Neal looked up from where he was sitting in the chair opposite Peter’s desk, his feet crossed on the corner and playing with a baseball that had been sitting on the corner. “Yes, Peter?”
Peter stood from his chair, ignoring Neal’s crossed feet on his desk for once. “Focus. You’re going to have to pay attention on this one.”
Neal replaced the baseball and looked at him skeptically. “Pay attention on what one?”
“You were right yesterday,” said Peter. Peter pulled on his suit jacket. “There is something much more valuable at Midtown. But even with all my persuading and badge-waving, they wouldn’t give me anything on it. But they’re definitely hiding something.”
“So…” said Neal, drawing out the word as realization hit. His eyes followed Peter as he shut off his monitor and grabbed his phone. “You think…”
“Yes,” Peter nodded. “I think the bank is in on it.”
“The entire business is working with Maverick?”
“Maybe. Or just the manager. Some guy, Roger Allen.”
“Mr. Allen, how are you?”
Neal swallowed hard, ice slipping down his spine. The man who stopped him the night of the heist was the new manager of the bank.
“—and talk to him.”
Neal looked up.
“Neal,” said Peter, pausing at the door. He raised an eyebrow. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine.” said Neal, shaking himself. He took his feet down from the desk, still trying to yank himself from the paralyzing thoughts. “You said he wouldn’t tell you anything?”
“No,” said Peter slowly, his eyebrow creeping higher. “I said we should work our way in there and talk to him. He wasn’t there when I called yesterday, but I don’t think that’s true. I want to have a face-to-face with him.”
Face-to-face. If Neal and Peter went down to the bank and spoke with Allen, there was a very good chance Allen would recognize Neal as the security guard from the heist. If he told Peter...
“Yeah,” said Neal finally, thinking quickly. “Maybe you should go down there and talk to him.”
Peter laughed. “You’re not coming?”
“I just feel that if you go alone, you know, all irritated and menacing bad-cop,” said Neal as Peter glared at him, “he’d be more likely to talk to you. If you bring around your charming sidekick, you’ll lose that menace.” Neal flashed him a smile, hoping against hope that Peter would take the bait.
Peter’s eyes narrowed. “Nice try. You’re coming.”
Neal sighed in defeat. He slowly got up to follow Peter out of his office, dread sinking into his chest.
So much for staying in the van.
Neal and Peter exited Peter’s car and started on the short walk to Midtown Mutual. Neal looked casually over as they passed the alleyway, the manhole only partially visible, still hidden partly by a dumpster. His shoulder twinged suddenly and Neal rubbed it right over the scar. He swallowed hard and tried to force away the memories.
“What?” Neal tore his gaze away. Peter was holding the door for him.
“Focus,” hissed Peter as Neal passed him through the doorway. The bank was as Neal remembered it, for the most part. Neal looked to the left, seeing the desk Kate had occupied when she’d been working here. He felt another twinge of pain somewhere inside his chest at the sight.
Neal and Peter headed to the front desk, to one of the tellers. She was younger, with red hair and a name tag that read Savannah.
“Hi,” she said brightly as they approached. Neal leaned against the counter. Savannah smiled at him. “What can I do for you today?”
“We’re looking for Roger Allen,” said Peter politely, not yet flashing his badge. Best not to scare the man away.
“He’d probably be in his office.” she said to Neal with a smile, almost as if she thought he’d been the one who’d spoken. But for once, Neal couldn’t bring himself to return the smile.
“Can we speak with him?” asked Peter.
Her face fell. “Well… usually he requires an appointment—”
“Can I help you?”
Neal and Peter turned at the voice of a man behind them. It wasn’t Roger Allen. Neal breathed a sigh of relief. It was a blond-haired man. He was carrying a stack of files. “I’m headed toward Mr. Allen’s office, I can escort you there.”
Peter smiled, giving Neal a nudge. “Thank you.”
Neal and Peter followed the young man down a restricted hallway, the man having to scan his keycard. The hallways were so familiar; Neal could almost see Mozzie next to him, donned in that security uniform they’d stolen, as if Neal had just walked five years into the past. The carpet was a bit more faded, the paint on the walls a shade deeper, as if they’d been redone. They had been redone, Neal suddenly realized. Mozzie had set fire to three of the offices in this hallway. Neal and Peter passed the vault hallway, and Neal hastily looked away, not wanting to live in that memory any longer than he had already.
