The Pandemonium club sign flashes neon red, a harsh glare against the dark of the night, and it lights Simon’s face aglow.
“You can do anything you put your mind to,” he tells Clary seriously.
She giggles and squeezes his cheeks.
“That’s why you’re my best friend,” she says to him, poking her tongue out at Maureen.
“Oi,” Maureen laughs, pushing Clary’s arm. “I just don’t think it’s possible! It’s not a comment on your talents, it’s about the bounds of possibility.” Then she snorts. “No, it’s totally about you. You aren’t gonna beat me.”
Clary spins a finger over the pile of watches, wallets and phones by her side. “Really? I’ve got seven,” she says, “and you?”
Maureen grins and holds up an e-reader from her pile. “Eight.”
They’re sitting on top of Simon’s ratty old van, waiting for the club to fill up a bit before they go in. Maureen and Clary have done this - pickpocketing the unsuspecting guests queuing for the club - before and Maureen always wins, which means Clary always has to buy their drinks, and she’s seriously running out of money because of it.
It started ages ago - years, in fact. For her eighth birthday, Clary was given a book of magic tricks for children - card games, sleight of hand, that kind of thing. What fascinated her was how easy it was to deceive people, yet how simple the truth behind the answer was when you knew it. Clary’s first attempts at tricking Jocelyn and Luke were clumsy at best, her little fingers dropping cards and revealing mistakes, which they loyally ignored. Eventually she got better, though, and the first time Clary bet them she could do it she managed to win twice her usual pocket money off them.
A few years later there was a sudden spike in pickpocketing incidents around the NYPD precinct where Luke worked at the time, and Clary listened interestedly when he told her about it. It seemed a short leap from magic tricks to pickpocketing - in theory, anyway: one of the main principals behind both was diversion.
She and Maureen would practice together, trying to nick each others bracelets or dip into school bags. It never went any further than that, not really - neither of them wanted to get in trouble. But what started out as a one time thing (“See if you can get Simon’s watch without him noticing") became a two time thing became a regular past-time over the years.
Usually, they only do it to people who look like they deserve it - mainly leery guys - and never people who are off their faces. And they always hand all their loot in to security at the end of the night, claiming they found it on the floor, but whatever. It’s a way of passing the time.
“Who the fuck brings a Kindle to a club?” Simon asks, and the girls laugh.
He pushes up his glasses as Maureen starts doing a mock victory dance.
“Come on then, Fray,” she says. “Want a chance to settle the score?”
“Okay,” she says. “I got this.”
Maureen raises her eyebrows. “Sure you do,” she teases. “How about…him? Blond guy at three o’clock.”
Sitting on top of the van gives them a pretty good vantage point, so Clary doesn’t have to look very hard. She clocks the guy Maureen’s pointing to and nods.
She hops down from the van and grabs a can of paint from the back with her left hand, pretending to focus on the design of the van’s mural. From the corner of her eye she counts the guy’s steps and, timing it just right, moves backwards as if to admire her handiwork, walking straight into the guy’s path.
He knocks his shoulder into her as he moves past and she whirls around, hand slipping into the pocket of his leather jacket.
“Hey!” she says, glaring at him as she puts his wallet into the pocket of her oversized coat, “can you watch where you’re going?”
He holds up his hands. “Didn’t see you,” he says, and Clary grumbles under her breath for added realism. Out of the corner of her eye she can see Maureen laughing and Clary turns away from the guy.
Clary tosses her hair and mouths all square at Maureen, and she’s moving back to the van when she hears someone else laughing too.
“Oh my God, Jace,” says a girl’s voice, filled with amusement, “I can’t believe you fell for that.” The sound comes from a few steps away and Clary’s head jerks in its direction at the words.
“Fell for what?” the blond boy - Jace - asks the girl who’s with him. Her dark hair falls in glorious waves around her face and the tight white two-piece she’s wearing clings to her curves like a dream.
She smiles at him, but her eyes are on Clary, and she nods towards her.
“Check your pockets, cariño,” she says. Jace pats himself down and then turns to Clary.
Clary tries to look innocent. “What?” she asks.
He doesn’t say anything, just wanders over. Clary hears Simon and Maureen jump down from the van and stand behind her.
Jace holds out his hand and looks at her expectantly.
Shit. Clary fleetingly hopes her jail cell is nice.
The girl walks over and wraps her hands around his upper arm, leaning against him. A pang of disappointment hits Clary; of course a guy like him would have a pretty girlfriend like her.
“She took it fair and square,” the girl points out. “Let her keep it, hermano.”
Is Clary dreaming or does the girl look pointedly at her as she says the last word? Clary’s been around the Lewises enough to know some basic Spanish, and hermano means…
She feels like singing, even as she’s stared down by two terrifyingly attractive people. A third joins them, evening up the numbers, and Clary’s tensing herself for a fight or something when the new guy puts his hands on the shoulders of the other two.
“Hate to break up the party, but we have people waiting,” he says, looking distinctly annoyed at Clary, like she’s messed his life up just by existing.
The girl nods and walks away with the guy, but Jace stays.
“Here,” says Clary immediately, handing him back his wallet. She’s ready to grovel and plead that he doesn’t press charges, but all he does is smile grudgingly.
“Thanks,” he says, and turns away.
Clary’s heart won’t stop pounding and she draws in a couple of breaths, trying to calm down. She sees the girl stop a few feet away and place a hand on the dark-haired guy’s arm, then hold two fingers up and say something to him. He huffs but nods, and the girl races back to Clary, which is impressive in the six inch heels she’s wearing.
“I’m Izzy,” the girl says, holding her hand out. Clary shakes it. The girl produces a pen from nowhere and gestures to Clary’s arm. Clary nods. “Here’s my number - you can teach me how to pickpocket my brother without him noticing.”
And, well, Clary’s glad that that’s been cleared up once and for all.
“Sure,” she says, a little dazed, and Izzy smiles brightly at her before running back to Jace and the other guy. Clary comes back to herself to the sound of Simon and Maureen oohing and teasing her about her new girlfriend.
Clary gives Simon a friendly shove for good measure.
Because the universe hates Clary and never wants her to be smooth, she ends up calling Izzy by accident.
Well - kind of.
She has been thinking about it - honestly, it’s kind of all she’s been thinking about for the past few days; those warm brown eyes she could just fall into, the gorgeous mane of dark hair, the perfect bow of her pink lips - but she always chickens out at the last second.
Calling Izzy is hard, but calling Simon is easy. Clary taps on the first number in her recent contacts, expecting his face to pop up so she can ask him his opinion on her surprise present for Maureen’s birthday - illustrations of their friend’s novel. As she picks up the drawing to hold it up to the screen she knocks her pencil to the floor.
“What do you think?” she asks, bending down to pick the pencil up.
“It’s nice,” a voice says. “What is it?”
Clary sits up so quickly she hits her head on the desk and curses.
“Fuck - ow - oh my God, Izzy -”
Recent contacts. She’s only just added Izzy’s number. Crap.
Clary knows she’s blushing right to roots because sure, this is definitely how she wanted calling Izzy to go -
Flustered, she drops the drawing, and hell, why do pretty girls always manage to turn her into a mess? But when she looks properly at the screen, Clary can see Izzy’s just giving her an amused little smile. So maybe she hasn’t messed up as badly as she thought.
“Hi,” she manages.
Izzy’s lips twitch. “Hey.”
“Sorry. I thought you were Simon.” Clary closes her eyes briefly. Get it together, Fray. “I mean, I thought I’d called my friend’s number, but I accidentally dialled yours.”
Izzy pouts. “You didn’t really want to speak to me?”
“No, no! I did - do, I just -” She smothers her face in her hands to the sound of Izzy giggling like mad.
“I get it, I’m only teasing,” Izzy says. “Your drawing was really good.”
“Thanks,” Clary says, emerging from her hands. “It’s for my friend’s birthday.”
“That’s cute,” Izzy says, smiling. “Tell me about it?”
Clary dithers for all of a second before she asks. “I could show it to you? Over coffee, maybe?”
Even over the small phone screen, Izzy’s answering smile is blinding.
“How was your day?” Clary asks Luke.
He swaps her the potato dish for the broccoli with a smile and says, “Well, let’s say I’m glad it’s Friday, but today wasn’t too bad. We’ve hit some of our new targets so Vargas is happy, and a happy boss makes for a happy life.”
“Joining the fraud squad was a good decision, then?” asks Jocelyn, coming to sit down.
Luke laughs. “Yes, sweetheart. You were right, like always.”
Jocelyn and Clary laugh and Luke shrugs.
“I think there might be some big catches soon,” he goes on. “We’ve gotta be in early on Monday for a briefing, so maybe we’ll be doing more than booking bankers who rip people off.” Luke chews a mouthful and then points his fork at Clary. “Oh, how was your night out the other week?”
Jocelyn seems unable to help herself. “She met a girl,” she says, winking at Luke. “They’ve been for coffee about a million times.”
“Mom!” says Clary, “oh my God.” She blushes but can’t help the smile that creeps to her face.
“Honey, you know Luke and I don’t keep secrets,” she says, giving Luke a soppy look that her returns and makes Clary want to puke.
Kind of. Mostly she’s just happy that they’ve finally got together.
“Do I need to run her through the database?” asks Luke, sharing a teasing glance with Jocelyn. He stabs a piece of broccoli.
Clary shakes her head. “You can’t, I don’t know her last name,” she mumbles into her glass of water, and Luke bursts out laughing.
“Okay, well let me know when you find out. I gotta look out for you, kiddo.”
Clary grudgingly smiles at him even though she’s still embarrassed, and she turns to her mother, keen to divert conversation.
“How about you, Mom?” she asks. “Did you get that sculpture finished?”
It would be an overstatement to say that Clary is in the middle of a complete meltdown.
But she is freaking out a little.
Sitting on a bench in Central Park with Izzy, Clary watches as Izzy’s tongue licks a stripe up her ice cream. Clary blinks, momentarily distracted from her internal panic over what Izzy’s just confided in her: that she’s a con artist.
Well, actually, she’d plonked down next to Clary, handed her her ice cream and said, “If we’re gonna do this, you need to know something. I’m a grifter.”
Clary looked at her, then out over the park, then back to Izzy. “A what?”
Izzy giggled. “A grifter. You know, long cons.”
Clary shook her head, and some of the brightness faded from Izzy’s expression.
“You were pulling short cons on people at Pandemonium,” she said, looking a little confused, “so I guessed you’d come across a grifter at least once.”
Clary took a bite out of her ice cream. Izzy shivered at that, and licked her own. Clary cleared her throat. “Izzy, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Izzy swallowed. “Okay.” They sat in silence for a while, watching families stroll past. “Have you heard of con artists?” she asked.
Clary looked at her. “Yeah, obviously. You’re not one are you?” she laughed.
Izzy nibbled her lip and looked away, and Clary’s stomach dropped.
“Oh,” she said, smile fading. “Wait. So, you like…you’re a criminal?”
And shit, was that the wrong thing to say. Izzy rubbed her thumb against her forefinger nervously, her face looking dangerously close to crumpling.
“I didn’t mean it like that,” Clary said quickly. “I just - I meant, what you do is illegal?”
Izzy’s voice was quiet when she spoke. “Just because we colour outside the lines it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. We only scam people who deserve it, for your information. You can’t cheat an honest person.”
Clary swallowed. “I didn’t mean to accuse you. I think you’re a good person,” she said honestly. “I just wanted to clarify about…what you do.” Because, fuck, did Clary want to see more of Izzy, but she herself was generally a pretty law-abiding citizen. Apart from the pickpocketing sessions with Maureen.
Okay, so maybe she was being a bit hypocritical.
But then she thought of Luke, and hell, how was she going to get around telling him her new friend is a con artist?
A cold drip of ice cream rolling down Clary’s wrist jerks her out of her thoughts.
“I get if you don’t want to see me anymore,” says Izzy. “I don’t usually make friends with people outside of the business for this reason. But you had to know - it’s only fair if we’re going to have an honest relationship.”
Clary nods. “Thanks,” she says. “It means a lot of me that you trust me. It just surprised me, I guess.”
Izzy smiles sadly at her. “Well, we had a nice last day together, huh?”
Clary’s hand lunges out to grasp at Izzy, trying to make her see. “No, it’s - this isn’t our last day. What you do - it’s fine by me. Honestly. It just might take me a while to wrap my head around.”
Izzy suddenly smiles at her, brighter than before. Her tongue pokes out to lick a dollop of ice cream and Clary feels hot all over.
“Are you sure?” asks Izzy, a bit later. They’re walking back through the park when they’ll go their separate ways, and Clary nods. Their hands brush a couple of times but she’s not quite brave enough to grasp Izzy’s hand in hers.
“It’s fine.” In a badly concealed attempt to spend some more time with Izzy before they each go home, she says, “tell me about it?”
Her stomach clenches when Izzy shakes her head, but she’s smiling at Clary and Clary can’t help smiling back.
“No, but I can show you.”
Izzy rings two days later.
Clary’s at Simon’s after work when she calls, so he ends up coming along to see what Izzy really does too for reasons that Clary’s not quite sure of. They turn up at The Idris Hotel together and, as per Izzy’s instructions, ride the elevator up to the penthouse floor.
Izzy greets Clary with a bright smile that only falters slightly when she catches sight of Simon.
“Hey,” she says uncertainly, with a glance at Clary.
Clary gestures to Simon.
“This is Simon,” she says. “You can trust him.”
Izzy gives Simon a once over and then nods. “The famous Simon. Come in.”
She brings them through to an open-plan apartment. A long kitchen runs along one wall, and a breakfast bar separates it from a living space. In the lounge area two leather couches and a couple of armchairs are arranged around a large glass coffee table, which currently carries a TV screen and Xbox.
The two guys who were with Izzy at Pandemonium are lounging on the couches, playing some demon-fighting game on the Xbox. Izzy gestures to each of them in turn.
“My brothers, Alec and Jace.”
She wanders over to the fridge and pours Clary and Simon glasses of ice-cold water, then perches on the breakfast bar. Simon and Clary take a stool each.
They chat for a while about how Simon and Clary met, with Izzy asking interested questions, but conversation soon drifts to Izzy’s job.
