Neal felt the bullet enter his chest as he pushed Peter out of the way. There was a burning pain, his breath coming in panting breaths as he collapsed to the side of the pier and rolled off the edge. He heard someone cry out as he fell into empty space and hit the water. It felt like he hit something hard but he didn't care, his mind already falling into a hazy darkness as the water swallowed him up.
Neal woke up with a start, looking up and around as his eyes opened and focused on his surroundings. He found himself in the Taurus, looking out the window. Peter was tapping on the glass looking at him curiously.
"Neal, you coming?" Peter was staring at him as Neal nodded groggily and opened up the door. He closed the door behind him, leaning on the vehicle a moment, his eyes blinking at the bright sunlight as he started to wake up. He'd been dreaming. Not sure why but he had been having quite a few nightmares lately, mostly about himself dying in the midst of saving Peter. Someone squeezed his shoulder gently.
"Come on. I promised El we wouldn't be late." Peter was still looking at him curiously but Neal just pushed on his usual facade and nodded, dropping his sunglasses over his eyes and walking in step with his partner. They were entering a small bistro on the corner near the park. El had won a large client for her business with Neal's help and wanted to celebrate with lunch.
"Hmmm... does this place seem a bit too quiet for you?" Peter was looking inside the glass doors, seeing nobody inside not even Elizabeth. There were plates, cups and glasses on the tables as if someone had been there and then left, food and drinks barely touched on some of the dishes. Peter didn't open the door, looking back at Neal who looked a bit concerned himself.
"Maybe they had a fire drill? Should I sneak around back?" Neal had already started to move in that direction as Peter pushed the door to the bistro open, cell in walkie-talkie mode as was Neal's. Peter had his gun at the ready as he watched Neal disappear around the corner into the alleyway. Neal had barely turned the corner when he heard Elizabeth's voice.
"Please let me go!" Her voice was plaintive and full of fear, the sound of a slap against skin. Neal ducked behind a dumpster as the figures stepped out of the backdoor of the bistro. There were three men with semi-automatics, dressed in black with masks. One of them had a firm grasp on El's arm, her eyes wide in terror, several other women also being led towards a plain white van with tinted windows. Neal made a mental note of the vehicle plates when he heard footsteps behind him.
"What have we here?" Another masked man had popped up behind him. Neal had no time to react before the butt of a rifle hit him on the back of the head.
Peter had ducked into the front of the bistro, walking cautiously around the empty restaurant. He saw cells, bags and other items left behind at all the tables. He recognized one purse as his wife's and knew something had to be wrong. Her cell was still inside. Peter noticed something on the darkened screen as he held it. It was a blurry picture of two men in black with masks and guns. Dammit, he thought but took the phone with him. He moved to the back of the restaurant and thought he heard voices, ducking behind an open door.
"Are you sure we'll get some ransom for these women?" The voice sounded young, inexperienced.
"Of course! Everyone here has been staked out beforehand. Go back and grab up the purses and cells. We need to identify everyone so we can contact their families." Peter ducked back against the wall as he heard footsteps nearing. He saw a man move past dressed in black with a mask, a semi-automatic over his shoulder. He followed the man and held his gun on him once they were alone.
"Slowly now, hand me your weapon." Peter took the rifle from the man, slung it over his shoulder and cuffed him. He pushed a rag into the man's mouth when he started to make noise, locking him in a storage closet. Peter texted Neal but there was no reply. He contacted Jones next as he ducked behind a small bar.
"Jones, FBI." Jones' voice was no nonsense till Peter replied, his voice a hushed whisper.
"It's Burke. I need backup. Some men took over a bistro I was supposed to meet Elizabeth at. I think they took her, the rest of the staff and clientele hostage. I managed to catch one guy and disarm him but Neal went around back and I lost contact." Peter heard Jones move in the background.
"Right away boss. What's the address?"
(Fifteen minutes earlier...)
Elizabeth Burke glanced at her watch as she sat at a booth and waited for her husband, Peter and his partner Neal Caffrey to show up for lunch. She had come early to make sure they would have a good seat. For once the bistro wasn't packed but she had chosen it to celebrate the client she had snagged due to Neal's help. It was a little French cafe the young man often spoke of with great regard so she figured bringing him here would be a nice gesture.
"May I get you something to drink, ma'am?" A waiter walked up and smiled at her, his blond hair cut short, sparkling green eyes looking right at her. She smiled back.
"Just some water for now. I'm waiting for two more people." The waiter nodded and left. El pulled her cell out, texting Peter when it happened.
"EVERYONE DOWN ON THE FLOOR NOW!"
Elizabeth started, looking around and seeing several men in black pop out of nowhere. She stopped her text message and immediately took a pic before they saw her and she froze, dropping the cell back into her bag. One of the men approached her and a few other women near her, ordering them to stand up and follow them. She resisted, grabbing at her purse but the man waved a rifle in her face and she let go of her bag as she was dragged away.