“Right down this hallway,” the man said. “Third door on your left.”
“Hang on,” said Neal. He reached over and adjusted the files in the man’s arms to keep them from falling over. In the process, he nonchalantly took his keycard and pocketed it. Good to have a quick getaway in case he needed it.
“Thanks,” he said, then disappeared in an office down the hallway.
“Third door on our left,” repeated Peter as they walked down. Peter knocked on the door and he and Neal waited until it opened. Before the door even opened all the way, Peter pulled out his badge and said, “Special Agent Peter Burke, FBI. I have some questions, Mr. Allen.”
The man stumbled back a step at the same time Neal’s heart froze in his chest. This was Allen. He looked the same as he did the night of the heist, if not for a few more wrinkles and receding hairline. Neal quickly catalogued the man, something he’d naturally done since he was young. The man didn’t wear a wedding ring. His right hand went up to his glasses, pushing them up, giving Neal one of Allen’s tells - a giveaway that he was lying. Allen was wearing designer suit and shoes, clothes that Neal knew were hard to afford with the job Allen had. All in all, Allen looked like the kind of man with something to hide.
Neal swallowed his nervousness.
“Agent Burke,” said Allen calmly. “Please, come in.”
They walked in, Peter shutting the door carefully behind them. Allen sat behind his desk, nonchalantly turning off his computer monitor - something that didn’t go unnoticed by Neal or Peter, who shared a quick glance - and gestured for Neal and Peter to sit in the chairs in front of his desk.
“You’re a busy man.” commented Peter.
“I have a lot going on, Agent Burke.” agreed Allen, nodding. “What can I do for you?”
“This is my CI, Neal Caffrey.” said Peter, gesturing to Neal, who tensed the slightest bit. Allen turned toward him. He gave him a slight smile, but Neal knew that within those precious a seconds, Allen was studying him. Neal fought the urge to shift in the chair and hoped against hope that the man didn’t recognize him.
“I’m sure that you’re aware that your bank was almost robbed the other day.” said Peter, crossing his legs.
“I am,” Allen replied, tearing his gaze away from Neal. “Surely you didn’t come to tell me something that I am well aware of?”
Allen was being rude, and Neal knew that any criminal who had the nerve to be rude right off the bat to an FBI agent meant trouble.
“Of course not,” said Peter with a laugh. “We’re under the impression that the kids were not the actual criminals in this case. They were a distraction.”
Allen’s expression didn’t change, and he looked almost bored. “Distraction for what?”
“Have you seen this man?” asked Peter, pulling a picture out of the file he’d brought with them. He handed it to Allen. “He goes by the alias ‘Maverick’.”
Allen took the photo and looked at it. Neal and Peter watched him carefully. “No,” he said, leaning back in his chair and setting the photo back in front of Peter. Allen adjusted his glasses again.
“You haven’t?” asked Peter. “Because this is the man who tried to rob this bank nearly five years ago. You were here that night. I’m sure it’s not something you would have forgotten.”
Neal watching the silent battle between Peter and Allen, rigid, not daring to speak.
“Oh,” said Allen. He stopped touching his glasses and clasped his hands in front of him, holding them still. “Well, of course I know who he is. But you asked me if I saw him during the failed heist the other day, and I didn’t. Isn’t this man supposed to be in jail?”
“He was released a few weeks ago.”
“Five years? Only five years for attempted thievery and murder?”
“Guess so.” Peter sighed. “We believe he’s going to strike again. Seems there’s something important enough to him to risk robbing the same place twice. Any idea what he could be back for?”
“Well, we do have quite a bit of money here. It is a bank, after all.”
Peter laughed again. “That’s true, Mr. Allen, but he wasn’t here for money last time and he’s not here for it this time. Is there anything of more value than the cash inside your vault?”
“He wasn’t here for the money last time?” asked Allen, raising an eyebrow. “Didn’t the FBI find a bag filled with $1.5 million next to him when you arrested him?”
“Yes, they did.”
Neal swallowed hard.
Allen gave Peter an am-I-missing-something? look. “So, what makes you think he’d be here for anything else?”
“Because if he’s after cash, there are a million other banks he could choose from.” Peter leaned forward. “Why this one?”
“Look, Agent Burke,” said Allen, leaning forward in his own chair, mirroring Peter. “There is nothing to tell you.”
