Going Down to Mexico
Disclaimer: Mexico is just one of the many countries where I do not own Castle. Rating: K Time: Between seasons two and three.
Kate Beckett checked the bullpen. There was just one detective there, facing away from her, tapping out a report with two fingers. She sighed and looked at what had been Castle's chair. Not anymore. She thought. How in the hell could that man, of all people, have gotten so far past my walls? Tom had never even asked about why I became a cop. I had told Will some of it when he'd asked, but not as much as I had voluntarily told Castle.
I had built up my wall to protect my heart from ever feeling what I had felt when my mother had been murdered. Why the hell did it hurt so much to see Castle walk off arm and arm with his ex-wife? He'd said he'd see me in the fall. Maybe he meant just that. He'd drop by, tell a few jokes and then walk out of my life forever. Back to his ex, his book parties and his place in the Hamptons. That was part of who he was. He was not, and never would be, the one and done for Kate Beckett. He'd probably not be the one and done for any woman. The damnable part was that he was more than that. He was a good investigator. Unorthodox as all hell, but good. He had paid a hundred thousand dollars to smoke out the non-existent Rathburn and just wrote it off. Sure, he was rich and could afford to toss that kind of money away, but how many other people would do that for someone they hardly knew. Someone who hadn't really made them feel welcome?
Worse, he had made me think about the future. Before, my only thoughts about the future was that someday, someone would confess to my mom's murder and I would get some sort of closure. But he had made me realize my future was fast approaching. I have ten years behind me as a cop and ten years before I could retire. I could stay on after that, of course. But, eventually, the NYPD would gently force me out to make room for new, younger blood. What then? I know cops whose only life was the job. Would I end up spending my pension in some cop bar, talking about the old days? Would I end up marrying someone I don't love, like Tom, just to avoid a life of being alone? Would I end up as crazy old lady Beckett in apartment 74, living with an apartment full of cats, all named Castle?
"Yo, Beckett. Ready to go?" Esposito broke in on her thoughts. "We have a solid lead on the witness on the Puller case."
She grabbed her sidearm and jacket. "Let's go." She took one last look at Castle's chair. She should really try harder to get him out of her mind.
It was hot in the Rio Grande Valley. Castle decided he'd dressed appropriately. He had on a pair of khaki slacks, a yellow polo shirt and had a light blue linen jacket over his arm. He used the other arm to tow his carryon suitcase.
He spotted Cowboy and his friends, plus one new one standing by the baggage carousels.
He shook Cowboy's hand. "Good to see you again."
"Good to see you, too, Mr. Castle."
"Please. I'm Rick."
"You remember Hernan, don't you?"
Rick shook hands with a short, stocky Hispanic. "Nice seeing you again, Hernan."
"You too, Rick."
LoDon, a tall but wiry African-American shook his hand.
"We have one more here. This is Miguel Cervantes. Not the one who wrote that book. Miguel, being one of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children, doesn't do books."
Miguel laughed. "One of the reasons the United States Marine Corps exists is to give Army Rangers someone to look up to, even if that's all they can do."
"You got luggage?" Cowboy asked.
"Just my carryon."
"I ate on the plane, but the flight to El Paso was one class. All tourist class. I had a sandwich. It had meat in it, I think."
Cowboy laughed. "If you can wait for an hour, or so, we'll take you to Mamacita's. It's just a little past the New Mexico line."
When they got to Cowboy's pickup, Castle knelt and opened his carryon. "Wait one. I know paparazzi are thin on the ground here, but I do not want to get noticed and have my publisher and agent on my ass again."
He put on a pair of sunglasses and a baseball cap. "Now I'm ready."
All four of the young men were staring at him. Finally, Cowboy spoke. "You're wearing a New York Yankee's cap in Texas? You trying to get us killed?" He turned to Miguel. "Get your hat outta the back and let him wear it."
Miguel handed him another baseball cap. "It's from the Sultanes de Monterey, a Mexican baseball club. Put your Yanquis' cap back in your carryon and keep it there."
They left the airport and headed west on the Interstate. In a half an hour they pulled off the highway onto two lane blacktop, and then onto a dirt road. At the end of the dirt road was a corrugated iron building with a dirt parking lot, filled with beat up pickups and older model cars.
"Mamacita's don't look like much, but the food is primo." Cervantes said.
Once inside, Castle saw that the customers were mainly Hispanic with a scattering of Anglos. All were happily eating and talking. Castle had once been told to never eat at any place with a skinny chef. If the woman headed for them now was the chef, the food must be great. She was only five feet tall, but looked to weigh three hundred pounds. She smiled at them.
"James, Hernan, LoDon, Miguel! How good to see you again. And you brought another friend. Welcome, senor."
