last01standing: (Default)
[personal profile] last01standing
Title: Latent
Disclaimer: Psych is not mine.
Rating: R
Words : 11,900 (complete)
Summary: In Shawn Spencer's six-year tenure as SBPD's psychic detective, they've solved cases that wouldn't be closed anywhere else in the country. But in a missing persons case with no leads, it looks like their luck might have run out... with Gus.
Warnings: Major canon character death (Gus), violence
Notes: A Lassiter character study disguised as a Shawn character study disguised as a case fic. With angst on top. I'm serious about the angst.

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Juliet dumps Spencer a week before it all happens. Lassiter won't admit it, but he's been looking forward to that inevitability since they started to go out. Juliet assures him that Shawn has done nothing that requires castration, but that doesn't stop him looking for an excuse. He hasn’t realized it yet, but it's the start of Spencer's fall and he watches it with an unholy glee which lasts right up until the day Guster goes missing.

Spencer is at the station within the first two hours, but the police can't move until the first twenty-four passes. Juliet's off for the week, but she also hasn't talked to Shawn since they cut ties. Lassiter calls her anyway and she picks up in a foul mood and snaps, "Maybe he just needed a break from Shawn."

Messy breakups are something Lassiter can understand. He's had his share, but Spencer doesn't seem the type. Shawn Spencer has myriads of acquaintances, people who owe him favors and people who genuinely seem to enjoy his presence. It extends to criminals as well as ex-girlfriends. Still, six plus years after meeting the man, Lassiter is just now realizing Spencer is short on actual friends.

The day when Guster goes missing starts one of the worst weeks of Lassiter's life and it's not just because of the lack of evidence. His sister phones to remind him to call his mother and he spends an afternoon where he could be working listening to bitter complaints about the man who left his family when Lassiter had been just thirteen years old. The sight of the increasingly downtrodden Spencer is somehow worse than him at his most exuberant. At least when O'Hara dumped him, he had Guster to brighten his spirits, the two of them munching on gushers or slushies or some other trendy snack-food Lassiter has never bothered to learn.

Twenty-four hours after Spencer's plea, they can finally move on the missing person's report. Burton Guster disappeared somewhere in between the hours of one and eight, presumably on his usual route between the Psych offices and his own apartment. The pharmaceutical company where Guster works confirms that he never completed his rounds, but that's hardly unusual. With all the hours Gus logs at Psych, it's a miracle he hasn't been fired years before.

There are any number of reasons a grown man might go missing, but Guster is one of the few people Lassiter knows and understands well enough to dismiss them all.

Spencer haunts the station, staring at Juliet's desk and going through every scrap of paper Lassiter generates on the case. His father tries to chase him out of the precinct stating a conflict of interest. Spencer complies without argument, but sneaks back within the hour.

Lassiter only has one conversation with him that week. It happens just after he'd been joking with McNabb, swearing Gus would be back, that he'd found a girl and run off to Comicon. McNabb leaves the room grinning but the glass smile shatters on Spencer's face as soon as he's gone.

Comfort is not Lassiter's strong point. He's tried before, but after the time Edna Lancaster chased him out of her house waving a shotgun when he broke the news of her son's death, he'd been banned from next of kin notifications. "Are you all right, Shawn?" he asks.

Spencer looks up, the mask back. "Are we on first name terms now, Lassie? If I'd have know this was all it took, I'd have told Gus to take a vacation years ago."

"This isn't a joke," Lassiter says. "Because not even you and Guster are stupid enough to pull something like this. If you are, I will personally ensure that you see jail time."

The snort of laughter is a welcome sound, but the look in Shawn's eyes isn't. "Thanks, Lassie."

"For what?"

"For treating me normal."

"We're going to find him."

Shawn shakes his head. "Yeah, but probably not alive."

"This one of those psychic flashes? Because we both know that's—"

"Statistics, Lassie. It's statistics. You know how many people go missing every year and you know how many of them never come back."

