Title: Friends, in Sickness and in Health: Henry Spencer
Challenge: #3 Sickness
Word Count: 2067
Rating: PG-13 for language and violence
Karen Vick thinks he killed the bastard who shot his son.
He doesn’t disavow her of the notion, but he’s glad Gus and Shawn don’t ask him about it if they have suspicions. He doesn’t really want to explain what he did during that Week, when his boy was dying and he wasn’t around.
(But they’d told him Shawn would be fine, that the surgery went well and everything was All Right.)
He’d thought it was some kind of sick joke when Vick first called him. He knew his way around crime scenes. There was no way a competent chief (and he could tell Shawn respected her, in his own way, so there was no possibility she was anything but) would allow civilians to poke around before the scene had been secured. If it had been Shawn sticking his head under the guillotine without permission, which wouldn’t have surprised him, that would be one thing. She’d made it clear, though, that he had permission to be where he was.
His first instinct had been to blame her, to blame the others with her, because Shawn was in their care and they screwed up. But then she came to the hospital, and despite the fact that he was being colder than a stakeout in McMurdo, she didn’t leave until they had the prognosis report. She didn’t really respond at all to his clipped words, to his harsh stares, either with anger or with shame. All she cared about were the words coming from Shawn’s doctor and the progress reports being radioed in from her people.
It took the better part of an hour to figure out what her attitude reminded him of.
She was responding as a chief would to the loss of one of her own men (not a civilian, but one of her own, which cut deeper but showed less), with him playing the part of the grief-mad family (biting at the very thing he’d always supported). The realization stung deeply, though he didn’t let it show. It also cemented in his mind the plan that had been slowly forming while the doctors worked at sewing his only child back together.
Karen left once the prognosis report was in, staying just long enough to see Shawn moved to recovery. He waited just slightly longer, arranging for payment and ensuring that he, Gus and anyone capable of flashing an SBPD badge had full access to his son’s room.
(That was harder than it usually would have been, as he had somehow migrated to the very bottom of Shawn’s emergency contact list, but there was no way in Hell he was going to leave without having that sorted out. Shawn was hard to keep in bed when he was sick to begin with; having him bored (or scared) because they wouldn’t let people in to see him would just make things ten times worse.)
He was going to use his contacts to get a copy of the case file Shawn had been working on, but a quick search of his son’s office provided the information he needed (and left less of a trail). Dropping by the scene of the last crime at four in the morning told him that rookies were still being used for the lousy jobs they weren’t qualified for, but not much else. Still, that wasn’t an insurmountable problem. He’d been a good cop in his day, well respected, and he’d spent twenty years trying to teach his son to be the same.
It was amazing how much training someone with an eidetic memory could improve yours.
Even more amazing was how much of the illogical, connect-the-dots-but-not-in-order-of-the
Within two days he was hot on the shooter’s trail.
(He’d made certain not to bring a cell phone, and he hadn’t been home since he received the phone call telling him Shawn was hurt.)
By the end of day five he was certain he had found the man. Dylan Pinsky, thirty-three, no history of domestic abuse, divorced four times, filing for a fifth. His first wife had been found beaten to death two weeks ago, his second wife a week later. It had been her house Shawn was shot in.
His boy had pegged Pinsky as the killer from the first murder.
Once he caught up to the man, Henry found that he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know if there was an arrest warrant out for him, and even if there were, they were twelve hours and several states from Santa Barbara. Trying to get the local police to help would most likely be an exercise in frustrated futility, and he knew his temper was still too sore right then to handle it well.
He’d left his cell phone behind, though. He’d paid with cash at every gas station and restaurant he’d been to. No one could trace him here. If he did it right (and he could, if anyone knew how to do these kinds of things right it was cop), no one would ever be any the wiser. Oh, they might suspect, but proof…
Except for the fact that he would know what he did. He would know that he’d turned against every law he’d ever upheld and (beaten, shot, beaten, he couldn’t decide which was the more fitting end for the bastard) killed a man.
(And Shawn would know, because Shawn was scary-good at figuring things like that out. No history of violence, over a decade since Pinsky had seen the first woman, such scant evidence at the crime scene, and Shawn still managed to peg him.)
So he followed the man, at first surreptitiously, staying out of sight, being careful and quiet (though every bone, every muscle, every nerve in his body wanted to walk up, introduce himself, and then pound a little bit of that heart-stopping fear and disbelief he had felt when he received the Call into the culprit). It soon became apparent why Shawn had made the catch so easily. The man was intelligent, yes, and left behind very little material evidence, but he was jumpy, suspicious, a nervous wreck waiting to happen.
