Fandom: White Collar
Word Count: 6,059 This part
Beta Credit: elrhiarhodan
Warnings: Violence, knife use, non-canon death of canon characters (pre story)
Summary: Peter Burke is a high-end jeweler. When he meets Neal Caffrey, a talented young jewelry designer, it seems like a match made in heaven. But when Neal discovers that Peter is an ancient dragon, it sets in motion a firestorm that neither one may survive.
And just like that – it was perfect. Peter said he could care less what the rest of the staff thought. From a legal perspective, Neal was a consultant, not an employee so it didn’t count. Diana said as long as she didn’t walk in on them having sex she didn’t care what they did - that one made Neal shudder a bit and check the lock on his studio door. Peter finally got Neal to agree by cornering him against his kitchen counter and kissing him senseless.
Their days fell into a pattern. Coffee in the morning in the break room, the occasional customer consultation before lunch, grabbing a bite to eat with Diana and listening to her tease them unmercifully for ‘looking so cute together’, afternoons working with the highest quality stones, gold, silver and platinum. And, of course, Peter sneaking into his studio for “a meeting.”
Neal could set his watch by Peter. Usually around three, Neal would hear the door to his studio open, close and the lock engage. He’d look up, and there would be Peter, gorgeous and grinning, stalking towards him like a panther in search of his prey.
It wasn’t that they were having sex. Most days it was simply Peter wrapping his arms around Neal from behind, nuzzling his neck and asking what he was working on. Neal thought Peter liked to lock the door just to give the illusion of naughtiness.
Occasionally, though, Neal could tell that something was stressing Peter and he needed the release of sex. Neal would take one look at his lover; see the signs, slide out of his chair and drop to his knees. He’d push Peter against his drafting table, unzip his pants and take him in his mouth.
Riling Peter up so he could hear him moaning, Neal’d bring Peter to the edge and back, grinning up at him as he caressed Peter’s cock with his tongue. Then he would go in for the finish, sucking and licking until Peter exploded down his throat. Once he was done coaxing Peter’s orgasm out of him, he’d shimmy up and press his lips to Peter’s, sharing the taste. He wasn’t sure what Peter liked better – the blowjob or the kiss afterwards. Either way, Peter was relaxed, happy and back to functioning like a human, not a dragon on the edge of flaming innocent bystanders. Diana never asked for specifics - she was too classy for that - but would whisper “Thank you,” when they crossed paths in the break room.
Neal was more prolific than he had ever been. Peter kept him in the highest quality materials both old and new. His creations filled the display cases – everything from ancient Egyptian-style chokers, to earrings and bracelets influenced by Degas and Monet to full sets of jewelry in the style of the jazz age.
And the dragons – they filled his dreams, at rest, in flight. He designed jewelry and figurines to reflect his vision. The day that Peter gifted him with an antique dagger blade, claiming it came from the armory of Saint George, he locked himself in his studio overnight and wouldn’t let anyone in. Two weeks later Neal gave it back – its new hilt set in gold, rubies, amethysts and emeralds reflecting the rescue of the princess and the death of the dragon by Saint George. Peter told him it was the best gift he’d ever gotten and proceeded to fuck him senseless over the couch that night.
Evenings and weekends were spent learning each other. Dinner several times a week, either alone or with Elizabeth. Peter adored her cooking and had arranged for her to meet with one of his restaurant owner friends. With his help and connections she started her own event planning company – “Mitchell Premier Events” – and Peter used her exclusively.
Broadway shows, out of the way jazz clubs where they could slow dance to the sounds of a sultry torch singer, small film houses where making out was just as important as watching the movie. Museum exhibits where Neal was floored at Peter’s extensive knowledge of the time periods.
Then there were the times where they wouldn’t get out of bed for the entire weekend. Peter would test Neal’s stamina, fucking him until he was spent, then coaxing him back so he could do it again. And again. After one particularly intense session, Neal glared at him and called him the “Energizer Bunny”, which made Peter laugh so hard he fell out of bed.
They explored each other’s boundaries, and Neal discovered he liked it when Peter restrained him, biting and sucking bruises into Neal’s skin. He knew Peter had a thing for Neal’s nipple rings, playing with them endlessly while Neal squirmed, arousal rippling throughout his body. He also loved it when Neal rode him, grabbing Neal’s hips and bucking up into him until they both came, sticky and sweaty as Neal collapsed over him.
