Peter hurried across the office to Jones' and Neal's desks.
"Donovan pushed up the payoff. We'd got to go." Both men rose. "No, not you Neal, I need you to figure out what Donovan is planning. Diana thinks he's leaving the country."
Neal nodded and sat back down with a smile on his face. The kid had never liked the van.
Peter called the rest of the team from the car and made sure they would be in their positions in time. They were not in a great hurry, but you could not arrange a setup five minutes ahead of when it was about to happen.
Peter and Jones entered the van.
"So, what's the story with Donovan pushing up the payoff thirty minutes?" Jones asked when he made the equipment ready in the van.
"He called me back late last night and changed the time," Diana said, dressed as Mrs. Mayburn. "He's either spooked, or he's up to something."
"Or both," Peter said.
"Are you sure you don't want me to go with her?" Jones asked him.
"If he's spooked, he'll be more at ease with just one of you." Besides, Diana could take care of herself.
"It's time," she smiled and put on her glasses. "Wish me luck."
"Good luck," Peter said and Diana left as his phone rang. "Neal, what'd you find out?"
"Diana's hunch was right. Donovan just booked the red-eye to Buenos Aires."
"He's not paying off Abramov," Peter concluded, also informing Jones. "He's taking the money and running."
"Yeah, but why push up the meeting?" the kid asked. "What does that get him?"
"Abramov wants his cash. He must know Donovan's getting it at noon."
"Donovan shows up early," Neal said at the other end, "collects his 200 grand, and splits the country."
"Exactly. Except we're gonna be there to crash his bon voyage." He sat down beside Jones as he saw Diana entering the image on their screen. Those cars…?
"Boss?" Diana said over the speakers and Peter ended the call. "There's something going on."
Yes, two black cars stopped along the sidewalk she was walking along.
"It's Abramov's men," Jones noted as people stepped out of them. "Looks like we're not the only one crashing Donovan's bon voyage."
"They must know he's taking the money and running."
"Mrs. Mayburn?" Clark the Shark said over the speaker, through Diana's microphone. "I work with Mr. Donovan. He's instructed me to accept the money on his behalf."
Jones went for his gun and was ready to rush out of the van. Peter stopped him.
"No. We blow our cover, it's over." They were approaching what they thought was a regular citizen. They would not kill or harm her. He pushed the button on the radio. "Diana? Stall. Just play it out, see what happens. Everyone else, stay alert."
"I'm only giving the money to Donovan," Diana answered. "If he's not here, we'll have to reschedule."
"I'm afraid that's not possible."
Peter saw how Clark the Shark dived for Diana's bag and there was a tug of war about it before the Shark won and Diana pointed a gun at his face.
Peter saw the agents around her pull their guns and hurry to the scene.
"Hold your fire," Peter called out over the radio. "Just hold your fire!" He dropped the radio and ran out of the van and up to Diana and the mobsters. "Weapons down! Weapons down! Hold your fire!"
When he reached them, Diana lowered her gun and Clark the Shark eyed him and his behavior suspiciously.
"What is this? A setup?"
"We're not here for you," Peter answered. "We just want Donovan. He's leaving this country a free man unless we figure this out." He raised his hands and put his gun back in the holster. "I'm willing to cut you a deal." A little child would lose his mother. What was a deal with the Chechen mob compared to that?
Clark the Shark and his companion stood silent, indecisive. A door to one of the black cars opened and Kaz Abramov himself stepped out. The man smiled, pleased about the situation. He pulled his sunglasses off.
"What kind of deal did you have in mind?"
Peter did not like that smile.
"FBI's got you on illegal gambling. We could shut you down and look the other way, or we can shut you down and arrest you. Decision's yours."
"I have lawyers," Abramov shrugged, not impressed.
"And I've got your guys attempting to steal money from a federal agent."
"We stole nothing. Donovan owes us that money."
Nice try, Peter thought. The Shark still held Diana's bag.
"How'd you know she was coming with that money?"
"Donovan told us he's running some kind of adoption scam," Abramov answered, not unwilling to cooperate it seemed. "This lady'd be bringing it. Hey, we don't want to risk him screwing us. Cut out the middleman. Get from her directly."
"Yeah, well, it's the adoption scam that we want to shut down," Peter said.
Abramov looked at his men and then back at Peter.
"What do I care?"
He moved towards the bag.
"You care because he's using Chechen kids."
The man stopped in his tracks and his eyes met Peter's. He saw a father in those eyes, not a mob boss.
