It could have been worse. It could have been so much worse.
Elizabeth had two cracked ribs and a graze across one lung from the first bullet. The doctors said it was nothing irreparable, but it would take time to heal. She had a wound in her shoulder, too, where the second bullet had passed clean through. There'd be a scar. Not much of one, but still, a scar.
Neal, who had agreed to a Saturday spent following her around, carrying boxes and bags from the shopping expedition, had only been grazed by the third bullet; he was discharged the same day. Elizabeth was in the hospital for three.
Peter couldn't work the case. The FBI wouldn't have allowed it in a million years, and even if he could have, he wouldn't be moved from Elizabeth's bedside. Jones, who had been the first one there after Peter, took the task on himself and cozied up with the Special Assaults unit, who understood these things and brought him in as part of the investigation.
The second day, when Elizabeth was sitting up and talking but still pretty well drugged, he brought Peter the interrogation tapes. Peter left Neal sitting with her, Neal's usual bright hospital-visit patter a little more manic than standard, and followed Jones into an empty room.
"Rydell warned us," Peter said, looking weighed-down and tired, hospital coffee clenched in numb fingers. "He said if I went after him, he'd make sure I was sorry. Goal achieved."
"Nobody thought he'd go after family," Diana said. "You can't blame yourself for this."
"I don't," Peter replied. "I blame him."
"How's Mrs. Burke?" Jones asked.
"She blames him too," Peter said, with a momentary smile.
"Listen, you're not gonna like this," Jones told him.
"Just play the tape," Peter ordered.
He didn't like it. Jerry Rydell was a mid-level drug dealer, without any particular organized backing but with a vicious, iron command of the dealers and muscle who worked for him. Rydell was sneering, taunting, smug; he said he had three witnesses who would put him miles away from the shooting, no matter what the FBI said or did. He said Feds who let their wives run around with other men got what they deserved. He said he was glad the bitch was shot. Peter just watched, impassive, while Rydell insinuated things about him and about his wife, while he insulted and degraded her, while he made crude jokes about her and Neal. At the end of it, he nodded.
"There's nothing we can do," he said quietly. "I can't even help pin the bastard down."
"Special Assaults is doing all it can," Jones said. "It's early days. We'll get him."
"I don't think they will," Peter answered. Jones and Diana exchanged a look. Any other case, any other victim, they both knew he'd be working twelve hour days to catch the guy. Anyone else, attacking Elizabeth, would have felt the destroying wrath of Peter Burke like a force of nature. But he was tired, and worried about his wife, and scared for her, because Rydell was out of custody.
"Thanks," Peter said, mustering a smile for Jones. "I appreciate the update."
When he was gone, Neal put his head in the door.
"Bad news, huh?" he asked.
Jones looked up at him. "Something you should see," he said, inspiration dawning.
The day Elizabeth was released, Neal drove them both home. He helped Peter get Elizabeth settled, made sure there was food in the house, and then sat down at the foot of their bed. Elizabeth was asleep again; Peter was sitting up next to her with her head snuggled up against his thigh, one hand smoothing her hair down, eyes rarely straying from her face.
"I need a promise from you," Neal said quietly.
"Neal, now's not the time," Peter told him.
"No, it is the time," Neal replied. Peter glanced up; Neal didn't usually take that tone with him. "I want you to promise me you won't leave this house for a week."
"What..." Peter's brow furrowed.
"I know you. And I know you believe in the law, but she's your wife, Peter," Neal continued. "And you know I understand what that means."
"You think I'm going after Rydell," Peter said.
"Aren't you? Thinking about it, at least?"
Peter turned away, back to Elizabeth. "I've thought about it."
"I can't take your gun, I can't do anything to stop you," Neal said.
"If you tell me I need to give the law time to do its job -- "
"No," Neal said. "No, I'm not going there. But you need to give me time to do mine."
Peter looked up sharply.
"No guns," Neal said. "Promise. Won't need one."
