Neal glanced down at his anklet and had a moment of regret, his mind wandering to a time when he was free to roam where he wanted and Kate was at his side. He sighed, looking up when he sensed someone suddenly standing beside his desk.
"Penny for your thoughts..." Peter stood there, his white shirt no longer white as he dabbed at a small coffee stain. Elizabeth was going to scold him for spilling coffee on a practically new shirt, Neal thought as he glanced up and shook his head.
"I prefer priceless antiquities but whatever floats your boat, Peter." He grinned charmingly upwards, the agent frowning in mock annoyance.
"Uh huh... I bet you do. So, any news from your contacts on that assignment I gave you?" Peter spoke as he glanced down at his shirt and continued to dab at the stain with a wet towel. Neal smirked, nodding his head as he pulled open a drawer and tossed something up to his friend. Peter just caught the small white pen and glanced it over.
"Stain away? You're kidding me. Neal... this stuff is a joke, right?" Peter was glancing at the detergent stain removal pen with an incredulous look as Neal shook his head.
"I'm surprised at you, Peter. El was the one who showed this to me. She gave me this one when I spilled something on a tie from Byron's collection. I felt so guilty because June had often told me how much that particular tie had meant to her late husband. I didn't want to tell her I had ruined it with a pasta stain but El used that pen on it and some water and less than 5 minutes later the stain was gone! It's a miracle and if your wife believes, so should you." He pushed the moral home and Peter just blinked at him and sighed.
"If you say so and I'll have to ask El about that. Here goes nothing." Peter removed the cap off the pen and sniffed at the felt looking tip. He cautiously dabbed it onto a small part of the stain and used the wet towel again. Slowly the stain started to fade and an obvious chunk was gone. Peter beamed.
"Wow, Neal. You're right. This is pretty cool!" He started to walk off with the pen in tow, Neal following.
"Peter, I want that back when you're done. I have to keep up appearances you know." He made a petulant face that brought a slight frown from Peter.
"You'll get it back. So anything new to offer me about this case. I'm still coming up blank with any locations or info. We need a stake out point Neal or the case against Gerald goes away." Peter was now soaking his stain with the pen and wiping at it with the still semi-wet cloth. Neal shook his head with a hapless shrug.
"Nothing. My contact promised me something by the end of today but so far it's been quiet." He followed Peter into the break room, both men grabbing up a cup of what the bureau called coffee. Neal made a face as he took a sip and saw Peter do the same.
"Well, now I know why you spilled it on your shirt rather than drank it." Neal quipped with a sarcastic smile. Peter smirked back, looking down at his now nearly white looking shirt again. He handed the detergent pen back to the consultant.
"Thank you, Neal." The agent smiled at him, a thoughtful look on his face. Neal was watching but the look quickly changed to business as if Peter were hiding something from him. Neal's cell suddenly rang in his pocket.
"I should get that." He excused himself around the corner a second, noting the number was Mozzie's.
"It's impolite not to answer on the first ring." Mozzie's voice was sarcastic, Neal rolling his eyes as he stood and listened.
"Hey Mozzie. I was with Peter. So... got anything for me?" Neal kept his voice low and peered to see that Peter was still in the break area. He heard a kind of sigh and then a reply.
"It's only a possible site but there's an old bottling factory on the edge of the city in the unincorporated side of town. There has been some activity out there that looked like Gerald's operation. That's all I know." Mozzie gave Neal an address, the consultant thanking his friend profusely before hanging up. Peter coughed, Neal turning to look.
"So..." Peter kept his query open, obviously aware of who Neal had talked to. The consultant sighed.
"I think we have an address." Neal showed the GPS locator for the address Mozzie had given him on his phone to Peter. The agent nodded.
"Let's get permission from the owners if there are any and a warrant..." Peter gave Neal a firm look as the younger man rolled his eyes at the talk of a warrant.
"Fine fine but before we get there, it could be cleaned of evidence and contacting the owners might given them a warning if they're in cahoots." Neal looked frustrated but Peter just peered curiously at him.
"Did you just say cahoots? Anyhow... no we need to do this legally or the case for Gerard will fall apart. You know that better than I do Neal. I'm going to chat with Hughes and then we can go to lunch while we wait for the warrant." Peter patted him on the shoulder and smiled.
