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Psych Fic: Jumping on Cars with Criminals 3/4

January 24th, 2010 (10:44 pm)

A/N: One more part after this, just to finish up with Shawn :) But the girls needed a little time, and I admit, Juliet's part got a little sadder than I intended. Thanks!  See part one for more notes.

 

PART THREE

Thinking about going to the hospital was much easier than actually being there. Waiting rooms were almost awkward by default, with a heavy side of discomfort. But sitting there, next to Gus and across from Henry Spencer, Juliet had to wonder what she was doing here.

She was here for Shawn, of course. The majority of the police department had a soft spot for the psychic, and she’d caught a uniform or two loitering near the entrance before she’d told them that she’d call with any news.

But she wasn’t just here to represent the police department, not if she were honest with herself. Shawn was more than a coworker; he was a friend.

Her friend. That was a good term for it. Though, they didn’t really hang out together--at least they hadn’t in a while--but sometimes Juliet thought that Shawn seemed to want to.

Of course, it would be horribly awkward now, even more awkward than sitting in the waiting room. After all, Juliet had finally made her pitch and Shawn had let the lob sail on by.

So maybe friends wasn’t the best term for it. Friendly acquaintances. She and Shawn were friendly.

Which did not begin to explain why she was sitting there in the waiting room next to Shawn’s father and best friend. Because the mixture of father, best friend, and friendly acquaintance really didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

And really, as consuming as that train of thought could be, none of it really got at the heart of the matter. Namely, that she was in a hospital room waiting for word on Shawn Spencer. On some level, it didn’t matter who she was, all that mattered was that he was okay.

She chewed her lip, looking at her hands. He had to be okay. Friends, friendly, whatever: he had to be okay.

Shawn Spencer was always okay. He could charge into situations with nothing more than a psychic hunch and talk down people with a gun. He could weasel his way into danger and come out with nothing more than an awesome story to tell. He could even catch serial killers and emerge on the other side with something resembling a girlfriend.

Which reminded her, why was she here again? Waiting anxiously for a man who she was just friendly with?

Family made sense. A best friend, sure. Maybe even a group of concerned colleagues. And a girlfriend, of course.

Which, come to think of it: “Where’s Abigail?”

Gus seemed to flinch next to her, and Juliet suddenly felt guilty. Shawn’s partner and longtime friend may have spent four years investigating heinous crimes, but he’d never quite had the constitution for blood and death. Which, Juliet figured, was fairly normal, and considering the fact that this was much more than a normal case--that it was Shawn’s blood on Gus’ hand, she should have been offering him a supportive ear, not peppering him with irrelevant questions regarding Shawn’s girlfriend.

Which, for the record, was truly none of Juliet’s business in the first place.

But the question was out there, and Juliet couldn’t take it back.

Gus’ brow creased, then horror washed over his face. “Oh, my God,” he said. “I didn’t call Abigail. Mr. Spencer, did you call Abigail?”

Henry looked at them from across the room. His face was taut and angry, but Juliet was skilled enough as a detective to know it was nothing more than a mask for his fear. “Shawn will barely even talk to me about her,” he groused. “I’ve only met her, what, three times? I sort of have my mind on other things, Guster. Like making sure my kid doesn’t die.”

Juliet wanted to apologize, but she wasn’t quite sure how to phrase it. Sorry for giving you more things to think about? Or maybe sorry for not thinking to call Abigail for you? Or maybe just sorry for being here at all.

Unfortunately, Gus was already in full on freak out mode. If Shawn could be frustratingly single-minded, Gus was almost as bad, only he hid his neurosis with less flair.

She shook her head, opening her mouth for a moment before finding words. “No, I mean, you don’t have to--”

But Gus was fishing his phone out, muttering as he did. “You know, if Shawn had just listened to me when I said we needed to update our emergency contact information this wouldn’t be an issue. Just put her on the form. It takes two seconds and then the hospital knows just who to call. But no, instead he manages to keep a girlfriend just long enough so he can get hurt and I have to call her with the bad news.” He scrolled through his contacts, using his free arm to gesticulate wildly.

