“—searching for him.”
“That’s not a huge concern.”
“Burke’s got a knack for finding the kid. We should move him. They’re bound to link the manhole to this warehouse.”
Neal stirred. Pain held him in a tight grip. It was hard to lift himself out of, as if he were trying to break through the surface of mud.
Slowly, cautiously, he opened his eyes. His head pounded. The edges of his vision were blurry, but Neal quickly made out Allen and Maverick standing before him, arguing, though it took him far too long to remember where he was.
It took Neal another moment to realize that time had passed. He was still tethered to the chair, but he wasn’t lying on the floor anymore; he was sitting upright in it. It took a lot of effort to simply think past the fact that his head was killing him. The dim florescent lighting of the warehouse was suddenly much brighter than he remembered and he squinted, trying to get the outlines of the two men in front of him to sharpen. His abdomen burned with waves of agony, as if it had been set on fire. He breathed hard, then grimaced; deep breaths and broken ribs were a bad idea. He was half proud of himself for holding out this long; he’d never been in an interrogation like this. He usually escaped captivity before it got this far. Regardless, a sinking feeling settled in his gut. He wouldn’t be able to handle much more of this. Neal winced and lifted his head. Maverick noticed him. Neal braced himself.
“He’s awake.” said Maverick. Allen turned to look at Neal. He grinned.
“Caffrey!” said Allen loudly, and Neal winced at the volume. “Unfortunately we don’t have as much time as I originally thought. The FBI has put out an alert for your abduction.” He tilted his head. “That means we’re going to have to get you to talk now.” He clasped his hands together. “What’ll it be, Caffrey? Where’s the drive?”
Neal didn’t say anything. The simple act of breathing burned his ribs. Peter… where the hell are you?
Maverick grinned wickedly, fisting his hand. “I’ll get it out of him—”
“No, I need him to keep breathing,” said Allen firmly, stopping Maverick with a glare. “I think you’ve done enough. For now. I need him alive and I’m not sure how much restraint you actually have.”
Maverick growled at that. “Well, we can’t stay here any longer. We’d better move now,” he said anyway, holding a cell phone. “It’s all clear, just have to let him know.”
“Good, go make the call. I’ll get the car.” He threw a glare toward Neal. “I’ll work him over in the car, we’ll get him to talk.”
Neal swallowed hard. He watched Allen leave through a side door in the warehouse, and he vaguely caught a glimpse of the sky, noticing it was still dark. He tiredly wondered what time it was.
Maverick dialed a number on his phone and walked a few paces away, talking to whoever was on the other line.
Neal tugged at his restraints again, but he knew it was no use. He’d already tried to escape them, hours ago, before Maverick had knocked him out. The only chance of an escape now was when Allen and Maverick untied him from the chair to get him in the car. There was a small window of time that he could try to get away. But with a bad concussion and broken ribs?
Interrupting his thoughts, Neal felt a vibration in his pants pocket, startling him. His mind a little sharper from the sudden curiosity, Neal realized his phone was still in his pocket. Wouldn’t Maverick and Allen have taken it?
Who cares, a voice in his head said. His phone was vibrating.
Someone was calling him.
Neal looked at Maverick. His back was still to Neal, still on the phone.
Realizing he needed to work fast, Neal started to reach a hand toward his pocket. The angle he was restrained prevented him from comfortably reaching more than a few centimeters.
But this might be Peter.
Neal reached harder, feeling the wire cut deeper into his wrist, but he didn’t care. He had to get the phone. His abdomen painfully protested at his movement, and Neal cringed, pushing himself to reach farther. He could feel the material of his pants. Looking down, he realized he was only a few inches from the phone. He pushed even harder, watching the blood trickle down his wrists. His fingers grazed his phone, and Neal winced as the wire fought him. He grasped the phone with two fingers and slowly pulled it out of his pocket, reading the screen.
It was Mozzie.
Just as Neal went to answer the call, Maverick turned around. His eyes immediately found Neal’s phone in his hand and he hung up his own call and strode to Neal, taking the phone roughly from his hand, and used it to hit Neal painfully across the face, adding to his throbbing headache. Neal bit back a curse, tasting blood. Maverick looked at the screen, then at Neal. “Friend of yours?” he asked, his voice colored with anger.
