Chapter 15

They sat in the conference room stunned by the events of the day. Bracken was arrested for murder, conspiracy, bribery and a slew of other charges would be added once all the dust settled. McAdams had told the team that she was really Rachel McCord but, then, told the team to meet her and Captain Gates in the conference room at the 12th Precinct. Castle and Beckett hitched a ride in Esposito's and Ryan's vehicle. No one uttered a word the entire ride. They assembled in the conference room as ordered. Gates and McCord joined them 30 minutes later.

Both women stood at the end of the table. Gates said, "As you all know, before being assigned to captain the 12th Precinct I worked in Internal Affairs. My last assignment for IA before moving to the 12th was investigating John Raglan and Gary McCallister and their involvement in Robert Armen's murder and the kidnapping of mobsters. Agent Beckett, your investigation into Raglan's death and its connection to your mother's murder did not escape our attention. When we looked into Raglan's and McCallister's known associates we came across Captain Montgomery. It was clear to us that if he wasn't involved in the kidnappings of the mobsters he had to have known who was because of his relationship to Raglan and McCallister. As we were closing in on Captain Montgomery, McCallister was murdered and Hal Lockwood escaped. Montgomery knew we were closing in on him and came forward voluntarily. You see, Lockwood threatened to kill Montgomery's family if he did not turn you over to Lockwood. He had no choice but to cooperate with IA."

"I don't understand. Why did he lure me to the hanger to kill Lockwood if he had decided to cooperate with IA?" Beckett asked.

Castle said, "He's alive, isn't he? You used us to stage his murder to convince Bracken that he was dead in order to protect his family. As long as he was alive, they would always be a pawn to control Montgomery."

"Very good, Mr. Castle. Montgomery came to us with a deal. If we staged his death and promised to provide his family with his pension benefits, he would lead us to the dragon," Gates said.

"But why send the file to Mr. Smith?" Castle asked. "Why didn't you arrest Bracken?"

"We didn't have enough to arrest Bracken for all the murders. Bracken is an extremely powerful man. Had we arrested him then, he would have said that the NYPD was using him as a scapegoat to cover-up the crimes of its own officers. Montgomery's file had deposits into Bracken's account but Bracken had the warehouse were all the account information was stored burnt down. Montgomery did not have any concrete evidence that Bracken had taken a contract out to kill your mother and her colleagues. Dick Coonan and Hal Lockwood were dead. We needed to know where he was getting his supply of killers," Gates explained. "And we needed to connect him to those killers."

"When you were assigned to Montgomery's precinct, he began to look into your mother's murder but stopped because Bracken threatened to kill his family. He made a deal with Bracken that he would keep you away from your mother's murder in exchange for your life and theirs. Once it became obvious that he could no longer protect you and his family we needed to take his family out of the equation and make a new arrangement. We padded the file that Montgomery sent to Mr. Smith with information we did not have but suspected to be true. We attached a letter from Montgomery telling Smith to contact Mr. Castle to keep you away from the case. Unfortunately, we did not realize that Mr. Castle would investigate on his own," Gates said, a look of disapproval on her face. Castle merely shrugged. "Fortunately, Mr. Castle's meddling did not get on Bracken's radar."

Gates would later tell them that Mr. Smith and Montgomery served in the military together. Montgomery had saved Smith's life during a standoff with a mentally disturbed serviceman at Fort Drum. After they left the military, they each went their separate ways professionally but remain friends. As a corporate and legal fixer of sorts, Mr. Smith was used to manipulating powerful people. Montgomery had turned a blind eye a couple of times for his friend during his career. Smith was well connected and they believed him capable of taking care of himself. Unfortunately, they were too late to stop Marx. IA had staked out Smith's residence when Ryan figured out who Marx was targeting, but Marx escaped their detection and it wasn't until their team spotted Beckett and Castle breaking into Smith's apartment that they realized that Smith was in danger. By then the damage had been done and Mr. Smith passed away from the injuries he had sustained during Marx's beating.

Esposito said, "So Montgomery is in Witness Relocation."

