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Is there a Zen for this?

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PART ONE: NEW YORK - JUNE 2014

Crime scenes were nothing new to Kate Beckett. She'd been to thousands of them and had met the newly dead in what was probably their most awkward moments ever. She couldn't exactly say the most awkward moments of their lives, because the problem was they weren't alive any longer. Some of them had the good luck -- if you could call it good luck to be dead -- to be in relatively peaceful poses. And some were just truly bizarre. Like someone was telling a story with their death.

Which was where her partner -- volunteer police consultant -- Richard Castle came in handy. He was a novelist. Stories were kind of his thing.

Granted, sometimes the stories he came up with were truly bat-shit crazy, when she was able to find evidence for a fairly straight-forward crime. But after years of the actual truth usually being somewhere between the two, she'd learned to start listening. Usually with a grain of salt. But she still listened.

This body was relatively straight forward. Russian if his doubtless faked passport was anything to go by, possibly a mobster, gun shot wounds to the face and chest by a .45 calibur -- if the first analysis of ME Lanie Parish was right. But Lanie was usually right.

Castle was wandering around the apartment, prowling through cupboards and rooms like a child at a museum. But he was wearing gloves to Kate left him alone. They'd only had problems with him contaminating a crime scene once, and it had turned out someone had been framing him for murder. So when he stopped and went, "Huh?" in that way he sometimes did, Kate actually stopped looking around and started paying attention to him. "Hey, Doc. Is this a real hand?"

Kate followed him to the kitchen pantry, where there was indeed a hand, floating in clear liquid, in a glass jar. Her first impulse was to snap that no, of course not. Because who kept hands in their pantries? But then, who got shot in the chest and face with a .45? And while Kate was not a blame-the-victim kind of person, something about the body made her wonder if this was a man who still deserved justice but might have also deserved to be brought to justice too. She never confused the two, and never let one get in the way of the other. She'd still find who did this, and give it all over to the DA. That was her job. Whatever the DA did with it after, though. Well, that was his job. And if it never went to trial, at least she still did her job.

The hand looked like it had been used hard. If it was real it was missing it's first and third fingers from the first knuckle up. It was a left hand and it still had a gold wedding ring. It looked fake. But who cut off the tips of fake fingers?

She moved so Lanie could see the hand as well and the ME nodded at her assistant. "Yep, go ahead and bag that too."

The assistant pushed past Castle, not even seeming to care that he seemed to have forgotten to move out of the way. Usually people at crime scenes were supernaturally polite and distant, but if Lanie Parish's intern and Kate Beckett's partner didn't seem to care if they were in each other's space, no one else seemed to find it odd. Not even worth a comment, when he rested his hand in the middle of her back. Kate felt a flash of something that wasn't jealousy. It was more like longing, that no matter how much they loved each other, and no matter how long they were together, there would always be that one part of him that would always be Alexis'. Which was right, in it's own way. Just as he would never own the part of her that shared the grief of her mother's murder with her own father.

Alexis, wrapping the jar in evidence plastic, flashed Kate a smile which she felt herself returning. If there was ever a more perfect step-daughter than Alexis, she couldn't even begin to imagine who it could be.

 

It took three days for the lab work to come back on the hand and Kate obeyed Lanie's summons to the morgue as soon as they got them. Their original victim (the whole one) still lacked an ID, which meant probably an illegal, and there was still no match on the gun which fired the shots.

"Which brings us," Lanie said, gesturing at the jar where the hand floated, "to him." Castle looked suddenly cheerful and Kate bit her lip to keep from commenting on whatever theory he'd come up with. He was usually trying to get a rise out of her anyway.

She's guessed it was a him, just from the hand itself. Older white male, married, worked for a living if the callouses were anything to go by. Not manual labor, but not soft either. His hands reminded her a little of her own. No definitive lines that marked him a construction worker or an office worker. Just hands that had seen the grime and filth that life had to offer.

"I got my ID back about an hour ago. He's been officially listed as missing and endangered. A retired LAPD Detective named Jack Reese who went missing five years ago."

Chapter Text

Captain Gates was straightforward when she called Kate into her office. She'd excluded Castle -- which was nothing new -- but it seemed to be more habit than malice. LAPD would be sending detectives. It was right and proper -- New York would do the same for one of their own. And Kate would keep them informed about what was going on with the case. But it was her jurisdiction, her case. And if LAPD gave her any trouble, she was to let Captain Gates know and SHE would deal with them.

Kate left her office feeling a little better but she remembered her own run in with LAPD a few years ago, back when her trainer had been killed and she'd chased his killer to LA. They'd not played well, and part of her acknowledged they'd had no reason to; but part of her wondered if turn about might be fair play.

She was expecting them, the next morning, when they walked into the precinct, still looking jet lagged and tired, two men and a woman. The woman and one man were clutching coffees cups like they were vital to survival. The second man just looked tired but cheerful, a clear plastic cup filled with fruit in his hand.

Captain Gates came out of her office and Kate raised her eyebrows when "Iron" Gates did a double take. "Kevin Tidwell? I didn't expect. . .what are you doing here?"

The tireder of the two men smiled, lighting up a face that was otherwise plain. "Victoria Gates? How are you doing? It's been years. I'm here. . .well, I came because of the Jack Reese thing."

"I knew we were getting a couple of detectives. I didn't know we were getting a Captain too." The tone of Captain Gates' voice had sobered a little, as if she were starting to get suspicious and Kate felt her stomach clench. Precincts did not send Captains across the country, even after high profile missing persons cases, unless they were trying a power play.

Captain Tidwell shrugged. "Well, let's just say we have kind of an odd situation here so I'm oversight. Or undersight. Hell, maybe I'm just plain hindsight." The woman was glaring at him. She was short, dark haired and olive skinned, and Kate had thought Hispanic at first but a closer look made her wonder about middle eastern.

The more cheerful man extended a hand to Captain Gates. "Good morning. I'm Detective Charlie Crews." He turned and nodded. "And you must be Detective Becket. Sorry, I looked you up in the airport in LA, after we got the preliminary file."

Kate took his hand when he offered it. He was tall, his hair a golden-orange with pale skin that she wouldn't have expected out of LA. Behind her she could sense Castle moving in closer, not speaking but no doubt watching and listening. "Nice to meet you, Detective Crews. If you'll follow me into our briefing room. . ."

Captain Gates included herself in the procession and Kevin Ryan found her a chair as he started the powerpoint he'd put together. Kate preferred her murder board to the fancy projections, but she had to admit, giving people the presentation kept them from touching her board. And she hated that.

"Okay, what we know so far," he started, clicking through crime scene photos and then laying out a quick summary of what they didn't know -- which was still pretty extensive. The woman didn't seem to care much about pictures of the body -- though Crews seemed almost a little too interested -- but she was apparently mesmerized by the hand in the jar.

"Can I see it?" she asked softy, as Ryan finished clicking slides and his partner, Detective Javier Esposito was handing out duplicates of their notes so far. Ryan clicked back a few slides but she shook her head. "No, not the pictures. The hand. I want to see it." Crews and Tidwell looked a little worried but she shook her head at both of them. "I'm fine. But I want to see it."

"I'm sorry," Kate said to her. "I don't think I caught your name."

The other woman sighed, glaring at both Crews and Tidwell as they started to speak. "Detective Dani Reese."

"Reese?" Gates' voice rang out. "As in?"

"He's my father."

Kate had asked for Retired Detective Reese's file and had been told that LAPD would be bringing it with them. She'd known the man had been estranged from his wife and daughter but whatever she had read hadn't mentioned the daughter had been a police detective.

She heard Captain Gates start to speak and Captain Tidwell cut her off. "That's why I'm here. Not because we're trying to take over but, well. . . ." he trailed off, sounding a little miserable.

She heard Gates continue -- citations of regulations and policy and Kate was almost tempted to agree with her. They made the rules for a reason. But she remembered her mother dying, Captain Montgomery dying, Royce dying, and the steely look in Dani Reese's eyes cracked something in her she knew was only a fragile shell and she pushed away from the table. She saw everyone tense and ignored their words and looks.

"Of course. Detective Reese, if you'll follow me, I'll take you to the morgue."

Chapter Text

She wasn’t sure what she’d thought would happen. The news that her father’s hand had been found in a jar had come so long after she was sure he was dead that – had someone asked – she’d have said that she’d grieved and moved on. Not that Jack Reese’s death had exactly caused grief. Part of her only wanted to find his body so she’d have somewhere to dance and spit.

She hadn’t expected to feel whatever she felt when they’d told had about the hand. Hell, she didn’t even have a name for it. Grief? Anger? Sorrow? Triumph? She’d accepted that Roman had murdered Jack and that had seemed the end of the story, no matter how much Tidwell and Crews tried to get her to talk to the shrinks or spend more time at AA. She’d gotten drunk twice, sobbing out her anger at Jack, where no one could see or hear her and she’d once slipped out the back alley of a dark bar with a guy she’d never seen before and could only pray she’d never see again.

She’d called in sick for two days in a row, throwing up every time she thought of it afterwards. She could tell Kevin thought she’d been drinking but she’d been stone cold sober the entire time. She wasn’t sure if that made it worse or better. He’d brought her soup and had clearly been relieved when she’d puked twice within fifteen minutes of his arrival – her symptoms completely unlike a hangover. She’d thrown up again so many times after she realized he suspected she might be pregnant that he’d dragged her to the hospital. Since guilt and shame weren’t something that could be caught on a test, they’d diagnosed her with food poisoning. She was always pretty sure Crews knew there was something more to it but he’d been uncharacteristically silent and eventually the months had moved on and she’d been more careful when the black moods hit.

She hadn’t ever cut herself but sometimes she wondered if it would be healthier than what she did.

And all these years later, following Katherine Beckett down a low hallway, she still didn’t know how she felt.

Crews had read about Beckett out loud in the airport while they’d been waiting for their flight. She had one of the highest case closure rates in New York, beautiful, engaged to be married to the millionaire writer that somehow also worked in the department. Dani had imagined someone a little like Jack and Beckett clearly had that driven edge. But there had been a kindness to her that was surprising. Like the two of them were on the same wavelength, though Dani wasn’t sure how.

Beckett opened the door to a familiar steel-accented fixtures – it might have been New York but Dani was pretty sure morgue’s looked alike across the entire country – and stepped back, letting Dani proceed her into the room. She was vaguely aware of another woman wearing a purple smock standing near a table with a body on it but all Dani could stare at was the jar.

Even if she didn’t know what she was feeling, she knew she felt more of it, staring at the hand. She wished she could feel some kind of kinship to it or certain knowledge that yes – this was her father. But the wedding ring was a plain band like millions of others; no clue there. DNA evidence may say this was Jack Reese but all she could identify of her feelings was a sorrow that she couldn’t say that in all the her lifetime, she’d ever really had a chance to study Jack’s hands enough to know if this was really them.

She knew from the commotion behind her that Crews and Tidwell were crowding into the room behind her and she shifted to put more space between them and her, just in case one of them wanted to talk to her or – worse – try to comfort by touching her.

“Dani?” Tidwell’s voice was a little timid and if she would have had a moment to spare for him she would have almost found it amusing.

“I’m fine,” she replied, knowing her tone sounded deader than the hand-in-the jar and she stared at it harder – only sure that if she was looking at the hand she didn’t have to look at them. She felt someone step up behind her and there was no where to move to and she steeled herself for someone touching her. But after a few moment she realized it was Crews, not Tidwell and she hid a sigh of relief. Crews drove her crazy over little details, but somehow he always knew how to deal with her when it was important.

“Well?” she asked and he shrugged one shoulder, exhaling air in what in a less-controlled person would have been a snort.

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” he said, his voice soft and a part of her felt a little more in control, realizing that he was experiencing something he didn’t understand either.

“You knew him better than I did,” she nearly whispered and she noticed he didn’t rush to deny it.

They were only two of many of Jack Reese’s victims but as much as she wanted to hate him, sometimes she wondered if seeing what Jack had done to Crews made it easier to know what he’d done to her. Even if she didn’t understand that either.

Once – only once – she had actually opened up to one of the department shrinks and the woman had asked her if Jack had ever molested her. She’d been quick to correct that misapprehension but she’d seen the woman shutting down as Dani had assured her that Jack had never touched her in that way – as if sexual assault was the worst thing the woman could imagine and anything else wasn’t important.

Jack had been far too subtle. . .he didn’t need to torment her body when he had her entire soul to fuck, and Crews might be one of the only other people in the world to truly understand what Jack was capable of doing to a person if they didn’t do what he wanted them to.

She could hear Tidwell talking to the doctor about the identification methods and the reassurances there could be no mistake unless the DNA on file had been flawed to begin with and she glanced over at Kate Beckett. There was no suppressed impatience to the other woman, which she had expected from a detective who was clearly “going somewhere.” In fact, Dani had a sudden flash that she could stand all day in front of that jar and Kate Beckett would stand there with her, maybe even not asking all the awkward questions that Tidwell was doing just fine asking on his own.

One of the other detectives – the one wearing a vest and had almost but not quite a hint of an Irish accent – was asking questions about the other body and Dani flicked a quick glance at it before shaking her head and turning back to the jar. It looked like any other one of Roman’s goons or victims – sometimes they were indistinguishable – but she’d never seen this particular one before.

She was aware Charlie was allowing himself to be drawn away from her and over to the table and she could hear his explaining that he’d never seen the man either.

“Detective Reese?” The gentleness in Detective Beckett’s voice was unmistakable but it also didn’t make her want to run screaming like when Tidwell had wanted to comfort her earlier. She also appreciated the title – no fake-female kinship between them, which was a relief.