Neal glared at him, but it was a vain effort. His head pounded viciously, and he shut his eyes to stop the spinning.
Maverick stared at the vibrating phone and seemed to make a decision. He answered the call and held the phone to his ear, staring at Neal.
Maverick’s eyebrows shot up as he listened. “Oh, hello, Agent Burke.”
Peter? Neal lifted his head, cracking open his eyes. What was Peter doing with Mozzie’s phone?
Neal opened his mouth to shout but Maverick looked sharply at Neal, shaking his head. He knew what Maverick was telling him.
Do not speak.
Looking from the phone to Maverick, Neal just reluctantly snapped his mouth shut and glared at him.
Maverick listened to whatever it was Peter was telling him. He seemed genuinely surprised. “He doesn’t? You’re telling me that Caffrey doesn’t have my drive?”
Neal’s heart dropped. Fear nearly paralyzed him. Why would Peter tell him that? Doesn’t Peter know that Neal’s only chance of survival rests on Maverick and Allen believing he had the drive?
“He didn’t mention that.” said Maverick flatly. He paused. “That’s your play, Burke? Trade my drive for your boy?” Maverick listened and then laughed. “Oh, he’s fine. We haven’t touched him. Yet.” His eyes narrowed. He sighed and he pulled the phone away from his ear. He covered the speaker with his hand. “He wants proof of life,” he told Neal. “You tell him where we are or that you’re injured, and I’ll kill you right now.”
Neal glared at him. He held the phone out and, hesitantly, Neal said, “Peter?”
“Neal,” replied Peter, obvious relief in his voice. “Are you okay?”
Maverick stared dangerously at Neal, his free hand lifting his shirt to expose a gun. Neal steadied his voice. “I’m fine, Peter.” said Neal, taking a breath, riding another wave of pain and composing himself so it didn’t come out in his voice. “They haven’t hurt me.”
“I’m going to get you out of—”
“Now, Burke,” said Maverick, pulling the phone back. “I’ll give you Caffrey back in exchange for the drive. But if you bring the FBI into this, I swear to god, I’ll kill him. I’ll text you the location. One hour.”
Maverick hung up the phone and texted Peter the location. As he did, Allen walked back into the warehouse.
“Change of plans.” said Maverick, pocketing Neal’s phone and crossing his arms, making his muscles flex.
“What?” demanded Allen, his face darkening. “What are you talking about?”
“Burke just called. Caffrey still had his cell on him.”
“You didn’t take it from him?” demanded Allen.
“You told me to get information out of him.” said Maverick, unperturbed. “Nothing else.”
Allen’s eyes narrowed. “And you didn’t even get it!” he growled. Allen turned roughly to Neal. “Anything else you’re hiding?” Allen bent again, and started checking Neal’s pockets. He stopped at Neal’s jacket pocket and pulled out Neal’s lock pick set. He threw it behind him and it hit one of the shelves. Neal groaned internally, staring after them. Allen stood and looked back at Maverick, then said. “What change of plans?”
“Burke has the drive.” said Maverick. “Caffrey never had it.”
“The FBI has it?” asked Allen, his voice rising.
“No, Burke does! He hasn’t told the FBI.”
“How do you know?”
“He’s afraid we’ll kill Caffrey.”
Turning to Neal, Allen said, “He cares about his criminal informant, would you look at that.” He sighed. “Alright, what did he say?”
“He wants Caffrey for the drive. I gave him a location.”
Allen nodded, thinking. “Okay. Okay, we’ll do this. But Burke doesn’t leave with Caffrey.”
“Of course not.”
Allen pulled out his gun. “You and Burke have been a pain in my ass.” He turned to Neal and took wire cutters from his jacket. “You’re not getting out of this alive. And neither is he.”
“I’m not going to that exchange.” said Neal firmly, though his unsteady voice betrayed his confidence. “Not if you’re going to kill Peter.”
“I beg to differ.” said Allen. “You’re in no position to be making demands, Caffrey. You are going to that exchange because I will drag you if I have to.”
"No.” Neal stared him down, deep defiance in his eyes. He wasn’t going to let Peter walk into a trap. Not after everything the man had done for him. He’d die before he let them use him to get Peter. He tried to shake the blur from his vision and even let a little grin slip over his bruised features.
