Fandom: White Collar
Rating: R, Gen.
Warnings: Violence (including sexual aggression), Language, General evilness.
Summary: Neal Caffrey is the greatest con Neal Caffrey ever pulled.
Word Count: 4,000
Spoilers: Pilot only, really.
Author’s note: From this collarkink prompt…so yeah. Title from here. Feedback is delicious.
“Package for Agent Peter Burke,” the pockmarked bike messenger said.
The real Peter Burke was in the conference room, at a meeting Hughes had barred Neal from attending with a cranky “Out, Caffrey!”
So Neal had taken up residence at Peter’s desk, snacking on pistachios and accumulating a passive aggressive pile of shells he was going to store in Peter’s file folder drawer.
He grinned at the bike messenger. “That’s me,” he lied.
The guy shoved a clipboard at him. “Sign here.”
Neal did, copying Peter’s boring G-man signature with practiced ease. He took the package addressed to Peter and watched the bike messenger take off. The delivery was a fairly small, light manila envelope. The seal was taped down kind of excessively and there was no sender name.
Holding the letter up to his ear, Neal shook it. Nothing rattled. One of the agents across the room looked at him strangely, so Neal just flashed him a smile and put it back down. He decided Peter would like to know he had mail, so he rose and headed off to the conference room. The glass exterior meant Peter could see him standing outside, waving the package.
Unfortunately, Hughes could see him, too. And that pissed Peter off, so he sent Neal a rude look and purposefully ignored Neal.
Shrugging, Neal strolled back to Peter’s desk and resumed eating pistachios. He’d tried to tell Peter. There was an entire office full of witnesses.
Peter got out of the meeting about forty-five minutes later. The package still sat on his desk, but Neal had swept the pistachio shells into the drawer for him to discover later. He’d also moved out of Peter’s seat, like a good little ex-con.
“You have mail,” he told Peter, brightly, when the man walked back to his desk.
“I saw,” Peter muttered, rolling his eyes. He sat down and picked up the envelope, noting the bike messenger company’s receipt, next to it. “Did you sign for this?”
“You were in a meeting,” Neal answered.
“Don’t do that,” Peter snapped. “Caffrey, you could have just disrupted the chain of evidence. You can’t do that. You aren’t supposed to be forging anything-“
“That doesn’t look like evidence,” Neal interrupted, tilting his head at the messily sealed envelope. “I was bored.” He held up his hands in surrender. “I won’t do it again.”
“Yeah, that’s right you won’t,” Peter started, but trailed off as he examined the letter. “Who’s this from?”
Neal shrugged, pleased the lecture was forgotten. “Dunno.”
Peter ripped the envelope open, using his keys to split the seam on the end rather than deal with the thick tape over the closure. He tipped the package over and tapped, shaking out the contents.
“What is it?” Neal asked, leaning forward.
“Don’t know,” Peter said.
A ball of crumpled white material slid out on to Peter’s desk.
“That’s not a letter,” Neal said, and Peter probed it suspiciously with the eraser end of a pencil. Poking it made the thing unfold just a little, revealing deep crimson staining the white.
“Is that blood?” Neal asked, leaning back abruptly.
“I hope not.” Peter produced a pair of latex gloves from somewhere in his desk and quickly put them on.
Gingerly, he unfolded the object. On closer examination, the white part was gauze. And the red stuff looked a hell of a lot like blood. Peter tried to flatten the gauze and something tinked against the surface of Peter’s desk.
“What is it?” Neal asked, leaning back in as Peter jerked away, making a face.
“It’s a tooth.” With the tip of his finger, he touched the red-stained molar. “Root intact. This was recently extracted.” He looked at Neal, face baffled. “Who would send me a tooth?”
“A better question, I think,” Neal said, “Whose tooth is it?” For a second, there was only silence. Neal broke it. “Peter, maybe you should call-“
“El,” Peter interrupted, ripping off both latex gloves and sending them flying past the edge of his desk. He pulled out his cell phone and hit El’s speed dial.
Neal watched as Peter made the call. He could hear El’s ring tone through the earpiece. It cycled through twice, then went to voice mail. Peter’s face had gone absolutely white. “I’ll try home,” he said, but it sounded desperate.
“I’ll get Hughes,” Neal told him, already rising.
