White Collar belongs to Jeff Eastin and USA Network. I'm just borrowing the characters because they are so awesome, and obviously, I'm not making any money off it, or I would have updated it a long, long time ago ;-)
A million apologies for not updating sooner. Life turned upside down for a while, my grandma died, work got complicated and somehow I just lost a couple months without realizing how quickly time was flying by. Plus, after all that I pretty much lost all desire and energy to write. Hopefully now, I'm on the upswing, although writing this chapter was like pulling teeth, but at least the words were grudgingly starting to flow; no matter how resistant my brain seems to be. I'm starting a new job tomorrow, and the Season 4 premiere is Tuesday, So that's already two things to look forward to and maybe something else can go right for me and I can finish off the summer better than I started off the year... One can hope, right?
Open Season Chapter 7
Be Careful What You Wish For
Peter could hear the typing over his cell phone as Jones cued up Neal's location.
"He's currently at home. Did you want me to keep monitoring? Are you expecting him to go anywhere?"
"I don't know anymore, but I really don't have the time to mess with tracking him. If he goes out of his radius let me know."
"Will do, Boss."
Neal wasn't about to let Mozzie give up all the treasure for Elle, so he needed to make the deal with Keller before Mozzie and Peter just handed over the treasure. He had the painting rolled up in a tube as he snuck around the corner of the building. He wanted to get a jump on Keller and figure out what he was doing. Neal wasn't sure Keller would actually hand over Elizabeth for just one painting, but maybe if he played on Keller's greed, he could bluff his way to figure out where Elle was. The big garage door was already open when Neal rounded the corner. Not good, he reasoned, knowing that would allow for a quick escape for Keller, but of course, Neal knew that Keller always thought several moves ahead. Neal peeked around the corner and saw several shelving units filled with crates. At least there seemed to be good cover while he scoped out the situation. Neal crept toward the first set of shelving pleased with himself that he was so light on his feet. He hadn't gotten more than a few feet when he has he distinct click of a gun being cocked near his left ear.
"Did you really think you could sneak up on me, Neal?" Keller hissed into Neal's ear.
"I was a few minutes early. I wanted to check out this place. You never know when a good hiding place will come in handy."
"You'll get firsthand experience in how well you can hide someone here, but first things first, I want the painting."
"I want Elizabeth. I don't see her here. Where is she?"
"Pardon me if I don't take your word for it. I want to see her."
"Patience is a virtue, Neal. Maybe you should practice."
Neal was about to respond but didn't have a chance before someone hit him in the back of the head and he collapsed to the floor.
Peter and Mozzie carefully hefted the trunk into place and opened the lid. Now all they had to do was wait for Keller to arrive. Mozzie had texted his medical friends who were standing by just waiting for Keller to need their services.
"Do you really think that Keller is going to come?" Peter asked.
He knew that Keller was bound and determined to get the treasure, but he was also unsure if Keller would know that he was walking in to a trap and send a hired gun. If so, all of their work would have gone to waste.
"We promised him the treasure, and I don't think he'd trust anyone else with it. I think he's so greedy he can't wait to get his hands on it." Mozzie replied.
"I certainly hope so. I want this to end once and for all." Peter replied in a hopeful tone. There was nothing he wanted more than for Keller to be safely in jail, and unable to hurt anyone else he cared about."
A door squeaked at the far end of the building as it grudgingly opened. Both Peter and Mozzie turned to see Keller leading a blindfolded Elizabeth into the room, her hands bound in front of her with rope.
"I assume you have the treasure here, or else Elizabeth will be very disappointed in you."
"The chest is right here for you to sample, the rest is waiting in a semi parked a couple blocks down, so as not to attract any attention to this place. Here are the keys."
Peter tossed the key ring toward Keller, who caught it with no problems.
"Well done, Burke!"
"You got what you wanted. Now, let me have my wife back."
Keller pushed Elizabeth toward Peter, and he rushed forward to catch her before she could trip and fall. Peter deftly removed the bindings from Elizabeth's hands and eyes while also keeping an eye on Keller who went back to peruse his newly gotten treasure. Keller opened up the trunk and gave an appreciative whistle.
"Come on, come on, this stuff had better work." Peter muttered under his breath, completely confusing Elle as to what he was talking about.
"Give it time Suit, have patience." Mozzie said as his finger hovered over his phone, ready to click send on his text message to his paramedic friends.
Keller finally turned back toward them with a painting in his hands, although Peter could only see greed in Keller's eyes, no true appreciation of what he was actually holding.
"Wanted to see me gloat? I beat you and your little pet con, again."
"I wouldn't speak to soon, Keller. Justice has a way of finding people."
"I have guys checking all over the vicinity, and there's not even a utility van in the area. The Feds aren't here. If they had been your wife wouldn't have been so lucky."
