Title: We're On The Ball
Summary: There's something weird in the bank vault. Who you gonna call? White Collar!
Warning: This may be viewed in some circles as crack!fic.

"Ok, settle down people. NYPD has approached us for advice on a possible case. There's been a rash of break-ins at banks all over the city. Details are in your folders." Hughes watched as Peter Burke's team shuffled into the conference room. His eagle eye fell on their embedded CI, one Neal Caffrey, who flashed him a cheeky grin, his ever present rubber band ball bouncing in those nimble fingers.

He gave them some time to get familiar with the essential details. There would definitely be questions and true to form, a few minutes later, it was Caffrey who piped up with the most obvious:

"So, you're saying there were break-ins at eight different banks but nothing was stolen?"

"None of the banks have reported anything missing, which is why this hasn't been very high priority. But in each case, the perp managed to get into the bank vault, wave at the security camera and leave his calling card."

"A rather unusual calling card," mused Peter, with a funny little half grin.

"You're joking!" exclaimed Diana, as she flipped pages in her folder. "He left life-sized cardboard cut-outs of some random soccer players? In the vaults? And he took nothing?"

Four incredulous faces turned to face him and Hughes could feel a headache building even though it was barely 9 in the morning. It wasn't as if he personally fabricated the more absurd cases just for the heck of it. Only many, many years of people management prevented him from blurting out that little tidbit right there and then.

"So. Soccer players." Jones was ever the diplomat.

"English soccer players, they all appear to be." Peter skimmed the police reports. The only list included in the police reports that went into any detail was a list of the players identified and what soccer clubs they had ever played for. Really helpful. But he reminded himself to be charitable since there truthfully wasn't a whole lot more to go on.

"Well. All the banks were branches of HSBC," mused Jones. "Isn't that some sort of British bank?

"Yup. English players, English bank. And the NYPD did preliminarily conclude that there seemed to be a southward trend to the branch locations. Starting at the branch at 9th and Broadway, with another break-in every 48 hrs after that," Diana confirmed.

"Wouldn't that mean they're not going very much further?" Neal glanced at the most recent report. "Last night's break-in was at the Wall Street branch. They got a life-sized cardboard replica of Michael Owen."

Everyone mulled over that for a bit.

"I don't get it," Diana huffed. "Why go to all the effort of implementing an untraceable burglary at all these banks and take nothing?"

"Misdirect?" Jones tried, his dark eyes narrowed in speculation.

"It could be a misdirect for anything." Peter leaned back in his chair. "Why target HSBC?"

"Should we go look into all the HSBC branches in New York, maybe see if any of them has something particularly enticing in their vaults?" Diana volunteered.

"I don't know," Neal mused, shaking his head. "These break-ins are only going to make all the other HSBC branches heighten their security, but who knows. Maybe he's the type that really believes in casing the joint."

"OK. NYPD is sending over the surveillance tapes and the...uh. Evidence. I'll leave you to it." Hughes returned to the sanctity of his office.

Hours later when Hughes walked back in, the scene hadn't changed much, except for an exponential increase in paper sprawl covering the conference table and the number of coffee cups littering various shelves, ledges and sideboards all over the room. And of course, the presence of eight, life-sized cardboard soccer players leaning against the windows, gazing down at the three agents and one consultant currently wading through employee histories and security documents. He sat back down at the head of the table and got himself up to speed.

If anyone had been watching they would have noticed the moment an idea popped into Neal's head, his bright blue eyes narrowing as they scanned the list of targets in front of him.

"Hey Jones, do you have that map of the bank branches that got broken into?"

"Yeah man. Here you go." Jones slid the map across to him.

Neal quickly spread it out, picking out the bank locations in order, stopping at the most recent one and traced a circle around it. It was like a light bulb went off.

"Oh. My. God." Neal swung his crossed legs off the table so quickly he nearly fell out of his chair.

The four other people in the room watched in sardonic amusement as he righted himself, still chuckling at some random tangent of insight. Neal spread out the map in the centre of the table, then gestured to borrow Diana's laptop.

"May I?"

He sat back down, quickly opening a browser window and typing in an address.

"Care to share, Caffrey?" Hughes raised an eyebrow as the rest of the room waited expectantly.

"In a second, just got to find it... and here." He swung the laptop around to present...a youtube video...of two guys chatting in a diner.

"What is this, Caffrey?"

"I'm getting to it!" Neal's eyes were bright with amusement. "English soccer players right?"

All he got was four looks of varying degrees of confusion and impatience.

"Yes. So. Every time there's a World Cup, a soccer World Cup, that is, the English team gets an official song for the tournament and this is the song from 2002. Well, they didn't get one this year but that's because the manager is a dick and that's besides the point."

Tinny fake brass with a pulsing rhythm began playing from the laptop speakers as the video showed the two guys emerging from a red, English phone booth dressed up in a mockery of cat burglar outfits.

They thought it was all over
But it's only just begun
The cup of eastern promise
In the land of the rising sun

They huddled closer to squint at the grainy video of random soccer clips mixed up with more diner scenes.

Send an S.O.S
A country's in need
Sven's the man, he's got a plan
We've found a super Swede

The video evolved into some spoof of a kidnapping and Peter glanced up at Neal, wrinkling his nose as if he smelled something bad.

A nation reunited
And England comes alive
Golden Balls is captain
And Heskey makes it 5!

Diana snorted. "Golden balls?"

We're on the ball!
We're on the ball!
We're on the ball!
We're on the ball!

Jones started shaking his head. "If this is the best song they have, it's no wonder they never win, man."

