Against his better judgement Peter acquiesced to Neal's insistence that he didn't need to visit the nearest emergency room. Spending the next few hours at Peter's, though, was non-negotiable. Surprisingly, Mozzie agreed. More surprisingly he begged off joining them, saying he needed to secure or sanitize Monday.
The ride to Brooklyn was quiet, as Peter didn't want to push Neal, and Neal was too wiped out to talk. It was almost dawn by the time they got to the Burkes'. Peter helped Neal hobble to the couch, where he collapsed with a sigh and looked at Peter with half-lidded eyes.
"Get some sleep, Neal. We'll talk later," Peter said as he handed Neal a bottle of water and two acetaminophen. If he had any regrets about waiting they dissipated as soon as he saw Neal's grateful smile.
Two hours later Neal had gotten about twenty minutes of sleep in five minute increments. In between catnaps the pain, nausea and dizziness prevented him from focusing on what to tell Peter that kept the truth from him without outright lying, and, if he had to lie, what he could say that would still keep Peter away from his investigation. He gave up around seven. Needing to use the bathroom he pushed himself upright and clutched the back of the couch waiting for the wave of vertigo to pass while the pain in his ankle throbbed in rhythm with the pain in his head. He took a deep breath and walked like a man twice his age to the stairs. He paused for a minute, steadying himself by grasping the newel post, then froze when he realized Elizabeth was watching him from the top of the stairs.
"Good morning, Elizabeth," he said, trying to sound as if it was a perfectly normal morning but failing completely.
She was shocked by his bruised and battered appearance. "Neal, honey, what happened to you?" she asked, hurrying down the steps.
He shook his head. "Nothing you need to be concerned with," he said. "Just a run-in with a fire escape."
She bit her lip watching as he slowly limped up the steps. She had coffee ready for him at the kitchen table by the time he got back down.
"What brought you to a fire escape in the middle of the night?" she asked as if there hadn't been a break in their conversation.
"It was hardly the middle of the night," he replied. "It wasn't even midnight. Mozzie and I were just - trying to figure something out." He debated whether he should continue the story. If he was supposed to keep Peter out of it, Elizabeth should be in the dark, too.
"But - and please, Neal, please don't think I'm saying you shouldn't be here, I'm glad you're here if you're hurt, but why are you really here?"
Neal wrapped one hand around the hot coffee mug but didn't pick it up. "I needed to have my anklet taken off," he replied, pulling up his pant leg to show Mozzie's bandaging efforts. He was starting to wonder if maybe he should have it x-rayed. "You know Peter. He prefers to know where I am when it's off."
"But he could have put it on your other ankle."
"Does this have something to do with Pratt?"
"He does seem to have ready access to my tracking data."
Elizabeth stared at him, slowly understanding what he wasn't saying.
"And how does your tracking data connect to your falling from a fire escape?"
"He might have had a couple of guys chasing me."
"Neal, are you sure it was him?"
"I'm sure. Moz was following the guys following me and he heard one of them on the phone with Pratt."
"You promised me you'd keep Peter away from all this."
"I tried, Elizabeth. I didn't call him, Mozzie did. But it doesn't matter, I can't be on anklet at all while Pratt's gunning for me."
"Then maybe you need to stop doing whatever it is that you're doing. Wait, that didn't come out right. Neal, I know it doesn't look like it, but I do care about you, and I'm afraid for you, too. This man is so dangerous, he scares me more than Keller did. Maybe you need to just let it go."
Neal's expression turned stony. "No, Elizabeth, I promised you I wouldn't involve Peter, but I can't help what he figures out on his own. He's too smart not to see something. And I am not letting Ellen's murderer - the guy that pulled the strings - get away."
"I thought this had to do with your father."
He put his still-full cup on the table. "It's all related. Look, I'm sorry, I need to go. Please tell Peter I'll be at June's."
"No, Neal, that's the last place you should be," Peter said. Neal and Elizabeth turned in unison toward Peter, who was standing in the kitchen entrance. He looked at each of them in turn, Neal looking him steadily in the eye, Elizabeth's eyes flitting back and forth while she blushed furiously.
"Someone want to tell me what's going on?"
Neal glanced at Elizabeth before looking back to Peter.
"Nothing, Peter, I was just telling Elizabeth about Ellen and my father." He shrugged but the movement hurt and he couldn't help the flash of pain before he schooled his features again.
"What did that have to do with your falling off a building?"
"It wasn't a building, just the last few feet of a fire escape."
"A fire escape, then. And how does Pratt figure into it?"
"I never said he did," Neal said innocently.
Peter's voice gave away his frustration with Neal. "No, you didn't, Mozzie did, when he called me at two something this morning. In fact, you were even there, or don't you remember? Damn it, Neal, you lied to me. After everything, you lied to me. You didn't even try to hide it. Why now, why after all this time, after - "
"Don't blame Neal," Elizabeth said softly. "He did it for me."