"Neal -- "
"All you have to do is stay here, with Elizabeth, for a week," Neal said. "Take care of her. Make sure Rydell doesn't come here to finish the job. End of the week, if he's still at large, I'll hold him down while you beat him to death if you want. Just give me a week."
"You don't have to," Peter said.
"Yeah, I do," Neal replied. "Jones showed me the tape. Trust me. I really, really do."
Peter nodded. "Okay. You get a week. You need anything?"
"Nope." Neal gave him a smile, climbing off the bed. He bent and kissed Elizabeth's cheek, then walked briskly out of the room.
"Do I want to know what you're using this for?" Jones asked, that afternoon, handing Neal a bulletproof vest.
"Personal protection," Neal said. "I feel very unsafe after the shooting."
Jones caught his eye. Neal looked unrepentant.
"Don't do anything that'll get you locked up," he said.
"I won't get caught," Neal assured him. Diana crossed her arms.
"Are you gonna kill him?" she asked bluntly.
"What would be the fun in that?"
Mozzie had been incommunicado for a few days, off on one of his mysterious jaunts. He did that sometimes, disappearing for a while and returning looking pleased with himself. Neal managed to get word that they needed to talk, now, and was gratified when he returned to June's to find Mozzie waiting for him.
"He shot Mrs. Suit?" Mozzie asked, when Neal walked in. "Who did it?"
"Jerry Rydell," Neal answered. "He's a drug dealer moving into the art market. Hi, by the way."
"He shot Mrs. Suit?" Mozzie repeated.
"Me too," Neal rolled up his sleeve, showing the butterfly bandages on his arm.
"I need fifty grand for the hit," Mozzie said. "Seventy to make it look like an accident. Your share is half, I got the rest. I know this guy -- "
"Nah, this is a do-it-yourself gig," Neal replied.
Mozzie broke into a wide grin. "The full treatment?"
"The full treatment," Neal confirmed. "I need you to find Rydell's rat hole. Your Detroit hookup, do they know any local Manhattan movers?"
"I'll find out. Can I set up a chemistry lab here?"
"Sure. Money's no object."
"My three favorite words," Mozzie intoned. "What's the Suit think of all this?"
"I told him not to worry about it." Neal clapped his hands together and rubbed them, thoughtfully. "I need to make a list."
It didn't take long for Mozzie to find where Rydell was living, a nice apartment on the third floor of a renovated Brownstone. Neal was waiting for him when he left it the next morning.
He had the vest on under his suit, but he wasn't particularly worried. Rydell preferred the drive-by method; he wasn't going to shoot a man in public when he couldn't get away, especially in a nice neighborhood like this one. He eyeballed Neal as he left, and he tried to lose him in traffic, but Neal had June's Jag (she'd insisted) and Mozzie had made up some very nice police plates for it. Wasn't hard to keep up with Rydell, until he got tired of playing games and parked outside a breakfast joint. Neal followed him in and sat at a table across from him as he ate. Rydell sneered. Neal did the crossword.
The pattern remained the same for most of the day, while Mozzie texted occasional updates on his own progress. Whenever Rydell went into some enclosed or private space, Neal simply waited for him to emerge again. Twice he tried to shake Neal off his tail using this to his advantage, but Neal Caffrey was not one of the world's best criminals because he was pretty.
Rydell ate dinner at a bar. Neal sat behind him, which made him very, very twitchy. He went to a club afterwards, and Neal just nursed a drink and watched Rydell try to make deals and network and keep an eye on Neal all at once. It was petty vengeance, for now, but useful. Near midnight, Rydell walked right up to him in the club.
"You got some problem with me, motherfucker?" he asked.
"Elizabeth Burke," Neal replied.
"Are you one of her boy's cop buddies or something?"
"No, I'm the guy who took that last bullet you fired at her," Neal answered, easing off his bar stool. "But the thing is, Jerry, I'm not a cop. I don't have to follow their rules."
