Peter had not even reached his breakfast when his phone rang. It was Jones.
"You see what it's about?"
"Jack Franklin. The marshals are pretty upset. I don't know who upset them most, Franklin or that they are ordered to work with us."
Why did Jones call to tell him? He could have waited until he arrived in the office. Peter sighed. It was Saturday.
"Who else is coming in?"
Peter sat down by his breakfast.
"Yeah. Everyone. Except for Hughes who was needed elsewhere."
El left the kitchen also on the phone.
"Yeah, it would be easier, if it wasn't Saturday already," she said, sitting down too. "Thought I can... I can add 30 people to the list."
Peter pointed at the sugar.
"Can you…?" he asked and El lifted the milk. "No, sugar." Jones actually chuckled at the other end. Peter sighed. "Not you, Jones."
El's focus was elsewhere. The milk landed by his seat.
"Yeah, what if we open up the patio?" she asked her client.
"I've already called Diana," Jones continued. "I suppose you want Caffrey on this?"
"Yeah," Peter confirmed.
"I call him them."
"Okay." Peter tried his cereals without sugar. "Yuck," he spat and put the bowl away. It was one of those days. "All right, got it. I'm on my way."
He rose and grabbed his suit jacket.
"Thanks for breakfast, hon. I gotta go."
"Yeah, I gotta go, too," she said ending her call as well. "All right, let's see. What do I have to do? I've got to..." Peter looked at her. She had been gone for so long. She bumped into him when she turned. She saw his stare. "What?"
"This is crazy! Look at us. This is our weekend!"
"Honey, the reception's this afternoon!" she returned, panic in her eyes. "I've got to order tomato basil crostini—"
"Yeah, and I got to catch some bad guys, but we also need a little time for us."
"I know. I'm sorry. Ever since I got back from San Francisco, it's been nonstop."
"Well, you know what? It is gonna end tonight. You and me, a bottle of wine, and a movie. No work, no discussion of work, no excuses. Just us."
And Neal claimed he was incapable of flirting. The only woman he loved looked at him as if he just brought her the moon.
"Wow. Okay. All right." She smiled and kissed him.
"Mmm. Just for that, I might make my patented pot roast," Peter mused.
"Oh. I wonder what you'll make if I keep going." Her arms found their way around him and for a second he did not think he could wait to the afternoon at all. She kissed him again.
"Bye," she mumbled.
She let go of him and hurried to the front door.
"Tonight, date night," he told her. "Don't be late."
"Any idea why we're being called in at 8:00 A.M. on a Saturday?" Neal asked Peter when they walked to the office. That was one of many things he loved about New York City and Manhattan: the distances were short.
"Crime doesn't take the weekend off," Peter returned not answering the question. "Did you have plans?"
"I was hoping to go to the white bored exhibit at the Powell," he admitted. It was outside his radius. He had been waiting for a good moment without having to ask for a favor. Like if they had been in the neighborhood, or another more natural situation. Neal hated the idea of begging, but he so much wanted to see this exhibition.
"Whiteboard?" Peter repeated.
"No, no. 'White-bored,'" Neal corrected. "Spelled b-o-r-e-d. It's conceptual. The artist has taken a mundane office item and turned it into a canvas commentary on modern business." If Peter came along, he might finally see the point in art beyond just beauty.
"Does he use paint?"
"I already have one in my office," Peter declared his uninterest. Neal saw his chance to see the exhibition vanish in thin smoke. "Wait." Peter took his arm and stopped him. "And how did you know how I was spelling 'board'? It's the same word."
"Your tone. Peter, you got to see it. Come with me."
"The museum's outside your radius," Peter concluded. "Can't. Date night with Elizabeth."
"Even better. She'll love it." He was pretty confident that Elizabeth would.
"No, date night, which means no whiteboard of any sort. And no Neal." Peter continued to walk ending the discussion. If Neal had thought that falling on his knees on the sidewalk had helped he would have done it. But Peter had a date night. No begging pet convicts would pull him away from that.
"You could ask her," he tried.
"I'll make you a deal. You can see the exhibit..."
"If you can find an FBI agent willing to escort you."
