New York City… back to the present… evening…
Dick didn’t like it, but once Damian got an idea in his head about what he was going to do, it was hard to get him to shift off course. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked his younger brother as the teenager suited up. “I don’t like the idea of you going out there alone.”
“I’m not going alone,” Damian reassured him. “I’ve already called Stephanie. She’s flying in from Gotham as we speak in one of the jets.
“Steph? Why her? Wouldn’t Cass be better since you’ll be in her neck of the woods?”
“Perhaps, but she’s on an important mission with the Great Ten right now. She doesn’t need the distraction. If we end up needing a third set of eyes, I’ll give Cassandra a call, but not unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Dick nodded. He felt a little reassured, but was still uneasy. “I want you to be careful out there in Hong Kong. That woman is not a person to be trifled with.”
Damian tried to resist the urge to roll his eyes. “You’re preaching to the choir again, Dick. Besides-” The teenager’s lips twitched into a small, dark smirk. “-I’m not a person to be trifled with either.” He brought his hood up over his head, then turned to walk towards the elevator to the roof of the hotel. “She made me that way, after all.”
Meanwhile, it was just a little bit past sunset as Mozzie covertly tailed Diana, the woman he affectionately nicknamed the lady-suit. He was working hard to figure out exactly where Peter Burke’s most trusted agent had possibly hidden the key artifact that he and Neal would need to figure out who was at the center of the conspiracy surrounding them all.
A music box.
It wasn’t just any music box, though. This was a rare, antique music box believed to have been once possessed by Catherine the Great as part of her widely fabled lost treasure, the Amber Room. This was a treasure that had, time and again, slipped through Neal’s grasp in the past. It was for this treasure that the woman Neal loved, Kate Moreau, had died.
Following Diana covertly was not an easy thing to accomplish, Mozzie quickly learned. The lady-suit was a formidable agent and as such was constantly aware of her surroundings. It wasn’t until she met up with her girlfriend for dinner that evening that she finally dropped her guard, making it easier for the small bald man to keep tabs on her. The pair of women went to a nice bistro with an outdoor patio and live jazz musicians playing in the background. Since it was dinner time, it was easy for Moz to get a table on the side of the patio opposite Diana, so that he could keep his eyes on her, but she couldn’t see him.
Still, he nearly jumped out his skin when he felt an unexpected familiar touch on his shoulder.
“Oh my god, Alex!” he exclaimed once he saw who tapped him. “Don’t sneak up on a person like that.” Moz glanced over at the Diana’s table and was relieved to see that she still hadn’t noticed him. He motioned for the woman to sit down across from him.
“I’m sorry Moz,” Alexandra Hunter said as she took a seat, an amused smile gracing her face. “I saw you come in here and couldn’t resist joining you.”
“What are you doing here?” Moz asked with surprise. “Last I’d heard, you had a one-way ticket to Italy, flying on Air Fed.”
The slender brunette gave him an uncomfortable look. “Yeah… In the end I wasn’t really able to capitalize on their offer.” She sighed. “Turns out that certain people there at the Italian Consulate had some high level connections with the Cosa Nostra. I think it will be a very long time before I’m able to set foot on Italian soil again.”
Moz nodded knowingly. Just a few months ago the three of them (Alex, Neal, and him) had worked together to finally accomplish the previously impossible. They actually managed to get their hands on Catherine the Great’s amber music box. However, because of some heat she’d acquired recently stateside, Alex had traded possession of the music box to the FBI in exchange for a ticket out of the country. When he spoke again, he kept his voice discrete. “So what are you doing now?”
“Well,” she started, just as discretely. “I still need to get out of the country somehow, but I don’t have the funds for it. Because of the heat I was already under before the Italian job, and now the additional heat after it, I’m having a hell of a time finding work. It’s all I can do just to lay low right now.”
The frustration was clear in her voice, and Mozzie felt badly for his old friend, although it was technically because of Neal that she’d gotten tangled up in the music box theft in the first place and not him.
“Well… How about this. You can crash at one of my places for the time being. I’ve got a contact in Detroit with some Krugerrands that need unloading. This should be a nice quiet job that should net you more than enough to get you out of the country.”
Alex smiled brightly. She reached across the table to grasp Mozzie’s hand gratefully. “You are the best, Moz! I knew I could count on you!”
Mozzie smiled back at her.
Then the woman’s expression sobered a little bit. “So how’s Neal doing? I heard about what happened to Kate. How’s he holding up?”
The bald man’s face similarly sobered. “Well, of course he’s dead set on finding out who killed her. In order to do that, we need to find that Agent Fowler, and in order to find him we need…”
Alex made a face. “Don’t tell me.”
