Chapter 14: Trapped
Fifteen Years Earlier
He couldn't believe it, couldn't believe his father as alive. For a moment, he'd been so excited, so relieved, and then Mom had started shouting. Calling his father names that no hero should be called and slowly he understood. She had lied to protect him and Matt, lied to make them believe and aspire to be something more than what they were. When he heard his father speak of prison, he turned and ran from the scene.
He heard Paul calling after him the second he started to run, actually heard Paul running after him while his real parents fought. But he was lighter and faster and he kept running, tears streaming down his face.
His mother's voice, following shortly if awkwardly by his father's but he ran on. He ran until he could no longer hear the voices of his parents, only the steady beat of his sneakers on the pavement and the ungainly sound of his bag hitting his hip. He ran until he couldn't run any longer, his body gasping for breath and he slid to the ground in a small alley next to a coffee shop. Tucking his knees to his chest, he sobbed quietly.
After a while, he heard footsteps and someone knelt before him, laying a hand on his head. He jerked his head up, staring in wonder and fear at the blond-haired man. But the man smiled and everything seemed all right. He was clean, well-dressed, with chiseled features and broad shoulders that alluded to a hidden strength.
"Hey there," the man said soothingly, pulling a white handkerchief from his inside jacket pocket. "Faces as beautiful as yours shouldn't cry."
George tried to wipe his tears with his shirt sleeve but the man just patted his hands away, smoothing away all traces with the delicate cloth.
"There." The man smiled. "Now what's wrong?"
"My father's evil and my mother's a liar." He said shortly and the man frowned.
George blinked in surprise as the man didn't try to reprimand him for speaking so of his parent's. The man simply ran a hand through his hair and cupped his chin but George no longer felt afraid. Rather, he felt a strange kinship with him.
"My parents were much like that." The man said soothingly and George felt captured by the man's incredibly green eyes. They seemed to shine like emeralds, even in the dim light. Maybe it was the running, maybe the crying, but suddenly he felt extremely lethargic. His eyelids felt weighted down and he struggled to keep them open.
The man looked up as George's eyes darted open.
"That's Paul," George murmured. Had his stepfather really run all this way after him?
"I see," the man said softly before pulling him to his feet. He walked unsteadily forward, the man's hand on his back pushing him in the right direction.
"George!" He felt Paul's arms fall around him and he staggered under the weight.
"I found him crying and wanted to stay with him until he found his parents, to make sure nothing happened to him." The man's silvery voice wafted against him.
"Thank you," he heard Paul say as he lifted George into his arms. "Thank you for making sure he was safe, Mr…"
"Devereux, but please call me Marcus. If there is anything you need, you can reach me at this number."
"Thank you again, Mr. Devereux."
He felt a hand on his shoulder. "Take care, George."
Then he closed his eyes and the world no longer mattered.
After Peter left for work that morning, Elizabeth called her office and told them she wasn't feeling well. She spent most of the morning lying in bed with Satchmo and Regina, feeling sick to her stomach with worry for Neal. She cried several times, thinking of him alone and scared, so far from everyone who loved him.
Neal slept in fits, never more than an hour, always waking to the same nightmare. He'd long since gone through the anti-anxiety pills Hughes had given him and with the face to face with Marcus looming before him, he was losing himself.
The work he'd been focusing on to try and bring Marcus down lay abandoned on the desk. He was curled up on the cheap mattress, knees tucked to his chest, and a two-day scruff on his cheeks. His phone lay a few scant inches from his face but it hadn't rang in hours. He wanted someone, anyone, to call him and tell him he wasn't alone. Someone.
The phone rang. He fumbled for it without opening his eyes. Rolling onto his back and stretching out his legs, he held the phone to his ear.
"Hello," he answered hoarsely.
"El, I told you not to call, it's too dangerous…" Neal said quietly. But the sound of her voice made the lump in his throat grow dangerously, the past he'd been running from, the panic he kept locked in the back of his mind roared against its cage, trying to push itself forward into his conscious.
"Neal," She started again and this time her tone made him fall quiet. "Neal, I know. I'm so sorry, Neal, if I had known sooner…"
He didn't hear the rest of what she said. He knew that with running this case, with what Peter would have to do to find Marcus, that it would no doubt come to light what had happened to him. It had always been there, the risk that someone would find out and it wasn't that he didn't want people to know. It was that…if he told someone, then he acknowledged that it had happened. And now they knew and he couldn't pretend anymore.
A broken sob forced its way from his throat as all the pain rushed forward, crashing through him, panic overtaking his body as it wracked against itself, trying to escape the memories, all the fear and pain. Elizabeth's voice changed in his ear, became soft and soothing, comforting even as his world came crashing down, all the walls just shattered. He was broken and exposed but her voice wrapped around him, sealing him off from the world that had tried so hard to destroy him. It held him tightly, held him together, and even as the sobs forced themselves from his throat, he felt that they were healing him rather than breaking him.
Neal slowly came back to himself, his throat sore and his eyes swollen but for the first time in years, he felt some level of calm, true calm, flooding through him. The panic was gone, the cage empty. He had broken but he had survived. He was free.
