"Castle to Rook" is a sequel to my story "Rook to Castle" and depends upon situations created there. Here, Castle finds himself in the world of Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook, wishing for a pair of ruby slippers.
Richard Castle was dreaming and couldn't wake up. His ribs hurt. There was an old man with a walking stick telling Castle something that he couldn't quite hear. Castle would turn away, only to find the man in front of him again. After each attempt to speak to him, the man poked Castle in the ribs with his stick.
Finally, the pain made Castle open his eyes. He was lying on a carpeted floor. As his vision cleared, he saw a thin, old man with long, white hair, neatly combed back. He was leaning on a walking stick, staring down at him.
"You're dressed pretty fancy for a hobo," the man said.
Sitting up, Castle asked, "Where am I?"
The man shook his head. "Just my luck to get stuck with the crazies," he muttered. "Look around you. What do you see?"
"Bingo! And where do you go to find a lot of books? Take a wild guess."
"Um, the library?"
"Give the man a prize!"
"And who are you?" Castle asked.
"Me? You can call me Beetoy. I'm going to be your guide on your spiritual journey."
Castle blinked. "Really?"
"No, you schmuck. I'm the guy that's going to hand you your ass if you don't get up off the floor."
Castle stood up and looked around him, scratching the back of his head. "I was in a parking garage. That's the last thing I remember. No, there was a light. I saw a light, and the next thing I know I'm here."
"Ai yi yi. That's just great. Next he's going to tell me he was in Kansas and a tornado swept him away. Now," Beetoy said, shuffling towards a book trolley, "some of us have work to do. Why don't you go on your way? You need help, you follow the yellow brick road." He tossed something to Castle. "I hear the Wizard can fix you up if you lost your brain."
Castle looked at the compass he'd caught. The needle was spinning in circles. Shaking his head, he slipped it into his pocket and followed the signs to the exit.
The sunlight on 5th avenue was blinding. It looked like midday. It was evening, he thought. I'm sure when I was in the garage it was evening.
Walking north on 5th, nothing seemed out-of-place. He stopped and checked his phone for messages. Nothing. The phone was dead. Sighing, he walked further north until a magazine stand caught his eye. There was the usual assortment of garish covers and exposes, but one display in particular made him catch his breath. The magazine was called First Press. The cover featured a woman, her foot up on a chair, sidearm clearly visible, arms folded. The woman looked familiar. She could be... She could be Beckett's sister, Castle thought. The title splashed on the cover read, "CRIME WAVE MEETS HEAT WAVE".
Standing next to Castle, a girl was browsing the teen magazines. She had a dog on a leash. A terrier. Kneeling down to pet the dog, Castle said, "Toto, something tells me we're not in Kansas any more."
Castle purchased the magazine and continued walking north. He found himself at the Pulitzer Fountain and sat down. Appropriate, he thought, leafing through the magazine. Considering I'm looking at an article by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Jameson Rook. Except he's fictional. Castle looked up. Or I am. When Rook came through to our side, he said he'd been in the library on 5th.
Castle got up and went to hail a cab.
Getting out at the corner of East 41st and 5th, Castle was about to head for the library entrance when he noticed Beetoy at the cross walk. "Mr. Beetoy!" he called out.
Beetoy turned. At that moment, a car ran the red light, hit Beetoy, then sped away. Castle dashed over to him and knelt down.
Beetoy opened his eyes and beckoned Castle to come closer. "Great," he whispered. "My last moments on Earth and I get to spend them with the hobo."
Then he closed his eyes.
He opened his eyes again, beckoned to Castle to come closer, and said, "Say hi to Nikki Heat." Then he closed his eyes and lay still.
Jameson Rook shook his head as he read a selection of Cassidy Towne's gossip columns. Well, he thought, I couldn't have picked a much more colourful topic for my next piece. The TV was tuned to the news channel, the sound muted. After he'd absorbed as much gossip as he could stomach, he glanced up at the TV and saw the New York Library on 5th. He reached for the remote.
"... and we've just received word that the victim, an employee of the New York City Library, has been pronounced dead, the result of an apparent hit-and-run." The image switched to a photo of Beetoy. "On the scene was the now-famous detective Nikki Heat, who declined to comment on the case."