"We'll find him." Lassiter says, but at the same time he's thinking of an old case. Of Sally Alzner, the twenty year old kid who'd vanished off the pier one Friday night just a year after he'd made detective. It's the case he would obsess over because the one that happened eight years prior hurt too much to think about. They haven't had a case with no leads in almost six years. Since Spencer had slithered into the station, fingers on his temple, Lassiter knows there are a dozen cases solved that would still be open in every other department in the country.

He wonders sometimes if Sally Alzner might have gotten closure with Shawn Spencer on the case. If he would have picked something ridiculous like death by dinosaur skull and given her family some answers.

Wonders if there's a person out there who might give Spencer some answers. "Don't give up on him," Lassiter says. "Guster's stronger than I give him credit for."

"That he is," Spencer agrees. "But his biggest strength is running like a little girl when he's in trouble. And that's what I'm worried about. That he had no chance to run."

With that, Spencer stands up and leaves. Lassiter has no doubt the official Santa Barbara investigation is not the only ongoing investigations.

He also knows that Shawn isn't keeping a thing from them, because there's nothing. No sign. No forced entry at either the Psych office or Guster's apartment. No sign of the horrendous blue car. Just Gus who was there right up until the moment he wasn't.

"Get some sleep, Spencer," he calls to Shawn's retreating back. "You're no use to anyone if you're dead on your feat."

Spencer turns around but keeps backpedaling. "I'm not the only one who's been up since this started."

It's true. It's been almost four days since Spencer's report. Three since Guster's was found missing and he's been up for thirty-seven hours straight combing through the reports. He used to push himself like this in college, but even caffeinated to the extreme, under pressure of exams, his focus is gone by the fortieth hour. He goes back to his condo and falls asleep fully clothed on the couch before he even makes it to the bed.

He's awaken only four hours later by the buzz of his cell phone against his hip. O'Hara's on the line, her voice terse, "Carlton, we found him."

"Gus?" Lassiter goes from half asleep to wide-awake. "Is he alive?"

It's a stupid question and he knows it as soon as it passes his lips. It's just past three in the morning. If it had been good news they would have waited until six.

"No," Juliet replies. "No, he's not. I'm headed to the scene now."

"Has someone told Spencer?"

There's a long pause. Juliet has long been the go-between for Spencer and the rest of the department, one of the few detectives willing to trade antics and the logarithmic increase in paperwork for results. After the break up, even Gus had earned some of Juliet's ire. That surprised him. Even when her frustration with Shawn had mounted, Juliet had always been friendly with him. "I'll get someone to do it," she says. "Christ, this is a nightmare."

"Let him sleep for now. I only just got him away from the station. In the morning I'll go."

"You? You never do next of kin notifications."

"Guster's one of us," Lassiter says. "It's distasteful, but it's been true for years. Shawn deserves to hear it from one of us. Give me the address, I'll meet you there."

It's only a few blocks from the Psych office, so Lassiter isn't surprised to see Spencer's motorcycle just outside the scene. He's a flannel over shirt that clashes horribly with the bright yellow smiley faces that adorn a pair of pajama bottoms. His hair is laying flat against his scalp save a single piece in the back which is sticking straight up. Lassiter considers asking him how he got the scene, but isn't interested in the automatic gesture of fingers to the forehead when he knows perfectly well Spence stole a police scanner from Buzz McNab five years ago.

"The found him, didn't they?" Spencer asks.

"You don't need to be here."

"Bullshit, I don't. If they found Gus, I want to see. You know I can help. You need me."


"Don't give me the speech about how this is official police business or how this is something I can't handle. This is Gus."

"It was Gus."

Spencer's knees give way. It's a sudden thing rather than a collapse and he's sitting down on the grimy pavement, his head between his legs like he's about to vomit. Confirmation, Lassiter realizes. Burton Guster is dead in an alley just a few yards away. If he strains he can see Juliet behind police tape. "Shawn," he says, the name thick and unfamiliar on his tongue. "I'll get you the police photos if that's what you need, but there's no reasons you need to be here now."

"The smell," he mumbles. "Gus always said it made him sick. The super sniffer got over-sensitive or something."