Dani turned away from the jar, resisting the urge to grab the whole damn thing and fling it at the nearest hard surface as if she wished the hand would shatter into as many small pieces as the glass. “I’m done,” she announced, wishing they would all stare at something other than her. It made her feel like she needed to explain whatever she was feeling. She wished she knew what it was.

Kate Beckett nodded, motioning towards the door out in nearly the exact same gesture she’d used to move Dani into the room and the two of them locked gazes, despite the space between them and the height difference and she felt her own eyes widen.

She didn’t know what she was feeling – nothing new since she so rarely did – but she had the unaccountable reason that whatever it was, as unlikely as it was, Kate Beckett was feeling it too.

Chapter Text

“So what was that, earlier in the morgue?” Castle asked, glancing around the break room as if trying to verify no one from the L.A. group was within earshot. Kate was pretty sure they were all in with Gates so she stepped closer to him, kissing him. Castle looked surprised but caught on soon enough and kissed her back, even if she could feel his hesitance, no doubt afraid Gates would catch them and blame the entire scene on him entirely.

She stepped away from him, her smile promising more later and he grinned at her. “Okay, not that I’m complaining. . . .”

“Just call it a ‘thank you,’ Castle.”

“Okay. Um, for what?”

Kate tilted her head in the direction of Gates’ office. “Because I used to be like that. I think a part of me always will be broken, but I hadn’t realized how much worse it could be.” Broken didn’t even begin to describe the vibes she was getting off Dani Reese and – oddly enough – her partner as well. She could understand the former but for Charlie Crews – the one who had seemed so cheerful when they had first arrived – to be somehow as affected by Jack Reese’s death as his own daughter made no sense to her.

Castle shrugged and she could tell he understood what she meant; at least the way it pertained to her. She wasn’t sure what he was getting off Reese and Crews.

He stepped up behind her, just a shade closer than normal and she could feel his hand brushing against her back. “I’m wondering how long they’ve been sleeping together?” he murmured in her ear. “And if their Captain knows about it?”

She couldn’t help but smile, turning her head just enough that it barely touched his shoulder. “You think so?” It would explain some things but she wasn’t so sure about it herself. They actually reminded her a little more of her and Espo – someone she could absolutely trust not only with her life but also with her emotions. Someone she knew would never let her down but at the same time, not someone she would ever go to bed with.

He shrugged again, stepping back as they heard footsteps coming towards the door and Dani Reese looked startled to see them. “Uh, Captain Gates said there was coffee?”

She studied the other detective as Castle showed her how to operate the complicated machine he’d bought for the precinct right after he’d started volunteering. There was something fragile about the other woman but at the same time, Kate had the feeling that it was as much an illusion as the hard shell she was clearly trying to project. This was someone, Kate sensed, who knew how to fall hard and not let it break her.

Castle had finished his demonstration of the coffee machine and Kate jerked her head at him, hoping he’d realize she wanted him out but was a little surprised when he left so quickly. Castle was surprisingly perceptive but he was equally as good at playing dumb when he didn’t want to do something. It had taken her years to learn he wasn’t as dumb as he acted.
“If you want to talk about it,” Kate said but Reese shrugged.

“I don’t.” There was a prickliness to her voice that told Kate she was on the defensive.

“My mother was murdered when I was twenty-two.” She’d been so sure of her life, a year from graduating with a pre-law degree with LSAT practice test scores good enough to get her whatever she decided to study. She hadn’t picked a school yet; but she knew, wherever she went, she’d be going to work with her mother when she was done.

Reese turned towards her, clearly appraising her. “Were you two close?”

Even after nearly two decades, Kate still felt her throat knot up and she nodded.

“Then you wouldn’t understand.” There was finality to Reese’s voice. It wasn’t quite a brush-off. She sounded more tired than angry.

“Can anyone?” Kate was surprised to hear herself speak – she usually wasn’t the one to push herself onto other people. “I charged head-on into trying to find who killed my mother and some good people died because of it. I won’t tell you that you don’t have the same right to try to find who murdered your father but I’m hoping maybe I can help you not to make the same mistakes I did.”

Reese snorted but she set down her coffee and folded her arms. “The man who killed my father – maybe not the one who did the actual killing, but the one who ordered it – he’s dead.”

“Jack Reese was listed as missing and endangered,” Kate said and Reese shrugged again.

“Roman Nevikov told me he’d killed my father a few years ago when he was trying to use me as bait. I didn’t know if I should believe him or not; if he was trying to use it to break me. Roman liked to break people.”

“What happened to him?” Kate asked and that actually won her a slight smile from the shorter woman.

“He tried to break someone who broke him instead.” There was a note of satisfaction in her voice and she glanced towards the door, back towards Gates’ office.

That explained a few things, Kate decided. “Crews?”

“Yeah.” Reese took a sip of her coffee and, at the mention of her partner, actually seemed almost – happy wasn’t the correct word, but less agitated was probably close.

Kate nodded, remembering Castle’s speculation about the two of them. She hadn’t been convinced looking at them but it made more sense now. “How long have the two of you been. . .together.”

“We’ve been partners for about seven years,” Reese responded absently, glancing around the room. After a moment she turned to look at Kate, a slight frown creasing her forehead. “You meant how long have we been. . . .?” She smiled and shook her head. “No, Crews and I aren’t--”

“Hey, Reese,” someone called and the red-haired man wandered into the room. For an instant Kate thought he looked worried but then the expression dissipated into a sunny smile. “Oh, good. You got coffee. She’s always happier after she’d had coffee,” he confided, mouth twisting into a wry grin. “Me, I’d rather just eat fruit than drink coffee -- the vitamins help more than the caffeine – but Reese doesn’t like fruit. At least she never likes my fruit. And I offer it to her nearly every time I have it. . .which is a few times a day. I’ll bet, if you added it all up, that would mean she’s refused fruit nearly –”

“You’re always eating things like figs and pluots and horny toad melons,” Reese cut him off, her voice icy but Kate got the impression she wasn’t really mad. “You never have anything normal, like strawberries or peaches.”

“If I offered you strawberries, would you eat them?”

“No. But at least it would be a nice change from whatever that thing you were eating last week that looked like it was rotting.”

“The black sapote tastes like chocolate mousse.”

“It still looked rotten. What about the freaky one with the weird seeds? The one you said tasted like vanilla ice cream.”

“Cherimoya. It didn’t look rotten and you still wouldn’t try it and I’ve even seen you eat vanilla ice cream before.”

They glared at each other and Reese huffed in exasperation, grabbing her coffee cup and stalking out the door but Kate got the oddest feeling that the two of them had been communicating the whole time they’d been arguing and it hadn’t been about fruit. As if sensing it, Crews turned to look at her, his eyes sharp and he stared at her for a long time before he smiled again. “Just making sure she’s doing okay. It could have been worse. At least this was just about fruit. We could have argued about gooey alien heads. That was what my other partner used once, when he was worried about me. But Reese gets mad when I talk about gooey alien heads. Actually,” he sounded almost more like he was talking to himself and she just happened to be there, “Reese gets mad about a lot of things. Which, really, considering she grew up with Jack, shouldn’t surprise me.” His gaze went sharp again, as if he was looking through her. “Sorry, I’ve gotten better, in the last few years. But when I’m stressed, I tend to start talking to myself again. And this whole thing with Jack. . .well, I. . .I know the the Budda said about violence. But Jack makes it really hard to remember. It’s been five years since. . .well, I still listen to that tape nearly every day, just to remind myself what the Budda said.”

“What did the Budda say?” Kate asked. Conversation with Crews reminded her a little of the first months with Castle or when he was trying especially hard to yank her chain except she had a feeling Crews would be saying the same thing, even if she wasn’t in the room.

“That violence against one is violence against all. And violence against all is violence against myself. But Jack,” she heard the frustration in his voice. “Jack makes it really hard to hear the Budda.” He exhaled, his face twisting into something almost like a smile but he froze, the muscles in his shoulders locking up and she was sure that he had been about to say something else before he whirled around. He didn’t go to Gates’ office, like she expected, but headed towards the elevators, as if he had forgotten she had even existed.

She tapped on the door and walked in before Gates’ could reply, “Sorry to interrupt. But Detective Crews was in the middle of reciting something about a Budda and then he just stopped and took off towards the elevators. Is something wrong?”

Captain Tidwell looked like he had a headache as he turned towards Reese. “I thought you’d gotten him to stop doing that?”

“Quoting the Budda or walking out without warning.”

“Both, actually?”

Reese shrugged her left shoulder, her lips twisting into a wry frown. “Yeah, well, given the situation and how much stress he’s under, it shouldn’t surprise you he’s reverting. I’m just surprised he stuck to the fruit argument and didn’t mention alien gooey heads.”

“Yeah, well, those came up too after you left,” Kate admitted and one of Reese’s eyebrows arched.

“You lost me there,” Tidwell snapped and she shrugged again.

“it means maybe he’s not doing as well as I thought.”

Kate glanced up when she heard the elevator doors slide open again and she saw Crews in the doors, his face lit by excitement, even from down the hall.

“Reese,” he called. “Come on.”

“Well, he remembered I exist,” Reese commented. “So that’s a good sign. But I still think we should have brought Stark for him.”

“We’re a walking zoo as it is,” Tidwell countered. “Who next. Ted? Jennifer? Rachel? Olivia? The department wouldn’t have paid for that.”

“He would have.” Reese stood, grabbing her jacket from the back of a chair while Crews jinked – clearly impatient – to try to keep the elevator door open.

“Detective Beckett,” Captain Gates said and Kate nodded.

“Got it, Sir.”

She followed Reese out the door, as she heard Gates asking, “So, care to tell me why we find proof of her father’s murder but he’s the one who needs someone to support him.”

“It’s a long story,” she heard Tidwell say as the door closed behind them and she glanced at Reese, who’d clearly heard the comment.

“Come on,” the other woman said, her face twisting into something that wasn’t a smile. “We’d better figure out what he’s doing.” After a moment she glanced back at Gates’ office. “Tidwell’s right. It’s a long story.”

Chapter Text

She texted Castle on the ride down to main level that she was going to follow up on a lead with Crews and Reese. Crews, for all he radiated suppressed tension, was absolutely silent and Reese just looked bored, like she had seen it all before.

He practically bolted to a car parked in a visitors space – Kate made a mental note to grab them a parking pass when they got back so they didn’t have to chance street parking with what was clearly a rental.

“Do we want to take my car,” she asked and Crews didn’t answer but Reese shook her head.

“He’s thinking too hard right now to explain anything. We’ll know where we’re going when we get there.”

Crews glanced at them as if realizing for the first time they were still there and one corner of his mouth twitched up in a smile. “Sorry.”

One of Reese’s eyebrows arched. “I’m used to it. But Detective Beckett probably isn’t.”

“You’d be surprised. My partner, Castle, isn’t. . .quite normal.” She barely managed to cut herself off before she could say “either,” though she wasn’t sure if would offend Detective Crews.

“You call him your partner, not your fiancé?” Reese asked, and Kate smiled.

“Habit. We were partners for more than four years before we were a couple.” She’d been so exasperated at first that people had assumed there was no reason she would work with Castle other than she was sleeping with him. Later, she’d been ready to admit that she wanted more but he’d made up with his ex-wife and by the time they’d broken up she’d been dating Josh. Their relationship hadn’t lasted because even at the time, she knew she’s been using him to replace Castle. When she had been shot Josh had pressed her to go back to school for her law degree rather than stay with the NYPD but even after they had broken up, it had taken months and another near-death experience for her realize her life would be empty without Castle being part of it.

Reese gestured for Kate to get into the passenger seat as unlocked the door but after a moment he hesitated and climbed into the back seat. Reese shook her head slowly, walking around to the driver’s seat as if she wasn’t surprised.

Crews was tapping something savagely on his phone as Reese started the car but idled it without comment, as if she was waiting for him to finish whatever he was doing. Eventually, Crews tossed it down on the seat next to him. “I can’t get the GPS to work,” he said, sounding almost irritated.

“If you’d tell us where we were going, I’ll be Detective Becket would know how to get there.”

Crews blinked, then shrugged. “I guess having her around is a little like having a human GPS. GPS always seem so complicated. Like how do you know who puts all the directions in them and you have to trust that they –”

“Crews,” Reese called, her voice raised but not really angry.

“And that’s the other thing, a GPS can’t do anything if you don’t know where you’re going in the first place.”

Reese turned her head slowly around to glare into the backseat and the look she gave him reminded Kate of the way Alexis sometimes regarded Castle; generally tolerant but in this case more than a little exasperated. “Crews. Where are we going?”

“Morgue.”

“I go straight, don’t I?” Reese asked and Kate nodded.

“For two blocks. Then go left. It will be on the right side. It’s close enough I walk a lot.”

“It’s probably not our last stop,” Crews muttered and Reese looked like she almost smiled.

“I’m impressed, I don’t usually get so much out of him. He must be remembering his manners for company.”

Crews, Kate noted as she glanced in the rearview mirror, was just staring back at the precinct as if he had forgotten about them again. His sudden shout of “Stop!” just as Reese was starting to merge into traffic startled them both and Reese cursed as she braked hard and Kate felt the seat belt catch.

“Crews,” Reese yelled and this time Kate was pretty sure she was really irritated. “Are you trying to get us all in a wreck?”

“Detective Becket’s partner just came out the front door. He leaned over to the passenger side, opening the door and gesturing. Castle jogged towards them and slid into the seat behind Kate.

“Hey, got your text and figured I’d try to catch up with you. Where are we going?”

“Morgue,” all three of them answered at once and Castle looked surprised and a little amused.

“Okay. Any reason why?”

“If you’ve killed a man,” Crews said, “why would you cut off his hand?”

“Trophy?” Reese answered immediately and there was no mistaking the bitterness in her voice.