"Thanks for the help on this case and... tell Mozzie thanks." He winked on the last bit, walking away to the stairs and up to Hughes office as Neal glanced at him with a surprised look. Like he should be surprised Peter would guess his contact was Mozz. He sighed as he threw his cup of coffee away and went back to his desk. Neal gazed down at his anklet again as he sat, that feeling of being trapped coming back to him. He'd love nothing more than to be free to roam where he wanted to again. He sighed.
They ended up having lunch at a local sports bar, Peter keen on knowing how his team was doing but lucky for Neal, the place had an excellent menu. If they'd been off duty he could have had some wine but he settled for a ginger ale while Peter had a diet soda. Apparently Elizabeth was getting on his case about sugar so he was trying to be the obedient husband and listen. Would Kate have been that way with Neal? He wondered as he took a bite of his pasta salad and noted the half eaten steak on Peter's plate. That was something El wouldn't approve of him eating but he was more consumed with the game than the food.
Near the end of their lunch Peter's cell rang and he motioned for Neal to follow as they left a tip and took off. Hughes had the warrant ready for them and they just had to pick it up.
"We're going to do this the Bureau way, Neal. I'm taking you along but don't do anything that could spoil this for the case against Gerald, ok?"
Neal held up two fingers like a Boy Scout, Peter making a face as he rolled his eyes and they headed back to the office. Jones had the warrant for them when they showed, Hughes having gone to a meeting. They would have to make the most of their search, Jones wishing he could go but he was helping Ruiz in Organized Crime with something as a favor. Diana was on vacation for the week so they were a bit short handed till she was back and the case with Ruiz ended. Peter nodded, patting Neal on the back.
"I have him. I'll call if I need you Jones."
He winked as Neal made a face like 'oh brother' just before they took off with the warrant.
The bottling factory was just that and it looked like it hadn't been open since the 50s or 60s in its heyday. Peter had parked the car just outside the walls of the factory since nobody was there to greet them and open up the gate. Neal followed as Peter took a look at the chained gate and pushed open the door as much as he could and slipped through, Neal doing the same.
"Guess they didn't get the memo we were coming. We still have a warrant so we're ok. Stick close to me, Neal."
They trekked across the overgrown gravel yard outside the plant to the front doors, Peter knocking but nobody answering. The door was partially ajar as he pushed it open and they went inside.
"Seems a little strange nobody's here, Peter. If Gerald has something going on I'd think someone would come to play interference. Maybe Mozz got his information wrong. This feels off."
He hated to say it but maybe for once his friend had been wrong but it was highly unlikely. Peter shrugged.
"We're here, let's check out the place and if nothing comes of it we leave and see if we can find another source for his operations. This was the only one we knew had been associated with his men. Seems to be empty now but a quick peek around couldn't hurt. Mozzie obviously saw something suspicious here as did a few of our own CI's."
The two men split up and started their search.
Neal made his way over towards what appeared to be offices, moving stealthily. He stopped and ducked behind a huge column when he heard voices and footsteps.
"Boss said the FBI was coming over here. I saw a car parked outside. I think they're already here. He said we're supposed to greet them."
Neal swallowed hard on the last part when he heard them cocking guns as they spoke. Peter needed to know but he was trapped in his hiding place with the men between him and the agent's last location. They had their phones but he couldn't risk making much noise as he tried to figure out how to contact his friend.
Peter was in the bottling area, lots of broken glass and a few actual bottles still intact. He moved towards one and took it off the dusty conveyor belt as he looked inside. There were bills. Lots of them as he checked a few more bottles and found the same thing. So this was Geraldi's business... he was laundering money from this plant. At least there was something they could get them on if only someone was here to arrest but they had the goods regardless. Peter was about to pull out his phone when he heard a noise.
He hissed quietly, loosening the strap on his gun as he headed towards the sound. He moved behind a pillar but nothing was there although he did notice fresh footprints in the dust. He was kneeling down to look at them when he heard someone cry out.
He had barely turned at the sound of Neal's voice when someone clocked him on the back of the head hard. Peter collapsed to the ground with a groan, rough hands grabbing his arms and pulling them tight behind him. The agent tried to move or struggle but was held firmly. Someone stuffed a rag in his mouth as he flinched at the sound of a gun going off. He turned to see a blurry figure flailing towards them, something familiar about them as his vision focused for an instant. He saw the figure fall to the ground limply.