"No, they're not here. It was just me and Mozzie."
"Yeah, I don't see your pet con anywhere in sight. I wonder why that is?"
Keller was about to answer his own rhetorical question, when he experienced a small seizure and dropped the painting to the floor, while dropping to his knees glaring over at Peter and Mozzie.
"You did something to the treasure? Did you drug me? You were serious about killing me, weren't you, Mozzie?"
Thinking it was the art that had been compromised and not the trunk, Keller held on to the top open lid of the trunk for support to stand back up.
"Someone has to stop you, Keller; you're a menace to society."
"You think you're so smart, don't you?" Keller had to stop and cough, his lungs working against him. "I still have the ace though."
"Enlighten me then, Keller." Peter said as he took a couple steps toward Keller, while Mozzie hit send on his cell phone.
Keller, slowly and with great difficulty, fished something out of his pants and held it up for Peter to see.
"I have a backup plan." Keller coughed again, and tightened his hold on the trunk, not realizing that his grip was allowing more and more of the poison to be absorbed into his system. "Once I push this button, you have five minutes before it goes boom. Plenty of time to get out, right?"
"What's the catch, Keller?" Mozzie ground out, losing patience rapidly with Keller's games.
"I have Caffrey. He tried to make a deal with me earlier, but it didn't end so well for him. He's trapped in one of these crates in the warehouse, but I'm not telling you which one or where the bomb might be, but I can assure you I do have one."
"You know Keller, you're not as bad as people say, you're even worse. You have no respect for humanity, and now you're trying to kill all of us?"
"I'm not preventing you from leaving. The choice is up to you, but once I'm out of here, you'll only have a few minutes to make up your mind. Are you going to stay and search for Neal, or are you going to save yourself?"
"I wouldn't make the same choices you make, Keller. Neal is not dying if I have anything to say about it."
"Good luck with that Burke. It's no wonder Caffrey's been brainwashed, you really do sound noble and heroic. Guess it's time to put that heroism to work."
Keller tried to stand upright again and tried to shuffle toward the door, but realizing he wasn't going to make it out, he held out the remote and pressed the button just before he collapsed.
Peter realizing what was about to happen, started to run toward Keller, but Keller pressed the button before he got to him. Seconds later, Mozzie's paramedic friends ran in, prepared to deal with Keller.
"Change of plans." Mozzie shouted, as he hurried over to his friends. "There's a bomb somewhere in here and you need to get him out of here before it blows. You can deposit him as previously planned though." Mozzie paused just a moment as a thought occurred to him. "Oh, you wouldn't possibly have a crow bar with you would you?"
"Toolbox, behind the front seat. Always be prepared, right?"
"I owe you, man."
"Yeah, now you really owe me, Mozzie."
Mozzie was about to run out to the ambulance when he hesitated and then grabbed a couple of the paintings out of the chest before he rushed outside. The paramedics rushed to prepare the gurney to transport Keller, and injected the antidote as well as something to keep him asleep for the ride they were going to take and then quickly vacated the premises.
Peter and Elle meanwhile had started to run in different directions shouting Neal's name to no response. Peter started banging on crates, but didn't hear any sounds.
"Neal. You need to help us find you!" Elizabeth yelled from across the room as she followed Peter's example and banged on several crates.
"I'm not finding him. Should we be looking for the bomb instead? I don't know how much time we have left." Elizabeth yelled in the last direction she had seen Peter.
"Keep looking. He has to be here somewhere. There's no time to disarm a bomb even if we could." Peter yelled back in her direction. There was no way he was going to fail Neal this time, no matter how mad he might have been. He couldn't lose Neal like this; Keller was not going to take Neal from him.
"Suit! I found a crow bar." Mozzie exclaimed breathlessly as he ran back into the warehouse, clutching the crow bar tightly.
"Thanks Mozzie. Hopefully we'll need it soon. I haven't checked that section yet." Peter said as he looked down at his watch. They couldn't have much more than two minutes left. He and Elle had banged on most of the crates, but they hadn't seen any indication that Neal was in any of them.
Peter ran around the corner and his eye caught on a bunch of scrap carpet pieces thrown in the corner, but they were high enough that something had to be under it. Peter hurriedly threw them off and pounded on the old steamer trunk.
"Neal! Neal! Are you in there?" Peter tried shaking the trunk, but it seemed solid. He didn't know if that meant Neal was in there or not, but his gut told him it needed to be opened.
"Mozzie! I need you here! Elle? Honey? Where are you?" Peter had almost forgotten about his wife in his desperate need to find Neal. Mozzie ran up with the crowbar, followed by Elle.
"We need to get in here. I can feel it. I know he's in here."
Mozzie pushed by Peter to try and break the padlocks on the steamer trunk, while Peter grabbed his wife by the shoulders.