"Yes. Bracken must not know he is alive or he will try to kill his family, so I am sure I don't need to tell you that everything that is said in this room is must never be discussed again," Gates exclaimed. They all nodded their heads in acknowledgement. The shock that Montgomery was still alive had lifted their spirits but the realization that neither they nor his family would ever see him again was heartbreaking. Even if Bracken was completely neutralized and Montgomery felt secure enough to come out of hiding, the NYPD would not allow him to slip back into his old life for fear of exposure. They had made a deal with a dirty cop to allow his wife and children to keep his pension and benefits. This might cause a scandal at One Police Plaza. There would be no happy reunion. For his sins, Montgomery would have to watch his children and wife move on with their lives without him. Each member of the team knew how much he loved his family and understood the extent of his sacrifice.

Gates said, "I contacted the AG's office when Bracken's life was threatened. I was afraid that having saved his life might motivate you to go after him. We needed to keep tabs on your efforts to bring him down."

"Was that why I was offered the job?" Beckett asked.

McCord moved forward and said, "We were working different angles of the case but were getting nowhere. As luck would have it, Agent Stack's drone case brought him in direct contact with you," McCord told Beckett. "He was extremely impressed with your skills and took the opportunity to steal you away from Captain Gates. I head the New York office and Stack works for me. We wanted you for our New York office but did not want you to know that I was working on your shooting. After your six week training, the AG's office received a referral to investigate Grady's murder. I wanted to see you in action myself and I needed to keep you away from Bracken. As you know, the case was sensitive in nature because it involved politics and bribery. I had no idea it would lead to Arantas Solutions or Senator Bracken. I was merely masquerading as Mary McAdams to see if you were working on finding evidence against Senator Bracken. I figured it would be easier for you to work with an equal than a superior. Your instincts regarding the case surprised me. It didn't dawn on me that by looking into the bribery aspect of the Grady case might lead to other politicians willing to accept bribes. Connecting the bribes to Bracken and Arantas Solutions broke the case."

"But that wasn't me. Esposito and Ryan connected Marx to Arantas Solutions and Senator Bracken. Castle connected Crescent Horizons to Bracken and Arantas Solutions through El-Masri," Beckett said.

"It was all of the above. I was most impressed with your efforts as a team. The group dynamic is unparalleled. You work a case from four different perspectives never losing sight of your goal. The four of you together are a powerful weapon," McCord told the team. She stopped after getting a text on her phone. Having read it, she turned back to the team and Captain Gates and said, "FBI and CSU teams at the warehouse have found all the evidence we need to nail Senator Bracken. It's over."

It's over. Those works repeated in Kate's head. After the meeting, the team was dismissed with instructions to meet again in the same room at 10:00 am. McCord and Gates would supervise the search of the documents and make further arrests throughout the night. Rick and Kate caught a cap back to the loft. Still too stunned by the days events they said nothing during the ride. As they walked into the loft, Alexis and Martha rushed over to great them. Jim Beckett just stood waiting for his daughter and future son-in-law to notice him. "Dad," Kate said, as she ran into his arms. "It's over, Dad. We caught mom's murderer."

Jim Beckett hugged his daughter and said, "I love you, sweetheart." And with that, Kate burst into tears. Castle, Alexis and Martha moved to the kitchen to busy themselves with dinner and gave Jim and Kate the privacy they needed. "I'm glad you got him but I am even happier that you are safe. I couldn't bear losing you too, Katie." He helped wipe away her tears. Kate smiled and composed herself.

"I'm not going anywhere Dad," she said.

"Even better," Jim said. "Now let's join the others. Martha and Alexis have prepared a wonderful dinner for us. Oh, have you met Alexis' new boyfriend, Pi? Did you know that he recently spent time in with the Massai in Africa?" Jim said raising his eyebrow.

"Really?" was all she said as they moved over to the table to join the others for a late dinner.

-Break-

"How are you feeling?" Castle asked as they prepared for bed.

Dinner with the family had been a welcome change from the Bracken case. Kate felt a sense of relief. "I'm fine, Rick," she said. "I know this is going to sound funny coming from me, but I feel like my mom is finally at peace," she told him pausing for a moment to acknowledge her mother. "Maybe, I'm just projecting my own sense of peace on to my mother."

"Don't be so sure, Kate. Something or someone has been driving you all these years. Now that your mother has gotten justice, she has set you free."

They each climbed into bed and Kate scooted over to Castle who held her in his arms. Her back was against his chest and she turned her head to kiss him. They slid under the covers into a spooning position and fell fast asleep.

