Disclaimer: All characters are property of USA network, Jeff Eastin, ect. I just take them along for a little ride. This is a deeper look into existing scenes with some added "missing moments" so I took some of the dialogue from the episode.
Special thanks to my dear friend Sarah (1983Sarah) for all her help and encouragement and the great beta. Any mistakes that are still in there are mine.
"Okay, people, let's do this," Reese Hughes spoke into the microphone of his headset after getting the 'all clear' from the agents positioned strategically all over that part of the park where one of his best agents, Peter Burke, was instructed to be for the planned exchange.
It was rare that the senior agent oversaw an operation in the field personally, but given the target and the fact that a young woman's life was at stake, Hughes wanted to make sure that everything went as close to plan as it could be with the criminal calling the shots for now.
Focused on the monitor in front of him, he almost gave a start when he heard a knock on one of the municipal van's back doors. He turned his head in the direction of the offending noise in surprise, wondering who had the nerve to do that and cursing the person at the same time for possibly attracting attention to their rolling base of operation.
"Can I come in?" A very familiar voice asked. If it would have been a different person Reese would've thought it sounded somewhat unsure. Suppressing a groan of displeasure, he turned around to Jones and saw the young agent looking back at him with the same expression of disbelief on his face.
It seemed that Hughes had overlooked something in his take-down plan - or rather someone.
Well, not exactly overlooked; he had addressed Burke's consultant in the meeting prior to this operation. But apparently he hadn't made himself clear enough. Because due to his - admittedly more sarcastically meant - orders Caffrey should be on a coffee run and not anywhere near here.
He wondered how Peter managed to keep the former conman in line, getting him to follow orders.
Then he realized that apparently the younger agent didn't fully succeed at it either, as proven by the man standing outside the van. And since the chances of Caffrey leaving on his own again were slim to none, he couldn't very well leave him standing out there like a neon sign. The Ghost's apprehension was too important to lose him in an attempt to teach the consultant his place.
So taking off his headset he put it down on the desk-like surface to his right in a hurry and got up from his chair. With a frown firmly in place, he moved over to the doors to open them but the CI beat him to it, the man's usual bright smile greeting the annoyed agent.
"Get in here!" Hughes ordered sharply and was satisfied to see that Caffrey's pleased look was gone instantly. The former thief quickly reached out to grab Reese's forearm for leverage to get into the van and the hand was gone just as quickly once he was inside.
"Close the door," Hughes added, returning to his seat to resume command. His eyes were on Caffrey a moment longer, though, as the man dutifully turned around and, for once, did as he was told before carefully squeezing his way through the small gap created by the chairs of the senior agent on the left and Jones on the right in order to get to the opposite side of the van.
Maybe it was a good thing that the consultant was close, having taken a seat at Reese's back since the agent exactly knew where Caffrey was and could keep an eye on him, figuratively at least. And he hoped that the man's, if not outright fear but definitely, healthy respect of his person would keep him in check for the time being.
Hughes had no idea how Caffrey had gotten here, but his money was on Burke, most likely to prevent him from doing something illegal behind Peter's, for the moment, turned back. Though the CI probably had been ordered to stay in the car and not almost sabotage the operation before it even had started. He'd have to check with the agent later to confirm it.
Turning his focus back to the monitors and what was going on outside the van he put his headset back on, just in time to hear the ringing of a cell phone through Peter's microphone.
"You're right on time," Burke said and added after a brief pause, "Well, that's one thing we have in common… I don't see you."
"He's signaling us," Agent Cruz cut into the silence that followed, "Five- five- five, three- one- four- seven."
"He's giving us Ghovat's incoming phone number," Hughes realized, glad to finally be able to take action. Without taking his eyes off the monitor he ordered, "Get me a trace."
The prompt reply came from Jones. "Yep, I'm on it."
"Good, Peter," Reese heard Caffrey say softly. And there was, somewhat unexpected by the agent, recognition in those two words.