Neal relaxed. That would be a piece of…
If he was good at something that was legal it was selling. He had even managed to get a park made once. What was getting an escort compared to that.
They passed into the FBI building and into the elevator.
"I have some good recipes if you want El to cook something new for your date night," Neal said on the way up. "I can call her—"
"You do no such thing. I'm cooking tonight."
The doors went up to the 21st floor.
"You making El pot roast?" Neal asked and saw Peter's surprised look. "It's the only food I've ever heard you brag about."
They got just inside the office when Neal saw a man he had never seen before leaving Hughes' otherwise empty office. Peter had stopped too.
"Your boss's boss." He had just read the name, never seen the face. Somehow he had expected Hughes' boss to be older than Hughes himself which was ridiculous because it was impossible. So this was the man who had a lot of saying in Neal's presence among the FBI crew.
"This can't be good," Peter mumbled beside him. Bancroft pointed at Peter with two fingers and gestured for him to come.
"Do all the higher-ups do the double-finger point?"
"They teach it at Quantico. Wait here."
Neal saw Peter disappear inside the conference room behind his boss's boss. Then Diana passed behind him.
"Diana," he caught up with her as she stopped by her desk.
"Good morning, Neal," she said, reacting negatively to his turned-on charming smile. "What do you want?"
"It's the last weekend of the white-bored exhibit at the Powell," he said as if that in itself was the last chance to win a million dollars, which was just about what it felt like for Neal.
"Outside your radius."
"I need an escort," he said, straight to the point. She sighed. "Just hear me out. Swan's work is gonna blow your mind. His pieces are a master study of corporate counterculture that frankly, I think would be irresponsible for you to ignore as an informed member of the white collar division."
"Excellent." Piece of cake.
"That's why I went last week. You shouldn't have waited so long to ask."
Neal knew he had himself to blame, but that did not make it hurt less. He had to fight not to let it show too much. No, he had to fight not to cry.
Two people left the conference room. Marshals by their uniforms.
"Why are the marshals here?" he whispered to Diana, glad to change the subject. Peter got out of the room too and pointed with two fingers for him to come.
"I guess you're gonna find out."
"Neal, this is John Deckard from the marshals' office," Peter presented his pet convict for the man who had presented the case for them in five short minutes.
"Are you sure it's necessary to bring him in?" Deckard answered.
"Neal, how long did you evade the U.S. Marshals?"
"Technically, they never found me," the kid answered, facing Deckard. Then, turning back to him: "You did." Peter smiled.
"As I heard it, you had the marshals searching for you along the Mexican Riviera," Bancroft said. There was however no humor in his boss's boss's voice and Peter sent a warning eye to Neal who stopped grinning all over his face at once.
"If anyone knows about evading arrest, it's Neal Caffrey," Peter assured Deckard.
"I want this agent found, and I want the two of you to work it out," Bancroft said, handed Peter the file he, in turn, had got from Deckard before.
Bancroft left and Peter opened the folder watching the photo of Jack Franklin.
"FBI Agent Jack Franklin is currently a fugitive," he informed Neal.
"An FBI agent's on the run?" The kid seemed surprised. It was nice that he thought they were all good guys.
"He used to work here in the white collar branch."
"Did you know him?"
"Not well," Peter said. "He transferred in from the Chicago office a couple of years ago, then he got bumped down to Internal Bank Fraud." It was during the years Neal had been in prison. What had he been doing then? It felt like one long gray period.
"Isn't that the Siberia of assignments?" the kid asked.
"Maybe the Bureau should've fired him instead," Deckard said.
"U.S. marshals caught him trying to access their witness database."
"Deckard, do you want to coordinate the search?" Peter asked the man on his way out.
"Justice department insisted we loop you in. Well, you're looped in. Let me know what you find."
And by that, he left the conference room and soon the FBI building. Not that Peter minded.
"U.S. marshals," the kid said. "All smiles."
"Yeah," Peter agreed but was glad Deckard had left. He walked to the door and called out to his team to get into the conference room. He turned to his pet convict. "Franklin is one of us. I don't know what he's gotten into, but if anyone's gonna bring him in, it's gonna be the FBI." Neal chuckled. "What?"
"This is the first time I've been on this side of a manhunt."