It's pushing seven o'clock by the time they get back to the station to reconvene with the boys.

Ryan and Esposito have been back for half an hour or so. They found out that yes, Agustin Ramirez worked at the florist two blocks down from the alley where his body was found. The night manager of a small diner said he stopped by from time to time to grab a bite, usually on nights he was working late at the shop.

"And get this," Esposito says. "We talked to his boss. Apparently Ramirez took the subway home every night. Used to have a car but sold it a few months ago. So he had a regular routine."

Kate adds that to the nearly blank murder board.

"Was he working late last night?" she asks. "His wife said there was a wedding or some big event today and he had to finish the arrangements for it."

Both detectives shake their heads.

"No," Ryan pipes up. "The boss said they finished the arrangements the day before and Ramirez left on Friday at his usual time, around six. Coworkers confirmed."

Kate leans back against the desk in front of the board, tapping a dry erase marker against her chin.

"So how did he end up in that alley four hours later to be shot to death?"

Castle settles next to her. Far enough not to cause any questions or raised eyebrows from any of the detectives, but close enough that she can smell his cologne (definitely not chloroform) and feel the warmth he always seems to radiate.

"Anything else on the kid that was hanging around?"

Esposito shakes his head at the writer.

"Nothing. A few other people remembered seeing him, said he seemed fidgety, but no other description. We ran the name you texted us, but nothing came up for a Diego Restrepo."

"The kid would have been too young anyway," Kate points out, "if Restrepo was one of the FARC members that Ramirez knew ten plus years ago."

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Castle tilt his head in thought.

"Crazy theory, Mr. Castle?" she jabs.

He shrugs.

"Maybe nothing. But why would Ramirez tell his wife he would be working late when he clearly knew he wouldn't?"

She leans forward, tapping the marker against her chin once more and then extending it in a sweeping gesture.

"Could be any number of reasons," she offers. "Maybe he was meeting with this Restrepo and didn't want his wife to worry. Or maybe he was going to go to the police last night."

"Maybe he wasn't really involved with drugs at all and there's something else going on here," Castle says.

All three detectives turn to look at him.

"What gives you that idea?" Esposito asks, cocking an eyebrow. "You think the wife is lying?"

Castle shakes his head and stands, paces in front of the board.

"Intentionally? No. I think she was just repeating what her husband told her. But who's to say he told her the truth?"

Kate gets to her feet then, blocking the writer's path, and he pulls up short in front of her. His eyebrows are furrowed, his body tense. For whatever reason - she suspects it has something to do with a certain sleepy four-year-old - this case is getting to him.

"What are you thinking, Castle?"

His shoulders lift for a moment as he takes a breath.

"If it were my family, and they were being threatened, I wouldn't keep on working in a dangerous situation like that. I'd do whatever it took to get us the hell outta Dodge. Sooner, rather than later."

She realizes, suddenly, just how close they are to each other. Close enough to feel the warm wash of his breath on her cheek when he exhales. Close enough that she can see Ryan and Esposito standing behind him, both trying to conceal their smirks. Too close, in other words. She steps back, and leans against the desk once more.

"So, what is it then? If he wasn't selling drugs, what was he doing? Clearly he must have been up to something that got him killed."

He lifts a hand, scrubbing it over his face. Frustration is written in every line of his expression and they've only had this case for a few hours.

"I don't know."

He plants himself next to the detective, leaning forward with his elbows on his thighs to stare at the too empty whiteboard.

He'd been quieter than usual on their way back to the precinct, and his melancholy doesn't seem to have abated. She leans forward and nudges his shoulder with hers.

"Hey, I don't know about you, but I'm getting hungry," she says quietly when he turns to look at her. "You wanna go get us some dinner, clear your head for a bit?"

He nods.

"Yeah. Yeah, maybe that would be good. What do you feel like?"

Honestly, she feels like grabbing a pizza and heading to her place or his, curling up on the couch with him and her kitten and watching a sappy movie. But they've got a case to solve, so unfortunately, that will have to wait.

"Anything's fine with me," she answers.