The screen showed Heat accosted by reporters. Using some choice language that was edited out of the newscast, she brushed past them into a nearby patrol car while police managed the crowds at the crime scene. The camera then panned to a witness speaking to another detective.
The smile left Rook's face. It can't be, he thought.
Castle found himself sitting in an interrogation room. It was both familiar and alien. His copy of First Press, a magazine that shouldn't exist, was on the table beside him. And sitting across from him was a woman that shouldn't exist. Nikki Heat was saying something but he hadn't quite caught it.
"Sorry," said Castle, "can you repeat that?"
Heat sighed and sat back in her chair. "Again, witnesses say you heard the victim's last words. What did he say? Exactly."
"First he said, and this is exactly what he said, 'Great. My last moments on Earth and I get to spend them with the hobo.' I thought he was dead or unconscious after that, but then he opened his eyes and said, 'Say hi to Nikki Heat.'"
Heat was taking notes. "Why did he refer to you as 'the hobo'?"
Castle smiled. "Well, he found me on the floor in the library. I... must have fallen asleep."
"You took a nap in the library? Or you passed out? Do you have a medical condition?"
"No, nothing like that. I don't know what happened, to be honest."
Heat regarded Castle in silence for a moment.
"You said your name is Richard Castle."
"And you're a writer."
"It's odd, then, that there's no record of you. No address, no phone number, no driver's license, no publications."
Castle was silent.
"For all intents and purposes, Mr. Castle, you don't exist."
"I can explain," Castle said, "but first I need you to bring in Jameson Rook."
"You need..." Heat repeated and trailed off. "Here's what I think you need Mr. Castle. I think..."
But Heat was interrupted by a knock on the door. An officer stuck his head in the room. "Sorry to interrupt, Detective, but someone is here to see you. Says he has pertinent information and that it's important."
Heat pursed her lips for a moment, then rose from the chair. "I'll be back in a minute. Try to have a proper explanation for me by then."
She was gone more than a minute. Castle was starting to fret when Heat finally came back in followed by...
"Rook!" Castle exclaimed. He stood up and the two men shook hands across the table.
As they seated themselves, Castle said, "That was fast. I just asked for you."
"I saw you on the news. I couldn't believe it was you. That you were here. I came to the precinct as quickly as I could."
"Okay," said Heat. "How about you let me in on this. From the beginning."
Rook cleared his throat. "This is going to sound fantastic. But it's true, every word. And I'm betting Castle here can prove it to you. It started a few weeks ago while I was doing some research at the library on 5th..."
When he finished his story, he looked at Castle and said, "You know, I almost thought it was all a dream. I remember that I was with you in the garage, then the next thing I know some old guy is poking me with the walking stick from hell. It was Beetoy, the guy that was just killed. Apparently I'd fallen asleep at the desk.
"Just one thing," Castle said. "You said a few weeks? I saw you just yesterday."
"That's not possible. It's been three weeks and a bit."
Castle shook his head. "Yesterday. I went to the garage in the evening, the day after I last saw you. I don't really know what happened, but I ended up on the floor of the library. Your friend with the walking stick was there. Quite a character."
Rook smiled. "There's nothing about this that makes much sense, is there?"
"One thing's for certain. There's some sort of connection between my parking garage and your library."
"No," said Heat, getting up from the chair. "The only thing that's for certain is that you're out of your mind. Both of you."
Rook nodded at Castle. Castle said, "I can tell you things. Things about yourself that you've never told another living soul. That only you could know."
Heat stopped pacing and regarded Castle skeptically. "What things?"
Castle beckoned to her. "Come here so I can whisper."
Heat considered for a moment, then approached Castle and bent over. He whispered something in her ear that Rook couldn't catch.
Heat straightened, stared at Castle, then sat down shakily.
Rook put his hand on her shoulder but she shook it off. Then he said, "I held his book in my hands. Spent a whole night reading and rereading it. I don't remember the details, they're getting fuzzy now, but I remember that everything about our working together on the Matthew Starr case was there. And more."
"I know it seems fantastic to you," added Castle, "but consider this. From my point of view, I sat down at my desk and invented you. Both of you. And now I'm here, wherever here is, sitting across from you. I keep wanting to pinch myself because this can't possibly be happening."
Heat looked closely at Castle as he spoke. When he finished, she thought for a moment then got up and left the room. "Wait here," she said on her way out. Rook and Castle heard her call, "Roach!" as the door closed. Castle looked at Rook.
