He was groggy, a sharp pain at the base of his skull making him feel nauseated and dizzy. He slowly opened up his eyes trying to make sense of why and how as his memory failed to tell him what had happened.
"He's alive… for now. No… I'll decide when and where. No arguments! This is my call or there's no deal."
The voice was familiar but something about it was off. The tone was normally kinder but there was a coldness there he had only heard once, maybe twice before.
"I'm glad you see it my way. Right… We'll see you at the drop off site soon. Bye."
The person speaking was obviously making a call, his fuzzy brain hoping he was hearing the voice wrong as he continued to gain consciousness and blinked to focus on his surroundings. He was in a large open walled space full of debris and dimly lit by vents across the top of the factory-like building and some broken windows around the perimeter. He heard the person who'd been speaking walking now, at least he assumed it was the same person. He shifted slightly finding himself bound to a nearby iron beam, his legs also bound by rope with duct tape pulled over his lips.
"Where are you going?"
There was a new voice speaking, one less friendly or familiar than the first. The footsteps paused, the sound of leather shoes slipping softly on the gravely floor.
"To see how he is. The FBI isn't going to let us out of here until I tell them he's ok.
There was silence and then a grunt as if of approval before the footsteps started up again and they seemed to be nearing him. He noticed a partially opened door to his right at the far end of the room he was sitting in. A shadow passed by a dirty opaque window in the wall next to it. The footsteps paused before the door which slowly opened revealing a face, the figure pausing in the doorway. He focused on the figure, smiling uncertainly at them and the unnaturally cold look on their face. They glanced back a moment before stepping into the room, closing the door and walking over to him. Their expression was alien to him, the normally kind inquisitive blue eyes staring coldly back at him with an intensity he wasn't used to. He gave a muffled response, the man holding up a hand to his lips before reaching over and pulling the tape from his mouth. Peter gave a quiet huff of breath but didn't say anything as he glanced up at his friend expectantly.
"How's the head. I didn't think they were going to sneak up on you like that. I'm sorry."
Neal kept his voice low, a nearly inaudible whisper as he leaned in close in a crouch. Peter felt fingers reach around and ease the ropes around his wrists, feeling coming back to his arms and hands. How long had he been here? Neal looked like he was ok except for the worried look on his face.
"So that's… what happened. Baylor is much more violent than we thought. I figured this would be a simple kidnapping with you involved. He's changed his M.O. apparently. How's the intel coming along?"
He watched the con man nod back without a word, holding up his finger again and apparently listening to something. After a moment the tension left his friend's body and Neal remained crouched beside him, a worried look on his face.
"Baylor has a man here with me. He's supposed to make sure we…"
Neal paused, something in his tone making the agent shiver as he realized what that call had been about. He'd still been waking up at the time but now the context made so much more sense.
"I heard. I'm guessing that's why you came to check on me. When am I supposed to check out?"
He made sure his bonds were where he could easily pull himself loose in a jam. Neal had done good but it was a matter of if Peter could get out of here without someone killing him that was important. There was more going on than what Caffrey was telling him as he nudged the consultant with his shoulder.
"What aren't you telling me, Neal?"
He waited for an answer but his friend shrugged, pulling out his phone and holding up the tape.
"Have to send a picture to your Fed friends outside. Has to be authentic."
Neal didn't look happy about it and Peter wasn't looking forward to being gagged again but he nodded with a "get it over with" look as the tape was pulled back over his lips. Jones and crew knew what was going on but not what had happened.
"Smile for the camera…"
His friend said it with little humor, holding up his phone (a burner for the mission) as he snapped the shot and made a call.
"I'd like to talk to Agent Jones."
Neal stood up, moving away with a "soon" glance back at Peter as he left the room, shutting the door behind him. Apparently he wasn't going to get much else out of his friend but he trusted him. The con wasn't going to let him be hurt, the feeling mutual as he tested his now loosened bonds and slumped back against the wall he was leaning on and relaxed. Baylor expected Neal to kill him? That was new, the man his friend was pretending to work for normally a non-violent thief like Caffrey. He wondered what had changed.
"Looks like we have a deal, Mick. Let me call Baylor…"
Neal's voice was evident, the other man answering him without pause.
