The Commission

Chapter 12

"Hello, Norbert Caraway," the nasal voice said into Peter's ear.

"Hi, Norbert, this is Señor Ulysses Iroquois Tuttle," Peter barely got the odd collection of names out without laughing, but trusted that the master criminal would understand only the first letter of each name was significant.

As expected, Moz was well prepared for any situation requiring espionage and quickly grasped that the unfamiliar number belonged to the burner phone he'd gotten for sensitive business. "Glad you learned your lesson, Sr. Tuttle; I myself have several dedicated lines."

"I'd like to take you up on your offer to sweep my house, if you don't mind," Peter said. If he was well enough to be on his feet today, he was going to go to the office, but couldn't do so with a clear conscience until his home was swept for bugs.

"Of course, for the lovely Señora, anything. Will she be at home?"

"She'll be back this afternoon. I'm going to be basically sleeping at the office until we find our mutual friend, so I'd like to contract you, Norbert, or one of your associates, if necessary, as a guard of my wife and home."

"Those are two different jobs, Sr. Tuttle, best to keep a rotating group of people at a discreet distance on the Señora."

"I'm glad we see things the same way," Peter said from a few blocks away from the bureau building. "There's a matter I'd like you to look into personally. No expenses spared, you tell not a soul."

"I'm intrigued," Mozzie said into his ear.

"Drugs."

"Drugs? Whose drugs? What?" the voice squawked.

"Prentiss Lloyd Scott. Neal. Me. Drugs. You have everything I know, which is nothing, and I don't want to influence you further. Suffice it to say that your Cahuarani Indians got me to looking at my recent experiences in a whole new light."

Peter asked a few specific questions and gave instructions for further research. Then he hung up on the frustrated curiosity from the con man. He hated to admit it, but both he and Mozzie were well-adapted paranoiacs. Now that he started the other man on his line of reasoning, the criminal could be trusted to follow his own parallel investigation to the one Peter was about to force onto the FBI.

"No news, Agent Burke, but we did get a report—"

"Peter, I have something I want to show you—"

"Is Neal a good enough swimmer to get across the English Channel?"

Peter nodded and smiled at all the questions. For the next little while, he had decided, he was going to ignore everything except what could actually get Neal back.

Obeying the summons from his supervisor, Peter walked into the glass office and closed the door behind him.

"You said you wanted a private meeting?" Hughes said. He looked tired. Peter's well-rested state gave him the edge he needed.

"Yes, sir." Peter unfolded the printed piece of paper and handed it over.

"This floor needs to be swept for state-of-the-art surveillance equipment detailed on the reverse of this page. I have reason to believe that Caffrey is the victim of a scenario I don't fully understand but do suspect Prentiss Lloyd Scott to be at the center of it.

I make two requests to help ascertain these serious allegations:

1) That Neal is taken alive, since he unwittingly bears evidence to support my theory, and

2) That you test me for every known intoxicant and then begin on the unknowns, using information I will supply from a confidential informant forthwith.

Sincerely,

Agent Peter Burke

"What kind of nonsense is this?" hs supervisor snapped obviously with little patience left after over a day on a high-profile manhunt.

"Let me buy you a cup of real coffee," Peter suggested, knowing his boss's tastes, and led them to a coffee bar outside the building. He didn't disclose everything that had transpired with Prentiss Scott, obviously, but he did describe in detail his experience the last time he was in the mansion.

"Altered perceptions, a high degree of suggestibility, chills, fever, nausea, dizziness, and then sleeping it off for a day? I'm fine now, but I want to make sure that whatever is in my system is captured while it's still there."

"It sounds like the flu, Burke," Hughes observed, savoring a cappuccino.

"I haven't cried so much since my father died," Peter said simply. "For an hour or so, I thought everything the man was saying to me was the gospel truth."

The veteran FBI agent looked at him for a long moment and nodded. "You do understand that if they find any substance it could go either way for you?"

"I'm pretty confident that the fact that I requested the tests will go a long way in my favor," Peter said, getting up. "Can we get the forms taken care of together on our way in so we limit the number of people who know about this?"

"Sure, but answer me this, Burke, what did Prentiss Scott say to you exactly?"

"He told me I was without redemption." That was it, in a nutshell.

"And you believed him." Hughes threw away his paper cup.

"If he'd told me to take out my gun and shoot myself I would have done it." Only afterwards had Peter realized how dangerous it was for him to have a gun on him in that state of mind.

