City of Bones – Chapter 12: DEAD MAN’S PARTY

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Chapter 12: DEAD MAN’S PARTY

THE DIRECTIONS ON THE INVITATION TOOK THEM TO A LARGELY industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn whose streets were lined with factories and warehouses. Some, Clary could see, had been converted into lofts and galleries, but there was still something forbidding about their looming square shapes, boasting only a few windows covered in iron grilles.

They made their way from the subway station, Isabelle navigating with the Sensor, which seemed to have a sort of mapping system built in. Simon, who loved gadgets, was fascinated—or at least he was pretending it was the Sensor he was fascinated with. Hoping to avoid them, Clary lagged behind as they crossed through a scrubby park, its badly kept grass burned brown by the summer heat. To her right the spires of a church gleamed gray and black against the starless night sky.

“Keep up,” said an irritable voice in her ear. It was Jace, who had dropped back to walk beside her. “I don’t want to have to keep looking behind me to make sure nothing’s happened to you. ”

“So don’t bother. ”

“Last time I left you alone, a demon attacked you,” he pointed out.

“Well, I’d certainly hate to interrupt your pleasant night stroll with my sudden death. ”

He blinked. “There is a fine line between sarcasm and outright hostility, and you seem to have crossed it. What’s up?”

She bit her lip. “This morning, weird creepy guys dug around in my brain. Now I’m going to meet the weird creepy guy who originally dug around in my brain. What if I don’t like what he finds?”

“What makes you think you won’t?”

Clary pulled her hair away from her sticky skin. “I hate it when you answer a question with a question. ”

“No you don’t, you think it’s charming. Anyway, wouldn’t you rather know the truth?”

“No. I mean, maybe. I don’t know. ” She sighed. “Would you?”

“This is the right street!” called Isabelle, a quarter of a block ahead. They were on a narrow avenue lined with old warehouses, though most now bore the signs of human residence: window boxes filled with flowers, lace curtains blowing in the clammy night breeze, numbered plastic trash cans stacked on the sidewalk. Clary squinted hard, but there was no way to tell if this was the street she’d seen at the Bone City—in her vision it had been nearly obliterated with snow.

She felt Jace’s fingers brush her shoulder. “Absolutely. Always,” he murmured.

She looked sideways at him, not understanding. “What?”

“The truth,” he said. “I would—”

“Jace!” It was Alec. He was standing on the pavement, not far away; Clary wondered why his voice had sounded so loud.

Jace turned, his hand falling away from her shoulder. “Yes?”

“Think we’re in the right place?” Alec was pointing at something Clary couldn’t see; it was hidden behind the bulk of a large black car.

“What’s that?” Jace joined Alec; Clary heard him laugh. Coming around the car, she saw what they were looking at: several motorcycles, sleek and silvery, with low-slung black chassis. Oily-looking tubes and pipes slithered up and around them, ropy as veins. There was a queasy sense of something organic about the bikes, like the bio-creatures in a Giger painting.

“Vampires,” Jace said.

“They look like motorcycles to me,” said Simon, joining them with Isabelle at his side. She frowned at the bikes.

“They are, but they’ve been altered to run on demon energies,” she explained. “Vampires use them—it lets them get around fast at night. It’s not strictly Covenant, but …”

“I’ve heard some of the bikes can fly,” said Alec eagerly. He sounded like Simon with a new video game. “Or go invisible at the flick of a switch. Or operate underwater. ”

Jace had jumped down off the curb and was circling the bikes, examining them. He reached out a hand and stroked one of the bikes along the sleek chassis. It had words painted along the side, in silver: NOX INVICTUS. “‘Victorious night,’” he translated.

Alec was looking at him strangely. “What are you doing?”

Clary thought she saw Jace slide his hand back inside his jacket. “Nothing. ”

“Well, hurry up,” said Isabelle. “I didn’t get this dressed up to watch you mess around in the gutter with a bunch of motorcycles. ”

“They are pretty to look at,” said Jace, hopping back up on the pavement. “You have to admit that. ”

“So am I,” said Isabelle, who didn’t look inclined to admit anything. “Now hurry up. ”

Jace was looking at Clary. “This building,” he said, pointing at the red brick warehouse. “Is this the one?”

