By Lorraine Anderson
"Castle," Beckett said, "I know you believe in Bigfoot, but I can't believe you just said that."
Castle turned around and looked back. "You didn't see that? I know what I saw. I saw this man on the street who looked like he was in pain. He pulled up his trousers – and the leg was wooden."
Beckett sighed. "A lot of people have prosthetic legs." She walked on. "In the meantime, we have a body waiting."
"I'm telling you, that man had a wooden leg!" Castle looked astounded.
"Named Smith?" Ryan grinned. "What was the name of his other leg?"
"Ha, ha." He blinked. "A Mary Poppins reference?"
He shrugged. "I couldn't sleep the other night."
"Anyway," he continued, "the man was wearing gloves, a long sleeve shirt, and a turtleneck."
Beckett frowned. "It's been cold. It's not that unusual." She turned back to the evidence board. "A man with a wooden leg is unusual. Most prosthetics are metal and plastic, I believe."
Castle shook his head. "This didn't look like that. It looked – like a puppet's leg." He wrinkled his forehead. "And I think he had blood on his slacks. And," he added, "he was heading away from the scene."
Beckett rolled her eyes. "Why didn't you say that in the first place?" She motioned to Esposito and Ryan. "Go with Castle to try to find the witness. I'll go to the scene."
"Shouldn't be that hard," Castle said. "He didn't look like he was walking that fast." They reversed course.
"He went that way," Castle said. "He was wearing…" He spotted a turtle-necked man across the street. "There he is."
Castle crossed the street right there, causing drivers to swear at him. He got to the other side of the street right behind the man. "Hey, you."
The man turned towards him with a panicked look on his face, then started running. He was stopped by Esposito, who had appeared before him. "So," Ryan said. "Where do you think you're going?"
"You don't understand," the man said. "I can't stay. I need to get out of New York City."
"That's what they all say," Esposito said, his face hard. "Castle, are you sure he's a witness?" His face seemed to say that he thought he was the perp.
"You're a witness," Castle said.
The man blinked. "I didn't see anything."
"Then why do you have blood all over your slacks?" Castle said.
The man looked down. "I… tried to help the victim. When I saw that he was already dead, I called 911 and alerted the police to the body. But I didn't want to get involved."
"Dude," Esposito said. "You became involved when you called 911. The uniforms arrived before we did. Why did you wait around until we showed up?"
"I wanted to make sure nobody disturbed him."
"Why?" Castle said. "He was a stranger."
The man set his mouth. "I thought I knew him." He shrugged. "I was mistaken."
"Dude," Esposito said. "We're going to take a ride downtown."
"By the way," Castle said. "Do you have a wooden leg?"
The man looked surprised. Esposito, keeping a gun on him, pulled his trousers leg up.
Castle stared at it. He wasn't mistaken. That was a wooden leg. It looked just like a puppet's leg.
Esposito looked at Castle. "Looks like a normal leg to me."
Castle's eyes widened. "Are you kidding? Are we looking at the same leg?"
The man's jaw dropped, then he looked speculatively at Castle. "Do I know you?"
Castle looked him in the eye. "No. I don't think so."
"I've changed my mind," the man said. "I'd like to be a witness."
"Dude," Esposito said. "You don't have a choice." He hustled him off to a waiting car.
Castle looked at the man, who glanced back, interested. What was going on here? He walked on to the murder scene. Ryan walked back with him.
Lani was already down by the body. "I guess we know what killed him, she said."
"Yeah," Beckett said ironically. "I think the hole in the head is a big clue."
Castle looked closely and grimaced. The man was tall and thin, with bright red hair, where it wasn't discolored with blood. A cheroot laid next to his hand.
Ryan was poking around the alley. "And, unless I'm mistaken, here's the murder weapon." He picked up a gun gingerly in his gloved hand.
"Bag it, and we'll look for prints," Beckett said. Beckett said. "Lani, you see a wallet?"
"Yep." She pulled it out and handed it to Beckett. She opened it. Castle, looking over her shoulder, whistled. "That's a lot of hundreds."
"And I see why he had those hundreds," Lani said. She pulled out bags of cocaine. "Looks like a dealer."
Beckett frowned. "Probably a drug deal gone bad." She pulled out a New York State ID. "Guess he didn't drive." She studied it. "Romeo Lammon Wickford."
Castle looked at the body again, reflectively. A man who looked like he had a puppet's leg, and a bad man with bright red head, smoking a stogy. "Can I see his back?"
Beckett made a face at him. "Why?"
"I thought I saw something," he lied.
Lani pulled the man's shirt up, then whistled. "Wow." Covering the man's back were a criss-cross of scars. "They look like whip marks."
"This man was tortured, at some point." Beckett sighed. "But, unfortunately, that has nothing to do with this case."
