THE ULTIMATE WINTERFEST SURPRISE

BY KATHY DE



CHAPTER 2


  

Joe went to the funeral and paid his respects to the widow and her family. 

With a heavy heart, he sat by himself in the back row and watched the proceedings. His mood darkened further when he glanced across the cemetery and realized he was about 20 rows away from where Catherine was buried. 


He was surprised that Detective Beckett was giving the eulogy and her words settled into the pit of his stomach. His brow furrowed as he watched a tall man near Beckett scream out her name and leap towards her as everyone heard the noise from a gun go off.


With horror he watched as Beckett flinched in pain when the bullet entered her body and the man tackled her, a second too late to stop her from being hit. 


Most of the people in the crowd were policemen or family members of policemen and they fell to the ground for cover. Joe continued to watch from his place on the ground as a dark stain quickly grew on Beckett’s uniform. The man who screamed her name hovered over her and Joe saw the exact moment she lost consciousness.


A few rows up, Lanie Parish, from the coroner’s office and Kate Beckett’s best friend was pushing frantically against fellow police officer, Javier Esposito. “Damn it, Javier…you better let me get up, now!”


“Not yet, baby.”


“Kate’s been hit! I’ve got to help!”


Esposito looked around and saw that other police officers were already looking around for the shooter. With a sigh, he released her. “Go, but stay low!”


The woman Joe recognized as the Medical Examiner got up from the crowd and ran to Beckett’s side.


“Kate!” Lanie said as she ran over and examined the bullet wound. “Damn.”


Joe ran to the trunk of his car and got out the first aid kit Jenny always had packed. He saw some towels in one of the kid’s gym bags and knew they were clean so he grabbed them then ran back to help.


Joe shoved the items at Lanie who looked at him in surprise. “Thanks, sir.”


He looked quizzically at the man who sat holding Beckett’s hand and looked desperately at Lanie. “You gotta help her, Lanie. I can’t lose her.”


Lanie knew there was more to the couple’s relationship then either of them had ever admitted to. “I won’t let her die, Castle, I promise. Now leave me alone.”


Esposito and his partner Kevin Ryan came running up to the group.


“How is she?” Esposito asked.


No one answered him but Lanie looked up and nodded towards Castle and Esposito took the hint.


“Did you see the shooter, Castle?”


Castle was in shock and stood up but never took his eyes off of Detective Beckett. 


Trying to snap him out of it; Ryan hit him in the arm. “Castle!” he shouted.


Castle blinked and looked at them. “No…I saw a light flashing behind one of the headstones… when I realized it was the sun gleaming off the scope of a gun, I called out to Kate…I…tried to tackle her but I was too late.”


“Where’d you see the scope, Castle?” Esposito grilled him.


“Out there…first row past the service road about two headstones over to the right of the tree.”


Ryan ran through the crowd to the area that Castle said. He looked back and Castle nodded his approval. Ryan searched the ground and found the gun and the spent shell. He pointed it out to an officer who came over with an evidence bag. Ryan gave him instructions then walked back up by Castle, Esposito and Joe.


“Found the gun…someone took a lot of time to set this up.”


Esposito frowned. “So they knew Beckett would be giving the eulogy and they came here early this morning and set it all up.”


“Looks like it…” Esposito agreed.


Castle sighed. “So the shooter could have been standing anywhere just waiting?”


Ryan shrugged. “Yeah, he could have been...” 


“Castle!” Laine called out to him as Kate blinked her eyes. 


Rick fell to his knees beside Kate and took her hand. 


“Rick…”


“I’m here, Kate.”


“It hurts.”


“I know…I’m sorry, just hang on a little longer the ambulance is pulling up right now.”


Kate’s eyes closed as she slipped back into the blackness. 


Laine and the EMT’s stabilized her and got her quickly settled on the gurney. She was loaded in the back of the ambulance within minutes and Rick hovered indecisively behind it. 


Laine looked at him as she climbed in with the EMT. “I’ll take care of her.”


Esposito tapped his shoulder. “C’mon Castle, we’ll follow her all the way in.”


Castle, Esposito and Ryan hopped in the car and as promised they were never more than 30 feet behind the ambulance. Martha, Castle’s mother, and Alexis, Castle’s daughter, followed behind them. 


Castle sat in the back seat worrying as Ryan called Beckett’s father and told him to meet them at the hospital.


