New York City… the next morning…
Rather than wait for Special Agent Peter Burke to show up at the art gallery, Richard Grayson made it a point to head on down to the FBI’s offices there in New York City first thing in the morning. It was around nine am when he exited the elevator on the floor where Burke’s office was.
“Mr. Grayson,” Peter said with surprise when Jones showed Dick to his office. He rose up from his seat to offer his hand. “I wasn’t expecting you to come looking for me this early in the day. I was just reviewing the security report for the gallery. Please have a seat.”
Dick shook Peter’s hand warmly and offered him a friendly smile. “Well, the security report was only part of why I decided to stop in today.” He glanced over at the still open door that Jones was standing in front of. “Could we speak in private for a moment?”
Peter nodded and inclined his head to Jones, who left the office, closing the door securely behind him. Then he turned his full attention to the man sitting on the other side of his desk. “So what can I help you with, Mr. Grayson?”
“Well, it’s about what happened yesterday,” the younger man said with an uncomfortable expression. “About… my behavior with your agent after my brother’s altercation with him.” It wasn’t hard for Dick to slip back into the role of a heartsick man desperate for any chance of finding his long lost brother. “I know it must have been very unexpected, but…”
“It’s quite alright,” Peter reassured him. “I may not have been on the case back then, but I do know about your missing younger brother. I’m just sorry that no one has been able to find him yet.”
“Are you sure about that?” Dick took a more desperate tone as he spoke, half-rising out of his chair. “That agent of yours yesterday-“
Peter shook his head. “Neal is not officially an agent of the FBI. He’s more of an independent consultant with a specialty on white collar crimes.”
Dick filed this bit of information away and moved on with his act. He sat back down heavily in his seat. “Agent, consultant… It doesn’t matter. I know who I saw, Agent Burke! That man could be Tim’s twin! Is there any chance at all that this Neal Caffrey could be my brother?”
As Peter and Dick spoke behind closed doors, the man they were talking about finally stepped into the FBI offices.
“There you are, Neal. Where have you been?” Jones asked as the former con artist took off his hat.
“Dentist,” Neal said simply. Then he looked up and noticed a closed door that normally wasn’t. “What’s going on with Peter? Did a new case walk through the door while I was out?”
“Not sure. Peter said something about a security report for a gallery?”
Recognition dawned on Neal’s face. “Ah. That would be Richard Grayson.” He raised an eyebrow at the man’s body language. “He seems pretty upset about something.”
Jones gave Neal a sidelong look. However, before he could say a word, Diana chimed in from her desk with her two cents. “You didn’t actually make it out with anything when you broke into that gallery, did you, Neal?”
“Please, give me a little credit, Diana,” Neal said. At the knowing look she shot him, he shrugged. “I didn’t even make it outside the building before I was busted, alright? I told Peter the security was tight on the place.” He poured himself a cup of coffee and gingerly sipped at the hot liquid when he got back to his desk where a stack of paperwork waited for him. Neal picked up a file and opened it up, pretending to read its contents. However, his attention was squarely focused on Peter and the increasingly agitated man sitting in his office.
Meanwhile, Peter was trying to settle down his guest. He really hated being forced to snatch away a slim thread of hope from Grayson, but he needed to know the truth. “I kind of anticipated this,” Peter explained as he pulled out folder from his desk. “When I saw the records the bureau had on your brother’s cold case, even I had to wonder if Neal wasn’t Tim or not. So I had a friend in forensics compare a record we have of Neal’s DNA with your brother’s last night.”
Dick took the offered folder and flipped it open quickly. His eyes widened in surprise. “The DNA doesn’t match?” he said softly.
“I am sorry,” Peter consoled. “I know the two of them look very similar, but their physical appearance is all they share.”
Dick Grayson closed the folder as well as his own eyes. “I understand,” he said after a long moment, seemingly needing it to recompose himself. “I’m sorry to have caused you so much trouble, Agent Burke.”