He was trying to get up and move towards his friend but he was hit hard across the face by a fist, the action causing him to slump as he was drawn to his feet and tape was pulled over his lips. He was pushed into a chair near the middle of the room, ropes binding him tightly as he turned to see the figure of his friend bleeding on the ground.
He pulled against the ropes to get to his friend, someone cursing at him as he felt another crack of something to the base of his skull and everything went black.
Peter shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs as he came to. He was sore, body and head leaning forward weakly as he realized he was bound securely to a wooden chair. He tried to shift some but the ropes held him tight and the chair must have been bolted down as it didn't move. The agent gave a weak groan, the base of his skull throbbing with a rhythm all its own.
I tried to warn you. I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner.
He turned his head at the sound of the faint voice, the room empty except for himself. Peter thought he must be hearing things, looking around the large dusty space. He gave a muffled grunt, rags filling his mouth and tape pulled over his lips tightly.
Did you need help with those ropes, Peter?
The agent turned as someone spoke, someone familiar but it couldn't be. He was gone, the agent glancing at the figure lying still on the floor in the corner of the room in a pool of blood. He felt something warm drip from his eyes and a cool wisp of air touched his cheek .
Are you crying, Peter?
Peter shook his head despite the oddness of the situation but the cool wisp of air continued around him, brushing at his wrists and slowly the ropes began to loosen although he was still trapped.
They always make this seem so easy in the movies. Give me a minute.
Peter pulled once more and felt his wrists freed, unraveling the ropes from around him. The voice spoke again, a kind of ache in his head as it did, a sick feeling coming over him. He moved quickly to an old bin and leaned over throwing up. He felt the hint of a hand on his back, cool air making him shiver.
You ok, Peter?
Peter shook his head, sliding down to the floor to sit. He felt dizzy, icy cold chills running up and down his spine. He closed his eyes and saw him standing there, at least in his mind's eye he did. Neal looked the same as he had before everything went wrong. The young man moved oddly, like a slow motion movie, the colors a little off.
"Neal? How..." He opened his eyes but there was nothing there. He felt a movement but it was subtle like sensing wind rather than a person.
How what? What's wrong with you? Peter?
He could hear the consultant's voice as if from far away but it was there. Neal was with him. Peter choked back a sob, unable to think what to say. What do you say to a dead man? Or was this a dream?
Peter... answer me. What's wrong? We need to leave before they come back.
The agent closed his eyes and looked up at the strangely sepia colored figure before him. It was like watching an old movie on a projector, Neal's movements a strange kind of slow-motion stutter at times.
"Neal... look behind you." He didn't know what else to say, watching the figure turn slowly as if the frames of the film were staggering. He heard the gasp first then saw the figure waver ever so slightly.
Peter... it's a trick. Tell me...
The voice faded mid-sentence, the figure gone as Peter opened his eyes and no longer sensed Neal's presence. The nausea, chills and headache suddenly vanished although he felt far from well.
"Neal? Neal?" He called out, pushing himself weakly to his feet as he moved back towards the lifeless figure in the corner. Why had he let him see? Why didn't he protect him? He could have lied but it wouldn't have changed anything. The young man was dead. There was too much blood on the floor around him to prove anything else.
"I'm sorry, Neal. Forgive me..."
Peter moved towards the still figure and checked for a pulse or breath. He gave a choked sob when he didn't feel anything knowing he wouldn't with so much blood on the ground. Neal's skin was cool to the touch as he held his partner a moment, warm tears dripping from his eyes.
"We got one of them but the other one is still tied up. We'll take care of him and finish cleaning this place up."
Peter heard the voices of the men who had killed his partner and tied him up. He reached for his gun and found it gone, his cell missing when he checked. He saw Neal's cell phone, grabbed it as he promised to get revenge and took off. He stumbled towards the exit and his car hoping it was still there when he got outside. Peter was dizzy, the afternoon sunlight blinding him when he exited the building and stumbled drunkenly across to the gate. Nobody stopped him as he squeezed under the gate and made it to the car. It didn't appear anyone had touched it as he pulled out Neal's phone and made a call.
