Once again apologies. I have been very busy, plus Robb Returns has been consuming my time and planning. That said, I do need to finish this. I'd also like to point out that The Terran Jedi is NOT dead. I just hit a slight plot bump that also led to too much thinking about it.
"Hey sweetie, what's up?"
Alexis looked up from her book as her father came in through the front door. "Oh, hi Dad."
He looked at her with a slight frown. "Everything ok? You were very quiet today. You normally text me. I like it when you do – it reassures me that you haven't been kidnapped again."
She thought very quickly and very carefully. "I was studying," she said with a sigh. "I got very caught up in it."
"Anything in particular?"
She paused and thought about this for a long moment. "The more I learn about the world," she said eventually, "The more I realise that I'll always have more to learn."
Dad looked at her. "What were you studying?"
Ah. "It was more of an observational thing. Watching certain people can be… educational."
Dad beamed at her. "Well, sweetie, you know what my favourite pastime is at times."
"People watching. I know what you mean. Sometimes people just aren't what they seem to be on the surface."
This earnt her a Dad Stare, followed by a smile. "Sometimes I forget how fast you're growing up," he said quietly, and a jolt of guilt hit her as he smiled at her. He'd be so interested in Agent McGee, about this whole Jedi Thing… but she was only just getting a handle on it herself and knowing Dad he'd somehow make it all about himself. She didn't blame dad for that, it was a part of his personality and charm, but she really wanted to get her feet under her before she told him everything. Which would happen eventually.
She smiled at Dad's tone of voice. It meant that he had a recipe hadn't tried before in mind and wanted to try it out. "Nope. What do you have in mind?"
"A sort-of risotto recipe with pancetta and orzo?"
"Very small pieces of spaghetti."
"What about Kate and Gran?"
"Kate's working late and eating bad pizza – her words – and your grandmother is schmoozing – my words – with some theatre producer about one of her protégés, so she'll be back late and giggly."
She shrugged. "Ok!" And then after supper she'd go to her room. A Padawan needed to train. And she could feel the Force calling to her now.
The Boss was… on edge. They could all tell that. Eddy lit up a cigarette and then blew the smoke out. It was a nice night. Might be time for some hunting in a few hours. As long as the Boss was ok with it. According to him they were being watched. He didn't see it himself – who the hell would be suicidal enough to confront a bunch of vampires on their own turf? He'd heard about that gang of snot-nosed punks five blocks down, but they were just kids. Not a threat. Still – if not them then who was watching them.
He paced about a little and then scratched at an itch on the side of his neck. He was hungry. He wasn't going to pop out and have a snack though. The Boss wouldn't like that. The Boss had views on that. Very firm views.
Another pace. Another scratch. He had the oddest feeling that he was being watched. He looked about and then shrugged. Only a loony was attack this place. There had to be 30 vampires in the place. And that was counting the Boss.
The last thing he ever saw was a yellow thing out of the corner of his eye, a split second before a yellow beam of light took his head off.
If anyone in the area had been awake enough – or, for that matter stupid enough to be anywhere near a nest of vampires – then they would heard what happened next. The startled shouts, the growls, the bellowed command of "Kill him!" And the other noise, the sound of a lightsabre being used with determination.
And then, after a while, a watcher might have seen a dark figure leap from the roof of the building to the next building, a jump that should have seemed impossible for anyone to make.
However, everyone in the immediate area did indeed notice when the building caught fire. Rather violently caught fire at that. As no-one left the building it took a while before someone called 911.
Rick stared at the screen of his laptop. After a while he scowled at the screen. Today was not going well. There were times when he sat down and started writing just to see where the characters would lead him. And there were others when the characters sat in his head and did nothing. Today was one of the latter days. His plan to write at least a thousand words today was not looking good.
So it came as a bit of a relief when his phone rang. It was Kate. "Please tell me that you have a case that takes me away from my desk and the characters that refuse to inspire me for some baffling reason this morning," he said to his fiancée. "Please. Please."
"And hello to you too," Kate said. "Yes, we have a murder." And then she rattled off an address. So he grabbed his coat and his keys and off he went without even a backwards glance at that screen.
When he arrived he found Kate and Esposito standing by a dumpster, whilst a scowling Lanie climbed into said dumpster via a ladder.
"The body's in a dumpster? How unoriginal." He looked at the building behind the dumpster. It looked like an apartment block – and quite a high-end one too.
"Oh you, you need to see this one," Esposito said with a slight grimace. "Man, it's a good one."
He peered over the side. A pair of shoes was poking upwards from under some cardboard. Which was kind of odd because about six feet away from those shoes the back of someone's head could be seen. He stared at it. "Is the head still attached to the shoes?"
"Yes," said Lanie as she pulled the cardboard away to reveal a man in a suit. With his head twisted totally the wrong way. "As you can see. Takes some strength to do that." She waited for someone to snap some pictures of the state of the body and then she pulled the shirt of the corpse to one side and jabbed a liver probe in.
He goggled slightly. "How much strength?"
"A lot," said Lanie quietly, as she peered at the probe. "And I mean – a lot."
"Could someone with special forces training do that?" Kate asked. "Are we looking at a killer with military training?"
"Maybe," Esposito said shortly. He seemed to have something on his mind. "It would take a lot of strength and skill though. Breaking a neck is one thing. Twisting the head around like that, so this poor guy's facing the way he came? That's something else."
"We got an ID yet?" Castle asked.
"Waiting on our fair ME here," Esposito said with something of a smirk that instantly died when Lanie directed what Castle had long since named the Gaze of Death at him. "What?"
"You try standing in the dumpster with the corpse one day, and see how you like it. The stains I get from these places…. Brrr!" Lanie redirected the glare at the liver probe. "Liver temperature, plus ambient air temperature… hmmm. I make the time of death somewhere between midnight and 1am. Ok, let's get him up."
