One of Us - Epilogue
New York Ledger Website
Rick Castle, Kate Beckett return to New York.
Richard Castle's representative has confirmed that he and his family have recently returned to New York. They were one of many in the community attacked on that night of infamy, their Soho home coming under direct fire and as previously reported, there was an attempted kidnapping of Alexis Castle, his daughter. During that event four assailants were shot dead by a bodyguard who was injured in the exchange of gunfire. Two college friends of Alexis Castle received injuries requiring treatment.
Rick Castle and family were advised to seek a safe location at the request of local and federal authorities. They returned to the city four days ago once it was confirmed it was safe to do so.
There has been no statement from the Rick Castle, Kate Beckett or any representative on the multiple charges against former Senator for New York William Bracken including the murder of Detective Beckett's mother in 1999.
There was no comment on whether the author and NYPD consultant was behind the release to the Internet of multiple files implicating William Bracken and accomplices in the murders of Johanna Beckett and at least seven other individuals, as well as drugs and weapon smuggling and money laundering.
Paula Haas would only add that "Richard Castle and Kate Beckett will make a statement in due course, once it is appropriate to do so. With so many hurting and William Bracken yet to appear in front of a grand jury, this is clearly not the time."
Public Defender dies in mugging
Up and coming lawyer Caleb Brown was killed in an apparent mugging gone wrong in the early hours of this morning. The popular public defender was attacked leaving his mid-town office just before 2am, and pronounced dead at the scene.
Witnesses reported see a slim person confront Mister Brown as he left his office, and about a minute later flee with his messenger bag and possibly other possessions. Passers-by called emergency services, but they were unable to save him.
Police would not comment on the injuries received by Mister Brown other than to say they were consistent with self-defense wounds. One witness who saw the body stated that that at least three fingers were missing from his left hand and his right hand almost severed, as well what appeared to be at least two or three stab wounds to the upper torso and neck.
This is the first death in New York since the terrorist attacks almost two weeks ago. Detective Kyle Lamington of the Fifteen Precinct has appealed for witnesses and would not confirm that the attack took place in a security camera blind spot. There are no suspects at this time.
News of the disappearance of billionaire Eric Vaughn was initially submerged in the continuing avalanche of news around the attacks and the Bracken scandal. In London, more astute heads noticed and soon stocks in his firms were looking decidedly shaky. Within twenty-four hours there were as-yet-unconfirmed reports that a number of divisions were substantially under performing compared to earlier statements to the markets and authorities. Investigations by the relevant regulators were being opened in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Others also noticed and we less concerned by the stock market and more by other implications. A series of hasty meetings occurred in the corridors of power. None of them were on record.
Federal Penitentiary USP Lee, Virginia
Remand Prisoner 87634B had been waiting. Not always patiently if you were to check the logs or ask the otherwise uncaring but wary guards. The same guards who tried so hard at maintaining their absolute professionalism at almost all times, not doubt encouraged by the presence of Federal Marshalls, and cameras with direct real-time feed to the Department of Justice.
Having sacked his lawyers and rejected the Government appointed counsel, he had been left on remand with no contact from the outside world. No television, no newspapers, no Internet. A handful of books, a bible. He had received word that a Grand Jury would be impaneled in approximately two weeks, and a further reminder of his legal rights.
He was allowed one phone call a day. He had been expecting contact and action to secure his release from this confinement. Days had passed with nothing. He had called the number every day. Frustratingly it had rung unanswered the first two days, when he rang it on the third day, the number came up disconnected. Disconcerted he had retreated to his cell and contemplated the meaning and found no answer he liked. Instead he hoped that his release would be done in person.
He does receive a visitor but not who he expected.
Or hoped for. But he recognizes him from way-back, the face familiar, despite the guard's uniform.
"Hello Bill," the man at his cell door offers amiably as if they were ever friends. The steel grey eye convey his true feelings.
"Guard! Guards! Help!"
"Not going to help you. No one is going to come."
The prisoner pales, "What are you doing here? Where's?" then he stops, clearly rethinking what he was about to say. "Didn't think you would deign to get your hands dirty."
"Well for a start if you think that you don't know me at all. But in this case, you are actually correct. I am not here to get my hands dirty. Nothing as simple as that for you."
"Do your worst. I'm ready."
"Exactly why I'll be doing nothing more than delivering a message." The man smirks, it is infuriating as intended. It also makes him appear much younger.
Bracken rises and approaches the cell door, "What do you mean?"
The answer with another smirk, all insolence and mirth, reminds the prisoner of someone else. He just can't place who that is. Disconcertingly the eyes do not change, steel grey and deathly intense.
"Your friend won't be reaching out to you," the silver haired man offers, "Ever."
To his credit, Bracken gets it right away. He blanches, shocked by the revelation. He staggers, grabbing at the bars for support.
"You wouldn't dare! You don't have the power." The assertion is all bluster. They both know it. Especially now.
"Really? That's what you thought?" Hunt laughs, "You really don't know who I am do you?"
"I demand…." But the man's scornful laughter halts the protest.
"Really for someone involved so intimately I would have thought you got it. But you clearly never did. Him. You. Me. The whole scheme. Everyone. It is all expedient. So long as the parts served a purpose and offered total deniability it was permitted to continue. Your murderous thievery was barely tolerated and to be frank we should have done something sooner."
"But…" the curt shake shuts him down again.
"The whole scheme and the participants, nothing meets that criteria anymore. So protection was removed. So was he" - the visitor refers to the 'friend' – "and there you have it!" He doesn't expand on what the removal of protection implied for the nameless person in charge of the LokSat program.
"What are you going to do with me? What happens to me?" He blurts the questions out, all self-control lost.
"Nothing. You can rot here." The answer is delivered in an emotionless, flat tone.
