I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!
- Edgar Allan Poe, "The Cask of Amontillado"
Her name was Olivia Hale, she was a twenty-three-year-old grad student at UCSB, and she was working on her doctorate in American lit. She was attractive in a cute librarian sort of way - short and petite, with long, curly auburn hair she kept in a bun and oversized glasses with thick lenses, and a smattering of freckles across her slightly upturned nose. She knew a little bit about everything when it came to literature as a whole, a rather impressive amount about American literature, and absolutely everything there was to know about the life and works of one Edgar Allan Poe.
She was also batshit crazy and currently pointing a .22 pistol directly at Shawn's head.
"Don't move," she growled, disengaging the safety.
Shawn did a cursory glance around the empty classroom, looking for anything at all he could use to his advantage, to distract her or attack her with or - worst case scenario - to use as a shield. But Olivia had found him snooping around on the tiny fourth floor study room that she'd been given to use by the department chair as her thesis headquarters. She'd really made herself at home here, piling books and journals and what seemed like hundreds of loose sheets of paper on every available surface.
But he was stranded in the middle of the room, with nothing close enough to use as a weapon, and so Shawn used the most powerful tool he had, one that had saved his life and many others, wooed women all over the country, and ordered more chili cheese dogs than he could count.
He started talking.
"Look, Olivia, I get it," he said soothingly. Slowly, in the most non-threatening manner possible, he lowered his hands. Olivia gripped the pistol tighter but didn't shoot. "I know what happened. You didn't mean to kill him."
Her eyes were wide and fierce, her lips pursed into a thin line. "No," she admitted. "It was an accident. But he was going to-"
"Yeees," drawled Shawn, slowly raising his left hand and putting it to his temple, very well aware that he was probably pushing the limit with all of this movement after she had expressly ordered, at gunpoint, for him to stay still. "I see it. Dr. Graves was feeling guilty, wasn't he? A fifty-five-year-old professor with a fancy PhD and tenure, and a devoted wife and three kids and two grandkids, to boot. The perfect life. But oooh, it wasn't enough for him, was it?"
Shawn immediately answered his own question, something that he had become exceptionally good at over the years since he was usually the only one who could keep up with himself. "Of course not! What's the perfect job and family when you've got a smokin' hot, super smart student in her mid-twenties who thinks you're the most impressive man on the planet?"
She sneered, and Shawn noticed with some trepidation that the hand holding the gun trembled just the tiniest bit. When she spoke, her voice warbled with rage. "My age and appearance had nothing to do with it - and even if it did, there was nothing wrong with our relationship! We were perfect for each other, intellectual equals. We were on each other's levels - he was my soulmate! So don't you dare belittle what we had like that!"
Ah. So he had hit a nerve. This could now go either one of two ways, in Shawn's extensive experience in being held hostage: Either she would get fed up and send a bullet screaming through his body, Garth Longmore style, or she would let her emotions distract her, and cause her to make a stupid mistake. Obviously, Shawn hoped for the latter.
Now Shawn had to make a choice, because he could proceed in one of two ways: Either he could back off and try from another angle, or he could further antagonize her into (hopefully) making a mistake. Naturally, Shawn went with the latter.
"Sure, sure," he agreed airily. "Older men and younger women do it all the time. But to say there was nothing wrong with your relationship? The man was married, and you were his student. I'm not the headmaster here -"
"Dean," she corrected sharply, and this further proved that Shawn had pegged her correctly as a know-it-all literature wunderkind who had to be right one thousand percent of the time. "This isn't Hogwarts."
Shawn gave a tiny shrug. "To be honest, all big schools look like Hogwarts to me."
"Because you have the mind of a child." The words were accusatory and patronizing, but Shawn flashed a dazzling smile.
"Thank you," he said. Before she could respond, he continued his earlier thoughts, "Even though you were the 'perfect couple,' you were furious with him for even suggesting that you stop seeing one another. The affair was too risky, and he missed his wife. He wanted to tell her the truth, fix things."
"It would have ruined everything!" Olivia hissed, and the sound of her voice sent shivers down Shawn's spine. There was an unhinged quality to it, something raw and dangerous that he hadn't sensed before. He fought the sudden urge to backpedal as far away from her as possible. "We were perfect together! And if he told his wife and she let it slip, I would be kicked out! All my research, all my time and work here, everything would be gone! He had no right to make that decision for me, to take away my future!"