"I need you to run now. I don't know how much time we have, but I need you to get out of here while you can. Mozzie and I will work on this."
"Peter, I want to stay with you."
Peter gave her a quick kiss, and then pushed her away. "I need you to run, now. Please honey, I need you to get out of here. I need you to be safe."
Elle didn't argue anymore as she turned and ran, tears starting to run down her face knowing that Peter, Neal and Mozzie were still in danger.
Mozzie and Peter took turns jamming the crowbar into the trunk and finally cracked the seal. Peter hurriedly lifted the lid to find Neal, laying unconscious inside.
"Never bet against the gut." Peter said as he lifted Neal's arm to try and lift him out, while Mozzie grappled with Neal's legs. He was definitely heavier than he looked. Once Neal was out of the trunk, Peter put Neal's arms around his neck and lifted him on his back, with some assistance from Mozzie.
"Go, Mozzie. I've got him. Get as far away as possible."
Mozzie didn't have to be asked twice, but instead of running toward the outside door, Mozzie took off running back toward the chest where he grabbed a couple more paintings before heading out the door.
Peter hadn't stumbled more than 10 yards away from the building with Neal on his back when it exploded. The impact pushed him forward and he stumbled and fell and in the process lost his grip on Neal who went flying several feet farther; pelting both men with debris. Peter shook his head and then looked up trying to figure out where Neal had landed; finally spotting him several feel ahead of him. Peter crawled closer to Neal, unable to walk because his ankle was hurting; he probably had twisted it when he had fallen. Peter had just reached Neal when another explosion hit and Peter protected Neal as best he could while more shrapnel rained down on them. Peter wondered briefly where Elle and Mozzie were and how far they had managed to get away. Please let them be safe, Please let them be safe; the simple prayer mantra repeated over and over in his head as the debris kept floating down.
It seemed like hours to Peter, but was probably only a couple minutes until he felt it was safe to look around. As he struggled to sit up, he turned his head around to see that the warehouse had been completely destroyed, but fortunately, this time, Peter hadn't seen any fragments of canvas floating down around him. Peter wondered if Mozzie had actually gotten away with the paintings and what had happened to the semi that Mozzie said had the art. Peter was starting to wonder if Mozzie would just take off and leave without Neal, since Peter couldn't really chase him at the moment. Peter turned back to look at Neal, he hadn't moved, but it looked like he had some cuts and bruises starting to bleed from being hit by the shrapnel from the building, but at least he was still breathing. Peter pulled out his cell phone to call Diana and have her and Jones had the team move in so they could see if they could find any remaining evidence in the warehouse, and have her call an ambulance as well, since there was no way neither he or Neal were going to be walking out of there. While waiting for Diana and the ambulance, Peter dialed Elle on her cell phone, hoping she would pick up. It only rang once before he heard her voice.
"Peter, are you ok? Please tell me you're ok."
Peter couldn't keep the smile off his face, he was so relieved that his wife had answered, obviously anxiously awaiting his call.
"I'm a little worse for wear, but I'll make it. I love you, hon. I just have a few scrapes and bruises, nothing that won't heal. Are you ok? Where are you?"
"I found a cute little park only a couple blocks away, so I'm sitting on a park bench. I heard the explosion and I was praying you and Neal were ok. Is Neal ok? You haven't mentioned him?"
"I don't know, hon. I'm waiting for an ambulance. He's still unconscious, but he's breathing. We both took some shrapnel, but I don't know how bad it is. I was only a couple yard out of the building when it blew, so we got knocked pretty hard. At least we weren't in the building anymore."
"I'm so relieved, I was only trying to think good thoughts, but it was really hard. I'm coming back, I need to see you. Don't go; don't let the ambulance leave until I get there, ok?"
"I can't promise you that, but Diana and Jones and the team will be here, and they'll get you home even if I'm not."
Elizabeth arrived breathless, from apparently speed walking, although not running this time, just as the paramedics had loaded Neal into the ambulance. Seeing his wife, Peter declined to ride with Neal, but did ask what hospital they were going to.
"Peter, look at me. Are you sure you're ok?" Elle didn't like what she was seeing, all the scrapes and trails of blood visible through his ruined t-shirt.
"I've been better." Peter admitted to her as she sat down on the ground next to him. "I'll get us a lift to the hospital."
"And you'll get yourself all checked out and get that ankle looked at before you go see how Neal is doing." Elle responded, leaning over to give him a kiss and then cuddled closer with her head on his chest. "When I heard that explosion, I thought I'd lost you. I was so scared."
"I think I've definitely kept my guardian angel busy all right. I wasn't trying to scare you, hon. I just needed to find Neal. I couldn't let Keller win.'
"I know honey, and I am so proud of you."