“So what’s the difference between what I do and what you do?” Clary asks. “Apart from the fact that I give them their stuff back?” she adds, and Izzy’s lips twitch as she sips her water.
“Well, when you find a mark, you take what you can get at that moment, right?” asks Izzy. “Might be a watch or wallet or cellphone, but there’s kind of a limit. For us, it’s more of a waiting game.”
Simon nods. “Delayed gratification?”
Izzy smiles. “Yeah. With the long con, we find a mark and set up a lie for them to believe in, then they go away to get some more money to give to us,” she says. “There’s higher risks - the mark might back out after the convincer, so you lose money - but also higher profit if it works out.”
“The convincer - that’s how you make the deal seem legit, right? By letting the person win a little bit so they think it’s for real,” asks Simon, and Izzy looks pleasantly surprised. Simon shrugs. “I watch a lot of con movies.”
Izzy laughs. “Before you do the convincer, you have to make sure everything is in place. Find the right mark - greedy, and it helps if they’re not too keen on morals - and do the approach. That’s what Jace does: he’s our roper.”
“Ooh, I know that one, too,” says Simon. “Ropes in the marks.” He looks so pleased with himself Clary has to laugh, sending him a joking thumbs up.
“Jace knows every concierge and maitre d’ in New York -”
“Some in Jersey, too,” Jace calls.
“And some in New Jersey,” laughs Izzy. “He’s a charmer and uses that to find out when the big bucks are in town, and then we choose our faves. Then we have to create the world for them to buy into - that’s my job, I’m the fixer. Wikipedia, news sites, social media, renting rooms, buildings, getting tickets, passes - whatever my brothers need.”
“So you’re the one who gets things done?” asks Clary, and Izzy nods.
“Exactamente.” She points at Alec. “I make him look good, and then Alec goes in and does his thing. Usually one of us goes with him - posing as an assistant, partner, whatever. But he’s the inside man who makes direct contact with the mark and sets up the convincer. It’s actually the part of the con when we’re at our weakest - the mark has our money, so like I said before, that’s where we might lose out. But usually they come back for more.”
Clary hums. “That’s when you take them for loads of money?”
Izzy nods. “We hit them with the hurrah: we engineer something that goes wrong - a stocks deal falls through, or there’s unexpected costs that they have to pay for.”
“Do they ever find out the truth?” Simon asks. “Like, just wondering for a friend, but do you ever get scary criminals banging on your door demanding your heads?”
Izzy’s face darkens. “We’ve had a couple of close calls,” she says, looking away. “But we’re still here. The best thing about a long con, rather than a short one, is that the mark doesn’t think they’ve done anything illegal. Sometimes it really does look like a business deal that didn’t work out and they don’t even realise they’ve been conned in the first place.”
Izzy’s smile returns. “Then all that’s left to do is bank the money - which is my job, because apparently I’m the only one who can do math in the family - and open the champagne.”
“Great idea, Iz,” says Alec, sounding slightly out of breath, “why don’t you just tell two people - who - oof - by the way, we know nothing about - absolutely everything about what we do and how we do it?”
Izzy rolls her eyes. “For someone who makes his living dealing with people, he seems to hate most of them, but he’s a sweetheart really.”
Clary looks over at Alec, who currently has Jace in a headlock while they wrestle for control of the Xbox. Izzy laughs.
“So,” she says, turning to Clary and Simon with a teasing glint in her eye, “when are you going to start?”
They don’t start, exactly, but they do begin hanging out more at the Lightwoods’ penthouse when they have the time. Simon is interning at an accounting firm and still doing the band thing with Maureen, so he’s around a little less, but that doesn’t seem to bother the siblings too much.
Clary, on the other hand, can’t get enough. Of Izzy, mainly, but also the con thing. It seems like such a rush, despite knowing it’s illegal - though Izzy’s words keep playing in her head: you can’t cheat an honest person.
Clary’s been going to the penthouse on and off for about four weeks now. In that time, she and Izzy have had two waffle nights, Simon’s joined them for a cheese fondue, they’ve been out to a fancy restaurant that Izzy insisted she wasn’t scoping out for marks, and they’ve satisfied their trash TV habit over cartons of Chinese food too many times to count.
If Clary didn’t know better, she’d say they were dating.
But they’re not.
Sometimes she catches Izzy looking at her. Izzy’s a very touchy person; she’ll stroke Clary’s hair, pinch her cheek, link arms with her when they’re walking. From what Clary’s managed to observe, Izzy’s like this with her brothers, too, but less with Simon - so whether it’s just something she does around people she’s comfortable with, Clary’s not sure. Or maybe the types of touches are different, and Izzy’s brothers are one thing, but Clary is quite another?
It’s all very confusing, especially when Clary doesn’t even know for sure if Izzy likes girls.
“I mean, I told Jace he just needs to get out and meet someone new,” Izzy says to Clary, “but he always likes to mope for a bit after a break-up. Not that he and Kaelie were even together, really, but anyway. You wouldn’t think it, but he is such a drama queen.”
She pauses to take a sip of her wine. Rosé - pink, like Izzy’s lipstick, which leaves an imprint on the glass. Izzy’s tongue darts out to lick away a drop of wine rolling down the curve of the glass, and Clary gets flushed with heat.
God, she needs to get a grip.
“Alec’s been running a suspicious amount of errands recently so he’s not at home,” Izzy continues, “and I just couldn’t stay in the apartment with Jace like he is right now. I’m half expecting him to be watching ‘500 Days of Summer’ or something when I get back.”
Clary laughs and drinks some of her own wine. Out of the corner of her eye she catches Izzy’s face fall.
“Shit, I didn’t mean - it’s really good of you to have me over at your place, and I really want to be here, to spend time with you. Escaping Jace is just an added bonus, I guess.” She finishes on a laugh, and Clary waves her hand.
“It’s fine,” she says, somewhat reminded of their first phone conversation, though their positions are reversed. “I know what you mean. You’re welcome anytime.”
Clary knows she’s gone a bit pink saying it, but Izzy seems pleased with the statement.
“You don’t mope after break ups, then?” asks Clary, aiming for teasing lightness. She doesn’t want to force Izzy to come out if she doesn’t want to - maybe doesn’t need to - so she keeps the question general, but it gives Izzy the option, at least.
“I don’t really do relationships,” Izzy shrugs, and wow, Clary’s hopes have just plummeted, but hey, at least for a different reason than she was expecting. “I have fun with different people and it works for me.” She gives Clary a strangely pointed look and says, “But I’m not saying I wouldn’t try it if I found a girl who wanted to.”
Clary tries to keep her face at least semi-neutral, but it’s kind of hard with the fireworks that are currently going off in her chest.
Izzy likes girls.
Ignoring the hallelujah chorus she swears is playing, Clary grounds herself by twirling the stem of her wine glass in her fingers.
“How about you?” enquires Izzy, and Clary knows the question holds so much more weight than which movie Clary would indulge in post-break up.
“I’ve only had one relationship,” says Clary, eyes flickering to Izzy’s, “but I’m still good friends with her.”
There’s no other description: Izzy’s face lights up.
Clary watches across the breakfast bar as Simon unsuccessfully stifles a yawn and giggles into her coffee cup at the sight. Simon looks adorable, sleep rumpled, glasses askew, wearing one of Jace’s T-shirts, and Clary impulsively reaches across the breakfast bar to squeeze his hand.
He smiles sleepily at her. “Did you sleep okay?” he asks.
Their movie and pizza evening with the Lightwoods the night before somehow turned into a Harry Potter marathon, and they ended up staying over. Clary started falling asleep halfway through the fifth movie, and ended up camped in Izzy’s double bed.
It was a delightful kind of torture, being that close to Izzy.
Simon had refused to sleep in his day clothes and Alec had refused to share any of his things, so Jace had let Simon stay in his room and borrow one of his tops.
Clary and Simon are now sitting with Alec, who looks like he wants to maim them, and Jace, who keeps shooting Simon furtive glances.
“Why are you still here, again?” Alec bites out, but Clary and Simon are saved from answering by Izzy’s appearance in the kitchen. She’s still wearing those tiny sleep shorts she had on the previous night, and Clary has to gulp her coffee to stop her mouth from doing something bad like gaping.
“Have you seen this?” Izzy asks, dropping a newspaper down on the breakfast bar. She taps her painted fingernail on a report of a stolen painting.
MORTAL PANIC FOR MORTAL INSTRUMENTS
The art world has been rocked by the discovery that Les Instruments Mortels was stolen from the New York Museum of Art yesterday. The painting, a triptych depicting three divine objects - a cup, a sword and mirror - is a priceless work by French 18th century artist Raziel.
The work was on loan to the museum and the owners made the following statement: ‘We urge anyone with any information on the theft of this painting to come forward. We are, every one of us, poorer for having lost the chance to view this beautiful work, and we all wish for its return to the museum.’
Alec narrows his eyes. “Jace, is Artie Arch still in town?”
Jace shakes his head. “He headed out to the West Coast a couple of months ago. Had a few too many brushes with the NYPD.”
Alec snorts a laugh and Izzy makes a disgusted noise as she busies herself making her own coffee.
“That was awful,” she says, and Jace grins at her.
“Who’s Artie Arch?” Clary asks, scooting her stool over to make room for Izzy at the breakfast bar.
“A forger,” says Jace. “He ‘restores’ old paintings by making a duplicate and returning that, and keeping the original or selling it on.”
“Wait, wait, he’s a painter and his name is Artie?” Simon laughs. Then he shakes his head. “Not that I’m questioning your judgement or anything, O Wise Alec, but why do you need a forger if the painting’s been stolen?”
Alec stares flatly at Simon. “Yes,” he says, in an exaggeratedly patient tone, “now that the theft of the painting has been reported, why would we want a forger who could make us a copy?”
Izzy aims a kick at Alec. “Dodgy collectors will believe us if we tell them we’re trying to sell it, now that they know it’s on the black market,” she explains to Simon, and he nods.
“That makes sense,” he says, and Alec groans something that sounds like obviously.
“If Artie’s not around, we need to find someone else,” says Izzy a moment later.
Clary clears her throat. “I could do it,” she offers.
Everyone at the breakfast bar turns to look at her.
“You could do what?” asks Jace, breaking the silence.
“The painting,” says Clary. “I mean, I’d have to familiarise myself with Raziel’s style, but…I could copy it.”
Izzy covers Clary’s hand with her own. “Clary, we might need someone with a bit more experience,” she says gently.
Simon makes a noise of disagreement. “No, Clary can do it. She got a first from the Brooklyn Academy of Art.”
Izzy looks impressed and smiles at Clary. “You’re hands are obviously even more talented than I thought,” she says airily, letting her eyes linger Clary’s fingers. Clary blushes a pretty pink and ducks her head.
“Artie has to have twenty years in the business,” muses Jace.
Alec nods. “Yeah. No offence, Fray, but an art degree doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence that you would be able to pull this off,” says Alec. His gaze swivels to Izzy, who’s looking at him expectantly. With a grimace, he says, “but I guess it’s worth a shot.”
Izzy can’t stop watching Clary.
She’s trying not to. Honestly, she is.
But Clary’s sitting in Izzy’s penthouse in one of Izzy’s oversized t-shirts and nothing else - how is that fair? - with her tongue poking out in concentration as she works on the Raziel replica, and Izzy can’t take her eyes off her.
There’s something about the meticulous strokes of the brush; the way Clary will pause, fingers dancing over her tubes of acrylic, trying to select the right one. Whisps of red hair have escaped from her ponytail and curl around her face, and she has a smudge of powder blue on her right cheek.
Izzy is going to die.
She drags her eyes away and finds Simon has come to sit beside her without her realising.
“Hey,” she greets, hoping he hasn’t been waiting next to her for too long.
He gives her a knowing smile. “Hey. She’s good, isn’t she?”
Izzy nods. “She’s showed me some of the stuff she’s done,” she says. “It’s amazing.”
“Your brother doesn’t think so,” Simon says, sounding personally offended on Clary’s behalf.
“Alec doesn’t like change,” she tells him, “that’s all. He’ll warm up to you.”
“Who wants to take down an honest to God dickhead?” Jace asks, springing up from the couch.
Alec holds up a hand. “Wait,” he says, “before you start, why are -” he points at Simon and Clary “- they here?”
Simon throws Izzy an I told you so look and Jace just stares at Alec.
“I invited them,” Jace says simply, and Alec face palms.
“The dickhead,” Izzy reminds Jace, who grins.
“Right. Say hi if you’re bi to Samuel Blackwell,” he says, and then, “hi, Mr Blackwell!”
It’s an interesting way to come out, Clary has to give him that.
Izzy and Alec laugh, and something about their easy, relaxed posture tells her this is a routine they’ve seen before. Clary catches the three of them sharing a glance. Alec shakes his head almost imperceptibly, and Jace nods at him.
“Okay,” he says, more to Alec than anyone else, and then continues, “Blackwell worked as head of venture capital for a couple of big profit investment firms before he branched out and founded Nephilim Pharmaceuticals. The cops could never prove anything, but it was suspected that he redirected some of the capital from his previous jobs into his start-up. Anyway, NP specialise in drug rights acquisitions, and about a year ago they bought the rights to Daraprim, an AIDS treatment drug.”
“That’s a good thing, right?” asks Simon. Jace aims finger guns at him.
“You’d think so. Turns out, Blackwell wasn’t doing all this out of the goodness of his heart. He artificially inflated the price of the drug by over five thousand percent, netting himself millions of dollars while the people who needed it suffered. When the story broke in the media, he sold the company on - again, at a profit - and retired to a mansion in the Hamptons.”
Izzy looks disgusted. “How do we get him?” she asks.
“Well, our man thinks of himself as something of an art connoisseur,” says Jace, “and often invites people to view his collection of Raziel’s pieces.”
Simon whistles. “That’s genius. We sell him the stolen painting.”
Alec nods. “Talking sense for once, Lewis. Is he ever in the city?”
Having finished his presentation, Jace throws himself back onto the couch. “Lucky for us, he keeps a pied-à-terre on the Upper East Side.”
“Okay,” Alec murmurs, clearly thinking hard. “The report makes it clear that the painting’s been stolen, so we can’t play reputable dealers.”
“What about an exhibition?” suggests Jace. “We can put on a private show -” he ignores Izzy wiggling her eyebrows “- of some legitimate pieces for a select group of clientele and invite him.”