Clary exhaled. “I think so,” she said uncertainly. “They all look the same. ”

“One way to find out,” said Isabelle, mounting the steps with a determined stride. The rest of them followed, crowding close to one another in the foul-smelling entryway. A naked bulb hung from a cord overhead, illuminating a large metal-bound door and a row of apartment buzzers along the left wall. Only one had a name written over it: BANE.

Isabelle pressed the buzzer. Nothing happened. She pressed it again. She was about to press it a third time when Alec caught her wrist. “Don’t be rude,” he said.

She glared at him. “Alec—”

The door flew open.

A slender man standing in the doorway regarded them curiously. It was Isabelle who recovered herself first, flashing a brilliant smile. “Magnus? Magnus Bane?”

“That would be me. ” The man blocking the doorway was as tall and thin as a rail, his hair a crown of dense black spikes. Clary guessed from the curve of his sleepy eyes and the gold tone of his evenly tanned skin that he was part Asian. He wore jeans and a black shirt covered with dozens of metal buckles. His eyes were crusted with a raccoon mask of charcoal glitter, his lips painted a dark shade of blue. He raked a ring-laden hand through his spiked hair and regarded them thoughtfully. “Children of the Nephilim,” he said. “Well, well. I don’t recall inviting you. ”

Isabelle took out her invitation and waved it like a white flag. “I have an invitation. These”—she indicated the rest of the group with a grand wave of her arm—“are my friends. ”

Magnus plucked the invitation out of her hand and looked at it with fastidious distaste. “I must have been drunk,” he said. He threw the door open. “Come in. And try not to murder any of my guests. ”

Jace edged into the doorway, sizing up Magnus with his eyes. “Even if one of them spills a drink on my new shoes?”

“Even then. ” Magnus’s hand shot out, so fast it was barely a blur. He plucked the stele out of Jace’s hand—Clary hadn’t even realized he was holding it—and held it up. Jace looked faintly abashed. “As for this,” Magnus said, sliding it into Jace’s jeans pocket, “keep it in your pants, Shadowhunter. ”

Magnus grinned and started up the stairs, leaving a surprised-looking Jace holding the door. “Come on,” he said, waving the rest of them inside. “Before anyone thinks it’s my party. ”

They pushed past Jace, laughing nervously. Only Isabelle stopped to shake her head. “Try not to piss him off, please. Then he won’t help us. ”

Jace looked bored. “I know what I’m doing. ”

“I hope so. ” Isabelle flounced past him in a swirl of skirts.

Magnus’s apartment was at the top of a long flight of rickety stairs. Simon hurried to catch up with Clary, who was regretting having put her hand on the banister to steady herself. It was sticky with something that glowed a faint and sickly green.

“Yech,” said Simon, and offered her a corner of his T-shirt to wipe her hand on. She did. “Is everything all right? You seem—distracted. ”

“He just looks so familiar. Magnus, I mean. ”

“You think he goes to St. Xavier’s?”

“Very funny. ” She looked at him sourly.

“You’re right. He’s too old to be a student. I think I had him for chem last year. ”

Clary laughed out loud. Immediately Isabelle was beside her, breathing down her neck. “Am I missing something funny? Simon?”

Simon had the grace to look embarrassed, but said nothing. Clary muttered, “You’re not missing anything,” and dropped behind them. Isabelle’s lug-soled boots were starting to hurt her feet. By the time she reached the top of the stairs she was limping, but she forgot the pain as soon as she walked through Magnus’s front door.

The loft was huge and almost totally empty of furniture. Floor-to-ceiling windows were smeared with a thick film of dirt and paint, blocking out most of the ambient light from the street. Big metal pillars wound with colored lights held up an arched, sooty ceiling. Doors torn off their hinges and laid across dented metal garbage cans made a makeshift bar at one end of the room. A lilac-skinned woman in a metallic bustier was ranging drinks along the bar in tall, harshly colored glasses that tinted the fluid inside them: blood red, cyanosis blue, poison green. Even for a New York bartender she worked with an amazingly speedy efficiency—probably helped along by the fact that she had a second set of long, graceful arms to go with the first. Clary was reminded of Luke’s Indian goddess statue.