“Good grief,” she muttered. “Small favor, Moz… If you guys need a third person to get a hold of that thing again, lose my number.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Anyways, aside from that, Neal’s doing about as well as can be expected, all things considered. Things are better when he’s kept busy by the suits.” Mozzie chuckled. “He just got done with a fed-sanctioned break-in at a new art gallery that’s about to open up.”
Her eyes lit up with interest at that. “Really? What for?”
“The exhibition of artwork is from Bruce Wayne’s private collection,” he told her. “The Waynes themselves asked the feds to test their security measures, so they sent Neal, lucky bastard.”
Alex’s expression was both curious and guarded. “Did Neal actually… y’know… Do it?”
Moz shook his head. “He got nailed before he could get out of the building. Funny thing, though. He wasn’t nailed by security. He was actually caught by Wayne’s seventeen year old kid.”
“Wow…” Alex murmured. “So Neal got face to face with one of the Waynes. Did he meet anyone else in the family? Perhaps Mr. Jet-Setting Patriarch himself?”
“No… I dunno where Bruce Wayne is, but I know Neal met his oldest son. That Grayson fellow is the one overseeing the gallery set up.”
Alex nodded, then noticed something out of the corner of her eyes. “Um… Moz? Were you tailing those two ladies over there in the corner?”
“Cause it looks like they’re not going to be staying in that corner very long.”
When Mozzie turned his full attention to Diana and her girlfriend, it was clear that the two of them were not at all happy. They were having some sort of heated argument and the woman who was not the lady-suit was preparing to storm off.
“Oh crap!” He tucked his head behind his menu to hide is face in case Diana turned towards them. But as soon as the frustrated pair left the patio, Mozzie was scrambling for his own exit. “I am so sorry to leave you like this, but I have to keep an eye on them. I’ll meet you at the Saturday home tomorrow morning.”
Alex smiled. “Bring muffins and all will be forgiven.” She then shooed him off. Once Mozzie had left the bistro, her expression became somber as she reached into her handbag and pulled out a cell phone. She herself left the bistro and wandered to a secluded alleyway where she could talk in relative privacy. The phone only had one number on speed dial, and she called it as soon as she could.
“It’s been a long time, Promise,” a female voice answered.
“We have a problem,” Alex said. “Neal has met Grayson and Damian here in New York.”
There is a pregnant silence on the other end of the line. Alex bit her bottom lip nervously as she awaited the coming response.
“Do you know if there has been recognition by either side?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know. I heard about the reunion through a third party. I haven’t seen Neal in person since Kate’s death.”
The voice in her ear is not happy. “You’re to remain in New York City for the time being.”
Alex is not happy either. “But what about the League?” she says with a trace of desperation. “They’re close to finding me. I need to leave the country as soon as possible!”
“You will not set one foot off the island of Manhattan!” the voice ordered sternly. “You owe your freedom from the League to me, or have you forgotten your debt?”
The brunette’s head bows, even though she knows the person she’s talking to cannot see it. “I haven’t forgotten. Please accept my apologies. What would you have me do?”
There is another brief moment of silence as the woman on the other end of the line ponders the next course of action. “Get in contact with Neal and see if any of his memory has returned. Find out why the brothers are in the city in the first place. Allow your current alias to meet Richard if you must, but under no circumstances do you let yourself be seen by Damian. He can identify you and will blow your cover. When you have the information I need, contact me. Do I make myself clear?”
“Oh, and if there are any sightings of Batman or any of his brood working in the city, call me immediately.”
The other line disconnected, and Alex turned off her cell. Her expression was troubled as she stood there in the alley, trying to recompose herself. A life she though she’d left behind years ago was closing back in on her, and she honestly wasn’t sure if she’d be able to survive another encounter with it.
This chapter actually makes references to details found in an episode of White Collar (Season 2) called “Copycat Caffrey”. That episode is Alex Hunter’s official re-entry into the season, though some of the facts surrounding why she was in New York City instead of taking the one-way ticket to Italy after the Season 1 finale episode were relatively vague. So I built upon those details to help craft this chapter.
However, there is a twist.
In this story, just like Tim Drake/Neal Caffrey, Alex Hunter has a DC Universe alternate identity. In the Red Robin series, there are several brief encounters with a mercenary of vague alliances named Promise. Though she plays a relatively minor character in the comic book (although that may change from issue 24+), in this story she will play an integral role in the plot regarding how Tim Drake become Neal Caffrey. My inspiration for this character is when I saw how similar Promise and Alex they looked to one another.