Hughes still couldn't quite describe the complexity that defined the relationship between Burke and Caffrey, both on a professional and personal level. They were on a first name base, not so much unusual between an agent and his CI, but Reese noticed Peter using 'Neal' instead of 'Caffrey' more often in conversations about the former conman. The senior agent couldn't imagine what Burke saw in Caffrey that made him think he could rehabilitate him, but Hughes trusted Peter, he was a very good agent, and therefore he trusted the other man's judgment, even with the consultant.
It was Caffrey he didn't trust an inch. Because it was impossible to see beyond that smile, the perfect façade that was carefully put in place, making any attempt to read the man bound to fail. And his motives definitely couldn't be trusted; after all, he had made a living out of conning people. Reese didn't know what made the man propose the deal to Peter in the first place, but then four more years behind bars sure were a convincing motivation. As for why his agent accepted it, he was still very much in the dark.
Burke's voice coming through his headset reminded Hughes that this wasn't the place nor the time for these musings. "How do I know you have the girl? I want to hear her voice." After a pause of mere seconds, that felt much longer to the listening man, Peter spoke again, "Tara, are you okay?" Reese concluded that the answer was in the affirmative since the next thing his agent said proved the trade was still on. "Everyone stay were you are, stay down!"
"Everybody, hold your position," Hughes immediately commanded, echoing his agent. Obviously Ghovat had requested no further surveillance by the FBI, and, at least for the moment, Reese had no other choice but to grant it. Addressing Jones he asked, "We still got him on GPS, right?"
"Yeah," the other man confirmed.
Burke was apparently still on his way to wherever the criminal wanted him at since he again shouted, a little out of breathe this time, "Just stay down, stay down, stay where you are." With no longer having a visual on his agent Hughes could only wait and listen to their only connection to him.
A male voice, which Reese assumed belonged to their target, could be heard not half a minute later through Peter's hidden microphone. "If you'll notice, Agent Burke, I've added a little fashion accessory of my own to our model friend here. The belt is lined with plastique. I dial a number here and she goes 'boom'! Give her the dress. Toss it. Please don't try anything. I have five bars and free long distance. I can be far away and still cause you pain."
They had tried for so long to get the Ghost and this time they were so damn close. But lives were threatened and the FBI's regulations were quite clear on how to proceed in a case like this. So as much as Reese dreaded to do it, he ordered, "Let him walk. Even if he's bluffing, we can't take the chance."
Nervously tapping the knuckles of his right hand on the dark table surface in front of him, he shook his head in frustration. All that was left for them to do now was waiting for long enough to be sure that Ghovat couldn't do any harm anymore before sending in the bomb squat to free the young woman of the explosive device.
"Hey, is this Steve?" This sudden interruption of the tense silence by Caffrey made Hughes' head, as well as the ones of the other agents present, turn in the CI's direction. What on Earth was the man doing now? Reese had immediately recognized the name 'Steve' being the one that Caffrey had used during a call to the Ghost the day before, where the agent had been in this van then as well, running point and listening in as Burke's team had baited the criminal with the dress. Apparently the consultant had seen the number Peter had signaled them via Jones' monitor, which was in Caffrey's line of view, and memorized it. After all, observing people and situations was most likely second nature to the man by now, especially during a sting.
So much for having the man close being the equivalent of keeping him from interfering in the operation.
"What's up, buddy? You never call," the CI continued in his trademark cheerful, almost cocky voice.
Resigning himself to the fact that obviously nothing was willed to go according to plan that day, Hughes resisted the urge to yell at the young man. The operation was on a fast track to become a complete disaster anyway, so whatever Caffrey was doing here couldn't, in all likelihood, make it any worse at this point.
It actually irritated Reese more that the consultant didn't seem to care that he was on probation, and a tenuous one at that, and just disregarded any rule or protocol as he pleased.
