Stolen art and stolen kisses
This is the last chapter in this story. Hope you had fun reading it.
Peter winced as he took a sip of coffee. Why was it, that no matter how good the quality, coffee always tasted bad in the van?
They had ears on Neal who, at the moment, was on his way to what everyone hoped would be the last meet with the Moretti clan and he had Mozzie in tow.
Earlier that morning, back at the Library Hotel, Diana and Neal had discussed strategy.
'Good morning' said Diana as the door between the two connecting rooms opened. Neal was standing there looking much better than he had in days and Sara was peeking in behind him looking into Diana's room. Diana had ordered breakfast for all of them and they sat around the table in her room discussing the eventual take-down.
Peter had decided that it was worth the gamble to put a transmitter on Neal for this, what he hoped would be the last day of the operation. The Moretti family had already thoroughly investigated 'Steve' and Peter felt that the risk of being caught with a transmitter was minimal. If they couldn't get ears on Neal during the discussion and eventual transaction, they would not be able to pinpoint the right time to make the bust.
Diana handed Neal the watch and he put it on smiling. 'I think this is it' he said 'I think they're ready to spill the beans and start fencing the good stuff.'
'Neal, whatever you do, don't let your guard down' Diana warned 'these are not our usual white collar criminals. If anything sets them off, they could turn violent'
Neal glared at Diana as he gave a sideways glance towards Sara. With everything else that was happening, the last thing she needed to hear was that Neal was in mortal danger.
He tried to bring the drama down a notch: 'With my charm and Steve's reputation, there's nothing to worry about. I'll be careful' he said mostly for Sara's benefit.
Sara gave him a worried look and he squeezed her hand to reassure her.
There was a knock at the door. Neal and Diana looked at each other. There wouldn't be any reason for Moretti's men to be checking up on them now, but just in case, Neal motioned to Sara to go back into their room and he closed the door behind her. If Moretti was having doubts about Steve's nocturnal activities, it wouldn't do for Neal to be found with two women in the hotel room.
He opened the door casually and found Elizabeth standing there.
'Come on in, it's ok Sara, it's Elizabeth.' He called out opening the door once more.
'Good morning everyone' said Elizabeth 'I've come to collect our little mother-to-be. How did you two sleep?' she asked Neal and Sara.
'Great!' said Sara. 'Thank you so much for arranging this. It made all the difference in the world to be able to spend some time together.'
'Yeah, thanks El. I'm feeling so much better having seen Sara with my own eyes and knowing that she's ok' added Neal.
'Well, it's our pleasure' answered Elizabeth. 'We had better get you out of here, Sara. You know what the doctor said – you need to stay off your feet and not over-exert yourself. I was thinking you could come over to our place and we could spend the day together waiting for all this to play out.'
Neal smiled at her, thankful that they had Peter and Elizabeth to watch over the two – um three of them.
Sara pulled Neal aside into the next room for a moment to say goodbye.
'You promise me you'll be extra careful, Neal?' she pleaded with tears in her eyes.
'Hey, hey, there's no need for that' said Neal. 'I'm going to be fine and I'll be back before you know it'
'I'm going to hold you to that' she said 'I love you, Caffrey'
'I love you too; remember your job today is to take care of Boo-boo'
She smiled. As much as she hated the nickname, coming from Neal it was very sweet and she knew it was just an attempt at making her smile.
He kissed her on the lips, slow and long and waited for Sara to be the first to pull away.
'Moz, I'm telling you, it's ok' said Neal, reassuringly 'No one's going to pull a gun on you.'
'That's easy for you to say' answered Mozzie 'You're used to this undercover stuff. I'm a delicate creature, you know'
Neal gave him his best exasperated look and kept walking. They were on the way to what he hoped was the final meet with the Moretti family. Mario Moretti had called and said that the family had a large number of items it needed to have fenced. Neal had memorized the list of all the stolen items from the Chicago heist and he was more than ready to move when one of them was brought out into the open.
The code phrase that had been agreed upon was 'That is a beauty'. It was to be used when Neal recognized one of the items the Morettis showed them.
The municipal van was about a block away and Neal and Mozzie passed it on the way to the meet. As they walked by, Neal spoke into his watch, strictly for Peter's benefit: 'The van needs a good wash!' he said.
They walked into the deserted building where the meeting was to take place and went up a flight of stairs to the room where he had met Mario three days ago. As soon as they entered, Neal noticed that the whole damn clan had assembled. There was Mario, of course, his cousin, Bruno, Edmondo (Bruno's father) and Benedetto (Mario's father). Also sitting in a chair off to one side by a large desk was Adriano, the grandfather who pulled all the strings. He noticed what appeared to be about a dozen paintings leaning against the wall but couldn't make out any of them. There were also a number of boxes that could be holding some of the smaller pieces from the Chicago heist.
In various corners of the large room, there were a total of four armed thugs who were the muscle for the family. He realized that timing was going to be critical. If the FBI team gave too much notice of its arrival, guns would be drawn and he and Mozzie would be immediately suspected as snitches and become targets.
He tried to position himself near a half wall that was off to one side, thinking he and Mozzie could duck behind it if need be.
'So, right on time' said Mario. 'Steve, you obviously know the market here. Grandfather was very pleased with the price we got on those gold pieces. We have a collection of art we want to move and we want to start with this piece. He motioned to a painting against the wall and Bruno brought it over to where Neal and Mozzie were standing.
Neal immediately recognized it as 'Still Life With Peppers' a piece by Eduardo Alonso Casellas. It had been part of the collection at the Chicago museum.
'That is a beauty' said Neal loud and clear. He motioned Mozzie to move slightly behind him and continued to examine the piece so as not to set off any alarm bells. He desperately hoped that the team would be coming up the stairs quietly and that he and Mozzie would have time to get out of the line of fire.
Suddenly, he heard it: 'FBI, everybody freeze'.
But the muscle reacted quickly and shot off a couple of rounds in the direction of the door. Neal pushed Mozzie behind the half wall and threw himself over him but as he flew in the air, he felt a flash of pain in his shoulder.
The feds were quick to restore order and by their sheer number were able to overtake the whole clan and its muscle easily.
Peter, as always concerned for his CI, made his way into the room looking for Neal and Mozzie.
He could hear grumbling (Mozzie) and moaning (Neal) coming from the corner of the room.
'Get off me, Neal' he could hear Mozzie saying.
'Sorry Moz, if I'm bleeding on you…' Neal said sarcastically.
Peter started to help them up, examining Neal to assess the extent of his injury. A bullet had grazed the top of his shoulder and he was bleeding, although not terribly much.
'You ok?' he asked.
'Yeah, yeah, fine. Thank God you were quiet coming in. The damage could have been a lot worse'
'Let's get you checked out' said Peter as he led Neal and Mozzie out of the room.
'Hi, hon' said Peter into his phone once they were in the emergency room.
'Hi, hon' responded Elizabeth 'did you get them?'
'We did and it's all good. Is Sara within earshot' he asked
'She's just in the other room, why?'
'Don't let on in front of her but Neal got a flesh wound in the shoulder during the take-down.'
'Ok' she said calmly not wanting to sound upset as Sara came into the kitchen.
'He's fine, really. They are bandaging him up right now. Neal doesn't want us to tell Sara until we get back which should be within an hour or so. He doesn't want her running down here in her condition so I just wanted you to know so you wouldn't be surprised' said Peter.
'Sounds great, honey. Sara and I are getting dinner started – it looks like we're going to have our dinner and movie night after all' she said sounding casual.
'Good job El! See you in a little while' Peter responded.
The drive back in the car was quiet as both Peter and Neal started to come down from the high of the take-down. There was always that let down after it was all over and the adrenaline rush gave way to weariness and fatigue.
'How bad does it hurt?' asked Peter
'Nowhere near as much as my leg hurt in Cape Verde' Neal volunteered. 'I'm just glad this one's over. I hate leaving Sara alone ever since she's gotten pregnant. I know she can take care of herself but I've turned into this father hen. It kinda takes over every other instinct. Its... strange'
'Well, it is a huge responsibility and for what it's worth, I think you're handling it great' said Peter looking over at his partner with a smile.
'Sara makes it easy' said Neal
They arrived at the Burkes and the ladies were anxiously waiting for them by the door. Despite his best effort, Neal couldn't hide his injury when Sara approached him with a big two armed hug as he walked through the door.
'Oh, my God, you're hurt Neal. What happened?' she said full of concern.
'Just a flesh wound, ma'am' Neal answered in his best John Wayne imitation. 'Really, it's nothing, just a graze'
'He's telling the truth' added Peter.
The foursome was happy to have arrived at the end of a busy week complete with two visits to the emergency room and a little more excitement than any of them had bargained for. They decided to eat dinner in front of the television watching a chick flick and frankly neither Peter nor Neal minded the choice of movie after all the exhilaration of the last few days. Sara had first dibs on the couch so that she could lie down (doctor's orders) and Neal sat at one end rubbing her feet. Peter and Elizabeth curled up on the love seat looking very cozy.
When Sara and Neal found themselves alone at last and back at June's, Neal made good on his promise to hold Sara all night long although they did have to change sides of the bed so he could use his good arm to keep Sara close.
Neither of them complained.