"Go to the tunnel and get things ready. I'll call him."
There was silence and then footsteps leaving. He thought he sensed a hesitation in the steps (possibly Caffrey's) but it was hard to know without seeing. A few minutes after Neal had left he heard a beep of a cell phone and then someone talking.
"He's in the tunnel getting prepared."
The voice was silent, little sound but for pacing steps that seemed to go farther than necessary before returning after a few minutes. Finally they spoke again.
"Of course I don't trust him. Just lucky for us he thinks you're me."
Those words made the agent freeze, Peter pulling himself loose from his bonds and quietly untying his legs as he listened.
"I'm going now to check on our Fed friend. He won't know what hit him. See you at the drop off."
The voice went quiet, a beep indicating they had ended the call and then footsteps nearing. Peter had nowhere to hide without being seen and no weapon. He did the next best thing as he quickly rolled over onto his side, making it look like he was still tied up and unconscious. There was a pause outside the door and then a quiet creak as it was pushed open. Silence permeated the space, a sense that someone was looking at him with intense hatred before the door shut and the footsteps walked away. He opened his eyes and found the door again closed, the shadow of the man who was really Baylor outside the dirty window. He was just a silhouette but Peter hadn't seen Mick so he had no idea what the con looked like. They had a picture they thought was Baylor but it had been his front man. Jones and the rest of the FBI wouldn't have any idea Caffrey was walking into a trap. He had to warn Neal of the danger.
"Wilco Zeta Moon 533…"
Baylor's voice was speaking, the code unfamiliar but it didn't sound like a friendly call. After the man stopped talking, there was an immediate beeping sound, Peter turning to see something that resembled a C4 explosive used for building demolition nearby. He hadn't noticed it, the item blending into the debris covered floor. The clock was initially at 15:00 then starting to beep and count down. This was definitely not good.
Neal was worried when Mick told him he'd made the call to their boss. So far he'd been in control as their new forger but something about the man scared him he couldn't put his finger on. It didn't matter though. He'd already loosened Peter's bonds and with a single word, the agent would be free and he could do what they needed to take the crew down. They trusted him or at least he felt they had as he went to the tunnel and started to sabotage what little weapons were available. If they didn't have bullets…
The con man smiled to himself, finishing up his task and getting ready to go back. He was about to head up the stairs when a beeping sound caught his attention. It was a loud alarming beep that made you take notice as he glanced around the dimly lit space and finally found the source. His blue eyes widened, glittering a slightly purplish color as the reddish glow of the timer reflected back. This was bad. He quickly turned back to the steps and headed up, turning the knob of the door and finding himself locked inside. Dammit! Baylor must have set this up with Mick. Now he knew what that odd feeling was he'd felt but he hadn't expected something an underhanded as this. Peter was alone with a killer and he was trapped here unable to help. The door was like a vault or bunker, heavy steel and no lock on the inside. His only way out would be through the tunnel. He would have to call Jones and crew, let them know what was happening. It was nearly 2 PM, the time he was supposed to call. Neal pulled out his cell but found he had no signal. Baylor and Mick had thought this through. He cursed silently, walking back to the supply cabinet, grabbing up a flashlight and some supplies as he prepared to hike the mile down the tunnel and hope for the best. They'd come in through the passage, a wet muddy service entrance that was more cavern than actual tunnel now. He'd slogged through worse and for Peter, he would do it again.
Jones had been expecting Caffrey's call sooner, acting the angry Fed but knowing he had to sound realistic to keep their colleague's cover intact. Baylor was a dangerous man, having gassed several co-conspirators on his most current job along with killing several bank employees while robbing a high security vault. The man was more desperate it seemed and less likely to give hostages up as he had in the past. What had changed his M.O. was uncertain but it made them more on guard with their men inside. The picture of Peter had assured them the agent was alive and ok, codewords in Neal's conversation with them obvious to let them know both were ok and he would contact them soon.
"It's been an hour. Caffrey said he would contact us at 2 PM and it's 2:05. What's keeping him?"
Diana was antsy, a part of her worried for their boss and the consultant he held such high regard for. Jones seconded her feelings but it was only 5 minutes although with Caffrey, he was never late so this wasn't a good sign. He pointed up at their eyes on a nearby building.