The next afternoon…
Elizabeth opened the door to Neal's hotel room and then held it open from the inside to let Peter maneuver his crutches through the door. Neal was sitting in a wheelchair, fully dressed and looking like he was definitely ready to go. Emily, a dark haired nurse that Neal had been flirting with just prior to the Burke's arrival, looked at both Elle and Peter and gave them a wink.
"You take good care of this young man, I'd don't want to see him here again for a while. He's all ready to go."
"Well, Neal." Peter said as he grinned. "Maybe you've lost your touch. She doesn't want to see you again."
"Cute. Peter. Can we just go? Besides, I think you need the wheelchair a whole lot more than I do. At least I can walk."
"No dice kid. Elizabeth will push you out. I don't want to take any chances." Peter noticed the big bandage present at the back of Neal's head. "Are you sure you are feeling ok? That looks like a good sized bump."
Neal didn't reply until they were all safely in the elevator heading down.
"Yes, Peter, It's a nice large goose egg, courtesy of Keller, but the doctor assured me it would be fine. I didn't even have to have stitches for any of the shrapnel, just a bunch of Band-Aids, so yeah, I think I'll make it."
They reached the ground floor and Elizabeth parked the wheelchair and Peter sat on one of the stone benches that decorated the circle drive in front of the hospital while Elizabeth went to get the car. Once Elizabeth was out of sight, Neal turned to Peter.
"I heard what you did. You didn't have to risk your life for me. Keller doesn't bluff, he could have killed you. Keller is being taken care of. Mozzie arranged it. I couldn't lose you. No matter what you say you are very important to me and Elizabeth. You were worth the risk. You're worth fighting for."
Neal didn't know what to say. He didn't know how to argue with Peter, and knew that Peter would be upset if he disagreed with his statement. He simply didn't understand what Peter saw in him or Mozzie for that matter.
"Peter, do you know where Mozzie is? Did he make it out?"
"I don't know Neal. He disappeared from the warehouse, more than likely with the art. It's up to him if he wants to resurface."
"Yeah, I guess we'll see." Neal tried not to let the hurt look show that Mozzie had just disappeared with the treasure, and then abruptly changed topics. "I did have a really strange dream last night though."
"Oh, really, was I in it?" Peter asked coyly.
"Actually yes, but that wasn't the strange part. The strange part was that you were being chased by a big moose, and I couldn't save you. I thought I'd lost you, and I felt horrible because I let you die."
"I'm very much alive and here, Neal. It was just a dream, although it was somewhat based in reality?"
"I'm sorry; I must not have heard you correctly."
At that moment, Elizabeth pulled up with the car, and assisted both Peter and Neal in getting into the car. While they waiting while Elizabeth brought the wheelchair back inside, Peter turned to look at Neal who was sitting in the back/
"I stopped at the FBI this morning before we came here and there was a package addressed to you. It's the brown one on the seat. Open it. I'm interested to see what's inside."
"Do you know what's in it?"
"No, but I do know who it's from, so it's probably going to be good."
Neal carefully unwrapped the package pulling out a sweatshirt that had a big embroidered moose on it with the saying "Watch out for moose droppings" across the front, and then a piece of notebook paper and a business card fluttered out.
Thought you would appreciate having this as a reminder of your brief encounter with an Alaskan. Don't worry, it's clean. No moose droppings in sight. Good luck on your future crime solving cases. I hope you got the art mess figured out. I hope I was more of a help than a hindrance, and I hope Agent Burke wasn't too mad at me that you escaped. If you ever want to experience Alaska, or have some random investigation all the way out here, give me a call…
Peter carefully watched Neal's face for any trace of recognition, but there wasn't any. No laughter, no corny comments, nothing. Peter wasn't sure if that was a good sign or not.
"I don't get this, Peter. This doesn't make sense to me. How could he possibly known about the moose in my dream."
"What, you don't think that's funny anymore?"
"I don't know what's supposed to be funny, Peter! I don't get it, and how does this guy even know me?"
"Neal, this all happened within the last couple days, but there was no real moose. It was just a sweatshirt, and the guy wearing it just happened to save my life, and then he sort of tagged along when things got a little interesting. You're sure you don't remember?"
"A moose sweatshirt like this? I think I would have remembered that, besides it's not at all my style."
"Nonsense, you just need to find a hat to go with it."
"What's so funny?" Elizabeth asked sliding into the driver's seat.
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It's really not funny. I was being sarcastic."
"It's really nothing Elle," Peter volunteered. "We just discovered that some of Neal's memories are not quite so intact. I think he got hit a little harder than he thought."
"Oh, dear. Well, I guess that calls for a little extra pampering when we drop you off. I'll make sure June knows, too." Elle said chuckling.
"I can live with that, perhaps Peter can fill me in on what memories I'm missing."
"Not likely. You wouldn't believe me. Truth is stranger than fiction. Nice sweatshirt though."