“Please, it wasn’t any trouble, Mr. Grayson,” Peter reassured him. “I am only sorry that I couldn’t be of more help to you.” He took the file back from Dick and placed it on his desk, alongside the security report folder.
“It’s alright,” Dick said as he rose to his feet. “I should be going though. I need to look over the security report and figure out what changes need to be made before the gallery opens next week.” He picked up the security report and subtly slid the DNA file into it while Peter had gotten up to get the door for him.
From the other side of the etched glass door, Neal Caffrey’s sharp blue eyes zeroed in on that folder.
“Oh. I almost forgot,” Dick said as he started making his way out the door, he turned back to look at Peter. “I’ve got a set of tickets to the gallery’s opening reserved for Neal as well as you and your wife. I do hope I’ll get to see all three of you there next we—oof!”
“Oh! I’m sorry!”
Dick’s retreat from Peter’s office was cut short as he and another man collided with one another. The file he was carrying slipped to the floor along with the other three the man he’d run into had been holding. That person was kneeling now, quickly picking up the folders and putting their spilled contents back into their proper order. Dick froze when he saw the face of the man who offered him his folder back.
“I believe this belongs to you, Mr. Grayson? I hope the report helps you fix the gaps in the gallery’s security.” Neal said with an apologetic smile.
“Ah… Yes… Thank you. I’m sure it will,” Dick said with a forced nonchalant air. To Peter it seemed he was trying to keep his emotions in check in the face of someone who resembled his long missing sibling. “Till next week, Agent Burke,” Dick said as he made his way out of the FBI offices and into the elevator.
Once he was out of the building and safely in his car, Dick opened up the folder, flipped through all the pages, and swore under his breath. Then he pulled out his cell phone. “Babs? It’s me. Do you still have that backdoor into the FBI mainframe?”
“Are you new here? Of course I do. Why?”
“I need you to locate the DNA records they have for Tim and Neal Caffrey and compare it with the sample you got from Damian. I swear to God, Babs, if the reason we didn’t find Tim earlier is due to some federal clerical error, heads will roll.”
“Did you at least get the bug into Burke’s office?”
Dick smirked. “Are you new here?”
“Are you sure it’s really necessary to spy on the FBI?”
“We can only gather so much information about Neal Caffrey from the records you’ve collected from your sources. He and Agent Burke seem to work together on many assignments. I think we can learn more about Tim’s current state of mind by keeping an ear on the two of them.”
He could hear Barbara sigh on the other end of the line. “Are you still dead set against calling Bruce in on this?”
Dick’s smile faded. “I don’t want to bring him in until we have as much intel gathered on Tim as we can. I… don’t want to have a repeat of Jason’s return.”
“Tim is not Jason, and from what I’ve gathered so far, even Neal is not Jason.”
“…So far. There are still a lot of unknowns about Neal Caffry, and I don’t want any surprises when we’re ready to let Bruce know we’ve finally found Tim.”
“Whatever you say, pixie-boots.”
Meanwhile, back in the FBI offices, Neal was seemingly reading up on an insurance fraud case file at his desk. In actuality though, he was closely studying a very curious DNA comparison report that had happened to accidentally slip into his folders just a few minutes earlier.
At this point, story is starting to take a definite direction in my head. I had a general idea of where the characters were going, who else they would be running into along the way, and how it might end. I honestly had no idea how many chapters it would be before this tale was done, though.
In this chapter it becomes a little clearer that Tim/Neal is to Dick what Jason Todd is to Bruce. They are both the Robins that the Batmen “failed” and lost. Both were seemingly felled by a dangerous mortal enemy to the Batman. And both have returned to the existences of their Bat-family years later with tarnished reputations in tow. Jason remained a vigilante, but with no hesitation about using deadly force whenever necessary (and even when it wasn’t necessary). Tim/Neal may not murder anyone, and currently he is working for the FBI, but he’s still clearly a criminal who is one of the best at what he does.