But the times Neal liked the best were in the deep hours after midnight, when he was fucked out and sated and drifting towards slumber. Peter would nuzzle his neck and Neal would feel his cock, impossibly hard again, nudge its way back inside Neal’s body. Peter would murmur silly endearments into Neal’s shoulder as he rocked slowly back and forth, caressing Neal’s dick. They would fall asleep, Peter tucked inside Neal’s ass, his hand embracing Neal’s cock.
It was perfect – until suddenly it wasn’t.
The day was a disaster from the beginning. Their distributor hadn’t shipped the new display interiors, and hadn’t bothered to let Diana know. On top of that, the shop’s insurance policy was going to be cancelled at midnight because the company had misplaced the store’s payment paperwork, and several of the staff were out with a summer respiratory bug. Peter had walked into Neal’s studio to ask him to help out on the showroom floor.
“I know it’s not your thing, but please?” Peter rubbed his hand over his forehead. “I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need you.”
“Not a problem.” Neal leaned over and gave Peter a kiss. “Relax, it’ll be fine. Let me change my clothes and throw on a jacket.” He headed over to the closet in his studio where he kept a pair of dress pants and a silk sweater for emergencies. “Lock the door, okay?”
As Peter flipped the latch, Neal quickly undressed. He had his pants halfway on when he looked up to see Peter grinning at him, a lustful look in his eye. “Stop that. We have to work.”
“Doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the view.” Peter leaned back on the drafting table and licked his lips. Neal laughed and wiggled his ass at the other man. “Don’t start something you can’t finish,” Peter growled at him.
“Just think of that as a teaser for tonight.” Neal winked at his lover. “Maybe I’ll strip for you.” He rotated his hips as he pulled on his shirt and started buttoning it. “Make sure you have dollars.”
“C’mon, Ken. We’ve got customers.”
Neal chuckled as he tucked in his shirt and pulled on his jacket. He felt Peter’s hand squeeze his ass as they exited the studio.
Three hours later and Neal was ready for a break. Diana had threatened the distributor into submission and the displays would be delivered tomorrow, a call to the insurance company and a fax of the cancelled check cleared up the cancellation issue, and Neal wound up in the middle of a domestic dispute when the wife of one of their customers caught him buying diamond and emerald earrings for his mistress.
Security had escorted them out of the store, but not before Neal had gotten smacked in the face by a bright pink Prada bag. He spent twenty minutes in the break room with a iced-filled towel pressed against his cheek, trying to bring the swelling down.
Peter checked on him after dealing with the insurance issue. “Let me see.” He moved the ice pack from Neal’s face. “Not as bad as I thought it would be. Does it still hurt?”
“A bit. I’ll probably take some Tylenol and it should be fine.” Neal emptied the ice into the sink. “Lunch?”
Peter’s face fell. “Can’t. I’ve got a lunch meeting with the New York Jewelers Association Board.” He kissed Neal’s cheek. “I’d rather go to lunch with you.”
“Not a problem. But I am getting out of the store. There’s a reason why I didn’t go into retail.”
“Okay, just let Diana know you’re leaving.” Peter gave him a hug. “Gotta go. Bring me back something sweet from wherever you’re going.”
“I will.” Neal watched Peter head out of the break room, his Armani suit hugging his long legs and wide shoulders and counted himself lucky to have him in his life. Popping his head into Diana’s office, he saw her intently staring at her computer.
“Diana, I’m going out to grab a bite at Melini’s.”
“I can’t leave. Can you bring me back a cranberry chicken salad and an iced tea?” She clicked her mouse repeatedly, cursing.
Neal grinned. “Sure thing. I’ll bring back some of their cookies too. Sounds like you need some sugar.”
“Smartass. Don’t make me fire you.” She began typing again.
“You can’t. I’m sleeping with the boss.” He winked at her.
Laughing, he headed out for lunch. When he arrived at the restaurant, he sat at an outer table under one of the umbrellas. After placing his order, he took out a sketchbook and pencil to work on one of the commissions he’d recently gotten.
