This chapter is dedicated to Duffy1 and anyone else who was saddened that the last chapter 5 was a false alarm. Thank you for caring about my story

Last chapter: Sarah had come by for lunch but walked out when she found out about Neal's painting. June and Neal talked about loyalty and life.


Peter had called Neal and informed him that the search of his apartment had turn up nothing. He was still on the suspect list, but unless further evidence came up, he was cleared to come back to the office. "Neal, if you know anything about where the treasure is, or who might be behind it," Peter urged, "tell us. I've even talked with Hughes, and we could offer immunity if someone turns themselves in or we could work out a parole-only deal if you turn them in."

"Complete immunity?" Neal was surprised.

"The government really wants this treasure recovered. It could well be the greatest historical discovery of the century. Anyway, whoever took it is going to be real hard pressed to fence that much." Peter's voice grew even more serious, "Neal, we will find whoever it is." His voice was absolute on this fact. "The easier this goes, the better it will go for them." The warning, as well as the invitation, was clear.


When Monday morning rolled around, Neal rolled out of bed dreading the day. Oh sure, he could probably pull off nonchalant on the outside, but he was not looking forward to the stares at the office, probably ranging from doubt, to disappointment, to smug delight at seeing Neal in the dog house.

He pulled out a suit and went to select a shirt. White for innocence? Blue for calmness? Yes, blue would do it. He pulled off his the white tee he had slept in, and donned the cool Egyptian cotton top. He chose a dark tie that matched well. He didn't really feel like standing out today; all eyes would probably be on him anyway.


Neal stepped into the foyer of the FBI building and put on a collected and cool façade. He needed to act somewhat normal. There was one other person in the elevator as he entered, a young clerk he had seen around but never actually met. The clerk exited at the 15th floor.

When Neal stepped off at the 20th floor, his muscles tightened involuntarily. He felt like a clown fish entering a sea anemone after losing half its mucus coating. He was no longer sure if his symbiotic relationship with the FBI was safe.

As Neal stepped in, the office conversations died, but a fire of whispers broke out at the farther corners. The last time he had been here, he had stalked out of an interrogation in anger. Confidence, Neal repeated to himself. You have no reason to feel guilty. You ARE innocent. He hitched up his smile and strolled in, nodding at the agent nearest the door. He saw Hughes stepping out of his office and pulling out the infamous two fingered summons. "Up here, Caffrey."

Neal strolled up the stairs, well aware that every eye in the office was on him.

Hughes closed the door behind Neal; Peter was already standing by the desk. Hughes got directly to the point. "As you know, you are still a suspect in the U-boat case, which means that you can't be in the thick of the search. You give us any information you have and answer any question we have. Otherwise, you'll be assigned to different cases. Any questions?"

Neal shrugged. He was tempted to ask that Hughes start a task force dedicated to buying Peter a new suit but figured this wasn't the time.

"Alright, well I have a meeting of department heads; keep me in the loop if anything comes up," Hughes instructed Peter and left the room.

Peter turned towards Neal and looked at him awkwardly for a moment. "I…I, "He started to say something then seemed to decide against it, "let's get this situation cleared up fast." Peter handed Neal a stack of case files and walked away.

Well, Peter wasn't staring at him in loathing anymore, but it didn't look like their old partnership was quite back on yet. Part of Neal really did wish that this case was a normal one where they could catch the bad guy, celebrate a victory together, and be back at ease. But there was no way he could turn in Mozzie or Alex, and he was pretty sure they weren't going to turn themselves in, even for complete immunity, which meant that it could be a while before his and Peter's relationship was really OK.

Neal started flipping through case files. Mortgage fraud, mortgage fraud, copyright infringement of corporate employee handbooks… wow, that was even worse than mortgage fraud. The next one was an internet "Work from Home" scheme that was just a notch above mortgage fraud. Neal decided to take a crack at it. An hour and a half later, he had put together enough to make a solid court case and filed the final report. He stood up, stretched, and meandered over to the break room to grab some coffee.

