Satchmo stopped at a corner not too far from the house and just behind their street. He was sniffing around curiously and that's when they found them. June watched El reach down and pick up two cell phones, one of which she recognized as her husband's. They had been shoved into a small planter on the side of the street, Satchmo's keen sense of smell recognizing Peter's scent and Neal's. She scratched the dog behind the ears and smiled.
"Good boy! June, what does this mean? If their cells are here, something must have happened to them." El looked around for more evidence, her manner turning frantic when June hugged her gently, her own expression that of worry.
"Call the FBI. They need to know their agent is missing, don't they?" June's voice was reasonable making El feel so much more calm as she used Peter's phone to dial up Jones.
Jones met the two women at the Burke's home and they walked him to the scene of the crime where they found the phones hidden. He looked around seeing skid marks on the road that were fairly fresh and indicated a car had pulled up quickly and parked. Possibly they were dragged into a van or other vehicle he figured. Jones called into the office and asked for backup wondering who would have taken Peter and Neal.
"Jones... there's a strange message on Neal's phone." El had been looking at the cell curiously and handed it over to the agent. He glanced over it and then blinked.
"Looks like we know who pulled this off. Good work, Mrs. Burke. Are you sure you wouldn't want to consult on cases with your husband at work?" He grinned at her and she shook her head.
"No thanks. I get enough excitement with my current job. I don't need to add guns, kidnapping and intrigue. Besides, he has Neal for that."
Neal heard the rattle of the handcuffs and the chain around his ankle. They filled the metallic vat with an eerie echoing sound that made his skin crawl. He felt around as much as he could with the cuffs till he managed to loosen the right one and freed himself. Piece of cake! He felt around his ankle for the manacle, already feeling a good couple of inches of water and then some filling the tank and growing. The water was cold, bringing back memories of the past week when he had to tread water with Peter. At least this time he was alone. He could do what needed to get done and get out and hopefully Antonio would actually keep his word though he had a feeling something was up with the man.
It took Neal a few minutes longer with the anklet but he finally got it free. By then he was sitting up to his waist in water and freezing, his hands numbing as he submerged them to free himself of the manacle. He stood up shakily and started to walk through the nearly knee deep water slowly, carefully feeling around the walls for an opening. He found the main hatch and grabbed hold of the wheel. It was jammed shut no matter what he did to pull it loose. He cursed realizing the man had lied to him. Figured. He heard laughter.
"No, Caffrey. I didn't lie to you. There is an escape hatch. Think back to your previous adventures here." Neal felt the water rising up to his thighs, the cold chilling him as he realized the catch. He had to wait for the tank to fill up and ride it to the top where the hatch was. He tried to remember the other tank and what relation the escape hatch had been to the one below. He turned as an odd sound attracted his attention. Neal sloshed away from the main door and towards the sound of what he thought sounded like someone blowing bubbles through a straw. His feet bumped something and that's when he felt around.
Neal felt a shoulder and someone sitting on the floor nearly submerged by the water, their head just barely above it. That was the sound he heard. They were breathing through their nose, the water starting to get high enough to cover their head. He started to feel around more and felt tape over their lips and removed it along with a rag.
"Neal..." Peter's voice was just audible enough over the sound of the water filling the tank. The young man knelt in the water beside the man, feeling around to see what was holding him down.
"Peter? I didn't know. They told me I was alone. Dammit... hold on and I'll have you free in a moment." Neal felt around in the cold water at the chains and manacles that held his friend and started to pick at the locks. The water was absolutely freezing and without his sight, he just had his sense of touch to go by which was slowly fading as his fingers went numb and the water got deeper.
"Neal..." Peter's voice gurgled some as he spit out water, his head barely afloat from the sound of it. Neal was feeling panic but he kept on, ducking under to work on the manacles around Peter's ankles as he was able to. Finally he felt them give and he rose to the surface pulling Peter up with him. He was relieved to hear a coughing, sputtering sound beside him, his hand holding on to the man tightly.
"Keep talking to me Peter. Let me know where the hatch is so I can pick it." Neal bobbed in the water feeling Peter treading water beside him as he held onto the agent's sleeve. He heard his friend moving around slightly.
