Neal walked from the politician meeting to the office of the Bureau. He felt pleased with himself. With a bit of luck and they would find a connection between the escort service he had gained information about and Jennings that would be more than just morally questionable.
"So how did it go?" Peter asked when he walked into the office.
"Good. There is a connection to the Aphrodite escort service. I made Reggie arrange with Diana to meet with the owner."
"It seemed plausible. They already knew she wasn't Mrs. Burke." He dropped the photos Reggie's man had taken in front of Peter. His handler took the pile.
"You told them Diana was a hooker?"
"Mm-hmm," Neal confirmed. Peter glanced at the photos and then up at him. "Captain Shattuck sure cleans up nice." He was not angry with Peter, but he was hurt. And this was not one of those moments when he wanted to hide it. Not of Peter had deliberately lied to him.
"The stakeout was canceled," Peter defended himself when he saw his look. "Diana came over to work. Why am I explaining myself to you? Not everything's a conspiracy, Neal."
"I hope that's true," Neal snapped back, not believing for a second that Peter told him the truth. Not when he used the word 'conspiracy' unasked for. "I've never lied to you."
"Oh, come on, Neal," Peter objected. "You lie for a liv-."
"Not to you," he interrupted. "I may have let you draw certain conclusions that weren't correct, but never an actual lie."
He smiled when he saw Peter getting embarrassed. Yes, he knew Peter could not say the same. The honorable federal agent did lie from time to time, while his pet convict did not. That was irony.
Peter stared at the photos the kid dropped at his desk.
"You told them Diana was a hooker?!" That meant that some people thought that he and Diana… and that he would pay…
"Mm-hmm," It was something in Neal's tone of that confirmation that made Peter look up. The kid was still standing and he was watching him with a stern eye. "Captain Shattuck sure cleans up nice."
Oh, yes, he had said he could not go out with Neal for a drink because…
"The stakeout was canceled! Diana came over to work." Did the damn kid smile? They both knew it was not that kind of work. "Why am I explaining myself to you? Not everything is a conspiracy, Neal."
"I hope that's true." Neal's voice was sharp as the edge of a knife. Well, it was true, Peter thought. He was not conspiring, he was protecting Neal. Then Neal said with clarity: "I've never lied to you."
Peter glanced up, surprised at the hidden accusation.
"Oh, come on, Neal," Peter protested. "You lie for a living."
"Not to you," the kid shot back. "I may have let you draw certain conclusions that weren't correct, but never an actual lie."
Peter felt his cheeks getting hot. He knew it was true. Neal did not lie to him. And a convicted criminal and world-class con-man had just caught him lying in return to that honesty. It would have been so much easier if the kid pulled one or two white lies from time to time. Neal did not say a word. He watched the office through the glass wall.
Peter wondered if it was time to tell Neal about the meeting with their mystery man, to be more open to him. He decided against it.
"All right, so, one of Jennings' guys was standing in my backyard taking these?" he said, returning to the case at hand. So very covenant that he had pulled the shades just after.
"Yep. You got to them," Neal said, still not sitting down. "They think you're having an affair. Took a risk and told them Diana was a prostitute, and they took the bait. They told me to find her and put her in touch with a guy they know named Barrow."
"Ah, your mystery man Jennings called to get you paid off the books." Peter leaned back in his chair. "So, maybe the Aphrodite escort service is where the cash is coming from to pay his straw donors."
"That's what I think," the kid agreed. "Can you set Diana up with an alias as good as mine?"
"As an escort? Sure." He rose from his chair. "Diana! Can you come here a minute?" He saw her rise and come. "You gonna tell her?" he asked Neal.
"I'm not telling her," he hissed back.
"You're the one who made her a hooker," Peter pointed out.
"You're the one who's sleeping with her."
"You got a point."
No more time. Diana stood in the doorway.
"Neal told Jennings you're a hooker. You and I are having an affair. You're gonna go meet with an escort service."
"Okay. Anything else?"
She left and Peter exhaled. He just loved Diana!
"It's good to have her back," Neal said and sounded more than impressed. They returned to the desk. "I suppose you want this back." Peter saw he held the Eagle pen. Peter hesitated. Neal had done well and he had not had that eagerness in his eyes when they took off the anklet. "I prefer not to bring a microphone home with me, if you don't mind."
Peter smiled. He had not thought about it that way. He took the pen.
"Want a night without the anklet? You did a good job today. I can arrange for a car outside instead."
He got an odd stare in return.
"No, thank you. Not this time. Save the taxpayers money."
"What?" Peter had rarely been as baffled in his life.
"Just being honest, Peter. Besides, I'm still under that working house arrest thing you put on me. Wouldn't it look strange in the records?"
Peter gave up. He handed Neal the anklet and the kid put it on, showing him the green light. He pulled the leg of the slacks over it and left.
Neal was pretty certain Diana knew about the music box. She had been out there on the airstrip when Peter came to stop him and he had also told him later about their meeting with Fowler that led them there. So Diana and Peter meeting after hours, and lying to him about it… Had Peter tried to ease the burden of a bad consciousness by offering him a night off anklet? Just in case Neal's hunch was right, he had denied.
"Did you confront the Suit about the pictures?" Mozzie asked after listening to Neal's long monologue.
"Yeah, I did. He said it was a misunderstanding." Neal passed his friend again, who had pulled out a small desk and was sitting with a whole kit of advanced writing material that appeared to be of Asian origin, writing while they talked.
"Oh, right. So was the Bay of Pigs. So you think he's looking into who killed Kate in his off hours? I suppose that's a good thing."
It was. He flipped the apple in his hand.
"I want to know what he's found."
"He's trying to protect you," Mozzie said with certainty.
"Oh, come on, Moz. I don't need protecting."
"It's only fair. We keep secrets from the Suits all the time. Now they have their own," he said, and then mused: "There's a certain universal synchronicity to it all."
"Spare me your 'circle of life' crap," Neal said a bit annoyed over the lack of support. "What are you writing?"
"Oh, it's a letter campaign to stop this new stadium from being built."
Neal stared. Had he heard that right?
"There's a letter campaign?"
"You really need to pay more attention to what's going on in the world around you," his friend lectured him. Neal had to fight to not grin all over his face.
"Yeah… Listen, Moz, you should know that…" he began but changed his mind when he got a big glare from Mozzie, who at once was ready to take a stand for what he believed in. "That you got a real shot at stopping this. Keep it up."