DISCLAIMER: I don't own Psych. Darn.


A/N: Let me just start this by saying that my mind is completely blown after the last episode of Psych. I won't give any spoilers, because some of you might not have seen it, but WOW. I think I died a little bit. And I cannot WAIT until next Wednesday. Also, I realize that it's been almost a month since I last updated. I apologize. It's just that along with it being my senior year of college and having a 20-25 page research paper, a 10-15 minute presentation, and a French video project due, I am also writing about five other stories on this site. But I've been eagerly awaiting the moment when I finally have time to update this fic. :) Thanks so much for all of the reviews so far. Please, please keep it up, and enjoy! Heeeeere's chapter two!

And warning: There's a bit of grossness and gore in this chapter. You have been warned.


The Hunter, the Psychic, and the Bathrobe

Chapter Two: If I Wanted to Play a Game, I'd Break Out Some Cranium

On the outside, Shawn Spencer seemed to be taking the news that he was the next target of a brutal, horrific serial killer rather well.

On the inside, he was panicking.

Not again, he thought as he tried to dislodge his heart from his throat. The Yin/Yang fiasco was enough. And if this guy's work is as terrible as it looks in the pictures, he's way worse than Yin could have ever been.

The man on the screen, the old but apparently limber private investigator gymnast from Maine, was mutilated grotesquely. One eye socket was hollowed out completely, other than the remnants of blood. It looked like he'd had a gun shoved right up to his eye and had then been shot point-blank. His face was a mask of blood, he had been shot in the chest at least three times, and the rest of his scarcely clothed body was a mottle of bruises, scrapes, scratches, and gashes that didn't even leave a square inch of clear skin. His feet were torn and bloody, and there were toes missing. Shawn forced himself to look closer at the picture than he had before, trying to see anything past the ghastly mutilations. Squinting, he saw what appeared to be signs of rotting and decay on the body. Shifting his gaze slightly, he also saw barely visible specks of white dotting the wounds and lacerations. The edges of the man's feet were caked in mud, and Shawn could just barely see the small, dull green traces of grass and twigs mixed with the dirt and blood.

Everyone's eyes were on him. No one had said anything since Shawn had correctly guessed what was going on. Perhaps they thought he needed quiet to process this. Perhaps they were afraid he would melt into a puddle of wimp. Or maybe they were just as stunned as he was and were trying to wrap their minds around the implications as well. Of course, Jules, Lassie, and Vick already knew. Shawn also had a feeling that his dad had had an idea of what was going on, too. Poor Gus had been completely blind about all of this, and from the heavy Lamaze breathing that was going on next to Shawn, he figured that Gus was taking this harder than all of them. Of course, knowing Gus, he might have still been simply trying to keep his breakfast down after seeing the picture. The knowledge that his best friend was the next target probably didn't help Gus's stomach either, though.

Knowing that he wouldn't have to make a scene to get everyone to look at him, Shawn slowly raised a hand to his head, indicating that he was having a "vision," and tore his eyes away from the horrific picture. He looked straight ahead, but didn't make eye contact with anyone at the table. He didn't want to look at anyone; he was afraid they'd see the fear in his eyes. He was already sure that they could see his hand shaking slightly as he lifted it to his head.

Chief Vick spoke, her voice calm but strong. "What do you have, Mr. Spencer?"

"I—" His voice came out weaker than he meant for it to. He cursed himself, took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and then started again. This time, he sounded much more like his usual self. Not quite normal, carefree Shawn, but it was close enough, considering the circumstances. "I am sensing that this man had been dead for at least several days before he was found, and that he had been left in a heavily wooded area. The spirits are also telling me that he might have tried to escape through the same woods that he was found in." The mud and foliage on the victim's bloodied feet, coupled with the fact that the bullets had exited through the man's chest indicated that he had been shot from behind, and together, they made a very convincing case that he had been running away when he had been shot.

