Peter woke up after 7 PM not as fully rested as he would like but the pain meds the doctor had given him were helping with the headache and body aches from his ordeal. He was also worrying about Elizabeth and what bull headed scheme Nick had come up with to save her. The con had seemed genuinely contrite and worried but stubborn. That would cause more problems in his opinion. Whatever he was selling, he doubted the kid would be safe in the exchange. Call it a hunch. He sighed, glancing over at the coffee table where his cell had started to buzz. It was Jones.
He waited, listening to the agent tell him what he'd found.
"Peter, I think I figured out what Caffrey was talking about. There was a fire a few months ago at an office building. Belonged to an industrialist named Vincent Adler. It's still under investigation. Adler was assumed to have died in the blaze."
Jones told him more details, assets missing, an empty vault filled with ashes. It didn't make sense except for Peter, it felt more like someone hiding the truth and making themselves disappear. It would take quite a bit of direct heat to create an ash effect in a vault without the fire being directly in there. This stunk of deceit and theft by the owner. Adler might still be alive.
"Jones… is it possible Adler faked his death? I have some friends in the banking and security fields. I doubt the blaze would have destroyed that much of the vault's contents. It doesn't make sense!"
He was trying to find an answer to those he didn't have when Jones quipped in again.
"You're right. It doesn't sound logical but NYPD didn't have any other explanation."
Jones paused, the sound of keys being clicked and then an audible intake of breath that made him curious.
"Wow… You won't believe who worked for Adler as two of his closest assistants: Nick Halden and someone named Katherine Moreau. I wonder if this is the same Kate he told us about. I'll have to see what other facts I can dig up but right now securities tight on these files. It's not our case and OPR is getting interested in it. I don't want to be on their bad side."
Jones sounded worried, a few more words between them as Peter thanked him for his time and they made a time to get together later in the evening. He hung up the call and put the cell back on the table, looking around the room and feeling something was missing. Everything looked the same to him and yet his thoughts kept going back to Elizabeth Masters and Nick Halden. It didn't make much sense.
"There's a gap in your life…"
He jumped, looking over to see a little man with glasses, balding on top staring back at him. The man wore what he could only describe as a style that reminded him of vintage thrift store. Peter stood up, looking for a weapon but the little guy held up his hands to show he wasn't packing.
"I'm not here to hurt you. I'm just following instructions. HE needs you apparently although you're the reason why things changed."
The man was enigmatic, his words oddly phrased before he reached up and removed his glasses, wiping them on the cuff of his corduroy shirt. Peter was on guard until he was certain what was going on.
"Who sent you? In fact… who are you?"
Peter remained calm, easing around the coffee table towards the small fireplace in his apartment. He had a gun but right now he couldn't get to it, a poker just as effective. The man seemed to sense his trepidation but also stayed strangely calm without much emotion at all beyond a mild annoyance as if he were speaking to a child.
"Neal… I mean Nick. He's on your mind and you on his. Trust me, I was only following orders but now he wants to set things back. I think it's a waste of time but that is of the essence. We need to go if you want to help them."
He was impatient, hugging a beat up corduroy messenger bag of beige that straddled across his upper chest. Peter still wasn't sure what to make of this man, an odd hint of purplish color within his eyes when he put his glasses back on. He held up a hand, continuing to ease towards the poker with hopes of having something to threaten and defend if necessary now that he knew the Why.
"So you're a friend of Nicks? If you're supposed to be Wilkes, I thought you'd be taller. You don't seem the hit man type."
Peter was killing time, distracting this man with hopes of getting answers and getting to the poker. He watched the man think a moment then sigh dramatically as if he'd played this role before.
"I am, I thought so too and no I'm not Wilkes. This game is growing tiresome and I have one more request to draw from him before this either ends or goes back to the way it was. It's up to him and unless you want to remain alone the rest of your life with nothing more than a spreadsheet to show for it, I suggest you come with me."
He was looking at his nails now, moving casually over to the kitchen and looking around the apartment curiously. The man seemed like a visitor more than a threat so he stopped going for the poker but he kept his guard up.
