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Fic - Awake My Soul, Part III
kung-fu?, Peter & Mozzie
doctor_fangeek
Once again, see Part I for warnings, summary, and author's note.


So make your siren’s call,
and sing all you want.
I will not hear what you have to say.


“You said it wasn’t there!” Mozzie says, slamming the copy of the manifest down on Neal’s table and looking at him first in disbelief, then with growing anger. Neal has not often been on this side of Mozzie’s temper, and it’s somewhere he’d rather not be, but this conversation is long overdue.

“You have a right to be angry,” Neal says. He knows better than to try to equivocate or deflect right now. “I lied to you.”

“Why?”

“I broke into Peter’s safe. I had the list in my hand. I was ready to take the treasure and go.”

“Then why didn’t you?”

“Peter called,” Neal starts to say, but stops himself before the words are fully out of his mouth, and says instead, “I have a life here.”

Mozzie looks frustrated. “We had a dream!” he says.

Neal understands where Moz is coming from, but this dream, it’s not his anymore. “Dreams change,” he says, hoping it will be enough, but knowing deep down it’s not. Moz just looks at him skeptically. “Have you ever thought that we might not like whiling away our days on a Mediterranean island? That we might get tired of that life?”

“Then we sell our island and come back,” Mozzie says with a shrug, sounding frustrated, as if this should be patently obvious.

But Neal is frustrated too. Doesn’t Moz see? “No,” Neal says, sharply. “You can come back. I can’t. I run on this,” Neal continues, pulling up his pants leg and looking pointedly down at the tracker around his ankle, “New York is just a memory for me.”

Mozzie sighs. “Maybe,” he allows, though it’s clear that he’s still not pleased. “But come on. This was the one. Our perfect last score. I knew you were dragging your feet.”

“Maybe,” Neal concedes.

“Maybe?”

“Okay, yes, I was dragging my feet.”

“You do know that we can’t keep this up indefinitely. Keeping the treasure here long term was never part of the plan. You need to choose, Neal. Are you going to stay here with Peter or come with me?”

Neal pulls in a deep breath. He’s having a hard time meeting Mozzie’s eyes now. Neal wishes, not for the first time, that the two paths before him didn’t diverge so sharply. He doesn’t want to lose his oldest friend. He won’t betray him. But….

“There are things about this life I’m not ready to give up,” he finally says.

“Do you even know what this life is anymore?” Mozzie asks, looking skeptical. “Have they got you convinced that you belong here? You’re on a leash, Neal. You’re still in prison.”

Neal cares for Moz, he does, but this is too much.

“It’s not Stockholm Syndrome,” he says, and he can’t fully keep the annoyance from his tone. To be honest, he’s not trying that hard. Why can’t Moz believe that he knows what he wants?

“Are you sure about that, Neal? You’re kidding yourself if you think this is who you are.”

And there’s the rub. Neal isn’t sure that Mozzie is wrong about that.

“What if this is who I want to be?” Neal asks quietly, anger driven away by his lingering uncertainty.

Mozzie doesn’t seem to have a response to that. For a moment he just looks at Neal as if he’s never seen him before.

“You mean that, don’t you?” he says, sounding genuinely surprised.

“I think I do.”

“But you like the life. I know you do. You like the rush.”

Neal just shrugs. What Mozzie is saying is true.

“I don’t get it, Neal,” he continues, starting to pace back and forth from the table to the near wall. “I mean, that time with Kate at least kind of made sense. I’m not sure the two of you were meant for the white picket fence life, but if you wanted to try, I wasn’t going to stop you. But this? I know you like the Suit, but it’s not like you’re going to settle down with him.”

Neal stays silent, keeps his face blank. This is dangerous ground they’re on, and this is not a conversation he wants to be having. Unfortunately for Neal, Mozzie knows him too well, and though he can be willfully oblivious about any number of things, he can also be all too perceptive when he wants to be.

“Wait a minute,” Moz says, stopping abruptly and whirling to face Neal. “It is the Suit, isn’t it? Are you crazy, Neal? And what about Mrs. Suit?”

Neal pulls in a deep breath, lets it out slowly. “Do you really think I’d do anything to hurt Elizabeth?” he asks, skirting the first question to address the easier one. “That Peter would?”