“Then mention the Raziel piece while he’s in earshot.” Alec leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Yeah, that could work. Has anyone heard from Raphael Santiago recently?”
Izzy nods. “He was in the city a couple of weeks back. He’ll have the art we need, or he’ll be able to source it.”
Simon raises his eyebrows. “Artie Arch, Raphael - these names are so subject-appropriate it’s weird.”
“Where’s your friend?” Alec asks, leaning over the coffee table to inspect the painting.
“Clary had to go home,” Izzy says. “Something about dinner with her parents.”
Izzy’s never heard anything less sincere than when Alec says, “That’s a shame.”
She loops her arm through his. “She did a great job though, right?” Izzy asks, smiling.
Alec turns to her, nose wrinkled.
“It doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would,” says Alec, and Izzy laughs.
“Come on, hermano, would it kill you to admit she did good?”
He rolls his eyes at her. “You just want to get in her pants,” he says, and then he makes a disgusted face. “Why did I put that image in my head?”
Izzy just winks at him, and laughs at his expression as she leaves.
It’s family night at the Frays’ and Clary is late.
“Sorry!” she yells, slipping through the front door and hastily shedding her jacket and shoes.
Clary catches sight of Luke and Jocelyn waiting for her at the table as she drops her keys in the dish on the counter, and gives them quick kisses on the cheek before she sits down.
“Sorry, I got held up with Izzy,” says Clary, accepting a couple of tostadas from Jocelyn. “I was helping her out with something and lost track of time.”
“You’re seeing a lot of her, aren’t you? It’s nice,” says Jocelyn. “Were you together the other day? I stopped by your apartment and you weren’t in.”
Clary eats some food to give herself some time and tries not to look too guilty. “What day was it? I was probably at work.”
“Uh, Tuesday, I think,” says Jocelyn, and, yeah - Clary wasn’t at work. She was at the penthouse.
“Oh,” says Clary, shrugging. “I probably ran out of milk or something, I don’t really remember.”
Jocelyn accepts this even though Clary is really fucking terrible at lying.
Luke looks at her. “Did you find out the mysterious Izzy’s surname yet?” he asks.
Clary rolls her eyes affectionately. “Yes, her name is Isabelle Lightwood.”
And then -
Why doesn’t she ever think before she opens her mouth? Luke works for the NYPD and all he has to do is run her name through the system and he’ll find out and -
Judging by the look on his face, he’s already heard of her.
Clary hastily schools her features into a look of innocence.
Clary’s so fixed on Luke that she starts when she hears Jocelyn’s question.
“Yeah,” says Clary, “why?”
Jocelyn shares a significant look with Luke that sets Clary on edge, then shakes her head. “We knew a couple of Lightwoods once,” says Jocelyn, “but I’m sure they’re probably no relation. I bet your girlfriend is lovely.”
Izzy is lovely, but she’s not Clary’s girlfriend. Clary swallows around the lump in her throat at that thought.
“We’re not together,” she says to Jocelyn, who looks a little abashed.
“Oh, sorry, honey,” she says. “I just assumed…”
“No, it’s fine,” says Clary. She fills them in on her relationship with Izzy, conveniently leaving out all the illegal stuff.
The conversation moves onto other topics as they finish dinner, and afterwards Luke calls her aside.
“Hey, Clary, why don’t we do the dishes? Your Mom cooked for us, it seems fair.”
Jocelyn gives him a kiss.
“In that case, I’m going to put my feet up in front of the TV,” she says, catching Clary’s hand and squeezing it on her way out of the kitchen. Luke starts some water running into the bowl in the sink, then stacks the plates on the counter.
Clary gets ready with her tea towel - it’s their routine, has been for years: Luke washes, Clary dries - and smiles at Luke. He gives her a sidelong glance.
“So, Isabelle Lightwood, huh?” he asks. Clary hums. “Does she, uh, ever talk about what she does?”
Luke is clearly fishing for information and Clary bites hard on her tongue. If she tells him she knows about the grifting, she might be implicated in whatever Izzy’s done since they met. As a cop, Luke has a duty to the law, and Clary doesn’t want to put him in a position where he has to choose between his job and his family.
So she shakes her head.
“Not really,” she says, taking a glass from him, “it hasn’t come up that much.”
Luke nods and asks after Simon, and as Clary answers she tries to ignore the guilt churning in her stomach.
Clary arrives at the Lightwoods’ penthouse a little after five pm the next day, and Simon opens the door.
“Oh, hey,” she greets, hugging him. “I didn’t realise you were here already.”
“Jace let me in,” he says. Clary lifts her eyebrows. “What? The other two are busy getting ready to meet Blackwell for the transfer,” Simon adds, badly hiding a smile.
“Whatever you say,” teases Clary, bumping him with her hip.
She’s barely been there a minute when Izzy appears in the doorway, wearing a tight scarlet dress with a plunging neckline. Izzy looks to Jace and opens her mouth, then catches sight of Clary and grins.
Striking a pose, she asks, “Hot, right? What do you think, Clary - is red my colour?”
Clary blushes as she looks Izzy up and down. “With a body like yours, Iz, anything’s your colour.”
Holy crap. Clary wants the ground to swallow her up until she catches sight of Izzy’s delighted smile, and she can’t help grinning in return. Izzy disappears back through the door.
Simon sits on the floor opposite Jace and a fast-paced card game starts up.
“Oh, sorry,” says Clary, sitting on the couch and tucking her feet up, “did I interrupt your game?”
“No,” Simon answers distractedly, and then, “I mean - yeah - but - damn it!”
Jace whoops and swipes up his cards to deal again, and Simon plops his chin into his palms.
“That was your fault,” he says to Clary, and she laughs.
With the boys’ attention on their game, Clary pulls out her phone. She answers a text from Maureen and one from Jocelyn, and then she gets distracted by Izzy reappearing in the room. She’s still wearing that incredible dress, only now it’s paired with a pair of silver stilettos and her usual dark hair has been tucked up under a wig.
Alec follows just behind Izzy, dressed smartly in a navy blue suit.
He flicks a strand of synthetic hair. “Does Blackwell like blondes?” Clary hears him ask.
“Yes,” says Izzy, pushing his hand away, “and it’s platinum.”
Alec grins and picks up an artwork case from the kitchen counter. It contains Clary’s Raziel replica, and she feels a burst of pride go through her at the thought.
“Don’t have too much fun without us,” says Izzy, winking at Clary.
Jace looks up from the game, only just realising his siblings are in the room.
“Love the hair,” he says. “You know Blackwell’s got a thing for blondes?”
Alec grins again. “It’s platinum.” He opens the door for Izzy and she marches through. “See you later.”
Jace, Clary and Simon pass the time together by playing a couple of rounds of cards and then watching Ocean’s Eleven, and if Clary didn’t know better she’d say Simon was definitely trying to impress Jace with his con knowledge.
She catches his eye and he blushes but pokes his tongue out at her. Jace pauses the movie halfway through to go and get some microwave popcorn, so Clary takes the opportunity to scoot closer to her best friend and cuddle him like they used to do when they were kids sleeping over in a blanket fort.
Simon rests his head against hers. “Do you think Jace likes me?” he whispers.
Clary hums. “Likes you?”
“Yeah, you know. Likes me.”
Clary giggles in lieu of an answer as Jace returns with the popcorn. He plonks down on the couch next to Clary, handing her the bowl so everyone can reach it, and she begins to wholly regret sitting between the two of them.
On the plus side, pretending not to notice all the longing glances Simon and Jace are shooting each other gives her a good chance to practice her acting.
Eventually Alec and Izzy return, saving Clary from remaining a third wheel forever. They push open the door to the penthouse, chattering excitedly, and Jace whoops when he sees them. Izzy holds up a briefcase.
Alec grins. “Hook, line and sinker,” he says.
“I need to get out of this dress,” says Izzy. Clary gulps. “Who’s on champagne?” she calls as she leaves to get changed.
Simon volunteers to help Alec with the drinks, which makes Alec scowl and Jace laugh, and they disappear into the kitchen together.
Once they’re out of sight, Jace leans a bit closer to Clary.
“Congrats on your first successful grift,” says Jace, knocking his shoulder into Clary’s. “I wondered about going out for a drink to celebrate. Do you think Simon might be interested?”
Clary’s lips twitch. “In drinking?” Clary asks, and Jace looks at her for a moment.
“Sure,” he says. The tips of his ears are rather red. “Drinking.”
Clary can’t help smiling. “I think he would,” she says, “be interested, that is.”
Jace seems happy with this response and leans back into the couch. A moment later, Izzy emerges in a pair of yoga pants and a blue sports bra with a soft grey hoodie thrown over the top, and what the hell, is she literally trying to kill Clary?
She curls up on the couch next to Jace and rests her head on his shoulder.
“Hey,” she says, with a glance towards the kitchen, where they can hear Simon rambling on to Alec about something, “you know who I heard was behind the theft of Les Instruments Mortels?”
Jace and Clary shake their heads, looking at her.
“Magnus Bane,” says Izzy, grinning, and Jace lets out a low whistle but Clary is none the wiser. “Raphael said so the other day.”
Clary decides to bite. “Who’s Magnus Bane?” she asks.
“He’s a master thief,” Jace tells her. “He’s stolen things from some of the most secure places in the world. They call him the ‘High Warlock’.”
Clary raises an eyebrow. “Right. Why?”
Izzy grins. “‘Cause he’s magic. Quickest hands in the business, and if he can’t get something for you, you don’t need it.”
Jace is about to say something else when Alec and Simon reappear, and Izzy shushes him. Simon hands out glasses of champagne once Alec’s poured them and they toast to Blackwell. Jace throws in a toast to Magnus Bane for making the con possible, and Alec chokes on his champagne.
They’re in the middle of Clary and Simon’s second proper grift - an inheritance scam - a few weeks later when Clary suggests it.
“What about the High Warlock?” Clary says. “We could ask him.”
“You want Magnus Bane to take part our con?” Alec’s voice rises ridiculously high at the end of his question.
“Oh, do you know him?” asks Simon.
Izzy leaves the room with her shoulders shaking from suppressed laughter.
“Magnus is - quite magical,” says Alec, staring into the middle distance. “He’s very - very good at - what he does.” Alec seems to come back to himself and glares. “We don’t need to bother him for a switch, the job’s too small. When we need to get into the Museum of Natural History, then we’ll call him.”
“Or, you know, we could just go along and get Teddy Roosevelt and Akmenrah to help us,” suggests Simon. Jace snorts a laugh, which makes Simon look pleased, and Alec rolls his eyes.
Izzy returns carrying a glass of water, and she looks slightly more composed but still smirks when she sees her brother.
“Actually,” says Simon, glancing at Clary, “I think we know someone who could help. The job is just switching the two bracelets, right? So the mark gets her own one - the real one - authenticated, rather than the replica?”
Alec nods, though he looks doubtful. “Easy to say it’s ‘just switching them’,” he says. “The mark mustn’t feel anything or the game’s up.”
Clary sucks her teeth. “She can do it.”
Simon nods. “I’ll call her.”
Maureen is a bit weirded out by the situation, but she agrees to help in the end. Mainly because Arabella Pontmercy is a racist jerk who needs to be taken down a peg or two.
“Right,” she says to Jace and Alec, and then she wrinkles her nose. “Can you just go over the plan one more time?”
Alec looks about two seconds away from hitting himself and Jace tells him to take a walk, which manages to make him even more annoyed, but he leaves them anyway.
“You and Alec are going to visit Pontmercy,” Jace tells Maureen patiently. “She’ll be wearing a bracelet exactly like this one -” he gestures to the open box on the table “- and you need to take that one off her, pocket it, and put this fake on her arm. Without her noticing.”
Maureen nods. “Yeah, see, I thought that’s what you said,” she says, looking dubious. “Easy, right?”
Jace grins and throws his hands behind his head, slouching back.
“Can I practice?” asks Maureen.
“Definitely,” says Jace. “Don’t look now, but Simon’s got his watch on and Clary’s wearing a wrist band. We’ll go through the technique first, but obviously I’ll be hyperaware of what you’re doing. They won’t suspect anything.” He cocks his head. “Well, maybe they will, because Simon tells me you’re like a demon pickpocket, but they won’t know exactly what you’re planning.”
Maureen nods, smiling. “Okay. Where do I start?”
The penthouse’s door buzzer goes off and, before any of them can say anything, Alec shoots up from the couch.
“I’ll get it,” he volunteers, already leaving the room. Izzy raises an eyebrow but doesn’t comment.
“Did you drop off Maureen’s money?” she asks Simon, who nods.
“Yeah, I stopped by her house this morning. I invited her to tonight’s celebration but she said she was gonna go out with her sisters.” He pushes his glasses up his nose and smiles. “She’s telling them she won the lottery, so dinner’s on her.”
Izzy coos. “That’s cute,” she says. “I like her.” Then she throws a pillow at Jace. “Why don’t you ever take me out for dinner?”
Jace holds his hands up in mock-indignation. “I’m paying for tonight’s pizza, aren’t I?”
Clary laughs. “Alec’s just gone to get it, so won’t he end up paying?”
Jace shrugs as he stands up. “Details,” he says dismissively, grinning. “Anyone for beer?”
Only Izzy shakes her head. Jace leaves the living room as Alec, holding two pizza boxes, returns from downstairs.
There’s a man standing next to Alec holding another couple of boxes, and he looks ridiculously well-dressed for a pizza delivery guy. Clary’s about to get up and take the boxes from him when Izzy makes a choking sound beside her and her attention is diverted.
“Holy shit,” Izzy croaks out, looking in Alec’s direction, and Clary rests a hand on her arm.
“Are you okay?” she asks, quickly reaching for a glass of water that’s standing on the table.
“Alec!” Izzy says, ignoring Clary.
Alec looks more bashful than Clary’s ever seen him, and he glances at the man. Clary’s starting to get the feeling that something weird is going on, because the delivery guy is smiling happily as he looks at a spectacularly red-faced Alec.
The guy puts the boxes he’s carrying down on the table. Alec clears his throat.
“Uh, everyone, this is Magnus,” says Alec, glancing at the guy. They share a smile, and then Alec follows suit and deposits his boxes on the tabletop. “Food’s here.”