The next morning, Kate woke up to the smell of coffee and pancakes. She smiled and rose out of bed to join Castle in the kitchen. Instead of Castle, Kate found Alexis and Martha. "Oh, I thought Rick was out here," Kate said as she took a seat at the breakfast bar.

"Richard had a meeting with the realtor to sell your apartment," Martha said. Kate had forgotten that she had asked him to sell her apartment. Martha looked at Alexis who was flipping the pancakes and said, "Well, ask her."

"Asking what?" said Kate.

"Gram!" Alexis exclaimed. Alexis had a burning question for Kate and it became apparent that now was as good a time as any to ask it. "I was wondering…if maybe, I could move into your apartment? It's close to school and Dad said it's on a safe block close to the subway. He also said it's quite charming. You wouldn't have to store or sell your furniture. It would save me from living in a dorm." Alexis' blue eyes shined with excitement and bewilderment at the same time.

Kate said, "Alexis, let me discuss it with your father and get back to you. After the debacle with your boyfriend regarding my commitment level, I wouldn't want your father to get the idea that I wanted to keep the apartment for any other reason than to give it to you."

Alexis jumped with excitement and squealed as she ran around the island and hugged Kate. "Thank you, thank you, thank you. I already asked him and he said yes. I've got to call him right now to stop him from putting it on the market." She ran to grab her cell phone and call her father.

"That is very kind of you Katherine," Martha said patting Kate's hand. "Have you and Richard decided whether you are going to sell this place?" she asked.

"Sell this place?" Kate parroted back.

"Why, yes. Even if you are assigned New York at the end of your probationary period, I thought you both would want to pick out a place together. You know, dear…fresh start."

"No, we hadn't talked about it. But I don't want him to give up the loft. I thought I would move in and we would make some adjustments together. Martha, you don't think I am trying to kick you out because that couldn't be furthest from the truth," Kate said taking Martha's hand.

Martha looked down at their joined hands and said, "Oh dear, that is very sweet of you, but I am a big girl, I'm not needed here anymore. Alexis is grown and doesn't need me to mother her and Richard has you. Darling, I don't want to be a bother." The thought of Martha leaving the loft saddened Kate in a way she hadn't expected. She had grown accustom to sharing space with these people and she knew from her time in DC that she missed their voices when she was away.

"If it is alright with you, Martha, could you stick around for a little while longer? I have been without a mother for a very long time and it is nice to have someone to fill some of that void. At least through the wedding, please? I need you to help me pick a dress and plan and teach me what I need to know."

"Oh, Darling, I would be honored. I've been married several times and am very good at weddings. It would be my pleasure to share this with you. Thank you." Martha came around the island and gave Kate a hug.

Alexis joined them after her phone call and gave them a quizzical look. "What's going on?" she asked.

"Kate needs our help to pick a wedding dress."

Alexis jumped up and squealed again and joined the hug. "This day just keeps getting better and better. Lanie and I have been looking at dresses for you during our lunch hour at the morgue. We have a bet going on how long it's going to take you to pick a date and whether you would want to be married in a dress or a suit. We both said dress but Ryan and Esposito said pant suit." Alexis looked at Kate expecting an answer.

Kate simply said, "Dress. But slow down Alexis, I have to talk to Rick about the date. Once we have a date picked out, we can start dress shopping."

Alexis beamed, "This is going to be so great."

"What is going to be great?" asked Rick as he entered the apartment. Kate rose from her seat to kiss him.

"The wedding," she said to him. "I've asked Martha and Alexis to help me pick a dress…and of course, Lanie will help too."

"Of course," said Rick in a mocking tone. Kate slapped him on the arm but smiled at him.

"What about you, big Rick, have you picked a best man yet?" Kate asked.

"Again, thank you for calling me Big Rick…" he said.

A chorus of "Dad," "Rick," and "Richard" rang out at the same time from the women.

"I have. Choosing the right best man for a man like myself is no easy feat. He has to be able to deliver a kickass bachelor party and get me to the alter on time. Therefore, Esposito will be charged with the bachelor party duties and Ryan will make sure that I get to the alter on time. It's a two man job."

Now it was Kate's turn to beam. "I concur. I have already asked Lanie to be my maid of honor and, Alexis, I would be honored if you would be my one and only brides maid."

"I would be honored," the beautiful red head replied, giving Kate another hug.

"Who's been cooking?" Castle said.