He laughed then and heard Elizabeth smile.
"Still love me?" he whispered hoarsely and she laughed.
"Of course, sweetie," she beamed. "Forever."
Outside the FBI, Marcus lifted his silver fedora and tucked it under his arm. He ran a hand through his hair, slicking it back with the slight moisture in the air from the morning's rain before replacing the hat, cocking it slightly to one side.
It started to rain again as he crossed the street and he was grateful for the navy overcoat he wore. His step never hesitated, calmly walking confidently into the FBI offices. He paused in the foyer, removing his coat to reveal the neat silver pin-striped suit he wore, tailor made to fit him.
"Hello," he greeted the security guard with a smile. "I believe I have an appointment to see Agent Peter Burke."
"What's the name?" The secretary asked from behind him and he stepped over to her, draping his coat over his arm.
She smiled, typing for a moment before handing him a visitor's pass. "The elevator's straight back. Fourth floor."
"Merci, ma chere."
Clipping the visitor's past to his coat pocket, Marcus waltzed back to the elevator, holding the door open for a young black man balancing six coffees.
Marcus smiled to himself. This must be Agent Jones.
"I was just heading there myself. I have an appointment with Agent Burke."
"Sorry to disappoint you but you may have to reschedule. We're up to our necks up there."
"Oh? Is something wrong?"
"One of our consultants has a murderous psychopath after him."
"That would put the office in frenzy."
"No kidding." Jones shook his head.
"Do you have any leads?"
Jones frowned. "No, not yet. But don't worry, we'll catch him."
Marcus smiled. "I'm sure."
He held the door for Agent Jones as they entered the office and Marcus picked out Burke immediately, walking over to him.
Peter glanced up briefly. "Hi, can I help you?"
"I had an appointment for today but your agent informs me you are quite busy so I will reschedule on the way out."
Peter nodded, blinking at the familiar man. He knew he'd seen him before but…where?
"Do I know you?"
"Not yet," Marcus said genially, producing a business card from his pocket. "But I'd like to further our relationship; perhaps later, after you've secured your missing agent."
Peter nodded slowly, taking the business card. "I look forward to it."
"Good luck," Marcus smiled, turning and walking back towards the elevator.
Peter frowned, almost dismissing the man but the card felt odd in his hand. Lifting it, he was startled that it was nearly blank. No address, no phone number, no business information…just an initial and a name.
He looked up as the elevator door slid closed. "No!"
"Diana, it's Devereux! He's in the elevator!"
Jones spun, staring out at them in shock. He ran with Peter and Diana as they headed for the stairs, rushing to cut Devereux off.
Whistling, Marcus waited until the elevator reached the third floor before sending it back up to the fourth and stepping out, turning left to go to records. He shed his silver jacket, dropping it in a waste basket as he walked and pulled a black tie out of his pocket, tying it at his neck. He slid a pair of black-rimmed glasses on and rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt.
"Hi," he greeted the clerk at the records desk. "I'm Dean from IT. They sent an email saying I was coming? Need to update your servers."
He waited patiently as she checked, finding the e-mail in her inbox just as he had planned.
"Sure, Dean, let's get you set up."
She slid from behind her desk, offering him the seat. He smiled at her, logging into the network with ease.
"Hey, um, one of the guys from White Collar asked if I could give you this?" he handed her a pink post-it. She glanced at it before nodding.
"I'll be right back. Just call if you need anything."
He smiled until she disappeared into the stacks of files then turned back to the computer, sliding a mini flash drive into the port and pulling up the files for himself and for George. He quickly copied them and slid the flash back into his pocket.
"You're all set!" he said cheerily when the clerk returned. "I'll see you later."
Her smile was bright. "Maybe…for coffee?"
"Sure," Marcus grinned. She jotted down her number quickly.
He winked at her, slipping out of the records department and heading down to the south side of the building. Taking the service elevator to the ground floor, he picked up the bag he'd stashed their earlier and went out the fire exit, setting off the fire alarm.
Peter, Diana, and Jones had run out into the courtyard, facing each direction as they tried to spot the man who'd so blatantly challenged them. Peter shook his head.
"No one can move that fast,"
Diana frowned then glanced back at the building. "He's still inside."
The fire alarm sounded even as they raced back towards the doors and people began pouring out into the courtyard. Peter cursed, falling back and holstering his gun.
"He's gone. The bastard is gone."
"Dude, what's going on?" A passing bike messenger in a Giants cap and aviator sunglasses asked in a harsh New York accent. Peter glanced at him and sighed.
"FBI business, move along."
The messenger shrugged, walking his bike through the crowd. Peter looked around, trying to engrave the man's face in his brain; Marcus Devereux, the man who had walked straight into the FBI and then walked right back out.
"Jones!" Peter shouted then spun, finding the man at his elbow.
"Jones, you were in the elevator with him. What did he say? What did he want?"
Jones shook his head lightly. "He, um…he said he had an appointment with you. I said you'd probably be busy, had a rough case. He asked if we had any leads…and I said no…"
"Well, that wasn't too incriminating," Diana muttered sarcastically.
