Wrecking Ball

Every time she looked at him like that, he thought - Man up.

He had to prove himself to her; not because she might think he couldn't handle it, but because he was a man, and regardless of these post-feminist times, she would see him differently if he wimped out. He'd lose standing in her eyes if he couldn't be counted on under pressure.

Also. Something about the shock on her face, the ripple of Oh God made his gut clench in a prehistoric way, made him want to protect her.

Save her life.

Just how it worked with him. When it came to her.

Standing across the white quarantine space from her, deja vu so strong that he couldn't separate the Beckett from two years ago with the Beckett of now, Castle stared back, swallowed hard, and-

Manned up.

8 hours ago

Beckett laced her fingers together, elbows propped on her desk, and tilted her head at him, the smile stretching across her face, unable to stop it. Castle, overeager and theory-spouting, waved his arms and turned his happy face on her. She loved that face.

"Okay, so there's the horse-"

"The horse?"

"It's dead! Just like our victim. In fact, the horse *is* a victim."

"Castle, it's a horse," she said, lips pressed together but still unable to keep the smile back. "A dead horse isn't a victim. And just died. It wasn't. . .murdered."

"Could have been. And how strange is it that the day after we find this guy, someone else finds the dead horse? Both in Central Park? The horse that went missing on the same day this guy was killed?"

"I think the dead horse is a coincidence."

"No way."

She lifted her eyebrow, and he toned it down a little, but apparently he couldn't stop the bounce. She watched him for a moment, then gave him a break.

"So tell me why it's not a coincidence," she sighed, putting her hands down and standing up to join him at the murder board.

"Because he took the horse out that day."

"You don't know that."

He made a face, nose wrinkling, and turned back to the timeline, tapping the dry erase marker against the whiteboard. "Okay, I don't know-know that. But he's got the time for it, right?"

"He does," she said slowly, nodding her head. From three p.m. until five p.m. - his time of death. Or roughly around five. Lanie hadn't been able to narrow it down much further than that.

"He goes horseback riding, he stumbles - or rather trots - upon something. Something sinister. He's killed to keep him silence."

"And so was the horse? It's not Mr. Ed." She crossed her arms over her chest, stepped closer to the board, studying it even as she verbally refuted his theory. The North Meadow Recreation Center boarded horses and rented them out to Central Park visitors for riding along a six mile bridle path.

"He was found about two hundred yards away from the bridle path," she murmured, trailing her finger over the map. "But it's not his horse. He didn't own it."

"Doesn't mean he didn't ride it."

She twisted her lips, thinking, put her hands on her hips and turned back to him. "Okay. It's a possibility."

He grinned, leaning past her to grab her jacket, holding it up. "Let's go check out the stables again, Beckett. You ever ride bareback?"

She really shouldn't laugh at that.

5 hours ago

"You want me to what?"

Even Castle could hear Lanie's screech on the other end of Beckett's cell phone. He bounced on his toes and glanced around the park, watching people, pretending he wasn't listening eagerly to the conversation. They'd just talked to a couple people from the stables; one recognized their vic from his photo. His theory had been given some substance.

"It's. . .it might be part of the case, Lanie."

Beckett winced and Castle grinned wider; he could just imagine how the rest of this conversation was going. Lanie was getting hot and bothered about how she wasn't a horse doctor, spouting off about how long and hard she worked to get where she was and she wasn't going to be bringing no big-ass horse into her autopsy bay.

Of course, he was imagining it, but he was pretty sure it was exactly like that.

Beckett half-turned away from him. "Lanie. I'll owe you. Big time."

Owe her? Hmm. What exactly? What do two professional women, good friends, offer in exchange for a favor? Would it be-

"Lanie. We have *got* to find out what killed that horse-"

Beckett's eyes flickered back to his, a hesitant, hopeful look on her face before she smiled broadly.

"Lanie, you're the best. Thank you." She hung up her phone, slid it into her jacket pocket and grinned at him. "All set. Lanie will do it."

He grinned back.


Beckett opened her mouth to say something, but he beat her to it.

"Can we watch?"

2 hours ago

She drove too fast; really, that was all he was thinking at the moment. They had an address, but did it require excessive speeds? Fingerprints on the horse had come back with a hit; it thrilled him to no end, but couldn't she have let them watch?

Seriously, he was more than a little bummed they'd not been privy to that autopsy. How had Lanie discovered fingerprints on a massive 900 pound horse? (15 hands high, he'd discovered. Somewhat akin to the police horse he stole once. Interesting times.)