"Yeah," Peter nodded. "Chechen kids."
"Very well, Agent. We'll help you."
"Nick Halden," Abramov said when he saw him enter the gambling room. "I didn't know there were feds that good at poker."
"I'm a consultant," Neal corrected him. "Neal Caffrey."
Abramov shook his hand.
"That poker play was impressive, my friend. I hope they pay you well."
"In a fashion," Neal smiled back and exchanged a look with Peter. He hoped that his handler got his assurance that he had won the poker game correctly was solidified.
"They're here with Donovan," Diana said.
"All right, ladies and gentlemen, get the show started," Peter said.
Abramov left for the other room and a minute later two of the remaining thugs grabbed him and pulled him there as well.
Donovan had been brought there by thugs too.
"Nick Halden!" he called out in surprise.
"Something tells me we're not here for a poker game," Neal mumbled.
"Seems that Mr. Halden is not who he says he is." Abramov rose from the sofa standing between them. "You scam my men out of a lot of money," he told Neal, "And you," he turned to Donovan, "you owe me money. And I expect payment in cash... Or blood. It's your choice.
"I know what this guy is capable of," Neal told Donovan. "If you got the money, I'd give it to him."
"I don't. Uh, Mr. Abramov, I'm sorry. I was expecting a cash payment when your men picked me up!"
"Oh, no, no, no, no," the mob boss interrupted. "Wrong answer. I will give you one minute," he glanced at his watch, "to think of the right answer."
Abramov gestured for them to take Neal away and they did, followed by Abramov.
They walked downstairs, so they were out of sight from Donovan but he would hear everything.
And they heard Nick Halden being beat up. Clark the Shark enjoyed himself breaking a chair while another mobster placed punches on a sack. Neal tried to make as many convincing sounds and complains and promises about money that he could. Peter made a perfect gesture.
Abramov walked back to Donovan.
"Come up with a way to get my money yet?" There was a silence. "Gentlemen, give Mr. Donovan the same treatment, please."
"Oh, whoa, wait, wait, wait. I can... I can... I-I-I can get you money. My job. My job can—"
"Your job? You work for mint or something?"
"No, no, no. No, no. I'm... I'm an adoption lawyer with wealthy clients. I can get money from them, and I'll cut you in."
Peter and Neal moved closer, listening.
"My associates tell me you're running some sort of scam."
"I threaten them. I-I tell them they might lose their kids."
"Mm-hmm," Abramov said. "How will I know the plan of yours will work?"
"'Cause I've done it," Donovan confessed. "I've done it 8, 9, 10 times. It works. I promise. I promise."
"Jones, Diana," Peter mumbled in the radio. "You got all that, right?"
"Oh, yeah," Diana returned.
"Excellent. Everybody move in."
Peter jogged up the stairs and into the room.
"FBI! Let him go!"
"Ahh! Agent Burke!" Donovan said. "These men! They..." He watched Abramov side with Burke and then Neal walked in too, unharmed. His eyes moved from one to another.
"Told you I'd be in touch," Peter said.
"This is a setup?" Donovan asked, perplexed. His eyes fell on the mob boss. "And you were in on it?"
Abramov unbuttoned his shirt showing the microphone.
"Da. Agent Burke explained to me your little extortion scheme. What kind of sick animal messes with innocent Chechen kids? Huh?" Abramov pulled the man's ear like a naughty boy. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
Neal smiled. Whenever a criminal showed he or she had limits for what was okay, he felt there was hope for society. When it came from a mob boss he almost felt proud in a weird way since they belonged in the same guild, sort of.
"Mrs. Mayburn and I plan on playing that little confession for your clients," Jones told Donovan as Abramov left with his men.
"I got a feeling a lot more extortion victims are gonna be coming forward," Diana added. Jones cuffed Donovan and took him away.
Neal found he was alone with Peter.
"So, what happens to Abramov?"
"Nothing," Peter said with a sigh. "But he so much as gets a parking ticket, the organized crime division gets a very thick file."
"A generous gesture," Neal nodded. "Abramov got kids too, you know. I was just thinking about what you said, that the law is same size for everyone."
"Katherine MacMillan still has to pay for her crimes. And they are far less than Abramov's."
"And if Abramov was a single dad?" Neal provoked.
"Neal, if we had him on more than illegal gambling, we would take him down. You, if someone, should know the concept of being suspected of doing something and be bound by real proof."
Peter got him there.