Esposito and Ryan echo her response and he stands.

"I'll be back soon," he says softly.

She nods, seeing the boys do the same.

"We'll be here. And we'll see what we can dig up on his financials while you're gone. Maybe we'll have something better to go on by the time you get back."

One corner of his mouth twitches up. Not quite a smile, but she'll take what she can get. He grabs his jacket from the back of his chair and pulls it on, heading toward the elevator.

Her eyes follow him the whole way, and when he steps inside and turns around, he catches her watching him. He does smile this time, and it's the last thing she sees before the doors slide shut on him.

He's not gone long. Just enough time for them to get the guy's financials and a call from Perlmutter telling them that yes, he was killed by two shots from a .38 and yes, time of death is around ten o'clock Friday night.

She looks up when she hears the elevator doors open. The slight flutter in her chest catches her by surprise, but she has to admit, she is glad to see him, especially looking better than he did when he left.

Jerking her head at Ryan and Esposito, she indicates that they'll eat in the breakroom. When they enter, she can't quite place the smell of the food that her partner is laying out on the table, and the bags are nondescript.

Esposito, though, doesn't have the same problem.

"Dude, is that what I think it is?"

Castle chuckles.

"Stopped by that place you're always wanting us to try," he says with a smile for the Latino detective. "I didn't know what was good though, so I just ordered a bunch of different dishes."

Esposito shakes his head.

"Everything is good there, bro. Seriously, you pretty much can't go wrong."

He proceeds to help Castle open the rest of the containers and settles down in the seat next to Ryan and across from Castle, leaving the spot next to the writer open.

Kate sits, looking over the choices in front of her.

"Looks like I'm gonna need a recommendation here, Javi."

Esposito grins and points to the container in front of Castle.

"It won't be as good as my abuela's, but you'll probably like the arroz con pollo."

She snags the dish, watching as Castle digs in to some kind of chicken stew next to her.

"Mm, Beckett," he says with a full mouth. "You gotta try this."

She nods, taking a few bites of her own chicken and rice dish. Esposito was right. This is good.

Before long, the writer reaches over and pulls the container away from her. She starts to protest, but he pushes his own under her fork in its place.

"Trust me," he says.

And she does. He knows her well, and that includes her taste in food, so if he thinks she'll like something, she probably will.

"What's in this?" she asks after sampling a bit. "It's delicious."

Esposito leans over to see what she's got.

"Ah," he says. "One of my favorites. Fricasé de pollo. It's got potatoes, peppers and onion, capers, raisins, wine, and this sour orange juice."

She nods and keeps eating.

"It's good."

The room goes silent for a few minutes, but for the sound of chewing and the shuffling of take-out containers. Castle keeps pushing things in front of her to try until she finally glares at him and he stops, a little boy pout on his face.

"Did you guys find anything while I was gone?" he asks, once he seems to have had his fill and is leaning back in his seat.

She shakes her head.

"We were just about to start going through his phone and financial records," she answers. "Perlmutter called and confirmed TOD and that he was shot with a .38. That's it though."

Ryan pushes his chair away from the table.

"Do you really think it wasn't drugs?"

Castle shrugs.

"Colombian drug lords? It's just too...cliché, you know?"

Here comes the story. Castle hates it when things are too neat, even though she herself wouldn't mind wrapping this one up quickly. Still, more important to catch the right person.

"I mean, they come here, get out of a bad situation, seem to have their lives on track, even adopt a little girl, and then he pulls them into the mess like that? I don't buy it if it were me, I'd stay away from something like that at all costs. There are always other options."

Esposito shakes his head.

"I don't know, man. You've been with us on enough cases to see that life can be hard for an immigrant. Things may work differently, but it's easy to fall into the same patterns, to turn to the familiar faces when you get into trouble."

Kate stands and begins clearing the table, packing up the food, and squirreling it away into the breakroom fridge.

"Maybe Castle's right," she says, ignoring the bright eyes he turns on her. "We need to follow up on Restrepo, see if we can find anything, but let's not rule out other possibilities."