"You can't! Not that. I'm ready." Hunt turns to leave, and Bracken makes his final desperate play, "I'll tell them everything."
The visitor laughs, his only other response is a shrug of the shoulders and another equally annoying smirk and with that Hunt turns and leaves a broken man to his fate.
He exits via the staff gate where Rita is waiting for him in the rental car with the false plates. They'll have it crushed before the end of the day and a doppelganger in its place. The guard's uniform incinerated along with the not-fake ID card. All traces of the guard in the system would be wiped inside a carefully timed window so as to not arouse suspicion, and the same for all video and audio recordings. The mysteriously vanished guards will return to their posts, sworn to say nothing.
"Was that really necessary Jackson?"
He almost gapes at her. Oh, the irony. This woman had left bodies littering pretty much every continent and one of her favorite activities was to mess with them mentally, sometimes physically, before dispatching them. Sometimes her wonders just why he married her. Aside from the freaky sex of course.
"Of course, maybe perhaps not but indulge me Dear." He gets that little dig in, a little matrimonial banter and snark.
"He's pissed me off for years. A big part of that was because he was incapable of the self-awareness to realize what an arsehole he is. It was nice to actually get him to maybe recognize that and bring him down a little. Show the little prick how truly powerless he is."
"Not what I would have done."
"Of course not. But to be fair, I don't think you're to his tastes."
"True enough. Well the slimy deviant is fucked anyway."
"You really don't like him, do you? But yeah – someone will probably be sent along to clean him up just in case he actually knows something of real importance."
"He makes my skin crawl and I've been in some sewers. So why didn't you do it Jay?" She teases him with the abbreviation she knows he detests. He had hospitalized some agency unfortunate when the Men in Black movies came out. She knows he'll let it pass for now but make her pay later. She's counting on it. Anticipation almost makes her giddy. A sensation not unlike that she gets from the rush of killing. She's so fucked up and doesn't care. No other way to cope or she would have eaten a bullet – one of her own most likely - years ago. Or maybe one of his. It should be wrong, but it was the ultimate sign of caring in a profession not given to the usual human weaknesses.
"You know I don't do freebies. Plus, this is really not my mess. I wanted nothing to do with it from the beginning. Tried to stay away as much as possible." He leaves it that, not willing to explain himself further.
"Well does that mean we have some time to kill?" Rita asks with a slow deliberate tone.
For his part he is intimately aware of how his wife is feeling. He is already looking forward it. Yes, somewhere buried down deep is a little piece of a rational mind that points out the inherit risks of being with someone who's two biggest thrills are killing and no-holds-barred sex. And isn't afraid of enjoying both in short succession.
She gives him a sly and serious salacious look and then flips straight back to cold professional, "You know they'll try again."
He knows he well enough to understand the question and the change of topic. "Of course they will. But not this next election cycle, 2012 is too soon. They'll have to revert to different means, and reset for 2016, probably 2020. Takes time to get all the pieces in play. Bracken was more than a decade in the making. And they're getting desperate. Bracken was absolutely the wrong choice. He was a flake. Too many character flaws, too unpredictable. But yeah in the meantime they'll look to put their proxies in charge while they look for another."
"Doesn't it concern you?"
"What, that a group of ultra-rich conservative, religious fundamentalist, elitist nutbags have been trying to suborn the constitution and take over the nation for decades?"
"Yeah, that. Not even a little?"
"If they can actually do it, then the maybe nation is beyond saving. Plus, they've been trying for it since well before Nixon screwed up. Since the New Deal. And failing."
"Always the fatalist Jackson."
"Yeah, my son can be the hopeful one. I'm no fool."
"You did it again," she points out, grinning at his acknowledgement of his son. She knows that despite his outward protests and cool demeanor her husband does feel something for the son he sired but abandoned the same night. Never claimed or properly acknowledged is more accurate but neither will voice that.
Damn it, he did. Again. Acknowledge Richard Castle as his progeny. "Well I'm still not going to see him or have contact. Between Sophia and Volkov plus Bracken's fuck ups he's had enough near-misses. It is too late anyway." His tone makes it clear this matter is done.
She takes the hint switches back to the previous, safer topic. "You know they could always go about it a different way."
"Just break the whole system." The prospect of anarchy and the opportunities appeals to her chaotic nature and instincts.
"How would they do that? To even begin to do that you would need someone so patently unfit for office. How would they get the un-electable elected in the first place?"
"No idea. I'm all about direct action."
"I know you are Rita. But you might be onto something."
"Yeah well let's hope none of those multi-billionaire types who been funding the project think of it."
"Now that's something that scares me."
"Let's swap cars and then go get a room. I'll take your mind off things. But keep the uniform for now, a little role-play might be fun," she adds as she trails a sharp nail along his bicep. He actually has to concentrate not to push the accelerator down.
Homicide, 12th Precinct.
Detectives Sully and Blake are packing. There is not much to box up, having traveled light when coming across from their home precinct at the Twenty-Eighth.
Even Espo is a little sorry to see them go. It's not like Sully is a bad cop. Sure his personal cleanliness and a few other habits are a little suspect, well annoying, but he is a diligent investigator and overall a solid detective. Espo is not so blind to his own faults so he can cut the other detective a deserved break for a few personal foibles.
"Sorry you never got to meet Beckett and Castle. Even more that you didn't get to work with them. It is the damn-est thing I've ever witnessed. They finish each other's sentences, never seen anyone else like that. And don't get me started on their actual freaky investigative deduction process."
"So kinda like a shared brain Espo?"
"Yeah. Although sharing a brain with Castle," he shudders, "well that would be a headache for anyone even Beckett. But it is more than that. They complete each other. Been obvious for a while. Even before they got together."
