White collar

The dilemma

Neal was dressed in a tux and his hair was slicked back with gel. He looked good, just like an assistant of a major art collector.
Kate walked up to Neal and stroked his dark tie between her fingers.
“You look good Neal.”
“And you look gorgeous.”
They stared into each other’s eyes, and then Kate scoffed.
“Can you believe it Neal? In the end of the day, we’ll be millionaires. And tomorrow, we’ll be sipping fine wine on a beautiful tropical beach, forgetting the world and just living in the now.”
The thought did make Neal smile, and he planted a kiss on her cheek.
She immediately smiled, and Kate’s lips found their way back to Neal’s.

Just as they stood there, kissing passionately, with the world fading around them, someone cleared their throat.

Kate and Neal broke off the kiss and Neal found himself slightly embarrassed as he looked into Alex’s eyes.
“Well, hello Neal.”
“Alex- hi.” Neal ran his fingers through his hair
“Save it. Let’s get back to business.”
Neal was surprised that Alex was here since Kate had claimed that Alex had double crossed Neal/Kate by telling Peter that Neal was alive.
Something didn’t seem quite right about this picture, so Neal decided to investigate and get Alex into another room, so that he could get his questions answered.

It was noon, and the art gallery was empty on visitors. This was a special closed deal, and Neal was going to triumph around midnight, sitting on an airplane, with hundreds of dollars injected in ten bottles of wine. Because who would think to transport actual money in wine?
It was brilliant, and at the same time, undetectable; at least for people not looking. Neal didn’t know why, and he really couldn’t understand why, he had suggested that plan.
Because Neal knew, that if Peter was looking for Neal, then Peter could follow the bread crumbs that Neal had casted.
By the end of the day, the art collectors would transfer the money to the 24 hour vital account, and then Neal would be free. No, free wasn’t right. He’d be disgustingly rich, and he’d be with his one, true Kate. He’d be in heaven.
Nothing but mojitos on beaches.
Kate and Neal walked down the corridor where brick after brick created a path guiding them to their target.
Neal’s heart pumped rapidly and he greeted them with a smile. Minutes passed and they had engaged in a conversation, which Neal after a while realized, that the both of them were pretty pretentious.
Fake laughs, and a few handshakes later, Neal and Kate lead the two targets outside, where their not shady, but normal-looking truck stood parked.
While the art collectors reached the truck, and Neal opened the cargo space, the targets raised their eyebrows in awe. It was spectacular. It was too easy.
One of the targets hoped up into the truck and then he studied a coin.
“Remarkable, we’ll just have to test these and then we’re good to go.” Neal smiled a smug smile. The chemicals would be valid for a month before they started to falter.
So after a month they’d have nothing more than a pile of worthless copper. It had taken Neal like a week to sculpture the treasure, and now when Neal saw their targets faces, he felt proud. There was one painting that he was particularly proud of, what he had done was to take the paint from the painting Kate had stolen months ago from that German museum…
This plan had taken months for Kate to plan and put the wheels in motion, creating a reputation, and taking pictures of the “recovery”.
The four of them went inside, and the target holding the coin smiled as he scanned it, seeing the result that shouted it was the real deal. As the targets kept scanning, Neal thought back to the moment Neal had shared with Alex.

Alex sneaked gracefully into Neal’s hotel room and then she looked around.

“Is she here?” Alex asked with her playful smile on.


“Alright, what is it that you want to talk about?”

“Alex, I need your honest opinion. Do you think it’s crazy that I’m with her?” Alex just gestured with her arms.

“Look who you’re asking.”

“I’m serious Alex.”

“Okay, okay. Fine. To be honest, I think you’re pretty crazy.”

“But is what Kate said true?”

“Well, the treasure is a con, which you know. And what exactly is true again?”

“She told me that you double crossed her. About you telling Peter that I was alive.” Alex seemed to be hiding something, but a second later her face was phased out into dismay.

“That’s not what you’re asking. You’re really asking me if you can trust her. And you know what Neal? I’m not going to tell you what to if you can or not.” And just like that she left the room. She was right, to a point, that Neal was doubting, deep inside, if he could really trust her.

