Ideally Esposito would have preferred the Allen Hospital rooftop. The bridge corner would have put him within a hundred feet of the near-end and three hundred off the far end; a nice, easy range. But carrying a fishing rod case through hospital reception, hallways and stairwells without someone raising eyebrows and remembering the fishing fanatic was too much of a risk.
The six floor residential brownstone on the other side of the river was his second choice. It was about twice the distance to the target, but offered easy access via the outside fire escape on to the top floor. He had had to wait a bit in his car further up the street until the mini market store on the corner had closed up for the night; the owner obviously believing in working late hours. He'd used some empty crates and the store's awning to get to the fire escape's ladder and had then cracked the door on the sixth floor giving him access to the hallway.
Now he's on the corner of the roof, the bag of rice wrapped in the blanket sits on the stone bulwark in readiness. He slides the Remington out of the fishing case, makes sure the safety is set before flipping up the covers on the scope and swinging the bipod out. He slides the magazine out, drops it into his pocket and checks the chamber. He eases the rifle's bipod onto the blanket and taps the barrel to settle the feet either side of the bulge formed by the bag of rice.
Carefully he sets the sights on the middle section of girders, just above head height. He moves the scope slightly, spots the strip of fluorescent orange that is being picked up by the breeze blowing down the canal. He watches it a moment, then shifts the sights to the opposite side of the structure, it takes him a bit longer to pick up the other orange indicator. He pulls the rifle back, clips the magazine into place and rests it against the brickwork.
He takes the binoculars from around his neck and scans the area, memorising the position of static objects, spending extra time on the darker patches which might hide something, learning the patterns of movement that this area of Manhattan offers at night.
Finally he settles down behind the wall, keeping himself off the skyline, pulling his jacket around himself …. now the worst part … the waiting.
The figure in the old, heavy overcoat and woolly hat walks slowly along the left hand sidewalk, stopping each time it reaches a waste bin to rummage through it before moving on. The lamps create pools of light criss-crossed by the darker shadows cast by girders and structures, the control room cameras pick him up and lose him as he shifts from one patch to the next. The operator watches him for several minutes and then goes back to listening to the western conference game. Half an hour later, he spots the same homeless guy walking back along the right-hand sidewalk, still checking on the contents of the rubbish bins positioned along the structure. He shakes his head and concentrates on the last few minutes of the game.
The figure disappears off the Inwood end and gets lost amongst the trees lining the riverbank. He waits a moment in the darkness, listens for any sound of following footsteps or unwanted company. Only the rustle of leaves overlaying the sound of lapping water, the occasional rumble of passing vehicle and the mating call of a frog impose themselves on the night. His breathing is steady, shallow, consciously blocked from his aural analysis of the surrounding environment. Satisfied, he moves down to the water's edge, strips the old coat off and drops it into the water. The black clothes revealed underneath blend in to the surrounding darkness, the dark woolly had unfurls to cover the face, only the eyes giving him away. He settles down, waits, his back to the concrete support behind him.
A dark panel van pulls up outside the shuttered Applebees store on W225th, the lights turn off and silence ensues. Ten minutes later the driver's door opens and a man of medium build gets out, locks the van's door and walks away down the street leading to the parking lot overlooking the railway lines.
He pulls a NOXM-50 Night Vision Scope from the bag slung across his shoulders and surveys the scene. Firstly he observes the water's edge, both banks, looking for any tell-tale signs of unwanted visitors. Satisfied he raises the scope and checks the bridge structure, both levels, looking for the give-away signs; movement, the glitter of some polished surface catching the light, the scope picks up the figure of a woman crossing the bridge along the near sidewalk. It tracks her across, watches her until she disappears behind the building fronting the parking lot.
Finally he raises the scope to observe the rooftops, the towers on each end of the bridge, the points of observation which offer the best options … still nothing. He grunts, not yet satisfied. Another three hours before the deadline. He settles down, his back against a fence, the scope being raised every now and again to study the scene, find the non-conforming element that will stop him making the phone call or make him change to plan B.
