Neal got the chance he was desperately hoping for when the murdering thief who called herself "Pierce" (and who was currently holding Neal at gunpoint in his own apartment) got distracted by June's arrival at his door. He sat down on the couch, made sure that his anklet was out of Pierce's sight, and quickly cut it. The con man silently thanked God that he'd learned Morse code years ago (as it frequently came in handy in his line of work). Since he knew that Peter knew it too, he immediately tapped out "power" by hitting together the cut ends of the anklet's band.
God, he really hoped that Peter would get his message. If not, he was royally screwed. As screwed as Christopher Gray was a few days ago. Pierce had shot the stock broker, and Neal knew he'd be next unless somehow Peter got the message and figured out what it meant. It was crazy how sometimes he and the FBI agent seemed to be thinking the same thing – be on the same wavelength – and Neal prayed this was another one of those times.
When he heard his landlady leave, Neal back turned towards his captor, only to see her point the gun at him again.
He held up the now-free tracker. "Tick-tock."
Neal stood up and tossed his former anklet on the floor. As they left, he figured all he could do now was play out the game and hope that Peter did his part.
Lauren rushed into Peter's office. "Neal cut his anklet."
Peter cursed to himself. What was the ex-con up to? Did this have anything to do with Alex and Pierce and the jade? Peter immediately picked up the phone and dialed Neal's cell. Maybe it wasn't what it looked like. His suspicions only deepened, however, when it went straight to voice mail. Peter slammed down the phone. "Damn it, Neal."
Peter's phone rang. He picked it up quickly. "Neal?"
"Oh, thank god, Peter." It was June. She sounded agitated. "I think Neal's in big trouble."
"Calm down, June. Tell me what happened."
Peter heard June take a deep breath, probably to steady herself. "This girl showed up, wanted to wait for Neal. I showed her in. But I swear there was something off about her. A few minutes later, I heard the door slam. I figured Neal was home. I went up to talk to him, but the girl answered the door and gave me some excuse and pushed me out. A minute later, they both left." June started speaking faster, more insistently. "Peter, he didn't want to go. I could tell. She was forcing him or something, somehow. I tell you, he's in trouble. You have to help him!"
"June, June, it's alright. I will. I swear. Now, what did this girl look like?"
"Blonde, maybe mid-twenties, tiny little thing –"
"Okay, June. I'm coming to your place. Me and my agents. We'll get your statement, see if you can ID this girl, search Neal's room –"
"No, Peter. That will take too long. There's nothing here. And Neal is in trouble right now. I'm coming to you. I know where your office is." She hung up.
Peter hurried out of his office, shouting orders to his subordinates. "Lauren, Jones, set up a photo array. Neal's landlady June is coming in to identify the woman he left her place with. It sounds like Pierce."
While he was waiting for June to arrive, Peter went to inform his boss Hughes about what was happening. He wasn't looking forward to it. Hughes had never trusted Neal. God only knew what he would think.
When June got to the office, Jones and Lauren showed her the photos. She immediately identified Pierce. "Oh, that's her."
In the meantime, Hughes was instructing Peter.
"Alright, pull every alias Caffrey has. Hit the airports and the waterways. We can't let them escape with the jade or the Japanese are going to be very, very upset."
"I don't think they ran together. Neal knows better by now."
"Peter, he set Alex up as a fence for the jade and he let Pierce escape tonight. Caffrey put every damn thing in place."
That gave Peter pause for a second. He wanted to believe in Neal, really he did. But it was so hard sometimes. And right now, things did point to Neal working with Pierce. His fence Alex had shown up just at the right time. Neal had lied to Peter about who she was, then got very upset when Peter pulled her prints. And Alex could have come to the bar and blown their operation there intentionally, letting Pierce get away.
Peter sighed. After the serious argument they'd had earlier that night, Neal was majorly pissed at him. Maybe that was the trigger. Maybe their partnership was over. Maybe Neal didn't trust him any longer, not enough to stick around any more, at least.
It was a good thing that June was there to get his head on straight. "Peter, we both know he didn't run."
Peter stared at her for a moment and then nodded. Yeah, he did. He knew Neal. Inside and out. She was right. There was no way that Neal did this. There was no way this was what it looked like. But now he had to prove it. And if Neal was in trouble, to rescue him.
Lauren got his attention, holding up Pierce's picture to show him that June had identified Pierce as the woman with Neal. Peter walked over to her. "Pull Neal's tracking information. I want to see everywhere he went this week."
When he got the information, Peter poured over it, trying to find something, anything, that could help him find Neal, figure out where he'd go. Okay, he was at the ice rink at Rockefeller center at the time that Gray was shot. And the rest of the information – was useless. Neal didn't go anywhere unexpected, and Peter was with him most of the time anyway (especially as he'd been staying at his place for the last two days).
"Argh!" Peter threw aside the worthless information. He knew that now the only thing left was to do it the hard way. Neal and Pierce couldn't have gotten far.
"Jones, order a city-wide APB for both Neal and Pierce. Make sure to put out that Pierce is armed and dangerous, and Neal is most likely a hostage and definitely not dangerous."
Peter sat down at his desk, putting his head in his hands. Think, think, damn it. Where would Neal go?
Neal arrived at the Burkes' townhouse, Pierce still in tow. He quickly picked the lock and let himself in (making a mental note to talk to Peter and Elizabeth about improving their home security, especially with their new home entertainment system).
He led Pierce in. "My buddy's upstate. Cuts the power when he goes." Neal flipped the lights on and off, carefully making sure to leave them in the "on" position. "It's the perfect hiding place for the jade."
"Where are the pieces?"
"He told me he put them in a drawer."
