The universe had a hellava sense of humour, and never was that more obvious to Javier Esposito than when he showed up at their crime scene in a dingy hotel at 42 Chemsel St and recognised their stabbing victim.
It wasn’t like he knew the guy well. Hell, they’d only actually met once. It’d been at The Dog’s Breath; a seedy bar just out of Manhattan, and they’d spent a few hours with their hands down each other’s pants in some dirty pay-by-the-hour room. Now the dude was lying in a pool of his own blood in a different ‘charming establishment.’
“ID’s in the wallet.” said Ryan, riffling through the personal effects that had been left on the end of the bed. “Our man’s a Thomas Holdings. Looks like he’s some sort of a stockbroker from his business card.”
“No surprises there,” Castle injected jovially, handing Beckett a coffee, “I mean, that’s a nice suit! This guy has money and taste.”
“Huh. That’s odd.” Ryan frowned down at the wallet, “Both his work and home address are miles from here.”
“Plus I’d expect to see this guy at the Hilton or Plaza, not this dump.” Castle agreed.
“So then what was he doing here…” Beckett muttered, drumming her fingers on the side of her coffee.
Esposito folded his arms and scowled down at the body. He knew precisely what Thomas Holdings had been doing at the hotel. Trouble was, Esposito was so deep in the closet he’d practically found Narnia.
* * *
Back at the precinct the team milled around the murder board as Beckett drew up the timeline.
“So Thomas Holdings’ wife thought he was staying late at work, but his secretary saw him leave the office at around 4 30. We have time of death between 10 and 10 30 last night, which leaves us with 6 hours unaccounted for. And we still have no idea what he was doing at that hotel.”
“Yeah, but come on,” Castle interrupted, “it’s not exactly a great mystery what a guy with a wife would be doing at some crappy hotel in the evening.”
“Yeah, but look,” Ryan pointed to the crime scene photos “he’d left his wedding ring on.”
Beckett wrote that up on the board.
He’d left his wedding ring on when Esposito had spent the night with him too, and that hadn’t stopped them. He shrugged at his partner when Ryan turned a quizzical eye towards him.
“Yeah…” Castle mused, “and with a paycheck like that you’d think he’d take a mistress somewhere a bit nicer.”
Beckett frowned at the murder board.
“Hmm. I think an affair is still our best bet at the moment.”
It wasn’t as if Esposito didn’t know what he was. It had been pretty clear to him since high school. Maybe if he’d had some flicker of an interest in girls he’d’ve been able to keep it from himself for longer, but no luck there. His family, highschool, the army, then the force; not exactly great places to introduce a boyfriend to. His stint in the armed forces had been during don’t ask, don’t tell, and he’d never slipped on that policy in his personal life once. And if he occasionally visited dirty hotels with men with clever hands and their own secrets, and was far more careful with his search history than was strictly necessary for a guy who lived alone, well, it worked. No one knew. And the thought of anybody knowing scared Esposito shitless. He’d had a system for years, and now this one stupid fucking murder was messing with everything, and he had no idea what to do with himself.
Esposito had offered to go over Holdings’ finances, hoping to find something he could use to point the team in the right direction. Luck, it seemed, was not on his side.
“So it turns out that the murder weapon is the most common brand of knife in New York. Hell, I think I’ve got one at home.” Ryan griped, plopping himself down on his chair and spinning over to crowd into Esposito’s space.
With his careful structures already in stress, Esposito tried not to breath too deeply as Kevin’s fruity shampoo coloured the air. There wasn’t much he could do about the stripe of warmth that bled into his side as Ryan leant across him to stare at the screen.
“Anything interesting in his bank statements?”
“Nah. He took out a coupla hundred bucks in cash from just outside his work at 4 43, and bought a muffin from near the hotel with his card at 9 38. Nothing to fix the timeline. I couldn’t see anything weird with his finances either.”
