Eight Weeks of the Condor

Kate Beckett trudged up the stairs to the second floor two-bedroom apartment she co-rented with Vikram that she'd found close to the precinct. It wasn't nearly as nice as the one she'd had before, but it didn't need to be. It was a roof over her head while she and Vikram tracked down the person, or persons behind loc-sat, nothing more. She had no desire to develop an attachment to the place.

Her only concession toward comfort had been some of the furniture she'd put into storage when she'd moved into the loft, thankful she hadn't sold the bed or the living room furniture yet. Vikram had had to make a couple trips to goodwill to furnish his own room on the other side of the apartment.

His name was on the lease, as he would be the one living there when this was all over. Until then she kept the door to her bedroom securely locked and a gun under her pillow when she was sleeping. Vikram was a nice guy at all, but she'd caught him staring when she'd taken off her shirt to tend her bullet graze, nor had she missed the appraising looks he'd given her for a few days since then when he thought she wasn't paying attention. If he'd been hoping for another free show, or sample the merchandise for himself, he was sorely mistaken.

Kate wasn't stupid. Vikram had tried being suave once or twice and she'd shut him down, hard. She was doing this to keep her husband safe, not cheat on him or screw up their marriage any more than walking out on him and lying about why had already. The analyst had behaved himself since she'd sat him down and had a little chat about boundaries.

He wasn't the first guy who'd gotten an eyeful of her while undercover and had such ideas since she'd become a cop. Compared to some of the neanderthals she'd worked with in Vice, he was the soul of gentlemanly behavior. She'd only had to make her point once and hadn't even had to threaten to break his legs.

But something was off, there were no lights on in the windows, not even the one in Vikram's room. Kate had sent him home from the precinct hours ago. Even if he'd stopped for a bite to eat, he should have been back long before she arrived. She drew her service piece. then unlocked the door to the apartment and swept inside, leading with her gun.

"Since subtlety didn't seem to work, it seems we need to have another talk." said a familiar voice in the darkened room.

When the desk lamp switched on, it wasn't Vikram sitting where they worked on the Lok-sat case, but Rita, Jackson Hunt's wife sitting in Vikram's ergonomic office chair.

"You can put the gun away, Kate." Rita stated without preamble, "If I was here to kill you, you'd be dead already.

"Where's Vikram?" Kate asked dangerously, lowering her gun but not holstering it.

"He's taking a nap in the trunk of my car," Rita replied. "I did you the courtesy of sweeping the place and found at least ten listening devices scattered throughout this apartment, two of them in your bedroom. What we need to discuss is neither for his ears nor the people he really works for, so put that damned gun away."

Kate re-secured her weapon in her holster and sat across from Rita.

"Exactly what part of 'I have been working on this for a year' was lost on you?" Rita asked.

"What?" Kate asked. She wasn't expecting a pat on the back from Rick's stepmother, but she wasn't expecting to be dressed down either.

"I told you to go back to your husband," Rita hissed, "I honestly thought you were smarter than this, that you could be trusted to keep Richard safe while I eliminated this threat, but I guess I was mistaken. Chasing your demons was more important, regardless of the fact that you have no clue what is actually going on."

"I am keeping him safe!" Kate stammered, "By keeping him out of this!"

"What makes you think he wasn't in the middle of it already?" Rita asked harshly.

"I was keeping him out of it." Kate insisted, rising from her seat at the kitchen breakfast bar, "I walked away from our marriage to keep him from getting involved..."

"... and left him vulnerable to the very people who abducted him before," Rita hissed back, "the target was on his back, not yours!"

"What?" Kate stammered, Rita's comment hit her like she'd been slapped.

"Tell me you both didn't actually believe Jenkins told Richard the truth about the two months he was gone, did you?"

Kate nodded, unable to find her words for the shock of it all.

"The plane referred to in the Loc-sat memo was the one used to smuggle Richard out of the country then back in last year. Loc-sat isn't a person it's an operational "go" order. After this past spring, they think Richard's starting to remember what was erased from his memory, the teams were sent to take him out, not you. You were set up as bait to lure him in, because using Alexis would have drawn Jackson's violent personal attention."

Kate sat in stunned silence for a moment, "But the memo Vikram found, the one tied to Bracken..."

