Neal sidled up to Peter as he entered the bullpen and gave him one of his charismatic smiles. "Hey, Peter!" he greeted cheerfully.
Peter narrowed his eyes suspiciously without breaking stride. "Neal... what do you want?"
Neal pouted. "That hurts, Peter. Can't I say 'hi' without the third degree?"
"No. Absolutely not." Unfazed by Neal's best attempt at looking innocent (though, admittedly, it was pretty convincing), Peter repeated, "What do you want from me, Neal?"
"Nothing," Neal stated earnestly.
The eye-batting was a nice touch, if a little over the top. Peter stopped at his desk and picked up the navy blue folder sitting smack-dab in the middle of his workspace.
"Gee, Peter," Neal asked unsubtly, "what do you have there?"
Peter glanced dubiously at Neal, then opened the folder and read the contents to himself:
Murphy College of the Arts hereby confers upon Neal Caffrey has this day been awarded the degree of Doctor of Art in Art History together with all the rights, privileges, and honors thereunto belonging in consideration of the satisfactory fulfillment of the requirements prescribed by the faculty.
Furious, Peter slammed the file closed, shut his office door, and rounded on his CI. "You forged a doctorate?"
Neal still smiled proudly. "Nope. It's real!"
Peter's anger faltered. "What do you mean, real?"
"It's not a forgery, Peter. I'm really a doctor."
"You've been out of prison for three years, and in that time, I've kept you pretty busy. There's no way you could have gotten your high-school diploma and a doctorate."
Neal flipped the bottom edge of the doctorate up to reveal a different certificate.
"You got a G.E.D.?" Peter looked closer at both documents, then skeptically added, "Two days before you got a doctorate?"
"Pretty good, huh? I bet that's a record."
Peter took a calming breath. "Neal..." he started menacingly.
"Look," Neal interrupted, "if you don't believe me, you can call Emma Murphy yourself."
"Emma Murphy?" Peter searched his memory for the name. "The art teacher whose collection we found earlier this year?"
"Well, she invited me out to lunch to talk about art, and as it turns out, she's not just a teacher... she's the founder and head Dean of 'Murphy' College of the Arts."
"And she gave you a free doctorate? How'd you con her into that?"
Neal didn't con her into anything, and that's the truth. He told Peter about his lunch conversation with Mrs. Murphy.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Murphy."
"It certainly is, sexy."
"She did not say that!"
"Were you there?"
"Then let me tell the story."
"Blah blah blah Van Gogh... blah blah two-point perspective... blah blah blah."
"My, are you knowledgeable! Where did you study?"
"On my own. Unfortunately, colleges generally require a high-school diploma, and I don't have one."
"That is unfortunate. It's so unfair that someone can amass the amount of knowledge you have and not be recognized for it."
"I know. But what am I gonna do? Pay a load of money I don't have for classes I could teach just to have a piece of paper that proves I know what I'm doing? My job at the FBI proves that."
"Tell you what. The doctorate panels are coming up at my college next week. If you'd like, you can take them, and if you do well, we'll give you the chance to earn a diploma. No classes, just get your G.E.D. and turn in a satisfactory doctoral thesis."
"And the rest is history."
"She didn't make you pay for any of this? Not even for the time the doctors on the panel spent quizzing you and reading your paper?"
"She wants me to teach a class on my thesis."
"And what topic did you choose for that?"
"Famous stolen art and the people who stole them."
"So it was an autobiography."