"Blake, tell me if you see anything…"
He listened in on the walkie talkie frowning when the man reported no motion. Something was wrong, his gut told him that and he'd learned to listen to that part of his anatomy from his boss.
"Is there some other way into the building? Caffrey isn't answering his phone. He's our only contact..."
They were frustrated and worried about their men inside curious at the sudden silence when Baylor had established communications earlier through Caffrey. Someone walked over with a set of blueprints, pointing at a dotted line on the schematic.
"Sir, there's an old tunnel system there. It's been used since Prohibition times for everything from smuggling to legitimate mining operations. It might be a solution to getting agents inside but the entrance is just over a mile to the west of here."
Agent Barclay spoke confidently, Jones happy they had the former architect with them. The man was invaluable with schematics of buildings even more so than Caffrey.
"Sounds like an opportunity. Barrigan you're in command. Take a team into the tunnel and contact me. I'll call Hughes and let him know what's going on."
Diana nodded back to him, Barclay and others following her as they filed into a vehicle and headed towards the site. Hopefully this would be their means of getting inside the building and getting Baylor and his men. Caffrey he hoped would contact them soon, whatever this silence was unusual. He glanced at his watch and saw it was 2:07. He tried calling again but got Caffrey's smart alec voice mail message again. Jones felt that twinge in his gut again and hoped it was just the fact he was hungry that it hurt.
Peter pulled himself to his feet once the shadow was gone and he no longer heard anyone moving around outside. It was now or never, no word from Neal for the past 3 minutes and the timer now at just under 12 minutes and counting. He had no way of contacting anyone as he felt around in his pockets and blinked, something small and hard in his jacket pocket as he pulled it out and found a tiny burner cell. Neal… He smiled, laughing inwardly before he quietly texted a message, peeking outside the room he was in and finding the rest of the warehouse empty. The phone buzzed quietly in his hand as he glanced down to see a reply.
Jones: Good to hear from you boss. Where's Caffrey?
Peter didn't know how to answer, replying as best he could as he walked stealthily around looking for that tunnel his friend was supposed to go to. He wasn't leaving without him.
Anon: Tunnel. There's a bomb in here & FYI, Baylor isn't who we think. Clear the area!
He pushed the phone into his pocket, making his way to the back of the building and finding a set of steps in the floor that looked promising. He whispered urgently.
There was no answer as he moved down the stairs and tried the door. It was bolted, the lock sealed with what appeared to be a torch. The metal was still hot and glowing slightly. This wasn't good.
"Agent Burke… what a surprise. Leaving so soon?"
He turned, glancing up at the shadowy figure above, a gun obvious in their grasp. He was trapped and there wasn't much time before the bomb went off. It surprised him the man was still here as he took a step up the stairs.
"I didn't want to overstay my welcome… Baylor."
He emphasized the name, the man smiling more broadly as his hazel eyes shimmered back in the half light. He heard the gun cocked, a part of him panicking but he kept a cool exterior, pausing where he stood.
"So you figured out I wasn't Mick. Too bad your friend didn't. He's trapped down there. The tunnel isn't functional anymore. I made sure of it before we came here. It was always meant to be a one way trip for everyone but myself. You understand…"
Baylor was smiling at him coldly, the sound of the gun cocking echoing loudly in the empty building. Peter watched as the trigger was pulled back, no place to run as he continued to stand his ground. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be, his thoughts going to his wife as he closed his eyes a moment.
The shot echoed around the building but he felt nothing, not even the heat of a bullet as he glanced up to find that Baylor was gone and the sound of a struggle was nearby.
Baylor sounded surprised, Peter seeing the gun at the top of the stairs on the ground as he hurried up to figure out what was going on. He picked up the gun first off and then saw two figures on the ground struggling, one of them was Neal Caffrey. The two men were rolling around, Peter unable to take a shot while his partner was in the way. He felt the cell buzz in his pocket and picked it up.
