S1 E08 Ghosts

04/27/09 | TV-PG | CC
Castle and Beckett arrive with Ryan and Lanie at a ratty single room occupancy hotel, and stand over a tub of black liquid, staring at the body of a dead woman floating inside. Esposito holds up an empty can of 10W-40 motor oil. Looks to us like more than Calgon took her away!

Beckett and Castle talk with the jaded night clerk. We quickly surmise that he’s no help, except to say whoever rented the room paid cash for a five-day stay.

At the morgue, Lanie explains that the unidentified female is in her early-40s, wearing a wedding ring without an inscription. She was first knocked out with a hit to the head before drowning in the oil. Tox screens are negative for drugs, alcohol and recent sexual activity. But one of the glasses of wine tested positive for Remian, a sleeping pill. Lanie also found a Metro-North ticket stub—the victim was from out of town, we realize.

[break] At the precinct, Esposito gets off the phone—the Irvington PD in Westchester logged a call from a Michael Goldman, wanting to report his wife, Allison, missing last night. The clothing and description match.

Beckett and Castle pay Goldman a visit. He’s shocked to hear Allison’s body had been found in a no-tell hotel. He says she was working part-time at a clothing boutique, Lehane’s, in Manhattan. He’s certain she wasn’t having an affair, as they had no secrets between them.

Esposito, however, discovers that Allison never worked at Lehane’s. As they start brainstorming a possible adultery scenario, Michael Goldman shows up with Allison’s death certificate, which indicates Allison died in 1963, when she was three months old.

Later, Alexis and Martha are shocked to hear that the victim had been living under an assumed name for 20 years. We figure she must have been a criminal of some kind.

[break] At the precinct, Castle finds Becket, Esposito, and Ryan gathered round Allison’s laptop.Ryan discovered e-mail correspondence between Allison and a true-crime writer named Lee Wax about meeting on Tuesday, the day of Allison’s murder. Castle’s never heard of him.

Our heroes reach Lee Wax’s apartment, only to discover the door ajar. They enter it and find a pair of 6-foot folding tables covered with clippings and photos, including several photos of Allison Goldman. All of a sudden, a pretty young woman shows up at the door.It’s Lee Wax, who’s surprised to hear Allison was murdered. When they ask about her seemingly unhealthy infatuation with Allison, she explains that she’s ghostwriting a memoir with her. Lee looks at them, thrown. Castle suddently picks up and shows Beckett a FBI “Wanted” poster with Allison’s face on it— she was a wanted fugitive.

Castle and Beckett get the run-down from Lee Wax: Formerly known as Cynthia Dern, we discover Allison had been wanted on charges of domestic terrorism. In 1989, she and two accomplices, Jared Swanstrom and Susan Mailer, bombed an oil tanker in protest of the Exxon Valdez spill. The ship’s captain, Sam Pike, was paralyzed in the explosion.

But why was Allison coming forward now? According to Wax, Allison/Cynthia wanted to write a memoir to tell her side of the story—of how, on finding the Captain on board, she tried to dissuade Susan Mailer from setting off the bomb.She was also hoping for a big payoff.

[break] In the meantime, Lee tells us she met with Allison three times a week, and paid her a few hundred dollars every Friday from a small publisher’s advance. Lee swears she never tipped anyone off to Allison, though she admits some of the sources she spoke to may have wanted to see Allison dead. As the interrogation is ending, Lee flirtatiously asks Castle to keep her in the loop. She still plans on finishing the book, especially now that it’s changed from a memoir to a true crime book. We’re not sure about this lady!

We study a bulletin board displaying the clippings from Lee’s studio. Susan Mailer was vaporized in the explosion and Jared Swanstrom was sent to prison for 15 years. But Allison Goldman, aka Cynthia Dern, remained a fugitive for almost two decades only to be killed recently. Who would hold a grudge for 20 years?

Castle, Beckett and Montgomery pay a visit to the house of the captain injured in the explosion, Sam Pike. He sits in a wheelchair, connected to a breathing apparatus. Beckett and Castle interview his wife, Eleanor, who admits they spoke to Lee Wax several times, but that Wax never revealed that Cynthia was involved. We hear her say that she’s bitter, as the settlement they received didn’t cover all their medical costs. In fact, their son, Adam, has had to work since he was a teenager to help cover their medical bills.

[break] We watch as Esposito approaches with the FBI files on the tanker bombing. Three days after the attack, they arrested Jared Swanstrom at a motel where he’d been hiding out with Cynthia. An anonymous caller tipped the FBI to Swanstrom’s whereabouts. But the caller, described in the files as “young and female,” never collected the reward. Could Cynthia have given up her friend to the cops? Maybe, all these years later, Swanstrom finally went after his revenge.

