White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA Network

An extra long chapter in celebration of tomorrow' premiere and this story will ultimately become AU. Unfortunately, I won't be able to watch it tomorrow; this makes me very sad. So, what I really want is a pity party! (well, just a regular party would be nice too, but oh well). Please feel free to leave encouraging comments to make up for this sad occasion. I know it could be worse for all of you that can't even download the episodes on iTunes. I do feel for you! Meanwhile, please enjoy my next chapter.

Open Season

Chapter 6

Two Deals, One Treasure, No Aliens

"Neal's gone? What happened?"

Peter questioned. David realized Peter looked slightly annoyed, but definitely not as angry as David thought he would be as he tried to explain.
"There was a baby carriage rolling down the sidewalk and was going to cross into the street. It was going to get hit, so I ran into the street to get it out of the way. I locked the car with the remote and I ran after the stroller. Then the baby's parents came running, and everything was ok and the baby was safe, but when I got back to the car, Neal was gone."

David paused to take a deep breath and to let Peter tell him what a bad job he'd done, but Peter didn't say anything, so David continued.

"I'm so sorry, I know how this looks. I screwed up. I guess being an FBI Agent is harder than it looks."

Peter felt his anger dissipating. He actually felt sorry for the young man. It wasn't really his fault; he couldn't have had any idea what Neal was capable of. Besides, it's not like Peter had really expected Neal to stay in the car anyway, he had mainly arrested him just because he could and because he wanted Neal out of his sight before he did something he really regretted. He also hadn't really wanted David around when he talked to Mozzie either, so he thought he had solved two problems at once; clearly David was taking this personally though.

"David, it's ok. Really. This is a guy who broke out of a maximum security prison. I shouldn't have arrested him and dumped him on you. I'm sorry, I lost my cool, and I shouldn't have. Neal is stubborn, and he's probably putting some cockeyed plan into effect to save Elizabeth himself. He probably would have gotten away even if I had been there."

"I doubt that. Look, I'm sorry for the trouble. I'll just go back to exploring the city and you can keep catching bad guys. I've really had enough excitement for the day."

David handed Peter back his keys.

"No! You can't leave!" Mozzie quickly hurried over to David. "I need to talk to you."

"About what?" David looked confused.

"No. It really has to wait!" Peter demanded. "Time is of the essence."

Peter looked directly at Mozzie.

"Has your hypothetical scenario already been put in motion?"

Mozzie shot Peter a withering look.

"The reason for time, Suit, is so that everything doesn't happen at once. Be patient!"

"My wife is not hypothetically missing. I will not be patient until we find her. Who knows what Keller is doing to her!"

"So, just so we're absolutely clear, you don't actually want this to be a hypothetical scenario do you? You actually want us to put the plan in motion, correct?"

"I want you to put the plan in motion, yes. I want to find Keller, but I want him brought to justice the right way."

"I think the Russians have their own definition of justice."

"Spare me the details. How long will it take? How long until this not hypothetical plan of yours is ready?"

"Well, we just need to get these paintings in the chest, and then have a time and a place to meet. If all three of us help out it could be done very quickly, Suit."

"Here's a bright idea for you. Why don't you set up a time with Keller, and David and I will very carefully put the paintings in the chest; once you tell us where it is, of course."

"That won't work."

Peter looked increasingly perturbed, and didn't bother to tame the sarcasm in his voice.

"I'm sorry. How have I possibly offended your delicate ego now. Please, enlighten me!"

"Just this once I'll let the sarcasm slide, and you just being a suit offends me. I put up with you only because of Neal. The problem though is I don't have Keller's number. Neal's the one that always talks to him and now Neal's gone; besides, he's probably contacting Keller without us."

Peter took several deep breaths, trying not to lose his temper twice in the same day. Finally, getting his breathing under control, Peter took a step toward Mozzie.

"So, you're telling me that we have the treasure that Keller wants in exchange for Elizabeth, but we don't have anyway of contacting him, and the only person that can has disappeared and will more than likely be bargaining with something he doesn't have in exchange for my wife."

"Has anyone ever told you you're smarter than you look, Suit! I'm impressed, that was a very accurate deduction. However, if you want to talk to Keller, you'll have to wait for him to contact you."

"Don't you have some crime superfriends that could help us out? Get in touch somehow?"

"Believe it or not, Suit, my 'crime superfriends' as you so disdainfully referred to them are smart enough not to hang around with someone the Russian Mob is after. That's just bad for business."

"Please tell me you're kidding!"

"Suit, I…"
Mozzie was interrupted by a cell phone ringing in Peter's jacket pocket. Peter looked surprised and then remembered the cell phone Keller had left in his car. He had totally forgotten about it in all the confusion. He pulled the phone out of his pocket and looked at Mozzie.

"You're right. It's Keller."

Peter opened the phone and hit talk.

