June 25, 2010
"The realtor's late, Lanie," Beckett says into her cell as she takes another glance at her watch, "And my lunch break ends soon."
"We don't have any open cases," the M.E. says.
"Paperwork doesn't fill itself out," Beckett replies dryly.
"I think Montgomery will let it slide. Your apartment blew up."
"Yeah, three months ago."
"And the sublet you have now looks like a crack den."
"Okay, I'll wait another ten minutes."
"Good, oh, and sweetie?"
"A certain writer came by today."
Her pulse starts to race.
He walked away with his ex-wife hanging off his shoulder and she tucked her feelings into a tightly-sealed box. She had a date with a doctor later. She was moving on.
"I know he hasn't called since he, um...left. But he was looking for you," Lanie hedges.
"Did you tell him I don't want to talk to him?"
"I think the boys kicked him out."
"You think?" Beckett asks and watches a town car pull up to the curb.
"I wasn't there!" Lanie protests.
"Look, I have to go. The realtor's here," she says, hanging up and brushing off some lint on her khaki blazer. She's fixing her blouse when a car door slams and a voice calls out.
Beckett looks up at the voice, her whole body stilling.
"Castle?" she asks. "What are you doing here?" Her heart ricochets in her chest.
He rubs one hand on his neck, the other tucking into his pocket as he rolls back on his heels. "I, uh, stopped by the precinct and they said you were here. How's your summer been? You look good."
Her palms start gathering with sweat. She hates him.
"What did you bribe them with?" she asks.
"Bribe—oh, the boys? No, they made me get down on my knees and grovel. Do you know what that's about?"
"Maybe because you haven't called them in a month," she suggests.
"I didn't realize they missed me so much," he says with a lopsided grin, a knowing twinkle in his eyes.
She crosses her arms, her mouth setting in a thin line.
"Why are you here?"
"I have writer's block and a deadline coming up. I thought I could see if you picked up a case. Maybe get the juices flowing."
"Don't you have Gina to help you with that?"
"How's that cop boyfriend of yours? Demming?" he counters.
She narrows her eyes at him.
"I'm heading back to the precinct," she says, "I have paperwork."
"Kate, wait," he says, stepping towards her and lightly touching her elbow. "I'm sorry. I should've called."
She pulls her elbow in and looks at him.
"Castle, go home. Go back to your Hamptons, your ex-wife, and your book parties, okay?"
"Did I do something?"
Beckett bites the inside of her cheek and looks away, her eyes squinting. Willing the lid on her box to stay shut.
"Look, I really have to get back before my break is over."
Castle nods, taking a step away from her.
"The boys said you were still looking for a new place. I didn't realize you hadn't found anything yet. Was this one promising?"
"The realtor never showed," she says on a sigh.
"Did they leave a key?"
"No, but they gave me the building code."
"And you haven't checked out the lobby yet?" he asks.
"I'm not really supposed to go inside without them," she hedges.
"Since when have we let rules stop us?"
"We?" she scoffs.
"C'mon. You came all the way up here to Harlem. You should check it out. And I won't tell if you don't," he says. He gives her one his hopeful, puppy-dog looks, the kind that she always fell for. And it scares her how much she wants to say yes.
"Just a peek?" she says finally, her heart winning out the battle against her head.
"Just a peek," he assures her as he tries to tamp down a smile.
He follows her up the small set of stairs up to the modest brownstone building and crowds her back as she punches in the code. Her stomach flutters at the proximity. She quickly pushes the door open when it buzzes.
The first-floor landing is open and breezy. But a closer look reveals paint peeling from the walls and a cracked crown molding. Clear tarps hang on the hall archway and cover the lobby floor.
"Hello? Anybody home?" Castle yells into the silence.
"Castle, be quiet!" she hisses.
"I'm pretty sure no one's here," he says, pulling back the tarp from the hall entrance. Castle turns the knob on one of the apartment doors. It scrapes noisily against the door jamb, but when he pushes it in a little, the door opens easily.
"Get out of there!" she whisper-shouts at him.
"Bit of a fixer-upper, isn't it?" he says as he shows her the palm of his hand, now full of dust.
"That's not a good sign, is it?" She walks under the tarp into the hall.
"How much are they asking?" he asks.
"Something in my price range," she says.
"Isn't this place kind of far from the precinct?" he asks, craning his neck towards the ceiling.
"I have a showing in Tribeca tomorrow, but this one's a Renaissance Revival. I really like the bones on it," she says, running her fingers against the wall. "You know, I grew up in a Queen Anne brownstone. It had these really iconic English baroque stylings with grotesque sculptures on the facade. And—" she stops, blushing when she finds him staring at her.
"What?" she asks.
"Nothing," he says, "I just didn't know you loved architecture so much."
"My mom always pointed stuff like that out to me. She did her undergrad in it."
She walks down the hall, inspecting the grimy tile and other empty apartments. She stops in front of a vintage elevator cab, a rusty, cage-like thing. Castle catches up with her and gasps, reaching his hand out towards the zig-zag iron door.
"I've always wanted one of these. It's so old-timey," he says.
"Old-timey?" She snorts.
"We have to ride it," he says, stepping past her as he pulls the elevator door open.
"I'm not getting in there," she replies, eyeing the cab skeptically.
"Beckett," he whines, "You're no fun!"
She knows he's only teasing, but the statement grates against her, hitting a raw nerve and cracking open the lid of her box.
