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27 September 2014 @ 09:08 pm
Fic: What Is Left Is but Ashes and Dust - Part 2  
Title: What Is Left Is but Ashes and Dust - Part 2
Author: pooh_collector
Art by: angelita26, who also served as plot bunny source, beta and cheerleader. Thanks ang!
Characters and Pairings: Neal Caffrey, Peter Burke, Vincent Adler, Elizabeth Burke, Mozzie, Sara Ellis, Diana Berrigan, Clinton Jones, Gen
Rating: R
Word Count: ~26,300
Spoilers: Under the Radar, Wanted and Most Wanted
Summary: Alternative ending to Under the Radar. Alder gets everything he wants, the treasure and Neal. In return Neal loses everything he loves, New York, Mozzie, June, working with White Collar and worst of all, Peter.
Warnings: A bit of bad language. Mild non-con.




Peter opened the door and stepped aside to allow Diana and Jones into the house.

Diana looked him up and down appraisingly. He was dressed in jeans and a burgundy tee shirt. Although his chest wound had healed and he was back at work full time, lines of pain and fatigue still stood out around his eyes. “How are you?”

“I’m good.”

Diana and Jones both looked at him skeptically. “I’m getting there,” he corrected, acknowledging to himself that his team knew him far too well.

They made their way through the house to the dining room. “You were brilliant to set up the recorder to your phone line. My friend at Quantico slipped the recording to the digital evidence exploitation unit,” Diana said as she placed her laptop down on the table.

“They isolated three distinct background elements to Neal’s call,” Jones continued.

“Listen,” Diana bade as she keyed the command into the laptop to play the first sound that the techs pulled out.

“Church bells,” Peter concluded.

“Four in a row,” Diana confirmed. “There’s more.”

“Ocean tides, rhythmic,” Jones chimed in.

Peter nodded. “They were audible during the call.”

“Listen to that fourth wave again,” Diana instructed.

“It’s off rhythm,” Jones noted.

Peter shook his head. “It’s not a wave. It’s thunder.” Peter’s smiled broadly. “All right, we’ve got church bells and a storm. It’s a start, right? I’ll make the coffee.”

Twenty minutes later they reconvened with maps, a globe and the promised coffee.

“The call came in at midnight. The bells rang four times. Let’s assume it was 4 PM where Neal was,” Peter reasoned.

“Vanuatu, waves, church, no extradition. It works,” Diana surmised.

“Ah it’s no good,” Jones said from behind the screen of Peter’s laptop. “The only storm activity at four PM at UTC plus eleven occurred up near Vladivostok, Russia.”

“And, Adler doesn’t seem the type to enjoy Russian winters, Peter mused. “Let’s try four AM.”

“Little early for church.”

“Not necessarily,” Jones said in reply to Diana’s comment. “I spent my tour near a Chamorro village in Guam. The local chapel had a four AM service for the fishermen who went out before dawn. That puts him at UTC minus one.”

“Cape Verde Islands.” Peter, said after referencing the globe.

“No extradition,” Diana confirmed.

Jones checked the regional weather. “Isolated thunder storms throughout the Atlantic. But there must be dozens of tiny islands.”

“Diana, what about the bells?” Peter asked.

“Well analysis says they were Spanish brass, but the islands in that area were colonized by Portugal, not Spain.”

Peter sighed. “Dead end. We need Spanish bells.”

“Wait a second,” Jones interrupted. “I think I may have something. In 1798 a bell was dredged from the wreckage of a Spanish ship named Trinidad. It was hung in the church of St. Christopher in the port city of Santa Maria on the northern coast of Cape Verde. And you got to love the internet, because I’ve got a tourist video of the bells ringing.” Jones hit enter and the video began to play on his screen.

“Diana.”

“Already on it, boss” Diana’s fingers flew on the keyboard and in moment the phone recording and Jones’ video rang out in unison.

“Yes!” Diana exclaimed with a fist pump.

“You’ve got to love the sound of Spanish brass. We got it.” Peter exclaimed enthusiastically.

“What now?” Diana asked.

“We go back to the office and find a way to bring Neal home.”

The next morning Peter made his case to Hughes. He explained again that Neal had not gone willingly with Adler. He told Hughes about the late night phone call that he had received. How, with help from Jones and Diana, they had managed to pinpoint Neal's likely location to the small island nation of Cape Verde and how he intended to go there and bring his wayward partner home. Peter was eloquent, decisive, direct and determined.

When he had finished his appeal, Reese looked up at his senior agent and shook his head. “Peter, you have no jurisdiction,” Hughes reminded him.

