for cartographical, for that hole that won't be filled
Detective Kate Beckett hadn't taken back-up with her, because Beckett never took back-up.
She did her best work alone, and besides, her team - Ryan and Esposito - were still looking for plausible altitude chambers where the astrophysicist could've been murdered.
The Plainsboro Observatory had been a long shot, but Beckett had gotten to talk with a researcher there, Harrison, and it had paid off. Marie Subbaro, the murder victim, had taken an image capture as proof.
But of what?
Beckett had that deep sensation in her chest - the tightening crest of discovery, something almost illicit in the sense of secrets and danger - and she curled her fingers in the steering wheel and checked her rear view mirror again.
She was being followed.
This case just got weirder and weirder.
Research for SETI, men in black, the victim's office suite disappearing, and yes, something had been embedded in the woman's sinus cavity.
She'd seen The X-Files in high school; she'd been a fan, had followed the twisted and strange story lines. When her mother had been murdered, she'd turned to police procedural shows and true crime novels for comfort, for answers that weren't forthcoming in her own life, but she couldn't shake the need for strange.
She liked the weird ones, as her co-workers could attest. But more than that, she liked making sense of the weird ones. They had a. . .Beckett flavor.
There was always a reason, always an answer - you just had to know what questions to ask. She attacked her cases aggressively and had one of the highest solve rates in the city.
So, yeah. Beckett was not a believer, but her brain was kicking over strange rocks and finding otherworldly bugs beneath them.
Like the car currently following her.
Castle had been following Detective Beckett for four days.
He knew her inside and out, watched her sip her coffee on the subway - grande skim latte two pumps fat-free vanilla, measured her pace as she strode towards the 12th precinct, could accurately predict where her fifteen minute break would fall, and even got to her lunch order ahead of her.
He knew her.
He'd been observing for four days, and he thought, he really thought, she might make the perfect asset.
If he could convince his father to sign off on it.
Always easier to ask forgiveness than permission, he always said.
So he went in for the close.
Just like that, her car died.
Beckett gripped the wheel as all mechanical life stalled.
Switched off, everything. No engine, no headlights, a deep and painful quiet that set her heart to hammering.
The car slowly rolled to a stop. She put it in park, and then reached for the keys, turned the ignition off, tried to restart it. Nothing.
She pulled her phone out of her pocket, but glanced in her rear view mirror. The car that had been following her was gone; the headlights swallowed up by the black night. Beckett swiped her thumb over her phone and finally looked at its face.
What the hell?
Suddenly a brilliant and brutal light blazed through the interior of the car, beaming from directly overhead with a violence that had her hand coming up to shield her eyes.
Beckett leaned to get a look through her side window, but there was only relentless, unending white.
Special Agent Richard Castle stepped carefully into the darkness of the interrogation room, hands behind his back as he watched the two agents carry the limp detective to a chair.
He narrowed his eyes and set his jaw, stood back while they handcuffed her to the specially made rings soldered to the chair. He fought the urge to help, stayed where he was, studied her.
Crichton and Patterson set up the lamp, directly in front of the chair, but Castle raised a hand and dismissed them before they could turn it on. She'd rouse soon enough, and the relative darkness hid his facial expressions from the rest of them.
He needed a moment more to gather himself.
She was persistent; he'd give her that.
He still didn't know how he was going to deal with this one. Sensitive information, a potential traitor to the country, and here she was - strutting through his case in those four-inch heels.
Castle shifted forward and put his hand to the back of the klieg light.
But he still didn't turn it on.
Seven years of professional experience, and he'd never balked at his job. His father would-
Castle grit his teeth and snapped on the light.
Beckett roused sharply, white brilliance peeling back her eyelids. She grunted and slit her eyes, but could make out nothing.
Into the light came the black form of a man.
"Who are you?" she said, tried to remember what had happened. The car. The light overhead. Nothing else. "I'm a detective with the NYPD."
"You're going to regret this," she growled.
She yanked on her bindings, heard the rattle of metal and felt the painful cut of handcuffs into her wrists.
The man made a noise, leaned forward, his face still steeped in shadow. "I wouldn't."
She sucked in a breath and glared. "Who are you? What is this?
"Marie Subbaro had-"
"Are you serious?" she hissed. The man reached out and stilled her struggling with a hard grip on her shoulder. His fingers were strong; the contact zipped through her body, his nearness as unrelenting as the light.
"Don't. You'll only bruise your wrists."
She swallowed and avoided the chase of shivers down her spine with supreme effort of will. "Who are you-"
"Where is it?"
She startled. "Where's what?"
"We all know what Subbaro was involved with. Don't play with me, Detective Beckett."
"So you do know who I am. And you must know I won't let you get away with this."
The shadow broke and reformed, arms crossed, head tilted towards her. She couldn't make out any features, couldn't even see the color of his eyes. Only felt the electric thrill of his voice in the darkness.
"That information can't be allowed to get out, Detective."
