Chapter Five

A Game of Telephones

Everyone was in place, and the con was a go. Spencer sat at his laptop with the voice changing software at the ready. A feed on Peter's laptop showed the rest of the crew, ready to intercept Bilal. "Spencer, you ready to go?" Peter asked, phone pressed to his ear. While Nora didn't have a particularly exciting role in the con – she'd mostly been relegated to the planning department – excitement bubbled in her stomach all the same.

"Yeah. Remember, Peter, only the words on the board." He nodded.

"I have eyes on Bilal," Nora could hear Jones tell Peter over the phone, where he was setting up the payphone. "Right on time."

"Okay," Peter acknowledged. "Get out of there." He switched to his walkie. "Diana, Mozzie, you're up." They watched as Diana approached Bilal, flashing her badge and basically being as intimidating as she could. Mozzie sat in his wheelchair, playing the part of a homeless man, shaking a can of change.

They waited for Diana to say her piece before Nora grabbed the walkie from Peter's hand. "Okay, Mozzie, now." He pressed a button on the side of his wheelchair, and switched on the phone scrambler. All they needed was for Bilal to realize his phone wasn't working and to try the payphone. Easy-peasy.

"Houston, we have a problem," Mozzie muttered, and they watched as a man, his phone rendered useless just the same as Bilal's, stepped into the payphone booth.

"His call is redirecting here," Peter sighed, just as the phone started ringing. At least they knew it worked, as small a consolation as that was. "Hello?" he answered curtly.

"Oh, I must have dialed the wrong number," the man apologized before hanging up and trying again.

"Let me try," Spencer offered as the stared ringing for the second time. Peter tossed it over. "Hey, man!" Their inconvenient friend didn't even offer an apology as he hung up once again, clearly growing frustrated. On the bright side, Diana was doing an excellent job distracting Bilal.

"I think he's expecting a woman," Peter decided, looking expectantly at Nora.

Spencer tossed her the phone as the first of the rings came in. "Ooh, you should dump him," he suggested, a devious smirk playing on his lips.

Nora grinned, already planning a firm, but heartfelt break-up speech as Peter stared between the two of them in exasperation.

The phone was snatched out of Nora's hand before she could answer. "Oh, no you don't," Elizabeth scolded, pressing the phone to her ear. "Hello?" she answered.

"Angela, is that you, sweetie?" the man asked, looking relieved.

"Honey, I can hardly hear you," El lied. "Can you call me back later?" Peter nodded his encouragement.

"We can't leave our conversation the way we did," the man protested.

El relented. "Okay. Honey, this is what I want you to do." She kept Peter's eyes as she spoke, eyes sparking. "I want you to go, and I want you to buy me some flowers. You know the ones I love. When you walk through the door, I want you to kiss me." Nora shared a look with Spencer, who looked amused and impressed. Who knew El could be so devious? "Then you're gonna sweep me off my feet. Then you're gonna make love to me." Her voice dropped low, seductive. "Can you do that?"

Peter grinned at his wife, and Nora bit back a laugh as the man in the payphone stammered and stuttered. "Uh, yeah, I can."

"Good," El told him, looking very pleased with herself. "I'm gonna pretend this conversation never happened, and so are you. Now get off the phone and go." The man hung up, taking a moment to sigh and smile at nothing in particular, looking like he was sure he was the luckiest man in Manhattan before heading off and freeing their phone booth. El clicked the end button on the phone. "Now it's the Burke Seven."

She handed Nora the phone and headed off to the kitchen, leaving the three of them to stare after he in wonder. El could have made a hell of a con artist, if she put her mind to it, Nora decided.

They returned their attention to the laptop. The obstacle passed, Diana took her leave. Mozzie rattled his coin can loudly as Bilal pulled out his cellphone, only to discover he had no service. "Come on, look around," Peter urged. Bilal did just that, rushing over to Mozzie and scooping a handful of change out of his can – and kindly replacing it with some cash. "Oh, you're a true Samaritan, sir," Mozzie praised him as he darted for the phone booth.

Nora held out her hand expectantly to Peter. "Told you," she gloated as Peter started to fish his wallet out of his pocket in a huff, "New Yorkers don't carry change anymore." She flashed him a winning smile when he ruefully forked over the twenty bucks they'd wagered on the fact, tucking it in her pocket.

Bilal started dialing on the payphone. "Alright, Peter," Spencer said, "you're up. Watch your S's."

Peter stood and moved to the word board as the phone started ringing. He took a moment to study it before answering. "What?" Spencer's program converted Peter's voice into Julian's, and Bilal was none the wiser.

"Julian," Bilal said urgently, "we must talk."

"Why?"

"The FBI just paid me a visit," Bilal explained. "They're looking into your shipment."

Peter's eyes darted over the board. "Not over the phone," he insisted. "Too dangerous." His S didn't hiss, earning an encouraging thumbs-up from Spencer.

"No," Bilal huffed, "I'm going to get rid of it."

"No!" Peter shot Nora a look over his shoulder, and she scampered over, pointing at the word 'pay.' "I will pay you…" They didn't have a word for that. Nora had nothing. Peter glanced desperately over at Spencer. Bubble- he mouthed. Somehow, that ended up being one of the words they had. They didn't have any better options. "Bubble," he said, hoping Bilal didn't notice.

There was a moment of silence. On the laptop, Nora could see Bilal's brow furrow. "Double?"

"Yes."

They all let out a collective sigh of relief. "We're going to need a new rendezvous for the exchange," Bilal allowed.

They were already prepared for that. "4268 Fifth Avenue," Peter relayed. "Now." With nothing further to say, Bilal hung up the phone. Peter shot a glance back at Nora, hanging up the phone. "Let's hope that worked," he sighed.

~OoO~

4268 Fifth Avenue was where, just a couple short days ago, Nora had gathered the forgers to make sure Larssen ended up with the alias Justin Springer. Nora waited, leaned against a rail with her arms crossed. Jeans and a leather jacket weren't her normal attire, but they felt nice to slip into every once in a while.

Footsteps on the tile announced Bilal's arrival. "Who are you?" the man demanded, and she spun around. Two more men stopped behind him, wheeling in a large crate.

She smiled innocently. "Guess you were expecting someone else."

Bilal studied her, glaring for a moment, before turning back to his men. "Shoot this woman-"

Unfortunately, his men were a little bit more concerned with Diana taking aim at their boss's head to carry out that order. "Hey, again," she greeted brightly.

Diana corralled the men off to the side as Peter stepped into view. "Told you you shouldn't bet the chalk," he told Bilal, leaning casually against a marble pillar. Bilal, hands raised where Diana could see them, sighed in resignation. "Let's see what's so important to Larssen's boss." Nora joined Peter as he grabbed a crow bar abandoned by one of Bilal's men and started prying open the crate.

"Cuff yourself together on the banister," Nora could hear Diana order the two men before she stepped over to cuff Bilal while she and Peter pulled the lid off the crate together. They dug through the straw that padded the crate and Nora pulled a plate wrapped in bubble wrap out. It was fine quality china with delicate blue decoration.

Peter's brow furrowed. "Dinnerware?"

Nora studied it closely. "It's china," she offered, "from the 30s or 40s." Rifling through the crate showed items of similar quality. "This looks like the contents of someone's house."

Diana rounded on Bilal. "What's so valuable about this stuff?" she demanded.

"I don't know," he admitted. "I never look in the crates."

Nora returned her attention to the plate, wondering where it came from, and she turned it over in her hands in the hopes there might be some sort of stamp or etching that might shed some light. And there was… A bold black stamp stood out in stark contrast from the white of the china. A Nazi swastika. "Definitely the 40s," she decided, turning it so Peter could see.

Antiquities from Nazi Germany could be valuable, though Nora had never really dealt in them. At least, not in things so brazenly marked with symbols of Hitler's regime. Treasure plundered by Nazis was one thing. Things bearing swastikas was an entire other, and it set uneasy in her stomach. But what did it have to do with the man behind the curtain, the man who killed Kyle?

It was easy enough to turn Bilal, once it was abundantly clear to the man that it was in his benefit to help the FBI rather than protect Larssen. He agreed to follow their script on a call to Larssen easily enough. Of course, they couldn't exactly take him back to the Bureau, so they had to make due with Nora's apartment. "The FBI won't leave me alone," he explained once he got a hold of Larssen, eyes darting between Nora and Peter who loomed over him. "They're looking for your crate. And they're closing in."

"Where's the crate now?" Larssen demanded.

"I got it to a safe house before they could find it," Bilal lied. "I'm giving you half an hour to move it or I'm delivering it to the FBI myself and cutting a deal."

"Calm down," Larssen huffed. "Don't do anything stupid."

"This Agent Burke won't leave me alone."

"Peter Burke? Are you sure?"

Bilal glanced up at Peter. "Yes. Positive."

"Okay," Larssen sighed. "You text me the address, and I'll meet you there immediately. I know how to solve this."

Bilal hung up. "He's meeting me there," he explained.

Peter pulled out his own phone and dialed. "Spencer, you're up."