"I look forward to witnessing it first-hand someday. After all it's a small department so who knows what could happen down the track. But in truth even if they were not actually here, their mark echoes all over this place. They must be special people."
"They are." Ryan confirms, with much more clearly left unsaid.
"Anyway, aside from what everyone around here seems to feel and say, having looked over some of their old cases, they deserve the promotions, regardless of what the wider scuttle-butt says. For the record so do you two do as well. Especially for going in to rescue that ESU team. There should be commendations for that."
"Do it for anyone. Even you guys." And with that they're back to cop-mode. Deflection and playing down things.
"It's been an honour and a pleasure Detectives." Sully rises for the last time and considers the box holding his possessions but leaves it there for the moment.
"It has." It seems that Blake is to be as economical as ever but then he carries on speaking to the surprise of his audience. "I'll continue to work on Sully's table manners. Who knows maybe one day he'll even get a girlfriend to last more than a month, although there was that girl from Staten Island a year or so ago. You know Sully, the one you almost asked to marry you. Before she came to her senses." He finishes teasing his partner, "Anyways, it's been better than average gents." He extends his hand and both Ryan and Esposito shake on autopilot as they continue to gape at the man who has just strung together the longest speech they had ever heard him utter since his arrival.
"Hey you coming Sully?" Blake cajoles his partner. That shakes them all out of their mutual stupor.
Sully shakes his head, "Well I never." He too extends his hand, grinning. Espo still checks it for food remnants before slapping his palm with the older detective.
"Take care Sully. You did good work here. Made a difference," the Hispanic detective concedes.
"Will do. We said our goodbyes to the Captain earlier. If you are ever over near the Twenty-Eighth drop in and say hello. If we're not at our desks on in the field, you could do worse than look for us at Harry's Table if on duty, or if off duty try 'The Squire' over the road from the Precinct, they do some craft beers that are actually worth it."
"We'll consider it. Thanks Sully." Ryan has his easy smile and an open palm extended.
"Ryan." Sully seems a bit emotional, but in the long tradition of cops – especially NYPD – he blows it off and extends his hand to meet Ryan's.
The exchange of handshakes compete Sully grabs his box and heads off after his partner who is now waiting by the elevator, once foot holding the door open over the barely audible protest of the open door alarm.
And with that one more impediment to Beckett and Castle's return is gone.
Conference Room, Department of Justice, Washington DC.
The team had assembled. Villante was elsewhere testifying in closed committee on their findings. In his place, relative newcomer Will Sorenson has the floor. He keeps it brief.
The absence of McCord and the others dominates the room. Despite having got their man, the sense of incompleteness lies heavy on them all. There is a void, it almost feels like defeat.
Sorensen was tired. And aggrieved. The price they paid? Too much. Especially for Bracken. He lets it show in his attitude.
"So, what now?" One agent, Heidelberg, inquires.
"We pack our bags and head back to our families. Have the vacations were never had time for." That at least generates a little enthusiasm.
"The Chief has authorized a week off for everyone except that rostered on. This is effective as soon as we have debriefed and secured all evidence and gear. No exceptions." He hadn't expected any objections, there were none.
Of course, he had no family here in DC. He didn't feel like heading back to New England to his family. They wouldn't understand. Perhaps he could head back to that bar. What was the name again? Taps. Yeah, he would clean up and head to Taps. Maybe see if he could find that very attractive woman or one like her. Some human company and no talk of paperwork, court cases or death seems mighty appealing right now.
Main conference room, Beesley Wax and Drummond, New York
The Taylor Matthews and law enforcement guards have departed, in their place are smartly-attired representatives of the private security firm recommended by Clare Dunn of Taylor Matthews. A pair discreetly man the reception lobby and another pair circulate the building. Right now they are outside the doors of the main conference room.
This is the first time this room has been used since the incident. Hardly surprising as the office of former - in every meaningful manner – head of the firm lies two doors door on direct the path to this room. The crime scene tape had only been removed the day before. She had seen more than a few glances and flinches at the doorway, and equally many more just shied away, avoiding looking at all. Which is entirely understandable. This is not a law firm that routinely deals with criminal cases, certainly not ones involving violence, and regardless on the rare occasions they had there had never been any actual intrusion of brutality and death into these walls.
The staff are here and they have all taken a seat. There was a time, not long ago, that an 'all-hands' meeting would have every seat occupied and the walls lined with those standing. Now all the remaining staff can sit with more than a few spare chairs. Some of the absences were voluntary and others less so.
"Good morning everyone." She waited until she was certain all the chatter had ceased.
"Thank you for coming in today. Events of the last few weeks have been traumatic and well quite frankly devastating."
She makes sure she makes as much eye contact as she can as she begins her next sentence, "Before we begin I would like to take a moment to reflect on those who lost their lives. Stacey Guillame, Roger Miles, Hia Lee and yes even Jeff Beesley." Now Val lowers her head, and assumes most of her audience does. She hears a few whispered prayers.
"Thank you," pausing for a moment to ensure she had their full attention, she continued. "With effect from 7.36 am today I am now the Managing Partner of this firm." There is little surprise and even a polite smattering of applause from most occupants. She smiles in appreciation and lets it settle.
"It was not unanimous, and it is with true regret that I report that Samuel Goldwyn and Marie Walker have given their notice and intended resign from their positions as partners in the firm." She has to respect their loyalty to the Jeff even if it is entirely undeserved. Although in Marie's case the FBI has made it clear she was not to leave town. The firm was well rid of her.
"That said all the remaining partners have committed to stepping up to fill the gaps and bring in work. Everyone will work. Even me." The last gets more genuine laughs. No one could doubt Valerie Wilson's work ethic. Those in the know would appreciate that
"We are going to attempt to recover our lost clients and rebuild our business in our core strengths. This means that with immediate effect we will abandon any effort on political consultancy and policy lobbying. Our core strengths were and are commercial and civil law, and we will aim to rebuild there. The remaining partners have discussed widening our previously limited criminal arm. But if we do it will be cautious and with the consensus behind us.