Lassiter spoke up, and the normal all-business tone of voice that he used actually served to comfort Shawn to a certain extent. He looked up to see Lassie looking at him with a serious face, but at least he wasn't staring at Shawn like he was about to disappear into thin air, like his father, girlfriend, and best friend had been doing ever since the bomb had been dropped; he might have been avoiding eye contact, but Shawn had still been able to see glimpses of their facial expressions in his peripheral vision. The sense of normalcy allowed Shawn to calm down a bit internally after the initial terror had somewhat passed. "Mr. Reese was found by some hikers on a nature trail after having been missing for about three weeks. He had been dead for at least three days when they found him. His body had started to decompose, and his flesh had already been inhabited by larvae and picked at by buzzards."

There was a gagging sound, and Shawn turned to see his best friend hunched over the table, his skin an unnatural green color. "Excuse me," Gus managed to whine before he bolted from his seat so quickly that the spinny-chair was still turning slightly by the time he was out the door and halfway to the bathroom. Shawn sniggered, and to his relief, Juliet let out a micro-chuckle. Poor Gus's not-so-steel stomach had managed to ease much of the tension in the room, and Shawn was glad of it.

Feeling slightly better, Shawn turned back to Lassie. "Now that we can talk freely, Lassie-Face, without having to censor our words for Gus, why don't you be blunt and give us the really gory details?" He smirked, Lassie scowled, and Shawn felt a bit more normalcy return to the world.

"Shawn," Henry said. Shawn groaned mentally. Papa Monkey had found his voice again. This didn't bode well for Shawn's coping mechanism: making fun of whatever scared him, because his dad knew exactly how to call him out on it and was the master at bursting any and all balloons.

Shawn looked at his father and saw the unmasked worry there. Henry Spencer was a master at hiding his emotions, but over the past few years, Shawn had come to realize that his dad was a bit more transparent when it came to his son. Now, at the news that Shawn was the next target of a brutal serial killer, Shawn's dad couldn't hide his fear, no matter how hard he tried. Taking a little bit of pity on the old man, Shawn put his hand on his father's shoulder and said, "It's fine, Dad."

Henry didn't answer, but from his expression, it was easy to tell that it was far from fine. He shrugged Shawn's hand off and turned to the chief. "How do you know that Shawn is the target? Did The Hunter contact you?"

"He left a message at the station, yes," Karen nodded grimly. She turned to the next slide, which showed a blown-up picture of a fancy invitation card printed in beautiful, swooping calligraphy on what looked to be legitimate parchment paper. Squinting to interpret the swirly handwriting, Shawn finally made out:

To: The Santa Barbara Police Department

Greetings.

I would like to cordially invite one of your own to join me to participate in a grand game of which the likes of Santa Barbara has never seen.

Please give my regards to Mr. Shawn Spencer, Psychic Detective. He will be receiving a less formal invitation to join me in the near future. Please tell him to be looking for my call.

I look forward to The Game.

Signed,

The Hunter

"Seriously?" Shawn asked. "Who does this guy think he is, with all his fancy writing and big words? Frederick Shakespeare?"

Juliet shot him a strange look. "It's William Shakespeare, Shawn."

Shawn considered this for a moment. "I've—"

"No, Shawn, you haven't heard it both ways," Henry snapped. He turned back to Karen. "He did this for the first ten victims? A formal invitation to some kind of twisted game?"

Karen nodded, her eyes troubled. "We've been following the movements of The Hunter from the moment he or she became known to the public. We always knew that there would be a possibility that they would make their way here, and we wanted to be ready if they did. But what we've learned from the other police departments that have dealt with this guy isn't reassuring. From the very beginning, they let the police department know who they are going to take. With the first victim, this killer wasn't known, so even though a little bit of extra protection was arranged for him, there wasn't a big deal made until his body was found three weeks later. Since then, it doesn't matter if the chosen target is put into the highest possible security. Somehow, The Hunter manages to take them, anyway."

"So basically, I'm screwed?" Shawn asked, only half-joking.

"Only if you don't do exactly what we tell you, Mr. Spencer," the chief said sternly, "because I promise you, if you will cooperate fully with the department regarding your protection, we will make sure that you stay out of harm's way until The Hunter is caught."

Shawn looked at the chief dubiously. "Why do I have a feeling that all the other departments promised their people the same thing?" he asked almost mournfully.

