| CHAPTER 1
“It’s the city that always sleeps, Gus!” Shawn proclaimed, throwing out his arms and motioning to the towering skyscrapers of New York City.
“The city that never sleeps,” Gus corrected him, “and no, you have never heard it both ways.”
Shawn shrugged, unperturbed by Gus interrupting him. “I’ll learn it by the end of the week. I’m so glad Ricky invited us to come and visit him. It’s the least he could do after writing his latest book about McNab.” He took Gus’ silence as a signal to continue. “So when are we supposed to meet up with Ricky?”
“I -” Gus started to answer and then stopped walking to stare in a window.
Shawn got three steps ahead of his friend before he realized Gus wasn’t there. “What is it, buddy? Is the world’s best cup of coffee located there? Oh man; that is a really ugly shirt.” Shawn caught sight of the window display in the department store they had just passed.
“Shawn,” Gus pointed to one of the mannequins in the back, “is that what I think it is?”
Shawn gave Gus a confused look and then glanced into the window. “It depends. Do you think that you’re looking at a dead body dressed in the most hideous dress that has ever graced a giant window belonging to a store? Because if you do, then yes, that is what you think it is.”
“That’s not a dress; it’s a brown coat. And if that’s a dead body, shouldn’t we be screaming and calling the cops?”
“Gus, please remember, we don’t scream. We exclaim, and it’ll be hard to explain to the cops. We don’t speak the language here; this is New York.”
“They speak English here, Shawn. Just call 911.” Gus’ voice was beginning to fade to a hoarse whisper as he continued to look at the body in the window.
“All right, fine, but if I get stuck talking to someone who doesn’t understand me, and I accidentally insult their heritage and ethnic culture, I’m blaming you. Especially if they try to burn us at the stake.” Shawn pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed 911.
“Yo,” Javier Esposito poked his head into the break room. “Dispatch just got a call about a body at 5th and Park.”
Beckett nodded absently as she finished stirring the sugar into her coffee. “Alright, get Ryan and we’ll head down there.”
Within fifteen minutes, the three detectives pulled up in front of the store, where a crowd of onlookers had gathered in front of one of the large display windows. Two men were standing closest to the window. One had a rather nauseated look on his face and was turned away from the display. The other was holding one hand to his head and grasping a woman’s palm with the other.
“I’m sensing that you will find your cat. She’s just hiding in the closet next to your kitchen,” he announced to the woman.
“Did you hear that, Jonathan?” the woman screeched into her cell phone. “She is? Oh, thank you, thank you!” She gave the man a hug and then hurried to hail a cab.
“NYPD,” Beckett called out, breaking up the crowd and flashing her badge. “Who called in the body?”
“That would be us!” The man who had been hugged waved an arm up in the air like a second grader on the first day of school.
Beckett looked past him into the department store. There was indeed an odd mannequin propped up in the back of the window display. “You gentlemen can give your statements to Detectives Ryan and Esposito, I have a call to make.” She waved for the two detectives as the access door to the window opened and Lanie Parish, the medical examiner, climbed in next to the body. Pulling out her cell phone, Beckett stepped away from the others and dialed Richard Castle’s number.
“Alright.” Ryan pulled out a notebook. “Names.”
“My name is Shawn Spencer, and this is my partner Violet Beauregard.”
Gus elbowed Shawn in the ribs. “That’s the creepy girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. My name is Burton Guster,” he told Ryan.
Esposito smirked slightly.
Shawn mistook his amusement for recognition. “Ah, I see you’ve heard of me. I am a very famous psychic detective on the west coast. I solve cases for the Santa Barbara Police Department.”
Esposito turned to Ryan. “I have no idea what he’s talking about, although if he’s from Santa Barbara, then he might know that rookie cop McNab, Richard Castle’s newest muse.”
Ryan’s eyes lit up and he returned his partner’s grin. “Yeah, he’s the basis for the main character in Castle’s newest best seller.”
Shawn looked hurt. “See Gus, everyone knows Richard Castle, just like I told you.”
“They know of him; they might not actually know him,” Gus pointed out.
“Don’t be a ridiculously overweight pet rabbit, Gus,” Shawn started to argue with his best friend.
“Would you two just please explain how you found the body?” Esposito cut in before things got too tense.
“Ever since we solved the case of the dead wiseman at the Christmas village, Gus and I have had a knack for noticing dead bodies dressed up as fake people.” Shawn got back on track after sticking his tongue out at Gus.
“We were walking by the store, and I noticed that the mannequin had fallen over. I had just been reading how department stores in New York pride themselves in their window displays, so it seemed out of place,” Gus elaborated.
Esposito nodded and jotted down some notes. He opened his mouth to ask the next question when all of a sudden Shawn went boneless and fell to the pavement.
“Oh Gus! It’s happening!” Shawn cried out from the ground. “I’m being taken over by the spirit of the mannequin; it’s like a horrible sci-fi movie!”
Ryan and Esposito both took a full step back and watched as the psychic rolled around on the ground.
“Gus! It says that it was murdered!” Shawn sat bolt upright.
“A murder; now that is my style!” Richard Castle’s voice joined their conversation.
Shawn jumped up from the ground and brushed himself off. “Ricky! How nice for you to visit our crime scene.”
Castle gave them a grin. “How nice of you two to find a crime scene for me to visit. I didn’t realize you two were in New York.”
“Shawn didn’t call you?” Gus asked, mortified.
“Me? You’re the one with all the organizational methods and the planners,” Shawn said defensively.
“You’re the one the letter was addressed to,” Gus rebutted. “You told me Rick said we could go to New York this week. And I took my vacation time and we got tickets.”
“It was an open invitation, Gus.” Shawn threw his arm around his friend’s shoulder.
Any response Gus would have given Shawn was held in when Detective Beckett came over to them.
“How long does it take to get a statement?” she demanded, still carrying her coffee from the station.
“This must be Nikki Heat,” Gus whispered to Shawn as he untangled himself from his friend’s arm.
“Gus, Nikki Heat is a stripper name,” Shawn replied at a normal volume, sounding slightly offended.
“I am not Nikki Heat, and nothing in the book actually happened,” Beckett automatically told him.
Castle shook his head. “Not even close.”
“That’s not completely unexpected,” Shawn groused.
“You’ve never even read the book,” Gus protested.
“Gus, they make audio books. What else would I do at the gym?” Shawn laughed and shook his head. He turned back to Beckett. “I’m Shawn Spencer, by the way; you may have heard of me. I’m a famous detective.”
“Psychic detective,” Castle informed her.
“Right,” Beckett nodded. “You work with Detective Lassiter. He called here when Castle went to California.”
“Lassie called here?”
“We told him Castle blew up the break room with the espresso machine,” Esposito laughed.
“You did what?” Castle looked between Esposito and Ryan, who were both grinning at the memory.
“And then Beckett told him that you were scared of sporks,” Ryan defended himself and his partner.
Beckett brought everyone’s attention back to the case, ignoring the mischievous grin on Castle’s face. “Lanie puts the TOD twelve to fifteen hours ago, which means the murder occurred anywhere between midnight and 3am this morning.”
“Which would make sense; someone would notice if a body were being set up in a window in broad daylight,” Ryan observed.
“They’d also notice the smell,” Castle added with a smirk.
Esposito cleared his throat. “Do we have an ID on the body?” he asked.
“Chance Jennings,” Lanie chimed in, coming over to the group. “The store manager IDed him. Says he works the night shift stocking shelves and cleaning up.”
“Hello,” Gus greeted in the smoothest voice he could manage. He held out a hand. “Burton Guster.”
“Lanie Parish.” Lanie gave Gus a smile as she shook his hand.
“Anything else?” Esposito asked, walking through the middle of the group towards the building, forcing everyone else to move as well.
Gus had to scoot closer to Shawn to make room for Esposito between himself and Lanie. He glanced around in what he hoped was a casual manner, trying to ignore the glare the Hispanic detective was giving him.
“Cause of death is unknown, but I’m going to guess that this has something to do with it.” The body had been loaded on a gurney, and Lanie pulled back the flap of the body bag to show a mangled mess of hair and blood at the back of the head. “I won’t know more until I do a full autopsy.”
“Thanks, Lanie,” Beckett acknowledged.
The medical examiner nodded then climbed into the back of the morgue van.
“It’s alright; you don’t even have to ask me,” Shawn spoke up.
“Ask you what?” Beckett looked confused.
“Ask me to help on the case. I already decided that I should. It’s only fair to help Ricky out since he helped us out in Santa Barbara.”
Beckett raised an eyebrow. “Help us?”
“It’s going to be a tough case, I can sense it.” Shawn nodded excitedly.
“Mr. Spencer -”
“Please, call me Shawn.” Shawn gave her a charming smile.
“Shawn, we will alert you if for some reason this turns out to be the one case that stumps us,” Beckett assured him, albeit a little sarcastically.
“In the meantime, why don’t I take you to see some of the city?” Castle suggested, recognizing Beckett’s ‘I’m going to shoot you soon’ tone.
“Ooh! Can we go see the Anarchist Bookstore?”
“Do you even know what an Anarchist is?” Gus shook his head. “The museum of history. That is where we are going.”
“Oh! Like in that movie, with the monkey?” Shawn’s eyes lit up.
“Yes, exactly like that.”
“Alright, we’ll have to be out by dark though. We don’t want to be there when everything wakes up.”
“You know that’s right.” Gus gave Shawn a fist bump.