“Food’s here?” Izzy repeats incredulously. “Is that all you’re gonna say?”
Clary turns to Izzy, ready to ask what’s going on - surely that’s not the Magnus that Clary thinks it might be - when Magnus speaks.
“Isabelle, it’s lovely to meet you in person,” he says. Izzy’s eyes almost bug out and she stands up, brushing down her skirt. She takes his offered hand and shakes it enthusiastically. “I’m familiar with your work, of course,” he adds.
“You are?” she asks, looking at Alec and then Magnus. She seems a bit star-struck.
“Alexander has told me a lot about you,” Magnus says to Izzy, taking a seat on one of the couches.
Izzy shakes herself and smiles.
“Well, of course he has,” she says, walking over to Alec, who seems unusually nervous. On her way to the kitchen, Izzy wraps a hand around his arm and squeezes gently, whispering something to him. He seems to relax a little and gives her a warm smile, then takes a seat next to Magnus.
Jace comes back through, carrying three beers and a bottle opener between his teeth. He hands one to Simon and Clary and keeps one for himself. He stretches out on the floor, rather than sitting on the couch where he was before, and nods at Magnus.
“Hey, man.” At the weird look Alec is giving him, he gestures to the table. “Closer to the food,” he says, opening one of the boxes and inhaling deeply. Clary can’t help noticing the spot on the floor is also closer to Simon, but she keeps that thought to herself.
Alec rolls his eyes and looks at Magnus. “Jace, our brother. I mean, mine and Izzy’s. These two -” Alec waves his finger between Clary and Simon “- are not related to me.”
Magnus looks to Clary and cocks his head.
“Clary Fray,” she tells him. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Magnus smiles and holds out a hand. Up close Clary can see most of his fingers have rings on and his nails are painted glittery violet.
“Ah, Clary. I’ve also heard a lot about you,” says Magnus, sounding amused.
Clary snorts. “I bet.”
Alec just shrugs and Magnus ends up grinning. He turns to Simon.
“Simon Lewis,” says Simon. “I would shake your hand but I don’t want to get tomato sauce all over you.”
Magnus raises an eyebrow. “Much appreciated,” he says. He leans over the table to pick his own slice of pizza, fingers twirling elegantly as he chooses, and -
Quickest hands in the business. It is him.
“Oh my God,” Clary says, before she can stop herself, “you’re the High Warlock!”
Magnus laughs and gives her a warm smile. “That’s what they call me,” he says easily, then takes a bite of his pizza.
Izzy whacks Alec’s arm on her way back to the couch. She drops the napkins she’d fetched on the table and then sits down.
“Alec, I can’t believe you managed to convince Magnus Bane to eat pizza with us,” says Izzy, looking between Magnus and Alec.
Alec acts ridiculously offended. “Thanks, sis.”
Magnus just smiles, and raises his eyebrows at Izzy. “Should I be worried about the tone you said my name in?” he asks mildly, dabbing at his mouth with one of the napkins.
Izzy’s eyes widen and she shakes her head. “No, no, I’m a huge fan,” she says, opening a pot of garlic and herb dip, “but Alec isn’t big on sharing. I’d love to hear the story of how you two met.”
Simon nods as he and Clary swap plates so he can eat her crusts and she can have his mushrooms, just like they always do.
“Yeah,” Simon says to Magnus, “see, Clary and me are pretty new to this whole game but they’ve told us about some of the stuff you’ve done and it sounds amazing. Did you really sell the Empire State Building? That’s actually the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. And they said you’ve scammed like, half the casinos in Vegas - you’re literally Danny Ocean, but in real life!”
Simon pauses momentarily to eat and looks around. Clary and Izzy are smiling at him, Jace looks like he’s having a mild internal freak out and Alec is about to bang his head on the table.
Magnus takes it in his stride. “Thank you,” he says graciously, “although I am obviously far more attractive than George Clooney.”
The entire table make sounds of agreement and Magnus giggles, a ridiculously cute sound that makes Alec looks rather happy.
With a glance at Alec, who nods, still smiling, Magnus says, “We met on a job, actually.”
Izzy nearly slops dip over her skirt as she jerks upright, and Jace makes an offended noise from the floor.
“You did a job without us?” asks Jace, turning an accusatory glare on Alec.
Alec rolls his eyes. “I was helping Lydia out,” he says. “The mark had already seen Raj in the convincer, and she needed someone to play her business partner.”
“What they didn’t realise was that I was playing the same mark,” says Magnus, lips twitching. “I’d heard he was in town getting a good deal and decided to offer my services as a financial consultant - for a cut of whatever he made, of course. I’m rather flattered to say that when we met, Alec knew who I was straight away, but it wasn’t until I saw Lydia I realised something was going on.” Magnus swipes his pizza crust through some dip and nibbles on it elegantly. “The Branwells and I go way back.”
Clary leans in to Izzy. “Who’s Lydia?” she whispers, trying to ignore the tingles down her spine when she feels the breath of Izzy’s reply ghost over her cheek.
“Fellow grifters,” Izzy says quietly. “We help them, they help us.”
Izzy stays close to her for a moment and Clary suppresses the urge to kiss her.
“So how’d it go down?” asks Jace. “If he was being scammed, there was no cut for you to take.”
“Well, Lydia and Raj very kindly gave me a few thousand for my trouble,” says Magnus. His eyes flicker to Alec and his lips twitch. “It was definitely worth my while.”
After Clary, Simon and Magnus have gone home, Izzy sits out on the balcony, peacefully admiring the view over Manhattan on a Saturday night. Alec slides the doors open and comes to be with her; they’re quiet for a while, just listening to the bustle of the city, but eventually the silence is broken.
“So,” Izzy says, knocking her shoulder into Alec’s, “what’s going on between the two of you?”
Alec looks at her. “The two of who?” he asks innocently. Izzy pokes her tongue out at him and he turns away from her, smiling.
“We're - boyfriends, I guess?” he says, a dopey smile on his face. “Definitely dating.”
Izzy leans her head against him. “I’m happy you’re happy, hermano.”
Alec kisses the top of her head.
“Was it really obvious?” he asks a moment later, fingers tapping against his thigh in a jittery motion. “I don’t think Clary and Simon are as oblivious as they look.”
“Honestly?” Izzy lifts her head and looks at Alec. His face is serious. “You could tell you two are close,” she says. “You’re really at ease around him, and I think they’ve seen enough to know you’re not like that around anyone. But I think you could have passed for just good friends.” Alec leans his head against hers. “Magnus seemed very aware,” she muses, and feels Alec nod.
“We talked about it,” he says. “He knows I’m out to you and Jace but not the others.” Izzy can hear the goofy smile in her brother’s voice when he says, “He’s so good, Iz. He’s amazing.”
Her heart bursts with happiness for her brother and she squeezes him in a hug. They sit silently for a while, watching the city again. Eventually she says, “You know, Simon told us he’s pansexual and…I know Clary would be okay with it, if you wanted to tell them. I’m here for you, whatever you decide.”
Alec moves so he can wrap his arms around her. “I love you, Izzy,” he says, leaning his cheek against the top of her head.
Izzy’s about to speak when the doors open, and after the sound of familiar footsteps, Jace appears in front of them.
“Lightwood hug and I wasn’t invited?” he asks, pouting. Izzy glances at Alec and they tackle Jace, him falling backwards. They land on top of him, laughing, and Jace props himself up on his elbows.
“What did I miss?” he asks, letting both Izzy and Alec rest their heads on his chest.
“Should I come out to Fray and Lewis?” Alec asks him. Jace shrugs, which is marginally uncomfortable for his siblings from their position.
“I’m sure they’d both be cool with it, bro,” says Jace. “They were when I did. But it’s up to you. Whatever you choose, Iz and I will be here. Right, Izzy?”
“That’s what I said,” Izzy says, and then she pokes Alec’s cheek. “Can you move your arm? It’s so heavy.”
“You think you’ve got problems?” asks Jace, shifting under their weight. “His chin is digging in my fucking shoulder and it’s - ow!”
Alec looks entirely smug, so Izzy kicks him. He dodges and she gets Jace instead, who shoves her off him, and the touching sibling moment dissolves into rolling around the floor fighting.
“Morning, boss,” Luke chirps, and Vargas sends him a look. He holds out a box of blondies he picked up on his way into the station and offers her one. She shakes her head, cradling her coffee, and he takes a large bite of one of the treats, laughing.
“It’s too early,” she complains, and Luke nods.
“Crime doesn’t sleep, Captain,” he says, aiming for deeply philosophical, but she just bursts into laughter.
“Thanks,” she says, and then, “I needed cheering up.”
Luke raises his eyebrows. “Has something happened?”
Vargas shakes her head. “Just the usual office gossip,” she says.
It’s common knowledge in their squad that Lieutenant Gabriel bitterly resents the fact that Vargas got to head the new fraud task force and he didn’t. What started out as him being a bad loser soon devolved into malicious unprofessionalism, but the superiors aren’t doing anything about Vargas’ formal complaints. Both Luke and Alaric backed up her side of the story, but apparently Gabriel’s skills as a detective cancel out his lack of human decency, and at the end of the day, the cops in the new squad are there to catch fraudsters.
Luke opens his mouth, but Vargas raises a hand to stop him.
“I can handle it,” she tells him. “Do you have a minute? There’s something we need to discuss.”
By the time they reach morning briefing, Luke is knocked for six, and Vargas looks at him worriedly as she calls her sergeant to deliver the briefing. When the general notices are done, the individual detectives on the squad are given the chance to update everyone on their open cases, and Gabriel saunters up to the front with an ease that sets Luke on edge.
“So,” Gabriel says, clicking a picture onto the monitor at the front of the room. Three mugshots appear: a blond guy and two dark-haired people, a man and a woman. “The Lightwoods.”
Murmurs run around the room and Luke swallows.
“We’ve been following these famous kids for a while and we’ve seen that they’ve made some interesting friends recently - de Quincey, Blackwell, now Pontmercy. They always get away with it, don’t they?” Gabriel seems viciously victorious as he clicks onto the next picture. A photo of Clary and Simon getting out of a car with Isabelle and Jace Lightwood fills the screen. “Well, in the past few weeks, it looks like they’ve been using some help.”
Even though Vargas had given him the heads up about it, it still feels like the bottom has dropped out of Luke’s world.
Gabriel smiles. “And we are going to take them down.”
It’s only two days since they closed the Pontmercy con and Alec’s already got them buzzing for the next one.
“Our next mark?” Alec asks Jace, notepad at the ready.
Jace nods and moves to stand next to the projector screen. “Right,” he says, as the first image comes up. Then, after a nod from Alec: “Say ‘hey’ if you’re gay to Emil Pangborn.”
Alec and Izzy say hey with differing levels of enthusiasm, and then they look expectantly at Jace.
“Hi if you’re bi,” prompts Izzy, and, not for the first time, Clary can’t help thinking that these wanted criminals are actually just massive dorks.
“Hi, Pangborn,” says Jace. “CFO for a high-end graphic design agency called Angel Graphics - they provide the multimedia content for all the big, expensive ad agencies that do the big, expensive products.” He clicks onto the next picture. “That is, until last year, when the company was embroiled in a money-laundering scandal. The subsequent investigation report found that Pangborn was aware it was going on and didn’t do anything about it, so they fired him - or he took early voluntary retirement, depending on which story you want to believe. He got away with a massive pension, and now he’s looking to supplement that by working for other companies.”
Alec nods and rubs a hand over his jaw. “So the consultant scam will work.”
Izzy hums. “How’s your British accent, big bro?” she asks, and Alec smiles.
Simon clears his throat. “What’s the consultant scam?”
“You offer the mark a bogus opportunity to become a consultant on the board of a foreign company,” explains Jace. “One of us will act as a representative of that company and persuade them to let us handle the transfer of their assets to the new country.”
“And let me guess, the transfer doesn’t make it to the actual company?” asks Clary, smiling, and Jace snaps his fingers.
“Got it one,” he says, and Izzy nods.
“We’ve got time to play with here, and only one mark. It should be a relatively low-pressure grift, so it’s a good one for you two to jump in on,” she says, raising an eyebrow at Alec as she finishes her sentence.
Alec hums. “Jace, what’s your story with Pangborn?”
“He thinks I’m James Carstairs, a head hunter for a bank in the UK,” says Jace, taking a seat on the couch next to Simon.
“Okay.” Alec sucks his teeth. “Make contact with him. Introduce me as a contracted currency specialist for the bank, and toss into conversation what I do, what could be in it for him. Set up a meeting for us in a week or so’s time. This bank, do they have offices in New York?”
Jace nods. “The HQ of Alicante’s US division is in the Financial District.”
“Izzy, I’ll need an identity - company pass, web profile, you know the drill. We’ll wing the Alicante office, but we’ll need a hotel to complete - those are yours too.”
Clary shares a glance with Simon. “What can we do?” she asks, and Alec looks at her like he’s trying to forget she’s there.
“Uh, you can do whatever it is you normally do when you’re not bothering me. We’ll call if we need you.”
Izzy throws a cushion at Alec’s face and he almost manages to dodge, getting a whack to the ear.
“Simon,” says Izzy, though she’s glaring at her brother, “you can have a go at doing the web stuff for Alec’s front once we’ve finalised the details and you can book the hotel room, too. Alec, don’t look at me like that. Clary, the two of us will recce the offices and get some working capital.”
“Isabelle,” Alec begins, but she cuts him off with a stare.
“They’ll never learn if we don’t teach them, hermano,” she says, in a tone that leaves no room for argument.
Jace points at Izzy, nodding. “They’ve been watching us for like two months, Alec. Let them do something.”
“What if what they do is get us thrown in jail?” Alec replies, jaw clenched.
“Chill, bro, that’s not gonna happen,” Jace says easily. “Your back-up plans have back-up plans. You always keep us out of trouble.”
“I can keep the three of us out of trouble,” Alec shoots back.
Clary lifts her chin. “Well, Izzy’s right, isn’t she? The only way we’re going to learn our stuff is by actually doing something.”
Izzy rolls her eyes. “Alec, last time I checked, you couldn’t get arrested for booking a hotel room or visiting an office.”
Alec rubs at his temples. “Fine,” he snaps. “Fine. Lewis, Jace’ll show you how to do the design stuff. Izzy, take Fray on a day trip or whatever. Just get her out of here.”