"Is that why you took your ex-wife to the Hamptons instead?" she asks, stepping into the elevator, the words flying out her mouth before she can think them through.
The playful pout drops from his lips.
"I didn't know taking you was an option. What about Demming?"
She doesn't say anything, moving to the opposite corner of the elevator, but the look on her face is answer enough.
"You broke up?" he asks, surprise flicking across his features.
The iron grate door suddenly springs shut and they both jump a little. The cab starts moving.
"Did you press something?" she asks. He shakes his head, his brow creasing in worry. The cab starts to vibrate and Beckett leans back, her hands curling around an iron bar for support. A loud rumble runs through the building and lights start to flicker. Adrenaline spikes through her veins.
"What's happening?" she shouts as the iron bars of the elevator clatter loudly. Castle opens his mouth, but the cab tilts and Beckett falls to the other side of the elevator, knocking into him before he can fathom a response. He grabs for her and wraps her tightly in his arms, the whole building tremoring around them. She clutches to him, ducking her head into his chest and shutting her eyes, willing it to end.
Then, as soon as it starts, everything stops shaking and the lights stop flashing. It's dead quiet. As if nothing had happened in the first place.
"What the hell was that?" she asks, trembling slightly.
"I think it was an earthquake," Castle says. He's far too close and it makes her heart skip a beat. She quickly pushes herself off him, brushing at her blazer, purposefully avoiding eye contact.
"In New York?"
"Or a pipeline burst," he says, "Are you okay? You're not hurt, are you?"
"No, I'm fine," she says, stiffly, their fight rushing back to her.
"Don't 'Kate' me." She jerks the elevator door open and stalks out. It takes her a moment to realize they've inexplicably reached the second floor.
"So we're not gonna talk about it?" he asks.
She heads for the stairs, walking quickly, not looking back.
"What is there to talk about?" she throws over her shoulder.
She hears a huff from behind her as she descends the steps, almost running down them. When she reaches the first-floor landing, she stops in her tracks.
"Castle?" she calls out. He turns the corner, catching up with her.
"What now?" he asks.
She runs a finger on the banister and it comes away dust-free.
"Does it look nicer in here to you?" she asks, scanning the freshly-painted walls. All of the tarp is gone and the crown molding is intact. Everything is brand-new...no signs of earthquake damage or unfinished repairs.
Castle perks up, his face scrunching in confusion as he catalogs the gleaming space.
"Do you hear that?" he asks.
Beckett cocks out her ear and frowns at the faint sound of ringing phones and murmuring voices.
"Are there people here?"
Castle follows the noise to a frosted glass door at the end of the hall. "Truman, Taylor, and Associates," he reads. "Was this here before? I could've sworn all these rooms were empty."
A cold feeling passes through Beckett. She pushes past him, her fingers trembling as she brushes them against the name on the frosted glass.
Ignoring him, she turns the handle and eases the door open. Inside is an office bullpen with about twenty people working at desks, busy typing and passing papers to colleagues. But instead of computers, electric typewriters line each surface.
Chills run down Beckett's back when she takes another look at everyone. Big, wire-frame glasses sit on the noses of a few workers. Women walk around in feathered hair and retro power suits while men roam around in outdated checkered blazers over mustard yellow turtlenecks.
"Are they filming a Mary Tyler Moore reboot in here?" Castle asks out of the side of his mouth. "And what's with the bad haircuts?" He observes, pointedly gazing at a man with a shaggy mop of hair and fuzzy sideburns. Beckett doesn't respond, her eyes scanning the area as if looking for something or someone.
A woman reading from a folder walks by them. Her dark, chestnut hair is cut short in a wedge bob. Castle coughs to grab her attention. She looks up at them, eyes blinking. Beckett lets out a quiet gasp.
"I'm sorry," the woman says, "Can I help you with something?"
Castle opens his mouth, but Beckett interjects, asking, "Do you happen to know today's date?"
Castle eyeballs her curiously.
"What year?" Beckett presses.
The woman gives her an odd look, but supplies, "1977."
Castle balks, his whole posture shifting."I don't think I heard that right, did you say—"
"1977," the woman repeats slowly, her brow quirking.
"That's what I thought you said," he says weakly.
The woman bristles, squaring her shoulders. "Are you here for legal services?"
Castle glances at Beckett, but her eyes are hungrily fixed on the woman. "What do you, um, offer?" he asks.
"We're a small firm but we take on—"
"Civil suits and criminal cases," Beckett finishes.
"That's right. We also provide general counseling," the woman says, question in her gaze. "Are you here for a meeting?"
"No, uh, just shopping around," Beckett says.
The woman gives Beckett a piercing stare.
"You look really familiar, have we met before?"
"I don't think so," Beckett replies quickly.
"Right," the woman says, giving her another once-over, not quite believing her answer. "Well, if you need anything else, our secretary can take down your names." She nods at them curtly and walks away, already burying herself back in her folder.
"Was it just me or did she just say we're in 1977?" Castle asks, taking a second look around the office before Beckett yanks him back into the hall, the door shutting behind them.
"Ow, what the hell, Beckett?" Castle says, rubbing his arm and frowning, but she doesn't notice. She's buzzed, running her hands through her hair. "What's gotten into you?" he asks, watching her pace back and forth. "How did you know to ask about the date, anyway?"
She takes a breath and slows her step. "I remember the name of the law firm from my mother's files. My parents worked for them, but they disbanded years ago. Castle…"
She turns to him, her eyes shining.
"That woman was my mom."