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23 February 2011 @ 04:24 pm
White Collar Fic: Tick Tock  
Posted to whitecollarfic


Title: Tick Tock
Series/Universe: Vanishing Act
Pairing/Characters: Peter, Mozzie, Neal, OCs
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: Season 1
Summary: Peter and Mozzie rush to discover who's taken Neal before time runs out
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ


June had set the meeting place; Mozzie had been too spooked - by something, Peter wasn't sure what - to return to the mansion.

The evening was brisk with the beginnings of a vicious wind whipping up off the water, making Peter turn up the collar on his jacket and pull his scarf closer about his neck as he waited at the ferry railing, watching commuters hurriedly disembark like an impatient mass of lemmings.

"I can't stay long."

The voice was familiar and Peter was experienced enough at clandestine meetings in public not to look and confirm it was Mozzie.

"What have you found out?" he asked, keeping his voice low and mouth hidden behind a paper cup half-filled with once hot coffee while his eyes remained on the ferry, as if waiting for someone.

"Apparently there was some talk not long ago about about a certain Vermeer painting. How much do you know about the Gardner Museum theft?"

Pete blinked in surprise. "The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in 1990? The one where the thieves got away with thirteen paintings and were never found? That's the largest art theft in the world! How could I not know it, working in white collar crime?"

"Just checking, Suit," Mozzie said, clearly defensive. "Anyway, everybody knew those paintings got split up and sold on the black market."

"Everybody?" Peter couldn't help his less than delicate retort.

"Everybody on my side of the law," Mozzie clarified. "And it just so happens a certain young man may have assisted in brokering one of those deals, helping to 'rehome' if you will, Vermeer's The Concert."

"Perhaps a certain Nick Halden?" Peter offered.

"Perhaps," Mozzie answered cagily. Peter couldn't fault him for avoiding ratting out a friend, even now. Plausible deniability worked both ways it seemed. "The strange thing though... All the chatter from parties interested in Vermeer's The Concert? Ended abruptly," Mozzie's voice took on a note of seriousness, "just before Neal disappeared."

Peter let out a breath as it all sunk in, watching the vapor ghost then disappear in front of his face in the frosty air. "So you think whoever wants that painting..."

"Thinks Neal can obtain it for them, or at least tell them where to steal it from again."

"Why Vermeer?" Peter shook his head. "He's not that well known outside of serious art circles, he doesn't have that many works extant and there are bigger names."

"Hey, before the Gardner heist?" Mozzie huffed out an almost chuckle. "You probably couldn't get arrested with a Vermeer. But once they made a movie about Girl with a Pearl Earring - with Scarlett Johansson in it? Man, everybody wanted a Vermeer! He hasn't been this hot since, well, before he died."

"So we need to find out who's been on the hunt for a Vermeer and what connection - if any - they have to Eastern Europe," Peter mused.

o--o

As law enforcement, raising one's voice in a restaurant in Little Kiev was akin to offering your head as a target to the Russian mob, but Peter relied on the fact that they were in a back room and three agents were making sure no one got any ideas about interrupting his impromptu interrogation.

"Enough with the excuses!" he yelled, frustrated with the stonewalling. "I know you're the go to fence for high-end art in this community. No one asks about a Vermeer without word coming to you at the very least. So either you tell me what I want to know or I'll have agents crawling over your restaurant long enough to scare away all your business - of both kinds!"

To his credit, Uri didn't flinch. The stocky and solidly built man just huffed at Peter dismissively as he crossed his arms over his barrel chest.

"You don't have the manpower," he drawled in a thick Russian accent. He cocked his head at the three agents guarding the doorway from the back room to the rest of the restaurant. "I bet you had to put in special paperwork just to get those three to look tough for you." He shook his head, unconcerned. "No, I do not think I am afraid of your idle threats, Agent... What was your name again?"

Peter leaned down to lock eyes with the seated man, the grim tension in his jaw unaffected by Uri's lack of concern.

"The only name you need to worry about is Neal Caffrey. You know who was looking for him and you're going to tell me."

"Caffrey... Caffrey..." Uri acted as if he was trying valiantly to remember. "Wasn't he one of the ballet dancers who defected from the Bolshoi?" Uri smiled, a slightly yellow toothy grin right in Peter's face.

Peter just stood back up, pulling out his cell phone. "Fine, then. You won't play? I'm shutting you down." He started dialing his phone as Uri laughed.

"What? You are going to pretend you found contraband here? My lawyer will have us open by morning."

"No, that's not what I'm going to do." Peter held out the cell phone so Uri could hear the receptionist answer.

'New York City Health Department. How may I direct your call?'

Uri blanched as Peter spoke into the phone. "Extension 2410 please," he said pleasantly before moving the phone away from his mouth and returning his voice to a threatening one as he addressed Uri. "See, it's good to have friends. Like health inspectors." He turned his attention back to the phone, stepping away and lowering his voice only slightly for his conversation. "Hey, it's me. Listen I need an emergency shut down on a restaurant in Little Kiev. I know you're busy so if you can't schedule the full investigation for a couple of weeks, that's fine, but they have a serious rat problem. Yeah, rat droppings all over the food prep area."

"There are no rat droppings..." Uri started to protest, but Peter wordlessly pulled a sealed plastic bag out of his pocket and shook it briefly for effect before tucking it away again. He knew it was just crumbs from the brownie cookies Elizabeth had put in his lunch, but based on Uri's expression he believed the ruse. "Yeah, the end of next month would be perfect."