“Right,” Ryan shared a look with Esposito. “You guys go do that, and we’ll go help Beckett solve the case.”
A few hours and a few dead leads later, Ryan and Esposito were back at their desks comparing witness statements.
Ryan tossed a balled up sheet of paper towards his partner’s trash can and grinned when it banked in. “Where’s Castle? I thought he’d be all over this case.”
“He’s probably out babysitting those hooligans,” Beckett muttered from her desk.
“He was going to drop ‘those hooligans’ off at the museum.” Esposito used air quotes. “He said he was going to go out and get lunch after that.” He gave Ryan a grin.
“I was out getting lunch.” Castle’s voice was loud enough to be heard over the noise of the bullpen. The writer was carrying a giant tray of sandwiches and trailing behind him was an employee of the deli down the street. She was holding a sack of mini chip bags in one hand and condiments and pickles in the other.
“That looks delicious.” Ryan jumped up from his desk at the sight of the food.
“Yeah.” Esposito looked highly amused. “Castle was nice enough to bring us all lunch from Beckett’s favorite deli.”
Beckett frowned at the writer. “What do you want, Castle?”
“Absolutely nothing, Detective Beckett. I was just passing by the deli and decided we all could use something healthy for lunch. Now let’s put this in the conference room; I’m sure Chloe here would love to get back to work.” He motioned his head at the deli girl. Setting the tray on the conference room table, Castle took the bags from Chloe. “The elevator is right there, just take it all the way down to the bottom.” He gave the girl a grin and slipped her a tip.
Beckett shook her head when she saw the tip was probably as much as the plate of sandwiches cost and then some.
Captain Montgomery came through the door. “Esposito called me about the sandwiches.”
“Yes, sir, Castle was nice enough to bring them for everyone.” Beckett forced a smile in front of her superior.
Montgomery grabbed a roast beef and then looked at the writer as he added a pickle to his plate. “What does he want this time?”
Castle pretended to look hurt. “Why is it that every time I bring food as an offering of friendship, you people think I’m out for profit?”
“Chinese food when you wanted us to go to Alexis’ school and arrest the kid you thought was dealing drugs.” Ryan paused from where he was dressing his sandwich.
“Pizza when you wanted to hide out at the station when your mother was having acting class in your apartment,” Esposito chimed in.
Castle raised an eyebrow at the two detectives. “Leave some food for the rest of us. You remind me of when I got my first Nintendo for Christmas.”
“Don’t worry; I think there’s enough to feed most of the station,” Beckett assured him. “You got pastrami on rye, right?” Her stomach was getting the best of her.
“Of course.” Castle smiled and offered her a sandwich. He waited until she was halfway through before he brought up the next subject, to make it seem as if the sandwiches and his new topic were completely unrelated.
“Spit it out, Castle.” Beckett had been working with the writer long enough that she could tell when he really wanted to say something.
Castle took his time swallowing before shrugging in reply. “I was just thinking about how much help Shawn and his friend have been to the detectives in California and-”
“Not a chance, Castle,” Beckett said firmly. “I can’t let just anyone run around pretending to do police work.”
“What if they helped you? Really, truly helped you?” Castle tried his best to look pathetic.
“If they were to contribute to the case in a meaningful manner then I would reconsider,” Beckett relented as Castle’s lip pouted out further and further.
“Fat chance of that happening,” Esposito laughed.
“Yeah, unless the T-Rex skeleton at the museum killed our mannequin,” Ryan grinned.
“Very funny you two,” Castle gave them an exasperated look, “but our victim wasn’t trampled, the wound was on the back of his head. The T-Rex’s arms would have been too short to deliver the blow.” He put his arms to his side and waved them from the elbow. “See, really big head. Really tiny arms.”
“That and the dinosaur theory is about sixty-five million years off.” Esposito high-fived his partner and the two of them left with freshly-loaded plates in hand to get back to work.
“I’m telling you, Gus. It just isn’t physically possible. Do you see his tiny arms?”
“I didn’t say that the T-Rex killed anyone. You’re the one who made up that theory. Then you blamed it on me when the tour guide called you crazy.”
“Look, let’s just go get some astronaut ice cream and a couple of t-shirts in the gift shop. Then we’ll call Ricky and see some more sights.”
After a bit of searching, Shawn found the perfect t-shirt in the gift shop. “Gus, go see if that mannequin is wearing a large. There aren’t any in this stack.” He looked sadly at the pile of t-shirts with dinosaur-related facts on them.
“That’s a women’s medium,” Gus told him.
“Can I help you gentlemen with anything?” The museum clerk came up when he saw Gus checking the size tag on the display.
“I want this shirt, but in a manly size, like a large,” Shawn explained.
The clerk nodded. “That is one of the more popular shirts, but I think there’s a mannequin in the window with a large on. Let me go check.” He pulled a key ring out of his pocket and headed for the small door that led to the display area.
“Don’t make your clue face, it looks ridiculous,” Gus whispered at Shawn, who had begun to tilt his head to the side as he watched the clerk.
Shawn ignored him and then his eyes lit up. “Dude!” He smacked Gus in the shoulder. “I have a clue!”
“I know; you were making the clue face.”
“I don’t make the clue face every time. I’m not that little dog with blue paint all over its paws.”
“What did you find that is a clue?” Gus ignored the reference to children’s television.
“You need a key to get into the window.”
Gus nodded. “Most places have locks on their windows.”
“So, if you need a key to put actual mannequins in the windows, you need a key to put dead bodies in the windows,” Shawn continued.
Gus’ eyes widened as he caught up to Shawn’s train of thought. “So whoever killed that guy in the department store had a key.”
“Exactly! Dude, we solved the case.” Shawn reached out his fist.
“Sort of. All we have is a possible means,” Gus reminded him.
Shawn frowned and dropped his hand. “Don’t be Hastings in the end of an Agatha Christie novel. Once we have means, we just have to find motive and the person responsible. It was an audio book! I have to keep my mind sharp as well as my body,” he protested when Gus rolled his eyes at the analogy.
“It was a large.” The museum clerk returned, carrying the t-shirt.
“We’ll take it,” Shawn declared.
As the clerk was ringing them up, Shawn casually asked the question he had been wondering. “So, who has keys to the windows?”
The clerk looked confused, but shrugged. “Whoever is the manager on duty, and if it’s busy, three or four of us might have a set. If we have to get shirts out of the window when there are fifty people in the store, we don’t want to have to run around trying to find the person with the keys.”
“So you’re saying that just about anyone could get into the windows.” Gus gave Shawn a meaningful look.
“But not everyone, because you have to ask for the keys sometimes.” Shawn glared at Gus.
“Did you guys want anything else?” The clerk was beginning to look concerned.
“Of course. Who goes to the museum without getting plastic dinosaurs?” Shawn snorted in laughter and grabbed two of the dinosaurs sitting next to the register.
“Right.” The clerk slowly bagged up their purchases.
“Tell me, where is the station where Richard Castle follows Detective Beckett around?”
“I told you not everyone knows Castle,” Gus stated grumpily after having been escorted out of the museum by a burly security guard named Donald.
“So sue me. I thought that we were in America where everyone knows everyone else.” Shawn was back to grinning. “Let’s go find Ricky and get in on this case. If we solve this case, then we can put ‘international psychic detectives’ on our business cards.”
“Shawn, we’ve already solved two cases in Canada.”
“Please, Gus, Canada is practically America. Do you know how many TV shows they film there?”
Ryan was tied in the game of trashket ball he was playing with Esposito. He was just aiming for the game-winning point when the elevator doors opened. He was distracted and his shot went wide.
“Game over, loser,” Esposito said gleefully as he did a victory dance in his chair. “What?” He paused and turned to see where Ryan was looking.
Shawn Spencer was walking towards them, wearing a vistor’s pass. That wasn’t the weird part. The weird part was the shorts and dinosaur t-shirt he was wearing and the plastic T-Rex clasped in his hand.
“Is today ‘dress like your inner child’ day?” Ryan asked his partner.
“I dunno, bro, but if it is, we both missed that memo.” Esposito was staring at the psychic with morbid curiosity, as if Shawn Spencer was a horrific car crash or a two headed cow.
Gus was right behind Shawn. “I had nothing to do with this,” he tried to explain, but the stegosaurus in his own hand didn’t provide the credibility he needed.
“Where is Ricky and the fair Detective Beckett?” Shawn asked.
Esposito jerked his head towards Beckett’s desk. “They’re setting up a case board.”
Shawn gave him a smile and then raised the hand with the dinosaur closer to his ear and pretended to listen closely. “What’s that?” He turned to Gus. “The dinosaur is speaking to me. He says he has clues about the murder!”
Ryan gave Esposito a concerned look.
“Yo, Beckett.” Esposito waved to Castle and Beckett.
“We’re in the middle of something.” She frowned when she saw Shawn and Gus.
“It won’t take very long,” Shawn assured her. He lifted the dinosaur to his ear a second time. “Mr. McBitesalot, says that you’re going to want to look at people who had access to the window displays. They would have needed …” He frowned and then grabbed Gus’ dinosaur. “You need a key to get in there?” Shawn laughed at the dinosaurs. “Don’t be ridiculous, why would you need a key for the window? Only managers have keys, and we don’t think the manager did it, do we?” Shawn looked back to Castle and Beckett.
“He was number one on our suspect list,” Castle said happily. “See, true clues. You have to let them help now.”
