"I need to ask you a favor," Izzy asked hesitantly through the phone.
Alec sighed, running a hand through his hair as he leaned back in his chair. A case file was open on his desk, the gruesome pictures of a murder-suicide flashing up at him. Why would he be investigating a seemingly obvious case? Because there was evidence of three people there and the involvement of a drug lord.
Crime was never easy in New York City. It was one of the reasons why Alec loved it.
"What?" he asked his baby sister.
"So there's this agency right? High level, very famous. Well, one of their models is currently under attack by the press because of a relationship scandal. Basic stuff. But the fans of the other party are completely insane and have given the model several death threats. My company does not want to risk lawsuits and whatnot so the conditions of the contract are that the model be appointed a full-time bodyguard. I think—"
"No," Alec bit out. "I love you, Iz. But I will not assign one of my men to babysit a model. Just get a rent-a-cop from some security company and be done with it."
"I don't care what Jace thinks"—they both knew that was a lie—"and I won't waste a good man on something so trivial."
"But Alec," she dragged out his name, "he's really hot and I think—"
Alec laughed harshly. "Are you kidding me? All of this to set me up with someone? Don't be ridiculous."
"Come on, big brother. You need to get back out there. I know things didn't go well with Lydia but I also know you're not heartbroken over it. So what's the problem?" Izzy persuaded.
Alec sighed again. "I'm busy, Iz. I'll see you at dinner." He hung up before she could protest.
He turned back to the file, studying the finer details about the case. Jace was already looking into the man's connection to the drug lord. All Alec needed to do was dig about the women and the easiest way to do that was through the girl's family.
He grabbed his jacket and headed out.
His phone vibrated in his pocket and he pulled it out as he walked down the dilapidated steps. Apparently, the girl's family hadn't seen her in over three years and were unsurprised by her unfortunate end.
Some people truly disgusted Alec.
"What Izzy?" he asked.
"Do I sound like Izzy to you?" came a mocking voice.
Alec rolled his eyes. "Whinny and high pitched? Yes, yes you do, Jace."
Jace snorted. "You're hilarious. I got a lead and want some back up. Meet me at the Pandemonium Club."
"Don't do anything stupid," Alec warned.
It was far too late for that.
"What is your problem, man?" Jace demanded, his face mere inches from the bouncer's.
"If you're not on the list, you can't enter," the man replied dully.
Alec pushed through the line, mumbling his apologies at the disgruntled people. He placed a hand on Jace's shoulder, squeezing tightly. He gave the bouncer a wry grin. "I apologize for my partner," he said, grabbing his badge from the inner pocket of his jacket. "Detectives for the NYPD, we're investigating a homicide."
Bouncer looked unamused. "Wait here."
Alec shot a glare at Jace. "Seriously? Could you not have led with that?"
His partner shrugged with a grin. "Where's the fun in that?"
"You're a dumbass," Alec replied fondly.
"And you're too serious."
The bouncer returned, an Asian man on his heels. The man had thick lines of kohl around his deep brown eyes, glittering eyeshadow just above. He patted a ringed hand against the bouncer's shoulder. "It's okay, Bat, let the handsome detectives through."
Jace grinned and Alec rolled his eyes.
The man's eyes dragged down Alec lazily before he gestured for them to follow him. They ended up on the second floor in a cluttered office.
Jace took his seat and Alec begrudgingly took the one next to him. The man gracefully sat behind the desk, his flamboyant shirt a deep maroon matched the streaks in his hair. Alec couldn't help but stare.
"Magnus Bane, at your service," the man introduced.
Jace leaned back in his chair, the perfect picture of relaxed whereas Alec's spine was a straight as a stick—something he definitely was not, though he'd never admit it. "Detective Herondale and this is my partner, Detective Lightwood."
Magnus raised an eyebrow. "Partner or partner?" Dark eyes landed on Alec who pretended he couldn't feel the heat rising in his cheeks.
Jace chuckled. "He's my brother."
"Interesting," Magnus mused. "Now, let's get down to business."
"Do you know what the Circle is?" Jace asked.
Magnus looked grim as he nodded. "You mean the druggies lacing the heroin and stuff? What a pain in my ass," he muttered.
Alec narrowed his eyes. "So you know them?"