“I know,” Peter admitted.

“Then how do you think you're going to bring Caffrey back?”

"Willingly, Reese. I know he wants to come home."

"And Adler, you think he's just going to give Caffrey up, or better yet, turn himself over to you so that you can bring him and the stolen treasure back?"

Now it was Peter's turn to sigh, drawing his lips together into a tight line. "I haven't worked out all the details yet."

"No, I don't suppose you have. Peter, Adler isn't number five on the FBI's most wanted list for nothing. He's a dangerous fugitive who has killed multiple times, that we know of, to get what he wants. I can't sanction a trip to Cape Verde. Caffrey’s fate is out of your hands, Peter.”

“I don’t accept that,” Peter replied shaking his head and moving his hands to his hips.

“Well, you better.” Reese paused, looking closely at the man standing before him. “Peter, you look like hell. Personally, I think you should still be on medical leave. I'm giving you another week. Do yourself a favor. Use this time to get some perspective about what’s important. If you decide it’s Caffrey, I understand, but I can’t protect you. Do you understand?”

Peter looked down at his boss. There was a look in the older man's eyes that Peter had come to recognize since he had begun working with Neal, since he and Neal had developed a knack for going outside of the box to successfully solve cases, often with Hughes' implicit approval. “Completely,” Peter answered.

***

Two days after his literal jaunt off the reservation, Neal woke to the sound of his bedroom door opening. He turned and saw Adler stride in.

Neal's initial instinct was panic. He couldn't help but fear that Jacobs had somehow deduced that Neal had stolen his phone and Neal's life was about to take a drastic turn for the worse.

But Adler's demeanor wasn't angry, or the eerie neutral that was often a portent of bad things to come. In fact, Adler looked profoundly pleased.

"Good morning, Neal," Adler stated as he placed a bundle of things he had carried into the room on the end of Neal's bed.

"Good morning," Neal murmured as he shimmied up to rest against his headboard.

"My trip was a tremendous success. And, as a reward for all your hard work, I've decided that we should take the day off. Everything you'll need is here," Adler said, indicating the bundle on the bed. "I'll meet you downstairs shortly."

Once Adler was gone, Neal rose and picked through the items his captor had left for him. A pair of swim trunks, a couple of towels, a pair of flip flops, a robe, sunglasses and a bottle of sunscreen.

Neal showered, lathered himself in the sunscreen, put on the trunks, the flip flops and the robe and made his way downstairs.

Adler led Neal out of the house and off the grounds through the same gate that Neal had used two days ago. For a moment, Neal tensed fearing once again that Adler knew exactly what Neal had been up to and was playing out some sort of elaborate game before punishing Neal for his actions.

But then Adler led them out onto the white sand where a table and two chairs had been set under an umbrella. A bit further down the beach, closer to the water, two lounge chairs sat side by side. It all looked like a scene from a luxury travel magazine. Adler made his way to the table and motioned for Neal to take the seat opposite him.

Breakfast had been laid for them, mimosas, coffee, grapefruit, a selection of pastries and beneath shining silver warming covers, omelets.

Neal let Adler ramble on at breakfast about his trip and how easily Neal's forgeries passed for the real thing. He seemed inordinately proud of something that Neal himself took no pride in whatsoever.

After the coffee was gone, they walked down the sand and waded into the warm ocean water. Once it reached his knees, Neal dove in and swam out over the breakers. His legs pumped and his arms glided smoothly around and around in time with his breathing. It was easy and soothing and he hadn't realized how much he missed the time he used to spend in the pool at his gym in New York. He swam for a long time, until he felt his muscles start to burn and his strength ebb enough that he knew he needed to head back to shore.

Adler was waiting for him on one of the lounge chairs. Neal grabbed the towel that had been left for him on the other chair and rubbed some of the water from his skin and hair. Then he grabbed his sunglasses and lay down against the soft cushions on the lounger. He sighed and closed his eyes, letting the sun warm his tired muscles and mind.

A few minutes later, Adler reached over and took Neal's hand in his. Not even a week ago, Neal would have cringed at the touch, even as he allowed it, as he had those first few nights that Adler climbed into his bed, but his resolve and his sense of self-determination were already fading. He had to admit to himself that the touch of another person, even Vincent Adler, was comforting and even welcome in the isolated world in which he was now forced to live.

Neal and Adler spent the remainder of the day on the beach. They ate a leisurely lunch of grilled shrimp and salad at the shaded table and whiled away the afternoon swimming, lounging and napping in the sun.

