AN: Please let me know what you think and where you think the storyline should go.
AAN: I would like to thank Jackilee for being my beta, you were a great help. And without further ado here's my story called...
A Change of Plans
As soon as Neal stepped off the elevator on the 21st floor of the FBI building he knew it was not going to be another average day at the office. Before he could even got through the glass doors he had the overwhelming urge to run, because seated at his desk was Agent Kyle Collins, and standing next to him was Agent Philip Kramer. The two men on the planet that Neal never wanted to see again. As Neal put his hand on the handle, he looked across the bullpen. He spotted Peter standing just outside his office with a look on his face that was a combination of disappointment and fear. While Neal could understand the fear, given who was at his desk, but what he couldn't figure out the disappointment because as far as Neal knew he hadn't done anything wrong or even close to illegal since his return from Cape Verde. He knew if he did anything wrong after Peter, and Hughes, had fought so hard to reinstate his deal not only would he end up in jail for the rest of his life, but Peter would most definitely lose his job.
Neal put on his 'patent pending' smile and strolled through the door like nothing was wrong.
"Neal!" Peter shouted, while at the same time summoning him with the double finger point. Neal didn't even look in the direction of his unwanted guests, who were at his desk. But he did see them both smirking triumphantly at him as he passed by.
As Neal reached the top of the stairs Peter indicated for him to step into the conference room. Once the door was closed Neal let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding.
"What's up Peter?" Neal asked as he watched his partner and friend start to pace. He knew it couldn't be anything good with Kramer and Collins camped out at his desk.
"Sit down, Neal." Peter ordered, barely keeping his temper in check. Neal took a seat. He took his fedora off and placed on the table. Neal knew there were only a few things that could get his friend this out of control.
"What's going on, Peter? Why are Kramer and Collins here?" Neal questioned. He was becoming even more anxious as he watched Peter begin to pace.
"I swear to you, Peter, whatever they think I've done, I didn't do it." Neal stated, hoping to relieve some of the mounting tension in the room to no avail. "You know, you keep that up and you're going to wear a hole in the carpet" Neal quipped hoping to get his partner's attention. It worked. Peter stopped pacing and a small amused smile flashed across his face for a second, then his grim expression reappeared.
"Sorry, Neal. I didn't mean to snap at you earlier. But this situation has me so pissed off that I can't think straight" Peter stated as he leaned against the cabinets in front of the windows and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Mind telling what the situation is before Collins and Kramer burst in and do it for you. I could tell by their body language and the triumphant grins they were sporting that they really want to do just that." Neal stated as he moved to the edge of his seat and placed his elbows on his knees.
"Ok, ok. You're right, Neal. It'll be better for me to tell you, then hearing it from them. And no, Neal, you haven't done anything wrong this time. Kramer has pulled some strings and convinced enough people where it counts that you need a 'new handler'. He's been saying that you have been playing a 'long con' on everyone here just to stay out of jail. For the record, I don't believe anything of that nature has been going on, at least since Kate died." Peter explained as he dropped his chin to his chest and let out a deep sigh.
"So, you're telling me that I'm getting a new handler. That doesn't sound too bad" Neal started but stopped as when he saw Peter shaking his head.
"Oh, it gets worse. I'm being told that your handler is going to be Kramer. Also you're to be transferred to D.C. effective immediately." Peter continued as he started to rub the bridge of his nose.
"Ok, that explains why Kramer is here but why is Collins here?" Neal asked as he leaned back in his chair and started to play with the edge of his fedora.
"Well since your little vacation to Cape Verde, Kramer feels that you're a greater flight risk than ever. Kramer brought Collins with him to keep you from running during the transfer" Peter explained as he brought his eyes up to meet his friend's gaze. Peter could see an expression of fear flash across the ex-conman's face, knowing full well what happened the last time Neal and Collins were in the same room.
"Oh this is going to be a delightful trip" Neal quipped with a slight chuckle as he stood up and stared out of the windows over the New York skyline.
"Are you ok, Neal? You're taking this better than I thought you would. I know this really sucks on many levels but if you play your cards right, you might be back here in no time." Peter stated as placed his hand on Neal's shoulder, silently praying that Neal wouldn't do anything stupid during or after the transfer to jeopardize either his life or his freedom.
"Don't worry, Peter. I'm not thrilled with this turn of events but it was bound to happen eventually. Kramer is relentless if nothing else. As for Collins, I'll just have to make damn sure that I don't do anything that will give him any reason to shoot me again. Then again, it didn't take much the last time" Neal chuckled as he continued to stare out the window. "By the way just so you know, I would rather leap out this window and run then go to D.C. with those two, but sadly I don't have a parachute" he quipped then looked Peter directly in the eye as he continued. "Also I gave you my personal promise that wouldn't run again after the last time. I may be many things, but I'm first and foremost a man of my word."