“Mr. and Mrs. Suit?” Moz says, his voice rising. “You do realize what a monumentally bad idea that is, don’t you?”

Neal just shrugs again. What can he say, really?

“Neal?”

“What can I say, Moz?” Oh yeah, very eloquent, Neal thinks to himself.

Moz apparently doesn’t have an answer to that. He just looks at Neal for a long moment, then throws up his hands, shakes his head, and stalks off to pour himself a large glass of wine. Neal waits while he takes a couple of big gulps before coming back and setting his glass on the dining table. “I suppose there’s nothing I can do to talk you out of this,” Moz says. He sounds resigned.

“No,” Neal says, though he’s not actually sure that it is entirely true. However, he doesn’t want to be talked out of it, now that he’s finally made his decision.

“Do you love them?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I do.”

“Okay.”

“Okay?”

“I shudder to think about all the ways this could go wrong, but I know you, Neal. I might as well give in to the inevitable.”

“I…thanks, Moz.”

“Don’t thank me yet. If things do go wrong – and there are oh so many ways they could – you might be complaining that I didn’t stop the insanity.”

“Moz.”

“Fine. So what now?”

“If I’m going to do this, I can’t keep lying to Peter.”

“You’re going to tell him about the treasure? Do you want to go back to prison?”

“He’s pretty much figured it out, Moz. And so far it seems like he’s been trying awfully hard not to send me back. Look, I don’t expect you to understand this, and I won’t rat on you, no matter what, but I need to do this. How much time do you need to set things up and clear out?”

“And leave you to take the fall?”

“You weren’t getting ready to leave, regardless of what I decided?”

“Fair point. Then again, I didn’t know at the time that you were going to decide not just to ‘not leave,’ but to bear your tortured soul to the Suit as some sort of grand gesture. I admit, I didn’t see that one coming. Can you blame me?”

“Melodramatic much, Moz?”

It’s Mozzie’s turn to shrug.

“Whatever. You’re not forcing me to stay here. Or to talk to Peter. Look. I wish you’d talked to me before you made the switch, but I understand. It’s the score of a lifetime.”

“You’re sure about this?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. I’ll be fine, Moz.”

“If you’re not, I reserve the right to break you out and drag you to your favorite non-extradition country.”

Neal can’t help but grin at that, and it feels good. “I can live with that,” he says. “So, now we need to find something not on the manifest to sell instead of the Degas.”

“Correction,” Moz replies. “I need to find something to sell instead of the Degas.”

“What? Moz? You know I wouldn’t,” Neal starts to say, but Mozzie holds up a hand.

“I know,” he says with a nod, and for a moment Moz looks and sounds unusually solemn. Then the moment passes. “But seeing as how you’ve recently come to the conclusion, however misguided, that playing ‘truth or consequences’ with the Suit is a good idea, you’re probably better off being able to say, 'I don’t know' and be telling the truth."

Neal can’t really argue with that. Instead he just sits down at the table, writes out a copy of the list, and hands it to Mozzie. Unfortunately, since all of his groundwork was setting things up to sell the Degas, it will take some time to arrange a completely different sale, and soon Mozzie is off to, well, do what Mozzie does. And Neal is left somewhat at loose ends. He doesn’t like being out of the loop on something this big – and this important – but Moz is right. In the long run it’s better this way. And in any case, it feels good to not be lying to his best friend anymore. And to not be so at odds with Peter. With that thought in mind, Neal pours himself a glass of the very nice Shiraz that Moz was gulping down not that long ago and wanders out on the balcony to look out over the New York skyline. Neal doesn’t know for sure exactly how this will end, what will happen to him, but for the first time in what seems like a very long time, he sees light at the end of the tunnel.

A light that, unfortunately, turns out to be the oncoming train known as Matthew Keller.

Things were going well. Peter was, thankfully, giving Neal the time he’d asked for. Moz was making progress with Plan B. Apparently whomever he’d lined up for the original sale was willing to be flexible, which was a major break. If only Neal’s work days weren’t currently reduced to poring over a stack of cold case files, which weren’t providing nearly enough of a distraction from thoughts of Moz and the treasure and Neal’s coming heart to heart with Peter. Couldn’t they catch a nice museum theft? Or some potential forgeries that needed authentication?

