Chapter 14: THE HOTEL DUMORT
AT NIGHT THE DIAMOND STREET CHURCH LOOKED SPECTRAL, its Gothic arched windows reflecting the moonlight like silvery mirrors. A wrought-iron fence surrounded the building and was painted a matte black. Clary rattled the front gate, but a sturdy padlock held it closed. “It’s locked,” she said, glancing at Jace over her shoulder.
He brandished his stele. “Let me at it. ”
She watched him as he worked at the lock, watched the lean curve of his back, the swell of muscles under the short sleeves of his T-shirt. The moonlight washed the color out of his hair, turning it more silver than gold.
The padlock hit the ground with a clang, a twisted lump of metal. Jace looked pleased with himself. “As usual,” he said, “I’m amazingly good at that. ”
Clary felt suddenly annoyed. “When the self-congratulatory part of the evening is over, maybe we could get back to saving my best friend from being exsanguinated to death?”
“Exsanguinated,” said Jace, impressed. “That’s a big word. ”
“And you’re a big—”
“Tsk tsk,” he interrupted. “No swearing in church. ”
“We’re not in the church yet,” Clary muttered, following him up the stone path to the double front doors. The stone arch above the doors was beautifully carved, an angel looking down from its highest point. Sharply pointed spires were silhouetted black against the night sky, and Clary realized that this was the church she had glimpsed earlier that night from McCarren Park. She bit her lip. “It seems wrong to pick the lock on a church door, somehow. ”
Jace’s profile in the moonlight was serene. “We’re not going to,” he said, sliding his stele into his pocket. He placed a thin brown hand, marked all over with delicate white scars like a veiling of lace, against the wood of the door, just above the latch. “In the name of the Clave,” he said, “I ask entry to this holy place. In the name of the Battle That Never Ends, I ask the use of your weapons. And in the name of the Angel Raziel, I ask your blessings on my mission against the darkness. ”
Clary stared at him. He didn’t move, though the night wind blew his hair into his eyes; he blinked, and just as she was about to speak, the door opened with a click and a creak of hinges. It swung inward smoothly before them, opening onto a cool dark empty space, lit by points of fire.
Jace stepped back. “After you. ”
When Clary stepped inside, a wave of cool air enveloped her, along with the smell of stone and candle wax. Dim rows of pews stretched toward the altar, and a bank of candles glowed like a bed of sparks against the far wall. She realized that, apart from the Institute, which didn’t really count, she’d never actually been inside a church before. She’d seen pictures, and seen the insides of churches in movies and in anime shows, where they turned up regularly. A scene in one of her favorite anime series took place in a church with a monstrous vampire priest. You were supposed to feel safe inside a church, but she didn’t. Strange shapes seemed to loom up at her out of the shadows. She shivered.
“The stone walls keep out the heat,” said Jace, noticing.
“It’s not that,” she said. “You know, I’ve never been in a church before. ”
“You’ve been in the Institute. ”
“I mean in a real church. For services. That sort of thing. ”
“Really. Well, this is the nave, where the pews are. It’s where people sit during services. ” They moved forward, their voices echoing off the stone walls. “Up here is the apse. That’s where we’re standing. And this is the altar, where the priest performs the Eucharist. It’s always at the east side of the church. ” He knelt down in front of the altar, and she thought for a moment that he was praying. The altar itself was high, made of a dark granite, and draped with a red cloth. Behind it loomed an ornate gold screen, etched with the figures of saints and martyrs, each with a flat gold disk behind his head representing a halo.
“Jace,” she whispered. “What are you doing?”
He had placed his hands on the stone floor and was moving them back and forth rapidly, as if searching for something, his fingertips stirring up dust. “Looking for weapons. ”
“They’d be hidden, usually around the altar. Kept for our use in case of emergencies. ”
“And this is what, some kind of deal you have with the Catholic Church?”
“Not specifically. Demons have been on Earth as long as we have. They’re all over the world, in their different forms—Greek daemons, Persian daevas, Hindu asuras, Japanese oni. Most belief systems have some method of incorporating both their existence and the fight against them. Shadowhunters cleave to no single religion, and in turn all religions assist us in our battle. I could as easily have gone for help to a Jewish synagogue or a Shinto temple, or—Ah. Here it is. ” He brushed dust aside as she knelt down beside him. Carved into one of the octagonal stones before the altar was a rune. Clary recognized it, almost as easily as if she were reading a word in English. It was the rune that meant Nephilim.
Jace took out his stele and touched it to the stone. With a grinding noise it moved back, revealing a dark compartment underneath. Inside the compartment was a long wooden box; Jace lifted the lid, and regarded the neatly arranged objects inside with satisfaction.
“What are all these?” Clary asked.
“Vials of holy water, blessed knives, steel and silver blades,” Jace said, piling the weapons on the floor beside him, “electrum wire—not much use at the moment, but it’s always good to have spare—silver bullets, charms of protection, crucifixes, stars of David—”
“Jesus,” said Clary.
“I doubt he’d fit. ”
“Jace. ” Clary was appalled.
