The Wizard and the Writer
A Castle/Dresden Files Crossover
The Diodati was far too expensive for its corridors to be so dimly lit.
John Aubrey staggered along, the drinks he had had earlier that evening conspiring with the poor lighting to steal his feet from under him. He paused for a moment, leaning up against the wall and closing his eyes. Hell of a day. He just wanted to get back to his bed and rest. Maybe some painkillers for the throbbing in his head – surely he hadn't drunk that much?
It took him a couple of tries to get his card into the lock on his bedroom door, but eventually the thing beeped, and he went inside. He jabbed at the light switch. Nothing happened.
He twitched. Was that… "Hey. Is there someone – "
Richard Castle hopped out of the cab a block away from the crime scene, and set off sauntering down the block with a smile on his face and a spring in his step. Today's murder had hit the sweet spot of arriving early enough not to throw off his writing for the day while late enough that it hadn't thrown off an enjoyably lazy morning either. He loved working the cases, but he sometimes hated the hours.
He strolled through the doors of the Diodati, pausing only to give a jaunty wave to LT, who nodded him through. The uniformed cop was looking a little harassed by the crowd of people around him, and Castle didn't envy him that particular duty. Once in the lobby, Castle made a beeline for the Diodati's café, before making his way up to the fourth floor. The room was easy to spot; crime scene tape didn't exactly blend in with the hotel's tasteful décor.
"Detective Beckett, good morning!"
She turned away from her conversation with Lanie, and shot him the smile that was better than any coffee he'd ever had.
"Hey, Castle. What took you so long?"
"I couldn't show up without bringing you your morning coffee, Detective."
She took the cup from him and sipped it, surprise crossing her face.
"Wow. That's really good. You go to a different place?"
"Downstairs. I haven't had a chance to try it since the new management took over, so I'm grateful really."
"Yeah, very considerate of our victim to give you the opportunity," she said with a pointed smile.
"You know me, Beckett, always trying to find the positives. So, what have we got?"
"You might want to finish your coffee before you take a look…"
He followed her into the room. The Diodati wasn't a five star hotel, at least not yet, but it was certainly aiming to be so, and the rooms reflected that ambition. Castle took a moment to admire the luxurious setting before focusing on the centrepiece.
"I…probably shouldn't have had bacon for breakfast."
The body was easily amongst the worst he had seen in his time working with the squad, more a mess of tattered flesh than anything recognisable as human. Their victim was sprawled on the floor of the living room of the suite, in the middle of a pool of blood. His eyes were still open, and an expression of terror still etched onto his face. Castle shuddered.
"Yeah, it's a nasty one," Beckett said. Her tone belied her words; anyone watching her would have thought the sight hadn't affected her at all. Castle knew better though. He also knew that she wouldn't let anything through until she was back at the precinct, in front of the board. "Cause of death is…pretty obvious, but Lanie's still going to do a full examination. He was found by the maid when she came round to do the turn down. She's being treated for shock before we can take a statement."
"Time of death?"
"He got back here around eleven last night, then hit the bar for a nightcap. Left around midnight, no-one saw him after. Lanie's putting it not long after that though."
"He must have gone somewhere else before he was killed," Castle said.
"How do you figure that?"
"Look at him. The only possible explanation for that kind of injury is a bear attack, and I doubt that would have gone unnoticed even at the most discreet hotel. So, someone lured him out to the woods, set a bear on him, then brought the body back."
"That's a pretty neat theory, Castle," Beckett said.
"Yeah. Apart from the fact that we know he died less than an hour after he was seen in the hotel bar, which kinda limits the potential bear attack locations."
"Could have been a tiger cub," Castle suggested. "Small enough to fit into a bag and smuggle out, but still dangerous enough to do this."
Beckett sighed. "Let's not put that forward to Gates."
The mere mention of the Captain was enough to sour Castle's mood, but he put a brave face on it. "I don't know. This might be the one to win her over."
"I doubt it, Castle," Beckett said. "Come on. Ryan and Esposito are talking to the staff. Let's see what they found out."
Castle followed her out of the room, casting a last look at the body. All joking aside, while he'd seen bodies in worse condition due to things like time, he didn't think he'd ever seen someone killed with such brutality. If he put this one in a Nikki Heat book, his publishers would have kittens. He caught up with Beckett at the elevator, and they made their way back down to the lobby. Ryan and Esposito were interviewing in the offices at the back, a long line of maids, waiters and office staff waiting outside for their turn.
"Hey guys," Ryan called, standing up from the waiter he was talking to. "Any more from upstairs?"
"Castle thinks it was a bear attack."
"I can see that, actually," Ryan said, nodding along.
Beckett chose to ignore that. "Have you turned anything up down here?"
"Victim's name is John Aubrey. From out of town, obviously, apparently here on a business trip. Paid with a company credit card, we're running them down. Married to Lucy, we've got people contacting her – Aubrey was in from Chicago."
"Might want to have her identify the body from photos," Castle suggested.
"That's a really useful suggestion, man, thanks," Ryan shot back. "Staff have confirmed that Aubrey was something of a regular – they'd see him every couple of months, at least. He went out last night, no-one knows where, but he was back here by about eleven. After that – "
"Yeah. Couple of drinks at the bar, then – presumably – back to his room. At which point…"
"He gets torn apart," Castle finished. "If he was here every couple of months, that seems a bit unusual for a work schedule – it's too often for conferences and not often enough for office work. Did he have any family here?"
"Not that we know of, but we're still running that down. We do know that he paid on a company card every time he was here."