“Neal.” He looked up to see Sam standing next to his table and grinned. Over the last few months the two men had gotten close, Sam telling him all sorts of stories about his father when he was younger. “What happened to your face?”
“An unfortunate incident with a designer handbag and a philandering spouse.” Neal chuckled ruefully. Should be fine by morning. What are you doing here?”
“I – I stopped by your work to see you, but you had just left, so I followed you here.”
Neal frowned. Sam sounded off – not like the man who’d come to dinner at his house and teased him about his love for dragons. They’d had many conversations about the mythology of dragonlore and Sam was surprisingly knowledgeable, telling Neal things that even he didn’t know.
“Sam, you okay?” Neal motioned for the other man to sit with him. “You look worried.”
“I’m okay. Just…” Sam stopped in mid-sentence and Neal saw him look around, almost fearful. “I know you’ve told me where you worked, but I didn’t put two and two together until I came to ask you to grab a bite and I saw him.”
“Who’s him?” Neal was confused.
“Wait. I’m not telling this right.” Sam sighed and looked piercingly at Neal. “Let me start again. How much did your mother tell you about the night your dad died?”
Neal paused, caution warring with his need to know more about his father. The need won out. “Not much,” he admitted. “After he died, she didn’t talk about him. Then she got sick and we had other things to deal with…” He trailed off.
“Your mom was a great woman and your dad loved her very much.” Sam leaned toward Neal and patted his hand. “Neal, you know your dad was a good man and a great cop, but after he died, your mom didn’t want to have anything to do with the police. She changed your name and moved from the neighborhood. Remember I said that she refused to talk to me and wouldn’t let me see you? She had a good reason.”
Neal combed through his memories of that time. There were bits and pieces of arguments, images of packing up their house and moving to a different place but nothing concrete. “Why? What was the reason that she didn’t want to see you?”
Sam regarded him. “Because the night your father died he was murdered by a rogue dragon and she was afraid it would follow me and come after the two of you.”
‘What?” Neal stared at Sam. That was ridiculous and his mind refused to process it. “You mean like a gang member, right? That kind of dragon?” He’d heard about a gang in Chinatown that went under that moniker. That must be it.
“No, a real dragon, Neal. Fire-breathing, wings, the whole nine yards.”
“Dragons are a myth, you know that.” He stated that bluntly.
“No, Neal. They’re not. They’re real. And your dad and I hunted them.” Silently, Sam pulled out a cloth covered item from his pocket. He set it on the table in front of Neal. “Go on. Look at it.”
Neal reached out with a tentative hand and pulled the item closer. Slowly he unwrapped it. Nestled in the cloth was a small oblong-shaped item shimmering with a dull iridescence. Neal inhaled sharply, not wanting to believe in the object in front of him.
It was a dragon scale.
Sam seemed to read his mind. “Yeah, it’s what you think it is. Pulled from the rogue that we were after that night.”
Neal ran a finger over it. The texture was warm, almost like it was still attached to the - .
“No. This is a joke. And you’re full of shit.” Neal felt humiliated. Sam had taken his childhood love and had made a farce of it. He threw some bills on the table to cover his lunch. Standing up, he looked at Sam. “Don’t contact me again.” He began to walk away.
“Neal! Ask Peter Burke what he knows about dragons!”
Neal froze. Slowly he turned around and stared at Sam. “What did you say?”
“You heard me. Ask your boss what he knows about dragons.” Sam was standing at the table with a smirk on his face.
“Leave Peter out of this.” Neal took a step towards Sam.
“I can’t. He’s the rogue who murdered your parents.”
“Murdered my parents? You’re crazy. My mother died of cancer and my father was killed in the line of duty.”
“The rogue poisoned your mother to keep your father from getting too close. You father didn’t listen and Burke murdered him. I have proof.”
Neal swayed, his equilibrium tilting as he absorbed Sam’s words. The other man grabbed him and guided him back towards the table. “Here, sit down.” Sam put a glass of water into Neal’s hand and brought it to his lips. “Drink.”
Neal gulped the water, trying to make sense of Sam’s statements. A dragon killed his parents. Peter was a dragon. Peter killed his parents.
