Justice Is Served

“Hey, pumpkin,” Castle says from a few feet away. Though it’s pretty loud with the bustle of people moving around them, she can still hear his voice. “Yeah, we’re still at the courthouse.” He pauses, listening. “Sure.” Castle pulls the phone away from his ear and offers to her. “Alexis.”

She takes it uncertainly, bringing it up to her ear. “Hi, Alexis,” she says.

“Hi, Kate,” the teen replies. “I just wanted to check in with you, with the trial today and all that.”

“Well, it’s almost over,” Kate says bravely. “Jury’s out deliberating. But they seemed responsive when I gave my testimony, though, so…”

“He’s not going to get off,” Alexis tells her. “Keep believing that. You’ve got a solid case. He’s going to prison for a very, very long time.”

“Thanks, Alexis,” Kate smiles. “I’ll let you get back to your schoolwork now.” It occurs to her how much daughter is like father—kind, caring, sensitive, considerate.

“Bye!” She hands the phone back to Castle, who’s watching her with a concerned expression on his face. It’s the same one he’s been wearing all day and last night too, and she knows that for once it’s not her he’s concerned for. This trial, Bracken’s trial, is the one they’ve all been waiting for for months, and it’s taken all too long to get here since that fateful day of finding that cassette tape.

“Kate!” Lanie hurries toward her. “I lost you after my testimony. That was intense!” Kate nods in agreement. Both she and the ME have been in court numerous times, but this one was different. The stakes were higher. She has so much to lose.

“You’re not worried the defense is going to win, are you?” Lanie asks, giving Kate a hard stare. “‘Cause they’re not. Not a chest full of money, not a high-powered lawyer could get Bracken out of from under the load of bricks we’ve dumped on him. You got me?”

“I’m not worried, Lanie,” Kate tells her truthfully. “Just waiting for it to be over. So we can go home.” She meets Castle’s eyes and he gives her a small smile. He’s so proud of her. “Lanie, have you seen my dad? He was here a minute ago, but now he’s gone.”

“I think I saw him go into the bathroom,” Lanie tells her. “No, look, there he is with Javi and Ryan.” She points and Kate turns to see the three of them heading toward their little group.

“Hey, Dad,” she embraces him.

“You did good in there, Katie,” he says into her hair.

They release, and she asks, “How’re you doing?”

“Just fine, you don’t need to worry about me,” he looks straight in the eye. “You know what Johanna would say to us all right now? That Bracken’s done and dusted, thanks the efforts of you all. Really, thank you.”

“You’re most welcome, man,” Espo tells him, and Ryan nods his agreement.

“Hey, I think they’re calling us back in,” Lanie says. They fall silent and begin to troop back towards the courtroom doors. Lanie catches her arm before she can enter, holding her back a second. “Girl, I’m so damn proud of you.”

“Thanks, Lanie,” Kate ducks her head. The two women follow the rest of their party inside to the first row of benches directly behind the prosecution and defense. They all sit down together unlike before, when most had to testify. But that part’s over now, and all that’s left is the verdict.

Kate watches with breath she doesn’t know she’s holding as the jury walks back in, their faces stony blank. Some glance at her, recognizing her from the stand, but others pointedly avert their eyes. She can’t tell if that’s a good thing or not.

It’s Bracken that catches her attention as the judge starts speaking, calling the court to order. He’s just staring at her with a loathing she didn’t know possible, unblinking, a snake. Unspoken messages pass between them, each perfectly understanding each other.

“Will the jury foreperson please stand?” the judge asks. The man does. “Has the jury reached a unanimous verdict?”

“They have, your honor.” The man hands the judge a piece of paper and the judge reads it silently. He hands it back with a rustle of his black robes, face impassive. The man looks down at it. “The jury finds the defendant guilty on all counts.”

Kate smiles and Castle next to her squeezes her hand. Guilty. We did it, Mom, she thinks, lifting her gaze to the ceiling.

“The jury is thanked and excused. Court is adjourned,” the judge announces. The prosecutor begins to pack up his bag and Bracken’s two defense lawyers, one male and one female, do the same.

She chances a glance at him, and he’s still staring at her. Even as the guards come to unlock his cuffs from the table and take him away, he’s staring at her. They’re leading him out of the courtroom, and his neck is twisted around to continue to stare her down until the door shuts behind him.

“It’s over,” Castle rejoices. “Thank God, it’s over.” They join the throng of people headed out the doors into the hallway, Esposito and Ryan clapping each other on the back before Lanie steals Espo away for a kiss. Her father catches up to her, putting his hand on her shoulder. His eyes are bright and glad, as if the whole world has opened up to them again.

“You know what she would say now, Katie?”

“What?” she asks, pushing Bracken out of her mind.

“I told you so.”

Outside in the bright sunlight, her father takes his leave of them, citing work as the reason. He gives her a quick peck on the cheek before he goes, and she turns it into a fierce hug. Once he’s gone, the rest of them, Gates having given them the day off and Lanie having gotten hers by getting Perlmutter to cover for her, stand there listlessly. Kate wonders if they are as lost as she is as to what to do now.