Adler didn't talk much, which Neal appreciated. It was a new reality to live in a world with Vincent Adler where Neal could just be for a little while. Adler's reputation for being sharp and ruthless were well deserved as Neal had learned when he had worked for the man. In fact, today was the first time that Neal spent in Adler's presence where he didn't feel as if he needed to be constantly on guard, constantly one step ahead.

As the sun began to slip over the horizon, they gathered their things and headed back up the sand toward the gate. As they reached it, Neal put his hand on Adler's arm to get his attention. When Adler turned to him with a questioning look Neal said, "Thank you for this, Vincent."

Adler smiled, the crow's feet around his eyes crinkling. And then he leaned in and placed his lips against Neal's, kissing Neal gently. They were dry and overly warm from a day spent in the sun and as Neal kissed him back he reminded himself that this was what he deserved. What was it that Peter had said that night another lifetime ago when Neal and Sara had joined the Burkes for Cornish game hens and Peter had waxed philosophical about finding love? “You just need to figure it out and when you do, you’ll be the luckiest guy.”

If only Peter could see him now.

***

Peter and Mozzie stepped off the old, repurposed school bus in the middle of Santa Maria. "Where do we start?" Peter asked.

Mozzie, in his Hawaiian shirt and cargo pants, glared up at Peter. "Discretely. We need to find Adler before Adler finds us."

Peter rolled his eyes, already frustrated with his traveling companion. "Obviously. Do you have any useful suggestions?"

"High-end wares, clothiers, gourmet foods. Adler only buys the best. We find out whose supplying him with the stuff he needs, we find out where they're delivering it to."

Peter nodded and with their travel bags still hanging from their shoulders they began their search of the town.

The remainder of the morning was unsuccessful and after a quick lunch at a café, they decided to split up to cover more ground. Just up the street from where they ate, Peter spotted a street sign with a painted image of a hat. Peter smiled at the memories of Neal it evoked. He had never seen a photo of Adler in which he was wearing any type of hat, but Peter decided it was worth a try.

Inside, the shop was a wall-to-wall Neal Caffrey wet dream. Hats of all sizes, shapes and colors lined every surface. Peter looked around for a brief moment and was then approached by a sharply dressed man in a white linen suit. "Can I help you find something?" He asked.

"You can help me find someone," Peter replied. "I have a friend I lost touch with, who I believe is living here on Cape Verde." Peter pulled the photo he was carrying of Adler from his a pocket on the outside of his bag.

The man smiled, "Sí, Señor Dobbs. He lives in a villa just a few minutes south of the city."

The next morning, Peter and Mozzie found themselves positioned on a small hillside within binoculars' range of Adler's estate. They had yet to see any sign of Adler or Neal, but they had already surveyed the entire perimeter, made note of the entrances and exits, the number of guards, and any other possible routes into or out of the compound.

Their current vantage point gave them views of the whole front of the property, most of the interior of the courtyard and even partial views into a few of the windows along with a portion of the beachfront to the east. Peter was scanning the building with their one set of binoculars while Mozzie sat next to him with a digital camera complete with zoom lens, nervously contemplating various plans that might enable just the two of them to rescue Neal from Adler's clutches on their own.

"Maybe, we could find a way to break one of the windows. Then we can pose as repairmen and …"

"Mozzie," Peter interrupted, lowering the binoculars and looked at Moz. "Has Adler ever seen you?"

Mozzie shook his head. "Not that I know of."

Peter frowned, feeling the tug of tightness across his barely healed skin. "Well, he's certainly seen me. If he finds out that I'm here... He'll kill Neal to keep us from getting him back, you know that, right?"

"I know that better than anyone, Suit," Mozzie replied raising a hand to his own chest.

Peter sighed and shook his head. Somehow he had managed to forget what had happened to Moz at Larsen’s hand, but Adler’s command. "I'm sorry, Moz. I guess we both have our scars to bear from Adler's machinations."

They were quiet for a moment and then Moz waved a hand and said, "Forget it. Let's just focus on getting Neal back."

Peter nodded and resumed his watch of the villa. Mozzie turned quiet then, pulling a notepad out of the satchel he had brought with him and writing at what looked like to Peter to be a furious pace.

Almost an hour went by and then Peter saw the French doors open off the Juliette balcony on the west side of the second floor. A moment later Neal, dressed in beige slacks and a white tank top, appeared in the doorway. The morning sunlight cast him in a warm orange glow, but even at this distance, through binoculars, Peter could see that Neal didn’t look right. He seemed thinner and less vibrant, less Neal-like than he had been three months ago.

"Mozzie, I've got Neal," Peter proclaimed, not bothering to hide the excitement in his voice.