The agent tried to find his voice, his head aching as he slipped down to the ground and sat, his back leaning on the vehicle.
"Jones... it was... a trap. Neal's... de... dead."
He heard a gasp on the other end and movement as other voices joined in behind Jones'
"Peter, where are you? I'm going over there now with some other agents. Tell me where you are."
Peter gave him the address, texting it as well till he heard sounds from the plant and knew he had to get to safety. The agent wasn't sure he could move as he plugged in the code for the car. They had taken his keys but he could still get in as he unlocked the doors, reached under the driver's seat and grabbed a back up pistol. They weren't taking him without a fight.
"Hurry, Jones... I hear them coming."
Peter must have fainted as he slowly came to, someone nudging him as he reached for his gun but was stopped. He opened his eyes to see Jones looking down at him.
"It's me Peter... it's ok."
The agent looked around to find he was still by his car on the gravel as he tried to think back. Someone had been coming and then...
"Looks like they didn't find you and took off. We found no traces of Gerald or his men."
Peter nodded trying to stand as Jones helped him and he looked around. Someone had opened up the gate and agents were swarming the place. He wondered if they had found the money in the bottles or not.
"Gerald had money in the bottles on the conveyor..."
Jones shook his head.
"We haven't found anything to prove Gerald was here but there were signs of blood near the bottling area. Looks like someone cleaned it up fast."
Peter felt the color drain from his face as he felt sick. Did they find Neal's body or not?
"Jones... did you find Neal?"
He waited as he leaned against the car and continued to feel sick if not faint. He saw his junior agent look worriedly at him then shake his head.
"No. We didn't find him yet, Peter but we will."
Peter shook his head, he had seen the blood and his partner's lifeless body. Gerald's men probably buried him somewhere.
"He was dead. They may have..."
He paused, voice choking but mostly he felt nauseated as he stumbled aside to a small bush and threw up. Jones helped to keep him upright till he was done.
"You have a nasty bump on the back of your head, Peter. He might not have been dead. We'll find him. Let me take you to a doctor, ok?"
Peter wanted to protest but he collapsed to his knees, Jones catching him and calling for help as he slowly passed out.
Peter was dreaming, remembering when he had grabbed his gun from the car and hoped to defend himself. Gerald's men had been only a few yards away but something had distracted them. He wasn't sure what but he had leaned back against the car waiting for them to return, eyes closing as he felt the bump to his head hurting again. It was too bright out here and he was feeling helpless if not tired. There was a sudden chill to the air as he shivered slightly and felt a slight ache in his temples.
Peter... I sent them away. You're safe.
He nodded at the voice, eyes closed but he turned and someone stood there in his mind's eye, the colors off but he thought he should know them.
I hear sirens, Peter. You're ok. They won't come back but they took all the evidence. I know where...
The voice cut off as Peter felt himself pass out, slumping over to the ground as his cheek touched the rough gravel of the ground. He thought he felt a cool breeze along his cheek and then nothing.
The agent woke up with a start and looked around him. He was in a hospital bed but he was surrounded by a blue curtain and still in his same clothes. There were voices outside the curtain as he shifted slightly, noting the IV and monitors hooked into his arm. He was trying to get a hold on where he was when the curtain to his right opened up suddenly and he saw Elizabeth there.
She was at his side in a second, holding his hand and kissing him. She looked worried if anything, brushing at his hair and hugging him as he reached up to hold her.
"Jones called me soon as he dropped you off here. He's outside talking to the doctors with Hughes. You gave us a scare there for a little while. The paramedics thought you might be comatose."
She was sniffling some but pulled a chair up and sat with him as she kept her hand in his. Peter was glad he was ok for her sake but his mind kept going back to Neal. He had seen the young man laying dead on the floor in a pool of blood. Jones said they hadn't found a body but that didn't mean Neal wasn't dead. He had seen him with his own eyes. The monitor started to pick up a bit as he stressed over the memory and Elizabeth tried to calm him.
"Peter... relax. They're going to let you go home once they know you're ok. They're waiting for the test results. You had a very bad knock on the head."
Did she know about Neal yet? Had Jones or Hughes told her?
"Hughes told me about Neal. I'm so sorry, Peter."