"There are going to be changes here. I won't lie. Times will be tough. But we will not let one man's vainglorious ambition and greed bring us down. This firm, and more importantly the people, matter more. My door, and door of the other partners, are open if you have anything you want to discuss in private."
"Thank you for all for coming back and turning up. I appreciate it. We all do." There is a wave of polite applause.
"Finally. I will confirm for those of you not already aware, Jim Beckett and I are together as a couple. There is no workplace policy against it, but I assure you that this will not affect our professional lives and our contribution to the firm. I trust you will see that."
This does comment does not go unmarked, and there is a small round of applause and a few mostly appropriate comments along the lines of 'about time' and 'well that wasn't a secret' muttered as the staff file out.
Taps Bar and Restaurant, Washington DC.
Will had been disappointed to find the attractive lady from so many weeks ago not in attendance at the bar. He had internally mocked himself at his unrealistic expectations and started with a beer. Deciding that food might be a sensible option he had enjoyed a bowl of seafood ravioli and a glass of rustic red wine sat at a table, before retreating back to the bar and a whisky.
Sitting at the bar he ponders how he found himself here. Alone, in his mid-thirties, nursing a drink at bar before returning to his spartan furnished apartment, alone. A second whisky followed and somehow, he finds himself replaying the events of the day and his meeting with Kate and Richard Castle.
Frustrating as the author could sometimes be, the real issue was his own guilt. He had not explained, perhaps confessed would be more apt, to Kate that he was the one to actually save William Bracken from a rival's car bomb last year. He had saved the life of the man responsible for the death of his ex-girlfriend's mother and he had saved him. Accepted the man's praise and an official commendation, only for that politician to be revealed as the Dragon and wreak havoc across the North East before being finally shutdown. He wasn't ashamed of his actions in isolation, but it was not something he would ever willingly share with Kate Beckett. She did not need any more pain, no matter how well intentioned.
He finished the second whisky, threw a couple of notes to cover the bill, and headed out into the chill of the night and his lonely apartment.
Federal Penitentiary USP Lee, Virginia
The end – of sorts - for William H Bracken had been a while in company, and in all likelihood swifter than he deserved but not as he expected.
Somehow, he has been moved from the isolated secured wing and he is now in administrative segregation. The extra US Marshalls, the cameras, the sense of being special – all gone.
Administrative Segregation was for his own protection. Or so one of the guards told him with an evil smile.
He knows it will do no good.
They will reach him here.
Their reach is global.
This isn't even a challenge for them.
Just a matter of when.
The lights go out.
He wonders if it is time, barely sleeping until the lights come out and his endless day begins again.
Sometime later the lights really go out – everywhere. Not just his cell but throughout the entire cell block. The blinking red of the cameras ceases too.
He is not sleeping. It feels like he never sleeps but this body betrays him.
He is weak and alone.
It is time.
He briefly wonders who it will be.
The cell door barely squeaks as it opens, and an involuntary gasp escapes as the shadow approaches. Maybe he wasn't ready.
The lights come back on
For William H Bracken, former District Attorney of New York City, former US Senator for New York, there are no more lights.
No shank, or blade, nor bullet finds his body.
Just an injection of air into his blood stream causing a massive stroke.
By the time medical assistance arrives he is permanently paralyzed without the ability to communicate in any manner, his vision gone, and suffering uncertain levels of brain impairment.
This is a far worse fate that he would have been prepared for.
A living death with his secrets sealed within him.
Martha and Alexis had wordless hugged her and left the two alone.
She had messaged her Dad and Val has responded assuring her he was being looked after.
Now it was her turn.
He holds her.
She is not crying for the criminal.
She is crying for the justice denied.
For her mom.
For her mom's colleagues.
For all the innocents. All the victims - cops, and civilians.
All the lives cut short or ruined for his dreaded ambition. His lies. His vanity and greed.
"What do we do?" He asks her.
"We go on. We persevere." That inner strength, the never-back-down commitment, both key reasons why he named her extraordinary. Even more so now.
"Montgomery was right. The war goes on. All we can do is fight the battles. Choose who you stand with. What we stand for. I know where I stand." He caresses her face.
"Kate, and it may not feel like it right now but we won this one."
"Do you really believe that Rick?"
"Yes. Mostly. Maybe not entirely, I don't know," he confesses. "What I do know is that it will be fruitless to pursue it further. If there is something, someone, else beyond this, beyond the Dragon then it/they is/are far more dangerous than anything we've faced Kate."
He raises his eyes directly onto hers, "Call me a coward but I can accept not knowing if we get to live our lives without any more threats. I know enough, now, that good fortune, lucky breaks and millimeters got us this far. All those will run out sooner. You know me Beckett, I'm the man who argues that we can move the rubber tree. But not this time. Not ever again. Let someone else tilt at windmills. We've done our bit. More than done it."
"So we give up?" She's never been a quitter.
"No. Never! Just we stick to regular police work, well as regular as Beckett specials can get."
"I thought you might want to give it up," they both know enough that she is talking about her, and by implication and extension him too.
"Never, you know that Kate. I could never ask you to walk away from your calling. Justice for your mom, and the others is important, but it is not what keeps you doing what you do."
She presses a kiss against his throat, tasting the salt of her own tears.
"But all you need to do Kate is tell me what you want Love."
"Rick," she pushes back a little so she can see his face in focus, also streaked by tear tracks, "Rick, you remember that night when I came to you?"
"Of course." He could never forget, never would.
"You asked me 'What do your want Beckett?' and I told you Rick. All I want is You." She leans forward to kiss him reverently, on the lips this time. "It may have taken me longer it than it should, but my answer hasn't changed, will never change Rick." Kiss. Another Kiss.
