By three o'clock, they're all out of leads. They've got nothing on James Restrepo and nothing to indicate that Elena Ramirez was lying.

By three thirty, the writer has exhausted his store of crazy theories. He has worked his way through drugs smuggled in coffee, human trafficking, and the idea that the young man who wanted a job from Ramirez got fed up with waiting and shot the man, knowing that would create an opening at the florist.

By three forty-five, Castle's fingers are grazing up her arms as he slides Kate's coat over her shoulders, garnering a long look from Ryan and Esposito, who still haven't seemed to figure out that she was actually being serious earlier when she shared their plans for the evening.

Oh well. If they thought she was just screwing with them or being sarcastic, she isn't going to correct the notion.

"We're going back to visit Elena Ramirez," she calls out, mindful of the new rule put in place after she and Castle got kidnapped before Christmas.

Esposito nods and Ryan waves them off with a promise that they'll call if they hear anything else back from Narcotics. It seems as if Restrepo's business is legitimate, but there's always a chance that something untoward could be going on, and if there is, they need to know.

When they reach the elevator, she steps in first, glancing back at the writer with a smirk. He may have complained before, when they were handcuffed, about her need to be first, but now it seems he doesn't really care. Maybe he's just enjoying the view.

He winks at her when she turns around though, and it throws her off balance a little. When he reaches for her hand, lacing their fingers together, it's all she can do not to giggle. Kate Beckett does not giggle. Especially not because a boy is holding her hand.

Except he's not just a boy, is he? He's a man - the only man, from now on, her brain supplies - and she's in love with him. Maybe that's reason enough to giggle now and then.

For now, she sighs contentedly, and he leans down. Not far, because she is, of course, wearing heels, but enough to emphasize the height difference between them. His nose nudges her dark auburn hair and he presses a kiss just above her ear. Her eyes close of their own accord as she savors the sensation of his lips brushing against her temple, feathering down to her cheek, over to the corner of her mouth.

The elevator slows and he leans away, releasing her hand. It would be sappy to say that she misses his warmth, his touch - but it's true nonetheless.

But then his fingers prod gently at her back as they step through the doors of the elevator and she decides that this might be okay too. He seems to have reached the conclusion that he's allowed to touch her, as long as it's nothing too blatant.

"I don't want it to be her," he says quietly a few minutes later as he buckles his seat belt and she starts the car.

She turns to give a sad smile to her kind, tender-hearted, compassionate partner.

"I know," she says, reaching over to squeeze his hand where it rests on his knee. "I don't either. But somebody is lying, and we have to figure out who it is."

She lets go of his hand to pull out of the spot, watching from the corner of her eye as he runs his fingers through his hair, mussing it. It's cute. He looks like he did when they woke up this morning, disheveled. But then, he'd been happy, content and smiling as she roused him from his sleep with her gentle touch. Now he just looks tired, worn out.

The drive to Astoria is mostly silent. He stares out the window and she forces herself to focus on the road and not on him. She wants to reach out to him, to twine her fingers with his. But his hands rest on his right leg, too far away.

He's still quiet on the walk up the stairs and the ride in the elevator to the correct floor. She bumps his shoulder as the jerky elevator comes to a stop, smiles at him when he looks at her, and feels the flush of pride when he smiles back.

This is partnership. They have each other's backs. They cheer each other up when times are tough. They give each other strength. And she's pretty certain that no matter what comes their way, they can handle it together.

But she's not prepared to find Elena and Luz just on the other side of the metal doors when they open. The woman carries a large satchel and nothing more. The little girl's shoulders bear a pink backpack with a stuffed giraffe tucked inside, the neck hanging out of the bag.

"Mrs. Ramirez," the detective manages to get out despite her surprise. "We were just on our way to visit you."

The woman looks terrified, her eyes bloodshot and wary, her grip white-knuckled on the little girl's hand.

Castle steps out of the elevator, stops right in front of them.

"What's wrong?" he asks before she has a chance to speak. "What happened?"

Her gaze darts over their shoulders, back toward the apartment, and then down to Luz, whose eyes are wide and scared, but foggy still, perhaps with the remnants of a nap.

"A man," she whispers. "A man came and told me we had two hours to leave or he would kill us both."

The writer turns to look at the detective, his eyes concerned.

"Elena," she says quietly, setting a hand on the woman's forearm. "You need to tell us everything."

The woman shifts her stare between them, finally settling on Castle's soft blue eyes. She nods, and leans down to pick up her daughter, holding her close.

The partners follow the pair back to her apartment, Kate pulling out her phone on the way to text Esposito and let him know what's going on. Castle shuts and locks the door behind them and makes his way to the couch to sit next to Kate.

His thigh presses warmly against hers, the muscles firm and strong. He doesn't speak, but he's present at her side, always present when she needs him most.