"People aren't going to want to hear this. There are agents aiming to make their careers on capturing Caffrey," his boss said on the walk back to the office.

"Let them. As long as they bring him back unharmed," Peter said. "I have every reason to believe that when he left he was under duress."

"We'll cross that bridge later," his supervisor said as they were going up to the floor with the medical team. "Are you still on point for leading the capture op?"

"Absolutely," Peter said. "Don't let them sideline me when they find something in my system. I've got more pieces of this puzzle than anyone else, boss, and the picture I'm seeing is going to be huge."

On the way back into the office, Mozzie had texted him a list of medical tests to ask for, not all of which were standard for the FBI.

"We don't even have a form for that test," objected the staff doctor. "I've never ordered it myself. And this other condition is only known to exist in South America."

"But as an MD, you can authorize any test you like, correct? You write it on your prescription pad, take my blood, send it off to the lab. That's the process, right? If it's a question of resources, I'll reimburse the FBI myself." Peter could sense his boss giving him an appraising glance, but after his little mobile therapy session with Terence and a good 24 hours' sleep, Peter's mind had never been calmer.

"Give him whatever he wants. We'll sort it out later. But I must ask for the maximum discretion on this," Hughes said.

That finally sprung the FBI doctor into action. She wrote an order for the tests from Mozzie and then pointed to a couple of additions. "I have no idea what's going on, but I did do a year of service in Peru. These are couple tests that might have relevance for that area."

Peter sat down and rolled up his sleeve. "See you soon, sir. And thank you. Don't start the strategy meeting without me."

The doctor took a great deal of blood as well as a hair sample. "I hope you find something," Peter said when they were done.

"Most people say the opposite," the doctor observed. "You think you were unwillingly exposed?"

"I'm sure of it," the FBI agent said, putting on his jacket. "I'm not sure I'll be able to prove it. But I'm afraid there's someone much worse off than I am, so please pull whatever strings you can to get those results back fast."

"You've got me curious," she said as he left.

"All right everyone, we're going to be shifting gears just slightly," Peter said to the packed conference room. People had already burned the midnight oil on the usual "let's-capture-Neal-Caffrey" strategy, and there were grumbles at the mention of innovations.

"Burke, I missed my kid's recital; you better not tell me you knew where he was the whole time," a man said.

"I was sick as a dog yesterday, but more on that later. My instincts are telling me" (he glanced briefly at Diana and Jones) "that Neal is the victim of a crime, not the author of one this time." There were incredulous noises. "I have yet to convince anyone of that yet, but as one of the human beings that knows Neal Caffrey the best, I've been allowed to devote a small amount of resources to my parallel investigation. So most of you will continue as you were with one big difference."

He looked around the room, his new serene voice delivering his plea: "Bring him back alive."

Peter was allowed to choose a small working group, so he chose Diana and Jones and let them recruit a few rookies for the grunt work. These last were set to do searches in every database that might capture hospital admissions for someone matching Neal's description. While those searches were running, the junior agents would be looking into obscure drugs, with data funneled in from Mozzie and his shadowy minions.

His day and early evening were spent surrounded by his second family, the bureau. Peter had a brief conversation with Elizabeth at one point, in which he shared the triumph of having secured his small working group, but other than that he was completely immersed in being the captain of this FBI boat whose navigation was now in his bones.

By around 10:00 pm, many people had gone home. Some bored-looking junior agents were sitting in front of active computerized data searches and fiddling with their cell phones.

Peter was sitting at his desk, trying to make sense of a technical treatise on intoxicants when Diana rapped on the glass.

"Hey, Di, what are you still doing here?" He scanned her serious face. "Bad news?"

"No, boss," he gestured to a chair. "I just think there's something you and I need to—"

"We are not having this conversation," Peter snapped and then apologized. "I'm so sorry. The only way I've been able to get through today is by not having a serious conversation about how much trouble Neal is in, and you and I know each other better than that."

The female agent took a deep breath. "Yes, we do. That's why I think now is the time to tell you—I know."

This was one of those moments you never forget. He was sure of it. Peter Burke sustained the gaze of the first person close to him to find out about this new facet of his. The fact that Diana knew how hard it had been to be professional today made it feel like a small amount of the burden of love he'd been carrying in his heart had, in fact, been borne by someone else.

"How long?" he finally asked, because that was the crucial question.