Right. “Be careful what you wish for,” he finds himself thinking just a few days later. They had a museum theft case, sure enough, but it was a snatch and grab from a museum in Egypt. Perpetrated by one Matthew Keller. Who was reportedly now in New York. It’s a huge risk for Keller to be taking, and it doesn’t make sense.

Peter takes Neal aside after the initial briefing. “Has Keller contacted you?” he wants to know. Neal’s initially surprised by the question, but it quickly becomes clear where Peter is going with this. As hard as the FBI has tried, rumors of the sub and its reported cargo have surfaced. Okay, so have stories suggesting it contained alien technology, or Hitler clones, but what Peter is suggesting makes sense.

“Look, Neal, I know I said that I’d give you time. I meant it. I’m trying to be patient.”

“And I appreciate it, Peter. And I meant what I said, too. I want to talk to you. I will. I will explain. Soon.”

Peter sighs heavily and runs a hand through his hair. He doesn’t look angry, just tired. And worried. “I’m afraid that may not be soon enough. Time may be running out. Who knows what Keller will do? If he forces your hand, if this thing blows up…. I don’t want it to take you with it.”

Peter is genuinely worried. And Neal has to admit, even if only to himself, that Peter has a point. Then again, maybe they can use this to their advantage.

“If Keller thinks I have the treasure, if that’s why he’s here, let’s use it to take him down.”

It wasn’t a bad idea, really, and it almost worked. Even if it wasn’t so much a plan as something Neal – with an assist from Mozzie – came up with on the fly when Keller made his surprise appearance during Neal’s meeting with Raquel. They would have had him – did have him in fact – until yet another wrench was thrown into the works, in the form of an attempt on Keller’s life. Which unfortunately had only winged him and then had the unfortunate side effect of creating enough of a distraction to allow him to escape. Again.

Peter is less than pleased, to put it mildly. When they get back to the Bureau, he practically drags Neal up to his office before pointing at the visitor’s chair and curtly commanding him to, “Sit.” The thunderous expression on his face brooks no argument. Peter sits down at his desk then, looks away for a long minute (and Neal has the strange feeling he is counting to ten, or maybe twenty or thirty), shakes his head in frustration, and, finally, pins Neal with a look. Neal takes solace in the small mercy that they are doing this in Peter’s office, and not an interrogation room.

“What were you thinking, taking off like that?” Peter asks.

“Keller escaped. I went after him.”

“There were a dozen federal agents there. People trained to take down a dangerous suspect. And you thought it was better to go after him on your own? You turned off your GPS, cut your audio feed. What was Keller doing there? What did he want with you?”

“You were right. He thought I had the treasure. I led him to the Palace, the kind of place he’d believe I’d hide it. I turned on the GPS so you could follow me.” Everything Neal’s just said is the truth. Of course he’s left out the part about why he was heading in that general direction in the first place, that he was initially heading to the treasure to check on it, as well as any mention of Moz. Damn Keller, anyway. They’d been so close to resolving things, one way or another, and now this.

Peter doesn’t respond, just gets up and paces to the window, looking out, his back to Neal.

“Peter?” Neal says, tentatively. He can see the tension in Peter’s shoulders, and he honestly has no idea what might be coming.

“Dammit, Neal!” Peter says, turning back around to face him. “I just don’t know how much longer I can do this,” he says, and Neal sucks in a breath as he feels a sudden queasiness in the pit of his stomach.

“Peter,” Neal begins again, but his usual eloquence is currently missing in action. And really, he can’t blame Peter for losing patience. Of course that doesn’t make it hurt any less. To have gotten this close…. He should have just said no, that day at Peter and Elizabeth’s. Should have known.

“He could have shot you! You could have been killed,” Peter says, as if Neal hasn’t spoken at all. Neal does a double-take at that, forces himself to look up, and the raw pain in Peter’s eyes stops him cold. After all that’s happened, Peter’s not so much angry at Neal as afraid for him, and Neal wonders what he’s possibly done to deserve this…deserve him. Peter comes back over to his desk and drops heavily into the chair.