For most people, Juliet would attribute such behavior to the situation.

For Gus, it was mostly par for the course.

“What am I even supposed to say to her?” Gus asked. “Hello, Abigail. How are you? I’m fine. But Shawn--not so much?”

“Just keep it vague,” Juliet offered meagerly. “Tell her Shawn’s been in an accident and you’ll explain the details when she gets here.”

Gus seemed to ponder that. “That’s really good,” he said. “Why are you so good at that?”

“Cop, remember?” Juliet said, and her mind flitted briefly to the worst of them. Telling a mother her child was dead. Telling a husband that his wife’s killer had escaped. Telling a little girl that her daddy wasn’t coming home for Christmas. “I have had some experience in telling people things they don’t really want to know.”

“I hear that,” Gus said. He stood, rolling his neck a little. “I’m going to go, you know. Take care of this.”

She offered him a smile. “Good luck.”

He returned her tidings with a look that was a cross between grim determination and total nausea.

She watched him go and mentally berated herself once again. Not only had she forced Gus to be in the uncomfortable position of transmitting bad news, but now she was alone with Shawn’s father in a waiting room that she wasn’t even sure she belonged in.

Such feelings were not totally uncommon for Juliet. She could be self-assured when she needed to be, though, in truth, sometimes she felt like she was just playing make believe and no one else had caught on that Juliet O’Hara was just some silly girl from Florida who wanted to play with guns because she was worried no one would respect her any other way. She had never been a tomboy necessarily, but she liked working in a man’s world because she was never sure if she fit in with the rest of the girls.

Girls like Abigail Lytar. Girls who could smile coyly and bat their eyelashes and have boys like Shawn Spencer pining so hard that even after thirteen years, she was still the one he picked.

Juliet stiffened, swallowing hard. She wasn’t jealous. That wasn’t what this was about. It wasn’t.

This was about Shawn, plain and simple. He was smart and he was funny and he was good at his job, and that was it. She’d be just as worried about anyone she worked with. Carlton, McNabb, the chief. Even that weird new detective in the precinct who had glasses from the 80s.

She shifted in her seat, trying to figure out a way to feel less conspicuous. She could be anyone, waiting for any patient here. Sitting in a waiting room wasn’t exactly normal, but sitting here didn’t make her abnormal either.

Her eyes met Henry’s for a minute, and she felt her resolve withering. Henry’s eyes were hard and unforgiving, as though this was her fault. It was odd, seeing him like this. She had barely met the man, but Shawn’s sparse stories about his father had never struck her as overly sentimental. The two seemed to have a strained peace which Juliet herself could never understand. Her desire to please her parents was only matched by their desire to dole out love and compliments to her, and how someone could not be proud of someone as smart, as talented, as good-hearted as Shawn...

She swallowed, averting her eyes. Lassiter had said once that Henry Spencer had been a good cop, hard-lined and by the book, without fail. Maybe that was why she’d never pegged him as someone who would be so nervous in a waiting room, especially over a kid he never seemed to be satisfied with.

Whatever problems Shawn and his father may have had, though, it was increasingly clear to her that none of it mattered. Henry Spencer had his priorities in order. Shawn, first. Everything else, second.

In some ways--in a lot of ways--Juliet respected that. Maybe even envied. Knowing what he wanted and not being afraid to get it. Shawn’s dad hadn’t shied away from this case, not even when Lassiter had threatened to throw a hissy fit. Because she had seen it in his eyes--he meant what he said. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for his son, and he wasn’t going to sit around being passive while Shawn needed help. Which was why the waiting room was so hard. She had no doubt that if he were skilled, he’d be in that operating room, rules and procedures be damned, just to make sure Shawn had the best care possible.

Someone who knew what he wanted.

Something Juliet had never excelled at. Not on a personal level. Sure, she could ace tests and do her job expertly. She was good at the shooting range and effective in the interrogation room. She’d solved her share of cases and made her share of busts.