Their day trip to the Alicante offices goes surprisingly easily, and they agree to stop for lunch at a pizza place on their way to the hotel they’re hitting up to get some cash for the con.
Clary video calls the others while Izzy pays for their food. Jace picks up right away, with Simon in the background, and he adds Alec in to the conversation.
“How’d it go?” Jace asks.
“Alicante’s offices are on the ground floor of the building,” Clary tells him. “Their actual currency specialist for the US division is a Mark Blackthorne.”
She glances up as Izzy comes to the table, placing down a box of pizza, and smiles.
“We asked around and apparently he’s a stickler for time-keeping,” Clary continues. “He takes a half hour lunch break at one in the diner around the corner and returns at half past exactly.”
“The guy’s like clockwork,” Izzy says, “so they won’t buy him having a meeting with you unless he’s actually about to come back.”
“Okay,” nods Alec, “we can work around it. Jace, once you’ve dropped Pangborn at the bank, go to the diner and keep an eye on him. Hold him up if you can.”
Jace nods. “Sure. Oh yeah, and when you get back, Alec, we’ve done the IDs.”
“Get back?” Izzy asks. “Where are you?”
Alec clears his throat. “In a meeting,” he says mysteriously, though he looks like he's hiding a smile. “What time are you going to the hotel?”
“When we’ve eaten,” Izzy tells him, holding up a slice of pizza. Alec nods and then hangs up.
Jace snorts. “He’s a right old charmer,” he says, grinning, and then says goodbye himself.
Clary watches Izzy snaffle up a string of melted cheese. She ends up with a splodge of tomato sauce on her nose, and it’s the most adorable sight Clary’s ever seen.
“Gabriel’s something, huh?”
Luke and Alaric are sitting outside their precinct on their lunch break, both clutching half-wrapped burritos. Alaric takes a bite out of his food and chews it nonchalantly, as if he hadn’t just asked such a loaded question. Luke scrunches his nose.
“He’s a piece of work,” he says. “You know how he talks about Vargas.”
Alaric nods. “Yeah, but I didn’t mean that.”
“I know.” Luke sighs heavily and prods a few grains of rice back into the tortilla of his burrito.
“Did you know Clary was running around with the Lightwoods?” asks Alaric.
Luke shakes his head. “Not until Vargas told me this morning. I mean, I knew she knew Isabelle, but she told me she didn’t know they were grifters.”
Alaric finishes his lunch and scrubs a hand over his jaw. “What are you gonna do?”
“I don’t know,” he says honestly. “I’m gonna call Jocelyn in a minute. But…there’s not a lot I can do without people knowing I’ve said something to Clary.”
Alaric nods again. “You gonna play this one with a straight bat?” he asks.
Luke sucks his teeth. “I’m gonna have to. I’m gonna have to treat it like any other case. I think it’s only a matter of time before Vargas pulls me off the squad anyway.”
Alaric puts a hand on Luke’s shoulder. “I know I don’t know Clary as well as you,” he says, “but I remember the first time you brought her into work, this tiny little five year old. She sat on your desk chair, totally swallowed up by it, making siren sounds that rang through the whole office. Everyone was cracking up, and she wouldn’t stop doing it, and she was just grinning at you ‘cause she’d made you happy.”
Luke closes his eyes. He can see the moment too.
“She’s still that person, Luke. She’s not doing this to hurt you. I just don’t think she’s realised.”
“You think I should tell her, don’t you?””
Alaric holds up his hands, but he’s smiling. “I didn’t say anything.”
“So, now we’ve done Alicante, we’re on getting some working capital to pay for the con,” says Izzy.
They’re standing in the cloakrooms of an upscale hotel, The Lucifer, while Izzy takes Clary through what she’s got to do. They’ll leave separately and meet back at the crew’s regular bar, The Institute, in time to report back to the others.
Izzy appraises Clary and cocks her head. “We both know you know the short con,” she says with a smile.
“I know how to pickpocket,” Clary says, “but I don’t know if I can make that work here.”
“Sure you can,” says Izzy. She takes a step closer to Clary. “The main principal of pickpocketing is misdirection, right?” Clary nods. Izzy’s fingers drift along the inside of Clary’s wrist, and then her hand grips her lower arm more tightly. Izzy is barely a whisper away from Clary and up close, Clary can see all the details of Izzy’s face. It makes her tummy flip-flop pleasantly.
“While you were registering this…” Izzy’s lips quirk up into a smile and she pulls back the smallest amount. “You weren’t feeling this.”
In her other hand she holds Clary’s cellphone, which was in the back pocket of her pants a moment ago.
Clary lets out a breath of laughter and tries to stop herself from blushing at how close she still is to Izzy. All she would have to do to kiss her would be tilt her head to the side and lean in and -
“Yeah,” Clary says immediately. “Won’t this be a bit obvious if I do it to everyone in there?”
Izzy smiles. “They’d all be lucky to have you this close,” she says, eyes twinkling, and Clary’s heart stutters, “but you’re right. What I’m showing you is the benefit of directing the mark’s attention away from what you’re doing.”
“Plus, they’ll be on your side. Guys like these won’t expect a pretty girl like you to be doing anything naughty.” Izzy’s voice drops on the last word and Clary has trouble swallowing. That’s two compliments in as many minutes and God, is she imagining the way Izzy’s eyes are dropping to her lips?
“Right,” she says shakily. She blinks a few times. “Can I have my phone back?”
Izzy grins and puts Clary’s phone in her own back pocket.
“If you can get it off me,” she says lightly.
Clary fixes her gaze on Izzy. She moves closer, putting her hand on Izzy’s hip to redirect Izzy’s attention, but she gets lost in the feel of Izzy’s warm, smooth skin under her fingers and can’t help tugging Izzy flush against her. Izzy lets out a quiet gasp and her eyes are slipping shut and Clary tips her head forward and -
Kissing Isabelle Lightwood is heaven.
Clary nudges closer, putting her leg between Izzy’s. Izzy cups Clary’s jaw with one hand and runs the other through Clary’s hair, tilting Clary’s head just slightly more. Izzy’s tongue flits out to lick into Clary’s mouth, and Clary can’t help moaning at the touch.
One of her hands dips below the waistband of Izzy’s jeans and just rests there, feeling Izzy’s soft skin, and the other sneaks around to grab Izzy’s ass.
Izzy stops kissing Clary just for a moment to pull back and breathe, and then she’s there again, tugging Clary’s bottom lip between her teeth and kissing her.
Clary loses herself in the sensation, heat thrumming under her fingertips and running through her. She swears up and down she can almost hear an orchestra playing a symphony.
They bump noses as they pull apart, both breathing heavily. Izzy’s eyes are open when Clary looks at her, and they’re warm and bright and Clary thinks she might just have fallen in love.
“Hey,” Izzy breathes.
Clary can’t contain her smile and giggles a little, burying her head in Izzy’s shoulder.
“Just wondering,” says Izzy, “are you gonna use that technique on all of those guys?”
Clary kisses her way up Izzy’s neck, knees going weak at the sound it brings from Izzy. “I think I’ll save it just for you,” she says, and Izzy’s eyes light up.
A phone bleeps and breaks the spell. Izzy curses and looks around for hers, but Clary stops her, nudging her nose gently against Izzy’s jaw.
“I think that was mine,” says Clary, and Izzy pulls back, pressing a kiss to Clary’s cheek.
“Okay,” she says, hand moving around to her back pocket, “here -”
Izzy stops, lips parting, and Clary can’t help grinning. Clary waves her phone at Izzy, who swats her away.
“Oh my God,” she laughs, “well done. That’s why you were grabbing my ass.”
Clary glances at her phone and then locks it. Izzy raises an eyebrow.
“Do you need to take it?” she asks.
Clary shakes her head. “No, it’s just a missed call from Luke. We can talk later, this is more important right now.”
Izzy accepts this with a shrug. “Okay, if you say so.” She purses her lips as she packs her stuff up, slinging her bag on her back. “You know, it’s nice that you have parents who look out for you,” she says suddenly. “Don’t take that for granted.”
Clary nods. “I know.”
Izzy smiles and jerks her head in the direction of the door. “Show time.”
Clary takes a breath and steals herself. She watches Izzy as she exits the cloakroom, counts to 120 in her head and then leaves herself. She can do this.
“Clary?” Izzy calls suddenly, diverting Clary’s attention. She’s standing by the revolving doors out of the hotel, finger tapping against her thigh. If Clary didn’t know better she’d almost say Izzy was nervous. “Did you only kiss me to get your phone?”
Her voice is quiet, and Clary’s stomach plummets.
“No,” she says immediately, walking back over to Izzy. She gives her a gentle kiss, tucking a lock of dark hair behind Izzy’s ear. “I’ve been waiting to kiss you for ages,” she confesses, a whisper, “and the phone thing was just a bonus.”
Izzy nods, usual smile back in place. Clary squeezes her hand and then turns to leave.
Clary looks back at Izzy on a laugh. “Are you ever gonna let me go?” she asks.
Izzy holds Clary’s face in her hands and kisses her. “One for luck,” she says. Izzy picks up her bag and backs away. “And you should know the answer to that question is no.”
Something fizzes pleasantly in Clary’s chest and she watches, smiling, as Izzy disappears through the revolving doors.
Jace leaves Simon chatting to The Institute’s barman and slides into the booth where Alec is already camped, notes spread around him and a frown on his face as he chews his pen.
“Here,” says Jace, handing Alec an envelope.
Alec peers inside and lets the IDs fall on the table surface, then eyes Jace with a look of complete disgust.
“Hercules Trueblood?” he asks, tone dripping with disbelief. “What the fuck did I ever do to you, Jonathan Christopher?”
Jace smiles sweetly. “It’s your porn star name, but the surname was too indecent to even think about typing.”
Alec is in the middle of rolling his eyes so hard they almost get lost in the back of his head when his phone bleeps. He glances at it, grinning before he can stop himself, and then he sees Jace looking and clear his throat.
“What?” he asks.
“Well that was a complete 180,” Jace says, “considering you were literally about to murder me a second ago.”
Alec tries to look annoyed and fails. “I still am, so don’t push me.”
Jace narrows his eyes. “No, something’s put you in a good mood,” he muses. “Did something bad happen to Clary?”
Alec laughs loudly. “Don’t let Lewis hear you say that.”
Jace purses his lips in thought, and then gasps. “You saw Magnus!” he accuses. “That’s where you were earlier! Running errands, my ass.”
Alec does a terrible job of denying it, but his phone ringing saves him from having to answer. “Hey, Iz,” he says.
“I’ve just left the hotel, so I’ll see you in fifteen,” she tells him. “Clary will probably be back in an hour.”
“We live in hope,” he says dryly, and Izzy laughs.
“She kissed me,” she says, sounding excited. Alec grins.
“I’m happy you’re happy, hermana,” he says, and even though he’s repeating her words back to her, he’s never been more honest.
They hang up and Jace pounces on him again.
“You don’t get out of it that easily,” he says. “Did Magnus ask after me?”
“Of course he didn’t,” Alec says, snorting, and then he realises his mistake as Jace gives him a massive grin.
“You did see him!”
Alec just about manages to fend off Jace’s interrogation until Izzy gets there, and under their combined weight he caves, filling them in on his latest date with Magnus. They tease him for a while until Simon comes over, and then Alec seizes his moment to get back at Jace. He launches into an embarrassing story about thirteen year old Jace, but to his consternation, Simon just finds it hilariously adorable.
Clary comes back around an hour later, just like Izzy predicted, gleefully clutching her backpack.
“I did it!” she says happily, handing the bag to Izzy.
Izzy looks at her happily and takes the bag, beginning to count out the items.
“Oh my God,” Clary breathes out, not really talking to anyone in particular, “I thought at one point one of them noticed, which was super scary, but it was such a rush! I mean, I felt kinda bad, but a couple of them tried to feel me up so I was like, ‘Nope, I’m done feeling sorry for you!’”
She collapses on the table, disrupting Alec’s notes.
Izzy looks at her proudly. “Clary, there’s like three thousand dollars here,” she says, disbelieving.
Simon high fives her across the table. Clary grins, glancing at Izzy, wondering if it would be inappropriate to kiss her in front of the boys.
“It’s great, right, Alec?” Izzy asks. She’s giving him a look, like she wants him to acknowledge that things are going right.
Alec can’t help the smile that comes to his lips. “The con is going well so far,” he says grudgingly, and they laugh.
Well, everyone expect Izzy.
Clary looks at her, suddenly worried, and squeezes Izzy’s hand.
“What is it?” she asks.
Izzy licks her lips. “Hermano, don’t be mad,” she starts, “but there might be a slight problem.”
Alec looks at her and sighs. “Shoot,” he says, gesturing for her to go on.
“It’s totally not my fault,” Izzy says hastily, “but earlier, after I’d called you, I went to get a coffee. And there was a guy in the queue behind me who started talking to me and he asked me out and I turned him down, obviously, but he would definitely recognise me if he saw me again.”
She nibbles her bottom lip and Alec lets out a groan.
“It was Pangborn, wasn’t it?” he asks.
Izzy nods. “I’m sorry.”
Alec covers her hand with his. “Don’t worry,” he says, “it wasn’t your fault. We’ll go with Plan B - Jace can be my assistant instead. Not a big deal.”
“Sorry, bro. We’ve already fixed up the IDs and stuff,” Jace says, shaking his head. “Clary did well today,” he reasons.
“She’s not playing the inside with me,” Alec says, at the same time as Clary volunteers,
“I could have a go at playing your assistant.”
Izzy nods enthusiastically, murmuring her approval of Clary’s suggestion.
“No.” Alec throws his pen on the table. “She has no experience of going up against a mark. This is totally different.”
“We all start somewhere,” says Jace. “Remember when you went on your first job with Hodge -”
He breaks off and the three Lightwoods’ faces shut down. Eventually Alec sighs in defeat.
“Fine. But you better not fuck this up, Fray.”
Clary nods. “I won’t, I promise,” she says quickly.
“Don’t worry, big brother,” says Izzy, “I’ll go through everything with her.”
Alec nods, a little placated. “Jace, question. How come she gets ‘Sophie’ and I get ‘Hercules’?”
