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.
There were two chairs in Castle’s one-room apartment. Kate sat down in one of them while he went into the bathroom to change shirts. When he came back out, buttoning a freshly-laundered pin-stripe, she was smoking a cigarette, holding it in nervous fingers. Her face was drawn and tired.
“Funny how you always seem to turn up right after someone gets croaked,” he said, watching her carefully.
“I could say the same about you.” Her careless tone didn’t match the taut expression on her face.
Castle walked over to the table where he kept the drinks, poured two glasses of rye, and added some charged water to them. He offered one to Kate. She accepted it with a tense smile.
He put his drink down in a single gulp, made himself another, and then lowered himself into the other chair. The windows were open and music drifted in from a radio in one of the other apartments. “You want to tell me who killed Raglan and McAllister?” he asked.
Her eyes slid over to Castle, and then away again quickly. “I told you before. I don’t know.”
“But you know something. I’m willing to bet you know a lot.”
She sipped her drink and didn’t say anything. A bit of gray ash fell off the tip of her cigarette.
“All right,” Castle said, “I’ll start and then you can join in. I know Raglan and McAllister were part of a crew that used to run liquor out of Ensenada, and probably some dope, too. After the repeal Raglan got out of the game with enough money to buy the Delmar.”
She looked at him with new interest.
“Your turn,” he said.
She tapped her cigarette on the edge of ashtray. Then she said: “I know that eleven years ago an old buddy of Raglan’s talked him into helping out with an extortion scheme he’d cooked up.”
“Maybe,” she said, exhaling a long plume of smoke. “Probably.”
“Who were they blackmailing?”
“Anyone they’d supplied back in their smuggling days. Actors, businessmen, a few minor politicians.”
She crossed her long legs and leaned back in her chair. “There was a woman who worked in the Delmar back then who was desperate to make some extra money. There was no one to miss her if things went bad, so Raglan sent her to make the pick-ups. If the business went south and she got nabbed he figured no one would believe her. After all, why would he pull anything like that for such small stakes when his joint was doing so well?”
“I assume things went south?”
“Not exactly,” she said. “For a while things were jake. But there was a third guy who’d been in the smuggling racket with them, and when he got wind of what they were up to he wasn’t happy. He’d gone straight and turned himself into some kind of big man by then, someone with a reputation to protect. He got scared the blackmail scheme would backfire and some of their dirt would get on him, maybe expose his shady past. So he made them shut it down.”
“All right,” Castle said. “But that was all a long time ago, why bump off Raglan and McAllister now? And how do you figure into all of it?”
“The woman they sent to make the pick-ups was a dangerous loose end, as far as the third guy was concerned, so he had her silenced. Permanently. Only it turned out there was someone to miss her. She’d lied when she went to work for Raglan. She had a daughter back home. That’s why she needed the extra money so bad.”
“And you’re the daughter, I suppose? All grown up and looking for revenge.”
Her eyes flashed with anger. “You’re mocking me.”
“Not even a little,” he said. “Raglan told you all this?”
“Some of it came from my aunt. The rest Raglan spilled when I tracked him down. He got all weepy when I told him who I was, if you can believe it.” She laughed scornfully, grinding her cigarette out in the ashtray. “I guess he had a soft spot for my mother or something. But he wouldn’t give up the names of the other two men. I could tell he was afraid. Then yesterday he called me and told me to meet him at the club. He said he’d changed his mind, he was going to tell me who murdered my mother.”
“Why would he do that?”
“Because he was dying of stomach cancer. He must have decided he didn’t have anything to lose anymore.” She shrugged.
“And then he called me because he knew he’d be needing protection,” Castle said. “Or maybe because he knew you would.”
Kate looked at him sharply. Then her face went wooden. “Anyway, someone got there first and made sure Raglan didn’t talk to either of us.”
“Raglan managed to leave you a message before he croaked, though, didn’t he? He wrote McAllister’s name on the memo pad on his desk.”
She smiled faintly. “So that’s how you ended up at McAllister’s place. You are good.” She got up and walked over to the window.
“And now McAllister’s dead, too,” he said.
Her mouth was set in a hard line as she stared out at the street. “It doesn’t matter. I’ll find out who was behind it and make him pay for what he did.” She looked back at Castle, her eyes as cold and beautiful as winter moonlight. “And I won’t let you get in my way.”
Castle met her gaze levelly. “They tried to frame me for two murders, sweetheart, I’ve got a horse in this race now. But there’s no reason we can’t work together, is there?”
She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, then smiled and said. “No, there isn’t.” She walked over to where he was sitting and extended a slim hand. “I think we both need another drink, don’t you?”
As he handed her his glass the tips of her fingers brushed against his hand and lingered for a moment longer than they needed to. She smiled at him faintly, then turned around and carried both of their glasses to the drinks table. “I had all these stupid ideas about what I’d do when I finally confronted Raglan,” she said as she reached for the bottle of rye. “I fantasized about it for years. And then when I finally did met him...” she trailed off, shaking her head.
“It didn’t live up to your expectations?” he supplied.
“He cried. The fool actually cried. He was just so old and weak and ... and sorry. It took all the satisfaction out of hating him.”
Castle grunted. “Revenge is never as sweet as you think it ought to be.”
“Maybe so, but that’s not going to stop me from getting mine.” She turned around and held a fresh drink out for him.
He stood up and took it from her. “Here’s to working together,” he said.
“Bottoms up.” She clinked her glass against his and drained the whole thing. He followed her lead. They were standing close enough that he could smell her perfume. It filled up his senses.
She gazed at him intently. In her four-inch heels she was as tall as he was. “You think I’m a foolish girl, don’t you?”
“As a matter of fact, I was thinking you’re one tough dame. And I wouldn’t want to be the man you’re looking for.”
She smiled sadly. “You’re sweet. I didn’t expect that.”
“What do you mean?”
“I thought L.A. was nothing but fake smiles and cutthroats.”
“Oh, it is, believe me.”
He flashed a crooked grin. “I’m not half as sweet as I look.”
She laughed. It was a rich, husky sound. “Maybe you’re the exception that proves the rule.” She took the glass out of his hand and set it on the table next to hers. He couldn’t stop staring at her lips, which were the same lush vermillion as her nails. She moved closer, and one of her hands skimmed up his arm, coming to rest on his shoulder. Then she kissed him.
Her lips were hot against his, and he shivered. She pulled away and gazed at him, her eyes dark under her long lashes. There was something sorrowful about the way she was looking at him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Nothing,” she said. “Nothing at all.”
She kissed him again, harder this time. He felt strangely light-headed. He swayed on his feet and felt her long fingers wrap around his arms, steadying him.
“Come on,” she said, leading him over to the bed.
He followed, stumbling a little. She pressed her lips to his ear. Her breath was warm and soft against his cheek. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
He wanted to ask why but his tongue felt thick in his mouth. Something wasn’t right. He was sickeningly woozy all of a sudden. Then he realized what had happened. She’d slipped him a Mickey Finn.
“Kate—” he managed to rasp. And then he was falling. He landed on something soft, probably the bed. He couldn’t control his limbs anymore, was only half conscious, but he felt her lips on his again, light and cool this time. “You really do seem like one of the good guys,” she said softly. “Which is why I can’t let you get in my way.”
And then the world went dark.