“Maybe,” Castle said, his voice taking on that slow quality that indicated he was theorizing something that would doubtless drive Kate nuts by the end of the day. “But it’s more like something you do when you torture them if they’re still alive.”

“What I want to know,” Crews continued, “is how long ago was the hand removed.”

“But after Roman died, what would anyone want with my father?” Reese asked as she merged into traffic. “I get that Roman was trying to. . .They were looking for Bank of Las Angeles money, weren’t they.”

“It’s most likely. But he also hid Rachel from them and that would have pissed them off if they knew.”

“Who’s they?” Kate asked and Reese shook her head.

“We never really figured that out.”

“Why would someone cut off a hand and then cut off fingers too?” Castle asked. “If it was all the fingers, that would be understandable. . .for prints. But with DNA, prints are not the only indicator. But this was just select fingers.”

“Like they were starting on the fingers and then working up to the hand,” Crews mused. “Most people couldn’t take it. But Jack isn’t most people. How long ago did the fingers come off? And how long later was the hand.”

“How hard is it use a gun one-handed?” Castle asked suddenly and Kate saw Reese go utterly still, the car slowing nearly to a stop. Horns around them honked but Reese didn’t seem to hear them.

“You think my father might still be alive?”

Crews shrugged, the look on his face totally helpless. “That’s why I want to go back to the morgue.”

The car leapt forward as Reese jammed her foot on the gas pedal, jerking the steering column sharply to take the left-turn and then yanked it back around to park illegally in front of the door they’d used when they’d visited earlier.

“It’ll get towed if we leave it here,” Kate commented and Crews reached out to pluck the keys from Reese and tossed them onto the hood where they were in plain view.

“There,” he stated, his voice as flat as Reese’ glare. “Now they don’t even have to pop the lock.”

“It’ll probably get stolen first,” Castle commented, and even Kate had to lengthen her stride to keep up with Crews and Reese.

“I don’t care,” Crews responded and Kate got the feeling he really didn’t. From the lack of reaction from Reese, she clearly thought so too.

They didn’t quite run to the door of the morgue but it was one of the fastest walks Kate had taken in a long time but both Crews and Reese paused at the door as if they were both afraid to touch it.

“I think,” Reese said slowly, her attention focused just on Crews, “that if Jack is still alive, you and I both need to go home. Before he’s found.”

“Don’t worry,” Crews said but his voice dripped with bitterness, “I’m not going to prison over Jack Reese. Not this time, anyway.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not so sure I can say that right now,” Reese responded and Kate felt her eyebrows raise at the hate in the shorter woman’s voice.

That at least seemed to catch Crews’ attention and he reached out to grab his partner by the arm. “No. He not worth it. Reese, you have to promise me.” There was a desperation in his voice that at odds with the tension in his face. “I couldn’t. . .you might be strong enough to make it through it but I’m not strong enough to. . .knowing what could happen to you.”

Castle had the oddest look on his face as he stared at his phone – that was a surprise because Kate expected him to be riveted to whatever was playing out between the pair of LAPD detectives.

“Reese. Promise me. Or you and I don’t walk through that door.”

“Fine. I promise.” Reese yanked the morgue door open and the two of them walked into the lab room where Lanie had someone on her table. Kate was just starting to follow them when Castle touched her arm and angled his phone for her to read an article he’d pulled up.

There was a series of pictures of Crews – a black and white of him in a patrol uniform, wearing a suit shackled in a courtroom, one of him in a bright yellow prison, and finally him next to Reese at what was clearly a crime scene. The bold headline “Police Officer Convicted of Murder Acquitted after Twelve Years” was followed by just slightly smaller letters “Life was his sentence. Life is what he got back.”

“I think,” Kate said, grabbing Castle’s phone and holding it out in front of her as she walked into the morgue, interrupting whatever Reese and Crews were saying to Lanie, “that I need to hear that long story now.”

Chapter Text

The look on Lanie’s face was surprisingly gentle – it reminded Kate of the day that Lanie had told her Jack Kunan had been killed the same was as her mother – as she stepped to the front of the Twelfth Precinct briefing room and accepted the power point remote from Esposito. Dr. Perlmutter was right before her and he started off with a curt, “Captains and Detectives. And Writer.”

Kate had thought at first that he had genuinely disliked Castle but she’d come to the eventual opinion that if he disliked him he would have ignored him rather than taking every opportunity to needle him.

The first slide was a distance shot of the hand/jar combo on the shelf in the apartment where they’d found it but the next was a close up of the hand out of the jar. Detective Reese, she noticed, gave every impression of clinical detachment, even as Captain Tidwell winced.

“This is Dr. Sydney Perlmutter,” Lanie introduced. “I asked him to consult since the question was raised this morning about the possibility of the amputation being more recent than his disappearance five years ago.”

Tidwell had dragged his detectives out of the morgue right after the meeting and they hadn’t returned until the mid-day briefing. Both Crews and Reese were sitting silently, their chairs tilted away from each other but Kate noticed they gripped hands for a moment before going back to practically ignoring each other.

Lanie pointed to the missing fingertip. “While the formaldehyde makes it hard to tell the age of the cuts and the hand, the fingers shows evidence of an amputation that occurred some time ago. At first glance it appears to be a fresh amputation but there are none of the signs you would associate with it. No swelling, signs or infection, and there are significant scar tissue. Based on the thickness of the tissue I would say the ring fingertip was removed first, about two to three months before they took the first fingertip off. The cuts on the wrist are more consistent with a fresh amputation; there was no time to heal before it was placed in the formaldehyde. Someone attempted to hide the fact the finger amputations were older by trimming the skin away. . .but that appears to have been done some time after the rest of the hand was removed.”

“And there’s no way to tell how long ago that was,” Tidwell asked.

“Not really,”Perlmutter replied. “But Dr. Parrish thinks it might have been within the last six months.”

“It’s not a definitive test,” Lanie said quickly. She moved the laser pointed to the gold wedding ring.

"The formaldehyde seeped around the edge of the ring but there was a small area in the middle where it was close enough to the skin that it had little to no formaldehyde contact. There really isn’t a formula for formaldehyde degrading gold but I don’t believe the hand has been in the jar more than six months. But it would be hard to prove.”

“For my part, I’m inclined to agree with Dr. Parrish,” Perlmutter added and Kate wished she could get their visitors to understand that for Perlmutter to agree even that much meant he was nearly certain. “In fact, if her formula is right – and we admit, we’re not sure if it is – I would say it’s closer to one to two months. But this isn’t really something we can prove.”

Reese closed her eyes and left them shut for a very long time before she opened them again and Kate sighed to herself. This, she could already tell was going to get ugly.

Detective Crews stood, a strange but friendly smile playing on his lips and Tidwell gestured at the chair he’d just vacated.

“Crews, what are you doing? I don’t think they’re finished yet. You’re not finished are you?” It was practically a plea. “Reese, tell him to sit down.”

Reese stood, her shoulder barely brushing against Crews’ and she shook her head. “No, we’re done here.”

“You two can’t just go find Jack Reese,” Tidwell shouted after them and he buried his face in his palms. “This is just embarrassing. Makes it look like I can’t even control my own detectives.” The last was almost yelled but neither Crews or Reese slowed down.

Kate was surprised how sympathetic Gates’ smile was, when she was expecting a lecture. “I feel for you. Detective Beckett has put me through some strange scenarios I once wouldn’t have dreamed of going along with. But. . .something tells me it’s going to take some out of the box thinking.” Kate could see Crews repeatedly pressing the call button for the elevator and Captain Gates snorted. “Detective Beckett. Could you and Mr. Castle go ahead and make sure Detective Crews and Detective Reese don’t get themselves into too much trouble. Unfamiliar city and all.”

“Of course,” Kate responded, grabbing her jacket from the back of her chair. Lanie and Perlmutter might have had more information but she realized she could get it later, before she totally lost Crews and Reese.

The door was inches from closing on them when Crews’ hand slapped the emergency sensors in the door and they slid back open again.

“Oh good, you two are coming along,” he said, his voice surprisingly cheerful for as serious as his face was. “How do we get to where the hand was first found?”

Chapter Text

The apartment building was only a few streets over from the sewer access where NYPD had found the body of Eliska Sokel during the first year he and Kate had started working together and Castle made a mental note to try to remember to find out from if Eliska's ex-husband, Teodor Hajek was still in contact with Melissa Talbot and his son that Dr. Talbot had switched at birth with his own terminally ill child and then murdered Eliska to hide his deception.

Unlike Eliska's building, however, this one appeared like the tenants were making an effort. There was a small community garden in the front and while the building still needed paint, the foyer was tidy. "None of the neighbors knew the man in the canvas. The apartment was rented to an Ivan Petrovich but Mr. Petrovich has been back in Russia for the last two months and won't be back until next month, according to the Superintendent," Beckett explained. "But Mr. Petrovich had told him there might be some friends visiting so he didn't think anything of it when there were people in the apartment. The neighbor below though there were three men based on the footsteps but they had only been there for about a week."

"The rest of the neighbors only remember seeing one man and only for about four days before the body was discovered." Castle added. "According to Dr. Parrish he'd only been dead a little over a day when one of the neighbors noticed the door partially open. When he tried to close it, he noticed the frame had been cracked. He reported it to the police as a break-in but CSU's report indicates it was broken from the inside."

"So someone broke down the door to get out?" Reese asked.

The elevator actually worked so they used it to get to the seventh floor rather than the stairs, though Castle noticed Crews bouncing slightly on his toes, like even the small delay chaffed.

"I think. . ." Castle heard the hesitation in Beckett's voice, even if no one else did, "you need to tell us the whole story." The elevator's ding came seconds after the slight shudder announced they'd stopped and Beckett let them down a hallway to a door with a police seal that Beckett released.

Neither Crews nor Reese spoke but Castle could see them exchanging glances and finally Reese sighed. "Go ahead. Most of it's your story anyway."

"Some of it's yours."

"Not the same way."

"You'll tell it quicker."

That surprised a laugh out of her. "That's true. Can we sit?" She gestured to the L-shaped sectional in the living room and Beckett nodded.

"Yes, CSU has already cleared everything. We just have the seals on to know if someone comes back."

Crews and Reese took seats near each other and Castle sat next to Beckett on the other side of the L. Beckett's shoulder settled against his. It was discreet enough to not be obviously affectionate but he took comfort from the contact. He'd thought from the way he'd noticed Crews and Reese interacting earlier that they might be lovers as well but they sat apart from each other, no connection of shoulders, hips or even legs brushing against each other. He was about to discount the theory but then Crews reached over and took Reese's hand, gripping it tightly. His head dropped, half bent over and on the couch before he sat straight again, moving his hands to his knees. "All right, I'm ready now."

Reese inhaled, clearly gathering herself, before she began to speak. "In 1991 there was a robbery at the Bank of Las Angeles. SWAT was doing training across the street and in the ensuing firefight, five suspects were killed but when it was over, eighteen million dollars was missing. LAPD eventually decided that there must have been a sixth man who escaped with the money."

"That's a lot of money for one person to carry," Castle commented, partly observing and also curious how she would take interruptions. Reese merely shrugged.

"They weren't able to determine if the suspect fled on foot or in a vehicle. Though a vehicle seems more likely; though no one was able to answer how anyone got a vehicle through the police barricades. Three years later, in 1994, Officer Charlie Crews was arrested for the murder of his business partner, Tom Seybolt, his wife and son. They were murdered in their home. The only survivor was Rachel Seybolt, a nine-year-old girl who was at a sleepover according to the lead detective. Crews was put on trial, found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. After eight year, an ambitious attorney studying the case noticed inconsistencies and spent the next four years appealing the conviction. When the case was reopened, the police found none of the physical evidence matched Officer Crews and twelve years after he was convicted, Crews was exonerated. As part of the settlement, Officer Crews was given an undisclosed amount of money and was reinstated in LAPD as a detective."

"Fifty-million is the figure that seems to be most popular in the reports," Castle commented.

"It was sixty-five," Crews said and Reese turned her head in surprise.

"Really? I always thought it was fifty too."

"That's what I got. Connie's law firm got fifteen million."

"After he went back to work with LAPD, Detective Crews was tipped off about the Bank of LA shootout by a suspect, Roman Nevikov and how his partner might be involved. He first thought Roman was talking about his old partner, Bobby Stark, who told a story about being involved in the firefight but he soon learned about the SWAT team nearby and Stark's involvement was working the barricades a few blocks away. But it didn't take long for Crews to find out the SWAT leader was a retired LAPD officer named Jack Reese, the father of his current partner."

"I visited Aimes after I got out and asked him why he removed Rachel from the report. Why he said she wasn't in the house that night and witnessed her own family's murder," Crews added. "Then Aimes went straight to Jack Reese and I witnessed them have an argument. But before I could figure out why he would change the evidence, Aimes was murdered. Shot to death in the LAPD parking garage. Obviously "

"From there," Reese continued, "Crews matched a sketch Rachel had made in a therapy session with a photo of Jack Reese's Confidential Informant, Kyle Hollis. But when he went to find Hollis, he found Hollis' daughter who had been attacked by someone looking for her father."

"He was going by the name Reverend Orson Parker by then. He called me and she heard me use the name Kyle Hollis, which was what the men who stabbed her used. She told. . . ." Crews trained off and looked back at Reese, who smiled slightly.

"You can tell it if you want."

"We'd be here all night. Go ahead."

"We would, too," Reese muttered. "Hollis met with Crews, wanting money to get out of the country and that he'd trade proof for a way out. Crews. . ." She paused and seemed to be considering her words for a few moments before continuing. "Crews made Hollis think he was going to kill him and Hollis confessed to the murders with Crews' attorney listening on a cell phone Charlie had on behind him." It was the first time, Castle realized, he'd heard Reese call Crews by anything other than his last name.

