SUMMARY: An AU featuring Castle as a hard-boiled private detective in 1940s Los Angeles.
SPOILERS: There are NO spoilers for the S3 finale, but there are references to some characters from S2's "Sucker Punch" and S3's "Knockdown."
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story is a tribute to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, two authors who would have been tremendously influential to a mystery writer like Richard Castle. Many references throughout my story were taken directly from their works.
The night clerk at the Hobart Arms was a dapper little man with thinning sandy hair and dull eyes. He was also half asleep when Rick Castle pushed open the swing doors at the street entrance and walked into the lobby. It was past midnight and the night porter had finished cleaning up and was dozing in his little room beside the elevator bank. A radio sounded faintly in the distance. The lights in the lobby had been dimmed and the place was deserted.
Castle strolled up to the front desk and tapped gently on the rose-colored marble.
The clerk raised one sleepy eyebrow in inquiry.
“Ryan here?” Castle asked.
“Radio room,” the clerk answered with a yawn and a jerk of his head.
Castle walked through a dim arch at the far end of the lobby. A tinny waltz came out of a big radio cabinet in the corner. A man was stretched out on a pale green davenport, lying on his side. Castle snorted. “They hire you to be the house dick or the house cat, Ryan?”
Kevin Ryan turned his head slowly and looked up at him. He was a good-looking man with curly brown hair and eyes that were a vivid, startling blue. “You’re a regular Jack Benny, aren’t you?” He sat up and rubbed his eyes. “What do you want, Castle? I don’t expect it’s a social call this time of night.”
“I’m looking for a dame, a real knockout.”
“Yeah, well maybe if you got yourself a haircut, took a little more care with your appearance...”
“Who’s the comedian now?” Castle said, smiling wryly. “This dame’s a brunette, tall, maybe five-foot-nine. Went out tonight wearing a dark red dress and a little black beret. Ring any bells?”
Ryan leaned forward, clasping his hands and resting his elbows on his knees. “What’d she do?”
“Nothing, far as I know.”
Ryan raised his eyebrows and waited.
“The owner of the Delmar Club got himself offed tonight,” Castle said casually. “He might have been a client of mine and she might have gotten herself mixed up in it.”
“Coppers looking for her?”
“Not yet. Maybe they never will. Maybe she had nothing to do with it, I just want to ask her what she was doing there.”
Ryan stared at him for a long moment. Then he said: “Kate Beckett. She’s in 814. Got back an hour ago.”
Castle stepped off the elevator on the eighth floor and walked down the corridor to room 814. He paused outside the door, listening. He could hear soft footsteps padding around inside the room. He reached up and knocked quietly. There was a pause, and then he heard Kate Beckett say: “Who’s there?”
“Name’s Rick Castle.”
“What do you want? It’s late.”
“I saw you at the Delmar tonight.”
There was a pause, some more footsteps, and then: “It’s open.”
Castle turned the knob, stepped into the room, and shut the door behind him. The room smelled of Shalimar and Palmolive. A dark green lady’s traveling case sat open on the made-up bed. The brunette from the Delmar Club sat in a chair next to the desk. She wore blue velvet lounging pajamas and her face had a pink, freshly-scrubbed look. A cigarette dangled from the fingers of one hand. In the other she held a small Browning semi-automatic.
He regarded her coolly, his dark eyes hard and steady on her face, ignoring the gun trained on him. “John Raglan’s dead,” he said. “But I’m guessing you know that.”
She scowled, but the arm holding the gun relaxed just a little. “Should have known you were a copper.”
“I’m not a copper, I’m a private dick.”
She laughed bitterly, curling her lip. “Coppers, dicks, you’re all the same.”
“Raglan was my client. I think you know who killed him.”
“What makes you think it wasn’t me?”
“That’s a .25 you’ve got there. Raglan was shot with a .32. And anyway you didn’t have a piece on you at the club. You also hadn’t fired one when you came out of the office or else I would have smelled the gunpowder on your hand.”
She smiled faintly. “You’re good, I’ll give you that. But I don’t know who killed Raglan, so you’re wasting your time.”
“What were you doing at the club tonight?”
“Having a drink.”
“Why’d you follow Raglan back to his office?”
“I was going to ask him for a job.”
She shrugged and puffed on her cigarette. Then her face turned hard. “Prove it or take a hike, gum-heel.”
Castle smiled and backed towards the door. When he was almost there he said: “You ought to lock your door, Miss Beckett. There are some real no-good creeps out there.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,” she said.
He turned and opened the door to leave.
“Hey, copper,” she called out.
He looked back over his shoulder. “Yeah?”
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll forget about Raglan. And you’ll forget you ever saw me.”
“Thanks for the tip, sister.”
“I’m not your sister,” she snapped. “Now get the hell out. It’s late and I need my sleep.”
“You and me both, sweetheart.” He tipped his hat and left, closing the door the behind him.