"I'm guessing you aren't much of a tea person. I see some lovely instant roast here. Mind if I make a cup while you decide whether or not to hit me with the poker?"
The words were so oddly calm as if he had read his mind that Peter blinked back. How would he know what was his intentions unless…
"Tell me more about where Nick… Neal is. You two must have been working together if you're here."
He remained a few feet away, the little guy filling up the pot with grounds and turning on the machine. It bubbled away quietly as he turned and smiled at Peter with an oddly unassuming grin.
"You could say that and Nick… He's about to do something very stupid. I tried to talk him out of it but as you know, he's bull headed and stubborn. If anyone's going to talk him out of this or set him free, I'm guessing it would be you. At least, that's his thought. Cream or Sugar?"
The coffee was practically finished, the little guy grabbing up two non matching coffee mugs, one of which Jones had given him from the FBI, and began to fill them with the hot liquid. He no longer looked like a threat just a little mousey man that nobody would ever think could be a danger to them. It seemed oddly familiar as he nodded on the cream and sugar, the little guy filling up the FBI cup with both and handing it over. It didn't occur to him he was being asked about his own things in his home, the whole event surreal.
"You really would have been an excellent agent, Suit. It's always interesting in these cases to find out what kind of alternate occupations people really have a knack for. Apparently you're a natural at both but family man and Agent is definitely more your forte. Balance is the key."
He sipped at his coffee, Peter watching a moment before taking a quick sip of his and relaxing. He was prepared for the worse but right now he thought this was about it.
"I don't understand anything you're saying but if it concerns Neal saving Elizabeth, I'm interested. What kind of trouble is he getting himself into?"
He took another sip of his coffee, it was pretty good despite knowing he had bought a less than expensive brand, this tasted pretty delicious.
"Italian roast. I thought I'd change it up to show you how serious I am. Neal needs your help. He's requested it although he was probably just worried. I don't guess anyone's intentions, I just follow through. By the way, you can call me Mozzie."
It took another hour before Peter was convinced the little guy was telling him the truth. He called Jones without any kind of worry from Mozzie about him doing so. Apparently it was all part of the plan even if he didn't understand who or what plan this was. Elizabeth was still in danger and now so was Neal apparently. A part of him felt this was about as natural as worrying about a family member as he made plans to meet with Jones sooner to come with them. Mozzie just sat by sipping coffee and being naturally unassuming. It was strange to say the least.
"So I guess Junior Suit… sorry, Agent Jones will be here soon. I keep forgetting what time line I'm in. It changes as the requests do but again, that's part of the job."
Mozzie sounded much older than he looked. He couldn't be more than his early to mid 40s but he spoke as if he'd lived far longer. Peter actually kept imagining the little guy as a sphinx for some reason, the puzzling phrasings creating that illusion. He paced a bit, finally sitting near the con and looking at him directly.
"Jones will be here soon. You can tell him what you told me and he can let the proper authorities take care of it."
Much as Peter wanted to go help, he knew he was just an accountant. It wasn't his place to cowboy up and rescue the girl. Jones as an FBI agent and the NYPD would take care of the dangerous stuff. He just needed Mozzie to give them a place and time. It was already getting late and he felt a bit antsy, those odd eyes looking up at him with a shake of their head.
"Your Suit friend can help but we have to go now. Call him along the way if you must but it's essential we leave soon. Time is of the essence, Suit. You are the one he wants to help him out of this jam."
Jones showed up at Peter's house, the agent and him speaking quietly before turning back to see Mozzie still sipping coffee and looking around the bachelor pad as if he owned the place. It made them both rather curious and cautious all at once. Who was this mysterious bespectacled man and what did he have to do with the current events. Jones was going to find out. It was already after 9 but Mozzie seemed calm despite their queries and his earlier need to rush. It was rather unnerving.
"He's not telling me much of anything other than YOU have to go find Caffrey. If what he said is truth, I'll need backup and a good explanation to my boss why I'm interfering in a case that's not ours."