She was crying now not just because of their lost friend but she was worrying about him. She knew how much Neal had meant to him and he had been a big part of their lives.
"Did they... find his body?"
He leaned back on the pillows heavily but his eyes looked into hers hopefully as she shook her head.
"I don't think so. You've been here a few hours but I haven't heard anything new. I'm sorry, honey."
Peter nodded as he closed his eyes and felt warm tears in his eyes. He didn't want Neal's body rotting somewhere without being buried properly. The young man had tried to warn him and he'd been shot doing it. He swallowed back his tears and opened his eyes again as he looked at his wife. She looked as anguished as he at the loss of their friend, his hand reaching up to brush a stray strand of hair from her face.
"I don't want him to be alone. He tried to warn me..."
He felt his body shaking with a sobs although he didn't want to cry. Elizabeth held him closer and they were like that a while till there was a cough and Hughes appeared.
"I'm sorry to interrupt. How are you feeling, Peter?"
Reese sounded less gruff than usual and there seemed to be an almost softness to his voice Peter had never heard before. He wiped at his eyes and answered.
"Head hurts but I'm worried about Neal. He's still out there somewhere. I saw him... I think they hid his body in the factory somewhere. If we could find it we could have more than enough on Gerald if not his men."
Hughes nodded back at him but looked a bit saddened at the thought of a dead Neal Caffrey.
"Peter, he might still be alive."
It was odd to hear everyone being so much more positive than he was but he had been there and seen the blood and his friend's body. There was no way even if he wanted to hope that the young man was alive. He could only wish they'd find his body and bury it properly.
"I saw him, Reese. He was dead. He was cold and I felt no pulse. I wanted him to be alive but he wasn't. I had to leave him there!"
Peter turned away, his face burning with shame at the guilt he felt at leaving his friend's body at the mercy of those criminals. It had been that distraction that saved his own life but had killed his partner. Neal was dead because of him.
"Peter... we'll keep looking. The doctor said you can go. You can have the rest of the week off till you feel better. You're off the case till then."
Peter didn't turn around, El talking softly to the older agent before he heard footsteps leave and felt her arms hugging him.
"Honey... let me go sign the paperwork and then we'll go home, ok?"
He just stared at the opposite side of the curtain silently as she moved away and he tried not to think about his friend's cold dead body in that bottling plant. He had abandoned the younger man. He should have taken the body with him. He felt his hands clench to fists before he started to curse silently at the air. If it was the last thing he did, he would make Gerald pay for this.
The week went by slowly as Peter stayed home and slept a lot mainly due to his head injury. Elizabeth worried about her husband but the doctor told her that was normal unless he was feeling groggy or otherwise having serious headache. Peter seemed to have neither but he was very tired which might also be part of the depression at losing his friend and partner. El had never seen him so broken up about anything. He was a strong man and seeing Peter depressed was strange to her. His usual "cowboy up" attitude seemed to have been lost when Neal went missing. Yes, Peter thought he had seen the young man dead but she kept hoping he was mistaken as did the rest of the Bureau as they continued the search for the lost consultant. They were continuing the investigation without Peter in the meanwhile on Gerald and his operation but for now they still had very little proof of anything even that he had anything to do with Peter's kidnapping and Neal's possible disappearance / death. Mozzie was no where to be seen considering he had to have heard the news. El seemed concerned the little guy hadn't come to talk to them but maybe he was looking into the incident on his own.
Four days into the week Peter thought he heard something downstairs in the middle of the night. El was still sleeping soundly but he knew he had heard a sound as he rose quietly from the bed and went downstairs. He had a small bat in his hand he used for emergencies as he slipped to the first floor in his robe. It was quiet, the lights out as he glanced around the den and saw nothing. He checked the front door and was about to move to the back one when he heard something.
Peter whispered as he looked around in the dim lighting. There seemed to be a shadow by the back door that looked like a man for a moment before he realized the dog was there looking at the door and giving a quiet snuffling sound he sometimes gave when paid affections. The agent moved closer to the door calling the dog again as the lab turned and gave a kind of soft sniffle to his owner. Peter petted the dog as he opened the curtain on the door but saw nothing through the window realizing it was just shadows. Satchmo still acted as if someone were there till Peter turned on the light in the kitchen and moved to get himself a glass of water.