"Yeah? You think they'll give you a walk on harassment?"
"Me? I'm just having a drink," Neal said, smiling peacefully at him. Rydell took a swing at him, which was great; Neal ducked it easily, grabbed his arm, and held him against the bar with just enough force to hurt.
"I am watching you, Jerry," he said softly. "You hurt one of mine. And I do have an awful lot of cop buddies. I have a lot of friends all over."
"What're you gonna do, give me a chance to confess?" Rydell sneered.
"Nope. You had that chance," Neal said, as two bouncers approached through the crowd. "No take-backsies. See you around." He stepped back, raising both hands at the bouncers. "I was just leaving."
Outside, in the chilly night air, he took out his phone. "Mozzie, make me smile."
"Smile away," Mozzie said. "The security on his place was just stupid. One deadbolt and two dogs."
"Dogs give you any grief?"
"Oddly, they were busy with the chew toys I gave them," Mozzie replied. "His closet's been treated with the rash gas. I have audio in two rooms, eyes on the foyer, just in case. We owe Techie Terry a hundred bucks, by the way. She gave us a discount on equipment when I explained the situation."
"Yeah? You wouldn't think a woman who did time for illegal wiretapping would be that amenable to Feds," Neal said, taking the keys to the Jaguar from the valet.
"People get weird about partners," Mozzie answered. "She said if it was her wife, she knows we'd do her a solid."
"How is Linda?" Neal asked. "She still teaching?"
"Gah. You couldn't pay me enough."
"Me either, but who can fathom? You got anything more you need tonight?" Mozzie asked.
"Nope. You hear back on the moving situation?"
"So, the thing is, my boys in Detroit talked to their boys in the Bronx and it turns out the New York families don't know who this Rydell punk is," Mozzie said. "I think we can flip this to our advantage. In the meantime, there are five guys who can show up when you tell them and won't ask any questions."
"You're the best, Moz," Neal told him. "I'm getting some sleep. Tell them to be on call starting at eight tomorrow."
"Who's tailing Rydell?"
"Funny thing, the first place he stops after leaving his apartment tomorrow, his car's going to break down," Neal replied. Mozzie groaned.
"Not the Camaro!"
"Sorry, Moz. It's for the greater good."
"Fine, but please, please don't key the paint job."
"I promise, no keying," Neal said. He didn't mention the spray-paint artwork he'd commissioned for Rydell's prized Camaro. No need to make Mozzie weep.
Day two of the Full Treatment dawned sunny, and with a phone call from Peter.
"Hey," Neal said, sliding out of bed. "How's the patient?"
"Cranky," Peter answered, but he sounded more cheerful. "She hates daytime television."
"I hear there are these new things called DVDs, you put them in the TV and they make movies happen," Neal replied.
"Yep, she's going through the library now. Apparently our DVDs aren't 'feel good'," Peter replied. "Shouldn't you be at the office?"
"Diana gave me some time off. I'll be back tomorrow," Neal said.
"How's the arm?"
"Functional. Listen, busy day, I gotta run," Neal answered, and hung up before Peter could ask what was keeping him so busy.
Rydell left the apartment at nine-fifteen. Neal got the go sign from his saboteurs at nine-forty. He met Mozzie's movers at Rydell's place, noted their disinterested expressions as he picked the locks, got them to help wrangle the dogs into the bathroom, and then stood in the middle of the apartment, hands on his hips.
"Okay, guys," he said. "Everything that's not nailed down. Fast as you can. We finish by lunch, the drinks are on me. Cash goes in here, drugs go in there," he said, pointing to a pair of boxes at his feet. "Careful with the art."
The guys were good; they even took the silverware from the kitchen. By noon, Neal had a box that was slowly filling with random stashes of cash they'd uncovered and another box with a lot of cocaine in it. The local thrift store had a new living room set for sale, and a couple of college kids from down the block had a truly awesome new California King bed.