Agent Shaw wakes up feeling slightly better, then glancing at her watch she shoots up into a sitting position. Eight forty five! She's been out for over an hour. She slips her shoes on, picks up her jacket and slings it over her arm. On entering the War Room her eyes automatically scan the screens, take in the information on display, compares it with her memories of the information available when she was in here last time. She lets her gaze wander over the room, moves it back to the screen .. does a double take.
She grabs Agent Avery's shoulder "Where's Castle!?"
Avery looks around, frowns "He was here a while ago, went to the break room …. I haven't seen him since"
She turns to Lopez "Is the bug still working?"
"Yes ma'am, car's been parked same place he left it this afternoon. Hasn't moved!"
She turns to the field agents at the back of the room, her voice urgent, "Kovak, get down there and check that the car is there. Smalls head to his place, check if he's there. Bishop comb the precinct, I want to know if he's here or been seen leaving!"
Shit! Shit! Shit! Why had she let herself go to sleep? She'd known he was up to something! She starts pacing back and forth, looks over the reports for traces of calls to Castle's phone … there have been none.
Lopez's radio has Kovak's voice telling them the car is still in place, unmoved, the bug still slotted snugly under the rear door handle. Ten minutes later a rather out of breath Bishop reports that Castle was seen leaving the precinct round seven forty … almost an hour ago!
She isn't surprised when Smalls calls in that Castle hasn't been seen anywhere near the loft since earlier in the morning. She shakes her head, looks at Bishop "Could you rustle up a coffee? Thanks"
She sits down on one of the chairs and thinks about calling home … no she's too annoyed, they'd notice and he'd call her out on it.
It's over three hours later when the buzzer goes on Castle's phone tap. Everyone sits up straighter, leans forward a bit more, Agent Shaw springs to her feet. The tracers are busy trying to triangulate the points of transmission and reception, find out which towers the calls pinged off. The call ends …. they listen to the playback …
"Well Mr Writer man. I think it's time we met and settled this little matter, don't you?"
The City settles down for the night as Castle drives through Harlem, past the Bronx, up towards Kingsbridge. He checks his watch. The streets are quieting down; mid-week is not really party-time, those out and about in the early hours are either on shift, working late or indulging in the kind of activity NYPD frowns upon. Both phones are on the passenger seat next to him, both are presently quiet. He'd already texted Javi and his Dad, they would now know almost as much as he did.
There's a used car lot on the corner of Broadway and W216th. He pulls up at the pavement and checks the time. Twenty minutes to go and he's only a few minutes away. He turns the car's lights and engine off, looks around before climbing out of the car and opening the rear door. He strips off his overcoat, drops it on the back seat and pulls on his Writer's vest. It won't do much good against a headshot, but any advantage is worth taking. He slips the overcoat back on over the vest. It feels bulky, uncomfortable, but will have to do. He climbs back into the driver's seat. Checks the time. Starts the engine, turns the lights back on and pulls out into Broadway again, his destination less than a mile away.
Approaching Broadway Bridge brings back memories. Memories of terror in a holding cell as Tyson described his bleakly brief future, memories of shock as their car is rammed from behind as they waited for the draw span to rise, memories of despair as Beckett got taken by Tyson, his gun to her stomach, memories of insane satisfaction as his bullets ripped into Tyson's body … memories of disquiet as he failed to convince Kate and others that Tyson was still alive.
Castle reaches Broadway and 9th, just opposite the Allen Hospital before he spots a gap by the pavement where he can pull in. With the car's engine switched off and the window wound down he can hear the muted sounds from the Harlem River Ship Canal, the occasional passing car as the tyres swish over the tarmac, hit the metallic edge of the bridge's central part and rumble over the grid section.
He picks up the burner phone, checks that the wire to the mic is still connected and the phone is still on. Tests it. "Andrei" …. he waits …
"Boris" the sudden sound in his ear makes him jump. Christ, good job he's tested it before heading onto the bridge, his reaction would have been a dead give-away.
"Carlos" a moment later.
He still isn't convinced about the call names. The writer in him wanted something epic, historical … and if not, at least something kick-ass like Alpha, Bravo and Charlie … but his father had reminded him that if Tyson did pick up the transitions, the call signs would be blatantly obvious … he'd insisted on something which might get passed off as criminal or underworld activity.
His thoughts are interrupted by the ringing of his other phone. He takes a deep breath, swallows and reaches out for the phone …