"Hey! You think I'm stupid? Stay back where I can see you."
While Pierce was distracted by pawing through Peter and Elizabeth's dining room drawers, Neal positioned himself next to the stereo, turning it on and dialing the volume up to the max. If Peter had gotten his "power" message, hopefully he had figured out that it meant that he'd be taking Pierce to Peter's place and he wanted Peter to turn the power on at the right moment.
Neal carefully sidled his way over to the other side of the living room, near the new HDTV Peter was going to die for. But before he could turn it on, Pierce turned her flashlight – and her gun – on him.
"Where the hell are they?"
"He swore to me they are here, okay?"
"Don't play with me, Caffrey."
"Hey, hey, I want this thing over just as much as you do. Alright?"
Neal breathed a sigh of relief when Pierce went back to pawing through the Burkes' stuff. It gave him the chance to turn on the TV and turn its volume up as well. Unfortunately, the respite didn't last long. After a few minutes, she turned on him again.
"They're not here, Caffrey."
"If he said they're here, they're here. We just gotta keep looking." Neal put his hands out and started to back away as his words didn't seem to be working. She was looking more and more pissed, and she was raising her gun towards him in a purposeful manner. Neal started shaking his head. "Please."
As he stared down the barrel of her gun, a refrain started in his head. Come on, Peter. Where are you? It's about time. Any time now. As if he really could communicate with Peter telepathically. That would come in really handy right about now. Neal held his breath. Waiting. But nothing happened. No Peter, no nothing. Neal started to lose hope that Peter had gotten his message. And then suddenly –
Neal gasped as he felt the bullet rip through him. He went down, shoulder burning, barely aware of Pierce as she ran by him and out the door. Damn, damn, damn. Neal pressed his left hand against his right shoulder, which hurt like hell, but he needed to stop the bleeding. He got shakily up to his feet and staggered towards the door. He knew that the shoulder had a hell of a lot of blood vessels and if he didn't get to a hospital soon, he could easily bleed to death.
He stumbled down the Burkes' steps and then collapsed onto the sidewalk, where he lay, trying to get his bearings. His shoulder was burning with a pain worse than he'd ever felt in his life. He could feel the blood, sticky and warm, covering that side of his body. Things were starting to gray out, like he was about to pass out from the blood loss. He took a deep breath. Keep it together, Neal. Think, think, damn it.
He finally got enough brainpower together to come up with one thought: Cell. 911. Now. He scrambled to get his phone out, but could barely see it, barely handle it. He fumbled with it, trying to get his hands – sticky and slick with blood – to work the little buttons. Before he could, though, the gray out turned into a black out and he fell back, no longer aware of anything.
Peter sat in the emergency room, watching Neal, waiting for him to wake up. According to the doctor, the primary problem was that he'd lost a lot of blood. There was no major damage otherwise. And now that they were giving him a transfusion and replacing the blood, he should be waking up any time now. And right on cue...
Neal groaned and started to move around, his eyes flickering. He froze, however, his eyes popping open when his left arm was stopped mid-motion with a clank. He was handcuffed to the side rail of the bed.
"Hey. Easy there."
Neal's eyes flicked over to Peter at the words, then over to the cuffs. "Peter..." He whispered.
"These are courtesy of the NYPD." Peter's hand moved over to still Neal's and lower it gently to the bed. He studied Neal's face for a moment. His forehead was creased. He looked worried.
"How am I? Is it –"
"You lost a lot of blood, but you'll be fine."
Neal lay his head back, saying softly in relief, "Thank God."
Peter studied Neal for a moment, remembering how worried he'd been when he got the call that Neal had been shot and rushed to the ER. It was a harrowing half hour until he'd gotten the news that Neal would be all right. He remembered how the relief had flooded through him.
Peter took a deep breath and sat back. "You know, Neal, you're very lucky that you made it outside. A neighbor called 911. And when you got here to the ER, they were legally required to notify the NYPD about the gunshot wound. They're the ones who cuffed you to the bed. And they notified us once they figured out who you were."
Neal didn't respond right away. Peter sat and gave him time to process everything. After a few minutes, Neal picked up his head and watched Peter for a moment. Then he licked his lips.
"You didn't come."
Neal blinked but didn't respond for a moment, watching Peter some more. "You didn't get my message?"
Peter leaned forwards in his chair, closer to Neal, and studied him. "What message?"
Neal sighed and lay back. "Doesn't matter."
"Neal, what message?"
But Neal just shook his head. After a moment, Peter gave up and sat back. Maybe he'd get the full story later. Peter could wait Neal out. Eventually, Neal was ready to talk again, after a nurse's visit, and after he'd gotten some water and was allowed to sit up a bit.
Neal looked intently at Peter. He took a deep breath. "Look, Peter, I didn't run. I wasn't working with Pierce –"
Peter held up his hand and interrupted him. "I know."
"Yes, I know, and I'm sorry."
Neal looked confused. "You're sorry? About me getting shot?"
"No, well, yes, I'm sorry you got shot. But I mean, I'm sorry I doubted you." Peter took a deep breath and looked Neal in the eyes. "After we learned that you'd cut your anklet, I thought that maybe – just for a moment there before I came to my senses – I thought that maybe you'd decided to leave after our argument. You were pretty pissed at me."
"No." Neal chuckled a little. "I don't even remember what we were arguing about anyway."
Peter followed suit. "No, me neither."
Peter and Neal both sat back and sat in companionable silence for a while. Then Neal spoke up.
"You know, now that I think back on it... I think I was pissed at you for being you, and you were pissed at me for being me."
Peter thought for a moment, remembering what all they said, then chuckled. "Yeah, I think you're right."