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.
It was nearly ten o’clock the next morning before Rick Castle rolled over on his hard bed and squinted at the tinny alarm clock on the nightstand. He swung his bare feet onto the floor, yawned, and ran a hand over the stubble darkening his cheeks.
After a shave and shower he walked downstairs, bought a morning paper, and took it into the little coffee shop next to his apartment building. While he sipped his coffee and ate his breakfast of eggs and toast he scanned the piece on Raglan’s murder. It wasn’t much of a story, mostly just some background on Raglan, how was in the charter yacht business running tourists and fisherman down to Ensenada before he opened the Delmar Club.
While he finished the rest of his breakfast, Castle scanned the entertainment section. The story above the fold was about Eclipse Studios’ next big picture, Scheherazade. Studio head George Miller was in Italy scouting locations while the director, Orson Welles, interviewed actresses for the lead. Lauren Bacall was rumored to be the frontrunner.
When the girl behind the counter came by to top off his coffee he asked her if he could use their telephone book. She was a winsome young thing from the midwest, still green enough to think her big break was just a smile away, and she gave him her best Betty Grable impression as she pushed the directory across the counter. Castle thanked her gruffly and flipped to the M’s. When he’d found the address he needed he paid his bill and walked down to the parking lot where he’d left his tan-colored Commodore convertible.
Gary McAllister lived in a bungalow court on N. Martel just south of Santa Monica Blvd. Two rows of Mission-revival units faced onto a narrow strip of turf presided over by an anemic palm tree. McAllister’s was the last one on the right. Castle stepped over a couple of rolled up newspapers sitting on the porch and knocked. There was no answer. He pressed his ear against the door and listened. A horn blared out on the street, but all was silent inside the house. The Venetian blinds were drawn in all the front windows so he walked around to the back.
There was an orange tree behind the house and a little trellis covered with a tangle of sweetheart roses that was threatening to overtake the kitchen window. The back door was unlocked. He let himself into a yellow-and-black tiled kitchen. There were dirty dishes in the sink and empty beer cans on the counter. The house smelled faintly of old garbage. He went through a swing door into a dim, narrow hall which led to McAllister’s bedroom. The bed was unmade, the closet was still full of clothes, and there was a suitcase tucked up on the top shelf.
Castle wandered into the living room. The furniture was comfortable and traditional, with a tendency towards the bland. There was a pile of magazines on the coffee table which turned out to be mostly pulp and girlie rags. Beside them was a half-empty bottle of Scotch and a couple of dirty glasses. Sitting out on a bookshelf was a framed photograph of a young John Raglan standing on the deck of a yacht beside another man.
McAllister obviously hadn’t been home for a while, but he didn’t seem to have skipped town. And there were no signs of foul play. At least that’s what Castle thought until he saw the blood on the floor.
It was just a drop, hard to spot in the dim room. He almost stepped in it before he realized what it was. There was another one a few feet away, over in front of a small coat closet. He pulled open the closet door. The body of the man from the photo with Raglan was slumped on the floor, glassy-eyed. Gary McAllister, he presumed.
He knelt to examine the body. It wasn’t too ripe yet, but it was cold and stiff, so he could have been dead anywhere from eight to 24 hours. The left side of his head was bashed in. A bloody baseball bat was propped in the corner of the closet beside him.
Castle heard a subtle noise behind him, a creak of floorboards and a faint rustle of fabric. He spun around, rising to his feet, and froze.
A big brute of a man with pock-marked skin and a broad nose that had been broken one too many times stood in the middle of McAllister’s living room. In his hand was a Colt .32 semi-automatic pistol.
“Lemme see you reach,” the man said.
Castle dived at him. The big man side-stepped and swung the gun in an arc, glancing off the side of Castle’s head. He hit the floor, landing on his stomach. Pain radiated from his right temple, but he ignored it. He reached out, wrapped his hands around the big guy’s leg and jerked his foot off the floor.
The brute went down and his head glanced off the edge of the coffee table. The Colt hit the floor and skittered across the room. Castle started to go for it, but the big man was already getting up and he was closer to the gun. Instead he took a swing at the brute’s stomach and felt a moment’s satisfaction as the guy doubled over.
His triumph was short-lived. The brute reared up again and Castle’s dodge wasn’t quite fast enough to prevent the guy’s fist from connecting with his nose. He staggered backwards and felt another blow land on his jaw. While he was still recovering from that the brute managed to get his hands on the Colt.
A blow like a hammer came down on the side of Castle’s head. Blinding pain filled his senses. The world went white and then soundlessly, bottomlessly dark.