One and Done. A ring to confirm it.
"I know Kate. Partners whatever you want to do." His turn to Kiss her.
"Whatever we want to do, partnership remember."
His expression darkens, the mood turns serious. There is one think I think we need to NOT do. And we have to agree NOT do it together."
"Rick?" this is not what she expected but she trusts him and waits for him.
He pushes back a little and regards her, basking briefly in the moment, appreciating all that they have a chance of. "You know if there is someone or something else behind or above Bracken, then whoever is it out there, well they are far more capable and scarier than anything we've faced. And so if they exist, we have no idea who they are, who they represent, and what action they would take if they are threatened."
Her eyes never leave his. Even now emotionally beset her intellect and innate logic is apparent, "You're right."
"I am?" He's playing for humor, just a little, "Can I get that in writing?"
"You like my ass," Pops out before he can stop it.
She shakes her head as she closes in menacingly, a swift nip to his left ear lobe is accompanied by a hushed admission, "I love that ass, and the rest of you too, but focus Rick."
"You understand what I am asking Kate." She nods. "So we're agreed?"
"Yes, I can make peace with that. The Dragon is exposed and arrested even if never tried in court, my mom's killer is dead and that's enough, and not just for now." Her turn, she pushes back to regard his face, eyes bright with emotion, love, and some little mischief, "Of course I might take some persuading." Time to do some reassuring and supporting of her own.
"I'm up for that."
"I'm a cop. I need evidence."
"Oh future Mrs Castle, I'll give you all the evidence you need Detective."
"I need the hard stuff."
Langley, Secure Wing, DDO's Office.
Cutting the audio feed just before it got too weird, Jackson Hunt smiled as much for himself as the man opposite. Keeping his facial expressions mute was instinctive, honed by decades of deception and danger. He rarely let his guard down, certainly not even here in his 'home base', sitting across from the new Deputy Director of Operations, Martin Danberg, a man he categorized as 'Boy Scout' despite his field experience and personally killing Sophia.
Smart boy, his son was no fool. Even hopelessly in love with Kate Beckett he had enough sense to know when to quit. Too many misunderstood, in this game alive was ahead. Dead was not.
Now did Kate Beckett truly understand that? He could only hope the Detective did. For a smart person she often failed to grasp simple concepts. The ramifications if she did not and could not stay away were damn serious. And he would not be able to protect his son or her from them if they tried to investigate in future.
There was no way the US government would permit the already public scandal to become broader. Rumors and conspiracy theories were par-for-the-course, accelerated by the toxic tangles of the Internet. But two trained investigators with excellent analytical skills could pose too much of a threat. The damage done by a single corrupt senator and some rogue paramilitary types were bad enough. The would be no chance that multiple intelligence and security agencies would let themselves be put in a position of having to deny or admit to running black ops, some over decades, using arms and drug smuggling in the pursuit of national security policy. No chance whatsoever. Iran-Contra had been enough of a stain but that had been explained-away by a president with failing faculties and a 'rogue' National Security Advisor. This time, it could be markedly worse. Even if those involved had not trusted any elected officials from the President down, it was the sort of activity that could cripple a democracy and weaken it dangerously. He was not respecter of politicians on the whole, but they were better than most other options. The current President had no military experience but at least sought seasoned advice even if he had a tendency to overthink things. Still better that than anyone that trusted their gut over rational expert analysis.
"Satisfied?" he inquires of the DDO.
"Mostly. Short of getting a signed agreement, I don't see any other option."
He does not suppress the scoff, "A legal agreement is the worst option. It pretty much confirms that malfeasance was occurring. We don't want anything like that."
"We. For a man who vanishes for long periods of time, and comes to Langley a total five times in a decade, that's quite the statement."
Oh. It was high time he got out of here. This place was as dangerous as any back-alley in a third world country. He says nothing more.
Danberg shrugs his silence off. "I'll admit I'm not really sure what to say to you Hunt. You and your partner did good work on your assigned tasks. I get the impression you'd do a lot of what we ask for free. If not you, then your wife certainly would. But not carte blanche. What drives you?"
He blanks the DDO, "You know how to reach us, if you need us."
"When we need you Hunt," Danberg shakes his head, "We'll always have a need for you."
"I guess so," he concedes, and then offers an olive branch, "You know I was ready to retire in the nineties? The Cold War was over, we'd 'won' and I'd had enough of living on my nerves. I miss those days," he confesses, "The certainty of who we were dealing with, the boundaries and lines no one crossed. And enemies that could be reasoned with."
"Russia never goes away Hunt. They'll be back. Make no mistake. And China is on the rise. Probably will exceed all our forecasts and analysis too. Starting with Nixon we've made too mistakes, compromised too deeply and gave them too much, too soon. They've started to turn that against us, and it will get a lot worse. They don't even need to go to war. They could just buy us up."
Hunt shrugs. What is he expected to do? He's not for sale, but he concedes many are. Too many. And he and Rita are not going to turn back the tide, defy history.
Danberg obviously shares the same unvoiced concerns, "There are too many in the West that only count wealth as the ultimate measure. Not the Chinese government, money is just a tool to them."
Hunts barely nods. This is hardly news.
"You know we tried to start a list of national leaders in politics and business that were susceptible to corruption or influence. We gave up. Easier to start a list of those who are not," Danberg confesses.
"Like you said, somethings never change. When shit happens, call me."
He rises and shakes Danberg's hand. Time to collect Rita and find a quiet spot for a few months. Somewhere in Europe with decent food, wine and some distractions for Rita. Some where they can get lost in.
12th Precinct, Monday.
Today was the day, it has been more than four months since the Twelfth Precinct's resident civilian consultant had been a regular here in Homicide.