“I don’t know; it seems wrong to make jokes like that in a church. ”
He shrugged. “I’m not really a believer. ”
Clary looked at him in surprise. “You’re not?”
He shook his head. Hair fell over his face, but he was examining a vial of clear liquid and didn’t reach up to push it back. Clary’s fingers itched with the desire to do it for him. “You thought I was religious?” he said.
“Well. ” She hesitated. “If there are demons, then there must be …”
“Must be what?” Jace slid the vial into his pocket. “Ah,” he said. “You mean if there’s this”—and he pointed down, toward the floor—“there must be this. ” He pointed up, toward the ceiling.
“It stands to reason. Doesn’t it?”
Jace lowered his hand and picked up a blade, examining the hilt. “I’ll tell you,” he said. “I’ve been killing demons for a third of my life. I must have sent five hundred of them back to whatever hellish dimension they crawled out of. And in all that time—in all that time—I’ve never seen an angel. Never even heard of anyone who has. ”
“But it was an angel who created Shadowhunters in the first place,” Clary said. “That’s what Hodge said. ”
“It makes a nice story. ” Jace looked at her through eyes slitted like a cat’s. “My father believed in God,” he said. “I don’t. ”
“At all?” She wasn’t sure why she was needling him—she’d never given any thought to whether she believed in God and angels and so forth herself, and if asked, would have said she didn’t. There was something about Jace, though, that made her want to push him, crack that shell of cynicism and make him admit he believed in something, felt something, cared about anything at all.
“Let me put it this way,” he said, sliding a pair of knives into his belt. The faint light that filtered through the stained-glass windows threw squares of color across his face. “My father believed in a righteous God. Deus volt, that was his motto—‘Because God wills it. ’ It was the Crusaders’ motto, and they went out to battle and were slaughtered, just like my father. And when I saw him lying dead in a pool of his own blood, I knew then that I hadn’t stopped believing in God. I’d just stopped believing God cared. There might be a God, Clary, and there might not, but I don’t think it matters. Either way, we’re on our own. ”
They were the only passengers in their train car heading back uptown. Clary sat without speaking, thinking about Simon. Every once in a while Jace would look over at her as if he were about to say something, before lapsing back into an uncharacteristic silence.
When they climbed out of the subway, the streets were deserted, the air heavy and metal-tasting, the bodegas and Laundromats and check-cashing centers silent behind their nighttime doors of corrugated steel. They found the hotel, finally, after an hour of looking, on a side street off 116th. They’d walked past it twice, thinking it was just another abandoned apartment building, before Clary saw the sign. It had come loose from a nail and it dangled hidden behind a stunted tree. HOTEL DUMONT, it should have said, but someone had painted out the N and replaced it with an R.
“Hotel Dumort,” Jace said when she pointed it out to him. “Cute. ”
Clary had only had two years of French, but it was enough to get the joke. “Du mort,” she said. “‘Of death. ’”
Jace nodded. He had gone alert all over, like a cat who sees a mouse whisking behind a sofa.
“But it can’t be the hotel,” Clary said. “The windows are all boarded up, and the door’s been bricked over—Oh,” she finished, catching his look. “Right. Vampires. But how do they get inside?”
“They fly,” Jace said, and indicated the upper floors of the building. It had once, clearly, been a graceful and luxurious hotel. The stone facade was elegantly decorated with carved curlicues and fleur-de-lis, dark and eroded from years of exposure to polluted air and acid rain.
“We don’t fly,” Clary felt impelled to point out.
“No,” Jace agreed. “We don’t fly. We break and enter. ” He started across the street toward the hotel.
“Flying sounds like more fun,” Clary said, hurrying to catch up with him.
“Right now everything sounds like more fun. ” She wondered if he meant it. There was an excitement about him, an anticipation of the hunt that didn’t look to her as if he were as unhappy as he claimed. He’s killed more demons than anyone else his age. You didn’t kill that many demons by hanging back reluctantly from a fight.
A hot wind had come up, stirring the leaves on the stunted trees outside the hotel, sending the trash in the gutters and on the sidewalk skittering across the cracked pavement. The area was oddly deserted, Clary thought—usually, in Manhattan, there was always someone else on the street, even at four in the morning. Several of the streetlights lining the sidewalk were out, though the one closest to the hotel cast a dim yellow glow across the cracked pathway that led up to what had once been the front door.
“Stay out of the light,” Jace said, pulling her toward him by her sleeve. “They might be watching from the windows. And don’t look up,” he added, but it was too late. Clary had already glanced up at the shattered windows of the higher floors. For a moment she half-thought she glimpsed a flicker of movement at one of the windows, a flash of whiteness that could have been a face, or a hand drawing back a heavy drape—
“Come on. ” Jace drew her with him to melt into the shadows closer to the hotel. She felt her heightened nervousness in her spine, in the pulse in her wrists, in the hard beat of blood in her ears. The faint drone of distant cars seemed very far away, the only sound the crunch of her own shoes on the garbage-strewn pavement. She wished she could walk soundlessly, like a Shadowhunter. Maybe someday she’d ask Jace to teach her.