Lassiter hesitates and then walks over to put a hand on Spencer's shoulder. "If you go over there, you're never going to be able to think of your friend without remembering. We've got this. We're good at this."

It's a surprise when Spencer nods and lets Lassiter help him to his feet. He's not started to cry yet. Lassiter diagnoses it as shock and flags down an officer on scene to baby-sit, before moving to the scene himself.

Truth is, Lassiter shouldn't be on this scene either. But then neither should Juliet, McNab nor half of the people on the force. "Carlton!" Juliet says. Her face is pinched, somewhere in between annoyed and exhausted. "I thought you weren't going to tell Shawn yet. We don't need him contaminating this crime scene."

"He already knew."

"How could he possibly—"

"You're the one who's insisted he's a psychic for years," Lassiter snaps.

O'Hara's jaw snaps shut. Which is interesting because she normally retorts by asking how he could possibly come up with his information without being psychic. "Drunk called the body in around two. No signs of foul play. Coroner should be able to get us a cause of death. Nothing's obvious and in cases like this, I'd normally say drug overdose, but—"

"This is Guster. He knows his pharmaceuticals. He wouldn't OD accidentally and I doubt that he's one for suicide."

"Exactly. We'll get him off to Woody as soon as we finish photographing the scene."

Lassiter nods, and moves to the scene himself. The body—he won't let him think of it as Guster—is supine, pressed neatly between the back of the dumpster and the wall. His clothes are nearly replicas of the ones he wears every day, but they're too clean for the location. Which means that the body was dumped. That this isn't the real crime scene.

By his side, his phone buzzes. Text from Spencer who has somehow managed to change his contact info to read, Psychman.

Did they find the blueberry?

Utterly devoid of emoticons, but Lassiter is willing to be that's a side-effect of circumstances rather than an imposter. It takes him a moment more to realize that the blueberry is their nickname for that infernal death-trap Guster drives.

"Car," Lassiter calls aloud. "Did anyone report the sight of a blue Toyota Echo near or around the scene?"

The officers on scene snap to attention, moving toward the growing crowd of onlookers as Lassiter pecks back a text, Working on it.

The rest of the night passes in a blur. He doesn't see Spencer, again, but he knows Shawn wouldn't leave. Not while his best friend's body is still out in the open. The clouds have choked the light out from the stars and the slight brightening that accompanied the sunrise brings only rain. By the time they bring out the body bag for Guster, he's drenched to the skin, as cold as he can remember feeling in his life. The crime scene had been as clean as the disappearance. He closes his eyes thinking of Sally Alzner, and Roger Lassiter; cases with no answers.

He hopes this won't be one of them.


Lassiter managed a few hours of sleep at home. Just enough time to make him remember how exhausted he was before he hauled himself back down to the station. Henry Spencer approaches him the when he's sipping on his coffee and cursing life. Unlike Shawn who's looked shell-shocked, Henry gives the tell-tale signs of someone who'd been crying recently. "Detective Lassiter, may I have a quick word about Shawn?"

The headache's already making its insistent way through his temples. "Guster's autopsy should be done by now and I've got sixteen hundred things to do."

"My son's going to want access."

"I'm inclined to give it to him. Despite my distaste for his methods, he gets things solved."

Henry crosses his arms and breathes out. "When Shawn was a baby he cried all the time. It took me a while to figure out why. My boy. He sees everything. Gus is the only person I ever knew who could help him turn it off for a while. And if I know Shawn, he's going to make himself part of this investigation. Make sure he doesn't get lost in it. Do you think you can do?"

"With all due respect, Henry, why are you asking me?"

Before he can answer, Juliet's voice cuts through the din of the station. "Carlton! Let's go."

"I don't want to lose my son, Carlton," Henry replies. "I've already lost one this week."

He doesn't acknowledge the statement as he turns to Juliet. O'Hara is the picture of composure, her hair in a tight bun her suit without creases though she'd been on the crime scene most of the night. They don't say a word, but Juliet has been reluctant to talk about anything involving the duo since her break up, Lassiter doesn't know why he expected it to change now.

