Dead Double Trouble
He'd gone completely still as soon as Lanie turned over the body. Castle going still was impossible not to notice. She, of course, had years of cop training and so her own reaction was hidden. Almost. She'd grabbed his forearm, as if to keep him from moving. Only Castle wasn't - and still isn't - moving.
His whisper is hoarse. Beckett swallows, her own throat dry. She knows better than to look at him. Seeing his shock will trigger her own into visibility.
The girl was maybe nineteen. Large hazel eyes, lifeless, stare ahead in a permanent state of surprise. Her thick brown hair drapes past her shoulders, brushing the curves of her breasts - and the massive blood-stain that discolors the purple blazed "NYU" written across her white vee-neck tee-shirt. Jean-clad legs, long and lean, end in three inch heeled sandals and red painted toes.
She's Kate at nineteen.
The memories flash quickly for Kate. It would have been easy - at nineteen - for her to have ended up dead in Central Park. Easy, with her late night hours and risky ways. True, she'd never brought strangers home, but she'd gone with near strangers: a date or two, and a heavy petting session would be enough to convince her the guy was, "alright."
Lanie voice brought her back to the present. She avoided Lanie's eyes, not wanting to deal with her knowing concern.
"I'd say no older than twenty."
"Any sign of sexual assault'
"Preliminary examination appears to be...no."
Beckett looks sharply at Lanie. They'd already ruled out robbery. The girl's backpack had contained her laptop and a wallet with forty bucks and two credit cards.
Lanie's voice is oddly quiet.
"No. There is no sign of sexual contact. Ever.
It was Ryan who caught it first.
"She's a virgin?"
The words sink in to all of them, and rightly or not, the wrongness of the girl's death increases for Beckett. This was a girl who was playing by the rules, this was a girl who - "
"So this is possibly a hate crime."
All eyes shifted to the giant goof-ball writer.
Beckett's voice is flat, almost neutral in her question. Only the flash in her eyes give away her annoyance at having to deal with his antics.
"How you figure that, Castle?"
Esposito's sincere follow-up question surprises her - as does Castle's straightforward answer.
"She's 20, not dressed like any conservative religious sect, gorgeous,no sexual assault, no previous sexual activity."
Esposito's eyes light up with understanding. Ryan is still puzzled.
"And...I don't -"
Kate rolls her eyes.
" - He's trying to say she could be a lesbian, Ryan."
She sighs. Only Castle would go there so quickly. Yet...
"...and he may have a point."
"Or maybe she's just a good Catholic girl. Come on, Castle, you have a -"
"Shut up, Ryan."
As the word Ryan is coming out of her mouth, the echo of her and Castle's simultaneous reaction startles them both into looking at each other. For a moment, his gratitude and amusement hold back the darkness...but only for a moment. Kate watches his eyes flash: anger, sadness, fear. She wants shoot Ryan for even bringing the idea of Alexis to the scene. Alexis is an extraordinary young woman.
When Kate first met her she'd been a wise 14 year old, and Kate wondered what vices the girl had hidden. Over time she'd seen them, though not what she'd expected. Kate herself had hated rules at Alexis' age. Alexis saw them for what they were: things to keep her safe. Perhaps, because of her parents, and her grandmother's, outside antics she'd learned playing by the rules was the better way to go. It could also be because she had a dad who played laser tag and watched movies with her at two am. Castle held so few conventions that maybe it made it easier for Alexis to follow the ones he did. At any rate, Kate saw how hard Alexis was on herself for any slight infraction she might make. It seemed ironic that with Castle as a dad Alexis feared making mistakes. It's not like Castle lacked in understanding. It was one of the first things she'd noticed about him, the first thing that started erasing the playboy image tattooed in her mind by the media.
The moment flashes quickly, but it is definitely a moment because when her awareness of the present comes back she has to break her gaze from Castle's. She glances around in time to see Ryan looking at the floor as Esposito smacks him in the back of the head. She catches Lanie looking at her and Castle with her hidden, "when are you two gonna sleep together" smirk.
It's Castle that breaks the silence. He comes back from where ever he'd gone in his mind, and with a sad smile looks down at the girl's body.
"She's some-one's daughter. The rest - 'good girl - bad girl' monikers - they don't raise or lower the bar on deserving to be killed. Nothing does."
Beckett is lost in his eyes again. Every day. Every day he says or does something that just floors her, that reminds her that there is so much more than her sugar-rush kid sidekick. Everyday, the soul of Rick Castle, the man, shines forth to dazzle her and she, like Lanie, wonders why she hasn't already given in completely.
"We will find who killed her, Castle."
Quickly, before her entire cop persona dissolves, she looks away and steps towards Esposito,a plan of action already forming in her mind.
"I know you will."
Kate smiles at his reply, but doesn't turn around.
"What, my partner's bailing on me?"
Castle quickly shuffles over, "No, never. I just meant -"
" - I know what you meant. But we're a team, Castle. "
She lets her eyes sweep over him, then over Esposito and Ryan.
Ryan and Esposito look at each other and look back at Beckett with similar grins, "Yes, boss."
Beckett rolls her eyes, "Fine, go canvas the area. See if anyone was around the last couple of hours who might have seen anything."
"You got it."
"Gonna run a tox screen back at the lab."
Lanie zips the body body shut, stands and leaves with the EMT guys.
Beckett watches them all go before looking back at Castle, this time holding her gaze firmly on him.
"That was a good call about a possible hate crime. It hadn't even crossed my mind."
"It would have. You're the best."
Beckett sighs. He isn't making this easy for her, but she wants him to get it. He needs to know that she knows the truth - and that she's okay with it.
"Maybe I am, Castle, but...I'm still better with you. We
solve cases. Okay?"
A tiny smile appears on Castle's lips and she can feel a blush rising on her checks as his eyes seem to caress her face.
"Always?" The word slips out unintentionally. Rick's eyes widen and then soften. She could drown in the blue of his eyes and not care...
"Always, Beckett. For as long as you'll have me."
She nods and smiles, "Always it is, then."
"Hey Beckett, I think we -"
Ryan stops short as he catches the look on Beckett and Castle's faces.
She grins at his confusion and wonders if that office pool about her and Castle is still active. Maybe it's time that someone finally win the damn thing...She lets her eyes go back to Castle's, just for a moment, and smiles that tiny smile that puts the the Mona Lisa to shame. Then, quick as a light switch, Detective Beckett is back.
"Whatcha got, Ryan?"