"Spencer, you need to show some respect—" Lassie ground out.

"Carlton, enough," the chief admonished. "It's a fair question. And I'm afraid I don't have a very reassuring answer for you, Shawn. But the fact remains that until this killer is caught – and believe me, we will be working with not only the FBI, but the other departments that have encountered The Hunter as well – all we can do is put everything we have into keeping you as protected as we can. Which means," she said sternly, "that you cannot be anywhere near this case."

Shawn's mouth fell open. "What? Come on, Chief! When Yin and Yang were wanting to play, you were all gung-ho for me to throw myself in the middle of it! This guy singled me out for a reason—"

"Yeah, to kill you," Lassiter muttered, and was rewarded by a swift jab to the side with Juliet's elbow, which he acknowledged with a small yelp, and that he would in the future claim to have never uttered.

"—and I might be your only shot at nailing him! You can keep me safe while I investigate. You need me."

Henry, Karen, and Lassiter all opened their mouths to yell at Shawn for his stupidity, but to everyone's surprise, Juliet beat them to it. "Despite what you think, Shawn," she said, the biting edge to her voice belittled slightly by the mist of tears in her eyes, "the department can solve, and has solved cases without you. It's not all about you."

Shawn laughed slightly; there was a nervous ring to it. "On the contrary, Jules," he argued, well aware that he was probably on his way to earning a one-way ticket to the dog house, "I'm pretty sure this thing is all about me. I mean, this guy called me out for a reason. Now, it could be because of my hair, which, as you know, is fantastic, but I'm willing to believe that it could be because of my knack for solving the unsolvable, or my psychic powers. But no matter what the reason for his choosing me, it obviously has to do with me."

"For once, Shawn, will you just shut up and listen?" Ouch. Okay, definitely the dog house. Juliet waited for a second to see if Shawn was going to obey, and when he didn't start talking again, she continued, her voice much softer this time. "I know you're good at what you do, and I know you want to help. But if you try to investigate this, you'll just be putting yourself in harm's way. We have to make it impossible for The Hunter to get to you. We can't do that when you're—"

"Dancing around the room, flailing like an idiot, and babbling like a madman?" Lassiter cut in. It was now his turn to smirk.

"I don't dance," Shawn protested petulantly.

"But you admit to flailing and babbling?" Lassiter asked innocently.

"Proudly."

Lassie frowned. Shawn grinned. Henry cleared his throat. "Can we get back to the issue at hand, here?" he asked irritably, glaring at Shawn and Lassiter in turn. "Shawn, you're sure as hell not going to go sticking your nose into this one. I don't care if we have to handcuff you and throw you in a cell, you're not getting involved."

"But I am involved," Shawn protested. "My name was on the invitation."

"Enough. Karen, how are we doing this? Protective custody? Body guards?"

"I thought the jail idea was good," Lassiter supplied.

"Don't I get a say in this at all?" Shawn asked.

"No!" Juliet, Henry, Lassiter, and Karen exclaimed. Shawn raised his hands defensively.

"We'll talk details in a little while. I think we all need out of this room for a few minutes. Until then, Mr. Spencer, you don't leave this station. Your father is right; if you don't choose to cooperate, we can put you into protective custody, and if necessary, it can be with the FBI instead of the station. Your choice."

Shawn glared at the table top as everyone filed out of the room, leaving him alone with the invitation on the slide show. He squeezed his eyes shut, leaning heavily on the table, and tried to get a better hold on his emotions. Part of having a photographic memory was, obviously, having the ability of remembering everything in perfect detail. Shawn could still see the broken, beaten, mangled body of The Hunter's first victim in his head, as clearly as if he was still looking at the slide. He knew that it could very well be him next, and as much as he trusted the chief, Jules, and yes, even Lassie, he knew that he wouldn't be able to sleep unless he himself was doing something to catch this psycho.

Not that he would be sleeping for quite a while after this, anyway.


"This is ridiculous," Shawn grumbled as he and Gus got out of Lassiter's car and headed for Shawn's apartment. "I'm not five years old. I don't need a babysitter."

