Neal Caffrey led the most beautiful woman in the world into the restaurant on his arm, opening the door for her like a gentleman. She flashed him that dazzling smile before entering, and Neal couldn't help a smile himself as he followed her in.
They had scored a big con today, and now he and Kate Moreau were treating themselves to one of New York's finest restaurants. A waiter led the way to their table, and Neal removed Kate's coat and hung it on a hook for her. They sat down and smiled at each other across the table.
"What are you thinking?" Kate asked him.
"I'm thinking that there can't be a guy luckier than me in the world right now," he replied easily. "And you?"
Kate reached a hand across the table, and he took it in his own graceful fingers. "I'm thinking that I better stake a claim on you. There are several jealous ladies staring at us right now."
Neal tore his eyes from Kate's beautiful blues long enough to glance around the restaurant. Sure enough, several blonde and brunette heads whipped away from his direction. "Really? I hadn't noticed. I was too busy staring at the most beautiful woman in the room."
She rolled her eyes at the line. "So what will we be dining on tonight, Mr. Halden? I'll only settle for the best."
Neal had picked up the wine list and was perusing the choices when Kate's toe nudged his foot. He didn't look up, but concentrated as she tapped out a message in Morse code. FBI. He looked up at her, smiling, and glanced over her shoulder out of the window of the restaurant. A white van had pulled up to the corner, just barely seen.
"I think I'll go order us some drinks," he said, squeezing her fingers to let her know that he had gotten the message. "On the rocks?"
Kate's eyes flashed as she grinned. "I'll be waiting."
Neal made his way up to the bar, being careful to keep his face pointed away from the van. They had traced him to this restaurant—he hadn't spotted a tail. This Burke was getting to know him, getting to recognize his patterns and styles. That was bad. He needed to throw the agent off, give him something completely unexpected. Neal reached the bar and leaned across it, addressing the bartender. "Hey, can I have a favor?" he asked, slipping a fifty dollar bill across to him.
The man reached for the money, and then hesitated. "Nothing illegal," he said firmly.
The con man smiled reassuringly. "Of course, nothing illegal. You see, my friend is in that white van across the corner—he's working some maintenance at a house across the street. It's his birthday, and he couldn't get off work. He's been having some... marriage problems. He's convinced she's cheating on him. I know his wife, she's a great gal, but he isn't really the trusting type. They haven't spoken in a few days. I love them both to death, and I think if he gets a gift from her on his birthday, he might thaw out long enough to talk to her. The thing is, if he sees me putting the bottle in the van myself, he'll know it wasn't from her." Throughout the speech—made up off the top of his head—Neal made sure to let the right emotions flicker across his face. He could see the bartender falling for the story.
"I'm sorry to hear that," the man said sympathetically. "Just send a bottle to the van right there? It won't be a problem."
"Thank you so much," Neal replied gratefully. He whipped out a small notebook and scribbled something on a piece of paper and folded it. When the bartender returned with the champagne, Neal handed him the note. "Just put this right on the top. It should convince him that the gift is from his wife. I am so grateful, sir."
"It ain't a problem. You have yourself a good night." The bartender took the note, and Neal turned back to his table. It was empty. He smiled and headed in the direction of the restrooms.
Kate was waiting where he had expected her to be—by the emergency exit. She held out an arm to him, and Neal tucked it beneath his own. "You know, this restaurant is just a bit too fancy for my taste," he murmured into her ear. "How about we go home and order Chinese?"
She looked up at him, looking only slightly disappointed. "We need to give this agent the slip, Neal," she said quietly. "This is the second time this month that they've tailed you."
"Don't worry, Kate, I have a plan," he replied. They ducked out of the emergency exit and into the cobble stone alley beyond.
"Uh, Peter? You need to see this."
Peter Burke swung around to stare into the monitor. A man had just exited the restaurant and was heading straight for the van. "What the hell..." Peter muttered.
The man approached the back of the van and knocked. Perplexed, Jones looked at Peter. "Answer it," the agent said reluctantly.
Jones opened the door, and the man held out a bottle of champagne. "Is there a Peter here?" he asked. His eyes had widened slightly at the sight of the agents and their equipment.
Burke reached for the bottle of alcohol and the note that the man was holding out to him. He opened the piece of paper and scanned it. Nice night for a bottle of champagne. This one's on me. Love, Neal Caffrey
Jones looked over his shoulder and whistled. "He knew we were here. We didn't pull up five minutes ago."
"And he's long gone now," Peter muttered. He looked back at the monitor, but he knew it was hopeless. Caffrey wouldn't exit by the front doors - he and his date had probably slipped out of the back.
The agent laughed a little, glancing down at the piece of paper in his hands. He had to admit it—the man had a certain style. And he was smart… and Peter could never help admiring the really smart ones.
He folded the paper carefully and slipped it into a plastic bag as evidence. "Well played, Caffrey," he murmured to himself. "Well played."