(Disclaimer: This is fanfiction just for fun. I have no claims.)
Early summer, 2010/Arcadia Maryland.
"Dad, can I drive?"
Rick Castle sighs. One of the things they didn't tell you when you became a father is that your little girl will grow up to be a teenager with a driver's license.
Alexis continues, "Please? You never let me practice in Manhattan, and Arcadia's traffic is a lot lighter, and I know the way back to the hotel, and…"
"Okay? Really? Thanks!" Alexis says with a broad smile as she grabs the car keys from her father's hand. She hurries across the street toward their car.
"Wait until your grandmother and I get there!" Castle calls out with a laugh. As he continues to wait by the stage door for Martha, Castle again wonders if this summer stock tour was a good idea.
Across the street, Alexis is focusing on the route back to the hotel, and dealing with a mild case of nervousness, so she is late in noticing that the driver's side door is blocked by an attractive young woman with brown hair.
"Uh, excuse me…?" Alexis politely begins.
"Is this your car?"
"My Dad's. Is there a problem?" Alexis asks while looking the car over for scratches or dents. Maybe this young woman dinged their car?
"It might be best if you stepped back. The police are already on the way."
"The police?" Alexis asks as she steps back and automatically looks over her shoulder for her father. Thankfully, always alert to any risk to his daughter, Castle is already rushing to the scene…
"Hello, I'm Richard Castle. Is there a reason you're not lettting my daughter into our car?"
"Oh, I know who you are, Mr. Castle. You use to be my Dad's favorite author. My name is Joan Girardi, and a few minutes ago I saw something very odd involving your car. It was so suspicious, I called my Dad."
"Your Dad?" Castle asks while refraining from mentioning that use-to-be remark.
"He's Will Girardi, the chief of police, and he's sending the bomb squad."
"Bomb squad? Alexis, go back to the theater."
"Go now, and keep your grandmother there too."
Alexis nods, tosses the keys to her dad, and runs back to the stage door entrance of the theater.
"Okay, Joan is it? Details."
"I was about a block away when I saw someone fiddling around under the hood of your car."
"There's an alarm."
"And there are ways around them. Anyway, when this person was done, he or she eased the hood back down and then ran away through that alley."
"He or she?"
"I couldn't tell for sure. Let's say 'he' for the sake of easier semantics. He was a little taller than me, I'm five-seven, and he wore sweat pants and a black windbreaker with a raised hood. I only saw him from the back."
"And on the basis of only that, your father is sending the bomb squad? Oh please…" Castle says as he raises the remote starter.
"Nooo!" Joan shouts, tackling Castle just as he presses the button. They slam onto the ground as the bomb destroys the car.
X X X X X
Two hours later, in the office of the chief of police, Will Girardi reviews Castle's written statement while casting an occasional hostile glance at his famous guest.
"So, even though my daughter warned you of the possibility of a bomb, you decided to press the remote starter anway?"
"If my daughter had been killed or seriously injured…"
"I'm really, really sorry. Chief Girardi, I'm a father too, and I know how I would feel if some boob endangered Alexis the way I did Joan. It's just that the situation was so bizarre, I couldn't take it seriously. I mean, who would want to kill me in a small city like Arcadia?"
"That's the key question. According to Captain Montgomery of the N.Y.P.D., you've had an impressive list of assists to their homicide department."
"But all of those people are behind bars."
"It's possible an angry relative or friend could be seeking revenge. We are cross checking to see if any of those relatives or known associates live in the Arcadia area. By the way, Mr. Castle, what brings you and your family to our fair city?"
Castle hesitates, hoping he isn't blushing. "My mother and daughter are appearing in a play I wrote. We're on a tour of the smaller theater cities like Arcadia, Llanview, Port Charles and so on. The premiere performance is a week away."
"I'm familiar with your novels, but I didn't know you were a playwright."
"I'm not. The play is a piece of crap I banged out in only a week back when I was courting my first wife. She's an actress, and her theater group needed a new play. 'The Marston Trial' ran two nights, which is two more than it deserved."
"If the play was so bad, why revive it?"
"My mother and daughter found the play while cleaning out a closet. They fell in love with the piece, and became obsessed with the idea of staging it as sort of a family summer project. I hated the idea, but when those two join forces, they're unstoppable. So, I did my best to rewrite the thing, and to raise it from the level of pure dreck to mere mediocrity."
"Still, the name of Richard Castle will guarantee a large audience."
Castle nods his head. "A name that gets more and more tarnished every year. For instance, Joan mentioned I use to be your favorite author?"
This time Will blushes. "Oh…well, Derek Storm was the best fictional detective I've ever read, and when you killed off that character…"
"It ticked you off so much, you decided not to read any future works of mine. Yeah, I've encountered this a lot. All I can say is that I took Derek Storm as far as I could, and there just wasn't another of his stories in me. Can I persuade you to try 'Heat Wave' with a free, autographed copy?"
