This is a work of fanfiction, for entertainment purposes only. The characters and concepts of White Collar do not belong to me, but to their creator.
Shadow of Doubt
Neal Caffrey awoke lying on the carpeted floor. Within seconds, he recalled the blackness that had claimed him immediately after being drugged, and he muttered the agreed-upon code to summon the team of FBI agents waiting outside.
Dragging himself to his feet, he realized he was alone in the office even though he and Peter Burke—or, rather, Neal Hanser and Peter Bardwell—had been here together before the unexpected attack. Running to check the two small adjoining offices, Caffrey called out to the agents again, alerting them that Peter was gone. It was a small office suite, and he was definitely alone.
Suddenly, the room was swarming with agents, but Neal barely registered their presence; he only knew that he had to find Peter.
"Neal!" Diana Berrigan yelled out the minute Caffrey was in her sight. "Where's Peter?"
"I don't know, he's gone!" Neal was already turned toward the exit. "We need to—" His words choked off as Berrigan grabbed his arm and pulled him back to her.
"Caffrey. Don't play games. Where is Peter?"
Only then did Neal notice the anger and resentment on her face. And not just Diana, but Jones was staring at him, as well, and even the other agents going about their own business were shooting daggers at him. His instinctive attempt to jerk out of her grip stopped immediately. "Diana?"
"Do not screw with me, Neal; you're not going anywhere. We heard Prinz; we know you're part of it." She suddenly seemed more sad than angry, but she hadn't released her hold on Caffrey.
"You know what? No! I wouldn't . . . I mean, I—I—I couldn't . . . that's—" He stopped, took a breath, forced himself to focus. "Diana, you can't think I would do this, not to Peter?" But then his shoulders slumped almost imperceptibly as he saw that she did think precisely that. He didn't even take much comfort in the fact that she at least seemed surprised by the idea, that such an ultimate betrayal hadn't been a foregone conclusion for her. He cast a quick, appraising scan over Jones, but he didn't see any such surprise there. He let out a small sigh, but there really wasn't time to be worried about this now. The agents had work to do, with or without him. He turned back to Berrigan.
"Look, I don't know what you heard or think you know, but we're wasting time. If you don't trust me, then turn me over to one of the Harvard crew to be taken back to the office, or even a holding cell. Hell, throw me in the MCC if that's what you think you need to do, but, Diana, please, find Peter."
Berrigan dug her fingers deeper into Caffrey's arm, her eyes searching his face like some sort of human lie detector. Neal simply stood, absorbing it all, willing her to recognize his sincerity, but, in the end, it wasn't enough. She glanced around at the various other agents on site. "Maybe Blake—"
"I'll take him," Jones interrupted.
"We should head up the search," Diana told him.
"She's right," Caffrey immediately concurred. "Peter needs you two; he needs the best."
Jones kept his gaze on Berrigan, ignoring the CI completely. "He needs to be interrogated by someone who knows him."
"Interro—?" Neal felt Diana sink into his arm again, and he shut up.
Berrigan yielded to the logic. "Okay. Let me know what you find out." She gave one last squeeze to the arm in her grip. "Caffrey, whatever you know—"
"I'll tell him," Caffrey agreed readily, not bothering to point out that he really didn't know anything at all.
Berrigan finally released the death-grip and immediately strode over to the other agents, already calling orders as she went.
"So, I guess it's just you and me," Neal said, turning toward Jones. He kept his tone light, but couldn't find the grin he would've normally offered.
"Hands," Clinton ordered in response.
Caffrey bit back any objection and silently put his hands out in front of him, wrists close together and relaxed. He didn't intend to slip these off and escape; he couldn't have the agents' attention divided between looking for him and looking for Peter. Jones locked the first bracelet tighter than necessary, then suddenly spun Caffrey around, pulling the manacled hand behind his back, and dragged the right wrist back to be cuffed alongside its mate. Neal rolled his eyes but stayed quiet.