Allen circled Neal, narrowing his eyes. “You aren’t very cooperative.”
“That would be something you and Peter agree on, then.” said Neal, shutting his eyes, unable to hold the man’s gaze anymore. Why couldn’t everything just stop moving?
Allen laughed. “Alright, Caffrey. Time to go. If you run, I’ll shoot you. Then I’ll shoot Burke.”
Neal opened his eyes and set his jaw.
Allen cut Neal’s wrists loose. Neal took a sharp intake of breath. He slowly brought his arms around, jerking forward to run but Allen’s hand was suddenly gripping his shoulder again, painful enough to keep Neal put.
“Slowly,” said Allen. “You try something, I’ll—”
“You’ll shoot me,” said Neal through gritted teeth. “I get it.”
Neal slowly straightened. He looked quickly at his wrists and caught his breath; they were rubbed raw. The hand on his shoulder tightened when Neal stood. He gasped as he rose, falling forward as the pain in his ribs erupted. The hand on his shoulder caught him and tightened, obviously assuming he was trying something. Neal breathed hard, and Allen yanked him up. Neal groaned, his hand flying to his abdomen protectively, the pain making his vision stutter dangerously. His head was still throbbing sharply, making the already-spinning room spin even faster. The grip on him tightened even more and dragged him forward.
“Van’s outside.” said Allen to Maverick. Allen started to half-walk, half-drag Neal to the door. His grip was crushing. Neal’s breath was shallow and halting, every step like burning knives.
A million thoughts rushed desperately through Neal’s mind, all escape routes. He could hit Allen with his free arm and run for it. And a healthy Neal Caffrey might have made it. But, being this injured, he wouldn’t make it more than five feet before they caught him again. He was pretty sure Allen was carrying most of Neal’s weight even now. Allen or Maverick would easily shoot him. Then they’d go to the exchange with Peter, shoot Peter and get the drive.
No, Neal had to think of something else. Something clever. Anything to keep them from getting him in that van. But clever was nearly impossible in his current state.
Neal looked at the door, his vision nearly double.
He had to at least try.
He wasn’t going to let Peter walk straight into a trap.
Allen shoved Neal through the door, angering his ribs. Each step a new stab of pain in his side.
They were outside. The van was a mere ten feet away. Taking a quick glance at his surroundings, Neal recognized the area. Surrounded by a forest, stars quietly sneaking out of the clouds, the area stood empty and rustic. It was familiar. It was where he, Kate and Mozzie ended up after the heist and exited the manhole. Neal had been bleeding out on the ground. Apparently he had to be injured every time he came back here.
They were getting closer to the van. This was his only chance. Neal took a quick breath, then lurched to the side.
Allen hadn’t been expecting it, falling underneath Neal’s weight, and both he and Neal crashed to the ground. Neal landed on his side and cried out in pain as he hit the concrete. He pushed himself through it, grimacing and he rolled onto his back.
"Bastard!” yelled Allen, trying to get back to his feet.
Neal jerked himself up, pain flaring up so horribly he almost fell back to the ground. He groaned through his teeth and staggered to his feet, trying to keep his balance. He grabbed his side and started to run in the opposite direction of the van, toward the forest. How stupid, he thought. I could take the van.
But it was too late. Pain erupted in his right leg and Neal cried out, his leg giving out beneath him. He hit the ground hard, crying out as his ribs erupted in pain, clutching his now-bleeding leg. Blood streamed through his fingers. Maverick was suddenly at his side, grabbing a handful of Neal’s jacket and pulling him close to his face. Neal didn’t even care; the pain whited out everything else. He just screwed his eyes shut and tried to keep from screaming.
“What did we tell you?” he spat. “What did we tell you we’d do if you tried something?”
“Get him in the van,” growled Allen, pulling himself off the ground and angrily brushing rubble off of him.
“You—” hissed Neal, his leg throbbing sheer, white-hot pain. But Maverick only yanked him sharply by his hair, pulling Neal up and dragging him painfully to the van.
The van door was opened and Neal was thrown roughly inside. Without another word, Maverick shut the door and Neal was shrouded in darkness, feeling himself fading. Neal shut his eyes and welcomed the blessed unconsciousness, completely and utterly defeated.