“Can you hear me?”
Neal just gave Peter a look, hearing the agent’s voice in both the comm unit in his ear and two feet in front of him inside the Municipal Utilities van. “Loud and clear, Peter.”
Peter nodded. “Good. We have ears on you.”
“I really love that we’re cutting this case extremely close and parking three blocks away from the bank.” commented Neal flatly, though the idea of having to stay in the humid, interestingly scented van nearly made him shiver. He zipped up his jacket, preparing himself for the brisk city air. He was dressed in black, fully ready to blend into the night.
“Nice night for a walk,” Jones tried.
Neal glared at him.
“If you need to get out of there, let us know.” added Diana, swiveling around in her chair.
“Be careful.” said Peter.
“Guys, please.” said Neal, holding up a hand. “You do your jobs, I’ll do mine.”
Neal got out of the van and started his long walk to the bank. It was eleven-fifteen, and the bank closed hours ago. The sky was dark and street lamps scattered the sidewalks, casting a lazy, faded glow on the pavement. Neal sighed, rubbing some warmth into his arms as the chill penetrated his thin, leather jacket. Every step seemed to follow another pound of his heart.
Relax, he told himself firmly. You’re just going to look around. He couldn’t shake the distinct feeling of paranoia at the back of his neck, and that coupled with the fact that he was once again breaking into the same bank as he had years ago was enough to send another chill down his spine, one having nothing to do with the temperature.
"You’re nearly there,” said Peter’s voice in Neal’s ear.
Neal rolled his eyes. “I know where the bank is.”
"Sorry. Trying to help.”
“Maybe you could have dropped me off at the front door.”
"You could use the exercise.”
"For your mental health. Work off some of that stress.”
“Bank’s in view,” Neal informed them, hating what he was doing. “Heading to the back door.”
Neal turned down the alley beside the bank. He looked down and saw the manhole, remembering the heist like it was moments ago. Suddenly Mozzie and Kate were standing next to him, the pain throbbed in his shoulder and fear coursed through his veins.
Neal shook himself. He couldn’t think about that now. He couldn’t think about any distractions when he was on a job.
Neal quickly walked to the door. He pulled out a password decoder, one strong enough to bypass this keypad lock. Surprisingly, the FBI supplied it. Peter found it in the evidence warehouse from a past case and declared it worthy of use.
“I’m in.” whispered Neal as the lock screen glowed green and the door clicked open.
"Good,” said Peter in his ear.
“Next time you question the legality of my tactics, I am bringing this up.” said Neal, pocketing the machine.
"And we can have a long discussion about that the next time I visit you in prison.”
Neal heard Jones clear his throat.
"Now,” said Peter, suddenly serious, ”go down the hallway and take your first left—”
“I know, Peter.” sighed Neal as he pulled the door open.
"Right. Who am I talking to?”
Neal shut the door quietly, and peered around the corner. The next hallway was perpendicular to the one he was standing in, and the coast was clear for both directions. That was weird. Usually this was one of the guard posts because it was so close to the vault hallway. Neal’s eyebrows kneaded and he hesitated. Something felt off.
"Everything okay, Neal?” asked Peter, as if reading his mind.
“Fine,” whispered Neal, the lie slipping uneasily over his tongue. “I’m heading to the vault hallway.”
Neal turned left and headed down the hallway again, sticking to the shadows and staring at the floor to avoid the camera in the corner of the ceiling.
Reaching the end of the hallway, Neal pulled out the keycard that he took from the young employee hours before, and he swiped it. Clicking faintly, the locked glowed green and the door opened. Neal slipped through and headed to the end, to the vault.
Neal looked around as he approached the vault. No security. Usually he’d chalk it up to luck, but this was wrong. Very wrong.
It was an instinct. Usually, he follows his instinct. If he had, he would have turned right around and gotten the hell out of this bank.
Neal opened his mouth to say something to Peter, but stopped dead.
A gun cocked in his ear.
He froze. Before he could turn around, the man behind him walked into view.
It was Roger Allen.
Though, he looked different now. The glasses he’d worn earlier were gone. He was still wearing his suit, but he’d taken off the tie. His irritated expression had darkened into something much more menacing. But Neal was only looking at the gun in his hand, aimed at his head.
Keeping his composure, Neal was about to speak when Allen put a finger to his lips, and the gun suddenly against Neal’s temple, indicating Neal to stay quiet. Neal reluctantly shut his mouth. Allen knew that Peter was listening.
Allen lifted his free hand and waved two fingers in a beckoning manner. Neal saw movement out of the corner of his eye, and he turned his head, feeling his heart stop beating.
Maverick emerged from the shadows. He, too, had a gun in his hand. He grinned maliciously, looking at Neal.
Peter was right, Neal needlessly thought, Allen and Maverick are working together.
Allen’s gun moved from Neal’s temple to the small of his back and Allen prodded him forward, back the way he’d come.
"Neal?” said Peter’s voice. Neal hadn’t spoken in a few minutes. He could hear slight concern seeping through Peter’s voice.
Neal didn’t reply. He just kept walking, the gun prodding sharply in his back.
"Neal? Answer me, Neal.”
Allen paused at the door and opened it with his keycard. He shoved Neal forward and they continued down the hallways, heading for the back door. With Maverick on his left, and Allen behind him, Neal didn’t see an escape that wouldn’t get him killed.
Allen opened the backdoor and Maverick walked briskly through first. Allen prodded Neal again. Neal didn’t move. Maverick was opening the manhole in the ground.
Neal took a breath. Now or never. “You were right, Peter.”
"What?” was Peter’s sharp reply.
“Allen is in on it—”
Neal couldn’t finish. Allen removed the gun from Neal’s back and struck Neal on the side of his head. Neal cried out, hitting the wall from the force.
"Neal!” shouted Peter. ”Everyone move in!”
Neal pushed himself off the wall and tried to run but Maverick was suddenly in front of him, grabbing him by the arm and throwing him to the ground. Neal hit the pavement hard, his head whip-lashing on the ground. His vision swam.
“Looks like we meet again, Caffrey.” He pulled Neal up by his forearms, his grip crushing. “You couldn’t keep your mouth shut for just a little longer, could you?”
“The FBI is—” began Neal, but Maverick increased the pressure on Neal’s arm and Neal cringed.
“You took something from us, Caffrey.” said Allen. “And we want it back. Where’s the drive?”
“You son of a—”
“FBI is closing in,” said Allen. “Just take him. Cut the anklet. Break the watch.”
With Maverick holding Neal back, he handed Allen a knife. Allen cut the anklet off Neal, and Maverick removed Neal’s watch, throwing it in the dumpster. His earpiece was taken out and crushed.
Neal struggled, but Maverick wasn’t slowed. He dragged Neal to the manhole, dropping him down the hole. Unable to control the fall, Neal landed hard on his shoulder, grunting in pain, hating the irony. Maverick and Allen came down soon after and Neal struggled to his knees.
“I don’t think so, Caffrey.”
Neal didn’t even see it coming. The gun struck him again, light exploded behind his eyes and everything went black.