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.
Castle was dragged back to consciousness by the sound of someone pounding on his door, loudly and relentlessly. The mother of all hangovers caused every knock to feel like a nail being hammered into his skull.
“Jesus H. Christ,” he groaned. “Shut up, I’m coming.” Blissfully, the pounding stopped.
He swung his feet to the floor and stood up, swaying a little. The room was as dark as the night outside. He stumbled over to the table and switched on the lamp. His wristwatch said it was eight o’clock. It had been six hours since Kate had drugged him.
He looked around the apartment but there was no sign she’d ever been there. The ashtray had been emptied and the glasses had been carefully washed and put away. She was thorough, he had to give her that. He uncorked the rye and drank a slug straight out of the bottle.
The pounding on his door started up again.
“I said I’m coming,” he yelled, then winced at the wave of nausea caused by his own voice. The pounding didn’t stop again until he threw open the door.
Detective Esposito stood in the hall. “Hey, Castle,” he said. “How’s tricks?” He walked into the apartment without waiting for an invitation and cast his eyes around the place.
“Looking for something?” Castle asked darkly.
“Nope.” Esposito looked back at Castle and cocked an eyebrow in amusement. “You look like hell on a raft. Rough night?”
“I got a bad egg,” Castle said.
“I’ll bet,” Esposito smirked.
Castle didn’t have a lot of patience for Esposito’s games at the moment. Not with a raging headache and the gun that killed Raglan tucked into his bureau drawer. “Something I can help you with, Esposito?”
“As a matter of fact, there is. You know a guy named Gary McAllister?”
Castle gazed at Esposito with eyes that were clear and even and perfectly candid. “Should I?”
“He got his brains bashed in with a baseball bat last night. Body was discovered in his house this afternoon.”
Castle shook his head sadly. “Sounds painful. What’s it got to do with me?” He walked over to the desk and rummaged around for his rolling papers and tobacco.
“He was a silent partner in the Delmar Club,” Esposito said, watching Castle carefully. “Kind of a funny coincidence him getting bumped off the same night as Raglan.”
Castle looked up at him. “It’s probably not a coincidence.”
Esposito nodded. “Probably not. I thought you might still be working the case.”
“Not me. Once the cops get involved I butt right out.”
“Yeah, sure you do,” Esposito said, snorting pleasantly. “That reminds me, the bartender at the Delmar says he saw a nice-looking dame go into the back shortly before you found Raglan. You see her?”
“There were a lot of nice-looking dames at the Delmar last night,” Castle said, concentrating on the cigarette he was rolling.
“This one was a tall brunette in a red dress. A knockout, or so the bartender says.”
Castle’s mouth twitched into a smile. “I’m more inclined to notice the blondes, myself.”
“Weren’t both your ex-wives brunette, Castle?”
“Why do you think I switched to blondes?” he said, holding the finished cigarette in one hand and his lighter in the other. “You got any other leads?”
“A thug named Dick Coonan was spotted in McAllister’s neighborhood last night. Could be nothing, though.”
Castle put the cigarette in his mouth and set fire to it. “Coonan?” he said around a mouthful of smoke. “The name rings a bell for some reason.”
“Guy’s got a rap sheet as long as my arm, I’d be surprised if you hadn’t bumped up against him at some point.”
“You pick him up?”
“He’s in the wind. We’ll get him eventually, though.” Esposito’s dark eyes narrowed. “You sure you’re not working this case?”
Castle gazed back at him mildly. “Not much chance of me getting my retainer with the client dead. There’s no case to work, as far as I’m concerned. Now, if there’s nothing else, Esposito, I’ve got a hot date with some Alka-Seltzer.”
The homicide detective left looking vaguely dissatisfied. Castle stood by the window and took his time finishing his cigarette. When he was done with it he went to the telephone on the desk, had the operator patch him through to the Hobart Arms, and asked to speak to Kevin Ryan.
“What can I do for you, amigo?” asked the hotel dick cheerfully when he got on the line.
“Kate Beckett,” Castle said. “Don’t suppose she’s still there?”
“Checked out a few hours ago.”
“Bogus,” Ryan said. “I already checked. Had a feeling you’d be asking.”
“Figures,” Castle said.
“She left a message for you, though.”
“Yeah. Want me to read it?”
“Hang on.” Castle drummed his fingers impatiently on his knee while Ryan tracked down the message and opened it. He came back on the line after a minute. “Got it right here. It says ... wow, it says: ‘Forget you ever met me.’”
“That’s it, pal,” Ryan said. There was a moment’s silence. Then he said: “You want to tell me what’s going on with you and Kate Beckett?”
“Not right now,” Castle said. “But if you buy the drinks, maybe one night I’ll spill the whole sorry story.”