“I don’t know anything about a motive, but I can assure you it isn’t about land.” Shawn listened to the dinosaurs again. “There is no sudden but inevitable betrayal; I would say that this murder was premeditated. There may have been an evil laugh, I’m not really up to speed on what murdering retail managers are doing this year. Maybe cackling is back in style.”
“See, isn’t he awesome? Let him help,” Castle pleaded with Beckett.
“Fine, he can help,” Beckett agreed. “But!” She had to shout to be heard over the high-fives and celebratory fistbumps that the consultants were exchanging. “He and Guster can go with Ryan and Esposito. I won’t have them around under my feet.”
“Aw, Beckett,” Ryan protested.
“Is this because we beat you last week in the softball game?” Esposito wanted to know.
“Just keep them occupied, we still need to question the employees that were on duty last night. You two get on that,” Beckett ordered. “And it has nothing to do with softball.” She turned and headed back to her desk.
“It does,” Castle mouthed at the two detectives and then followed Beckett, the spring in his step a little happier than it should have been.
“Right, so where do we go now?” Shawn rubbed his hands together, looking between Ryan and Esposito in expectation.
“To get some duct tape,” Ryan muttered as he went to get his things.
“And to show you a long walk off a short pier,” Esposito grumbled.
Shawn frowned sternly. “Don’t be ridiculous; it’s not like I’m calling you stupid names or invading your personal space. That’s what I do with Lassifrass; he hates it.”
“I can’t imagine why,” Ryan said sarcastically as the four of them got on the elevator.
“You two will need nicknames. It makes people happier,” Shawn decided.
“There’s always Roach,” Gus thought out loud.
“No,” Ryan objected.
“Absolutely not,” Esposito agreed. “Have you seen the fan sites for them? Creepy.”
Shawn’s eyes lit up with another idea. “Ohhh, we could call you Repo. You guys are like repo men.”
“We’re not bounty hunters.”
“What, do you think I’m going to say ‘Ryan and Esposito’ every time I want to talk to you? I mean Ryan is pretty short, but Esposito is a mouthful.”
“Lanie calls him Javi,” Ryan offered up.
“And only Lanie,” Esposito reminded them all. “Otherwise I might be provoked to punch somebody.”
“Don’t do that,” Ryan shook his head, trying to hide the grin on his face. “All those anger management classes would have gone to waste. We just now repaired the wall that you punched through.”
Gus looked over at Shawn and they made a silent agreement to never call the Latino detective Javi … ever.
Within half an hour, Shawn, Gus, Esposito, and Ryan were again at the clothing store where the body had been discovered.
Esposito rolled his eyes at his partner as Gus cautiously edged his way around the window.
“You never know when a serial killer has struck,” Gus defended himself, taking time to assure himself that the only forms in the window were those of actual mannequins and not dead bodies.
A young blond sales clerk approached the four men, a friendly smile on her face. She was wearing a name tag on her blouse, identifying her as ‘Mindy’. “Is there something I can do for you gentlemen?”
“Yes, ma’am, my name is Detective Ryan, this is my partner Detective Esposito. We’re with the NYPD, and we’d like to ask you a few questions about Chance Jennings.” Ryan flashed his badge.
Mindy’s eyes lit up in recognition. “Yeah, I heard about what happened to him,” she acknowledged, though her expression could not be described as overly sad at the mention of Jennings.
“Did you know Mr. Jennings well?” Esposito asked, noting her response.
“Everybody knew Chance.” The girl’s tone was flat and didn’t give them any hint towards her true feelings. “He was a good kid, a little stupid, but a good kid.”
“Stupid?” Ryan prompted.
“The kid didn’t know the difference between a skirt and a dress. That’s why he got bumped to stock room.”
“Do you know of anyone who would have had reason to kill him?” Esposito wanted to know. “Did he have any …” He trailed off as he saw Shawn standing behind the clerk, trying on several hats.
“Enemies,” Ryan finished for his partner, looking very confused at the psychic as well.
Mindy turned to look behind her and saw only a picture of innocence as Shawn clasped his hands in front of himself and stared at the ceiling. “He didn’t have any enemies; he was just a nice guy. He was a good worker and never fought with anyone.”
“He may not have fought with everyone, but there’s something more,” Shawn announced, joining into the conversation. “He bought you dinner,” Shawn grinned. “He liked you a lot.”
Mindy shrugged. “I guess he had a crush on me.”
“Do you have a boyfriend who wouldn’t have liked that?” Esposito asked.
“Carl doesn’t know about Chance,” Mindy shook her head. “I don’t tell him about stock room boys that flirt with me.”
“Does Carl have a last name?” Ryan was taking notes.
“Miller. He lives with me, and he was home all last night.”
“So that makes him your alibi as well,” Ryan scribbled more notes.
“Yes,” Confusion flashed across Mindy’s face. “Wait, you don’t think I had anything to do with this, do you?”
“We’re just checking up on all possible suspects,” Esposito assured her. “If you think of anything else don’t hesitate to call us.” He handed her a business card.
She glanced at it before tucking it into her pocket. “Okay, I will.”
“Who was the manager on duty last night?” Shawn had gotten bored with trying on hats and had moved on to sunglasses. Any attempt on his part to look like a serious investigator was negated by the security tag hanging from the earpiece.
“I wasn’t here last night, but I can check the schedule,” Mindy replied. She disappeared into the back room.
“Cool it with the shenanigans,” Ryan ordered Shawn.
“Gus,” Shawn laughed. “He’s Irish and he said shenanigans, and now I want Blarney Stone Fajitas.”
Gus looked up from where he had been browsing through the men’s cologne.
“Dude, what is that? It smells like the pines after a morning rain.” Shawn sniffed the air.
Ryan slapped the psychic lightly on the shoulder to get his attention. “Just try to act a little more professional.”
“You’re my witness, Gus; that was police brutality!”
“Keep blabbing and I’ll show you what police brutality actually is,” Esposito threatened, giving Shawn a glare as Mindy came back with a list of who had been working the night before.
“Okay, here you go.” She handed the Post-It note to Ryan. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“Just stay in town.” Shawn dramatically pulled his sunglasses off and then waltzed towards the door after setting them on the counter.
“That’s it; thank you,” Ryan nodded to her, then he and his partner headed for the exit as well. Gus hurried after them.
While Esposito, Ryan, Shawn and Gus were questioning Mindy at the clothing store, Beckett and Castle were busy with their own end of the investigation. Using the address on file at the store, they had tracked down Chance’s apartment.
“This seems like a really nice place for a kid working in the stockroom of a retail store,” Castle commented as they walked up to Chance’s building. “Even the doorman is too nice for his salary,” he whispered to Beckett.
“It sure is a nice place.” Beckett looked up at the high ceilings and ornate decorations scattered around the lobby.
“Maybe he’s not just a stock clerk,” Castle mused, his eyes lighting up the way they did whenever he came up with a new theory. “Maybe he’s working the night shift stocking shelves because during the day he is a barista at a coffee shop frequented by mobsters. He learns their secrets and then blackmails them, only this time somebody didn’t want to pay.”
“Unlikely, Castle.” Beckett rolled her eyes. “C’mon, Jennings’ apartment is on the fourth floor. The landlord is meeting us there.” She headed for the elevator.
The fourth floor was quiet, it was in the middle of the afternoon, before school kids would be back and after the lunch hour.
A man in his 50’s was standing next to one of the doors.
“Detective Beckett, NYPD. This is Richard Castle.” Beckett shook hands with him.
“Hank Reynolds,” the landlord said, flipping through his ring of keys. “I didn’t let anyone in just like you said, Detective.” He unlocked the door for them.
“Thank you, we’ll take it from here.” Beckett smiled and slowly pushed open the door.
“One question before you go.” Castle help up a hand. “Who put their fist through the wall here?” He pointed to the wall just inside the door. A hand-sized hole at the level of a person’s head marred the clean drywall.
“Some guy,” the man shrugged in response. “There was a lot of yelling. It happened two weeks ago, I think. Something about some girl. The next door neighbors called the cops to complain about the noise. By the time the officer got here, the guy was gone and the hole was there.” He looked at Beckett. “I can still hold the money for the repairs out of his deposit, right?”
“I’ll let you know,” Beckett assured him.
Satisfied, the man turned and made his way back down the hallway.
“So.” Castle was grinning. “Our stock boy got into a fight a couple of weeks ago and the cops were called. What are the chances he tried charming someone else’s girl, and they weren’t happy about it?”
“It’s the oldest motive in the book, Castle.” Beckett was looking through the rest of the apartment. “But jealous boyfriends aren’t always murderers.”
“No, but they make good suspects,” Castle returned. “And if my hand is a guide, I’d say our wall puncher was a big man in need of anger management.”
Beckett nodded as she flipped through several receipts that were sitting on the counter. “We’ll take a look at the report when we get back to the station, see who responded to the call.”
“Hmm. Looks like Jennings was a man of science fiction,” Castle observed as he looked through the dvds stacked by the television.
“Who ate out a lot.” Beckett was still looking at the receipts. “There have to be a couple dozen from food places. All at different times and on different dates.”
“I eat out a lot.”
“Mostly when your mother tries to cook,” Beckett reminded him. “Maybe Jennings was taking girls out to dinner.”
“One toothbrush in the bathroom,” Castle called from the hall. “This place is disgusting; no wonder he didn’t have a girlfriend.” He came back making a face.