"What do you want, Keller?" Peter had a distinct tone of aggression in his voice.

"Is that anyway to greet someone who holds your wife's life in his hands? Besides, you know what I want. The treasure, Peter. I want the treasure. I don't care who gives it to me. It could be you, it could be Neal, it could even be Mozzie, but I WANT THE TREASURE!"

Keller's voice increased in decibels by the end of his statement.

"If you touch one hair on my wife's head…" Peter threatened.

"Ok. Ok. Let's both calm down. You want your wife back and I want the treasure. It's a simple swap. Where did you want to meet?"

Peter ignored Keller's question, making some demands of his own.

"I want my wife at the exchange. I want to see her. I want to see that she's ok before we hand over the treasure."

Keller didn't take too kindly to the demands.

"Is Neal or Mozzie with you? I want to talk to one of them. You're too close to the situation, Peter. You can't make wise or logical decisions right now."

Peter reluctantly handed the phone to Mozzie; not about to admit that Keller might be right.

"Keller wants to talk to you…"

Mozzie took the phone and walked away from Peter and David, so they could only hear pieces of his conversation.

"Yes. Mrs. Suit is worth it to me…You wouldn't understand…I'll let you see a sample of the treasure. I have it in a chest...The rest is boxed up and ready to go…Some of us actually are loyal to friends. No, you wouldn't have any idea what that would be like."

Mozzie wandered farther away almost to the edge of the storage area, far enough away that neither Peter nor David could hear any more of the conversation. Peter really didn't want to know what they were discussing. David looked curious as he turned to look at Peter.

"Who is on the phone? What's going on?"

"It's the man who kidnapped my wife, and who knows what Mozzie is telling him. He's supposed to be setting up a place for the meet. I'm sorry, David. You can't come. This man is more than likely armed and extremely dangerous. I can't let you anywhere near him. I appreciate you saving my life. I really do, but I'm sorry, I can't let you get involved any further."

"It was my pleasure, Agent Burke. Did Mozzie really have something to ask me? I'm not sure how I could possibly help him."

Peter just chuckled.

"The only thing you need to know about Mozzie is that he is very odd and has very strange obsessions. Just ignore anything related to aliens or any other conspiracy theory you might be aware of. He thrives on those."

"I beg to differ, Suit. There are aliens, and there are true conspiracy theories." Mozzie commented, having stealthily snuck up behind Peter and David without them hearing him.

"David really needs to go, and we have a treasure to pack and deliver. Do we have a time and place? Will Elizabeth be there?"

"Yes. I texted the location to Keller, he agree to have Elizabeth there. We just need to get him to touch the chest. Encourage him to peruse the works of art. Now, we need to get them packed. Perhaps I can inquire of David's knowledge while we carefully pack the paintings? Let's see. To be most efficient I think we should form an assembly line so that none of us have to walk very far with the painting and only one of us needs to be by the chest. Remember, under no circumstances, should you touch the chest. The lacquer is very dangerous. We must wear gloves!"

Peter looked over at David.

"Would you have a few minutes to spare while we pack these paintings? Apparently whatever Mozzie wants to discuss is important to him. Not necessarily to us. Understand?"

"Got it." David actually smiled at the way Peter had discussed Mozzie's intentions. "I'll help in anyway I can."

Mozzie handed them both some industrial type gloves specifically designed to handle chemicals and they got right to work.

Neal had caught the first taxi he could find home. He arrived at June's and rushed up the stairs. If Peter checked his anklet, he could at least see that Neal had gone home first. Who knows where he would end up next. Neal grabbed the Degas that was still on his easel, the real Degas, the one he had stolen from Richmond right under Peter's nose. Neal knew he didn't have time to paint another fake, so it would have to do. He was out of options, and he couldn't let Keller hurt Elizabeth any more than he already had. Neal pulled out his cell phone and dialed Keller's number.

"Well, hello Neal. I'm surprised to hear from you."

Even though Neal couldn't see Keller's face, he could envision the smirk fully planted on it and it made him mad.

"I don't trust you to hand over Elizabeth. I want assurances that if I give you the treasure, you'll let her go unharmed."

"You need to trust people more, Neal; that they'll do what they say. You're so distrustful." Keller paused mid-sneer as if a thought had just crossed his mind.

"Oh wait, I forget who I'm talking to, the great Neal Caffrey who can say the right words and make everybody trust him before he walks away with their entire life savings."

Neal ignored Keller's insults and continued to bargain.

"I have a Degas in my hand right now, and I know that will give you a nice payday. I'll even let you inspect it yourself. It's the real deal. You hand over Elizabeth and you'll get the rest of the treasure, no questions asked. You win. I'm sick of playing games."

"Wow. Quite the gentlemen now aren't you. Sacrificing your dreams for a damsel in distress. It's pathetic really, seeing you crawl like this. I had expected a big fight, a big con. Something worthy of the great Neal Caffrey. I must say, I think you're giving up way too easily. Maybe it's because your handler is finally seeing the real you and he's sick of playing your games as well.

"Peter has nothing to do with this, neither does Elizabeth, and yet you involved both of them. You'll pay for this Keller. You're right, Peter might hate me now, but Elizabeth was innocent in all this. This is between you and me. You had no right to involve her. You're on thin ice. I'm living proof that your sins always come back and bite you. Always. I'm just warning you. I hand over this Degas, you hand over Elizabeth and you'll have enough money to pay the Russian's off for good and get off their radar. Then I never want to see you again. Ever."

"That's very chivalrous of you to warn me, Neal, but completely unnecessary. I'm not in any danger. You said so yourself. I get the treasure. I pay off the Russians. I'll text you the location to meet me. Be on time or you'll never see Elizabeth Burke again."

Keller hit the end button, a wicked grin on his face. It was too bad Neal wasn't there to see it Keller thought smugly as he sent Neal the text message with the meet location; the same info he had just received from Mozzie. Keller realized that obviously Neal didn't know about his conversation with Peter and Mozzie, which led him to surmise that Peter had indeed ditched Neal out of anger and wasn't letting him anywhere near their operation. Keller knew he could use this to his advantage. Putting Neal and Peter in the same room might also create enough fireworks for Keller to slip away undetected with the treasure even if he did have to leave Elizabeth behind. It was always easier to escape without a hostage. It did seem odd though that both men were so intent on giving up the treasure of a lifetime for the sake of one woman that neither of them were married to. Keller had to admit to himself, he was a bit disappointed. This was too easy. He loved the game, and he really hated when someone forfeited; it just destroyed the joy of victory. However, in this case, Keller just wanted the treasure and if it came this easy, he wasn't going to say no. After all, his debt with the Russians was long overdue.

"Those aren't little green men, Mozzie. Who tells you these things?"

"I have my sources. They're very reliable."

"Yeah, ok, whatever." David mumbled before deciding to continue his explanation. "They're not little green men. They're called the Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis. They look like lights that are dancing in the sky. A lot of times they are green, but they can be different colors as well. The aurora gets its name from the Roman goddess of dawn, but the process really all starts from the sun."

"The little green men come from the sun?"

"Mozzie, are you even listening to what David has to say?"

Peter was losing patience with Mozzie as he carefully lifted yet another small painting into the chest, being very careful not to touch the outside.

"Of course I'm listening Suit, he's just not making sense. If the little green men were on the sun they would burn up. Even I know the sun is too hot for them to survive." Mozzie said as he passed another painting to Peter.

"As I was saying." David started again, sounding just slightly patronizing, as he handed another painting to Mozzie who then handed it to Peter to put in the chest. "It starts from the sun. There is solar activity that releases gas, and when it reaches Earth's atmosphere it collides with Earth's magnetic field. This causes particles that flow around the North Pole and the South Pole and when they collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere they produce the spectacular Northern Lights, not little green men."

"That's what teachers and the government want you to think."

"Seriously? Are you for real? I mean, are you really convinced there are aliens?"

"Oh, look. Last painting. I guess we're done here." Peter interrupted, desperately hoping that they could get on with the trade, he could get Elizabeth back and not sit through more excruciatingly boring discussion on whether or not there were little green men in the sky. Peter didn't want to mention the part about the aurora borealis was actually interesting because he feared it might encourage Mozzie to ask more questions, and Peter didn't have all day to waste.

"Yeah." David agreed as Peter noticed David actually sounded really relieved.

"I probably should be going. I'm getting hungry anyway."

"I can recommend this great place…" Mozzie started to say.

"No. I mean thanks anyway though."

David realized his 'no' had come out a little too abrupt and hoped it hadn't offended the strange little man who was convinced there were aliens.

"I think I'll settle for something at the hotel and relax before my day can get any more interesting."

David stripped off his gloves quickly, left them on the table and made a beeline for the door; thinking as he left that there were some really strange people in New York City.

After Peter heard the door at the bottom of the steps close, he looked at Mozzie.

"You know you scared him away, right Moz?"

"The sooner he sees the truth, the better Suit. It's all a vast government conspiracy. I have a theory that maybe the aurora is a giant portal for streaming data to the alien spaceships and they're sending signals back to earth. It definitely will require more research, but what he had to say was very interesting. It's amazing what people teach in school nowdays."

Peter just shook his head, totally exasperated with the situation and Mozzie's inability to relate to anything normal.

"Enough already. Let's focus on the task at hand. We just need to close the lid on the chest and transport it. How long until the meet?"

"We have two hours. Let's get ready."

"No, you get ready. I'm going to call Jones about Neal's tracking data. I need to find out what he's up to, because I'm sure it's no good."