"He admitted to murdering my friends. But he said he hadn't set me up."

"Crews arrested Hollis and tried to use it to pressure Jack to confess his role," Reese continued. Only the slight tremble in her voice at her father's name betrayed any emotion at all. "But Jack decided to call Crews' bluff and Hollis recanted his story. . .said he'd killed that family in a random robbery."

"Why didn't he kill the daughter? Did he not know she saw him?" Beckett asked and Crews shook his head.

"No, he knew," Reese clarified. "Hollis said he was sent over there to straighten Tom out. . .that he was skimming money that was being washed through the bar that had been taken from Bank of LA and it got out of hand. But Hollis was right about one thing, he was hearing voices and one of them told him to let Rachel live. Then later, after he'd changed his name and looked different, he arranged to adopt her. She was the girl Crews found in Hollis' house. But with Hollis saying he'd killed the family on his own, Rachel not talking and the attorney saying she never heard Hollis say anything about a setup, that was a dead end. Except Jack was the one starting to get threats."

"Rachel was still missing then, and someone wanted her. I found out Jack knew where she was," Crews said. "Then I overheard someone tell Jack, "There were six, there are five, there could just as easily by four."

"Crews found out another member of the SWAT team, Jim Dunn, had died in what appeared to be a covered up suicide. But Jim's widow admitted Jim hadn't killed himself and in the picture Crews showed her from the men surrounding her at Dunn's funeral, she identified Mickey Rayborn, a former cop and now prominent, and very wealthy businessman. Who seemingly became wealthy overnight. But Rayborn was dying and said he had things he needed off his conscience. Then Rayborn disappeared, with blood all over his boat indicating he'd been murdered there and his body dumped elsewhere. A few months before Rayborn disappeared" she trailed off and took a deep breath. "My father left my mother. Walked out one night on her. I thought. . .I'd always hated my father. I knew he was a dirty cop. . .I just didn't know how dirty. Working with Crews, I began to figure some of it out but I didn't want to deal with it. Figured I could be in the middle and not take sides."

"Jack was dirty. But he'd protected Rachel all those years."

"His idea of protecting her was to give her to the man who killed her entire family. Even if she didn't know it." Reese's voice was hot with bitterness.

"Yes. But he didn't kill her. Or give her to them."

"My father had the strangest ways of "protecting" people." Reese huffed a laugh. "Sometimes it made me wonder if it would have been better to not have been protected at all. But," she continued, "not long after he left my mother, he disappeared. She filed the missing persons report. I would have just left him to rot." She took a deep breath and this time it was Crews that reached out to squeeze her hand before she continued. "The FBI asked for me to go work for a task force and it turned out that task force was investigating Crews' possible involvement in Rayborn's death. I turned them down and they said they'd take me back to the LAPD. But they gave me to Roman Nevikov instead. We'd missed Roman the first time we tried to get him for murder but got him the second time. Or thought we did. We arrested him and he went to prison but when Crews' figured out I was missing he went to talk to Roman and found another man in Roman's cell, claiming to be Roman. Then Roman contacted Crews and offered to trade me for Rayborn, which seemed impossible, because we thought Rayborn was dead."

"But Rayborn had just faked his death. Roman was sure of it. And it turned out Roman was right. So I found Rayborn, who admitted he'd picked me out years ago to be part of his organization. I thought they'd been trying to get me dirty by getting Tom dirty. . .but I knew Tom. He wasn't dirty and he wasn't skimming. So I still don't know why Hollis was there that night and killed them. But. . . ." he trailed off and nodded at Reese.

"Thank you. Rayborn admitted that after Crews went away, he started considering Roman. But he couldn't control Roman, no one could control Roman. So other than using Roman's bar to wash Bank of LA money, Rayborn wouldn't let Roman into his business, and that made Roman angry. But before Crews could trade Rayborn for Roman, Rayborn's security team found out he was alive and took him from Crews. So with Roman still threatening me, Crews traded himself. We still don't know if Roman thought he could use Crews to get to Rayborn or he was being petty enough to want revenge on the man who Rayborn wanted instead of him. But I do know that before Roman let me go, he told me he'd had my father killed. I had no reason to believe he was lying. And Roman isn't going to be changing his story now."

"They took my gun and my knife. But I'd learned a few things in prison." There was a hardness to Crews' voice, like he was reliving something he didn't want to. "We found the SUV later, burned, with a body inside."

"How much long later?" Castle asked, his mind running through several possible scenarios. "Could it have been a trap? Could Roman have still been alive?

"No. Roman was not still alive. I promise you that. Roman's men were like dogs, trained to follow their master's every order. But when you crush someone's throat so they can't speak, they can't give orders to their dogs and if the dogs have been beaten enough they don't move without their master's orders. . . I told them whatever hold he had over them died with Roman and they let me go. Because like dogs that had been beaten they followed him out of fear rather than love and they were glad he was dead. And with Roman dead, Rayborn didn't need me to protect him anymore and he's refused to see me since. He moved to Europe to make it harder for me to get to see him. Not that I haven't visited Europe a few times in the last few years to try. But he still won't see me. And so we thought that was the most I would ever know. Until we got the call that Jack's hand had been found in a jar in New York."

"Does the LAPD know you killed Roman?" Beckett asked and Crews nodded.

"Seemed a stupid thing to give someone a hold on me. Reese and I were both on administrative leave about three months while IA sorted it out. But Rayborn admitted -- through his attorneys -- that he had backed out of a business deal with Roman after discovering how shady he was and that Roman had been trying to get to him ever since. One of the FBI agents that was supposed to be one of Roman's handler's corroborated about how a few agents had been bought off and handed Reese over to Roman. It left out the whole part about Jack and how I was framed, but it made a tidy story that IA eventually shelved and let us go back to work."

"Why would Roman tell you he'd killed your father if your father was still alive?" Beckett asked and Reese shook her head.

"He was trying to break me at the time. Other than that, I have no idea."

"Who else knew about the Bank of LA?" Castle asked, feeling his forehead crease into a frown and Beckett looked at him, a slight smile on her face.

"The five left. Jack and whoever the other four is." Crews answered. "For all we know, one of them might have controlled Roman and that's why Jack died."

"What is it, Castle?" Beckett asked, her tone amused. "I can tell you're working on one of your theories. He's a novelist," she explained, her face creasing into a fond smile. "So he's always looking at what makes the best story. And -- crazy zombie or alien theories aside, he's right a surprising amount of time. Or less wrong than whatever the simple explanation is."

He felt bad, knowing he was going to dredge up bad memories, but there were too many similarities to leave it unmentioned.

"So a group of cops does something less than legal to get themselves a whole bunch of money. And you said Roman was the one who tipped you off about it?" Crews nodded and he looked at Beckett. "Who else do we know who tends to know when cops are doing something wrong to get themselves money?"

She got it right away and he winced inside to see her smile fade. "Las Angeles is a long way away from New York. Why do you think he would have even heard about it?"

"Eighteen million dollars? And maybe he didn't hear about it right away. But if Roman Nevikov knew, then probably more than one Russian knew. Jack was taken by Russians in LA but it looks like he ended up here in New York."

"So how does that tie to Bracken?" He heard the tension on her voice and he gripped her hand.

"We know Vulcan Simmons had ties to the Russians. And we know Bracken was tied to Vulcan. So is it too hard to believe that maybe Bracken wanted in on the action?"

Kate closed her eyes, her breathing becoming very deep and even and Castle watched Crews and Reese start to look a little interested, even if they were clearly not sure what he and Beckett meant. When Beckett opened her eyes, her lips twisted into something that wasn't a smile and she took a deep breath before she turned to the two LAPD detectives. "There was a group of police here in New York that were holding mobsters for ransom on the late eighties. Extra cash. A politician got word of it and started blackmailing them for his piece of the cut and soon they were mostly working for him. Then one night one of the mobsters was killed and they pinned it on another man. A civil rights attorney," she nodded at Crews, "began to suspect he was innocent and approached him about reopening his case."

"Like Connie did for me."

"Except it didn't suit the politician to have this information come to light. So he hired an assassin and over the next few years, three of the attornies on the team were all killed and made to look like muggings gone wrong. Their bodies dumped in alleyways." Her voice cracked a little and she swallowed and when she started again, her voice was harder than ever. "Their crimes unsolved. Until a meddling, annoying, know-it-all novelist with a penchant for getting into what he'd been told to leave alone somehow managed to get ahold of their files and sent it to a premier pathologist who believed that the attacks were not random, that the killings were actually brutally efficient and that every one of them was a deliberate murder."

She'd come so close to cutting him out of her life completely, when that had happened and he almost couldn't breath for a moment, thinking how much poorer his life would have been without Beckett in it.

"You told me your mother had been murdered," Reese said suddenly. "She was one of them, wasn't she."

"She was," Becket confirmed. "Her name was Johanna and her murder was the reason I became a police officer. But I'd nearly torn myself apart looking for her killer and had decided to close that door forever. And I had, until Castle opened it again."

"You said people died, while you were trying to find your mother's killer." There was a challenge to Reese's voice.

"Not all the police officers who had been part of the team doing the ransoms went on to be dirty cops. Some of them decided to change the world for the better. But when I started digging, the politician couldn't risk being found out. First he killed them all, then he tried to kill me." She bent forward, pulling back the hem of her shirt to show the bullet hole in her cleavage.

Castle was surprised to see Reese smile and she jerked her head towards Crews who raised one eyebrow, then loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt, folding them back to reveal a bullet scar on his left clavicle. "They gave me this, to try to get me to back down. It wasn't meant to kill me, though. Just warn me to not stick my nose into places they thought it shouldn't be."

"How'd that work for them?" Castle asked and Crews shrugged.

"It might not have had the effect they intended."

"The politician you mentioned?" Reese asked The one who ordered your mother killed. I assume you found him?"

Reese, Castle realized, said little and reacted less, but she was clearly listening to everything being said and remembering it.

"I did. He's in prison now. It took a long time to figure out who he was, and even longer to get something I could bring charges on. But eventually, I got him."

"You mentioned someone named Vulcan Simmons with ties to the Russians? Could we talk to him?"

Becket shook her head. "No. In fact, that's part of why the politician is in prison. He had Vulcan murdered and tried to pin it on me."

"So who's the politician, Crews asked and Beckett shrugged a shoulder.

"Senator William Bracken."

"Wasn't he thinking of running for President?" Crews' sounded a mix of confused and impressed and Castle didn't miss Beckett's quick smile.

"Well, he'll find it hard to do from his cell."

"Why does it always come down to visiting people in prison?" Crews sighed and Reese snorted.

"Guess you're just going to have to deal with it. Because I want know if this man knows anything about my father."

"If you hate your father so much, why do you care?" Castle asked, almost wishing he hadn't asked but the words were spoken before he really thought about it and Reese seemed to think for a few seconds before she answered.

"Because if he is alive, no one deserves to live the way Roman kept his dogs, not even my father. And if he'd dead, I guess I just want to have a grave to dance on. Is that wrong?" She was asking Crews, Castle realized.

"It may be wrong," Crews replied. "And it's definitely not Zen. But if we do find a grave, I might just have to join you."

Chapter Text

The interrogation room was the same one Beckett had her weekly meetings with Hal Lockwood and she felt a flicker of grief for Chuck Ryker, the guard who escorted Lockwood to and from his cell for their weekly meetings. He'd been the one to take the bribe that allowed Lockwood to murder retired Detective McCallister, escape and tell Captain Montgomery that he would kill Montgomery's family if he didn't deliver Beckett. Montgomery had done as he was told, except he had made sure Castle was there to get her out and he had killed Lockwood's team before he and Lockwood had killed each other. It had been his way of making up for his part in her mother's death.

The guard that brought Bracken in wasn't anyone Beckett had ever met before but she saw Crews stiffen just slightly and Reese touched his shoulder, shaking her head just slightly.

Bracken's eyebrows raised as the guard shackled Bracken to the table. "Let me know if you need anything else, Detective."

"Thanks, Johnson," she said, hoping he wouldn't realize she'd just read his name off his jacket. "We'll let you know when we're done."

"So, Detective Beckett, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" Bracken's trial wasn't for another four months but the judge had denied bail so he was incarcerated in the same prison she hoped he'd rot in for the rest of his life. When she had arrested him for her mother's murder, she'd hoped she wouldn't have to see him again until the trial but part of her felt good about being there. He was no longer the monster of her nightmares.

"We just need to ask you a few questions." She slid a picture across the table and locked eyes with Bracken. He smiled slightly and she knew it was because he thought she might owe him something again." He glanced down and she was surprised to see the smile wipe off his face as he stared at the photo of Roman Nevikov. "Do you know this man?"

Bracken's jaw tightened and he glanced over at Crews and Reese before looking back at Nevikov's photo. "What's it to you?"

"I think you know who that is," Beckett said.

"I never said I didn't. But I do want to know why you want to know. Trade for trade, Detective Beckett. You owe me that."

"I don't owe you anything," Beckett hissed, feeling the rage gather at the former Senator's smug countenance. She thought of all the years she'd missed with Johanna because Bracken was worried her mother would unearth the tie between an undercover FBI Special Agent posing as a mobster and a group of cops out to try to extort money from the mob and how he had profited from them.

"Then satisfy my curiosity." His tone had gone wheedling and Beckett arched an eyebrow at him. "Yes, he admitted," his voice grudging when he realized she wasn't going to budge. "That's Roman Nevikov. I've heard of him."

"Ever met him?"

"Once." Bracken couldn't conceal the unease, though Beckett was pretty sure he hated showing discomfort. The story, she decided, would flow better if she traded for it, and no matter how involved Bracken really was.

"He was involved in laundering at least eighteen million dollars from the Bank of San Francisco robbery," she said, changing the name of the bank to see if got a reaction.

