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.
Thursby’s Billiards Parlor was a cheap joint in a cheap section of town frequented by cheap characters. It was sandwiched between a pawn shop and a seedy hotel where mean men loitered, smoking roll-ups and drinking out of paper bags.
Rick Castle went down the steps and into the dim, cave-like poolroom. He paused by the door and scanned the place until he found what he was looking for: a tall, lanky man leaning over a table at the back. He was playing against a gray-haired man with an old scar zig-zagging along his jawline. Castle pulled a sawbuck from his wallet and a Cross pen from his breast pocket. He wrote the name Perlmutter on the bill, followed by a question mark, and folded it in half. Then he made his way over to the table in the back. The tall man was studying the set-up, taking his time. After a moment he made a graceful, extremely impressive three-cushion shot. The small crowd that had gathered around him whooped and cheered.
Castle stepped up next to him and slapped the bill down on the edge of table. “Five-spot he misses the next one.”
The tall man gazed at him impassively. Then he bent and hit a ball that was frozen to the rail with enough inside English to send it sliding smoothly into the corner pocket. There were more cheers, along with some jeers for Castle. The tall man pocketed Castle’s ten dollars, set down his cue and said, “Back in a mo, I got to see a man.” He disappeared into the men’s room. A few minutes later he came back out and reached for his cue. He looked lazily at Castle. “Want to let it ride, buddy?”
Castle shook his head. “I know when I’m beat.”
The man reached into his vest pocket and handed over a folded five-dollar bill. Castle stuck around to watch the next few shots, then quietly detached himself and headed for the door. When he was out on the street he took the five out of his pocket and read the address that was written on it. He smiled to himself and started walking.
Sidney Perlmutter was a pale, thin-lipped man with a receding hairline and a tense face. He jerked open the door of his flea-bag motel room and then tried to slam it shut again as soon as he saw who was standing on the other side.
Castle stuck his foot in the door and gave it a hard shove, sending Perlmutter reeling backwards. He stepped into the room and shut the door behind him, looking around in distaste. The wallpaper was peeling and discolored, the bedclothes were in a jumble on the floor, and the chipped washbasin was draped with dirty towels. The place smelled like a wet dog that had rolled in vomit. “Nice place you got here, Perlmutter. You’re really moving up in the world.”
Perlmutter glared at him. “Nobody asked you in, Castle.”
“Relax, pal, I just need a little information and then I’ll be out of your hair.”
“Bald jokes,” Perlmutter scowled. “You’re a real wise guy, you know that? Who says I’m interested in helping you?”
Castle pulled a fifty out of his pocket and held it up. “You’re a good stoolie, Perlmutter. My friend President Grant says so.”
Perlmutter licked his lips, exposing his small nicotine-stained teeth. “Okay, but make it quick, I don’t have all day.”
“Yeah, you’ve probably got the King of England coming to tea any minute now,” Castle said with a sneer. “I wanna know who Dick Coonan’s been working for lately.”
Perlmutter gave him a swift, sidelong glance. “I don’t know anything about that. Sorry I couldn’t be more help. You better go now.”
“I think you do know something and you’re going to tell me what it is.”
“No way,” Perlmutter said, jerking his head back and forth. “I tell you anything and I’m as good as dead.”
Castle gave him a cold, steady look. He spoke very quietly: “You don’t tell me and I’ll finger you for that bank job you pulled last summer. You’ll be back in the slammer before you can say Jack Robinson.”
Perlmutter swallowed hard, his eyes wide as saucers. “Look, I don’t know who Coonan’s working for, okay? All I know is it’s someone important. Someone too big to talk about.”
Perlmutter fidgeted, casting another sidelong look at Castle. “I may have heard Coonan’s been going in and out of the Knickerbocker lately. But that’s it. I swear!”
“Good boy,” Castle said, and tossed the fifty onto the floor at Perlmutter’s feet. “Go find yourself a better hole to crawl into.”
Castle ducked into a phone booth on the street outside Perlmutter’s place. He got the desk of the Knickerbocker Hotel on the line asked if anyone was staying in the penthouse.
“No sir,” said the neat, prim voice on the phone. “Our penthouse suite is currently unoccupied.”
“Great. In that case I’d like to book it for tonight.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, sir, I’m afraid the penthouse is currently undergoing some repairs and is unavailable.”
“How long’s it going to be unavailable?”
“I really can’t say. But we have some lovely suites available on the eleventh floor if you’re interested.”
“No thanks,” Castle said, and hung up.