Elizabeth did not answer the Burkes’ home phone, either. She wasn’t there. Hughes sent uniforms from the nearest precinct, who called back to report the house dark and empty. Undisturbed, like no one had been there since the Burkes left that morning.
“Peter,” Agent Clinton Jones asked, somewhere in the bustle. “Do you know what she was doing today? Her schedule?”
“She had a meeting with a client,” Peter answered, flustered. “Checking out a venue. I don’t know where or who-“ he trailed off, shaking his head.
“They’ll trace her cell,” Neal reassured him. “We’ll find her.” Peter did not look comforted. He was still white-faced and stiff. “We don’t even know if that’s her tooth.”
The tooth had vanished in an evidence bag, off to be compared to El’s dental records. A Crime Scene Unit was at the Burkes’, looking for something to get her DNA off of so they could test the blood, too.
“Don’t bother,” Peter said, shaking his head.
The only other thing in the package besides El’s gauze-wrapped tooth had been a yellow post-it note stuck to the inside of the envelope.
Typewritten in some standard office font: My treasure for yours.
“I have no idea what that means,” Peter had said.
But of course, he did. Someone had taken El, and that was the ransom note.
A swarm of agents arrived to interrogate Peter. Neal was hustled off to identify which bike messenger had delivered the letter. It was strange to see Peter like this, but the FBI wouldn’t let him stick around.
When Neal got back, Peter was finally alone. Sitting at the conference table, rather than his desk. His expression said it all, so Neal didn’t ask.
“The courier service is a dead end,” he told Peter, sitting down beside him. “They picked it up from and billed it to a standing client who never sent it. Someone just dropped it in their mailroom.” Peter’s teeth bit into his upper lip, but he didn’t say anything. “The sender on their paperwork was “Thomas Cruise” and the courier service didn’t think twice about sending something under an obvious alias to an FBI office, I guess.”
Peter sneered, appreciating that tidbit because it added to his anger.
“They’re trying to trace her cell and the car,” he said, after a moment. “Techno geeks are on it.”
“That’s good,” Neal said, patting him on the arm.
The SWAT team found El’s car and phone almost immediately. They weren’t hidden. El’s car was parked at an expired meter in a garage near a caterer she’d used before. Her phone was in her purse, which sat in plain view on the passenger seat. They were lucky no one had smashed the window and taken off with it.
Elizabeth’s wallet, checkbooks, and credit cards were all inside. Nothing had been touched. Instead, there’d been an addition. Lists of numbers on three more post-it notes, written in the same font as the message to Peter. And an address to a boat slip.
“What are those numbers?” Neal asked.
Jones answered him: “Those are FBI evidence tracking codes. Everything we confiscate as part of an investigation gets one.”
“Which case are these from?”
“The Vander Bulloch case.”
Neal shrugged like he didn’t recognize the name. “Is that one of ours?”
“It’s five years old,” Peter told him. “It happened right before you went to prison.”
Peter shook his head. “It doesn’t make any sense. Vander Bulloch was a low-life thief working for someone we never identified. He screwed up and exposed a black market antiquities smuggling ring and we got everything but the mastermind. Bulloch died three years later of a drug overdose in prison.”
“What are the evidence numbers about? Antiquities?” Neal asked.
“No, we have to give those back.” Peter shrugged. “It’d just be documents. Lists of what they had and what they wanted. A couple maps of workable routes and cooperative people.”
“Okay,” Neal said, reasonably. “So, whoever took El wants this to start it up again?”
“The information is 5 years out of date,” Jones said. “Everything about the operation was compromised. People went to jail. Nothing in there would be useable anymore.”
“Diana’s pulling it, anyway,” Peter said. “We’ll go through it.”
“While you’re doing that,” Neal said, with soft urgency. “This isn’t my scene, but I know people who are in it. I could make some inquiries on your behalf. Unofficially.”
Peter looked at him for a second and Neal almost expected his ethics to kick in, even now. “Thanks,” Peter said, quietly. “Yeah.”
Neal dipped his head and rose, striding out of the room with purpose.
Leaving the FBI offices on foot, Neal eventually took a cab to his most recent property purchase: The Greatest Cake bakery. He wondered if the FBI was following him. They’d almost certainly be watching his tracker. He could picture Jones assigned to watch the blinking dot on the computer screen. Like he’d do anything stupid after specifically asking permission.
Neal unlocked the door and entered the dark, empty front of the building. He closed the door and relocked it, hidden from any prying eyes if there was a surveillance team after him.