Bracken sneered at her, "Bank of Las Angelas. But you know that, don't you, Detective?" She nodded and he shrugged. "Fine, play your games. "It was eighteen million there, but the final tally ended up being closer to thirty-four million. They didn't stop with the Bank of Las Angeles."

"So you know who 'they" are?" Beckett asked and Bracken shook his head.

"Not really. I didn't stumble across them until a few years after they'd disbanded. By then, they'd made sure nothing I could do would stick to them. Vulcan heard about it from some Russians who knew about Roman Nevikov laundering money for them and he wanted to move in on Roman. We even went out to meet him a once but I couldn't get the evidence I needed to blackmail them like I did with McCallister and his friends. And I decided I didn't need money enough to get mixed up with Nevikov. I heard about that cop they framed. . . ." he trailed off and turned to stare at Crews. "Hey, aren't you that cop?"

Crews' smile was wide and didn't even show teeth but despite the placidness of it, Beckett got the impression he was barely controlling his emotions.

"Why don't we stick to the story. You said you knew who a few of them were?"

"I had a friend on the force in L.A. who heard the rumors first, so he went to Jim Dunn to try to get more information and Dunn was playing along nicely, thinking he was doing something right by trying to come clean. But then, before I could get enough details to get leverage, Jim Dunn was dead."

"Not for nothing, Jack, there were six, there are five, there could just as easily be four," Crews quoted and Bracken looked confused but then shrugged.

"Between the fact my friend was pretty sure Dunn hadn't killed himself and Nevikov, I decided to leave them alone. Those guys were crazy rich and crazy powerful before I found them. I ride others, Detective. I don't allow them to ride me." There was a ring of truth to that statement, Beckett realized.

"So you would have no idea why one of the other men involved in that has been missing for years, but we find his hand in a jar in an apartment with a dead Russian and then indications he might still be alive." Beckett slid a photo over to him and Bracken's eyebrow's lifted

"Someone cut off Jack Reese hand?" Bracken sounded surprised and Reese stirred slightly but converted it into a stretch before settling back into her seat.

"It seems that way. So you knew him?"

"He was here in New York two years ago. He came in with some of the Russians to meet with Vulcan and I recognized him as one the L.A. guys. He told me Roman's colleagues were supposed to kill him but he talked them into letting him live in exchange for a cut of his millions. I offered to help him get away from the Russians in exchange for a cut of my own but he said he couldn't get to the money yet. Said something about there being too much of an uproar about Roman's death and Crew's being involved and why he'd ended up in prison in the first place. He said the Russians were willing to wait another few years for the money."

"Except he didn't have millions," Crews interrupted. "Jack gave it all to charity. So he bluffed, and they got tired of waiting."

"Well I wouldn't know." His smug tone slipped as he looked back at Beckett. "I left the Russians to Vulvan. That's the truth. Nevikov scared the shit out of me and I figured I didn't need to get mixed up with them."

"Except Roman's been dead for five years and you said Jack was in New York two years ago?" Reese asked.

"I figured whoever came after Nevikov had to be at least half as bad. And that's more crazy than I wanted to deal with. I got greedy once and it left a trail of bodies when I tried to cover it up. I didn't want connected to this as well."

"But you are connected," Crews announced. Vulcan is connected to you. Vulcan connected to Jack. It's all connected." Reese rolled her eyes but her expression was unchanged.

"Was Jack Reesehere in New York willingly?"

"I'm not sure," Bracken stopped, looked around and leaned closer. "I'm not sure willingly would be the word I would use. He only came with the Russians when they were meeting with Vulcan. But I got the idea he was willing to be here rather than be back home. One of the Russians mentioned his family once. His daughters."

"Daughters?" Beckett heard the surprise in Reese's voice.

"Yeah. One of the men said if he didn't cooperate they'd take his share out on his girls; that Sharon, Danielle and Rachel would suffer."

"Sherin," Reese corrected the accent, sounding as she was speaking without thinking. "Jack's wife. Daniella is his daughter. Rachel was. . .Rachel was not his daughter but he was probably trying to protect her most." Kate thought she heard tinges of bitterness and Bracken picked up on it as well because he grinned.

"Well, if Jack had a side piece he wouldn't be the first one to make that mistake. Sometimes they're better holds than the violence. Threats of death get so tedious. Telling someone you'll tell their wife about their mistress almost always guarantees their cooperation."

"Rachel wasn't. . ." she trailed off at what Beckett could have sworn was a tiny shake of Crew's head. "Never mind."

"I tried to tell Jack that I could get him away from the Russians. All he had to do was give me a cut of his money. Jack said he'd take his chance with the Russians and I never saw him again. I never really thought anything about it because he was always a ruthless SOB. I mean, Jim Dunn had to --" He broke off abruptly but didn't respond to Becket's prompting, his eyes gone suddenly wary. "Never mind. Detective Beckett, if I can't be any further use to you, I'd like to go back to my cell now."

Beckett summoned the guard to take Bracken away but Crews and Reese didn't speak until they were back to the car and Crews muttered, "I mean, Jim Dunn had to die somehow."

"Unless they just wanted him silenced?" Castle said. "That's a big leap to believing Jack Reese killed another cop." Becket couldn't help notice Crews and Reese exchange humorless smiles.

"You wouldn't consider it such a big leap if it you'd met Jack, " Crew muttered and Reese nodded, her expression completely closed off again.

Chapter Text

Detective Esposito met them as they walked out of the elevator and he leaned over to whisper something in Detective Beckett's ear. She nodded and said something back to him equally quietly and he walked away, something Beckett said making his face crease into a grin.

"The Captains want to talk to us." Beckett said and directed them toward Captain Gates' office. Dani followed, starting to feel the exhaustion dulling her senses. Her sleep had been erratic since the news had come in about Jack and they'd caught the flight out of LA at a little after midnight in California. The department had paid for the flight but Crews had upgraded them at the gate to first class. She'd been grateful for the slightly wider sear and quieter cabin area -- extra leg room was was a bit of a moot point in her case -- but thought she had dozed off a few times, she'd only woken more tired.

Tidwell and Captain Gates looked startled when they came in and Gates cleared her throat. "And how was former-Senator Bracken?" Her voice was tart but Dani recognized the subtle signs of a Captain trying to check on her detective covertly.

"Surprisingly helpful. It seems he might have had contact with Jack two years ago."

"Might have?" Crews asked and Beckett shrugged.

"I've learned to take what Bracken says with a grain of salt."

"He wasn't lying when he said he'd met Jack," Crews commented. "He knew about Jack's family and he knew about Rachel, so at least part of it had to be the truth. But the rest of it. .. well, either he was lying to make himself look better or he didn't know everything. But I believe the part of about him wanting to not get involved. That sounded true."

Dani sank into one of the chairs that Captain Gates waved at and she leaned her head back, aware everyone else was staring at her. "Sorry. It's been a long day."

"Where are you staying," Gates asked and Tidwell answered.

"We booked rooms at the Plaza."

"Your department's that generous?"

"Well, no. Per diem gets us a Motel Six out in Queen somewhere but Detective Crews wanted to closer so he's springing for the difference."

"Ted will just write it off on my taxes," Crews commented and Reese smiled. As a convicted felon, Ted Earley was prohibited from working for any kind of investment company but he could handle private party investments and was a genius with money. Her parents' bank account had a mere $6,000 saved from all her father's years as a police officer and she had been venting one night that she didn't know what would happen when he was legally declared dead and her mother stopped getting his pension. If her father, she had vented bitterly, had been so desperate to steal so much money, at least he could have made sure his wife was going to be taken care of well. After a little theorizing between her and Crews that Jack just liked to see what he could get away with, Ted had commented that it was easier to make two million from one million than it was to make two thousand from one thousand but Dani had given him a thousand from her own account and after seven years Ted had managed to more than quintuple the money.

"We actually should probably go get checked into the hotel," Tidwell said. "Unless there are any other leads you think we need to follow up on today?"

"No," Beckett confirmed. "I'm going to put out the word that we're looking for Jack Reese and see if I get anyone who knows anything about but I doubt we'll hear anything tonight."

"You were taking tomorrow off, weren't you, Detective Beckett" Captain Gates asked but Beckett shook her head.

"I'm cancelling that request."

"But I thought--"

"You said you were--"

Captain Gates and Castle spoke at the same time and Beckett cut them both off.

"I already talked to Martha and Alexis. They said they can take care of it."

Castle frowned in bewilderment but said nothing. However, Captain Gates mirrored the expression asking, "How is Alexis supposed to get her own Best Man gift?"

"Oh, I did that already. I'm getting her a lifetime membership to the Met," Castle commented.

"I'd just renewed my membership at the Met when I found out I was getting the job in LA," Tidwell mused. "Always a great place to meet. . .other people who liked art. I didn't know the Met did lifetime memberships."

"I made a request and the board approved it."

"If there's something you need to do tomorrow. . ." Crews said and Beckett sighed.

"Our wedding is next month. Martha and I were going shopping for my gift for Lanie whose my bridesmaid and I figured I'd pick something for Alexis as well. She's Rick's Best Man. Then Martha and I were picking up Alexis and Lanie and we were going to the venue to verify the table arrangements worked in the space. But Martha said she and Alexis can handle the tables because Lanie wants to go over the Russian's body with us again."

"The month before the wedding is pretty crazy," Tidwell chuckled. "I should know. . .done it three times now."

"This will be my third time too," Castle said, but his mouth quirked a little at the corner. "I told Kate that if she gets tired of me she should shoot me rather than divorce me because it would be a lot less of a pain. Well, that I can't imagine life without her."

"And once again, Mr Castle," Captain Gates snapped, "You managed to ruin what could have been a romantic sentiment."

"I write murder mysteries," Castle replied. "It's an occupational hazard." The two of them glowered at each other for a few moments but then they each smiled and Gates shook her head.

"Well," the Captain said, lifting her jacket from the back of her chair, "We might as well call it a night. Kevin, I'm surprised you aren't staying with your parents?"

"They're in Ithaca, visiting my cousin, Sonia. She just had a baby girl. Her second. Mom complains that it's probably the closest she'll get to having a grandchild. I haven't told them I'm here yet because I don't want them to rush home to see me and then have me barely be there while we figure this thing out." Gates looked surprised and he shrugged. "I'll see them before I go, don't worry."

"I'm only worried about your mother finding out I knew you were here and I didn't call her."

Tidwell grinned. "Yeah, that would scare me too. But I promise, I'll let them know I'm here before we go home."

The next few minutes passed in a bustle of gathering bags and coats, recommendations for coffee and breakfast and deciding if 0800 or 0900 was the better time to meet at the 12th Precinct to continue the investigation. Reese let it all flow around her, half-listening to Crews ask about fruit while Tidwell complained about how coffee in LA just wasn't the same as coffee in New York and that he had just gotten used to LA coffee and this would spoil him again. She tried to shift out of the way of where people were moving around when she backed into someone and turned to see Castle regarding her with a bemused smile. She smiled back in reflex but then let it drop when he his did and he studied her face with a slight tilt of his head. Finally he sighed and reached out like he was going to touch her shoulder. She steeled herself for the contact, willing herself not to flinch but his hand fell away before it actually reached her and he sighed, "I'm sorry."

"For what?" Her stomach was trembling but she pushed the emotions aside to a comfortable bland ache that felt permanent.

"You. . ." he looked around as if to make sure no one was listening to him and stepped a little closer to drop his voice. "Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you're thrilled to find out your Dad is still alive. But I kind of get the feeling that you think he betrayed you by living. That dying to protect you and your mom was the only good thing he'd ever done and now he's taking that away from you too."

She shrugged, trying for casual apathy and being pretty sure she succeeded. "Well, it won't be the first time my father has disappointing me. Which is okay because he made it pretty clear that he didn't think too much of me either."

"It shouldn't be that way. My daughter. . .hell, I've seen my father a grand total of twice in my entire life and each times he made it clear that the reason he wasn't there was because he loved me." He broke off as Beckett turned towards them but his voice dropped. "If you need someone to talk to about anything."

The words that rose instantly were a casual, "Why would I need to do that," and they rolled like reflex but she could see his eyebrows rise in surprise but she was pretty sure he knew she was bluffing and she sighed. "Talking never makes me feel any better. In some ways hearing it out loud just makes it worse." He nodded, as if he understood and she shifted back with him as everyone began to move towards Captain Gates' door. "It helps to have someone who understands. Who had it happen to him. They thought they were punishing me when they assigned me Crews as a partner, fresh out of prison, spouting zen bullshit. I hated him at first, the things he said and did and thought. But I came to realize all of it was connected to what my father had done to him and I don't think either of us will fully heal but being broken together makes it feel like we're not really broken." She shut her mouth, appalled at the words that seemed to run out of their own accord and wish she could take them back but the look Castle was giving her wasn't contempt of revulsion but rather a sort of quiet approval. "Anyway, just don't tell him I said that. He knows but he'd never let me live it down if he heard I'd admitted it to anyone."

She made Tidwell let her drive back the hotel, despite his protests that he knew his way around better. Crews had learned to accept that she preferred to drive because she liked the sense of control, of the master of her fate, captain of her soul bullshit he had spouted at her once but she hadn't admitted she'd looked up the whole poem afterward and read every morning before she had gotten out of bed for a month afterwards. Crews sat next to her, his silent presence a comfort, as if they were investigating any other murder case and eventually even Tidwell lapsed into silence.

Crews had gotten them a two bedroom suite, the living room huge and airy and she took the room to the left, Tidwell following her. She was expecting the single king bed but it still hit her like a dart when she saw it and she froze, looking at it like an animal looked at a trap and Tidwell nearly ran into her. He froze equally as still as she did and she could read the grief in his face before he shut it down.

