New York City… late evening same day…
It was close to nine pm when Peter Burke finally dragged himself through the front door of the home he shared with his wife, Elizabeth. He was exhausted, and it showed clearly both in his posture and on his face. Of course his wife picked up on it almost immediately as she watched him pet the family dog, Satchmo.
“Looks like you had a long day,” she observed as she dog-eared a page in the book she was reading before getting up from the sofa.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Peter said as he shrugged his jacket off and draped it over the back of the sofa. By then, Elizabeth had made her way around the large piece of furniture and wrapped her arms around her husband as soon as he was within reach. He held her close and sighed as he relaxed in her embrace.
“OK. What happened?” she asked after they separated, her eyes studying him with mild concern.
Peter made his way into the kitchen, placed his suitcase on an end table along the way, and started fishing around in the fridge for a beer. “Neal got handcuffed and beat up by a seventeen-year old this afternoon.”
“He has to see a dentist tomorrow to get some fillings replaced because of him.” Peter popped the cap off his bottle and took a quick sip. “I’m pretty sure he’s got a concussion too, but he refused to go see a doctor about it.”
Elizabeth shook her head in confusion and disbelief. “Wait a minute. Back the truck up a little. What happened to Neal?”
So Peter explained to his wife what happened during the security test at the Wayne art gallery. He didn’t know all the details surrounding how Neal got ambushed by Damian, the youngest son of Bruce Wayne. The guards at the gallery didn’t even realize Neal was there until the kid half dragged the semi-unconscious ex-con-artist through the building and down into the security command center, where he ordered everyone out so he could be alone to interrogate Neal. The guards called Grayson, who in turn contacted Peter, and they both stormed into gallery to rescue him.
“Neal, Neal, Neal,” Elizabeth said with a chuckle. “You just had to keep pushing those buttons.” By this time, the loving couple had both reclaimed the sofa together.
Peter shrugged. “But you know, hun, as unusual as that was, that wasn’t the oddest thing that happened over there.”
“Well, this was the first time Richard Grayson had ever seen Neal, but as soon as he did, he mistook him for someone else. He was really adamant about it and even hugged Neal out of the blue.”
“Who did Dick think Neal was? Had Neal met him before under one of his other aliases?”
Peter shook his head. “No. Neal swore up and down he’d never seen the man before in his life. But, I did find out who Grayson mistook him for.” His expression grim, Peter reached over to the end table where his suitcase was, flipped it open, and pulled out a folder. He handed it to his wife.
“A missing person file?”
“A seven year old cold case,” Peter explained. “I kicked myself for not recalling this sooner. It was huge news back then.”
Elizabeth scanned the pages within the folder. Realization dawned in her eyes, and her own expression mirrored her husband’s. “Oh, now I remember. The missing Wayne heir.” She read over the details softly. “Name… Timothy Jackson Drake-Wayne… Age… Seventeen…”
“This boy’s file reads like a Greek tragedy,” Peter said. “First his mother murdered and his father paralyzed during a kidnapping overseas. Then his father was murdered in their own home a couple of years later and he was the one to find the body. Things started looking up when he was adopted by Bruce Wayne. For a while there he seemed to flourish. And then, one day, he just disappeared without a trace.” He sighed and shook his head. “That kid had such a bright future ahead of him.”
Elizabeth glanced up at her husband. “Were there any clues as to what happened to him?”
Peter shrugged. “Not that I can read from the file. I wasn’t on this case back then. But I do remember that Bruce Wayne spared no expense trying to find him. They did everything they could. They blitzed the media, hired the best PIs while enlisting the FBI and I think even the CIA and Interpol for help. But no one could find anything. There was no ransom. No clues. No threats. All the leads the bureau followed led to dead ends. It was as if the kid had just fallen off the face of the earth.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth murmured sadly. She turned her attention back to the file, flipped a page, and gasped a little. “Oh!” She lifted up the photograph that had been placed in the folder, so she could see it with better light. “Is this a picture of him?”
Peter nodded. “You see it too, don’t you?”
Elizabeth nodded, her voice awestruck when she spoke. “This kid… He really does look a lot like a younger version of Neal.” She paused as she remembered something. “Wait… Didn’t you say that the FBI doesn’t have any history of Neal prior to his eighteenth birthday? Is it possible…?”
Her husband gave her a wan smile. “That’s part of why I’m late. I called in a favor and had Neal’s DNA compared with the sample of Timothy Wayne’s we had on file.”
Peter shook his head.
Elizabeth gave her husband a compassionate look. “You were really hoping that the test would come back positive, weren’t you?”
“I really was.”
She leaned over and gave Peter a kiss on the cheek. “The DNA might not match, but the resemblance is still so uncanny. It’s really kinda spooky.”
“I know, which is why as soon as I get back to the office, I’m putting this back in the cold case files. We don’t need Neal seeing this and getting any ideas.”
Elizabeth gave Peter a scolding look. “Do you honestly think he’d stoop so low as to try to con Bruce Wayne into thinking he was his long lost son?”
Peter didn’t respond to his wife out loud, but the expression he wore said enough for her. She closed the folder and slapped it against his chest before getting off the sofa and heading towards the stairs.
“I’m going to bed. I’ve got to be at the gallery early tomorrow. If you’re hungry there’s some chicken in the fridge.”
Peter watched her ascend the stairs. Then as he drained the last of his beer, he flipped through the missing person file for the umpteenth time that evening, always coming to a stop at that photograph. Every fiber of his instincts was screaming at him that the teenager in the photograph was Neal.
However, unlike Neal, DNA didn’t lie.
With Chapter 5 we receive the revelation that while there is a scary uncanny resemblance between Tim Drake and Neal Caffrey, the DNA the FBI has for the two just doesn’t match up. Peter really, truly did want the test to come out positive. But then again… What kind of story would this be if happy endings came so easily?