"Blake!" Jones called to the young agent who was busy photographing and documenting the scene, "I'm going to need that audio emailed to me right away." Then he grabbed his prisoner's arm and finally steered him toward the door. "Let's go, Caffrey."
Neal sat in the interrogation room, silently fuming. Did no one understand the urgency here? The ride back to the federal building had been made in angry silence, with Jones unwilling to allow any conversation. Once they'd reached the twenty-first floor, the agent had immediately led Caffrey to an interrogation room, shoved him roughly down into a chair, and then disappeared. That had been almost half an hour earlier, and Neal was ready to get things rolling. The sooner Jones understood his innocence in all this, the sooner the man could do his actual job and help find Burke, hopefully allowing the CI to join in the hunt. Caffrey had tried yelling after him as he walked away, then talking sincerely to the observation window to whoever might be watching him, and, finally, he had resorted to just outright screaming, hoping to get someone's attention, but nothing worked. So now he waited quietly, fuming.
Then, when Caffrey had almost decided to break his promise to himself about the handcuffs, Jones stepped back into the room. "Finally!"
Clinton grimaced at him. "I don't work on your timetable, Caffrey."
"Whatever." Neal sighed and tried to force down the frustration. "Hey, do you think you could take these things off me? I don't even think I can feel my fingers anymore."
"It's probably safer that way," Jones snapped.
"I know you don't leave your other suspects chained up like this."
"Other suspects haven't been responsible for kidnapping an FBI agent."
"This one isn't either," Caffrey answered flatly, letting his eyes meet the other man's. When Jones didn't answer, Caffrey added another thought. "Do you honestly think I'd still be wearing these if I really wanted out of them?"
The logic finally seemed to get through, and Jones fished a key out of his pocket. He unlocked the first bracelet, then pulled Caffrey's hands together in front and locked them together again, though he did take the time to loosen the tension slightly.
Neal resisted the impulse to complain, recognizing he was fortunate Jones didn't actually chain him to the table as well. "Thank you." He flexed his hands, trying to get the circulation back into his fingers.
"I expect you to keep them on," Jones told him firmly, and seemed to accept it when Neal simply nodded his understanding. Finally taking his seat across the table, the agent powered on the recording microphones, pushed one directly in front of his prisoner, and then said simply, "You want to tell me what happened?"
Neal arched an eyebrow while he examined him for a moment. He thought maybe the short break had helped calm the young agent, that maybe the guy would be willing to consider another viewpoint on whatever had made him so sure of the CI's guilt beforehand. Neal could work with that, so he took a breath and began.
"Honestly, there isn't a lot to tell. We went into the office at nine, right on time. Prinz was there, and I saw a couple of his goon squad. We were sitting, doing that silence thing he insists on." Neal gave a small shrug as if to say, what are you going to do? "He was quiet a lot longer than normal this time."
"We noticed that," Clinton interjected. "Was he doing anything during that time?"
Caffrey shook his head. "Just sitting, just like he'd done the other times, playing whatever mind game it is he plays with that trick." Though he spoke with derision, the truth was, the first time they'd met with Prinz, Neal had thought the guy's insistence that no one in the room speak until it was specifically allowed was an ingenious way of seizing control, even if it was annoying to be on the receiving end. But by this morning, he'd been ready to be done with the games and was exceedingly glad this would be the last meeting. "But you know how it's been—just a few minutes to prove who's boss and then he gets on with things, but not today. He just kept staring at us. Something was wrong; I could feel it. I think Peter felt it, too, but we were trying not to jump to any conclusions and risk blowing the op. Finally, after almost ten minutes, I knew we needed to get out. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I knew things were going bad, I knew it." He paused, shaking his head despairingly, guilt painted on his face. "I should've given you the signal right then.