Her assistant heaved on the shoulder of the corpse, levering him up. As the face came into view Castle frowned. "Wait a second - I know this guy. I've seen him before somewhere."
Everyone stared at him and he snapped his fingers as he cudgelled his finely tuned memory. Crap. Where had he seen him? Then it clicked into place. "Got it! He's a security expert. Tommy… McReady. The name stands out. He had this damn internet advert, with a jingle. 'You're not ready unless you're McReady ready!'" He paused. Damn it, that jingle was going to be stuck in his head all day now.
"How did you know him?" Kate asked as Esposito climbed up the ladder and started to go through the clothes of the corpse.
"I was looking at security again after Alexis was kidnapped. He was recommended. Although not as much as the man who eventually did the security review. Said my father had asked him to help out. Did an amazing job and didn't charge me a cent. Just said that he'd paid off part of the debt he owed my father." Something sparked in the back of his head. "Wait a sec- this guy, McReady? He did security checks and also bodyguard duties."
"He's right." Esposito brandished a wallet with a PI ID as well as a card. "Thomas Kenneth McReady. Security specialist, private investigator and bodyguard. Office address is nowhere near here. Beckett, we need to canvas the apartments behind us. See if anyone saw him – or if he was protecting anyone here. If whoever killed him stuck him into this dumpster to hide him, then…"
"They were buying time. Go grab some uniforms. Castle and I will join you. Lanie – we need some answers."
"You'll get them," said her friend grimly. "You'll get them. I promise that."
Esposito was busy on the radio, calling in some uniformed police, as they all walked towards the apartment block, and Castle peered at it. A lot of apartments there. This was going to be dull. But hopefully worthy.
Javier Esposito wished that his partner was here right now. For one thing he could have used him to talk to the duller women whilst he talked to the prettier ones. It was a totally legitimate use for a married partner, as that wedding ring made him radioactive to single women.
At least he wasn't thinking about the body. That worried him. The strength used to break that man's neck by twisting it that way, plus what looked like claw marks on the top of his head… well, that stank of either demon or master vampire. Neither of which was a good thing. At least Lanie knew what to look for. She'd been right to shoot him that surreptitious look of 'alert!' beck there when he'd arrived.
And then his phone rang. He pulled it out and looked at it. If this was Ryan, being ill and bored again… wait. No, it's wasn't Kevin. He answered the phone, checking his six as he did. "'Morning LT. What's up?"
"Morning Javier. Can you speak openly?"
He checked his six again carefully. "For a while, yes."
"I'm just checking that no-one went off-reservation last night. Because that place we were scouting, the vampire nest near Hell's Kitchen in that big building in Area 4 – well, it went up in flames last night. Total wipeout. Fire Department had to use crews from two stations to put it out."
He paused and then stared at his phone for a second. "The one we were planning on taking out after another week of planning? Hell, LT, no-one I know would have been stupid enough to take that place out with some major back-up!"
"That's what I thought. Had to check though." His former platoon leader. First Lieutenant Dominic Franco, was a good man. Did things right. Hated vampires almost as badly as he did, but he insisted in going in strong and above all organised whenever they found any major nests. "I checked with the local gangs. They didn't know anything about it. You got any local contacts?"
He thought hard and fast – and then he winced. "There's the Irish Mob out of O'Rourkes. They might have done it. They've got some pretty heavy firepower. How badly was this place torched?"
"Completely. Whoever it was, they knew exactly what they were doing."
"Shit. I'll ask at O'Rourkes, LT. When I can. Later that is. Might have a murder case that's night-related."
"Then I'll let you get on with it. Franco out."
He put the phone away as the call ended. All of a sudden he had a scratch behind his shoulder blades that meant that something was up.
"What was that look between Lanie and Esposito?" Castle asked they wandered down the corridor.
Kate smiled slightly. "Oh, probably another booty call. They still have this thing going at times. They still think that I don't know that they hook up at times. It's almost sweet."
Castle grinned back at her and then looked her up and down in such a way that she suddenly felt a bit hot and bothered. "Not on duty," she hissed and he grinned at her. "Later though."
"Oh, count on it," he drawled. And then he stopped as they both saw the slightly open door in front of them. Apartment number 14. She knocked briskly and then poked at the door, which swung open. Inside was a disordered hallway into the apartment. A lamp had been knocked over by the door. There was a briefcase on its side. Oh and a gun. A Glock to be precise. She remembered that the body had had a holster at its hip. An empty one. Plus the wallet had a concealed carry permit. Good reason to think that McReady had been here.
"NYPD!" she called out into the apartment. "This is Detective Beckett of the NYPD! Is there anyone in there?" Silence greeted her words. "Espo," she called into the radio, "This is Beckett. Meet us at Apartment 14 in the block now."
"On my way," came the curt reply. After a moment they heard hurried feet and Esposito arrived leading a pair of uniforms. The other detective peeked in and nodded, drawing his firearm. "Do it."
They swept the place carefully, Castle following her closely. From all that she could see this was the apartment of a young single woman. A young single woman who was no-where to be seen. It was Castle who found her purse, stuffed into the foliage of a very healthy potted plant.
Her fiancée put on a pair of latex gloves and then handed it over to her. She caught the sad look on his face and raised an interrogative eyebrow at him as she went through the purse with her own gloved hands.
"Whoever she is, she looks a bit like Alexis," he explained with a sigh. "Bad memories."
She thought about this and then nodded. "I know. Same here." Then she found the ID and looked at it. "Amanda Crossman. Where are you, Amanda Crossman? Ok, let's call it in. We have a possible kidnapping."