But on the personal front? When she’d finally gotten up the courage to ask Shawn Spencer out, she’d been too late, and she was too embarrassed and uncertain to know how to proceed from there. She’d let it be awkward and uncertain and just plain wrong, and now Shawn was in a hospital with a bullet wound in his shoulder and she might never have the chance to tell him what she really felt. To see what there really was between them.

No matter how much she denied it, she still came back to that. The way he could make her smile. The way he could make her take a leap of faith.

The way he could scare her out of her mind.

When Gus had called, when she’d showed up in that storage lot, when Lassiter had found blood--her first response hadn’t come from her cop’s instincts. That hollow, numbing, encompassing terror. That horrible, impossible, painfully real what if.

It had been one of the most defining moments of her life. When she couldn’t deny that she was hurt that he was dating Abigail. When she couldn’t cover up how hard it was to see him and know she’d offered him all she had and he’d said no.

When she couldn’t hide the fact that she didn’t want to be Shawn’s colleague, she didn’t want to be friendly with him, she didn’t even want to be friends with him--she wanted more, and she might never get to tell him that.

That was why she was here. Because when Shawn woke up (and she had to believe that he would), she was going to tell him. She had to tell him. For both of their sakes. Because she’d rather know for sure how their story ended than taking the chance of a bullet doing it for them.

Gus interrupted her thoughts with a huff as he sat heavily in the chair next to her.

“Go okay?” she asked.

Gus gave her a withering look. “What do you think?”

She gave him a sympathetic smile. “She took it hard?”

“Hard?” Gus asked. “I spent three quarters of the conversation trying to convince her that I wasn’t pulling a practical joke.”

“And the other quarter?”

Gus snorted. “Her asking me really? And then Wait, are you serious a couple of times.”

Juliet nodded. “I suppose Shawn’s antics would make someone quite reluctant to believe him from time to time.”

“If I hadn’t seen it myself, I might have trouble believing this one myself,” Gus said, shaking his head as he eased back into the chair. “I always told him he talked too much. But no, I like the sound of my own voice, I won’t apologize for that. My ass. Moron gets himself shot and my company car, too.”

Juliet recognized it for what it was. Gus would talk, he’d make swipes at Shawn because that was how he worried. Just like Henry would sit and brood and Lassiter would stick it out at the job.

They all had it figured out. How to be there for Shawn. How to define their place in his life.

And Juliet still didn’t have a clue.

“Uh, Mr. Henry Spencer?” a new voice broke in.

Henry was on his feet just that fast, and Gus wasn’t far behind. Juliet’s instinct was to follow, but she found herself immobile, stuck only watching as Henry and Gus approached the doctor.

Juliet knew this part, too. She knew all the steps and she knew everything that was happening. She could break down the scene just that easily, from the barely-holding-it-together father to the frantic best friend to the professionally restrained doctor who was there to deliver the news, good or bad.

Henry Spencer demanded answers, and she watched the middle-aged doctor smile, one hand out in placation. The doctor’s expression was guarded, though, and it was clear while the news wasn’t bad, it wasn’t the all clear yet.

Shawn was alive. That was his part in this: staying alive. It was what he’d managed to do back in the storage yard. It was what he’d managed to do in the trunk of a car. He’d managed to do it at gunpoint, tied up, and in the back of a movie pickup, and Juliet knew that while Shawn was not brave at first brush, he had the heart of a hero hiding beneath his various personas.

Shaw was alive.

She didn’t know how well he was doing or how long it would take him to recover. She didn’t know if he was in intensive care or rattling at the cages of his hospital bed, trying to sweet talk his way into extra Jell-O for dessert.

She didn’t know if the bullet had done serious damage to his shoulder or if the blood loss had been too severe. She didn’t know if there was an infection setting in and what kind of physical therapy was slated for full recovery.

Juliet knew a lot of things, but those were the details that mattered, and she didn’t know, and instead of going to find out, she was still sitting in a waiting room chair, like the friendly acquaintance that she was.

How many times had she been here, knowing exactly what she wanted and just being too afraid to go get it? Too afraid of putting herself out there, of being told no? Some things were worth fighting for; some things were worth a second chance.

