Rubber Match – Chapter 18

Beckett walked into the bullpen early that morning. After depositing her bag and coat on her desk, she went off to the break room to make herself a cup of coffee. Working with the espresso machine, she was reminded of Castle. She smiled, fondly recalling when he had purchased it for the homicide squad so they no longer had to drink coffee that tasted like 'motor oil with monkey pee' as he'd described it. Though she knew the truth. He'd really bought it for her. He might have said it was for everyone, but she knew it was really for her. By that time, he'd already learned of her addiction to coffee, and—she'd never admit it—but she actually found it kind of sweet when he presented them with this gift. It was the first time she caught a glimpse at the real Rick Castle… kind and generous.

With her freshly made cup of coffee, Beckett stalked back to her desk and sat on the edge, examining the murder board. They might not be able to work on the Congressman Fenton case, which annoyed her… not to mention the overt advances of FBI Agent Sam Arleen, the guy could not take a hint. Frowning, she shoved those thoughts aside and focused on the investigation she was allowed to work.

Peter Beynon was a real estate agent, who had recently been purchasing empty warehouses for an unknown client. Somehow it was all tied up with her mother's case… the Dragon, as Gary McCallister had called him. But that evidence was missing from the board, safely stored on another board, tucked away on her window shutters.

The lone suspect at this time was Timothy Greene, Beynon's business partner. Amanda Beynon—the wife—had been Beckett's first prime suspect, seeing as Amanda had been having an affair with Congressman Fenton. But, the cheating wife had been with the congressman on the night of her husband's murder. Of course, the congressman was now also dead, so that might mean something there. But they'd already ruled Mrs. Beynon out of it. At least the FBI and Secret Service had.

Beckett took a sip of her coffee and let out a sigh. Something just didn't click with all this. Greene was too good of a suspect, almost like he was being set-up as the fall guy. Yesterday she had been absolutely convinced of the man's guilt, but upon further reflection, she was starting to see some inconsistencies in the case against him.

The rattle of the elevator doors opening pulled her attention away from the murder board. Glancing up, she spotted the boys sauntering in, chatting about some baseball game. She smiled at them and asked if the Yankees had won. Esposito confirmed with an enthusiastic nod before heading off to the break room, Ryan not far behind him.

Thirty minutes later, others started sprinkling in. And soon the bullpen was buzzing with activity. Hank had showed up not long after Ryan and Esposito, and went straight to work, finishing up his review of the more detailed financials they had got last night. Beckett had the boys take a couple of uniforms and canvas the neighborhood again, hoping for more information.

"I'll also check if anyone saw our guy," Esposito informed her on the sly before hustling after Ryan. Beckett gave a curt nod, knowing he was referring to the traffic cam photo they had got showing the driver of the same SUV that had been spotted speeding away from the cemetery shooting back in May.

It still gnawed at her… that day. She would never forget how helpless she had felt when she had had to sit in that waiting room, not knowing whether or not Castle would live or die. Not to mention coming to terms with her own emotions and feelings about the writer during the duration. As for the SUV driver, her gut told her that it was the same guy, the one who had taken a shot at her but got Castle instead.

That damn man and his heroics, Beckett thought, her brow furrowed a bit as her natural irritation for Castle's antics seeped in. But, none too soon, her treacherous eyes became watery as she recalled his pallid complexion when she'd first seen him lying unconscious in his hospital bed after his surgery.

She had known it was going to happen. The minute he showed up and signed those waivers, so determined to follow her… Beckett had known. She hadn't counted on it happening at a funeral attended by half the department. But she had feared it would happen. At first, she wasn't overly that concerned about it, but as she grew to know him, to care about him (maybe more than she thought she should)… she'd begun to worry that he'd get hurt while following her. And then there were all the times they'd gotten into life and death situations together, and her fear had only skyrocketed.

She let out a deep, bone weary sigh, and slumped down onto her chair. God, she missed him. She knew it was silly and pathetic, since she had seen him only last night, but it was more than just that. Kate missed having him here, in the precinct, building theory and helping her solve a case. He was her partner, no matter how Captain Blye or the department saw it.

"Hey," it was Hank, her partner, slipping down into Castle's chair. She blinked. It was going to take her a while to get used to that. Honestly, anytime someone sat down in that chair she still half expected it to be Castle, even though her rational brain knew otherwise.

Hank held out a file for her, which she gave a cursory examination.

"You found something?" she asked.

"Page three," he told her, a small smirk tugging on his lips.