"Mamacita, this here is our buddy, Rick Castle, the writer. He's got serious woman problems and he don't need to be noticed. Can we eat in the back?"
Mamacita looked Castle up and down. "If you can't get a woman just by smiling at her, she must be one hell of a woman."
Castle blushed. "She's exactly that."
She laughed. "Come with me." She led them through the kitchen and onto a glassed-in porch with air conditioning. A large screen TV was playing a Mexican baseball game.
"Do you need menus for your friend?" She asked.
"If it's okay, we'll order for you, Rick. New Mexican food is a combination of Native American, Mexican and American styles. We'll have carne adovada. That's pork, marinated in milk, red chile, garlic powder, salt and cumin and then deep fried. Sound good?"
Castle said it did, and it was excellent.
But, then, they were back on the road again. In another hour they pulled up in front of a wood framed ranch house, again, down a long dirt road.
"Daddy is driving his big rig up to Kansas this week, but Momma is here." Cowboy said. "We'll need to pick up a few things." He stopped and looked at Rick. "Look, we're going to see our buddy, Bill Gray. He was our fire team leader the first time we went down range. He did more than his fair share in Iraq and he's suffered for it. He has PTSD, TBI residuals, plus shell frag and bullet wounds. We got him to the VA and got him 100%, but he insists on living out in the desert. We take care of him as best we can. Once he knows your okay, that you're with us, it'll be no problem. You okay with that?"
Castle nodded. "Sure."
"By the way, can you ride?"
Cowboy shook his head. "A horse."
"I don't know. I never really tried." He really had been too drunk to ride that police horse properly.
In an hour, they were all set to go with five riding horses, a saddled spare, and two pack horses. Castle thought his horse was giving him the evil eye.
"Rick, your ball cap will be okay to disguise you, but you need something to keep the sun off of your whole head. I have an old Stetson of mine for you."
Rick put it on and found it fit.
"And I got this for you." Cowboy held out a rifle.
"Daddy's old '03A3 Springfield rifle. Just like it came off the assembly line at the Springfield Arsenal back in the day, except it has a day-night tactical scope on it. I got that for Daddy last Christmas. Don't drop it."
Castle looked around. All the other men had rifles and pistols. "Do we really need weapons?"
"Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, no. But the border can be tricky. You been here before with us. And I know you can shoot."
Castle nodded. "Okay. Don't drop the rifle."
They rode south and Castle soon found out why he'd never learned to ride. Even at a walking pace, his butt was taking a beating.
Suddenly, Miguel pulled up. "People ahead. Maybe twenty."
Everyone got their rifles ready, so Castle pulled his out of its scabbard and rested it across his thighs. They moved slowly forward. Two men came to meet them. Both armed with automatic weapons. Behind them were men, women and children.
Miguel spoke to the men in Spanish which Castle caught only a few words of. Finally, Miguel motioned for them to keep going.
"Who were they?" Castle asked Hernan.
"Coyotes. People smugglers. By their accents, the coyotes are from Central America. Maybe Guatemala. Probably bringing the family to El Norte. They ain't looking for trouble and neither are we."
"What if we run into someone looking for trouble?"
"Probably won't. Anyone moving drugs or guns won't want to fight if we don't. It's live and let live. Easier than starting a war with the cartels."
They came to an old, but recently repaired adobe building with solar panels on the roof.
"That's Bill's place. Back a century ago, there was a lake to the west, but the water table went down. A whole extended family and their vaqueros and servants lived there. Now there's just a well with enough water for some people and a few horses."
Suddenly a man popped up to their left. He wore desert camouflage fatigues, a flak vest and carried an M 16 rifle. His long blond hair was bound up in a stars and stripes do rag.
"Damn, Cowboy. If I'd been a jihadi, I'd've dropped all of you."
"Sure would have, Bill. But since we knew you were here and not a bunch of jihadis, we just rode in all peaceful like."
Gray laughed. "Come on in and set a spell. Take care of the horses, unload your gear and we'll have a nice, cold beer."
Castle was happy to let the others handle the horses, so he took everything they'd brought for Gray and put it inside. The house turned out to be air conditioned, with a refrigerator and a stove.
Gray was handing out cold beers when he stopped and looked at Castle. "I know you. You're Derek Storm. We worked with you up in Ramadi."
Castle shook his head. "My name is Rick Castle."
Gray frowned until Cowboy spoke. "It's just a name, Bill. If he says he's Rick Castle, then he's Rick Castle."
Gray laughed. "Damn! My mistake, Mr. Castle. Good to see you again, for the first time."
Castle laughed as well. "Call me Rick, and it's good to see you again, for the first time."