Mozzie sat up, fumbled around with the camera and stared owlishly through it toward the house. "Where?"

Peter pointed and handed the binoculars off. "Second floor, at the balcony."

Mozzie put the camera aside, accepted the binoculars from Peter, took a long look and then declared, "He looks okay."

Peter nodded. "I don't think Adler's really hurt him, yet. At least we know for sure that he's here."

"Now we just need to figure out how to get him out of here."

***

Neal stood looking out the balcony doors into the courtyard. It was hard to be inside day in and day out knowing how beautiful the island was just beyond the gates. The Manet sat on the easel behind him, nearly completed. Neal sighed, gave himself one more moment to enjoy the morning light against his skin and then turned back to his work.

By lunch the painting was ready to be aged. Adler hadn’t delivered his next project yet, so Neal took some time to clean up his work space a bit and catalog what was left of his supplies. He was halfway through a list of what he thought he would need to continue when Adler stepped into the room and went straight to inspect Neal’s latest work.

He hovered between the two paintings where they stood side by side for a couple of minutes, closely eyeing the details. “Lovely, Neal, just lovely,” he finally proclaimed as he turned to look at Neal.

“Thank you, Vincent.”

“I’ll have a new piece for you in the morning.”

Neal nodded. “Speaking of the morning, I was hoping that I could ask a favor?”

Adler tilted his head questioningly and stepped closer to Neal. “Perhaps.”

“I used to swim at the gym in New York most days, and I realized the other day when you took me to the beach just how much I missed it. I was wondering if it might be possible for me to swim in the mornings, at least a few days a week.”

Adler turned back again to the Manet and its double. Neal fidgeted from one foot to the other. It had been difficult for him to ask, but regaining the sense of ease and freedom he had felt in the water the other day would be worth what it might end up costing him if Adler agreed.

Adler was turned away from him for so long that Neal was certain he was just contemplating the best way to tell him no. Neal was preparing to offer Adler something he didn’t want to give, when the older man turned back toward him and smiled. “I think that’s a fine idea. I may even join you every now and then.”

Neal felt his whole body relax at Adler’s words. He smiled back at his captor as he heard Mozzie whisper “Stockholm Syndrome” in his head. Then he said “Thank you,” again to the man that had stolen his freedom, his life and his hope.

That night Adler entered Neal's room and his bed right on schedule. He leaned in and kissed Neal languidly and Neal allowed it, finding himself kissing Adler back opening his mouth and leaning his body into Adler's touches. Neal could feel Vincent growing hard against his thigh and then the older man rubbed his hand against Neal's boxers. But Adler's mouth and hands and body meant nothing more than the simple comfort gained from companionship to Neal. He felt no desire at all from Adler’s touch. Eventually, Adler gave up trying to arouse Neal. Instead, he pulled his own boxers off his body and moved up and over Neal so that he was straddling Neal's thigh. While Adler rutted against him, moaning his name, Neal kept his thoughts on the people who were safer because he was halfway around the world in this bed, with this man. He thought about Peter and El, Mozzie, June and Jones and Diana and New York and he imagined himself back there with them, working a case, sharing a bottle of wine, or a cup of Italian roast, laughing and teasing. And when Vincent came and then thanked Neal and kissed him, Neal was able to smile at Adler, thanks entirely to the memories of the life he had left behind filling his head and his heart.

***

It was day three of their surveillance of the estate when Peter and Mozzie saw their hope of freeing Neal and bringing Adler to justice drive through the gate and park in the courtyard. The driver's side door of the white SUV emblazoned with the word sheriff opened and a well-built, dark-haired man emerged. He spoke with one the guards briefly and then Adler himself appeared from inside. Alder handed the Sheriff an envelope, patted him on the shoulder in what looked to Peter to be a typical condescending gesture from a man like Vincent Adler and then he returned to the house.

The Sheriff got back in his vehicle, backed out of the gate and drove down the road toward town.

"That's our way in," Mozzie muttered as he followed the back of the SUV as it drove out of view with his eyes.

"The Sheriff?"

"Not just the Sheriff Suit, the Sheriff Adler's paying protection to."

Peter looked at him, eyes wide.

Mozzie rolled his eyes. "He can be bought and we have rather a large amount of money to buy him with at our disposal."

"The $500,000 that the Justice Department is offering for information on Adler's whereabouts," Peter replied with a slow smile.

"Now you're catching on, Suit."

A short time later, Peter and Mozzie were standing in the Sheriff's office. "Sheriff Morales on behalf of the United States Department of Justice I would like to offer you the opportunity to collect a substantial reward for the capture of Vincent Adler."

