It was a thousand to one
And a million to two
Time to go down in flames and I'm taking you
Closer to the edge
"Of all the places to come," said Ava Hannigan, "It had to be here." She didn't look angry; disappointed was more the word to describe it. "Dammit Neal, do you have any idea how dangerous this is? Your anklet could bring them right here! You're lucky my daughter doesn't get home for another hour!"
Neal lifted up his pant leg to show a bare ankle and gave a weak smile, "They should really make these things out of Kevlar or something. My anklet's currently in the purse of some woman who was walking down the street where I caught my cab."
Ava hesitated, looking down the hallway outside of her apartment, before stepping aside and allowing enough space for him to slip past into the room. He obliged, carefully squeezing into her apartment.
"I guess you heard then." Neal had been counting on having at least a few minutes to talk to her before the official report came in.
"A federal agent was shot and stabbed, and then the prime suspect fled the scene. Of course I've heard. The entire tri-state area's heard, Neal! And you had to bring it to my house?" She was whispering, but her tone grew sharper with each word. "I have a daughter, a family! I can't bring this on them!"
"But you know I didn't do it," Neal stated firmly. "Otherwise you'd have hit the panic button on your pager." He gestured to the pager hanging on her belt. "Someone is framing me. I was nowhere near where Peter was attacked! And what reason would I have to try and kill him? He's the only reason I'm not still sitting in a federal prison!"
Ava paused for a minute, not sure how to answer. Neal could see her mind turning over the facts, and her stance grew a little less defensive as she answered, "They found a duffel bag with the knife in it. It was cleaned off, but there was apparently some blood on it. It's in the lab now, but their pretty sure it's Peter's blood."
"It's a setup. My apartment's being fumigated, there have been men going in and out of it for the past three days getting everything ready. Any one of them could have thrown that bag into my house."
"And your anklet just happened to go offline while Peter was being attacked? These guys have to have some serious connections for that to be even close to possible."
Neal scoffed, "For someone so smart, you're pretty naïve, Ava. The marshals like to think that their network is secure, but for a good hacker, it's like taking candy from a baby." Ava raised an eyebrow. "I mean, it's incredibly difficult and I know of no person who could do such a thing," he amended sarcastically. It almost brought a smile to Ava's face.
"Say I believe that you had nothing to do with it, that you're being set up. Why did you come here? What do you think that I can do?"
"I need your help." Ava immediately shook her head and took a step back, as if to distance herself from the idea. "Ava, please. They'll be watching the FBI, I won't be able to get withing twenty feet of Jones and Cruz. And I can't prove my innocence on my own."
"Neal, you saved my life and I'm grateful for that. But helping you….I can't put my family at risk. Not for anything. I'm sorry."
Neal deflated, falling against the door suddenly. He had counted on Ava's help, it was the only plan he could think of. Mozzie and Alex were great for hiding people, or occasionally even helping the FBI put someone away, but the FBI wouldn't accept evidence from con artists to prove another con's innocence. He needed help from someone inside the system.
"Alright," he conceded. He wasn't about to force someone to help him against their will. "Just…don't tell anyone that I was here, okay?"
She nodded, her eyes downcast. Neal reached around and grabbed the handle, pulling the door behind him open. A hooded figure stood in the hallway, just outside the apartment, holding a handgun, with a knife tucked into his waistband.
"Shit," Neal said, slamming the door quickly. A gunshot echoed, punching through the door where Neal's head had been only seconds before. He slammed the deadbolt into place before the figure could push the door open.
Ava pulled him into the living room as another shot came through the door. "I take it that's not the FBI," she said, rifling through a cabinet next to her couch.
"Not unless knives have become standard issue for the Bureau," answered Neal, flinching as the shots turned to fists hammering on the door. Ava grabbed a hold of a cardboard box in the cabinet, and then her own gun.
"Keep these safe," she ordered, "That's extra ammo, although I'm praying we won't have to use it."
Neal shoved the box into his pocket and Ava slowly made her way back to the door. The pounding had stopped, replaced by a faint scratching.