"Maybe," said Shawn, and it was like he was watching from outside his body, because he knew that what he was about to say was a big mistake, but he was helpless to stop the words from tumbling from his lips, "you should have thought more about your future before you pursued your married Shakespeare teacher."
Fury etched itself into every feature of her face, turning her from a beautiful librarian to a feral monster, but her voice was slow and measured as if it was taking every ounce of self-control she possessed not to shoot him where he stood. "He taught Southern Gothic Masterpieces."
Shawn tried to backtrack, to undo whatever damage had been done by his unpredictably big mouth. "But," he pressed. "Killing him was an accident. You didn't mean to push him down four flights of stairs."
She considered this. "No, I didn't mean to kill him," she reaffirmed, and then an odd calm smoothed out the angry crevices between her eyebrows - the peace, perhaps, of having come to an important decision that she knew was absolutely right. Shawn recognized the look because he'd seen it on others' faces before (very rarely, if ever, had he seen it upon his own). "And I don't think I will kill you, either."
Whatever Shawn had been expecting, this wasn't it. Everything about this woman screamed insane and vengeful. If Shawn lived, he would turn her into the police, and she would go to jail for a very long time. She was incredibly intelligent - surely she knew this!
And then she clarified, and the world started to make sense again - though Shawn would have honestly been perfectly content in this alternate reality where the bad guy suddenly has a miraculous change of heart. "Well," she amended, "I won't kill you directly. I've never shot anyone before - I only have this little guy here because I'm a young, pretty girl on a big college campus, and I have two night classes. Besides, your death shouldn't be so easy."
Shawn swallowed. "Olivia, you don't have to do this. You haven't intentionally killed anyone yet. If you turn yourself in now and cooperate, your sentence will be a lot shorter than if you kill me - directly or not. Because make no mistake, even if you kill me, you will still get caught. The SBPD has some damn good detectives, and they'll bring you down even if I don't."
She didn't respond to him directly. Instead, her expression was flat save for the dark gleam in her eyes, and she intoned words that in and of themselves had no meaning to Shawn, but that still managed to strike a chord of fear deep inside of his soul. "'The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.'" Shawn was utterly unnerved by this point; it was like she had been taken over by something both sinister and incredibly well-spoken.
And indeed, in many ways she had, as Shawn soon found out, she was quoting the beginning of a story by Edgar Allan Poe.
Presently, however, Shawn had no context for her strange words or sudden shift of demeanor. His skin crawled and his heart pumped with more get-up-and-go than he'd ever been able to muster in his whole body before. "Uh, Olivia…"
"Move," she ordered.
This time, though it was contrary to his nature, Shawn did what she said without arguing. This side of the student, with stolen words sliding evilly from her mouth, was a million times scarier than the enraged Olivia who had very nearly shot him between the eyes.
She marched him out of the room and down the three flights of stairs to the main lobby of the English building. It was dark outside, nearing midnight, and Shawn kicked himself for thinking he was clever for coming to investigate this late. He'd thought she'd be at home sleeping. He should have realized that as a grad student, sleeping was the one thing she wouldn't have time for! And now he was in very deep trouble, alone, and no one knew where he was. He should have waited until morning, until the building wasn't deserted, should have at least called Gus and told him what he was doing. But it was a college campus, and she was a tiny little literature nerd - it should have been safe!
As she forced him down one flight of stairs, then two, then three, and finally, into a stairwell off the beaten path that had to be unlocked with a key card - which she had - she continued to encant, her voice slowly losing its flatness and growing into something twisted and sing-songy with every word.
"'You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point, definitely, settled - but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk.'"
It was as if she hadn't heard him as she shoved him into the basement, and now her voice stilled from a chant to a slow, measured whisper.. "'I must not only punish but punish with impunity.'"
Shawn wasn't sure what impunity was, but it sure as hell didn't sound good.
Their final destination ended up being a small, partially finished storage room near the back of the basement. Dusty boxes and rusted cabinets and archaic old computer monitors lined the walls and cluttered most of the walking space. Shawn was reminded grimly of a school supply graveyard.
Olivia stopped him when they came to a brick wall that had been busted through to fix some issue with the pipes - Shawn saw the water stains on the concrete floor near the break in the wall, and there was a brand new water pipe joined to an old, yellowed one at about eye-level in the small open space between the bricks and the drywall beyond. Shawn also noticed that the new bricks had been neatly piled up near a sealed bucket that almost certainly contained mortar, right outside of the hole. Someone was in the process of walling this section back up.