Spencer meets them outside the medical examiner's entrance. He's changed out of his pajamas but somehow looks even worse than he did three hours ago. His eyes are red, his skin pale, he greets them with a nod. Juliet narrows her eyes for just a moment. Lassiter waves him over. "You sure you want to see this, Spencer?"

"No," he replies, rubbing his hands up and down bare arms like he's freezing. The station is more than comfortable. "Not at all."

Lassiter hesitates for just a second before opening the door for him. O'Hara is a step behind, mouth agape.

And Gus is flat on the slab, a white cloth covering the y-shaped incision on his chest. Lassiter has seen the results of a lot of autopsy over the years. This is the first time it's been someone he may have counted as a friend.

Not having a body had been worse, but this is something he won't tell Spencer. This is a cold comfort he hasn't earned. Woody is smiling when they first enter, is always smiling when people come for autopsy results but he schools it quickly from his face. Still, it's a detail Lassiter files away. He has similar dossiers on almost all his coworkers. Has since the Drimmer incident. Woody has several markings of a sociopath. Shawn Spencer is a pathological liar. Henry Spencer could easily kill someone in a fit of passion.

Guster though, the worst he could ever think of Guster was capable of was conspiracy to commit fraud. And only then at Spencer's insistence. Juliet might be capable of manslaughter. He hadn't realized just how long she could hold a grudge. Surprising, considering she's still his friend.

"What do you have, Woody?"

"A body." Woody answers the question with the obvious, doesn't notice Spencer's flinch. "Oh, you mean the autopsy. Asphyxiation. Found an injection point hidden in a freckle so I'm assuming drugged. Not enough to kill him, mind you, but definitely enough to make him nice and sleepy. Not much of a struggle, but there is sign of bruising around the lips. Swollen lungs indicate lack of oxygen."

"What about signs of a struggle?" Spencer says. "Fibers under the fingernails? Anything that says he might have been kept somewhere. Cause of death maybe?"

"Checked, but we've got nothing. Whoever did this was clean. As for time of death. My best guess puts it between five and seven days ago."

Almost the instant Guster was taken. Which means they had no chance at finding him alive. The knot eases in Lassiter's chest. Somehow it's easier if he knows there's nothing he could have done.

Juliet on the other hand stares at Spencer and says, "You didn't see anything before this happened? Nothing that could have stopped this?"

It's the kind of question she's prone to asking but there's a razor sharp edge that's new. Spencer shoots her a look that's bleeding. "You really think I would have let this happen if there was a single way I could have stopped this?"

Woody whistles and looks towards the ceiling. "Okay, awkward."

"I just think it's weird you never saw anything."

"Children. Enough!" Lassiter snaps. "I don't care who dumped who or any of your sordid little details of your former relationship. I just need you to focus. Be serious for just a moment."

"Do I look like I'm anything but serious?"

"You're never serious."

"I swear to god, I will kick both of you out of this morgue." Woody moves at the pseudo threat in this voice and Lassiter has to reign himself in just a bit. "Not you, Woody."

"Damn, you're sexy when you get like that," Spencer says and Lassiter almost smiles because for just a moment everything is normal.

Woody clears his throat. "Tox screen should come back and give us an idea about the sedative used. With any luck it's on a controlled substance list and we can narrow down suspects."

"Fantastic," Lassiter says. "Let us know if you find anything useful. Juliet, start making calls to see if anyone's turned up Guster's claptrap of a car. Spencer, if you're up to it, I've got a stack of crime scene photos I want you to sort through."

Juliet makes a face like she's about to argue, but thinks better of it. Spencer trails him back to his desk where he looms silently until Lassiter digs out the stack of photos. When Spencer holds out a hand, Lassiter pulls back. "What did you do to Juliet?"

"Lassie, I really don't want to talk about this right now. She broke up with me."

"I know. I promised you a long time ago that if you hurt her I would kill you. But I know not even you are stupid enough to cheat on someone like O'Hara."

"You won't kill me. I'm a lovable rascal." The quip is nearly automatic, but Spencer's heart isn't in it. "Look, I made some mistakes. I kept secrets but I kept the secrets I had to. When I tried to come clean, it went a bit worse than I'd hoped."

"And what was this deep dark secret that sent Juliet running?"

"I'm not a psychic," Spencer says and tugs the pile of crime scene photos from his hands. "Is this all you got?"

"I'm sorry, did you just say you're not a psychic? I mean of course you're not a psychic, but I never thought you'd admit it."

"Doesn't seem like it's something that matters very much right now. Psych's not going to keep running without Gus. Did you notice the clothes? There's no way he was killed there."

"Of course we saw it. Despite what you may think, we do on occasion get along without you."

"The dumpster. Did you have to move it before taking the photos?"

"No, we didn't move the dumpster." Lassiter pinches the bridge of his nose. "Hold on a second, Juliet dumped you because you weren't actually a psychic? I mean isn't this something she knew coming in? There's no such thing as psychics."

"The secret really wasn't so much the issue as the lying to her face. Someone moved the dumpster. There are clear marks about it, different from the one the dump truck uses for the pick-ups. Gus wasn't just dumped for convenience, someone went through a lot of trouble to push the dumpster away from the wall and then put the body there. Which means they wanted him found, but not right away. Trash pick-up is twice a week, but the body's older than that. Means he's been there three days at most."

"Spencer that's… astounding."

"It's useless. We need the car. The body's this guy showing off, but getting rid of the car is going to be an issue. He drove to Canada so he could get this model. Not available in Santa Barbara so he's going to have a hard time passing it off without people remembering." Spencer scrubs his hands over his face. "Maybe I should go to the crime scene. Maybe there's something I missed. Something I'd be able to see in person."

He tosses the photographs back onto the desk. "Don't you need them for any longer?"

Spencer shrugs and taps his middle and index finger to his temple, a parody of his psychic pose and Lassiter suddenly gets it.

Spencer remembers. He's got in up in that vacant head of his and it's never going to go away. "You're not going to find anything else there. There's got to be something else."

"There's nothing else, Lassie. There's the Psych office where I've been for most of the week and then there's Gus's apartment and they're both clean. Nothing wrong with them. The lock at Gus's looked forced, but that's because of me not a break-in and if there was something off about Psych, I would have noticed."

"How about any cases? Did you get any threats in the mail or is this something completely out of the blue. There are people who disappear every day, but it’s a different case if he was targeted."

"I dunno. I'm not good with letters. Gus took care of those and the bills." He frowns. "I should go through to check that out. I've got nothing else to go on."

"Spencer, no one disappears without a trace. The fact that we say they do just means we're not looking hard enough."

Spencer snorts. "Lassie, do you have any idea how many people go missing every year and never get found. The fact that Gus is here is—" his voice cracks. "Look, I have to get out of here. Keep me in the loop?"

"Of course," Lassiter agrees with speed that surprises even him. Was that really all he needed to turn Spencer from an annoyance to a valuable asset? Those three words passing his lips; I'm not psychic. It's something that's going to cause trouble for everyone in this station at some point. Still, there's this nagging voice in his head that insists that Spencer may not be a psychic, but he's also not a fraud.

The forensics reports that trickle in through the rest of the day are unhelpful. There are no fibers plucked from clothes. Guster's nails were meticulously trimmed and caught no flecks of skin. The car is likely a different color and in another state by now. Juliet begs off at five after having spent half the night on scene. Lassiter, who has slept far less through this affair stays until the chief forces him to leave.

Instead of going home, he heads to Psych, tugging open the door to find a pale-faced Spencer in a sea of papers. It's far from the strangest thing Lassiter has walked in on in this office. He still has nightmares about the world's most epic game of cat's cradle. This looks like something Lassiter would expect in a private investigator's office. Something he'd never seen from Shawn. "You're doing legwork."

Spencer barely glances up. "I always do legwork."

"No, I'm guessing you always steal my leads and sweet talk witnesses into giving you tips."

"You're just mad I never sweet talked you Lassie."