Clary, Alec and Jace arrive at the Bank of Alicante office at five to one and wait inconspicuously outside for a few minutes. At exactly one pm Blackthorne come exits the bank, as the girls said he would, and Clary and Alec wait fifteen minutes before they enter the building.
Alec flashes the woman on the desk a winning smile. “Hey, there,” he says, “My name’s Mr Trueblood. I have an appointment with Mr Blackthorne, but I’m a little bit early.”
“Oh, Mr Blackthorne’s still at lunch,” she says, frowning. “Would you like me to call him?”
Alec holds up his hands. “No, it’s okay, I’ll ring him - the mix up was at our end.” He throws in appropriately world-weary sigh. “It’s okay for us to wait in his office?”
The woman smiles at him. “Of course, Mr Trueblood. I’ll let him know you’re here when he gets back.”
Clary and Alec just have time to set up the room before Jace appears in the atrium with Pangborn, and Clary goes to meet them.
“A colleague,” she says by way of explanation as she passes the woman on the front desk, and then, to Jace and Pangborn, “Mr Carstairs, great to see you again. Mr Pangborn, it’s lovely to meet you. I’m Sophie Bright, Mr Trueblood’s assistant - if you could come this way, I’ll show you to his office.”
“Of course,” Pangborn smiles, but Jace shakes his head.
“I have to run - got a meeting on the other side of the city,” he says, tossing in an frustrated noise. “Say ‘hi’ to Herc though, won’t you?”
Clary nods, only just managing to stifle a grin at Alec’s fake name. “Of course, Mr Carstairs. Have a safe trip.”
Pangborn follows her to the office, striking up a conversation about the Mets, and Clary almost finds herself forgetting that he’s a mark to be conned and not a stranger she’s just started chatting to on the subway.
Alec stands and shakes hands with Pangborn, and Clary takes a seat away from them as she pulls out her notepad and tries to look as secretarial as possible.
The business deal starts fine, Alec playing up the smarmy businessman and Clary the put-upon PA. He calls on her to reel off some figures about the bank’s profits, trying to grab Pangborn’s attention, and it works.
A little too well.
“Your girlfriend knows her stuff,” comments Pangborn, and Clary has to bite her lip to stop from laughing. She and Alec are similarly repulsed at the idea, but Alec - ever the professional - keeps a straight face.
“Yeah, she’s a smart cookie,” he says, and Clary’s amazed to see the proud smile he sends her for Pangborn’s benefit. It must be like walking over hot coals for him.
“She is someone I could do business with,” says Pangborn. “You’re good, buddy, I’ll give you that. But I know your type. She -” he points at Clary “- is someone I trust.”
Alec’s eyes flit to Clary for a moment before returning to Pangborn.
“You trying to cut me out of the deal, man?” he asks, leaning back in his chair. He looks so at ease, so jovial, and Clary can’t help but be impressed at Alec’s acting.
“No hard feelings,” Pangborn says with a smile, and Alec grins back at him. “I want Ms Bright here to do the deal with me.”
“Okay, okay,” he allows, holding his hands up. “What can I do? You got me.” He gestures to Clary. “Take it away, Soph.”
Clary’s heart skips and she hides her hands so Pangborn can’t see them shaking.
Izzy’s voice comes back to her. Show time.
“What the fuck was that?” Clary asks, the minute Pangborn’s left the office.
“A disaster,” says Alec. He makes an annoyed noise in the back of his throat. “Fucking hell, this grift is falling apart. And I had to pretend you were my girlfriend.”
Alec calls Jace and Izzy and they fill the crew in on the unexpected turn of events.
“So what the hell did you do?” Jace asks, and Alec groans.
“What could we do?” he says. “Fray took over. It was that or break the deal.”
Izzy hums. “Oh my God! Did it go okay? Clary, how did you do?”
“Uh, okay, I think?” she says, glancing questioningly at Alec.
He looks at her with disdain. “She handled it,” he says, and Clary hides a smile behind her hand.
“Jesus,” breathes Izzy, “from Alec that’s like a medal. Well done, Clary!”
“Thanks,” she says. “Uh, Alec?” Clary nods in the direction of the Atrium. “We’ve got company.”
Blackthorne has returned, talking to the woman on the front desk and looking confused, and Alec curses.
“Meet us at the bar,” Alec says into his phone, then he hangs up. Then to Clary: “Just act normal and get out of here. I’ll handle it if he speaks to us.”
Clary nods, gathering up her stuff, and follows Alec out of the office.
“Garroway,” Vargas calls into the almost empty room. Luke looks up from his desk and sees her stood in the doorway of her office. She jerks her head. “A word.”
Luke gets up and walks to her office, closing the door behind him.
“What’s going on, Captain?” he asks.
Vargas rubs at her temples.
“You’re a good cop, Luke,” she says, “and I don’t want to have to do this, but I’ve got to bench you.”
Luke rubs at his jaw. “You’re pulling me off the task force?” he asks resignedly.
Vargas sighs. “You’re too close to the Lightwood case. The fact that the fraud squad is investigating your daughter has already raised a few eyebrows - with a conflict of interest for you like that, I don’t want your name getting dragged through the mud if anything goes wrong.”
“But I’m not even running point,” says Luke. He sits down opposite Vargas. “Gabriel is. I’m just following his orders.”
“Well, from now on, you’re following mine.” Vargas looks at him. “I’ll turn a blind eye this once if you help Clary, but you have to do it off record, in your own time. From today, you’re off the Lightwood case. Wu’s got a couple of bogus stocks deals from last week she could use some help on.”
“Babysitting Junior Detectives?” asks Luke. “Thanks.”
“Better babysitting than out of a job,” Vargas points out. “If the prosecution here falls apart and it comes out that you were on the team investigating the crew your daughter is known to associate with, you’re gonna be the one taking the fall. They’ll make sure of it. You know that, right?” She softens and gives him a sad smile. “I don’t wanna lose you. This precinct needs you.”
Luke feels like punching something. Mostly Gabriel. “But the task force doesn’t?”
Vargas holds up a finger. “No, you’re still on the fraud squad. You’re a great detective, Luke. But you can’t be on this case. Not this time.”
Izzy yells excitedly when Clary and Alec get back to The Institute and she runs to give them both hugs.
“How did it go?” she asks, and Alec opens his mouth to answer but Izzy holds up a hand and flashes Alec a cheeky grin. “I meant Clary - sorry, hermano.”
He rolls his eyes and musses her hair as he passes, heading over to his usual booth.
“It was intense,” says Clary honestly. Izzy’s eyes are searching her face, so focussed on her, and she feels a burst of warmth run through her. “The whole time I was waiting to mess up, but he seemed to buy it. We’re meeting tomorrow at the hotel to do the transfer of initial assets.”
Izzy smiles. “You’re a real grifter now,” she says, and Clary can’t help smiling too. She peers behind Izzy and finds Alec buried in his phone and Jace and Simon absorbed in a pool game, so she presses a quick kiss to Izzy’s lips.
“I’ve still got lots to learn,” Clary mumbles, and then she gets distracted by Izzy’s tongue and her soft hands, warm against Clary’s waist.
“I can show you,” says Izzy, when she pulls back, and she brushes Clary’s hair away from her forehead, cupping her cheek.
Clary darts forward and capture’s Izzy’s lips again, kissing her and pulling her closer. The sound of a pool cue clattering to the ground breaks them apart, and they look over to find Simon and Jace staring at them. Jace looks disappointed and Simon gleeful, which confuses Clary until she sees Jace pull out his wallet and hand Simon a bunch of dollars.
“Before you hit me, the bet was Jace’s idea,” Simon says immediately, holding up his hands, and Jace pokes him with a pool cue.
Clary blushes but can’t find it in herself to care when Izzy takes her hand and tugs her over to the others.
Later Clary and Simon find themselves sitting at the bar, the Lightwoods huddled in the booth. Clary loses track of time, staring into her drink and thinking about the exchange tomorrow, and she starts when Simon nudges her.
“So…” he says teasingly.
“Something to say?” she smiles, and he grins
“I’m glad you finally got together,” he says, and she nods. “But I’m kind of wondering why you look so worried when you should be crying with happiness at being Isabelle Lightwood’s girlfriend.”
Clary can’t help laughing at that, and it does help to ease some of her anxiety.
“I’m worried about tomorrow,” she admits. It’s Simon - she can tell him anything. “I know those guys have done this a million times, but I felt kind of out of my depth earlier and I had Alec there with me to fix it if I messed up. It’s just me and Pangborn tomorrow.”
Simon nods and covers her hand with his. “I get why you’re nervous, I would be too. But you can do it. I believe in you.”
Clary gives him a sideways look. “You think?”
Simon raises his eyebrows. “You’re Clary freakin’ Fray, of course you can! You can go up against Pangborn and you can kick his ass,” he says.
She smiles, then turns on her bar stool so she can hug him. “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” she says honestly, and Simon shrugs.
“I know, I am amazing.”
Clary laughs, glancing over to the Lightwoods’ booth. “Hey, don’t look now but uh, I’d say that a certain someone only has eyes for you.”
Simon hums. “Interesting.”
Clary nods. “Maybe you should do something about that.”
Simon slips from the bar stool with a salute and calls Jace over. “Round two?” he asks, and then blushes bright red when Izzy cackles.
“Are you two talking about pool or sex?” she teases, and Jace pushes her into Alec.
Clary watches from the bar as Jace and Simon start a game, watches Alec and Izzy joking with each other, and feels an easy contentment settle over her. She’s about to slip off her stool and join the others when someone comes up beside her.
“Whiskey on the rocks, please,” the person says to the barman, in a voice as familiar to Clary as her own.
She turns, open mouthed, to see Luke looking at her with raised eyebrows.
“Wondered if I’d find you here,” he says. He thanks the barman and looks around. “Long time since I’ve been to The Institute.”
Someone comes to stand behind her and puts a hand calmly on the bar’s surface.
“You okay?” asks Alec.
Clary nods. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.”
Alec drops his hand and glances between Luke and Clary. He sucks his teeth. “Let me know if you need anything.”
Luke smiles into his whiskey. “Can Clary and I have a minute, Alec?” he asks.
Alec’s eyes flash and he stands up straighter, tensing.
“How do you know my name?” he asks. His voice doesn’t waver but it’s obvious he’s thrown.
Luke puts his glass down on the bar slowly. “You look a lot like your mother,” is all he says.
Alec’s breath catches and his eyes dart over to his siblings. It takes him a moment to meet Luke’s gaze.
“Right,” he says quietly, “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
Luke waits for Alec to leave. “He obviously cares about you,” he observes, and Clary can’t stop snorting incredulously.
“Alec?” she asks. “No, he hates me, Luke.”
Luke gives her a look. “Well, he seemed pretty protective just then,” he comments, though Clary shakes her head, and continues, “which would be a good quality in the leader of a crew of con artists, wouldn’t you say?”
Clary swallows and she looks down at the bar’s surface, unable to meet Luke’s eyes.
“I guess,” she replies feebly. “Have you told Mom?”
“We don’t keep secrets,” Luke says simply.
Clary feels kind of like puking. “I’m sorry, Luke,” she says.
Luke levels his gaze at her. He doesn’t seem angry, only disappointed, which makes Clary feel infinitely worse.
“Why did you lie to me, Clary?” He rubs his forehead. “You told me you didn’t know what Isabelle does, and now you’re grifting too? And you’re ignoring my calls so I don’t find out, right?”
Clary chews her tongue. “I didn’t mean to,” she says, a defence that sounds crap even to her own ears. “We were just friends at first, and I knew about the cons and stuff, but I didn’t take part. And then it just kind of…happened.” She sighs frustratedly. “And I didn’t want you to find out, you’re right. But because I didn’t want to put you in a position where you had to arrest your own daughter, not because I wanted to lie to you.”
Luke is quiet for a few minutes.
“How did you know, anyway?” asks Clary. “That I’ve been grifting, I mean.”
“My squad have been tailing you,” answers Luke. “The Lightwoods are a big catch, Clary. Their parents were in the game too, and escaped without conviction, so getting their kids is the next best thing. Poetic justice, or something. There’s one detective on the squad, Gabriel - he thinks getting the Lightwood crew will the collar of his career.”
Clary absorbs this, heart rate picking up.
“I know what they’re doing is against the law, but they never scam innocent people,” says Clary. “I mean, I’d get this Gabriel if they were, but can’t he see that there are other people who are actually, you know, criminal?”
Luke laughs. “And what are the Lightwoods?” he asks.
“You can’t cheat an honest person,” Clary says, repeating Izzy’s defence of her own actions, and Luke sighs heavily.
“Clary, this isn’t a game. If you keep on with this, you’re going to be arrested - Simon, too. Gabriel will make sure of it. I can’t protect you anymore. I’ve been kicked off the case.”
Clary’s heart stops. “Because of me?” she asks, voice small, and Luke doesn’t say anything, which is all the answer she needs. “Fuck. Luke, I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, me too,” says Luke. “The Lightwoods can take their own risks, but I care about you and Simon too much to let anything happen to you. You need to leave the crew, Clary. Before you get in serious trouble.”
Clary looks over at Izzy. “I can’t,” she says.
Luke’s jaw tightens, but he just ends up looking defeated. “Clary…” he says tiredly, and she realises she’s done that to him. Her stomach clenches painfully.
“I’ll think about it. I promise.”
Luke is apparently angrier than she realised, because once the topic’s exhausted, he finishes the rest of his drink and stands up to leave. She’d expected him to stay and talk - although how they talk after that, she’s not sure.
“Call your Mom, will you?” he asks before he goes. “She’s worried about you.”
Which makes Clary feel even more shit, and she thinks it’s nothing less than what she deserves.
The others are on her the moment the bar’s door closes.
“Who was that?” demands Alec.
Simon opens his mouth, but Clary is quicker.
“That was my dad.”
Izzy’s eyes widen, and Clary can’t bear the worry in them, so she tells them everything.
Late that evening, Clary finds Alec sitting out on the balcony, deep in thought.
“Alec?” she asks, waiting by the doors in case he tells her to fuck off.
He nods and she perches tentatively on a chair.
“How does he know my parents?” Alec asks immediately, before she can even speak.
Clary shakes her head. “I don’t know,” she says honestly. “I’d guess from your file in the fraud squad, but it kinda sounds like he knows them personally from how he talks about them.”