Castle stared. Romeo Lammon Wickford. Sounded a little like Lampwick. Like Lampwick, the bad boy from Pinocchio.
This was a little far out, even for him.
"So, Mr. Booth," Beckett said. "Now you're claiming you know the victim."
"Call me August," the man said. "And no, I didn't know the victim. I did know somebody who, I think, knew the victim."
Beckett sighed. "Can you tell us his name?"
"I… would rather not," August said.
"Well," Beckett said, "you either give us his name, or we keep you in jail as a person of interest."
August chewed his lip. "Will you promise not to let him know that I told you?"
"Why?" Castle said. "Are you afraid he'll set termites on you?"
Beckett gave Castle an odd look. "Excuse my colleague's sense of humor," she said.
"No, I'm not afraid of repercussions from him. I just know that he has had past dealings with the police. But he's straight now, and I don't want to cause him trouble." He shook his head. "I'm sure he'll cooperate."
"We'll determine that. What's his name?"
"Alexander Mitchell," the man said with a grimace. "He works in a tobacco store downtown."
"And how do you know Mr. Mitchell?"
"I was crashing with him while I was going through New York. We came from the same village. I found him after I ran away from the orphanage."
Castle looked at him. "Your parents were dead?"
The man looked at him steadily. "I was separated from my father, and there was no way to get back to him."
August glanced at Beckett. "Dude. Do you have a Pinocchio complex?"
"Not usually," Beckett said. She glared at him. "But he does have an odd sense of humor."
"I do request that you stay in New York until we can clear you."
"I don't have a place to stay unless I stay with Alexander. If you pick him up," he sighed. "I'm not sure I'll be welcome back in his apartment.
"You'll have to find someplace," Beckett said. "You have any other friends around here?"
He sighed. "I do have another person I can try to find."
"And what's his name?" Beckett started to make notes.
"Neal Cassidy," he sighed. "But I'm not sure where he lives."
Castle watched him as he gave Beckett the details. He could tell that August really didn't want to call Neal Cassidy.
"Do you have a cell phone?" he suddenly said.
"I have the number," Beckett said, looking at him oddly. "Why?"
"Oh, just a question."
"Can I go?" August said. He looked down at his coveralls. "Will I get my clothing back?"
"I'm sorry," Beckett said. "They're evidence." She sighed. "But yes, you can go."
He got up and started to walk down the hall.
Castle turned to Beckett. "I have to go, too."
"Yeah?" Beckett said.
"I need… to take some food to Alexis." He grimaced, got up, and rushed after August, catching up with him as he reached the elevator. He then tried to look nonchalant as they boarded the elevator together.
"Yeah?" August said.
"Look," Castle said. "I know what I saw. How is that possible?"
The other man sighed. "Look, all I'm trying to do is get back to Maine."
Castle blinked. "Maine?"
"Storybrooke, Maine." He looked at Castle with an odd expression.
"Never heard of it."
The man's face turned expressionless. "I'd be surprised if you did."
"How are you going to get there?"
"I had planned on hitch-hiking."
"Do you have a better idea?"
Castle glanced at him, then looked away. "Look," he said. "I'm a mystery writer."
The man wrinkled his face as the door opened. "Working with NYPD?"
"You… pose a mystery to me, and I need to solve it. I want to make a proposition to you."
"I'll pay for a room and board," he said lowly. "You answer my questions, and then I'll drive you to Maine."
The man snorted. "I don't think your lady up there would be too happy with that."
Castle looked up. Forgive me, Beckett, he thought to her. "We don't tell her."
"That's not exactly – truthful. Jiminy Cricket, you ain't."
"But I like to think I'm on the side of good."
The man shrugged. "I guess I can stay a couple of days."
"Okay," Castle said. "Let's find you a place to stay." He pulled out his cell phone. "David!" he said into the phone. "Castle. Yeah, good to hear from you, too. Hey, you got an empty apartment right now? Yeah? Furnished? Good. I'm going to bring a friend over – he needs a place to stay for a couple of days. No, I can't keep him at my apartment, it's a friend my mother doesn't approve of. Yeah, I know that's a short list. You know my mother. Thanks."
August was staring at him. "You can find an apartment just like that in New York City?"
Castle shrugged. "I own the building."
August's eyes went wide. "Ah." He didn't say another word, but kept glancing at him as they took a cab to the building.
Castle got the key from the apartment manager and led the man up to the room. He closed the door. "Okay, I want to hear your story."
The man's face closed. "Sounds to me like you know it."
"So – I would like to know how you can see my leg when no one else has a clue."
Castle shrugged. "I have no clue."
"You're sure you're not from Storybrooke?"
"No, I have my birth certificate, and I wasn't born anywhere near Maine." He smiled. "Maybe because I've always believed in fairy tales?"