They slipped around the corner of the hotel into an alley that had probably once been a service lane for deliveries. It was narrow, choked with garbage: moldy cardboard boxes, empty glass bottles, shredded plastic, scattered things that Clary thought at first were toothpicks, but up close looked like—
“Bones,” Jace said flatly. “Dog bones, cat bones. Don’t look too closely; going through vampires’ trash is rarely a pretty picture. ”
She swallowed down her nausea. “Well,” she said, “at least we know we’re in the right place,” and was rewarded by the glint of respect that showed, briefly, in Jace’s eyes.
“Oh, we’re in the right place,” he said. “Now we just have to figure out how to get inside. ”
There had clearly been windows here once, now bricked up. There was no door and no sign of a fire escape. “When this was a hotel,” Jace said slowly, “they must have gotten their deliveries here. I mean, they wouldn’t have brought things through the front door, and there’s no place else for trucks to pull up. So there must be a way in. ”
Clary thought of the little shops and bodegas near her house in Brooklyn. She’d seen them get their deliveries, early in the morning while she was walking to school, seen the Korean deli owners opening the metal doors set into the pavement outside their front doors, so they could carry boxes of paper towels and cat food into their supply cellars. “I bet the doors are in the ground. Probably buried under all this garbage. ”
Jace, a beat behind her, nodded. “That’s what I was thinking. ” He sighed. “I guess we’d better move the trash. We can start with the Dumpster. ” He pointed at it, looking distinctly unenthusiastic.
“You’d rather face a ravening horde of demons, wouldn’t you?” Clary said.
“At least they wouldn’t be crawling with maggots. Well,” he added thoughtfully, “not most of them, anyway. There was this one demon, once, that I tracked down to the sewers under Grand Central—”
“Don’t. ” Clary raised a warning hand. “I’m not really in the mood right now. ”
“That’s got to be the first time a girl’s ever said that to me,” Jace mused.
“Stick with me and it won’t be the last. ”
The corner of Jace’s mouth twitched. “This is hardly the time for idle banter. We have garbage to haul. ” He stalked over to the Dumpster and took hold of one side of it. “You get the other. We’ll tip it. ”
“Tipping it will make too much noise,” Clary argued, taking up her station on the other side of the huge container. It was a standard city trash bin, painted dark green, splotched with strange stains. It stank, even more than most Dumpsters, of garbage and something else, something thick and sweet that filled her throat and made her want to gag. “We should push it. ”
“Now, look—” Jace began, when a voice spoke, suddenly, out of the shadows behind them.
“Do you really think you should be doing that?” it asked.
Clary froze, staring into the shadows at the mouth of the alley. For a panicked moment she wondered if she’d imagined the voice, but Jace was frozen too, astonishment on his face. It was rare that anything surprised him, rarer that anyone snuck up on him. He stepped away from the Dumpster, his hand sliding toward his belt, his voice flat. “Is there someone there?”
“Dios mío. ” The voice was male, amused, speaking a liquid Spanish. “You’re not from this neighborhood, are you?”
He stepped forward, out of the thickest of the shadows. The shape of him evolved slowly: a boy, not much older than Jace and probably six inches shorter. He was thin-boned, with the big dark eyes and honey-colored skin of a Diego Rivera painting. He wore black slacks and an open-necked white shirt, and a gold chain around his neck that sparked faintly as he moved closer to the light.
“You could say that,” Jace said carefully, not moving his hand away from his belt.
“You shouldn’t be here. ” The boy raked a hand through the thick black curls that spilled over his forehead. “This place is dangerous. ”
He means it’s a bad neighborhood. Clary almost wanted to laugh, even though it wasn’t at all funny. “We know,” she said. “We just got a little lost, that’s all. ”
The boy gestured to the Dumpster. “What were you doing with that?”
I’m no good at lying on the spot, Clary thought, and looked at Jace, who, she hoped, would be excellent at it.
He disappointed her immediately. “We were trying to get into the hotel. We thought there might be a cellar door behind the trash bin. ”
The boy’s eyes widened in disbelief. “Puta madre—why would you want to do something like that?”
Jace shrugged. “For a prank, you know. Just a little fun. ”
“You don’t understand. This place is haunted, cursed. Bad luck. ” He shook his head vigorously and said several things in Spanish that Clary suspected had to do with the stupidity of spoiled white kids in general and their stupidity in particular. “Walk with me; I’ll take you to the subway. ”
“We know where the subway is,” said Jace.
The boy laughed a soft, vibrant laugh. “Claro. Of course you do, but if you go with me, no one will bother you. You do not want trouble, do you?”
“That depends,” Jace said, and moved so that his jacket opened slightly, showing the glint of the weapons thrust through his belt. “How much are they paying you to keep people away from the hotel?”
The boy glanced behind him, and Clary’s nerves twanged as she imagined the narrow alley mouth filling up with other shadowy figures, white-faced, red-mouthed, the glint of fangs as sudden as metal striking sparks from pavement. When he looked back at Jace, his mouth was a thin line. “How much are who paying me, chico?”