"A long time," she said gently.

This was the greatest relief of all. That meant that his feelings for Neal weren't some sick game cooked up by Prentiss Scott. A year ago, Peter might have hoped for the opposite, he realized.

"At the risk of invading your privacy, I know how hard all this is for you right now. So I'm someone to talk to, if you want."

"I actually already have someone to talk to about this," he said, and her eyebrows shot up.

"Elizabeth?" the female agent asked.

"Elizabeth is a wise woman," was all that Agent Burke would say to that. He was too worn out to get into that subject right now.

"Regardless, boss," Diana got to her feet, "I know how it feels to have the deck stacked against you. Maybe not with a billionaire hell-bent on ruining my life, but regardless, I'm here."

"Thanks, Di, that means more than you know."

She enclosed him in a hug and they stayed that way for a long moment.

"Wait! Does anyone else-?!"

"Not at all, why do you think I've been so good at keeping this to the level of a joke? If the resident lesbian doesn't think there's anything to you and Neal, then there must not be anything there."

Peter wrestled with himself before asking the question: "Do you think Neal-?"

She shook her head. "He's too good of a con man for me to read. Sorry."

They bade each other good night, and Peter slept on the couch in his office, hoping for some news, any news.

He had used one of the staff showers, shaved, changed into emergency clothes and eaten one of the stale bagels laying around for breakfast when someone grabbed him out of the beginning of a traditional "Caffrey manhunt" meeting. How much had changed since he felt the thrill of the chase, he was thinking as he followed the junior officer to an office where the FBI doctor and his supervisor were waiting.

"This is either very good news or very bad news," he quipped with a levity he didn't feel.

"Are you on antidepressants?" the doctor asked.

"No, why?" he asked.

She rattled off a list of drug names and a few herbal preparations.

Hughes slid a piece of paper across the table before he could ask what was going on. "We've sent someone to search your house for these medications, and will eventually have to ask for medical records as well. So if you don't mind, sign here that you don't take any of these substances."

Peter had one moment of sheer panic before he remembered that as far as anyone knew, Terence was just a guy who picked up trash in Central Park.

"The FBI isn't interested in why someone might take these psychiatric drugs," Hughes said mildly, though Peter couldn't conceive of anyone taking them for any reason that would endear them to the bureau.

"Do what you like, but I don't understand. I'm trying to find proof that someone gave me an intoxicant against my will, and you're talking about legal antidepressants." He saw that aspirin and Tums weren't on the paper, and signed.

"I think you're right about being dosed," the doctor finally said. "But we're still a ways off from proving it. One of the active agents that I believe you were dosed with was dimethyltryptamine or DMT. Which is, unfortunately—

"Untraceable by any test." Peter sank down into his chair.

"But wait. This was part of an herbal preparation called ayahuasca, which is used by South American indigenous people roughly like some tribes use peyote in North America. Usually a mixture of shrubs and vines."

"South America, that's good," Peter said, brightening, aware that Hughes was studying him. He'd been avoiding having any specific conversations about what this menace was that had hurt Neal, and the old agent's imagination was doubtless tending more towards drug cartel rather than gay billionaire.

"You may not be aware that ayahuasca needs a sort of potentiating ingredient to make it 'go.' Specifically, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, or MAOI."

"Which is used as an antidepressant, such as all those drugs on the list."

"And such as we found in your system."

Peter had no time to savor the good news, because he was grilled first by the doctor, then his supervisor.

The doctor wanted a detailed account of his symptoms the day he'd seen Scott, and of course Peter had to concentrate on giving a sanitized version. Then, his boss was an expert in old Cold War-era methods of drugging someone against their will, and he had to mentally walk through his steps in the mansion again and again.

"My instincts have been driving me nuts for months about this guy Scott," Peter said apologetically. "I knew in a way I still can't explain that he'd precipitated Neal's disappearance, and you know how I get during a chase. I was off my game."

"That's all right," the doctor said brightly. "We'll just have to go over you inch by inch for puncture marks."

Something in his expression must have set him off because Hughes burst out laughing. "Get over it, Burke, a little physical is nothing compared to having survived your first psychedelic experience. Timothy Leary and his bunch used to call DMT the 'businessman's lunch' because you could have a nice, short trip and then go about your day. As opposed to LSD, which we would have mandated a week's leave if we caught you with that."

