City of Bones – Chapter 15: HIGH AND DRY

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Chapter 15: HIGH AND DRY

THE WOLVES CROUCHED, LOW AND SNARLING, AND THE vampires, looking stunned, backed away. Only Raphael held his ground. He still clutched his wounded arm, his shirt a smeared mess of blood and dirt. “Los Niños de la Luna,” he hissed. Even Clary, whose Spanish was almost nonexistent, knew what he had said. The Moon’s Children—werewolves. “I thought they hated each other,” she whispered to Jace. “Vampires and werewolves. ”

“They do. They never come to each other’s lairs. Never. The Covenant forbids it. ” He sounded almost indignant. “Something must have happened. This is bad. Very bad. ”

“How can it be worse than it was before?”

“Because,” he said, “we’re about to be in the middle of a war. ”

“HOW DARE YOU ENTER OUR PLACE?” Raphael screamed. His face was scarlet, suffused with blood.

The largest of the wolves, a brindled gray monster with teeth like a shark’s, gave a panting doglike chuckle. As he moved forward, between one step and the next he seemed to shift and change like a wave rising and curling. Now he was a tall heavily muscled man with long hair that hung in gray ropelike tangles. He wore jeans and a thick leather jacket, and there was still something wolfish in the cast of his lean, weathered face. “We didn’t come for a blooding,” he said. “We came for the girl. ”

Raphael managed to look furious and astounded at once. “Who?”

“The human girl. ” The werewolf flung out a stiff arm, pointing at Clary.

She was too shocked to move. Simon, who had been squirming in her grasp, went still. Behind her Jace muttered something that sounded distinctly blasphemous. “You didn’t tell me you knew any werewolves. ” She could hear the slight catch under his flat tone—he was as surprised as she was.

“I don’t,” she said.

“This is bad,” said Jace.

“You said that before. ”

“It seemed worth repeating. ”

“Well, it wasn’t. ” Clary shrank back against him. “Jace. They’re all looking at me. ”

Every face was turned to her; most looked astonished. Raphael’s eyes were narrowed. He turned back to the werewolf, slowly. “You can’t have her,” he said. “She trespassed on our ground; therefore she’s ours. ”

The werewolf laughed. “I’m so glad you said that,” he said, and launched himself forward. In midair his body rippled, and he was again a wolf, coat bristling, jaws gaping, ready to tear. He struck Raphael square in the chest, and the two went over in a writhing, snarling tangle. With answering howls of rage, the vampires charged the werewolves, who met them head-on in the center of the ballroom.

The noise was like nothing Clary had ever heard. If Bosch’s paintings of hell had come with a soundtrack, they would have sounded like this.

Jace whistled. “Raphael is really having an exceptionally bad night. ”

“So what?” Clary had no sympathy for the vampire. “What are we going to do?”

He glanced around. They were pinned in a corner by the churning mass of bodies; though they were being ignored for now, it wouldn’t be for long. Before Clary could voice this thought, Simon suddenly squirmed violently free of her grasp and leaped to the floor. “Simon!” she screamed as he dashed for the corner and a moldering pile of rotted velvet drapes. “Simon, stop !”

Jace’s eyebrows made quizzical peaks. “What is he—” He grabbed for her arm, jerking her back. “Clary, don’t chase the rat. He’s fleeing. That’s what rats do. ”

She shot him a furious look. “He’s not a rat. He’s Simon. And he bit Raphael for you, you ungrateful cretin. ” She yanked her arm free and dashed after Simon, who was crouched in the folds of the drapes, chittering excitedly and pawing at them. Belatedly realizing what he was trying to tell her, she yanked the drapes aside. They were slimy with mold, but behind them was—

“A door,” she breathed. “You genius rat. ”

Simon squeaked modestly as she snatched him up. Jace was right behind her. “A door, eh? Well, does it open?”

She grabbed for the knob and turned to him, crestfallen. “It’s locked. Or stuck. ”

Jace threw himself against the door. It didn’t budge. He cursed. “My shoulder will never be the same. I expect you to nurse me back to health. ”

“Just break the door down, will you?”

He looked past her with wide eyes. “Clary—”

She turned. A huge wolf had broken away from the melee and was racing toward her, ears flattened to its narrow head. It was huge, gray-black and brindled, with a long lolling red tongue. Clary screamed. Jace threw himself against the door again, still cursing. She reached for her belt, grabbed the dagger, and threw it.

She’d never thrown a weapon before, never even thought of throwing one. The closest she’d come to weaponry before this week was drawing pictures of them, so Clary was more surprised than anyone else, she suspected, when the dagger flew, wobbly but true, and sank into the werewolf’s side.