“No!” He was nauseous and sweating. Suddenly he felt Sam push his head to his knees and tell the waitress that it was the heat. “You’re lying,” he whispered.
“I’m not, Neal. I’m sorry.” He felt Sam put a dampened napkin on his neck. “There’s more, but I can’t tell you here.” Sam shoved a piece of paper into Neal’s hand. “The dragons have human agents that report to them. When you’re ready to hear what I know you can call me. Until then – Google ‘Peter Burke dragon’ and see what you find. I need to go.”
Breathing deep, Neal sat up. Sam was gone, but the scale was still on the table. Quickly Neal wrapped it back up and shoved it into his pocket with the paper.
He couldn’t go back to work. Not with what Sam had told him. He needed to think. He pulled out his phone and called the store. Diana answered.
“Did you get my salad?
“Actually Diana, I think I need to go home. I’m not feeling well all of a sudden.” It wasn’t a lie. Neal felt awful. “Nauseous and sweaty.”
“Ugh, yeah. Go home. I’ll let Peter know.” Neal could hear Diana’s concern.
“Thanks. We had dinner plans, but I think I just need to be home alone tonight. Tell Peter I’m sorry.” Neal wasn’t sure whether he was apologizing for missing dinner or for something else. He clicked off the phone and hailed a cab.
Sliding in the back seat, Neal gave the cabbie his address. Closing his eyes, he let his hand close around the scale in his pocket.
For the first time in his life, he wished he’d never heard of dragons.
Neal’s house was silent, the only sounds the distant rumble of the trains and the honking of the taxicabs. His cell phone had stopped ringing and beeping several hours ago – Neal had finally convinced a worried Peter that he just needed some alone time to “feel better” and that he would see him tomorrow.
He’d pulled the curtains, uncorked the leftover Merlot from last night’s dinner and proceeded to get quietly inebriated. His buzz was wearing off, however, which meant everything that Sam had – and hadn’t – told him was whirling around in his brain.
With a shudder, he took another gulp of wine, feeling it course through his body. Picking up the dragon scale lying in the middle of his kitchen table, he rose unsteadily and stumbled over to the living room couch. Falling into the cushions, he closed his eyes for a moment, before he allowed himself to really look at the object in his hand.
Neal could see the pearly play of color shimmering across its surface. The texture was nothing like he’d ever touched before. He rubbed his thumb across it and felt a low tingling – almost electric – skitter across his fingers. There was no way that this was man-made, counterfeit, whatever you wanted to call it. He was holding a genuine dragon scale.
Dragons were real. For a moment he allowed himself to bask in the realization that his childhood dreams were true before the possible truth of Sam’s words sent his heart plummeting.
Dragons were real. Peter was a dragon. Peter killed his parents.
NO! Neal refused to believe that. Peter was not a killer. The rational portion of Neal’s brain kept insisting that Sam was lying. Peter would never kill anyone.
You may not think he’s a killer, but you DO believe he’s a dragon.
That thought stopped Neal cold. He realized that while he’d denied that Peter could have killed his parents, he’d never questioned Sam’s statement that Peter was a dragon.
He needed another drink.
The half-empty bottle of Merlot was on the coffee table in front of him. Just what he needed. He took a long drink, finishing the bottle. Glancing over, he saw his laptop slightly buried under one of the couch cushions. Blearily remembering what Sam had said, he pulled it over and called up Google Chrome.
With only one or two false starts, he typed in ‘Peter Burke Dragon’ and hit enter. Half a million hits popped up immediately. He scrolled through them, able to eliminate the majority as related to “The Dragon’s Hoard” in one form or another.
It took fifteen minutes for Neal to whittle down the search to six potential websites. He clicked on the first one and winced - the bright red and yellow colors giving him the beginnings of a headache. Turning down the brightness, he began reading.
Two hours later he was sitting on the couch, feeling like he’d fallen down the rabbit hole.
All six websites ‘confirmed’ the existence of dragons as real beings. Granted, most of the pictures were blurry and made the official Loch Ness Monster photo from the 30s look authentic, but there were a few that showed something that may or may not be real.