Kate’s heart stopped and had to be restarted in the ambulance and she was rushed into surgery the second they pushed her into the door of the hospital.


Later, the entire group hovered in the hospital waiting room. Rick paced up and down the hallway until Alexis finally had enough and walked over to hug him.


Joe walked into the room and looked around at the worried faces. “No news?”


Esposito shook his head. “Detective Beckett’s in surgery, sir.”


Joe nodded gravely then turned to Ryan. “You’re Detective Ryan right?”


“Yeah.”


“I want a complete report on my desk first thing tomorrow morning. Tell ballistics to compare this to the shells found at Montgomery’s scene and as soon as you get the slug outta Beckett get it to them.”


“Got it, sir.”


Esposito stepped forward. “I’m Detective Javier Esposito.”


“I know,” Joe smiled.


“If it’s all right with you sir, we’d like to stay here until we get some news on Beckett.”


“It’s fine by me. Just tell the attending to get you that slug.”


Castle looked over at Joe curiously. “Hey! Aren’t you…”


Joe extended his hand. “Joe Maxwell, I’m the District Attorney and you are…”


“Richard Castle.”


Joe cocked his head as he thought for a moment. “That writer? Heat something…right?”


“Yeah, Nikki Heat” 


“My wife and oldest daughters love your books.”


Rick smiled weakly as he began to pace again. “I’m glad.”


Joe nodded then looked over at the two officers. “Look as long as it’s gonna be a long wait…Ryan, Esposito…we need to talk.”


Both men stepped forward and Ryan clasped Castle on the back. “He’s a big part of out team, sir.”


Joe blinked in surprise. “Beckett’s boyfriend is on your team?”


Castle shook his head to dispel the idea that he and Kate were involved. “I’m not…”


Esposito laughed as he interrupted him. “Castle’s all right, sir. He’s been following us around for awhile doing research for his books…but I’ve got to give him credit…his ingenuity and imagination have helped more than a few times on some really hard cases.”


Joe stood quietly, trying to decide what to do when Ryan walked up. “Captain Montgomery was okay with him…” 


Joe finally shrugged. “All right, whatever…let’s go in the room next door.” 


The four men walked into the room and quickly took chairs. 


Leery about trusting anyone, Joe sighed and proceeded cautiously with the men. “I was…um…wondering if any of you know of any reason why Detective Beckett was singled out today?”


The three men exchanged glances then looked away as they all thought back to the meeting they had earlier in the day with Beckett…none of them were willing to disclose any of their findings.


When Joe met with silence he shook his head. “Look…Beckett’s still in danger unless we get to the guy who ordered this hit…” None of the men spoke and Joe got up to pace the floor. “You guys are her partners and Castle…you look at her like she hung the moon! I can’t believe that none of you can come up with one lead…” Again there was silence and Joe finally exploded in anger. “Are you just gonna leave her lying in a hospital bed like a sitting duck?! If you guys think you’re protecting her let’s remember she just got shot in broad daylight at a cemetery full of trained officers. You think a detail standing outside of her hospital room is gonna be enough protection with a trained killer after her?”


Esposito frowned when he realized Joe was right but he was still suspicious. “Who said it was a trained killer after her?”


Joe rolled his eyes with disgust. “That was Hal Lockwood lying on the ground next to Montgomery wasn’t it? Whoever could afford to hire a gun like Lockwood certainly can find a replacement gun in a day or two…Now…are you three gonna keep withholding the truth from me?”


Castle looked up at him. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t trust so easily…the DA’s office hasn’t exactly been known for its honest men…weren’t you the assistant in the late 80’s when Moreno took a dive?”


“How’d you find out about that?” Joe asked suspiciously.


“Research for one of my books…”


“Yeah, well…I had nothing to do with that…” Joe defended.


Esposito frowned as he searched his memory. “You were also the DA what 5-6 years later when that rap went down with McClosky.”


“McClosky was convicted by me!” Joe sighed.


Esposito shook his head disgustedly. “Yeah…that’s what the papers said anyway.”


“Look! I’ve been the DA for 18 years and in that time more criminals have been convicted and put into the system than in the entire history of this city.”


“Is this an election year?” Castle snorted sarcastically. “Cause it sounds like you’re campaigning.”


