I finally did it! I can't tell why it takes longer and longer, but as I promised, I won't stop until the story is over. And it's not yet! Please enjoy and stay healthy!
After he had called the well-known restaurant once more, he waited nervously in the shadows for the van to arrive. After less than 20 minutes, he could see the dirty car turning around the corner and stepped forward. The side door opened and David appeared.
"Hey Neal!" he said with a sad smile and waved for Neal to jump inside the car. Looking very regretful, he pulled a sack out of his pocket.
"I'm sorry, kid.", he said with a sight and without a warning put it over Neal's head.
"Hey…what the hell…?", he yelled and tried to free himself, but David hold him tight. He grabbed his arms and cuffed his wrists behind his back. #
"Shhh, calm down. I try my best not to hurt you, kiddo. You should have stayed away.", David mumbled in his ear. Neal couldn't stop struggling, he just couldn't breath and panicked.
"Please Neal, I promise, I won't hurt you right now. But stop doing this! It won't do you any good!", David tried once more and Neal forced himself to relax a little and stopped fighting.
"That's better!", David said satisfied. "I'll start searching you now, the boss is afraid that you're working with the Feds."
Neal now felt David's hands all over his body and started stiffening and trembling, but tried to stop moving and clenched his teeth.
"Is…this sack…really necessary?", he breathed out.
"Unfortunately, yes. I've got my instructions.", David replied matter-of-factly without further explanations. Neal waited for David to finish his search. After that, the huge man pulled him up and placed him onto a wooden box.
They remained quiet for a few minutes. "Neal… I'm not supposed to talk to you. But… I don't know why you came back. It's been stupid. I told you, Keller is dangerous! You should have leave as long as you were able to. But now it's too late! Whatever you're doing, DON'T mess up with this man, understand? He's evil. I had to experience that first hand.", David told him hesitantly.
Neal felt bitterness rising in his chest. "So… you would just leave your best friend behind, just to save your own skin? You're telling me that?", he spit out.
David remained quiet for a moment. "Sometimes running is the only option. Right now, both of you are in immediate danger.", he sounded very sad and exhausted.
"What kind of danger?"
"Can't tell. Just… don't play games with him. Please, just don't."
They both stayed quiet for the rest of the drive. When the car stopped, David roughly grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the car. He pushed him, his hands still cuffed behind his back and he stumbled and hit the ground painfully, only to be pulled back on his feet by David.
"Here he is, boss!", the guard stated, and someone took away the sack over his head.
He felt blinded by the bright light and needed to blink a few times to see his surroundings. He was standing in one of Keller's private rooms and his enemy was right in front of him, smiling his spiteful smile.
"Welcome back, my dear friend!", he said and stepped forward to gently pat Neal's cheek. He tried to back away, disgusted, but David was right behind him, so he couldn't move.
Keller smiled knowingly. "Where is it?", he simply asked.
"I want to see Mozzie first!", Neal demanded coldly.
"First things first, kid. You're not in the position to demand anything. You should know that by now!", Keller's smile faded and his expression became stony.
Neal hesitated. He felt a barely noticeable push from behind. Slowly, reluctantly, Neal took off his backpack and opened it to hand the forgery over to Keller, whose expression now became totally mad and full of raw greed.
"Finally!", he gasped while staring admiringly at the painting.
Neal felt sick while watching him do so. What exactly was this all about? Did he, as the bearer, cause harm to someone else by providing this badass access to the code he found? He tried to concentrate on what really matters.
"I did what you wanted! So where is he?", he spit out, not hiding his cold disgust anymore.
It took Keller a few seconds to notice him and a few more to realise what Neal was talking about.
"What? Oh, well, you're allowed to see him, for a few seconds. As a reward. You should be glad, it wasn't some kind of a masterpiece, don't you think? With such a delay… But after that I'll need you once more. So, use your time wisely, kiddo. And remember, I won't hesitate to kill your little friend if I won't be satisfied.", he said and seemed to lose interest right after saying so.
Neal's eyes widened in terror. "You said we would be allowed to leave! You're a fuckin liar! You son of a bitch, let us go…", he screamed, his voice trembling and he tried to move forward to hit Keller, not able to control himself anymore.
David caught him before he could even raise his leg, holding him strongly with his huge arms. Neal struggled to free himself, feeling tears of anger in his eyes. This wouldn't stop. Not ever! He now realised how stupid he had been to believe this could be over just that easy.
"Easy, kid! Don't do something you'll regret later. I bet you wouldn't like to watch your fellow being tortured, would you? So just be thankful for the time you're given and don't complain!", Keller easily, with a smugly smile, not averting his gaze from the painting.
Neal stopped struggling and felt his heart pounding against his broken rips. He suddenly felt very tired. His whole body collapsed. David held him upright and guided him out of the room.
"Be strong, kid. This isn't the right time and place to fight!", he whispered in his ear.