The majority of the information was the same – dragons had been around for centuries but kept themselves apart from humans due to the inevitable conflict between the two races. Fairy tales of the fire breathing dragon holding the princess hostage while the brave knight fought to save her were sanitized versions of real altercations over land and property. Each culture had their own stories based on historical facts and events.
Neal opened the bottle of water he’s gotten earlier and swallowed the Tylenol he needed to get rid of the full blown headache that was sitting over his right eye.
There were sections on the types of dragons still in existence, their long life spans, how they were able to shift into human form, mate with humans – he didn’t let himself read that part – and basically coexist in day to day life.
Three of the six sites had a checklist on how to identify a dragon – ‘likes gold’ was at the top of the list – and a who’s who of prominent people who might be dragons.
Neal read down the list, chuckling at some of the names - the Kardashians, Flava Flav, Liberace, Elton John – amongst several high profile politicians, international dignitaries and sports figures. Scrolling down further, he saw it.
Peter Burke, jeweler.
Peter’s name was in blue, which meant it was a live link. His mouth dry, Neal hesitated as he placed his cursor over the letters. He knew once he pressed the button there was no going back and he would have to live with the information he found.
The click of the mouse echoed throughout the living room. Almost immediately, a picture graced Neal’s screen – Peter, seated, stunning in a black Armani suit, a silver and black striped tie the perfect accent. His hands and wrists at rest on the arms of the chair, his form radiating unconscious supremacy. Complete strength in stillness. Neal licked his lips, knowing intimately what power Peter’s body had, had felt it pinning him down, caging him as Peter took and gave pleasure.
If that picture were all the evidence he was given, Neal would be hard pressed not to consider the possibility that Peter was a dragon.
He concentrated on the text next to the photo. It covered Peter’s unusual success in the high-end jewelry business – rivalling Winston and Tiffany - and questioned whether his great-grandfather truly was an ancestor or whether it had been Peter all along. Several photos followed – illustrations of portraits and daguerreotypes claiming to be the current Peter Burke, but they were too damaged or out of focus for Neal to make a determination.
The blurb went on to discuss Peter’s connections with VIP’s and celebrities who were “out” and even hinted at possible mob connections a la Frank Sinatra.
A small image caught Neal’s eye. It was the local section of the New York Post dated 1971. The headline of the story read “Attempted robbery of local jewelry store possibly linked to Mob activity.” Next to it was a picture of “The Dragon’s Hoard.”
Again, a small picture of Peter and again, it was blurred. Almost as though he’d known there was a camera and intentionally moved just as the shutter flashed.
Neal huffed in frustration. There was just enough information to raise his suspicions but not enough to confirm anything. Exactly what all the conspiracy theorists wanted. He sighed, closing his laptop.
His thoughts were interrupted by Elizabeth’s ringtone. “Hey.”
“Hey there. Called the store and Diana said you went home sick. Are you okay?” Elizabeth sounded concerned.
“Yeah, just have a touch of whatever’s going around.” Neal wasn’t going to tell her the truth – at least not yet. “I’ll be better in the morning I think.”
“You sure? I could bring over some soup if you want.”
“Thanks but I’ll be okay. Just need some rest, I think.” Neal paused. “Hey, El, can I ask you a question?”
“Did your mom ever mention anything about the time when my dad died?” Neal stood up and headed over to the kitchen to get more water. “Anything…maybe…weird?” He fished out a water bottle from the fridge.
“No that I can remember….” Neal could tell that Elizabeth was thinking. “Wait – there was this one time when we were older that mom mentioned something that Aunt Julia said to her. Let me think…it was something about your dad’s death not being as it seemed.”
“Can you remember specifics?” Neal gripped the water bottle tightly, his thirst forgotten.
“Something about Uncle James being led astray by a fairytale. It made no sense at the time. It was when Aunt Julia was in a lot of pain from the cancer and mom just kind of wrote it off as the drugs talking. Neal, why are you asking?” Elizabeth sounded concerned.
“No real reason. Just was thinking about them today.” Neal dug into his pocket and pulled out the paper with Sam’s number on it. “Hey listen, I’m kind of feeling tired and I think I’m going to lie down for a bit. I’ll call you later.” He hung up before she could ask any more questions.
Led astray by a fairytale…
Neal dialed the number on the paper. “Sam, it’s Neal. When can we meet?”