"You lead the way," Peter said to the doctor. "Hughes, if this is enough to start making my side investigation the main one, we need to talk."

"Come find me when your clothes are back on," the old agent said.

It took a very long time, even with the doctor's assistant helping. They went over Peter's skin under microscopic magnification, starting with the top of his head. Luckily he didn't have to take off anything more than his shirt for them to find it.

It was a small puncture wound on the back of his upper arm, in a place not readily visible to him. And the wound itself was too tiny to attract attention.

"I remember now. There was a slightly longer delay than usual before they let me in, and I thought it was incriminating at the time. It occurred to me that this guy might be hiding Neal in that big house of his, and I actually looked forward to disrupting his perfectly arranged treasures with a search warrant," Peter admitted.

"But when would the drug have been administered?" the doctor asked.

"The butler always does this fussy thing with your coat—when he takes it off of you, and when he puts it on, he's very much in your space. I always hate it, but this time, when he laid his hand on my arm as if he were going to take off my coat, and I shrugged him off, not in the mood to play games."

"That sounds well-choreographed," the doctor observed. "Whose house was this again?"

"It's either going to be all over this building shortly or I'm going to be packing my desk," Peter said darkly. "Let's wait and see."

Hughes the old battle-axe took the few shreds of evidence from Peter's body and began to do that magical thing of his: he agreed with you, and somehow he got his way anyway. The veteran agent was patient, far more so than Peter, and was thus the right one to chip away at the widespread belief that the only quirk of Prentiss Lloyd Scott, the billionaire philanthropist, was that he was seen outside all too seldom.

The fact that a few bugs had turned up in the hallways on Peter's floor only—at least they'd only found a few so far—was enough to make the whole bureau start paying attention to the case. Whoever had planted them had not gotten in his office, Peter chose to believe.

He assigned Jones to pore through any video footage of Neal from the last year compared to the previous time he'd been with the bureau. They were all working late by the time he'd assembled his Caffrey montage, but Jones' face was somber when he pressed the play button for their team, Hughes, and a few others who were still there.

"You see, this is January, when Neal first met Prentiss Scott. When would you say that he started sleeping there?" Jones asked, pausing the video.

Very aware that all eyes were on him, Peter answered naturally, "When he stopped eating breakfast at the office and didn't have a cup of coffee first thing." He shrugged. "March. Everything in that house is the best, so why would he settle for the coffee mere mortals drink?"

Jones pressed play. "Wait for it, wait for it. There."

"Play that again," Hughes instructed.

They all watched Neal walk into a dividing wall at a gallery sting. He recovered so gracefully it was almost hard to spot. As it must have been for everyone with him at the time.

Jones had spliced together many more clumsy motions that looked strange in the smooth con man. Gradually, over the months, Neal moved more slowly, seemed less engaged with people.

"Unfortunately, most of our footage is too far away and we can't see facial features very well. But this is very recent, from that Metropolitan Museum event. In addition to their security videos, which are a little better than ours, they had someone taking photos of all the bigwigs for their archive. Do you remember, Peter?"

"There was someone when we came in, but I don't recall if they moved around," Peter said, his heart filling with sorrow at the idea that his date with Neal was about to be further tainted.

Jones queued up a slideshow of photos that had captured Neal at the event. Peter saw them arm-in-arm, laughing and pointing at that painting that looked like Sonny Bono.

They looked good together. It was real.

"Here it is," said Jones.

"He looks drunk. Did he have anything to drink?" demanded Hughes.

"Not until dinner. We were still looking at the art. All we had at that point was a cheese puff."

The photo had captured Neal in its center, with Peter's face in the background. Neal's eyelids seemed heavy but his pupils were the giveaway.

"He looks like he's tripping," Jones summed it up. "Big ol' pupils. He's staring at a plant, by the way, not a Gauguin."

Peter followed Jones' finger on the display, and then saw the long series of pictures taken immediately before and after. Neal had been caught staring at a plant for quite a few frames. With a goofy smile on his face.

But the agent whose hand was so proudly on his arm hadn't noticed a thing.

"You, Anders, go through Caffrey's history for drug use and/or trafficking. Someone find something with Caffrey's hair on it ASAP. Go to his apartment if you need to." Hughes finished delegating and pointed at Peter, Diana and Jones. "You three, with me."

The three of them stood there, unsure if they were being berated for bringing an intoxicated person out into the field, thereby endangering everyone, or if they were being called out on the more fundamental FBI agent failing—that of being completely unobservant to something that was now painfully clear.