Neal felt his strong hands on his shoulders while he slowly went through the maze of different corridors, feeling deeply desperate and alone again. They finally reached a door similar to the one of his own former cell. David took out a small key and opened the security lock. Neal's eyes needed time to adjust in the dark room. At first he couldn't see anything but a dirty mattress and some remains of rotten food. But after a few seconds he could see a human being curled up in a small ball sitting in one corner of the cell.
"Mozzie?", he hesitantly asked in a small voice. David removed his cuffs, so that he could freely step inside the cell.
The man raised his head and watched his visitors in disbelief. Neal could see dried blood all over his remaining clothes and face and Mozzie wasn't wearing his glasses anymore. His whole body seemed dirty and he had a neglected beard. Neal slowly stepped forward. His friend watched him in shock and then tried to stand up, a hand in front of his face to protect his eyes from the light coming from the corridor.
"Neal… is it really you?", he asked in a rough voice.
"It's me!", Neal confirmed, reached his friend and they both hugged each other.
"What did they do to you?", Neal whispered, his voice full of emotion he couldn't control.
"I'm fine, mon frère, don't worry. You shouldn't have come back. He won't ever let us go after all this mess!", Mozzie replied sadly. Neal took a step back to meet Mozzies eyes.
"I would NEVER EVER leave you alone, Mozz. You're the most important person in my life. I OWE you my life. I am what I am just because of you!", he said seriously and hugged Mozzie again.
He gently tipped at his left arm with one finger, C-O-D-E P-A-I-N-T-I-N-G, before David came to separate them both.
"I'm sorry guys, time's up.", he said regretfully.
"Remember our trip to London, Mozzie? The beautiful garden we went to? We could do that again, visiting the main spots. You were such a big help guiding me at that time!" He desperately hoped that Mozzie got what he wanted him to know. David pushed him out of the cell.
"We can do that, Mozzie, we need to fight!", he shouted, before his guard closed the door.
Without any further trouble, he went beside David to his well-known own cell, deep in thoughts. After he stepped in, the guard followed him inside and closed the door.
Neal stared at him, surprised. "Look, we don't have much time. Keller becomes suspicious easily, as you know. I can't believe you came back!", he ran a hand through his short hair. "I can see how much this little guy means to you, but at the moment there isn't any hope for both of you. It started the same way with me. I suppose I've been a good and honest man once and look at me now! You're just a kid. And I guess even though he won't kill you now, because he needs you as much as he needed me, you won't live a normal life ever again. I can't see that happen! Do you understand? We have to figure out how to save you. For good! My fade can't be yours. You're too young to live like that"
Neal looked at him, stunned. "You're still a decent man, David, even though your actions may not always be. But as I said before, I won't leave my friend behind. He's the only person I got left. It's not worth living a life without him.", he replied matter-of-factly.
David sighted. "Let me think about it. And I beg you… try to please Keller! You must be as worthy as possible to him!". He lowered his gaze to steel himself for his next words.
"Sit down please…", he said apologetically. Neal obeyed, a little confused. But then he realised what this demand was about. David took the metal ring and chained him again to the wall. "I'm sorry!", he simply said. Neal just nodded. Before David left the room, he turned. "I'll be back tomorrow. We'll figure something out!"
After a sleepless night, Neal sat at his mattress, his back leaned against the cold wall, when David came in.
"Come on, he wants to see you!", he said harshly and opened his chain.
Outside was a young-looking guard. David went in front of them, the young man followed him. Neal now felt like a dangerous prisoner, but tried to walk as confident as possible between them. When they entered a bright, spacious room, he sighed in relief. There, right behind a clean white desk, was Mozzie. Even though he looked terrible as hell, he had a little more colour in his face and smiled in his direction when he entered the room. The smile faded when Keller entered through another door.
"Welcome, Neal. I suppose you're asking yourself what your little friend is doing in this room. Well, he can be very convincing. He told one of my guards a lot about his skills concerning codes and riddles.", he raised his eyebrows, staring at Neal. "I'm not stupid, kid. Never forget that! I bet you figured out why I wanted the painting and gave him a hint somehow. Well… it doesn't matter really! I'll give it a try. Two men trying to solve the puzzle are better than one. But I warn you once more, prove what you're worth. Both of you! You'll regret it if you're not obeye."
He stepped closer to take a look at the painting. "Right now, I'm not sure where this will lead us. I only know that I really want to have the item hidden. As I said, I suppose you already figured it out. But you should take a closer look at these points. As far as I know, it's a code and I want to know what it means, as soon as possible, understand? I give you 24 hours. You won't like what's going to happen if you can't solve it."
Without waiting for any reply, he turned and left the room. Neal released a sight of relief. He took a sideway glance towards David and then turned to face Mozzie.
"You're ok?", he asked worried. His friend smiled weakly.
"Yes, Neal. I am! Much better actually. I had my first proper meal for ages this morning. Thanks to you!", his voice sounded a lot livelier than it had yesterday.
David came closer to join them. "Hurry up you two! It's not much time, especially because you're both not in your best physical condition, I suppose.", he pushed them.
