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.
Dick Coonan rubbed his tired eyes and yawned. He badly wanted a slug of gin and smoke, but his boss was a puffed-up son of a bitch who wouldn’t let him have either when he was on the job. Instead, he pulled a pack of Clark’s Tendermint gum out of his pocket and popped a stick in his mouth.
There was a knock on the penthouse door. Coonan grimaced, reached for the revolver sitting beside his chair and hauled himself to his feet. He snatched a newspaper off the coffee table and strolled over to the door. There was more knocking, louder this time, but Coonan’s movements were unhurried as he carefully arranged the newspaper so it concealed the gun he held in his hand. Only then did he open the door, saying gruffly: “What do you want?”
His sleepy eyes widened in recognition just as Rick Castle whipped a blackjack out of his pocket and smashed Coonan’s wrist with it. The gun and the newspaper both fell to the floor. While Coonan was still clutching his shattered wrist, Castle snatched the revolver off the floor and pointed it at him.
“Inside,” Castle snapped. “Let’s go.”
Coonan backed away from the the door. “You’re supposed to be in the clink.”
“I’m full of surprises today,” Castle said. “Lemme see your mitts. And keep walking.”
Coonan put his hands up and turned around. He took two steps into the penthouse suite and then Castle’s blackjack smashed into the back of his skull, knocking him out cold.
Castle closed the penthouse door and stepped over Coonan’s body. He was in a high-ceilinged living room with a row of French windows along one side leading out to a terrace. The room was handsomely furnished, with thick red carpet and crisp white box drapes around the windows. There were two glasses sitting out on the coffee table, both half full. He tucked the blackjack back in his pocket but held the revolver in his right hand.
“Come on out,” Castle said loudly. “Your bodyguard’s down, it’s just you and me now.”
For a moment nothing happened. Then a man walked out of one of the bedrooms. George Miller, the president of Eclipse Films, gazed at Castle coolly and said, “You’re a damned persistent fellow, aren’t you?”
“And you’re supposed to be out of the country, scouting movie locales.”
Miller shrugged. He had gray hair and a broad face. His dark suit was dashingly cut. “I thought it might be useful to have an alibi, just in case. And the newshounds are so easy to mislead.”
There was a knock on the door. Miller looked alarmed, but Castle just smiled. “Right on time,” he said. Then he called out, “Come on in, sweetheart.”
Kate Beckett opened the door and walked into the room, side-stepping Coonan’s body. “How’d you know it would be me?” she asked irritably.
“I knew you were following me. Letting me lead you to our friend Miller, here.”
She walked past Castle, went right up to Miller and slapped him across the face. “You killed my mother,” she spat.
Miller stared at her sadly, his shoulders slumped. “I didn’t pull the trigger, but it was my fault all the same. If it means anything, I’m sorry about it.”
“It doesn’t.” she said. “Who’d you hire to do it?”
He jerked his head. “Mr. Coonan over there.”
Kate spun around and stared at the unconscious lump that was Coonan. Then she pulled the Baby Browning out of her handbag and walked towards him.
“Kate,” Castle said sharply.
If she heard him she didn’t show it. She knelt beside Coonan’s body and pressed the barrel of the gun against the middle of Coonan’s forehead. Her eyes were hard as granite and she held the gun in a strong, steady hand. Her thumb disengaged the safety.
Castle closed the distance between them and wrenched the gun out of her hand. He flipped the safety back on and tossed it across the room, out of reach.
“What’d you do that for?” she demanded angrily.
“You don’t want to do this, sweetheart.”
She stared at him. “Of course I do! What do you think all this has been about?” Her expression was contemptuous, the lines of her face hard.
Castle shook his head. “I’m not letting you kill a man in cold blood. Hate can twist you up inside but once you cross that line there’s no going back.”
“How touching,” said a voice behind him.
Castle spun around. Another man had come out of the bedroom and was standing beside George Miller. In his right hand he held a Luger, aimed at Castle’s head. Castle had switched the revolver he’d taken off of Coonan to his left hand when he’d wrestled Kate’s gun away from her. He calculated the odds of making a shot with his off hand and decided they were bad.
“You really ought to have asked my brother if there was anyone else here,” said the man dryly. “Surely you don’t think we’d allow our bodyguard to drink while he’s on the clock?”
Castle looked at the two glasses on the table and then back at the man, cursing himself for not guessing that there might be someone else behind all of this. George Miller was the face of Eclipse Films and the one who got the credit for making the movies, but his brother Sam was the one who ran the business and handled all the money. That was the word around town, anyway.
“Give that piece to George,” Sam Miller said. “Nice and easy.”
Castle handed Coonan’s revolver over to George, who took it reluctantly.
“We’d better not do this here,” Sam said to his brother. “Get your hat and coat. You’re going to help me walk them out.”
George Miller didn’t move. His face was gray and sick-looking. “What are you going to do with the girl?” he asked.
“What do you think I’m going to do with her?” Sam replied contemptuously.
George closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again they were cold. He shook his head. Coonan’s revolver was in his right hand. “It’s gone too far, Sam. I can’t live with it anymore.”
Sam Miller stared his brother coldly. “There’s no backing out now. You got us into this mess when you got mixed up with those idiots McAllister and Raglan, now you’re going play out the rest of the hand.”
“I’m sorry,” George said sadly. “But I’m through.” The revolver in his hand was leveled at his brother. “Put your gun away, Sam.”
Sam Miller laughed. “You’re going to shoot me? You don’t have the guts.”
“I’m sorry,” George said again, and fired the gun.
The Luger in Sam’s hand went off at nearly the same moment. The two brothers stared at one another.
George said: “I guess I had the guts after all.” Then he crumpled slowly to one side until he was lying on the floor with his cheek pressed against the rug. His arm twitched, and then he was still.