Will smiles. "Alright, I'll give your Nikki Heat character a try. Now, back to business. About the security detail for your family…"
X X X X X
The next morning, Joan Girardi is easily passed through police security as she enters the Arcadia Theater. From the back, Joan catches an on-stage rehearsal of The Marston Trial. As the title suggests, it is a court room scene. Joan spots Alexis about halfway down the seating and off to one side. The red-headed teenager follows along with her script. Joan eases into the seat next to Alexis.
"Miss Girardi, how good to see you again. How's the wrist?"
Joan makes a brief, deprecating gesture toward the brace on her left wrist. "This is just for show to evoke sympathy. I only have a minor sprain, and please, none of this 'Miss Girardi' business. You're making me feel old, and I'm only 22."
"Okay…Joan. I wanted to thank you again for saving my dad—well, all of us really. It was such a lucky break you were there yesterday."
"Yeah, lucky." Joan lies. (As a chosen instrument of God, Joan has been carrying out all sorts of odd assignments since she was 16. The divine assignment to watch over the Castle family is the latest.)
They pause for a moment to take in a particularly dramatic moment in the rehearsal.
"So why aren't you on stage?"
"My part is small and I don't appear until the second act, unlike my Gram who plays the judge in all three acts."
"I can't get over how familiar Mrs. Rodgers seems to me." (Footnote.)
"Gram has been a working actress for more than forty years. And even though she has done mostly stage work, she has also been in a few movies and a lot of television."
"That must be it. I know your mother is an actress too, so have you also been bitten by the acting bug?"
"I'm not sure. We haven't even had our first performance yet, but I know this is something I've always wanted to try. Besides, this may be the last summer where we can have a family project like this."
"It sounds like getting ready for college looms next summer."
"Yeah, if I can make the choice as to which school."
"I know this dilemma. Part of you wants to pick a college as far away as possible in order to enjoy true freedom for the first time, and part of you wants to stay close to the love and support of family and home."
"It sounds like a choice you've had to make."
Joan shakes her head. "Not really. My kid brother Luke is a genius who got tons of scholarships, so he was able to go to his dream school. My grades were somewhat…less. To save my parents money, I enrolled in Arcadia College and finished my pre-law degree in three years. I just completed my first year of law school with two more to go! I love my parents, but I am sooo ready to be out on my own."
Alexis smiles as she realizes Joan is half joking. "I guess I'm lucky to have so many options. Oh…excuse me, my part is coming up."
Alexis hurries away, and Joan smiles at the teenager's youth and energy. Wow, she is really feeling old…
"Nonsense Joan, you're little more than a child yourself." a nearby voice says.
Joan is not surprised. You can't even keep your thoughts from God. Joan turns to see which version she is meeting this time. It is a new avatar in the form of a short, elderly janitor.
"Here we go again. Are you here to give another warning of danger?"
"Yes Joan, a call to action."
"And will I get more advanced notice than last time?"
"Sadly, no. Stay alert and use all of your senses."
"That's it? No further details or hints?"
"Lift up thine eyes?" Janitor God says with a smile as he walks away—giving a backhanded wave.
Joan moves closer to the stage, watching Martha Rodgers playing the judge while Alexis is a witness on the stand. She also spots Rick Castle watching the rehearsal from the wings. Joan glances up and notices for the first time how many heavy objects are suspended up there: scene panels, counter weights, lights and sound equipment, etcetera. There are a couple of stage hands working on the catwalks above, and it would be so easy to drop a heavy item on the actors below…
No, that doesn't make sense. Any would-be killer will find himself trapped up there with no escape, but all of that stuff is connected by ropes and pulleys to the backstage area. Joan climbs the steps that lead to the stage level, and drifts backstage. Castle notices, and doesn't think twice about the easy access of this secured area by the police chief's daughter. After all, she is the hero who saved his life… But as Joan wanders about, Castle begins to wonder about her behavior. She appears to be looking for something specific.
A doubt crosses Castle's mind, one that he doesn't like. There were people who created dangerous situations so they could suddenly appear and play the hero. It is a desperate and sick obsession that they can't control. Certainly no one would suspect the police chief's lovely young daughter of such a thing, and so she has full access to anywhere in Arcadia…
Castle begins to follow Joan, who goes to the back wall and begins examining the many ropes that hold up the overhead equipment. A chill runs through Castle as he realizes the risk. Joan pauses, giving a long examination of one particular rope. Castle follows the line of the rope, and sees it leads to a huge lighting fixture of more than a dozen lights just over the stage area. As Joan reaches out for the rope, Castle moves in and grabs her arm.
"What are you doing?"
"Mr. Castle, there's something wrong with this rope."
"And how would you know that?"
"Can't you smell it?"
Castle sniffs the air—acid. Scared, he lets go of Joan and turns toward the stage. Martha and Alexis are just below those lights. Before he can say or do anything, the rope snaps!
TBC. Please review.
Footnote: Actress Susan Sullivan (Martha Rodgers) also appeared as Rich Lady God on Joan of Arcadia.