Looking at her now, seeing her con two clueless gallery owners, he knew immediately that he could never trust her. Never as he could back then.

The targets took out their laptop and they transferred the money to the bank account that would be valid for 24 hours. The smooth thing about this con, was that this museum had a real competition with three other, large museums which had more money than them. So they didn’t mind making a shady deal just to rub it in their faces.
Neal and Kate stepped outside and Neal threw his arms around Kate’s. It was all over.

The wind blew hard, catching Kate’s hair, entangling her hair into a mess. The hair masked her face and she tried desperately to get the hair out of her eyes.
“Neal!” she screamed. The wind kept blowing and rain started falling. The rain soaked Neal’s shirt and hair.
“I’m here!” he shouted back as he got up on the pier. He walked towards the boat that waited at bay; it swayed silently as the rain kept pouring. It was soon about to become night and Neal was both excited and reluctant. His life would never be the same. It wouldn’t be like in Paris, where he had been hiding in the cities shadows.
Peter already knew that he was alive, so Peter would probably be hunting down Neal’s ass.
The chase was on. It always was, and it always will, until death will tear them apart.
Neal ran his fingers through his cold hair that kept dripping water.
He was just meters away from the boat that would take him to the airport.
Just a couple of meters away from alleviation.
He was soon to disappear forever and to never see an old soul again.
Neal was now so close to the boat that he could easily step unto the boat, and that’s when he heard him.
There was someone lurking in the shadows, inhaling the grace of the buried sea. Someone was coming, and that someone was coming for him.
“Neal stop!” Neal glanced back at Peter who was shouting at him to stay. Neal doubted, he was caught in between. His heart was screaming to follow Kate, but his mind wanted him to stay. Peter would probably find Neal again- he always did. Neal considered for a brief moment of how it would be if he actually stayed. Neal could return to New York, pick on where he left off, serve his sentence and then be actually free. But then life never actually turns out how you’ve always planned it to. You get screwed over by life and that’s the simple truth.
But if Neal stayed, there would always be people with the higher power to make sure that Neal stays on a tight leash. He would never be truly free. Not if he stayed. Neal could pretend that his life was about to change when he wore that anklet, but now when he was out of his cage and had tasted freedom, which he had desperately missed, he couldn’t say yes. Neal considered his options, and somehow, through all of Neal’s questions, Neal couldn’t decide.

“Neal. Please, listen; you can’t go.” Neal smiled one of those smiles that showed the people around him that he was in control of the situation.

“I know that you’ve missed me, I’ve missed you too; but I can’t stay.”

“You’re living in a bubble Neal, all of this- this’s not a real life. You need to wake up Neal, because this’s just a dream, and you know that. Please Neal, come back, you could serve your sentence and then there would be no anklet. You could keep on living, without a leash.” Peter’s words were a wakeup call, and Neal couldn’t help but notice how those words had touched Neal. Life was like chess, and Peter had just made a bold move.

But Neal wasn’t sure, he was puzzled, more of clueless. Neal placed his right foot on the edge of the boat, and he looked at Kate that sat quietly under the roof of the boat with a scared look on her face. She knew that it was all on Neal to decide. She knew that Peter could make a call anytime and have them arrested here and now. The most problematic question was if Peter had brought back up or not.

“Are we surrounded?” was the first question that hit Neal’s mind as he looked around the bay. There was really nothing to see since the rain kept falling and falling, shielding Neal from whatever was ten meters away. Neal looked at Peter who shook his head, and then Peter took a step forward.

“Don’t go. I won’t ask you again Neal. You’re making a big mistake if you chose to go unto that boat. You could make great things Neal! You could help people by solving crimes, just like the old times. Don’t make the same mistake again.”

Neal was at loss. Peter didn’t threat him; he just stood there, meters away from Neal, holding his distance. All Peter wanted was to talk some sense into Neal, it was just too bad that Neal had a hard time realizing that.
With Peter there was always a game. Neal always needed to be on the edge, figuring out what Peter thought and was about to do. But now?

Neal looked back at Kate, that eyed him expectantly, and then Neal looked back at Peter, who looked at him with empathy.

The only question Neal kept asking himself was what he was supposed to do.

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