"Ava, get away from the door," Neal warned softly. He knew the sound of a lock-pick better than anyone.
"My phone's in the closet," she answered, "I need to-" She was cut off as the door burst inwards. The hooded figure charged through the door, this time raising the knife. Neal grabbed Ava's arm and pulled her to the side, just out of figure's path.
The person turned, and Neal could just make out a man's face, but he could not recognize him. Ava, on the other hand, gasped and muttered a name that Neal could not hear. She shook her head hard, as if to wipe away the surprise and pulled herself out of Neal's grasp. The figure turned, and attempted to lung, but Ava caught him by the arm and twisted him onto the ground. Neal winced, knowing that for being barely over five foot, Ava could pack quite a punch if she wanted to.
"Neal, grab me a pair of handcuffs," she said, pointing to her purse on the island.
Neal quickly grabbed the cuffs and tossed them to Ava who pulled the man's arms behind his back viciously. She stood up as soon as he was cuffed, and her foot twitched like she would want nothing more than to kick the man in the face.
"Officer Hannigan," the voice was muffled by the carpet, but Neal could still hear the disdain. "What a pleasure."
"Shut up," Ava spat. She walked slowly towards the door again, making sure to keep an eye on the man. Without looking, she pulled open the closet doors, reached in, and pulled out her cell phone. To Neal, she said, "We call this in and we give him to the FBI. I would bet a year's pay that this is the guy who attacked Peter."
Damien stumbled along the road, stopping every few minutes to catch his breath. As he had predicted, he was spotted with burns that were excruciating. Several times he had considered falling down and not getting up, if only to escape the pain.
A few cars had passed, but none had stopped, and Damien had not wanted to waste precious energy trying to flag one down. No one in their right mind would stop for a man covered in burns and dirt, they'd call the police. And if the police found him, then the men who had kept him captive might too.
The next time he stopped, Damien pulled out one of the pieces of paper he had managed to grab before escaping the fire. The addresses of several police officers and federal agents were printed on the paper, along with phone numbers. Damien needed to find these people, to warn them. He didn't know why his former captors wanted them, but he did know that whatever happened, he was responsible for it. That thought kept him going, pushed him closer to the city lights in the distance.
Ava was interrupted by a knock on the battered door behind her. She nearly dropped her phone in surprise, but when she turned around she saw that it was her neighbor. The elderly woman peered through the doorframe cautiously; taking one look at the man handcuffed on the floor, and let out a small scream.
"Mrs. Jackson-" Ava started, but the woman had already fled from the doorway. "Shit!" She threw the phone into her pocket and raced out into the hallway, where Mrs. Jackson was slamming the door into her apartment.
Neal appeared behind her. "You should probably talk to someone before she calls the police. You know, before some uniforms show up to arrest you for the handcuffs. And the gun. And the shooting."
Ava groaned, and reached into her pocket for her cell phone. A crash, followed by screeching tires, came from the living room. Neal and Ava raced into the apartment to find a shattered window and no hooded man.
"Oh my-" Ava trailed off, "That's-that's not good."
Outside, two officers watched as a man took a swan dive out of someone's third story apartment and seconds later two figures appeared in the window.
"Dispatch, we have a possible 240, looks like a man thrown out of a window. Two possible assailants. Need an ambulance and back-up."
A/N- Sorry for the bad ending, I pretty much ran out of ideas but really wanted to get this finished. I hope you enjoyed this update, and once again I'm sorry for the delay. Senior year has turned out to be the hell that everyone promised and more. I apologize for any inconsistencies, and please let me know of any that you find so I can at least fix them :) I promise more characters in the next chapters, Elizabeth and the others will be back!
Also, compgal brought this to my attention for the first time a few months ago, apparently the symbols I had been using to break up scenes were not transferred from word to fanfiction, so I apologize for the run on scenes in earlier chapters and stories. I tried to fix them, but for some reason it didn't take.
I hope that everyone had Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!