"I'm going to speak for all of us, sir," Peter said in a pause in the tirade. "We were all concerned about Neal. But drugs never came to mind. He showed up on time, he helped crack cases-you can see our closure rate is about the same."

"Down two percent," Hughes barked. "And did you express this concern to anyone? To your supervisor, perhaps?"

"Do you believe that Prentiss Lloyd Scott has been drugging Neal Caffrey for almost eight months? Why would a multimillionaire drug a thief? It made far more sense that Neal was in the middle of some complicated heist, but Neal's attitude didn't mesh."

"I kept records of our research into former acquaintances of Scott's," Diana stepped forward. "The only bureau resource we're guilty of misusing is our own sleep, sir, but you can look through our notes. We found the loosest of patterns, but no proof."

"We think this man is some kind of refined sadist that enjoys ruining people's lives," Jones added. "But he's so smart and so rich, it's like he enjoys being beyond reproach."

"All of this sounds like you took your agents with you on your trip, Burke," spluttered Hughes.

Peter smiled wryly. This was going to take a long time to live down. "I'm coming to you now with a medical report," he pointed to his supervisor's desk, "that says there were traces of compounds typical of an ayahuasca preparation imbedded in the puncture wound in my arm. And it still sounds preposterous. You would have sent me for a psych eval if I came to you with mere suspicions months ago."

Peter wasn't at all sure he was going to get through this situation without one.

The old man made a gesture of defeat. "We're missing the why, people. And also, any reason at all to open an investigation into a billionaire. He probably has more lawyers than I have hairs on my head. You've already pissed him off, Peter, so unless I want more of my agents to go down under a rain of poison blow darts or something equally improbable, you need to start pulling this thing together." Peter opened his mouth. "And we're not going to rule out recreational drug use until I get many different hair samples from Caffrey. Who is still missing, by the way."

Hughes rustled the papers on his desk and Jones and Diana slunk out. He looked up. "You were going to say something?"

"Yes, sir. I think we need a profiler," Peter said.

"By all means. Get one out of bed."

"I have an outside man in mind."

"A contractor. Fine."

"There are a few details I need to iron out."

"Blast it all, Burke, I've looked at you and your crazy theories too much today. Do it. Do what it takes. Go away."

Smiling inwardly, Peter left his supervisor's office with the open-ended approval he needed.

Peter went home and gave Elizabeth a summary of the progress and lack of progress—as much as he could before collapsing from exhaustion. They had a long-delayed conversation pending but there wasn't time for anything until they found Neal.

The next morning very early he enlisted Mozzie's help in finding a way to hire Terence as a profiler without arousing too many suspicions at the group home and, most importantly, without getting himself fired.

There wasn't time for anything else, so he just called Terence a consultant and made an end of it. By the time someone raised a red flag, he hoped Neal would be found.

Neal's hair sample results started to come back and Peter was torn between triumph at the cornucopia of strange compounds present and terror at what this drug cocktail had done to his friend.

He was in the middle of a meeting with the legal department, who were all telling him he was a David compared to Prentiss Lloyd Scott's Goliath when Peter broke off mid-sentence. He opened the door to their glass-enclosed meeting room. "Sorry, everyone, I need to get our profiler up to speed."

He beamed at Terence, who beamed back.

Diana and Jones raised their eyebrows but joined the two men in a conference room. Terence had already signed so many confidentiality agreements that they could all speak freely. The newest member of their team listened quietly to Jones' long explanation, some of which he already knew.

Finally, he spoke. "You would think that if Neal's sick and in the hospital they would want to find out who he was because they want to get paid, if nothing else. That leaves us a few possibilities, one of which is that he's so sick that they couldn't turn him out if they wanted to." He was carefully not looking at Peter. "But I'm not sure you've explored another avenue. His criminal connections."

"His little criminal friend? I'm sure you've been in touch," Diana said to Peter.

"Neal has a very close friend who has—many—ties to the underworld communities," Peter said. "And yes, he's leaving no stone unturned."

Terence sat back. "The only way Neal hasn't seen at least one person from the underworld is if he fell sick before he could contact them, so let's assume at least one criminal in the US might have seen him."

"We don't know he's still in the US," Diana put in.