Then the doctor nodded again, pointing down the hallway, leading Henry away.

Moment gone.

Just like the last one.

Just like a lifetime of moments.

The regret was hard to swallow, solaced only by the fact that she knew that Shawn was still alive.

“Family only,” Gus said, sitting down next to her. He was scowling.

“It’s standard procedure,” Juliet told him without thinking.

Gus scoffed. “Sometimes even I get a little tired of standard procedure.”

She gave him a rueful smile. “Guess that’s why you work so well with Shawn.”

Gus settled in next to her, nodding a little.

“So he’s okay?” she asked.

“Alive,” Gus replied. “Like I said, the doctor didn’t say much.”

“He’s out of surgery?”

“And settled into a room,” Gus confirmed. “But they wouldn’t even tell me in which part of the hospital. I mean, he could still be in surgical recovery. Or ICU. And that’s a huge difference. I mean, do they think I like sitting here just continuing to worry? And don’t best friends count after almost thirty years? I practically subsidize Shawn’s health insurance, so shouldn’t I be included in his major medical decisions?”

Juliet sighed, rolling her neck a little. “It just...doesn’t work like that,” she told him.

“Well, it should,” Gus replied curtly. “And how can you stand it? Just sitting here, like a nobody in a waiting room. You’re a cop. Can’t you do something? Flash a badge? Say Shawn’s your witness?”

“Shawn’s not in my custody.”

“But he’s still a witness.”

She felt her anxiety ratchet up a notch. “And I’ll interview him when I can.”

“But aren’t you going to ask?” Gus pushed, and it was more than she could take. Her own self-recriminations were one things and her internal monologue of self doubt was another, but hearing it out loud, from Gus, was just not something she could take.

Not now. Not now.

“Gus,” she said, more strongly than she intended.

He paused, meeting her eyes.

Purposefully, she swallowed, keeping her emotions carefully in check. “Right now all we can do is wait,” she said. “We’ve done our part. We found Shawn. And now, this is our job.”

“To wait,” Gus said, his voice cutting slightly.

“Yes,” she said, trying to sound like she believed it.

“You just want to wait,” Gus said again.

“That’s what I’m doing,” she said simply, crossing her arms over her chest and looking straight ahead.

Gus seemed to think about that. After a moment, he glanced at her furtively. “You know, I deliver drugs to this hospital,” he said. “I might be able to sneak us closer.”

“To do what?” she asked.

“Find out how Shawn is.”

“Pharmaceutical contacts aren’t going to get you his medical records,” she said. “At best, they’re going to get you in trouble for violating medical privacy law.”

Gus glowered at her, sinking in his seat. “You used to be more fun than this.”

“I’m sorry for trying to keep you from getting arrested.”

“And for getting my car shot.”

“I didn’t get your car shot!”

Gus shrugged. “You were driving,” he said. “Miss I’m-Trained-for-Pursuits.”

“It’s not my fault your car is painted like a target.”

“It’s blue,” Gus said. “Not red. In that logic, the guy should have gone after Lassiter’s car.”

“Which is maroon.”

“Close enough,” Gus said.

“He doesn't even have that one anymore.”

“You’re just saying that because you know I’m right.”

“Right about what?” Juliet asked, incredulous.

“About the fact that you got my car shot.”

“We didn’t crash, did we?”

“Oh, so that’s our measure of success?”

“I can think of worse measures of success.”

“Well, I can think of better measures of success,” Gus shot back.

“How about using Shawn being awake as one?” another voice interrupted.

Flushed, Juliet looked up, and shut her mouth, embarrassed. She was bickering like a child over insignificant things. The fact that Gus had started it wasn’t much consolation, especially given where she was and what was going on.

Gus, for his part, looked equally chagrined, but was on his feet without hesitation. “He’s awake?”

“He has been,” Henry replied. The older man rubbed a hand over his head. “Sort of in and out now.”

“But he’s okay?” Gus prompted.

“Yeah, well, he has a hole in his shoulder,” Henry said. “It’s been cleaned and stitched, and the doctor thinks with some heavy duty antibiotics and some focused therapy, he’ll probably be just fine.”

