Amelia opened her eyes, slowly, observing her surroundings from beneath her eyelashes. Her training had kicked in the moment she had felt someone grab her shoulder as she exited the ladies' bathroom at the castle, but five men versus one woman, no matter the Quantico and Air Force training, is never a fair fight, especially when a syringe of a paralytic drug is involved.
They were well organized; surrounding her as she lost her ability to move, bundling her into a van nearby and dropping a black pillowcase over her head as they did.
As she surveyed the room her stomach sank – the pillowcase had been removed, and the man sitting across from her was nonchalantly reading a newspaper, his gun was sitting on a nearby oil drum next to a cup of coffee, barrel pointed towards her.
She noted with some disconcertion that there was a silencer on the end of it, and that his face wasn't covered, which meant he didn't expect Amelia to live long enough to identify him as her captor.
Opening her eyes properly, Amelia took almost a full minute to survey her surroundings, knowing that it might well give her an advantage that could save her life.
Wherever they were, there was a subway stop nearby, as she'd been woken by the screeching of a train's brakes. The room had no windows, and the only door was on the other side of the lump of muscle guarding her.
The roof was glass, but that afforded no assistance to nailing down her location – all she could see was plain blue sky and one wisp of cloud through the grimy panes. Moving her hands, she resigned herself to the fact that the men who had taken her were professionals – she had not one, but two pairs of handcuffs around her wrists – one on each forearm securing her to the steel chair that was digging into the back of her legs. She could have easily slipped them, but they were positioned in such a way that she would make a heck of a lot of noise if she tried it.
She wondered if, in addition to the men who had taken her, had the FBI also been watching her and Neal as they'd walked through the park, or had the cab zigzagged enough through the traffic to lose them. Then again, if they'd managed to track them to the park then they would have stormed this dingy warehouse by now.
She rattled the cuffs experimentally, and the guard looked up, narrowing his eyes at her.
"Don't make me put zip-ties on ya." He grunted, shaking his newspaper and returning to his article.
Amelia grimaced and looked back up at the sky, trying to breathe deeply and not think about the position she was in. It didn't work very well, but the fact that she could see sky gave her a feeling in her soul that was something akin to hope.
As it eventuated, Mozzie's had a solid suggestion for a place to meet somewhere they would be unlikely to be subjected to surveillance, not far from where Amelia had been taken, off 81st street in a sixth floor walk-up above a Chinese restaurant about a block and a half from the park.
Neal refused to leave the entrance to the theatre, making Peter grind his teeth in frustration.
"Neal, we have to get a trace on your phone!"
"I could give a damn, Peter. They said to stay here, I'm staying here. I've got coffee and a bagel and when they call back I'll come meet you at Friday." He hung up in Peter's ear and Elizabeth rose an eyebrow at the curse that Agent Burke let fly when the line went dead. They'd been halfway up the stairs to Friday when Peter had called Neal, demanding to know where he was, and to say Peter was unimpressed that Neal was co-operating with the kidnappers was something of an understatement.
True to their word, Neal's phone rang exactly one hour later, and the first words the voice said were accusing.
"You called someone, Mr Walker. Twice. Then someone called you back."
"Yes." Neal said, keeping his voice level. "Was I not supposed to call anyone, or answer my phone when it rang?"
The voice laughed. "As long as we don't see any agents, you can make as many calls as you like, Mr Walker."
"Good to know."
"You are aware of the piece of art we are interested in?"
"The Rembrandt. You stole that last night."
"No, we took a copy, then you and your wife followed us. We know you're not with the Bureau; not with that device on your leg. Who hired you to watch the painting?"
"I'm not at liberty to discuss my employers."
"Do you have the real painting?"
"I can get to it. Why?"
"Because we are willing to make an exchange; that painting for your wife."
"Where and when?"
"Tonight – in front of the Federal Building on Lafayette at six PM. Bring the painting, come alone, and we will pick you up to make the exchange."
"How will I know who I'm meeting?"
"We'll find you, Mr Walker. Don't be late."
The line went dead, and Neal stared at the handset, gripping it tight enough to make his knuckles turn white. He looked around the area, trying to catch someone watching him, but gave up within a few minutes and headed for Friday.
"Alex? What are you doing here?" Peter asked as he closed the door of the sparsely furnished apartment behind him. There were three lawn chairs in the middle of the space, and Alex was sitting on one, her feet propped on another while Mozzie was at the window, surveying the street below.
"Hello Peter, nice to see you, too. You must be Elizabeth." Alex got to her feet and extended a hand towards Mrs Burke, who raised an eyebrow in Peter's direction.
"Yes, I am, Alex, was it?"
Alex smiled and released Elizabeth's hand, turned and greeted Peter.
"What's going on? Mozzie won't tell me anything."
"Amelia's been kidnapped." Elle put in, but got a blank look from Alex.
"I don't know who that is." Alex deadpanned.
"She's my new probie, and if Neal isn't here in the next ten minutes I'm calling Hughes to report her missing."
"Don't call the cavalry just yet – Neal's right outside, he'll be up here in a minute." Mozzie put in from his position on the window-ledge.
"So they want the Rembrandt. What the hell is it about this painting? You stole it-"
"Allegedly." Neal interjected automatically.
"Allegedly stole it, then it turned up in that private collection and got donated to the museum when the owner died, and on opening night these guys are trying to take it."
"Did we have anyone check out the warehouse that the GPS led to?"
"Not yet – Hughes assigned a team to watch the place, but unless it moves they won't be doing much more than basic surveillance."
Neal sighed, and realised that he was out of options.
"We're going to have to call the Bureau, aren't we?"
"Hughes is going to be furious that I didn't tell him sooner." Peter pulled his phone from his pocket and hit a speed dial. "Bear in mind, Neal, I'm blaming you – Reese? It's Peter. Neal just called me – Amelia's been kidnapped."
To say that Hughes was unhappy was possibly the understatement of the decade. The fact that a brand-new agent had been kidnapped during a high-profile investigation, on a mandated day off no less, made him want to decapitate someone.
"We know where the copy is. We also know who's involved in the heist, and their current locations. I'm mobilising three teams and we're going straight to the GPS locator, I want to stop this before it gets out of hand."
Neal was affronted that his ideas were being rejected – he had suggested taking another fake to the exchange but Hughes had vetoed that, declaring it too dangerous and pointing out the FBI policy of not negotiating with kidnappers.
Both Neal and Peter were less than enthusiastic about the current plan, but they both knew it was the best option, moving forward, so rather than arguing they each decided to simply make the best of what was a very bad situation.