It yelped, slowing, but three of its comrades were already racing toward them. One paused at the side of the wounded wolf, but the others charged for the door. Clary screamed again as Jace hurled his body against the door a third time. It gave with an explosive shriek of grinding rust and tearing wood. “Three times the charm,” he panted, holding his shoulder. He ducked into the dark space that gaped beyond the broken door, and turned to hold out an impatient hand. “Clary, come on. ”

With a gasp she darted after him and flung the door shut, just as two heavy bodies thudded against it. She fumbled for the bolt, but it was gone, torn away where Jace had broken through it.

“Duck,” he said, and as she did, the stele whipped over her head, slicing dark lines into the moldering wood of the door. She craned her neck to see what he’d carved: a curve like a sickle, three parallel lines, a rayed star: To hold against pursuit.

“I lost your dagger,” she confessed. “I’m sorry. ”

“It happens. ” He pocketed the stele. She could hear the faint thuds as the wolves hurled themselves against the door again and again, but it held. “The rune will keep them back, but not for long. We’d better hurry. ”

She looked up. They were in a dank passageway; a narrow set of stairs led up into darkness. The steps were wood, the banisters filmy with dust. Simon thrust his nose out of her jacket pocket, his black button eyes glittering in the dim light. “All right. ” She nodded at Jace. “You go first. ”

Jace looked as if he wanted to grin but was too tired. “You know how I like to be first. But slowly,” he added. “I’m not sure the stairs can hold our weight. ”

Clary wasn’t sure either. The steps creaked and groaned as they ascended, like an old woman complaining about her aches and pains. Clary gripped the banister for balance, and a chunk of it snapped off in her hand, making her squeak and wringing an exhausted chuckle out of Jace. He took her hand. “Here. Steady. ”

Simon made a sound that, for a rat, sounded a lot like a snort. Jace didn’t seem to hear it. They were stumbling up the steps as rapidly as they dared. The flight rose in a high spiral, up through the building. They passed landing after landing, but no doors. They had reached the fourth featureless turn when a muffled explosion rocked the stairwell, and a cloud of dust billowed upward.

“They’ve gotten past the door,” Jace said grimly. “Damn—I thought it would hold for longer. ”

“Do we run now?” Clary inquired.

“Now we run,” he said, and they thundered up the stairs, which shrieked and wailed under their weight, nails popping like gunfire. They were at the fifth landing now—she could hear the soft thud-thud of the wolves’ paws on the steps far below, or perhaps it was just her imagination. She knew there wasn’t really hot breath on the back of her neck, but the snarls and howls, getting louder as they came closer, were real and terrifying.

The sixth landing rose in front of them and they half-flung themselves onto it. Clary was gasping, her breath sawing painfully in her lungs, but she managed a weak cheer when she saw the door. It was heavy steel, riveted with nails, and propped open with a brick. She barely had time to wonder why when Jace kicked it open, pushed her through, and, following, slammed it shut. She heard a definitive click as it locked behind them. Thank God, she thought.

Then she turned around.

The night sky wheeled above her, scattered with stars like a handful of loose diamonds. It was not black but a clear dark blue, the color of oncoming dawn. They were standing on a bare slate roof turreted with brick chimneys. An old water tower, black with neglect, stood on a raised platform at one end; a heavy tarpaulin concealed a lumpy pile of lumber at the other. “This must be how they get in and out,” Jace said, glancing back at the door. Clary could see him properly now in the pale light, the lines of strain around his eyes like shallow cuts. The blood on his clothes, mostly Raphael’s, looked black. “They fly up here. Not that that does us much good. ”

“There might be a fire escape,” Clary suggested. Together they picked their way gingerly to the edge of the roof. Clary had never liked heights, and the ten-floor drop to the street made her stomach spin. So did the sight of the fire escape, a twisted, unusable hunk of metal still clinging to the side of the hotel’s stone facade. “Or not,” she said. She glanced back at the door they had emerged from. It was set into a cabinlike structure in the center of the roof. It was vibrating, the knob jerking wildly. It would only hold for a few more minutes, perhaps less.

Jace pressed the backs of his hands against his eyes. The leaden air bore down on them, making the back of Clary’s neck prickle. She could see the sweat trickling into his collar. She wished, irrelevantly, that it would rain. Rain would burst this heat bubble like a pricked blister.

Jace was muttering to himself. “Think, Wayland, think—”

Something began to take shape in the back of Clary’s mind. A rune danced against the backs of her eyelids: two downward triangles, joined by a single bar—a rune like a pair of wings ….

“That’s it,” Jace breathed, dropping his hands, and for a startled moment Clary wondered if he had read her mind. He looked feverish, his gold-flecked eyes very bright. “I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before. ” He dashed to the far end of the roof, then paused and looked back at her. She was still standing dazed, her thoughts full of glimmering shapes. “Come on, Clary. ”

She followed him, pushing thoughts of runes from her mind. He had reached the tarpaulin and was tugging at the edge of it. It came away, revealing not junk but sparkling chrome, tooled leather, and gleaming paint. “Motorcycles?”

