The Hunted
=========

(Saturday)

Neal Caffrey woke to an annoying buzzing sound. He reached out from under the covers and hit the snooze button but that didn't stop it. He felt outside the warmth of his duvet, feeling atop the nightstand till he found his cell phone and pulled it underneath the covers. There was a beep as he answered it.

"Peter... it's Saturday." Neal's voice sounded sleepy if not a bit testy.

"Sorry Neal but work calls. Meet me out front in about an hour. I'll explain what's going on." Peter's voice was a bit sleepy as well, Neal grunting in reply as he hung up and pushed his head out from under the covers. It was 7 am. Neal cursed slightly, pulling the blankets aside as he replaced his cell on the nightstand and sat up. He yawned and stretched, running a hand through his hair before pushing himself to his feet and standing.

"What kind of work calls a man out of bed at 7 am on a Saturday?" Neal mumbled as he entered the bathroom and started his shower.

()()()

Peter was good to his word being out front when Neal strode downstairs and out to the Taurus. He heard the pop of the lock and opened the door, slipping inside the car. He had a paper cup of coffee in one hand and a small silver looking thermos in the other. He passed the latter to Peter.

"Compliments of June. She gave me a funny look when I came down fully dressed so early." He took another sip of his coffee, Peter opening up the thermos for his own taste of ambrosia, then continued.

"So what is this work related assignment that requires us do double duty on Saturday?" Neal leaned back in the seat and slumped sleepily, fedora pushed over his sun-glassed eyes. Peter grunted till he had sipped some of the coffee and smiled slightly.

"Undercover assignment. We get to go camping and hunting." Peter shrugged, pulling the Taurus into the FBI lot and parking in his spot. Neal made a face.

"Outdoorsy stuff? I don't think I'm going to like this assignment." His voice had a slight petulant tone to it like a child who just found out he was being sent to military camp. Peter grinned again as they exited the vehicle and walked over to the elevator.

"It will be fun. We can bond. Do guy stuff. Get some fresh air out of the city." Peter held the door as Neal walked inside and he followed, pushing the floor for the FBI offices. Neal glanced at the agent with an unhappy look.

"There are animals out there... bugs... mosquitoes. I'm not fond of any of those things beyond domesticated pets." Neal leaned back against the elevator railing, fedora flipped down over his eyes. Peter pushed the hat up and peered at the young man.

"Cowboy up, Neal. I'm not much for camping either but if it's necessary..." The elevator chimed, interrupting Peter and they exited the car and walked through the glass doors into the main lobby. It was empty except for a few people including Jones. Neal stopped off at his desk by the door and dropped off his hat and grabbed up a small notepad and pen before following Peter upstairs to his office where Hughes was waiting outside. The older agent and head of the department smiled at the two men.

"Good to see you both. Shall we get down to business?" Hughes sounded a little less chipper than usual which made his usual grouchy self sound grouchier. Everyone followed him, including Jones who came trotting up a few minutes later. The four of them filed into the conference room and sat down. Hughes passed out folders to everyone, Neal immediately twirling his boredly. Hughes glanced at him with a disapproving look before continuing.

"This is going to be an undercover case for Burke and Caffrey. You are going to pose as a couple of hunters. A man was killed for insider information but the authorities think it was an accidental shooting since it was during a hunting expedition at the lodge mentioned inside the folder." Hughes glanced at the three agents who all began to open their folders, even Neal. Hughes smiled.

"I especially want Caffrey to be involved with this assignment for reasons you'll see once you read the full case file." Hughes stern look made the young con gulp slightly, Neal reading the folder and blinking. He looked up at Hughes after he had sifted through the file and saw the agent smiling broadly at him. Neal grinned back with a look of surprise.

"Wow... I can see why you want me to do this. I think I'm going to like 'roughing' it." He gazed at Peter who was rolling his eyes and smirking back sarcastically. Peter coughed, flipping to one page and looking up at Hughes.

"So this is a hunting lodge full of rich men and those of influence out to brag and pretend to rough it. What exactly is the content of the insider info that was stolen? What are we looking for?" Peter flipped through the folder and pulled out a picture of the victim, one Terrance T Mortimeyer, III. He had been tortured and subsequently hunted down and shot dead according to forensics. The idea of what happened to Mr. Mortimeyer made Peter wince and turn the page to read the rest of the data. Neal looked at his partner curiously.

"It was stock information about the man's business. He worked for a major pharmaceutical company." Hughes replied, continuing.

