He was running, a stitch in both sides where he was starting to feel he had overdone it but then he was technically out of shape when it came to running but it didn't stop him. He also had more than enough encouraging him as a bullet whizzed by his head and another scraped its searing lithe body across his shoulder, his face twisting a moment in pain before he slid around a corner wall up ahead and ducked into a deep doorway to hide. Voices shouted behind him in angry tones he just understood as his heart and breath echoed loudly in his ears nearly deafening him to the sounds around him but he had to know where they were and if they were going to find him. He was exhausted, worn out but there was no way he could keep running without a quick break here in the doorway but if they found him…
Est-il ici? (Is he here?)
Someone was close, enough that he could hear them breathing hard from running, a low wheeze escaping their lips before another voice answered. He held his breath.
Je ne le vois pas. (I don't see him.)
Someone laughed, a cold dark chuckle that made him shiver or maybe it was exhaustion as he felt his body starting to react to him going from hard core running to sudden rest. He had to hide better if he wanted to remain unfound, his mind telling him he just had to get somewhere safe and all would be ok. He quietly turned and tried the door as their footsteps echoed in the narrow street around the corner.
On ne peut pas lui reprocher d'avoir essayé. (I don't blame him for trying.)
Nous devons le trouver. (We have to find him.)
Il ne peut pas être loin. (He can't have gone far.)
They were closer now, his hand sweaty as he tried to quietly turn the knob hoping for the best and hearing a soft click as it turned and opened up. There was no creak to his relief as he limped inside, silently shutting the door with equal ease and locking it from within. He just had to wait now, his tired mind telling him he was going to be ok as he leaned heavily against the door and listened.
Avez-vous entendu quelque chose? (Did you hear that?)
Non. Il est tard, allons-y. (No, Let's get going.)
He heard them walk past the door then back again and finally the patter of their boots on the cobbled streets as it echoed and slowly disappeared into the distance. Once he could hear it no more he relaxed, slipping down to the floor and sitting with his back to the door, exhaustion kicking in. He just had to wait, his mind told him.
If he waited someone would… come.
His thoughts hesitated, his eyes looking down at his ankle, the left one to be exact as realization came through. It had been 6 months now so why had he gone back to expecting the old ways to be true. His mind went back to the time he had gone to the cigar bar to help Mozzie and been trapped inside. All he had to do was trip his anklet. Neal sighed, glad he hadn't been caught but missing the safety net that had always been there even when he wished it wasn't. Peter had stuck his neck out for him more times than was necessary and Neal had taken it for granted, some part of him not wanting to admit he liked having someone watching out for him. He'd been alone for so much of his life looking out for himself even as a child. Peter had been the closest thing to a guardian… friend who cared about his well being. The Pink Panthers and Keller had ruined all of that in one swift move. Everything he had worked for had to be left behind or risk tainting it. Better they thought…
You do good here. You really do…
He blinked, Neal looking around hoping to see someone but realizing he was alone as he slowly stood up, using the wall as leverage. His legs were like jelly from all the running and in nice shoes too. He hadn't worn sneakers in a while, no reason when he was parading about doing what he did best. His sides hurt, the con breathing hard as he could now breathe a bit more easily. He was back to reality, no one there to come to his rescue. Nobody could know he was alive, not yet at least, until he was certain his family and friends were safe. He found a light switch and turned it on, finding he was in the backroom of what appeared to be a cafe. It was dusty, old bottles of long drunk wines still in their racks. He grabbed one, a bordeaux, and pushed it under his jacket before he limped back out of the door he had entered and started on his way.
Neal only had to last a while longer before he could see his friends again. It was the way things had to be but his mind formed a plan and that would keep him going until the day he saw his family again.
Author's Note: Just some thoughts I had on the ending. I apologize if the French isn't perfect. I used Google translator.