Word has spread that today will mark his return to 'duty' alongside his partner Detective Kate Beckett. As a result, the bullpen is crowded, almost to bursting. There are far more cops than the Twelfth's own homicide team occupying almost every space in the room and beyond onto adjoining areas of the floor. The only clear space leads from the elevator to a certain desk in the homicide pen. This detective's desk has two chairs, only one of which rotates and tilts, and the other – of the non-tilting, non-rotating antiquated type on four legs –has clearly seen better days but somehow remains resolutely anchored to the short side of the desk, not going anywhere. On the desk there's a quaint collection of elephants arranged down the back to the left of the computer monitor and where there previously was one there are now two name plates to adorn the desk.
Despite the mass of bodies, it is almost unnaturally quiet with a low murmur of conversation from the assembled detectives, uniforms and support staff. A sense of anticipation is palpable across the room as the crowd is clearly waiting for an arrival of some importance.
If it is a celebration there are no banners or signs, cards or gifts – this is the NYPD and such tokens are not required – frowned upon even - among the extended family of those who serve. There is a ping from the direction of the elevators and every head in the room turns in time to watch the burnished doors slide apart.
The coffee shop delivery boy balks when faced with a veritable posse of cops, but somehow stutters out "Delivery for 12th Homicide" as he steps out pulling a three shelf trolley cart loaded with a bounty that will no doubt be more than welcome. The boxes hide a collection of pastries, donuts, muffins and accompanying several large trays of hot coffee in to-go cups with lids. The order had been phoned in, paid for by credit card.
Seaming stuck, several homicide detectives move as one to rescue the delivery boy, and direct him to the break room and in a matter of minutes the delivery boy retreats back into the elevator with his eyes firmly locked on the floor. He is grateful to have delivered his cargo without a room full of more cops than his has ever seen in one place pick up on the fact he was smoking dope with his cousin Vinny and friends last night. Desperately trying to remember what jacket he wore last night, he is almost certain his misdemeanor is open secret on his face to the cops, after all his mom had busted him when he returned home. And she was no detective.
A couple of minutes later there's another ping, and the elevator doors slide apart to reveal two tall figures facing towards each other. They are well dressed in relaxed but smart business attire, their coats folded across a forearm in each case. Closer examination reveals they are conversing with each other and apparently preoccupied with the other person, and potentially unconcerned with what may await them outside the confines of the metal box. They're in very close proximity to each other. In fact, they're leaning into each other, so much so that they appear merged together. Both faces have wide relaxed smiles, and whilst the words cannot be heard they are evidently having a very personal conversation. Even if you didn't know them, you'd suspect that these are partners and probably more on so many levels. For a room full of cops and detectives it would be a slam dunk even if they didn't already know.
As if they can feel a hundred plus eyes on them, the pair turn in tandem to face the doors and freeze at the sea of faces awaiting them. Both instantly adopt poker faces, only the slight downcast of both pairs of eyes hinting at any nerves, although the male's deep blue eyes have a remarkable gleam that could only be labelled a twinkle of mischief in them. Perhaps he finds something humorous in the situation but he's wisely saying nothing for now. Still with no apparent embarrassment showing on their faces, they link hands without looking, and step forward onto the floor.
The applause begins the moment they step across the elevator threshold. In the beginning it is respectful and measured but also conveys so much more. All in the room can feel the warmth and comradeship. It's the time-honored tradition of welcoming back one of their own who has survived - somehow avoiding paying the ultimate price of service to the City and its citizens. Soon there are some whoops and louder cheers lead by a couple of very familiar voices. Maybe the odd cat-call in there too, again the accent suspiciously familiar.
Making their way down the clear path to a desk, they pause before the familiar desk and seats before noticing a pair of new name plates. Taking in the lettering both stare at them for a few seconds. 'Sergeant Katherine H Beckett' and 'Consultant Richard Castle'.
From somewhere nearby Captain Victoria Gates, clears her throat, and the whole floor stills, even the two figures.
The Captain steps forward into their little space. There is a smile adorning her face. She is still learning how to balance her reputation as Iron Gates with a more human approach, but she figures this occasion is perfect for the lighter touch.
"Good morning Beckett and Mister Castle. Welcome back." She pauses for effect, sure than many in her audience would have picked up on the absence of a title for Beckett. "Both of you." This elicits laughs and a delightful look of surprise on both, with her detective managing to mask most of the obvious surprise, the writer/consultant making no such effort.
To the surprise of all, not only does the more diminutive Captain shake the right hand of each of the pair opposite her, but she steps in for a quick hug of both. She returns to her previous position just as promptly as total silence still rules the floor. Perhaps in shock.
Surprisingly the author stays quiet but his partner's tight grip on his left hand may have something to do with that, along with their own mutual surprise at the Captain's open affection.
For her part, Captain Gates does not even acknowledge her actions, and switching her gaze to scan across the assembled audience, takes advantage of the absence of any distractions to address the floor.
"When I was asked to assume command of the Twelfth and in particular the Precinct's Homicide team, I was aware that there was a civilian consultant - dare I say a famous crime novelist? - shadowing the team for three years. His presence was originally only intended for character research but somehow morphed into something significantly more prolonged and meaningful. Despite the value seen and reported by Captain Montgomery and his own team, which are reflected in the CompStats, I have to be honest that it took me quite some time to understand and share the sentiment. Some may call me a skeptic. Others might have gone further maybe."
More laughter at that.
"I am not normally slow on the uptake, but someone didn't especially see fit to ingratiate themselves here. We got off to a rocky start." Her pointed look raises some chuckles but not especially among the principals. Those first few weeks after Montgomery's death with Beckett in hospital, and everyone else desperately trying to find answers, had not been the best circumstances to introduce the pair to each other especially without Beckett's buffer.