She heads back into the bullpen, expecting him to be right behind her, as always. But when she turns to continue their theorizing, he's not there.


His voice echoes from the breakroom.

"Be right there."

He emerges a moment later, a pair of coffees in hand.

She gives him a grateful smile as she sits at her desk, papers and file folders strewn across the top. He sets down their coffees at the corner and pulls his chair closer until they're sitting side by side and facing the same direction.

It's not the norm, but she's not going to tell him to back off. His elbow brushes her arm when he leans over to grab a file, and a warmth not from the coffee infuses her skin.

"Thank you," he says quietly, surprising her.

She turns a questioning gaze on him, and he shrugs.

"For giving me a chance."

She knows what he means - for giving his theories a chance on this case, for not dismissing them out of hand. But there's another layer there too, and whether or not he realizes it yet, she hopes he knows that she's trying to give him a chance in other areas of her life too.

"No thanks needed, Castle," she says, bumping his shoulder with her own. "You've stuck around this long. You deserve it."

His eyes soften, and she thinks maybe he does grasp the hidden layer. And why wouldn't he? He's a master of subtext.

The two of them silently drink their coffee and peruse the victim's financial records for a few minutes. She's finding nothing out of the ordinary, not even anything that would indicate the truthfulness of the wife's story.

"Beckett?" Ryan calls out, startling her from her concentration. "Found something."

She pushes back from the desk and strides over to where Ryan and Esposito have been going over the phone records. Castle follows, stopping right behind her, his solid chest at her back. He's tanding too close again, and she has to push down the simultaneous feelings of claustrophobia and absolute rightness.

"Whatcha got?"

Ryan points to one of the numbers on the sheet.

"This one. Belongs to a Restrepo. But not Diego."

She's not sure what his tone of voice implies.

"Then what's the name?"

Ryan's blue eyes meet hers as he looks up.

"Claudia. Claudia Restrepo."

"So, is she a drug lord?" Castle asks and then cuts his twinkling eyes toward Kate. "Or would that be drug lady?"

Ryan shakes his head, a hint of a smile playing at his boyish face.

"Or maybe they were having an affair?" Esposito postulates.

Kate watches as Ryan pulls up the woman's information on his computer screen.

"Oh. Maybe not."

The woman looks to be in her late sixties. There's an elegance about her, a sense of faded beauty. And there's something familiar too, Kate thinks, though she can't quite figure out what it is.

"Claudia Restrepo," Ryan reads off. "Age 68, lives in Astoria. No priors. She is from Colombia, but her records indicate she's been here for nearly thirty years."

Castle steps back, and Kate allows herself to let out the breath she's been holding. She has a hard time thinking when he's that close.

"She looks familiar," he says. "Does she look familiar to you, Beckett?"

The detective in question nods, glancing over her shoulder at him.

"Yes, though I'm not sure why."

Ryan prints the woman's picture and vitals and adds them to the board under 'Persons of Interest.' The only other person in that category is their mysterious young man in the hoodie.

Castle goes after the young detective, leaning against the desk and studying the new face in the picture.

"Do you still have the wallet?" he asks suddenly.

Ryan nods, and Esposito pulls it from a bag on his desk. Kate takes it from him, carrying it over to Castle and settling into the empty space next to him.

"What is it?" she asks, watching his hands as he opens the wallet.

The writer shakes his head.

"I'm not sure, but..."

He trails off as he stops flipping through the pictures in the wallet. He holds it out in front of him for moment and then passes it to her.


She does, and though it takes her a moment, she too sees what he sees.

"Same eyes, same mouth and nose. Even the same ears. They're related."

He reclaims the wallet, pulling out the photo he was examining.

"Aunt, you think?" he asks as he studies the picture of Elena smiling into the camera and then brings his eyes back to Claudia on the board.

She shrugs.

"Could be. Or it could be that the FARC didn't kill Elena's mother after all."

The writer turns to her, blue eyes sparking with interest. She never tires of seeing that look on his face.

"Now wouldn't that be a story?"

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