Title: A Portrait of Death
Summary: Castle/White Collar crossover. Beckett's team catches a murder that leads them into the world of cons and art forgery.
Characters/Pairing: gen, just a simple case-fic here
Warnings: mild violence, mild language (nothing worse than what you would see on either show)
Spoilers: if you know the basic premises for each show, you're good
Author's Note: This was inspired by a prompt over at the prompt party (which can be found here; .). It was supposed to be a little one-shot thing, but some basic Wikipedia research turned into in-depth Wikipedia research and it morphed into this. All the information about the painting is true. And yes, I know that a large study of water lilies is not a portrait. ~All will be explained in time.~
Sorry, no Neal or Peter in this chapter. I swear they will show up soon. :D
Thank you to kesomon and samjohnsson for beta-ing.
Kate Beckett leaned against the wall of the elevator and watched the numbered buttons on the panel light up one at a time as she made her ascent. She let her head fall back, closing her eyes and breathing deep. Those seconds were most likely the last moments of peace she was going to get for the next 48 hours and she was going to savor them.
As the number 7 lit up, the elevator slowed and came to a halt, doors opening onto a tastefully decorated hallway lined with doors. At this time of night almost all of them were shut, the apartments behind them dark. The single opened door more than made up for the inactivity of the others as a parade of various uniforms, CSUs, and other law enforcement personnel came and went. Another night, another murder. Business as usual.
She put on her "in charge" face and strode into the apartment. "What've we got?"
Detective Kevin Ryan was immediately at her side, filling her in. "Vic's name is Samuel Cole. 53, lives alone. Neighbor was coming back from a party at two this morning," Ryan gestured towards a shaken socialite giving her statement to the other detective on their team, Javier Esposito. "She found the door open."
The victim was sprawled on the floor of the living room, blood from a head wound seeping into what Beckett assumed was a very expensive rug. Also soaking the rug was wine from a dropped glass, the accompanying bottle sitting on the nearby coffee table. She hoped Samuel Cole hadn't been toasting to a long life.
Lanie Parish, the medical examiner and her close friend, was hovering over the body. "Cause of death is blunt force trauma from a single blow to the head," she began. "Judging by the liver temp and lividity, time of death is between 10pm and 1am."
Before Beckett could ask any additional questions, a low whistle broke through the quiet hum of work. "Sweet digs." She sighed and turned to face Richard Castle, her tag-along writer. The best-selling mystery author had been her talkative shadow for months. A combination of a friendship with the mayor and him claiming her as his new muse had gotten him a semi-permanent license to follow her and her team around. Sure, sometimes he helped them close cases, but you'd never hear her admitting that to anyone.
He was looking around the apartment, admiring the swanky décor with his usual grin plastered on his face. She took a moment to study it as well. Artfully restored antique furniture, bookshelves teeming with books on all subjects (most of them appeared to be about art history) - combined with Cole's expertly tailored suit, everything pointed to wealthy and well educated. Several pieces of art were displayed on the walls, each with a small light above it to provide a spotlight – a private gallery.
"Castle," she snapped. "Get out of the doorway." Chastened, he moved into the apartment and next to the body.
"So which piece of art is missing?" he asked, practically bouncing with excitement. "I love a good art theft. The elegance and beauty of good art mixed with the dark underbelly of the black market –"
Beckett cut him off before he could weave one of his tales. "There were no signs of robbery; this was personal. Ryan, where are we on the murder weapon?"
Ryan sighed. "We've got nothing. Nothing that could have been used to bash our guy's brains in tests positive for blood. My guess is that our dirtbag took the weapon with him and ditched it somewhere else."
At that moment, Esposito wrapped his interview. "The neighbor says that our vic was pretty social. Everybody on the floor loved him. Said he didn't have any outside visitors, though."
"Except for tonight," Castle added. "We should start by finding out who his lady friend was."
At the team's questioning looks, he gestured to the wine bottle. "You don't open a bottle that nice for a casual acquaintance."
"But there's only one glass," Esposito pointed out.
"Excuse me," Castle said, raising his voice to catch the attention of the surrounding CSU techs. "Have any of you found a second wine glass?"
There was a beat of silence, then a tech across the room raised his hand. He was standing next to one of the thicker, sturdier bookcases. Sure enough, an empty wine glass lay next to the base. Beckett mused that it must have been knocked over in the attack and rolled over the hardwood floors to its current location. She crouched down to study it. There were no traces of liquid in the glass, so the attacker hadn't drunk any wine. It was unlikely that they'd find any prints or DNA. She motioned for the tech to bag and tag it anyway.
As she went to stand, she braced her hand on the side of the bookcase. It was only due to her quick reflexes that she didn't lose her balance and fall over when the section her hand was pressed against gave in. She pulled her hand back and a large panel slid out. What was tucked inside the panel left her speechless.
Staring them in the face was a large oil painting, depicting a bridge crossing over a pond of water lilies, in the unmistakable style of Claude Monet.
Behind her, Castle's eyes were as wide as saucers, his expression hovering between awe and unabashed glee. "Gentlemen – and ladies – I think we just found our motive."