"Now, if I were a crook," he continued, "and I had seen this major wanted criminal looking poorly, maybe I wasn't in a position to help him out. Criminals are mighty preoccupied folks. If not, I wouldn't tell his best friend who might put a fatwa on me for not dropping everything to help. It's a close-knit world, and if this dude's as connected as all that, and really tight with Neal, I'm just sayin'.'"

The three of them sat there for a moment. "How do you propose we get around that self-preservation instinct, if that's what you're saying?" Jones asked with a good deal more respect.

"I'd start with getting a promise from his good friend that he does not, in fact, intend to ruin the livelihood and peace of mind of anyone who hurt his friend." Given Mozzie's extreme protectiveness, it was quite possible.

"So we put out a press release in the criminal community, anything else?"

"The FBI puts out word that they might wipe off a minor offense or two from people's records if they have good info," Terence suggested. "Ya'll do that stuff, right?"

"We'll take it under advisement," Peter said, knowing almost anything could be approved if the right signatures were obtained. He stood up.

"Where are you going?" Terence asked, a trifle nervously.

"I'm going to contact the friend. Diana and Jones will work on getting you set up with the information to profile Prentiss Scott."

Peter worked steadily through the next two days, going home only to bring several changes of clothes back. Neal had now been gone for six and a half days, and the most likely scenario given by the doctor was that Neal had a psychotic break from all the drugs in his system.

"Let's get lunch," Terence said from the doorway to Peter's office.

"No, I can't—"

"You're about overdue for an appointment, and I'm getting used to eating something other than baloney sandwiches and government cheese for lunch," Terence stated firmly.

"I never got you that belt," Peter said over sandwiches at his favorite deli.

"I may not need one at this rate," Terence smiled. "I see you've been taking him out for a walk."

Peter started. "I haven't been trying to get in touch with the me that's in love with Neal—I've been too busy trying to find him. But Diana did tell me she's known for some time, and that was a load off my mind."

"Regardless of what Scott might think, you can't drug a person into loving somebody," Terence observed.

"That's my theory for what was going on at that mansion as well, but out of respect for Neal I'm trying to downplay it. It doesn't explain everything, anyway."

"You talk to the wife?" Terence asked, spearing a pickle with a toothpick.

Peter nearly choked at the mention of Elizabeth. "We both know we have something to talk about, and we also know that there's no talking to me when I'm on a manhunt. Like a man possessed, she says I am." He paused. "How will I know if this work gets to be too much for you, Terence? It says in your contract maximum eight hours a day."

"You don't know," the other man says placidly. "That's how my life works. But even if something happens, I'm having the best time I've had in years, so let's not sweat it right now."

They finished up their meal and walked back to the office. A long line of serious faces was there to greet them.

"Steady now," Terence whispered before moving a discreet distance away.

"Burke," was all Hughes said before ushering him into his office. Peter was aware of many sets of eyes trying not to watch.

"Caffrey was in Chicago—must have been in the hospital since he got there," his boss said without preamble.

"And?" Peter wanted the bad news.

"I wanted to tell you in person. He's not only detoxing, though apparently that's pretty bad. He has leptospirosis."

"Lepto- what? Is that leprosy?" Peter asked in panic, putting nothing beyond Scott's depravity or capabilities.

"The CDC was the one that made the match with Neal. The medical team will brief you. It's a bacterium that exists in South America, but not leprosy. Now that they know what it is, they can treat it." Hughes gazed at him with something that might be kindness. "He'll probably live."

"Probably?" The word was stuck in his mind's craw when his phone rang. "Burke," he snapped.

"Oh he is, is he?" He listened for a moment. "Left him a block away from the hospital. Not even in the parking lot, but a block away? You put him on the phone. Yes, I mean it. Sean O'Rourke? You're too late. You don't get a 'get out of jail free' card, but you do get an enemy in the FBI by the name of Peter Burke for your trouble."

Peter hung up in fury and then realized he was in his boss's office. "Sorry, sir. One would have thought criminals took better care of their own."

Hughes shrugged. "You'll be on the next plane to Chicago, I suppose, but please be aware, Burke, Caffrey may not be able to answer questions right away. You're going to be working with DEA and CDC to figure out how he got that illness and how Scott obtained all these drugs."

Peter turned to go. "And another thing. Give a blood sample before you leave. They want to make sure you don't have it too."

Blood test, travel arrangements, rushing home to pack—none of this concerned Peter at all.

One thought overrode all others: Peter Burke knows how to take care of his own.

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