The Sheriff looked at Peter and the badge that Peter was holding out appraisingly. "Who?"

Peter smiled. "You know him as Henry Dobbs."

Morales leaned back in his chair as he weighed Peter's words. "And, what would a man such as myself have to do to earn such a reward?"

Peter shrugged. "Simply let him know that the Office of International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice believes that Dobbs is some Ponzi schemer name Vincent Adler, and that they have formally requested permission to act on Cape Verde soil to arrest him and have him remanded back to the U.S. for trial."

"Señor Dobbs, has been a very, shall we say, cooperative and generous member of our community. We would hate to lose him, should your allegations be unfounded."

Peter nodded. "I'm sure that he has," he concurred. "I'm also sure that half a million U.S. dollars will go a long way to smooth things over, with the community," Peter responded.

"And how soon could we expect this contribution to the community to be made?"

"As soon as Adler is on the flight we're chartering for tomorrow afternoon."

"I think it will be possible to convince Señor Dobbs that the U.S. authorities will be paying a visit to his estate shortly."

Peter reached out to shake hands with the Sheriff. "The U.S. government thanks you for your cooperation."

After that, Peter made a phone call to Reese Hughes. It didn’t take long for Peter to fill him in on everything they had found on the island. When he was finished describing how Neal was obviously being held captive and how Adler was definitely on the island under the pseudonym Henry Dobbs, Peter took a deep breath and plunged into the deep end of the pool. “If Caffrey catches him, and delivers him to you, will Justice agree to let him return to New York and reinstate his old deal?”

“Back on his anklet working cases?” Reese asked, his tone somewhat incredulous.

“Working for me,” Peter pushed on knowing that anything short of having things back to the way they were before the U-Boat would be unacceptable to him.

There was a long silence from the other end of the phone and Peter waited, hoping that his trust in his boss was well placed.

Finally, Hughes replied. “I can’t make any promises, Peter, but I’ll talk to Justice.”

“Thank you, Reese.”

Knowing that their plan was in action, Peter and Mozzie ditched their surveillance for the remainder of the day, had a decent meal at the café where they had had lunch their first day in Santa Maria and then allowed themselves a full night's sleep in a small hotel in the center of town.



Bright and early the next morning they returned to their perch above Adler's estate. Peter's chest and shoulder were aching from days of holding the binoculars up to this eyes, but he doggedly returned to the task hopeful that by the afternoon they would have Neal and Adler and be on their way back home.

He was trained on the balcony where they had gotten their first glimpse of Neal when Mozzie jostled him. "It's Neal," he exclaimed.

"Where?"

"On the beach, heading toward the water."

Peter turned and refocused the binoculars on the beach. And there was Neal, in navy blue trunks heading away from the house and toward the water.

"He's always loved to swim," Mozzie noted.

"Do you think he's being guarded?"

"I would think so, but I don't see anyone," Mozzie replied as he scanned what he could see of the beach with his camera.

"They could be hidden by the wall," Peter surmised.

Mozzie nodded. "What do we do?"

"We go get him," Peter said as he lowered the binoculars and rose from their hiding place.

Mozzie tugged on Peter's arm, pulling him back down beside him. "As tempting as that is, Suit, and let me assure you that I find it very tempting, we can't risk what we've already set in motion."

"Moz, he's right there, within our reach."

"And, if we get caught, what then? Or better yet, what happens to our best laid plans if Neal disappears right before Adler's eyes on the very day he learns the Justice Department has found him?"

Peter looked at Mozzie and weighed his words before he finally replied. "Nothing. Moz, do you really think that Adler gives a damn about Neal? That he wouldn't sacrifice Neal in a heartbeat to save himself? He's going to run as soon as he finds out he's about to be taken into custody." Peter hesitated a moment to let his words sink in. "Let's go get Neal."

Mozzie nodded slowly.

They formed a plan on the short drive from where they had parked their rented jeep to the edge of the beach, just out of sight of anyone who might be standing watch on the sand. Mozzie would play the lost tourist to distract whoever might be watching Neal, while Peter got Neal back to the car.

***

When Adler left his bed in the morning he gave his permission for Neal to spend half an hour in the water, so Neal put his swim trunks on and headed down toward the gate that led to the beach, followed by Jacobs. Once they stepped though the other side and onto the sand, Jacobs dressed as usual in henchman chic, slacks, button down shirt, suit jacket and dress shoes, grumbled as the fine grains began flooding into his shoes. He waved Neal on and then took up a position close to the wall that was shaded from the morning sun.

