Steele Got the Touch
(a Remington Steele/Castle crossover story)
Laura stormed into the agency with Remington on her heels. Both wore the same expressions of fury as they closeted themselves in her office.
“I’m sorry, Laura. If I’d clued in a little faster, the bugger wouldn’t be on his way to New York.”
She tossed her hair back and paced the length of her office and back again. “Mr. Steele, we both had the same information. This one got away.” She took a deep breath to calm herself in order to think logically. It wasn’t the first time they’d flushed out a perp by dropping hints to snitches and paying for good leads, but they rarely let one slip from their grasp so easily.
“You want to go after him?” he asked.
“I’d love to. What do you have in mind?”
“I know a guy.”
“You always do. Who is he and how can he help?” She leaned against her desk. After twenty-seven years of partnership, her husband never failed to surprise her. The gray streaks in his hair and slight weight gain around the middle hadn’t changed his good looks one bit, though she would catch him frowning in the mirror from time to time. He still had the same wickedly charming grin and twinkle in his startling blue eyes that caught her heart that first day so many years ago.
“His name is Castle. Richard Castle. Met him in a poker game a couple of years ago.”
“Castle? Not the writer, surely.”
“That’s the one.”
“How can a writer help us?”
“He’s based in New York. From the conversation that night, I know he gets around. He can probably connect us with the right people.”
She laughed. “All right, Mr. Steele, tell Grace we’re coming.”
Grace Elizabeth Steele picked up her parents from JFK that night. She’d moved to New York just two months ago when she’d won a place in one of New York City’s elite ballet companies. Currently a member of the corps, she had caught the eye of the company director. With her work ethic and ability to take to the air with the ease of a bird, Laura had few doubts her daughter would become a prima ballerina within a few short years.
Petite and auburn-haired as her mother, she sported the blue eyes of her father--an unusual combination that rarely failed to attract attention. “Mom, Da!” she called as her parents stepped off the jetway.
Laura smiled even as her heart ached while her husband picked up his baby girl in an enormous hug. The last of their children had flown the nest. She and Remington had to adjust to life alone again. They always had the agency to keep them busy, and Laura had certainly taken on a full case load to keep herself distracted.
But Remington had been dropping subtle hints that they wouldn’t be keeping the pace for much longer. Laura kept finding brochures for exotic locales in her desk drawers. Yesterday, he’d changed the picture on her computer desktop to show the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in Paris. Any day now, she expected he would whisk her away on a chartered jet. She looked forward it, but in keeping with their perpetual games, pretended not to notice his endeavors.
Grace gave her a tight hug and chattered happily in the back of the taxi. Neither she nor Remington missed the girl’s obvious loneliness. She had a little too much desperation about her that had them exchanging knowing glances over her head.
* * * * *
“Beckett, do you like surprises?” Rick Castle nearly bounced out of his chair as he sat down in excitement.
“Coming from you, Castle? No.” Detective Kate Beckett flicked her eyes at her dubious partner. She got a tiny kick out of needling him.
“You’ll love this one. Last year, no--maybe two years ago, I met this guy in a poker game in Los Angeles--"
“Do you have a gambling problem, Castle?”
“Nah. I just like to match wits. So anyway, this guy nearly cleans me out. And not everyone can do that, mind you. Guess who the guy was.”
“Does this story have a point?” she put in.
“Nope, not playing.” She spun in her chair to face her junior detectives. “Esposito--don’t we have any dead bodies to investigate this morning?”
The younger detective turned around in his chair while his partner, Kevin Ryan, looked on. “Fresh out, Beckett. So who was it, Castle?”
“Ever heard of Remington Steele?”
“The dude out of L.A.? Isn’t he a big time private investigator?” Detective Ryan asked from his perch on Esposito’s desk.
“That’s the one,” agreed Rick. “He and his wife have built this amazing agency and run it for something like twenty-five years.”
“That’s a long time for a P.I,” Esposito quipped.
“Sure, and here’s the deal--I’ve researched them before.” Castle wiggled in his chair in excitement.
“When Steele cleaned you out?” Ryan needled.
