Here we go with installment #2! I've actually already started in on chapter 3, and have been meaning to post this, but hadn't quite gotten there yet because there was … oh, you guys don't really need to hear that excuse. On with the show!
At some point between the time when the people from the NYPD left the bedroom, and Shinichi and Ran entered it, the victim's body had disappeared. They stared at the vacant chair and each other for a few seconds.
"Maybe he wasn't dead," Esposito posited.
"He was," Beckett insisted. "They rolled him over to show me where he bled out from a knife wound in his stomach."
Castle tried to come up with his own brand of explanation. "Maybe it was a fake wound. That's some really good special effects!"
Beckett glared at him. "We all know what blood is supposed to look like, and that wound and that finger were not covered in ketchup, paint, or any other accessible substitute – it was blood."
"Maybe someone came in and pulled the body out the window and down the fire escape," Ryan asked.
"That's unlikely," Shinichi said from where he stood by said window. "A frame this old is too noisy to slide open without handles. We would have heard it, even from the front door. Also, there's no evidence of it being forced open from the outside."
Esposito looked at the window frame and sill. "He's right, there's no way the victim could've had help."
"Maybe his body was possessed by a ghost," Castle added in the scariest voice he could muster. Ran shrieked and wrapped herself around Shinichi's arm again. Beckett rolled her eyes, and Esposito and Ryan tried their best to hide their amusement.
Ran eased herself out of the embarrassing embrace. "Sorry, I get jumpy sometimes. He's not really a ghost, is he?"
"No," Shinichi assured her. "There's no such thing as ghosts. The simplest explanation is that he wasn't dead. Did you recover the knife?"
"No," said Beckett.
"I see. I'm guessing that the mess is being used to cover up the real weapon. You should test the blood from the note, and check it against his health records."
Even more than how easily she gave in to Castle, Beckett couldn't believe she was taking instruction from a kid who couldn't have been older than 15. But she nodded to Shinichi and sent Esposito and Ryan on their way – one to check the wife's alibi, and one to follow up with the forensic technicians.
"So," Beckett asked, "what do you think the weapon is?"
"I think he was dosed with something non-lethal, but still strong enough to make him seem dead. If he really had been in the shower, perhaps it was something that activates on contact with water. When he opened the door, it started the machine, eventually breaking a container with the chemical inside, which then mixed with the steam from the bathroom. Who was the first person to find him?"
Castle and Beckett looked at each other, and promptly turned to file out of the bedroom. Shinichi and Ran followed them.
"Excuse me, ma'am," Beckett said. "We'd like to ask you a few more questions."
Mrs Inoue dabbed her eyes with a tissue. "My husband just died. Haven't I been tortured enough for one day?"
Castle was always awed by how easily Beckett showed compassion to each victim they encountered. "I'm sorry, just a little longer, and then we'll be out of your way," she said. The wife nodded.
"Do you know why your husband would want to fake his own death?"
Mrs Inoue looked at the boy in shock, and then turned her attention to Beckett. "I'm sorry did he say 'faked'? Who is this kid?"
"He's the son of a friend of mine," Castle answered quickly.
"Shinichi Kudo; I'm a detective." The woman refused to acknowledge his outstretched hand. Instead, she rushed into the empty bedroom.
"Please answer the question, Ms Inoue," Beckett said.
The other woman hesitated. "I'm sorry, detectives, but he never let on that anything was wrong. I know you probably think I should be angry, but right now I'm more worried than anything else. Please find him and bring him home."
One of the forensic technicians came up to them. "Detectives, there appear to be fingerprints on the window handle. One of the fingers is fainter than the rest."
"Probably the first finger of the right hand, where the blood was already dry," Beckett said. "That's our vic'."
"That's what we figured. One of the guys is checking the outside of the frame for the matching set."
"Thanks, I'll compare them to what we have on record."
Shinichi turned to the tech. "While you're at it, please test how hard it is to close the window from the outside."
Beckett looked at her three remaining companions. "I think they can finish the rest up here. Shall we?" She motioned to the front door, and they filed out. Before she closed the door, she once more assured the victim's wife that they would do all they could to solve the case.
When they got down to the street, they stopped to regroup. "I'm gonna head back to the precinct and start to put some of this information together," Beckett said. She looked pointedly at Castle. "You guys just chill out for a while."
He was about to protest, when it dawned on him what she meant. "Why don't I take these two back to my place? I have to check in with Alexis anyway." Beckett nodded, and they parted ways.
"Ojamashimasu," Ran said when Castle opened the door to let them into his apartment.
Alexis and Martha were in the kitchen. They looked up when the trio entered the room. "Mother, Alexis, I'd like you to meet Shinichi Kudo and Ran Mouri. Kids, this is my daughter and my mother." Shinichi and Ran bowed. Martha came over and shook both their hands.
"Dad, what are they doing here?"
"They're in town visiting Shinichi's parents."
"No, I mean here…"
Castle grinned, trying to make light of a joke nobody found particularly funny. "Well, his father is a friend of mine. There was a weird note left at the latest crime scene, which was written in Japanese. My first thought was to call in his dad, but he was busy and sent them instead."
Alexis nodded. "So… now what?"
"Now… we hang out here for a while," her father answered. "Beckett went back to the precinct to start to arrange the accumulated information."
"Isn't that something you usually do with her?"
"They were trying to be nice about getting me away from the action," Ran said quietly. Castle and Shinichi tried their best to deny it, but Ran shook her head. "It's okay, I don't mind. I don't really want to be there anyway."
Alexis came to their rescue. "Wanna hang out here while the guys go do their thing?" Martha gripped her shoulder approvingly.
"Really? It's okay?"
"Of course it's okay. Right, dad?"
"That was the plan I had in mind," Castle said.
Alexis grinned. She grabbed onto Ran's hand and dragged her into the living room.
Martha picked up her purse from the kitchen table. "Well, I guess I'll take that as my cue – places to go, people to see, and all that. See you all later!" She whispered something in Shinichi's ear as she was leaving, that made him chuckle.
After the door closed, Castle decided he had to know what his mother told the boy.
Shinichi was still laughing. "She wants me to make sure you don't get yourself into too much trouble."
"Ha, ha," Castle said sarcastically. "My mother and her sense of humor…"
"It seems like you and I have a lot in common," Shinichi observed.
"Isn't that the truth," Castle said with a wry smile. He poured a glass of water for each of them while they sat at the kitchen table and chatted. "The difference is that your mother doesn't get cast as the 'crazy grandma'."
"Even if she did, she'd relish the opportunity to show off her skills of disguise."
Castle was about to make another comment about his own mother, when the phone rang. So instead, he picked it up. "Castle…"
End Chapter 2
A/N: Hopefully I won't be including so much straight Japanese anymore (even though this is only the second instance of a single phrase)… I mostly put this one in to demonstrate the language/ culture barrier from Ran's perspective. Shinichi would already know how to behave when entering an American home.
I have a big twist in the works for chapter 3, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled!