Neal headed up the steps to his room at June's, Peter in tow with files as he opened up the door and they stepped inside. He closed the door behind them as the agent passed through following as he moved towards the kitchenette and pulled some items from the fridge. He placed a bottle of what looked like beer next to the agent as he dropped the files onto the oriental style dining table in the middle of the room. Peter had already sat down, nodding thankfully as Neal joined him with a glass of red wine in a chair opposite, both men sorting through the files without any words. It was like they had been doing this for a while, each reading through the files then quietly exchanging what they were reading before scribbling notes and passing them back and forth.
This went on for about twenty minutes until they heard a knock on the door and Neal looked up from the file before him. Peter was busy writing something down as the CI walked to the door and opened it. June stood there, an odd look on her face as she peered past him at Peter and then back up at him. It was a signal but he didn't know for what.
"Neal... you forgot didn't you?"
He blinked back at her but went along with the dialogue wondering what he had supposedly forgotten. She kept looking at him in that curious manner that meant something was up as she continued.
"The Scotch and Wine tasting... it was tonight. You promised to go as my escort."
Neal was confused now but figured there must be a reason for June's diversion as he nodded.
"Oh... yes. I've been so busy with case files... Peter?"
He turned to move out of the way as June walked in with him and they approached the table, Peter looking up distractedly.
"Hi June. Is something the matter?"
The agent was looking at them both curiously, June moving forward before Neal could speak.
"I have a committee charity event tonight. Neal promised to go. You don't mind do you? It's a prior commitment. Two hours at best."
Peter looked between the two as if still distracted by the case then finally nodded, pushing papers into folders and doing a quick sweep of everything off the tabletop into his arms.
"No, I understand. So, I guess this is within his radius?"
June nodded, smiling brightly as she pointed downstairs.
"Hosting it here. We have some preparations before hand and Neal promised to help, didn't you dear?"
Neal didn't know what to say but just went along with the gag, nodding and looking a bit chagrined. If June was being this mysterious, something was up and she obviously needed his help. At worse he could explain it away to Peter later if the agent was suspicious of any wrong doing.
"I can't believe I forgot that was tonight. Thanks for reminding me June. I'm sorry Peter. I can come over afterward and we can finish this up..."
Peter shook his head, standing up as he shoved the items he'd brought under his arm again.
"Just call me when this is all done. We can finish the case up tomorrow at the office."
The agent only looked mildly curious about the situation but seemed to go along with whatever was up for the moment without letting them know he was suspect. Neal walked him out, June waiting by the stairs as the agent left, his phone at his ear as he crossed the street. Once Peter had gotten into his car, the con went back inside, locking up and saw June waiting for him with a finger to her lips. He nodded, following her back up to his room and out onto the terrace. She gave a quick glance around before talking to the air.
"You can come out now."
Neal didn't know what was going on until one of the larger plants on the terrace moved and out stepped a figure dressed in a black hoodie and sunglasses. They moved closer, the hood lowered and glasses removed to reveal Scott Rivers, the con they'd helped just a year ago. Neal blinked, glancing back at his landlady curiously then smiled.
"So this is the Scotch you meant. I never would have guessed. Scott... I thought you were supposed to be upstate in a work release program. How did you get here?"
June smiled as she glanced between the two.
"He came looking for you just a few moments before you showed up with Peter. I'll leave you two young men alone to chat."
Scott looked a bit nervous despite his usual cocky attitude. He was very much a mirror image of Neal at the same age but they had to do something about the hoodie situation. The young man they'd so aptly named "Robin Hoodie" had blue eyes like Neal but his hair was a lighter shade, skin a bit fairer too with round cheeks still looking the youngish kid that he was. There were other things he noticed, like a faint shiner on the kid's right eye and other indications he may have been in a fight or manhandled by some unknown persons. Maybe June had noted these features too but she didn't say as she gave him a "listen to him look" before leaving them. The door shut and Neal motioned for the young man to follow him inside. They sat on the sofa and he turned to see his guest glancing around nervously.
"I guess it was short notice... I'm sorry but I didn't know who else to turn to."
The kid fiddled with the pulls at the collar of his hoodie until Neal coughed and he stopped.
"I'm surprised you were able to make it here with an anklet."
Scott blushed slightly, pulling up the hem of his left pant leg and showing the missing accessory. Neal gave a heavy sigh and stood, pacing a bit as he peered down at the young con and sighed again.
"This complicates things. We need to talk to Peter. He can hel..."
Scott stood and shook his head, lifting both hands to indicate a definite no.
"No Feds... I mean I know he was nice to help me but I... No. You don't understand what's at stake, Neal. These men..."
Neal stopped him there, moving over to the fridge and grabbing two beers as he handed one to the younger man. They stood and sipped at the brews a few minutes in silence before Scott moved a bit closer, eyes wandering the apartment as if to find something else to take his attention from the situation when his eyes fell on a folder on the dining table. Peter had left one of the case files behind, Scott's eyes looking down at the papers as he opened up the folder and gasped.
"You know... And you let me talk to you? This isn't a set up is it?"
The young man looked pale, angry almost but Neal blinked and moved towards the table to glance down at the file. They had only gotten the case today and Peter had wanted to do some work on it. They were investigating a gang of thieves stealing from banks and museums. This was the third big hit in the last month but nobody had been able to catch them. Scott had been looking down at a surveillance photo, grainy and dark but now Neal saw something there that made sense.
"That's you... I haven't had a chance to look this over. I didn't... Tell me everything, Scott. It's important if you want me to help you."
The younger man shook his head, moving towards the door but Neal stopped him, blocking his escape.
"You have to tell me what happened if you don't want me to call Peter right this moment."
Scott glanced between him the door behind him, a look of desperation there but soon it faded and his shoulders sagged as he nodded with a frown.
"But no Feds. Promise..."
Neal felt reluctant to lie to Peter any more but maybe once they had the story straight he could convince the young man to turn himself in. He'd done it before. The kid had a good heart and these crimes weren't his style. He looked terrified if anything so he had obviously been coerced into this gang, Neal knowing from experience how that worked.
"I promise, if you tell me the whole truth. Now... how are you involved in this case."
Peter found it fishy that June had this sudden party to attend but he was tired, the week had been long and he didn't mind putting off work for once. El was off for the night and had been disappointed he was busy working on a case with Neal. This gave him some alone time with his wife, he could pick up flowers, maybe some Chinese take out...
"Burke... Hey Jones, no... what?"
He had barely left June's when his phone rang, Jones telling him bad news when he thought he was free for the evening. Work begets work apparently and his life was one big work-fest. He sighed, nodding to the phone as he crossed the street and got into the Taurus.
"I'll be right there. Yes... thanks for the heads up."
He glanced back at the palacious brownstone a moment then pulled out of the parking space and headed back to the Bureau. If he hadn't had enough fun chasing Neal Caffrey, he was now assigned to a new quarry: Scott Rivers. The young con had been offered a deal last year for helping on a case and for good behavior. Scott had been on a work release program upstate, a friend of Peter's checking up on the young man and sending them reports. It had been almost a month since the last communique. The agent gave a heavy sigh as he pulled up to the Bureau garage and parked his car near the elevators. Just like Caffrey, Rivers wasn't going to make his life easy. There was only one difference between chasing Neal and chasing Scott: Neal had never killed anyone. Peter sighed, heading up the elevator and exiting on the 21st floor, Jones and Diana already waiting for him as was Hughes, a sour look on the senior agent's face.
"Burke... my office now!"
Peter had barely made it through the glass doors into their department, nodding up at his boss as he hurried through the bullpen and up the few steps that led to his office and Hughes'. He entered quickly, closing the door at his boss' motion.
"I'm hoping Jones already called you about the situation at hand. I don't want a repeat of Caffrey although this is looking less like him all the time."
Reese looked upset but it was for reasons other than he was normally angry about. He appreciated Caffrey but seeing another con with the same background do something like Scott Rivers had done, it made things harder.
"Yes. He told me what happened but not all the details, Sir. Agent Marks was a good agent and friend. How..."
He felt his throat tighten up at the thought of his friend and old Harvard classmate being murdered. He couldn't believe that Scott had done it but unlike Neal, he really knew very little about the young man and what he was capable of. Just because he had seemed so much like Caffrey didn't mean he didn't have a dark side. Reese coughed, his face pale with some thoughts that obviously made him uncomfortable.
"Throat was slit. River's DNA is at the scene and on the weapon. It doesn't mean he did it but there are eye witnesses of him leaving the scene alone. It doesn't look good for him if he's found by the Marshal's or any one else at this point. I want our department to head this off. You understand why..."
Peter gave a stiff nod trying not to imagine the look of his friend's throat cut through. Jessica Marks had been a very kind woman and agent. She had taken the Scott in as he had taken in Neal. They had been of the same ilk and like himself, she had a soft spot for smart people. He tried to think of her as he'd seen her last, the day she'd come to pick up Scott Rivers for his new life upstate.
I'll make sure he gets all the advantages he deserves but I won't be soft on him.
Her words hung in the air now as he tried not to let the tears falls, swallowing hard and thinking only of finding Scott and what really happened. Perhaps Neal could help.
"I'll talk to Caffrey. If Scott is on the run, he might come looking for help there. He made an impression on the kid."
Hughes nodded, stopping him before he could leave.
"One more thing... the case you took home. Put it aside until you've finished finding Mr. Rivers. This takes priority."
Peter nodded, leaving the office and going to his own next door. He closed the door and dropped his jacket on the chair as he collapsed into it. This had started as just any other ordinary day and now... It made him think about his relationship with Neal. They had their ups and downs but never would he imagine the young man would hurt him. There was a time during one case they were at a hunting lodge that he thought Neal might hit him but that had been a misunderstanding. Caffrey was smarter than that even when he went after Fowler he let his feelings get in the way but in the end he gave in. They had seen some of the same of Neal in Scott but now it looked as if they had possibly misjudged the young man.
"Boss? I have the files..."
He nodded, moving over to the door to grab them from Diana as she stood there and stared at him with a sad expression.
"Thank you, Diana. Give me a moment and we'll meet in the conference room. Let Jones know."
She nodded back but remained in the doorway until he addressed her again.
"Something else, Agent?"
She was quiet then spoke softly.
"Not everyone can be like Caffrey. I'm sorry for your loss."
They must have found out from Reese or through the paperwork he knew Marks. He nodded again, working hard not to show his emotions. This wasn't the time to cry until they'd found their murderer. His phone rang and she excused herself as he answered it.
"Burke... Ruiz. Yes, I have the case... Just getting to it. I'll call you when I'm finished. Meet me in the conference room. Thanks."
This was getting more complex. They were working with Organized Crime on the case, all departments tasked to find Scott Rivers throughout the state. He dropped his own case files on the desk along with the one Diana had brought him, a paper sliding out of the folder. He picked it up and gave it a quick look before staring at it closer. One of the figures in the bank robbery was wearing a black hoodie and sun glasses. He looked at the papers he'd just been given and the description of Scott when he was running away.
"They're related... Days apart but they're related!"
He picked up the picture and went back to Hughes' office.
"I think I have a match for Scott, sir!"
Reese looked up at him from his phone call holding up a hand and quickly ending his call as he motioned Peter in.
Peter nodded, handing over the picture.
"The man on the lower right of the surveillance footage. That was two days ago and three days ago was the murder. That's Scott Rivers."
Neal stood up as Scott finished his story and took a good walk around the room before he finally came back to the sofa and stared at the young man before him. He believed him but would the Feds or any law enforcement do the same? He didn't like lying to Peter but he had to get Scott into protection if what he said was true. The young man was in danger in more ways than one.
"Scott... I know I promised, but you really should talk to Peter. He would understand. You need a friend and there's little I can do unless you let him help you. He's our in to proving your innocence."
The younger man stood, hands up, face pale and shook his head.
"No, you promised and... No. We can't involve him. I told Jessica and you know what happened to her. No... Neal, call your friend, uhm, Haversham. Tell him to hide me!"
Neal shook his head, a look of hopelessness and then anger crossing the younger man's face. He had a feeling what was going to happen. Scott was heading for the door when Neal moved to cut him off. It was sudden as the young man turned and hit him hard across the chin, distracting him long enough to get out of the room and head downstairs. Neal was up on his feet quickly, running after the kid as June popped out of the dining room to see what was up. Scott had already left the house, front door open as Neal followed. He saw a dark hooded figure to the left and gave chase despite the pain in his chin. The kid had fight in him but he shouldn't be running from the people who could help him. Neal didn't dare call out, keeping enough distance to watch the young man and wait to make his move. He couldn't let Scott take the blame if he was innocent but there were far more dangerous things lurking out there than Marshal's and law enforcement. The men who had taken Scott in weren't just thieves but killers.
They were in the park now, people crowding because of some afternoon event. There were vendors with balloons and glowing necklaces as he lost sight of the kid and tried to figure out which way to go. He had to find him before the law did. He had barely turned to see a dark hoodie disappearing around the edge of a path when he felt his phone ring. Reluctantly he took it out.
"Neal... where are you?"
The conference meeting went as well as could be imagined. Reese briefed them on the situation as Burke and Ruiz agreed to work on this along with two Marshal's who had been called in to participate. Once their assignments were arranged, everyone broke up and Peter sent Jones with Diana to hit the streets. This was a manhunt of epic proportions. One of their own was murdered and they were going to find the killer. Peter went back to his office and grabbed up his jacket. His phone was ringing in his coat pocket as he took the call.