"I can't see anything. It's pitch black in here, Neal." Peter's voice was slightly panicked as Neal realized the game Antonio had started. Neal pulled at Peter's sleeve and tried to swim towards one side of the tank hoping to feel around till they found the door.
"Peter, I hit the wall. Just feel around till you feel the ladder below or the hatch and I'll do the same. We'll meet on the other side. Ok?" Neal felt the man nudge him in response, both of them becoming too cold to speak much.
Jones showed the text message from Neal's phone to Hughes. It was an old text but it had been scrolled to recently indicating Antonio Brazias had been involved with whatever was going on.
"He's a creature of habit. He probably took them back to the desalinization plant. Take plenty of backup with you Jones. I want this man and I want Burke and Caffrey back safely!" Hughes voice was adamant, smiling fiercely at the agent who nodded.
Neal and Peter kept moving around still close to one another and feeling for the ladder leading to the hatch. Nothing. Finally Neal let go of Peter's sleeve, the agent reaching out blindly in the dark for him.
"Neal?" His voice sounded worried but Neal answered back.
"I'm ok. I'm going to dive under and see if I can find the hatch below. If I can then I'll come up where it's at and the escape hatch should be opposite it from what I recall of the other tank. They should both be the same." Neal felt Peter's hand squeezing his shoulder.
"Just be careful." Peter's voice was full of concern, Neal reaching back to briefly squeeze the agent's shoulder in return before he took a deep breath and dived under. He could feel a slight sting of the salt water against his skin and eyes even though he had his eyes shut. It seemed a long time before he touched bottom and started to feel around for the hatch. He felt along the wall till he found the wheel and smiled to himself. Neal turned to rise up when he felt something tug at his sleeve. It was stuck on the wheel. He pulled at it but it wasn't coming loose, trapping him there. He was already low on air but now he felt panic as he yanked at the sleeve but nothing happened. Finally he thought he heard a slight rip of fabric but he was already taking in water, the last few bubbles of air escaping his nose. He thought about Peter a moment and Kate... he hoped the agent would make it out. He didn't want El to lose Peter.
Peter listened as the water filled the space more and more, the air thinning ever so slightly. He listened to Neal as bubbles of air escaped time and time again indicating his progress below. He worried about the young man but tried to concentrate on keeping warm and conscious as he floated in the darkness.
Peter had began to count off slowly as the young man dived under.
One one thousand... Two two thousand... Three three thousand...
Thirty seconds passed and Neal was still underneath the water.
Forty seconds passed and Neal still hadn't come back to the surface. Finally sixty whole seconds had passed and Neal hadn't risen. Peter was worried, taking a deep breath of his own and diving underneath the surface. He wasn't sure how deep the water was but the tank was a good story inside so it had be maybe 20 feet at worse. He had dived deeper on a snorkeling trip once but the water had been warmer than this. His lungs were aching despite having enough air. He hit the bottom after what seemed forever and started to feel around.
He had his eyes shut, not that it was light enough for him to see had they been open but the darkness made it that much harder to find Neal. Finally he bumped something when he thought he couldn't hold his breath anymore. It was Neal but he seemed snagged on something. He felt around quickly and found the young man's sleeve had caught on the wheel for the hatch. He pulled it free and quickly kicked up to the surface.
"Neal? Neal wake up!" He nudged the young man but he didn't move. Peter didn't feel any breath when he pushed the young man's face near his ear. He slapped at the young man's face but there was no response, his skin cold. Peter held the young man out of the water and he swam across and finally found the ladder. He had remembered that Neal told him it should be right across and over the original hatch. He couldn't climb carrying Neal so he pulled off his belt and made a sling to hold the young man against him.
Peter slowly pulled himself up the few steps of the ladder to a small ledge and felt around for the door. It was there! He found the wheel and started to turn it when it moved from the outside. Someone was already opening it up, he hoped. He heard the squeak of the wheel and then a clang as something was pulled and yanked back, light suddenly flooding the darkened space. Peter closed his eyes against the painful glare finally opening them a crack to see a shadowy form there.
"Peter? Thank goodness! HEY I need help over here!" Jones' voice was heaven sent if nothing else as he helped pull the agent and Neal up and out of the dark water tank. Peter loosened his belt that had held Neal to him and felt someone pull them apart.