"Wow, check that out." He walked past her to bounce his hands on it and she tried not to feel sick at the sight, rage and guilt chasing each other around the areas of her spine and the back of her throat. "Uh oh, the bed is super squishy. Hey, Dani, my back's been bugging me after that flight and you know how a soft bed always makes it worse. I might have to sleep on the couch in the main room, just to get it back in order. You don't mind, do you?"

It was obviously a lie and the awkwardness of it reminded her why she was with him in the first place. For all the ways he annoyed her, when it really counted, he got her.

"Honestly?" Her voice sounded rough and she hated the hint of tears in it but loved the fact he ignored them. "I really don't want to be alone right now."

"But you don't mean. . . " He nodded when she shook her head. "Got it. Hey, let's see what Crews is doing and see if we can get some burgers and bee. . .fries up here, maybe a little fruit for Crews and see what they have for b-movies. And if they don't have anything good, I have the entire Tremors series on my laptop and it doesn't get better b-grade monster movie than that."

She forced aside the feelings of revulsion to step into his arms, and he squeezed her shoulders quickly, then stepped away, banging on the door to Crews' room, "Hey, Crews." She headed into the shower, hearing them talking in the main room and when she came out half an hour later in soft leggings and a loose t-shirt, both men were in sweats and t-shirts as well, clearly having both already showered and she settled on the couch, sitting between them but neither of them touched her more than the accidental brush of shoulder or leg and it was surprisingly comforting as they ate the burgers the hotel sent up along with the papaya for Crews and a plate that alternated slices of strawberry with slices of peaches and she laughed at him and took a slice of strawberry. The berry was watery and flavorless and Crews grimaced as he tried one after her.

"Yeah, sometimes strawberries taste like that when they don't get enough sun," he commented but she ate them anyway, sandwiching them between slices of peach that wasn't great but was much better because he'd been thinking of her when he ordered them.

One of the hotel movie channels was playing something called "Night of the Comet" that Tidwell demanded they watch and she'd found herself oddly interested once the movie got started. It was terrible but something about it was a fun and the mentions of an always absent-father who had trained his daughters to survive out of a sense of duty but had wanted nothing to do with them helped remind her that her situation with Jack wasn't unique; that there had been asshole parents as long as people had been in existence. She even laughed out loud when one of the characters, after her mac sub machine gun had kept jamming snapped, "Daddy would have gotten us Uzis."

She finally fell asleep, aware just as she was drifting off that her head had fallen against Crews's shoulder and she started to move, worried what Tidwell would think but he pulled her legs into his lap so her back was to Crews' side and he started to rub her feet and she smiled at him and he grinned back at her and she relaxed into the warmth of her partner at her back, silently thanking Karen Davis for assigning her the one person who truly understood her and for whatever caprice had the police commissioner pick Tidwell's resume out of the stack because even if he didn't get her the same Crews did, he accepted her for it.

Chapter Text

He woke slowly, his neck aching from it resting against the curve of the corner of the couch and he started to move but felt the warm weight against his side and realized Reese was asleep, her head resting against his ribs, his right arm over her shoulder. On the other side of the couch, Tidwell was in a position similar to Charlie's own and he didn't envy the Captain his own sore neck until he realized Tidwell was already awake.

Reese's feet were still up in Tidwell's lap and she had one of her hands stretched out to rest against one of his and Charlie almost smiled at it until he realized where Reese' other hand one. She was laying on her left side and her left arm was tucked, her head resting on her elbow, which meant her hand was precariously near his butt and he started to wiggle but Tidwell glared at him, hissing, "Dude, you're going to wake her up?"

Charlie waggled his eyebrows and Tidwell craned his head, looking almost like he was surprising a smirk before he shrugged. "Pretty sure this is the first time she's slept since we got that phone call. Deal with it."

Whether Tidwell was actually in a position to see where Dani's hand really was or he thought Crews was talking about his stiff neck, Charlie realized that his boss was correct. It wasn't the first time in their partnership they'd crossed some kind of awkward physical boundary that ended up meaning nothing at all. He had told Reese -- all the way back in their first week of partnership when they'd been walking to the car after he'd held her mostly naked in the shower after Lonnie Garth's shotgun blast hit the cocaine bag next to her and left her covered in it -- that they didn't have to talk about it and they never had. At first it had bothered him that she slammed walls between them continually but it hadn't taken him long to figure out why and by then even understood why she did it. The funniest part, he often reflected, was that later on she might have even allowed him to bring it up but he no longer needed to.

And somewhere in there, he realized, he did the same thing in his own way. Granted, people meeting them for the first time sometimes mistook them for a couple, but very few people recognized them at first for what they really were: the same. It hadn't been meant to be like that. Neither of them should have been broken by Jack in the first place. He'd gone to prison and Reese had gone to a hell of her own and then Roman had broken them both all over again and somewhere in his trying to find who had framed him and her trying to make sense of what was going on with him and her father but he could definitely say that by the time they had walked out of that orange grove they were pretty much the same person, albeit in different bodies. She'd even once been the one to point out that his zen quotations shut people down even faster than her sarcasm and rudeness, even if no one realized he was doing it.

Charlie tried to adjust his neck and back and Reese shifted with him, a little like a kitten who moved when you did when it was asleep on your chest, even though Charlie realized it was an analogy that was faintly pointless because he was only guessing since he had never had a kitten sleep on his chest and Reese would be unusually cranky about being compared to a kitten. He almost laughed when he thought, 'she'd claw my eyes out,' which was equally ridiculous because Reese didn't even need violence when people fled in terror from her caustic sarcasm and at the continued comparison to cats would have irritated her even more. She probably hated cats just like she hated birds.

Tidwell had somehow managed to get ahold of one of the sofa pillows and had jammed it between the arm of the couch and his neck and shrugged at Charlie's glare. It was still dark but they hadn't shut the curtains in the main room last night when they had started watching movies so there was still plenty of light coming in through the windows for him to see clearly.

"Did you set an alarm?" he whispered and Tidwell shook his head. "Neither did I."

"Well we don't need to be at the Twelfth until 0900," Tidwell whispered back. "Reese almost never sleeps later than 0700, no matter how many days she hasn't slept."

"We're in New York. But we haven't been in New York for even 24 hours so she's still on LA time. And 0700 in LA is 1000 in New York." So by the time Reese wakes up, we'll already be an hour late." Charlie whispered back and Tidwell got that grumpy look that he only got when he was worried about Reesebbut knew better than to show real concern. She'd cured him of that quickly enough. Charlie sometimes thought it wasn't fair that he could express emotions about her -- concern, sympathy, worry, fear -- but Tidwell wasn't allowed to do any of that, at least not in public. She'd gotten a little better when it was just the three of them and he didn't know what she was like when it was just her and Tidwell. But if nothing else, he had learned that his boss was an unexpectedly patient man. He hadn't thought it at first.

Charlie had figured Captain Tidwell was just any run-of-the-mill New York cop with an attitude and a mouth to match. He had appreciated not having Jack Reese's old partner for a boss, who had a vested interest in getting him off the force, had make work a little bit less stressful. He'd also appreciated the support from the new Captain and had even been willing to go so far as to call him a good cop but probably wouldn't have thought more about it if, right after Reese had denied that she had Tidwell had even ridden over to serve a warrant together, she hadn't pulled the Captain's .45 from her holster and he hadn't been carrying her .9mm. Though Charlie had noticed that even if they had the wrong guns, they at least were still wearing their own holsters

The look for horror on both their faces as they'd switched guns while both he and Bobby had been too surprised to comment still made him smile. That, he decided, was the moment when he really started considering there might be more to the Captain than even what he realized and when he'd answered the phone a few weeks later when Tidwell had clearly thought it was Reese had confirmed his suspicion that the two of them had actually started some kind of relationship. He'd known Reese about a year by then and he'd been happy for her even while he'd been grieving the loss of his fantasy that Jennifer was going to leave her husband to be with him. Part of him had hoped that night they'd spent together was going to be a new beginning for them but about when Reese and Tidwell were starting their relationship was when he realized it had been Jennifer's way of closure and telling him goodbye.

Later, when he'd started to accept that he and Jennifer were truly over and he didn't have a fairy tale ending coming after all, he'd started to look a little harder at Tidwell and Reese and his initial approval had dimmed a little when he reflected how different they were and how opening herself up seemed to threaten Reese's hard-won equilibrium. But despite a few rough patches Tidwell had somehow managed to escape Reese's permanent ire, even if she did get irritated with him at times and Crew's had been at first mildly surprised, then downright astounded. Eventually he'd just gotten used to it but the fact the two of them had managed to maintain a relationship for over five years still perplexed him. It wasn't that Reese was a terrible person but her emotions swung violently when triggered -- Crews could relate, his did as well -- but though Tidwell rarely was able to predict them and usually suffered for a time, his ability to adapt, react, and somehow manage to come out the other side by making Reese feel better about herself rather than tearing her down still wasn't something Crews fully understood how he accomplished. Repeatedly.

Tidwell, Crews decided, would do very well if he ever ended up in prison. Not that he wanted his boss there. No, he preferred Tidwell right where he was; having his and Reese's and all the other officers' backs. The thought made him frown. He hadn't thought of the fact that Tidwell had been there nearly six years. It wasn't unprecedented to have a Captain at a station for a long time, but six years was a long time and it made him wonder, if Tidwell left, who would come next. And what would he do if Reese decided to go with him. No, he soothed himself, Reese wouldn't do that. She and Tidwell were playing with fire being in a relationship at all when they were in a superior/subordinate position and the only reason no one had called them on it was they were so damn discreet. Not that most everyone who worked with them hadn't figured it out by now, even if new employees inevitably thought Charlie and Reese were more than partners at first. But by the time they inevitably realized the truth, no one dared to complain because Reese would have dumped Tidwell on his ass cold if he'd ever shown her favoritism and those same people clearly realized he wasn't taking advantage of her. And she was Jack Reese' daughter, so no one dared say anything, first because everyone was afraid of hearing what Jack Reese would say and then because he was missing and no one wanted to stir that up. Charlie had to suppress a slight smirk. Maybe that was the one good thing Jack had ever done for her; no one expected Captain Jack Reese' daughter to play by the same rules everyone else did.

Tidwell, he realized, had seen the smirk. Charlie inhaled slowly and let it back out, hearing the Zen-recording voice in his head. 'As I exhale, it is inhaled by others.' He had been getting better about getting lost in his own head when people were looking at him but he'd just held an entire -- conversation wasn't the right word; he hadn't been talking to himself, exactly -- inner recitation of some sort that had seemed to take just a moment but judging by Tidwell's look, had taken a bit longer and Tidwell clearly knew something had gone on in his head. He glanced around and saw his cell on the coffee table, scattered among the plates from their dinners.

"If you can reach my cell, we could set an alarm?" Somehow it had gotten shifted closer to Tidwell's side of the table than his own.

Tidwell made a few token tries but none of them put him more than two feet from it and he sighed, stripped off his right sock with his left foot and grasped Crew's cell with the toes on his left foot, angling the leg around awkwardly. Tidwell, Crews reflected, was surprisingly flexible for someone so. . .solid. He'd seen his Captain in the locker room enough times to know the other man wasn't fat, but he wasn't exactly lean either.

Tidwell was just reaching for his foot with the hand not holding Reese's when she sat straight up, her eyes completely aware even if Charlie could have sworn she's been dead asleep just moment before. She glanced between the two of them like they were crazy and finally shook her head, as if dismissing some thought. "What are you doing?" she asked Tidwell, sounding actually curious rather than mocking and the Captain shrugged.

"None of us set an alarm and we're in New York so our internal clocks are off. I was just trying to get Crew's cell so I could set one without waking you since you haven't been sleeping well."

"Thank you." Reese's voice was completely neutral as she stood, stretching, "But I'd have had a hell of a crick in my neck if I slept like that. How do the two of you not have cricks in your necks?"

Tidwell just looked guilty and Crews finally settled for, "We didn't want to wake you."

"Well thanks, but," Reese bent over and picked up her own cell phone, "it's about four-thirty and I want to go for a run. My alarm was set to go off at five anyway so I'll just get up now. I actually set my alarm." There was just a tiny hint of smugness in her tone that made Charlie sigh in relief, even if he didn't do it out loud. There was no doubt Reese was struggling with her emotions, even as he struggled with his, but she'd get through it, which meant there was hope for him too.

"Dani," Tidwell's voice was a little plaintive. "You should probably go back to sleep for a little bit. You really need it."

Charlie expected Reese to react badly but she just shrugged. "I know. But I couldn't."

"I told you, my back's been bugging me. I'll sleep out here on the couch, I--" Tidwell trailed off as Reese shook her head, her lips actually creasing into a small smile.

"Kevin, really, that's not what this was about." She reached out and ruffled his hair before turning towards the bedroom on the left where she had Tidwell had left their bags. Charlie would almost have sworn there was affection in her tone but. . .

"She called me Kevin," Tidwell whispered and there was no disguising the misery in his voice. "She only calls me that when she feels guilty about pushing me away."

"Do I need to get us a three bedroom suite?" Charlie asked, trying to sound as neutral as he could. He hoped he at least achieved non-judgmental.

"How much more would that cost?" This place has to be over two grand a night as it is?

"Ted's writing it off on my taxes." It was actually over twenty-five hundred a night but Crews owned his house, his car, his orange grove and his solar farm. All the other things didn't matter as much and Ted's investments fluctuated between profit and loss but kept him near enough to the same fifty-million mark that he'd come out of prison with so he enjoyed the money and what it could do for people.