"Nice wall," Shawn joked, relieved that Olivia had finally stopped her creepy recitation and desperately trying to lighten the mood and bring things back to some sort of normal - honestly, he'd take being threatened with the gun again to the horror movie stuff he'd just witnessed. "I bet all the other walls are jealous of it."
It was a lame joke, but her eerie dramatics had him all kinds of messed up. He expected her to tell him to shut up, or to threaten to shoot him again, or to actually shoot him, but instead she asked him a question in that same cold, calm voice as before. "Have you ever read 'The Cask of Amontillado,' Shawn?"
Shawn blinked. "I make it a point not to read anything that's not a magazine from the 80s or WikiHow articles on 'How to Escape from Dangerous Forest Animals.'"
The corner of her lips lifted in a mockery of a satisfied smile. "Good. Then you'll get to experience it for yourself, first hand. Just wait until you get to the ending! You're going to love it."
Somehow, Shawn doubted that very much.
Still holding the gun on him with one hand, she reached her free hand into the cross-body bag she wore and pulled out a pair of handcuffs. Shawn groaned.
"Come on! What college student just carries handcuffs in their school bag?" Then he remembered that this particular student had until recently been having a passionate affair with her teacher. "Wait - never mind. It makes perfect sense."
She laughed, even though what he said wasn't even remotely funny. The sound of it was strange and discordant - light and tinkly with a threatening undertone that made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Then she gestured at the hole in the wall and ordered, "In."
Shawn had known it was coming, but had tried to shove that knowledge into the corner of his mind - something that was quite difficult to do for someone with a photographic and eidetic memory - in an effort to convince himself that even she wasn't that cruel. He tried to appeal to her one last time: "Olivia, it's not too late to stop this. I mean, are you really going to do this to another human being - seriously, look at this place - it's dusty and moldy and I'm almost certain there's no room service! If you're going to chain me to a pipe, why not do it in a five star hotel?" When she nudged him with the gun, eyes gleaming with something dark and triumphant, he reluctantly stepped into the small space and implored, "I'll even settle for a seedy motel off a poorly lit backroad. I'm not too picky."
She didn't answer him as she stood on her tiptoes and handcuffed Shawn's wrists around the pipe, cinching them so tight that the metal dug into his skin and he doubted that even his dad's lessons on escaping handcuffs wouldn't be much help here. Already he could feel his fingers going numb, and his shoulders and back had started to ache from the hunched position he was forced to take due to the height of the pipe and the awkward angle of his arms.
Well, Shawn thought glumly as she smiled at her handiwork and carefully backed out of the small space, maybe all wasn't lost. Surely someone would come down here and find him. This place was dusty, but it couldn't be abandoned - work still needed to be done down here, after all. And he could always yell for help once he was sure Olivia was gone. She was booksmart, but maybe she wasn't criminally minded. He might be in for an uncomfortable night, but in the morning someone would find him and he could have his vision and the cute little psychopath would go to jail for a very long time.
He waited for her to leave, but instead, she used a crowbar to pry the lid off the bucket of mortar, and the pit in Shawn's stomach became a whole-ass trench. He should have seen this coming - his heart pounded madly against his rib cage as if trying to free itself, with or without him. He couldn't blame it. "Olivia, please," he said, and this time, there was no joke, his voice imploring and terrified. "You don't have -"
Again, she cut him off. "How would you like to hear a story before you die, Shawn?" she asked in a tone so casual that she could have been asking him if he wanted to grab a taco.
"How about you tell me a story and then I don't die?" Shawn bargained weakly.
"Mmmm… If you stay alive, my whole life will be ruined," Olivia reasoned. "And I have worked far too hard to allow that to happen. So. You just stand there - quietly - and I'll tell you the story of Poe's most beloved tale of revenge. I won't tell you word for word, of course - we don't have time for that - but for posterity, I do have it memorized." She sounded grotesquely proud of that fact. "It's my favorite of his stories, after all."
And so, as she slowly began to brick up the hole in the wall, with Shawn trapped, helpless and in a dissociative state of panic, she told him the story of two men with really stupid names that Shawn somehow managed, despite his raging fear, to file away for later as possible nicknames for Gus.
"Our story starts in Italy, during the carnival, and our narrator is a man named Montresor, who has a grudge against his once-friend, now-foe, Fortunato…"
The story was an interesting one, even to Shawn, who preferred watching over reading and especially over listening any day. And as it turned out, Olivia was a really good storyteller. If he had been in any other position, Shawn might have actually enjoyed the suspenseful tale of revenge.
