The thing about being an internationally renowned art thief and con artist was – you got a sense for which cons were going to go well, and which really weren't. Actually, that was part of being any kind of criminal, at least in Neal's experience. What you got as a *good* con artist was a sense of which cons were going to go well and which really weren't before you actually started them, thus skipping over the part in the middle where it all went horribly wrong and you ended up having to swim across the Thames to escape the cops.
Not that Neal was speaking from personal experience there or anything.
So, when June explained about her grand-daughter being taken off the transplant list and Neal asked what he could do to help, he trusted in the absence of a sense that this was all about to go horribly wrong. In his defense, at the time, it was a case and not a con, which may be what screwed with his finely honed sense that in fact the case was going to end up... not quite like he'd hoped.
It started at the soccer game, after Neal offered his help and before he left to go consult with Mozzie about how they might render said help.
June said, "Oh, there's Martha's mother," and waved to a white woman in her thirties, who waved back and skirted the edge of the game in their direction.
"Martha?" Neal asked. Coming to a kid's soccer game, he'd learned, meant meeting a lot of identically dressed young girls in a fairly short space of time, and despite years of practice learning names, they hadn't stuck this time.
"Mm," June said, pointing discretely to a red-haired girl waving her arms in a gesture that Neal presumed meant something along the lines of "kick it to me, to me!" Probably with even more exclamation marks. "She's Samantha's best friend. This week, at least. Hello, Pippa."
Pippa, who, with her almost white blond hair, didn't look a thing like her daughter, put a hand on June's arm and leaned down so they could exchange cheek kisses. "She's doing well today," she said, turning her back on Neal slightly and nodding her chin to Samantha.
"Yes," June said warmly. Oddly, for June, she didn't immediately make introductions, so Neal shifted a little until he could look Pippa mostly in the eye, turned on his most charming smile and said, "Hi, I'm Neal Caffrey."
All of the warmth had gone out of Pippa's face before he'd even spoken to her, and she said, "I see," coolly. The up and down look she gave him suggested that she didn't particularly like what she saw.
Neal squashed the urge to ask if he'd once stolen something of hers – thanks, Peter, for instilling that impulse in him – and said, "Pleasure to meet you," with as much charm as he could.
Pippa didn't say anything, just focused on the game, which Samantha's team was winning, four-two. Neal glanced over at June, who was frowning slightly, shaking her head.
"Your daughter's good," he offered to Pippa. No sense in getting defensive before he even knew what she disliked him for.
"So's yours," she said, same cold tone as before.
"Mine?" Neal asked, surprised into inanity.
"Samantha," Pippa said. "I'm sure she's very pleased that you managed to make it to one of her soccer games, at least."
Neal felt June stiffen defensively next to him, and offered his very best sincere and charming smile to Pippa. "Actually, I'm June's lodger, not her son-in-law. Who can't make Samantha's soccer games because he's working for the diplomatic service in Italy. Martha didn't mention that?"
Pippa at least had the grace to flush, though she didn't back it up with an apology. "She said that Samantha's parents had gone away – left her with her grandmother." She turned, took June's hands. "I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have – well, she made it sound..."
"I'm sure it was a misunderstanding," June said graciously. "You know how children can be."
"Yes," Pippa said. "Yes, of course. Um, I think I should – that I see an old friend, please excuse me."
Neal waited until she was almost out of earshot, then said, just loud enough to be sure she'd hear him, "And anyway, we don't look a thing alike. Other than being black."
Watching her stumble over her own feet almost made up for her accusations. Almost.
So in retrospect, that should, maybe, have set his "not going to end well" sense tingling, but the truth was, he'd sort of gotten used to people seeing him with June and thinking he was her son, or son-in-law, or, on one slightly humiliating (for the askee, anyway) occasion, her grandson. It was one of those things, and at least no-one thought he was Jones' brother.
Even when Mozzie was doing his usual "drama! peril! conspiracy of doom!" bit over Neal's spot of vehicular B&E, Neal didn't get his tingling sense that this just wasn't a good idea.