Hughes was surprised when the man in question looked directly at him while pushing a button on his phone, his demeanor changing instantly from cheerful to serious and somewhat rushed. "All right, keep calling," Caffrey advised.
Obviously the CI was more aware of his probation than Hughes had assumed. And therefore was trying to save the operation instead of sabotaging it. Because this wasn't the smiling Caffrey who was using his sweet-talking skills to get what he wanted. This Caffrey sounded concerned and what he was trying to achieve wasn't for his own personal gain.
It made sense really, in his - hopefully - previous line of work Caffrey had had to react fast on his feet, adapting to any unplanned turn of events and situations, as well as thinking outside the box. He had a different mindset and acted by instincts, not rules and guidelines like an agent would; instincts honed by years as a conman where those were the only insurance keeping him alive - and one step ahead of the authorities.
And in that moment Reese realized that Neal was more than just a source of information, more than a competent person to be send undercover; he was someone to count on when an operation went south, someone not bound by the same rules and regulations as the FBI.
Just like the Dutchman case, he remembered, where, by purposefully violating the two mile radius of his anklet, the CI had used the 'exigent circumstances' rule in order to get them access to the warehouse of the criminal, and they not only found the evidence they needed there but also Curtis Hagen himself.
"Jam his phone," Caffrey now addressed all of them, and Hughes reacted without even thinking about it any further, grabbing his cell phone from the upper right corner of the desk's top in front of him before starting to input Ghovat's number that he, too, had memorized, "so he can't trigger the bomb. Keep calling him."
The CI maneuvered past Reese toward the van's back doors and the senior agent managed to move out the way just in time. While he didn't know what Neal would do once he left the van, he didn't stop him. Because the man wouldn't do anything to endanger Peter any further, that much Hughes knew. There was a bond between those two men that Reese couldn't even begin to understand but he respected it. It was a bond ironically formed by the three years of their cat-and-mouse game where they obviously got to know each other very well. And maybe Peter was the only one to actually see beneath the surface, the impenetrable façade, because of it. It was all Reese needed to know in order to feel confident enough to let the young man go.
Besides, the seasoned agent didn't think he'd stand a chance if he tried to hold Caffrey back. So he trusted Neal's instincts on this one.
Trust. A word that Hughes hadn't thought he'd ever associate with the young man. And yet it did feel right.
"Okay," he said softly, more to himself. And then, taking command of the situation again, he instructed, "Cruz, stay with Caffrey. Everybody else, keep dialing!" Whatever Neal's plan was, it was probably a good idea to give him some back-up, thereby having someone to keep an eye on him for Hughes as well. Though the man was out of sight Reese could still hear him shout. "Jam the phone! Jam the phone! Keep calling him."
After a couple of moments, and several calling attempts that of course didn't get picked up, Caffrey's slightly out of breathe voice was there again, this time through Peter's microphone. "Hey, we're jamming his call, get the belt off of her. Do it, do it!" It was getting softer and softer which could only mean one thing. And Hughes didn't need much imagination to guess what Neal was doing next.
"Cruz, what's your status?" the agent requested therefore immediately.
The reply came just as fast, "I have Caffrey in sight, boss, he's approaching Ghovat. Target is armed. I'm gonna try to get within reach from behind."
Just like Reese had figured. He had to admire the CI's willingness to go into dangerous situations, and unarmed at that. It seemed like everything was a game to him. Or maybe a challenge. Neal appeared to be careless with his own life, or he just needed the rush of adrenaline that accompanied it.
The agent wondered how many situations similar to this the other man had to talk himself out of in the past. Judging by the confidence the young man went into it with, he figured a lot. But then Caffrey never seemed to lack in that department in general.
Having agreed to Peter's deal of using the man as his CI while knowing very well Neal's reputation, he now had to deal with it. By the looks of it, though, it was working just fine so far.