Beckett flipped through the printouts and narrowed her eyes, looking at the typed bank statements. "What exactly am I looking for?"

"A wire transfer about a month ago," Hank said. "Greene transferred half a million to an overseas account."

Her eyes shot up. "Anything to tie it to Beynon's murder?"

"No, nothing," Hank replied. "From what I've been able to gather, this looks like a payoff of some kind. Nothing about it relates to any business deals Greene had going during that time period. In fact, there was no business to speak of, at least on Greene's side. Beynon was doing that warehouse scouting for the mystery client."

"Speaking of which, any leads on him… or them," she knitted her eyebrows together.

"Zilch," Hank shook his head, and scowled. "Anyways, it appears we have some leverage now against Greene. A mysterious wire transfer of half a million is suspicious. Maybe we can squeeze him enough that he'll finally talk." He paused, pursing his lips. "Want me to bring him up from holding?"

Beckett nodded. "Yeah, put him in interrogation room two. I want to see what he has to say about this."

XXX

Dr. Alfred Hoover clicked his pen and made a note on his clipboard as Castle began to unbutton his shirt. To be honest, he was a little nervous. If everything went well today, this would be his last check-up with the doctor who'd been overseeing his recovery since his first post-surgical consultation.

"Now, we'll need to do a few tests today, Rick, before we cut the cord," Hoover chuckled good-naturedly.

Castle smiled back. He liked Dr. Hoover. The man truly cared, and he proved that with how he interacted with his patients. It helped too that the man had a good sense of humor. Castle finished removing his shirt, and the doctor stepped forward to examine the surgical incisions, checking for any signs of infection.

Hoover reached out with his hand and brushed his fingertips along Caste's ribs.

"Ooh!" he yelped. "Cold fingers."

The doctor grinned. "Sorry." He moved his hand along the scar, narrowing his eyes. "Do you still feel some pain?"

"Occasionally it pulls when I lift my arm or turn, but other than that… nothing," Castle answered.

Hoover gave a nod, and stepped back, picking his clipboard up to make some notes. He returned shortly and carefully examined the scar tissue around the bullet wound on Castle's chest. "And how about this?"

"About the same, but not as much as the other," Castle replied.

"Does temperature have any effect?" the doctor asked.

"Temperature?"

"Like when you're in the shower, hot and cold water?" Hoover elaborated with a raised eyebrow, waiting for a response.

Castle debated lying, but he thought of how Alexis would give him the third degree if he did so. So he confessed and told the doctor about his panic attack in the shower and how he'd changed the water from hot to cold, rather rapidly, making the scar along his side sting.

"It was like a burning sensation, really," he tried to explain, his eyes glassing over as he remembered the incident.

Hoover gave an understanding nod. "Have you been applying the ointment I recommended?"

Castle reddened a little in embarrassment. "No, not really."

"Well, you should. It would help the tissue heal," Hoover asserted, giving him a stern look. He held Castle's gaze until the writer inclined his head in affirmation that he'd use the ointment as directed. "Good."

The doctor went back to his clipboard to make some more notes. After they'd run over a couple of other issues related to his scars, Hoover took Castle's blood pressure. Upon seeing the results on the digital readout, the doctor raised his eyebrows and glanced over at Castle with a curious expression.

"Your blood pressure has gone down," Hoover informed him.

"Is that a good thing?" Castle hedged, a little wary.

Hoover nodded. "It is," he assured his patient, reaching up to unwrap the strap from around Castle's upper arm. "Your blood pressure was rather high during most of your recovery, but not enough to worry me. I had attributed it to the stress of the situation. But now it appears that whatever stress was keeping it up has dissipated, allowing your blood pressure to taper off to a more acceptable level."

"Okay…," Castle inclined his head, thinking about the one thing—one person, really—that had caused him the most stress over the summer and how some of that had been alleviated the previous night.

"Alright," Hoover clicked his pen and made some more notes on his clipboard, eyeing Castle with a knowing look. "I know we really haven't discussed this, but I'm sure you'll be happy to hear that I'm officially clearing you to resume any and all sexual activity, which no doubt you've been looking forward to, considering that lovely girlfriend of yours."

The last part caught Castle's attention, and he raised his eyebrows in confusion and surprise. He blinked and looked over at Hoover as the doctor adjusted some instruments on the equipment cart. "Girlfriend?" he echoed.

"Yes," Hoover nodded, giving Castle a worried expression. "That nice young woman who was here during your hospital stay."

