Note: For complete heading info, please refer to Chapter 01.
Peter sighed as he stared at the calendar in front of him. Tomorrow was his anniversary with El and five days after that was their anniversary with Neal. Ten years was a long time and thinking back to the previous night as Neal fucked El and Peter fucked Neal, things couldn't be better. He just didn't know what to get the two people he loved the most. He sucked when it came to gift giving.
Typically, he had Neal or El's respective help in getting something for one or the other. But this time, it called for getting something for both of them without either knowing.
"June and Mozzie!" he suddenly said out loud. Either one of them would have a decent idea. Mozzie's might be less conventional, but something was bound to come up if he talked it out with both of them.
Ever since that faithful meeting at the thrift store, June and Mozzie had been close friends. The best part had been their friendship with Neal. Peter had worried often during that first year that Neal would wither away because his slave status would keep him from being social outside their home. When June offered her loft as a studio space in exchange for a listening ear, things couldn't have worked out better.
Now, Neal had a semi-successful gallery. Apparently, the upper class of Manhattan thought it was the latest fad to own a piece of slave art. Neal even did pieces on commission when they wanted paintings of their favored pets in all manner of positions.
Along with the success of Neal's gallery, El's event planning business had skyrocketed. And Peter himself had received promotion to the head field agent of the white collar division when Hughes' wife had demanded he retire from field work. Things were perfect.
"Boss?" Diana's voice brought him out of his mental wonderings.
"Yeah, Diana," he asked back.
"There's an OPR agent downstairs. Says he's putting our active investigations on hold due to an investigation."
Peter became alert. There had been nothing recently that would warrant an OPR investigation. He followed Diana out of the office, bristling when he saw several agents collecting boxes of records.
"What the hell is this?" he barked at the closest one.
"A subpoena to gather all records from the white collar division for review," the agent said, handing Peter the piece of paper.
"On whose order?"
"Agent Fowler is the head of the investigation."
"And where is he?" Peter's patience was growing thin.
"I'm not at liberty to say, Agent Burke."
Before Peter could continue his questioning, his cell rang. He put it to his ear without checking to see who it was.
"This is Burke," he snapped out.
"Peter!" El's panicked voice startled him. "They're tearing up everything!"
"Who?" Peter was already heading for the elevator.
"Some FBI agent named Fowler. They're-" El cut off and Peter stared at his phone. He barely noticed that Jones had followed him, until the other man took the keys and asked where. Peter directed him to El's business.
When they arrived, there were agents all over, boxing things and leaving other items strewn on the floor. El was arguing with a man that seemed to be in charge.
"Ah, Agent Burke," the agent greeted him with a smile on his face that Peter wanted to wipe off. "You shouldn't be here. It could be considered as interfering with a federal investigation."
"If you're Fowler, I want to know why the hell you're wrecking my office, my wife's business and harassing us."
"I'm not at liberty to discuss an ongoing investigation," Fowler said. When El started to move to where the agents were mishandling the bottles of wine, Fowler stepped in front of her. "That would be interfering for you as well, Mrs. Burke."
El ignored him and brushed passed him, bumping Fowler's arm in the process. Fowler grabbed her arm and smiled.
"That was assaulting a federal agent and I will be placing you under arrest."
Peter saw red. "Like hell you will. This is assaulting a federal agent," and he let his fist fly into Fowler's nose.
Fowler rocked back from the blow and Peter was satisfied to see blood on the man's face.
"That, Agent Burke, will get you both arrested. Agent Jones, take his gun and badge."
At Fowler's instructions, Jones backed up. "You've got enough of your own agents to handle that," he said with a scowl. Peter could see a balled fist that might lead to Jones being cuffed right alongside them.
"It's okay, Jones," Peter said softly, handing his gun and badge to the man. "You and Diana figure this out," he said softly so no one else could hear.
Jones nodded and then he stayed as a witness to Peter and El being placed in cuffs and led from the building.
It was hours later that Peter and El were collecting their personal belongings as Diana waited on them.
"Do you know anything?" Peter asked. "It seemed personal and we've never met Fowler before."
"I don't know, Boss. They're stonewalling us everywhere we try to look."
El was checking her purse when the clerk handed her a piece of paper.
"What's this?" she asked.
"A receipt for your slave," the clerk said in a bored tone.
"Neal?" El gasped out and Peter grabbed the paper from her.
"What the-" Peter stopped, frozen at the words in front of him.
"It's the receipt for the collection of your property due to your arrests and pending charges. Standard procedure," the clerk's voice washed over Peter.
"Fowler took him," he said with a broken voice looking at the signature on the receipt. "He signed off on Neal's collection."
He pulled El into his arms and tried to stop himself from shaking. Fowler had wanted Neal and Peter had let himself walk right into a trap.
"We'll get him back, Boss," Diana said with a conviction that Peter wasn't feeling. "We'll find him and nail Fowler's ass to the wall."
They left the precinct they'd been held at quickly, Diana driving them toward June's house. Peter had to see for himself if the receipt was true. All the calls they had attempted to Neal's cell and June's house went unanswered. Each passing minute left another stab of fear in Peter's heart.
He took the stairs to the loft two at a time and stopped short at the door that was standing open. Neal never left the door open. When he stepped inside, his heart sank. He heard El's gasp behind him.
The room had been ransacked. Paintings were tossed around and a half finished sculpture of Satchmo lay broken on the floor. Then Peter heard a moan and he reached for his gun that he didn't have.
"Suit?" Mozzie's strained voice concerned him.
"Moz?" El was already kneeling beside where the man was laying on the floor. His head had a gash on it with blood around the edges. "What happened?"
"They took Neal," he said shortly. "Agents from your precious FBI took him," Mozzie said, pointing an accusing finger at Peter. "I told Neal that being with a fed wasn't ideal for a slave. Of course, being a slave to anyone in the establishment is a death sentence. But you had Neal brainwashed and he ignored my invitations to a select group of freed slaves."
"We offered to free him," El said quietly. "He turned us down and we respected his choice. Now," she said with a wave at the destroyed room, "I wish we had forced the issue."
"Some guy named Fowler made a play for Neal by taking us out of the equation," Peter elaborated for Mozzie. "We just spent the afternoon in jail and it allowed him to legitimately confiscate Neal. We need to find out why," Peter said, slamming is hand down on the counter.
"Fowler's just the pawn," Diana said. "As much as I hate to fuel the little guy's beliefs in a corrupt government, this has money and coercion written all over it. Got tangled up enough in it when I was a kid with my parents in the State Department."
"But who would do all this just to get Neal?" El asked the question they were all wondering out loud.
"We'll figure it out," Peter said with a confidence he didn't feel.
"I'll get Jones and we'll work the FBI angle, Boss. Without your badge, you'd be better working with Mozzie behind the scenes. We'll feed you what we can. I’ll talk to Hughes where I'm sure we're not bugged and lay things out for him. At this point, we've got to considered everything compromised from our cells to our homes."
"I like the way you think, Lady Suit," Mozzie said. "Suit," he added, turning toward Peter. "Find me a package of sterile gauze, a laptop that has not been compromised by your brethren and a twenty dollar bill."
"And this will help us find Neal?" Peter asked in disbelief.
"Don't question the master of tracking and hacking the slave system. Just do as I say."
"I'll take care of the gauze," El said, giving Peter a little push.
"I'll let you know what I find out back at the office," Diana said as she headed for the door.
Peter nodded. He had the best team both inside and outside of the office. Now they just had to work together to find their missing member. He couldn't let Neal down. The man meant too much to both him and El for it to end this way.