"Glad to hear that, Caffery!" Kramer announced as he burst into the conference room, with Collins hot on his heels, like the loyal attack dog he is.
"Agent Kramer, nice to see you again. Agent Collins, always a pleasure to see you." Neal said as he turned to greet the two agents with the most charming smile he could muster.
"Just for record, I'm still against this. Neal, doesn't need a 'new handler' or a trigger happy bounty hunter watching every move he makes" Peter declared as he leaned heavily on the conference table.
"Thank you for your vote of confidence, Peter, but there's no point in fighting this. If you recall, I was the one who came to the FBI with this deal, and I gave the Bureau the authority to decide where my skills will be of the most benefit. If they decide that D.C. is where I am needed, then so be it. I know it won't be for forever, it'll be for a few months or for as long as my remaining sentence, but one day I will be back" Neal announced as he came to stand at the head of the conference table and grabbed his fedora. He did his classic hat flip finishing with his hand extended towards his partner for him to shake.
Peter was shocked, to say the least, at the way Neal was handling the situation. He was expecting at least some sort of fight from the ex-conman but that's not what was happening. Peter was watching his partner/friend except his fate with all the grace and charm he had come to expect from Neal George Caffrey.
Peter shook his friend's hand firmly and drew him close for a friendly half-hug. "Alright, buddy. Take care of yourself, I expect you back here soon. Preferable in one piece" Peter stated as be patted Neal on the back. The last part of his statement was directed solely at Agent Kyle Collins, who shot Neal.
"Agent Burke, you and Caffery here have nothing to worry about, as long as Caffery doesn't try his Houdini act again." Collins declared, as he leaned against the doorframe and crossing his arms over his chest.
"Since everyone has had their say on the matter, it's time to go. The three of us have a flight to catch. And just so you know, all of the arrangements have been made with the U.S. Marshals for transport and Caffery's new radius upon our arrival in D.C." Kramer declared with a clap of his hands, officially ending Peter's and Neal's partnership.
"See you soon, Peter. Please tell El that I'm sorry I couldn't say goodbye" Neal commented with a slight tip of his hat and a quick wink. He was silently telling Peter that he already had something in the works.
Peter watched his friend/partner exit the conference room with the two most dangerous agents that could ever work for/with the White Collar Division.
Neal walked calmly down the steps leading back down to the bullpen. He was walking in front of Kramer and Collins headed for the glass doors he had just entered only minutes ago. Neal slightly tipped his hat to both Jones and Diana as he, Kramer and Collins left. Neal, Jones or Diana said nothing knowing full well that there was nothing that could be said to change what was happening. Both Jones and Diana nodded their heads slightly in response as Neal passed, acknowledging the departure of the ex-con they had both come to respect.
The walk to the elevators was made in total silence. Of course, Neal felt as though he was being lead to death row. But on the outside he made sure he didn't show how truly scared he was of now being under the authority of Agent Philip Kramer. As the trio entered the elevator Neal leaned against the back wall and watched Kramer and Collins enter, both taking blocking positions by the slowly closing doors.
Neal looked up when he heard the all too familiar sound of handcuffs being pulled out. The ex-con gave a half smile and held his hands out for Collins to attach the cuffs. As he felt the metal bite slightly into his wrists he shifted his gaze to Kramer, who was looking like he had just won the lottery.
"I know you probably think that I'm trying to pull something over on you when I say this, but I'm going to say it anyway. These really aren't necessary I'm not going to run, cause I know that if I do, this "deal" will be void and I'll spend the rest of my life in jail" declared Neal as he shifted his wrists in the now too tight cuffs to a more comfortable position.
"You may have everyone else fooled, but not me. I know that you will run given the first opportunity. And don't even try to pick those. They were made especially for people like you. They are impossible to pick" declared Kramer as he turned his back on the ex-con.
"What about my stuff? I wasn't exactly planning to leave town when I got up this morning" Neal questioned, trying to break some of the tension.
"As Agent Kramer said earlier, all of the arrangements have been made. We have a flight to catch, and since you and Burke took so long we don't have time to stop so you can pack. You'll just have to adapt, when you get to D.C. You should be able to do that, right Caffery? Isn't that what being a conman is all about, adapting?" Collins quipped as the elevator car came to a stop and he grabbed Neal's arm, pulling him towards the opening doors.