"What?" Peter asked, sounding puzzled.
"Elizabeth, you don't have to - "
"Yes, I do, Neal. This has gotten completely out of hand. I never thought you'd get hurt like this, Neal, and I am so sorry. Peter, I just wanted you safe. I thought if you weren't part of Neal's personal search you'd be alright."
Peter sighed. "It's more than personal, and it left Neal without backup. Sufficient backup," he said, seeing that Neal was about to defend Mozzie. "I could have told the Marshals he was undercover and no one would have had reason to track him. Now - now I don't know what to do with him. I can't put him back on anklet, I can't let him go back to June's, I can't put him in the field."
"I'm so, so very sorry," Elizabeth said in a small voice. "Forgive me, please, both of you?"
"Mozzie," Neal blurted out. "The last place we were before we met with you, we were at Monday. He went back. What if they went there looking for me?" Neal pushed himself toward the front door but exhaustion and his injuries overtook him. He blindly reached out until Peter caught his arm and led him back to the couch.
"We'll get him," he said. "Nothing's going to happen to Mozzie."
"You can't be sure, Peter."
"Call him," Peter said as he called Diana. "Let him know we're coming. Not you, my team and me. You're not up for it and you know it, Neal. As soon as we have Mozzie I'll get you in to see the Agency doctor. Nothing gets into the system, no one finds out anything, but I'm worried about you and I need to know you're not in worse shape than you look. No arguments."
"He's not answering his phone, Peter. Please just get him," he whispered.
Peter nodded, then looked at Elizabeth, who had been quiet.
"Peter?" she said.
"We'll make it right, hon," he said, reaching for the door after he'd finished his phone calls. "Don't open this for anyone. I'll get Mozzie and bring him to wherever he needs to be."
"Neal, I can't apologize enough," Elizabeth said after Peter left. He just shook his head, fighting off dizziness and fear for Mozzie. She sat beside him on the couch. "I never thought anything like this would happen - never thought anything would happen at all."
"You were protecting Peter. I understand that, I respect that. You couldn't predict what happened."
"But Peter did."
"That's what he does. It's who he is. I don't blame you for what happened, if you're worried about it."
"Thank you, Neal. I blame me, though. Peter was so upset at the hospital after you told him the key was a dead end, and now look at him - look at you. You could have been killed. I could never forgive myself if anything happened to you," unconsciously repeating Peter's sentiment about Neal and Collins. "Can we be good?"
"We're good, Elizabeth."
Mozzie would miss Monday, but, like Friday, Monday had a back-up - Alternate Monday, he thought to himself with a grin. Alternate Monday was nearly identical, and not too far away. Plus it had the benefit of being outfitted with equipment that enabled Mozzie to keep an eye on the comings and goings of individuals who may have located and opted to infiltrate Monday 1.0. Sure enough, at about the same time Neal and Elizabeth were staring at each other on the Burkes' staircase, the cameras and bugs that covered the first Monday were transmitting live video and audio of the two goons that had been after Neal earlier. They were accompanied by a better-dressed third hired gun. Mozzie watched them as they stealthily - or so they believed - approached the first doorway to First Monday. Amateurs, he thought. They really didn't even try to look away from the camera disguised as a broken light bulb hanging just above the door.
Mozzie had options. It was a point of honor for him to always have at least three different means of, well, whatever. In this case it was a way to neutralize the immediate threat against Neal. He could let them go in and poke around, where they'd find nothing and leave. They'd probably be back to stake out the place, tying up Pratt's resources for nothing. The downside was that this would tie up Mozzie as well, who would need to watch them. He could activate the electromagnetic locking system on the doors and keep them out. He could activate the electromagnetic locking system on the doors and keep them in. He gave that one serious thought, especially if he trapped them in the space between the two doors, which was actually air tight. Mozzie liked the idea but rejected it, too, since apparently the only one who couldn't access Neal's tracking data was Satchmo, and people might actually blame Neal for the unfortunate accident that would claim the lives of the two people who had set out to harm him. With one push of a button he could sanitize the unit; that is, remove all pesky germs and the unit itself from the face of the earth, but that could have the same outcome for Neal as the earlier plan. That left letting the Suit and the Suit minions know about these guys, maybe holding them there via the electromagnetic locks. He wasn't sure what they could be charged with, since breaking into a safe house to which Mozzie's legal right to use was somewhat nebulous, but that would be the Suit's problem. He picked up his phone and just then realized he had two missed calls from Neal. A text from just a couple of minutes ago indicated that Peter and the Harvard Crew were on their way over. Not to get the goons, but to extract Mozzie. It gave him an unexpectedly warm feeling, and for the first time in hours he was able to genuinely smile. He'd let the goons get into Monday One, and for now just let them be.
He left Alternate Monday and went outside to call Neal and to wait for Peter. No point in burning both safe houses. The relief in Neal's voice was palpable.