He went to the second door, the one hidden under a poster of wedding cake photos. It led to a dimly lit stairwell and Neal hear the whirr of the security camera tracking him. The third door, at the base of the stairs, had a combination lock and Neal almost rolled his eyes. Such overkill. He didn’t know the code, but it wasn’t hard to guess. Some people were so predictable.
“Are you an idiot?” Mozzie demanded, the second Neal stepped through it into their basement setup. “What the hell are you doing here?”
Neal closed the door and heard it click shut.
“I just came to visit.”
He walked closer to where Mozzie sat on one of the café chairs taken from upstairs. Besides him on a frameless futon mattress on the floor lay Elizabeth.
“You came to gloat,” Mozzie snapped. “You were only supposed to come if something went wrong!” He froze, eyebrows knitting. “Did something go wrong?”
“Nope,” Neal said, kneeling down beside the futon. “Don’t be so paranoid.”
He looked Elizabeth over, checking Mozzie’s work but maybe taking a mental photograph he could enjoy for years to come. Her legs were duct taped together at the ankle. Handcuffs Neal had swiped from the office – he thought El deserved real law enforcement cuffs and not fetish gear – bound her hands behind her back. Unfortunately, Neal couldn’t really see her face. Mozzie had more tape around her eyes, but the lumps underneath meant he’d protected her eyelids with something before applying it.
Mozzie was nice like that.
She was wearing a half-assed gag and Neal was kind of suspicious that Mozzie had just put it in when he saw Neal coming down the stairs.
Sound eliminating headphones perched on her head on top of the tape. Neal frowned. That wasn’t part of the plan.
“I told you to puncture her eardrums,” he said, glancing at Mozzie.
“I chose not to,” Mozzie retorted. “My hostage, my decision.”
“She can hear you,” Neal said, a little pissed.
“Not likely.” Mozzie leaned forward and tugged at something emerging from under the giant headset. “Earbuds playing white noise.”
“Eardrums grow back,” Neal reminded him. Mozzie could be too damn nice.
“Not always.” Mozzie leaned back. “You want to do it, go for it.”
“I’d like to.” Neal leaned closer to El’s face. She was definitely aware he was there, her body alert and head moving as she tried to track him. “Elizabeth, I’m going to jam a pen in your ear, how do you feel about that?”
El didn’t react.
“As far as it will go,” he continued, speaking louder.
She didn’t even move.
“Hmm.” Neal shrugged. “Point.”
“I tested it,” Mozzie said. “Everything sounds 50 leagues under the sea.”
“We should send a photograph of her to Peter,” Neal decided.
“Why? Does he not believe she’s gone?” Mozzie asked, without any real curiosity.
“No, he believes it.” Neal reached out and grabbed El by the shoulders, hauling her into a sitting position. El tried to twist away, emitting a muffled yelp. “I’d just like him to...see.”
“No,” Mozzie said. “That’s a dumb idea. We’re not indulging your insane desire to poke the FBI with a stick any more than we already are.”
Neal stroked El’s head. Her hair was stuck under the tape around her skull, and she flinched like it hurt.
“Neal,” Mozzie said, warningly.
Ignoring him, Neal moved his hand down the side of her face. The tape around her eyes was wet and wrinkled.
“She’s crying her blindfold off,” he said.
“Maybe you should stop molesting her,” Mozzie suggested.
“I’m not molesting her,” Neal retorted. He reached lower and blatantly groped her breasts. That got a real scream, barely muffled by the gag.
El arched backwards and somehow brought her bound legs upwards. She struck out at his midsection and came dangerously close to his crotch. Neal let go, throwing her hard back on to the futon.
“Bitch,” he snarled.
“Right,” Moz mumbled. “ ‘Cause that was her fault.” Neal hovered over El, still angry. “Could you not terrorize the hostage I have to babysit?” Mozzie asked, in the casual voice he used whenever he was trying to talk Neal down.
Neal ignored him. He crouched back down, grabbed El by the chin. She flinched and cried out. “Oh, does your mouth hurt, Elizabeth?” he asked.
“No,” Moz volunteered. “The dentist did a very good job and I gave her Percocet before the Novocain even wore off.”
“You,” Neal snapped, “Are making this no fun at all.”
“Sorry,” he apologized, utterly insincerely. Then Moz unsubtly changed the subject. “The Suit pull the evidence from the Bulloch case?”