“But the blood--”

Henry’s face went a little hard. “They transfused him, okay?” he said. “Look, right now, we just need to be there. Shawn’s been through a lot, and I figured he could use some friendly faces. So if you two are interested, you can follow me.”

“Yes,” Gus said. He turned back to Juliet, and there was a hint of an apology on his face. They were all tense. But these things were forgivable in the end, because they knew the reasons why. “Are you coming?”

A simple question, as much a peace offering as it was a genuine invitation. A chance to be part of Shawn’s recovery. A part of Shawn’s life.

She needed to remember that she wasn’t just friendly with Shawn, but Gus, too. They were a packaged set, and for as much as she wanted more with Shawn, she couldn’t deny that she enjoyed Gus’ company as well. If the last day had taught her that she couldn’t hide her feelings for Shawn, it had also shown her just how well she knew Gus.

“Yeah,” she said, getting to her feet. “I’ll just--”

“Gus!” another voice called. “Gus!”

They all turned, looking down the hall, where Abigail Lytar was running toward them.

Shawn’s girlfriend.

The one that got away.

The one he’d waited for.

She came up to them, wide-eyed and breathless. “Is he okay?” she asked. “You didn’t tell me if he was okay? Is he okay?”

“We’re just about to go see him,” Gus informed her.

“So he’s okay.”

“He’s better than he was three hours ago,” Henry cut in. “Can we talk about this on the way? I’d really like to see my kid.”

“Yeah,” Gus said, putting a guiding hand on Abigail’s back. Perfunctory and polite and familiar. She knew Gus, too. “Let’s go.”

“I thought you had to be kidding,” Abigail was saying. “I mean, shot? Kidnapped? And he’s okay?”

“Well, maybe it’s best if Shawn tells you,” Gus said. Then he glanced back at Juliet. “You coming?”

It was her chance to join them. Her chance to put herself out there as a part of Shawn’s life. What part, she couldn’t know yet, but she would never know unless she did it. Unless she took this risk. She’d been willing to a few hours ago, when Shawn was on the phone and it could have been the last time she talked to him.

One word. All she had to do was say one word. Leave the door open. Take just one step. One step toward Shawn.

But the scene before her was almost perfect. Henry at the front, shoulders tense and head pointed forward. Gus right behind. Abigail at his side.

The father, the best friend.

The girlfriend.

And there was no place for Juliet. Not there. Maybe not anywhere.

“I think I need to call the station,” she called after them, and her voice trailed off. “I’ll check in with him to get his statement later.”

Gus maybe nodded, but he kept walking. Abigail was still talking and Henry was still leading. And Juliet watched them go until they turned a corner, and she was alone once again.

-o-

Of all the days.

Her day off. Her vacation. One of the first ones she had allowed herself since her maternity leave a few years back. Her chance to let her husband take her and their daughter away. As police chief, Karen Vick always seemed to be on call, and that made it hard to ever be truly off duty. But this time, she’d been determined to give it her best go. For her family’s sake. For her own.

She had only left her phone on in case of emergencies. She knew her squad would survive without her, she really did, but sometimes it was hard to remember that she could survive without it.

They had made it four whole days, settled into their rented apartment on the shore. There was beach and sun and water. It was amazing, to watch her daughter play and to walk hand in hand with her husband, just like when they were younger. She didn’t regret her decision to continue her career after starting a family, but sometimes she almost forgot what it was like to just be a wife and mother first, and let her job stay back in the station.

She had even left her phone back in the rental, perched forgotten on the bedside while her husband showed her daughter how to dig a moat, to keep out attackers. So she wasn’t surprised to find that her voicemail was full.

But she was surprised when she pressed play and her Carlton Lassiter’s voice. Her lead detective was intense, for lack of a better word, and the fact that he would call her on vacation didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. But the tone of his voice let her know right away something was wrong. It was more than just terse or to the point or generally annoyed. It was worried. Agitated.