"Not quite as fun to live them." August said. With a few words, he told Castle his story, leaving out a few details, like how he left the Dragon, dead on the floor.
"So, you believe that Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter, who you abandoned as a baby, may be about ready to lift the curse over Storybrooke." He leaned on his hands.
"And that," August said, "is why I'm turning back into wood." He sighed. "I haven't exactly been brave, trustworthy, and true."
Castle was about to say "cool!", then he caught the look on August's face. "So – why did you stop to try to help the victim?"
"I thought I knew him. But it's been so long, and he was a child, as was I…"
"Really? Who did you think it was?"
"I know," August said, his blue eyes looking into Castle's sincerely, "that the victim was Lampwick."
"I was right." Castle closed his mouth. "But I thought… Lampwick had been changed into a donkey?"
"Well," August said. "Yes. I'm not sure how he ended up in New York, but he was always an ass. I'm not sure how the curse would have affected somebody like him."
Castle's phone rang. He looked at it. It was Beckett.
"Castle, where are you?"
"I told you. At the grocery store."
"Really? For eight hours?"
Castle ignored the comment, but looked at his watch. "You find anything more about the victim?"
"He was was a local drug dealer and was a pimp on the side." She hesitated. "Not a nice person. The print was from another local drug dealer. We're pulling him in, now."
"So. Our mystery was no mystery, after all."
"I'm afraid not. Except for who whipped Romeo." She sounded curious. "Do you suppose Mr. Booth has anything to do with it?"
"I would doubt it," Castle said, looking at August.
"Those whip marks were decades old. What was curious was that instead of going from side to side, it appeared that he was lying down and the whip was applied from his rear."
"Like a donkey being whipped?"
August's face closed up. He looked out the window.
"Excuse me?" Beckett said.
"So you can tell your guest that he can wherever he needs to go."
"I don't know what you're…"
"Castle, I saw you get in a cab with him. Can I talk to him?"
"Okay." He handed the phone to August. "Yes, Detective Beckett. No, I'd rather not have the clothing back. Thank you…. No, he's not bothering me at all. Do you need to talk to Mr. Castle?"
He handed the phone back without a word.
"Castle," Beckett said, "you're off the hook, but you could have been in deep trouble for interfering with a witness."
"Just don't do it again."
A small silence. "I hope you're finding out what you need to know."
"Oh, yes. Castle said. "I am. Goodbye."
The two stared at each other. "I guess," August said. "That I'm free to go."
"I guess that was Lampwick," Castle said. "Do you need to see him again?"
"No," August said decisively. "I just wish… I wish he could have learned better."
They sat reflecting for a second. "Look," Castle said. "I'd like to drive you up to Maine."
August stared at him. "I can't allow you to go into Storybrooke."
Castle chewed his lip. "I think I understand. It sounds like a dangerous place. I can't do that to Mother or Alexis. But I would like to find out what you know. For example, what is Snow White really like?"
August smiled. "Ever hear of an iron angel?"
August stopped Castle on a small highway. "You had better stop here. I'll walk from here."
"Yeah? You're sure?"
"I don't want to risk you in Storybrooke."
"I wish I could go. Even if it's dangerous, it does sound like…"
"No, August said. "It's not fun." He opened the car door. "Thank you." He got out, then leaned back in. "I don't know if I'll ever see you again."
"If you do, look me up."
"I will," he smiled.
"Good luck," Castle said. "And try to do good, huh?"
He smiled sadly. "I'll try the best I can."
A couple of years later, Castle was signing books, when he looked up and saw an elderly man and a young boy smiling at him. The old man handed him a book. "This is August," he said with an accent. "He's a fan of yours, apparently, although," the man shrugged, "I have no idea where he read your books."
Castle looked at the blonde boy closely. "Is your name August Booth?"
The boy smiled sunnily. "Yes, it is. How did you know that?"
He looked up at the old man. "I believe I've met him before – a few years ago. Are you from Storybrooke?"
"Ah. Yes, we are." The old man looked at him knowingly. "You were acquainted with…"
"I once drove… a man with August's name from New York to Storybrooke." He hesitated. "I'm surprised to see you out of town."
"Long story." The man smiled. "Thank you. You helped give him a second chance."
"I'm glad." He hesitated. "How are things in Storybrooke? The elder August told me a few things."
"Really." He hesitated. "They are… getting much better."
"I'd like to visit someday."
"If you can find us," the man said, "I'll make sure that you're welcome."
"Thank you." Castle signed the book. "The book is on me." He gave the book to the young August. "Always try to do right, young man."
"I'll try," August said. "Thank you, Mr. Castle."
"You're very welcome."
Beckett walked in the story, looking at the old man and the boy as they walked out. Then she looked at Castle, who was looking at them fondly. "That fan is a little young, don't you think?"
Castle smiled. "Not really. Have I got a story for you..."