Jones sounded worried not so much for his position but for whatever might happen to an innocent hostage because of this man and Caffrey. Peter didn't know what to think still but he'd come to the conclusion that Mozzie was fairly non-threatening and Nick/Neal wasn't as smart as he thought. Other things nagged at him though as if this had all happened before only in a different order. It didn't make sense logically but in his gut it felt true.
"He reminds me of a Sphinx if I were say anything about this Mozzie guy but mostly… I think we should follow up. I mean… before you get yourself in trouble it wouldn't hurt to check out his story, right?"
They were whispering, turning occasionally to look at the little guy who continued to sit and sip at his still hot coffee. It had been over an hour and he was still calm despite his earlier rush. That made Peter all the more desperate to find El. Something about Mozzie's manner made him think of faery tales and Rumplestiltskin. The man was a riddle. Jones nudged him, pulling out some files from under his jacket.
"I wasn't sure if this was something I should show you but with what he told us and the discoveries I made…"
The agent pulled out a picture fairly clear but obviously taken by Closed Circuit Cameras off the street. There was some graininess to it but when held next to the other sheet in the file, a newspaper clipping of the death of Vincent Adler, industrialist it was shocking.
"He's alive?! Then Caffrey was telling the truth. This changes everything…"
Peter would have said more but Jones held up a hand.
"Taken in Tudor City. The owner of the penthouse he's staying at is… R. Vince Dale. Not the most original alias but it doesn't appear the NYPD or anyone else figured it out."
Adler was alive and in hiding right under everyone's noses. He had managed to convince the world he was dead, possibly murdered and why? Peter could only guess it was to hide his theft of so many peoples money and assets. He'd done some checking of his own and found that Adler was in trouble financially. He had wasted precious company securities and profits on some unknown project. Sometimes it was good to network with other accountants. They both turned as a cough interrupted them and Mozzie pointed at the clock over the fireplace.
"Now that we've established the obvious, I think it's about time we go to the rescue of Neal and Elizabeth."
His voice was commanding, more so than his appearance and obvious mousey look. This man was more than what he appeared. Peter nodded, as did Jones with some reluctance.
"Fine. I'm sure my bosses already know what I've been doing. I have a suspicion it won't look good on my record but heck. This is for a good cause."
Jones smiled, Peter doing the same as he excused himself a moment and went up to the loft. It was only for protection and the occasional visit to the local firing range but now as a good time as any to use it for a good cause as his friend had said. He pulled out the clip and ammo, grabbed up the holster for it and put it on over his shirt. This felt normal although he had never use the gun but a few times to hang out with Jones or visit the range for updated practice. By nature he wasn't a violent man but he believed in keeping safe. He'd been mugged once and gotten away luckier than most. Peter pulled his jacket over the holster and glock, zipped it up and headed back down. Both men were waiting by the door.
"We're just checking things out. Nothing more…"
Peter made it clear, his attention set on Mozzie who blinked back at him that odd indigo color reflected in his eyes a moment before he shrugged and nodded back disinterestedly.
"Yes… you've said that before. Now, can we go?"
Neal woke up with a terrible headache and the urge to vomit. He didn't do the latter but he tasted bile regardless, rolling over some and finding he was on a hard cool surface. It felt slightly rough like cement but still smooth enough it could have been concrete. His eyes opened after a minute, a soft breeze playing over his face and ruffling his hair. Breeze? He couldn't see much at first, the light dim and coming from above and to his right but soon his eyes adjusted and he was able to see a light sparkling of stars above in the inky blackness of night. The dim light came from a lone street light above. He was inside of something or below, however you wanted to look at it. He could just make out a staircase below the street lamp leading upwards and dark pockmarks in the walls of wherever he was. Was this Adler's doing? Suddenly he remembered the failed rescue attempt. They'd been knocked out…
He turned, gazing into the darkness nearby now that his eyes had adjusted and saw another figure laying limp a few feet away. Neal made an attempt to move closer and found his arms bound behind him with cuffs while his ankles were bound with rope and attached to something that looked like a large cinder block. Adler wasn't playing around. Without much effort he broke out of the cuffs and untied his legs, scooting over towards the unconscious Elizabeth. He quickly removed the cuffs from her wrists and freed her from the ropes around her legs, lifting her gently up into his arms. She was limp in his arms, eyes shut and a serene look on her face. He thought about Kate and how much she reminded him of her then shook his head. Ms. Masters was more a friend than anything, a big sister at most. Her manner was playful and daring but she was out of his league and he considered her a friend despite lying to her. She shouldn't be here and guilt overwhelmed him a moment as he tried to figure out a way to get them out of here.