"Anyway, I figured I'd break the no talking rule and then leave it up to Peter to decide whether we should deal with that or go ahead and call in the cavalry. So, I just leaned over a little bit and whispered to him, 'Hey, Peter,' but that was as far as I got. When I moved, I saw that there were more than just a couple of goons, but it was too late. The two who were guarding us put something over our faces—like chloroform or something—and I think they injected something into my neck." Caffrey rubbed absently at a spot under his collar that he hadn't even thought about until now. "Whatever it was," he added, "it was fast." Jones held up a hand to stop the recitation.
The agent turned toward the observation window. "Get a lab tech down here right away for a draw." He returned his attention to Caffrey. "I assume you're not gonna make us get a court order for that?"
Neal narrowed his eyes and stared across the table. "You're the only one who thinks I've switched sides. But I appreciate you pretending I even have a choice."
"Okay, go on."
Caffrey picked up his story. "The other guys, I honestly don't know where they came from, it was like out of nowhere, and they were just holding us so we couldn't struggle, couldn't move at all, but like I said, it was fast. I think I was probably out within ten seconds, or maybe I just couldn't think after that and they held us in those chairs a lot longer, I don't know. All I know is I woke up on the floor and Peter was gone. I called you guys in while I looked around the other couple of rooms trying to find him, and here we are." Caffrey looked at Jones curiously. "Though, now that I think about it, the team seemed to get there awfully fast. I thought you were probably at least two minutes out. I was kind of groggy when I first woke up, but I seem to remember thinking that maybe Peter had already called you."
"And you don't remember anything else that happened?" Jones asked.
"I'm telling you, there's nothing else to remember; that's all that happened. Now, do you maybe want to tell me what would make you think I'd ever do anything to hurt Peter?"
Jones ignored the question and posed one of his own. "When did you first meet Prinz?"
"Last week," Caffrey responded slowly, voice dripping with exaggerated patience, "when Peter and I went to his office the first time."
"And have you had any contact with him outside of the times you and Peter have visited his offices?"
"How about any of his people? Any contact with any of them?"
"Anyone operating on his behalf in any way?"
"Has Mozzie—or anyone else operating on your behalf—been in contact with Prinz, or anyone working on his behalf?"
Caffrey almost grinned. Jones was getting better at asking questions that didn't give him much of an opportunity to artfully deceive. It was a good thing he didn't need to lie about this. "No."
The agent finally asked the overarching question. "Did you participate in any way in the planning or execution of Agent Burke's kidnapping?"
"No. And do me a favor and don't use the word execution with Peter's name again."
"Tell me about the last time you were in prison," Jones said suddenly.
"Your last incarceration. When was it?"
Caffrey was suddenly too aware of his body. The cold tendril of fear that made its way down his spine, the hot spit of terror settling in his gut, the way he had to pull his hands down to his lap, fists clenched, to stop the shaking, and, over it all, the dark despair of grief in his heart. He swallowed hard. Jones wasn't playing fair to bring this up now, but he knew he couldn't just ignore the man. He licked his lips and forced an answer. "I was released about four weeks ago," he said slowly, no inflection, "after being incarcerated for approximately two months."
"And the charges? The reason for your incarceration?"
"Charges makes it seem more formal than it was. The FBI accused me of attempting to escape during my probation after I had been released into the Bureau's custody. They also were investigating my possible involvement in the . . . the death of Kate Moreau."
"Tell me about your relationship with Peter Burke."
"Officially, he's my FBI handler, responsible for my supervision during my probation."
Caffrey glared at the agent. "You know—" He closed his eyes briefly. "He's my partner," he said, eyes still closed, blocking out everything, "he's my friend."
"He was with you at the time of Ms. Moreau's death?"
"Yes," Caffrey said tightly. He might've preferred to continue this conversation with his eyes closed for the duration, but then he wouldn't have been able to glare at Jones again.
"And he allowed the marshals to arrest you immediately after her death to return you to prison?"
"Again, I'd question your word choice, Agent. I'm not sure 'allowed' is precisely accurate. It happened; I don't think Agent Burke had any control over it."
"So you wouldn't be trying to find some kind of revenge against Agent Burke? Maybe you think he failed you? Failed Kate?"
