It had been a little over 24 hours that Gus had been missing, and Shawn was in a panic. Despite his best attempts to convince the police otherwise, their hands were tied.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Spencer,” Chief Vick had said, compassion welling in her brown eyes. “But until Mr. Guster has been gone for 48 hours, there’s nothing anyone in the department can do.”
“Except me,” Shawn choked. “And it’s my fault that he’s gone.”
Shawn had stumbled out of the police department then, ignoring the sounds of Juliet calling his name, and scraped his shin on the kickstand of his motorcycle. Ignoring the pain, he quickly got on and screeched out of the parking lot as fast as his tires could carry him.
He had to know. He had to find Gus.
The whole thing had started because of some Yin wannabe. Or at least, that’s what Shawn had thought at first, when the letters started coming in. The Psych office got mail from Yin/Yang wannabes and fangirls all the time, and none of them were ever taken seriously.
But this one was different. This smooth, white envelope was addressed by hand in dark reddish-brown ink… Ink that looked almost like dried blood.
Though the weird color sent a slight shiver through Shawn’s spine, he disregarded it… Nothing else about the envelope or the slanted, cursive handwriting gave any hint of a threat. He’d tossed it in the shredder with the junk mail.
But then another, identical, envelope had come in the next week. And the week after that. Another Tuesday, another letter. The same copper-colored ink each time. Finally, Shawn decided to open the letter.
And he almost gagged at the overwhelming metallic scent inside…strong and unmistakable. His horror only grew as he unfolded the sheet of thick cream-colored paper inside.
Someone had drawn the Psych logo in blood.
Shawn blinked back tears as his Norton rushed him through the cool Santa Barbara night. A slight wind was blowing, the perfect riding weather, but Shawn didn’t even notice. His only thought was getting to the Psych office and calling everyone he could imagine for clues.
But he knew he wouldn’t find anything.
When he’d shown the note to the SBPD, the Chief agreed that it was probably just some crazy kook, but she sent it to the lab for testing.
It wasn’t long before she called Shawn’s cell phone, confirming his worst fears.
It wasn’t just blood. It was human blood.
Despite retrieving DNA from the sample, there wasn’t much the police could do. As disgusting and mortifying as it was, sending a letter in blood wasn’t exactly a crime, and even if it were, with no return address, they had no way of catching the suspect. The only thing that could be done was to identify the psycho if he (it was definitely a he, of course, the Type A Positive blood sample proved this) should happen to show up and try something stupid.
But it was hours before Shawn realized that he hadn’t seen Gus since early that morning.
And it was another hour before Shawn realized that Gus wasn’t going to reply to his texts or pick up his cell phone.
That was when he called Lassiter.
Shawn threw off his helmet onto the chair in the office as he paced around for a moment, running his hands over his face, trying to get his bearings and failing.
Gus was his compass. Without his compass, where could he be?
Shawn grabbed the phone, not really knowing who to call. He finally settled on his dad’s number; if nothing else, maybe Henry could at least calm him down enough to think straight.
He’d only dialed the first two numbers when a call came in.
Shawn answered it, breathlessly, praying for Gus to pick up and say his phone had died, he was stuck on his route, all of it was a big misunderstanding…
“Mmmmm, nice guess, but not quite. Try again.”
Shawn’s heart stopped for a moment. “Who are you?”
“My name isn’t really important, but if you really want to know, you can just call me… Dent.”
“Dent. It’s Latin for tooth, did you know that? Probably you did, since you’re so smart and all. Your friend here seems like a smart guy too… But not smart enough to be suspicious of new last-minute doctors added to his pharmaceuticals route.”
“Where’s Gus? What do you want?”
“You’re the psychic. You tell me.”
“Stop it! Just stop it! I want my friend back! Tell me what you want. I have connections in the SBPD. Whatever you want, I can get it for you. If you want my attention, you have it! Just let Gus go!”
“Hmmm… You know, that’s an intriguing offer. I’ll have to think about it. Why don’t we talk it over in person? You like jazz?”
“Tell me where you want me to be and I’ll show up there. Tell me what you want from me and I’ll have it for you. Anything you say. Just bring Gus.”
“Very intriguing indeed. I heard from your exploits in the papers that you don’t give up easy. Well, then, I’ll bring your friend and we can make a deal.”
“Done. I’m the one you want anyway, right?”
“Whatever you say, psychic. There’s a jazz festival in Parma Park on Thursday. I’ll be there wearing a straw hat. Come find me, and I’ll give you your friend back.”
“I’ll be there.”
As the kidnapper broke the connection, Shawn gasped for air. The next number he dialed was Chief Vick.
“Mr. Spencer, I don’t have to remind you how dangerous this is,” the Chief said to Shawn at the edges of the park, where the SBPD were already setting up a perimeter.
“I know, Chief,” Shawn said wearily, torn between exhaustion and adrenaline.
“Listen to what he has to say and we’ll catch it all on tape,” she continued, tapping the hidden mic inside his shirt collar. “I have officers standing by ready to close in.”
Juliet wrapped Shawn tightly in her arms. “Shawn, we’ll do everything we can to protect you and Gus. Just be careful.”
“I will,” he whispered.
The last thing he felt before taking off down the concrete sidewalk was Lassiter’s hand clamped reassuringly on his shoulder.
He wandered down the sidewalk following the festival signs. Saxophone and trumpet music soared in the air mingled with the clarion call of a swing clarinet. Bandstands and booths were set up everywhere in the park, all the organized chaos of a flea market with people wandering around, carrying shopping bags, floppy hats, and instrument cases. The smells of food assaulted Shawn’s nose—Tex-Mex, Thai, Chinese, smoothies, fried onions, barbecue, and everything in between.
But Shawn forced himself to filter all distractions out of his senses: his every nerve was focused on finding Gus and the man who'd be wearing a straw hat.
How many hats, Shawn?
Only one that mattered. And after pushing through a group of women haggling for boutique scarves and a group of high school percussionists, he finally spotted it.
He saw the straw fedora with a blue denim band around it. He saw the wavy black hair, the brown eyes in a face that smirked cruelly when the man saw him approaching.
What he didn't see was Gus.
"All right, I'm here," Shawn said boldly, too afraid for Gus' safety to worry about whether he was being too aggressive. "Now tell me what you want and hand over Gus."
The psycho's smirk morphed into a full-blown smile as he made a wide gesture with his arms. "Oh, I already have. I've already handed Guster over."
Shawn looked around, sick and relieved and terrified all in a horrific blur. "Then where is he?"
The psycho leaned in close, too close, to Shawn's ear. "You're the psychic, right, Spencer? So why don't you tell me?"
Then he began to laugh. And laugh. And laugh.
Like he knew a secret that should've been obvious. Like he had triumphed or something. Like he found whatever his brand of madness was to be sickeningly funny.
Shawn looked around, the faces and sounds and smells all a blur.
Then, somehow, in the melee of searching and a maniac's unhinged laughter, he overheard something…
A conversation between two women leaving the food truck that Shawn and the kidnapper were standing in front of:
"So how is your pulled pork?"
"It's all right, but there's something weird about it. It doesn't taste right, but it's something I've tasted before. Try it and see."
"Okay." And then a beat later: "What is that? Is that lavender?"
Shawn's stomach clenched. Bile rose in his throat. The world spun, black shadows eating at the corners of his vision. He fell.
Lassiter and Juliet exploded from the bushes, reading the psycho his rights.
And all the while…
Dent just kept laughing.
"Where's your friend now, psychic?
Where is your friend now?"