“The vampires. How much are they paying you? Or is it something else—did they tell you they’d make you one of them, offer you eternal life, no pain, no sickness, you get to live forever? Because it’s not worth it. Life stretches out very long when you never see the sunlight, chico,” said Jace.
The boy was expressionless. “My name is Raphael. Not chico. ”
“But you know what we’re talking about. You know about the vampires?” Clary said.
Raphael turned his face to the side and spit. When he looked back at them, his eyes were full of a glittering hate. “Los vampiros, sí, the blood-drinking animals. Even before the hotel was boarded up, there were stories, the laughter late at night, the small animals disappearing, the sounds—” He stopped, shaking his head. “Everyone in the neighborhood knows to stay away, but what can you do? You cannot call the police and tell them your problem is vampires. ”
“Have you ever seen them?” Jace asked. “Or known anyone who has?”
Raphael spoke slowly. “There were some boys, once, a group of friends. They thought they had a good idea, to go into the hotel and kill the monsters inside. They took guns with them, knives too, all blessed by a priest. They never came out. My aunt, she found their clothes later, in front of the house. ”
“Your aunt’s house?” said Jace.
“Sí. One of the boys was my brother,” said Raphael flatly. “So now you know why I walk by here in the middle of the night sometimes, on the way home from my aunt’s house, and why I warned you away. If you go in there, you will not come out again. ”
“My friend is in there,” said Clary. “We came to get him. ”
“Ah,” said Raphael, “then perhaps I cannot warn you away. ”
“No,” Jace said. “But don’t worry. What happened to your friends won’t happen to us. ” He took one of the angel blades from his belt and held it up; the faint light emanating from it lit the hollows under his cheekbones, shadowed his eyes. “I’ve killed plenty of vampires before. Their hearts don’t beat, but they can still die. ”
Raphael inhaled sharply and said something in Spanish too low and rapid for Clary to understand. He came toward them, almost stumbling over a pile of crumpled plastic wrappers in his haste. “I know what you are—I have heard about your kind, from the old padre at St. Cecilia’s. I thought that was just a story. ”
“All the stories are true,” Clary said, but so quietly that he didn’t seem to hear her. He was looking at Jace, his fists clenched.
“I want to go with you,” he said.
Jace shook his head. “No. Absolutely not. ”
“I can show you how to get inside,” Raphael said.
Jace wavered, temptation plain on his face. “We can’t bring you. ”
“Fine. ” Raphael stalked by him and kicked aside a heap of trash piled against a wall. There was a metal grating there, thin bars filmed with a brownish-red coating of rust. He knelt down, took hold of the bars, and lifted the grating away. “This is how my brother and his friends got in. It goes down to the basement, I think. ” He looked up as Jace and Clary joined him. Clary half-held her breath; the smell of the garbage was overwhelming, and even in the darkness she could see the darting shapes of cockroaches crawling over the piles.
A thin smile had formed, just at the corners of Jace’s mouth. He still had the angel blade in his hand. The witchlight that came from it lent his face a ghostly cast, reminding her of the way Simon had held a flashlight under his chin while telling her horror stories when they were both eleven. “Thanks,” he said to Raphael. “This will work just fine. ”
The other boy’s face was pale. “You go in there and do for your friend what I could not do for my brother. ”
Jace slipped the seraph blade back into his belt and glanced at Clary. “Follow me,” he said, and slid through the grating in a single smooth move, feet first. She held her breath, waiting for a shout of agony or amazement, but there was only the soft thump of feet landing on solid ground. “It’s fine,” he called up, his voice muffled. “Jump down and I’ll catch you. ”
She looked at Raphael. “Thanks for your help. ”
He said nothing, only held out his hand. She used it to steady herself while she maneuvered into position. His fingers were cold. He let go as she dropped down through the grating. It was only a second’s fall and Jace caught her, her dress rucking up around her thighs and his hand grazing her legs as she slid into his arms. He let her go almost immediately. “You all right?”
She pulled her dress down, glad he couldn’t see her in the dark. “I’m fine. ”
Jace pulled the dimly glowing angel blade out of his belt and lifted it, letting its growing illumination wash over their surroundings. They were standing in a shallow, low-ceilinged space with a cracked concrete floor. Squares of dirt showed where the floor was broken, and Clary could see that black vines had begun to twine up the walls. A doorway, missing its door, opened onto another room.
A loud thump made her start, and she turned to see Raphael landing, knees bent, just a few feet from her. He had followed them through the grating. He straightened up and grinned manically.
Jace looked furious. “I told you—”
“And I heard you. ” Raphael waved a dismissive hand. “What are you going to do about it? I can’t get back out the way we came in, and you can’t just leave me here for the dead to find … can you?”
“I’m thinking about it,” Jace said. He looked tired, Clary saw with some surprise, the shadows under his eyes more pronounced.
Raphael pointed. “We must go that way, toward the stairs. They are up on the higher floors of the hotel. You will see. ” He pushed past Jace and through the narrow doorway. Jace looked after him, shaking his head.
“I’m really starting to hate mundanes,” he said.
