Moon In Scorpio

Chapter 55

It's more a statement than a question, but he nods anyway "Charles Westland, buddy with the Mayor, big contributor to his funds, plays golf with Bob … sorry, Mayor Weldon, I've met him a number of times at official functions"

"He a friend of yours?"

Castle shakes his head, "Acquaintance is as far as I'd go, we move in different circles"

Kate nods, turns her head to look out of the window behind them, the first lights coming on in the buildings across the street and in the slightly taller buildings of NOHO further away. Turning back to face Castle, she adjusts her position slightly and once she's comfortable continues, "Ten, fifteen years back, Washington Heights was mainly old neighbourhoods, families been living in the same place since their grandpapys' days, family-run stores, neighbourhood kids hanging around the fire hydrants in summer …" she takes another sip of wine and continues "… but modern high-rises and malls were encroaching into the area, land prices were rocketing and developers were making a killing buying cheap and building big"

She runs her hand through her hair and adds "Round about September ninety-eight, it seems that some of the neighbours in the area started getting offers they couldn't refuse … I don't have proof, but from a few notes I found amongst my Mom's paperwork at home, there seemed to be a rash of broken windows, damaged water pipes, vandalism, fires, rat infestations, accidents which resulted in broken arms or legs … especially where the property owners were elderly … people were selling up. Landlords with old tenement buildings were being bought out, then the tenants began having all sorts of problems. When she looked into it, it appeared all the buying was being done by three shell companies which all happened to have head offices in the Cayman Islands"

"Convenient" says Castle and Kate nods, twitching eyebrow saying it all.

"Mom and her colleagues started to rally the neighbours, they campaigned for a neighbourhood watch, offered help with legal services, tried to put a stop to what was going on. It seems like they might have been successful … they started to receive anonymous threats … a couple of Mom's colleagues who travelled there by car found themselves with slashed tyres and threats spray-painted over their vehicles, several times they thought they were being followed when walking to the subway at night after leaving the Community Center or visiting one of the neighbours …"

Kate pauses for another sip of wine and checking that Castle was still listening with interest, continues "In December, one of my Mom's colleagues was killed in a hit and run accident … the cops never found the car or the driver. Then on the ninth of January my Mom was murdered …" Kate pauses to swallow a lump in her throat before continuing, "That seemed to break the community and within three months the bulldozers and wreckers were in and Westland Enterprises were building office blocks and luxury residential high-rises …" and she comes to a halt, rubbing a hand across her eyes.

"And you think Westland Enterprises were behind all the shenanigans?"

She shrugs, "The only people I could find during the two years I investigated who might have had cause to want my Mom dead are Simmons and Westland … I can't be certain but I'm pretty sure Simmons didn't do it … so that just leaves Warren Westland"

Castle gets up to turn on some lights and draw the curtains across the window, the encroaching darkness bringing a coldness with it which he's not sure is entirely down to the dark sky folding itself around Manhattan.

"Can I look at what you've got in there?" he says indicating the folder which has been in her lap throughout. There's a slight hesitation and then she's handing it over to him, turning slightly so that she can see as he sets it down on the armrests between them and flips open the cover. The first item he sees is a photo of a brown-haired woman slumped against a wall, the waistline of her pale blue shirt and check skirt covered in blood, the garbage bags in the background seeming an added taunt. Looking up quickly he sees the hurt in Kate's eyes even though she's averted them and is looking at her wine glass. There's no need for him to ask who it is, the resemblance, even in death, is obvious. He turns the picture over, placing it face-down on the other half of the folder and picks up the next item, a three sheet scene report which describes what the investigating Detective had seen and found in the alleyway, potential witnesses and possible leads. The information is pretty thin, most of it nothing more than a written version of what the photo had shown though it did give him the victim's name Johanna Beckett along with the date and time and the fact that the contents of her purse including her money, the jewellery she was wearing and her mobile phone which had been found a few feet from her were all there, apparently untouched. The Detective's signature matched what he already knew, the J Raglan scrawled across the bottom of the third sheet.

There are a number of other photos showing the scene, the ME having obviously removed the body, markers showing the position of evidence found at the scene, the dark red patch of blood where wall and alley met, a mute reminder of Johanna Beckett's death.

The next sheets are the ME's report giving the deep incision and perforation of the kidneys as the cause of death, the other cuts apparently random and indicative of multiple assailants. The report from the CSU labs claiming that no prints other than the victim's had been found on her belongings and that given the characteristics and public nature of the crime scene, no relevant traces of other parties could be distinguished.

There is one more piece of paper relating to the crime and purporting to be the transcript of an interview with a suspect, one Laurence Behan, released for lack of evidence.

The next sheaf of papers are neatly printed and a quick glance through the contents tells him they are Kate's notes on her investigation, most of it repeating what she has already told him, photos showing the neighbourhood before and after the Westland Enterprises building spree.

The final group of stapled sheets are older and appear to be a compilation of scanned diary entries, notes and memos and a quick check convinces him they are probably the notes Johanna left around the place and which Kate has carefully accumulated. Replacing the contents, Rick carefully closes the folder and sits pondering its contents. He'll need to go through it all in detail, work out meanings and try to get into the minds of those involved, see if he can see something emerging through all the smoke.

"Well?" and her quiet voice recalls him to the present. Kate's sitting side-on facing him, feet pulled up beneath her, boots carefully held just off the chair so as not to damage the material, knees pushed against the armrest as she cradles the almost empty wineglass in her lap. He reaches out and places his hand on her knee, giving a squeeze and saying "I'm sorry Kate, I know it's nowhere near enough but I'm really sorry"

She nods and her hand comes to rest on his, returning the pressure and waiting for him to continue. "Before meeting you for coffee today I went to the Twelfth Precinct, I tagged along with a couple of Homicide Detectives from there last year when I was researching. They're good guys, good cops, and they sometimes help me out if I need a bit of information for my writing"

She's watching him, and he's a bit nervous about what he has to say next, but hopes she'll understand what he's trying to do.

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