Neal bought the guys lunch and a couple of pitchers of beer, paid them in cash from Rydell's various stashes, and told them to drop the art at the Federal Plaza loading dock, care of Clinton Jones. That only left the drugs, which now included several bags of Ecstasy and an indulgent amount of pot.
"Just say no," Mozzie said, when Neal unveiled it at New Tuesday.
"Party in a box," Neal replied. "I thought it would be useful eventually. Can't stash it at June's."
"Definitely not. Toss it in the closet. If we don't use it against Rydell I'll flush it," Mozzie answered. Neal twiddled a bag of pills between his fingers. "Hey, how often have I told you how dumb that crap will make you?"
"I got it, Moz," Neal rolled his eyes, carrying the box to the closet. "How'd you make out?"
Mozzie grinned. "Remember that kid I used to run with back when you were starting out?"
"Oh yeah, the little one? Cato? He's kinda young for this, isn't he?"
"Eh, seventeen now. Clever kid, best pickpocket in the city."
"Excuse me?" Neal frowned.
"Okay, second best."
"Better, thank you."
"Anyway, he got the goods," Mozzie said, holding up a thick leather billfold. "You want to go shopping?"
"Ooh, American Express," Neal said, taking one of the cards out of Rydell's wallet. "What else is in there?"
"For everything else, there's Mastercard," Mozzie said, holding it up. "Driver's license, Diner's -- he has a Diner's Club card? Do they still make those?"
"Apparently so. And Rydell doesn't know it's missing?"
"He's way too busy with his mysterious new rash," Mozzie replied. "I think we have about an hour before he notices, at the minimum. Maybe a lot longer!" he said brightly. "I'll get the fake beards."
The Mastercard had a twenty-thousand-dollar limit. Mozzie, unleashed on downtown, bought an entirely new wardrobe for himself and a couple of colleagues. Neal cleaned out Rydell's bank account and then took the American Express card to the library, where he carefully chose an isolated public-internet computer and had six thousand dollars worth of fancy sex toys delivered to Rydell's address, next-day air.
"Aw, you got me a hat?" Neal gave Mozzie a pleased look when it was presented to him over dinner. They were taking a chance, treating themselves to a five-star meal on Rydell's AmEx, but they could always cover the tab in cash if it got declined.
"And some cufflinks -- platinum," Mozzie said, passing him a little velvet box. "Plus a get-well present for Mrs. Suit."
Neal whistled low at the loose sapphire Mozzie showed him. "Good call. I'll get it set tomorrow."
"Your filet mignon, sir," the waiter said, placing the large chunk of almost-still-bleeding meat in front of Neal.
"You'll get parasites," Mozzie said, as his well-done steak was placed in front of him.
"Yeah, but I'll have fun in the meantime." Neal hung the hat on the back of the chair. The sommelier poured the wine, and Mozzie made an indecent noise as he sipped it. For $300 a bottle, indecent noises were okay, Neal thought. "So, you had some thoughts about Rydell and the mafia."
"I did," Mozzie agreed. "I mean, we've cleared out his place, destroyed his credit, stolen his identity and his drugs, and you debauched his car."
"I was thinking of debauching his girlfriend next, but that seems kind of inappropriate," Neal said. "I mean, I don't want him shooting her."
"She might not be into you, either," Mozzie said. Neal arched an eyebrow. "Okay, fine, inappropriate is a good enough excuse. I just don't know where we go from here if we don't threaten his personal physical safety."
"Would it be possible, I'm just floating this out there, to somehow covertly shave his head?" Neal asked.
"You should have left the shampoo in his apartment, we could have put some kind of hair-removal chemical in it. Or bleach."
"Nah, he'd smell it. Oh my god, this is good," Neal added, around a mouthful of food.
"See what you're missing, tagging around after the Suit?" Mozzie said.
"It has its own perks. Mafia," Neal reminded him.
"Right! So the New York families don't know who Rydell is, he's been flying under their radar. But he's spread out enough and doing enough business that they're seriously going to be unhappy if they find out," Mozzie said. "I'm thinking tomorrow we just leave him alone, let him stew in his folly."
"Oh, that reminds me, he's getting some mail tomorrow," Neal said. "Vibrators, mostly. Some fetish stuff. Lots of videos about pee."
"I thought so. Go on."
"We leave him alone tomorrow, and then the day after I can tip off this guy I know, Bert the Weasel."
"How come you know all these people who have one real name and one adjective?" Neal asked.
"Do you want an honest answer to that?"
"Okay. Bert the Weasel knows everyone, and I mean everyone. He can tell the people who need to know precisely who Rydell employs and where they sell."
"They'll break his fingers," Neal said.
"Maybe. But I have a plan." Mozzie leaned forward.
"I am all ears," Neal replied.
When Neal walked into the FBI offices the next day, Jones was waiting for him at his desk.
"This is cute," Jones said, holding up a sheaf of photographs.
"What's cute?" Neal asked. "Is that a Matisse? I don't think people usually think of his work as 'cute', but I'll buy it as a novel analysis."
"Fourteen stolen paintings turned up at the dock yesterday, addressed to me," Jones said. "You know anything about that?"
"If I did, it would only be because they happened to be hanging on Jerry Rydell's wall up until yesterday, and as an upstanding citizen I took action to have them returned to their rightful owners," Neal said. "But that's a hypothetical."
"Uh-huh." Jones tossed the photos on his desk. "How's that project you needed the flak vest for?"
"Coming along," Neal said. "You want me to deal with the paintings? I speak the lingo, I can get them where they need to go."
Jones leaned in. "Anything I can do?"
Neal beamed at him. "Just let me do my thing."
Mozzie called Neal around noon and, through the phone, played back a recording of Rydell's reaction to the deliveries Neal had set up for him. Neal had to lock himself in a closet while he listened, because he kept laughing.
"I'm sad you didn't send him any blow-up dolls," Mozzie said.
"Anyone can give someone a blow-up doll," Neal answered, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. "That joke's so old it's fossilized. I thought the half-dozen fleshlights would do the trick."
"I'm burning you a CD."
"I'd be insulted if you didn't," Neal said. "Is the mafia thing in place?"
"Yep. Say the word."
"Needs timing. Put it in motion tonight. I'm going over to see Peter and Elizabeth. I'll wrangle an invite to stay, just in case."
"Oh? How, pray tell, are you going to manage that?"
"Con man," Neal reminded him.
"As if I could forget, with you wasting your talents on the Shadow Government."
"Seriously, Moz," Neal said. "Thank you."
"My pleasure. Give my compliments to Mrs. Suit."
"And your sapphire," Neal promised, and hung up. Neal stepped out of the closet, doffed his hat to a couple of agents who gave him weird looks as they passed, and went to find Diana.
"I need another favor," he said. Diana gave him the Look. "Seriously, just a few hours off. In my radius, even. Errand for Peter."
"If I call Peter is he going to be surprised you're running errands for him?" she asked.
"It's a surprise errand."
"Is this at all related to Jerry Rydell's apartment being robbed yesterday?"
Neal made a surprised face. "Was his apartment robbed? That's a shame. You just can't feel safe in this city anymore."
"Or his identity being stolen?"
"Well, the thieves probably got his credit cards when they robbed him."
"Funny thieves," Diana said. "They had a bunch of dirty DVDs sent to his home."
"Maybe his address was on file."
"Neal, you are playing with fire."
Neal grinned. "Nope. Rydell? He's an amateur. I'm playing with a flamethrower. But this afternoon is purely for personal business, I swear."
Diana sat back in her chair, crossing her arms.
"Burn him for me," she said. "Go on, do whatever it is you do that we don't want to know about."
"You, I knew I liked you," Neal told her, and bowed out of the FBI for the afternoon.
When he showed up on Peter and Elizabeth's doorstep that evening with Chinese food and flowers, Neal expected Peter to get an exasperated, pained look on his face and only grudgingly allow him access. Instead, Peter gaped for a second and then said, "Thank God."
"Bless you, my child," Neal replied.
"She hates me," Peter told him. "I'm terrible at this."
"She's in pain, she hates everyone, that's normal," Neal said, brushing past him into the house. "ELIZABETH!"
"HI NEAL!" a voice floated down from the second floor.
"Is that food?" Peter asked. "Is it hot? Because I think our microwave is broken or something, and -- "
"Okay, calm down," Neal said, thrusting the flowers at him. "Here. Put these in a nice vase."
Peter gave him a bewildered look.
"What, seriously?" Neal asked. Peter offered him the flowers back. "Okay, then take this up. Give her the dumplings."
"Thank you," Peter hissed.
Neal found a vase in a cabinet under the sink in the kitchen and put the flowers in it -- he wasn't any expert either, but he apparently knew more than Peter about it. When he walked into the bedroom, Elizabeth was sitting up, eating wonton soup, and Peter was hovering.
"Oh, they're lovely," Elizabeth said, when he set them on the table and presented his cheek for a kiss. "And this is really, really good."
"Thought you might like a change of scenery," Neal said, taking the cashew chicken out of Peter's hands and sitting down on the bed with it. "Peter thinks you hate him."
"I've been cranky," she admitted. "I bore easily. Also the painkillers make me weepy. Honey, sit down, I promise I won't bite."
Peter sat warily on the edge of the bed and took the cashew chicken away from Neal. Neal gave him a narrow look, but picked up the crispy beef instead.
He was good at conversation, and he knew how to entertain; Peter was clearly exhausted and Elizabeth definitely looked less than her usual bright self, so Neal talked aimlessly about the Bureau and Mozzie's latest experiments in homing pigeon breeding while they ate. Elizabeth started drifting off with her fork halfway to her mouth, so eventually Neal and Peter decamped downstairs, leaving her a plate of spring rolls for when she woke up.
"You really don't do domestic, do you?" Neal asked. Peter was still inhaling food like he hadn't eaten all day.
"I try," Peter protested. "I cleaned everything, I did the dishes, I tried to cook, I checked up on her, then she told me not to check up on her anymore, then she got lonely because I wasn't checking up on her. And I love the woman like my own soul, Neal, but you know I'm bad with crying."
"Truly there is none worse," Neal informed him.
"Plus we're both going stir-crazy, and she hates not being able to move around much, and..." Peter rubbed his face. "I hate seeing her like this. Hurt. And it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gone after Rydell. And you..." he gestured at Neal's injured arm.
"Nah, I'm good, don't worry about me," Neal said.
"I'm barely sleeping," Peter admitted. "I keep thinking Rydell's going to come back and finish the job."
Neal saw his opening and moved in like a shark. "I can imagine. He wouldn't come to your home though, would he?"
"No reason why not. Happens all the time to the Organized Crime guys. I know a couple of US Attorneys who carry guns because they're worried they're going to get whacked some day."
"You do look tired," Neal said. "Guess a hotel's out, huh?"
"Elizabeth's supposed to stay in bed. Anyway, it's hard enough being sick at home, being sick in a hotel..."
Neal cocked his head, as if an idea had just occurred to him. "You want me to stay?"
"Look, if I'm up and keeping an eye out, you can get some sleep. I'll wake you up for an early shift and sleep in the guest room."
Peter eyed him for a moment, but he seemed too tired to go through their usual routine of arguing about whether Neal was conning him. "That'd be great, actually."
"Okay!" Neal smiled. "Oh, also, Mozzie sent something for Elizabeth. Should I wake her up?"
"Only if you want to lose a hand," Peter said drily.
"I'll wait till she wakes on her own," Neal agreed.