Neal felt the sense of peace that had come over him on his previous visit to the shore envelope him again as the warm ocean water surrounded first his legs, then his torso and arms as he waded in deep. He closed his eyes and let his body sink into the water and the familiar motions of the front crawl. He swam and he swam gliding smoothly across the surface of the water until abruptly he crashed into something solid.

***

When they hit the beach, Peter made straight for the water, keeping low and moving as quickly as possible. The single man that appeared to be guarding Neal was intently focused on the water, presumably watching Neal, so Peter was able to get to cover under the surface of the ocean without being seen.

Mozzie, in the meantime, was making his way down the beach, toward Neal's watchdog, waving a map in one hand and muttering to himself about how all beaches looked alike. Peter swam hard, making the ache in his chest and shoulder burn brighter in an effort to reach Neal in time with Mozzie's approach on the guard.

Thankfully, Neal was swimming toward him, so Peter angled his path to intersect Neal's. But, apparently Neal wasn’t actually watching where he was going and they ended up colliding. Neal sputtered and struggled against the water and Peter grabbed his arm in an attempt to still him. “Neal, Neal!”

***

Neal felt a hand close around his arm and he pulled back. His now open eyes were clouded from the salt water and all he knew was that someone had grabbed onto him. Despite his efforts the hand around him held on and Neal continued to struggle until he realized that whoever it was was calling his name. He used his free hand to rub his eyes clear and then beheld a sight he had believed he would never again see, Peter Burke.

“Peter?”

“Hey Neal,” Peter responded as he pulled Neal into his arms, hugging him as tightly as possible in the water. “It’s good to see you.” Neal could hear the delight in his former partner’s voice.

Peter’s embrace was wholehearted and warm. At first Neal didn’t know how to react and his body remained stiff and unyielding. Peter shouldn’t be here at all, let alone a mere 200 yards from Adler’s clutches. But after a moment he relaxed into his Peter’s hold, relishing the feel of the arms of someone who cared about him for who he was. Whatever the circumstances, Neal had always felt safe in the older man’s arms. Today was no different.

“It’s good to see you too,” Neal replied finally.

After a couple of minutes, treading water while hugging Neal apparently became too much of a challenge. Peter relaxed his embrace, but returned his hand to Neal’s arm.

Once Peter released him, Neal’s anxiety returned. “What are you doing here,” Neal asked lowering his voice despite their distance from the shore.

“I’m here to bring you home,” Peter replied, as if his answer and his intent should have been self-evident.

Neal tugged his arm again, though more gently this time and Peter released him. They were out in fairly deep water and he needed both arms to help with treading the water. Once he was free, Neal shook his head and sighed.

“I can’t go with you, Peter.”

Peter looked at Neal incredulously. “Of course you can. We have a car right at the edge of the beach and a chartered plane waiting at the airport.”

“It’s not that simple, Peter. I shot you remember, and then I fled and broke my probation. If I go back, I’m going back to prison, probably for the rest of my life.”

“No, Neal. We have a plan in motion. We’re going to bring Adler to justice, and you’re going to get the credit for bringing him in. We’ll get your deal reinstated.”

Neal laughed, sharp and harsh. “You have a plan. Peter there’s a reason Vincent choose Cape Verde. There’s no extradition.”

Peter nodded. “But that doesn’t mean that the Department of Justice can’t come after him. They just have to get permission from the government first.”

“Justice is here, on the island? Are you telling me this is sanctioned?” Neal replied indicating their unusual position out in the water.

“No,” Peter admitted. “But Adler doesn’t know that.”

Neal sighed heavily. "Say, you somehow succeed and you bring Alder in, then what? I shot you. How are you going to explain that away?”

“No one knows that but you and me. It’s not in my report, Neal.”

“Adler knows, Peter. It’s going to come out at some point, you know that.”

“No.” Peter shook his head. “You shot me to protect me, Neal. You saved my life. It’ll be okay, I promise.”

Neal pushed away and began slowly heading back toward the shore, his body still turned toward Peter. “Go home, Peter.”

“Neal,” Peter hissed as he lunged after his partner. “I’m not leaving you here.”

Neal kicked out hard, putting more distance between the two of them. “I can’t go back, Peter. I’ll only cause you more pain. I’m sorry.” Then he spun and swam in earnest toward the shore.

***

Peter slammed a hand against the water, spraying salt into his eyes. “Damn it!”

By the time his vision was clear again, Neal was halfway to the sand. Peter started to go after him, but that was when he noticed Mozzie running across the beach and the man who was guarding Neal running toward the water.