Joe scowled and leaned forward. “Here’s the facts as I see them, writer boy, you three were all with Detective Beckett, and none of you were able to keep her safe.”


“If I get another chance, I won’t let her down again,” Castle said quietly.


Disgusted, Joe pulled back and crossed his arms across his chest. “Castle…I have some official police business to discuss with these officers…” He motioned with his head towards the door. “If you don’t mind…”


Castle made to protest but could tell by Joe’s attitude that his mind wasn’t going to be changed. He looked over at Esposito and Ryan then left the room. 


Joe turned back to face the two detectives. “Trust me or not, we’ve got to protect Beckett…I know of a place…a safe place…we can take her there until she’s recovered.”


Esposito rolled his eyes with disgust. “You just told us that place didn’t exist anywhere, now you want us to trust that you know of a safe house.”


“It’s not a house…it’s a small community…they’re good people there and they help one another…”


“Then it’s not in this city!” Ryan laughed then frowned at Joe’s evasive look. “Is it? In the city?”


Joe blew out a long breath. “Not exactly…”


Esposito blew up angrily. “Not exactly?! How the hell we supposed to trust you when you say shit like that?!”


Joe struggled to come up with the right words. “This place…this community is…special…it operates by itself with some outside helpers.” Ryan’s brows flew up in surprise as he listened to Joe more carefully. “Even if you agree to let me take Beckett there, I’d have to get permission from their council to bring her there.”


“A council?” Esposito snorted. “Great, this joker wants us to throw Beckett into a cult!”


Ryan cocked his head curiously at Joe and took a chance. “This place…that’s not exactly in the city…I think I may know it.”


Joe looked at him distrustfully. “Yeah…you think so?”


Ryan nodded. “Yeah, I’m just wondering if it’s the same place…”


Joe shrugged as he muttered. “I doubt it.”


Ryan knew if he and Joe were talking about the same place that Beckett would in fact be safe there, but he proceeded extra cautiously. “This place you know…what can you tell me about it?”


“Not a lot…but I have very good friends there and I can promise you they will take great care of Beckett.”


Ryan’s mind flew to something he could ask of Joe that wouldn’t reveal too much. “Hey…um…this place…does it have a big party in January?”


It was Joe’s turn to be curious, and he nodded slowly. “Yeah.”


“So anyone can go?” Ryan asked.


Joe narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “No, it’s by special invitation…”


Ryan smiled and nodded as he hoped to trip Joe up. “This invitation…it comes in the mail, right?”


“No…its hand delivered…”


“Yeah…go on…”


“A candle…you get a candle if you’re invited.”


“What color?”


Joe smiled as he looked curiously at Ryan. “Orange and white.”


Ryan nodded as he broke out in a huge grin and looked at his partner “I think we should trust him.”


“What?! Cause he told you about some party?!”


“Yeah!”


Esposito looked at Ryan with surprise. “No joking…”


“No joking.”


Esposito sat back in his chair and folded his hands together then looked back at Ryan and nodded. “All right…but this is on you, Kevin! Something goes wrong it’s on you.”


Ryan knew his partner was serious when he used his first name. “Yeah…I know.”


Joe stood up. “I’ll see if I can arrange it. As soon as Beckett’s stable, we’ll move her.”


Esposito thought of the man outside whom he was certain was frantically pacing and he scowled. “Look…I don’t mean to throw a wrench in the plan but some secret community? Castle will never let you take her there…she’ll be vulnerable to…”


Joe interrupted him angrily. “You know what? I don’t care…Castle’s in just as much danger as Beckett. She’s going to have to be strong enough to get rid of him…keep him away from all of this.” 

 

Esposito shook his head. “I don’t know if she’ll do it…”


Joe shrugged. “It’s between life and death…possibly Castle’s…if she cares about him at all…she’ll do it.”


Castle ran back into the room. “The doctor’s coming…” he called out then went back into the hallway.


The men followed him out where the surgeon was standing with Jim Beckett, Kate’s father. 


“You’re her father?” they overheard the surgeon ask.


“Yes,” Jim answered as Castle ran up and stood by him. “This is Rick Castle, Kate’s uh…” He stopped, unable to give a name to the complicated relationship his daughter had with Castle.


