"That's the witness?" Beckett asked, pointing to the skinny man on the other side of the crime scene.
Esposito nodded. "Yeah, that's him."
"Or maybe we're just supposed to think he's a witness," Castle said. "Perhaps he's actually...the killer."
Beckett gave him a look.
"What? He could be!" Castle said defensively. "I mean, sure, he doesn't look like one...actually, I can't think of anyone who looks less like a murderer – but maybe that's his cover. He's trying to lure us into a false sense of security!"
"Fine. You stay here and be lured, I'll go over and question him."
"Wait!" Castle started to follow her, but Esposito stopped him.
"Dude, a heads up? This guy is a piece of work."
Castle straightened up. "I think we can handle this."
Esposito shrugged. "Better you than me, bro."
Castle walked quickly, but Beckett had already started questioning the witness when he got there. "I see, Mr. Cooper – "
"Dr. Cooper, when did –"
"Really, I told you I was a doctor," the guy interrupted her.
Beckett face took on that pinched look it got when she was exasperated and trying not to show it. Castle was impressed to see someone else who could put that look on her face almost as quickly as he could. "I'm sorry, I misspoke."
"It's not hard to keep straight. It's no wonder that murderers run around New York killing people all willy-nilly if the cops here can't even remember the difference between someone of advanced intellect and someone, well, plebeian."
"You see," Castle did a little interrupting of his own. "At this point in a book, something really horrible would happen to this guy. Audiences like to see obnoxious characters come to unfortunate ends."
Beckett looked like she was about to smile, and Cooper looked offended, which Castle took as a win-win solution.
"Excuse me, but with such an encouraging attitude towards clichéd and predictable plot contrivances, you must be Richard Castle."
"You hear that, Castle," Beckett drawled. "You have a fan."
"I would hardly call myself a fan," Cooper said scornfully. "Heat Wave was one of the most underwhelming books I've read in my life. I would say it was disappointing except that would have required me to have high expectations prior to reading it. The conclusion of the book was painfully obvious by the end of the second chapter."
"If it was so obvious, why'd you read it?" Castle challenged.
The guy looked a little unnerved by that question. "A friend of mine was in the hospital recently. She asked me to read it to her."
"Come on, admit it," Castle said. "My books are a guilty pleasure for you."
"Guilt, yes, that's an appropriate emotional response, but I assure you, I derived no pleasure from your book."
Castle pulled Beckett back a foot or two and muttered in her ear. "Can we revisit the witness-is-suspect theory of mine?"
"Now, Castle," she answered, still smirking fiercely, "we can't just go arresting everyone who disagrees with us."
"If he's Rick Castle," Cooper commented loudly, "than I suppose you're that Detective Beckett." He sniffed. "I'm not surprised."
Beckett's demeanor became icy, and Castle even stepped back a bit. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Cooper was entirely oblivious. "It's a widely known fact that you're the basis for that dull and unprofessional parody of a cop, Nikki Heat. I had thought that her characterization, or lack there of, was surely a result of bad writing. Now I wonder if it had some basis in fact."
"Ooh, bad call," Castle muttered to a passing cop, who gave him a strange look.
"You know, Castle, I might have been overhasty in dismissing your suggestion," Beckett said. "Doctor Cooper, you're going to have to come into the station with us and answer some questions there."
Cooper suddenly grew alarmed. "What? You can't do that."
"I'm afraid she can," Castle said, as Beckett led Cooper away.
Castle noticed a group of three guys watching the exchange with something like glee on their faces. "All right," one of them said, "who had their money on 'Sheldon gets arrested'?"
"Technically," Castle called out to them, "he hasn't been arrested."
The three shared a look. "Could you get him arrested?" one of them asked. The others nodded in agreement.
Castle smiled. "I'll see what I can do."