"Did you know him?" she asks. "Did you know the man that threatened you?"

Elena shakes her head.

"He seemed familiar, but no, I didn't know him."

Luz, who has been still in her mother's arms up to this point, wriggles until Elena releases her and then scrambles across the couch, across the detective, and into Castle's lap.

"Dante," the little girl whispers, curling her tiny fingers into the writer's shirt.

The detective looks around the apartment, sees the disarray that speaks of a hasty departure. But there's no sign of the roly poly puppy that held the girl's attention (as well as Castle's) when they were here the day before.

"He took Dante," Elena says, her eyes on her daughter. "I don't know why."

Kate turns to see the way Castle's hands tighten around the girl's sides, holding her securely on his lap. The little one buries her face in his chest, and the detective's heart constricts painfully at his brokenhearted expression, at the way his eyes dim when confronted with the child's confusion and grief.

"Mrs. Ramirez," the detective says, drawing the woman's attention away from her daughter. "Anything you might be able to tell us would be helpful. When did the man come? What did he look like?"

Elena shrugs her shoulders. It's been less than a day since they saw her and yet she already looks like she's aged several years.

"He came around half past two. He was tall, but not quite as tall as your Mr. Castle. He was thin. He had a short beard and glasses."

Kate glances at her partner and he nods. She slides her phone from her pocket, pulling up the message Ryan had forwarded to her from Narcotics with Restrepo's photo and vital information.

"Is this the man, Elena? The one who threatened you?"

Mrs. Ramirez reaches over to take the phone and studies the picture for a moment.

"No," the woman says. "That's James. Agustin was doing some odd jobs for him, helping him at his coffee roasting business."

Castle's leg jerks against hers and she doesn't have to look at him to know what he's thinking. Restrepo said he'd never met Agustin's wife.

"Elena," Kate says gently, "this is James Restrepo. His birth name is Diego. He changed it when he came to New York."

Surprise etches itself across the woman's face, but she shakes her head, handing the phone back to the detective.

"No, I mean, yes. That might be his name, but it's a fairly common name in Colombia. He's not the man who threatened me. James had been friends with Agustin since they were boys. They grew up in the same village. We'd never met, but I had seen his picture a few times. Agustin even took Luz to work with him once."

The detective leans back against the sofa, bringing one hand up to scrub across her face. Her head hurts.

"The man was older," the woman says, and Kate turns back to her. "In his sixties maybe. And he did sort of look like James, now that I think about it. They could have been related."

Castle leans forward, his elbow brushing her side. She glances at him, observing the way he cradles the little girl's head. Luz is very nearly asleep, no doubt worn out by the past twenty-four hours. She might not yet understand the full concept of death, but Kate is certain that she knows something is very wrong.

And there is something wrong, she thinks. Something crazy and inexplicable is going on here. They have a dead man with a wife and daughter. A suspect (who, despite his name, apparently has nothing to do with the victim's death) whose deceased mother bears a striking resemblance to the woman in front of them. And a menacing man who is probably their killer, might be named Diego Restrepo and who took the little girl's dog.

None of it makes any sense.

Her phone, still clutched in her hand, rings, showing Esposito's name on the screen. She stands, and steps down the hallway to take the call.

"Beckett," she answers.

No one speaks for a moment, but she can hear shuffling in the background.


"Hey, you there?"

She nods, despite the fact that he can't see her.

"Yeah, I'm here. Whatcha got?"

"We went to pick up James Restrepo after we got your text," the other detective says. "He'd gone straight home from the precinct. Mrs. Dias confirmed the time and said he hadn't left."

She turns, finding Castle right behind her and startles back. His hand wraps around her bicep and pulls her toward him again. Close, so he can listen in.

"Yeah," she says to Esposito. "I showed Elena his picture and she says it wasn't him. She recognized James as Agustin's friend."

"But get this," the man replies. "We ran into another neighbor in the hall. He said he was just leaving on Saturday morning when an older man came and started pounding on Restrepo's door. Said he looked like an older version of James. Said he'd seen the guy hanging around a few other times in the past couple weeks."

She nudges her shoulder against Castle's chest. This could be the break they've been needing. He nods, eyes dark and serious.

"Did you get a picture from security cameras or anything?"

Esposito chuckles.

"Better. We got the guy himself. He showed up a few minutes ago, probably to see if James had come home."

She leans back, looks at the writer. His mouth is set in a grim line, but his hand curls around her elbow as he glances back into the living room at Elena and Luz, both looking entirely lost on the couch.

"And?" Kate asks, her fingers pressing into Castle's forearm, feeling the pulse of blood through the protruding veins. "Who is he?"

"Beckett," the other detective says. "He's Diego Restrepo. Senior."

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