The time has come to kick it
Can we kick it? YES WE CAN!

Diana is not making any attempt at smothering her giggles anymore and Neal can't help but join her.

We're on the ball!
We're on the ball!
We're on the ball!
We're on the ball!

"Caffrey! Is there any point to this nonsense?" If possible, Hughes looks even more dyspeptic than usual.

"Over the wall, and into the net! David Beckham has done it!"
"What do you think of the song Motty?"
"Oh fantastic son!"

Neal's grinning like a loon and mouthing along with the words.

"Wait for it! Wait for it!"

"Is it gonna be a hit?"
"Yes it is!"

Neal grabs a sharpie from the table and leans over the outspread map.

It's Neville to Campbell...

Neal draws a big black line from the first branch at 9th and Broadway to Houston and Varick.

Campbell to Rio...

Another line appears from Houston and Varick to 2nd Ave, East Village.

Rio to Scholesy...

The line goes from East Village to Soho.

Scholesy Gerrard!...

Then Soho to Grand and Allen.

Gerrard to Beckham...

From Grand and Allen to Canal and Centre.

Beckham to Heskey...

Then Canal and Centre to Chinatown.

Heskey to Owen ...to nod!

The last line went from Chinatown to Wall Street, just as Neal chorused with the video "FIVE-ONE!" and gave a little whoop at the end while the song looped the player names a few times more, matching up exactly with the order of the cardboard cut-outs that smiled maddeningly from their positions by the windows.

"Turn that off! Please!" Peter felt that he put up with a lot for the sake of his job, but he drew the line at cruel and unusual punishment. "So the guy's a soccer fan who knows his Team England songs. What's the big deal?"

"Aww come on Peter! I'm taking one for the team here. You have no idea how long it took me to get this song out of my brain."

"Caffrey!" Hughes' face was taking on an unhealthy shade of red.

"I think I know what his target is."

"What is it?" At least three voices yell at him.

"Owen has to nod in the ball. So he's got to be in front of the goal."


"Take a look at the Wall Street branch where Michael Owen was delivered," Neal goes back to the map. "What's directly opposite this building?"

Jones scrambles to his laptop.

"The Deutsche Bank."

Neal laughs out loud and drops backward into his chair with the satisfied air of a tabby cat that got the cream.

"So?" Diana doesn't make the connection. Neither does anyone else.

Neal glances at his teammates , only to find four confused faces staring back.

"Oh come on guys! The Germans!"

"They only have like, one of the biggest soccer rivalries in history! This is revenge for the humiliation suffered this past summer."

Diana levels a raised eyebrow of doom at him.

"You guys have got to get out more."

"Can it, Caffrey," Hughes pinches the bridge of his nose. "Why the Deutsche Bank?"

"Here's the kicker! Pardon the pun," Neal is practically bubbling with excitement now. "The CEO of the Deutsche Bank is, shall we say, a patron of the arts. And he has personally arranged a special exhibit of German Renaissance Masters for their most elite clientele that will open in, oh, wait. Tomorrow night!"

Diana picks her jaw off the ground. Peter smirks like a proud father. Hughes wonders if he needs to swing by the pharmacy to pick up another bottle of aspirin. Jones shakes his head as the wheels begin to turn.

"How on earth do you even know this song?"

"Uhm. Well," Neal gives Jones his widest-eyed, most innocent puppy dog look. "I might have had occasion to visit a public house or two."

"In London and the close environs thereof?" Peter's brows furrow ominously.

"Around June 2002?" Diana joins in the fun.

"Do I need to have a chat with Scotland Yard?" Peter prodded, only half jokingly.

"Now why would you have to go bother them for? Anyway you could hardly have been anywhere in the Commonwealth without being constantly harassed by that song."

"But you know all the words!"

"And I told you I'm taking one for the team, didn't I?"

Having sent Diana to contact the Deutsche Bank about their exhibit and inform them about a potential security threat, and Jones to go look up parties with known interest in German renaissance art, it was just Peter and Neal in their usual chairs in Peter's office, and they were leaving to go coordinate a stakeout with the Violent Crimes division.

"You know something, I think he's being very English," mused Neal.

"Ya think, Sherlock?"

"Well, you know, English fair play and all that."

"What do you mean?" Peter was genuinely interested.

"He's been awfully sporting about leaving a trail."

"He could just be one damn cheeky bastard," huffed Peter.

"Yeah, that too. I'd love to meet him."

"Yes, of course. Warden Haskley can arrange tea and crumpets for the both of you."

"Really?" Neal perked up, a Cheshire cat grin and a twinkle in his eye. "I'd totally shake his hand, put on my very best accent and say "Jolly good game, old chap. Do you take sugar with your tea?" It'd be all sorts of fun. I might even bring you as my plus one."

"Oh good god." Peter felt an irrational urge to shove Neal out the door.

Neal just chuckled and began humming the stupid song as he shimmied down the stairs.

"Just what have I said about dancing in the office?"

Neal just turned back to grin. "But Peter! We're so totally On The Ball for this one!"

La la la...


AN2: I love Ant and Dec. Really I do. No matter how much cheese they're capable of, they're still always going to have a special place in my heart because the very first music I bought with my own pocket money was a cassette tape (!) for their song "Eternal Love" waaaay back when I was much tinier in stature and simpler in musical tastes and they were still known as PJ and Duncan. "We're on the Ball" really was the official song for England in the 2002 World Cup and the video is ...something else...

AN3: I made up some of the locations for this bit of crack but the headquarters of Deutsche Bank America really is at 60 Wall St, NYC.

AN4: Have I mentioned this is crack!fic?