Beckett and Castle talk to Jared Swanstrom, who’s now working as a janitor. He claims he hasn’t seen Cynthia in 20 years. When they tell him Cynthia was the one who called the cops on him, Swanstrom is surprisingly understanding, explaining that Cynthia had wanted to escape to Canada but that he wouldn’t go because he was guilt-ridden. He says he built the bomb with a three-minute timer, but when Cynthia got back in the car that night, she told him the bomb had blown early. He’s the reason Susan Mailer is dead.

Beckett enters the bullpen with her morning coffee to find Castle at her desk with Lee Wax’s manuscript. Castle called the book’s publisher and found out they’d been thinking about dropping the book: They wanted a true crime tell-all, but all they were getting was “sanitized, remorseful boohooing.” Now that Cynthia’s murder is all over the media, Lee Wax is sitting on a potential best seller. People have killed for a lot less.

[break] Later Adam tells Castle and Beckett that his family had been receiving money anonymously in the mail every month, and that he was at the hotel the night Cynthia was killed. He spent a long while trying to get up the courage to go and knock on the door where Cynthia was. But then someone got off the elevator and knocked on the door first. He didn’t get a good look at the killer, but he heard talking and can say for sure that it was a woman. It looks to us like Lee Wax is the killer, just as Castle suspected.

Next we see Beckett and Castle interrogate Wax, who swears she didn’t murder Cynthia. She says her publisher was only about to drop the book because Lee decided Cynthia was lying and only telling the parts of the story that made her look good. As well, Lee has an alibi for the night of Cynthia’s murder—she was out to dinner with her publisher.

Afterwards, Castle tells Beckett that if he were writing a memoir, he would start with the most generous thing he ever did. If the object of Cynthia’s memoir was to gain sympathy, why didn’t she tell Lee Wax about her anonymous donations to the Pikes? Castle thinks the money may have been coming from someone other than Cynthia.

[break] During the poker game with Judge Markway, the Mayor and Captain Montgomery, Castle and Beckett discuss the case.According to Captain Pike, he heard two women arguing just before the explosion.If we assume Cynthia’s lying, then maybe it was Susan who wanted to save Pike; she could have run back toward the ticking bomb to try to shut it down, while Cynthia ran for cover.But where is the money coming from?

Meanwhile, after Beckett “throws” her hand, Castle collects his winnings. The Mayor quips that Castle always manages to rise from the dead. This gives our favorite prime time scribe an idea: What if Susan Mailer didn’t die in the explosion after all?

[break] Castle and Beckett sit with Eleanor and Adam. An ashamed Eleanor hands them several of the donation envelopes. Ah-ha! The most recent ones have postmarks from Lititz, PA.

Beckett and Castle pay a visit to the Lititz Post Office, where we watch them show the clerk a photo of Allison/Cynthia. But he’s never seen her before. However, when they show him a photo of Susan Mailer and Castle explains that she may now have a scar and walk with a limp, the clerk recalls that a woman, Mary Wright, comes in every month and buys a money order to send to her relatives in New York. Now we’re cookin’!

They haul Mary Wright in for interrogation— we find out that she’s Susan Mailer. She looks similar to the 20-year-old photo, but is now scarred around her neck and lower cheek. Susan tells them that on the night of the bombing, she went to run back and deactivate the bomb, while Cynthia ran off. When the bomb exploded, Susan was thrown overboard; a med student friend took her in and nursed her to life. She then started a new life as Mary Wright, and sent money every month to the Pikes.

[break] Here’s where it gets good! One day, Susan saw an Internet posting from Lee Wax seeking info on Cynthia. She started a correspondence with Wax, pretending to be an old friend, and soon figured out that Wax was in contact with Cynthia. Susan called Cynthia and confronted her about her lies, threatening to turn herself in if she went through with the book. Cynthia insisted they meet to talk about it. When Susan got to the hotel room, she quickly realized that Cynthia intended to kill her. She was going to poison Susan with the sleeping pills and drown her in the tub—making the whole thing look like a guilt-ridden suicide by Susan. In the fight that followed, Cynthia hit her head and lost consciousness. Wanting it all to be over, Susan pushed her in the tub and drowned her.

Lee Wax shows up at the station, having heard they’d made an arrest. Castle lets her know that he’s aware that Lee purposefully let her interview subjects know that Cynthia was alive. Clearly, she was hoping that one of them would call the cops on Cynthia, or possibly, do something worse. That way, with Cynthia exposed, Lee could rip up her contract with Cynthia and turn the book from a memoir into a best-selling true crime story. Lee answers that even if that’s true, she didn’t do anything illegal. It may not be illegal, replies Castle, but it’s slimy. And one day soon, he promises, he’ll be writing about her and what she did. You tell ’er!

Afterwards, Castle passes Beckett her “winnings” from the other night. He knows she threw her hand to let him save face. Deciding to finally play for real, Castle and Beckett sit down for a break-even game of poker. Castle offers to play for clothing, but Beckett says they’ll be playing for gummy bears.

Sounds fair to us!
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