"Alexis and I," Martha replied. "Please, sit down. Don't you two have a very important meeting to get to this morning?" Rick and Kate smiled lingering in each other's arms a while longer before they joined the others for breakfast.

-Break-

At the precinct, while the team went through the documents from the raid at the warehouse, McCord pulled Beckett aside for a brief discussion. "Kate, as you have probably guessed by now, you will be assigned to our New York office. However, given your relationship with your team I have a proposition for you." McCord waited for a reaction from Kate.

"Go ahead," was all Kate said, intrigued by the proposition.

"I would like to install you at the 12th Precinct. Captain Gates and I have discussed the fact that the AG's office lacks the man power to do a lot of the work needed on major crimes. Therefore, we have proposed to our superiors and joint task force including agents from the FBI, the NYPD and the AG's office to work major crimes of local and national importance in the New York and surrounding areas. We would like you to head the squad. I have asked that Detective's Ryan and Esposito be added and have made arrangements to include Mr. Castle as a consultant. Detective Ellis would be in charge of technical support. In addition, Jordan Shaw from the FBI would liaise between the task force and the FBI. Doctor Parish will head the coroner's and forensic units. Captain Paavan was very impressed with you and Mr. Castle and will assign a liaison to the team. This joint task force would be the first of its kind and we are confident in the team we have assembled. You would report both to me and Captain Gates. You would work out of this building and have access to FBI analyst and NYPD crime scene investigators. Captain Gates and I would have discretion to bring in more officers, agents and detectives on an as needed basis. This would be a pilot program and after a year we would be subject to review. How does that sound to you?"

"Did you really work as a U.S. Marshall?" asked Kate.

McCord was not surprised by her question. She was asking Kate to trust her and knew she would have to answer some questions if she was going to solidify that trust. "Yes. I spent five years as a U.S. Marshall but then I decided to get my legal degree. After law school, I found that I did not like practicing law but understood that there was a lack of appreciation for the law in law enforcement. As luck would have it, I mentioned my concerns to during an interview for a position as an assistant US attorney. That led to a meeting with the Attorney General himself and the formation of his task force."

"Are you married? Do you have children?" Kate asked.

"I am not married but I have two grown sons and one of them is about to make me a grandmother. Yes. It is very difficult to raise children when you have a full time career in law enforcement. I have been lucky to have a partner who could commit to our children. I believe in having a full life. It keeps things in perspective. I don't think anybody should have to conform to a particular stereotype of what a good agent should be. It is as individual as the color of your underwear. None of us know where life will lead us. I found that as you make your way in life certain unexpected opportunities present themselves and you never know where those opportunities will lead," she explained. "Now, Kate. What do you say?"

"Agent McCord, I think you know my answer but just to make sure we are all on the same page…Yes, I want the job."

McCord and Captain Gates would be busy sorting out the Bracken case and needed Kate to take control of the team. The rest of the day was spent filling the others in on what was happening. The team assembled for their first meeting that afternoon. McCord and Gate assigned them the murder of a chemical engineer suspected of working on chemical weapons. The threat was enough for Captain Paavan to make an appearance before the newly formed task force to introduce his liaison, Takumi Sato, a former bomb disposal unit officer. The team hit the ground running.

After the meeting, Kate pulled Javi aside. "I trust we are not going to have a problem between you, Ellis and Lanie?" Kate said.

"Why what have you heard?" Javier asked.

"Javi are you dating both of them?"

Javier looked chagrin, "Not really. I asked Ellis out for coffee once."

"To make Lanie jealous?" Kate asked.

"Lanie is a hard nut to crack. I had to do something to get her to pay me some attention," he justified.

"Cut it off with one of them. And by one of them, I mean Ellis. You cannot date a co-worker in the same department." Javier looked at her incredulous. "I'm the boss and the exception," she said, a smile creeping out of her tough exterior. He saluted her as he got back to work.

"Everything okay?" Castle asked.

Kate smiled. "No, Rick, we've got a case to solve and we don't have any leads," she said.

"I had a few ideas," Castle responded, and as he told her his ideas Kate had never felt so satisfied in her life.

The End

Writers note: Please let me know what you thought of this story. Any feedback, even one work, would be appreciated. I thank you for hanging in until the end. Those of you who have written reviews have a special place in my heart. I am very excited about the upcoming season and hope it inspires me to write more.