Summary: Alex gets into a bit of trouble in California. Neal's name comes up, and he's called out for questioning. Naturally, Peter comes along to keep an eye on him. Unfortunately for them, when Patrick Jane is involved, all sorts of rules get tossed out the window.
Monday, June 12, 2010
The temperature outside was stifling. Two people, a burly man and a red haired woman, sweated inside a dark blue minivan, sporting rumpled button-down shirts, slacks, and sunglasses.
"I hate stakeouts," the man grumbled as he twisted the air-conditioning knob as high as it would go. The old machine made a choking sound as it vibrated faster, and then with one final wheeze, gave out.
The woman glared at him, and he winced, wondering how she could muster up such a cold stare in such a heated environment. Then she sighed and looked away, cranking down her window in an attempt to let air move through the car. Chagrined, the man followed her example.
It didn't help much.
The man looked out his window at the store they were supposed to be watching. It was an antiques shop, probably catered to the upper middle-class. So far two people had gone in—a harried looking blonde woman carrying a squalling baby, and a middle-aged balding man with round glasses. Neither had come out yet.
His eyes wandered up and down along the street. There was a 7-11 on the corner, next to a used bookstore. Then the antiques shop, which sat next to a public library. Not the kind of places he would go for fun.
He counted cars next—there were only four, aside from the van: a black Jetta, a gold Sienna with a dent in the passenger-side door, a silver Camry, and a dark blue, hybrid Prius.
Then he counted windows, which took a bit longer. Seventeen on his side of the block; he didn't want to stare over at the passenger's side of the block, for fear of irritating his partner.
Another fifty minutes passed, and the man wondered if it was possible to die of boredom. Finally he couldn't take it anymore. "Do you want something to drink? I'm going to grab a soda from that shop across the street."
For a minute, it looked like she was going to ignore him. Then, apparently, she thought better of it and answered, "Bottled water. And a cup of ice."
He swung down out of the fan and slammed the door behind him in relief. His white shirt clung to his sweaty back, but there was a bit of a breeze outside that made it more bearable. He stepped into the 7-11 and exhaled in relief: air conditioning. He spent as long as he could hovering over drinks, and then flipped through a couple magazines as well. It wasn't like he was in a rush to get back to sitting in an overheated van with an uncomfortably icy partner, anyway.
Then he heard a car door slam loudly, and a familiar yell. Someone screamed, and a gun went off. He dropped the water bottle, ignoring the clerk's irritated exclamation, and ran outside just in time to see his partner tackle another woman to the ground.
He jogged over, watching as his partner slapped handcuffs around the woman's wrists and gave her the standard Fifth Amendment spiel.
"Everything all right?" He asked, when he reached them.
The woman on the pavement gave him a look. His partner stood, pulling her up, and said. "Yeah. Just fine. Thanks for the backup."
Then, before he could reply, she shoved the handcuffed lady at him and grabbed her cell phone. "This is Agent Van Pelt. Suspect has been apprehended, we're bringing her in now." Pause. "Sure thing, boss."
The phone snapped shut with a click, and Grace Van Pelt glanced over at him. "Come on. She's wanted back at headquarters."
She stalked back to the van without another word, and Rigsby frowned. The woman in his arms jerked away and laughed. "Romance gone sour?"
Rigsby scowled. "Shut up."
Half an hour later, in CBI headquarters, Agent Cho dropped a file the size of a dictionary onto a table in the questioning room. He pulled out his chair and sat down, then said,
"All of this is yours."
The pretty brown-haired woman in the chair across from him smiled. "I've led an exciting life."
Cho reached over and opened the file. "If by exciting you mean implicated in over a dozen robberies and forgeries, and suspected of possession and sale of illegally acquired goods."
Her smile widened just a bit, before vanishing altogether. "You can't keep me here. You haven't got anything to hold me on."
"We can for up to twenty-four hours—" Cho began, but another voice cut him off.
"How about possession of a stolen painting?" A smiling blond man stepped into the room and closed the door behind him with a soft click. He walked over with quick steps and extended a hand over the table, "Hi, I'm Patrick Jane. You must be Miss Hunter."
Miss Hunter took his hand and shook. "Please, call me Alex. What painting?"
"The Kandinsky you were carrying. It's real, by the way," he added, turning to Cho. "I checked. We've already called the owner—he's flying out tomorrow to pick it up."
Cho looked back at Alex. "If you have any kind of explanation, now is your chance."
Alex shrugged, looking innocently surprised. "A friend of mine asked me to deliver the painting to his brother in California. I owed him a favor, so I did it. I thought it was a fake."
Cho raised an eyebrow. "That's it?"
"That is a bit weak," Jane agreed, sliding his hands into his pockets and rocking back onto his heels. "I'm sure you could do better, you seem like a smart girl."
"I didn't steal it, if that's what you want to hear," Alex told them. She crossed her arms and leaned forward. "When did it go missing?"
"That's confidential information, ma'am," Cho said firmly.
Alex rolled her eyes and laughed, "Oh, come on. If I stole it then I already know, so it wouldn't matter if you told me anyway. If I didn't steal it, I'm innocent and it still doesn't make a difference."