“Is his computer in his bedroom?” Beckett asked as she moved to look through the pile of magazines on the coffee table.
Castle came into the living room. “It might be, but based on the bathroom and the piles of clothes in the bedroom, I doubt we’ll be able to find it without a K-9 unit or possibly a haz-mat team.
“I’ll get CSU to go over the bedroom.” Beckett shook her head.
“Oh! Seems Chance had chef aspirations.” Castle picked up the food magazine that Beckett had set to the side. “Have you tried the risotto recipe from the October issue? It’s delicious.”
“I doubt Jennings had aspirations of anything cooking related. Even without Lanie giving us his stomach contents, I’m sure I could tell you what it might be, using those receipts.”
Castle held back any reply, because they heard loud talking from the hall.
“Gus, look at these apartments! These are awesome. We should get a vacation office here in New York. Solve crimes here during the sweltering Santa Barbara summers.”
The door opened and Shawn Spencer was pushed through with Gus, probably by Esposito. They were followed by the frustrated looking Latino and his partner.
“Time’s up,” Esposito said.
“Tired of spending time with the ‘psychic’, Esposito?” Beckett hid her smile but didn’t hide the inflection on Shawn’s job title.
“Spencer tried on every hat in the store, even in the women’s department.” Esposito frowned.
“That wasn’t the worst.” The normally amicable Detective Ryan was just as irritated as his partner. “We stopped at every single hotdog stand, pretzel cart and street vendor between the store and the station.”
“Which we wouldn’t have had to do if they all didn’t say ‘World’s Best Hotdog’ or ‘World’s Best’ whatever they were selling,” Shawn protested. “I mean really, how can they all be the best, because the fourth hotdog I had totally was not okay.”
Gus nodded in agreement, and Castle noticed he looked a little green around the edges. “I knew we should have passed that one up when the words ‘all meat’ were in quotations.”
“Ah yes, the cart at 95th. I too have made that mistake.” Castle nodded.
“If we can get back to the case, where someone was murdered.” Beckett rolled her eyes. “We need to figure out why Jennings was killed.”
Shawn glanced quickly around the apartment then raised a hand to his head. “Despite feeling a little queasy from those alleged all meat hotdogs, I’m getting visions of food… Chinese, Thai, BBQ. All delicious, and all expensive.”
“How could he afford all that working at minimum wage?” Ryan looked confused.
“Unless he lived on credit cards, he couldn’t have,” Gus observed.
“That’s Gus, ever the practical one.” Shawn smiled and again put a hand to his temple. “I’m sensing something. Jennings was getting someone else’s mail? He was eating take-out, but he has food magazines.”
Castle flipped the magazine in his hand over and looked at the address label. “Hannah Williams,” he read. “Yep, definitely someone else’s mail.” He looked positively gleeful that Shawn had been right.
“We’ll head back to the station and find out who Hannah Williams is and how she knew the victim. You two learn anything from the store?”
Esposito shook his head. “We got a schedule of who was working that night and that Jennings was a little bit of an idiot who flirted with most of the female sales clerks.”
“We’ll do background checks on the employees on the schedule.” Ryan assured her.
“I’ll leave that up to you two. Castle, you can take our visitors to see Grand Central.”
“What do trains have to do with our case?” Castle looked confused.
“They don’t, but I’d appreciate if you three go sightseeing while we do actual police work.”
“I do actual police work!” Shawn protested.
“Actual police work doesn’t involve visions or hand gestures,” Esposito reminded him.
“Or hotdogs,” Ryan added.
Beckett ushered them out of the apartment and when the group reached the sidewalk outside the apartment, they split and went their separate ways.
Beckett settled down at her desk, glad to be rid of Castle and the two tourists for a while. She began going through the computer system, looking for the Hannah Williams who subscribed to food magazines.
“Yo,” Esposito called over from his desk. “The front desk says that they have a Hannah Williams in the conference room. She came after she was called for next of kin.”
“Next of kin?” Beckett repeated, getting up from her desk.
“Apparently she’s the victim’s sister. Married Gabriel Williams two years ago.” Ryan came over with a cup of coffee and a file of information.
“Let’s go see what she can tell us about her brother, shall we?” Beckett headed towards the conference room.
The young woman seated at the long table looked up when Beckett opened the door. Her red hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail, and her green eyes glistened with tears.
“Hello, Mrs. Willams, I’m Detective Beckett, lead detective on your brother’s case. I’m sorry for your loss.” Beckett gave the woman a sympathetic look as she sat down at the table across from her.
“It’s just so sudden. I just talked to Chance yesterday morning.” She blew her nose.
“What did the two of you talk about?”
Hannah shook her head. “Nothing really… the weather, my husband’s birthday was in a couple weeks and Chance was making sure he would have that night off.”
“In the past few weeks, has Chance given any indication that he was feeling threatened?”
Again Hannah shook her head. “No, if anything he had been happier than ever. He moved into his apartment about a month ago. Money had been an issue, but he told me he had worked it all out.”
“Did he say how?”
“He just said it was an easy job, that he didn’t have to do a lot,” Hannah answered, “and that it wouldn’t interfere with his retail job. He seemed really excited about it, but he didn’t go into a lot of detail.”
“So he didn’t mention where this new job was or who he would be working for?” Beckett asked.
“I wish he had. I would tell you if he did.” Hannah hiccupped.
There was a tap on the door and Ryan poked his head around the corner. “Do you have a minute?” he asked Beckett.
Beckett excused herself, looking expectantly at Ryan once she shut the conference room door.
“We did a check on all the employees who were scheduled that night. Apparently there was a big floor change, so it wasn’t just the guys from the stock room who were there.” Ryan showed Beckett the file. “Four of the sales clerks have minor drug possession charges, all while they were employed by the store.”
“Why weren’t they fired?”
Ryan shook his head. “No idea; we’re bringing the store manager in.”
“Let me know when he arrives.”
“Of course,” Ryan nodded and headed back towards the bullpen.
“C’mon, Rick, don’t be the Marcy to my Snoopy and Gus’ Woodstock.” Shawn was half whining. They had finished the tour of Grand Central Station, and Shawn was itching to get back on the case. “How many times have I told you that Gus and I go off alone to investigate sometimes? That’s how we roll.”
Gus nodded in agreement.
“And don’t you remember when we solved the case of the dead guy in the aquarium?” Shawn persisted. “We did a lot of investigating on our own, without Lassie and Jules. You know why? Because Lassie is a buzz kill and Jules was befuddled by your apparent charms. And while neither of them are here to work on this case, we can’t let Detective Beckett or Ryan and Esposito cramp our style. Oh, look Gus! Ice cream!”
“No,” Gus refused. “It is a street cart. Unless you can show me their certificate from the board of health, I won’t be getting any.”
“We are not going to investigate without the police,” Castle reiterated. “I still want to be able to work with everyone after the two of you leave.”
“Fine,” Shawn gave a long dramatic sigh, “but when we get there, you have to show us the morgue, because I can psychically sense that Gus wants to meet the dear Dr. Parish once again.”
Gus elbowed him in the ribs. “We should probably find out exactly how Chance Jennings was murdered. It would give us more clues about who committed the act.”
Castle gave Gus a grin. “Just keep in mind that Dr. Parish is dating Detective Esposito and that Detective Esposito has a temper.” He winked and led the way back to the precinct.
“I think by saying that, Ricky means don’t flirt with Lanie Parish, because her boyfriend will get jealous and dump you in the river.” Shawn put an arm around Gus’ shoulder. “Don’t worry, buddy. We will find you the perfect woman, and she will love you as much as Joanie loved Chachi.”
It took several minutes of convincing, but Beckett finally relented and let Castle, Shawn and Gus accompany her down to the morgue to hear what Lanie had found during the autopsy.
“What do you have for me, Dr. Parish?” Beckett was all business as she walked through the door.
“Woah.” Shawn stopped just inside the door.
“It’s just a dead body, Spencer.” Beckett rolled her eyes.
“I know that! We just usually cover ours up with a sheet before we let people look at them,” Shawn protested.
Lanie shook her head and pulled the sheet up over Jennings' head. “That better for you?” She was looking past Shawn to Gus and gave him a warm smile.
Gus gave her a nervous smile in return and immediately turned his gaze to another direction.
“Did you get anything interesting out of the autopsy?” Beckett was flipping through the report that Lanie had handed her.
“Nothing out of the ordinary. Stomach contents were Chinese food, a half-dissolved Tylenol and Coke. That was probably his dinner. There were no drugs in his system.”
“What about cause of death?” Castle asked.
“That was blunt force trauma,” Shawn spoke up. He was looking at the underside of an empty autopsy table. “Gus, these things are spotless; you could use them as a mirror!”
Ignoring the psychic, Beckett waiting for Lanie to answer.
“He’s right, Jennings died from a blow to the back of the head. Still no idea on the murder weapon, but I’ll do an impression of the wound and see if I can get anything off of that.”
“Call me if anything else comes up.” Beckett closed her copy of the report.
“Will do,” Lanie nodded. “If you two are still in town when this case is over, we should get together for dinner.” She was talking to Shawn and Gus again.
“That would be awesome!” Shawn grinned. He nudged Gus. “What do you say, buddy?”
Gus cleared his throat. “Well, you know, we’ll see,” he stammered, glancing briefly back at Lanie so he didn’t seem completely rude. “We might be too busy.”