Magnus scoffed. "Of course I know them. I was dating one. Of course, she didn't know it at the time."
Nothing, and Alec meant nothing, made sense about those sentences. "You admit to colluding with a known drug ring?"
"Well, this is interesting," Jace said, smirking.
Magnus glared at the blonde. "Didn't you hear me? She didn't know until after."
Alec pinched his nose. He was beginning to think that Magnus was a few marbles short, or maybe he didn't have any to begin with. "How would she not have known? And after what?"
Magnus sighed. "My ex was in debt because one of her lines failed and was desperate for cash. She started selling and didn't know she had been recruited by the Circle until after one of her customers OD'd."
Jace's pen was flying across his pad of paper. "Where is your girlfriend now?"
"Ex," Magnus corrected, giving Alec a look he couldn't interpret.
Alec cleared his throat. "Lines?"
Magnus gave an exaggerated eye roll. "Fashion, darling." Alec frowned.
"Her name?" Jace repeated.
"Camille Belcourt," he spat the name as if it were poison.
Jace sighed. "Well this was useless."
Alec turned to his partner. "What do you mean?"
Jace gave him a Look. "My god, Alec, you need to start paying attention to the news. And our precinct. For fuck's sake, it's like you don't live at the station. We arrested Ms. Belcourt a little less than two weeks ago."
It dawned on him then. "That annoying burnette who wouldn't stop screaming?"
Magnus gave a grim nod. "That was her alright."
Alec sighed, standing. "The murder was three days ago, Camille couldn't have been involved. Sorry for wasting your time, Mr. Bane," Alec said heading for the door.
"Wait," Jace said. "Who was Camille selling for?"
Magnus shrugged. "Our relationship ended a week before all that."
Jace nodded and stood as well, shaking Magnus's hand and then heading for Alec.
"And pretty boy?" Magnus called. Jace tilted his head to the side and Magnus flapped a hand. "Not you blondie." Alec's face flared and he ducked his head. Magnus grabbed a business card and sauntered around the desk, slowly taking Alec's hand and flipping it over, slapping the card into it.
Alec wasn't sure he was breathing.
"Call me," Magnus said cooly before opening the door to the hall in dismissal.
What the hell?
Jace nudged Alec's shoulder as the walked towards the stares. "He called you pretty," he teased.
"Shut up," Alec grumbled as his face turned red.
"Heading home?" Luke asked as he leaned against the doorframe to Alec's office.
"Yeah, dinner with the parents tonight," Alec drawled, closing his file and placing it in the desk drawer.
Luke looked grim. "Maryse and Robert are still together?" He knew about the cheating, the entire city did.
"Unfortunately. As politicians, they only care about their public image, playing the perfect couple even after the scandal broke."
"What a mess," Luke mused.
Alec made a sound of agreement in the back of his throat. He pushed back from his desk. "I'll need the report of the Camille investigation," Alec told him. Despite Jace's belief that she had nothing to do with all this, Alec couldn't help but feel that they were missing something.
Luke knock a knuckle against the wooden door. "I'll have someone pull it out for tomorrow."
"Thank you, sir."
Luke waved a dismissive hand. "Have a nice night."
Alec ringed the doorbell and the great white door swung open on its hinges. The Institute—the coined name for the Lightwood Mansion—was home to two of the coldest politicians in New York.
"Alexander," Maryse greeted with a tight lipped smile.
"Mother," he replied curtly. He hated these weekly dinner, always being judged and scrutinized. The Institute was the only place Alec couldn't act like himself. He had to be disciplined and callus. He had to act straight.
The last requirement was made particularly painful due to the fact that Maryse had invited Lydia. Alec ignored the knowing look Izzy sent his way, Jace too involved in his conversation with Robert to notice him.
Max smiled happily and rushed over to give Alec a tight hug. He was a junior in high school and despised every minute of it. More than anything, Alec wished he could take Max away from this toxic household. Alec had considered it more than one, fighting for custody. But against his power hungry parents, he never would've stood a chance against them in court.
Alec took his seat beside Izzy, Lydia across from him.
"Hello, Alec," she said bitterly, her blonde hair pulled out of her face.
"It's been a while, Lydia. How've you been doing?" he asked politely.
"Oh, I've been great, ditched by my fiance a week before our wedding."