"Wait!" Uri cried.

Peter snapped the phone closed; it had only been listing the health department's most recent recorded warnings for employees and he didn't much care if there had been any new E. coli cases in the five boroughs area.

"Talk!" Peter bellowed, bracketing Uri with his hands on the chair's arms, not caring how loud his voice was in the criminal's face. "Where's Neal Caffrey?"

o--o

"Wake up!"

The shout that woke Neal was the only warning he got before a swift steel-toed boot buried itself in his unprotected stomach.

Doubling over with pain, he made himself open his eyes to the same nightmare he'd woken up to when the two thugs holding him captive had originally snatched him out of a deep sleep in his bed at June's.

"Get up. Boss is here to see you now."

Still wearing the white t-shirt and striped pajama pants he'd been sleeping in, Neal rose achy and slow off the cold tile floor. He'd been drugged and beaten since they tossed him in the decrepit old bathroom and locked him in. They kept returning to take turns using him as a punching bag, using the drugs to keep him too pliant to fight back.

Every part of him ached; bruises covered his arms and stomach and were starting to turn nasty colors where they enjoyed kicking him in the gut while he was on the floor. Nothing broken - yet, but with their accents Neal feared Eastern European mobsters. Those were the kind of people who had no compulsions about killing and no compassion about torturing to get what they wanted.

Whatever they'd done to him so far? Was just the warm up act.

The thug who had kicked him bound his hands with a zip tie while the other guarded the door. They led him out of the bathroom and Neal tried to surreptitiously catalog whatever he could spy to try to ascertain where he was.

The lights were so bright in his eyes he could barely see, but he could make out shelves with what looked like well used pots and pans on them, others with dozens of dusty plates stacked up.

The next thing he knew the floor was rushing up at him, the goon behind him having shoved him down hard.

Sprawled on the ground, he could see a pair of high-end Italian leather dress shoes before his eyes, pants above them - flawlessly hemmed at just the proper length - from an expensive suit, likely bespoke.

"Do you know who I am?"

With those few words, Neal felt a chill greater than the cold floor on his bare skin.

"I do," he answered, trying to keep his tone neutral even as fresh terror flooded him with adrenaline.

"Good. Then we can get down to business."

Neal scrambled to a seated position, the best way to protect his vital organs from another attack, and blinked up into the light to confirm his fear. He was right about who had ordered his abduction although in that moment he wished he wasn't.

"What do you want?" he asked, daring to look the man looming above him in the eye.

"You came into possession of a very valuable painting years ago: Vermeer's The Concert. I want it." The man stared down at him, cruel eyes searing into Neal's skull. "You will help me get it."

Neal braced himself, taking a steadying breath, knowing what would come next.

"No."

o--c
 
 
 
Emma DeMarais: BlueEyeemmademarais on February 24th, 2011 12:24 am (UTC)
Confession
Welcome to Part 2 in the six part series of Vanishing Act!

The plot thickens! Mwuahahahaha! We finally get proof that Neal's *not* on the run and that he is indeed in deep trouble.

Did I mention this is a H/C series? ;-)

BTW, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in 1990 is real. Vermeer's The Concert really was stolen in that impressive heist. And yes, there was a movie with Scarlett Johansson of Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Very special thanks to First Readers photoash and byrons_brain and beta penguingal for their assistance with this fic.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
oh these heroes come and go;micheleeeex on February 24th, 2011 12:38 am (UTC)
the plot is definitely thickening! great chapter :)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on March 9th, 2011 12:31 am (UTC)
Gracias!
Deb: Bomerdamietta on February 24th, 2011 12:53 am (UTC)
Ohhh, definitely h/c.

How did June not hear these guys take Neal! I'm sure there's a story behind that!

Mozzie and Peter are both so smart. It is thrilling to see them in action.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on March 9th, 2011 12:32 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading!

I figured they happened to pick a night June was out else they probably might have killed her. Meep!

It's been great fun to put Mozzie and Peter on the same side for a case, especially since it's Mozzie's side!
ladyniko: Weirladyniko on February 24th, 2011 02:34 am (UTC)
Hoorah! I'm hooked on this story. I can't wait to see what happens next - very believable plot development here and characters are very real sounding. :)
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on March 9th, 2011 12:33 am (UTC)
Such a great compliment! Thank you!
Ursula4xursula4x on February 24th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
Very nice writing and good plot.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on March 9th, 2011 12:34 am (UTC)
Thank you for the lovely compliments. You're too kind.
ladygray99: PeterWatchladygray99 on February 24th, 2011 03:20 am (UTC)
EEP!!!!!

Peter better hurry up and find Neal and make him all better. I do like Peter with the brownie crumbs.
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on March 9th, 2011 12:33 am (UTC)
Isn't he great with the bluff? That's so Peter. And it gets El to help too in a way! Hee!
tinnuial: BAMFtinnuial on February 24th, 2011 03:55 am (UTC)
Ooh the plot thickens and badass! Peter is awesome! I'll be looking forward to the next chapter :D
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on March 9th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
Thank you! I rather enjoyed this Peter. We've seen what Neal will do to get Peter back so it was nice to have already written what Peter would do to get Neal back.

FYI The series is all done - all six parts have been posted.