Alec nods, rubbing a shaky hand over his jaw. “Do you know how much the cops have on Izzy and Jace?”
“No,” Clary says, feeling helpless. “I can ask Luke, if you want? I’m not sure he’d tell me, though, after today.”
“Don’t,” Alec says sharply. “Don’t put them onto Izzy and Jace.” He sighs. “Maybe it’s a good thing that the two of us are doing the con. The others are behind the scenes and you’ve got your dad to look out for you, so with any luck they’ll only have enough to make it stick on me.”
Clary looks at him. “You’re joking, right?” Alec stares at her and she realises he’s deadly serious. “You can’t give yourself up!”
“I’m not,” he says. “I’m on damage limitation. It might not come to that, but if it does, I’m the only one they’ll get.”
Clary makes an exasperated sound and buries her face in her hands. Everything’s suddenly overwhelming; the very real threat of the police, the effect Alec going to jail would have on everyone, the fact that Luke has basically lost his job because of her, what she’s done to her family.
“Shit,” she mumbles. “Shit, shit, shit -”
“Yeah, alright, Fray.” Alec has a glint in his eye when she looks up. “I have a plan, and me doing jail time is worst case scenario. But if we’re going to do it, you need to be in. One hundred percent.”
Clary frowns at him. “I can’t carry on with the con. I can’t do that to Luke,” she says.
Alec nods. “Okay. What if you weren’t actually doing the con? Would you be able to live with yourself?” The last question is delivered with a hint of his usual wryness.
Clary shrugs. “What are you thinking?”
“You know, I really want to tell you that it’s not my job to clear up the mess you’ve gotten yourself into and be done with it,” he sighs. “If you don’t want to put your dad in this position, you could always not do illegal things. But the whole ‘police on all of our asses’ thing kind of complicates it all.” He absently rubs at his eyebrow scar. “I think I have a way for you to get out without hurting your dad and to make all the evidence the cops have gathered on this Pangborn con worthless, but it’s precarious at best.”
Clary nods. Alec briefly outlines his plan and she chews it over.
“Yeah,” she says finally, looking right at Alec. “I’m in.”
Alec offers her the barest smile. “Good. Now piss off, I’ve got a call to make.”
Clary smiles for the first time in a while and stands up, mock saluting.
“Clary?” Alec calls, just as she’s stepping over the threshold back into the penthouse. “Thanks.”
She stares at him. “What for?”
Alec rolls his eyes. “Whatever you’re doing, it’s making Izzy happy. Anything that makes my sister smile like she has been recently can’t be all bad.”
Clary bites her lip and smiles herself.
“You know if you hurt her I’ll hand you over to this Gabriel person myself, right?” Alec says a moment later, and Clary is ninety-nine percent sure he’s joking.
The last she hears before she closes the door is Alec talking into his phone.
“Lydia? It’s me,” he says. “You and Raj up for a job tomorrow?”
Emil Pangborn is standing in the open-plan kitchen of his apartment when his cellphone blares into life.
“Pangborn speaking,” he says.
“Hello, Mr Pangborn,” a man on the other end of the phone greets. “My name is Alaric Rodriguez, I’m a Detective with the NYPD.” There’s a pause. “Sir, the matter is a little delicate, so we have two officers coming to your apartment now. They’ll explain the situation, but it’s our duty to make you aware that you’re being conned.”
“Conned?” Pangborn repeats.
“Your business deal with Sophie Bright and Hercules Trueblood,” says Rodriguez. “They’re not who they say they are. Like I said, our officers will explain more when they arrive.”
After goodbyes, Pangborn hangs up. He slams his fist down on the countertop and then regrets it. He’s just started pacing when the door buzzer goes, and he lets the police officers up.
A brown-haired woman with a pink tips to her neat ponytail and a tall, beardy man greet him when he opens the door.
“Morning, Mr Pangborn,” says the man. He flashes a badge. “I’m Detective Kapoor, this is Junior Detective Renton. Can we come in?”
Pangborn lets them into his apartment, complaining about the conmen trying to steal his money. The detectives make sympathetic noises, explaining a little more about Bright and Trueblood’s operation to fleece hard-earned cash from perfectly innocent people.
“Criminal,” says Pangborn, and the detectives nod.
“Which is precisely why we’re here,” Renton says. “If you agree, we’re going to enlist your help.”
Pangborn nods. “Of course, anything to get these bastards sent down. What can I do?”
“We’d like you to go as planned,” Kapoor begins, “while wearing a wire. You do the deal, and we get them committing the crime on tape.” He gestures to the briefcase he’s carrying. “We have a replacement case here - all the bills have been marked. We’ll take your case for security reasons, and you can use this one.”
Pangborn nods. He takes off his jacket and gestures to Renton. “Wire me up.”
Clary arrives at The Seraphim Hotel at exactly three pm, the time they’d agreed with Pangborn the previous day. The others had stayed in the penthouse, agreeing that if they were seen together in the vicinity of the mark it would somewhat defeat the aim of not getting thrown in jail.
It hadn’t stopped Izzy walking her to the subway station, then giving her a tight hug and making her promise to be careful.
Clary takes a seat in the lobby, smoothing down her skirt and trying to calm herself down by taking a few measured breaths. If Alec’s plan works, everything should be fine.
They’ve already had the all clear from Lydia and Raj, but she needs to do the next part to give them a bit of breathing room with the cops.
And it’s fucking terrifying.
Clary spots Pangborn enter the hotel, fiddling with the line of buttons on his shirt. She grits her teeth, psyching herself up, and walks over to him with a smile.
Everything should be fine.
“Mr Pangborn,” she calls. “It’s nice to see you.”
He looks a lot less friendly than he did yesterday. “Yes, yes, shall we get on with it?” he asks.
Clary nods. “Of course.” She tries to make small talk as they walk to the room they’ve booked to do the transfer, but Pangborn is having none of it, shutting down all of her attempts.
They arrive at the room and Clary offers him a drink. He declines.
“So, everything went okay at my end,” says Clary. “And yours, I trust?”
Pangborn nods. “Yes, you’ll get what you need,” he says, and Clary swallows.
“Great,” she manages. Pangborn holds out the briefcase, and no sooner has Clary wrapped her fingers around the handle than the door bursts open.
Four police officers swarm into the room - Alaric, Clary recognises, but she doesn’t know any of the others. Clary’s heart starts beating double time and her palms go clammy, but she manages not to let go of the briefcase - at least, not until it’s taken off her.
“Clary Fray,” a voice says, and Clary sees Alaric look away as handcuffs are put on her, “I am arresting you on suspicion of fraud. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning…”
The last thing Clary sees before she’s yanked from the room is Pangborn’s pleased smile.
“Oh, God. Oh my God.” Simon is close to ripping his hair out with the amount of tugging on it he’s done, and Jace places a calming hand on his arm. “She’s been arrested, Clary’s been arrested, and they’re gonna interrogate her and stitch her up and throw her in jail and oh, God, I’ve seen Orange Is The New Black, she’s not gonna survive in there -”
“Simon,” snaps Alec, eyes on the police station, “shut up!”
“Alec,” Izzy warns, “play nice. He’s worried about her.” She crosses to Simon and puts her hand on his arm. “We all are.”
Simon eyes them suspiciously. “Really, Iz, really? ‘Cause it kinda seems like it’s just us.”
Jace’s face softens as he looks at Simon. “Her dad’s friend works in there, Si. She’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, his friend who’s a police officer, or did you forget that?” Simon snatches his glasses off and rubs at his eyes. “Even if Alaric doesn’t want to charge her, the evidence -“
“Doesn’t show a damn thing,” finishes Alec. “Listen, Lewis: Clary Fray is a pain in my ass and it would make my life a thousand times easier to leave her in there.” At Simon’s protest, he holds up a hand and throws his sister a look. “But she’s one of us, okay? She’ll be fine.”
Simon clearly wants to say more, but Izzy squeezes his arm.
“Trust me,” she says, and eventually he nods.
Clary sits in the interrogation room opposite Alaric. The two of them wait in silence and she watches him watch her with a frown.
“You have the right to an attorney,” he reminds her eventually, and she nods.
“I know. Thanks.”
The door opens to admit the officer who’d arrested Clary and he sits down next to Alaric, placing Pangborn’s briefcase on the table top.
“For the tape,” he says, “present in the room are Lieutenant Gabriel, Detective Rodriguez and Clarissa Fray. Interview starts at…4:21 pm.” He turns his eyes to Clary, nothing but meanness in them. “So, Clary. What were you doing at The Seraphim?”
“I was meeting Emil Pangborn,” she says slowly.
“What was the purpose of the meeting?”
Clary looks away. “You probably guessed already,” she says.
Alaric interrupts before Gabriel can say anything. “We have one or two ideas. Why don’t you tell us your side?”
Clary takes a breath and sends up a quick prayer. Everything should be fine.
“Okay,” she begins shakily, “so. You know I just graduated college, and - I’m not proud of this, okay? - but I kinda lied about some of the stuff on my CV so I could get a meeting with Pangborn. He was CFO of Angel Graphics and that’s kind of my area, so I was hoping to network with him.”
Alaric is staring at her, and Clary can feel her palms getting sweaty.
“You were meeting him to network?” he asks, confused.
Clary nods once.
Gabriel takes over. “That’s your story?” he asks.
“It’s not a story,” Clary says evenly.
“Okay, let’s say we believe that,” Gabriel says dismissively, “what was with the briefcase Pangborn gave you?”
Clary swallows. “He said everything went okay at his end - he was supposed to be bringing along some examples of work his company had done so I could get a feel for their style.”
Gabriel narrows his eyes. “If we open this briefcase up, we’re not going to find a hundred thousand dollars?” he asks.
Clary says nothing, nibbling her lip. She watches Gabriel unclip the briefcase locks and turn the case towards her, smiling triumphantly.
She frowns. “It’s just art,” she says, and he almost growls as he spins the case back to face him, then does a double-take.
“What the…” he shoves the case in Alaric’s direction. “Rodriguez, look.”
Alaric looks into the briefcase. Clary sees the ghost of a smile pass over his face before his features are schooled again into a mask.
Gabriel rifles through the case. “What the hell are these?” he snaps.
Clary peers into it. “They’re designs,” she says, plucking out one of the bits of paper. “I had a look on the Angel website - this one, it’s a sheet of runes. They’re like a writing system - symbols that have meanings instead of words.”
Gabriel’s jaw clenches. “Pangborn brought a bunch of doodles to your meeting?” he spits out. “What about the money?”
Clary pulls a confused face. “What money?”
Gabriel inhales deeply and turns to Alaric. “Don’t let her out of your sight,” he says, and leaves the room with the bang of a door.
“Mr Pangborn,” someone says, coming into the room Pangborn is waiting in. He strides over to the table. “I’m Lieutenant Gabriel. I’d like to go through what happened at the hotel this morning with you.”
Pangborn frowns. “Well, what do you mean? Didn’t you hear it?” he asks.
“Hear what?” asks Gabriel, non-plussed.
“The conversation!” He pulls the microphone bud of the wire out of this shirt. “I bet this damn thing wasn’t working!”
Gabriel stares at him. “Where did you get that?” he asks after a moment.
“Where did I - are you joking?” Pangborn tries to rein in his temper. “Your officers came to my house this morning! Detectives…Kapoor and Renton!”
Gabriel watches him, and then starts. He whacks the file he’s carrying down on the table, opens it roughly and spreads a series of photos over the table top.
“The two detectives, can you see them here?” he asks, pointing to the pictures.
Pangborn looks at each photo in turn: a blonde man with an undercut, a brown-haired boy with glasses, a woman with dark hair tumbling down her back, Hercules Trueblood and Sophie Bright.
“Well, no!” he says, looking at them again. “They were your detectives.”
“Sir, we don’t have any detectives at this precinct by those names,” Gabriel says, a muscle in his jaw jumping.
Then something occurs to Pangborn. “If you haven’t got my damn money then you better tell me who has!”
Simon runs to hug Clary as she exits the police station.
“I thought you were a gonner for sure,” he says, wrapping his arms around her. Clary hugs him back tightly.
“I’m fine,” she says. “It was fucking terrifying, but they’ve let me go, haven’t they?”
Izzy reaches her second and gives her a squeeze. “Well done, mi cielo,” she whispers, kissing Clary’s cheek.
Alec makes an annoyed sound. “Can the reunion wait till we’re not outside the police station?” he asks flatly.
Izzy rolls her eyes but acquiesces, not letting go of Clary’s hand as they walk away from the police station. As if she can sense Clary’s jumpiness remaining, she distracts her with mundane conversation, for which Clary is infinitely grateful. Simon walks on her other side, also passing comment on the occasional thing. Alec and Jace walk up ahead, heads bowed in deep conversation.
They reach The Institute and Jace signals the barman for five glasses of champagne.
“Make that eight,” a voice says, and Alec turns around, grinning.
“Hey,” he says, automatically gravitating towards Magnus, and then Alec seems to realise that Magnus is with people, because he sort of jerks upright. “And hi.”
Clary looks to the newcomers. “I’m guessing that’s -”
“Lydia and Raj,” Izzy finishes with a smile, giving them both hugs.
“We’ve got something for you,” Lydia says once she’s let Izzy go, holding up Pangborn’s briefcase.
Raj takes a champagne flute from Magnus and raises it. “Poor Pangborn. He seemed like such a nice guy.”
There’s a moment of silence before they dissolve into laughter, Raj’s joke easily managing to break the tension. Clary relaxes, realising properly that she’s out of the station, back in The Institute, back with Izzy.
She smiles and kisses Izzy’s cheek. Izzy tucks one of Clary’s curls behind her ear.
“Tell us, then. What happened?”
Simon places a hand on Clary’s arm. “If you’re ready to,” he says, looking at her worriedly.
She nods. “I’m fine, Si. Thank you.”
All of them crowd into a booth. Izzy very nearly ends up in Clary’s lap, which is definitely something to not think about with six other people around. Clary tells them about her afternoon: meeting Pangborn at the hotel, the cops bursting in, being taken down the station, the interrogation with Alaric and Gabriel.
“Gabriel was clearly pissed about the briefcase, ‘cause when he came back he kept asking me all these leading questions about you guys. Don’t worry,” she says, as Alec opens his mouth, “I told him what we’d rehearsed.” She pauses to take a sip of her champagne, aware all of them are looking at her.