“Oh come on, buddy. It’ll be fun! Maybe our dear Javier will join us.” Shawn rolled the r in Javier for effect, just to see Gus squirm uncomfortably. “Ooh! We should ask if he knows of any good places to eat on the river.” He couldn’t hide the glee in his face.
Castle gave a snort as he tried to contain his laughter.
“Right,” Beckett looked at the three consultants with concern.
“I’ll let you know if I find anything else.” Lanie assured her. She too gave the trio a weird look.
As soon as Beckett headed for the morgue, Esposito waved Ryan over to his desk.
“Bro, we have to figure out a way to contain Spencer. He is driving me up the wall.” Esposito was gripping one of his stress toys.
“Yeah,” Ryan agreed, watching the foam eyes of the duck in his partner’s hand bulge out with every squeeze. “Hey, do you still have the number for Detective Lassiter in Santa Barbara? Maybe we can get some pointers from him. After all, the guy has worked with Spencer for years. He must have some tips.”
“Yeah,” Esposito caught onto his partner’s train of thought. “I should. It’s gotta be in here somewhere.” He started digging through his desk drawers.
Lassiter was enjoying a whole week with no Shawn Spencer. This was the head detective’s idea of a perfect vacation. It was where annoying people went away and Lassiter got to work without interruption.
He had just settled behind his desk with a fresh cup of coffee when his phone rang. “This is Head Detective Carlton Lassiter,” he answered, feeling much more relaxed then normal.
“Detective Lassiter, this is Detective Esposito from the NYPD. I have some questions about Shawn Spencer.”
Lassiter’s hand tightened around the receiver at the mention of Spencer. “What’s he done this time?”
“He’s being a child,” Esposito complained. “Hey! Don’t take that from me,” he yelled at someone on his end of the line.
Lassiter heard some shuffling over the receiver and was about to hang up when a new voice came through the line.
“Detective Lassiter, my name is Kevin Ryan. Spencer has my partner a little on edge.”
“I can imagine,” Lassiter drawled, a little happy to hear that someone else was having to deal with the psychic’s nonsense for once.
“We were just wondering if you had any tips on how to keep him focused on the case. Half the time he’s talking to us it’s about 80’s shows, bad hair products, or food.”
“That’s pretty much Spencer in a nutshell,” Lassiter agreed.
“So you don’t have anything that might help?” Esposito had hit the speaker button so both of them could hear what was being said. “We were hoping you could tell us something about him.”
That phrase made all the dots connect in Lassiter’s brain. These two detectives had been the yahoos that he had called months before when he was trying to figure out how to work alongside Castle.
“Detective?” Ryan’s voice floated over the phone.
Lassiter realized he had gone quiet. “I’m still here, and let me start off by saying that what I tell you isn’t what you told me the last time we talked. I’ll tell you the truth about Spencer, mostly because I couldn’t make this up.”
Esposito and Ryan silently exchanged guilty looks, very glad that Lassiter couldn’t see their faces.
“Shawn Spencer will probably try to lick something,” Lassiter began. “He will try to adopt animals of the victims, claiming that he can solve the case using clues that they give him. What he won’t tell you is the only way to get the clue is by having the cat urinate all over your crime scene.”
“Urinate?” Esposito’s voice was puzzled.
“That’s just the beginning. You think you can escape Spencer by going on a nice date with a woman you met at a Ravi Shenkar concert, but fate will hate you and you will end up going on a date at Spencer’s high school reunion.”
“I don’t-” Ryan began.
“Then you’ll find yourself accusing sharks of murder, because Spencer has gotten to your head. And what’s worse is that when you decide that you’re crazy and retract that statement, Spencer will prove that the shark attack victim was actually murdered by a human being and that will make you look like a fool, prompting the newspaper to dub you Detective Dipstick.”
At that comment both Ryan and Esposito began laughing uncontrollably.
“Detective Dipstick?” Ryan got out between breaths, once they had finally calmed down. “Oh man, the sunglasses thing seems so normal now.”
Lassiter scowled. “Just keep Spencer in New York as long as possible.”
“Oh, we couldn’t do that,” Esposito said, feigning innocence. “It sounds like he is a very valuable department resource. As soon as he divines a solution to this case, we will send him straight back to you.”
Lassiter was just about to object when he heard a click and then a dial tone. The duo had hung up on him. He scowled again, took a sip of his coffee, and made a face. He didn’t care if his therapist thought cutting back on the sugar and cream was a good thing. He was going to need it today.
“McNab! Get me another cup of coffee, three creams, four sugars,” he snapped.
Ryan and Esposito were still smirking about their phone call when everyone else returned from the morgue.
“Detective Dipstick,” Ryan snickered.
“Derective what?” Beckett asked.
“Nothing,” they chorused.
Beckett gave them a doubtful look. “Any word on the store manager?”
“Black and whites picked him up ten minutes ago. They’re on their way here, just got caught in traffic,” Esposito informed her.
“This’ll be awesome,” Shawn told Gus. “I bet Beckett is a real tiger in the interrogation room.”
Castle nudged them to be quiet as Beckett looked over at them.
“You three will not be watching the interrogation.” She was firm about it. “Castle can sit in, but you two are going to help Ryan and Esposito pick up some dinner.”
“Relegated to food duty,” Shawn groaned, shooting Gus a pitiful look.
“I don’t care what we get, but if it says World’s Best anywhere on it, I will need a taste tester.” Gus straightened his jacket. “I have abused my stomach enough today.”
“We know some decent places,” Ryan assured them.
“Yeah, and while we’re out you can tell us what you and Lassifrass talked about.” Shawn gave the duo a grin and headed for the elevator.
“Detective Lassiter?” Castle recognized the nickname.
“Why would you two need to call Detective Lassiter?” Beckett crossed her arms.
“Look at the time, we should really go get some food before the dinner rush.” Esposito grabbed his suit coat and hurried after Shawn and Gus, Ryan right on his heels.
Beckett shook her head as the elevator closed after them. “At least we’ll get some work done while they’re gone.”
“So you think,” Castle winked at her.
“Just keep it cool, Castle,” Beckett reminded him as she reached for the handle of the door to the interrogation room.
“As cool as a mullet in the 80’s,” Castle assured her.
The store manager was a man in his late 50’s. His hair, what was left of it, was salt and pepper. He had thick glasses and his tie was crooked.
“Mr. Jarret, do you know why you’ve been brought to the station?” Beckett asked, sitting down across from him.
Jarret swallowed nervously before answering. “The officers that picked me up at the store said it had something to do with Chance.” He looked between Beckett and Castle. “I’m not a suspect, am I?”
“How much did you pay Mr. Jennings?” Beckett continued, ignoring his question.
He shrugged. “Minimum wage, $7.25 an hour.”
“Did you know that Mr. Jennings lived in an apartment building where his monthly rent was almost double what he would have made working for you?” Castle interjected.
“Double?” Jarret blinked.
Beckett nodded. “And there’s no record of Mr. Jennings working a second job, or any other source of income he might have had.”
“These kids, sometimes they do things on the side, off the books and all that.” Jarret shrugged again.
“I doubt Chance was making enough money walking dogs to afford his living expenses,” Castle spoke up. “Trust me, I know from personal experience. College,” he added, when Beckett shot him a look.
“I don’t know why you dragged me all the way down here just to ask me where Jennings was getting his pocket money.” Jarret was irritated, and that was exactly where Beckett wanted him.
“It isn’t just about Chance,” she said, flipping open a file. “Were you aware that three of your employees have previous drug possession charges?”
“It’s a company that believes in second chances.” Jarret was still irritated.
“It seems to me that a kid like Chance could make a lot of cash, quickly and under the table by helping out with drugs,” Castle commented, more to Beckett than to Jarret.
“My store doesn’t deal drugs,” Jarret told him.
“No one was implying that it did,” Beckett said curtly. “How many sets of keys to the windows are there? Someone would have needed a key to put the body in the display.”
Jarret crossed his arms. “Listen, Detective. Jennings was a good kid. There’s no way anyone in my store did that to him.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“There’s one set for every manager, and there are three extra sets kept in the office safe in case of emergencies.”
“Like disposing of a body,” Castle muttered to Beckett.
Beckett ignored that comment. “Besides yourself and the assistant managers, who would have access to these keys?”
“Besides myself and the three assistants, there are three key-holders.”
“Key-holders?” Castle repeated.
Jarret sighed. “People trained to carry the keys and authorized to oversee returns.”
“We’ll need their names.” Beckett slid a pad of paper over to him.
Jarret jotted down the three names.
“Mindy Riker,” Castle read upside-down.
“She’s been at the store for two years,” Jarret commented. “She’s a great employee, which is one reason she’s a key-holder.”
Castle turned to have an aside with Beckett. “Ryan and Esposito talked to her and she didn’t mention anything about being a key-holder.”
Beckett didn’t say anything, but stacked her files together. “Thank you for coming in, Mr. Jarret. We’ll contact you if there’s anything else we need for our investigation.”
Once Jarret left Castle spoke up again. “You’re letting him go?”
“He didn’t kill anyone, but I’m not convinced he’s innocent,” Beckett said, watching as the manager pressed the button for the elevator.
Ryan, Esposito, Shawn and Gus all filed off the elevator as Jarret got on.
Shawn watched the man carefully, having recognized him as the manager from the picture on the case board. Ryan and Esposito walked ahead of the duo, as Gus slowed down to see at what Shawn was looking.
“Dude, that’s the manager. Beckett must have finished with her interrogation,” Shawn whispered to him.