“I’m sorry, Peter,” Neal says, and it’s as sincere an apology as he’s ever made. “I was going on instinct.” Which is true. It’s not as if Neal was trying to get himself killed. “And in my defense, it worked. We had him,” Neal adds, though he wonders if he’s maybe pushing it a bit. Especially given that they ultimately lost him again. “At least until Raquel took a shot at him,” he adds, frowning. He hadn’t seen that coming at all.

Peter sighs heavily.

“To be fair, there wasn’t a lot of time to put together another plan. And if you hadn’t acted we probably would have had no chance of catching Keller,” he says. Neal chances a smile, but not surprisingly Peter’s not done with him. “On the other hand, I know there are things you’re still not telling me, and maybe if I’d known more we could have come up with plan together, and caught the bastard once and for all.”

“Peter,” Neal begins, but the other man holds up a hand to stop him.

“I get it, Neal. I’m not asking you to tell me everything. And I don’t plan on giving up on you. I don’t think I could, even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. But just because Keller’s out of commission right now doesn’t mean there’s no more danger. The longer this…whatever this is…drags on, the more likely it is to blow up in someone’s face, and I really don’t want it to be yours. The birthday cards from prison were cute the first time around, but I’d rather not have a repeat performance.”

Neal knows that Peter is right, and he wishes he could do something, say something, to make things better. Unfortunately, what they need is more time, especially now that Hale is dead – it turns out he was the fence Moz had lined up from the start to fence the Degas. At least now Keller is out of the picture, wounded and on the run from not only the Feds but also the multi-million dollar bounty on his head (about which Peter has just informed him, and Neal has a bad feeling about that, but that’s another one of those things that he simply can’t talk to Peter about). Hopefully that will buy them the time they need, and Moz can make his escape and Neal can stop putting Peter off.

At least Keller should have been out of the picture. Unfortunately, like a proverbial bad penny, he showed up again….


And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come.
And I look up, I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.


Neal is relaxing after a long, boring day of reading mortgage fraud files when he hears the knock on his door. Iambic pentameter, which means Mozzie. Setting his wine glass down on the table in front of him, Neal gets up from the sofa and goes to open the door. Maybe Moz is here to tell him everything is set. Neal’s not sure how he feels about that. The waiting is killing him, and he’s afraid Peter won’t be able to take it if things drag on much longer. On the other hand, he’s not looking forward to saying goodbye to his best friend.

The look on Mozzie’s face when Neal opens the door dispels any notion that he’s here to announce any sort of success. “We’ve got a problem,” Moz says, as he steps past Neal and makes a beeline for his wine rack.

“There’s a Beaujolais open on the table, Moz.”

“Oh, thanks,” Moz says and changes course, first to the kitchenette for a glass and then to the dining table. Neal goes to grab his own half-full glass from the coffee table and then heads back to sit down across from Moz.

“Moz?” he prompts. “You said we have a problem?”

“Right. Keller’s back. And he wants the treasure.”

“What? He’s got the entire U.S. government and half the criminal underworld looking for him.”

“Exactly. And if he’s sticking around, it means he’s planning to do something big. I think this may require a change of plans. We should leave now, before he makes his move. It won’t be perfect, but I should be able to move up the timetable.”

“We?” Neal replies. “Didn’t we already have this conversation, Moz? I can’t….”

“I know, I know,” Mozzie interrupts. “You can leave, but you can’t come back. I get it.”

Neal gives him a raised eyebrow.

“I do. Just because I don’t agree with your recent life choices, doesn’t mean I can’t understand them. Sort of. Maybe. Regardless, I think having your life threatened by a psychopathic escaped convict counts as extenuating circumstances.”

“He didn’t threaten my life, Moz,” Neal replies. Surely if he had Moz would have told him already. There’s not an immediate reply, and that, more than anything else, makes Neal nervous.

“Does it matter? He’s clearly up to something, and whatever it is it can’t be good.”

“What did he say, Moz?”

Mozzie sighs, then takes his glasses off to wipe them with the tail of his shirt – a sure sign that he’s nervous too. “He said it was my last chance to cut him in on the treasure. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about, and even if I did the answer would be no.”

“And?”

“And then he said to remember that he’d asked nicely. That now he was going to have to make us give him what he wants,” Moz reluctantly finishes his recitation.