"Of course not." When another question wasn't fired his way after a couple of minutes, he tried his own again. "I'm still trying to figure out what would make you think I'd ever do anything to hurt Peter?"
Jones sat silently for a long moment, examining the man on the other side of the table. Neal remained quiet, too, bound hands clasped lightly on the tabletop, blue eyes never wavering. Finally, Jones dragged his phone out of his jacket, pulled up a recording Blake had emailed and hit play. "This is your transmission."
Neal listened intently, though there really wasn't much to hear beyond seemingly interminable silence. He finally heard his aborted warning to Peter but was surprised when he didn't hear himself fall to the floor. He heard Prinz reprimand him for daring to speak—which he hadn't heard the first time around—then maybe another fifteen minutes of silence before he heard his own voice again. First, a sluggish prearranged signal, "Looking forward to working with you," then, almost immediately, a more straight-forward, frantic message, "Peter's gone, everyone's gone!" And, finally, not even thirty seconds later, the shouts of the team of agents bursting in. Jones stopped the playback as soon as he heard Diana's greeting.
Leaning back in his chair, Caffrey hitched an eyebrow. "Sounds remarkably the way I described it," he gloated, "including the fact that you guys got there much too quickly to be coming in on my signal. So, what tipped you off? Just finally too much silence? Or did Peter actually manage to get a message out?"
Jones still hadn't stopped staring at his prisoner, his dark eyes seeming intent on piercing the soul of the blue pair across from him. And he was still more interested in asking questions than answering them. "You said they knocked you out?"
"And you woke up on the floor?"
Caffrey just nodded, but Jones gestured impatiently toward the microphone. "Yes, I woke up on the floor."
"You still had the pen in your jacket pocket, right?"
"You're the one who took it from me before you threw me in the back of that sedan like a common criminal. It was where it always is."
Jones ignored the attitude. "I'm just wondering why we didn't hear any sort of struggle, even if it was only ten seconds worth, or why we didn't hear you fall to the floor. You know we usually get pretty good reception with that thing, but there's nothing more than just a little bit of normal movement—absolutely no indication that someone suddenly overpowered you then left you unconscious while they took Peter. Why do you think that is?"
"I don't know," Caffrey answered, forcing himself not to sigh. "One minute I was awake and the next I wasn't, and then by the time I was again, Peter was gone. But I told you, they held us tight. Between the surprise attack, the drugs, and several much larger men holding me in place, I couldn't manage a lot of struggling, and my guess is Peter couldn't either. Look, I don't know anything else, and the longer you sit here asking me these questions, the less good you're doing your boss."
"Tell me about when you woke up," Clinton instructed.
"Oh my God, Jones, listen! I woke up, I was on the floor, I gave you guys the signal, I looked for Peter, you came and arrested me, we're here. That is all."
At that moment, the glass door opened, and a young lab technician entered, carrying a small case. Jones pointed her toward Caffrey, then told the con man, "And you're not technically under arrest."
Neal's eyes widened. "Does that mean I can—?"
"No," the agent interrupted firmly. "Just keep talking."
This time, the sigh slipped out, but Caffrey turned his attention to the tech, taking a break from the interrogation. Without any conscious thought, he noted her smooth, warm skin, light hazel eyes, and golden blonde hair pulled loosely back from her face. He rolled his chair closer to the table so he could stretch his arm out, supported, then smiled at the young woman as she unbuttoned his cuff and began to roll up his sleeve. He took a moment to be grateful that Neal Hanser was a casual sort who didn't wear a jacket, though it would've given him an excellent excuse to free his hands. "Sorry," he told her, his voice habitually warm and inviting, "I'd help you out, but . . ." he jangled the handcuffs in demonstration, "you know."
She returned the smile timidly as she went about her task. "No problem. What is it we're looking for?"
"Any kind of incapacitating agent," Jones broke in, then glared across the table. "Caffrey, talk."