* * *
The lower floor of the hotel was a warren of mazelike corridors opening onto empty storage rooms, a deserted laundry—moldy stacks of linen towels piled high in rotted wicker baskets—even a ghostly kitchen, banks of stainless-steel counters stretching away into the shadows. Most of the staircases leading upstairs were gone; not rotted but deliberately chopped away, reduced to stacks of kindling shoved against walls, bits of once-luxurious Persian carpet clinging to them like blossoms of furry mold.
The missing stairs baffled Clary. What did vampires have against stairs? They finally found an unharmed set, tucked away behind the laundry. Maids must have used it to carry linens up and down the stairs in the days before elevators. Dust lay thick on the steps now, like a layer of powdery gray snow that made Clary cough.
“Shh,” hissed Raphael. “They will hear you. We are close to where they sleep. ”
“How do you know?” she whispered back. He wasn’t even supposed to be there. What gave him the right to lecture her about noise?
“I can feel it. ” The corner of his eye twitched, and she saw that he was as scared as she was. “Can’t you?”
She shook her head. She felt nothing, other than strangely cold; after the stifling heat of the night outside, the chill inside the hotel was intense.
At the top of the stairs was a door on which the painted word LOBBY was barely legible beneath years of accumulated dirt. The door sprayed rust when Jace pushed it open. Clary braced herself—
But the room beyond was empty. They were in a large foyer, its rotting carpeting torn back to show the splintered floorboards beneath. Once the centerpiece of this room had been a grand staircase, gracefully curving, lined with gilt banisters and richly carpeted in gold and scarlet. Now all that remained were the higher steps, leading up into blackness. The remainder of the staircase ended just above their heads, in midair. The sight was as surreal as one of the abstract Magritte paintings Jocelyn had loved. This one, Clary thought, would be called The Stairs to Nowhere.
Her voice sounded as dry as the dust that coated everything. “What do vampires have against stairs?”
“Nothing,” said Jace. “They just don’t need to use them. ”
“It is a way of showing that this place is one of theirs. ” Raphael’s eyes were bright. He seemed almost excited. Jace glanced at him sideways.
“Have you ever actually seen a vampire, Raphael?” he asked.
Raphael glanced at him almost absently. “I know what they look like. They are paler, thinner, than human beings, but very strong. They walk like cats and spring with the swiftness of serpents. They are beautiful and terrible. Like this hotel. ”
“You think it’s beautiful?” Clary asked, surprised.
“You can see where it was, years ago. Like an old woman who was once beautiful, but time has taken her beauty away. You must imagine this staircase the way it was once, with the gas lamps burning all up and down the steps, like fireflies in the dark, and the balconies full of people. Not the way it is now, so—” He broke off, searching for a word.
“Truncated?” Jace suggested dryly.
Raphael looked almost startled, as if Jace had broken him out of a reverie. He laughed shakily and turned away.
Clary turned to Jace. “Where are they, anyway? The vampires, I mean. ”
“Upstairs, probably. They like to be high up when they sleep, like bats. And it’s nearly sunrise. ”
Like puppets with their heads attached to strings, Clary and Raphael both looked up at the same time. There was nothing above them but the frescoed ceiling, cracked and black in places as if it had been burned in a fire. An archway to their left led farther into darkness; the pillars on either side were engraved with a motif of leaves and flowers. As Raphael glanced back down, a scar at the base of his throat, very white against his brown skin, flashed like a winking eye. She wondered how he’d gotten it.
“I think we should go back to the servants’ stairs,” she whispered. “I feel too exposed out here. ”
Jace nodded. “You realize, once we get there, you’ll have to call out for Simon and hope he can hear you?”
She wondered if the fear she felt showed on her face. “I—”
Her words were cut short by a bloodcurdling scream. Clary whirled.
Raphael. He was gone, no marks in the dust showing where he might have walked—or been dragged. She reached for Jace, reflexively, but he was already moving, running toward the gaping arch in the far wall and the shadows beyond. She couldn’t see him but followed the darting witchlight he carried, like a traveler being led through a swamp by a treacherous will-o’-the-wisp.
Beyond the arch was what had once been a grand ballroom. The ruined floor was white marble, now so badly cracked that it resembled a sea of floating arctic ice. Curved balconies ran along the walls, their railings veiled in rust. Gold-framed mirrors hung at intervals between them, each crowned with a gilded cupid’s head. Spiderwebs drifted in the clammy air like ancient wedding veils.
Raphael was standing in the center of the room, his arms at his sides. Clary ran to him, Jace following more slowly behind her. “Are you all right?” she asked breathlessly.
He nodded slowly. “I thought I saw a movement in the shadows. It was nothing. ”
“We’ve decided to head back to the servants’ stairs,” Jace said. “There’s nothing on this floor. ”
Raphael nodded. “Good idea. ”
He headed for the door, not looking to see if they followed. He had gotten only a few steps when Jace said, “Raphael?”
Raphael turned, eyes widening inquisitively, and Jace threw his knife.
Raphael’s reflexes were quick, but not quick enough. The blade struck home, the force of the impact knocking him over. His feet went out from under him and he fell heavily to the cracked marble floor. In the dim witchlight his blood looked black.