The doctor nodded towards the two men. “The truth…Kate had to be resuscitated twice, once in the ambulance and once on the table. I won’t lie to you, it was touch and go several times and I’m not sure about how the lack of oxygen has affected her. She’s finally stabilized and she’s being taken to recovery. You can see her in a few minutes but she’s heavily sedated and I don’t want you to stay too long.”


“Thank you, doctor.” Jim said as he smiled and shook the doctor’s hand.


Everyone gathered around was hugging one another but Castle sat down beside her father.


“Its great news, sir…”


Lanie walked up and took Jim’s hand. “The hard part is yet to come…” The two men looked at her curiously as Lanie continued. “She’s gonna have to rest. I mean flat on her back…butt in bed rest…”


Jim stood and began to pace. “We’re in trouble…Kate was impossible as a child to keep quiet…”


Castle smiled endearingly. “Maybe she’ll listen to you now…”


Jim laughed aloud. “Not to me….but…maybe to you…”


“Me?!”


“Yeah, I’ve seen the way Kate looks at you when she thinks no one is watching and I’ve seen that look before...from across the room at a crowded party when her mother would look for me and finally catch my eye.” 


Castle shook his head. “With all due respect, I think you may be mistaken…”


Jim shrugged as a nurse came up. “Only two visitors may see her at this time and the doctor would like it limited to five minutes.”


Jim turned back to Castle. “Let’s go…”


Castle looked at the others and each of them nodded their assent to him so he followed Jim and the nurse to the room Kate was in.


Joe looked over at Ryan and Esposito. “I need to go check on that place I spoke of earlier.”


Ryan nodded to Esposito. “I’m gonna go with him to check it out…make sure it’s the place I’m thinking of…”


Esposito nodded. “Okay…Lanie and I will stay here and keep an eye on Beckett. Call Edwards and O’Malley and get them to take night shift.”


Ryan agreed as he looked at Joe. “They’d be the best choice.”


“Beat cops…” Joe frowned. “What precinct?”


Esposito piped up. “They’re with us at the twelfth…new guys that just worked their way up but they’re good…”


Joe nodded and turned to Ryan. “All right…let’s go…”



*******************


Out of earshot of everyone else, the two men turned to one another. 


“Spill it, Ryan.” Joe commanded.


Ryan looked at him suspiciously “First, tell me the name of the holiday with the orange and white candle.”


“Winterfest.” 


Ryan broke into a huge grin. “That’d be it!”


Joe smiled incredulously. “When did you get involved?”


“Always…I was born there…Pascal is my uncle.”


“What?!”


“Yeah, he and my mom were brother and sister.”


“I don’t believe it!”


Ryan looked around and headed to the nearest entrance to the world Below. “C’mon I’ll tell you the whole story on the way…”


He and Joe headed towards the tunnels and once they were safely inside Ryan continued with his story.  “Pascal and my mom were born here. At sixteen, my mom fell in love with one of the helpers sons. My Grandfather didn’t approve but my Mom moved Above anyway. They got married and I came along years later. My mom got cancer and passed away when I was five. My dad had to work swing shift so after school at St. Thomas’ I would come home then either stay there or head Below depending on his shift.”


“So…you’re about Kipper’s age?”


“Uh, huh…and Samantha and Eric and Jeffery’s. How about you? When did you find out about this place?”


Joe sighed aloud. “Catherine Chandler was my co worker.”


“Catherine...” Ryan searched his memory then looked at him with surprise. “Vincent’s Catherine?”


“Yeah…after we found out about her death it was discovered she had a child right before she died, I searched high and low for that kid. One of my special agents found him and brought him to Vincent then lied to me about it. The whole thing didn’t sit right with me and I kept asking about the baby. I finally had to throw Peter Alcott into jail to get the truth from him. He came clean and after swearing us to secrecy, brought me and Cathy’s best friend, Jenny, Below to meet everyone. Vincent made Jenny and I Jacob’s godparents and she and I eventually fell in love and got married.”


“Wow!”


“Yeah…”


“You’ve been helpers ever since?”


“Good friends is more like it…Vincent’s my eldest daughter Debbie’s godfather…we’ve spent a lot of time Below since we’ve had the kids, It’s nice…there’s always someone here the kids can play with.”


“Yeah…how many kids you got?”


“Six.”


“Six?!”


“Five daughters then we finally had a son.”


“You done now?”