"Why are you even here?" Izzy bit out.
Lydia harrumphed. "My relationship with your parents is well-known." Of course, she was here because his parents supplied a powerful name drop.
The dinner passed with minimal casualties and tense conversation. Jace and Alec questioned about work, Izzy questioned about her fashion magazine, Lydia asked about her new relationship with some politician named John.
Overall, it was as horrible as Alec had come to expect.
Izzy stopped him in the hall as he was grabbing his jacket. "Will you please consider my offer?" She flashed him her puppy-dog eyes and he crumbled.
"Fine. I'll consider it, but I would only be available after I solve this case," Alec said. They both knew that Alec wouldn't put someone else in his place. Izzy was using that to her advantage and Alec was well aware.
She launched herself forward, wrapping her arms around her big brother. "Thank you, hermano." Alec buried his head in her shoulder, muttering incoherently.
Jace slapped him on the shoulder. "Time to go home."
Alec nodded and released Izzy. "I will consider it," he reiterated. "But you will not call me again at work about it, yeah?" Izzy agreed and they left.
Alec slammed his hand against the metal table and Camille lifted her head, a smug grin on her face. Alec thumbed through her file and the information she had provided at her previous interrogation. "You never mentioned your involvement with Magnus Bane."
She tilted her head to the side. "Why would I? It was all over the tabloids."
"You said nothing about the girl who OD'd," Alec continued.
She tipped her head back and loosed a haughty laugh. "She didn't die. I'm not a murderer. Unlike some people," she sneered, her smokey eyes dragging down Alec's uniform-clad body.
Images flashed through his mind, the screams ringing in his ears. Fire and dust catapulted into the air and the humvee flipped over, Blackthorn crying out for help and Alec being too late. Alec had been his Commanding Officer and had led his entire unit into a bloodbath.
Breath was stolen from Alec's lungs as the visions of blood assaulted him. His hands began to shake and he curled them into balls.
"Who was the girl?" Alec snapped, anger pulsing in his temple.
Camille lazily stared at the one-way glass. "I don't have to tell you anything."
"If you help in this case, you're time can be significantly reduced," Alec droned.
She straightened, interest flashing in her eyes. "Lily Chen."
Alec jotted down the name in the file. "Thank you for your cooperation."
"Any time, killer," she spat.
Alec pushed the bile back and marched from the room, gesturing for the guards to take her back to her cell.
Alec sat in his cruiser, his head resting against the steering wheel. Anxiety and grief rose in him, his heart shuttering and convulsing with his shattered breath. He couldn't breathe.
"My girl can't wait for me to come home," Blackthorn boasted, a layer of sweat on his tanned face, an MK 47 in his hands.
Alec laughed. "You expect us to believe that? Who would be able to tolerate you for such a long amount of time?" he said loudly to be heard over the rumble of the humvee.
Blackthorn scoffed. "Look who's talking, sir. Your fiance is an uptight manipulator."
In normal circumstance, Alec would've been offended on behalf of his love. "My parents have wonderful taste," he replied dully.
"An arranged marriage, how medieval," Raj mused. Alec rolled his eyes. Raj was always so bitter, about his deployment, about how Alec—a man five years younger than him—was his leader.
"Shut up," Alec ordered, causing Blackthorn to laugh.
Blackthorn was holding the picture of his girl close to his chest when Alec finally managed to crawl through the rubble to reach him.
Dead. His entire unit.
And Alec shouldn't have survived.
The ringtone of his cellphone startled Alec from his trance. Alec wasn't sure his heart was beating as he slowly raised it to his ear.
"Hello" he croaked, tears rolling down his face.
"Alec? What's wrong?" Jace demanded, worry weaved through the words.
He took a shuddering breath. "What? Nothing, I'm fine."
"Bullshit," Jace snapped.
Alec scrubbed at his face. "What do you want?"
"You were supposed to be back at the station ten minutes ago, man," he said wryly.
"Ten minutes is nothing," Alec reasoned.
Jace gave a derisive laugh. "For Alexander Lightwood, fifteen minutes early is too late."
He sighed. "I'll be there soon."
Alec called Jace and Luke into his office, displaying the case on the desk. "I think we need to track down Lily Chen. Camille was selling to her and we know users are able to find other sources once one is gone. We find her, we can find a Circle member who can lead us to the connection to the male vic."