"No, I think. . .I think my parents are going to find out I'm here and come home from Ithaca early. It'll put me further away but I can borrow Dad's car. Besides, that will give me something to do rather than hang out in Vic Gates' office all the time. By the way, call her 'Sir' because she hates getting 'Ma'am'd' and that will help. I can follow up a couple of things if I'm not being trailed by a pair of obviously out-of-town cops. Gates won't mind, she knows I won't step on her toes. . .well, too many of them at least."

Charlie concentrated on his breathing. "And what will Reese say?"

"Reese won't admit it but she'll be relieved. She tenses up anytime anyone but you comes near her. I thought it was just me but she bumped into that writer and she just about came out of her skin before she caught herself. I hate to see her this way but I was damn glad I'm not the only one."

"She seemed okay tonight." It wasn't quite the truth, Reese hadn't really relaxed until she'd pretty much passed out from exhaustion on them both.

"Yeah, well, don't let that fool you. She needed the sleep but in some ways it will make things worse because she'll be thinking more clearly. And sometimes she can't stop thinking." Charlie could understand that, though he was surprised Tidwell picked up on it. "Good thing we did wake up or the hotel staff would have thought it all looked really weird when they came in to clean."

"People don't spend this kind of money on a hotel room to have an orgy on the couch," Charlie commented and Tidwell laughed. "Besides, you seemed okay with. . ." He frowned slightly at Tidwell. "Are you okay with it?"

"If by 'it' you mean the fact that Dani can't stand anyone getting near her but you? Let's just say when she's having bad days I've had time to get used to it. Five years, actually. But you're her partner. That's the way it's supposed to be. Significant others always get jealous of the partner. Two of my three divorces were because my wives couldn't stand I was closer to my partner than I was to them and both times the partner -- and it wasn't even the same partner -- was another guy. You two have been partners for seven years. If I asked her to choose between us. . . ." Tidwell snorted and Charlie shrugged, wishing he could argue it was the other way but he knew he couldn't without lying and moreover, Tidwell knew it too.

"And your third divorce?"

"It was actually my first wife that didn't leave me because of my partners. And I don't want to talk about that right now."

"You divorced her for the stripper, didn't you?"

Tidwell glared at him. "No. I didn't." Then he sighed. "But yeah, my second wife was a stripper. She'd quit, by the time we married. But how'd you know?"

"Three divorces? Odds are, there's a stripper in there somewhere." Tidwell nodded in agreement, then grinned.

"Dare you to ask Detective Beckett which of Castle's two previous wives were strippers." It was an obvious attempt to change the subject but Charlie allowed himself to take the bait.

"No need. I googled him. First wife was an actress, second wife was his publisher."

Reese came out of her room in the same leggings but a tank top, her phone and headphones in her hand.

"You going running outside?" Tidwell asked, clearly striving for mere curiosity but Charlie heard the concern in his tone.

"Figured I'd just stick to the gym today until I learn my way around." She walked settled her ear buds into her ears and walked out of the suite and Tidwell grimaced.

"Should I have offered to go with her?"

"No. Because then she would either have had you there when she didn't want you or felt guilty. Reese likes. . .to work out alone."

The last four words were in unison with Tidwell. "True. She does." Charlie rose from the couch and Tidwell, after pulling on his right sock, immediately threw his legs onto the spot Charlie had just vacated. "Much better. I was starting to think you'd paid a fortune for a suite with a shitty couch. This thing isn't too bad when two grown men aren't trying to rest their necks on the arm."

Crews rummaged in his suite's closet and came back with a blanket which Tidwell took gratefully. "You could probably sleep on the bed. She won't be back for a couple of hours."

Tidwell shrugged. "Nah, I reset the alarm for 0600 so I can get a shower before she gets back."

"You can use my bathroom again." He saw Tidwell's nod of thanks and almost said more but it felt like he'd said to much already so he started to shuffle out of the room when Tidwell's voice raised.

"Hey, Crews?"

"Yeah?" He hoped it was nothing more about Reese because he hated the way her emotions seemed to reflect and magnify his -- as if he felt her pain as well as his own but to shut it down would be to put himself back into the hole of solitary confinement he'd lived in for so many years and anything was better than what he went through in his own head there. He slammed the door on even the thought of it.

"How are you doing?"

He tried to think of a zen quote but failed, thought of saying he was fine but knowing Tidwell would know he was lying and press further. "You know how she's doing?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, that's about how I'm doing." He walked away, expecting more questions and breathing a sigh of relief when none came.

Chapter Text

The ache in her muscles gave Dani something to focus on and she cranked the speed on the treadmill higher, til her calves and her lungs burned and she breathed as evenly as she could, The towel covered the display so she had no idea how far, fast or long she'd been going and the sweat ran down her face and neck, puddling around her bra. The screaming guitar of AC/DC rang in her ears and she stabbed randomly at the speed button, cranking it up two/tenths faster than she'd been and she felt the rhythm of her stride. The white gym walls faded away and she could see the inside of an abandoned apartment, the walls graffiti covered and molded. The room had once been a kitchen but the fixtures were all torn out and a stained mattress with a single blanket lay where the kitchen table should have. Only one counter remained and it had drug paraphernalia spread across it. She had used to get angry at herself when her brain brought her back here when she was running but she'd gotten used to it, turning the treadmill a little higher and the vision swam in her eyes as lack of oxygen and swear mixed and she felt the taste of the drugs in the back of her throat fade. She'd once thought that room would be her worst nightmare but she hadn't even learned what it was to fall yet and she forced a smile, aware it was more of a grimace.

The vision fractured when she hit the front bar on the treadmill almost hard enough to knock the wind out herself and she stumbled, grabbing for the safety-rails, about to curse the machine when she realized it wasn't the belt stalling, the thing had dropped back to about three miles per hour. She grabbed the towel, wiping her eyes, forehead and neck and realized the treadmill programming had kicked in. She'd been running an hour and it was set to go to cool down. She'd gone 7.3 miles in the hour, she saw, skipping the machine's pre-programmed cool-down and she wiped the surfaces with a gym-wipe before going to the free-weights. It was five forty-five and she reset her alarm for six-fifteen. She'd blown several hours on weightlifting before, without being aware of it and the last thing she needed or wanted was Crews or Tidwell coming to look for her.

The door at the far end of the room opened and two men walked in, their workout clothes generic. Both of them were on the fit side of average. The dark haired one had the sleeves ripped out of his t-shirt and he glanced at her casually before turning to the treadmill she'd just vacated. The blond was actually pretty good looking and she could see he was checking her out, not bothering to look away when she raised an eyebrow at her. He sauntered over, leaning one hip against the weight rack. "You need a spotter?" he asked, his voice drawling just enough to make her suspect he was from somewhere in Texas.

"No, I'm good," she said, and she saw his companion smile just a little.

"Are you sure? You can hurt yourself if you --"

"Jay, give it a rest, she's clearly not new at this," the other man snapped and she could hear a similar accent. The blond shot him a dirty look and he sneered back. They didn't look particularly alike at first glance but something about the expressions on their faces made Dani pretty sure they were brothers. The blond man turned away from her and selected weights of his own before claiming the bench next to hers. His form wasn't bad and his workout was functional rather than flashy and Dani was pleased to note he wasn't a grunter. Few things irritated her more than someone working out near her who felt it was necessary to vocally advertise how hard they were working. She could see him in the mirror and didn't look away when he saw her watching him. Part of her was horrified to realize she was turned on and another part of her was pleased because it meant that whatever was going on in her head with Jack wasn't enough to shut her down forever. It was a bad habit of hers to default to wanting complete strangers but it was something.

She continued to lift free-weights, switching up the exercises and going with increasingly heavy weights until she was up to 50lbs, though she rarely went over 40. When he switched out his own and her the 60lb weights she didn't protest when his hands slid along her biceps until his hands were at the back of her wrists. He mirrored her movement, ready to take the weight if she needed it, his arms pressed against hers but not actually supporting anything. She could see his brother's expression in the mirror, a wry smile as if he wasn't really surprised.

It wasn't until her phone had been going off for nearly a minute that the sound of it penetrated her senses and the blond raised an eyebrow at her. "You need to go?"

"Yeah." She wiped sweat from her forehead with a towel and carried the weights back to the rack. "I have a meeting to get ready for."

"You here again tonight?"

"Yeah, you?" If he was able afford the Plaza he had money as well as looks."

"Yeah," his brother answered. "They're holding the National Cattleman's Conference here."

"Not sure why they're having a Cattleman's conference in New York," Jay joked and she smiled a little. "Over half of us came from Texas. Maybe we could work out again tomorrow. Or," he was clearly striving for casual, "maybe you want to have dinner with us tonight."

It was tempting to lead him on but Dani quashed the part of her that enjoyed torturing innocent bystanders. "Thanks, but I'd have to bring my boyfriend and that kind of defeats the purpose of taking a woman to dinner."

Jay's brother stifled another grin but she had to admire Texas charm when Jay shrugged, "Well, you win some, you lose some. Sure, bring him along." His grin was self-depreciating and part of Dani was glad his brother was there because being a good sport about him made her wonder if she'd just have fucked him right there if they'd have been alone.

"Thanks. But then I'd have to bring my partner too and that might get a little awkward," His eyes had widened and she realized he'd misunderstood what she meant by partner. "Not that sort of partner. I'm a cop."

"Oh." His brother actually laughed before walking over to slap the blond lightly on the back of the head. "Sorry, I didn't mean. . . ."

She waved off his apology. "I'm Dani."

"Hey Dani," the dark haired man said. "I'm Travis. This is my cousin, Jason."

So not his brother after all, she realized but she still hadn't been mistaken about them being related. "Well nice to meet you both but I need to go get ready for a meeting." She finished wiping down her weight bench and headed out the door, not looking back on purpose. Desire had tightened her nipples and she knew it showed though her sports bra but she ruthlessly suppressed the emotions in the elevator ride, counting the seconds between floors.

She could hear the sound of a shower as she let herself into the suite. Tidwell was sitting in the living room, his hair still damp and she glanced towards Crew's room. Her body was still humming with the high from the workout and the lust and she was surprised that it intensified as Tidwell didn't look up from his file. He clearly noticed her staring because he commented, "we need to leave soon if we're going to get breakfast."

"I need someone to scrub my back," she announced, going for a matter-of-fact tone and she could see she'd surprised him.

"You sure?"

She shivered, more from cold than lust but she nodded.

"Any chance I can talk you into the bed instead of the shower? You know how much I prefer the bed." His tone was a little joking-casual and it felt like it set fire to her blood.

"No. I want breakfast too."

 

She felt a little sick to her stomach afterwards but the cold emptiness after sex with her lover of seven years felt preferable to whatever she would have experienced if she really had fucked some random stranger in a hotel gym. She come practically as soon as he'd entered her and he hadn't taken much longer but she loved the fact he'd left her to enjoy the hot water on her own as soon as he'd rinsed himself. He'd started to say something as he'd stepped out but had settled for pulling her against him for a moment and kissing her on her right temple. She hated how she loved him and yet breathed a sigh of relief when she'd heard the door close between them.

They found a coffee shop on their way to the precinct and had bought breakfast sandwiches before it occurred to her that Crews was being unusually quiet, his eyes a lazy half-open as if he just wasn't paying attention, which she knew from experience actually meant the opposite. She added a cup of fruit to her purchases and handed it to him. Crews looked a little started but took it, a small smile twisting his lips. It was mostly grapes, cantaloupe and pineapple but there were a few blueberries and she took one when he offered it. His mind had to be unusually busy, she realized, for him to forget to buy fruit.

"You doing okay?" she asked and his mouth twisted.

"Shouldn't I be asking you that?"

"We had this conversation already," she said and one of his shoulder's twitched.

"Well we're not in the morgue today. Not sure if it makes it more profound or not that Jack's hand isn't on display this time?"

"I figure that just makes it more socially acceptable for us to have this conversation while we're eating." She took a bite of her own egg and ham bicuit.

"When has that ever stopped us?"

"True." She felt herself tense up when Tidwell walked over to her but he didn't touch her.

"You two ready to go?"

"Yes," she said, grabbing an extra napkin to put around her coffee and Tidwell led them out of the coffee shop. Crews grimaced at her in the doorway.

"I thought the two of you were doing better?" He sounded almost wistful.

"We had a moment. Tidwell knows I need some space. And I appreciate the fact he knows it's not personal."

"Sex in the shower isn't personal?" She almost snorted coffee in amusement.

"No. I mean, yes, it is. Me brushing him off isn't personal. He knows that."

They used the parking pass Beckett had given them to get a space in the Twelfth Precinct lot and Reese studied Crews as the elevator doors closed. He was wound tight, but she'd seen him worse. He nodded at her when he caught her looking and she nodded back, both gestures faint but she knew what it meant. He might be struggling but he was doing alright for moment and she followed Tidwell into the conference room where Beckett and her team were waiting for them.

Tidwell's phone rang as they were walking into the conference room and he turned away, walking down to Captain Gates' office, whatever he was saying uregent but low enough Dani couldn't male out the words. She was aware of Detective Beckett greeting her with, "Good morning. Hope you got a good night sleep so the jet-lag isn't too bad today."

"No worse than usual," Dani replied. "You?"

"Doing well, thank you." A corner of Beckett's mouth turned up just slightly. "And you?"

"Doing well, thank you. And you?" She smiled for real this time, appreciating the humor Beckett found in the potentially endless loop of polite inquiry. Detective Beckett didn't do anything as predictable as actually grin back at her but Dani saw the crinckles at the corner of her eyes. This was the sort of detective Jack should have set her up to be rather than the kind she was and she felt the bile burning away the flash amusement and she grimaced. Detective Beckett, she realized, also didn;t seem surprised or disturbed as her sudden mood-swing. Tidwell, she noticed out of the corner of her eyes, was speaking ernestly to Captain Gates and she wondered who the call had been from.