“I’d like you to walk me through what happened last time.”
Neal forced himself not to breathe. If Allen recounts everything from that night...
He was in major trouble.
Allen sighed. “I told the FBI what happened already.”
“Well, I’d like to hear it again.”
Peter and Allen stared each other down. Neal sat stock-still, watching them carefully, cursing Peter’s persistence. It was clear that Peter held a superior power over Allen. It didn’t take more than a few moments for Allen to cave. “Alright, Burke. It was April 27th, and the bank was due to close in two hours.” Peter sat back in his chair, crossing his arms. Neal didn’t move.
“I wasn’t manager then,” Allen continued. “I was working under Richard Graff, but he’s long gone now - asked to step down. I was in the vault hallway mere minutes before Midtown was almost robbed.”
“You were in the vault hallway?” asked Peter. “What were you doing there?”
“My job, Agent Burke. I worked inside the vault; it was part of my responsibility at the time. No one was in there when I was.”
“What else do you remember about that night?”
Neal’s heart tripled in speed. He took a short breath, trying to force it to slow.
Allen sighed impatiently. “I left and locked the vault, then went down the hallway. Then I passed two security guards who—” Allen abruptly cut off his words. His eyes suddenly drifted to Neal. Neal tensed. Allen’s gaze was boring into him.
He knows, thought Neal. He fought to hold his composure, ice slipping down his spine. Allen’s gaze lingered on him for another moment, and just as Neal was about to say something, Peter interrupted the silence.
“‘A security guard who…?’” prompted Peter. “Care to finish that sentence?”
Neal shut his eyes, trying to think of a lie to cover himself with as Allen cleared his throat, and tore his gaze from Neal. “I didn’t recognize them. But I don’t work with security much, so I don’t know, they might have been new.”
Peter leaned forward. Neal stared at Allen, trying to hide his surprise, and resisted the urge to breathe out in relief. Why would he..?
“So,” said Peter suddenly, “You’re saying you think these security guards are in on it? Accomplices?”
“No,” said Allen, his gaze drifting again to Neal for a split second, then back to Peter. “Just the one. But I could be wrong.”
“Can you describe who you saw?”
Neal bit the inside of his cheek, his heart pounding.
“No,” said Allen, shaking his head. Relief flooded Neal’s veins, but suspicion quickly replaced the relief. If Allen knows, why is he protecting me?
“No?” asked Peter.
“No,” repeated Allen. “It was a long time ago, Agent Burke. He was caucasian. Dark hair.” He looked at Neal, the shadow of a sly grin slipping across his face. “Maybe around the same height as your CI.” Fear shot a thin, icy line down Neal’s spine, and his eyes narrowed just a little.
“It was only minutes after that when the alarm sounded and a fire had broken out from a computer in one of our offices.” continued Allen. “That was probably his distraction.” said Allen, sounding bored again. “The FBI came a few minutes later, this ‘Maverick’ was arrested and I went home. Satisfied, Agent Burke?”
“Not quite,” said Peter, “There’s still one thing that doesn’t add up.”
“And what’s that?” asked Allen, annoyed.
“That night, I received a distressed call from one of your employees.” Neal’s heart pounded in his head. He fought not to shift uncomfortably in his chair. “Maverick seemed to have hurt him, possibly shot him, from what I heard on the phone, but when the FBI arrived, there were no injured employees, and no one we spoke to said that they called us.”
“Well, Agent Burke, I really don’t have an answer for you.”
“I think he could be afraid of coming forward,” said Peter. “Maybe he thinks Maverick will come after him, being a witness, and all.”
“Like I said, Agent Burke, I don’t have that answer for you.” said Allen shortly. “Feel free to question our employees. Again.”
Accepting that he wouldn’t get an answer, Peter leaned back and nodded. “I’ll take what you’ve told us into consideration. Thank you for your time, Mr. Allen.”
Peter stood to leave. He held his hand for Allen to shake, and reluctantly, Allen did. Though he didn’t even attempt return Peter’s smile.
“Have a good day,” said Peter.
“Yeah,” said Allen. Then his gaze, again, went to Neal. “You, too, Mr. Caffrey.”
Neal nodded stiffly.
Peter and Neal left the office. Peter’s artificial grin immediately disappeared. “What a son of a bitch.”