"What this place needs is an espresso machine," the kid said a few days later serving them coffee. Peter was still amused that Neal took a plain mug for himself, while he always made sure his handler got a proper FBI mug.
"Well, that's a good idea," Peter nodded. "Maybe we could dress up Jones as a pastry chef on Fridays."
"I suggest refinement. You make jokes."
"No, I'm serious," Peter lied, unable to stop himself. "I think he'd look handsome with one of those floppy chef hats."
"It's called a toque."
"I know what it's called," Peter lied again. "And no espresso machine. I can't stand that steam sound." He saw visitors coming through the door and nudged Neal. "Oh. Hey, Katherine. How you doing? I heard the custody meeting went well." She held hands with Olly.
"My attorney got me a deferred prosecution. Strict probation with some community service." She was not complaining at all. She was revealed.
"And you get to keep Olly," Neal said.
"Yes. He's my son."
Neal held out his hand to the boy and Olly shook it.
"Glad to hear," Peter said. "That's great." Olly turned to him and Peter shook his hand as well.
"I just..." Kathrine began. "I wanted to thank both of you for everything. We're gonna be okay."
"Take care," Peter said. This was not a hardened criminal like the mob boss. This was a mother making a bad choice in a moment of desperation. How could Neal even compare the two of them?
"Bye, guys," the kid said and mother and son left with the agent letting them in. Olly turned and waved to them and they waved back.
"We did good," his pet convict said.
"Yeah. As long as we keep trying to do that, we'll be okay."
They sipped their coffee, feeling proud of themselves.
"Wow. That is bad!" The kid made a face.
"Oh, it's awful! Peter agreed.
"I'm gonna get an espresso." Neal dumbed his own mug in Peter's free hand.
"Yeah, grab me one," Peter called after him, realizing he was standing with both their mugs.
The next morning was Saturday and Neal was still in just his pajama pants when someone knocked on the door.
To his surprise, he found Sara on the other side.
"Good morning. Here to arrest me again?"
She looked somber.
"Tell me about Kate," she said walking past him inside. Mellow she may be but she still had the annoying habit of just walking inside.
"Come on in." He closed the door.
Sara was looking at the blank canvas on the aisle. He had had an idea of painting something, but he was so used to paint someone else's paintings that he had not came up with a single idea of what to paint.
"She was your girlfriend before you went to prison," Sara said. "What happened to her in that plane?"
One of the most horrifying images he had in his memory and he was not about to share it with Sara.
"Who killed her?"
"I don't know."
"Neal, I don't know what possessed you to drag me into this... But I'm in." She pulled the package out of her bag and held it out to him. He looked at it but could not figure out why he should not accept it.
"You listen to it?" he asked.
"Yeah. You need to hear it."
He thumbed on the package.
She nodded, seemed like she wanted to stay but found no excuse. It was sweet, sort of, considering it never stopped her from staying before.
"I'd love to see you paint sometime," she said, with a shy smile. It was as if she searched for peace between them. He had tried and she had refused and now, with the tape in his hands, totally legal…
"I understand. I'll be going. See you, Caffrey."
She closed the door behind her. He opened the envelope and emptied the contents on the table. It was a tape. For which he had no player. There was also a… He picked up the thumb drive. It had a note attached. 'For your convenience, Caffrey /Sara' it said.
Of course, they had the equipment to play and transfer these things at her office. Nice touch.
He called Mozzie. Then he sat the whole day doing Monet.
In the evening Mozzie arrived with a laptop and they sat down by the table.
"Listen, um, helping those kids…" his friend said, "Thanks."
Neal pushed the thumb drive into the USB port and opened the file.
There was a sound of dialing a number and someone picking up a phone at the other end after the first ring.
'Hey. It's me. Peter Burke is here.'
"That's Kate's voice," Mozzie said. There was a pause and Neal understood they only heard Kate's side of the call.
'I don't know why Burke's here. Does this change the plan?'
There was another silence. Moz placed a hand on his shoulder. Did he look so miserable? Then Kate hung up.
"She called someone," Mozzie said, stating the obvious again.
"Yeah." Someone with a plan, a plan that might be chanced if Peter turned up. A plan that might have meant that they leaving the country was not the final act.
He started the tape again. The number was dialed.
'Hey. It's me. Peter Burke—' Mozzie stopped.
"We can enhance the sound, figure out who she dialed."
"I want to know who was on the other end of that phone."
This is the last chapter of part 7. Want to keep updated on the progress with part 8? Follow me on buy me a coffee dot com altankatt (link on my website) Thank you so much for reading.