*This is the sequel to Eight Count (reading that first might be beneficial to understanding some of the emotional carry-over, as well as the AU timeline). This is a post-KNOCKOUT AU story in which Castle had been quicker and taken the bullet for Beckett.
The title Rubber Match is a boxing term, meaning "the deciding match in a series of fights between two boxers where each opponent has won a fight against the other. A rubber match is usually the third fight in the series." In this scenario, Knockdown was essentially Match 1, Knockout was Match 2… making Rubber Match the third and final match.
SUMMARY: 3 to 4 months after Eight Count; Detective Kate Beckett and her team must unravel a conspiracy that just might lead to the identity of the mystery man behind Johanna Beckett's murder.
Rubber Match – Prologue
The match lit up the room for a moment before dimming. He watched as his benefactor puffed a few times until the flame took hold. The cigar end flamed to life, glowing a warm orange, and smoke billowed out around the older man's face.
He stood still and waited, taking in his surroundings. The office was covered in rich rosewood paneling, expensive artwork adorned the walls, and the desk was a dark mahogany. The ornate lamp that sat to the left was the only source of light illuminating the room. It wasn't much, but it was just enough to show the refined tastes of its owner.
"Lockwood was fool," his benefactor spoke in a commanding voice, breaking the silence and puffing on the cigar. "He was arrogant and shortsighted, and look what that got him? Dead."
He swallowed and gave a tentative nod of agreement with his employer. He had always thought that too much trust had been placed in Hal Lockwood. The man had overstepped his orders on numerous occasions. From what he had gathered, he knew that Lockwood's ultimatum to Montgomery had not been the plan. Their employer wanted the detective silenced, but not in the way Lockwood was going about it. With Lockwood, things always got… messy.
"Montgomery had balls, I'll give him that," his benefactor said, leaning back in his luxurious chair, the leather creaking slightly with the shift of his weight. He removed the cigar from his lips and fiddled with it in his fingers. "He took down Lockwood and the other goons, but you… you, my dear Andreievich… you are my shining star." He paused, bringing the cigar back to his lips, puffing on it for a moment before taking it back out. "So… my question for you is this? I give you one simple assignment. Very simple. Should have been easy. So how is it that you've returned… unsuccessful?"
Andre swallowed hard and averted his gaze, feeling the hard glare of his employer. The assignment at the cemetery had been more difficult than he had anticipated. He was used to large crowds, but not for what had happened when the scope of his rifle had flashed in the sunlight. "That writer… the one that follows her around," his accent was barely noticeable, he could easily pass as an American even though he had spent most of his life in mother Russia.
"Yes? What about him?" his employer gave a gruff nod of annoyance.
"He dove in front of her… he took the bullet for her."
From what little research he had done prior to his assignment, Andre could not comprehend why the famous author would do such a thing. It was ridiculously stupid. Sure, it was clear that he was friends with the detective, but Andre would never have guessed that the man would so willing toss himself into harm's way for her.
"The fool is in love, Andreievich," his employer chuckled softly, rolling the cigar around in his hand.
Yes. Andre had figured as much when he had seen the author dive in front of the detective. Though, he still could not understand. From his own quick research it was clear she did not return the author's feelings. Though, his assignment had not really called for that thorough of a search into his target's background. Most of his work was done overseas.
Andre had been called in for this special assignment. He was still a little confused over why it was so important that this detective be silenced. All he knew was that this was something personal, something not part of normal operations… hence the hiring of Lockwood and his associates. But it was not Andre's place to question things, so he ignored his own confusion and did his job.
After he had taken the shot, hiding in plain sight dressed in a maintenance worker's uniform, Andre had watched it all unfold. Once he figured out that he had missed, and that the writer had taken the bullet instead of its intended target, he carefully made his escape. Though, the speed of his escape had caused some problems. He was aware of the vehicle collisions that took place when he ran a red light.
Presently, his employer was still rolling his cigar around in his fingers, though Andre took note that the man's gaze had hardened. "Perhaps we've finally found her weak spot, then."
"This author… this… what was his name?"
"Richard Castle, sir," Andre supplied.
"Yes, yes," the older man nodded. "I've read some of his work. Pulp fiction trash, if you ask me." He paused and narrowed his eyes. "So… Richard Castle…," he mulled around with his thoughts for a moment. "She obviously cares for him… a great deal. From my contacts within 1PP, I've learned she's taken the entire week off, and my sources in that hospital say that she has hardly left his side." He gave a satisfied smile. "I think it is clear that Richard Castle means more to her than just an annoying ride-along. He is her rock, the anchor that holds her steady in the stormy sea. Without him, she will flounder and crumble."
"You want me to kill him?"
"Ha… no," the older man chortled softly, shaking his head as he brought the cigar back between his teeth for a few more puffs. "Not kill him, no. That would be too easy, she'd seek answers then. She's already determined to find me because of…" he hesitated, glancing up at Andre, "that crusader mother of hers. No," he shook his head decidedly, "I will not give her yet another reason to hunt me down."
Pausing, he pulled the cigar out of his mouth yet again, cradled it in two fingers and leaned forward, using his other hand to reach for the phone on the side of the desk.
"I'll make a call. Montgomery may be gone, but he's not the only one I have. There are still some at 1PP that owe me a favor or two."
Andre smirked softly to himself. Some of them called their employer The Spider, because like a spider, he had a vast web of contacts and informants, and people who were indebted to him.
"A life debt, you mean?" Andre allowed himself to grin at his own wit.
The Spider nodded. "Now you're getting it," he stuck the cigar in his mouth and puffed on it some more, blowing out a large plume of smoke. "Detective Beckett won't know what hit her." He finished dialing then held the receiver up to his mouth and waited for the other end to pick up. "Hello… yes, it's me… I've got something I want you to do."