"What is this crap?" Esposito asked. "White-collar Feebs don't handle dead guys. Especially not dead guys suspended from a Manhattan street sign."
"Yeah," Castle said. "This is our turf!"
"Stop helping me," Esposito said.
Beckett shook her head. "We handle dead guys. But we don't generally handle forged stock certificates. And Agent Burke and his team are the go-to guys for that sort of thing."
Ryan said, "And you don't think they'll want jurisdiction and credit?"
"They can want whatever they want. They don't get my case."
"That's so badass," Castle said dreamily. Beckett ignored him.
Captain Montgomery led two men into the squad room. "Agent Burke, these are Detectives Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito. And our consultant, Castle. Beckett, this is Special Agent Burke of the FBI and--"
"Jimmy Ellery!" Castle said, jumping up and holding out a hand. "I haven't seen you in years. How are you?" He turned to Beckett. "He sold me that Lorado Taft bust."
"You sold him what? As who?" Agent Burke rolled his eyes up to the ceiling, then back down again. "Allow me to introduce my consultant, Neal Caffrey."
Castle froze, his hand still held out in front of him. "Neal Caffrey the con artist?"
Caffrey tilted his head in an aw-shucks gesture. His hat remained tilted rakishly on his head.
"Neal Caffrey the forger?"
"Alleged forger," Caffrey said.
"Awkward," Ryan muttered.
"Oh, my God," Castle said. His face lit up, and he reached out to Burke and shook him by the shoulders. "I got conned by Neal Caffrey!" He let Burke go and grabbed Caffrey's hand. "This is awesome."
Burke looked at Beckett. "I don't even know what to say to that."
"I never do," Beckett said.
"Castle, hurry it up," Beckett said. "I don't have time for you to dig through every drawer in your house."
"Just a sec—maybe it's in the couch." Castle sprinted across the room.
"Maybe you can just not have your cell phone for one day," Beckett said, eyeing Martha and Alexis as they both sidled closer to Caffrey.
Castle didn't even look up. "Bite your tongue."
Martha brushed one hand down Caffrey's coat. "I have got to visit June more often. She's like a sister to me, you know. A substantially older sister, of course."
"Oh, really, Grandma?" Alexis asked. She leaned a little closer to Caffrey's other side. "Did you know that my grandmother started acting when she was in her twenties? That was in the nineteen-sixties."
"Is that so?" Caffrey smiled down at her.
Castle, phone in hand, shoved his way in between them. "Did Alexis mention she has a father? One who knows twenty-three and a half ways of hiding bodies?"
Caffrey took a prudent step back, nearly bumping into Burke. "I respect that."
Beckett sighed. "Can we just go, please?"
The apartment remained stubbornly empty. Burke looked up from the camera monitor and over at Beckett, who was checking out the doorman through her binoculars. "Can't he get off work already?"
"Damn him and his stellar work ethic," she said. She lowered the binoculars. "Any news on the warrant for the phone taps?"
"Jones?" Burke looked over his shoulder and froze. "Oh, that's not good."
Beckett turned too. "You have got to be kidding me."
"Full house." Caffrey laid his hand down with a slight flourish and leaned back in his chair.
Ryan signed and reached for his wallet.
Burke looked down at the table. The laptop and phone records were shoved off to one side. A small pile of cards sat in the middle of the table, and a small pile of money was disappearing into Caffrey's pocket.
"Double or nothing?" Ryan asked hopefully.
"I'm in," Castle said.
"Are you?" asked Beckett. Her team turned to her, visibly bracing, except for Castle, who just looked at her innocently. "Are you really?"
"Shall I deal you in?" Caffrey held up a wallet between two fingers.
"Hey!" Ryan said.
Burke put his hands over his face. "Why me?"
Caffrey wisely started handing bills back to their theoretically rightful owners.
"I have some friends you need to meet," Castle said. "They would love to be fleeced by you."
Next to him, Beckett groaned and buried her face in her hands.
"Listen," Beckett told Burke. "It's not that I doubt his skills."
"His alleged skills." Castle shook his head. "No, wait."
Beckett smacked him with a file and kept talking. "I'm just saying, this is a delicate operation. If Wells gets even the smallest whiff that these aren't his forgeries—"
"I know," Burke said. "I have agents in this too, you know."
Castle moved out of file-smacking range. "Besides, I for one don't doubt his possibly alleged skills. And a forgery of a forgery? How hard is that?"
"Substantially more difficult than forging an original," Caffrey said, stopping next to Beckett's desk. "I'll explain it to you sometime."
Castle's eyes went dreamy.
Caffrey handed Beckett a letter-sized portfolio. "As requested. I also got the pictures taken, so you can identify them once Wells is arrested."
Beckett opened the portfolio, and the suspicion cleared from her expression almost immediately. "I'm no expert, but I can't tell the difference."
Burke looked over her shoulder. "I am, and likewise. Great job, Neal. And the tracker?"
Caffrey turned the portfolio and pointed to one curlicue on the design, seemingly no different from any others in the design. "In and working."
"You can do that?" Castle asked.
"I can," Caffrey said simply.
Castle rested his chin on his hands and looked up at Caffrey through his eyelashes. "Marry me?"
Caffrey's grin didn't change even when Burke whacked him with Beckett's file.
"So this is how the beautiful people live, hm?" Burke asked Beckett, looking around at all the people sipping champagne and nibbling hors d'oeuvres.
"You're asking the wrong cop. I usually only ever see places like this when someone gets killed with a stiletto or something." Burke raised an eyebrow; Beckett shrugged. "It happens."
"Somehow I'm not surprised."
Castle danced past them with Elizabeth Burke in his arms. She laughed at something he said and turned to send a quick wink at her husband. He grinned back.
"Speaking of the beautiful people," Beckett said, "where's—"
"Peter!" Caffrey said from behind them.
Beckett and Burke rolled their eyes in unison and turned.
"Did you see this?" He held out a copy of Heat on Ice.
"Have I seen the book being released at this book release party tonight? Yes, Neal, I'm pretty sure I have."
"I'm ignoring that," Caffrey said, "because I know for a fact you haven't seen the inside of the book." He opened it to the first page and handed it to Burke.
Burke looked down, looked back up at Caffrey, looked down again, and burst out laughing. Caffrey looked offended.
Beckett grabbed a book from a nearby stack. Burke was still laughing; Caffrey made a huffing sound and walked off. He reappeared on the dance floor a moment later with Alexis. Castle immediately stopped smiling down at Elizabeth and started glaring at Caffrey. Burke just laughed harder.
Beckett looked down at the dedication page.
For Neal Caffrey, who may have actually conned me into writing this entire book. You can cheat me at cards any time you want, my friend.