She gritted her teeth and stared straight into the glare of the light, the man resolved in front of it - all darkness and outline.
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about."
"Just trying to have a conversation here-"
"Then take the damn handcuffs off of me, switch off the light, and man up."
Immediately the light powered down, plunging them into the black. She hadn't even seen him move.
In the reigning silence, she sensed movement, a wash of air over her cheek; her skin prickled, but she wasn't afraid.
"You like me better in the dark, Detective?"
Castle felt her go very still, the harsh sound of her breath echoing in the room. He could smell the musk of her, the sweat that wasn't fear but adrenaline and determination, and she was glorious.
"I'd like it even better with these cuffs off," she said, her voice pitched low and stroking over him.
He stiffened and stood, took a step back with his hands clenched. He was tempted to uncuff her. He was tempted to keep her cuffed and see what-
"Let's start small," he murmured, his voice coming out amused. Good. "How about you tell me where Subbaro-"
"How about you tell me why the hell I should tell you anything?" she growled back. "I can only assume a government agency has abducted a US citizen on US soil. Not only that, but I'm a cop working a homicide case. You care so little for justice-"
"What I care about, Detective, is saving the lives of the people who remain. Not dwelling over the people already taken from us."
He heard her breath hitch and remembered the profile he'd worked on her - was this the ghost of her murdered mother?
It worked, because he felt her shift in the darkness, the feral sound that came from her chest when he spoke over her indignation.
"So, Detective. How about we try again? Where is that information?"
"I already told you. I have no idea what you're talking about."
"You're lying," he said softly, and came closer, couldn't help himself. She was alluring, and it was so black he could only imagine the soft struggle of her chest as she fought to keep her breathing even, her body from panicking, her wrists-
He heard the clatter of metal again and moved around the chair to reach down and grip her by the wrists.
"Stop. You'll only hurt yourself."
"What do you care?"
"Could've fooled me. Why don't you come around here and-"
"Why? So you can headbutt me? I don't think so, Beckett."
She chuckled and he suddenly realized that he really admired this woman. He stood up straighter, stared through the dark at where her head would be, and then shoved his hand into his pocket for the key.
He was a damn fool.
She startled when she felt his hands on hers, the soft caress of his fingertips. The metal bracelets clattered together as she moved in surprise, but he was pushing his thumb into the soft heel of her hand to hold her steady and unlocking the cuffs.
What the hell?
She tensed to move and felt his breath at her cheek, his body so close just behind hers.
"Surprise me, Beckett, and stay in the chair."
She damn well surprised herself; she didn't move. She felt him use his thumb to spring open the cuff and it dropped from around her wrist; his fingers were gentle as he moved to release the other hand.
Her heart pounded hard, the rush of blood through her veins throbbed where his fingers skimmed the inside of her wrist. He wrapped his hands around hers and drew her arms forward, his chest against the back of the chair and his cheek scraping against hers.
Scruff that set her nerve endings on fire.
Beckett squeezed her eyes shut and fought to control her breathing, keep her hands steady as she crossed her arms.
"How's that, Detective Beckett?" he murmured, and she felt his hands skim the outside of her arms and up to her shoulders before he stepped away.
She took in a deep breath, smelled him so tantalizingly near. "You have me at a disadvantage. I don't know your name."
"If I told you," he drawled. "I'd have to kill you. And you are much too beautiful to die today."
"Good to know," she growled back, turning her head in the darkness to look, but she still couldn't see him. Her night vision had been ruined by the light; it would take a while before she'd adjust.
"Mostly a joke. Trying to start over here, Detective."
From his voice, he was circling her chair and coming around on her left; she reached out on a guess and managed to snag the leg of his pants, felt the sharp tension crackle through him, that instinctive cop-reflex as he went for his gun.
She smiled in the darkness. "Start over, huh? Well, you can start by telling me your name."
"Agent Castle," he said suddenly, and she felt the air being displaced in front of her, the drag of a metal chair against the concrete floor.
His knees touched hers for a moment before moving away.
"Is that your real name?" she asked.
He huffed, and she felt - knew - he was grinning.
"No. Course not. But it's the name I use."
She pressed her lips together to keep from smiling. "Of course."
"And you're Kate Beckett."
"I suppose you've been following me."
"How long have you been peeping in front of my window, Castle?"
She heard his chuckle in the darkness like a warm hand, felt her chest tighten at the sound.
"You're good at this, Detective."
"You've yet to impress me," she shot back.
He laughed out loud at that and then his hand came her cheek, stroked hair back from her face and behind her ear. She went still, sucked in a breath, and knew he felt that too.
He was actually damn good at this.
"Kate," he murmured.
Jeez. Her hands were not trembling.
"Tell me what Marie did with the information, and then you and I can-"
She let out a breath and laughed. "I don't have it. Nice try, Agent Castle, but I got nothing you want."
"On the contrary." Suddenly his hand was at her neck, thumb stroking over her lips. "You're exactly what I want."