"He's not breathing, Jones..." Peter coughed and sputtered the words out as he lay shivering on the catwalk outside the tank. He saw Jones nod and one of the agents began CPR on Neal. Peter tried to sit up but his body was exhausted and numb from the icy temps and treading water. He prayed Neal was ok as Jones threw his jacket over him.
"Come on Neal... breathe." He muttered to himself quietly. Finally he heard a gurgling sound and pushed himself to his elbows and saw the young man shudder, rolling over to his side and coughing up more salt water than he thought was possible. The agent who had performed CPR slapped the young man on the back and threw his own jacket over Neal as he began to shiver. Peter crawled towards Neal and sat down beside him, one hand brushing a wet curly strand of hair from the young man's face. Neal opened his eyes and looked up at him.
"Hey, you were right about the hatch." Peter smiled down at the young man who was blinking and looking up at him silently.
Neal felt cold... the darkness had finally swallowed not only his sight and warmth but everything. He was numb. He counted the seconds in his mind despite feeling nothing at all till something brought him back and he coughed and sputtered and felt himself shivering, eyes closed. Someone touched his forehead, a cool hand that felt pruned from being in the water for too long. He opened his eyes and blinked as he heard a familiar voice.
"Hey, you were right about the hatch." Peter was speaking but what he saw was strange. It was technically Peter only everything was still black. Peter's face was an odd array of lines as if the man had been reduced to nothing more than a line drawing lacking color and depth. Neal blinked again trying to process what he was seeing and slowly more lines appeared as he moved his eyes around. He saw Jones and other people but again, they were merely lines moving and without depth or color. It was a strange vision as things turned from line to something akin to a moving blueprint or wireframe, white lines on a deep bluish black background and then slowly to a sepia color where depth returned and everything and everyone looked nearly normal again. Neal blinked once more and he could see the brown of Peter's eyes, the yellow of the FBI letters on the black jacket and the green of his shirt. He smiled up at his friend.
"It's good to see you again." Neal rasped, his voice hoarse from all the salt water he took in. He saw Peter blink back at him then smile broadly.
"You too, partner." Peter took Neal's hand in his and they waited for the paramedics to come.
Peter and Neal were taken to the ER where Elizabeth and June met up with them along with Dr. Manon. Once the hospital staff had deemed both men well enough to go home, Dr. Manon pulled Neal aside and checked his eyes one last time.
"Your vision finally came back. How do your eyes feel?" Dr. Manon had rinsed Neal's eyes of the salt water that had been there and dilated his eyes to further check the young man's eyes.
"Other than stinging from the cold and salt water, good." Neal looked at the man before him, a tall swarthy fellow with bright green eyes and curly salt and pepper hair. He looked nothing like the way he had imagined him although the accent remained that made him think of Riverboats and the Mississippi River.
"Well I don't see anything wrong with your eyes. Everything looks normal. There's no damage. I can't explain how you were blind for so long or why but your explanation of what you saw is interesting. I've never heard such a story." The doctor sounded truly fascinated, looking up and over the young man's shoulder as someone walked into the small examination room. Neal turned and saw a blurry form, his dilated eyes keeping his vision from being as clear as it could be, but he knew it was Peter.
"I bought you some sunglasses. Figured the good doctor would have dilated your eyes." Peter looked a little worse for wear from having been beat up by Antonio's men but the only signs were small bruises, a few scratches and one arm in a sling. He had pulled his shoulder when he lifted Neal up the ladder to the escape hatch but it would heal.
"Thanks." Neal stood and shook hands with the doctor before he followed Peter out. He took the sunglasses from Peter and pushed them over his eyes feeling instant relief from what little glare there was indoors. It was strange seeing again but he found himself looking at little things, everything felt new.
"You're awfully quiet. Feeling ok?" Peter was looking at him curiously, Neal shaking his head.
"I'm ok. Just getting an eyeful." He grinned, Peter rolling his eyes.
"I saw you looking at the nurse..." Peter smirked, walking towards El and June as they saw them in the lobby area. Elizabeth stood and walked over hugging Peter tightly till he winced and she backed off, kissing him gently on his bruised cheek. June stood, following behind El and gently hugged Neal.
