"Show time, kid," Peter grinned as he slapped Neal on the back. "Go out there and make us proud."
Neal's face was patient disdain in the dim light of the surveillance van. "We're better than this. I mean, really, Peter, with our expertise, a little copyright infringement isn't even a challenge."
"Good, then it shouldn't take you long to make the deal."
Neal hesitated, considering a witty retort, then saw the look on Peter's face and just shrugged and flashed his brilliant smile. "Ours is not to reason why..."
"Yeah, just... go, already, would ya?"
After Neal had closed the van door behind him, Agent Burke turned back to his team. "You'd think he'd at least quote Speilberg instead of Tennyson."
"Actually, sir, I think that was in a Speilberg movie, too," said the tech monitoring the equipment. All heads turned to stare. Peter sighed.
Neal glanced around the grubby workshop as the equally grubby-looking little man in front of him led the way. "Yah, I gaht whaht you need raht back heah," he intoned in a voice that seemed too big for him. He stopped to cough, and Neal noticed that despite the dark smudges of grease-stains the man sported on his worn clothes and pale arms, his hands were immaculate and held no dirt under the closely cropped nails that tipped surprisingly delicate fingers. "Ah was on anothah prahject when yah came. Kindah lahst track ah tha time."
"Oh, that's fine, Mr., uh..." Neal replied in as gracious a tone he could muster while attempting to maneuver past machinery and tables of grimy spare parts that he just knew would ruin any piece of clothing that got within a half inch of it.
"Yah, just cahl me Bahbby."
"Yah, like the pins, yah know?" Bobby grinned back at Neal. "I ahlways did like how yah could use thahse pins tah get outtah any trouble in thah movies."
"Neal... that's what we call an opening..." Peter said with mock patience through the earpiece.
"Right, yeah, so..." Neal crept past another suit-endangering obstacle, "Is that how you got into pirating, then? Really like movies?" It sounded lame to his own ears and he swore he could hear the crew in the van groaning, but at least he was near the end of the trek. Bobby waited for him at a large metal sliding door on the side of the workshop.
"Yah, well, free movies and free money, who'd say no to thaht, ah?"
Bobby opened the door and led Neal inside a closet of a room with another sliding metal door closed in front of them. Neal was slightly alarmed when Bobby slid the door behind them shut, latched it, flicked a switch, and reached up to a large red button. Bobby just grinned at Neal and said, "We'll see how yah fahncy gels stahnd up to this!" before firmly pressing it.
They were suddenly standing in the center of a massive windstorm, and Neal could feel his tie flapping madly about. He had the sudden urge to protect his head from flying debris, but as quickly as it began, the storm had passed. Neal looked at Bobby in askance, and saw his mark's mouth go ear-to-ear with glee.
"Was that absolutely necessary?" Neal huffed with as much dignity as he could muster while pulling his hair into some semblance of order and firmly repositioning his tie.
"Keeps tha wuhst of tha dirt out. Ahnd it's tha best paht of my day when I get tah see some tough guy or pretty boy get tha wind knahcked outta him." He chuckled and turned from Neal to punch a code into a keypad, unlock a deadbolt with a key, and push a lever near the floor with his foot. Then he flicked the switch back off, unlatched the door, and opened it, revealing a large and scrupulously clean room with several tidy tables lined with computer equipment.
Neal stopped, all reluctance about the case's import blown from his mind. "This is much bigger than I expected. What kind of operation do you have going here, Bobby? I mean, this..." he smiled widely as he gestured, "this is amazing. Much more than just pirating, am I right?"
Bobby nodded gladly at the compliment as Neal stepped further into the room, calculating the possible criminal uses of what he saw. "Oh, this isn't even tha best of it. I do ah lahtta outsource work thaht isn't exahctly above boahd. Yah might not even believe me if I told yah some ah tha people I've worked for. Ahnd I have a propah clean room undahground. Fah the more sensitive equipment, yah know."
Neal caught Bobby's eyes in his own. "Really? Tell me about it! I mean you..." he shook his finger teasingly, "...you must be in great demand. What kind of services do you offer?"
Bobby was pleased. Very pleased. Neal listened carefully to what Bobby didn't even realize was a confession of multiple federal crimes, stepping around a table to lay down his briefcase. He glanced down to make sure he didn't crush some vital piece of equipment—or evidence—with the polished leather bag. And froze. Neal's blood ran cold. His heart skipped a beat. He drew in a breath of shock and horror. His eyes were transfixed on the monitor until after a long moment he forced them away and looked at Bobby.
"Is this real? I mean, is this just a movie?" Neal interrupted Bobby's proud soliloquy.
"Oh, that. That's whaht I was working ahn when you showed up. Nah, it's DVD of a live stream frahm ah remote location. Actually, I worked it out so theah's fouah camerahs, ah cahdiograhm, ahnd encephelograhms pehfectly synced. In reahl time. Heah."
Bobby reached over and clicked some icons on the screen, switching between multiple camera views and spiking lines on black backgrounds. "See? Not a bad bit ah work, really. Not easy to make shuah everything's lined up ahl propah."
"Neal?" Peter's voice was in his ear again. "Just do the deal. We've got enough to turn this guy on a dozen other criminals and still put him away for a long time. Now seal it."
"Yeah," Neal responded to both men, "just a minute."
"Where is this being filmed?" he asked Bobby.
"Oh, I don't know about thaht. Don't wanna know, reahlly. Might complicate things."
"Do you even know who the client is?"
"Neal, what are you doing?" Peter worried aloud as Bobby considered Neal, deciding how much to reveal.
Neal steeled himself against the nausea that had risen from his gut and graced Bobby (and, in his mind, Peter) with his most brilliant and reassuring smile and said, "Trust me."