Joe laughed. “I was done about 3 kids ago; my wife on the other hand…”


Ryan bent over and grabbed a rock then tapped out a message on a pipe. He looked guiltily at Joe. “Sorry…I should’ve asked if you wanted to let them know we were coming.”


Joe grinned. “You kidding me, I never learned that stuff. I let my one of my kids do it for me…”


Ryan held up a finger to silence Joe as he listened to the message coming over the pipes. “I told Vincent we needed to speak to him; he’s waiting in his chamber.”


Joe sighed. “Lead the way…”


Ryan looked at him curiously and laughed. “No idea how to get there, huh?”


“None…I’m down here and after a few quick turns I’m lost.”


They made it to Vincent’s chamber in less than 10 minutes.


Joe walked in first with a big smile. “Hey big guy!”


Vincent smiled then took Joe’s extended hand and shook it warmly. “Joe, good to see you…” He looked over at Ryan and smiled. “And you too, Kevin.”


The two men hugged briefly. “Hey, Vincent.”


“It’s been a long time…”


Ryan nodded ruefully. “Too long.”


“You’ve been missed…”


“I’ve missed everyone here as well.”


Vincent gestured to his table and chairs. “Sit, please. Can I get you some tea…or…”


“Nothing for me, Vincent,” Ryan interrupted.


“Me, either,” Joe replied grimly. 


Vincent nodded and sat down. “Judging by the looks on both of your faces I can see that something weighs heavily. Tell me…”


Ryan nodded his assent to Joe, who took a deep breath and began.
”A police chief was recently murdered.”


“Yes, I read about it but if I remember correctly five men were gunned down that night…”


“Yeah…We have reason to believe the captain’s death is tied to something much bigger than some penny ante crime. One of the men lying next to him was a hired gun…one of the best.”


“It definitely arouses one’s suspicions,” Vincent nodded.


Joe scowled. “At the Captain’s funeral today, another officer was targeted. A woman, Detective Kate Beckett, was shot while giving his eulogy.”


Vincent cocked his head curiously to the side as he tried to read between the lines. “What is it you wish of us, Joe?”


“Beckett’s expected to make a full recovery but she needs a place to heal…a safe place.”


Vincent knew what they asked and began to pace. “It’s unusual circumstances, gentlemen…”


Ryan leaned forward. “Vincent, she’ll die up there…they’ll get to her somehow…she just needs to be stronger…2…3 weeks at the most.”


“How well do you know this woman?”


Ryan shrugged. “I’m with her everyday.”


“Can she be trusted?”


“She’s my boss, my partner and I would trust her with our lives.”


“Your partner…is it still Javier…Esposito wasn’t it?”


Ryan was surprised Vincent remembered. “Yeah.”


Vincent sat again and stared at the ground quietly contemplating the problem. He knew his friends wouldn’t be asking if they weren’t desperate to get her to safety. “I’ll take it to the council.”


Ryan stood and smiled. “That’s all we can ask. I’m going to go see my Uncle.”


All three men knew Pascal served on the council and Vincent rolled his eyes. “I’ll give you time to speak with him…I’ll call for everyone to meet in the library in half an hour.”


Ryan took off and Joe smiled at Vincent. “Thanks.”


“You still have more people to convince.”


Joe nodded. “Maybe we can talk to Father ahead of time.”


Vincent stood and led the way as the two headed to the library. “Father…” he said as he found his parent sitting in a chair, wrapped in a warm thick blanket.


Father looked up from his book. “Vincent and Joe! It’s good to see you!”


Joe walked over and held his hand. “Good to see you too, Father. How’ve you been?”


Father shrugged. “These old bones have more aches and pains but I’m guessing you didn’t come here to hear about that did you?”


“No.”


“Father, Joe’s here to ask the council for sanctuary for one of his detectives. She needs a place to recover from a gun shot wound.”


Father looked at Joe and knew instantly that there was more to the story than he had let the others believe. “What is this really about, Joe?”


Knowing he was caught, Joe hung his head. “That is what it’s about…but you’re right…there is more I haven’t told anyone yet…Vincent, will you take a seat? What I have to say concerns you.”


Vincent came over and sat down slowly. “Go ahead, Joe.”


Joe blew out a long breath. “Montgomery was the police chief that was killed recently,” he said for Father’s benefit. “Before he was killed he sent me a package. In it were police reports documenting years of police cover-ups. Murders that were written off but were actually organized hits. The woman who I want to bring Below had a mother who was killed 15 years ago; her file was included with that paperwork.”