“So? We knew that already; you won’t be able to convince them you divined that,” Gus whispered back.
“Nope, but I can divine the phone number he called labeled ‘Tony’ in his cell phone.”
“Well, make it flashy; Castle likes it that way,” Gus murmured.
“Gus, don’t be ridiculous,” Shawn spoke up at tone a little louder then if he was just talking to Gus. “That pizza was-” Shawn stopped talking. He had the attention of everyone in the station. “Gus, look it’s happening!” Shawn’s hand was fluttering and he was looking at it in fake shock.
Esposito looked at Ryan and rolled his eyes. “I thought we were done with this nonsense.”
“Nonsense!” Shawn shouted.
“You’ve done it now,” Gus informed them matter of factly. “You’ve angered Shawn’s inner spirit.”
“That’s right!” Shawn was still shouting. “My inner spirit can sense non-believers. And my dear Javier, they are telling me you are a non-believer.”
“That’s no secret.” Esposito shrugged.
“No, but you and dear Detective Ryan have a secret.”
The two partners looked at each other worriedly.
“You two said you were working a case last week, but I think you might remember something else happening that night.” Shawn closed his eyes and pretended to think hard. “You two went to the Yankee’s game. The very same Yankee’s game you told your lady friends neither of you could get tickets for.”
Ryan ducked his head. “Jenny doesn’t like baseball that much,” he mumbled.
Castle looked a little hurt. “You guys said you were taking the girls, that’s why I couldn’t come.”
“Dude, sometimes we like to hang out together. It’s…” Esposito trailed off when he realized there was no way to say what he meant without sounding completely weird.
“It’s brotherly…” Ryan finished, not adding the ‘love’ part to the end of the saying.
“So what if Ryan and Esposito went to a baseball game?” Beckett interjected. “What does that have to do with our dead stock boy?”
“It really doesn’t have anything to do with it …” Shawn trailed off. “The spirits are just very upset about the implications Detectives Ryan and Esposito gave over dinner about the friendship that Gus and I share.”
“So, what do the ‘spirits’ have to say about the case?” Beckett’s patience was growing thin.
“That Mr. Manager has a contact. Someone named Tony, phone number …” Shawn closed his eyes again. “Phone number 555 … 14 … 89, no 98. The spirits were a little dyslexic today.”
“Do the spirits have a last name for Tony?” Esposito asked, his embarrassment from a few moments earlier gone.
“It starts with an E,” Shawn said with certainty.
“There’s an Anthony Everett on the key-holders list,” Castle said excitedly.
“That’s it!” Shawn exclaimed. “Everett.”
“The manager would call his employees anyway,” Gus pointed out.
“Oh, Gus, ever the sensible one.” Shawn laughed and threw an arm around his friend’s shoulders. “How many employees does he call while he’s riding in the elevator of the police department?”
“And how many of them have criminal records?” Ryan was reading over the employment roster.
“I’m going to guess just the one,” Shawn said, peering over Ryan’s shoulder.
Beckett checked her watch. “It’s getting late; we’ll pick up Tony Everett in the morning.”
“Awesome,” Shawn said, rubbing his hands together. “So, who wants to take us to the hotel? Or possibly put us up for the night?” He gave Castle a pleading look.
Gus elbowed Shawn in the ribs. “Shawn, we are perfectly capable of taking a taxi to a hotel. We don’t have to put someone out.”
“No, no, you guys are more than welcome to stay with me,” Castle assured them.
“Awesome,” Shawn grinned. “Cause we had the airport send our stuff there anyway.”
Gus again elbowed him in the ribs. “I thought you said we had a hotel.”
“Well, technically I said the ‘hotel Castle’ which is still true,” Shawn reminded him.
“But you gave them Castle’s address,” Gus pointed out.
“Don’t confuse me with your reasonableness, Gus,” Shawn scoffed.
Castle grinned and threw an arm around each of them. “Even if you had a hotel, I’d make you stay with me. Although there’s only one guest room, since my mother is living in the other.”
“We don’t mind sharing,” Shawn assured him.
“Speak for yourself,” Gus retorted. “Dibs on the bed.”
“You can’t call dibs on a bed!” Shawn protested.
“Yes you can; it’s like calling shotgun.” Gus said. “Speaking of that. Shotgun!”
Beckett shook her head. “Get some rest,” she told her detectives. “I have a feeling we’re going to need all the energy we can muster for tomorrow.”
Alexis Castle finished braiding her hair and grabbed her book bag. She had just enough time to eat a couple of her dad’s famous Tuesday morning waffles before she had to head off to school. She descended the stairs and screamed when she saw two strange men sitting at the counter, wearing her dad’s bathrobes.
Shawn and Gus screamed in response and fell off their stools. They had barely gotten to their feet when Castle burst out of his study wielding a lightsaber.
“What’s going on?” he shouted, thoroughly confused by everything.
“Who are you guys?” Alexis had calmed down a little when her dad didn’t seem to be concerned that there were two extra people in the kitchen.
Shawn and Gus had somewhat recovered as well and were now doing their best to appear composed.
“Shawn Spencer, psychic detective,” he introduced, holding out a hand to Alexis. “This is my partner, Mrs. Butterworths.”
“That’s a syrup brand …” Alexis said, shaking his hand and giving him a confused look.
“I’m not on my normal game,” Shawn protested, throwing his hands in the air. “It isn’t every day I’m threatened with death by lightsaber.”
Castle looked sheepish and slid the saber behind his back as Gus spoke up.
“I’m Burton Guster,” Gus introduced himself. “But you can call me Gus.”
“What is all the ruckus?” A new voice entered the conversation.
“Mother, please we have guests.” Castle raised an eyebrow as Martha came downstairs in her own bathrobe with a towel around her head, her face covered in a green-tinged face mask. “This is Shawn Spencer, psychic detective, and his partner Gus. They’re helping Beckett with the current case. Shawn, Gus, this is my mother, Martha Rogers.”
“We were visiting from California and we thought we would lend our services.” Shawn gave Martha a charming smile.
“Psychic?” Martha looked interested.
“Not that kind of psychic,” Castle smiled. “He works with the Santa Barbara Police Department and divines clues to help them solves cases.”
“Like in The Mentalist?” Alexis asked as she made herself a couple of waffles.
“Yes, except with much better hair and I’m actually a psychic,” Shawn corrected.
“I bet Richard didn’t tell you that the psychic ability skipped a generation with him.” Martha had descended the stairs. “I used to be a diviner.”
“You read cards at a carnival for a summer,” Castle muttered. “Shouldn’t we be heading to the station?” he asked the duo.
Shawn shoveled the last bite of waffles into his mouth.
“We’ll have to catch up tonight,” Martha told them. “Perhaps I can even show you some tricks of the trade.” She winked at Shawn.
“I … will look forward to that,” Shawn told her, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “C’mon, Gus, Ricky, we’ll be late.”
“It was very nice to meet you.” Gus smiled at Alexis and Martha as he followed Shawn out the door.
The moment they stepped into the hallway, Castle’s phone rang.
“Good morning, Detective Beckett,” he greeted the caller on the phone. “We were just on our way to see you.” He listened for a moment. “Of course we’ll meet you there. Do you need any coffee?”
Shawn rolled his eyes at Gus. “This is serious police business. There isn’t time for lattes.”
“I’ll even bring a bear claw,” Castle promised into the phone.
“Bear claws!” Shawn grinned.
“I thought there wasn’t time for that,” Gus griped.
“I said lattes, Gus; pastry is a completely different matter.”
Castle ended the call and turned to the other men with a grin. “Beckett wants us to meet them at the clothing store where Jennings was found. They want to question the manager further.”
Beckett tucked her phone away as she rolled her eyes. “We’d better get started; Castle has his mind on bear claws and lattes.” She opened the door of the store.
“I knew I made the right move skipping breakfast,” Ryan said happily, flipping open his notebook as they headed for the apparel counter.
The three detectives were at the store, ready to ask some follow up questions. They planned to talk to all the key holders separately and then finish with Mr. Jarret.
Mindy was behind the counter when the trio walked up to her. “Good Morning, detectives, is there anything I can help you with today?” She gave a bright smile.
“Good morning, Miss Riker,” Beckett nodded to her. “We were hoping to ask you a few follow up questions.”
“Sure, anything,” Mindy’s smile never faltered.
“Your boyfriend, Karl, he’s a big guy?” Esposito raised an eyebrow at her.
Mindy nodded. “He’s a little over six feet.”
“Were you at Chance Jennings’ apartment a couple of weeks ago?” Beckett held her gaze with the clerk.
Mindy swallowed and slowly nodded.
“Karl put a hole in the wall, didn’t he?” Ryan looked up from taking notes.
Mindy sighed. “Yeah, he did; he’s a little thick headed.”
“Why didn’t you come forward with this before?” Beckett wanted to know.
“Because,” Mindy paused. “Because if Mr. Jarret found out I was at Chance’s apartment then I would get in trouble with the company. They have a strict no fraternization policy.”
“So you were romantically involved with Jennings?” Ryan continued to take notes.
“No.” Mindy shook her head firmly. “Like I told you guys before; Chance and I were just friends.”
“Miss Riker, we need to speak to the other key holders.” Beckett checked her notes. “Anthony Everett, Karen Mills, and Celia Green.”
Mindy nodded. “Celia is off today, and Tony was here this morning, but I think he’s gone home.” She pulled the phone out from under the counter. “I’ll have Karen come up though.”