Gus made a dubious sound and shrugged. "To be fair, Shawn, you often act like you're five. And I'm not so sure about the babysitter, either."

"At least Lassie is going to let us go in alone to pack my stuff," Shawn conceded as he unlocked his door. He was less than thrilled about the chief's decision about his protection. It had been decided shortly after everyone – including a pale and worried Gus – had reconvened, this time in the chief's office, that Shawn needed to be with a police officer at all times. Also, he couldn't stay at his apartment, Gus's place, Juliet's place, his dad's place, or the Psych office until this was over. Apparently, these places were too obvious, and Shawn needed to be somewhere less conspicuous. The chief had suggested Lassiter's place, and as much as Lassiter had protested, especially after Shawn crowed for five minutes straight about their first sleepover, the chief overruled, insisting that with Lassiter's large collection of weapons and his known feud with Shawn, he would be a good choice. Even though Shawn had teased Lassiter about wanting to sleep over, he had tried to appeal to Chief Vick after everyone else had left the office, but she had been adamant: If Shawn didn't want to be handed over to the FBI to be put in protective custody, then he would have to agree to have a constant police escort and to stay at Lassiter's until The Hunter had been caught.

Needless to say, Shawn wasn't happy about it.

Together, Shawn and Gus managed to pack fairly quickly. Fifteen minutes and two full duffels later, they met an armed and annoyed Carlton Lassiter outside of his car.

"Good lord, Spencer. Did you pack enough crap?"

Shawn cocked his head and grinned, grateful that he could at least gain some small pleasures from his being baby-sat by Lassiter. "Now that you mention it, no, I don't, Lassie. I've got a whole other suitcase filled to the brim with crap, just in case you need some. Gus will go get it for you if you want."

"No I won't, Shawn!"

"Gus, don't be those tiny aliens from Toy Story that worship The Claw."

Gus grimaced. "You know those things freak me out, Shawn! I had nightmares for a week after that movie!"

Lassie sighed loudly and threw his head back. "Just… get in the car, Spencer. Guster, where are you going?"

"Back to the station to get my car. I have to work tomorrow, and I'm not going to be roped into staying up all night at your slumber party."

Lassie growled, "It's not a slumber party, and so help me, if either of you call it that again, the chief's going to have to put in you in protective custody… from me."

"Duly noted," Shawn said as he and Gus got into the car. "What about a sleepover? Or pajama party? PJ palooza…?"


The envelope waiting for them on Lassiter's doormat dampened Shawn's already downed spirits considerably. It was addressed simply to "Shawn," using the same swooping handwriting that was on the invitation sent to the police station. Lassiter insisted on opening it, seeing that he was a cop and point on this investigation, never mind that it had Shawn's name on it.

Lassiter opened it carefully, one hand on his gun. Shawn wondered if he planned on shooting the contents if he didn't like what they said. Shawn wouldn't put it past him.

Instead of shooting, after Lassiter read whatever was on the paper, he frowned deeply and tossed it on the kitchen table in Shawn's general direction. He pulled out his phone and walked away, and Shawn heard him say, "Chief, we have a problem" before he was out of ear range. Shawn turned his attention to the newest note, a terrible mixture of fear and anticipation welling up inside of him.

Shawn, it read, I find your department's attempts to keep you from The Game amusing, and slightly insulting if they think that sending you to the trigger-happy head detective's home is going to throw me off. I am determined that you will join me within the course of the next three days, whether by force or your own free will. Free will would be easier, but if you insist on making things difficult for yourself, you can rest assured that someone will be by to pick you up soon. The Game begins anew in three days' time, and I look forward to meeting you – you are the most fascinating yet.

Sincerely,

The Hunter

Shawn swallowed heavily, his stomach churning and throat dry. This was so not good.


A/N: This chapter I had to absolutely grind out. It hated me, and I'm still not so sure how I feel about it. I'm ready to get to the meat of the story! Not too much longer! :) Still, please let me know what you think. Review, and I'll update as soon as I can. The good stuff, and the whump, will be here within the next few chapters. Yay!

~Emachinescat ^..^