Beckett pulled her phone out; he saw it was ringing only by the lighted display. She must have it on silent. Or vibrate - there was a faint tremor to her hand.


He waited, but this time there was no shriek from the ME. Other news though, because Beckett's face went deadly still, her mouth tight. She let out a breath as she changed lanes and, if possible, her speed went up.

"You know yet what the horse was injected with?"

Injected with? Castle waited, only slightly impatient, and watched Beckett's profile as she listened.

"Fine. Yes. Soon as. Thanks." She hung up and gave him that half-glance, a quick dart of her eyes. Too serious. He wanted to say I told you so, but her face was too serious for that.


"Lanie found an injection site on the horse's flank."

"Someone murdered the guy's horse?" Fabulous. Well no. Not fabulous that a man and his horse were dead. "This case gets stranger by the hour."

"Lanie's doing a tox screen."

"Poisoned horse, strangled victim. You know, that picture I googled of the dead horse - do you remember the flecks of foam?"

"Horses do foam up, Castle." She was rolling her eyes, but he thought it might be still about how he'd managed to find so much on the dead horse online. Obviously, the dead horse hadn't been her case - it wasn't even a case - but he'd started filling in the horse's timeline the moment he'd heard about it's death.

He really wanted to tell her I told you so.

"Horses foam, yes, when they get worked hard. I thought, at the time, it meant our vic had tried to ride the horse, escape - too hard."

"And now?" she asked tersely.

He thought maybe she already had guessed it. "And now. The toxic agent introduced to the horse's system. Obviously."

She grunted, gave him another quick look. "Lanie found blood in the horse's mouth. Around its hooves as well. She doesn't know what it means yet. She's calling a horse vet."

"They have horse vets?" But what he as thinking about were things like ebola and yellow fever - acute viral hemorrhagic diseases. Which might cause horses to bleed at the mouth and hooves. Perhaps.

Beckett sighed and made a screeching turn, found a space at the sidewalk. "We're here," she muttered unnecessarily.

They had back-up on the way. Ryan and Esposito, ETA 20 minutes. Not once, in all the time he'd been with her, had he thought to himself, we should wait for backup. Not once.

Today he did.

She got out, pushed aside her coat; Castle followed.

They were outside a commercial space in Tribeca, Lower Manhattan. Close to Canal street, which formed one leg of the triangle that bounded the area. He'd been to the Textile Building in the Historic District, everyone had, and this space looked similar: columned first floor, flat brickwork straight up for 8 or more floors. He tilted his head back and spotted papered over windows, glass missing, crumbling edifice.

Maybe they should wait for backup?

"You coming?" she called, weapon already drawn and pointed carefully down, crouched next to a metal door.

He followed, because he always followed.


She was still staring at him, the tinge of horror and expectancy in her eyes. Like himself, she was wearing scrubs, her hair was in a wet rope down her back, drying slowly. They'd hustled him to the van and he'd been panicked at the thought of not seeing Beckett - but here she was. With him.

He took a step forward and was practically on top of her; she sank to the bench seat running against the side of the van, shoulders hunched.

"They tell you anything?" he asked, sitting beside her. Only place to sit.


"The decon shower was invigorating," he muttered.

She actually laughed, lifted her head to look at him. Swimming eyes. What were they swimming in?

"We should've waited for back-up," she said on a sigh.

He sighed back. "We'd still be here. Along with Ryan and Esposito."

"At least there's that," she murmured, and dropped her head to her hand, rallied to make it look like she was only shoving her fingers through her wet hair. "You okay? Otherwise."

"I'm good. Those guys in the suits gave me a prostate exam-"

She snorted, lips pressed into that smile he liked so much; she shook her head at him. "Castle."

"Clean bill of health though," he finished, then shrugged on a small, tight smile of his own. "At least. For that."

"I don't know how it happened," she whispered, lowered her head again.

"Not your fault, Beckett," he said, his voice gruff. He'd been able to call his mother, talk to his daughter. He hadn't let on what was happening. No mention of decontamination showers or the mobile quarantine unit they kept talking about. And then they'd shoved in here - what he assumed was that mobile unit.

At that moment, the engine turned over again; the modified van lurched under them. There was a banging fist on the back door, and then they were being carried through the city.

To be delivered to a hospital.

At least they'd be quarantined together.