“You’re right. Whatever Keller’s up to, it can’t be good.”

“That’s why we need to leave!”

“We need to figure out what he’s going to do. I should tell Peter.”

“What? No.”

“Keller’s dangerous. Peter needs to know he’s back. And remember what happened the last time you did things your way? I seem to recall something about Keller escaping?”

“As if I could forget,” Moz says with a frown. “But seriously…how was I supposed to know that our Egyptologist moonlighting as a fence also moonlights as an assassin? I don’t think anyone saw that coming. And you’re going to tell the Suit what? That Keller is threatening you to get you give up the treasure? That he can’t know that we have?”

“Peter already knows that Keller thinks I’ve got it. That’s not news.”

“Maybe not, but Keller saying that he’s going to make us – note the plural there, by the way – give it to him, is. The Suit may have been willing to wait up ‘til now, but Keller’s threats could push him over the edge.”

“So we keep him in the dark? He could be in danger, Moz!”

“All the more reason for us to leave, mon frère. We take the treasure and get out of Dodge, and not only are we out of his crosshairs, but there’s no incentive for him to go after Peter, or anyone else. I know you want to stay, Neal. But this is best for everyone.”

“Maybe,” Neal says, reluctantly seeing the logic in Mozzie’s plan. “But do we even have time to get everything together?”

“Whatever Keller’s doing, it’s going to take some time to set up. I need twenty-four, maybe forty-eight, hours, and we’re good to go.”

“Both of us? Moz, you’ve only been prepping for a one-person escape.” Moz just looks at him and shrugs. “Moz?”

“You know me. ‘Be prepared’ is my motto.”

“You weren’t a Boy Scout any more than I was, Moz.”

“Fine. So maybe I just wanted to be ready in case you came to your senses.”

Neal just gives him a look.

“Or in case something came up and we had to change the plan?”

“I still don’t like this, Moz.” And he doesn’t. It feels wrong. He doesn’t want to go. But Mozzie has a point. Neal doesn’t want to think about how Peter – and Elizabeth – will feel if he leaves, but if it will keep them safe….

“Set it up,” is all he says, in the end, and either he’s done a good job keeping any of his uncertainty from showing, or Moz doesn’t want to see it.

Going to work the next day and acting as if nothing has changed is one of the hardest things Neal has done in his life. He’s a world-class con man, but Peter is often disturbingly adept at reading him and it takes all of Neal’s considerable skill not to let any of the conflict going on inside his head show.

By the time Neal gets back to June’s early that evening, he’s simultaneously wired with tension and close to falling over with exhaustion from a combination of lack of sleep and working so hard to keep up appearances. And he still doesn’t know what he’s going to do. He wants to stay, of that he’s sure. But what if leaving really is the best way to keep everyone safe?

The ringing of his phone startles him out of his ruminations. He hesitates for a moment, not sure he’s ready to make this choice, then picks of the phone.

“Moz?”

“I guess caller ID doesn’t isn’t as helpful when someone has, what, two or three phones? Nah, with Moz it’s probably more than that.”

“Keller! What do you want? I told you I don’t have the treasure. And shouldn’t you be keeping a lower profile these days? There are a lot of people looking for you.”

“Your concern for my welfare is touching, Caffrey, but I can take care of myself. And I have to say I’m disappointed in you. You’re still going with ‘I don’t have it?’ I’d think you’d have had time to come up with a better lie by now.”

"I’m not in the mood for your games, Keller, so why don’t we just cut to the chase.”

“Fine. This is a courtesy call, Caffrey. I’m sure Moz told you about our little heart to heart. Well, I’m in a generous mood. Also, it is true that things are a little, shall we say, ‘hot,’ for me these days. So I’m giving you one more chance to give me what I want. You should take it, Caffrey. Asking nicely isn’t always my first instinct.”

“How about never?” Neal thinks, but holds his tongue.

“But if it gets me what I want…. And I’m sure you’d rather avoid any potential collateral damage that might unfortunately occur when I stop asking nicely.”

It occurs to Neal that he has no idea what Keller’s timetable is for whatever he’s planning, and if there’s a chance that he’ll be ready to move before Moz can leave, they’re in real trouble. “Buy time,” he thinks.