"Good morning," Detective Beckett said, her voice raised to pitch to everyone in the conference room and Dani saw Castle break away from whatever he was talking to Crews about. She clinically admired the way Beckett seemed to fill the whole space. "So unfortunately we don't have anything new to put out from what we learned last night. I've made some inquiries among my contacts in the Russian community but I haven't heard back from anyone yet."

"I know a few boys doing some undercover work in a few different areas of the city," Detective Esposito said. "I can't just make some calls but I'm going to see what I can do to put out the word we're looking for Jack Reese."

Tidwell and Captain Gates had finished their conversation and they were both walking towards the conference room, Dani noted. Beckett clearly noticed it to because she turned towards the door. "How can I help you, Sir," she said.

"I just talked to an old pal of mine who used to run with the Westies, back in the day. And by pal I mean he never ran when I arrested him for extortion and I did him the favor of not locking the cuff too tight when I arrested him. He's been retired over a decade now but he said there have been some unusual turf wars between the Russians and the Westies lately."

"Is he sure?" Detective Ryan asked, his forehead furrowing. "They don't usually run the same areas or the same products. In fact, the Russians and the Westies usually leave each other totally alone."

"Which is why it's odd enough my guy mentioned it. He also suggested that we might be able to get the Westies to give us potentially useful information about the Russians in the hope that will give the Westies an advantage when we start shifting Russians. Now my Westie knowledge is a few years out of date, but Captain Gates tells me that you, Detective Ryan, are the man for that job."

"They're not my biggest fans since they figured out I was a cop. Afraid I'm not your man, Captain."

"So they think you're a traitor. So what. You're Irish, even if you are a cop. That;ll get me further than I'd get alone. Besides, you're a known quantity. I go in with you, they know you're a cop they know I'm not trying to hide anything. That goes a long way with these guys."

"It's you choice, Detective Ryan," Captain Gates said. "But I think he's got a good point and I'd be interested to see where it leads."

"Sure," Ryan shrugged. "As long as we're not trying undercover."

"Not this time," Gates smiled. "Tell Jenny she can expect you home every night."

"That would be a change," Ryan quipped but he smiled. "How soon you want to leave?"

"Right after Detective Beckett's briefing. Which brings up another point," Tidwell turned to her and Crews. "My mother called. She found out I'm here so she and my father are coming back from Ithaca today and I'm going to go grab my stuff at lunch and go stay with them. I'll have their car so you two don't need to worry about me but that way I can do my thing around here without a couple of LA cops with me. No offense, because you two stick out like sore thumbs around here. I'll have you two check in with Captain Gates if I'm not around but she's agreed that -- while this is still NYPD's investigation -- it could be useful to have you both on Detective Beckett's team this week."

"You're both welcome," Beckett seconded the thought. "If this case is half as complicated as it seems it may be, I welcome your insights."

Dani suppressed the rush of conflicting emotions that threatened to settle into the pit of her stomach. Foremost, of course, was the relief that Tidwell wasn't going to be there, trying to hide his hurt when she flinched away from him but there was also a corresponding wash of panic that he'd not be there with her and that surprised her. She forced most of it aside but allowed just enough of it to show in her eyes when she turned to him that she saw him smile at her. He'd stay if she asked, she knew but after a moment he shrugged at a corner of his mouth turned up into a non-smile.

She would miss him, she realized. But she'd be glad of the chance to let down her guard a little bit and nice not to have to consider his emotions too.

"If you need anything, either of you, don't hesitate to call me immediately," Tidwell said and he leaned over to grip her and Crew's right forearms. "And I mean anything,"

She turned her arm over and he let her wrist slide through his grip and until they were clutching hands for a few brief seconds before he stepped back from them both. She heard him and Detective Ryan speaking as they walked out of the room but she focused on her own breathing for a moment, forcing away all the associated emotions and feeling the peace and beauty of a blank canvas. It never lasted longer than a few minutes before she hit it with some acid of emotion but it was clear for now.

After a moment she frowned, turning to Crews. "You're going to the hotel gym with me tomorrow."

He looked genuinely surprised and frowned at her slightly. "You like to work out alone."

"Usually I do. But I need you to come with me tomorrow. I'll explain later."

Chapter Text

She settled Detectives Crews and Reese at Detective Ryan's empty desk before Kate went back to her own desk. She had two cases that would be going to trial in the next month and she opened her notebook. She hadn't forgotten anything about either but she reviewed her notes anyway. The faces of the guilty were burned somewhere right next to the faces of their victims and her mother but it was the connections to the victim and the procedure she had used that she wanted to ensure she had completely correct before she was questioned by the DA and the defense.

After a few hours of study she was sure -- even though one of the cases was over a year old -- she'd be able to list every step. She'd review it again right before the trial but she was confident she had everything correct. Crews and Reese, she noticed, were looking at a map of the area around the apartment building where NYPD had found Jack's hand and comparing them with what she was pretty sure were the notes from the uniforms that had canvassed the area. The original canvass had been just about the dead men since they hadn't even had an ID on the hand at the time; even the re-canvass would have focused on the possibility Jack Reese had died there. The possibility he'd been alive wouldn't have been something any of the officers had asked about. She watched Reese shift in her chair, the slight woman's shoulders hunched. Crews himself sat still, the lines in his body failing to radiate the same tension at his partner but no one, Kate realized, was that relaxed unless they were trying to project that on purpose. Castle was staring at them, she realized, a contemplative look on his face. He saw her watching and his head jerked towards the clock on her desk that read 12:45.

"You want to go get lunch? he asked, his voice neutral, as if he couldn't care less and she nodded.

"Yeah, good idea. Hey, Reese, Crews, you two want to come get lunch with us?"

"Sure," Crews said immediately. "Lunch would be good." His tone was almost enthusiastic but his mouth curved up in what was probably supposed to be a grin but looked more like a grimace. "Reese?"

Reese shrugged. "Sure. Why not." Her gaze flicked back once at the canvass reports before she stood. She didn't quite radiate false cheerfulness like her partner but Beckett appreciated what had to be fake enthusiasm.

"And afterwards, do you two want to go back to the building with me and see if we can talk to anyone who might have seen Jack alive with our Russians?"

There was no doubt Reese's smile was genuine that time.

 

Kate split them up when they got to the apartment. Castle and Reese headed to the top floor while she and Crews started at the bottom. She wasn't surprised at how many people knew nothing, had seen nothing nor heard nothing but she was mostly just pleased when anyone even opened their door for what was obviously a pair of police officers. After the first few attempts, she let Crews handle most of the questions. There was no disguising him as anything other than a cop but his disarming charm and self-depreciating wry wit seemed to win people over. After two hours they hadn't progressed as far as good-cop, bad cop but they were somewhere more in the neighborhood of all-business cop, chatty cop. He certainly had gotten a lot of information about the building tenants. . .just nothing about Jack Reese.

They were on the third floor before she finally dared say, "So if Rachel wasn't his daughter, was she Jack's mistress?" She hadn't wanted to ask around Reese.

Crew's eyebrows went up and his mouth twisted. "That was what Bracken thought."

"Was he wrong?"

"Yes."

For the man who had spent the past few hours babbling with the tenants, the evasive answers were practically screaming at her, even if he was smiling cheerfully.

"So who was Rachel?"

"She wasn't Jack's mistress or his daughter." He started to turn away, then shook his head. "Sorry. Old habit. I sent Rachel away to protect her from Roman and even though she's back now I still get paranoid when people ask about her."

"Even cops?"

"Especially cops." Crews closed his eyes and when he opened them again Kate could see the pain behind them that for once he didn't seem to be trying to mask.

"Rachel is Tom Siebold's daughter. When Kyle Hollis killed the rest of the family for some reason he left Rachel alive. Then Jack got Detective Aimes to say she'd been at a sleepover rather than reveal she'd watched her family be murdered. I used to wonder why. . .but I finally figured out that if she'd been identified as a witness, the pictures she drew could have been used as evidence that I wasn't the one that killed her family. The real question is what made Hollis not kill her. He claimed the Fire -- his word for the voice of God -- told him to spare her. He was probably tripping pretty badly by that point on whatever he was cracked up on that night. Five years later he'd changed his name and enough of his appearance that she didn't recognize him when he adopted her. Jack Reese came to visit them from time to time; no doubt to make sure the frame was still holding."

"Does she know now?"

"Yes. I got her away from them but it turned out Jack was protecting Rachel. . .I wish I knew who from. Then Jack disappeared and Roman went looking for her so I sent her away. But then I killed Roman so Ted and Olivia got her to meet them in Spain and brought her home with them. She lived with them for a while but she finally got her own place about two years ago. She wouldn't let me give her money but Olivia got her into riding while they were still in Spain and she ended up working at a therapeutic riding program with other kids that have been traumatized." One corner of his mouth turned up and Kate couldn't help grin with him.

"You wouldn't happen to donate her salary, would you?"

"No." But then he shrugged. "My annual donations end up paying most of the salaries. It's a great tax write off."

She started to smile back at him when her phone buzzed and she opened a text from Castle that said simply, "Seventh floor, apartment 7-61."

"Looks like our partners have found something."

 

The door to apartment 7-61 was open when Kate and Crews got to it and she could see Castle in the living room. He gestured to her and she came in slowly, smiling at the short woman who was speaking quietly with Detective Reese. It clearly wasn't in English but her next guess of Russian proved to be wrong when she got within hearing range. She tried to appear polite and patient because she could see Detective Reese's intense look but after a few minutes she whispered to Castle, "What have we got?"

"Not sure," He whispered back. "Reese just said to get you and Crews up here. She hasn't stopped talking long enough to translate." The apartment was two floors above where they had found the murdered Russian and Beckett drifted over to the window. From the view she guessed they were pretty near to directly above it, possibly one or two apartments over."

The other woman had finally finished speaking and Reese was saying something back, both the woman's hands in her own. It seemed an odd gesture for someone as closed off as Reese but the other woman seemed comfortable with it."

"This is Jaleh. She lives here with her parents since her husband died two years ago. They're from Iran and her father doesn't believe women should live alone." Kate concealed her impatience because she knew -- if it was Reese speaking -- she was pretty sure there was a point to it. "Jaleh and her husband both smoked but her father doesn't approve so she quit. Mostly. She goes out on the fire escape sometimes. When uniforms were doing their canvass, they talked to her father, who never thought to ask if his daughter knew anything." A corner of Jaleh's mouth turned up, which Kate took to mean she understood English, even if she might now speak it well.

"Was she outside on the night of the murder?"

"No," Jaleh said, her accent thick but her voice was strong. "If I hear murder, I call police. But three night earlier, I smoke." She burst into a torrent of whatever language she had been speaking before and Reese answered it, equally as rapidly.

Kate could see Crews' jaw tightening and she whispered, "Is that Arabic?"

He shrugged. "It's not Dutch. I speak Dutch. Sort of. Pretty sure it's Farsi."

Reese nodded confirmation, even though she was still speaking and Crews sighed while she finished and Jaleh answered her before Reese turned to Kate again.

"Jaleh picked up some Russian while they were still living in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. But the night she was outside smoking she heard two men arguing on the fire escape below her. One was Russian. The other was Irish. She went inside because they were getting loud and she didn't want to deal with another lecture from her father if he caught her smoking." She was at work when they found the bodies so she got missed on the first canvass.

Kate had the sketch of the dead Russian man in her file and she pulled it out. "Was this one of the men you saw arguing?"

Jaleh shook her head, but she turned back to Reese, her voice firm and one of Reese's eyebrows rose.

"No. She had never seen either of those two men before but she says our victim's name is Leftaris Papadis. His parents are Russian but he was named after his grandfather, who was Greek. They would sometimes smoke together. He asked her out a few times but she wasn't comfortable trying to introduce her father to a Russian." She smiled at something Jaleh said and Jaleh laughed at her reply. Reese produced a card and handed it over, her voice low and melodic. Farsi, Kate realized, was a beautiful language without some of the harsher gutturals of Russian.

Kate pulled her phone from her pocket and texted Papadis' name to Lanie then sent another text to Esposito and Ryan with the summary of they had learned from Jaleh. "Would she be able to identify the man with the Irish accent?"

Reese shook her head. "No. She said it was too dark and she didn't see him at all; just heard their voices." She must have already asked because she didn't bother speaking to Jaleh before answering." Reese pulled a card out of her pocket and scribbled a number on the back before handing it over to Jaleh. She hesitated as the woman's fingers closed over the card and she offered Beckett a tentative smile. "Sorry, Detective, I understand this should be your card since you're the lead."

"True. But I don't speak Farsi," Kate admitted. "Is that your cell number you added."

"Yeah, my card has my desk and dispatch but neither of those will do her much good."

Her phone buzzed and she glanced at it. Esposito had sent a mug shot of a man with dark brown hair, the name Evan O'Malley at the bottom. She turned the phone for Jaleh to see.

"Could this have been one of the men on the fire escape that night."

Reese asked the question in Farsi and Jaleh answered. It was impossible to tell from her tone and Beckett concealed her impatience as the conversation between the two women stretched on for a few minutes "She says," Reese finally translated, "that she does not know. She did not see anyone that night. But she saw this man leaving the building two weeks ago. He never spoke so she doesn't know what his voice sounds like but he has been here at least once."

She had another text from Esposito a few moments later and she glanced at it as Reese said, "Jaleh says she would be willing to listen to his voice if we can bring him in for questioning. She doesn't know for sure if she will be able to be sure because she didn't listen long.

"That won't be possible," Kate overrode Reese's in drawn breath that was doubtless about to turn into a protest. "Apparently Mr. O'Malley died two days ago in County General. Perlmutter's the ME but he and Lanie are going to compare ballistics because he was killed by three shots to the chest from a .45."