"Burke… Jones, we're ok but Caffrey's fighting with Baylor. There's not much time…"
He started telling him about the bomb, glancing down at the cell to see it was barely 5 minutes until it was going to go off. He had to take a chance as he cocked the gun and saw both men pause, Neal making a move to pull away when his face paled and he fell to the ground with a cry of pain. Baylor dragged the con man up, holding him close with a skiv at his throat.
"He hasn't much time, Agent. Let me go and maybe he'll live. Tick tock…"
The man was walking away slowly, Neal in tow but Peter was helpless as he followed along, gun at the ready.
"Let him go, Baylor and we can talk."
He was working with what he had which was nothing at the moment except for the gun. Baylor obviously wasn't afraid of him as he continued to back away, skiv digging into skin until blood flowed ever so lightly.
"He's going to die unless you back off, Agent!"
The man was growing desperate, Peter finally letting the gun go slack in his hand as he watched the man smile and back off a bit faster. He saw a dull glassy eyed Neal get dragged along until some glimmer of mischief briefly passed those blue eyes and he backed off completely. Caffrey had a plan, one he was just beginning to figure out. Baylor saw him back off, turning to run when Neal wrapped a leg around his captor's, making them both tumble to the ground and into a deep crevice that hadn't been there before. It looked like the floor had caved in, part of a tunnel evident. Peter heard a loud cry of pain, Neal's voice and then silence except for a more ominous sound that made him look for cover. He took a chance and dove into the hole. Suddenly thunder filled his ears as he lay his body over Neal's protectively just before everything went black.
Neal had found the tunnel was caved in, obviously a new thing since they had entered through here earlier in the day. This was Baylor's work, Mick having taken time enough to work this out while Caffrey had brought an unconscious Peter up through the now locked stairs. He cursed looking for another way out and seeing something that made him smile. Thankfully his conspirators hadn't counted on the fact he was just as devious, the con seeing an old hatch overhead covered in soot. He pushed it up and jumped back as that part of the ceiling collapsed. Once the dust cleared he could see some light, jumping up and into an old shaft leading from the tunnel and what looked to be a boiler room. He glanced at his watch and saw it was 10 minutes until the timer reached 0:00 minutes. He had to find Peter and get him out before that bomb went off.
"... Too bad your friend didn't know. He's trapped down there. The tunnel isn't functional anymore. I made sure of it before we came here. It was always meant to be a one way trip for everyone but myself. You understand…"
Neal heard Mick's voice and he knew who he must be talking to, a cold chill running down his spine. He opened up the door from the boiler room with nary a creak and saw himself looking at the man's back, gun obvious in his hand. It was now or never as he grabbed the man hard around the neck, arms swinging around to hit him as he heard the gun fall to the ground and then they were struggling. Peter took the weapon and came to help. Neal was about to move aside when he felt a pain in his side as Mick stabbed him in the chest, twisting something hard and then pulling it out. He couldn't breath, his lung collapsing as Mick pulled him to his feet and held the weapon against his throat. Peter looked worried but continued to followed them when all Neal wanted was for his friend to leave. They only had just a few more minutes before the explosives went off. Neal didn't think he was going to make it but Peter… Why wouldn't the agent leave him just this once? He had one last foolhardy thought. Maybe it would give Peter time to get out or at the very least put Mick out of commission.
The con remembered little after that, dust filling his lungs and a heavy weight on top of him in the darkness. Neal had stopped Mick, that much he recalled but something had stopped them, a blurry memory of someone hovering over him still too fuzzy to remember.
Now he remembered someone else had been there with them. He didn't care that he was stuck in this hole with a dead murderer but Peter must be safe. Neal tried shifting his body but he felt completely breathless, a gasping wheeze coming from his lips and a weight holding him down keeping him from moving. He flexed his right hand, pulling it out from the rubble and tried to push up on whatever was on top of him. It was soft, fleshy and something wet and sticky covered his fingers now. Neal smelled blood. He moved his free hand again, feeling for something in his pocket and glad it was there when he was able to open it one handed and see bluish glow fill the space. It took a moment to focus as he shone the light through the dust and debris as it lit up another face. He started to wheeze in surprise and shock, his chest hurting more with this revelation. He could see the person on top of him, their limp form holding him in place protectively. It was Peter Burke.
Author's Note: The boys are in danger. Will they be rescued?