"But no more." She actually smiles. Really smiles. It transforms her and judging by the virtual absence of sound in the crowded space, is somewhat of a revelation to her officers.
Gates carries on, "Mr Castle, your courageous actions four months ago, not only saved the lives of two of my officers and my own - for which my family & I are forever grateful - but reflect highly both on the New York Police Department and your commitment and service especially given the volunteer nature of your role to-date. It is not the first time you have risked yourself to aid the city or its officers."
Gates possibly looks slightly misty eyed. "You almost paid the ultimate price for that dedication and bravery. As you were not an official member of the NYPD, regrettably it has been ruled that you are not entitled to a New York Police Department medal, much as all of us would wish to see you recognized so. However, I am delighted to inform you that in consultation with the Commissioner, the Mayor has decided to award you the Bronze Medallion, New York's highest award for civilians in recognition of your long-standing commitment to assisting the NYPD at great personal risk and injury having consistently demonstrated exceptional citizenship. The ceremony will be at a date to be confirmed."
There is a moment of stunned silence. A stunned Beckett actually checks to see if Castle's jaw has dropped. Oh, it is more than that. He is shocked, and a tear is trickling down his left cheek. She knows how much this means to him. He never expected any reward or recognition, in fact quite the opposite, striving to ensure that publicity around his ongoing consultancy was as minimal as possible except for the books. This clearly may not be the case going forward.
All Rick can do to acknowledge the cheers and acclaim that now fill the room with noise, is nod and fight back his tears, swallowing hard, maintaining a firm grip on the hand of his partner-in-all-things by his side. There is no classic Castle ego on show here.
Gates lets the applause run its course and once the noise has abated sufficiently, she continues, "I know I speak for your family at the Twelfth, and for all of the NYPD, in welcoming you back to the precinct and to the team. Your colleagues and partners have missed you, and it is time for you resume your place as ONE OF US!"
There is a further extended round of applause, mixed with some low key but heartfelt cheering and the odd wolf-whistle (one source sounds suspiciously like a certain Hispanic detective).
As the noise finally diminishes, Gates continues, "We also welcome back and congratulate the newly promoted Sergeant Kate Beckett. She has successfully passed the civil service exam with this year's top score and one of the highest scores on record. On behalf of the NYPD I am pleased to officially confirm her promotion to Sergeant Supervisor Detective Squad."
More applause meets this announcement and "Way to go Beckett/Sarge" can be heard above the applause. The newly minted Sergeant frowns, having clearly not contemplated being tagged with the nomenclature of 'Sarge' for the foreseeable future. She will definitely have to nip that one in the bud with Castle. She has ways and means. Then more echoes come from the crowd, reminding her that others may need appropriate discouragement too.
The noise continues longer than the Captain desires, and this time Gates exercises her authority, holding up her hands to signal silence which falls almost immediately.
"Sergeant Beckett will be responsible for the Twelfth's homicide squad as well as retaining her own investigative team of Detectives Esposito and Ryan along with Richard Castle. Sergeant Katherine Beckett will you please come up."
Beckett lets go of Castle's hand and goes forward to collect her new badge and ID card. She shakes hands with her captain and leans forward to say a few words. Whatever she says to the Captain lost in another round of applause that continues as she steps back to her expectant partner.
"Which leads me to Beckett's partner. I'm still not entirely sure what to make of the pair on any given day. The change in the nature of their relationship has been cause for some deep introspection at One PP, and please do not think that theirs is an example that employees of the city and especially serving members of the NYPD can follow. The regulations still apply and will be enforced." The Captain's stern words leave the floor in silence. She appears satisfied with that response and continues.
"Following a review by the NYPD, quite a thorough one I may add, and one that involved external parties to validate the results and recommendation, Richard Castle has been offered appointment as an official civilian consultant for the NYPD. This he accepted with considerable enthusiasm and haste."
The Captain comes to a halt, her pause forced upon her by the tumultuous wave of applause and whistles that blast over the momentarily awestruck consultant. Even knowing this was coming, the approval from the mass of officers is overwhelming. He looks almost embarrassed by the open applause and affection shown.
Gates once again raises her hands, and her eyebrows, and as the noise subsides just enough, she is able to continue.
"But perhaps he might regret that just a little," Gates hints with a smile. "This is not the only change taking place. Mister Castle, your former role as volunteer placed constraints upon a wide range activity, some of which you abided by and others not so much." There is a less than subtle warning in there. Gates leaves it as that, continuing, "With your change in status this is no longer the case, as some – but not all, and no you cannot have a firearm - of those restrictions will be lifted. And while I am sure Sergeant Beckett won't welcome the additional paperwork and bureaucracy that comes with the responsibility, she won't be alone. Mr Castle will shortly be enrolling at the NYPD Academy and taking the required classes to cover large parts of the NYPD syllabus and completing all necessary legal certification to enable him to do his share of paperwork and further his contributions to the team."
Ryan and Esposito's "About time Bro" echo through the room, as a clearly stunned Beckett looks on. This is nothing compared to the shock on the newly minted official Policy Consultant's face. There is a general round of chuckles and some outright laughter at the new consultant's expense. He takes it well, probably too shocked to respond.
Once more Gates holds up her hand and once satisfied that her audience were listening. "Of course, our newest consultant will need to ensure he sticks to the actual facts and doesn't try to dress up his reports, and keeps the language to a more prosaic standard than his novels." More laughs.
"Mister Castle. If you would be so kind as to step forward."
Still apparently slightly stunned, Rick does so with none of usual confidence.
Her Captains badge is on display from the pocket of her blazer. Looking down at it she raises her head to address him, "It is no secret that you've envied those who possess one." The confirmation nod from the still mute writer is sufficient testimony.