Rick agreed happily. “Yeah. So here’s the thing … Laura, her name used to be Holt--Laura Holt--is an open book. Stanford grad, math major, worked at an agency called Havenhurst, opened her own business, closed it, then went to work for Remington Steele Investigations. Some eight or nine years later, she marries the boss.”
Kate tapped her desk with her pencil. “Focus, Castle.”
“I’m getting there. So anyway, I take a look at Steele. Know what I found?”
Annoyed at being reeled in by the story, she leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “I don’t know. What did you find?”
“Nada. Nyet. Nothing. It’s as if he didn’t exist before 1982.”
Esposito and Ryan exchanged looks. “Wasn’t he a CIA agent? I thought I read that somewhere.” Esposito asked.
Rick shook his head. “I asked my friend over there. No dice. However,” he shot a sly look to Beckett, “I did find immigration papers making him a legal citizen in 1986 under the amnesty act of that year.”
She frowned. “So how did he own an agency prior to that? For what, six or seven years?”
Rick wiggled his eyebrows. “Guess whose name is on the original lease for the very first office that opened?”
“Castle,” she warned again.
“Laura Holt. And get this--the business was incorporated under the name Remington Steele Investigations. Guess who was the only shareholder, president and CEO?”
“Laura Holt?” ventured Beckett.
“Got it in one. But a year after they married, all new paperwork is filed converting the agency to a partnership with Remington and Laura Steele holding equal shares.”
“Castle, all this backstory might be vaguely interesting, but what exactly does it have to do with us?” Kate sneered.
“He called me yesterday. He’s got a case he’s chased here to New York and remembered me. He thinks I’ve got connections.”
Esposito snorted. Ryan muttered, “You do have the Mayor on speed dial.”
“You don’t get it.” Rick grinned.
“Castle, I’m growing old waiting for you to get to the point,” Kate retorted.
“The point is, Detective Beckett, no one knows his story. He’ll give you a press conference to fill your paper, but he never gives out a single tidbit of information he doesn’t want you to have.”
She hardened her eyes and pursed her lips. “So?”
“So, he’s got a story. A big one.“ Rick actually rubbed his hands together in anticipation. Kate suppressed an involuntary grin. “And if I get in good with him, maybe he’ll let me write it.”
She cocked her head in curiosity. “What makes you think he’ll let you write it if he hasn’t given a drop of information in nearly three decades?”
Rick sat up in his chair and held his hands up. “I’m Richard Castle. I love a good mystery.”
She shook her head again, resigned to his arrogance. “So when are you going to hook up with them?”
He glanced at his watch. “Right about … now.” With a last flash of a boyish grin to Beckett, he turned around in time to see an extraordinarily handsome couple pause in the doorway of the detective’s bullpen.
Kate glanced back at Esposito and Ryan, then rolled her eyes at their obvious hero-worship before turning around to make her own assessment. The woman had shoulder-length dark hair, bordering on red. Mid-fifties, but by her toned arms, still extraordinarily fit. She moved with purpose, determination in every line of her body. The man could only be described as elegant. He was tall, with the face of a fallen angel, and a lock of black hair streaked with gray dipping over his brow.
Kate didn’t miss the assessing blue eyes. As a cop, she recognized the Steeles’ bearing--any good detective would. The couple appraised the room and each person in it as they approached. Postures and orientations were noted and filed away for later consideration.
Castle rose, casual by all appearances, but Becket saw the tension in his stance. The observation irritated her. She didn’t want to know Castle that well.
“Steele!” Rick reached for Remington’s hand and gave it a firm shake.
“Castle.” The tall man indicated his wife. “My partner, Laura Steele.” While the woman shook hands with Rick, Kate thought the way he introduced the woman was odd--his partner, not his wife. That was … cool. The smile blossomed on her face before she realized her own delight.
Laura saw it and held her hand out. “You must be Detective Beckett. We’ve read … a great deal about you.” Her eyes danced, and Kate took the proffered hand.
In an attempt to set the record straight, Beckett sneered, “Castle, did you really have to make me ‘Nikki Heat?’ Now everyone thinks I’m sleeping with you and I deliver bad lines when I hold people at gunpoint.”
Laura exchanged looks with Remington and they both laughed. “Detective, I think I’m going to like you,” Laura said with a curve to her lips.
