In record time, Diana was able to gather a few key members of the team in the conference room, including Hughes. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest.
"Tell me again what he said," Hughes told her.
"He asked if anyone was hurt," Diana replied solemnly. "The conversation was short, Sir."
"I understand," he replied, frowning more than usual. "And this other voice behind him…"
"It wasn't Neal," she said.
"What did he sound like?"
She sighed. "It was muffled. It wasn't clear. But I could just tell it wasn't Neal. That wasn't his voice."
"Was the voice combative at all? Argumentative?"
"I really can't say," she admitted, feeling a bit at a loss. The call had been so short, and so unexpected. If she'd known he would call, she could have recorded it, could have traced it… "But it was another person. That I'm certain of."
Hughes turned his attention over to Jones. "Has the location of the anklet tracker changed position?"
"No," Jones replied, shaking his head. "The coordinates have remained unchanged for a few hours. We've been monitoring it."
Hughes sighed, rubbing at his jaw. "Dammit. We need daylight," he said gruffly. "So we can head in there again."
Diana didn't disagree, but also couldn't stop thinking about Peter's words. "I think we need to consider why he asked if anyone had gotten hurt," she repeated. "Like it was the most urgent thing that he had to know."
Hughes regarded her carefully.
"Once I answered, then the call ended," she explained.
"Yeah, that's true," Jones replied slowly. "From what you've said, it was like that was the goal of the call. To confirm that one question."
"But why?" Hughes asked.
"I don't know," she answered. "Why would he suspect anyone had gotten hurt? There is always that risk when you're out in the field, but Peter never expects that something will happen. Why would he? Presumably all of our assignments are exploratory right now – not confrontational."
A moment of silence passed over the room.
"Diana, what was the nature of Jeff and Beth's injuries?" Hughes spoke, drumming his fingers impatiently against the conference room table. "You said Beth's car malfunctioned… And Jeff?"
"Her car had brake issues," Diana replied. "She had just gotten on the road after renting it. We were suspicious of the coincidence given what happened with Jeff… There was an explosion at his site. There was a small box that detonated. He was burned."
Hughes took a deep breath. "I want to speak to the rental agency."
"They're investigating," Diana said. "They explained there was a new employee on duty but we—"
"I mean I want to speak to them myself," Hughes replied. "Get me their number. And we need an update from the local police that are investigating that box."
Jones pushed back his chair, getting to his feet. "I'm on it."
"Thanks," Hughes replied.
"Sir," Diana began, eyes following her coworker out the door before turning her attention back to the senior officer in the room.
"Yes?" he responded. He regarded her calmly, though he looked slightly agitated. "What is it, Diana?"
"The events… The way they are playing out… It's not coincidence, Sir," she said. "I know there isn't any proof of that, but—"
"That's becoming quite clear," he agreed tersely. "I have to agree."
She nodded, encouraged by his agreement. "I was thinking… And I believe we need to call the other agents off. Or at least have them pause. We can't risk anyone else getting hurt."
He considered her for a moment, not speaking.
"Their efforts are investigation only," she persisted. "And in my honest opinion, Sir, not time sensitive. Getting more evidence on this case can wait if it avoids more… incidents." She knew that closing cases ASAP was always a priority, given their pipeline of new cases, which never ceased. But at the same time, what was a small delay in order to prevent a further risk to their team?
"You're right," he responded, nodding gradually. "The case will have to wait. Call them off. Have the ones close enough return to the city. We can regroup after we have Peter back. That becomes the priority."
She nodded as well, relieved immensely at his ready agreement. She had been bracing herself to push further if he insisted the case needed to continue concurrently. Despite Peter's common assurance that the senior agent was 'human' just like the rest of them, she admitted she often found him to be stiff and emotionless. She was reassured now to see a compassionate side of him. "Will do, Sir."
Hughes and Peter had some kind of system. Neal continued to think about that while he and Peter waited for Dean's return. They remained unaware of when the man might reappear, as well as what he would return with, demands or otherwise.
While they waited, Peter seemed to prefer they remain quiet. He maintained the belief that they were being tested somehow, and that any exchange should be whispered or avoided, lest it be used against them.
This left Neal to his own thoughts and theories. As time ticked by he grew more and more attuned to his thoughts (which were mostly tangled up over the revelation that Dean was once a CI) and their surroundings. He was chagrined with their situation itself as well as physically uncomfortable. His body ached, and his clothing was still wet and cold, sticking to his damp skin. On the floor with bound hands, the most he could do was stretch out his legs. He continued to yearn to get up and explore the room, but suggesting that had only led to admonishment.
"Don't piss him off," Peter had hissed at him when he politely proposed it again a few minutes earlier. Phrasing the suggestion differently and adhering to the noise discretion, using the quietest tenor possible, had no impact.
It frustrated Neal to just sit here idly, but Peter's adamant response that they had to do exactly that became more disgruntled each time he suggested otherwise. He understood – now that there was risk to Elizabeth, real or fabricated—and as such Peter would be on high alert second-guessing the potential consequences of their actions.
It didn't make it any easier to sit and wait. And think. Their captor having been a CI was a bit jolting, considering his previously speculated connections the man might have to Peter were far removed from that possibility. And to make matters even more complex, while being a CI he murdered someone, which landed him back on the inside?
His mind also kept going back to the crash. To the pilot. Ed Donovan. He remembered the aftermath, but then, cringing, pushed those thoughts away.
So Neal tried to focus on Peter's so-called 'system' instead. He could feel that Peter was heavily in thought as well.
"Is it like a code?" Neal asked.
"Hm?" Peter turned his head. He'd been distracted, staring off, but now returned his attention to his CI.
"Sh…" Peter responded, giving him a look. "Keep your voice down."
"My voice is down," Neal replied impatiently, his whisper the same as it had been a moment before. Peter was understandably overly cautious now that he'd been convinced there was some sort of surveillance in the room. So Neal attempted an increasingly more discrete tone, even shifting himself closer to Peter so they were physically shoulder-to-shoulder before murmuring, "Are you really just going to sit here in silence until he comes back?"
"Yes," was Peter's immediate & decisive, though barely audible, response.
"What if it takes hours until he comes back?"
"It won't," Peter hissed. "He said to wait here, Neal."
Neal exhaled impatiently, irritated once again at the default response to follow their captor's directions. If their captor wanted something from them, then why the hell had he disappeared? While thinking this, he then suddenly shivered from an unexpected chill. Closer to Peter, he could feel the heat radiating off of the other man which made him realize how cold he was. He suddenly felt useless. "I could find something to loosen the cuffs," he whispered.
"If I did, we could—"
"Shush." Peter's elbow jutted out, catching Neal gently in the ribs.
Neal was about to object, but then Peter continued.
"I hear him coming back," he said.
Neal froze, quieting. Sure enough, he now also could hear the sound of movement, like footsteps in a hall, growing louder. He glanced at Peter, simultaneously impressed and perturbed that the man had heard the steps before he had. Maybe he was too distracted. Or maybe Peter was just that much more singularly focused on Dean.
Within seconds, Dean was in front of them.
"So," the other man stated. "We begin."