Luke nodded thoughtfully. "Seems a little far fetched, but this is the only lead we've got right now."
Jace tapped his foot impatiently. "I'll start calling the hospitals. If she OD'd they'll have her on record."
Luke placed a hand on Alec's shoulder, squeezing lightly. "Are you alright, son?" he asked softly.
"Why does everyone keep asking me that!" he snapped, brushing off Luke's hand.
Luke gave him a Look. "Take the night off and get some sleep."
Alec sighed. "I'm fine, Luke. I can take care of myself."
"I know, Alec. We all know that. But just because you can doesn't mean you have to."
"I have some paperwork to go through," Alec protested.
Luke leaned against the desk. "The paperwork will be here tomorrow. Go. Home." Luke waited as Alec through his jacket over his shoulder, sliding his phone into his pocket. Luke patted his shoulder as he walked out of his office.
Alec stalled in the lobby of the precinct. "Izzy?"
Isabelle's head snapped up from her phone. She sauntered over and smacked him upside the head.
"What the hell?" he demanded, grabbing her arm before she could hit him again.
"I asked you for a favor," she replied.
He crossed his arms over his chest. "I thought I told you not to bother me a work."
"Well, it's hard to do when said model was assaulted. We're here to report it," Izzy explained, irritated.
Guilt slammed into him. "Shit. Iz, I'm sorry. I didn't know you were that serious about the death threats."
She threw her hands in the air. "Why would I lie about that?"
Alec lowered his voice. "Because you're trying to set me up with him," he hissed.
Izzy paled. "I feel horrible about that now! If you had believed I was actually trying to protect someone, maybe you would've helped."
"You're right. I would've," Alec replied coldly.
Izzy flinched and Alec regretted his words. He opened his mouth the apologize but was never given the chance.
"Lightwood," Luke called. Izzy and Alec both turned towards him. He gave a wry grin. "Both of you should come on back."
"So much for my night off," Alec mocked.
Luke rolled his eyes and led them to the breakroom, immediately moving to turn on the coffee pot. "What did you want to see me about, Isabelle?"
Alec sent Izzy a look that she ignored as she sat on the couch. Alec grumbled and sat next to her.
"One of my potential models was assaulted, he's filing a report now. I wanted to ask you to supply a security detail," she said politely.
Luke leaned back against the counter, sipping his cup of coffee. "Normally, I would at least assign one man. But as we are in the middle of a large investigation, I can't spare the men."
"Alec said the same thing," Izzy admitted. "But I think it's needed."
Luke tilted his head. "Why?"
She flipped her dark hair over her shoulder. "Because he's—"
The door to the break room opened, interrupting. A man with glitter in his absurdly tall hair walked in and Alec's heart stopped.
"—Magnus Bane," Alec finished for her.
"Alexander," Magnus said, clasping his ringed hands in front of him, "what a lovely surprise." Alec startled, surprised that Magnus had guessed his full name. A large bruise was forming along his cheekbone. "You never called."
Izzy's mouth dropped and she sent an accusing glare to Alec. "You know each other?"
Alec opened his mouth then closed it.
"Pretty boy and egotistical blondie strutted into my club the other day to interrogate me about the Circle," Magnus explained.
"Alec, I'm assigning you to guard Mr. Bane," Luke cut in.
Alec sprang to his feet. He marched over to Luke and pressed a finger into his chest. "You're taking me off the case? You can't do that!"
"Watch yourself, Lightwood," Luke warned. "I'm not taking you off the case. You were so convinced that Lily Chen was the only lead, now you have another. Someone attack him, someone probably involved with the Circle. Your assignment is to watch and report back to me."
Alec took a step back, dragging a hand through his hair, he tugged on the strands as his breathing faltered. "You can't. Put Jace on it."
Luke set his coffee down and crossed his arms over his chest, a stern look crossing over his face. "I'm putting you on it, Alec. That's an order."
Alec stumbled backward as panic gripped his chest. He couldn't protect him. He couldn't. Blackthorn and Raj and Underhill and Morgenstern. He couldn't protect them.
"Breathe, hermano," Izzy whispered, wrapping her arms around him.
Alec roughly pushed her away and stormed out of the room.