She knew, from the moment they'd looked at the photos in the wallet, that this would be a tough one. And now, standing poised to knock on an apartment door, her partner at her back, Kate's wishing she hadn't given in to Karpowski's trade.

She'd have gotten the earlier call if she'd been on duty and not just on call - a pop and drop of a known thug. Might have been hard to find the killer, she might've had to break the news to the kid's parents. But she wouldn't have had to tell a wife or a daughter that Daddy won't be coming home.

Castle's hand on the small of her back nudges her forward. She glances up at him, and he cocks his head. She knocks.

They're met immediately with the sound of shrill barking and quick footsteps.

The woman from the photo answers the door, a bright smile on her face until she sees her visitors.

"Can I help you?"

Her accent is present, but doesn't hinder understanding. It's not Puerto Rican, or Mexican, as far as Kate can tell. Maybe something further south.

"Detective Kate Beckett, NYPD, and this is my partner, Richard Castle," she says, pulling her jacket back to reveal the shield on her hip. "Is this the residence of Agustin Ramirez?"

The woman looks surprised, but nods.

"This is his home, yes. I'm his wife, Elena. Is he okay?"

Here is the moment. And Kate can't do it. Her eyes find Castle's, warm and compassionate, and his mouth tightens. She looks back at Elena.

Color is rapidly disappearing from the woman's face, and when she stumbles back a step, Kate's a little afraid she might faint. Castle seems to have the same idea, because he reaches forward with a steadying hand. But she catches herself on the doorframe.

"What happened?" she asks, her hand rising to cross herself in what the detective suspects is an unconscious gesture. "Dios mío, please...what happened to my Agustin?"

The barking starts up again before Kate can answer, and Elena turns away, leaving them standing at the door. Castle's hand presses against the small of her back and she takes the cue, entering the apartment and allowing her partner to shut the door behind them.

"Mrs. Ramirez?" she calls out.

After a moment the woman reemerges, a tiny girl held in her arms and a small dog yapping at her heels. The child is rubbing her eyes, maybe newly awakened by the knock or the barking. She must have been taking a nap.

The pair sit on the faded couch and the little girl immediately squirms outs of her mother's grasp to slide to the floor with the dog.

Kate takes a seat on the other end from Elena, and nods her assent to her partner's silent question. She watches as the writer drops unceremoniously to the floor, reaching over to ruffle the dog's ears.

"What's your name?" he asks in that soft tone she hears so rarely.

The little girl turns to her mother who runs a finger across the little cheek, a sad smile on her face.

"Está bien, mi corazón. Díselo."

Castle continues to pet the dog, smoothing the black fur and earning himself a few slobbery licks in the process.

"Luz," a small voice says.

Castle nods, meeting the girl's eyes.

"Nice to meet you, Luz. My name is Rick and that's Kate."

The girl nods solemnly and soon her tiny hand joins Castle's in rubbing the dog's belly. His voice remains gentle and friendly when he speaks again.

"What's your puppy's name?"

"Dante," she says, and black ears perk up a bit.

Kate turns back to Elena, though she remains wholly aware of Castle on the floor next to her, talking quietly with the little girl and keeping her focus on him.

"Mrs. Ramirez, we found Agustin this afternoon," Kate begins, keeping her own voice low enough to not draw the girl's attention. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but your husband is dead."

A gasp and a hand over her mouth are the woman's only reaction. Luz looks up at her mother, but Castle quickly brings her back when he pulls a knotted rope from underneath the coffee table and begins a game of tug-o'-war with the dog.

Kate gives the woman a moment to compose herself and allows her hand to lightly brush across Castle's nearest shoulder, a silent gesture of gratitude to her partner for making this as easier by keeping the little girl distracted.

When Elena seems a little more together, Kate leans forward slightly.

"Mrs. Ramirez, can you think of anyone who would have wanted to hurt your husband?"

It's a question she always asks, and so often people tell her no, that everyone liked their loved one. It's simply not true. Everyone is disliked, maybe even hated, by someone. But most don't see that, blinded by love and grief. So the answer surprises the detective.


She senses Castle's attention shifting, though he makes no obvious movement, just keeps up his interaction with Luz and Dante. It's subtle, maybe just a twitch of his eyebrows, but she notices. She finds herself inordinately pleased at how well she knows her partner's tells.