"There have been two other cases of the same kind of incident but nothing could be proved. In both instances, it appeared the person died of exposure or had been attacked or mauled by an animal. This is the first that involved a gun and a supposed accidental shooting. That's why we're getting involved." Hughes sounded adamant all the agents nodding.

"Neal, you know this kind of environment. I want you to help pick out provisions under Peter's supervision. Jones, you'll serve as backup, behind the scenes."

()()()

(The following Wednesday)

Neal woke up in a cold sweat, his arms aching from where he hung from the rafters above. His feet barely touched the floor, also bound and spread enough he couldn't get comfortable. He swallowed despite the rag stuffed in his mouth, and tape pulled over his lips. Neal turned his head and saw Peter in the same condition hanging from the rafters near him, a large red stain on his white polo shirt. The agent didn't move, face pale, eyes sunken looking as Neal tried to make noise to get his attention. Peter's face twitched slightly after a moment but that was it. Neal could see no other reaction as he hung there, arms aching, hands numb from the wiry cord holding him in place. He gave a quick look around as much as he could, seeing the wooden logs of the cabin they were tied up in. The cabin was mostly bare except for one boarded window, an empty hearth, and a door across the room that was currently closed. The room was freezing, Neal's eyes returning to the hearth as he wished it was filled with a warm glow.

The cabin door swung open at some point, three men entering the cabin with masks. One of them saw Neal was awake and smiled. Neal shivered at the grin, knowing nothing good could come from it. He gave a muffled protest as the man approached, taser in hand. He cut the young man's shirt open and started to push the taser against his bare skin. Neal squirmed and thrashed, a muffled groan of agony coming from his throat. He turned despite the pain as the other two men approached Peter's unconscious form.

"Awwww... he's concerned for his friend. You should worry about yourself, Mr. Halden. You're about to become a part of the hunt. You'll feel the thrill of the prey; feel the terror as your heart races and your mind darts like the deer being pursued." The man's voice was cruel and dark, Neal blinking at him as he thought about the sickness in this man's mind. The man just smiled at him and tased him once again, Neal slumping more against his bonds. He was only vaguely aware of the other two men pulling Peter from the rafters and dragging him outside, his blue eyes following the scene.

"He'll be safe till we finish with you and send you both out into the field. Your secrets will be ours and you'll be free to be pursued by the hunter. It will be glorious!" The man raised Neal's face to his, his hand holding the young man's chin. Neal stared into those dark green eyes and made a muffled protest, glaring back. The man smiled.

"You just don't know when to give in, do you? I hate you Ivy League types. Think everyone owes you something." The man pulled out a syringe and Neal watched with wide-eyes as liquid squirted out of it.

"I should leave the bubbles, quicker that way but not as effective for talking."

()()()

(The previous Sunday)

Neal had helped Peter find some adequate items, clothing and gun-wise in the evidence room with them going to a local shop to buy a few extra 'provisions' necessary to fit in. Neal felt right at home with the rich man's hunting lodge kind of vibe while Peter was wishing it was more of a roughing it sort of deal. In the end, they tried on their wares and looked about as authentic as possible. Neal was going to use his Nick Halden persona while Peter had one in his repertoire by the name of Jared Simkins. Neal and Peter went to a local etiquette specialist mostly for Peter's sake but Neal had to go as support. They both passed with flying colors so they would fit into the upper echelon as they made their way through the case.

Monday was the big day, a Mercedes borrowed from evidence brought in so Peter and Neal would look like the real deal. Jones would not be joining them but he would be nearby listening in through a wire with a few other agents as backup in case anything happened. Neal's anklet was removed but they both had micro-buttons on their collars that matched enough to not be seen should they need to be tracked.

They showed up at the lodge near the Hamptons, lots of large foreign cars and limos in their wake. They were not the only invited hunters on the list apparently. Neal popped out of the Mercedes wearing a pair of dark corduroy slacks over black leather boots like you wear for hiking. He wore a tan sweater tucked in with a dark oil skin hunter's jacket over it all. He had a small carry all satchel slung over his left shoulder and walked around to help Peter unload.

Peter was whispering to him as they looked furtively around and took stuff out of the trunk.

"It's like a parade of you! No wonder Hughes wanted you to come along." He grinned at his friend who just smirked back.

"See, and you say I look like a cartoon. Shows you not to throw stones." He stuck out his tongue, the agent giving a mock look of disappointment when they heard a cough from near by.