"Yes," Rook grinned. "They're here too."
Nikki Heat returned a few minutes later. Looking at Rook, she said, "So help me, if you're playing me for a fool, you'll wish you'd never been born."
"Nikki, I swear to you, every word I've told you is the gospel truth."
"Right then," Nikki said. "We're going to put this crazy story aside for now and focus on the case at hand. A car matching the description of the one that hit Beetoy was involved in the kidnapping of a little girl this morning. Five year-old Emily Blundell. We have an APB out on the car but we need more to go on. So far we don't have a license plate. Was the hit-and-run an accident? If not, how is the car linked to Beetoy? Why did Beetoy mention me before he died? Did he know about it? Was he in on it? There's a lot of questions that need answers. I'm going to his apartment to start looking for them. You're both coming with me. For now, I don't want to let either of you out of my sight."
"Wouldn't miss it," Castle and Rook said together. They looked at each other, laughed, and gave each other a high-five.
Heat shook her head and sighed. Two of them. She hadn't known when she was well off. "And as for you," she said to Rook, picking up the issue of First Press and brandishing it like a weapon, "we'll have a little chat about this later."
The landlord let them in to the small, dark apartment. Rook opened the curtains to let in some light. Castle flipped on the switch and noticed a wall-mounted frame containing three photos. "Um, guys? You should check this out."
He stepped back to get a better look. Heat and Rook joined him. They were all silent. The frame contained portrait photos of each of them, Castle, Heat and Rook. Underneath, a caption said, "One Big Happy Family".
Finally, Rook spoke up. "You're pretty photogenic, Castle. Wish I took as good a portrait."
Heat punched Rook's shoulder, not quite playfully. "Perhaps the more pertinent point is, why is this here?"
"And how?" Castle added. "I don't exist in this world. " He turned to Heat, who didn't meet his glance. "So how can a picture of me be on Beetoy's wall?"
Castle's eyes drifted down to the tabletop underneath the frame. It was a mess. There was a small lamp, some dice, stacks of paper, a model car, a...
Picking up the car, Castle swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. "Does this seem familiar to anyone?" He passed it to Heat.
"It matches the description of the car that hit Beetoy," said Heat, her eyes widening. "And... it has license plates."
The wind kicked up the dust at the construction site, causing Castle and Rook to shield their faces with their forearms. As it abated, they saw a man approaching, large, beer-bellied, with a checkered shirt, blue jeans, and construction hat.
"Beat it," he said. "This site is closed."
"We have business with the fat man," Rook said. "I'm a friend of his. He won't thank you for turning us away. Especially since the police will come pay a visit if that happens."
The man sized them up for a moment, then shrugged and nodded towards the trailer.
Rook knocked at the door and entered, followed by Castle.
Fat Tommy looked up and grinned when he saw Rook. "Jamie!" he said. Looking at Castle, he added, "And you have a new friend."
"Richard Castle," Rook said. "Don't worry, he doesn't exist."
"Thanks," said Castle.
"Don't mention it."
"That can be a useful talent, sometimes," Fat Tommy said. "Not existing."
Rook got to the point. "Yes, well, we're here because of someone who does. You know a guy named Joe De Buono?"
"Sure I know Joe. Just got out of the slammer. I hired him back. He paid his debt to society, you know," he said with a chuckle.
"We think he's kidnapped his daughter. Abducted her from her mother's house this morning."
The smile left Fat Tommy's face. "You know this for a fact?"
"The kidnapper's description matches Joe's," Castle said. "He stole a car, kidnapped the girl, then struck and killed an old man on 5th."
Fat Tommy sat silently for a moment, then pounded the desk with his fist and stood up, his face red. "I warned him! Told him to let it go. Live quietly for a while, I said. But he's obsessed about his daughter. And now this. You don't do this. You don't take a child away from her mother!"
Rook and Castle backed up slightly. It was easy to imagine Fat Tommy taking out his fury on the nearest object at hand.
Rook raised his hand. "I know what you're thinking, Tommy, but let the police handle this. It will be better for everyone. They just need to know where he is."
Fat Tommy unclenched his fists and took a breath. "You might be right, Jamie. But if the police don't take care of it quick, someone else might."
"Understood," Rook said. "Now, where can we find him?"