"Doesn't mean they were legitimate expenses."
"Sad how quickly working with us has turned you cynical," Ryan said. "Or is that the voice of experience talking?"
"Castle's never worked an honest job in his life," Beckett slipped in before Castle could respond. She ignored his protesting look. "Anything on CCTV?"
"We've shipped the tapes back to the precinct for analysis."
"Ok. Castle and I'll head back there and see if anything's turned up yet, and see if any headway's been made with the family. You and Espo finish up here?"
Ryan nodded his assent, turning back to the staff members still waiting for interview.
Back at the precinct, Castle sat back with a cappuccino while Beckett put together the new murder board. For all that he enjoyed working the cases, he had definite mixed feelings about this ritual. By necessity, it came out of tragedy, but was also the first step towards healing for the relatives and friends. From a certain point of view, he supposed that made Beckett as much a doctor as a detective.
There wasn't yet much to put on there. Two photos of Aubrey, from his driving licence and from the crime scene, fortunately only from the neck up. The beginnings of a timeline, and little else. Beckett capped the marker, and stepped back with a sigh, hands on hips. Castle allowed his eyes to wander a little before she took her seat at her desk.
"So. Any theories yet?"
"Well, discarding your bear idea…you were right about the regularity of his visits. That's definitely a little unusual – although he might simply have stayed at different hotels."
"Maybe," Castle said with a nod. "The Diodati's definitely improved since I was last there."
"How come you know so much about it? You've lived in New York forever, you can't need a hotel that often."
Castle shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Meredith likes it. Well, I assume she still does."
"Meredith?" Beckett cocked her head, then smirked. "Oh, I get it. Good place for a Twinkie binge, huh, Castle?"
"It certainly used to be," he admitted. "I'm trying for a healthier diet these days."
"Are there any ex-wives you haven't hooked up with after the divorce?"
"You make that sound like there's a legion of them!" Castle protested. "There's only two."
"But you have slept with both of them since."
"In fairness, Gina and I were making another go at it," Castle pointed out. Beckett's face went blank, and she swivelled to face the board once more. Castle winced. He couldn't blame her, he didn't much like to dwell on that debacle himself. He cleared his throat. "Anything from the CCTV yet?"
"Nothing much. It doesn't cover every corridor, but we've got Aubrey getting to his floor a little after midnight. Nobody comes or goes after that until around eight, when people start going down for breakfast."
"So…how did the killer get in or out? What other exits are there?"
"There's the stairs, but they're covered by cameras too. Other than that, there's the windows."
"Or they just have a room of their own."
"We've got uniforms canvassing the other guests on the floor," Beckett said. "I'm not sure that'll pan out though."
"The state of his corpse," she said, looking at him expectantly. He thought for a moment, then nodded.
"His killer was frenzied – that suggests that it wasn't premeditated. If the killer booked their own room, they'd probably have been calm enough to finish him off cleanly."
"Exactly," Beckett nodded.
"Could be a bluff."
"Let's rule out the basics before we leap to the crazy."
"I've taught you so little."
Beckett's reply was cut off by the arrival of Ryan and Esposito, the two detectives sinking into their chairs with weary sighs.
"Anything from the staff?" Beckett asked.
Esposito shook his head. "Nothing much. Man, you'd think they'd want us to find out who's whacking their guests. Maybe he wasn't a big tipper."
"More like they've had their sense of initiative surgically removed," Ryan said. "They answered all our questions, but they didn't volunteer anything."
"Looks like they've kept the old sense of discretion, Castle," Beckett teased, grinning at him. He ignored her, and Ryan and Esposito's questioning looks.
"What about work and family? Any luck there?" Ryan asked, seeing that they weren't going to get an explanation.
"Mrs Aubrey's been contacted," Beckett said. "She's going to fly in, so we'll question her more when she arrives, but she did confirm that he was in town on business. Still trying to get hold of someone actually at his job – which was HR for Chicago Investment. It's a financial advisors. It's a local company, obviously, but apparently they've got links with similar firms in the city here, hence the trip."
Beckett was cut off by the phone on her desk, and Castle took over as she answered.
"CCTV hasn't shown us anything – at the moment, we're assuming the killer either left through a window or was actually staying in the hotel, presumably on the same floor."
Ryan nodded. "Staff did confirm that Aubrey's door only registered keycard use once all night, just after Aubrey left the bar. It wouldn't register the door being opened from the inside, though, so it doesn't mean he didn't let anyone in, or that nobody let themselves out after killing him."
"Ok, thank you." Beckett put the phone down and looked at her team, a tell-tale gleam in her eyes. "That was Aubrey's boss – he didn't know anything about a business trip. Aubrey had this week booked as leave."
"Ooh, lying to the wife. That's a juicy motive right there," Esposito said, sitting up straighter."
"Definitely. Get me some background on the wife; Ryan, look into Aubrey's phone records, see if he was in contact with anyone in the city. Check financials, too – not just personal, look at the company card."
"What about me?" Castle asked.
"We're going to look a little closer at the CCTV from outside the Diodati, see if we can figure out a possible entry or exit for the killer."
"You do realise we're looking at a classic locked room murder mystery," Castle said as he stood up. "I should grow a moustache…"
"I think your little grey cells are probably a bit too small by Poirot's standards," Beckett replied.
"Careful. I'll start writing Nikki Heat more like Miss Marple."
"Great. Then I won't have to suffer through the cheesy sex scenes."
"Oh, I don't know…ow!"