The police officer should have maybe been a clue, but even then, smart clothes, smart car, nice neighborhood, and Neal had talked himself into and out of way more complex things than a woman's car, even without her in it.
It started off well enough, because there was nothing that worked better on cops than making them think he was on their side, fighting the good fight alongside them. Prosecuting an abusive husband who hit a cop should have been a sure fire thing.
Except that the cop, instead of helping him to break into the car, pulled out a PDA and typed in the car registration. The look he gave Neal could have melted the concrete they were standing on. "You don't look like a Melissa Calloway."
"My wife," Neal said. "Like I said, she took the wrong keys."
The officer nodded. "You registered both cars in her name, Mr..."
"Calloway. Our other car is a mini-van, it doesn't really do much for the image, you know?"
"Right, right," the officer said. "And I'm guessing a wedding ring doesn't either?"
"My wife's a very independent woman. She doesn't believe in rings, says it's a sign of ownership and a tool of the patriarchy." Neal laughed a little – women, what can you do? - but the officer didn't even crack a smile.
"Or in the bonds of marriage," the officer said, looking down at the screen. "She's listed as single, no dependents, next of kin her mother." Neal opened his mouth to argue, but the officer swapped his PDA for his handcuffs. "Turn around please. I'll need you to come with me."
Peter was waiting for him at the police station, which probably meant Mozzie had called him, and he didn't look happy.
"A minute of your time, Officer," he said, not looking at Neal, and the officer, whose name Neal still hadn't picked up, left Neal on an uncomfortable bench so he could step into an office with Peter.
To Peter's credit, they both walked back out almost exactly a minute later, the officer looking almost as annoyed as Peter did.
"Come on," Peter said, pulling Neal to his feet with one arm, then pushing him round so the officer could unlock the cuffs. "Officer," he added, shaking the man's hand.
Neal waited till they were outside to rub his wrists, even though he hadn't actually been handcuffed long enough for them to hurt. "Thanks."
"Thanks?" Peter hissed, rounding on Neal. "I just told that officer that you belonged to me and he didn't have the clearance to know what the hell you thought you were doing trying to break into some woman's car. Which, conveniently, he didn't ask about, since I wouldn't have been able to come up with an answer."
"She works for the charity that offered June a chance to buy an organ for Samantha," Neal said.
"And that justifies breaking into her car? Or, in fact, trying to persuade an officer of the law to break into it for you."
"I wasn't trying to talk him into breaking into it," Neal said rationally. "Just into leaving me alone so that I could."
"Well, that's much better," Peter said. He sounded like he wanted to throw his hands up in despair. Instead, he sighed. "I probably don't want to know anything more about why I just came this close to having to bail you out of jail, do I?"
"Probably not," Neal agreed. It was tempting to point out that, if he wasn't black, the cop probably would have believed him, and maybe even helped him break in, but Peter didn't go much for that kind of argument – something to do with how Jones wasn't a criminal, or Neal shouldn't be falling into a stereotype, even if art theft wasn't exactly the stereotypical black man's crime.
"Get in the car," Peter said, holding the door for him. "I'm taking you back to June's, where you'll stay, if you know what's good for you."
Neal couldn't help laughing at that one, since Peter was usually the one pointing out that in fact Neal *didn't* know what was good for him, which was why he'd ended up an art thief, why he'd ended up in prison, and likely to be the reason why Peter had to put him back there, eventually.
"Neal," Peter said, voice thick with warning.
"I won't even set foot outside the front door," Neal promised carefully, since Peter hadn't said anything about making contact with people already outside of the front door.
Mozzie was waiting when Neal got back to his room, pacing across the floor at a speed previously unseen in anyone pacing. "Well?" he demanded before Neal had even closed the door.
Neal didn't bother with his usual sarcastic, "I'm fine, thanks for asking," since he demonstrably was. He tossed his hat on the arm of the couch instead, and said, "We're going to need a new plan."