Peter nodded slowly. "He barely stayed five minutes with us. There had to be something else he was after. Something else…"
"But what, Peter?"
Peter frowned before his eyes lit up in realization. "This is the man who trained Neal. Let's assume he's conning us."
The firemen gave the all clear behind them and the three of them heading back in, jogging up the stairs to avoid the stampede for the elevator.
"Diana, pull the security feeds. I want to know where he went and what he did. Jones, see if you can get a shot of his face. Maybe we can get an APB out."
They stopped as they reentered the White Collar Crime Division offices, hindered by the crowd of familiar faces that stood inside, bewildered. Each computer was on, each monitor showing the same images over and over again. Three people side by side, the same people on every monitor, and Peter walked forward slowly through the crowd.
Himself, Neal, and Elizabeth arm in arm, smiling in the sun at the summer barbecue.
"Peter," He heard Hughes say his name and walked up the steps, Hughes ushering him into his own office. On his computer, a box was blinking, waiting for him to enter his password. Hughes nodded to him and he slowly sat down, typing in his password. The screen instantly lit up with the same picture but it was now flickering. As they watched, dark red liquid dripped down over Neal's image, obscuring his face. Peter felt his heart clench and his hand trembled over the mouse. A crack appeared on the image between himself and Elizabeth and her image and Neal's both turned into white static, fading away into the background. Beneath his now lone picture, words appeared letter by letter.
JOINING THE GAME A LITTLE LATE NOW, AREN'T YOU, PETER?
"That's not melodramatic at all," Diana commented beside him but Peter paid her no mind.
He was on his feet the instant the image started playing again. "Jones, send someone to my house. I want someone with El at all times until this is over with. Diana, tell me we got something on this son of a bitch."
The look she gave him told him they didn't and Peter cursed even as Jones picked up the phone, calling in for someone to send a detail over to his house.
Marcus stood outside in the alley, listening to Peter's rant through the bug he'd slipped into Jones' pocket. When Jones picked up the phone, it dialed to his cell number.
"Dispatch," he answered pleasantly and listened quietly. An escort to the Burke house, of course. Like this didn't happen every other week. He closed his cell when Jones hung up and dialed Flint.
"Go." He commanded and hung up after Flint's affirmative. He listened as Burke ordered Jones to go and wait for the officer to show up. Dividing his force already?
"Burke, you're really making this too easy." Marcus laughed, sliding down the alley towards a nearby coffee shop. Now to wait for nightfall.
Jones waited with Elizabeth until there was a knock on the door, a young man with dark brown hair and a trim goatee greeting them with a smile. "Good afternoon, Agent. Ms. Burke."
His accent was pleasant and he joked with them for a few minutes while Elizabeth started a fresh pot of coffee. Then Jones shook his head, leaving him alone with Elizabeth as he headed back to the office to help Peter and Diana scrounge up what they could. Last he had heard, Marcus had locked them all out of their computers and tech support had just gotten them back in.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name?" Elizabeth asked genially as she handed the officer a cup of coffee.
"Flint," he answered, a smile lighting his eyes. "Roger Flint."
The day turned to night and Peter sat at his desk, miserable. They had the other computers running but his still played the image over and over again. Blood running down over Neal and Elizabeth being torn away from him…was Marcus after him now? Or was he just trying to draw him out to get to Neal?
"Peter," Hughes addressed him from the door. "Maybe you should go home."
Peter shook his head, running a hand over his face. "Marcus has brought us to a standstill. Our only chance lies with playing his game, leading Neal into his trap. I wanted so much to catch him before this point, before Neal had to risk his life…"
Hughes nodded, sitting across from him. "Neal knew the risks even before we did. I'm sure he knew it would end this way."
"That doesn't mean I have to like it." Peter said softly.
"I sent Jones down to check the lot and your car and as soon as he calls up with the all clear, you're going home. I'll call you if there's any development."
Peter looked at his boss tiredly before nodding. "Anything, the slightest bit of information, please call me."
"I will," Hughes promised.
Jones called up a moment later saying the parking lot was empty and he'd checked Peter's car thoroughly. He was clear to go home. Peter waved down to him from the window before picking up his jacket and keys. Jones closed his phone and slid it into the pocket, standing next to the passenger door of Peter's car and waiting for his boss to appear. Keeping a steady watch on the door, he didn't see the man dressed all in black sneaking up behind him, blond hair slicked back, the street light glinting off the silencer on his gun.
He didn't get a chance to react when a hand closed over his mouth, the muzzle of a gun pressed to his back and agony exploded through his chest. There was barely any sound and he choked as blood gurgled in his throat.
"Hush now," a voice soothed in his ear. "Your journey is over, Clinton. Sleep well."
He closed his eyes, his body going limp in the man's arms.
Peter hurried out to his car, fumbling with his keys. He glanced up to see a figure he assumed was Jones in the dark, leaning against his car.
"Thanks, Jones. I'll see you tomorrow."
He slid into the driver's seat and started the car. The passenger door opened and he froze as a blond haired man slid into the seat next to him.
"Good evening, Peter."