So Henry decided to help it along.
He came out of the shadows with a glare and a stare, making sure the man could feel the weight of his intentions. He didn’t actually approach him, didn’t even go within ten feet of him (because that would have been too much of a temptation), but he made his presence very clearly known.
After all, the man had nowhere to run. He had, for all intents and purposes, shot a cop with the intent to kill. He was smart. He would know that no police station in the world was a safe haven for him. They would eventually find him, connect the dots, and cop-killers didn’t usually make it to jail in one piece.
They’d run north and east, into forest country, into mountain country, though Henry hadn’t noticed quite how much until they were on the road again. Just following was having the desired effect, would continue to have the desired effect until he decided if he really could do what he wanted to do and still look himself in the mirror (still look Shawn in the eye).
The decision was taken out of his hands after another five hours of driving. It was night, and dark, so dark under the trees, and the bastard was driving blind, trying to shake him off his trail (which was the dumbest idea ever, because he could still see the guy’s tail-lights, while the idiot couldn’t see anything at all).
The crash was over almost before Henry realized it had happened. He was half-way around the curve Pinsky had missed before he could collect his exhaustion-slowed (and fury-slowed, and worry-slowed) thoughts enough to stop and go back.
The car was a mangled mess, held up near the top of the cliff only by a groaning tree. Pinsky didn’t look much better in the driver’s seat, blood coating his face, his right arm twisted at an unnatural angle, body pinned tightly between the steering wheel and the seat.
“Help… me. Please.”
Henry’s first instinct was to do just that, to move the injured man away from the creaking wreck.
It was quickly drowned out by a father’s rage, the connected killer’s instincts (things he’d never thought he’d feel this strongly, especially not after Shawn walked out on him along with his mother).
“Please… help…” One bloody hand reached through cracked glass, grasped feebly in his general direction.
“No.” Henry’s voice was quiet, low, but not a growl, not inhuman. There was nothing inhuman about what he was doing. “You tried to kill my son. What makes you think I’d save a bastard like you?”
“Sorry… please…” The man didn’t move his head, couldn’t move much of anything, was as helpless as it was possible to be.
All the sight did was make the rage burn higher. Someone as pathetic as the begging thing before him shouldn’t have been able to even touch Shawn.
He watched, for minutes or hours, he couldn’t tell, didn’t want to know. Eventually the man stopped begging, though it was still some time after before he stopped twitching.
It was a simple matter to help the almost-broken tree along, to send the car and its still occupant down into the valley. Foliage made dark and deep as the ocean by the lack of light closed around the metal machine, hid it from view, even as the emptiness around them diluted the sounds of breaking and tearing to nothing (though the mountains echoed it back, a whisper again and again).
Some poor hiker would no doubt find the body one day, stumble upon it (or whatever remained once the predators were done with it) while out on their weekend trek, and maybe there would be people at his door. But there would be no evidence of any wrongdoing, no evidence that he was even here, once he swept over the few clear footprints he’d left, and if they questioned him he could say with complete honesty that he had done nothing.
It took him an hour to find someplace safe to pull over. He slept for the better part of a day (and dreamt of guns and cars and helplessness, and his boy hurt and refusing to tell him how or why, refusing even to let him in the room). Groaning, stretching, he pointed his car into the blinding sunset and headed home.
There were three messages on his answering machine. The first told him that Shawn had spiked a fever, developed some kind of post-operative infection, possibly pneumonia, and things weren’t looking too good. The second, from four days later, merely said in short, clipped words that he needed to get down there (and things were bad, from the sound of Gus’s voice, so very bad). He was shaking as the third played, certain what it would say.
Instead of the words he had feared, in Gus’s or Karen’s or a stranger’s voice, it was Shawn, and it was from today, and though the boy’s voice was scratchy and weak, it was definitely his personality (his anger, his humor, so intricately tied together so far as their relationship went).
Henry cried after that third message, not for long and not hard, but he cried, because his boy had been dying and he hadn’t known, because everything was so messed up so far as Shawn went (because Shawn had expected him not to show up), because he’d stood back and watched a man die slowly, and even if the bastard deserved it, and even if it was indirectly, he still had blood on his hands.
He dropped by the hospital the next day. Shawn looked like hell and sounded worse, but he was alive, and already asking when he’d be released.
Henry was asked to leave forty minutes after he arrived because the discussion he was having with his son turned into an argument which ended with both of them shouting and Shawn unable to breathe.
(It scared him, when Shawn started coughing like that and couldn’t stop, but Gus took it in stride, and so he did, as well.)
When he left, he was able to look his son in the eye.