The rest of the crowd was just as strange. A good-looking boy with wet green-black hair grinned at her over a platter of what looked like raw fish. His teeth were sharp and serrated, like a shark’s. Beside him stood a girl with long dirty-blond hair, braided with flowers. Under the skirt of her short green dress, her feet were webbed like a frog’s. A group of young women so pale Clary wondered if they were wearing white stage makeup sipped scarlet liquid too thick to be wine from fluted crystal glasses. The center of the room was packed with bodies dancing to the pounding beat that bounced off the walls, though Clary couldn’t see a band anywhere.

“You like the party?”

She turned to see Magnus lounging against one of the pillars. His eyes shone in the darkness. Glancing around, she saw that Jace and the others were gone, swallowed up by the crowd.

She tried to smile. “Is it in honor of anything?”

“My cat’s birthday. ”

“Oh. ” She glanced around. “Where’s your cat?”

He unhitched himself from the pillar, looking solemn. “I don’t know. He ran away. ”

Clary was spared responding to this by the reappearance of Jace and Alec. Alec looked sullen as usual. Jace was wearing a strand of tiny glowing flowers around his neck and seemed pleased with himself. “Where are Simon and Isabelle?” Clary said.

“On the dance floor. ” He pointed. She could just see them on the edge of the packed square of bodies. Simon was doing what he usually did in lieu of dancing, which was to bounce up and down on the balls of his feet, looking uncomfortable. Isabelle was slinking in a circle around him, sinuous as a snake, trailing her fingers across his chest. She was looking at him as if she were planning to drag him off into a corner to have sex. Clary hugged her arms around herself, her bracelets clanking together. If they dance any closer together, they won’t have to go off in a corner to have sex.

“Look,” Jace said, turning to Magnus, “we really need to talk to—”

“MAGNUS BANE!” The deep, booming voice belonged to a surprisingly short man who looked to be in his early thirties. He was compactly muscular, with a bald head shaved smooth and a pointed goatee. He leveled a trembling finger at Magnus. “Someone just poured holy water into the gas tank on my bike. It’s ruined. Destroyed. All the pipes are melted. ”

“Melted?” murmured Magnus. “How dreadful. ”

“I want to know who did it. ” The man bared his teeth, showing long pointed canines. Clary stared in fascination. They didn’t look at all the way she’d imagined vampire fangs: These were as thin and sharp as needles. “I thought you swore there’d be no wolf-men here tonight, Bane. ”

“I invited none of the Moon’s Children,” Magnus said, examining his glittery nails. “Precisely because of your stupid little feud. If any of them decided to sabotage your bike, they weren’t a guest of mine, and are therefore …” He offered a winsome smile. “Not my responsibility. ”

The vampire roared with rage, jabbing his finger toward Magnus. “Are you trying to tell me that—”

Magnus’s glitter-coated index finger twitched just a fraction, so slightly that Clary almost thought he hadn’t moved at all. Mid-roar the vampire gagged and clutched at his throat. His mouth worked, but no sound came out.

“You’ve worn out your welcome,” Magnus said lazily, opening his eyes very wide. Clary saw, with a jolt of surprise, that they had vertical slit pupils, like a cat’s. “Now go. ” He splayed the fingers of his hand, and the vampire turned as smartly as if someone had grabbed his shoulders and spun him around. He marched back into the crowd, heading toward the door.

Jace whistled under his breath. “That was impressive. ”

“You mean that little hissy fit?” Magnus cast his eyes toward the ceiling. “I know. What is her problem?”

Alec made a choking noise. After a moment Clary recognized it as laughter. He ought to do that more often.

“We put the holy water in his gas tank, you know,” he said.

“ALEC,” said Jace. “Shut up. ”

“I assumed that,” said Magnus, looking amused. “Vindictive little bastards, aren’t you? You know their bikes run on demon energies. I doubt he’ll be able to repair it. ”

“One less leech with a fancy ride,” said Jace. “My heart bleeds. ”

“I heard some of them can make their bikes fly,” put in Alec, who looked animated for once. He was almost smiling.