"It was something fast," Neal stage whispered to the technician, leaning closer, as if inviting her into a conspiracy, "and it didn't last long."
Then he finally looked back at Jones. "I. Woke. Up. On. The. Floor. What else do you want to know?"
"Were you in the same place? Had they moved you? Did you fall out of the chair? Was anything else out of place? Think."
"I don't know," he said in exasperation, "I was on the— no, wait." He thought for a couple of seconds. "When I woke up, I was in the same room, right by the chair I'd been sitting in, but I was stretched out on the floor, flat on my back." He looked back at Jones. "Like someone had placed me there."
Jones was nodding. "See, that wasn't so hard, right?"
And in that instant, the young agent sounded so much like Peter Burke that Neal felt his breath catch briefly. He really needed to get out of here, but he was sure they hadn't even scratched the surface of the problem. "We should be looking for Peter," he said softly, lost for a moment in worst-case scenarios.
But before he could make any kind of argument, the technician was folding his arm up over a cotton ball, refocusing him again. "Hold that in place for a couple minutes," she told him kindly, then gathered her supplies and the vial of blood into her case.
"I need that an hour ago," Jones told her. "It goes to the head of the line." She simply nodded and moved quickly out the door.
Caffrey let his eyes lock with the agent's again. "You still haven't told me why I'm here."
Jones moved his fingers over his phone again, pulling up another recording. "This is Peter's transmission."
"I hope we're at least going to stipulate that the first ten minutes or so is identical to the one we've already listened to," Neal said, trying to tamp down his frustration.
"We are," Jones assured him.
After just a couple of seconds, Neal heard his voice again, "Hey, Peter," Prinz's brief rebuke, and then it was back to silence. And Jones was back to staring across the table, never taking his eyes off the face of the young man in front of him.
Caffrey wished they could skip the second round of silence, as well, because as he sat through the hushed minutes on the recording, he could feel the fear settle into the pit of his stomach. Nothing that Jones had asked him about so far warranted what was going on here and Diana had said they'd heard something, which meant it had to be on this recording. Waiting to hear whatever had turned them against him so quickly was nerve-racking. But with Jones' eyes drilling holes into him, Neal knew he couldn't afford to be caught off guard, so he was carefully schooling his expression not to betray anything, no matter what he might hear.
Finally, the conversation picked up again.
"I apologize for the lengthy delay, Mr. Bardwell," Prinz said to Peter, still sounding like a consummate host, "but your associate does not seem to know how to keep his mouth shut."
"And I apologize for that, Mr. Prinz, but what's going on here? Where is my associate?"
"I thought perhaps we should continue our discussions in private."
"Whatever you think is best, I'm really looking forward to working with you."
Caffrey was relieved to hear Burke's voice; at least he had woken up from whatever they'd been dosed with and was clear-headed enough to call for help. But his relief was short-lived.
"It's funny," Prinz replied, "that's exactly what Mr. Caffrey said when we made our deal."
"Who? When . . . what was that?"
"Your associate," Prinz said smugly, "when he realized my passports and currency were just the things he needed to take his leave of you, but he needed to make sure you wouldn't come after him. A simple exchange of services allowed us to avoid your ill-advised raid, and your associate will no longer need to worry that you will be able to track him down ever again."
"I don't believe you."
After that, there was only more silence.
Caffrey sat back, stunned. Absentmindedly, he accepted that he likely wasn't controlling his expression after all. "I didn't . . . I mean, that isn't . . ." The weak objections trailed off. He knew Jones was still staring at him, knew his inability to respond almost certainly made him look surprised at being caught rather than simply being surprised, and knew that he needed to mount some sort of defense. But he also knew immediately that there was nothing he could say that would refute what they'd just heard on the recording, so he simply sat, stunned. And terrified. The way the conversation had just stopped—no way to know what had happened next, or what was going to happen now, but making clear that Prinz didn't intend to release Peter—that was far more terrifying than the idea that he could be spending the rest of his life behind bars. The only saving grace, tiny though it may be, was that Peter Burke had not believed the lie.
