Castle arrived with his usual enthusiasm at the most recent crime scene with two coffees in his hand. It was a very attractive, pale grey apartment block on East 21st Street. There were well kept trees outside, even the sidewalk was pristine. The only things that marred the otherwise immaculate appearance of the building were the three police cars that had pulled up outside.
"Wassup Castle," Esposito said as he walked in.
"Hey, where's Beckett?"
"Crime scene. Second floor, room two-thirteen."
"Thanks," he said as he hurried towards the elevator. He changed his mind as he reached it however. He was in the mood to take the stairs. Excited to see what grizzly state the murder victim was in, he took the stairs two at a time.
A minute later, he arrived at room two-thirteen. The door was ajar, so he entered.
He surveyed the scene with poorly disguised excitement. The apartment had been torn apart. Furniture lay broken and scattered across the floor; books had been thrown unceremoniously from the bookshelf and most importantly, a middle-aged man lay sprawled on the floor, his short brown hair matted with blood, his grey eyes wide open.
The medical examiner, Lanie, was crouched at the victim's head, studying it.
"Hey, Beckett," Castle said finally, handing her a coffee.
"Hey, Castle," she said, giving him a warm smile as she peeled off her rubber glove and took the coffee from him.
"What have we got?" he asked.
Ryan, who was standing beside Beckett, answered him.
"Lloyd Davidson, forty-six. He worked as a Biologist and lecturer at Columbia University."
"Primary cause of death appears to be manual strangulation," Lanie said, pointing to some reddish-purple marks on his neck. "The victim also sustained a blunt force trauma to the back of the head." She parted Davidson's hair to reveal a deep dent in his skull.
"Ooh," Castle said, "so someone broke in, hit him on the back of the head to incapacitate him, then strangled him."
"No one broke in," Beckett corrected. "None of the windows were forced, and neither was the door."
"So the victim either left his door unlocked, or he knew the killer and let him in voluntarily," Castle said.
"Have we got CCTV footage?" Beckett asked, as Esposito came through the door.
"Nada," he said looking exasperated. "They only have cameras in the lobby, the elevators and on the sidewalk. I looked through the footage with the doorman and he said he recognised everyone who came in to the building last night."
"So that means the killer is a resident?" Castle asked, hopefully.
"Or the killer could be anyone in New York and they just came through the back exit."
"There's a back exit?" Ryan asked.
"There are three," Esposito said, shaking his head frustratedly. "One of the maids told me that the door out to the dumpsters is always open, so anyone could have come through there, walked up the stairs, killed this guy and left again without anyone noticing."
"Good to know they take the safety of their residents seriously," Beckett said with a sigh. "Let's hope this crime scene gives us some information."
"The killer was definitely looking for something," Castle said, gazing around the trashed room. Every drawer had been opened, the pillows were pulled from the sofas, even the carpet had been torn up in places. "What was he hit with?" he asked Lanie, suddenly.
"Something long, elongated, probably wooden," she said.
Castle wandered past the body and swiped a pair of rubber gloves that Esposito was about to put on and donned them himself.
"Something like this?" he said, picking up a broken chair leg. Sure enough, when he turned it over he saw it was smeared with blood.
"Exactly like that," Lanie said. Castle grinned with childish excitement at having found the weapon.
Beckett rolled her eyes but couldn't disguise a little smile of her own.
"Right," she said, "let's bag it and give it to CSU. Before we go back to the precinct I want to question everyone in the building."
"Okay, let's go!" Castle said, peeling his gloves off and giving them back to Esposito. Esposito sighed and gave them to Ryan.
"I don't want them!" Ryan said.
"Well neither do I."
"They're your gloves," he said, throwing them back to his partner.
"Uh, no they're not."
"Then give them back to Castle."
Castle laughed when he heard this, because by this time, he and Beckett were already in the corridor, walking towards the elevator.
It had been a long week. Castle, Beckett, Esposito and Ryan had spent five days interviewing neighbours, co-workers, friends and family of Lloyd Davidson and they still weren't any closer to finding out who killed him. He had no wife, no children, in fact the only family he had were two estranged sisters who lived in Colorado. It turned out that Davidson had spent most of the past six months doing research for a paper he was working on. The only people who had seen him were the staff at Columbia University, who saw him enter the building every morning at eight and leave again at seven that evening. CCTV footage confirmed that, every day, he left work, took a taxi home and went straight up to his apartment. So it begged the question, why would anyone want to kill someone who led a completely solitary life?
Castle sat beside Beckett's desk that Friday afternoon, studying her face. He liked watching her think. It was time spent watching her like this that made him something of an expert on guessing her mood. He knew when she was trying to work something out because she got little creases between her eyebrows; when she was frustrated, he could see her jaw tighten a fraction; the corners of her mouth would twitch when she was trying to stay annoyed at him, but he was making her laugh. He told himself that this was all valuable research for his next Nikki Heat book but, truthfully, he took any opportunity just to look at her.
"Castle," she said, not taking her eyes off the computer screen in front of her.
"Uh, yeah?" he said, her voice snapping him out of his reverie.
"You're doing it again,"
"Staring at me."
"What? No, I mean, I'm not, not really..."
There was a pause for a moment and Castle couldn't help but try to explain himself. He didn't want Kate to think he was some kind of psychopath.
"I just like watching you," he said.
Nice going, Castle. That didn't make you sound like a lunatic at all, he thought irritatedly to himself.
Beckett frowned a little, but smiled.
"What I meant was..." Castle started, beginning to feel a little uncomfortable.
"It's okay, Castle," Beckett said, finally tearing her eyes away from the computer to look at him. "You don't have to explain yourself to me."
Castle gave an embarrassed laugh. He felt a little twinge of annoyance at himself. Since when did Richard Castle, the ruggedly handsome lady-killer, get tongue-tied?
"Are you doing much this weekend?" he asked, trying to change the subject.
"Nope," she said, "probably just working on this case. You?"
"Got a book signing tonight for the new Nikki Heat book," he said. "You should come along, the crowds love it when you turn up."
"Thanks, but I think I'll pass," she said. "After this week, I just want to curl up with a good book on the sofa."
"Does that mean you will be reading the latest Nikki Heat instalment?"
"I said a good book, Castle," she said with a smirk.
"Sometimes your words hurt, Detective," Castle replied, giving her a look of mock indignation.
"We've got to keep that ego in check."
"I've got my mother, daughter and those two," he said, jerking his thumb towards Ryan and Esposito, "to do that for me. My ego could use a bit of a fluff up, actually."
"Well you aren't going to get that from me," she said, matter-of-factly.
"I didn't think so. Have a great weekend," Castle said, turning to leave. "And by the way, page 219 of my new book has a scene you might like," he said slyly, backing away towards the elevator.
"Aw, Castle, not again with the sex scenes!" she said, looking exasperated.
He said nothing; he just gave her an exaggerated wink as the elevator doors closed.
Beckett watched the elevator doors close on Castle. If he had written another sex scene between them, she was going to kill him. She might have gone to his book signing that night, but after what Castle had just said, there was no chance. The last thing she wanted was for people to be staring at her all night, using her as fuel for their imaginations as they tried to picture Nikki Heat naked in a compromising position.
She grabbed her coat and headed for the door. God, Castle could be so irritating. It made her so mad to think that he was writing sex scenes about her. It felt like an invasion of privacy. She had half a mind to go to his house and punch him. But as she pictured herself arriving at his door, her imagination took her down a completely different path where she didn't punch Castle in the face, but he invited her in, poured her a glass of wine and then...
On second thought, she decided to go home, run a bath and turn to page 219 of her new book.