Neal woke with a start, lurching upright, one hand clutching the bed sheets to his bare chest. His wide eyes surveyed the room for any imminent threat before dropping to his own body. He could see it quivering faintly, in rhythm with the thudding of his heart against his ribs. It was another moment before he realized what had happened. He shivered and exhaled loudly. Another bad dream, he thought to himself. At least I didn't scream this time.
Lazily tossing the covers aside, he swung his legs over the side of the bed - first the right one, then the left - and got up. He walked slowly towards the bathroom, piecing together the remnants of his dream as he went. He recalled a faceless sea of orange jumpsuits closing in on him, waving their guns around in the air… he felt the harsh, stinging buzz of his tracking anklet against his skin, as if it were a shock collar, if he considered stepping outside his prescribed two-mile radius… he saw the blood seeping from his chest, staining the antique Bible crimson as he frantically realized it had been not been thick enough to save him this time… he heard Fowler's menacing laugh as the plane burst explosively into flames, taking with it the woman he loved. All of my fears in one dream, he realized. How convenient. Having reached the sink, he turned the faucet as cold as it would allow and splashed the icy liquid on his face. He felt the stubble on his face as he wiped the droplets away from his eyes, nose, and mouth. Permitting himself a second to glance over his image in the mirror, he silently cursed his exhausted appearance. He was just about to reach for a hand towel when there was a firm knock on his door.
"Yeah, coming," Neal shouted, snatching the towel and turning to walk towards the door. He dried his face as he walked, glad that he knew his place well enough not to trip over anything. A black eye would certainly not help further the façade that he worked so hard to uphold.
He mustered up that trademark Caffrey grin of his and pulled the door open. "Good morning, Peter. Here for a cup of June's espresso, I presume?" Neal joked.
"Neal," Peter replied simply, with no humor in his tone. "We have work to do." He paused to study his consultant's appearance, taking in the unshaven face, dark bags under the light eyes, and the plaid pajama pants, one leg half-tucked sloppily into the electronic monitoring anklet. "You aren't ready."
"Ever the trained investigator. Nothing gets past you, does it?" Neal replied smartly. He looked over at the clock, seeing that it read 7:17 am. "You're early. Give me ten minutes."
Peter sighed. "Alright. But don't dawdle. This case has your name all over it."
Neal grinned and disappeared into the bathroom with a navy blue suit. "Whatever it is, I didn't do it. I have an alibi." He yelled through the closed door.
"You're not a suspect in this one. Already checked your anklet." Peter called back. He took a seat on the arm of Neal's sofa.
The con artist cracked the door open, sticking his face in the opening and fake pouting. "Peter, I'm disappointed! Where is the trust?"
"Will you hurry up, Neal?" Peter threw one of Neal's socks at the bathroom door to emphasize his point. The door closed again. "The case has your name all over it," he continued, "because it's one of the types of scheme you used to pull – money laundering."
"Alleged money laundering!" Neal interjected. "Nicholas Halden was never convicted."
Peter scowled, to little effect through the closed door, so he continued to brief Neal on the case. "The bureau has been watching a Wall Street executive by the name of William Lyle. He was acquitted of insider trading two years ago because of insufficient evidence. We now think he has been blackmailing the people who brought that evidence against him. He's been demanding money from them and funneling it through multiple channels to make it appear like legitimate income. We just don't know where this income is going, or what he is using to blackmail the witnesses."
Neal emerged from the bathroom dressed in the suit, with only one sock on his foot. Peter noticed he had fixed his hair and shaved the stubble off his face. Neal picked up the other sock off the ground and sat at one of the kitchen chairs so he could put it on. "What is it you Feds always say? Follow the money?" He asked as he struggled with the remaining sock, the bulky anklet in his way.
"He hasn't been making any withdrawals from his personal or work accounts – not that we've been able to trace." Peter answered. "Need some help there?" He gestured to the anklet.
"Yeah, Peter, how about loosening it for me?" Neal countered sweetly.
"Right, so you can slip it off. Nice try." The agent shook his head. Then he saw it. "Is your… hand shaking?"
Neal quickly jerked the sock into place and stood up, placing his hands in his pockets. "Nope," he replied, a little too quickly. He bent over to slip his shoes on. "Let's go," he said, flashing a showy smile.
Peter knew not to press the issue. He had Neal's interest on this case, and he didn't want to risk distracting him with his tumultuous private life. He rose and followed Neal out the door.