“Damn. We’re so short on leads for this one.” Kevin ran his hands through his hair and squinted at the ceiling. His leg stayed pressed up againt Esposito’s. “A few hundred would more than cover that hotel though, and there was only a twenty in his wallet when we found him. Where’d the rest go?”
“He probably drank it.”
Kevin blinked at him and nodded slowly. Paranoid that he'd made too much of a deductive leap, Esposito bustled out of the room to get coffee. Ryan, apparently unconcerned by his thorny demeanour, followed along after him.
By the end of the day they had no major leads, and the question as to why Thomas Holdings was at 42 Chemsal St remained a mystery to everyone other than Esposito. By now his dark mood was disguised in the general feeling of the team.
Frustratingly, Beckett had spent the whole day directing their energies towards looking for a mistress in Thomas Holdings’ personal life. She’d become more and more waspish as every woman they spoke to assured them what a gentleman he’d been. It wasn’t improving Esposito’s mood any either.
Castle had gone out to get everyone coffee, which Esposito thought was probably more of a tactical retreat from Beckett than any real desire for caffeine. He couldn’t blame the man. Even Ryan was looking a little frayed around the edges, although his hair remained inexplicably perfect. Of course, Esposito knew he was a little biased there. He took a moment to indulge his little crush and watched Ryan fiddle around with the murder board, enjoying the way his face folded expressively as he was thinking.
“Urgh, I can’t remember the last case when we were this stonewalled on the first day. I mean, seriously! Not one lead!” Ryan complained, turning a tired grimace towards Esposito. “Even Lanie’s report got us pretty much nowhere. Pub food and beer in his stomach and woollen fibres on the knife. Half of New York is in gloves at this time of year!”
Esposito shrugged at him sympathetically.
“No idea bro.”
It was an effort not to squirm with guilt.
Esposito got half way home that evening before groaning at his steering wheel and swinging the car around with more force than he needed and heading towards Beckett’s. He watched with a horrified kind of detachment as his knuckles went white, and felt every muscle in his body bunching up for a fight. Adrenaline; great when it stopped him from getting shot. Less great when it just made him want to barf. He glanced at his grim expression in the rear view mirror and vowed to himself that there would be no turning back now.
He turned back twice before he got there. Once while he was looking for a park, and again when he got to the building. It was pathetic. He could actually feel how pale he was. His palms were clammy, and the less said about his breathing the better. It was with a surge of triumph that he forced himself to knock on the door the moment he reached it. Unfortunately the feeling didn’t even survive the five seconds it took Beckett to get to the door.
“Yo.” He said weakly.
Beckett gave him a once over as she leant in the doorway.
“Espo. You okay?”
She stood aside for him to enter, but he just folded his arms and glanced up the hallway. When it was clear he wasn’t planning on moving she stepped out to join him. She looked a little alarmed.
“Alright. What’s going on?”
He checked the hallway was deserted again before pressing himself up against the wall.
“I need to make an anonymous tip.” he replied tightly, wiping his hands on his pants.
“You need to make an anonymous tip?” she repeated back to him.
He shrugged and folded his arms again.
“Okay? Okay. Well…” she gestured at him to spit it out.
“I think he took a man to the hotel. Probably someone he met that night at a pub called The Dog’s Breath.”
He was surprised at how clear his voice was.
“Wait, how do you…” Beckett blinked at him suddenly. “Oh. Ohh. It wasn’t you who he met was it Javier?” she asked carefully.
“What!? Nah bro. Not… not last night.”
“But you’d met him before?”
He nodded unhappily.
He could see irritation sneaking into the concern on her face as she made the connection between the new information and how useless their day had been. After a moment’s tension, the concern clearly won and she stepped back towards her door.
“You okay Javi? You want to come in?”
Even if he hadn’t just fucked up the first crucial hours of her murder investigation, Beckett was the last person he wanted to be around right then. She knew. He clung tightly to his manners to prevent himself from bolting down the hall.
“Nah, it’s cool."
As soon as she closed the door, he was out of there.