"You're wrong though. I sweet talk you all the time. You're just immune to my devilish charms. That's why I like you." He gestures to the papers. "Gus kept everything. All the client invoices, fan mail and threatening letters. There are patterns. The weird ones are in stacks. I've ranked them mildly odd, disturbing and rain of toads."

"Rain of toads?"

"I'm pretty sure the ones in that pile aren't legitimate threats. One guy threatened to turn me and Gus into newts. Gus wouldn't let me write him back."

"Why in the name of sweet lady justice would you ever want to write him back?"

Spencer shrugs. "I've never been a newt before."

Lassiter crosses the room to sit down across from him. "What can I do to help?"

For a second Spencer just blinks at him. Then he pushes himself to his feet and spreads his arms, looking dangerously close to someone about to pull Lassiter into an embrace. Lassiter's not good with that kind of contact. The Lassiter family hasn't ever been good with physical affection, not even when their dad left. His sister is more likely to punch him in the arm than to do anything fondly. Most of the other people he came into contact with were in the course of arresting them. Juliet had tried to initiate for a few months, Lassiter had even attempted to reciprocate, but stopped when they'd mutually realized how weird it felt.

So dodging out of the way of Spencer is reflex even though he knows Shawn's still in shock. Knows that Shawn needs touch and the one person always willing to supply was currently in the morgue.

He doesn't feel bad about it until Spencer's knees collapse out from under him and he's tumbling to the floor. Lassiter curses and lunges forward to catch him before he bangs his head against the desk. He checks first for a pulse and then for any obvious signs of injury before hauling him to the couch. Spencer's already stirring by the time he gets there, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Please say I didn't just swoon."

"How long has it been since you ate something?"

He pushes himself slowly to a sitting position. "I had a pineapple smoothie yesterday."

"That doesn't count."

"The nachos grande then. Me and Gus get them every Tuesday."

"That was almost a week ago."

"That would explain why the world is spinning."

"Let's go, Spencer time to get some calories in you."

He shakes his head. "Not yet. I've still go too much—"

"You're useless to Guster like this. Come on, it's my treat."


They get roaring drunk and it's mostly an accident. Shawn hasn't eaten anything in nearly a week and Lassiter has always found that alcohol makes him a decidedly less awkward human being. They pour out a sip of every drink to the floor for Gus and by the time they leave, Lassiter nearly has to carry Spencer back to the office. Spencer is out of it, mumbling, "Gus, I told you about the cucumber."

It's all Lassiter can to keep them moving in the proper direction. He stays the night, dozing on the floor just to make sure Spencer doesn't accidentally kill himself. When he wakes up the next morning, it's to Shawn moaning in pain. He doesn't feel much better but he steals a glass of orange juice and a few ibuprofen and heads back to work.

In his absence, Santa Barbara PD has set up a help line and he spends the day with Juliet running down bogus tips and every second puts the murder farther away.

When he gets back to his apartment, he takes a long hot shower and gets an overdue change of closes. His cell phone rings when he's getting out and he has to rush to answer it. Spencer's voice greets him from the other end of the line, talking before he even gets a chance to say salutations. "I think I found something."

"Is it something you can prove?"

"Lassie, just get over here. I need someone to tell me I'm not just making this up."

"I'll be there in twenty."

He gets there in fifteen and when he walks in, Spencer has a series of five letters pinned to the walls. Lassiter scans them. They're all about missing persons. An eighteen year old, probably a runaway. A father walking out on his children. A college kid who never came back from a semester abroad. "Do you see it?" Spencer asks.

"See what? People go missing every day. I don't know if we even got missing persons report on any of these. I mean I remember the kid, but he clearly took off."

"Not the people. The dates."

"The first week of August?"

"The first Monday of August. The same day Gus went missing."

"But I remember some of these cases. They were runaways. Deadbeat dads. Never any indications of foul play."

"Look at the handwriting. The way he writes the f. The r. It's the same."

"There are five different signatures here." Lassiter moves closer and double checks his statements. Every r is uppercase, each f done in cursive style. The entire set of writing done in a heavy hand. "You're saying that they're forged."

