New York City… One hour later…
When Peter showed up at the uptown gallery where the new art exhibit from Bruce Wayne’s private collection was going to be shown, he had to pause in appreciation at what he saw. Perhaps Neal had a point earlier, if the amount of private security he could see crawling around the building was any indication. From the sidewalk, he counted no less than six different cameras covering just the main entrance, the alleys on either side of the building, and the street that passed in front of it going in both directions. There were a pair of obvious security guards in crisp black suits standing at the main entrance, but Peter’s trained eye spotted at least two more guards in plain clothes patrolling around the general area.
“I’m sorry, sir,” one of the posted guards said as he automatically blocked Peter’s path into the building. “But this gallery is currently closed to the public.”
“I’m not the public,” Peter said as he flashed his badge. “I’m Special Agent Peter Burke from the FBI. I’ve got an appointment with Mr. Richard Grayson.”
The guard took a close look at the badge. “One moment, please.” He turned his head and pulled his collar up to his lips. It was only then that Peter noticed that what he thought was just a small round pin was actually some sort of communication device. It seemed to work in conjunction with the earpiece the guard was wearing. “Mr. Grayson? We have a Special Agent Peter Burke from the FBI at the front entrance to see you.” There was a pause as he got his instructions. Then he turned back to Peter. “Mr. Grayson is expecting you. He’ll meet you in the foyer. Please step inside.”
Inside, the security was no less impressive. The foyer had cameras covering every conceivable angle, and the ornate, elegant display cases being set up had more high tech hardware filling their hollow marble bases than Peter would’ve imagined possible in such small spaces.
“Do you like what you see, Agent Burke?”
Peter turned his head to see a dark haired man casually sauntering down a spiral staircase towards him. “Mr. Grayson, I presume?”
He was rewarded with a charming grin and an open hand as soon as they were within reach of each other. “You presume correctly.”
As they shook hands, the federal agent in Peter couldn’t help but make several observations about the man in front of him. Richard Grayson was a tall man in his mid-thirties with an athletic build. He had black hair, blue eyes, and had a very polished, clean cut appearance. At first glance, he looked every bit the wealthy man of privilege that most would assume upon seeing the eldest adopted son of Bruce Wayne. However, there were a few traits that Peter found slightly out of character. For one, when he shook Grayson’s hand he was a little curious to find it was not the well-manicured, soft-skinned grip he was used to shaking whenever he first met men with more money than they knew what to do with. The skin of Grayson’s hand was thick and callused and his nails were cut to a short, practical length. Peter was certain he caught a glimpse of faint scar lines as well. These were the hands of a man who worked for hard for a living, even though he didn’t give the obvious public appearance of it.
There was also the matter of Grayson’s tone of voice and general body language towards him. Most of the wealthy men he dealt with in the past tended to look down upon him, seeing as how he was several rungs down the social ladder from them. Of course they never said so outright, but he could read it in their body language and tone of voice. Peter didn’t get that vibe at all from the man in front of him as they spoke. If he was observing everything correctly, then Richard Grayson was respectfully treating him as someone akin to an equal and not someone beneath him. Peter decided that it was a nice change of pace.
“I must say, Mr. Grayson,” Peter started as he glanced around the foyer. “I am impressed by what I’ve seen so far. A colleague of mind had said that this event would be more locked down than Fort Knox. I thought he was just exaggerating, but now I’m starting to see his point.”
Grayson chuckled. “Well, while this level of security may seem like overkill, it’s fairly standard procedure for anything involving Wayne Enterprises. Better safe than sorry.” He then motioned for Peter to follow him out of the foyer and into the main gallery.
Inside the main gallery, though it was still incomplete, Peter could see that the collection being showcased was an impressive one. He couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt for not bringing Neal with him today. Peter was certain that having the chance to bask in a collection of rare and exquisite art like this would have lifted Neal’s spirit considerably. Still, he eased his conscious by reminding himself that Neal would be trying to break into this place in a few days time.
“So what do you think, Agent Burke? Do you think the agent you’ve got testing our security is up to the task?”
“Honestly? As good as our guy is I don’t think he’s got a snowball’s chance in hell of getting anything out of this building.” Then Peter smirked. “However, he has surprised me in the past, so I can’t count him completely out yet.” Suddenly, an idea popped into his head. “I do have a favor to ask you regarding him, though.”
“And that is?”
“After this test is concluded, is it possible to get him an invite to the gallery’s opening night event?”
Grayson shook his head with an apologetic expression. “I’m sorry, but the official opening night gala is restricted to a very specific guest list. However, I could get him an invite to the following event, which will be open to the press and social elite of New York. “
Peter nodded. “I’m sure that’ll work out just fine.”
As they crossed the gallery, a flurry of activity and a familiar voice drew Peter’s immediate attention.
“No, no, no… These drapes will not work at all. The color is all wrong and the pattern screams 19th century dusty old museum. Go find me some swatches of something in a neutral color, but with a modern design. And hurry. We’ve got just two weeks before the opening.”
Peter’s eyes lit up. “Elle?”
The dark-haired woman at the center of the whirlwind of activity turned in surprise. “Peter!” A big smile brightened her face as she immediately closed the distance between the two of them and placed a kiss on his cheek. “What are you doing here, hun?”
Realization dawned on Grayson’s face as he put two and two together. “Ah… Burke Premiere Events. Am I safe to assume that our lovely event coordinator is your wife?”
Peter nodded before turning back to his wife. “So this is the huge secret high profile event you’ve been working on for the better part of this month?”
Elizabeth nodded. “I really wanted to tell you, but I had to sign an iron-clad confidentiality agreement. I’m pretty sure the fine print on the contract said that my soul would be forfeit if I spilled the beans before opening night. So what are you doing here?”
“Oh, Wayne Enterprises has requested that the FBI arrange a test of the gallery’s security before the big event. I’m in charge of coordinating it.”
Some kind of realization dawned on her face, and she looked to Grayson with barely contained excitement. “Mr. Grayson! Since my husband knows what I’m working on now, and since he’s going to be involved with the gallery security, can I please show him the special collection?”
Grayson nodded. “I was just about to head that way with him. Why don’t you come with us. You can update me on what you’ve been working on with Mr. Pennyworth along the way.
As the three of them made their way to another stairwell, Peter studied the rest of the gallery and the security protecting it along the way while his wife and Grayson talked about details regarding the two opening night galas. When they finally arrived at the top floor, they came to a stop at a huge vault-like metal door. Peter’s curiosity was immediately piqued.
“So what’s behind door number one?”
Welcome to Chapter 2. Enter Dick Grayson and Elizabeth Burke. Personally, next to Tim Drake and Neal Caffery, these two are my second favorite characters in their respective fandoms.