"She has a point," Jane pointed out. Cho sighed.
"Theft was discovered Thursday morning, along with the dead bodies of two of the house guards."
"I have an alibi for Thursday. And Wednesday night."
Cho leveled a hard stare at her. "Let's hear it then, and we'll see if it checks out."
Alex heaved a put-upon sigh. Jane smiled, his blue eyes laughing, as she said, "I was in New York until this morning. You can check my flight times with United."
Cho made a note on the file. "Is there anyone who can vouch for your physical presence in New York?"
Alex hesitated for a split second, and Jane's eyes noted it with interest. "Friends. Neal Caffrey, and FBI Agent Peter Burke. His landlady June."
Jane jumped in. "You say that name so reluctantly. Almost as if you were trying to keep from mentioning it at all. Who is Neal Caffrey?"
Alex closed her mouth.
Jane continued, blithely, "I'd guess a business partner, but you mentioned his name alongside the name of an FBI agent, so probably not. A former lover, maybe?"
A flicker of something crossed Alex's face and was gone in an instant, but Jane grinned triumphantly, "Ah. Unrequited love. The best kind."
"You don't know what you're talking about," Alex said calmly. Blue eyes met brown and locked. Cho glanced from one to the other and stood up, scraping the chair across the floor loudly.
"I'll just call in the alibi before we let you go, Miss Hunter." He pulled a set of handcuffs from his back pocket and locked one around her wrist, the other around the leg of the table.
She gave him a disparaging look, and he lifted a shoulder in response. "Sorry, standard procedure."
Jane closed the door loudly behind them.
"I think she's lying."
Cho raised an eyebrow and kept walking. "We'll run a background check on the people she mentioned as references."
Jane veered off and settled himself back on his brown leather sofa, crossing his arms over his chest and staring thoughtfully at the water stain on the ceiling. "Maybe not about everything, but about something…"
Across the country, in New York City, a phone rang.
Two rings, and then Agent Peter Burke of the FBI grabbed it. "FBI, this is Agent Burke."
A woman's voice came over the line. "Agent Burke this is Agent Lisbon of the CBI. We just have a couple of questions for you, if you don't mind."
Peter raised an eyebrow. The dark-haired man sitting on the other side of his desk glanced up with interest.
"The CBI? California Bureau of Investigation? Are you sure—"
The other man shot him a questioning look. Peter shrugged in response.
"Yes sir," the woman reassured him smoothly, "This will only take a minute."
Peter frowned. "Fine. Ask."
"Where were you Wednesday night?"
Wednesday? That was June's birthday. "At a friend's house for a birthday."
"Could you give us the name of your friend, please?"
The dark haired man sat up straight, blue eyes focusing on Peter's face.
"Thank you sir. Was a Miss Alexandra Hunter present as well?"
Peter put a hand over the telephone's speaker, and asked, "Neal, is Alex's last name Hunter?"
Surprise and resignation crossed Neal's face in quick succession. "Yes."
Peter uncovered the phone. "Yes."
"Thank you very much for your time sir, that's all we needed."
Neal seemed to guess that the conversation was ending, because he grabbed Peter's notepad and scribbled, 'ask why she needed to know about alex.'
"Agent Lisbon, may I inquire as to the reason you're calling about Alex?"
"Just a little misunderstanding sir, sorry to bother you. I realize that's not much of an answer, but the case is still open and, therefore, confidential. Have a good day."
She hung up with a click, and the dial tone sounded loudly in the quiet FBI office. Neal leaned forward.
"She wouldn't tell you, huh?"
Peter shrugged. "Nope. 'Confidential' business." He leveled a hard stare at Neal and asked, "Do you know if Alex was involved in something shady in California this past week?"
Neal raised and lowered one shoulder, blue eyes deceptively innocent. "I don't know a thing. But I don't think Alex would be that stupid."
Peter gave him a flat look, and Neal smiled. The smile lasted until he was out of the office, and outside on the street. Then it fell into a tight, serious expression as he pulled a phone out of his pocket. He punched the ten digit number in from memory, and barely waited for the answering, 'hello?'
"What the hell have you done?"
Theresa Lisbon set the phone back into its cradle and leaned back in her chair, sighing. "There goes our suspect," she murmured to the empty room.
Shaking off the burst of disappointment, she stood up and strode out of the office, nearly smacking headlong into Van Pelt.
"Lisbon, sorry!" Grace looked a little wild, "We just got a call from security downstairs. The painting's been stolen, and two guards are dead."
Lisbon's eyes widened. "Lock down the building; nobody leaves!" She jogged into the main office, and called out, "Cho, check the suspect!"
"On it." Cho disappeared into the interrogation room, and she heard a loud curse. Her heart sank. Cho emerged with a deep frown. "Suspect's gone. She must have picked the lock on the handcuffs."
"And walked right out of the building? Rigsby, go get the security footage. Cho, get a team to search the building—she might still be hiding somewhere. And someone call local PD, let them know to look out for this girl."
"I'm going to call the New York FBI."
Because if they'd just let a killer walk out of their offices, in broad daylight…well. There would be hell to pay.