It was dark and damp, the beginnings of another summer storm rolling in over the Atlantic. Neal paid the cab driver and rushed up to the door as the first drops began to fall. Pressing the doorbell twice, then three times, as instructed, Neal chuckled to himself, feeling a bit like he was stuck in a B-movie plot. The only things missing were the femme fatale and the man in a black trench coat that should be following him.
Sam buzzed him in and was waiting for Neal at the door. “Anyone follow you?”
Really? It was just getting more ridiculous. “Not that I’m aware of,” Neal responded dryly.
“Don’t be a smart ass, Neal. I know what this looks like. We have to be careful.” Sam flipped the four locks on the door, as well as the chain. “Remember, people have died over this.” He turned and headed into the living room, leaving Neal standing in the foyer. People have died…my parents have died…
Suddenly it didn’t seem so humorous anymore.
“So are you coming in here or what?” Sam’s voice echoed in the foyer, startling Neal out of his thoughts. He hurried into the living room where Sam was seated, files and papers spread out over the coffee table. The older man gestured to a chair. “Sit.”
Neal took off his coat and laid it on the back of the chair before sitting down across from Sam. They both were silent, Neal looking at the items on the table and Sam looking at Neal.
“So…I Googled Peter like you suggested,” Neal began.
“And?” Sam sat back and quirked an eyebrow. “What did you find?”
“A lot of crazy.” Neal shook his head. “But…”
“Some stuff you couldn’t ignore, right?” Sam leaned forward. “Just enough truth under the conspiracy rants to make you wonder.”
“Yeah.” Neal thought about his next words. “The stuff about Peter – I’m having a hard time believing it.”
“Let me tell you what I know and see how you feel then.” Sam shuffled through the files, picking up some and shifting others. “Here, look at this while I fill you in.” He handed Neal a file.
“What’s this?” Neal opened it to find the same picture of Peter that he’d seen on the web site.
“Peter Burke’s file. The public one.”
Neal quickly read through the information. It outlined Peter’s life – where he was born, where he grew up, his family, his education – nothing that Neal didn’t already know. “Okay. It seems straightforward.”
“Now look at this one.” Sam handed him another file, this one a bit thicker. It had the same information that the earlier one had, but this one had notations and additional items. Items like lineage, photos, reports. All intimating that Peter was, in fact, a dragon.
“This is pretty much what I saw online. Hints, but nothing concrete.” Neal looked at Sam. “I thought you had proof.”
“I do. But let’s start with dragons in general. As a whole they aren’t bad, as long as they stay within their boundaries and don’t let the regular folks know that they exist. However, every once in a while there are a few that go rogue and do all sorts of damage.”
Neal saw Sam dig through the papers and come up with a photograph. “You weren’t born yet when the New York blackout happened in 1977.” Sam gave Neal a photo. It was an instant photo from a Polaroid Land camera and showed policemen circa the 1970s standing on either side of a dead dragon. “It wasn’t because lightening hit a substation on the Hudson. That Wyvern was the cause. He blasted several businesses in the Buchanan area because they were rival companies.”
Neal stared at the picture. It was clear and sharp, the dragon in full light. Not shadowed like the photos on the web sites. There was no denying that it looked like a dragon. But even back then, Hollywood had a way of making the fantastical look real. Neal looked closer, trying to see if he could find anything that would indicate it was a set prop of some kind.
The dragon – Wyvern – had deep red scales and bright orange spikes. There was blood pooling under a large gash in its neck, as well as from several cuts along its head and body. The bulk of it was obvious – Neal could feel the weight even through the photo.
Neal still considered the possibility it was fake until he focused on its eyes. Half-lidded, staring at the camera in hatred. Neal realized with a shock that the dragon was still alive – though barely – when the photo was taken. He could see the intelligence, dimming as the dragon died, but still obvious for anyone to see. Hollywood was good, but not THAT good.
Unconsciously, his finger touched the picture and he felt a wave of sadness well up for the dragon. Such a majestic creature getting cut down like that just seemed so wrong.
Sam continued. “There were a group of us over the years that were - recruited – I guess you could say, to hunt down the rogues and get rid of them before they did anything that would let Joe Citizen know they existed.”