"Agustin and I came to the United States ten years ago, Detective," Elena says, bringing Kate's focus back to the woman in front of her. "We both grew up in Colombia, and my husband was a member of FARC when he was a young man."

The woman looks down at her hands, and Kate just waits until the story continues.

"My family lived on the edge of a small town outside of Cartagena. One morning I was going with my brother to visit a friend in the next town over. We found Agustin unconscious in a ditch on the side of the road. He'd gotten separated from the rest of his squad in the dark and had tripped and hit his head."

She takes a deep breath, and the detective leans forward.

"My brother said to leave him there. But I had just read the story of the Good Samaritan. You know it?"

Kate casts back into a hazy memory of sitting in Mass with her parents as a little girl. It's been years since she stepped foot inside a church for any reason other than a case, but she still remembers this particular story. She nods her response.

"So I couldn't leave him there to die. My brother helped me hide him, and I took care of him. My father would have killed him if he'd known. My mother had been kidnapped and murdered by members of the guerilla forces. When he was well enough, I thought Agustin would go back to his squad. But he didn't."

Kate glances down to see her partner listening with rapt attention. Luz and the puppy have crashed and are both sound asleep, the dog in Castle's lap and the girl with her head pillowed on his calf and a tiny hand woven into the puppy's silky fur.

"He fell in love with the girl who cared for him when no one else did."

Castle's voice is sympathetic. It's not his usual storytelling tone, the one he uses when they're theorizing. This is closer to how he sounds when he talks his way through a new discovery about the detective's past.

Elena nods.

"I brought him food and talked to him. He had left school very young when his parents died and members of FARC took him in. So I brought my old school books and taught him everything I could. He was so smart. He'd just never had the opportunity to put his intelligence to use."

Elena looks down at her daughter, at the large, gentle hand resting on the girl's back. She brings her eyes back up, pausing at the detective's fidgeting left hand and then raising her gaze to Kate's face, a soft smile emerging. Kate feels like she's missing something, even moreso when Castle looks up at her with an upward turn of his own lips.

"Agustin sneaked out one night and came back into town the next day," the woman continues. "He'd borrowed my brother's old clothes and pretended that he had just arrived and was only there looking for work. My father hired him to help on the farm. Agustin had a natural talent for plants."

Just then the dog lets out a little snort and his back paws twitch, kicking the girl lightly. Luz rouses for a moment, lifting her head from Castle's leg and blinking sleepily. The writer shushes her quietly and runs his hand across her back until she drops down again.

"You have children?" Elena asks.

Castle nods.

"A daughter."

She gives him a slight smile.

"Your little girl, yes?"

He shrugs casually, but Kate sees the shadow that flits through his handsome features.

"Not so little anymore. About to head off to college."

He leans against the couch, his shoulder pressing against Kate's knee, and she's struck once again by how thankful she is to have him as her partner.

Something about him is inherently soothing, and she thinks that if he hadn't been here for this particular conversation, it would have gone much differently. His ability to put people at ease seems to be exactly what Mrs. Ramirez and her daughter needed. Kate's sure that there will be plenty of tears from both later, but for now, Elena is calm and talking, and that means she'll be able to help them.

"How did you end up in New York?" Castle asks, restarting the previous conversation.

The woman lifts her hand, palm up, a meaningless gesture that betrays the feeling of helplessness the detective knows she must be experiencing.

"When my father died, the farm was to be split among my brothers and me. They bought my share, and Agustin and I used the money, along with what he'd saved over the previous two years that he'd worked there, to come to the United States. Colombia was too dangerous. He got a job here, working at a florist, and worked his way up. Often, when there was a wedding or big event, he would work late, even spend the night in his office there. There's one today, so I didn't worry when he didn't come home last night."

The detective leans in.

"You said there were people who wanted to hurt him. Why?"

Elena sighs, glancing down at her still sleeping daughter.

"We always wanted to have children. But we weren't able. So, four years ago last week, we adopted Luz. She was our Christmas miracle, our light. But adoption is very expensive, you know?"

Kate nods. She remembers the case that first year with Castle, the kidnapped little girl, the mother whose greed and resentment of her husband caused her to lose everything.