Rook scribbled down the address, then said his thanks and the two men left the trailer. Back outside, Rook called Nikki Heat and passed along the address.
"It's not far from where we are," Rook said. "We'll meet you there."
As they walked, Rook glanced at Castle and said, "How are you coping with all this?"
Castle smiled. "Surprisingly well, actually. For now. In the thick of a case, I kind of feel right at home."
Rook nodded. "I know what you mean. What about Fat Tommy? Was he everything you expected?"
"Pretty much. Not as big as I was expecting, though."
"No, I think he's lost a bit of weight."
They walked in silence for a while, then Castle asked, "Do you suppose things happen to you because I write them? Or do I somehow write about what happens to you?"
"Good question. What about what's happening to us now?"
Castle thought for a moment. "Maybe someone else is writing this."
Rook sighed. "Well, if that's the case, let's hope they have a propensity for happy endings." Then he added. "Just to be safe, try not to write anything too horrible in your next book, will you?"
Castle grinned. "That's a promise."
After another minute, Rook asked, "So, what do you think about Nikki?"
"She's pretty hot." Castle replied.
Rook shot Castle a glance. Laughing, Castle said, "Don't worry, one detective is as much as I can manage." Scratching his head, he added, "More, actually. The day I understand Beckett..."
"I hear you," Rook said.
They reached the address just as the squad cars were congregating. Nikki Heat was there with a dozen officers, all wearing vests. When she saw the two writers, Heat called out, "You two stay out here until the all clear."
"You're welcome," Rook said.
Heat almost smiled. Then she turned to the officers and led the way into the apartment building.
Castle and Rook looked at each other. "You thinking what I'm thinking?" Castle asked.
Rook grinned. "You should know."
But before they entered the building, Castle stopped short.
"What is it?" Rook asked.
"I don't know," said Castle. "Just a feeling. Something about those kids playing there on the sidewalk ..."
Castle trailed off, then started walking towards the children.
"Castle!" Rook called out. Castle ignored him. Uncertain what to do, Rook muttered a curse and jogged after him.
When Rook caught up, Castle came to a stop. "What is it?" Rook asked.
"What do you see?" Castle asked.
"Um, four children. About six years old, drawing on the sidewalk."
"Yes," said Castle. "With yellow chalk. Follow the yellow brick road..." And Castle started along the sidewalk past the children.
Rook stood still, staring at Castle's back. "Um, Castle, you feeling OK?"
"I think so," Castle called back. "I think I'm about to take a leap of faith."
Rook caught up to Castle again. Castle reached into his pocket and took out the compass. It was no longer spinning, but it wasn't pointing north. Castle stopped and showed the compass to Rook.
"Beetoy gave me this," said Castle. "He said to follow the yellow brick road. Then he gave me this compass."
"Which is broken."
"Is it?" Castle pondered. "This all seems to be revolving around Beetoy. Humour me for a bit."
Following the compass, they crossed the street, zigzagged through a couple of blocks, then, in front of an out-of-business restaurant, the compass started to spin in circles.
"Some compass," said Rook. "We won't even be able to get a coffee."
"No coffee," agreed Castle, "but maybe a kidnapped girl. Let's check around back."
There was a service entrance at the back. Castle put his ear to the door but heard nothing. He knocked loudly. "Anyone there?" No answer. "We're not here to hurt you."
Castle put his ear back to the door. After a moment, he heard a faint cry.
"I want to go home," said the muffled voice.
Castle shoved against the door, but it didn't give way. "Give me a hand with this," he said to Rook.
They tried kicking at the door together. After the third attempt, it gave way. In the corner opposite, in the darkness, a little girl huddled closer to the wall. Castle crouched down. "Hi Emily," he said.
The girl looked at him, wiping her nose with her sleeve.
"My name is Rick. You know, I have a daughter. She was a lot like you when she was your age. This is Jamie. We're working with the police. Will you let us take you to the police so they can take you back to your mother?"
The girl wiped her eyes and nodded. Castle slowly approached her and picked her up, letting her rest her head on his shoulder.
Back at the apartment building, Nikki Heat watched as the uniforms escorted De Buono into the car. He didn't have the girl with him and he wasn't talking. They might not have long to find her, and they had no fresh leads. She was about to get into her own car when she realized that Rook and Castle had disappeared. Looking around, she noticed the two of them coming around the corner. Rook gave her a thumbs up, then Heat's jaw dropped as she realized what Castle was carrying in his arms.
