A Con man conned

Kate's death leaves Neal Caffrey heartbroken and he buries himself in his work for the FBI. When Peter presents him with a new case of a stolen masterpiece from a New York penthouse, Neal thinks he's found the perfect distraction. Central Park, a beautiful woman, art and and an old enemy..it all sounds too good to be true. But as he should know, not everything is always as it seems and this time the con man may have met his match.

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1. The aftermath

Leaning on the sink he gazed at himself in the mirror. Evidence of the last few weeks written all over his face. Slightly darker circles under his eyes revealing that it had been a while since he slept through the night. But when he closed his eyes he could still see the plane just before it went up in a blaze of fire, still feel the heat on his skin. The moment he lost Kate forever was burned in his soul and  no matter how hard he tried, he could not get her off his mind. 

Neal sighed and straightened his tie. It was time to return to work. Peter had given him all the time he needed to deal with his grief but now it felt like the walls were closing in on him. Work would distract him and he had to admit that he missed everyone at the Bureau. Jones and Diana bickering, Hughes' two finger points and even the terrible coffee. But most of all he missed Peter. Next to Mozzie, Peter was the closest thing Neal had to family and in a crisis, family is what you need most.

He walked into the office and greeted Diana with a bright smile. "Yup, I'm back. I hope you left me some interesting cases." He winked as he past her and walked up the stairs to Peter's office. He found his partner hunched over some papers and knocked on the glass door. "New case?", he asked sinking into the chair opposite Peter. 

Peter looked up from his file and smiled. "Neal. It's good to see you. How have you been?" He watched his C.I. intently with an almost fatherly concern. "I'm doing better", Neal replied somewhat nervous. "Ready to return to work. All this sitting at home wasn't helping much either with everyone hovering over me. June checked on me constantly and I can't remember ever spending so much time with Mozzie. Don't get me wrong, I love Moz but there are only so many conspiracy theories a man can handle. It's time to get my hands dirty again." He gave Peter a cheesy smile and pointed to the opened file on the desk. "So, are you going to fill me in?"

"As long as you're sure you're up to return. You know we would like nothing more than to have you back" Peter answered. "New case and I am interested to hear what you think." He moved the file across the desk and paused while Neal browsed through the pages. "Three paintings that disappeared from a penthouse apartment without a breach in the high end security system. I know, it sounds like an inside job but this thief knew exactly what he wanted. There were far more valuable paintings in that apartment so why these three? To make it more interesting, Vincent Adler recently made an offer on one of the stolen paintings but the owner declined his offer." Neal moved uncomfortably in his chair when Adler's name was mentioned. According to Moz, Adler had most to gain from Kate's death and he was convinced that Neal's old boss was behind the explosion. This couldn't be a coincidence. "Is there any proof that connects Adler to the robbery?", he asked without looking up from the file. "Not yet" Peter replied, "I was actually planning on taking a look at the crime scene. Let's see what we can dig up." He grabbed his jacket and walked towards the door. "Coming? You can read the rest of that in the car." Neal got up and smiled walking past Peter out the door. "With the way you drive? I don't think so." 

Peter glanced over to his C.I. as he maneuvered his car through the busy New York traffic. "So..how have you really been. I know I probably should have called more often but El. thought you would call us if you needed to talk. And I assume you had Mozzie?" Neal shifted uncomfortably in his seat and kept his eyes fixed on the road ahead. "It's been a tough couple of weeks, I won't deny that." He paused, weighing his words carefully. "When I close my eyes it still feels like it happened only yesterday and I've been going over and over this in my mind but it doesn't make any sense. Who would want to kill Kate? I mean, you have to agree that it doesn't add up and this was no freak accident. They were probably after me. If you hadn't stopped me on the runway I would have been aboard with her. It's my fault she is dead." He swallowed hard and looked out the window, hoping Peter wouldn't pick up on the despair in his voice.  "The FAA already started their investigation and the Bureau has their best agents on this. We'll get some answers, Neal" Peter assured. "But blaming yourself serves no one. Kate wouldn't want you to think that way. She would want you to go on, right? Wasn't that the plan all along? You and her disappearing so you could have a life together? Look, I can't bring her back but I can guarantee some closure. I'll make you a deal. I'll share all information we uncover but I need your word that you will not go on some vigilante mission. Let the law handle this, Neal. Got that?" Neal looked sideways and nodded. He wasn't about to make a promise he already knew he had no intention of keeping. But Peter looked pleased and that was all that mattered for the moment.  

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