And if that weren’t enough, there were the details of the message:

We received a call from Guster. Spencer is missing. We recovered a shell casing and traces of blood on the scene. A text message to Guster from Spencer’s number confirmed that he was shot. O’Hara and I are on the case, picking up leads from Guster’s account of the last few days and Spencer’s text. I know you said not to bother you, but. Well. I thought you might want to know.”

He’d thought she might want to know.

Lassiter had thought that maybe she’d want to know that her lead psychic, as he so conveniently coined himself, was missing. Was shot.

The psychic she had pursued, the one she had hired, the one she kept bringing back and signing off on. Shawn Spencer.

It was never easy when one of her officers or detectives were injured.

Shawn Spencer wasn’t really one of hers, except that he was. He was in every way possible. A constant presence, for better or for worse, solving cases she requested him for and sometimes ones she explicitly didn’t want him on.

He was frustrating and difficult and damn brilliant more often than not.

A shell casing and traces of blood.

Not the most grisly crime she’d heard described, but it hit her harder than she would have expected. Harder than she could even understand.

Shawn Spencer lived on a glorified version of police work, one where he could talk his way in and out of anything, one where he defied odds and always came out on top. From kidnappers, to thieves, to murderers, and even serial killers, he had an air of invincibility that had been challenged but never unseated.

Sometimes she let herself believe his bravado.

Maybe she shouldn’t have.

Her mind went through the statistics. The number of missing person cases in a year. The percentage of those that were never found. The dark truth that most of them were just dead. She thought about all the ways people disposed of bodies, all the criminals who had it in them to pull the trigger and just not give a damn about the life they were taking. She thought about criminal psychology, the way people could feel like they were backed into corners and became killers on the spot.

Shawn Spencer wasn’t just on a case now, he was the case. Kidnapping. Aggravated assault. Attempted murder.

She let the message finish, letting the next one play through. She skipped it when it was a question from the mayor’s office about an issue with security detail. She skipped the next one, too, from her hair stylist, and the next one from an officer about official leave requests.

End of new messages.

Frustrated, Karen looked at her phone. How could that be the end of her messages? What about her status updates? Progress reports? How was the case coming? What leads did they have? What witnesses had they procured?

She looked at her phone, noting the time of the call from Lassiter. This morning. This case was fresh--very fresh. She glanced at the clock on the wall. The case wasn’t even a day old.

There was a soft knock at the door, and her husband peeked his head in. “Everything okay?”

Her throat felt tight, and she felt herself nod. “I just--there’s a case--”

His face fell a little. “You said no work.”

She swallowed hard. “One of my men has been kidnapped,” she told him. “They found blood on the scene.”

At that, his annoyance melted, and his brow furrowed. “How bad?”

“That’s what I have to find out.”

He sighed a little, smiling at her. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll take the munchkin out for dinner. Should we bring you something back?”

She hesitated, looking at him. She thought about her daughter’s smile and the sandcastles they’d built on the beach.

It wasn’t an easy choice to make. In so many ways, it wasn’t even fair. To have to pick, one family over the other. She could only hope they loved her enough to understand.

His face fell a little further, and he nodded knowingly, stepping further into the room. “I guess I’ll see you back home,” he said, standing close to her now and looking into her eyes.

Her smile was apologetic. “You know I love you, right?”

He gave her a small smile in return. “I’ll see you at home, okay?”

She reached up a hand, touching him gently on the cheek. Leaning up, her lips met his. “Soon,” she said.

He kissed her back, closing his eyes a little. When he pulled away, she could see the spark of desire in his expression. His lips quirked with a hint of bemusement. “I almost got a week,” he said. “It was more than I’d hoped for.”

“Not as much as you deserved,” she mused with honest regret.

“Call your department,” he told her. “See how the situation is. I expect a full report by the time I get home.”

“You got it,” she said.

He kissed again, briefly, before turning back toward the door. “You better get on that phone,” he said, looking back at her. “These things don’t solve themselves.”

Her smile wavered a little, the harsh reality of what information she might learn settling over her again.