"Every single person with a name here told me this afternoon that they'd accepted Bill or John or Dexter had run off. They had no reason to write me for help. But someone did."

Lassiter's stomach clenches. Because if Spencer's right, this isn't just an isolated murder. This is a serial killing and the last time, Yin and Yang, still haunt his dreams. But the evidence is staring at them. He takes a long, steadying breath. "Here's what we need to do. Find a pair of latex gloves and put them on. Then get every piece of paper you think this guy might have touched. I'm going to go outside and get an evidence bag so we can take this into the station. If he's sending notes, that means he's looking for attention. If he's looking for attention, there's a part of him that kind of wants to get caught. If we're lucky, we'll get a fingerprint. We've already got you and Guster on file so we can exclude those. Is there any chance someone else touched these?"

"Not unless we have an army of gremlins. Which actually might make sense considering this place always seems to clean itself up after I leave."

Guster did the cleaning. Mostly likely before Spencer hauled himself out of bed. They both know it’s true, but neither of them acknowledge as they pack up and head back to the station.


"Where did this tip come from again?" Juliet looks worse for the wear of the past week. It's hard to maintain a level of disdain for the psychic wonder when his other half had been murdered.

"Your ex had a 'psychic episode,' or something," Lassiter mumbles and tries to ignore the way she flinches.

"He's not you know," Juliet says. "A psychic I mean. You've been insisting it for years."

"Of course he's not a psychic. There's no such thing. Doesn't mean he's not useful." He turns to look Juliet in the eyes. "And honestly the fact that you ever believed him is the most disappointing part of this mess."

Juliet's mouth snapped shut. "I broke up with him when he told me. He lied to us for six years."

"And our solve rate has been perfect."

"You can't be saying you think I overreacted."

"No, you were always too good for Spencer. I'm just saying you need to get your head screwed on straight, because like it or not, you're going to have to keep seeing him."

They lapse back into silence as they pour over the five cases Spencer has pointed them to. The calls he makes are all variations on the same theme that's in print. No indication of foul play, all people who were statistically more likely to leave. Cases closed.

Lassiter does not give them any information as it related to the current case. He's not sure if it's better to think a loved one was murdered or if they left on their own free will. He thinks of his father. He knows which he would have preferred and also what his sister would like. He also knows they're not the same.

"This is bizarre. Was Shawn sure about this? It seems like a bit of a stretch."

"I saw the letters. It's either the truth or an incredibly elaborate hoax and Guster's going to crash his own funeral."

"I wish," Juliet mumbles.


It's sunny for the funeral. After the Despereaux fiasco, Lassiter almost doesn't expect Shawn to show up. He's late, but arrives in an ill-fitting suit with Henry Spencer marching behind him. Shawn looks terrible. He's pale and at least five pounds lighter than the last time Lassiter had seen him. His left eye is badly bruised and swollen nearly shut, the other is red like he's been crying recently.

Standing at the alter, he looks as small as Lassiter has ever seen him. Looks uncomfortable at having an audience. He licks chapped lips and the first time he tries to speak, his voice cracks and he has to stare at the ground until he collects himself.

When composes himself, his voice is steady. "I know there are a lot of people out there who think this is my fault. And if anyone else wants to take a swing, I'll meet you in the parking lot after this and you can have your go. I was a terrible influence and I know that I'm probably the reason Gus blew the rest of you off more than once. Gus was my best friend. Has been my best friend for as long as I can remember and I remember a lot."

Half of the Santa Barbara Police Department is in the crowd. The other half is a scattering of family and people Lassiter's never met before. If the myriad of people is any indication, Guster had a lot of friends.

He can't shake the feeling that Spencer just had one.

"Gus was my best friend and he was the best person I've even known. I could stand up here for hours and tell you stories. Because man, do I have some stories. I figure the whole sworn to secrecy clause expires when someone you know, expires." He squints into the sun and his eyes pick out Lassiter in the crowd. "But I'm not going to do that. What I am going to tell you is that Gus didn't deserve any of this and that whoever killed him is going to pay." He glanced sideways to the casket. "I love you, buddy."

Then, without another word, he walked away.