In a few moments, a tall, dark-haired sales clerk appeared in the doorway to the back room. She gave the three detectives a nervous smile.
Esposito waved her over. “Karen Mills?”
The clerk nodded and bit her lip as she came over to them. “That’s me; Mindy said you wanted to ask me some questions about Chance.”
“Yes,” Beckett replied with a nod. “How well did you know Mr. Jennings?”
Karen shrugged. “Chance worked in the stock room … Sometimes he was here when I was, but we never really talked.”
“Miss Mills – it is Miss right?” Ryan broke in and continued when Karen nodded. “We are just looking for the key holder who was in charge the night that Chance was killed.”
“I think Tony was scheduled that night.” Karen looked unsure.
“He was not scheduled that night,” Beckett flipped through her folder. “But one of the other employees mentioned seeing him here. Would he have come in for any reason?”
Karen shook her head. “There was a big floor change, but he said he needed the night off for his parents’ anniversary party.”
“And Mr. Everett isn’t here today?” Beckett frowned.
“No …” Karen shook her head reluctantly. “Is there, uh, anything else? Because I really need to get back to the stockroom.”
“That’s all we have for now,” Beckett told her. “Thank you for speaking with us.”
Karen gave them one last nervous smile before turning and scurrying back through the doorway. As she left, Esposito checked his watch and tapped his pen on the counter.
Ryan rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet. He glanced to Beckett who was looking at the catalogue sitting on the counter. “Anything interesting?”
Beckett gave him a confused look.
Ryan shrugged. “Jenny was looking for some stuff to take on the honeymoon.” He peered over Beckett’s shoulder at the pages as she flipped through them.
Esposito tried to be patient but after five minutes, he gave a sigh and turned to Beckett. “When are they going to be here?”
“Easy, Esposito, you know how morning traffic can be.” Beckett hid her smile. It amused her how agitated Spencer was making her detectives.
The bell above the door dinged as Castle, Shawn, and Gus entered the store. The detectives turned to greet the three consultants and Esposito let out an audible groan. All three men had their hands full with various coffee shop products. Castle and Shawn each held a drink carrier with coffees and Gus was toting a heavy-looking paper bag. Beckett had to smile at the satisfied smirk on Castle’s face.
“Ricky made a comment about bear claws and Gus would just not stop talking about them.” Shawn grinned at the detectives as he began handing out the drinks.
“You’re the one who wanted bear claws even though Castle made us waffles,” Gus rebutted.
“Waffles?” Ryan raised an eyebrow as he eagerly accepted his coffee.
“Yes waffles,” Shawn defended. “They were delicious, light and fluffy, just like Ricky’s hair.”
“Before you inflate Castle’s ego to the point where his head won’t fit through the door, maybe we should get back to work,” Beckett reminded them, seeing the pride all over the writer’s face.
Castle just grinned and handed one of the cups to Beckett. “Let’s go question Jarret now, shall we?”
As they passed the counter to head to the manager’s office, Shawn paused long enough to hand off a coffee to Mindy, who was working the register.
Esposito shook his head as he saw Shawn stop along the way. He reached out a hand and knocked on the door to the managers office. “Mr. Jarret, NYPD,” he barked out. There was no answer.
“Maybe he skipped town on a guilty conscience,” Ryan suggested.
Shawn tilted his head to the side as he noticed that there was light coming from underneath the door. “No … he’s still here.” He raised a hand to his head. “Mindy up front would have a key. She is a keyholder.”
“Mr. Jarret.” Beckett knocked again. When there was still no answer or movement of any kind from the office, she nodded for Ryan to go find Mindy.
The Irish detective came back quickly with the girl. She had a puzzled look on her face as she pulled out a key ring. “I don’t know why he’s not answering. He’s been in here all morning.” She sorted through a few keys and then unlocked the door.
“We’ll take it from here,” Beckett pulled on the girl’s arm to move her out of the way. She, Ryan and Esposito all had their guns drawn.
Esposito nudged the door open with his foot and entered first.
“Looks like we’ll have to call Lanie.” He holstered his gun.
“Why?” Castle asked, trying to see around the detectives.
Beckett opened the door wider, which revealed Jarret sitting motionless in his desk chair.
“Oh, that’s not pretty.” Shawn made a face. “Look, Gus, he’s been strangled.”
Gus was now standing as far from the office as possible. “No, Shawn; I do not need to look. I am fine back here,” he assured them.
“See, Ricky, this is why I insisted on a hot chocolate and bear claw. I sensed inwardly that we would have to bribe the lovely coroner to come down here and assist us.” Shawn motioned to the bag and cup still in his hands.
“Just hope that Perlmutter doesn’t show up instead,” Esposito warned.
“Yeah, he won’t appreciate the pastry or the compliment.” Ryan noted.
Shawn shrugged. “Well, he can have it anyway, though Gus here will be heartbroken at the loss of Dr. Parish’s beautiful face.”
Esposito shot a glare over at Gus.
“Cool it, Esposito, just give Lanie a call.” Beckett shook her head in amusement.
A couple of hours later and the detectives were back at the station. Ryan and Esposito were going over the photos and evidence reports. While they were busy Beckett headed down to the morgue.
“What did you find, Lanie?” Beckett asked, striding through the door. Once again, the three consultants were trailing behind her, though Gus looked even less sure than he had the first time.
“Well, there’s definite bruising on the neck that was made by hands.” Lanie showed Beckett and Castle. “But your manager wasn’t actually strangled. He was killed by a blow to the windpipe; it would have crushed the trachea. Your murderer knew what he was doing. I’ve got what looks like a handprint on his neck,” she continued, “but I haven’t been able to pull any prints. The killer must have worn gloves.”
Shawn sighed heavily. “Oh Gus, whatever happened to considerate killers who left prints for us?”
Gus nodded. “Or dropped business cards or cell phones on the victims.”
Beckett ignored them and went back to looking at the impressions. “Did you ever narrow down the weapon for Jennings?” she asked Lanie.
“As a matter of fact, yes.” Lanie pulled the Jennings file out from her desk. “I was going to call you this morning, but then all the excitement happened.” She flipped through the file to the autopsy report. “We know he was struck over the head with a blunt object. I recovered some traces from the wounds that forensics told me was fiberglass.”
“Most modern mannequins are made from fiberglass,” Gus spoke up.
Lanie gave him a smile. “Yes, Jennings was probably beaten by part of a mannequin.”
Shawn’s eyes went wide, and he turned to Gus and slapped him hard on the arm. “Dude, I know how it happened!”
Gus glared at his friend and rubbed his shoulder. “Well, maybe the spirits would like to explain before they beat <i>me</i> to death?”
Shawn sighed dramatically and put his hand to his head.
“Wait!” Castle said excitedly. “Can we do this upstairs? I know that Ryan and Esposito will want to see this.”
“And what makes you think I don’t want to see?” Lanie put her hand on her hip and gave Castle a look.
Castle ducked his head. “We should just all head upstairs. Maybe the captain would like to see too!”
“I am not a circus animal,” Shawn protested.
“You sure act like it sometimes.” Gus coughed.
“Gus, don’t be Derrick Storm in Castle’s books,” Shawn whined.
“What is wrong with Derrick Storm?” Castle and Beckett asked in unison.
Beckett avoided looking Castle in the face as he grinned at her protest. “If we’re going to go upstairs we should just get it over with so that we can catch the bad guy.”
“Good idea,” Shawn nodded, leading the way. They headed upstairs and Castle gathered everyone in the bull pen.
“This is gonna be so cool,” he whispered to Esposito and looked very much like a child on Christmas morning.
Esposito rolled his eyes at Ryan. “I’m sure it will be.”
As soon as everyone was gathered, Shawn took a deep breath and raised his right hand to his temple as his left began vibrating. “We’re looking for a hand that doesn’t leave any prints.”
“A guy who burned his hands in acid!” a rookie in the back suggested.
“Quiet down,” Captain Montgomery ordered.
Shawn waited for silence to settle again. “No, not acid burned hands or prints wiped away by the Men in Black. We’re looking for hands that were never children. Hands that never grew up. Hands that never had prints to begin with.”
“We’re looking for aliens?” Ryan raised his eyebrows in skepticism.
“I said this wasn’t about the MIB,” Shawn snapped at him. “Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith had nothing to do with the case.” He turned to Gus. “Well, Tommy Lee Jones might have.”
“Might have,” Gus agreed.
“These hands are the same hands responsible for Chance Jennings’ death!” Shawn continued, back in the psychic spirit. “We’re looking for mannequin hands!”
“The manager was killed by strangulation,” Beckett pointed out.
“But there were no prints,” Shawn countered. “And if you look closely at the marks,” he grabbed the photos from Lanie’s hands and waved them at Beckett, “There are voids where the fingers weren’t quite bendy enough to wrap around the throat.”
Castle, Ryan, Esposito, and Lanie leaned in for a closer look as Beckett took the photos from Shawn.
“It means we’re looking for one killer, but it still doesn’t tell us who the killer is or why they killed.” Esposito crossed his arms as Beckett handed the photos back to Lanie.
Shawn could feel the eyes on him as the entire room waited for him to divine the next answer. He flung his hand out to the right and grabbed Ryan by the shirt collar. Pulling the Irishman into the middle of the circle that had formed around them, Shawn held out the detective’s arm stiffly.