Her voice was soft, barely audible but it was obvious who she was thinking about. In such a short time her and the accountant had become more than just friends. Neal smiled ever so softly, glad in some way they had come together. Finally her blue eyes were sparkling in the darkness, looking up at him unfocused and then a smile.
She sat up, giving a low groan and then finally leaning back against him again. He took off his jacket and wrapped it around her.
"Dry dock if I had to guess. Can you stand? Not sure how much time we have before Adler and his goons comes back."
He glanced down at his watch and could just make out the time: Midnight. The witching hour. They both stood on shaky legs and he supported Elizabeth as best he could, both uncertain if they could be cut down at any moment as they made their way to the stairs and started up. The metal supports creaked noisily under their weight, the sound like gunshots in the silence of the late night.
"Thank you, Nick…"
Her gratitude was sincere with a hint of relief. Did she think he was a bad person like Peter did? He'd never meant for any of this to happen and despite the gallery being marks, it had not been his intention for anyone to be hurt. He was a con but he wasn't a killer like Wilkes or Adler. He felt a flush warm his cheeks as he turned his head and looked up. They were almost to the top.
It's my fault this happened and she's thanking me?
Mozzie's words about marks came back to him but Elizabeth had become more than that to him. He wasn't sure how but she was someone he felt he could trust if he had the chance. She'd lied for him to Peter and protected him. It was the least he could do to repay that kindness. He saw they were almost at the top, pressing on ahead to help Elizabeth up the ladder at the top when something whizzed by them, sparking noisily against the metal railing. Someone was shooting at them! Neal immediately pulled El down flat, holding her underneath him. Adler's men were back.
Peter, Jones and Mozzie (who sat at the back) were headed in Jones' black Taurus towards the last known location. When they arrived at the penthouse around 10:30. There was one scary looking thug watching the entrance, Jones telling them to both stay back while he went to check it out. While Peter watched, the agent neutralized the man, knocking him out with a single punch. Definitely impressive. The agent waved them over.
"One punch… Did you practice under Hollyfield?"
Peter was teasing his friend, the agent having cuffed and gagged the guard as they entered. Jones shrugged.
"Kali… great way to get rid of an opponent if needed. Navy done me good."
He grinned, both men smiling slightly as they entered the building and looked around. It was empty but it was lavish. From what he'd seen of Adler's former house and offices, the man was into ego and riches. This seemed to fit in with that impression. The two split up, Peter taking one small hallway and opening up a few doors. At first he didn't see much more than normal bedrooms, an office then he saw one guest room that was definitely a prison. Chains attached to the walls with manacles lay on the bed, the covers thrown aside almost violently. Underneath were pillows and blankets as if someone had deliberately placed them there to make it look like a person was in the bed. He noticed that part of the wallpaper in the far corner was ripped away revealing an open vent just big enough for a skinny con man and slim gallery worker to crawl through. Peter grinned and some of the tension fell away. Apparently someone had escaped this room but it was obvious Adler had found out. Nick was trickier than he'd thought but seeing how he escaped from them out of his jacket, it fit. He checked his phone and saw no messages so obviously nobody had called but if they were safe, why hadn't Nick at least paged him?
Jones called him, Peter leaving the scene to find the agent looking over some papers in the office he'd passed by earlier.