Jace reached for the nearest one, an enormous dark red Harley with gold flames on the tank and fenders. He swung a leg over it and looked over his shoulder at her. “Get on. ”

Clary stared. “Are you kidding? Do you even know how to drive that thing? Do you have keys?”

“I don’t need keys,” he explained with infinite patience. “It runs on demon energies. Now, are you going to get on, or do you want to ride your own?”

Numbly Clary slid onto the bike behind him. Somewhere, in some part of her brain, a tiny voice was screaming about what a bad idea this was.

“Good,” Jace said. “Now put your arms around me. ” She did, feeling the hard muscles of his abdomen contract as he leaned forward and jammed the point of the stele into the ignition. To her amazement she felt the motorcycle thrum to life under her. In her pocket Simon squeaked loudly.

“Everything’s okay,” she said, as soothingly as she could. “Jace!” she shouted, over the sound of the motorcycle’s engine. “What are you doing?”

He yelled back something that sounded like “Pushing in the choke!”

Clary blinked. “Well, hurry it up! The door—”

On cue, the roof door burst open with a crash, torn from its hinges. Wolves poured through the gap, racing across the roof straight at them. Above them flew the vampires, hissing and screeching, filling the night with predatory cries.

She felt Jace’s arm jerk back and the motorcycle lurch forward, sending her stomach slamming into her spine. She clutched convulsively at Jace’s belt as they shot forward, tires skidding along the slates, scattering the wolves, who yelped as they leaped aside. She heard Jace shout something, his words torn away by the noise of wheels and wind and engine. The edge of the roof was coming up fast, so fast, and Clary wanted to shut her eyes but something held them wide open as the motorcycle hurtled over the parapet and plummeted like a rock toward the ground, ten stories down.

If Clary screamed, she didn’t remember it later. It was like the first drop on a roller coaster, where the track falls away and you feel yourself hurtling through space, your hands waving uselessly in the air and your stomach jammed up around your ears. When the cycle righted itself with a sputter and a jerk, she almost wasn’t surprised. Instead of plunging downward they were now hurtling up toward the diamond-littered sky.

Clary glanced back and saw a cluster of vampires standing on the roof of the hotel, surrounded by wolves. She looked away—if she never saw that hotel again, it’d be too soon.

Jace was yelling, loud whooping shrieks of delight and relief. Clary leaned forward, her arms tight around him. “My mother always told me if I rode a motorcycle with a boy, she’d kill me,” she called over the noise of the wind whipping past her ears and the deafening rumble of the engine.

She couldn’t hear him laugh, but she felt his body shake. “She wouldn’t say that if she knew me,” he called back to her confidently. “I’m an excellent driver. ”

Belatedly, Clary recollected something. “I thought you said only some of the vampire bikes could fly?”

Deftly, Jace steered them around a stoplight in the process of turning from red to green. Below, Clary could hear cars honking, ambulance sirens wailing, and buses puffing to their stops, but she didn’t dare look down. “Only some of them can!”

“How did you know this was one of them?”

“I didn’t!” he shouted gleefully, and did something that made the bike rise almost vertically into the air. Clary shrieked and grabbed for his belt again.

“You should look down!” Jace shouted. “It’s awesome!”

Sheer curiosity forced its way past terror and vertigo. Swallowing hard, Clary opened her eyes.

They were higher than she had realized, and for a moment the earth swung dizzily beneath her, a blurring landscape of shadow and light. They were flying east, away from the park, toward the highway that snaked along the right bank of the city.

There was a numbness in Clary’s hands, a hard pressure in her chest. It was lovely, she could see that: the city rising up beside her like a towering forest of silver and glass, the dull gray shimmer of the East River, slicing between Manhattan and the boroughs like a scar. The wind was cool in her hair, on her legs, delicious after so many days of heat and stickiness. Still, she’d never flown, not even in an airplane, and the vast empty space between them and the ground terrified her. She couldn’t keep from squinching her eyes almost shut as they shot out over the river. Just below the Queensboro Bridge, Jace turned the bike south and headed to the foot of the island. The sky had begun to lighten, and in the distance Clary could see the glittering arch of the Brooklyn Bridge, and beyond that, a smudge on the horizon, the Statue of Liberty.

“Are you all right?” Jace shouted.

Clary said nothing, just clutched him more tightly. He banked the cycle, and then they were sailing toward the bridge, and Clary could see stars through the suspension cables. An early morning train was rattling over it—the Q, carrying a load of sleepy dawn commuters. She thought how often she’d been on that train. A wave of vertigo swamped her, and she squeezed her eyes shut, gasping with nausea.

