THE NIGHT OF THE JACKAL
A one-shot. Set in season five, between 'Shawn 2.0' and 'One, Maybe Two Ways Out'.
"I want to remember everything. And I want to know everything."
(From: 'Harriet the Spy'.)
The dart flew through the air and landed squarely in the narrow space between Declan's impossibly dark eyebrows.
Shawn tilted his head and studied the photograph, which was already full of pock-marks from his previous attempts. "That one's a winner, don't you think?" he remarked, squashing down the sense of guilt he felt at treating Juliet's new boyfriend in such a petty way.
"What happened to the lunch meat you were throwing earlier?" Gus peered over his shoulder, frowning.
"Venting makes me hungry. You know that."
"Everything makes you hungry, Shawn. You better hope Juliet doesn't see this."
Briefly, Shawn wondered how that conversation would go. Not awesome, was his brutally honest conclusion. "She never comes here these days," he said airily. "Too busy living the high life with her dashing millionaire."
"Actually, according to Forbes, he's a dashing billionaire. And you know Juliet isn't like that." Gus looked concerned. "Are you going to be okay here melting down all by yourself? I can cancel dinner with my parents if you need company…"
"Gus." Shawn turned and faced him. "I've got the whole evening planned. It's a solo meltdown marathon. Thirty minutes of Declan Darts. A bucket-load of popcorn and a classic rom-com. I'm thinking 'My Best Friend's Wedding'. Then I plan to do some actual work. I've a very important project on the go."
"Does it involve Photoshop?"
Suddenly, Shawn found the tips of his shoes extraordinarily interesting. "It might."
"And another picture of Declan Rand?"
"Gus!" He clapped his friend on the back, feigning false hilarity. "I'm impressed. That's excellent deductive reasoning. We'll make a detective out of you yet."
"Ha ha." Gus grabbed his coat but when he reached the doorway, he paused again. "You won't do anything really stupid, will you?"
"Buddy. When have I ever…? Okay, don't answer that." With a sigh, Shawn stepped forward and yanked the dart out of Declan's ridiculous smiling face. "I'll be fine. Go have fun with your folks. And I'll see you back here in the morning."
Gus exited slowly, doubting his friend. Eventually, the door clicked shut behind him. Shawn twirled the dart in his fingers and gave a tiny smile. "Phase one complete," he announced to the speckled face of his nemesis. "The Jackal has left the building – and he doesn't suspect a thing."
The night air was warm and smelled of the sea. Shawn slipped out of the Psych office and watched the Blueberry pull away. He followed it with his gaze for a moment or two, then scrambled over to his motorbike.
Forget 'Poke a Hole in the Billionaire'. Forget 'Photoshop Revenge'. The only game Shawn really intended to play tonight was 'Pin the Tail on the Jackal'. Spying on his best friend promised to be even better therapy than the dazzling smile of Julia Roberts, not to mention her character's doomed attempt to win back the guy she loved from the rich girl he was marrying. Thanks, but no thanks. Besides, Gus was lying to him, and that was like candy to a baby as far as Shawn was concerned.
Wait – candy from a baby…?
Never mind. "I've heard it both ways," he reassured himself as he pulled on his helmet and fired up the Norton's engine. Joining the stream of traffic with relative ease, he kept well back from his target. It wasn't hard to tail the Blueberry. Gus was the king of cautious driving. Yet he had already missed the turn-off that led to his parents' house. Shawn gave a wolfish grin of satisfaction. "I knew it."
For three weeks now, Gus had faked a dinner date with his parents on Thursday evening. Shawn may not have been a real psychic but he could always tell when his friend was lying. Simply put, Gus tried too hard. From Monday evening to Thursday afternoon, he would wax lyrical about the imaginary meal his mother was making for him that week. 'Feeding up her boy,' he called it. Jerk chicken, sweet potato pudding… Shawn's mouth watered at the thought even as he watched his best friend's eyes and saw the lack of true conviction there. He considered inviting himself at the last minute, in order to make Gus squirm – but then he came up with a much better plan. He could even rationalise it as work experience, for what issue could anyone possibly have with him practising his tailing skills on a balmy Thursday evening?
Balmy… and delicious. The scent of heaven floated on the air and Shawn realised he was gliding past the ring of food trucks in their nightly location. Crowds of people thronged around them; eating, chatting, basking in the wonder. Shawn's head was turned and his bike slowed down imperceptibly. Couldn't he just…? What would be the harm in…?
He speeded up again. "That was a close one," he exclaimed. A good detective never succumbed to temptation when he was on the case. Besides, he could always return when he had smugly uncovered his friend's secret rendezvous. Maybe Gus would come with him (if they were still talking by then). Shawn felt proud of his unusual restraint. He tilted his chin in triumph and let the Norton bear him onwards, like a knight on a glorious quest.
And now the little blue Echo was heading into a familiar car park. All the lights were blazing in the Santa Barbara precinct. Shawn edged his bike behind a handy truck and turned off the engine, feeling quite perturbed. This was a strange development. Why was Gus coming here without him? More importantly, would Jules still be inside? He was fairly certain she was working late tonight. He pulled off his helmet and was just about to dismount when something very surprising occurred.