Sam went on to explain to Neal what constituted a rogue. Destruction of property, danger to humans, and the threat of exposure.
“So where does that put Peter? How do you know he’s a dragon?” Even though Neal now had seen proof of dragons, he still wanted concrete evidence that Peter was one and was rogue at that.
“I know because of this.” Sam pulled up his shirt to expose his torso. Neal gasped. Across Sam’s belly and chest were huge scars – claw marks – that ran from one side of his body to another. They were old but still deep. “He did this to me the night he killed your father. The only reason why I’m still alive is because he was half-morphed and wasn’t a full dragon.” He tugged his shirt back down. “Now are you ready to hear the full story?”
Silently, Neal nodded.
“Peter Burke was, and still is, the oldest dragon living in New York City. He’s been around as far as we can tell since at least 1850. Of course he didn’t call himself Peter Burke. Every so often he would go underground and reemerge as a relative of some sort.”
Sam got up and headed to the kitchen, motioning Neal to follow. He poured them both a glass of water and leaned against the counter. “For the longest time there was no problem with him. In fact, he kept the other dragons in the area in line. Policing his own. Then, about the mid-1970s, there were rumblings about the dragons wanting to come out, that humans were ‘ready to know the truth,’” Sam made air quotes. “But in reality, the dragons wanted to be in charge, and humans were in their way.”
Neal sipped his water, trying to take in what Sam was saying.
“So the powers that be talked to Burke and he reassured them that humans had nothing to worry about, that he would take care of it. He gave us some names of rogues that were behind it. What we didn’t know then was that he was the one orchestrating the idea.”
“But why?” It didn’t seem to fit with what Neal knew about Peter.
“Because Burke wanted control of the area, which included dragons and humans, and if he could get rid of his competitors it would be easier to take over.” Sam walked back to the living room and picked up Peter’s file. Thumbing through it, he pulled out a few papers and handed them to Neal. “All this? The whole mob connection? It was a cover for Burke to start his takeover.”
Neal read the information. Everything in there pointed to exactly what Sam was telling him about Peter. His stomach started to hurt and he gulped down a wave of nausea. “So how…how was my dad involved? And my mom…?”
“James had been doing some basic research when he stumbled across the link between Burke and the dragon problem. He came to me and we brought it to the brass. What we didn’t realize, and should have, was that Burke had some top officials in his pocket.”
Sam sat back down and put a metal box on the table. Opening it, he removed several photos. “Burke had been meeting with several of his contacts in the police department, keeping apprised of the situation.” Sam tossed the photos on the table. They were of Peter and several men in official police uniforms. “James and I were too close to the truth. So Burke sent a warning.”
Sam sat back and looked at Neal. “He let your dad know that he was getting too close and if he didn’t stop, then Burke would hurt him.” Sam paused. “James didn’t and Burke poisoned your mom with dragon’s blood. Gave her cancer.”
Neal couldn’t breathe. His heart was hammering and his throat was tight. Sam had proof that dragons existed, that Peter was a dragon. Why shouldn’t this part be true also? A small voice tried to contradict him, tried to tell him that Peter wouldn’t have done that, but it was overwhelmed by the deluge of evidence in front of him.
“And my dad? Peter killed him?” Neal knew his voice was faint.
“Yeah. James and I went to his penthouse to take care of him. It was the only thing we could think of to do. Burke got the drop on us, hit your dad and broke his neck. I was getting James’ body out of there when Burke gave me the scars I showed you. It was all covered up and your dad got a posthumous commendation.”
Neal had reached his limit. He held up his hand. “I – I can’t. This is all too much. I don’t…” He stood up, staggering to the front door.
Sam followed him. “You don’t believe me?” Sam was shouting. “I gave you proof, Neal – what more do you need? The next time you see him, check Burke’s back. Look for the dragon scales. Maybe if you see them for yourself you’ll know I’m telling the truth!”
Neal stumbled out of Sam’s house and vomited into the planter next to his door. He needed to get home, to see Peter, to stay away from him, to do something, anything to calm the tumult that was in his head, in his heart.
Weakly he hailed a cab. Climbing in, he gave his address, staring out the window at the rain as the cab pulled away from the curb.