Elizabeth did wake up a few hours later, annoyed that she'd fallen asleep in front of them and that she had to have Peter help her to the bathroom. When she got back to the bedroom, Neal wandered in as Peter was re-settling the blankets over her lap.
"Hey, so, this is a little weird," he said, "but Mozzie wanted to send you a get-well present and he's...unorthodox."
"Russian surplus?" Peter asked. Elizabeth swatted him.
"Not exactly. You know he's a gem expert, he has connections..." Neal slid the box across the bedspread. Elizabeth opened it and her eyes went wide. The sapphire wasn't huge -- Mozzie disliked ostentation -- but it had great fire, and Neal had gotten it set in a silver pendant that accentuated the blue.
"Oh," she said, lifting it out of its box. Peter's eyes flicked to Neal. "Neal, it's gorgeous. I can't possibly -- "
"Do you want to see Mozzie insulted? Because trust me, it's not a good look on him," Neal said.
"No, of course not..." she studied it, fingers drifting over the stone. She offered it to Peter, who unclasped the chain and hung it around her neck carefully.
"It's the least we've done," Neal said.
"You mean the least you can do," Peter replied.
"That too," Neal agreed easily. Elizabeth petted the stone at her throat, smiling.
Mozzie timed things well. That night, Rydell suddenly came to the attention of the Five Families, the various branches of the New York mafia who insisted on controlling most of the major crime in the city. The cops were one thing; the Families were quite another. And at least with the FBI you knew you probably weren't going to lose any limbs.
Neal and Mozzie had both gambled on Rydell showing up at the Federal Building in the morning to turn himself in and plead for protective custody. He had no cash or resources; where else would he go? But Neal liked to hedge his bets (okay: he liked to cheat) and that meant the off-chance that Rydell would come to Peter personally. After all, everyone knew what a moral, upstanding, fair-playing kind of man Peter Burke was.
Mozzie came over, the morning after Neal stayed in the Burke guest room, to find Peter asleep on the sofa and Neal getting his ass handed to him at Scrabble by Elizabeth. He took over for Neal, because Neal was bringing dishonor to himself and his forebearers, and Neal went downstairs to pester Peter into helping him make breakfast.
Which was when Jerry Rydell knocked on their front door.
Peter's gun was in his hand suspiciously fast; Neal wondered if he'd been keeping it in his waistband. He peered out the kitchen window.
"Son of a bitch came to my home," Peter breathed, and Neal blocked him from moving.
"Don't do something you're going to regret," Neal said. Mozzie came thumping down the stairs. "Let us handle this."
"Excuse me?" Peter asked. Neal held up his hands, pacifying. "The man has a gun, Neal!"
"No he doesn't. We stole them all," Neal said.
"You what -- " Peter began, but he broke off suddenly when Neal snapped a handcuff around his wrist. The other half was already attached to the handle of the oven. "Oh, seriously?"
"Sorry," Neal said, backing out of the kitchen. He joined Mozzie in the front hallway. "Ready for this?"
"You go first, I've already been shot once," Mozzie said. Neal put on his game face, and his hat, and opened the door.
"You gotta take me into custody," Rydell said. "I confess. I shot the lady."
"You shot who?" Neal asked, tilting his head.
"Elizabeth Burke, I shot her, okay?" Rydell blurted. They could hear Peter yelling threats in the kitchen.
"I'm pretty sure you have three witnesses who say you couldn't possibly have shot her," Neal replied.
"Man, they're on the payroll, you know that!" Rydell looked genuinely terrified for his life. A dark car with tinted glass prowled up the street. "They're gonna rip out my teeth."
"Couldn't happen to a nicer guy," Mozzie said.
"What do you want us to do about it?" Neal asked, crossing his arms.
"Protective custody. I confess, you put me somewhere safe and alone," Rydell said. Neal glanced at Mozzie. "Come on, they're after me! Listen to me!"