"Shall we go home?" June's voice was soft, everyone nodding in agreement.
(two weeks later)
Peter peered into the room when his friend didn't answer. He found Neal out on the terrace looking over the city from the balcony's edge. The young man seemed lost in thought, still in his pajamas, robe wrapped warmly around him.
"Hey..." Peter's voice finally got through to the young man, who moved slightly but didn't turn around.
"I never realized just how blue the sky was this early in the morning." Neal's voice was quiet and thoughtful, finally turning his head and looking at his friend as he ran a hand through his wavy hair.
"Hey Peter. Sorry, I guess I didn't hear the knock. Been thinking about stuff." Neal walked back over to the wrought iron table and sat down, making a motion for Peter to join him. There was the usual spread and of course June's famous Italian roast wafting over to Peter's nose. He smiled and nodded, pulling up a chair.
"It's Saturday, what are you doing here?" Neal had his legs crossed casually, his coffee cup in his hand but he wasn't drinking. He just kept looking around curiously distracted by everything, his blue eyes taking it all in. Peter smiled.
"It's a surprise. Get dressed and I'll meet you downstairs." Peter poured himself a cup of coffee and took it with him, looking back with an expectant look. Neal blinked but nodded, getting up.
20 minutes later Neal was downstairs and dressed in a comfy pair of jeans, a white linen shirt and a black leather vest with a matching jacket over. He wore black socks with brown suede shoes looking good as always. Peter grinned.
"The car's outside." Peter made a flourish, the action making Neal blink again but he started down the hallway, followed by Peter. When they reached the car and had slipped inside, Neal turned and saw Peter hand him a handkerchief.
"What's this for?" He stared at the black piece of cloth and saw Peter looking at him apologetically.
"It's a surprise so... Never mind, I shouldn't have asked..." The agent didn't finish looking flushed as if feeling guilty for asking but Neal shook his head, tying the cloth over his eyes.
"It's ok. I know you wouldn't ask unless it was something important." He felt Peter's hand on his arm squeeze gently and the car start up. It was strange hearing the sounds of the vehicle while he sat in near darkness, only a hint of light underneath where his nose was. He closed his eyes and listened to the sounds trying not to remember the panic he felt those few days he had been blind. After a moment, Neal felt himself calm and doze off.
"Neal, we're here." Peter's voice woke him up from the light sleep he had fallen into. Neal felt a slight panic at the darkness but then saw the hint of light and felt the cloth around his eyes. Someone pulled it off his face and he saw Peter looking at him.
"Sorry, I hope... well..." Peter pointed outside and Neal turned to see where they had parked. He blinked, rubbing his eyes and looking back at his friend.
"This was your surprise? Peter..." Neal opened up the door and stepped outside into the sunlight, pushing on his shades and staring curiously. The agent joined Neal as they walked towards the stairs leading up to the Met. They walked up in silence, Neal seeming a bit less mopey than he had been.
They had just reached the doors when Neal paused and grabbed Peter's arm, pulling him aside behind a pillar. He pulled off his shades and looked at Peter with watery eyes.
"Thanks Peter." Neal hugged him, Peter looking surprised. The young man looked happy, his blue eyes bright. Peter grinned, hugging him back.
"Not a problem. Figured you'd like to see the new exhibit. Right up your alley." Peter blushed slightly, Neal slapping him gently on the arm. Peter oofed sarcastically.
"Isn't that what I usually do?" Peter rubbed his arm as if it really hurt, Neal grinning.
"Yeah but it seems to be opposite day. You bring me to the museum, I slap you on the arm. It's just up my alley." Neal smirked, Peter nodding.
"Come on... let's go inside already. El wants me to give her a full report. She was shocked I was coming to the museum in the first place and without being dragged." Peter started walking towards the front doors, Neal following beside him.
"I'll help you cheat, Peter. If there's anything I'm good at it's... anyhow... If you ever feel like ducking out, I'll tell you what to get from the gift shop so she'll forget about the exhibit." Neal winked, opening the door for Peter who just sighed, giving that look and entered.
"So you think I could con her with just something from the gift shop?" Peter looked hopeful as Neal led him to a nearby cafe inside the museum and they picked up some coffee before they moved out into the main exhibit area.
"I'll help you find something. No worries."