The door swung on its hinges when she knocked. The bolt was busted open, and Parker eased the door open with her hip, keeping her gun raised in case whoever had busted the lock was still hanging around. The apartment on the other side was clean and tidy, but not upscale by any means. She checked the hallway first, but didn't bother with the bedroom. She didn't want surprises, but she also didn't want to waste time.

A small, fairly old TV sat on a small table across from a sofa. In front of the sofa lay a man in a pool of blood that was rapidly staining the beige carpet. Aside from the blood, he looked like he'd fallen asleep and rolled off the sofa. Parker bent down to inspect the body. There were no marks aside from the double gunshot to the chest that had killed him. There was nothing else of interest in the living room, so Parker went into the kitchen.

A mug and a spoon sat soaking in the kitchen sink. The coffee pot was half full. An appointment reminder was stuck to the fridge, and a corner of red peeked out from below the refrigerator.

Parker slid the notebook out and flipped it open. There wasn't anything special at first glance—just the standard newspaper clippings and a few lines of highlighting—so she tucked it under one arm. She looked over the kitchen again, but there was nothing else left for her. She was about to walk back out of the apartment when she heard the door burst open and half a dozen sets of heavy footsteps. "NYPD!" a woman's voice shouted. Parker rolled her eyes. This was just what she needed right now.

A woman in heels and Kevlar rounded the corner into the kitchen, her gun raised. "NYPD, put your hands up!" she demanded. Parker put her hands in the air and the notebook fell to the floor. She shook her head and swore she'd get her revenge on Jarod for this.


"So," said Kate, slapping a file on the table as she walked into the interrogation room. "What were you doing in Mr. Reynolds' apartment?"

"Looking for someone," the woman with the bright red lipstick replied.

Of course she was. Wasn't everyone in this case? "And Mr. Reynolds was in your way, so you decided you'd put a bullet to his chest?"

Miss Hot Lips Parker looked annoyed. "I didn't shoot. He was dead when I walked in."

Kate knew this was a woman who could kill a man without a second thought. In fact, that's probably what she did for a living. "You refused to give your first name, Miss Parker. Any reason why?"

"I could tell you who shot him, though," Hot Lips said, completely ignoring Kate. "I could solve your entire case right now."

That was a pretty bold claim, coming from a woman who wore short, tight skirts, leather jackets, and four-inch heels. "Really, Miss Parker? You think you can solve an ongoing multiple homicide without knowing the details, and still manage to convince me you didn't kill anyone?"

"Oh, I've killed people, honey," Hot Lips said. "But not anyone in your—what did you call it?—ongoing multiple homicide."

"Do you recognize this man?" Kate asked, sliding a sketch across the table. Hot Lips froze for a fraction of a second, but Kate's detective eyes didn't miss it.

"He looks familiar. Why?"

Kate took the sketch back and slid it into the manila folder. "He was seen going to Mr. Reynolds' apartment almost every night around seven for the past few weeks."

"He's not your killer, if that's what you're asking." Hot Lips folded her arms across her chest, one eyebrow arched.

"Then you know him?"

"I know your killer," Hot Lips said.

A knock came at the door. Kate exchanged glares with her suspect before slipping out the door. Ryan held the ballistics report. "It wasn't her gun that killed Reynolds." He looked past Kate's shoulder at the brooding woman in the interrogation room, cringing a little.

Kate frowned. There was a whole lot Hot Lips wasn't saying—and not just her name—and Kate had a feeling the information was related to the case. "Thanks." She went back into the interrogation room, trying to paste a poker face over her scowl.

"What's the ballistics report, Detective?" Hot Lips asked. "Let me guess. I didn't kill Reynolds."

Kate didn't answer.

Hot Lips smiled. "You want me to stay and tell you who your killer is? How to find him?" She paused. "Forget it. You'd never catch him."

Kate raised an eyebrow. "You seem pretty sure of yourself, Miss Parker."

Hot Lips stood out of her chair, bringing herself to Kate's height. "Even if I told you, you wouldn't be able to scrape enough evidence to convict him. Your killer is untouchable, Detective." Kate fought to keep her eyes locked with the other woman's. "But you already know that, don't you?" She walked out of the interrogation room, leaving Kate speechless.

When Kate finally regained her wits and walked out after Hot Lips, the other woman was standing in the middle of the hallway, fingers squeezing her temples. She turned as Kate edged closer. One word fell from her bright red lips: "Johanna." It sounded like a question, dribbled out against its speaker's will.

Kate froze. Her pulse jumped, and she could feel panic setting in. Hot Lips looked confused for a moment before she regained her composure and walked out of the precinct.

Kate turned and bolted for the ladies' room. What was that? Kate felt her chest tighten, drowning her in the air that was suddenly too thin. She pressed her forehead against the cold metal of the stall, took out her phone, and dialed Castle's number. Her finger hovered over the send button. Castle was writing, and what would Kate say, anyway? Nothing that wouldn't make him worry.

Kate walked out of the stall, splashed cold water on her face, and went back to work. The rabbit hole could wait.


Parker found Broots at the vending machine, trying to coax a bag of Funyuns out. She hit the machine and the bag fell to the retrieval slot.

Broots jumped. "Miss Parker!" he said nervously, picking the Funyuns out of the machine and avoiding her gaze. "I was just, uh, getting—"

"I want you to search the archives for any mention of the name Johanna," Parker interrupted.

"Of course," he said. "Uh, any particular reason—"

"Just do it," she sneered, and walked away. Sydney knew more about this whole Inner Sense thing than anyone. Maybe he'd know who Johanna was.

Sydney was in his office, as usual; he rarely worked in the labs now. He put down the book he was reading when Parker walked in. "Miss Parker," he said. "How was New York?"

"Well, I didn't catch your Monkey Boy," she sneered, dropping into the chair across from Sydney. "Vanished, as usual."

"And the notebook?"

"Lyle confiscated it the second I got back," Parker said. "The usual nonsense, anyway." Parker hadn't been able to keep one of Jarod's red notebooks since shortly after Carthis, when she and Lyle were set against each other in a race to find Jarod.

Sydney nodded, studying Parker thoughtfully. "Something else is bothering you," he said.

Parker scowled at a wall. "I heard them again," she said.

"What did you hear?" asked Sydney.

Parker began to pace slowly. "Johanna," she said.

"What do you think it means?" Sydney asked. Always the psychiatrist.

"I don't know." Parker pinched the bridge of her nose. "Broots is searching the archives." Parker snorted sarcastically. "Maybe it'll help me find Jarod."


Author's Note: Look at your address bar. Now look at me. Now your address bar. Now back to me. Sadly, your address bar says fanfiction. I'm just playing in a sandbox.

Also worth noting is that this is an AU which diverges from Castle canon after season four, and contains no spoilers for season five. The AU differs from the Pretender canon on a few matters of timing: much of the timeline of the Pretender plotline has been shifted forward so as to align more fluidly with the Castle timeline.