“Clary?” Jace called. “Clary, are you all right?”

She shook her head, eyes still shut, alone in the dark and the tearing wind with just the pounding of her heart. Something sharp scratched against her chest. She ignored it until it came again, more insistent. Barely opening an eye, she saw that it was Simon, his head poking out of her pocket, tugging her jacket with an urgent paw. “It’s all right, Simon,” she said with an effort, not looking down. “It was just the bridge—”

He scratched her again, then pointed an urgent paw toward the waterfront of Brooklyn, rising up on their left. Dizzy and sick, she looked and saw, beyond the outlines of the warehouses and factories, a sliver of golden sunrise just visible, like the edge of a pale gilt coin. “Yes, very pretty,” Clary said, closing her eyes again. “Nice sunrise. ”

Jace went rigid all over, as if he’d been shot. “Sunrise?” he yelled, then jerked the cycle savagely to the right. Clary’s eyes flew open as they plunged toward the water, which had begun to shimmer with the blue of oncoming dawn.

Clary leaned as close to Jace as she could get without squashing Simon between them. “What’s so bad about sunrise?”

“I told you! The bike runs on demon energies!” He pulled back so that they were level with the river, just skimming along the surface with the wheels kicking up spray. River water splashed into Clary’s face. “As soon as the sun comes up—”

The bike began to sputter. Jace swore colorfully, slamming his fist into the accelerator. The bike lunged forward once, then choked, jerking under them like a bucking horse. Jace was still swearing as the sun peeked over the crumbling wharves of Brooklyn, lighting the world with devastating clarity. Clary could see every rock, every pebble under them as they cleared the river and hurtled over the narrow bank. Below them was the highway, already streaming with early traffic. They only just cleared it, the wheels grazing the roof of a passing truck. Beyond was the trash-strewn parking lot of an enormous supermarket. “Hang on to me!” Jace was shouting, as the bike jerked and sputtered underneath them. “Hang on to me, Clary, and do not let—”

The bike tilted and struck the asphalt of the parking lot, front wheel first. It shot forward, wobbling violently, and went into a long skid, bouncing and slamming over the uneven ground, whipping Clary’s head back and forth with neck-cracking force. The air stank of burned rubber. But the bike was slowing, skidding to a halt—and then it struck a concrete parking barrier with such force that she was lifted into the air and hurled sideways, her hand tearing free of Jace’s belt. She barely had time to curl herself into a protective ball, holding her arms as rigid as possible and praying Simon wouldn’t be crushed, when they struck the ground.

She hit hard, agony screaming up her arm. Something splashed up in her face, and she was coughing as she flipped over, rolling onto her back. She grabbed for her pocket. It was empty. She tried to say Simon’s name, but the breath had been knocked out of her. She wheezed as she gasped in air. Her face was wet and dampness was running down into her collar.

Is that blood? She opened her eyes hazily. Her face felt like one big bruise, her arms, aching and stinging, like raw meat. She had rolled onto her side and was lying half-in and half-out of a puddle of filthy water. Dawn had truly come—she could see the remains of the bike, subsiding into a heap of unrecognizable ash as the sun’s rays struck it.

And there was Jace, getting painfully to his feet. He started to hurry toward her, then slowed as he approached. The sleeve of his shirt had been torn away and there was a long bloody graze along his left arm. His face, under the cap of dark gold curls matted with sweat, dust, and blood, was white as a sheet. She wondered why he looked like that. Was her torn-off leg lying across the parking lot somewhere in a pool of blood?

She started to struggle up and felt a hand on her shoulder. “Clary?”


He was kneeling next to her, blinking as if he couldn’t quite believe it either. His clothes were crumpled and grimy, and he had lost his glasses somewhere, but he seemed otherwise unharmed. Without the glasses he looked younger, defenseless, and a little dazed. He reached to touch her face, but she flinched back. “Ow!”

“Are you okay? You look great,” he said, with a catch in his voice. “The best thing I’ve ever seen—”

“That’s because you don’t have your glasses on,” she said weakly, but if she’d expected a smart-aleck response, she didn’t get one. Instead he threw his arms around her, holding her tightly to him. His clothes smelled of blood and sweat and dirt, and his heart was beating a mile a minute and he was pressing on her bruises, but it was a relief nevertheless to be held by him and to know, really know, that he was all right.

“Clary,” he said roughly. “I thought—I thought you—”

“Wouldn’t come back for you? But of course I did,” she said. “Of course I did. ”

She put her arms around him. Everything about him was familiar, from the overwashed fabric of his T-shirt to the sharp angle of the collarbone that rested just under her chin. He said her name, and she stroked his back reassuringly. When she glanced back just for a moment, she saw Jace turning away as if the brightness of the rising sun hurt his eyes.

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