Karen couldn’t help but watch, though, as her husband picked their daughter up again, taking her out the door, back to finish the vacation that they’d all started together.

She could still join them, if she wanted to. But it wasn’t that simple, and she knew it.

A shell casing and traces of blood.

She had to know. Ignorance was the only decision she would never forgive herself for.

Almost as if on cue, her phone rang. The vestiges of her vacation gone, she answered it. “Hello,” she said shortly. “Chief Vick.”

“Chief,” the voice on the other end said. “It’s O’Hara.”

“I assume you have a report for me,” Karen said. “I received Lassiter’s voicemail from nearly eight hours ago. Why haven’t I been informed?”

“Well, we’ve been a little busy,” O’Hara replied, and Karen could hear the exhaustion in her voice. Weariness, but something more. Something--

“Did you find him?” Karen asked abruptly, trying to keep the tremor out of her voice.

“We found him,” O’Hara said.

“Alive?”

There was a pause, then a relieved sigh. “He just got out of surgery.”

“He’s alright?” Karen prompted.

“Some muscle damage and blood loss,” O’Hara reported. “They’re keeping him on high grade antibiotics to keep infection at bay. He went a long time without treatment.”

“You’ve seen him?”

“No,” O’Hara said, then she hesitated. “I spoke with his doctor not long ago. His father and Gus are with him now. And Abigail. His girlfriend. I was, well. Going to take his statement soon.”

Karen closed her eyes, nodded her head. O’Hara’s attachment in this case was obvious, and her involvement as a detective in it was probably against better judgment. Karen couldn’t help but be glad she hadn’t been there to enforce it. Then again, who could she have assigned to the case that wouldn’t take it personally?

Then again, Karen didn’t have to be the police chief to see the attraction between O’Hara and Spencer. She didn’t have to be much of anything to know that Juliet O’Hara wasn’t in that waiting room as a cop.

In the end, though, Karen wasn’t sure it mattered. Protocol was important. Rules provided structure. But, when all was said in done, all she really wanted to know was that the good guys won this one. That her men were okay.

She didn’t know the circumstances of the kidnapping. And she didn’t know how they’d resolved the case. She didn’t even know what kind of aftermath there would be. But what she did know, what mattered most to her--was that Shawn was alive. He was out of surgery and recovering in a hospital bed.

“Did you get who did this?” Karen asked, her voice strained.

“One was dead on the scene. We have the other in custody.”

“Good,” Karen said, and she reached for her purse. “I want you and Lassiter to get in there before he lawyers up. Get the basics, and then I want a crack at him.”

“But your vacation--”

“Just ended,” Karen said, holding the phone between her shoulder and her ear as she starting putting her clothes back in her suitcase. “I’ll be back in Santa Barbara in an hour. Get your statement and tell Lassiter I expect a full report on my desk by the time I get there. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am,” O’Hara replied, a little surprised.

“And O’Hara?” Karen said, pausing in her preparation to leave. “I don’t know how this all went down, but I can say that you did good.”

There was another pause. “How can you know that?”

“Mr. Spencer is alive, is he not?”

“Yeah,” the young detective replied.

“At the end of the day, that’s all that matters,” Karen told her. Then she had to pause, collecting her thoughts. “Is that understood?”

“Yes, ma’am,” O’Hara replied dutifully, and Karen thought she could hear something like relief in her detective’s voice.

“Good,” she said. “Now, remember to tell Lassiter that I want that report ready to go. And make sure the perp is in the interrogation room. I want to be fully brief the moment get back.”

“I’m on it.”

“Good,” Karen said again. “I’ll see you soon.”

As she hung up, she tossed her phone in her purse. She could count on her husband to collect the rest of their belongings--and she would have to apologize again when he made it back to Santa Barbara for leaving him on such sudden notice.

It had been a good week, that much was true. And family did come first.

But it was just something she had to accept, something that came with the job. Her family wasn’t just her husband and daughter. It was a precinct full of officers and cops, and even a wayward psychic.

Bags in hand, she just shook her head.

Family, indeed. Especially the damn wayward psychic, whether she wanted to admit it or not.

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