Disclaimer: White Collar is the property of Jeff Eastin and USA television, and is merely being borrowed here for recreational, non-profit purposes. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Neal is arrested for murder.
Dedication: This is for Susan, thanks always for the support, and Judith, this is going to be fun!
Author's notes: I love this show and I'm really excited to post my first story. This chapter is a little on the short side, but they get longer! The story is completely written, but not betaed. I will post every few days as fast as I or my beta can insert all the missing commas.
P.S. Not a death story.
Suspect Chapter 1
The noise, muted as it was by distance and well-constructed walls, woke him abruptly from a deep sleep, and he bolted upright in bed. At another time, it would have had him leaping for a well-planned exit, but now, after slipping a pair of pants over the silk pajama bottoms that constituted his sole sleep wear, Neal stood irresolute as the sound grew closer. He gently thumbed the buttons on his cell phone, but his initial instinct, to call Peter, seemed redundant under the circumstances.
As the shouting and thudding feet neared his room, he shifted his feet nervously. His flight or fight response to the adrenaline flooding his system always leaned heavily toward the 'get the hell out of Dodge' end of the spectrum, and not having a guilty conscience for once wasn't making it any easier to wait patiently. In fact, it was only the chafing weight around his ankle, even if it was more metaphorical than physical, that anchored him in place.
Bracing himself, he raised his hands in the air and pasted a wide, welcoming grin on his face. He took an involuntary step back as the door splintered open and armed men boiled through the gap, shouting often contradictory commands.
"Keep your hands where we can see 'em!"
"Up against the wall!"
The sheer magnitude of firepower directed solely at him was frankly terrifying. His arrests by Peter had been low-key, almost decorous, the final subtle move to check mate with the consequent tipping of the king in acknowledgment. There were no guns in sight. This, however, was clearly not a game. There was a deadly seriousness conveyed in every expression of the unnecessarily large number of men in the operation, and it baffled as well as scared him.
"Hey!" he protested, as he was slammed against the wall and was subjected to a rough and intrusive frisking. He chanced a glance over his shoulder, but his face was pushed back, cheekbone scraping painfully against the wall.
He tried to lighten the atmosphere while fishing for some information. "I think you guys have your memos crossed. We're all playing for the same team now."
There was no direct response to this, but then he was yanked off the wall and pulled around until he was face to face with the man obviously in charge. An identification card, not too different from the one he himself possessed, was dangled briefly in front of his eyes, just long enough to catch the name, Seaton. The agent looked like the quintessential FBI hardnose, complete with trench coat and square jaw. Neal could vaguely remember seeing him at headquarters before, but he couldn't recall which department.
"Put a shirt on, Mr. Caffrey, you're coming with us."
Neal's legal knowledge had blossomed under Peter's tutelage, and he arched an eyebrow. "Am I under arrest? What are the charges?"
"What?" For a moment, Neal could only stare at him, his mind whirling in blind panic. This had to be the latest machination of Fowler's. He was peripherally aware of agents moving around the room, methodically sorting through June's furniture and his meager belongings. The jingle of handcuffs and a purposeful grip on his wrist broke through his temporary trance.
"Wait! Just wait a minute. Just let me make a phone call. I can clear this up."
Seaton's cold stare showed him to be unimpressed. "You'll get your phone call."
"No, that's not what I...look." He pulled up his pants leg to reveal the tracker. "I've been here all night. This can prove it."
The agent shook his head slightly as if disgusted, then intoned formally. "Neal Caffrey, you are under arrest for the murder of Peter Burke."
"Peter?" The words bludgeoned Neal with the force of a two by four and left him with about as much comprehension. Denial was the only refuge from that shock. "Peter's...Peter's not...I just talked with him a few hours ago. He's home right now. I have to call him."
He jerked an arm free from the restraining hands behind him, needing to move, needing to verify for himself that they were wrong. It just couldn't be true. He felt as if a tunnel were expanding out in front of him, severing him from reality. Restraint was suddenly intolerable, a claustrophobia worse than any suffered in prison cramping every muscle, generating a burning, twitchy scrabbling under his skin while an overwhelming ache left him gasping for breath. As he was grabbed once again from behind, he lashed out automatically with an elbow.
"Get off me!" This temporary freedom came at a price as a second later a fist thudded against his ribs, doubling him over. He fought back wildly, purely on instinct, his heart pounding so loud that he couldn't hear beyond its thunderous roar. His efforts were clumsy, and he was dimly aware of their utter futility, but the pain of retaliation helped counter the sensation of loss inside that he couldn't even understand himself.
Soon he was on the floor, several agents taking the opportunity to apply a little revenge with a boot for the loss of one of their own. Black flecks swirled before Neal's eyes before he fell gratefully into the dark abyss around him.