“15 years is a long time to cover up crimes.” Father said.


“Yeah,” Joe frowned. “Imagine my surprise when I saw files that dated back longer than that…” His voice lowered and trailed off.


Knowing his friend so well, Vincent’s head shot up and he looked at Joe suspiciously. “How much longer, Joe?”


Joe knew that Vincent had guessed and he nodded “Her file was with them.”


Vincent shot from is seat and began to pace the room while Father needed clarification. “Catherine’s file?”


“Yes.”


Father shook his head in shock. “So you believe that the same people that killed Catherine continued their killing spree over the span of 20 years?”


“That’s what it looks like…I need help to sort through it all…I need Kevin and his partner, and I need Detective Beckett.”


Vincent was strangely quite as he paced the room then suddenly whipped around. “Call off the meeting…the decision’s been made…Joe, we’ll need to make plans to get Detective Beckett Below.”


Father knew that with this new found information, the tunnel council would only be able to vote one way; so he agreed with the decision. “Yes…”


Vincent tapped out a message summoning Ryan to his chamber and he and Joe settled into chairs to wait for him to show up.


Ryan was there a short time later. “What’s going on?” 


“There will be no meeting.” Father announced gruffly.


Ryan asked angrily. “Why not? Why isn’t this going to council?”


Vincent motioned to a chair. “Because the decision has been made…sit…please.”


Ryan plopped in the indicated chair. “I don’t even get to speak…that’s bull…”


“Kevin!” Vincent interrupted. “The decision to allow Detective Beckett to come Below is yes.”


“Oh…” Ryan said quietly.


Joe leaned forward. “All right, what do we do?”


Vincent shrugged. “We’ve done this a time or two before, Joe. One case you may remember is Elliot Burch’s father…”


Joe thought back and looked up with surprise. “That was you?”


“Yes.”


“Damn!”


Vincent smiled. “As soon as Kevin’s friend says Detective Beckett is stable, we’ll make our move.”


Joe looked at Ryan. “I’ll need to speak to Beckett first. She has to blow off that Castle guy…she has to put him off.”


“She will,” Ryan assured.


“Okay, I’ll take your word for it but if Castle gets in the way…”


“He won’t…now let’s get back to the plan…what time should we do this?”


Vincent started first. “1:00 am is best. The night shift has already started and acquainted themselves with their patients and by then they’ll have settled down into their paperwork.”


“Back staircase?” Ryan asked. 


“Yes. We’ll have Jacob and Kipper meet her…help her down. I’ll stay Below and help them get her safely inside. You and Javier provide a distraction, this will take the focus off of both of you.”


“How the hell do we do that?”


Vincent shrugged while Joe frowned then shrugged as he sighed. “Think of something…how about coming in drunk after a night of drowning your sorrows?”


Ryan rolled his eyes. “That’s lame!”


“Do you have a better idea, Kevin?” Vincent asked.


Ryan sighed. “No…”


Joe nodded. “I’ll put out the word that she went to recuperate at an Aunt’s house out of town.”


Ryan frowned. “Castle will think she dumped him.”


Joe shrugged. “I can’t worry about that right now…tell me what you’ll need to come down here and work while she recovers.”


“Esposito and I will copy the files we have at work.”


“Don’t bother…I…um…have copies of everything we’ll need.”


“Then I guess just an erasable board, markers, someplace quiet to work.”


Joe nodded. “Okay…we’ll give Beckett 2 to 3 weeks to recover…then we’ll meet at 8:00 every night and compare notes…come up with…”


“Something?”


“Yeah.”


Vincent stood and walked to his door. “You’ll have the things you need. 

Let me know when she’s stable.”


Vincent left and Ryan looked incredulously at Joe.  “What happened tonight? How’d you sway the vote?”


Joe thought of Catherine and the pain that remembering the past brought back. “I have reason to believe that the same people that caused Johanna Beckett’s death caused Catherine Chandler’s death as well.”


Ryan’s face fell. “Oh, man…”


“Yeah.” Joe stated. “Let’s go see about Beckett.”




**************************



Beckett was sleeping when they got back to the hospital. 


“How is she?” Ryan asked Lanie.


“Stable…she’s sleeping…probably until tomorrow.”