"Listen," Mozzie said, "tell Peter I'm fine and am just going to head home for now."
"No, Moz, let Peter bring you here. I have an idea, but I need both of you to make it work."
"Is it a permanent solution to our problem?"
"It is, Moz, if you're willing to give up Monday."
"Oh, I've already written her off. Wait, what about your promise to Mrs. Suit? Because you know I'll back whatever you come up with, but if there's something I should know beforehand, now would be the time to let me know."
"It's no longer an issue, we can do honest with Peter about this."
Mozzie paused. "Good, I'm glad," he said seriously. "Oh, by the way, those two goons from last night? They're probably about to get into Monday even as we speak."
"Oh? Oh - perfect, that works. Let me call Peter. Can you get over here by yourself? "
"Don't I always?"
Four and a half minutes later a contingency of NYPD officers burst into Monday, saying they had reports of a burglary in progress. They then arrested the three guys who were tossing the place. Peter, Diana and Jones got back to Peter's house to find Neal looking much happier, even as the bruises on his face were much more evident.
"Did Elizabeth give you the good drugs?" Peter asked, then looked quickly at his agents as Diana started to smirk. "The prescription-strength NSAIDs," he said. "Seriously." He feigned a look of annoyance.
"It's all adrenaline, Peter."
Mozzie appeared a few minutes later.
"Neal, you need to elevate your foot," Mozzie said in way of a greeting. Neal rolled his eyes but when Elizabeth put a pillow on the coffee table he let Mozzie help him.
"We know Pratt wants Ellen's evidence box," Neal began. "We know he won't stop until he gets it. What do you say we give it to him?"
"But we don't have it. Do we?" asked Jones.
"Not only do we not have it, we have no idea what's in it. Forget about the information it contains, the material itself could be papers, could be microfilm, could be stone tablets. I think it's safe to assume that he doesn't know, either, but he knows there's something incriminating in there because somehow he left a trail."
"So how are you going to give him something if you don't know what it is?" This time it was Diana's question.
"We don't. We give him the remains of the evidence, let him think it was destroyed before anyone could read it. Remember the supposed Tyco Brahe manuscript?"
"The four hundred year old book you watched crumble to dust?" This time Diana was almost laughing at the memory.
"It was a forgery, but, yeah, like that. Suppose somehow the elements got to Ellen's box over the years, and whatever she stored in it is completely gone. Irrecoverable."
"But Ellen was way smarter than that," objected Mozzie.
"Yes, but Pratt doesn't know that. It's been thirty years since he's seen Ellen. His ego will let him believe she was careless if that's what we let him find."
Peter nodded. "That could work. Where are you going to put it so he finds it?"
"Back at Monday. He knows I was there earlier. That's why we needed NYPD to get his guys out before they had the chance to search it thoroughly. They still have the scene secure, right?"
"Yup. I think I have to buy a case of Girl Scout cookies from Captain Shattuck's daughter."
"Ooo, they have a new mango cream cookie out this year."
"Moz," said Neal, "focus. We're going to need some supplies."
"I'll take care of that," said Mozzie.
"Supplies? Can't you just soak or burn some papers or something?" asked Diana.
"No, it's a little more complicated than that. We need paper and ink from the early '80s, maybe some film, some old photos. We need to make sure a lab would find traces of what should be there if it really was Ellen's evidence."
"How are you going to do that?" asked Jones.
Neal just tilted his head and smirked.
"Sorry, I forgot who I was talking to."
"Alright, " Peter said, "Jones, Diana, you head to the office and write up the case that's got Neal undercover and off-anklet. Mozzie, do your thing. Neal, we're going to see a very discrete doctor. Don't look at me that way," he said to his openly laughing agents. "He's discrete because he handles our agent's injuries when they can't break cover," he said to Neal, who was just smiling. "Come on, maybe you can even get a little shut-eye."
In the end they decided that Ellen put her papers in a fire-proof metal lock box that was unfortunately not water tight. The combination of fuel products and East River water that infiltrated Ellen's hiding spot during the storm that wiped out the Lower Manhattan subway system soaked through all of the materials Neal so lovingly wrote in Ellen's handwriting. The papers formed a large, gummy mess, and the length of time between the flood and when Neal and Mozzie "found" the box caused all of the emulsion from the film negatives to separate from the plastic backing. By the time they finished it even smelled rank.
Mozzie hid the box in Monday just before Pratt's goons were released. They found the box the next morning. Neal finally gave in to the concussion-induced headache and spent that day in bed, while Pratt had the contents of Ellen's box tested. The following afternoon, back at the office and finished with his undercover assignment, Neal had to swallow his pride and apologize to the Senator, who was meeting with the new Special Agent in Charge of the White Collar division.
Neal's apology was insincere enough to be believable. When Pratt left he gave Neal and Peter a triumphant smile.
"Now what?" asked Peter after the elevator doors closed on Pratt and the third thug.
"Now we find the real box. Together."
Thank you for your time.