“Jace,” Clary hissed in disbelief, shock pounding through her. He’d said he hated mundanes, but he’d never—
As she turned to go to Raphael, Jace shoved her brutally aside. He flung himself on the other boy and grabbed for the knife sticking out of Raphael’s chest.
But Raphael was faster. He seized the knife, then screamed as his hand came in contact with the cross-shaped hilt. It clattered to the marble floor, blade smeared black. Jace had one hand fisted in the material of Raphael’s shirt, Sanvi in the other. It was glowing with such a bright light that Clary could see colors again: the peeling royal blue of the wallpaper, the gold flecks in the marble floor, the red stain spreading across Raphael’s chest.
But Raphael was laughing. “You missed,” he said, and grinned for the first time, showing pointed white incisors. “You missed my heart. ”
Jace tightened his grip. “You moved at the last minute,” he said. “That was very inconsiderate. ”
Raphael frowned and spit, red. Clary stepped back, staring in dawning horror.
“When did you figure it out?” he demanded. His accent had faded, his words more precise and clipped now.
“I guessed in the alley,” Jace said. “But I figured you’d get us inside the hotel, then turn on us. Once we’d trespassed, we’d have been out of the protection of the Covenant. Fair game. When you didn’t, I thought I might have been wrong. Then I saw that scar on your throat. ” He sat back a little, still holding the blade at Raphael’s throat. “I thought when I first saw that chain that it looked like the sort you’d hang a cross from. And you did, didn’t you, when you went out to see your family? What’s the scar of a little burn when your kind heal so quickly?”
Raphael laughed. “Was that all? My scar?”
“When you left the foyer, your feet didn’t leave marks in the dust. Then I knew. ”
“It wasn’t your brother who went in here looking for monsters and never came out, was it?” Clary said, realizing. “It was you. ”
“You are both very clever,” Raphael said. “Although not quite clever enough. Look up,” he said, and lifted a hand to point at the ceiling.
Jace knocked the hand away without moving his glance from Raphael. “Clary. What do you see?”
She raised her head slowly, dread curdling in the pit of her stomach.
You must imagine this staircase the way it was once, with the gas lamps burning all up and down the steps, like fireflies in the dark, and the balconies full of people. They were filled with people now, row on row of vampires with their dead-white faces, their red stretched mouths, staring bemusedly downward.
Jace was still looking at Raphael. “You called them. Didn’t you?”
Raphael was still grinning. The blood had stopped spreading from the wound in his chest. “Does it matter? There are too many of them, even for you, Wayland. ”
Jace said nothing. Though he hadn’t moved, he was breathing in short quick pants, and Clary could almost feel the strength of his desire to kill the vampire boy, to shove the knife through his heart and wipe that grin off his face forever. “Jace,” she said warningly. “Don’t kill him. ”
“Maybe we can use him as a hostage. ”
Jace’s eyes widened. “A hostage?”
She could see them, more of them, filling the arched doorway, moving as silently as the Brothers of the Bone City. But the Brothers had not had skin so white and colorless, nor hands that curled into claws at the tips ….
Clary licked her dry lips. “I know what I’m doing. Get him on his feet, Jace. ”
Jace looked at her, then shrugged. “All right. ”
Raphael snapped, “This isn’t funny. ”
“That’s why no one’s laughing. ” Jace stood, hauling Raphael upright, jamming the tip of his knife between Raphael’s shoulder blades. “I can pierce your heart just as easily through your back,” he said. “I wouldn’t move if I were you. ”
Clary turned away from them to face the oncoming dark shapes. She flung out a hand. “Stop right there,” she said. “Or he’ll put that blade through Raphael’s heart. ”
A sort of murmur ran through the crowd that could have been whispering or laughter. “Stop,” Clary said again, and this time Jace did something, she didn’t see what, that made Raphael cry out in surprised pain.
One of the vampires flung an arm out to hold back his companions. Clary recognized him as the thin blond boy with the earring that she’d seen at Magnus’s party. “She means it,” he said. “They are Shadowhunters. ”
Another vampire pushed her way through the crowd to stand at his side—a pretty blue-haired Asian girl in a silver foil skirt. Clary wondered if there were any ugly vampires, or maybe any fat ones. Maybe they didn’t make vampires out of ugly people. Or maybe ugly people just didn’t want to live forever. “Shadowhunters trespassing on our territory,” she said. “They are out of the protection of the Covenant. I say we kill them—they have killed enough of ours. ”
“Which of you is the master of this place?” Jace said, his voice very flat. “Let him step forward. ”
The girl bared her pointed teeth. “Do not use Clave language on us, Shadowhunter. You have broken your precious Covenant, coming in here. The Law will not protect you. ”
“That’s enough, Lily,” said the blond boy sharply. “Our master is not here. She is in Idris. ”
“Someone must rule you in her stead,” Jace observed.
There was a silence. The vampires up in the balconies were hanging off the railings, leaning down to hear what was being said. Finally, “Raphael leads us,” said the blond vampire.