But as he stooped there and was forced to listen, all he could think about was about how terrified this Fortunato guy must have been, and then he started wondering how long it had been before the man hadn't been able to hold his bladder or… other things… anymore, and then about what had happened when he was too tired and dizzy to stand up, if the manacles on his wrists had pulled so hard against his flesh that they cut into him, and if lack of water or oxygen killed him first, all the while he knew that he wasn't asking these questions for the sake of the fictional character. He was asking them for himself. Olivia had made it exceedingly clear - for a literature scholar, she was surprisingly un-subtle about any underlying meanings or motives - that Fortunato's story was now to be his story.
It wasn't until she had begun discussing with rapture the brilliance of Poe's use of the Italian carnival as the setting of a story about murder (because of its abandonment of social order, whatever that meant) and had built up all but the last two bricks, leaving a hole around Shawn's eye level, that came to the most horrifying realization yet. He'd been so focused on his own thoughts and fears with Olivia's words washing over him like an acid bath that he'd barely registered that the dim light in the hole had been darkening incrementally with each new brick placed. Now he came to the bone-chilling understanding that once she placed those last two bricks, he would be completely in the dark.
He was going to die, alone, terrified, and in utter darkness with fear as his only friend. He thought in that moment that he might die of a heart attack before he could even think about dehydrating or suffocating. Honestly, it sounded like an easier way to go.
"Well," said Olivia finally. "I can't say that it's been a pleasure to meet you in any way, Shawn, but I suppose I should thank you. Ever since I found out about this unfinished wall down here, I've had this unscratchable itch to recreate the titular scene from my favorite Poe story. You gave me the means and justification to do it!"
Shawn was so overcome by the surging sea of fear and early-onset claustrophobia that he couldn't even muster up the gumption to make a joke about the word titular. Instead, as Olivia knelt down next to her bag, rooting around for something, he jerked madly against the handcuffs, desperately searching for any give in the metal or the pipe he was handcuffed to (or even his wrists, at this point he wasn't picky). But the pipe was new, and it was sturdy, and so was the fitting that connected it to the old one, which itself didn't seem too keen on budging, either.
A sick grin teased at Olivia's parted lips. "Oh, Fortunato tried that too. But then he stopped crying and struggling and chose to die with a shred of dignity. But I highly doubt dignity is something you're capable of."
And then, with the finality of fitting a lid to a coffin, she slapped a piece of fluorescent pink duct tape over his mouth and a fresh wave of panic ravaged Shawn's everything. He didn't remember this happening in her retelling of the story! Then again, the Fortunato guy had been sealed into catacombs deep underground. Shawn was in the basement of a heavily trafficked university building. Someone would actually hear him if he called for help, so she took his voice away from him too. He couldn't even sing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" to pass his time or distract him from the inevitable. As if it wasn't bad enough that he would die in the dark, he would die in the quiet too - and silence was, as his incessant need for chatter plainly proved, Shawn's worst enemy.
"Goodbye, Shawn," Olivia said, and she added one brick, layered on the mortar, and then gave her captive one last satisfied glance before adding the last brick and leaving Shawn in total, impenetrable darkness. He would never forget that last, terrible look in her eyes before his world went black - she was no longer human; she had elevated herself to the level of the storytelling gods and she relished in the twisted power she held over the life of another human.
As her footsteps clipped away, her voice, obscenely gleeful, called out, "In pace requiescat!"
The next ten hours were the worst of Shawn's life, and they consisted of five main elements all bundled together into a nightmare that would stalk him for the rest of his life.
Cold. It was the middle of January, and though it couldn't have been less than forty-five degrees outside, the basement - especially behind the walls - was chilly, and with the musty smell and the dust and the pitch black, Shawn was reminded far too much of a grave and knew that he might as well be in one, because this was going to be his. It was the kind of cold that bit deeper than the skin and wormed its way into the very core and dug its icy fangs in and refused to let go - the chill of death, an open invitation from the dead to join them in their home beneath the ground. He shivered a lot, but he couldn't be sure if it was the cold, or the panic. It was probably a little of both.
Dark. The darkness that surrounded him had an unreal nature that could easily trick the eyes into thinking that they were already closed. It was oppressive and thick, pressing in from all sides, inky black water dredged from the depths of the sea.