Neal nodded, then threw David a sideway glance again and looked around, but couldn't see any cameras or similar items to record their doings.
"Could you… would you just try not to listen for a few minutes please?", he begged in David's direction. He hesitated, but then nodded grimly and backed away in a corner of the room.
"Listen Mozzie, I suppose the very talented painter of this painting forgot some dots accidentally, you understand? But he may be able to show you where they could be missing. We should consider both versions, shouldn't we?".
Mozzie smiled slightly and nodded. "Of course we should! So let's start my dear friend. Shouldn't be that difficult, should it?".
Well... unfortunately it was. They tried for hours to figure it out, but just couldn't.
"DotCode would be the most obvious option, but there simply aren't enough dots to stand for something with sense, even when we add the…potential missing ones.", Mozzie said for the tenth time. "
"It's definitely not DotCode, Mozz. I tell you, it has to be a mixture of something we just don't know. I feel like we just can't properly see the obvious!", Neal replied desperately.
David, who quietly observed what they were doing since then, suddenly came over.
"What did you just say?", he asked him.
Neal raised his brows in confusion. "What…the thing about the mixture we don't know?".
"No… you just said you maybe can't see the obvious. What about braille? My grandmother was blind and taught me some of it."
Neal nodded exitedly. "Could be possible."
David leaned over. "Yes! That's a four right there. And after that a two!".
With the help of David and Neal's additional dots, they could assign almost half of the given dots. After they did so, Neal yelled in delight.
"I can see what the rest means now. See? These dots build a line together and belong to this single dot there. It's a morse code!". He breathed out in relief.
Mozz added their results and nodded with a wider smile now.
"These are coordinates! We got it!", he said triumphantly. "It should be somewhere in the ocean, what the hell could be there?".
Neal shrugged and wrote half the coordinates down. "It doesn't matter really, as long as it's what Keller wants to know. We should be careful though. It's the only plus we've got. He won't get it that easy." Mozzie nodded and they both tried to steal themselves for the upcoming events.
Peter literally felt the time running out for Neal. He went restless through his office and wished he could do more, but he knew that his whole team was working something out right at the moment. He went out to watch them and could see Clinton searching frantically through some files and Dianna talking to someone on the phone. They both seemed desperate to find a hint where to find Keller, what he highly appreciated. His team watched his back, no matter what!
He went back behind his desk and sat down, to read the file in front of him once more. Matthew Keller was very well known in the White Collar Division. He had been a suspect in many cases, but was never sentenced, they could never find enough evidence.
His cold, piercing eyes stared at him from the only photo they got. A bad guy, through and through. God, Neal, what did you do?
Suddenly Clinton and Dianna came bursting in his room.
"I think we got him!", Dianna excitedly announced. "Jones was able to find out an alias he's using right now, and a friend of mine who works for the building authority, told me that he bought an old warehouse under this name and requested to rebuild it a few month ago. I bet that's where we'll find him."
Peter clenched his fist. "Well, lets go then!".
When Keller entered the room in a rush, Neal felt ready to face and confront him with half of what they found out. But Keller went straight to David and whispered something. The guard stepped forward without hesitation and pushed Neal against the table to harshly cuff his hands behind his back. Another guard came in to do the same with Mozzie.
"What the hell..?", Neal tried to protest.
"Your bloody friend and his companions are outside, all around the building. You got to go. And I won't risk anything.", Keller replied coldly, sounding stressed out.
"I'll kindly welcome them and will meet you later. Pay attention, don't underestimate that kid.", he directed David, who immediately began pushing Neal and Mozzie forward and guided him deep down until they reached a dark tunnel, which looked quite new. The younger guard followed them.
"Hurry up. We don't have much time!", David yelled. After what felt like hours in the humid, cold darj, they reached the exit, left the tunnel and found themselves in a small forest. After a few steps, Neal heard a cry behind him and frantically turned around. +
The younger guard lay unconsciously on the ground, a bleeding wound over his left eye. David had his weapon in his hand and had obviously used the handle to knock this man out. Neal and Mozzie stared at him in confusion.
"It was the only option! You two have to run. He won't ever let you go, not alive. I had to seize the opportunity. I won't cause anymore harm!". #
Neal shook his head. "But he will know it was you who helped us. He'll kill you!". David smiled and began opening their handcuffs.
"It really doesn't matter. He destroyed my life. I won't allow it once more concerning you two! And now GO! And figure something out. He won't give up, not ever. So run, as far as possible."
Neal hesitated, but then came closer and hugged David. "You're not a bad person, David! He forced you to do bad things, but you saved us, I won't ever forget that!", he said with tears in his eyes.
David hugged him back for a split second and then gently pushed him away.
"Now run! Try this direction", he pointed west. "It's not the way Keller would suppose you to take, so it's your best option. And you'll reach a small village soon, where there is a bus station." He handed him a few dollars. Neal took them and with hesitantly turned to go.
David stayed back, facing his own, gloomy fate.