"Vikram has been playing you," Rita shot back. "He's an analyst all right, but he works for the CIA, not the FBI. There was no accidentally declassified file from a search you did two years ago. He only told you that because they knew that would hook you. His assignment has always been to draw you away from Richard, get between you if he could. The poor bastard thinks he's playing Jack Ryan on a covert op, but make no mistake, he is working for them, whether he knows it or not."

Kate opened her mouth, then closed it again. That certainly explained the lame come-ons and why he stopped when it seemed like they weren't working. He was working an angle, trying to keep her off balance.

"Tell me Kate, how do you think an unarmed analyst with no tactical training managed to elude two hit squads of Special Forces trained assassins all the way from DC to New York? That 'Three Days Of The Condor' shit only works in the movies." Rita said forcefully. "And how the hell did you miss that every time you were alone with him, they managed to find you within minutes?"

"But they tortured Rick to find me," Kate stammered.

"They wanted to know how much he knew before they killed him, whether he told anybody. With Martha and Alexis off the table, they needed you for leverage in case they couldn't get him to talk."

"What do I do now?" Kate asked, "I've come too far to back out."

"You go back home, do whatever you have to in order to make up for this abysmal lack of judgment on your part and let me do my damned job. This isn't about you, and it never was, so stay out of it this time, understand? You have one job from here on out, and that is to keep Richard safe, everything else is my problem."

"You aren't even going to try to bring these people in, are you?" Kate asked.

"Did you really think these people were ever going to see the inside of a courtroom?" Rita shot back. "Did you learn nothing from working at the AG's office or that business with Agent Turner? This was always going to end one of two ways, either they take you and Richard out, or I take them out. Jackson and I specialize in wet work. The CIA can't afford to let a national security breach of this magnitude see the light of day so my mission orders are to find them and sanction with extreme prejudice."

Kate sat quietly. Everything Rita told her made sense now that she actually stopped and thought about it. She'd never really stopped to think, or even sleep on it before walking out on Rick. She'd just reacted in the same old way... the one that had never worked for her in the past. It was clear that whomever these people were, like Cole Maddox, they knew exactly how to manipulate her.

"What happens to Vikram?" Kate asked.

"I intend to show him a photo array of what happened to the last people who messed with Jackson's family, "Rita explained," then let him stew in his own juices in a very small room overnight. After he's done wetting his pants, he and I will have a nice long chat. After that, if his orders came through legit channels, he goes back to his analysis desk at Langley with an order to keep his mouth firmly shut, and a nice set of scorch marks on his ass for letting them convince him he was cut out for field work."

Kate sat for a moment, contemplating her options, but Rita broke the silence.

"I suggest you get anything you want to keep out of here within the next forty-eight hours, because the cleaners will leave nothing."

"What do I tell Rick?" Kate asked.

"I know this may sound odd considering my job," Rita stated flatly, "but I suggest you start with the truth, Kate. Richard needs to know how much danger he's really in. An apology would be a good idea, too. He deserved better from you."

Rita got up from her chair and crossed the room, but stopped and turned back when a thought occurred to her.

"And those demons of yours," She said, "I suggest you find a more healthy way to work them out than this, or your marriage will be right back here the next time a case strikes too close to home. My stepson may be a very forgiving man, but even he has his limit, Kate. If you don't think so, just think about Meredith and Gina. He didn't want to divorce either of them, but both managed to push him that one step farther than he was willing to go. Now go home. Figure yourself out on your own time, not mine."

Kate looked down at her feet and when she looked up again, Rita was gone.

She had a lot to think about.

**Author's Note** First and foremost, two people (even if they are of the opposite sex) splitting a two bedroom apartment do not necessarily have to be sleeping together. Rick and Kate had much the same arrangement in "To Love and Die In L.A." and Kate remained faithful to her relationship with Josh, even though she wanted Rick in the worst way and was sorely tempted. She has no such attraction to Vikram.

Second..."Three days of the Condor" is an American political thriller released in 1975 directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford as a CIA analyst who had sent a report on something he discovered at his job up the chain of command, and on the day he was supposed to receive a response, returned from lunch, to find all of his co-workers shot dead. He goes on the run on a crusade to outwit those responsible. (sound familiar?)

Third, I will suffer neither fools nor internet trolls gladly. If any trolls are reading this message, then I would greatly appreciate it if you pathetic, cowardly whiners would kindly grow up, grow a pair and learn how to critique properly if you really wish to be taken seriously. Otherwise I will simply delete your pathetic ramblings for being a waste of my time.

Happy Castle Fanfic Monday.