Lassiter found him later loitering in the parking lot, staring at his feet. "Come to deck me, Lassie?"

"Who got you the first time?"

"Joy. Gus's sister. I probably deserved it."

"I didn't actually expect you to come."

Laughter sounds like breaking glass. "Wasn't planning on it. Dad's pretty good at persuasion. I told him I'd rather not waste time I could use to catch this guy. He told me the trail's already gone cold." He kicks the sidewalk. "He's right."

"We've been looking into the old cases you turned up. Nothing new. Whoever this guy is, he's good."

"I've been going backwards. I figure that maybe if I can find the first one, we can get a sense of who it is. I found a few other years, 2006, 2004, 2000, but not all of this got into the papers."


"I mean the guy sent me those letters. He obviously wants someone to notice. What am I missing?"

Lassiter took off his sunglasses. "I hate to say this, but have you ever considered the idea that you're inventing a conspiracy? That maybe this whole thing is just a way for you to cope?"

"Cope? You think this is coping? Coping is what I'll do after I catch this bastard. Probably in Mexico. Or maybe Latvia. I think my passport's still good."

"You're going to leave?"

"Gus isn't here."

A thousand protest die on Lassiter's lips. Spencer is an annoyance, yes, but he keeps thinking of people like Yang, people who would still be out there if not for his help. Besides, he's gotten very nearly used to Spencer's presence. If not for Spencer, he'd be in jail. He reaches for the right words, for something to make him understand, but all that comes to his lips is, "I'm sorry for your loss."

Spencer snorts. "Not half as sorry as I am."


The investigation is slowing down. There's nothing new to do so Lassiter goes home and sleeps for a full fifteen hours before going back to work. Chief Vick had given a press conference the day they found the body, promising justice, but there had been no follow-up as there was nothing to announce except for inaction. Politics prevented them from staying in the news and the constant specter of an unsolved homicide would lower the trust in the police.

All arguments that Lassiter understands intellectually but hates in practice. Woody's final results on the autopsy offer nothing more than the preliminary ones. The massive taskforce is slowly reassigned. Lassiter knows that it's only a matter of time before he too is pulled off this case, before the chief is forced to admit that the trail is cold. He hasn't seen Spencer since the funeral which would worry him if not for the fact that Henry Spencer doesn't seem beside himself with rage.

Juliet throws her hands up in frustration. "I give up. Sometimes a missing person's case is just a runaway. We're wasting time."

Lassiter agrees, but he also knows from experience it will either take a conviction or a month of solid busts for the somber mood to lift from the station. Lassiter used to fool himself into thinking they were just the mascots, but they'd adopted Shawn and Gus a long time ago.

Unsolved homicide. It's a blight on his record, but it's also seems to be fact. Juliet is less upset, but Miami has more than its fair share of unsolved murders.

When he gets the call from Spencer, it's a relief. Though he’ll never admit it, Spencer can work miracles. "Please say you have something." The moment's hesitation is something and it throws him. "Shawn, what did you find?"

"I think I've got the first one, Lassie. The first disappearance."

"That's fantastic, did it give you any leads? If I don't come up with something soon, they're going to start assigning other cases to me and Juliet."

"Yeah," Spencer says, laughing dryly. "Whatever happened to Papa Lassiter? You never talk about him. "

"Because he walked out on use when I was thirteen. What's this got to do with anything?"

"Monday August 3rd, 1987. Twenty-five years ago, Roger Lassiter allegedly walked out on his family. His wife filed a missing person's report three days later, but nothing ever came of it. It was the first one I could find."

"The first what?" Lassiter asks but it's a reflex.

"The first murder."

Twenty five years ago Roger Lassiter had a fight with his wife and left his entire family behind. Neighbors claimed they had expected it for ages. The Lassiters were 16 and 17 when then had their first child. Lassiter's been ignoring evidence that his mother may have slept around for most of his adult life.

But if Roger wanted to leave, he wouldn't have left his children. If he wanted to run, he would have done it years before. Lassiter stares at the phone in his hands and hears himself say, "I'll be there as soon as I can."

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