"We were doing okay for awhile. We've always lived carefully, saved as much as possible. Agustin was making a good salary at his job and I was tutoring students in the neighborhood to make a little extra. But then, in 2008, when the stock market crashed, we lost a lot of money, as did so many others, and the florist lost much business as well."

She pauses, and the grim set of Castle's mouth tells the detective she's not the only one who knows where this story is going.

"Agustin began working odd jobs so we would be able to make all of our payments. He didn't tell me at the time, but one of the men he began working for was a former member of his FARC squad who had also come to New York."

All three look down as Luz stirs and smacks her lips before wrapping her arm tighter around Castle's leg. He strokes his thumb down her arm and she settles again.

"He still had ties to some Colombian drug lords and was a drug runner for them. Agustin became one of his contacts. He would deliver cocaine to local dealers through the flower shop."

Elena bites her lip, and Kate wonders whether she's holding in a sob or a string of curse words. Either way, the woman clearly needs a moment to regroup.

"My husband was a good man, Detective," she finally says, her eyes clear and steely. "He tried to take care of his family. And when he found out that some of the dealers were targeting kids, he tried to get out."

"What happened?" the detective asks.

The woman shrugs.

"He was threatened. All of us were threatened. They told him if he tried to leave, they would kill his family. So he stayed. But he was gathering evidence. He was going to go to the police with what he knew. He would have put a stop to the whole operation."

And now they have the story. Castle turns his head to look up at her, sorrow and determination mixed in the blue of his eyes.

"Do you know the name of the man he was working for, Elena?" Kate asks quietly, pulling out the notepad from her jacket pocket.

Mrs. Ramirez nods.

"Agustin seemed troubled a few months ago and I finally confronted him to find out what was going on. He did not tell me more than what I've told you already about the operation, but he did mention the man's name once. It was Restrepo. Diego Restrepo."

The detective nudges her partner with her knee, and he takes the signal for what it is. Time to wrap things up. He lifts the puppy from his lap, setting it down on the floor. Then he runs his fingers across the little girl's back, scratching lightly until her hold on his leg loosens and she brings her hand up to rub at her eyes as they blink open.

Kate stands, reaching out to clasp the other woman's hand.

"Thank you, Elena. And once again, I am so sorry for you loss."

She tightens her grip a little as she watches Castle lift the little girl, depositing her carefully on the couch before standing himself.

"If you think of anything else, or you need anything, please don't hesitate to call," the detective continues, releasing the woman's hand to reach into her pocket for a business card. "We will do our best to find the person responsible."

She hands over the card and waits while Castle offers his own condolences, softly-spoken words and a two-handed grasp.

Mrs. Ramirez follows them, expressing her gratitude and shutting the door behind them when they leave.

"I wonder how they'll make it now," Castle says quietly as they wait for the elevator.

Kate shrugs.

"I don't know. Friends and neighbors may help them. Their church. Who knows?"

He shakes his head.

"It's so senseless. I mean, they'd gotten out, come to the land of opportunity, only to fall victim to the same problems he might have faced back in Colombia. If not worse."

The detective nods her agreement, cynicism bubbling up within her.

"Welcome to the American Dream."

The elevators open and the two of them step in, gravitating toward the back and each other, as they nearly always do. She glances up at him. He looks almost forlorn, grieved at the fate of this seemingly good woman and her sweet daughter.

Kate elbows him gently in the side, draws his eyes to hers. Looks like it's her turn to cheer him up. She won't waste the chance.

"By the way," she starts, noting the immediate questioning quirk of his eyebrow. "Kittens, puppies, small children...they all fall asleep on you. What kind of cologne do you wear, Castle? Eau de chloroform?"

His half-smile and the renewed twinkle in his eyes tells her she's accomplished her goal.

"Don't forget certain detectives. One in particular has been known to use me as a pillow. You, if I'm not mistaken."

She feels a blush rising in her chest. She has used him as a pillow, and the last time no drugs were involved.

"Who's next then?" she teases. "Esposito? Or Ryan?"

He shrugs, extending his hand to usher her out first as the elevator door opens.

"Hmm," he muses. "Probably Esposito. I've always thought he looked like a cuddler."

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