Shawn had never been a fan of the dark, but neither did he exactly fear it. That changed the second that the last brick was put into place and he found himself in a darkness so severe that were in not for the feeling of floor beneath his feet he could have been suspended in the depths of space so remote that not even stars could reach. The darkness swarmed his senses - it had a physical presence, and it didn't lessen, never permitted Shawn's eyes to adjust to it in the slightest. It just hung there, surrounded him, assaulted his mind with its infinite arsenal of nightmares.
After experiencing true darkness, Shawn would never sleep without a nightlight again (which unfortunately meant he couldn't judge Gus anymore for using one, either).
Pain. At first it was just the pull of his shoulders, the ache in his back. Then, about five minutes after he'd been sealed up, he realized his wrists were screaming with agony - he must have torn them badly when he fought to get away, but the adrenaline staved off the pain until now. He vaguely wondered how deeply the cuffs had cut - it felt like the skin on his wrists had been flayed - but quickly remembered that it didn't matter where he was going.
Then there were the hunger pangs, and they mingled with the cramps from holding his bladder longer than he ever had before, and at some point muscle spasms in his arms and chest and legs joined the choir of suffering. At one point, he shed a few tears, but they could have just as easily been from anxiety or exhaustion, which itself produced its own kind of pain - he longed to sleep, but his body refused to allow him even that comfort until the very end, right before he was rescued, as if he were being forced on pain of death to endure the pain of death right up until the very moment of his painful death.
At least he didn't have too much trouble breathing. There must have been a crack somewhere in the wall in front of or behind him, because fresh air was entering somehow. He did, several hours into his imprisonment, begin finding it difficult to pull in a full breath, and by the time he was rescued he was giddy with light-headedness, but he didn't know if it was from the air quality or exhaustion or panic or from being forced to breathe only through his nose for hours, but he really didn't care.
Quiet. Even worse than the cold and the dark and the pain was the quiet. The tape over his mouth prevented him from doing the one thing that could bring him comfort in even the most difficult of situations. Talking was what Shawn did - he utilized mindless prattle to distract bad guys, to make people underestimate him, to quell fear and panic in himself and those around him, to annoy and wheedle those whose opinions meant the most to him (and who he was most afraid to be real with), and most importantly, to distract himself from all the pain and baggage that his exceptional memory had filed away for him throughout the years. Talking nonsense meant that he wasn't thinking about or acknowledging the parts of himself that arguably needed the most attention, those bits that were scared and unsure and hurt and vulnerable.
Shawn had always detested silence, and now it had invaded so intimately that even he could not drive it out.
And all of these culminated in a constant, agonizing state of absolute, unrelenting fear.
Panic attacks are horrific things that take your natural instincts in potentially dangerous situations and turn them against you in the cruelest of ways. They suck the air out of your lungs and make your heart pound so fast and so hard that you are convinced it's going to give out in pure fatigue and never make it to that next beat. It makes your skin crawl like there are thousands of spiders nesting there, and your chest hurts and your breath is short and stunted and you know you are dying, that the next breath will be your last, but it isn't, and the fear just continues and sometimes you curl into a ball or rock back and forth or scratch at your skin.
Panic attacks generally last anywhere from five to twenty minutes. Shawn was stuck in a state of raw, unfiltered panic for ten hours. When the EMTs at the scene took his heart rate, it was 160, had been the entire time he'd been buried in a collegiate tomb, knowing that he was going to die.
Put simply, Shawn Spencer spent ten hours in his own personal hell.
It was nearly three in the afternoon when Detectives Juliet O'Hara and Carlton Lassiter, with the help of a frantic Gus and a worried Henry that tried his damndest not to show how worried he was, made the final connections in the case and tracked down the woman who had slept with and then killed her lover like a hyper-intelligent, book-loving black widow. Juliet and Gus remained on the college campus to continue investigating while Lassiter and Henry went on to the station to question Olivia. She had refused to say where the missing psychic detective was, however, and only offered one bitter phrase, spoken in another language that sounded to the questioning party like a curse being placed on their heads:
"Nemo me impune lacessit."
It was Gus who figured it out after Lassiter related the cryptic saying over the phone.
"I know that phrase!" he exclaimed to a swell of raised eyebrows. "It's Latin! It means no one wounds me with impunity!"
"You speak Latin?" Juliet seemed impressed.
"Not much. But I recognize that particular saying, because it's from a story that gave me nightmares my entire sophomore year of college." He shuddered. "It's from the second-most terrifying Poe story." He didn't elaborate on what the first-most terrifying one was, largely because he didn't want to give the others fodder to use "The Tell-Tale Heart" against him like Shawn already did. Then the full implications of the words sunk in and he gasped, "We have to find Shawn, now." The horror in his expression sent a chill down Juliet's spine.