Kate didn’t respond, only turned to introduce the others. “Ms. Steele, this is Detective Esposito and Detective Ryan. They used to be my right and left hand men until Castle weaseled his way in here. Now I’m stuck with a writer tagging along everywhere I go.”
Laura clasped her hands together and rolled her eyes. “I know something about that. I once had a partner who thought he knew something about detective work. We clashed from time to time over pesky things such as needing actual evidence. He seemed to think if it happened in the movies that should be good enough to determine the culprit and the motives.”
Kate crossed her arms again. “What did you do?”
“Taught him what I knew and married him,” Laura said drily. Esposito and Ryan let out short guffaws behind Beckett.
Ignoring Castle’s suddenly intent look, Kate told the other woman, “I think I’m going to like you too. Now, what can the NYPD do for you?”
Remington touched his lips before speaking, and from the months Beckett had spent overseas in her travels, she recognized it as a classically European gesture. “It’s a small case, really. Since you’re Homicide, not Robbery, it’s not necessarily your arena. We’ve tracked an art thief to New York and hoped Castle here might have contacts. None of ours have panned out, but we’d rather not lose him.”
Laura retorted, “You mean you’d rather not lose the finder’s fees for recovering the artwork.”
Ryan elbowed Esposito. “Why are we slugging it out as cops and tracking down this stuff for a petty salary when they get percentages?”
His friend muttered, “I think it’s about having a regular paycheck, but at the moment, the reason is beyond me.”
Beckett gave both of them a dirty look before turning to Castle. “They want you, not me. Have fun! I’ve got murders to solve.”
Rick shook his head. “Not at the moment unless you’re going to work a cold case--which would be really cool by the way. Or--" he fired a challenge, “--is Robbery beneath you?”
“Castle, I really don’t like you.”
“I know; isn’t it great?”
Kate saw the Steeles pretending to ignore the whole exchange. She gave in, curious in any case. “Got any leads?” she asked Laura.
For the rest of the morning, three cops, two private investigators and a writer sketched out the trail of leads, connections and possibilities on the murder board. Midway through, Captain Montgomery interrupted. When he discovered the identity of Castle’s illustrious guests, he called in one of his better Robbery cops to assist. Beckett followed him into his office.
“Captain,” she started.
“Nope, Beckett. It’s good press. I’ll be sure to tell the Commissioner about how the NYPD tracked down an art thief in cooperation with a top-notch private investigation firm out of L.A. I want to stay on his good side. The Mayor will hear it from Castle and we’ll all be happy.”
“I’m doing this until the next body turns up, and then I’m done.”
“It’ll be good practice. It’s been a while since you’ve worked Robbery. Have fun, Beckett.” She swallowed her irritation and walked out.
Just after lunch, Beckett caught a break. A body had been found in a dumpster four blocks over. She snatched her jacket off her chair and, by automatic habit, checked her gun and handcuffs.
“Do we have a murder?” Castle asked with a touch of glee.
“Hmm. I do, at any rate.”
Visibly torn, Castle turned to his guests. “Are we done yet?”
Laura answered for the couple. “We are. We have plenty of leads to chase down this afternoon.” While she spoke, Rick wrote out an address on a notepad.
“Come to dinner tonight. My place. I promise not to poison you.”
Esposito and Ryan disappeared. Kate frowned. She hated being the last one to a crime scene.
“Beckett will be there,” Castle stated.
“I will?” she said in surprise.
“Of course. Who would want to miss a chance to talk shop with a pair of leading P.I.’s?” Castle watched her, a little too sure of himself.
Remington interrupted. “Ah, we’re staying with our daughter. She’s new in town and New York is a bit different from Los Angeles.”
Castle nodded. “She’s what, eighteen now?” Remington nodded, raising his brows as if surprised the writer had remembered. “Bring her. Alexis will enjoy having someone close to her age at dinner.”
Kate happened to be looking straight at Steele when Castle finished his sentence. She caught the twitch of satisfaction at the corner of the man’s mouth and wondered what it meant as she agreed to come to dinner.