"Look at this…"
A folder was pushed his way across the desk, Peter giving it a quick glance. It was in German, one language he didn't know well but had picked up a word or two from some friends. The word on the folder was kleinod or the German word for treasure. That's about as much as he could tell as he opened it up and blinked. Inside were glossy pictures of a beautiful jeweled box and a picture of something he could only call a fractal. Underneath was an infrared satellite map of the Atlantic coastline. An X had been scratched onto more than one part of the picture just north of the city. Another German word had been scrawled nearby: Unterwasser. This didn't make any sense, the accountant wishing he was working on something numbers related rather than this. He felt a headache coming on.
"You look like you see something I didn't."
The agent was looking at him curiously, still digging around in the drawers of the desk when it suddenly hit him. Unterwasser… U-Boat. A submarine, a German one to be exact.
"Adler's looking for a U-boat. I don't know what it has to do with that box in the picture but that would explain his need for funds."
He knew people in his home city that had scavenged the sea for old wrecks. His father liked to fish and had made friends with a local trawler who made a living at digging up old ships and their jetsam. It took money to do it professionally much more deep sea exploration. The man would need a boat and somewhere to dock it. Jones piped in.
"Here we go… He's got a rented dry dock down near the port authority. It's for a boat called the Catherine. I guess he never figured anyone was going to sift through these drawers."
Jones took a picture of the info and returned everything back to where it was. They weren't there legally so he couldn't take anything as evidence. Peter handed him back the folder after taking a few pics of the items inside. Something about the box felt familiar but he could look it up after they'd found Nick and Elizabeth. They left the room, glancing around to be sure they'd left nothing behind. The guard was still unconscious so Jones took his cuffs back but left the man gagged, placing them back on his belt. As they left Peter took a look around, something missing as he checked his pockets and then noticed Jones looking at him. Suddenly it dawned on them both what he was looking for.
"Mozzie… he's gone. I just assumed he followed us inside."
Peter cursed ever so slightly, feeling gypped in some manner by the con and yet, he had come to them with information and now they had it. Everything they needed to figure out where Adler might be and hopefully find Elizabeth and Nick. They'd have to worry about Mozzie later.
"It's almost midnight. I guess we might as well check out the dry dock and boat just to be safe."
Jones was just as curious as him, both men heading back to the Taurus and heading out.
Neal was afraid, more so than ever before. He thought back to Kate and the plane explosion. It was still too fresh in his mind to happen again with anyone else. Elizabeth didn't deserve this. If it was the last thing he did…
More shots were fired but not at them. Whomever had shot at them was firing at the new assailant and then there was a short silence followed by running footsteps and a flash or red and blue lights. Neal was uncertain what was going on as he peeked up over the edge and a familiar face peered down. It was Peter Burke. A smile curved his lips up and he saw the accountant climbing down followed by Jones and some officers. Was he under arrest? The con wasn't certain but the smile on the other man's face seemed to indicate otherwise. He helped Elizabeth back to her feet, both relieved to see friendly faces. She ran over to Peter, hugging him and looking at the line of stitches along his hairline.
She didn't finish but Peter seemed to know what she was about to say, both hugging a moment as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Neal felt a pang of jealousy but it soon passed. This was supposed to be. He knew it in his heart as he followed them up the ladder and Elizabeth handed his jacket back. She gave him a slight hug, almost sisterly and a small peck on the cheek.
"I wouldn't have made it if not for Nick here. You'll put in a good word for him?"
She was looking at Peter who turned to look at Jones, the agent nodding ever so slightly.
"Definitely. I think he's proved his innocence."
They spoke a few minutes, an officer taking their story after Neal had told it without filters to Jones and Peter. They passed it along filtered to the NYPD hoping to help him out. Neal was glad for that, moving off by himself when he saw Mozzie hiding around the corner by a pillar.
Neal moved closer towards his friend but was cut off by someone pulling him aside and pushing up against another post, gun in his face. It was Adler.
"You think your friends can help you? You caused this! This was YOUR fault!"