Angry with himself for failing to just grab Neal and swim for safety, Peter began swimming parallel to the land back toward where they had parked the car.

When he reached the spot where he left his tee shirt and sneakers, he dashed out of the water, grabbed his things and ran for the jeep, being careful to keep his face turned away to prevent Adler’s man from recognizing him.

Mozzie was already behind the wheel with the engine revving. As soon as Peter’s butt hit the passenger seat, Moz pulled away, steering the jeep back toward the hillside hideout they’d been using for their surveillance.

***

When Neal waded out of the water, Jacobs grabbed him by the arm, pulling him roughly up the beach. “What the hell were you trying to pull, Caffrey?”

Neal spread out his hands, trying to look as open and innocent as possible. “Nothing, I just bumped into some guy in the water and he tried to pick a fight with me. Said I knocked into him on purpose. It was nothing, really.”

“And I suppose the short guy with the giant map blocking my view of you was just an innocent coincidence too, huh?”

Neal shrugged. "I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Jacobs scowled. “Right. I thought you were supposed to be some sort of genius conman and that’s the best you can do?”

“It’s the truth.”

“We’ll let Mr. Dobbs be the judge of that.”

That was the last thing Jacobs said as he pulled Neal through the gate and back into the house. They passed Adler’s office and Neal could see Adler through the open door standing behind his desk, talking with a man dressed in a sheriff’s uniform. Adler looked decidedly pissed. Not a look that Neal liked to see on the volatile man. He wondered, as Jacobs dragged him toward the stairs to the basement, if the Sheriff’s visit had anything to do with the plan that Peter had talked about.

At the top of the stairs, Jacobs pushed Neal down the steps in front of him. At the bottom, Neal found himself in a well-stocked wine cellar. They turned down a row of shelving and at the end, Neal saw where they were headed. Set in the middle of the room between the rows of wooden casks and more shelves holding bottle after bottle of wine was a cell, four iron-barred walls. Jacobs unlocked the door with a key that was sitting in the lock and pushed Neal inside. The space was empty except for a plain wooden chair.

“Enjoy your new accommodations,” Jacobs sneered as he locked Neal in.

“Thanks. The space is a bit small, but the view is fantastic.”

Jacobs snorted out a laugh and then left Neal alone.

A day that had started out with the promise of just a little bit of freedom was turning out to be a horrible disappointment.

Neal spent a good hour trying to find a way out of the cell. Not that he had anywhere to go, or any real desire to escape his confinement, it would only make matters with Adler even more complicated, but old habits die hard. He had nothing to work with but his hands, the string in the waistband of his swim trunks and the straight-backed, wooden chair that sat in the center of his cage.

Eventually, with an audible sigh, he gave up and sat down to wait for the inevitable confrontation. Jacobs had clearly decided that Neal was up to something, which he would convey to Adler and knowing Adler as he did, Neal was certain that he would be furious. Despite the fact that Neal had no interest in fleeing, he was going to pay the price for this morning’s adventure.

If he wasn’t so certain that Peter and Mozzie would be undeterred by today’s failure, he might have been okay with suffering the punishment for the opportunity to see Peter one last time and know for certain that he was indeed healed and whole.

He didn’t have much longer to wait before he heard the cellar door open and then two sets of footsteps on the stairs. Jacobs preceded Adler, unlocking and opening Neal’s cell door and then holding it ajar for his boss.

As soon as Adler entered the cell, Neal felt the temperature in the small space drop by a dozen degrees, Adler’s anger was that palpable. Neal stayed seated, hoping that the submissive position would help dispel some of Adler’s ire.

For several minutes Adler simply paced from one side of the bars to the other until finally he turned and stared down at Neal. “I thought things were going well, Neal. I didn’t think I had to seriously consider that you were planning an escape.”

Neal took a steadying breath and when he spoke he kept his voice low and even. “I wasn’t. I don’t know what Jacobs thought he saw at the beach today, but I promise you, Vincent, I wasn’t planning anything.”

Adler nodded, but didn’t speak again. Neal had seen Adler use the tactic before, on subordinates that he was angry with and he knew it didn’t bode well. “I don’t have anywhere to go. I don’t have anywhere I want to go,” Neal continued.

“That’s right. You’re a wanted man, hunted,” Adler pointed out when he finally responded. “But, I’m going to keep you safe, Neal. You belong to me. And, like all of my most prized possessions, no one will ever take you from me.”

The almost feral look in Adler’s eyes as he spoke those final words made Neal’s heart speed up. Intellectually, he knew that Adler saw him as nothing more than a possession, but to hear the man say it, brought a frightening sense of reality to Neal.