There was a moment of silence before a familiar voice piped up.
"Agent Burke... I fear I've done something regrettable. Call Neal. It's important."
He blinked, closing the door to his office before moving over to the window to speak quietly.
He was trying to think past the case as to what she meant as he listened to her panicked breath on the other end.
"I... I made an error in judgment. Call Neal now. Please."
Peter nodded, hanging up the phone with June and dialing another number as he walked out of the office and headed for the elevator. The cell picked up almost immediately, sound and voices passing through as well as music. This didn't sound like a scotch and wine tasting to him.
"Neal... where are you?"
He heard silence despite the background noise then breath as a familiar voice spoke.
"Central Park. Peter, you need to meet me at the fountain. It's important. I can't give you details now but trust me. I have to go but I will meet you at the fountain."
Peter was about to rebuke but the call ended and he cursed, willing the elevator to move faster as he waited for it.
Neal saw the dark hoodie and gave chase, hanging up the call with Peter as he hurried to catch up. He passed under a bridge, glancing around the other end when he heard a particular sound despite the noise and activity around him.
Thought you could get away from Vega kid? Nobody leaves until HE says they leave. Take him!
He honed in on the voice and turned to see Scott held by two men off to his right behind a small copse of trees. The kid looked scared and he didn't blame him. Now that he knew who they were dealing with, this was going to take Peter and all of the Bureau to fix. Antonio Diablo Vega was not a man you dealt with lightly and he wondered how Scott had fallen into the group when he'd been under the supervision of Agent Marks. Neal moved closer, trying to get a better visual when he felt cold metal on the back of his neck.
"Act casual and do what you're told."
Neal moved forward, hands where they could be seen as he was herded towards the same copse and Scott. The men turned to see what was up, guns drawn, the con's eyes wide with fear as he realized Neal was being held at gun point too.
"Found THIS poking around here. Anyone we know?"
The man who'd been threatening Scott shook his head, eyes watching Neal intensely before making a signal: a finger across his throat. The gun man nodded, grabbing Neal and pulling him aside when the kid spoke up.
"Vega wanted an inside man didn't he? Take him. He's the best!"
The gun man paused, looking back at the other guy with a curious look. The man was around 6 foot, dark blond hair and blue green eyes that were more like an unpolished marble than anything. His face was scarred from obvious fights past and recent but he wasn't stupid as he glanced between Scott and Neal.
"Inside man... How do I know he's not a cop or Fed like your other friend..."
Scott glanced over at Neal with a look that told more than words could as he stood up straight and spoke.
"Because I'm Neal Caffrey."
Peter made it to the park and went straight to Bethesda Fountain as Neal had suggested. It was the only fountain really when they spoke of landmarks since it had been prominent in one of their initial cases. He glanced down at his watch and then back around at the masses of people walking past. He'd already been waiting 30 minutes when he got that gut feeling something was wrong. Neal wasn't normally late and he wasn't picking up his phone either which along with June's phone call told him something hinky was going on. He walked the length of the fountain and within a good 20 to 30 yards around as he tried to see if there was any sign the CI had been here.
He was tired now, almost an hour having passed and he was still no closer to figuring out why June had asked him to call or had diverted him in the first place. Neal had looked surprised so maybe...
Why would June call a ruse of a party that wasn't happening? There had to be a reason but he had been too tired to fight it knowing if it was something he could help with, Neal would have contacted him and he had although Peter had been the one to call. His gut was making him feel sick as he moved out of the way of some kids running past and stumbled back into a small copse of trees. Once the mob had passed he looked down to see if he'd torn his pants on the brush when something caught his eye.
Someone had recently carved a very crude R and H into the tree he was leaning on, something else evident as he crouched down to see. Someone's fingernail had been left behind, just a bit of the white part which meant they had done it fast without thinking about the consequences. He pulled out his phone and took a picture of the scene then looked around for more clues as he made a call.
"Reese... I need to borrow a forensics team in the park. Yes it's related to the case. I don't know how but just trust me sir. It's important. Ok... tell them to meet me by Bethesda fountain, west side. Thank you sir."
Author's Note: Another new story. I figured this would be good story fodder with a mini-Neal running around. They are thinking about bringing him back for a possible sequel but this is MY interpretation before they do anything official. How I wish I could write scripts for White Collar. Would make my day! :) Also the original title is anagrammed in the new one. Let me know what you think!