The blue-haired girl, Lily, let out a hiss of disapproval. “Jacob—”
“I propose a trade,” Clary said quickly, cutting off Lily’s tirade and Jacob’s retort. “By now you must know you took home too many people from the party tonight. One of them was my friend Simon. ”
Jacob raised his eyebrows. “You’re friends with a vampire?”
“He’s not a vampire. And not a Shadowhunter, either,” she added, seeing Lily’s pale eyes narrow. “Just an ordinary human boy. ”
“We didn’t take any human boys home with us from Magnus’s party. That would have been a violation of the Covenant. ”
“He’d been transformed into a rat. A small brown rat,” said Clary. “Someone might have thought he was a pet, or …”
Her voice trailed off. They were staring at her as if she were insane. Cold despair seeped into her bones.
“Let me get this straight,” Lily said. “You’re offering to trade Raphael’s life for a rat?”
Clary looked helplessly back at Jace. He gave her a look that said, This was your idea. You’re on your own.
“Yes,” she said, turning back to the vampires. “That’s the trade we’re offering. ”
They stared at her, white faces nearly expressionless. In another context Clary would have said that they looked baffled.
She could feel Jace standing behind her, hear the rasp of his breathing. She wondered if he was racking his brain trying to figure out why he’d let her drag them both here in the first place. She wondered if he was starting to hate her.
“Do you mean this rat?”
Clary blinked. Another vampire, a thin black boy with dreadlocks, had pushed his way to the front of the crowd. He was holding something in his hands, something brown that squirmed feebly. “Simon?” she whispered.
The rat squeaked and started to thrash wildly in the boy’s grip. He looked down at the captive rodent with an expression of distaste. “Man, I thought he was Zeke. I wondered why he was copping such an attitude. ” He shook his head, dreadlocks bouncing. “I say she can have him, dude. He’s already bitten me five times. ”
Clary reached out for Simon, her hands aching to hold him. But Lily stepped in front of her before she could take more than a step in his direction. “Wait,” Lily said. “How do we know you won’t just take the rat and kill Raphael anyway?”
“We’ll give our word,” Clary said immediately, then tensed, waiting for them to laugh.
Nobody laughed. Raphael swore softly in Spanish. Lily looked curiously at Jace.
“Clary,” he said. There was an undercurrent of exasperated desperation in his voice. “Is this really a—”
“No oath, no trade,” said Lily immediately, seizing on his uncertain tone. “Elliott, hold on to that rat. ”
The dreadlocked boy tightened his grip on Simon, who sank his teeth savagely into Elliott’s hand. “Man,” he said glumly. “That hurt. ”
Clary took the opportunity to whisper to Jace. “Just swear! What can it hurt?”
“Swearing for us isn’t like it is for you mundanes,” he snapped back angrily. “I’ll be bound forever to any oath I make. ”
“Oh, yeah? What would happen if you broke it?”
“I wouldn’t break it, that’s the point—”
“Lily is right,” said Jacob. “An oath is required. Swear that you won’t hurt Raphael. Even if we give you the rat back. ”
“I won’t hurt Raphael,” Clary said immediately. “No matter what. ”
Lily smiled at her tolerantly. “It isn’t you we’re worried about. ” She shot a pointed look at Jace, who was holding Raphael so tightly that his knuckles were white. A patch of sweat darkened the cloth of his shirt, just between his shoulder blades.
He said, “All right. I swear it. ”
“Speak the oath,” Lily said swiftly. “Swear on the Angel. Say it all. ”
Jace shook his head. “You swear first. ”
His words fell into the silence like stones, sending a rippling murmur through the crowd. Jacob looked concerned, Lily furious. “Not a chance, Shadowhunter. ”
“We have your leader. ” The tip of Jace’s knife dug farther into Raphael’s throat. “And what have you got there? A rat. ”
Simon, pinned in Elliott’s hands, squeaked furiously. Clary longed to snatch him up, but held herself back. “Jace—”
Lily looked toward Raphael. “Master?”
Raphael had his head down, his dark curls falling to hide his face. Blood stained the collar of his shirt, trickled down the bare brown skin underneath. “A pretty important rat,” he said, “for you to come all the way here for him. It is you, Shadowhunter, I think, who will swear first. ”
Jace’s grip on him tightened convulsively. Clary saw the swell of the muscles under his skin, the whitening of his fingers and at the sides of his mouth as he fought his anger. “The rat’s a mundane,” he said sharply. “If you kill him, you’ll be subject to the Law—”
“He is on our territory. Trespassers are not protected by the Covenant, you know that—”
“You brought him here,” Clary interjected. “He didn’t trespass. ”
“Technicalities,” said Raphael, grinning at her despite the knife at his throat. “Besides. You think we do not hear the rumors, the news that is running through Downworld like blood through veins? Valentine is back. There will be no Accords and no Covenant soon enough. ”
Jace’s head jerked up. “Where did you hear that?”
Raphael frowned scornfully. “All Downworld knows it. He paid a warlock to raise a pack of Raveners only a week ago. He has brought his Forsaken to seek the Mortal Cup. When he finds it, there will be no more false peace between us, only war. No Law will prevent me from tearing your heart out on the street, Shadowhunter—”
That was enough for Clary. She dove for Simon, shouldering Lily aside, and snatched the rat out of Elliott’s hands. Simon scrabbled up her arm, gripping her sleeve with frantic paws.