Neal didn't say anything, knowing full well that Collins was trying to provoke him. As the trio exited the elevator Neal jerked his arm from Collins's grip and walked out into the parking garage. Before Neal knew what was happening, Neal found himself pushed up against the wall just outside the elevator, with Collins's forearm pressed against his throat.
"This is your only warning. You will do what we tell you, when we tell you, and how we tell you. If you don't, I have no problem thinking that you're trying to escape and putting another bullet in you, understand?" Collins snapped, pulling his gun and pressing it against Neal's cheek. Neal just nodded the best he could in his position, not wanting to be shot again.
"My hearing must failing, cause I didn't hear you" Collins growled as he pressed harder on Neal's cheek with his gun.
"Yes, I understand" Neal choked out barely able to breathe.
"Agent Collins, you can let go of Mr. Caffery now. I don't think he'll be giving us any further trouble now that you've fully explained the situation to him. Isn't that right Mr. Caffery?" Kramer questioned as he came up behind Collins and placed his hand on Collins's shoulder.
"Yes, Agent Kramer, you've made everything crystal clear" Neal rasped between shallow breaths. Neal held his breath as Collins withdrew his gun from his face. When Collins finally removed his forearm from Neal's throat, Neal took several deep breaths and coughed slightly until he could breath normally.
As soon as Neal was able to control himself again he picked up his hat, which had been knocked off when Collins attacked. After placing it back on his head, Neal tried to straighten his shirt and tie as best he could, with his hands still cuffed. After everyone had calmed down, Collins grabbed Neal's arm again and push Neal in front of him, causing Neal to stagger, slightly. The remaining moments between the elevators and Agent Kramer's car was made in total silence. As Neal stopped next to the black town car he was pushed against the trunk roughly, with his back to the agents, just as he was about to push away from the vehicle, he froze. He felt the cold metal of a gun being pressed against his neck.
"Don't even think of moving, Caffery" Collins ordered, then proceeded to thoroughly and roughly search Neal. He then proceeded to lay out what he found on the trunk for Kramer's inspection. Kramer picked up everything; first he picked up Neal's keys to his apartment at June's house, then his lock pick set, and then lastly his wallet and his consultant ID badge. The only thing Kramer left on the trunk for Neal to take back was his ID badge and his wallet, after taking the credit cards out. He then put Neal's keys, pick set, and credit cards in his inside jacket pocket.
"I guess now is as good a time as any to inform you of a few changes to your arrangement. That have been made" Kramer stated as he grabbed Neal's shoulder and turned Neal to face him. "First of all, you will be staying at my place so that I can keep a close eye on you. Secondly, you are not allowed any credit cards. All purchases you need to make will be in cash, and you will produce receipts. Third, the only time you will be using your lock picks is when or if I authorize it, otherwise they stay in my possession. Lastly, if I suspect you of doing anything illegal; whether it's pick pocketing, theft, forgery, or even lying to me; there will be severe consequence. Are you understanding me so far?" Kramer asked, looking Neal directly in the eye. Neal just nodded his head once in response. "Furthermore, when I ask you a question I expect a verbal answer, are we clear" he continued as he punched Neal in his stomach causing the consultant to drop down to one knee.
"Yes, Agent Kramer, sir. You have made it abundantly clear that you don't trust me. That's fine and completely understandable. However, that does not give you the right or the authority to use me as your personal punching bag" Neal declared as he rose to his feet and once more adjusted his fedora with his still cuffed hands.
"You gave up your rights the second you decided to break the law, however, minor or non-violent your offense. But to be fair I'll give you, your choice of three options. One, you can come to DC with me and abided by my rules. Option two, I can invalidate your "deal" and send you back to prison where I have the means to make your time very unpleasant. Or option three, I can decide that you're trying to escape and have Agent Collins use deadly force to stop you" Kramer seethed, his tone low and firm, confirming what Neal suspected as a not overly subtle threat to his life.
Wanting to live as much, if not more then the next man. Neal lowered his head a bit and thought over his options which were few at the moment. As with all his past scams and thefts, the main denominator is time. All he needed to do was buy time until the opportunity presented itself.
"So what's it going to be, Caffery?" demanded Kramer as he opened the rear driver side door, intentionally hitting Neal's right arm.
"Fine, you win this round" Neal declared. He got in Agent Kramer's car, for the start of, what he was sure was going to be a very stressful trip to his new "prison" in D.C. As he expected, Collins got in the back seat with him. Then Kramer got behind the wheel and started the engine.
20 minutes later...