Neal heaves a sigh, being careful not to be too dramatic about it. Keller may be a thug, but he’s smart, and he knows Neal too well.

“You’re right.”

“What was that, Caffrey? Could you say that again?” Neal can hear the amusement and the hint of triumph in Keller’s voice, and he smiles.

“You’re right,” he repeats, and the reluctance isn’t something he has to fake. “This is between you and me, Keller. Let’s keep it that way. Let’s meet. I’m sure we can come up with something mutually agreeable.”

“And how do I know you’re not going to bring your keeper and his Fed friends?”

“After what happened last time? I took off on my own, while I was out of the anklet, and you got away. You think they’re going to trust me on this? And you think you’re the only one who wants me to give up the treasure?”

“Poor Caffrey. Can’t be a proper Fed, or a proper crook.”

“Do you want to meet or not?”

Neal worries that Keller won’t go for it, but he does. Hopefully the lure of getting what he wants – and being able to see Neal’s defeat up close and personal, will distract Keller long enough. Neal lets out a breath and drops down onto the couch. And then springs to his feet a moment later. Something is ‘off’ about this whole situation. Keller doesn’t ask nicely. And certainly not more than once, after he’s already been turned down. And he surely already has a plan in motion. Neal isn’t sure why Keller called, but in a sudden moment of clarity he just knows that whatever Keller is planning, it’s happening soon. Too soon. Last time he’d needed something from them, he’d had Peter kidnapped, even though he knows full well the FBI’s rules about negotiation. But he’d also known, somehow, that Neal would give him what he wanted. And Neal hadn’t hesitated. He doesn’t think Keller will repeat that performance, even if he believes that Neal and Peter are not on the best of terms right now…. But there’s an even more valuable piece on the board, one Keller could use to manipulate Peter as well.

Neal hits the speed dial for Peter’s cell. “Neal?”

“Peter, where are you? Are you still at work?”

“Neal? What’s wrong? Are you all right?”

“Where are you Peter?”

“I’m in my office, finishing up a couple of reports.”

“Peter, listen to me, please. You have to go home. Now.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I promise, Peter, I’ll explain everything, but you have to trust me. Keller’s back, and I think he’s going to go after Elizabeth. Please, Peter, you have to stop him!”

“How do you know this?”

“It’s not important now. And I don’t know, not for sure, but I do know Keller. And you’re not the only one who knows when to trust his gut. Please, Peter.” Neal is begging now, and he doesn’t care. “Believe me. Tell me you’re on your way to the parking garage right now?”

“I believe you, Neal. I’m on my way out of the office. I’m going to hang up and call for backup. If he comes to the house, we’ll get him.”

“Thank you.”

As soon as the call disconnects, Neal dials another number, one he’s humored Moz about and not put into his phone. Thankfully Moz picks up.

“Neal?” he answers, clearly surprised.

“It’s me, Moz. How close are we to leaving?”

“Wait a minute. You drag your feet for how long, and I ask for a couple of days and now you’re on my back?”

“I’m serious, Moz. Keller called me. He claimed he was giving me one more chance to give up the treasure. He’s making his move, Moz, I know it. You have to go.”

“Don’t you mean we have to go?”

“I’m sorry Moz. And I don’t have time to argue with you about this. I can’t do it. I can’t leave Peter and Elizabeth. Not like this. But I’m going to have to tell Peter the truth, and it’s going to be soon. Between the FBI and Keller, well, I don’t want you to end up dead or in jail. We had a plan, Moz. Please, just go?”

This is probably the most begging Neal has done in his entire life, all in a span of a few minutes, but Mozzie knows him well, and thankfully doesn’t fight him.

He’s done what he can, and now Neal’s afraid that all he can do is play this thing out. He hates not being in control. He’s worried about El, and Moz, even Peter. And if he’s wrong, and Keller has another plan altogether, frankly that doesn’t bear thinking about.