"Oh," he let out a sigh. "You mean my daughter, of course?" Castle questioned, still confused. "Because I don't have a girlfriend." And then added, in his head, for now, as he thought of Beckett and the lunch date he had with the lovely detective in the afternoon.

Hoover paused and furrowed his brow in concern. "She was there when you got out of surgery, in the private room," he said. "Looked like she'd spent the night with your family." He paused and puzzled over this for a moment, looking like he was trying to recall some details. "I haven't seen her since, but I just assumed you didn't want her present when you were at your most vulnerable… ego and such."

Castle knitted his eyebrows together. "Can you describe her?"

"Tall, thin… medium length brown hair," Hoover said with narrowed eyes.

"Kate?" Castle's breath hitched, still in his chest, his eyes scrunching up as he tried to recall his early memories from his hospital stay after his surgery. "She was there… in my private room? But… but that's not possible. I don't remember her being there. Afterwards, yes, when I was moved… but…"

Hoover shrugged his shoulders in a conciliatory manner. "I don't know what to tell you, Rick," he offered. "She was there when I first came to check on you. One of the nurses told me she was your girlfriend, and from her behavior, I had no reason to think otherwise."

Castle sucked in a deep breath, not really listening anymore. He was letting this new information sink in and land where it would. A frown worked its way onto his face as he tried to piece it all together. For a while now, he'd been plagued by lingering doubts about certain portions of his memory regarding his stay in the hospital.

He remembered, or at least, he thought he remembered waking up in the private room. From what he could recall, judging by the hues of light coming through the windows, it had been late afternoon when he awoke for the first time. He distinctly remembered being pulled from the bliss of sleep and into the agonizing painful world of the living by his mother's voice, bemoaning some critic's harsh review of one of her performances. Then he vividly remembered Alexis tackling him in a suffocating yet altogether welcomed hug. After that… everything was sort of blurry.

Having the overactive imagination that he did, Castle's mind had attempted to fill in the blanks for him by conjuring up a wonderful fantasy involving a certain Kate Beckett standing by his bedside, cradling his hand in hers as she told him everything he'd longed for, very much like what she'd just done the previous night. But it had been so much more than that. In his imaginings, Beckett had confessed she no longer wanted to deny the mutual attraction between them, saying that she was ready. And then his tortured battered exhausted mind had supplied him with the image and sensations of her leaning down to kiss him.

And that was it. That was what he remembered.

But it had been a dream… hadn't it? Beckett hadn't been with his family in the private room. It wasn't until he'd been moved to another room that he could unquestionably remember her presence. And even some of that was hazy. Though he did remember asking her for a sponge bath, which she sternly refused to give him, a light playful smile on her lips.

Castle shook his head. No. It wasn't possible that she'd been there when he first woke up. She hadn't told him those things he'd longed to hear, or kissed him for that matter. The only kiss he could remember receiving from Kate Beckett had been a ruse to get past a guard to save Ryan and Esposito. A wonderfully awesome ruse, to be sure, but a ruse nonetheless.

"Still having difficulty with your memories from after the surgery, Rick?" Hoover questioned, giving him a sad knowing look. "It's not all that uncommon following a traumatic experience, such as the one you had."

Castle gulped in a breath of air and turned to face his doctor. "A little, Doc. But you might have just cleared up some things… I think."

Hoover raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Well, alright… why don't we continue, shall we?"

Castle gave a nod, his mind still elsewhere, thinking about that kiss he'd thought had been part of his overactive imaginations, which wasn't too far from reality, considering he often fantasized about the detective in question. Not to mention the fact he wrote books based on her, in which he also created a fictional version of himself to woo and capture the heart of the fearless Nikki Heat.

He was going to have to sort through all this, and determine what was fantasy and what was reality. It would just blow his mind if that kiss he'd imagined were real. What it meant, now that was a different story altogether. If Beckett had kissed him that day, it meant that she'd probably confessed her feelings for him, and if that was true, it left him with some serious questions about her behavior over the summer—though, to be fair, she had explained some of that last night.

Still, with this new information, Castle was interested to hear what she'd have to say. Though, he'd have to be subtle. He didn't want to embarrass himself incase he was just mistaken.

XXX

Beckett marched purposefully towards interrogation room two, a folder clutched to her chest. While Hank had gone down to receive Greene from holding, she'd taken the time to go through the financials and other evidence that had been gathered by the boys and Hank. She was determined to crack Greene and get him to tell her the truth, whatever that might be. Most everything that pointed to him was circumstantial, yet still; he was the most promising suspect.