“Yeah.” Neal let go of Elizabeth’s face, still tempted to torment her some more.
“So, you’re going to steal it?”
“You realize,” Mozzie said. “You could have done that…without any of this.” He waved a hand at Elizabeth.
“What fun would that be?” Neal asked. “Peter needs to pay.”
“That’s not Peter.”
“Yeah, but you should see him. He looks like someone kicked him in the balls and stole his puppy.”
“His wife,” Mozzie said, softly. “We should have tried the dog, first.”
“No,” Neal said. “I like this better.” He eyed El appreciatively. “You feel like taking a walk, Moz?”
“No chance in hell,” Mozzie replied. “I’m in this for the cache map and if I leave you alone with her, we’ll never get it.”
Neal shrugged, not having really expected him to cooperate.
“Go back to the FBI, copy the evidence files,” Mozzie ordered. “Drop them off and I’ll put her on the boat.”
Neal ignored him, knowing the plan.
“You’re lucky, Elizabeth,” he told her. And then, for the hell of it, he kicked her in the midsection. She couldn’t see it coming and he connected hard, but she wrapped herself around his leg. Suddenly, Neal felt teeth digging into his kneecap. She was biting him through the crappy gag.
“Ow!” He shoved her off, looking down in horror and rubbing his knee.
“Neal!” Mozzie yelled. He was standing, grabbing Neal by the shoulders and shoving him towards the door. “Out. Enough. There is a reason I am in charge of this part.”
“I’m better at it,” Neal growled, rubbing his knee. That had really hurt. “Put a real gag on her, Mozzie.”
“She didn’t bite me,” Mozzie retorted. “Because I didn’t touch her. “
Neal was still glaring at El, who lay tensely on the futon in the fetal postion.
“Remember the Suit?” Mozzie coached. “C’mon!”
Neal went back to the office, but his good mood was mostly ruined. It hadn’t been very much fun to play with Elizabeth with Moz there and her biting him had really sucked.
He brightened a little when he walked in and Peter still looked like death.
Peter about rose, but waited until Neal walked over to him.
“Anything?” he asked, hopefully.
“Bulloch’s accomplices are settling the estate,” Neal lied. “The guy in charge died and I guess his successor wants everything accounted for. Your documents are going to tell them where everything they want went.”
“That’s all.” Peter just stared at him. “They took Elizabeth for fucking housekeeping?”
“God.” Peter looked down, like he wanted to cry. Neal waited, trying not to look eager. “Did you find anything about…who…what kind of person this is?”
Neal smiled, hoped he passed it off as a grimace. “Not very nice, Peter.”
Peter put his hand over his mouth and fought tears.
Neal clapped him on the shoulder. “You can’t blame yourself, Peter.” But he didn’t offer any alternatives.
That night, Neal scanned all of the pulled evidence from the Bulloch case. It took a little maneuvering to avoid all the agents working on El’s case overnight. Peter stayed, too, pouring over everything they had so far like he could do anything with it.
Neal hacked the FBI’s computer security, so there’d be no record of the electronic transmission. Bulloch had been the worst employee Neal had ever had. He’d bungled the job so fast Neal had barely gotten away from the FBI. He’d been smart enough to never tell Bulloch his name, though, so at least he hadn’t been identified. But he’d been so distracted by that disaster, Peter had arrived on his heels about the goddamn bonds.
He kind of wished he could kill Bulloch again. The coke cut with bleach had really been impersonal.
Hughes sent Peter home, made Neal go with him. For the first time, Neal got to drive.
“I’m going to kill him,” Peter said, casually.
“That’s not like you,” Neal said.
“I don’t care.” He punched the dashboard, shook his fist out when it hurt. “El, Neal. He hurt El.”
“Do they have an assault plan?” Neal asked, changing the subject.
“There was graffiti at the boat slip,” Peter said. “We’re supposed to drop the documents in the water.”
“In a waterproof briefcase.”
“They must have divers,” Neal said. The FBI would be playing Marco Polo with the Hudson Bay sludge.
“We’ll have them, too.” Peter scowled. “I’ll drown the motherfucker. Make it look like an accident.”
“What about El?”
“It said she’d be there.”
“You believe that?” Neal asked, trying not to sound like he was teasing.
Peter made a choked noise and could do nothing but shrug.