"Unfortunately, we cannot award you a Shield, much as you have done so much to earn one over the years. However, as the NYPD is introducing a new formal position of Civilian Investigative Consultant that have produced this new official identify card." She reaches into the hip pocket of her jacket and retrieves a folding leather wallet akin to the ones some detectives use and flips it open so that Rick can see the contents. He takes a long moment to study the words embellished on the official document.
Gates holds it out in her left and he takes in his own right hand.
"Congratulations Mister Castle."
Gates extends her right hand and he quickly swaps hands and shakes her hand formally and utters only a short acceptance, "Thank you Captain Gates. I'll do my utmost to not let the City, you or my partner, or my colleagues down. This work I have been permitted to assist with has been some of most profound and rewarding moments of my life. I should be thanking you all."
"You are also the first ever recipient, so much as it might pain me a little to say so, you are breaking new ground here. Naturally it also comes with the responsibility to fulfil those duties to the best of your abilities and in full compliance with the law."
He opens the black leather case himself and looks down reverently. Taking the ID he flips it fully open and inserts the back plate into his jacket pocket. He can't but help look down. "Cool!" He sticks two thumbs out to indicate just how pleased he is, finally regaining some of his usual cockiness, and eliciting some laughs.
He steps back to Kate who slips her hand into his and squeezes. There is a tear at the edge of her eye, but he won't acknowledge it. She'll wear it with pride, but she doesn't need him to be strong for her here among their extended precinct family.
"When I am called away or otherwise not available, in my absence, Sergeant Beckett will assume responsibility for the Precinct's detective teams and will act as incident commander for first response teams. I have no doubt that this is a step on the pathway to greater things if she so wishes. I also have no doubt that their team will quickly resume their place as the best performing homicide team in the NYPD."
There is a short round of applause Gates is not quite done.
"Recent events have marked this nation, city, this department, and left a terrible legacy. A far too high number of citizens and law enforcement members have paid the ultimate price, and many more will have to live with the consequences of the crimes and evil ambitions of a few.
"Those that carried out their terrible deeds seek to excuse themselves by saying they are patriots, or that the crimes they commit are necessary to protect us. This is false, those are lies and they are liars. They are simply criminals. They believe they are above our laws and our society's rules. The opposite is true. They are beneath them. But they are still subject to them. And it is our job to protect our fellow citizens, our city and our nation from all enemies foreign and domestic. And finally, it is our duty to protect each one of us. Never forgot that. Thank you all for your service and dedication. Dismissed."
There is another round of applause and after handshakes, measured back-slaps for Castle only as no one dares give one to Sergeant Beckett – and the ones Castle received are given with care in light of his recent injuries, the crowd is about to disperse, many with an eye to the muffins and coffee calling from the break room.
Unable to miss having the last word, the famous author and newly minted official civilian investigative consultant clears his throat dramatically just as his mother had taught him, retakes the hand of his partner and stuns the room.
"Thank you very much. My Fiancé & I…."
The looks of shock and surprise are quickly replaced by a cacophony of noise as a new round of raucous applause and cheers. There are some fortunately mostly undecipherable catcalls. There is also a portion of the audience who are throwing questions. Ones that likely has to do with a date and possibly a second question about location. Sergeant Beckett looks suitably embarrassed only for a moment before her left hand emerges with a sparkling ring adorning her finger.
From her vantage point the Captain spies a number of hands go into pockets and there will likely be money being exchanged. After all the bets on the pair of them are legendary. She does not normally condone any such action, especially quite so openly and blatantly. But she will let this one ride. Just on this one occasion.
Kate is not really aghast at her fiancés' announcement. She was resigned to having it go public, after all it was what she wanted, but she had hoped for something tasteful and decorous. But just like the proposal there is a profound balance in it happening here.
Then of course he has to kiss her.
Very profusely but just on the right side of decency. She's not sure if the flush on her face is from embarrassment or something more. Probably a combination. It also puts paid to the ability to answer some of the attempted questions that will be a little too close to home for them.
After a minute or so, the noise finally starts to abate, but Rick doesn't get a chance to continue his speech or rebuff any unanswerable questions, their Captain awaits.
"Sergeant Beckett, and Mister Castle…..my office NOW!"
Some things never change.
It is over!
To those of you who have re-read it, thank you for your dedication and commitment.
Especially to all of those you who reviewed, thank you for your time and thoughts.
To those who have messaged and communicated with me thank you.
This was originally conceived more than six years ago as 4-6 chapters. Less than 10000 words. The first thing I wrote was pretty much the last quarter of this, the last chapter.
To my readers, thank you one and all for sticking with this. Six years, 85 chapters and almost 650,000 words in the making. Suffice to say it took on a life of its own, and evolved in directions I never expected.
But mostly I have had a lot of fun writing this.
Especially with some of the characters. I have some original characters who I cherish, and I have tried to use the rest as closely as I can from my experience of the TV show.
I make no secret that I love Seasons 1 - 5 and bits of 6 and less of 7 and virtually nothing of 8. It is why I've had so much fun with characters from those last seasons. They are my equivalent of Red Shirts in Star Trek. There for plot purposes and to die horribly. ;-P
I have been asked by a few community members what is next?
Well I have some more stories outlined but don't worry these will be much shorter and I won't post until I have them ready. I think I have learnt my lessons here.
I have also posted this over at Archive of Our Own where you can download it as a single file in the format of your choice.
I also plan to - at some point - revise and reedit this story just a little to improve some sections, fix up some spelling and grammar errors that have persisted over the years. This may only be published at AoOO due to the logistics but I will provide an update if I do so. Please don't expect this any time soon. It will be something I will need a lot of time to work on.
This story is dedicated to all in the Castle Fan Fiction Community - my fellow authors, and most importantly the readers. Thank you all for making this so enjoyable.