"Gus - what the hell are you talking about?" Henry was no longer trying to hide the panic in his voice.
"It's from 'The Cask of Amontillado,' Gus clarified, his own panic making it difficult to express himself clearly.
"Guster, this is hardly the time for you to have a glass of wine," Lassiter barked. "Now stop talking in riddles and just spit it out!"
But Juliet had now made the connection as well and answered for Gus. "Oh my gosh - isn't that the one where the guy is sealed into a wall and left to die?"
The dread in Gus's eyes said it all.
"He's got to be somewhere on campus," Henry reasoned, and his voice shook the tiniest bit. "Lassiter and I are on our way back to you now. In the meantime, check with the school and see if there are any places that are easily accessed and under construction."
No one said it aloud, but the possibility that her words hadn't been a hint at all and that Shawn was somewhere else entirely hung in the air amongst them. It was funny, Juliet thought - though it wasn't funny at all - she urgently needed Gus's theory to be right, because otherwise they would have no leads, but at the same time, she was terrified of the implications if it were true.
Her heart felt as sick as Montresor's when he placed the last brick as she and Gus raced to the administration building and prayed they weren't too late.
When they broke through the wall, the sight that greeted them was one that would never leave them - any of them. Even Lassiter, who made it his sacred duty to remain unfazed by anything his job threw at him was visibly disturbed.
A moment of silence, a beat where time stood still and everyone was afraid to move, and then -
"Shawn!" The four rescuers surged forward as one, but Henry got there first, his trembling fingers groping for a pulse - thank God, but it was racing, dangerously fast, and in the background he heard Lassiter radioing for an ambulance.
Shawn woke up as Henry gently peeled the hideous pink duct tape (an affront to all duct tape everywhere) off of his mouth. It wasn't a gentle waking, a flutter of eyelashes or the murmuring of a name - it was violent and erratic, fueled by terror.
Henry had had to deal with panic attacks before - mostly Gus's when he took the boys camping together, but once or twice when Shawn was really young and he'd had a bad dream. This one was the worst that he'd ever seen - Shawn woke with a muffled yell, panting through his nose, writhing, tears streaming down his face, eyes squeezed shut against the trauma he'd been subjected to, and he threw himself against the handcuffs so fiercely that Henry feared he'd break his wrists.
Soon his wrists were freed, though, and Henry, with the help of Lassiter, helped a weakened Shawn out of the wall and into the basement and lowered him to the floor. Henry sat with him and rubbed his back and spoke quietly to him, Juliet took his hand, and Gus reassured him while Lassiter ran up the stairs to check on the ETA of the ambulance.
Twenty minutes later, Shawn had been placed onto a stretcher and carried up the stairs and out into the sunlight - sensing the warm rays, he opened his eyes only to pinch them shut again as the brightness after so many hours in the dark nearly blinded him. He had been given something to calm him down, and he would be going to the hospital to be checked over and observed overnight, and a psychiatrist would be sent in to evaluate him in the morning, and everything was moving so fast that Shawn leaned over the side of the stretcher and deposited the remnants of the last thing he'd eaten, nearly twelve hours before.
"There's one thing I still don't get," he gasped as he was eased back onto the stretcher. "Where do the armadillos come into her plan?"
The EMTs exchanged a concerned look at the stretcher, probably wondering if there had been some carbon monoxide poisoning after all. Gus, however, just rolled his eyes.
"Amontillado, Shawn. It's a kind of wine."
"The story is called 'The Casket of the Armadillos,'" Shawn argued stubbornly, going so far as to cross his arms over his chest, pulling at the IV in his right hand.
Gus was going to argue, to insist that he'd actually read the story (and why the heck would someone fill a casket with armadillos?), but then Gus saw the plea in Shawn's hazel eyes, that need for jokes and silliness, and understood that his best friend was clinging onto his last shreds of control.
"You know what - I forgot," Gus corrected, shaking his head and giving himself a light smack on the forehead for good measure. "It is 'The Casket of Armadillos.'" He glared out at Henry, at Lassiter and Juliet and the EMTs, defying them to challenge his claim. No one did, but they all shared a similar baffled expression.
Well, they could deal with their confusion, Gus thought protectively as he watched Shawn and Henry disappear into the ambulance. Shawn had been through a night of unspeakable horror, so if it was armadillos he wanted, then it was armadillos he was going to get.