“I understand,” he replied, looking down at the cement floor of the cellar.

“I’m not so sure you do, Neal. I think, despite your claims to the contrary, that you knew those men on the beach today, and I’m very disappointed.”

Neal certainly could have tried to deny that he knew Peter and Mozzie. He had lied successfully a million times over in his life. But, for some reason avoidance felt like the wiser path under the circumstances. “I wasn’t trying to escape, Vincent.”

Again Adler nodded, and Neal felt the temperature around him drop further. Then Adler stepped over to the door of cell to where Jacobs stood. He held out his hand and said calmly, “Give me your gun.” Jacobs handed the weapon over without hesitation and then Adler turned and faced Neal again.

Neal stood, his eyes wide, and held out his hands pleadingly. “Vincent, you don’t need to do this. I promise, I’ll stay with you.”

“I’ve never put much stock in the promises of conmen and thieves,” Adler replied as he raised the gun and pointed it at Neal.

“Please, Vincent, don’t,” Neal begged as he shuffled backward the small distance that he could before his shoulders were up against the bars.

Adler looked at him as if he was actually contemplating giving Neal a reprieve but then the cold mask that Neal knew so well descended on Adler’s features, he aimed and pulled the trigger.

The bullet hit Neal in the right thigh. He felt the impact, like someone had slammed him in the leg with a tire iron moments before the burn of the bullet’s travels though his leg left him gasping. His body began to shake and he barely made it back over to the wooden chair before collapsing. He pressed down on the wound with as much force as he could, sending the pain spiraling to new heights, and felt his blood warm his palms as it seeped from the wound.

“Yes Neal, you will stay with me,” Adler said calmly as he turned away from Neal and headed out of the cell and back out of the cellar.

Jacobs dispassionately closed and locked the cell door before following his employer.

***

Peter and Mozzie reached the place where they had been watching the estate just as the Sherriff’s jeep pulled out from the front gate. At least part of their plan was working as designed.

“What the hell happened back there?” Peter asked Mozzie as he pulled his shirt and sneakers back on.

Moz glared back at him. “I could ask you the same question, Suit and I think I will.”

Peter sighed, his indignation at Mozzie squelched by his own failure. “He wouldn’t come.”

“What do you mean, he wouldn’t come?”

“He said he would only cause me more pain if he came back and that he didn’t want to do that.”

“That doesn’t make any sense. It’s not his fault that Adler was behind the music box and the U-Boat and it certainly wasn’t his fault that Adler shot you.”

Peter grimaced involuntarily. He still hadn’t told anyone what had happened that day on the pier. In his official FBI report he had stated he didn’t remember exactly who had fired on him, just that there had been multiple weapons trained on him and Neal at the time.

“What haven’t you told me?” Mozzie asked, startling Peter out of his thoughts.

Peter hesitated. If he told anyone the chances that the truth would eventually end up in some official report would increase exponentially. But this was Mozzie, the man that had absolutely no faith in the system and who would do anything for Neal. “That day on the pier, it wasn’t Adler or one of his men that shot me. It was Neal.”

“What?!”

“He did it to protect me, Mozzie,” Peter assured him. “He saved my life. Alder threatened him. Told him, if he didn’t pull the trigger, one of his men would. So he did, to ensure that I would live.”

Mozzie considered Peter’s words. “Well, now I can see why he doesn’t want to come back. He doesn’t want to face time for attempted murder of a fed.”

“That won’t happen,” Peter assured.

“Right, sure, because the justice system really understands mitigating circumstances when it comes to violence against federal agents.” Mozzie made air quotes around the words justice system, which made Peter’s blood boil just a bit, even though he knew in this instance Mozzie had a point.

“I’ll help him escape myself if they try to put him back in prison for any of this.” Peter replied.

Mozzie must have heard the conviction in Peter’s voice, because he simply nodded, picked up the binoculars and resumed watching the house.

About an hour and a half later a new car pulled up to the gate and was admitted into the courtyard. A dark haired woman stepped out of the driver’s seat carrying a black medical bag.

“Suit, we may have a problem.”

Peter turned from where he was sitting with his back to the wall they were hidden behind. “What’s happening?”

In answer Mozzie handed over the binoculars. Peter took them and then watched as a woman he assumed was a doctor, carrying a black medical bag, was escorted into the house.

“What do you think?” Mozzie asked.

Peter moved the binoculars away from his eyes and looked a Neal’s oldest friend. “I think we fucked up.”


Part 3