nerve.
“What did he find out you were doing?” I smirk. Gus had already identified the smell hanging in the air when we were first poking around before Crazy Shotgun Man had appeared, and I see the opportunity to use that information to my advantage. “Did he find your still? Where you’re brewing your sweet, illiterate moonshine?”
Gus clears his throat behind me. “Um, Shawn, I think you mean ‘illicit.’”
“Oh.” I frown and give him another look over my shoulder. “Are you sure? I thought that’s when you can’t read.”
“No, that’s ‘illiterate.’”
He can’t see my face, so I allow myself a smirk. “That’s what I said. His illiterate moonshine.”
“Shawn!” Gus makes a noise of aggravation.
“You two shut up now!” Crazy Shotgun Man yells. He wrinkles his nose and narrows his brow in a grimacing snarl. “I’m gonna hafta get rid of ya both now. See what ya made me do?”
I raise an eyebrow as I try to figure out what to do next. I’m weighing the decision of either just rushing him and hoping for the best or trying to ‘communicate’ with more ‘spirits,’ but I’m honestly not sure how he’ll take it at this point. Thankfully, I hear the sound of crunching leaves, and I just hope that it’s Lassie and Jules coming to the rescue and not some angry bear or rabid raccoon coming to avenge its family member that got made into the man’s hat.
I glance towards the woods in the direction I can hear the noise, and then I glance back to Crazy Shotgun Man just in time to see him putting the end of the gun up against his shoulder and sighting down the barrel.
But then in the next moment, there’s a yell from the tree line that makes Crazy Shotgun Man freeze in his tracks.
“Drop the gun, you scoundrel!” Lassie bellows from somewhere off to my left.
Crazy Shotgun Man actually does what he’s told, at least long enough for Jules and Lassie to run up to us. By that point, it’s too late for him to try anything.
Lassie grabs his arms and yanks them behind his back. “Silas Jones, you are under arrest for the murder of Tom Murray.”
“‘Scoundrel’?” I chuckle. “Really, Lassie? Is that the best you could come up with?”
“Spencer, shut up,” he snaps. “What are you doing out here anyway?”
Meanwhile, Jules hasn’t said anything, but she’s looking from me to Lassie to Gus and back again. She holsters her gun and looks at me seriously. “Shawn, are you okay?” She’s worried about me, I can tell.
I start to respond, but then Lassie’s other comment registers. “Wait,” I pause. “‘Silas’? Huh.” Crazy Shotgun Guy got more and more stereotypical the more I learned about him.
Gus speaks up from behind me then, interrupting whatever Lassie was about to respond. “So he really did it?”
“Pretty sure anybody planning to shoot us isn’t a good guy, partner,” I reply, turning around to drape an arm over my friend’s shoulders.
Then I get an idea; I haven’t done a reveal for Jules and Lassie yet, and this is the perfect opportunity. So instead of finishing my move toward Gus, I pull up short and fling both of my hands in the air. “Oh, I’m getting something!” I announce.
Lassie rolls his eyes. “Spencer, what are you doing? I just traipsed through the woods, tracking your cell phone, because you couldn’t stay out of trouble. You’d better leave well enough alone before I forget it all and just shoot you right here.”
“Not trouble, Lassie,” I pause to correct him. Then I squeeze my eyes shut again and jump around as if overly excited about something. “I’m sensing our poor victim was just an innocent hiker, out for a morning walk, when he happened upon Mr. Crazypants Silas here, who thought Tom was going to turn him in for… well, for any number of criminal activities.” I shrug at Jules and then look over at Silas. “Which one was it? The squatting on state land or the still? Or maybe something else I don’t even know about yet?”
Silas doesn’t reply to my question, not exactly. He sniffs out a sigh. “I ain’t talkin’ to ya.”
“Maybe you’ll start talking at the station,” Lassie tells him, grabbing the man’s arm. “Come on; let’s go.” He looks back at Jules. “We’ll send a unit to process the scene.” Then he glares at me. “Don’t touch anything,” he adds before leaving, marching the handcuffed Silas off ahead of him.
Jules gives me a smile as she turns to follow her partner. “I really am glad you’re okay, Shawn,” she says. “You had us worried.”
“Aw, hey, since when have you ever needed to worry about me?” I call after her.
Gus elbows me at that, having come up to stand beside me while I was doing my thing. “Since when has she not needed to worry about you?” he asks.
“Huh.” I shrug. “Fair point.” Then I raise an eyebrow at him. “Last one to the car buys snacks!” I announce as I shove him backward and take off running after Jules.
“Shawn, that’s not fair!” Gus’s voice carries through the woods as I start for the parking lot.
“All’s fair in love and churros!” I yell.
“That’s not how it goes, Shawn. Shawn!”
No specific timeframe for this one’s setting, other than that it comes somewhere in season two or three. Besides that, take your pick.
Big thanks go out to my betas Redwolffclaw, apple jacks jules, and veggiewoppa!
Standard disclaimers apply.
Big thanks go out to my betas Redwolffclaw, apple jacks jules, and veggiewoppa!
Standard disclaimers apply.