Neal’s not sure how much time has passed – or how much ground he’s covered pacing – when his phone rings. He’s about to grab it up, but forces himself to take a deep breath and let it ring again, once, twice before he picks it up. His effort is wasted, though, as Keller just informs him of an incoming text message, which, when it arrives, is just an address and a time. Perhaps it’s not the smartest thing he’s ever done, but soon enough Neal finds himself lurking in the doorway of a coffee shop just down the block from the designated location, which turns out to be a street corner in a relatively quiet but not deserted street. There are a few businesses, a restaurant or two, and a handful of pedestrians, but there’s no Keller, at least not yet. A few minutes later, however, there is the sound of a phone ringing. Neal spots the pay phone, just down the street, and cautiously heads towards it. Fortunately, he’s not jumped by Keller or some hired thug. Unfortunately, before he can reach the phone he hears the telltale beeping that means he’s crossed out of his two-mile radius. He knows he has a short grace period before anything else happens, and after that the protocol is for Peter to be notified, then the Marshals. He keeps walking.

“Keller,” he says when he picks up the phone.

“You made it, Caffrey. And despite your leash.”

“You didn’t. And of course, you’d want to meet somewhere a block outside of my radius.”

“More fun that way.”

“Wouldn’t it be even more entertaining in person?”

“Did you really think it would be that easy, Caffrey? You almost got me arrested last time. Mozzie almost got me killed. You say you don’t have the treasure. Then you want to meet and talk about it. I’m done being jerked around. And you should have protected your queen. I’ll be in touch.” The line goes dead before Neal can reply, and he realizes with a sick feeling that he was right. Keller’s going after Elizabeth, and for a moment it’s all Neal can do to remember to breathe. He’s about to try Peter’s phone when the siren he’s been hearing in the distance suddenly comes screaming down the street and it occurs to him that it’s unlikely to be a coincidence that not one, not two, but three police cruisers have just come to a screeching halt in the same block of the street as the payphone that now hangs uselessly in his hand. He drops the receiver and steps away from the phone just as the occupants of the first car jump out and start shouting orders, and the couple just leaving the pizza place a few doors down hurries back inside.

“NYPD! Get down on your knees, hands behind your head!”

Neal turns toward the officer who seems to be in charge, moving slowly and keeping his hands in plain view. “Can you tell me what this is about?” he asks, keeping his voice level and doing his best to remain calm and polite.

The cop seems a little taken aback by that response. He doesn’t relax his stance or move his weapon from where it’s pointed steadily at Neal’s chest, but he does answer. “We got a couple of calls about a man with a gun in the area, possible shots fired. White male, tall, dark hair. One of them said they saw him heading toward a pay phone on this street. Now please, get down on your knees and place your hands behind your head.”

Neal curses silently to himself, angry at the fact that he’s clearly been set up, worried about Peter and Elizabeth, and frustrated with the cop who is quite honestly just doing his job. He knows he doesn’t have much time before the police take him down by force, and he doesn’t want to antagonize them, but he decides to at least an attempt to reason with them.

“If you could just let me explain, Officer,” Neal says, his tone measured, reasonable. I assure you, this is a misunderstanding. I’m unarmed. I’m a consultant with the FBI. White collar division.” Very slowly he reaches down with his left hand and pulls up his pants leg to reveal the anklet. Where, unfortunately, the red light is blinking although the warning beeps stopped several minutes ago.

“And that tracking anklet says you’re not where you’re supposed to be,” the cop replies.

Sensing that the man is about at the end of his patience, Neal lowers himself to the ground before the order can come again, laces his fingers together behind his head and crosses his ankles. He keeps very still as one of the cops approaches, cooperates as he’s searched thoroughly and cuffed. “I know this looks suspicious,” he says, hoping that they’ll be more willing to listen now that they know he doesn’t actually have a gun and they’ve got him secured. “But I’m literally only a few yards outside of my radius. I’m working on a case.” So that last part is a stretch, but Matthew Keller is, after all, a wanted fugitive. “I really need to call my handler. His name his Peter Burke. I have his card in my wallet.”

“We’ll check it all out when we get to the station,” the officer in charge says.

Neal closes his eyes for a moment and pulls in a deep breath, then opens them again. Still on his knees on the side of random New York City street, he turns his gaze to the now dark sky, and hopes against hope that Peter and Elizabeth are okay.

Go to Part IV

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Oh, yeah!

From the first mention of Keller it's like a switch is turned on. Tension starts to build immediately and doesn't stop building. You have the gift! I love the direction you take the plot here!

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