"Please let me go!" El called out as she saw herself being forced towards a white van with several other women. She was resisting ever so slightly, the man holding her arm slapping her hard, lifting her up and throwing her inside the vehicle. She turned and glared at him, hand on her cheek where it stung. The man in the mask was tall, wearing dark fatigues with an automatic rifle slung over his shoulder. He smiled at her coldly, his brown eyes flickering with some unknown intent. He started to close the door when someone called out.
"We have another one. Tie him up and throw him inside." The brown-eyed assailant nodded, taking a slumped figure that looked vaguely familiar to El. She craned her neck for a better look, eyes widening. It was Neal. That meant Peter was nearby. Her heart stopped a moment but she didn't see her husband anywhere. She watched as the masked men tied the unconscious Neal securely before tossing him inside the van, the door slammed shut.
"Neal? Neal!" She nudged the young man with an urgent hissing but Neal didn't move. She saw the egg-sized lump on the back of his head and winced, untying his arms before she lay his head gently on her lap. The other women were whimpering slightly, huddled in groups in the van watching her. El wanted to be afraid... she was afraid but Neal was hurt. She had to be strong till Peter found them. She removed her jacket and rolled it up under Neal's head, brushing a strand of hair from his forehead.
Peter remained ducked behind the bar, stiffening when he heard footsteps approaching from the back. He saw another man in black with a mask walking into the main bistro area. Where are you Neal?
The man peered around with a quiet curse, walking around without seeing Peter as he collected purses, bags and other possessions. Peter tiptoed up to the figure and held the rifle to his head.
"Hand your weapon over slowly." Peter's voice was a growl, his worry for his wife evident as he took the rifle. He had the man lead him to the back to another storage closet.
"How many?" Peter poked the man who coughed nervously.
"Three. What did you do with Tommy?" The man sounded young voice similar to the one he had cuffed. Peter opened up the closet and locked him inside. He had to get one more and find El and Neal. Where was Jones?
"Are they secured?" A man's voice, low and husky was speaking. Peter listened.
"Yes, and the other one you added. Not sure where Tommy and John are. Should I go look for them?" The second voice was more alto, melodic for a guy's voice. The voice made Peter think of Neal's although less friendly. This man sounded cold.
"No, just take the van and I'll get them."
Peter can just make out a white van in the background, a faint outline under the bad paint job that appears to say: Florist.
He sees the man with the softer voice leave towards the van out of sight, the van taking off. The one with the huskier voice is heading towards him. Peter ducks out of the way, turning when he hears vehicles outside. He sees a familiar car and realizes it's Jones, relief washing over him.
"FBI! PUT YOUR WEAPON DOWN!" Peter yells out as he hears the rest of his crew come in. The man in black freezes, starting to step back when Peter comes out with his own gun. Jones hurries up alongside him.
"PUT YOUR WEAPON DOWN!" Jones' voice is clear as he moves along side Peter, weapon raised.
"Jones! They just left with the hostages in a white van. The word Florist is faded on one side under the paint." Peter watches the masked man put his rifle down and move forward, hands behind head. Jones and Peter both move in, Jones cuffing him. Peter shows him the other two in the closet.
Neal woke up with a splitting headache, his ears ringing with a beat all their own along with his temples. He tried to sit up but someone held him down gently. He peered up to see a blurry figure.
"El? Where..." He winced, slumping back to the floor of the van as it bumped and rocked. He could hear sirens in the background. His eyes moved around and saw other blurry figures cowering in the corner. He gazed up with glassy eyes at El.
"Relax, Neal. Where's Peter?" She brushed at his hair gently, the young man relaxing as he spoke again, voice hoarse.
"Front... phone's in my pocket." He was fading away again, blue eyes rolling back into his head. El shook him gently.
"Neal? Stay with me... Neal?" She sighed, pulling the phone from his pocket and then remembering something else. She reached down to pull at his left pant leg. The tracker was there. Peter would definitely find them. She pulled the pant down again and made a quick dial on the phone. It rang a few times then someone answered.
"Burke. Where are you, Neal?" Peter sounded upset and there were sounds of sirens and voices in the background. El finally gave into her fears as she heard her husband's voice.
"Pe... ter?" Her voice squeaked, emotion overcoming her. She heard a loud intake of air on the other side.
"El, where are you? Where's Neal? Are you ok?" He sounded worried, movement in the background. She looked down at Neal and felt her eyes watering.
"We're... in the back of a white van. There are some other women who were kidnapped too. Neal's hurt, Peter." She's still holding her voice steady but it's cracking slightly with emotion as she starts to let go of her courage. She can hear the sirens nearby and apparently Peter can too.
"Just hold on, El. How badly is Neal hurt? Is anyone else hurt?" He's gone into FBI mode but she can hear the fear in his voice; his concern. She answers him, trying to remain calm.
"Neal has a large bump on the back of his head. Otherwise, he's ok. He woke up for a moment but he's unconscious again. Honey, I'm so scared!" She's crying again, clinging to the phone with one hand and Neal's hand with the other. She feels the young man squeeze back and gasps in relief. He doesn't move otherwise but he is holding her hand.
"El? What's wrong?" He had heard her gasp and she shook her head.
"Nothing. Neal squeezed my hand but he's still unconscious. Hurry Honey. Please!"