Joe nodded. “Okay, put a detail at her door then everyone go home, get some sleep, tomorrow’s coming fast.”


Everyone left the hospital and Ryan sent word Below that tomorrow night would be the night they bought Beckett Below.


Joe came to the hospital first thing in the morning and nodded at the officers as he showed his credentials and walked inside her room.


Beckett looked pale and weak as she sat upright in her bed but she still looked up at him curiously.


“Detective.”


“Sir.”


“I’m District Attorney…”


“I know who you are, sir.” Beckett interrupted.


Joe smiled. “Good. Detective Beckett…can I call you Kate?” She nodded so he continued. “I have reason to believe that you have been made the target for a professional hit. Do you know anything about that?”


Beckett looked down guiltily and shrugged. “Maybe.”


“Really? You think maybe you were the target?” 


She looked up at him and he could see the fear in her eyes that she was so admirably trying to hide. 


“I know you don’t know me, Kate, but I have a place I’d like you to go. It’s a…sort of safe house. Ryan knows of it and will vouch for the people there. It’ll give you a chance to heal safely…”


“Sir, with all due respect, I can take care of myself and…”


Joe chuckled as he stood and paced the room. “No…no, you can’t…I know it…you know it…and whoever tried to kill you knows it. I also know you won’t endanger your father or Castle by staying with either of them while you recover.” 


She gasped at the truth of his statement. She knew that she wasn’t strong enough to recover on her own. She had thought of her Dad and Castle and knew that she loved each of them too much to put them in any danger by taking care of her while she was being hunted by a professional killer.  


Knowing he had nailed it on the head, Joe sat back down in a chair. “Kate, I want you back up on your feet ASAP and I don’t want to have to worry every hour of every day that someone’s gonna get in here or your apartment and get to you. Talk to Ryan if you need to but I’d like this to happen tonight…you interested?” He watched her come to the realization that he was offering her a good deal and nodded. “You’ll have to do something about your boyfriend…”


“Josh won’t bother me if I ask him to leave me alone, I’ve been planning on breaking it off with him for awhile, now is probably as good a time as any.”


Joe shook his head in confusion. “I’m not sure who Josh is but I was talking about Castle.”


“Castle’s not my boyfriend!”


Joe rolled his eyes. “Whatever…I don’t have time to watch you to dance around your feelings, but I can guarantee he won’t go away quietly. If you don’t get him out of the picture, he’s in as much danger as you.” Joe could tell she was wavering and he frowned. “Let me remind you Detective that Castle is not a trained officer...he’s a writer…a good one…but still just a writer…and this is a professional hit man we’re dealing with.”


Beckett sighed and nodded. “You’re right. I’ll call and ask him to come here; I’ll ask him for space.”


“That’ll work…” Joe chuckled, “Have you seen the way that guy looks at you?”


She looked down and hid the tears that came to her eyes. She could still see him hovering over her, telling her he loved her as the pressure from his hand stopped the blood from flowing from her body. “We argued not too long ago…things were kinda strained…I’ll put him in his place…he’ll back off.”


“Okay…look…I’m sorry it has to be this way but rest up, tonight around 1:00, we’re getting you out of here.”


Three hours later, Castle came to see Beckett at the hospital. She asked him for space and he nodded and walked out. Later that afternoon, she broke up with Josh.


The rest of the day, she lay in her bed and thought about the shooting. When she finally fell asleep, she dreamed about Castle.


Kate slept off an on all day. Her father came in around dinnertime.


“Hi, Dad.”


“Katie, how are you feeling?”


“Good, Dad…really. The doctor said I could get out soon.”


“It’s too soon…”


“He said it would be all right as long as I take it easy.”


Jim nodded. “Okay, you can stay with me in your old room.”


Unable to look at him while she lied, Kate lowered her eyes. “No…I…um…am going to recover at Castle’s…Martha and Alexis are almost always home and…”


Castle’s mom and daughter offered to help you out?”


“Yeah, I guess it’s one of those times I just need another girl…”


Jim patted her hand. “I understand…”


“Thanks…I’ll keep in touch…”


“I know you will, besides, Martha seems pretty strong willed…she’ll make you rest!”


“Yeah…” she smiled weakly.


They visited for another hour or so and Jim left. Kate looked at the clock on the wall and sighed as she settled back to rest.



Continued in chapter 3