"No, you listen to me," Mozzie said, pushing past Neal to stand in front of him. He poked Rydell in the chest. "You come onto our turf and shoot an innocent woman and a somewhat innocent man -- "
" -- thanks," Neal muttered.
" -- because you're trying to scare off a Fed?" Mozzie demanded. "And then when things get a little tough for you because the wiseguys don't like how you do business, you come snot-crying to this woman's home? Asking to be protected? Does he sound like he's going to protect you?" he asked, waving a hand at where Peter was still bellowing in rage in the kitchen. "No. You hustle your festering carcass down to the Federal Building and do your dirty little dance there, you punk."
"Mozzie? What's going on?" Elizabeth called. "Why is Peter yelling?"
"Ball game!" Neal yelled up to her. "No worries, we got it."
"Is that her? I'll say I'm sorry -- " Rydell started, and actually tried to push past Mozzie into the house.
Mozzie, flustered and furious, shoved him back with a shoulder. "Oh no you don't, you..." he started, and then Neal had the singular, joyous experience of seeing Mozzie take a swing at Rydell, with all his weight and fury behind it. Rydell's face made a glorious cracking noise and he went over backwards. Blood flowed freely from his nose, and his eyes rolled up in his head.
Neal stared in awe. "Moz," he said. "That was awesome!"
"I know!" Mozzie replied.
"Felt good, right?" Neal asked.
"No, I think I broke my hand," Mozzie said, cradling it. "Why do people do that?"
"Catharsis," Neal said. The dark car from earlier rolled up the street again, stopping in front of the house. Diana got out.
"I'm gonna go uncuff Peter before he puts me in all the prison, forever," Neal said. "You got this?"
"Totally!" Mozzie said, as Diana climbed the steps. "Lady Suit. Nice to see you again."
"Don't call me that," Diana said. "He ready to confess?"
"Ready, yes. Able, not so much," Neal heard Mozzie say, as he walked into the kitchen. Peter was livid.
"Okay, don't shoot me or Rydell," Neal said.
"Don't test me," Peter growled.
"Diana's got him under arrest, he's going to confess." Neal moved very slowly, taking the handcuff keys out. "And Mozzie already punched him in the face for you."
Peter stared. "Mozzie did what?"
"Socked him. Right in the nose. It was great."
"Neal, if you don't uncuff me right now I'm going to make sure you never see daylight again," Peter said. Neal held up one hand placatingly and unlocked the cuffs with the other. Peter pushed past him out into the hall, gun still in one hand. Neal watched through the kitchen window as Diana frogmarched a bleeding, semi-conscious Rydell into the car, Peter keeping lockstep the whole way.
"Now that's what I call satisfying," Neal said, when Mozzie slunk into the kitchen. "You want some ice?"
"Yes, please," Mozzie said, flexing his fingers. "Then I get to go finish my Scrabble game, right?"
The full report on Rydell didn't have all the details, but Neal was getting pretty good at navigating the FBI's somewhat unusual filing system. He assembled a special case file containing not just Rydell's sobbing, terrified confession, but also the NYPD reports on the robbery of his apartment and the theft of his identity. He couldn't get the medical documents on Rydell's horrible rash, but he did manage to get a few documentation photos from the FBI file.
"It's beautiful," Elizabeth said, paging through the report slowly. There was a wicked gleam in her eye. "It's just so beautiful. You did all this for me?" she asked, looking up at him.
"Wasn't a big deal. We had fun," Neal said. "Some of it was for Peter, too. I mean, this really broke him up, Elizabeth. You didn't see his face when he saw you after you got out of surgery. We couldn't just let that stand."
"You put yourself in a lot of danger," she said.
"I do that all the time, for the Feds." He gave her a smile. "Thing is, you might be married to a Fed but you're one of us now. So's he. Don't tell him I said that," he added.
"Our secret," she said. "When I'm up and around again I am so buying you dinner."
"I'll bring flowers," Neal promised.