Sam stared down at his brother’s limp body. Blood was beginning to soak into the carpet. “He never was worth a damn,” Sam said sourly. “The artistic types rarely are.”
“Someone will have heard the shots,” Castle said. “The law will be on their way by now.”
Sam Miller swung the Luger back to Castle. His expression was wooden. “Maybe, maybe not. It shouldn’t be too hard to make up a story for them, in any case. When Coonan wakes he’ll be able to testify that you shoved in here, took his gun off him, and knocked him out.”
“George was shot with your gun,” Castle pointed out. “I’ll bet it’s registered to you and everything.”
“He was caught in the crossfire,” Sam said calmly. “A tragic accident. I was aiming for you.” His knuckles whitened on the trigger.
Castle dove at him. He grabbed Miller’s right arm and tried to wrestle the gun away from him. They struggled, the gun caught between them. Out of the corner of his eye Castle saw Kate go for the Browning he’d tossed away.
The Luger went off.
Miller staggered backwards. Something warm and wet was all over Castle’s hands. He looked down and saw a dark red spot blooming on the front of his vest.
That’s strange, he thought. Why can’t I feel anything? His legs gave out beneath him. As the floor came up to meet him he heard Kate’s .25 go off. There was a ringing in his ears as his vision tunneled into blackness, but he thought he heard Kate’s voice in the distance, calling his name.
The smell of Shalimar filled up his senses.
“Rick?” Kate said. “Come on, Castle, open your eyes.”
His eyes flickered open.
Kate was smiling down at him. Her eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot and she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. “Welcome back,” she said.
“Hey, sweetheart.” His voice came out raspy and thin, and it hurt to talk.
Kate’s eyes widened and she covered her mouth to stifle a laugh. “Did you just call me sweetheart?”
“What?” His throat was parched and his head was hurting. Like, a lot. He looked around in confusion.
He was lying in a pale green hospital room with vertical blinds across the window. A TV set mounted in the corner was tuned to TCM and The Big Sleep was playing at low volume. On the table beside his bed there was a large bouquet of daffodils and a teddy bear holding a mylar balloon that said “Get Well Soon.”
“What happened?” he asked.
“You don’t remember throwing yourself into the path of a fleeing suspect, getting bowled over, and cracking your head on the curb?”
“No.” The last thing he remembered was ... something about a gun and a hotel room. The memory slipped away from him even as he tried to hold onto it.
“Well, that’s probably just as well.” Beckett said. Her smile faded. “You’ve been unconscious for 24 hours, Castle. You gave us all quite a scare.”
“Alexis.” He tried to sit up, but he was too weak to do much more than lift his head, and even that was an agony.
“She went down to the cafeteria with your mom, but they should be back any minute.” Beckett hitched a thumb uncertainly towards the door. “Do you want me to go get them?”
He shook his head, but the movement made him feel dizzy and nauseated. “Don’t go,” he mumbled weakly. He didn’t want to be left alone in this strange hospital room he had no memory of being brought to. More importantly, he didn’t want Kate to leave him again. He couldn’t actually remember when she’d left him before, he just knew he needed her to stay.
He felt Beckett thread her fingers through his. “I’m not going anywhere,” she said, squeezing his hand gently.
Her touch was warm and reassuring, like a lifeline pulling him into the present, out of the fog that still clung to the corners of his mind. He could remember all the basics: the year, the president, his telephone number, the name of first girl he’d ever kissed. But the day before was a jumbled blur. He knew they’d been investigating the shooting of a nightclub owner but he couldn’t remember the victim’s name or even the name of the club where he was found. He had a vague idea that he’d left the precinct with Beckett, but he couldn’t remember where they’d been going or anything that happened after that.
“Do me a favor,” Beckett said. “Promise me you’ll never do anything that stupid again.”
He tried to form a grin which probably ended up closer to a grimace. “Did we get the bad guy?”
Beckett smiled, shaking her head a little. “Yeah, Castle, we caught the bad guy.”
“Then it was worth it,” he said.
“No,” she said, all serious again. “It really isn’t.” She was still holding his hand and it finally dawned on his befuddled brain that her eyes were red because she’d been crying. Over him.
For once in his life he couldn’t think of anything to say.
Neither of them spoke but she stayed by his side, perched on the edge of his hospital bed, and didn’t let go of his hand until Alexis and Martha came back from the cafeteria. While his mother and daughter crowded around him, alternately hugging him and scolding him, Beckett backed off to the far corner of the room, but she didn’t leave. She was still there, quietly standing vigil an hour later when the nurse finally chased everyone out, insisting that Castle needed to rest.
Even after his mother and Alexis had said their goodbyes, Beckett lingered by the door. “Ryan and Esposito will probably want to come see you in the morning, if that’s okay,” she said.
“Yeah, of course,” he said.
She nodded, but still she didn’t leave. Her expression was oddly hesitant, like there was something she wanted to tell him, but was afraid to say aloud. Or maybe that was just his imagination running amuck. He’d never known Beckett to be afraid of anything.
“You’re coming back tomorrow, right?” he asked. The doctor had told him he’d need to stay in the hospital for a least a couple more days.
She didn’t say anything for so long he’d almost convinced himself she was going to say no. Then one corner of her mouth twisted into a smile. “Of course,” she said. “Where else would I be?”
“Good,” he said, relieved.
She held his gaze for a moment longer before saying, “I’m glad you’re okay, Castle.” Then she turned and slipped out of the room.
He sagged back into the bed and closed his eyes, grinning like a schoolboy despite his exhaustion and the throbbing in his head. Kate would be back tomorrow. For now, that was all he needed to know. There’d be time to figure out the rest of it later.