“So that explained how I knew you all, but he said it wasn’t good enough. He said he still had Pangborn’s statement, and that they were gonna speak to the people in the Alicante office, and I was like, ‘Shit’. But then this British guy turned up at the door and told me not to say anything else.” Her brow crinkles at the memory. “He was all, ‘This was a false arrest, you don’t have probable cause to arrest Ms Fray’, so in the end they let me go,” she says. “I don’t know where you found him, but he was great.”
Izzy looks at Alec, confused. “Where did we find him?”
Alec only shrugs, but for a professional con artist he really is a terrible liar. “My back up plans have back up plans,” he smiles, with a nod at Jace.
“Congratulations, Clary,” Magnus says. Then he elbows Alec and pretends to wipe away a tear. “First arrest, they grow up so quick!”
Alec rolls his eyes, but he’s grinning. He glances across the table to Magnus. “When’s Ragnor getting here?”
“Any minute,” Magnus says, sipping his champagne. “Unfortunately.”
Jace holds up a hand. “Who’s Ragnor?”
Catching sight of a man walking through the door to The Institute, it’s Clary who answers.
“My attorney!” she breathes out. Ragnor waves to Raj, nods at Lydia and Alec, and steadfastly ignores Magnus, whose lip curls, though his eyes are twinkling.
“Ragnor is an old friend of mine, Jimbo,” says Magnus. Alec laughs into his champagne.
“Less of the old, my dear,” says Ragnor, coming over to the booth. They all budge up to allow him a seat, and he perches on the end, legs crossed. “Well, I’d say that was quite the success, wouldn’t you?”
Alec salutes him with a smile. Simon takes his glasses off and rubs his eyes.
“Wait, you’re gonna have to go over this again,” he says, and Lydia chuckles.
“Raj and I swapped Pangborn’s case for the decoy this morning,” she tells him, “but that didn’t get the cops off your back.”
Jace gestures to Simon. “They have direct evidence of Clary impersonating someone else, sure, but all the Alicante receptionist knew was that Clary mistakenly thought she had a meeting with Blackthorne. They’ve got Pangborn’s statement, but the briefcase supports Clary’s version of events - it’s her word against his.” He shrugs. “They could chase up the fake police lead, but Lydia and Raj were wearing disguises when they visited Pangborn this morning.”
Raj nods. “Their evidence is inadmissible,” he says. “They should have invited Clary down to the station to talk based on reasonable suspicion, but Gabriel wanted to make an arrest. Even though they didn’t have probable cause, he only cared about booking one of the Lightwood crew. He fell ass over tit into the trap, and now they don’t have grounds to arrest Clary again.”
“Unless anything new turns up,” Jace says, “but it won’t. We’ve tied up all the loose ends.”
“Right.” Simon puts his glasses back on. “So if they want to build a case against Clary, or any of us, they’ll have to use evidence from future cons. So why did Ragnor need to be there? No offence,” he adds hastily.
Magnus snorts rather inelegantly and Ragnor throws him a look.
“By all accounts, Gabriel is single-minded about delivering what he thinks is justice. Clary needed someone on her side who clearly wasn’t going to take his bullshit,” Alec says.
“And I do so love yanking the cops’ chains,” Ragnor says. “I think it’s the accent. Confuses them.”
Most of them laugh, but Clary just blinks rapidly, her throat thick with emotion. Gabriel would have had to let her go eventually, she knows that. But Alec didn’t have to bring Ragnor along to speed up the process.
“Thanks, Alec,” she says, when she can speak again. He rolls his eyes at her, but only a little bit, and she counts this as a win.
“You’re a grifter now,” he says with a shrug.
Izzy wraps her arm around Alec’s shoulder and kisses his temple. “See, I told you,” she says to Simon and Clary, “big softie.”
Jace, Lydia and Raj laugh. Even Magnus giggles, and Alec blushes pink.
Izzy hums. “So,” she says, “Clary’s no longer arrested, the cops are back to square one, and we have $100,000 of Pangborn’s money sitting right here with us.” She smiles. “I’m not dreaming, right?”
Jace leans over to pinch her and she swats him away.
“$100,000 minus some expenses,” Lydia says innocently, though her raised eyebrow doesn’t help the impression.
Over Alec’s laughter, Simon speaks.
“Right,” he says, “so everything’s okay? None of us are dead. And we have money!” He grins. “Who’s our next mark?”
Everyone but Clary smiles.
Jocelyn picks up on the first ring.
“Clary, oh my God! Luke heard you’d been arrested, he’s down at the station now trying to find out what happened - what the hell were you thinking?”
Clary leaves the warmth of the bar and sits outside alone so she can have some privacy. “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m fine, he can come home. I’m fine.”
Jocelyn sighs. “What happened?”
“They arrested me in connection to a con,” says Clary, “but they couldn’t prove anything and released me earlier this evening.”
“And you didn’t think to call and let us know?” Jocelyn asks, exasperated. “Clary, honestly. What has been going on with you?”
“I know. Mom, I -” her voice breaks. “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, I didn’t mean to hurt Luke, or you. I know what I need to do, I just…I need some time to do it.”
Jocelyn hums. “Is this about Izzy?”
Clary closes her eyes, trying to fight off the tears. “It’s her or Luke, isn’t it? I can’t stay with Izzy without compromising Luke’s integrity and I can’t fix things for Luke without leaving Izzy.” A sob bubbles out of her mouth. “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
Simon finds her later, sitting on the ground outside The Institute crying. He slides down the wall to sit beside her. He wraps one of her hands in his and holds on tightly.
“I’m leaving the crew,” Clary whispers when she’s got her voice back.
His eyes widen behind his glasses. “But we’ve only been in it for like three months,” he says. “Did something happen with Izzy?”
A wet laugh escape’s Clary’s lips. “You could say that,” she mumbles. She leans her head on his shoulder. “If I stay, I hurt Luke, but if I go, I hurt Izzy. I don’t know what to do.”
Simon rests his head on hers. “You can still see her, though, can’t you? Even if you don’t take part in the grifts, you don’t have to stop dating her.”
Clary sniffs. “Don’t I? My cop dad and my criminal girlfriend - that makes an interesting family dinner.”
Simon laughs. “You know I’m not the one you need to have this conversation with, right?” he says after a while. “Do you want me to go and get her?”
They lie in Izzy’s bed, Clary’s head tucked into Izzy’s bare shoulder. The duvet’s pulled up over them and they’re slightly overheating, radiating warmth against each other, but neither of them want to move. For now, it’s just the two of them. Nothing else exists.
As Clary turns her head, she presses a a feather-light kiss to Izzy’s skin. She wants to hold the sound Izzy makes in her palm and never let it go.
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?” Izzy mumbles, later.
Clary scrunches her eyes shut. “If I say no, will you believe me?”
Izzy’s laugh twinkles melodiously in the quiet of her room. “They’re your family. I would do the same.”
She doesn’t sound resigned, or heart-broken, just accepting. Clary props herself up on her elbows, hovering over Izzy. Her hair falls around their faces, creating a curtain against the world.
Izzy tilts her chin up and kisses Clary gently, lips softly brushing against each other. She traces Clary’s bottom lip with her tongue; presses a kiss to the corner of Clary’s mouth.
Isabelle Lightwood will never stop taking Clary’s breath away.
Clary tightens her fingers in Izzy’s hair. “I don’t regret it,” she says, words a whisper away from Izzy’s lips. “I know that’s probably selfish. But I don’t. Because I wouldn’t have met you.”
Izzy smiles then, blindingly bright, and it almost makes saying fuck it and staying in the crew worth it. She nods, eyes warm and sincere and crinkled at the corners, and Clary wishes more than anything that they could have more time.
It takes a few months to repair things between her and Luke, but slowly, they get there. He forgives her more easily than she forgives herself.
They’re doing the dishes on family night - Luke washing, Clary drying, as always - and the air between them is back to familiar, comfortable, safe.
“How’s Simon?” Luke asks. “He hasn’t been round for a while. Invite him over, we can get your Mom to make chicken cacciatore.”
Clary snorts a laugh and picks up a frying pan. “You want him to say no that bad, huh?” she asks, and Luke laughs. “He’s alright. He’s got a boyfriend now.”
Luke lifts his eyebrows. “Oh?”
“Yeah, but he won’t tell me who. I think he’s worried I’ll make fun of him or something.”
It’s a lie, of course it is. Clary thought she was done lying to Luke, but this one is half-true, so maybe it’s okay. Jace and Simon have been together for a while now, but Simon is always worried that Clary will make fun of him for it.
“Gabriel got kicked off the fraud squad today,” Luke says conversationally, and Clary almost drops the glass she’s drying. “I don’t think anyone is going to miss him.”
“Does that mean you aren’t investigating the Lightwoods any more?” Clary asks. Her face is carefully neutral when Luke looks at her.
“No, it’s still an open case,” he says. “They haven’t done much recently, though. I think they’ve been lying low.” He shrugs. “And there are always others to catch. How is Isabelle?”
Clary hums. “I don’t know,” she says truthfully. She likes to think Izzy’s fine, but they haven’t spoken in getting on for three months now. They tried, at first, but it was too hard pretending that they were both okay with the occasional text.
So now they don’t even pretend.
Luke looks at her, surprised. “I thought she was your girlfriend?” he asks.
“She was,” says Clary. The dish Luke’s holding drips suds into the water, going unwashed as he regards Clary expectantly. She shakes her head. “There’s nothing to say, really. It didn’t work out between us.”
“How come?” Luke asks.
Clary sighs. “I - it just didn’t. It couldn’t.” She bites her tongue. “Conflict of interest,” she goes with eventually, hoping he’ll understand without her having to spell it out.
Luke steals the tea towel, dries his hands and places them on Clary’s shoulders. “Pull a Simon,” he says.
Clary stares at him blankly. “Sorry?”
“Clary,” sighs Luke, “I want you to be happy. No offence, but I’ve seen perps on a double murder charge look happier than you. All I’m saying is, if you get a girlfriend but you won’t tell me who it is because you’re worried I might make fun of you, or any other reason, that’s okay.” He raises his eyebrows and looks at her pointedly.
Clary glances down. “Luke, I can’t ask you to…”
“That’s okay. Alright?” He picks up a dish and begins drying it, shooing Clary from the room with the tea towel. “Go and get her.”
The ride up to the penthouse suite of The Idris Hotel is the longest thirty seconds of Clary’s life. The doors slide apart and she steps into the corridor, then walks over to the room door and knocks.
There’s no answer. She tries again; waits. A few hundred rocks have settled in Clary’s stomach and her throat is so thick she’s having trouble breathing.
Eventually she winds her way back to the hotel lobby, stopping at the reception desk.
“The Lightwoods, in the penthouse suite,” she asks. “Do you know if they’ve checked out?”
The man on the desk taps away at the computer for a moment. “Sorry, Miss. There were never any Lightwoods at The Idris. Have you got the right hotel?”
Clary’s knuckles go white from gripping the top of the desk. They used a fake name, of course they did. “Yeah, I - sorry. Probably getting mixed up.”
The man smiles at her and she smiles back as if her heart isn’t shattering.
She manages to make it outside. She leans against the wall and pulls out her phone. Izzy’s contact is right there, waiting. Her thumb hovers over it.
Clary taps onto Simon’s number instead.
“Hey,” she says when he picks up. “It’s me.”
“Hey, Clary,” he greets. “What’s up?”
“Do you know where Izzy is?” she asks.
Simon clears his throat. “Do I know where Izzy is?” he repeats, and wow, living with a bunch of people who lie for a living has not improved his ability to be subtle. Izzy is quite obviously in the room with him, and the implicit question is obvious to even Clary.
“Uh,” he says distractedly, “yeah, yeah I do. Should I tell you?” he asks, and Clary is about to throw her phone away in frustration because of course he should tell her when he says, “or do you want Izzy to?”
They’re back in Central Park, sitting on the same bench as last time. Almost a year later, the Park is pretty much the same, but Izzy is different.
She’s had her hair cut, the dark waves now just falling to her shoulders. It suits her; frames her face. Her eyes are kohl-lined and her lips rosy, picking up the pastel pink of her shirt.
She’s still the most beautiful person Clary has ever seen.
“I’m sorry,” Clary says, for the tenth time, but who’s counting?”
Izzy’s lips twitch. “You said that already.”
Clary nods. “I need you to know it.”
“And I do,” Izzy says. Her hand hovers over Clary’s, like she wants to hold it but isn’t sure if she’s allowed. “Why are we here?”
Clary swallows. “Well, like I said on the phone, I wanted to see you and -”
“Yeah, no, I know that,” Izzy says. She seemingly gathers up the courage to intwine their fingers. “I mean, why are we here? On this bench.”
“Oh.” Clary shifts, uncrosses and then recrosses her legs. “It went right here. I mean, it went wrong, because being friends with Simon means putting your foot in your mouth rubs off on you, but we managed to save it. And then we went right. Until I messed everything up, which I’m sorry about.”
“You said -”
“- that already. I know.” Clary shrugs, feeling cold even though the sun is out. Izzy’s clearly dealt with this so much better than she has. “I just thought maybe this spot was lucky, or something.”
Izzy is quiet for a while. “You think there’s something worth saving between us?” she asks in the end.
Clary nods, not able to look at Izzy’s face and see the rejection there she knows will come.
Fingertips nudge at her chin, cupping her jaw and turning her face. She turns to look at Izzy, who’s smiling.
“I forgive you, Clary,” she says. “I’m not even sure there’s anything to forgive. You were doing what was best for your family - like I said, I would have done exactly the same. And then it wasn’t exactly easy for us to go back to being friends and act like nothing had happened.”
Clary hardly dares breathe.
“Maybe we should take it slow,” Izzy says, a note of hopefulness in her voice, “until we find out how it’s going to work.”
Clary raises her eyes to meet Izzy’s, lips parted slightly. She steels herself. “Like coffee, maybe?”
Izzy smiles. “Like coffee.”
In Central Park, people stroll along; kids clutch picnic hampers, families bicker while they’re out for a walk, runners go for a jog.
None of them pay much attention to the two girls sitting on a bench, smiling, holding hands. None of them see what this is: a beginning.