“Let’s go to the Old Haunt,” Castle suggests suddenly. They all agree, piling into Esposito's car. They’d been forced to take two cars here, but with just the five of them they all fit. Jim had driven himself and Kate to the courthouse this morning after a brief visit to the cemetery. Kate has a feeling that’s where he’s going now, before he returns to work for real. She’ll be there, later. When it sinks in. It hasn’t yet, not really.

Castle’s bar is as homey as she remembers it being, with clean counters and orangey ambiance lighting. They sit in the booth he always has reserved for them and Kate buys the first round of drinks despite their protests, but it’s something she has to do. A thank-you, perhaps, for sticking with her through this, for all their help solving this case. Afternoon turns into evening and their conversation turns from trial stuff to precinct gossip to personal tales of embarrassment and woe.

“Did I ever tell you about the time,” Lanie begins, nursing her second drink under the provisions of her two-drink limit, “that I caught Javi leaving for work in his pajama pants?”

“You think that’s bad,” Castle tells her, mischief in his blue eyes, “a few weeks ago, this one—” He nudges her with his elbow. “—almost left for work with coffee spilled all over her…” He gestures to his general chest area with his patented Castle smirk.

“Really, Castle?” Kate rolls her eyes. “You’re putting me in Espo’s spotlight. So, Lanie, how far did he get before you caught him?”

“No, no, I wanna hear more of that story,” Esposito protests, earning himself a smack in the arm.

“All the way to his car,” Lanie answers with a smile. “…and halfway down the block. I saw his work pants lying there on the bed, so I called him. I was like, ‘Baby? Look down.’” The rest of the table busts out laughing, and Esposito excuses himself to get another drink.

“Bet you’re glad Jenny’s not here to spill any of your embarrassing moments,” Kate tells Ryan.

“Are you kidding? She wouldn’t do that to me,” Ryan scoffs.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty,” Esposito assures her as he reappears sporting another couple beers for the table.

By nine o’clock, it appears they are all talked out, although occasionally one of them starts grinning madly as they recall one of the funny stories from earlier. An amicable silence has fallen over the table when Esposito suddenly raises his glass. “To Roy Montgomery,” Esposito says. “A hero in the end.”

“Captain Montgomery,” the rest of them echo.

An electronic buzzing sounds as the steel doors open to admit her. The walls are a whitish-gray, the ground tile with plenty of scuff marks. It reminds her of an insane asylum in its bareness and emptiness, and, in a way, it is. Most people have to have something majorly wrong in their mind to end up in here. This is where the worst of the worst are kept.

“Ma’am, I’m going to need to check you for weapons and keep your purse until you’re finished,” a man on the other side says. He’s in uniform, a pale dark green one. His utility belt, she notices, has a baton and what she suspects is a taser holstered next to the gun.

“Of course.” She spreads her arms and legs, allowing him to run the metal detector up and down her body. It’s good that he’s doing this; she’s glad. The more hoops she has to jump through to get in, the better. She hands over the purse and he presses the red button to cause the next door to lift into the ceiling.

“First door on your left,” he says.

“Thank you.” She walks with purpose towards that door, with purpose towards the ultimate goal of the last ten years of her life. The door handle under her palm is cool, and she twists it smoothly. Visiting him will not—does not—bother her. She will show him who is finally in control. She is finally in control.

There’s only one chair at the bolted metal table, and it’s vacant. Waiting for her. She walks slowly inside with measured steps, slowly bringing her gaze to his upper body, his face. Bracken is dressed in an orange jumpsuit, hands shackled to the table. He’s seated in a wheelchair whose wheels she suspects to be put into some sort of locked position for the time being. He can’t move, and she can. He can’t leave, but she can. He’s the one who tried to have her killed, and she is the one still alive and whole.

“Are you sorry you had her killed now?” she asks, as if genuinely curious. She keeps her tone light, as if she’s asking if the sun’s out or if the cupcake frosting is vanilla or chocolate. He doesn’t answer; she doesn’t expect him to. “It’s ruined your life, Bracken—I’ve ruined your life. But no one should have had to die. Are you sorry now?” The snake just stares at her, silent, but that’s okay. She smiles to show him that, taking her seat at the little metal table. “Ten years ago when I first became a cop I dreamed about sitting where I am now. I would have screamed at you for what you took from me, gloated in my victory. I would have asked you what I just did, and when you didn’t respond, I would have told you this.” She leans forward, getting close enough that she can hear his ragged breathing. “I will come back here every Sunday for the rest of your pathetic life and ask you that question until you say yes. Until you’re sorry that you destroyed my family.

She leans back again, dropping the growl and the deep voice and returning to her lighter, cheerier one. The one that she’s hoping is driving him crazy trying to figure out. “But I’m older now. I’m a successful homicide detective, I have good friends who care about me, and I’m in love with the most wonderful man in the world who also happens to love me back. I know now that you’ll never be sorry, Bracken—you’re not capable of it. You’re a monster, and it would be naïve of me to think anything else.” She stands, taking her time to push in her chair carefully, hear it clink against the table. “So, this is the last time you’ll ever see me. The last time you’ll see anyone besides the guards and your lawyer, really.” She smiles again. “Have a nice presidential campaign, Bracken. Best of luck at the polls.”

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