Peter looked at Neal as they left the hallway, noting that Neal’s face seemed practically drained of color. “You okay?”
Neal looked up. “’Course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“You were quiet. Really quiet.”
“You hate it when I talk.”
“Well,” said Peter, shrugging, “not always.”
“Oh. Guess I’ll throw in a word or two next time.”
“Seriously, Neal, what’s going on with you?” Peter stopped walking, pausing in the middle of the lobby. He searched Neal’s face.
“Nothing, Peter.” said Neal. Neal had never had a problem concealing his emotions from Peter before; so why couldn’t he now? He continued walking, and he and Peter pushed through the doors and out into the city. “I was just… listening.”
“Paying attention. To Allen.” said Neal. “He was definitely hiding something.”
“That’s for sure.” Peter nodded. “Arrogant bastard has guilt written all over him. Think he’s working with Maverick?”
“I don’t know.” Neal sighed. And why the hell did he protect me?
Peter got in the car and shut his door. Neal reached for his seatbelt and Peter started the engine, turning into traffic. “Looks like we have a stakeout tonight.”
Neal looked at him. “A stakeout? Here?” He paused. “Did I miss something?”
“Yeah,” said Peter. “I think someone might break in tonight.” He looked at Neal out of the corner of his eye, smiling.
“Really?” asked Neal incredulously. “Are you seriously saying what I think you’re saying?”
“By the time I get a warrant, whatever Allen’s trying to hide will be completely untouchable.”
“I thought you believed in the system.” muttered Neal.
“Sometimes…” said Peter, trailing off.
“The ends justify the means?” supplied Neal.
Peter snapped his fingers. “Yes!”
Neal rolled his eyes. “You hate it when I apply that to my life.”
“Because, ninety-nine percent of the time, it doesn’t apply to your life, Neal.”
“Well,” said Neal, pulling the keycard out of his pocket. “Guess it’s a good thing I found this.”
Peter glanced at him. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. “You took his keycard?”
“Found it.” Neal repeated with a smile.
“Sure. You found it in his pocket.” Peter shook his head. “I know all your games.”
“Not all of them.” said Neal under his breath. He sighed again. “When did you hear this break-in would occur?” asked Neal.
“Fantastic.” Neal stared out the window, trying to ignore his rising nervousness. The last thing he wanted to do was break into this bank.
“It still doesn’t make sense.” said Peter. “Why would Allen help Maverick during that heist five years ago?”
“Well,” said Neal, thinking back to Allen’s designer suit. “Allen seems like the kind of guy who can be bought. He works at this bank for a while, finds out they have some sort of priceless something in the vault. He’s no thief, so he hires one. That’s where Maverick comes in. He steals whatever it is using Allen’s insider information, they split the money, everyone’s happy.”
“Except…” said Peter slowly. “Allen got greedy. He decided he wanted to cut Maverick out of the deal and he called the Feds and set him up?” Peter shook his head. “No. I received that call. Allen sounds nothing like the kid who called me.”
Neal stared out the window.
“You should have heard him,” said Peter. “He was terrified. Thought Maverick was going to kill him.”
Neal didn’t trust himself to say anything.
“That still doesn’t fit.” Peter went on, as if talking to himself. “I still have no idea what happened there.”
Neal watched the cars pass by out the window until Peter as he pulled up to June’s house.
“I’ll pick you up at ten.” said Peter with a grin.
Luckily, Neal didn’t have to bother to hide his irritation. “Can’t wait.”
“Neal,” said Peter, grabbing Neal’s arm. Neal turned back. “Are you sure you’re alright? You’ve been acting off since yesterday.” When Neal hesitated, Peter added, “You know you can trust me with anything… right?”
“Neal... you’ve got to tell the Suit.”
If he was going to tell Peter, he’d have to tell him now. His cell of four years at the jail suddenly flashed to his mind. But wasn’t his life more important than worrying about spending a few more years in jail? And Peter’s overlooked some things in the past, wasn’t there a possibility that he could now?
“You know you can trust me with anything, right?”
Neal shook himself and shot Peter one of his most charming smiles. “Yeah, everything’s fine. See you at ten thirty, Peter.”
Neal shut the door and walked away.
“Ten!” shouted Peter. “Ten sharp, Neal!”
Neal disappeared into the house and Peter sighed, rolling his eyes for the fifth time that day, and pulling away from the house.
It was going to be a long night.