Neal found himself staring down at his chained hands, wondering briefly if he should reconsider his willingness to be held here. No matter what they thought, escape would not be particularly difficult, and once Peter was back where he belonged, they'd be able to sort out the rest of it then. But, as with each time the thought had crossed his mind today, Neal realized he would never forgive himself if even one agent had to be pulled off the search for Peter just to help search for a fugitive CI. He finally raised his head slowly. He wasn't surprised to find Jones still studying him intently.
"I can't explain it," Caffrey said sincerely, "I can only tell you it's not true. Obviously, they made us somehow, but I promise you, Jones, it wasn't me. I won't even waste time trying to convince you that I would never betray him like this, I'll just say that this time, right now, it wasn't me."
Jones shook his head. "And I guess I'm just supposed to take your word for that?" he demanded. "Because you've never kept any secrets from us before, right? Like you weren't ready to run from your commitment to Agent Burke by fleeing his jurisdiction not even six months ago?"
Caffrey just clenched his jaw, offered a slight shrug, and didn't rise to the bait. "I don't have any way to prove it to you." He considered a moment before adding, "But you have to admit, if I was going to do it, it wouldn't make any sense to do it this way."
"Like Prinz said, passports and money are exactly what you'd need to disappear."
"And you think I couldn't get those things some other way? Besides, it would be real money; no way I'd try to run with counterfeit. And, honestly, what makes you think I'd even need his stuff? I could have it all already." He knew that likely wasn't the brightest argument, but this was ridiculous.
"We didn't find it," Jones returned blandly.
Caffrey felt his jaw clench against a sudden new anger. "You searched my place?" Not that he should be surprised, of course. But he'd have to remember to apologize to June for the feds busting into her house like that.
"Of course we searched your place, Caffrey; what did you expect us to do?"
"What I'd like you to do is trust me at least enough to know that I'd never purposely put Peter in any danger. What happened with Kate wasn't his fault; I'm not trying to escape." He shook his head roughly and tried again to rein in his anger and fear. "Anyway, besides the fact that I'm not planning on running, wouldn't use Prinz's services if I were, and you obviously didn't find the smoking gun you were looking for, exactly how do you suppose I was planning on pulling off this escape? Which part of a totally blown undercover op and a missing agent do you think makes it easy for me to disappear? Because if you think for even a minute this is the way I'd do it, then you haven't been paying attention."
Agent Jones seemed to be fighting back a grin at that, but he managed. "I'd assume you hadn't intended us to hear your new partner telling Peter how you sold him out, then you'd hang around for the day, pretending to be worried and helping with the search, and then tonight, you'd be gone. Seems pretty straight-forward to me."
"You think I'd forget Peter would be wearing a microphone? You wound me." Then, before Jones could say anything further, Neal continued, "And I am worried, and would help with the search if you'd let me." But he held his hands out quickly, warding off the objections. "I know, I know. You don't trust me, I got it. Just tell me what's next."
"Talk to me about what you heard on there."
"You mean besides the blatant lies? It was as strange as my own recording in terms of what it was missing. Peter obviously moved around quite a bit during that silence, but it doesn't sound like anything more than maybe nervous fidgeting. However they moved us, they were careful not to make it obvious, which means they had to know we were recording and didn't want to show their hand too quickly."
"Almost like someone had warned them," Jones suggested pointedly.
Caffrey wished he could find fault in the logic. "Yeah, like that," he sighed. "But, also, Peter wasn't too worked up when he woke up. I mean, not panicked or flustered or anything."
"He strikes you as the panicky kind?"
Neal smiled slightly, almost proudly. "Hardly. Maybe confused is what I meant. Why wasn't his first question 'where am I?'"
"He was worried about you," Jones pointed out.
