Peter turned the headlights off and drove slowly and carefully along the route he'd walked that afternoon and memorised. Finally, after fraying his nerves to bloody strings trying to creep along the rutted track in the dark, he shut the engine off and let the car coast to a stop.
He got out quietly and waited at the appointed place, at the appointed time. And waited. And waited.
Then, at last, just when he was about to give up, he thought he saw a ghost of movement. And again, another flicker of white, pale and unearthly in the darkness. That damn white suit. He'd hoped Neal would have changed but he supposed Neal hadn't had the opportunity. Still, it wasn't like Neal not to have stashed something along the escape route. Nor was it like Neal to be approaching the rendevous that quickly and with none of his usual grace or caution.
Peter flicked open the catch on his holster, drew his weapon very slowly and quietly, compulsively re-checked that it was in working order and re-holstered it, making sure he could slide it out real fast if he had to. When he had to. Neal was coming in hot and he really regretted that he'd not done this officially or openly, with lights and vests and FBI written in big yellow letters.
Neal scurried up the fence like a rat, threw his coat over the razor wire and vaulted over, snatching his coat down with him as he dropped to the ground. He slipped it back on, somewhat the worse for wear, as he faced Peter with a perfect white smile in the gloom, like a certain cat.
"Hey yourself. What happened?"
"Let's get moving," Neal insisted, deflecting Peter's question with a loose shrug that said not now, maybe not ever.
Peter put an arm around him protectively and drew him close and turned him towards the car, when they were suddenly blinded like rabbits in spotlights.
A shot cracked and kicked up dust at their feet so they didn't have to be told not to move. They both put their hands up in the air and that's when everyone saw Peter's gun and badge.
"He's a Fed!" the cry and murmur went up and through the group of men who'd gathered in a loose semicircle under the spotlights that dotted the fence perimeter. A ute with racks and bars rolled up, also spotlighting the boys, and this news was conveyed to the occupants through a half open window.
A door creaked open and slammed shut and Reilly's second in command stood there. Of course, the enforcer. Who else were they going to send to do the dirty work.
"Missed you at evening prayer, Neal," he drawled, stepping towards them. "Yes, I know all about that. Turns out, you're pretty famous. What, did you think we were idiots? How long did you think it would be before someone in the congregation recognised you."
"Well, since you don't allow books or newspapers or America's Most Wanted, as a rule," he added, pointedly, having seen the high tech back office. "I thought I'd be pretty safe."
"I bet you did. You know, when we found out, we thought you were just another low life thief, out to take what he could get."
"Takes one to know one."
That earned Neal a punch in the guts. Peter gave Neal a sharp warning look and quick shake of the head but Neal came back up with that shit eating grin on his face.
Peter tensed, knowing this was getting worse by the minute.
"We figured you might try and run, so me and the boys figured we'd teach you a lesson, a bit of tar and feathering."
There were nods among the chorus at this.
"But now I find out you're really a Fed. I've seen him with you before. What is he, your partner?"
Peter was blazing a look at Neal, begging him to please just accept the charge of spying.
Neal looked up and smiled.
"Yes," he answered. "He is. He's also my lover." And Neal winked and blew them a kiss.
That was it. They were buried under a crashing scum of fists and feet.
The next thing Peter knew he was without his gun and badge, trussed up like a hunting trophy and slung beside Neal, bouncing together over rough roads in the open back of the truck.
Neal was conscious and serenely calm, staring up at the night sky, which terrified Peter more than anything. He wanted Neal to at least be trying to pick apart the ropes but the swaying of the truck was too violent, slinging them this way and that, pounding them into the hard metal sides and bouncing them off the rutted metal tray. And then there was no more time. The truck stopped, the back opened and they were dragged out and thrown onto the ground like pieces of meat.
Peter was expecting to be handed a shovel and told to dig his own grave but they weren't even going to be afforded that dignity.
They were hauled to their knees in the headlights of the truck, hunting rifles pointed towards them.
Yes, yes, yes, this story is so old most of it was written while I was watching Carnivale and reading Chandler. Not that you can tell, dearie me, no. Ahem.