Moz had El on a motor-equipped sailboat Neal had collected some years ago. They’d configured remote-access to steer the thing. Tied up in the cabin, El couldn’t exactly drive.
It all went smoothly. Peter dropped the briefcase off the dock, pretended like there weren’t ten divers underwater and three SWAT teams hiding all around him. Neal watched from the van with Jones. Somewhere far enough to be safe – which by Mozzie’s standards might be Rhode Island – Mozzie steered the sailboat in.
It was a touching reunion, once the SWAT team let Peter on to the sailboat. Neal watched with binoculars as Peter frantically ripped the tape off his wife’s face – taking a good chunk of her hair with it – and hugged her so hard he forget to take her cuffs off.
El vanished with Peter to a waiting ambulance, though she wouldn’t need it. Neal hadn’t gotten the chance to play with her.
The FBI swarmed like dumb little blue-jacketed ants over the sail boat and the divers frolicked uselessly in the bay. It was kind of funny to watch, especially since they’d evidently actually lost the brief case. Jones looked at him sideways and Neal realized he was smiling.
“I’m so glad they found El,” he said, and grinned.
“Yeah,” Jones said. “Me, too.”
El was fine.
Neal went to say hello in the hospital, where they were keeping Elizabeth overnight because Peter was paranoid. They were together in her room when he arrived, the rest of the FBI banished.
Elizabeth’s eyes were red and puffy from crying and her mouth was a little swollen. Probably from Neal’s knee, he thought resentfully. The tooth was a back molar and her smile was still shiny and white. Neal could have sent Peter a finger or an eyeball. He wished he had. Stupid Mozzie.
“Welcome home, Elizabeth,” Neal said, handing her a bouquet of flowers he’d picked up from the gift shop. El took them, laid them across her lap. “You gonna be okay?”
“Missing a tooth,” El said, bitterly. “And some hair.”
“That’s Peter’s fault,” Neal said, knowingly. “Could have been worse.”
El nodded. “I got the impression you really wanted to hurt me, Neal.”
For a second, Neal didn’t even process that. Then he did, and promptly pretended not to understand.
“You cracked two of my ribs when you kicked me,” El continued, calmly. “That really hurt.”
“El-“ Neal began, glancing over his shoulder at Peter. Peter, who stood there with his gun leveled at Neal’s head. Automatically, he raised his hands in surrender. “Does she have a head injury?” he asked, innocently.
“You didn’t kick me in the head,” El snapped.
“Get her an MRI, Peter,” Neal said. “She’s lost her mind. I helped find her.”
“That must have been pretty easy since you arranged to have her taken.” Peter’s voice was cold as ice and his aim didn’t waiver.
“Well, that’s not true.”
“I know it was you,” El said, volume approaching yelling. She forced herself to quiet down. “You’re not as good as you think you are, Neal.”
That stung. If Peter hadn’t had his gun on him, Neal might have hit her.
“There’s a bite mark on your knee,” El said, back to calm. “I gave it to you after you kicked me in the stomach.”
Neal didn’t deny it. She hadn’t broken the skin, but she’d left a deep bruise. “I tripped on the stairs,” he said, flatly.
“I felt your anklet,” El said, smirking. “If you hadn’t kicked me, I never would have known. You’re an idiot.”
“I should have kicked you in the head,” Neal snapped, as the barrel of Peter’s gun bore into the side of his own head. “Bitch.”
Roughly, Peter shoved Neal to the floor. Handcuffs went on so tightly Neal’s wrists immediately ached.
“Parole’s revoked,” Peter said. “Four years plus a federal kidnapping charge. If you missed prison, Neal, all you had to do was ask.”
“No witnesses,” Neal muttered, even as he knew he had to shut the hell up. “No case.”
Peter kicked him in the leg, right above the tracker. “You led us right to the crime scene, Neal. I thought you were smarter than that.” He pulled Neal back up and suddenly there were dozens more FBI agents in the room. “I thought you were better than this,” Peter said, softly, and he sounded genuinely hurt. “Why?”
“You sent me to prison,” Neal reminded him. “Why do you think?” Peter just stared at him. “I should have killed her when I had the chance,” Neal said, scowling. “Next time I will.”
“You’re never getting out of prison, Neal,” Elizabeth said.
Peter leaned close, lips almost against his ear. “Mozzie flipped on you. Said he was tired of covering your psychotic ass.”
~please feed the author~