He must have dreaming he thought as he sipped at the water and replaced the glass in the sink. Satchmo watched him curiously a moment then gave a little doggy yawn before disappearing to his pillow. Peter turned out the light and walked back through the den and up the stairs. He had felt a slight chill downstairs and was glad to be upstairs as the chill had left once he had headed up. He went back to the bedroom and closed the door and slipped back into bed as El rolled over.
"Honey? Something the matter?"
Her voice was husky with sleep but he just hugged her in the darkness as he tried to figure out what was up with the dog or the sound he thought he had heard. It had sounded like a door opening but he hadn't seen anything to show anyone had broken in so it must have been in his head or a dream. He yawned and rolled over, hugging his wife as he fell back to sleep.
The week off ended and Peter was back to work but not feeling very enthused. He was looking forward to working on the Gerald case again but Hughes called him up to say he had a different case for him and was reassigning the case to Ruiz. Peter nearly said something he'd regret but bit his tongue and stormed out of the office and headed to the stairs. He went up instead of down, going to the roof and finding a spot to sit as he tried to get over his disappointment at being taken off the case to prosecute the man who had murdered his partner, friend and nearly killed him. He felt a buzzing in his pocket after a while, pulling out his cell and answering.
"Peter... where are you?"
It was Hughes but he didn't sound angry, more concerned he thought but at the moment all Peter wanted was to be alone.
"On the roof thinking."
There was silence and a sound like Hughes was moving and a ding of the elevator in the background.
"Stay where you are, Peter. I'll be right there."
Peter shrugged at the phone, hanging up and just staring across the vast cityscape his thoughts filled with his partner's face. He wiped at his eyes as he continued to sit there, turning only when he heard the door open to the roof and saw Hughes there with two other agents. He seemed surprised by the company but saw Reese send the others away and come towards him alone.
"Reese, I'm sorry I stormed out but I needed to be alone. I wanted to be on the Gerald case and prosecute that bastard. It's the least I could do for what he did to Neal."
His voice choked as he turned away and wiped at his eyes again. It wasn't like him to cry but he'd been emotional more than usual lately which wasn't anything like him. He felt his boss' hand on his shoulder and the man sat beside him.
"I'm sorry about Neal... I miss him too but you're too close to this Peter. Besides now this is no longer a White Collar case but Organized Crime. Gerald is working with Anthony Vicconi with our latest intel. He's a big drug and arms dealer with no convictions."
Peter just stared at him a moment before he stood and walked over to the edge and looked over. Hughes moved closer and put his hand on Peter's arm and he realized why there other agents had been there.
"I'm not going to jump, Reese. I'm not stupid but I am pissed. I should have the option to work on a case that killed my partner and get some justice from this."
He was still looking at the street below when he felt Reese squeeze his arm a bit.
"Are you certain you're wanting justice and not revenge? I know you spoke of that over and over with Caffrey but I'm seeing his stubbornness in you Burke. We have done everything to find him but there's no sign."
Peter finally turned and looked at the agent, one of his closest friends and nodded though he didn't want to admit it. He had seen his friend dead and knew Neal was gone but he had hoped, if only secretly, Neal would show up again. He had to but now...
"Why don't you go home, Peter. Think things over and come back tomorrow fresh for this new case. Ok?"
Peter nodded without a fight. Normally he would just deal and stay but he was too depressed to do what he should. He just wanted to crawl into a hole and hide from the pain as he followed Hughes to the door and they exited to the elevator.
"I heard Elizabeth has a new event coming up. Museum of Fine Art isn't it?"
Peter nodded ever so slightly knowing Reese was trying to help change the subject for a moment. His mind was too much on Neal to concentrate but he tried.
"Yes, Neal... help her get the gig. He knew someone."
He felt a pain in his chest as he mentioned his friend's name and Reese suddenly looked guilty as if he'd pushed the knife in without realizing it.
"I had no idea... Tell her I hope the best for her event."
Peter nodded as Hughes got off the elevator and he followed to grab up his things.
Author's Note: Someone requested I finally do this and I've been between this and another story to post. I originally posted a small bit of this I had in my head to my Menagerie drabbles. I think I have this one where I want it. Enjoy! (fixed a continuity error)