Reaching the door, she glanced up to see Hank nodding towards the observation room, indicating he'd be watching from there. Beckett gave a nod and gripped the door handle, pushing the door open and striding inside.

She came to an abrupt halt, her eyes taking in the unexpected sight of a lawyer sitting besides Greene. The two men looked up upon her entrance and Greene shifted nervously. Beckett schooled her features as she narrowed her eyes, and closed the door before stalking across the room towards her seat, tossing the folder down onto the flat surface of the table.

"I see you got yourself a new lawyer," Beckett said, trying to assess the situation.

"About that, Detective," the lawyer spoke up, Greene swallowing uncomfortably beside him. "My client wishes to make a confession."

Her eyes flicked over to the lawyer, taking note of his perfectly trimmed hair, and well-manicured appearance. This was no shabby lawyer, nothing like the original guy Greene had in here with him yesterday. This new guy was from one of the big elite law firms, one with lots of high paying clients, judging by the man's expensively tailored suit.

"Is that so?" Beckett questioned, dubiously, as she slid down into her chair, turning to look at Greene for confirmation.

"Yes, that's right," Greene answered in a shaky voice, anxiously glancing over at his lawyer, who gave him a nod. "It… it was me. I killed him."

Beckett shook her head, wondering what brought on this change of story. She glanced back at the lawyer, a little perturbed with his presence. She had a gut feeling that he had something to do with Greene's sudden need to confess. Sure, the guy looked guilty, but she had nagging doubts in the back of her mind, but most of those related to the connections with Castle's shooting that Ryan and Esposito had discovered. Besides that, Beckett had no reason not to suspect Greene of the murder.

"Alright," she said, folding her hands together in front of her on the table. "Tell me."

Greene licked his lips nervously before diving into a tale of how he'd been suspicious that Peter Beynon had some business on the side that he was not sharing with him. He gave her a detailed account of how he'd hired a guy to follow him, and upon seeing his supposed business partner cutting him out of the deal; Greene had then paid the guy to kill Beynon.

She opened the folder and produced the bank transfer statements out, placing them on the table before Greene. "Is this the account you paid him with?"

After consulting with his lawyer, Greene confirmed with a nod. "Yes, it is."

"Okay," Beckett leaned back, taking the printout with her. "Can you tell me this hitman's name?"

Greene paled for a moment. "I don't know his name, but he goes by 'The Fixer'."

"Can you at least give me a description?"

"No… I… I never really spoke to him face to face. My only contact with him was through the internet."

"Alright, then how did your fingerprints get on the murder weapon?" Beckett questioned, raising an eyebrow.

Greene flicked his eyes to his lawyer.

"Don't look at him!" Beckett raised her voice. "Answer the question."

"My client's fingerprints on the murder weapon is insubstantial, Detective," the lawyer interrupted.

"No, it's not," she turned to the lawyer, giving him a pointed look. "Right now, the only evidence that suggests your client paid a hitman is the wire transfer and his word. I'm sorry if that's not enough for me."

The lawyer glared at her with a hard edge, before leaning over to Greene and whispering in his ear. Greene shuddered and gave a nod.

"He said that if I wanted him to kill Peter that I then had to supply the gun," he asserted.

"This 'Fixer' guy?"

"Uh-huh," Greene nodded. "Told me to put it behind the trash bin in the alley near my apartment."

"Alright," the lawyer cut in, reaching out to place a firm hand on Greene's shoulder. She noticed Greene flinch. "I think that's enough for you to track down the hitman."

Beckett inclined her head. "Fine," she grumbled, already knowing when she was being stonewalled. There was nothing more she could ask with a lawyer present, so she sighed. "We'll like a written confession," she said, pulling a blank piece of paper out and a pen, handing them to Greene.

While Greene and his lawyer worked on the confession, Beckett stood in the observation room, watching them. Hank shifted behind her, handing her a cup of coffee.

"What you thinking?" he asked.

She shrugged, knitting her eyebrows together as she took a sip. "I'm not sure," she admitted. "It just seems kind of sudden. And who's that fancy pants lawyer, anyways?"

"Gary Quinn from Bernstein and Holder," Hank answered.

Beckett whistled, impressed. "They're a big firm. However, Greene doesn't seem to fall under their usual clientele."

Hank inclined his head in agreement. "Quinn showed up just as I was retrieving Greene from holding. Someone's interested in this case to pull those kind of strings." He threw back his head and drained his paper cup before tossing it in the trash. "I'll go begin the paperwork."