“It’s okay,” she whispered, “it’s okay. ” Though she knew it wasn’t. She turned to run, and felt hands catch at her jacket, holding her. She struggled, but her efforts to tear herself free of the hands that held her—Lily’s, narrow and bony with black fingernails—were hampered by her fear of dislodging Simon, who clung to her jacket with paws and teeth. “Let go !” she screamed, kicking out at the vampire girl. Her booted toe connected, hard, and Lily shouted in pain and rage. She whipped her hand forward, striking Clary’s cheek with enough force to rock her head back.
Clary staggered and nearly fell. She heard Jace shout her name, and turned to see that he had let go of Raphael and was racing toward her. Clary tried to go to him, but her shoulders were gripped by Jacob, his fingers digging into her skin.
Clary cried out—and the noise was lost in a larger shriek as Jace, snatching one of the glass vials from his jacket, flung its contents toward her. She felt cool wetness splash her face, and heard Jacob scream as the water touched his skin. Smoke rose from his fingers and he released Clary, howling a high animal howl. Lily darted toward him, crying out his name, and in the pandemonium, Clary felt someone seize her wrist. She struggled to yank herself away.
“Stop it—you idiot—it’s me,” Jace panted in her ear.
“Oh!” She relaxed momentarily, then tensed again, seeing a familiar shape loom up behind Jace. She cried out and Jace ducked and spun just as Raphael leaped at him, teeth bared, quick as a cat. His fangs caught Jace’s shirt near the shoulder and tore the fabric lengthwise as Jace staggered. Raphael clung on like a gripping spider, teeth snapping at Jace’s throat. Clary fumbled in her pack for the dagger Jace had given her—
A small brown shape streaked across the floor, shot between Clary’s feet, and launched itself at Raphael.
Raphael screamed. Simon hung grimly from his forearm, his sharp rat-teeth sunk deep into the flesh. Raphael let go of Jace, flailing backward, blood spurting as a stream of Spanish obscenities poured from his mouth.
Jace gaped, his mouth open. “Son of a—”
Regaining his balance, Raphael tore the rat free from his arm and flung him to the marble floor. Simon squeaked once in pain, then dashed over to Clary. She bent down and snatched him up, holding him against her chest as tightly as she could without hurting him. She could feel the hammering beat of his tiny heart against her fingers. “Simon,” she whispered. “Simon—”
“There’s no time for that. Hold on to him. ” Jace had caught at her right arm, gripping with painful force. In the other hand he held a glowing seraph blade. “Move. ”
He began to half-pull her, half-push her, to the edge of the crowd. The vampires winced away from the light of the seraph blade as it swept over them, all of them hissing like scalded cats.
“Enough standing around!” It was Raphael. His arm was streaming blood, his lips curled back from his pointed incisors. He glared at the teeming mass of vampires milling in confusion. “Seize the trespassers,” he shouted. “Kill them both—the rat as well!”
The vampires started toward Jace and Clary, some of them walking, others gliding, others swooping down from the balconies above like flapping black bats. Jace increased his pace as they broke free of the crowd, heading toward the far wall. Clary squirmed, half-turning to look up at him. “Shouldn’t we stand back to back or something?”
“I don’t know. In movies that’s what they do in this kind of … situation. ”
She felt him shake. Was he frightened? No, he was laughing. “You,” he breathed. “You are the most—”
“The most what?” she demanded indignantly. They were still backing up, stepping carefully to avoid the broken bits of furniture and smashed marble that littered the floor. Jace held the angel blade high above both their heads. She could see how the vampires circled around the edges of the glimmering circle it cast. She wondered how long it would hold them off.
“Nothing,” he said. “This isn’t a situation, okay? I save that word for when things get really bad. ”
“Really bad? This isn’t really bad? What do you want, a nuclear—”
She broke off with a scream as Lily, braving the light, launched herself at Jace, her teeth bared in a searing snarl. Jace seized the second blade from his belt and hurled it through the air; Lily fell back screeching, a long gash sizzling down her arm. As she staggered, the other vampires surged forward around her. There were so many of them, Clary thought, so many—
She fumbled at her belt, her fingers closing around the hilt of the dagger. It felt cold and foreign in her hand. She didn’t know how to use a knife. She’d never hit anyone, let alone stabbed them. She’d even skipped gym class the day they’d learned how to ward off muggers and rapists with ordinary objects like car keys and pencils. She pulled the knife free, raised it in a shaking hand—
The windows exploded inward in a shower of broken glass. She heard herself cry out, saw the vampires—barely an arm’s length from her and Jace—whirl in astonishment, shock mingling with terror on their faces. Through the shattered windows came dozens of sleek shapes, four-footed and low to the ground, their coats scattering moonlight and broken bits of glass. Their eyes were blue fire, and from their throats came a combined low growl that sounded like the roiling crash of a waterfall.
“Now this,” said Jace, “is a situation.”