The little blue Echo had circled around and was leaving the car park already.
"Oh!" Shawn gasped in admiration. "Well played, Jackal. Well played…" The food trucks. The station. The lure of Juliet O'Hara sans her rich new 'friend'.
Gus knew full well that Shawn had intended to follow him. It was the Snickers Manoeuvre all over again.
"Fool me once," said Shawn with feeling, as the Norton's engine coughed and spluttered, unsettled by his hasty turnaround. "Shame on you. Fool me twice… shame on Declan for distracting me."
And he slipped back into the lazy stream of traffic.
Shawn was deeply focussed now. Nothing was going to sway him from his mission. Not the Arcade – nice touch, Gus – or the park, with its legion of dog walkers. "I do love dogs," he sighed, as he sailed on by, keeping the Blueberry firmly in his sights. Not Pizza Hut – and that was a wrench, for he was starving by this point. The lunch meat had been sadly unfulfilling.
Ahead of him, the Blueberry left the brightly lit seafront altogether and bumbled into the quieter streets of suburbia.
A new girlfriend, maybe? Shawn felt a little pensive. Had Gus learned nothing from the Ruby affair? "Does he still not trust me?" sighed the man who was currently tailing his friend across town. "I'm a great judge of character. I could be very helpful."
Or was Gus trying to spare his feelings? That revelation made Shawn sit up straight and frown, in a rare moment of self-awareness. Have I really been such a woeful, jealous idiot that my best friend can't bring himself to tell me he's found love?
No, that couldn't be it. Something else was definitely going on here. The neighbourhood began to feel distinctly familiar – and then, all at once, the Echo pulled into the driveway of a building Shawn had come to know quite well recently. He had even led a guest seminar there, much to the surprise of everyone who knew him (especially his father).
The sign outside the elegant building read: Clive Prescott Enterprises, EST. 2003.
And now Shawn was beginning to understand what Gus was up to.
He waited outside for an hour. That was unlike him, but he had some thinking to do. The lawn was well-manicured and surrounded by flowers. 'Keep off the grass,' said a snippy little notice. Needless to say, Shawn ignored it.
When Gus emerged, he didn't seem particularly surprised to see his friend.
"Jackal," said Shawn with a casual nod, as Gus sat down beside him.
"Shawn," the Jackal replied with equal gravity. "What gave me away? No, don't," he added, when Shawn raised a finger to his head. "I'm being serious."
"Maybe I'm just that good..."
"I said 'serious', Shawn."
"And this is my serious face – but don't you think I should be asking the questions? After all, I'm the one who was led all over town on a wild goose chase..."
"You followed me!"
"...only to discover that my best friend has been living a lie."
"One lie. Because I was embarrassed, Shawn."
And there it was. The truth at last. "Buddy, this is me," said Shawn, with absolute sincerity. "I've known you since we were five years old. There's nothing you can say or do that will ever be shameful in my eyes. Come on, Gus. I get it, you know," he added quietly. "I understand how it feels to have your confidence knocked, believe me."
"This isn't about you," Gus muttered.
Shawn held up his hands in submission. "You're right. I'm sorry. You put up with all my crap about Declan and Jules – but I never bothered to see that you were struggling too. So tell me about it now. Tell me the reason you came to Prescott instead."
"Isn't it obvious? I thought he could teach me."
"To be a gentleman? But why?" Shawn was genuinely astonished. "Is this still about Eugenia? You know that wasn't personal."
"Of course not! Well... maybe a little. Eugenia, and Kim with an 'i', and every other woman who's rejected me lately. I thought I was a player, Shawn, but I guess I've lost my game."
"And you thought Prescott could help you get your mojo back? The man who's so pernickety he makes Lassie look like a flower child from the 60s?" Shawn paused for a moment to enjoy the image, before continuing with his theme. "Burton Guster. You are ten times the man that Clive Prescott will ever be. You're unique, and you're awesome, in more ways than I can count on my fingers and toes. You put up with me every day, which has to count for something. And I'm not just saying that to get on your good side again. Any woman who doesn't believe you're worth knowing... well, she doesn't deserve to know you at all. You know?"
Gus raised his eyebrows in disbelief and stared at his best friend. "That seminar of yours. Did it sound anything like that?"
"As a matter of fact, it did," Shawn replied with a dazzling grin. "'Be Yourself.' That's my advice. Don't be a carbon copy of a stuffy little guy, even if he does have excellent taste in guest speakers. Find someone who loves you just the way you are and you'll be happy in the end. That's got to be worth waiting for."
"'Be Yourself.' Says the man who lies for a living."
Shawn shook his head. "We're not talking about me right now. Remember?"
Gus looked away for a moment – and when he looked back, he was smiling. Not a tight, vaguely tolerant smile but the real deal this time. He leapt up, straightened his clothing and offered a hand to Shawn. "Coming?"
"Ooh." Shawn scrambled to his feet with far less grace. "Coming where?" he asked, even though he already had an inkling. That's how we roll. Shawn Spencer and Burton Guster - the Psych boys. The Two Amigos.
"Jerk chicken. Food truck. I guess I owe you, Shawn."
"You know that's right," his best friend murmured fondly.