New York City… Seven days later…
“Neal, if by some miracle you manage to pull this stunt off, my hat will be eternally off to you,” Mozzie said as he lounged on the comfortable sofa in Neal’s studio apartment with a glass of wine in one hand.
“Really Moz?” Neal said with a raised eyebrow as he stood before a mirror, trying to decide which tie to wear. “Even knowing this is an FBI sanctioned assignment?”
Mozzie took a thoughtful sip from his glass. “The fact that you, a mere mortal, are attempting to outmaneuver the goliath that is the latest and greatest in WayneTech security is enough to make even me overlook the blemish that is the suits’ involvement.”
The younger con artist managed a weak smile as he straightened his tie. “Well at least one of us is looking forward to the slight chance that I might succeed.” When Neal studied his reflection in the mirror, he sighed. Ever since Kate’s death, he just didn’t feel like himself. She was his whole world for so long, and now with her gone…
“Neal,” Mozzie said with a concerned tone. “I know you haven’t been feeling up to working with the feds since… y’know. But this kind of opportunity doesn’t come along every day. If you’re not gonna give it a hundred percent for yourself, then at least give it a hundred percent for me.” He inclined his glass at his friend. “I really want to know if my new source is the real deal. Do you know how hard it is to locate a quality mole in Wayne Enterprises Tech Division?”
“They’re as rare as blue roses, Moz,” Neal remarked with chuckle. He gave himself one final glance over in the mirror. “I guess it’s showtime. Wish me luck?”
Mozzie raised his glass. “If luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, then you should have plenty of it today.”
Neal looked at Mozzie curiously. “Seneca the Elder?” he asked, referring to the quote his friend had paraphrased.
Moz smirked. “The Younger.”
Several hours later, by some insane amount of good fortune coupled with the fact that Mozzie’s source had been genuine, Neal found himself feeling like a kid in a candy store as he leisurely browsed through the Wayne art collection. He was dressed in a borrowed uniform for the gallery’s cleaning agency and was making his way through the building with a security card he’d subtly purloined from a guard who had been leaving the building at the end of his shift. The artwork on display was extremely rare, exquisite in quality, and obscenely expensive.
Neal was in heaven.
Well… a locked down heaven…
There was the rub.
Getting into the gallery really wasn’t that hard, all things considered. He’d even managed to lift a few of the more portable pieces of the collection using a device Mozzie had gotten from his WayneTech source. The tiny remote was supposed to temporarily disable the security devices attached to the display cases, and he was extremely careful in choosing those displays that were in rare security camera blind spots. Considering the guards didn’t come down on him like a ton of bricks when he swiped the first set of jewels, Neal figured his plans were working like a charm.
Now, though, the real challenge was getting out of the building without getting caught. While he was planning the heist with Mozzie, the Plan A escape route was to head out through the service entrance he’d come in through. However, a quick look told him that he’d have to nix that plan. Neal’s good luck was starting to run low as he spotted the guard he’d lifted the card from earlier talking to the one who’d taken his place. The man looked extremely upset and Neal overheard something about losing his job if he couldn’t find his missing security card. So Plan A was officially out the window.
Plan B was a riskier, but still doable. It involved taking a private stairwell up to the roof and then taking a flying leap across the narrow alleyway to the rooftop of the other building. Mozzie had measured the distance himself, and assured Neal that he could clear it easily. It didn’t matter if he was caught by the people who worked in the clothing shop that owned the building. All Peter tasked him to do was to get out of the gallery with the stolen pieces. Unfortunately, there was just one problem with this escape route…
…And that was a huge metal vault door.
“What the--?” Neal muttered under his breath as he lurked in one of the security camera blind spots on the second floor of the gallery. From the blueprints he’d memorized of the building, there was supposed to be an open parlor here, with the entrance to the stairwell on the opposite end of the room. Clearly the door had been added after the fact just for this occasion.
Now Neal had a conundrum. On one hand, there was Plan C. It involved making his way down into the basement of the gallery and escaping through a secret tunnel to the other adjacent store that had been a part of the building since the days of Prohibition, when the gallery used to be a speakeasy. The reason this escape route was Plan C, though, was because the route to the tunnel involved the riskiest maneuver of sneaking right by the command center for the security team.
On the other hand, there was the shiny metal vault door staring right back at Neal Caffrey, taunting him with its unexpected existence. Vault doors were meant to protect things that were extremely valuable. Neal wondered if his security hacking remote would work on the lock. He didn’t think it actually would, so when it did and the locks were released on the door, the treasure hunter in him got huge spike of adrenaline. Without a moment of hesitation, he slipped into the room and closed the door behind him.
The vault was nearly pitch dark once the door was shut, cutting off the light from the hallway. It took a minute, but once his eyes adjusted to the dim security lighting that was available, Neal froze. Instead of art or jewels tucked away inside the cold spacious room, there were masks, capes, weapons, and other artifacts all associated with those special people the rest of the world called superheroes.
Neal silently walked between the rows of display cases, but instead of the excitement he’d felt earlier when he’d been lifting the jewels from the main gallery, the ex-con artist now felt nothing except for a growing sense of dread. Strangely enough, the emotion wasn’t out of guilt or fear for being an accomplished criminal surrounded by the personal symbols of those who fought crime for a living. No… For some strange reason, when Neal Caffrey walked through this room, he felt as if he were walking through a morgue. His skin was especially crawling as he came to a series of clear display cases which held an assortment of iconic, familiar costumes.
No… Not costumes…Uniforms…
Neal stopped in front of one case in particular and just stared at it, transfixed. It was an incomplete uniform. The only pieces within the display were a black cape and cowl and a set of bandoliers. They were badly beaten up, and no one had bothered to repair the damage before they were put into the case. He moved a little closer, his blue eyes squinting in the dim light. Where the bandoliers crossed was what looked like a round insignia. However, he couldn’t tell what it symbolized. The disk had been damaged beyond recognition. It looked as if it had been stabbed by something.
He was so focused on trying to figure out what he was looking at that he almost didn’t hear the sound of someone creeping up behind him.
Neal felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck, and turned around just in time to see a closed fist come flying towards his head.
Then everything went black with an explosion of pain.
Chapter 3 takes place a week after the events of Chapter 2. Mozzie enters the picture, and it is from following Neal’s perspective that we finally see what was behind “door number 1” as Peter so eloquently put it. But who is it that put out Neal’s lights at the end?