The trip to LaGuardia Airport was made in tense silence. Neal just kept staring out the window making sure to hold onto every detail about New York. Since he didn't know when (or if) he would be returning. He sat perfectly still with his hands in his lap not wanting to give Collins even the slightest idea that he was trying to escape.
Kramer's car came to a sudden stop at the main entrance to LaGuardia with a slight screech of the tires. It effectively pulled Neal from his thoughts and made him focus on the here and now.
"Get out!" Kramer ordered as he jerked the door opened. Neal exited the vehicle and waited for Kramer's next order. He didn't have to wait long, before he felt Collins come up behind him and grabbed his arm roughly. He led the conman into the airport. Just as the three men entered, Collins guided Neal to a nearby bench and forced him to sit. Neal tried to get comfortable on the hard bench but froze when he felt Collins's grip on his shoulder tighten almost to the point of causing the conman pain. Neal noticed that Kramer had left their group just as they had entered. Neal noticed his return when Kramer suddenly reappeared.
"Get up and place your left foot on the bench" Kramer ordered. Neal did as he was told. He fought the urge to jump with glee when felt his tracking anklet be removed. But his hopes were again dashed by the death glare Kramer was fixing him with.
"Don't get any ideas, Caffery. According to FAA rules all electronic devices have to be turned off. The anklet goes right back on when we land in D.C." Kramer announced, thinking that he was reading Neal's mind.
"I wasn't even thinking about running. Not with your private attack dog over here, with an itchy trigger finger, watching my every move" Neal quipped as he lowered his foot back down to the floor and flashed Kramer his patented grin. Instead of lightening the mood like he'd hoped, he only managed to piss Collins off further. It earned Neal a strong punch to his left kidney area.
"Keep it up, Caffery and I'll just turn my back and let him have free reign. Unless you really want to find out how much damage, the bureau's finest retrieval specialist, can really do I would recommend keeping that smart mouth of yours shut. Understood?" Kramer snapped as he got right up in Neal's face.
"Yes, I understand completely, Agent Kramer" Neal stated as he tried his best to keep how much Collins's punch hurt from showing on his face. He knew that even-though the flight wasn't going to be a long one, time wise, it was going to be a long one both emotionally and physically.
"Now that we've come to an understanding, move it, Caffery!" Collins barked shoving Neal towards to the security check point. As they walked down the hallways toward security, Neal made a point of watching everything around him, silently praying that Peter would show up and save him from going to D.C. Neal was pulled from his thoughts by Agent Collins grabbing his shoulder as the trio approached the metal detectors.
"I am Special Agent Philip Kramer and this is my associate Agent Kyle Collins, we are from the Washington, D.C. office of the FBI" Kramer stated while flashing his badge at the TSA officer. "We are transporting Mr. Caffery, here to D.C. with us. You may search him if you'd like but under federal authority he must remain handcuffed until we arrive in DC" Kramer continued when the officer gestured to Neal's cuffed hands.
"In that case, sir, we're going to forgo the body scanner as the cuffs will definitely set it off and just do a pat down. Please step over here, Mr. Caffery" the TSA officer explained, then directed Neal to step around the body scanner. Even though Neal knew it was pointless considering Kramer had already everything except his consultant ID and his tie pin, Neal did as the officer directed.
"Mr. Caffery, please place your hands behind you head and spread your legs" the officer asked. Neal rolled his eyes in Kramer's and Collins's direction but thankfully the tilt of his hat covered his glare as he followed the officer's instructions. The officer patted Neal down, only finding only his ID in his jacket pocket.
"Alright, gentlemen, you're all set. Thank you for you cooperation, Mr. Caffery. Hope you all have a pleasant flight" the officer declared as he finished patting Neal down and indicated that Neal could lower his hands.
"Thank you officer, I'm sure we will. Isn't that right Mr. Caffery?" Collins asked with an obvious underlying threat.
"Absolutely, this is going to be a real thrill for me. I've never been to where being a con artist is legal" Neal quipped, tossing the officer his best humorous grin.
"Haha, that's funny Mr. Caffery" the officer replied as he watched the trio leave the checkpoint.
Just as they got past the crowded checkpoint, Colin's slammed Neal against the nearby wall once more.
"For a supposed genius you're not overly bright. You keep pushing the limits of our patience" seethed Collins as he hit Neal in stomach again then pulled out his gun and pushed it under the ex-con's chin, forcing Neal to look him directly in the eye. "Now keep your mouth shut, unless you want another bullet in the leg. Or maybe I'll put it somewhere more vital to you" Collins threatened as he moved his gun away from Neal's head and pressed it firmly against Neal's left hand.