Ryan hadn’t resisted Shawn pulling on him, but when Shawn pulled the detective’s arm up and started posing him as a living mannequin, he wished he had. The look on Esposito’s face told him he was never going to live this down either.
“Chance Jennings wasn’t making his money by selling drugs.” Shawn continued posing Ryan as a mannequin. “He made his money by blackmailing the actual drug dealers.”
“Blackmail! Of course!” Castle shook his head. “It’s the oldest motive in the book besides revenge and love.”
“Gus, please escort Detective Esposito into the circle,” Shawn ordered, once he had Ryan posed. “A good store doesn’t allow only one mannequin in a window. They always come in pairs.”
“Yo,” Esposito turned to Gus. “If you touch me I will punch you in the spleen.”
Gus hadn’t moved a muscle but simply nodded when the threat came.
“Fine!” Shawn threw his hands up in the air. “Just don’t expect to get a good store inspection.” He rolled his eyes.
“Get back to Jennings,” the captain spoke up. “I’d like to get home for dinner today.”
Shawn gave a salute in Montgomery’s direction. “Aye, aye, Captain. Chance was blackmailing the drug dealers. I’m not sure who they all are, but I do know that Tony Everett is part of the gang. Maybe Chance asked for too much money, or the druggies got tired of paying.”
Castle’s eyes lit up and he jumped into the story-telling. “Either way, they hit him over the head with a mannequin arm.” He continued when Shawn nodded for him to go on, the psychic taking the opportunity to get a drink of water from the bottle sitting on Beckett’s desk. “That’s how they smuggled the drugs through the store, through the mannequins!”
“Yes.” Shawn put the cap on the water bottle and handed it to Beckett, who eyed the bottle with half disgust and dropped it into the trash can. “I’m sure that Mr. Jarret was turning a blind eye to the shenanigans happening in his store.” He put an arm around Ryan’s shoulders. “See, I’m using the language of your people, shenanigans,” he told the Irish detective, who had moved from the center of the circle to stand with Esposito again the moment Shawn had turned his back.
“I’m pretty sure that was racist,” Gus pointed out.
“Gus,” Shawn shook his head. “We’re in New York, a country that embraces everyone.”
Esposito, Beckett and Ryan all exchanged worried looks.
“Jarret was turning a blind eye,” Beckett jumped in, “and after we questioned him, he called Everett. Everett must have been spooked and started tying up loose ends.”
“Yes!” Shawn exclaimed. “I’m fairly certain Jarret didn’t plan on being murdered when he called on Tony E for help.”
Castle was beside himself as Shawn put all the puzzle pieces together. “See? I knew that having them help on the case would be awesome.”
Montgomery agreed. “Good work, all of you.” He nodded to Shawn. “Just track down this Everett; I want him in prison tonight.”
While Beckett was putting together the means to go after Everett at his home address, Ryan got a call that the tech squad had been able to access Jennings’ computer.
“Spencer was right on the money with the blackmail theory,” Esposito said, handing Beckett copies of some of Jennings’ emails. “There’s dozens of emails back and forth between Everett and an anonymous account with Jennings’ IP address on it.”
“Jennings was accepting weekly payments of an easy grand, but two weeks ago he started asking for more,” Ryan added.
“A thousand dollars a week on top of his salary,” Castle gave a soft whistle. “No wonder the guy lived the way he did.”
“It’s more than I make,” Shawn grumbled.
“Shawn, the cost of living in Santa Barbara is much less than here in New York, plus you have absolutely no expenses.” Gus reminded him. “Either the department refunds you because you did it on a case, or I end up paying for it.”
“I just put it on my tab, Gus.”
“There’s no such thing as a tab for Nordstrom.”
“Before we get completely engrossed in the topic of men’s socks,” Castle interjected, catching a murderous look in Beckett’s eyes, “we should go track down Tony Everett.”
Shawn looked longingly at the vest emblazoned with ‘WRITER’ that Castle was strapping on. “Dude, do you think Lassie would let us wear one of these? Mine could say ‘PSYCHIC’ and yours could say something like ‘MAGIC HEAD’.”
“‘Magic Head’ wouldn’t fit on a vest, and besides, mine wouldn’t say anything because I wouldn’t own one. I don’t go to places where people shoot at me,” Gus objected.
“Leave the vest here, Castle.” Beckett was putting on her own vest. They were all standing down the block from the address where Anthony Everett lived. A call to the landlord had confirmed that Everett was in his apartment.
“Beckett, you aren’t gonna let them come with us, are you?” Esposito complained as he double checked his sidearm.
Shawn and Castle immediately turned to stare at Beckett with twin sets of puppy-dog eyes.
“Please! I never get to do anything like this in California,” Shawn pleaded.
“And I already signed the waiver that I can’t sue you from the grave,” Castle added.
“All three of you will be staying in the car.” Beckett didn’t even look up at their faces. “And when I say in the car, I mean in the car, not standing next to it or running down alleys after criminals.”
“Scout’s honor,” Castle saluted her.
Beckett gave him a doubtful look but motioned for Ryan, Esposito and the four uniforms to follow her.
Shawn sighed and slumped against the backseat of the car. “Left behind,” he groused. “I can’t believe they’re letting all this natural talent just go to waste.”
Gus rolled his eyes. “Well, I for one am glad we’re staying in the car out of the way of bullets.”
Before Shawn could retort, his phone rang and he glanced at the caller ID. His mood immediately changed. “Detective O’Hara, it is lovely to hear your lovely voice. I’m sensing you missed me so much you just had to call me up to hear the sultry sound of my voice.” He had a big grin on his face, which faded as he listened. “Oh, you want to talk to Rick? Well we’re kind of busy at the moment. On a big case and all that. I’m sure he can’t talk to you.”
Castle made a grab for Shawn’s phone, but the psychic ducked out of his way and out of the car.
Gus rolled his eyes as the writer followed after Shawn, but still got out to follow them as they battled each other for the phone.
“Jules, I’m serious; I don’t think Ricky is able to talk to you right now,” Shawn continued, ducking as Castle again reached for the device.
“Hello Juliet,” Castle said, leaning into Shawn’s personal bubble.
“Dude, personal space!” Shawn warned.
“Shawn, I can hear him. Can you please put Castle on the line?”
Shawn could hear the grin in Juliet’s voice and took it as a sign to keep going.
“Shawn!” Gus shouted.
Shawn paused for a minute and realized that he and Castle were standing right in front of Everett’s building. Before he could react, a man came barreling out of the main door and ran into the duo.
“That’s Everett!” Castle shouted, the phone conversation with Juliet forgotten.
Shawn tossed his phone to Gus and ran after Castle as the writer chased their murder suspect down the sidewalk.
“Anthony Everett, stop! Police!” Beckett shouted as she, Ryan and Esposito came tumbling out of the doorway, almost taking out Gus.
Shawn was busy trying to take off his shoe and run at the same time. Finally managing to get the sneaker untied, he pulled it off to lob at the suspect.
“Shawn, don’t you waste a perfectly good shoe!” Gus was shouting after him. “You know you still haven’t gotten completely over the yips!”
As usual, Shawn didn’t listen and threw the shoe at Everett. True to Gus’ prediction, the shoe went wide, but it caused enough of a distraction that Everett went head over heels into a nearby hot dog stand.
Beckett was almost out of breath by the time she caught up to their suspect, who was lying on the sidewalk clutching his leg. She flashed her badge and pulled out her handcuffs. “NYPD. Anthony Everett, you’re under arrest for the murders of Chance Jennings and Charles Jarret.
“Nice collar, Beckett.” Esposito commented as Beckett hauled Everett off the sidewalk.
“I threw the shoe!” Shawn protested, hopping on one foot while he retied his laces.
“You should really meet Beckett, Juliet,” Gus was talking on Shawn’s phone. O’Hara had stayed on the line during the entire chase. “I think you’d really like her. She just handcuffed our guy.”
“What happened to ‘Scout’s Honor’, Castle?” Beckett looked up at the writer.
Castle gave a shrug. “Technically I was never a scout. So I don’t think I’m bound by that rule.”
A short interrogation later and Everett cracked.
“He confessed to everything,” Beckett said, putting her files in order for the reports she would have to write in the morning.
“It scared him that we already knew what had happened,” Castle commented, giving Shawn and Gus each a fist bump.
“Now that the case is over, you’ll be writing your next book right, Castle?” Ryan asked as he and Esposito joined the group. “Another chronicle in the McNeally stories?”
Castle nodded. “Yup, it’ll be Officer McNeally’s first big case that he works by himself.”
Shawn’s face visibly fell as he realized McNab was once again the inspiration for the writer.
“But of course the case will be so complex and difficult that McNeally is forced to call psychic investigator Alex Syte to help him,” Castle continued, smirking as Shawn’s face lit up again.
“Any ideas for the title?” Shawn asked eagerly.
“Perhaps it’ll be ‘Love at First Syte’, I did tell you I’m turning Alexander into Alexandra, right?” Castle winked at Gus.
“That’s defemination of character!”
“Defamation,” the three detectives, Castle, and Gus all chorused.
“And that has nothing to do with turning someone into a girl,” Ryan added, giving Gus a nod.
“Besides, I couldn’t do that to you guys,” Castle grinned. “I’m still working on a title. Now did anyone want a cup of coffee?”
As the writer headed for the break room, Esposito leaned over to whisper to Shawn. “You know he once blew that thing up. You might want to head for the elevators now.”
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