“Merely an old witches’ tale,” said Magnus, his cat’s eyes glittering. “So is that why you wanted to crash my party? Just to wreck some bloodsucker bikes?”

“No. ” Jace was all business again. “We need to talk to you. Preferably somewhere private. ”

Magnus raised an eyebrow. Damn, Clary thought, another one. “Am I in trouble with the Clave?”

“No,” said Jace.

“Probably not,” said Alec. “Ow!” He glared at Jace, who had kicked him sharply in the ankle.

“No,” Jace repeated. “We can talk to you under the seal of the Covenant. If you help us, anything you say will be confidential. ”

“And if I don’t help you?”

Jace spread his hands wide. The rune tattoos on his palms stood out stark and black. “Maybe nothing. Maybe a visit from the Silent City. ”

Magnus’s voice was honey poured over shards of ice. “That’s quite a choice you’re offering me, little Shadowhunter. ”

“It’s no choice at all,” said Jace.

“Yes,” said the warlock. “That’s exactly what I meant. ”

Magnus’s bedroom was a riot of color: canary-yellow sheets and bedspread draped over a mattress on the floor, electric-blue vanity table strewn with more pots of paint and makeup than Isabelle’s. Rainbow velvet curtains hid the floor-to-ceiling windows, and a tangled wool rug covered the floor.

“Nice place,” said Jace, drawing aside a heavy swag of curtain. “Guess it pays well, being the High Warlock of Brooklyn?”

“It pays,” Magnus said. “Not much of a benefit package, though. No dental. ” He shut the door behind him and leaned against it. When he crossed his arms, his T-shirt rode up, showing a strip of flat golden stomach unmarked by a navel. “So,” he said. “What’s on your devious little minds?”

“It’s not them, actually,” Clary said, finding her voice before Jace could reply. “I’m the one who wanted to talk to you. ”

Magnus turned his inhuman eyes on her. “You are not one of them,” he said. “Not of the Clave. But you can see the Invisible World. ”

“My mother was one of the Clave,” Clary said. It was the first time she had said it out loud and known it to be true. “But she never told me. She kept it a secret. I don’t know why. ”

“So ask her. ”

“I can’t. She’s …” Clary hesitated. “She’s gone. ”

“And your father?”

“He died before I was born. ”

Magnus exhaled irritably. “As Oscar Wilde once said, ‘To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both seems like carelessness. ’”

Clary heard Jace make a small hissing sound, like air being sucked through his teeth. She said, “I didn’t lose my mother. She was taken from me. By Valentine. ”

“I don’t know any Valentine,” said Magnus, but his eyes flickered like wavering candle flames, and Clary knew he was lying. “I’m sorry for your tragic circumstances, but I fail to see what any of this has to do with me. If you could tell me—”

“She can’t tell you, because she doesn’t remember,” Jace said sharply. “Someone erased her memories. So we went to the Silent City to see what the Brothers could pull out of her head. They got two words. I think you can guess what they were. ”

There was a short silence. Finally, Magnus let his mouth turn up at the corner. His smile was bitter. “My signature,” he said. “I knew it was folly when I did it. An act of hubris …”

“You signed my mind?” Clary said in disbelief.

Magnus raised his hand, tracing the fiery outlines of letters against the air. When he dropped his hand, they hung there, hot and golden, making the painted lines of his eyes and mouth burn with reflected light. MAGNUS BANE.

“I was proud of my work on you,” he said slowly, looking at Clary. “So clean. So perfect. What you saw you would forget, even as you saw it. No image of pixie or goblin or long-legged beastie would remain to trouble your blameless mortal sleep. It was the way she wanted it. ”

Clary’s voice was thin with tension. “The way who wanted it?”

Magnus sighed, and at the touch of his breath, the fire letters sifted away to glowing ash. Finally he spoke—and though she was not surprised, though she had known exactly what he was going to say, still she felt the words like a blow against her heart.

“Your mother,” he said.

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