The evening turned out to be fun. Grace Steele and Alexis Castle hit it off beautifully. The girls chattered about the ballet, the new movie Fame and the differences between the east coast and west. The Steeles avidly listened as Castle and Beckett took them through the twists and turns of their latest case. Laura asked astute questions and arrived at the same conclusions Beckett had, while Castle looked on with interest.
Eventually though, as Kate knew he would, Castle turned the conversation to the Steeles’ history. “What made the two of you decide to be partners? I don’t know many partnerships, much less marriages that last this long. How long is it anyway?”
Remington grinned. “We’ve been married for twenty-four years come spring.”
“But you were partners before that, for how long?” Castle probed.
“Mr. Steele began taking an active role in the agency in 1982. We became partners nearly a year later,” Laura answered.
“So what did you do before that, Mr. Steele?”
Remington took a sip of his wine. “I learned to play poker, for one. What did you do before you became a writer?” Kate recognized the evasion and wondered how Castle would handle it. She guessed he would shoot straight.
“I’ve always been a writer. But you haven’t always been a detective.” Castle grinned back. For a moment Kate had to admire his repartee. She thought Mr. Steele would be irritated, but he surprised her.
“I was born in Dublin. Traveled with my father and saw a great deal of the world. As an adult, I reveled in the South of France for far too long. I came to Los Angeles, liked it, stayed, fell in love and made it my home.”
Kate thought Steele was a touch too smug as he finished.
But his wife only smiled as she rose. “Anyone want a refill?” She held up her empty goblet. Both men declined and kept their seats.
Curiosity aroused, Kate nodded. “I’ll come with you.” As she followed the other woman, the thought occurred that she’d neatly given Castle the opportunity to speak frankly with Steele. He owed her.
Kate poured and then blurted a thought she’d had for most of the day. “You do know the leads are going to come up dry for the thefts.”
Laura nodded. “I know. That’s not why we’re here.” She aimed a narrowed-eyed look at the two men, then pointedly turned to look in on the two girls animatedly talking in the living room.
Understanding dawned in an instant. “You said Grace just moved to New York. She’s lonely,” Kate said in a low voice.
“Your husband trusts Castle to keep an eye on her?”
“Would you?” Laura asked bluntly.
Kate gave her a sharp look. “I’ve only know him for a few months.”
“You’re a detective, Ms. Beckett. You had him pegged five minutes after you saw him.”
Kate flinched, then nodded before admitting, “Castle wants your story. The real one.”
Laura gave her an odd half-smile. “The children are grown. It can’t hurt to tell it. And perhaps it’s time.” She let her eyes drift back to her husband. Kate saw the banked fires of love flare, echoed back when Remington caught his wife’s eyes.
For a moment Kate had to close her own. Her parents used to look at each other that way. When she opened them, Laura touched her hand in sympathy. “Whoever it was, I’m sorry.”
“My mom. And thank you.” She slid her goblet toward Laura, who filled it neatly before setting the bottle back on the counter.
Kate looked up in curiosity.
“He’s absolutely infuriating. Rarely admits to being wrong. Too clever for his own good--“ Laura paused.
Kate agreed, thinking of Castle. “Always horning in on my territory, thinks he knows everything.”
“Damned good looking”
Wrinkling her nose, Kate nodded. “But loyal.”
“To a fault. I was speaking of my husband, Detective. Who was on your mind?” Laura eyes twinkled.
Kate flushed, mortified at being caught.
Laura leaned in. “Enjoy the ride. It’s worth every frustrating, ecstatic, perverse, and angry moment.” She waited, apparently for the heat to leave Kate’s face. Then she linked an arm through hers. “Come, Kate, let’s rejoin the men and figure out who won the round.”
On the flight home, Laura turned to Remington. “Next time you’re worried about one of our children, just say so. You don’t have to concoct an elaborate scheme to get me to New York.”
He lazily slanted blue eyes her way. “But this was much more fun. And you didn’t feel guilty about horning in on Grace’s life.”
“It was fun. And I’m Grace’s mom--so I never feel guilty about intruding.” She reached for her crossword puzzle book. “I know you like Castle. What do you think about Detective Beckett?”
He let out a low laugh. “I think he’s got his hands full. She’s everything he wants, and he doesn’t know how to get her.”
“Hopefully, it won’t take them four bloody years to work it out.”