Heat, Rook and Castle were in a bar near the precinct. Mother and daughter were reunited and De Buono had signed a confession. Heat had questioned him closely.
"Beetoy was an accident," Heat said. "De Buono claims he was looking back at his daughter when he struck him. Says he's never seen or heard of Beetoy."
"Funny about the car, then." Rook commented. "I mean the model in his apartment."
"He also denied any accomplices," Heat added, looking at Castle.
Castle nodded. "I write you, remember. Of course you had to rule out my being a part of this. Like the fireman who wants to be a hero by putting out the fire he started."
Heat shook her head and took a swallow of her drink. "Well, we can't do anything for Beetoy, except punish his killer, but at least we have the daughter back where she belongs."
"Here here," Rook said, and they all three clinked their glasses together.
"And here's to the broken compass," Rook said with a smile.
Castle took the compass out of his pocket and placed it on the bar.
"How about that?" said Rook. "Now it's actually pointing north. Maybe it finally decided to behave like a proper compass."
Staring at the compass, Castle said, "I wonder."
Castle set down his drink and got up. "There's something I have to check out. I'll catch up with you guys later."
As he left, Rook said to Heat, "Well, it can truly be said that we've met our maker."
Heat glared at Rook. Ignoring him, she said, "And now, writer boy, it's time we had our little chat."
Rook gulped down the rest of his drink and set the empty glass on the bar.
"Another?" asked the bartender.
Rook nodded. "Better make it a double," he said.
Following the compass, Castle eventually found himself walking north on 5th. He wasn't surprised to find that the compass started to spin outside the library.
And now he was back, back at the very spot where he'd awakened. Hearing a sound behind him, Castle turned and saw... Beetoy shelving books and humming to himself.
Noticing Castle, Beetoy shook his head. "Again it's the hobo. Lucky me."
Castle was stunned. He didn't even know where to begin. Finally, he said, "I thought you were dead. You were pronounced dead."
"And you believe everything you hear? Anyway, I got more lives than a cat. That's what my granddaughter always says."
"I need to get back," Castle said. "Back to where I came from."
"What, and you misplaced your ruby slippers?"
Castle ignored him. "When I woke up, I was on this side of that doorway. When Rook came to my world, he had gone through a doorway in this library. What would happen if I went through?" Castle asked.
"You go through a doorway, maybe nothing. Maybe everything. Maybe you just find yourself on the other side of the doorway. Or... Or maybe you find the woman of your dreams. Who knows?"
"Look at it this way," continued Beetoy. He set aside his stick and held his jacket lapels in his hands. "A doorway is like a bridge. Now, what's a bridge for, eh?"
"Crossing?" Castle thought this conversation was starting to sound familiar. He looked at Beetoy again. He'd previously reminded Castle of Billy Crystal's character in The Princess Bride. Now, he suddenly seemed taller, prouder. He seemed, come to think of it, to bear a striking resemblance to William Hartnell.
"Right. So get cracking. And cross it!"
Castle walked through the doorway...
… and opened his eyes. "Kate," he mumbled.
Taking his hand, Beckett replied, "Castle! Oh, thank goodness. You're in the hospital. You've been in a hit-and-run. You're going to be OK."
Smiling, Castle replied, "There's no place like home." Then he drifted back to sleep.
The next day, Castle was up and alert, waiting to be discharged. Doodling on a pad of paper, he spelled B-E-E-T-O-Y and smiled, thinking it must have been a crazy dream to create a character like that. An old man in a library, apparently more than one copy...
His eyes widened and he wrote A-T-O-Z. Mr. Atoz. A to Z. Mr. Beetoy. B to Y. Really?
His mother and Alexis came shortly after, as did his nurse with the completed paperwork. Castle dressed, eager to be home, but noticed something in his right front trouser pocket that didn't seem to belong. He reached in and grabbed it, then sat down, speechless.
It was the compass.
1. "Now, what's a bridge for... and cross it." William Hartnell spoke these lines when the played the Doctor in the Doctor Who episode, "The Three Doctors".
2. Mr. Atoz was a character in the original Star Trek series episode, "All Our Yesterdays".