"Alright, you win" Neal announced, knowing that if Collins went through with his threat that Neal would never again be able to forge another painting or bond or any other priceless piece of art. His hands were his life, like being a surgeon.
"Now Neal, this is your last chance to cooperate willingly. Do you understand?" Kramer remarked as he stepped up behind Collins. He put his hand on the other agent's shoulder, solidifying the point that Kramer had absolutely no problem with Collins's methods of operation.
"Yes, sir, Agent Kramer" Neal replied through clenched teeth, trying to maintain what little control he had left over his emotions.
"Good! Now Agent Collins here will escort you to the facilities, I recommend you take advantage of this opportunity because you will not be getting the chance during the flight" Kramer stated. Then patted Collins on his shoulder, signaling for him to let go of 'his consultant'. Collins stepped back and replaced his gun back in his holster. He then grabbed Neal by the upper arm, shoving the conman towards the nearby men's room. Neal stumbled slightly from the sudden momentum, once he was able to, he straightened out his stride to his normal suave stride, casually walking towards the men's room.
Upon entering the bathroom, Neal did as any criminal/conman would do, he scanned the room for possible exits. Sadly this airport was not made for those who need to flee at a moment's notice. There were no windows, not even a second exit, much to Neal's great disappointment. Even though Neal had promised himself, and Peter, that he wouldn't run again, the way Kramer was treating him, he was strongly reconsidering doing just that. But, as has been the usual, fate has not been on Neal's side; hence his current situation. Neal was ripped from his thoughts when Collins shoved him towards the handicapped stall. Before Neal could even think of how embarrassing it was going to be to take care of business in front of the agent, Collins pulled the key for the handcuffs out of his pocket and roughly unlocked the cuff around Neal's left wrist then attached it to the support railing right next to the paper towel dispenser.
"Don't even think about trying to disappear down the drain. You've got 5 minutes!" Collins stated as he placed the handcuff key back in his pocket and left the stall.
'Finally, five minutes alone' thought Neal as he started to inspect Kramer's special handcuffs. 'Damn it, the son of a bitch was right. Even with my picks I wouldn't be able to get these off. Even the option of slipping them off has been taken off the table cause Collins put them on so tight, it's amazing that the metal didn't cut the skin' Neal thought to himself as he relieved himself and washed his hands as best he could with one hand cuffed to the railing. 'Maybe I could pick Collins's pocket for the key. It's not like I haven't done that before. However, Kramer did mention severe consequences if he caught me pick pocketing. But it's not like I have much choice. I can't defend myself with my hands cuffed' Neal thought as he tossed his paper towel in the trash. Then he heard Collins banging on the door.
"You had better be ready, Caffery. The plane leaves in ten minutes" Collins demanded.
"All right, already. I'm done" Neal replied. Neal watched Collins slam the door open and walk over to him. Collins unlocked the cuffs from the pole and before Neal could blink, his hands were once more tightly bound together. "You know, you don't need to make these things so tight. Kramer has taken my picks, it's not like I'm going to magically slip them off" Neal said as the metal cut into his already tender wrists.
"This coming from a guy who tried escape not too long ago with only a rusty nail to use as a pick. First of all, we're not going to give you any opportunity to even consider your little Houdini act and secondly, I distinctly remember telling you to keep mouth your shut" Collins snapped, and then slapped Neal across the face, hard enough to cause him to crash against the nearby wall. The blow had Neal stunned for a few minutes. He grabbed the support bar to pull himself back up. Catching a quick glance of himself in the mirror, he could see a defined hand print across his left cheek. He could also see that his lip was split but thankfully wasn't bleeding. Neal whipped around with every intention of tackling the agent. He stopped when he realized he was glaring down the barrel of Collins's revolver and that Collins was pulling back the hammer.
"Don't even think about trying to attack me. I have no problem putting another hole in you" Collins stated as he ever so slightly pulled the trigger back. Know full well that Collins had no problem pulling the trigger, Neal tried to quickly think of a way out of this mess without being dead.
"Ok, I got it. You and Agent Kramer are the ones in charge of every move. I won't cause either of you any more problems, just please but the gun away" Neal begged, raising his cuffed hands hoping to gesture his surrender. 'God, I really don't like guns, especially when they are point at me. But maybe, just maybe Kramer hasn't given Collins the authority to actually kill me. Since Kramer needs me so badly he won't give that order. That fact alone gives me a small amount of control over this situation' Neal thought as he watched Collins think over the situation.
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