"Okay, but the way he phrased the question, like he thought I was the one who was missing instead of him. I don't know. It seems off somehow." Caffrey shrugged. "I don't know," he repeated, "just thinking out loud." He paused, then asked, "What do you think they want with him?"
"There hasn't been any sort of demand," Jones told him slowly, obviously trying hard not to say something more, "they may not want anything."
But Neal wasn't accepting that. "No," he insisted. "If all they wanted was to, to, to . . . hurt him, they wouldn't have needed to take him." He took a deep breath. "They caught us completely by surprise. If they'd wanted to, they could've killed us both instead of just knocking us out. They want something. I'm sure of it."
Jones was looking at him much more thoughtfully now, and Neal was glad to see most of the true suspicion seemed to be fading, leaving behind just the kind of rote distrust of any lawman with unanswered questions, particularly questions concerning a criminal.
"You got any other ideas?" the agent asked.
Neal thought for another moment, then shook his head. "I don't think so."
After a slight pause, Jones said, "Not even going to point out to me that Peter didn't believe the guy?"
Again, the almost-proud smile, and another shake of the head. "That's important to me," Caffrey said softly, "I don't expect it to matter much to you."
"Okay." Jones looked again toward the observation window then made a slight beckoning gesture. "Someone else is going to join us," he said to Caffrey.
Seeing the case the young man was carrying as he entered the room, Neal sighed. "Really? A polygraph? Now? After we've already been over everything?"
"Only if you consent," Jones pointed out reasonably.
"Sure. And how much do you hold it against me if I refuse?"
"You're within your rights to refuse." He paused a moment, then added, "Though I might wonder what you'd be afraid of."
"Of course you would," Caffrey said grimly. He recognized a losing proposition. "Whatever. At least I'll get out of the cuffs."
"For a while," Jones clarified, and the scowl he received from his prisoner didn't seem to faze him at all.
Jones had covered all the same material the second time around, just slightly different phrasings, different order of questions, a different way of invoking Kate's name to throw him off balance. Caffrey wasn't even sure if Jones really believed his own line of crap about revenge for the events surrounding Kate's death, but if provoking a visceral response was what he was after, it was working. As was the agent's attempt to simply wear him down. If he wasn't the one sitting here trapped in interrogation hell, he might be able to appreciate the technique. But now the operator was finally disconnecting the leads, so the questioning was hopefully drawing to a close.
The operator packed up his equipment and left the room without another word.
"Satisfied?" Neal asked.
"Hardly. I'd almost be disappointed if you couldn't beat the machine."
"I didn't beat it," he said wearily, "I just told the truth."
"If you say so, Caffrey." Jones reached for his temporarily discarded handcuffs and secured them back around the prisoner's wrists. Then he leaned forward across the table, his gaze suddenly even more intense than it had been for the past hour and a half. "One last chance, Neal," he said gravely, "to tell me what you know. For Peter."
Caffrey kept his own gaze steady, letting the agent see whatever he needed to see, and spoke earnestly. "I swear to you, Clinton, I would tell you if I knew anything. For Peter."
After a long, considering moment, Jones nodded his head once, decisively, then pushed himself to his feet. "Okay. I'm gonna get back to Diana and see if we can bring him home."
The CI straightened hopefully. "Can I—"
"No. You're staying here."
"You said I wasn't under arrest," Neal argued, rising to face the other man.
"I could change that," Jones threatened, "if you're going to argue with me. Get the marshals involved and make it official."
"No. Consider yourself a material witness, if it makes you feel better, but you're not leaving." Jones took a breath. "I would prefer to leave you here, closer to us, instead of taking you upstairs to a holding cell, but that's up to you."
"But I could help!"
"Here or upstairs, Caffrey. Choose."
Caffrey glowered a few seconds longer, then heaved an angry sigh and plopped back into his chair. "Witnesses aren't usually restrained," he grumbled, as Jones turned for the door.
"You're special." And then the agent was gone.
"Dammit!" Caffrey pounded his fists onto the tabletop and reminded himself that he was not going to escape.