There was a distant short groan, alerting the agent to the fact that the takedown had apparently been successful. It was followed by the consultant's voice remarking, "That's pretty damn charming."
Hughes couldn't believe the man; he had just faced an armed and dangerous murderer and this was his response? Shaking his head slightly, Hughes reminded himself that anything he'd say, no matter how softly spoken, could be heard both over the comm and in the quiet van, and any remark of his personal opinion of Caffrey, however shared by most of the agents probably, had no place in an official operation. So he refrained from voicing it.
"Suspect is in custody," came the announcement from Cruz a moment later.
Reese relaxed just a bit now that Ghovat couldn't activate the bomb anymore. Reacting immediately, the agent in charge ordered, "All agents, clear and contain the area. And get the bomb squat here a.s.a.p."
"That's it, good," Peter's concerned voice could be heard now. Apparently he had managed to get rid of the explosive device since he then yelled, "Everybody clear the area! Now! Get down, get down, get down!" Being the good agent that he was, Peter didn't leave anything to chance. Even though there no longer was someone to detonate the bomb didn't mean that the danger it presented was over as well.
The agent's method apparently was source of amusement for someone else. "Wow, you're actually doing the whole hero thing," Burke got teased by his consultant who had obviously run back as soon as possible to check on both Tara and his handler.
Neal was probably the only one who could throw Peter off balance with so much as one word. Maybe Burke had found a match in his unofficial partner, which could be a reason for the close bond they had after such a short time of working with each other.
"Yeah. People're gonna write songs about this," came the dry reply. Seemingly choosing to ignore Caffrey's, "Nice," that followed, the younger agent instead addressed Tara, "You okay?" The model didn't answer verbally but judging by the fact that Peter refrained from inquiring any further, she was as fine as she could be under the circumstances.
"Area is contained. Bomb squad's on the way," he got informed now. And as much as he'd like to further play the proverbial fly on the wall to the banter of the two men, who either had forgotten that Peter was wearing a microphone or simply didn't care, his duty called him to tie up this operation.
So taking off his headset, he left the van to see multiple cars, among them an ambulance, which thankfully wasn't needed, having already pulled up next to the vehicle with agents and cops occupying the area.
And not long after Reese had started coordinating everything he noticed Burke, along with Caffrey, approaching over the grassy area to the van's right with Cruz next to them leading the cuffed Ghovat.
Turning fully around to them he said in his usual business-like voice, "Good job, everyone." His gaze shifted between his three subordinates before it stopped on the consultant.
For someone who wasn't even supposed to be here the young man was rather heavily involved in the takedown.
While his methods on this case were anything but standard FBI procedure, he had been right. The party the CI had suggested had put Ghovat on their radar, not only finally giving them a face but also a name. Reese had to admit that his opinion of Neal had changed just a little. While he still didn't trust the conman any more than before the agent now knew that he was an asset to any operation, undercover or not. Caffrey had been the one who ensured the capture of their target in both of the cases he had worked on, showing commitment and courage to go the extra mile, thereby proving his loyalty to, while probably not the FBI in general, at least Peter. It was a start; a step in the right direction.
But at the same time the man's unconventional way with endangering, if not others, himself, went against protocol, which were there for the safety of everyone's life, CIs included. It definitely gave Hughes fodder for reconsidering the deal with Caffrey.
As head of the White Collar department it resided upon him to decide whether to end the deal or keep it going. So, fixing his gaze on Neal, there was only one thing left for Hughes to do.
"And Caffrey, next time you're on a coffee run-" he paused for just a second to be sure that he had the other man's full attention, "you could at least bring some." It didn't hurt to let the man know that he still was under scrutiny, despite his good work.
Reese knew that Neal would always be some sort of a wildcard. And that would most definitely make Hughes' job a whole lot more difficult.
But he had a feeling that it just might be worth it.
A/N: Thanks for reading! If you have some time please leave a review! Constructive criticism is always appreciated.