Final Horizons (chapt 1)Author:
Castle, Ryan, Esposito, Alexis, BeckettSummary:
When an unidentified sci-fi fangirl is found murdered and Beckett comes down with the flu, it's up to Ryan, Esposito, and Castle to solve the case.Crossposted: My blog
Final Horizons Chapter 1
The patrol car's lights flashed as Castle ducked under the police tape, ID badge in one hand and carry-out tray of coffee in the other. He grinned broadly at Ryan and Esposito, standing at the edge of the crime scene, and presented them with their drinks. It was early on a somewhat chilly morning in February, and the detectives greeted the arrival of both writer and coffee with genuine, if subdued enthusiasm.
“Good morning gentlemen,” Castle caroled, full of his usual good cheer. “Lovely weather for a murder.”
“Hey, Castle,” the two replied, eyes on the cardboard tray.
“Medium cafe latte, skim, no foam,” the writer announced, examining a cup and handing it to Esposito, who nodded his thanks. Castle read another. “'Large white chocolate raspberry mocha with extra whip', here you go.”
“Thanks, man,” Ryan said, eagerly accepting his drink. He removed the lid to slurp off the top layer of whip cream, but froze halfway through the motion, catching sight of his partner's withering look of scorn. “What?” he demanded, whip cream clinging to his upper lip. In lieu of an answer, Esposito just shook his head and took a sip of his own coffee, rolling his eyes.
“Where's Beckett?” Castle asked, looking about the crime scene. Esposito snorted and the two detectives exchanged a look, causing Castle to frown. “Am I missing something?”
“Beckett's on bed rest,” Ryan explained.
“Captain's orders,” Esposito added. “He said whatever she had, he didn't want it coming within five hundred yards of the precinct.”
“So she's not on the case?” the novelist asked, face falling and obvious anxiety creeping into his voice.
“Don't look so disappointed,” quipped Ryan, replacing the lid on his coffee with a shrug. “Since she was there when we got the call, she's technically advising.”
“She's been calling almost as often as Ryan calls his girlfriend,” Esposito smirked, earning another shrug from his partner, who sipped his drink nonchalantly, refusing to rise to the bait. “I'm sure she'd love it if you'd keep her updated on what's going on. Heck, I'd
love it. I think my leg's going to go numb from my phone vibrating so much.”
“Well, what have we got?” asked Castle, managing to drum up some of his usual excitement as he scanned the dank alleyway. “Stabbing? Strangling?”
“Gunshot wound,” Dr. Parish interrupted from her crouched position near the victim. “Caucasian female, early twenties, no ID. Is one of those for me?” she asked, nodding to the cups.
“Medium skim latte, two pumps sugar-free vanilla, if you want it,” he replied, somewhat mournfully. She shook her head.
“Nah, if I get a vanilla latte, I want to taste
a vanilla latte,” Dr. Parish told him. “And I'm more of a hazelnut person, anyway.”
Castle trotted over to inspect the body and cocked his head to one side as the medical examiner obligingly pulled back the sheet. The young woman had fallen face-down, her eyes and mouth still open wide in shock – or fear. This, however, was not what caught Castle's attention.
“A wig,” Dr. Parish affirmed, pointing a pen to the electric-blue hair that spilled over the pavement, stiff with clotting blood. “And those are colored contacts. Silver. I'll have to get her to the lab to see if they were for more than just her costume.”
The novelist's keen eye had already made note of the elaborate, diaphanous outfit the victim was wearing, a home-made concoction of gauzy, iridescent tulle beneath an incongruously unprepossessing fleece jacket. A dark stain slightly left of center marred the soft pink expanse of the girl's back.
“Halloween was months ago,” Castle observed, coffee tray gone unnoticed in his hand as he crouched beside Dr. Parish. “What is a girl in an outfit like that doing in a place like this with a bullet in her back?” His eyes followed the woman beside him as she stood and made a note on her clipboard. “A mugging gone wrong?”
“Well, we didn't find a cell phone or a wallet,” she said doubtfully, “but I wouldn't bet on it. See the lack of singeing around the entry wound? That indicates that she was shot from some distance away, I'd say at least ten feet.”
Not one to be left behind, Castle also got to his feet, brow knit and mind working furiously. “A mugger would stand close,” he mused, holding up two fingers on his free hand like a gun and pointing it at Dr. Parish. “And they'd be aiming for the stomach, so as not to attract attention, or the head, to keep the target scared.”
“Mm-hm,” she agreed. “What's odd is, judging by the angle of the wound, her attacker had to have been in a crouched position, or else sitting when they fired the weapon.”
“Sitting?” repeated Castle.
“Looks that way,” Esposito told him, eying the exit to the street. “Bank across the way might have some surveillance footage, but we won't know until we can get a hold of their security company because it's --”
“President's Day weekend, I know,” Castle sighed. “Alexis has three days off, and is determined to spend every minute doing something constructive unless I can think of a way to trick her out of it.”
“Well,” Ryan announced, carefully picking his way around evidence markers toward the two of them as he held up a bag that had just been handed him. “CSI found keys in one of her pockets.”
“An Audi,” Esposito observed. “That's an awful nice ride to just leave sitting in some parking lot.”
“They also found this,” the other detective added, handing over a plastic evidence bag with a card attached to a purple lanyard.
“ 'Love 2 Hate Sci-Fi and Gaming Con',” Castle read aloud. “That would explain the costume.”
“No name?” Dr. Parished asked, hopefully.
“Nope, just her picture and a handle,” was the reply.
“'Blu Feonix,'” Esposito said, leaning in to inspect the card. Castle's gaze fell upon the dead girl's face, his own a study in pity.
“Looks like this is one phoenix who won't be rising from the ashes again,” he said softly.