As he was walking, he overheard one of the Harvard bunch announced to the woman sitting next to him, "Hey, did you hear. If we recover the U-boat treasure, the government will give 50% of the proceeds to help the victims most hurt by Adler's Ponzi scheme."

Great, let's add on another layer of guilt, Neal thought to himself. When he walked into the break room, he found Jones filling up his mug. "Hey, how was your weekend?" Neal inquired.

"Mhh, fairly relaxed. My old college roommate came over Saturday night as well as my sister and her fiancé. We played a couple of intense games of LIFE."

"LIFE? Like the board game where you stick little pegs in plastic cars and move around the board," Neal asked a bit incredulously.

"Yes sir. My sister loved that game as kids. We had a rule that you had to actually pretend that it was all real, that the little spaces you landed on represented your actual life. Its great seeing her pretend to shoot a rock video," Clinton grinned. "Her fiancé thought we were pretty crazy at first, but he got into it after a bit. Which is a good thing. He'll need that kind of humor to survive our crazy family at Christmas."

Neal smiled for real. It was good to know that not everyone's life revolved around treasures, secrets, and hiding. "And which career did you end up with?" Neal asked.

"Travel agent," Jones replied. "I got to fly anywhere in the world for free."

"Sound like a life to me," Neal declared.

"Mhh, I would like see some of the world someday, but in reality I'm pretty set right here. My family isn't too far away, and in some ways, this office sometimes feels like an extended family. I'm around them more than most blood relatives." Jones replied thoughtfully.

"Hmm, well what do you do when the priorities of one family set clashes with the other?" Neal inserted as nonchalantly as possible.

"Well, I try to balance them as best as possible. If my mother is sick in bed, she gets priority over work. On the other hand, if my crazy aunt Eleanor starts calling," Jones rolled his eyes, "I don't feel so bad turning off my cell. Past that, it's not necessarily a question of who I'm most loyal to, but who is most in the right." Jones glanced up at the clock. "Hey, I've got to go. Life is calling me." He lifted his mug in salutations and left.


Coffee in hand, Neal also headed back to his desk and started flipping through the files again. Everyone else had been assigned to some aspect of the U-boat case, whether it was profiling local warehouses or trolling shops known to carry fenced goods; Neal was the only one without a real case. He sighed as he reached the last manila file. Nothing to challenge him or to provoke him to action.

A crisp file dropped from the air onto his desk. He glanced up and saw Diana standing over him. "Hey, what's this?" Neal asked curiously.

"I thought maybe you could use something other than mortgage fraud," she indicated the stack. "It's not exactly art theft, but …" she shrugged.

"Thanks," Neal said, "It's different not being in the thick of the hunt."

"Well, perhaps you should stop getting yourself implicated in the crime of the century," Diana teased.

"Yeah well, maybe if the criminal of the century would stop mixing my paintings with their work, it would be a little easier." Neal flashed a half-smile.

Diana turned more serious, "Neal," she began, a hint of uncertainty shook her usual confidence. "You didn't steal them, right." She really hoped he hadn't. It would kill Peter to send Neal back. (Shoot, it would kind of kill her day too).

Neal sat up and looked straight into Diana's eyes. "I did not steal the U-boat treasure."

Diana breathed a sigh, and then squared her shoulders. "Well, that's good enough for me." The sturdy agent was back. "Though, it doesn't mean I won't be checking on your friends."

Neal shrugged his shoulders. "Hey, a man's gotta keep some things sacred."

Diana gave a short laugh and walked away. She was glad that Neal's banter would be around for a while longer.

Neal looked down at the folder Diana had tossed him. It looked too clean to be a cold case. He opened it curiously. Inside, he found the several papers regarding scams designed to look like look like "Japan Aid Funds." The idea was simple. You set up a parody of a real relief organization, then you set links around the internet. When people go to donate to the relief efforts, their money goes into the false fund. Neal had never liked these scams. They took money from those who desperately needed it, and they tended to have no style whatsoever.

He set to work. Perhaps it didn't furnish the same thrill as robbing a bank, but he still felt like he had purpose doing it. (And it was definitely better than mortgage fraud!).

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