The man pushed him hard, Neal falling to the ground as Vincent pointed the gun at him. The trigger pulled back and something washed over him like deja vu. This had happened before only it had been different. An image of fire momentarily passed before him and then it was gone, a shadow coming up behind Adler. He could just make out the features in the light of the street lamp. It was Peter Burke. What was the accountant doing there? Vincent suddenly turned, gun ready to shoot but Neal stood up and did the only thing he could. There was a shot as he struggled with the tycoon, an incredulous Peter standing nearby, something shiny and metal in his hand. His gun wasn't smoking, no hint of having fired and a terrified look on his face. Adler scooted out from under him, gun dropped beside him as he fled but Neal couldn't move. He felt fire in his chest, a pain he'd never felt before. He glanced up to see Peter just staring at him in terror, Vincent gone and then darkness.
You still have one more wish…
Neal woke up to find himself floating in the darkness, that voice that sounded so much like his friend echoing in the gloom. He gazed around looking to find he couldn't see anything not even if he had been shot.
Am I dead? Adler shot me… I must be…
He heard a cough and turned but still saw nothing in the blackness. Someone spoke though.
Make your wish, con.
Suddenly he saw those indigo eyes, they blinked back at him through the stygian gloom and seemed to move closer to him.
It made no sense after everything that happened but now he realized something. The voice had talked to him before. He had found a lamp in his room and then… everything had changed. Two wishes: 1) That Agent Burke never existed and 2) That he didn't remember anything bad he'd done. Both had come true and now he had one wish left. The eyes looked back at him with annoyance as if he were holding up a line at a convenience store.
Yes, wish. What is it you want before I go? Sure you can't be content being dead.
It was Mozzie's voice but not his tone, the idea of this thing using his friend's form unnerving but Neal was aware now. And all he could think of was how much things had been screwed up by himself in both timelines. Was Peter and Elizabeth ok? Suddenly he found himself worrying about them where he was upset before. The thing sighed back at him.
Your friends are fine. You had a very nice funeral and were given a heroic medal. Jones, Peter and Elizabeth made sure you were given something of a heroes passing. I think the accountant and gallery worker might marry…
The news made everything seem a bit less desperate, Neal nodding to the eyes before thinking of his wish. It had to be right or things would never be the same between himself and Peter.
I'm ready to make that wish…
He watched those eyes blink back at him with a bit more fire in them. He sensed a smile on unseen lips as he thought about what happened and realized what he wanted to do.
It had been a very bad day, Neal walking home from the place he had nearly died. Peter had saved his life and then promptly accused him of stealing the treasure. He was pissed, the treasure burned up old Nazi dynamite. Adler had accused him of doing this but he was innocent for the first time he could think of he hadn't done anything wrong. Nobody believed him so he had left in a huff, angry that Peter of all people would accuse him of such a thing as blowing up a valuable treasure. He called Sara, spending the night with her while he let off steam and she took his side in the situation. It was good to have someone believe him but it hurt to think Peter had so little trust in him. Hadn't he proven himself?
June's door closed quietly behind him as he arrived home very early in the morning. The sun wasn't up yet and he just wanted to wash the residue of the day off of him before he went to sleep for a week. At least that's what he wished could happen. Before long Peter would show and interrogate him as to where he'd gone and have a new anklet for him. The anklet… Dammit! He'd forgotten about that, glancing down at his bare left leg and cursing silently to himself. He went upstairs to his room, opened up the door and found himself looking at something sitting on the dining table. Neal moved closer and saw it was a small gift envelope with a card and key inside, an address on the back. He wasn't going to get to sleep after all, curiosity getting the better of him as he left to see where this led. The darkened streets only made the oddness of the situation more evident as he went inside the building, a large warehouse on the east side.
It was dark inside, only a dim light off past a few large boxes. The closer he walked towards them he felt a slight tremor of fear and excitement. The boxes had a large emblem on them, a bird and suddenly he knew exactly what this was as he squeezed through a small space between the crates, eyes widening in surprise.
He gazed at the treasure surrounding him, one that had never been seen but by a few eyes. How? Who? He couldn't even imagine how this had been accomplished. The Nazi treasure Adler had killed so many over was now here and his. A giddy smile covered his face, his attention drawn to all the shiny objects he didn't hear the voice whisper:
Be careful what you wish for...
Author's Note: Did you see that ending coming? What did you think of the AU versus Canon? Thanks for reading!