"Hello! You must be Mr. Simkins and Mr. Halden, correct?" The man that spoke was dressed in the traditional English riding wear as if he stepped out of an old portrait. He couldn't be much older than Neal but he was distinguished looking with a slight accent. Peter nodded with a smile trying to act aloof, watching Neal who just stood and leaned back against the car bumper and looked the man over.

"Yes, we are. Jared Simkins, Moriegan Tech. This is my colleague, Nick Halden. You are?" Peter held out his hand, the man taking it with a jaunty shake that made the agent want to grin. Neal held out his hand as he stood up from the vehicle and smiled in his own aloof manner.

"Darryl Oppmeier, Lodge President and CIO of Oppmeier, Ltd. It's so nice to finally meet you. You came highly recommended for this group. I'm so sorry to hear of your divorce." Oppmeier seemed sincerely concerned, Neal hiding his smirk as Peter remembered his comment about what the Mercedes represented.

"Yes, she couldn't take my working till all hours and traveling. I recently returned from Safari. Fantastic atmosphere!" Peter saw Neal hide more of a grin as he picked up some items and started to carry them, Oppmeier calling a valet to help them.

"You didn't bring your own valets? Most of the lodge members have their own people." He was looking at them oddly now, Peter smiling with a shrug.

"We wanted to rough it just this once. Get some privacy from the staff and work. What better way than hunting?"

()()()

Once settled in their room and the valets had left, Neal smiled as he watched Peter let loose from the snobby facade they had put on and lay back on his bed and sighed.

"I feel like I just hurt myself smiling so damn much. And the lying... wow. I don't know how you keep up with it all, Neal. I can barely remember my own name much less all these rules of etiquette. I take back anything I said about your life being easy." He turned and saw Neal smiling back at him.

"See, conning isn't all the elementary school pranks you make it out to be." He grinned, flipping off his shoes and laying back on the bed with his fedora over his face. Peter watched him a moment before easing back against his own pillows and passing out.

When Peter woke up some time later, he turned to speak to Neal but found the young man gone. He checked the suite which was luxuriously huge and found no sign of his partner anywhere. He started to worry maybe Neal had gotten himself into some trouble when he heard a key in the lock and the door opened. Neal stood there with a tray of food in his hand, easing into the room backwards and letting the door close on its own.

"Hey, Jared... I brought you some snacks. They were having a little poker match. I cleaned up." Neal smiled, flashing a few bills as he placed the tray on the nightstand between their two beds. Peter frowned slightly.

"I hope you did it legally." His voice was somewhat chiding as he looked over the scrumptious tray of food Neal had brought back for him. He wasn't sure where to start first and he was hungry. Neal sighed, flopping back onto the bed.

"You can't just be positive about it. Besides, I got some nice dirt on people as we played. It was rather useful." He flipped the bills noisily before pushing them back into his pocket and turning his head to look at Peter who had started picking at the food.

"So what kind of dirt did you get?" Peter's voice was slightly muffled as he took small bites of this and that from the tray. Neal grinned turning to his side and facing the agent.

"Well, I found out Mr. Oppmeier has three mistresses... The man next to us to the right has a habit of embezzling from his company 401K fund. His name is Antony Donviel of Donviel Automotive." Peter nodded as he continued to eat, listening and taking mental notes.

"Good work, Nick. So... anything on the people involved with Mr. Mortimeyer's death? I know there were eyewitnesses and people of interest. Donviel being one of them. There were two others... I'm trying to think what their names were." Peter stopped his food fest a moment as his face became thoughtful, interrupted by Neal's recitation.

"Alfred Donne and Murray Heath. They're business partners in a joint venture something like Virgin Airlines but on a smaller scale. New money." He reached over and grabbed a cracker with what appeared to be caviar on it. Peter had been avoiding it but Neal ate it up.

"Right... right... The company was called Serif, I think. Both men like to travel and especially hunt on safari and wherever they can find a place to shoot. They sound like the perfect suspects." Peter wiped at his mouth with a napkin, taking a sip of water. He was still thinking about something. Neal stared at the agent and smiled.

"So, what's the plan? Donne and Heath are down the hall on the next parallel corridor and Oppmeier is in one of the front suites near the entrance since he's President of the Lodge. I could do a little unofficial digging..." He saw the look on Peter's face.

"Don't even think about it, Nick. We've only just gotten here and we can't afford to screw up this quickly. Jones is nearby as backup but not sure how fast he can make it if we mess up so soon. Understand?" Peter glared at Neal who finally just held up his hands in surrender and nodded.

"Ok ok... I won't do anything unofficial but if they invite me in... well that's another story." He left it at that, his manner playful, Peter just sighing at his partner.