City of Bones – Chapter 20: IN RATS’ ALLEY

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24

Chapter 20: IN RATS’ ALLEY

HODGE, GASPING, STARED AFTER HIM, HIS FISTS CLENCHING and unclenching at his sides. His left hand was gloved with the wet dark fluid that had seeped from his chest. The look on his face was a mixture of exultation and self-loathing.

“Hodge!” Clary slammed her hand into the invisible wall between them. Pain shot up her arm, but it was nothing compared to the searing pain inside her chest. She felt as if her heart were going to slam its way out of her rib cage. Jace, Jace, Jace—the words echoed in her mind, wanting to be screamed out loud. She bit them back. “Hodge, let me out!”

Hodge turned, shaking his head. “I can’t,” he said, using his immaculately folded handkerchief to rub at his stained hand. He sounded genuinely regretful. “You’ll only try to kill me. ”

“I won’t,” she said. “I promise. ”

“But you were not raised a Shadowhunter,” he said, “and your promises mean nothing. ” The edge of his handkerchief was smoking now, as if he’d dipped it in acid, and his hand was no less blackened. Frowning, he abandoned the project.

“But, Hodge,” she said desperately, “didn’t you hear him? He’s going to kill Jace. ”

“He didn’t say that. ” Hodge was at the desk now, opening a drawer, taking out a piece of paper. He drew a pen from his pocket, tapping it sharply against the edge of the desk to make the ink flow. Clary stared at him. Was he writing a letter?

“Hodge,” she said carefully, “Valentine said Jace would be with his father soon. Jace’s father is dead. What else could he have meant?”

Hodge didn’t look up from the paper he was scribbling on. “It’s complicated. You wouldn’t understand. ”

“I understand enough. ” Her bitterness felt like it might burn through her tongue. “I understand that Jace trusted you and you traded him away to a man who hated his father and probably hates Jace, too, just because you’re too cowardly to live with a curse you deserved. ”

Hodge’s head jerked up. “Is that what you think?”

“It’s what I know. ”

He laid his pen down, shaking his head. He looked tired, and so old, so much older than Valentine had looked, though they were the same age. “You only know bits and fragments, Clary. And you’re better off that way. ” He folded the paper he’d been writing on into a neat square and tossed it into the fire, which flared up a bright acidic green before subsiding.

“What are you doing?” Clary demanded.

“Sending a message. ” Hodge turned away from the fire. He was standing close to her, separated only by the invisible wall. She pressed her fingers against it, wishing she could dig them into his eyes—though they were as sad as Valentine’s had been angry. “You are young,” he said. “The past is nothing to you, not even another country as it is to the old, or a nightmare as it is to the guilty. The Clave laid this curse on me because I aided Valentine. But I was hardly the only member of the Circle to serve him—were the Lightwoods not as guilty as I was? Were not the Waylands? Yet I was the only one cursed to live out my life without being able to set so much as a foot outdoors, not so much as a hand through the window. ”

“That’s not my fault,” said Clary. “It’s not Jace’s fault. Why punish him for what the Clave did? I can understand giving Valentine the Cup, but Jace? He’ll kill Jace, just like he killed Jace’s father—”

“Valentine,” said Hodge, “did not kill Jace’s father. ”

A sob broke free from Clary’s chest. “I don’t believe you! All you do is tell lies! Everything you’ve ever said was a lie!”

“Ah,” he said, “the moral absolutism of the young, which allows for no concessions. Can’t you see, Clary, that in my own way I’m trying to be a good man?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t work that way. The good things you do don’t cancel out the bad ones. But—” She bit her lip. “If you told me where Valentine was—”

“No. ” He breathed the word. “It is said that the Nephilim are the children of men and angels. All that this angelic heritage has given to us is a longer distance to fall. ” He touched the invisible surface of the wall with his fingertips. “You were not raised as one of us. You have no part of this life of scars and killing. You can still get away. Leave the Institute, Clary, as soon as you can. Leave, and never come back. ”

She shook her head. “I can’t,” she said. “I can’t do that. ”

“Then you have my condolences,” he said, and walked out of the room.

The door closed behind Hodge, leaving Clary in silence. There was only her own harsh breathing and the scrabble of her fingertips against the ungiving transparent barrier between her and the door. She did exactly what she’d told herself she wouldn’t do, and flung herself against it, again and again, until she was exhausted and her sides ached. Then she sank to the floor and tried not to cry.

Somewhere on the other side of this barrier Alec was dying, while Isabelle waited for Hodge to come and save him. Somewhere beyond this room Jace was being shaken roughly awake by Valentine. Somewhere her mother’s chances were ebbing away, moment by moment, second by second. And she was trapped here, as useless and helpless as the child she was.

She sat bolt upright then, remembering the moment at Madame Dorothea’s when Jace had pressed the stele into her hand. Had she ever given it back to him? Holding her breath, she felt in her left jacket pocket; it was empty. Slowly her hand crept into the right pocket, her sweaty fingers picking up lint and then skidding across something hard, smooth, and round—the stele.

She bounded to her feet, her heart pounding, and felt with her left hand for the invisible wall. Finding it, she braced herself, inching the tip of the stele forward with her other hand until it rested against the smooth, level air. Already an image was forming in her mind, like a fish rising up through cloudy water, the pattern of its scales growing clearer and clearer as it neared the surface. Slowly at first, and then more confidently, she moved the stele across the wall, leaving searingly bright ash-white lines hovering in the air before her.

She felt when the rune was done, and lowered her hand, breathing hard. For a moment everything was motionless and silent and the rune hung like glowing neon, burning her eyes. Then came a sound like the loudest shattering she had ever heard, as if she were standing under a waterfall of stones listening to them crash to the ground all around her. The rune she had drawn turned black and sifted away like ash; the floor trembled under her feet; then it was over, and she knew, without a doubt, that she was free.

Still holding the stele, she raced to the window and pushed the curtain aside. Twilight was falling and the streets below were bathed in a reddish-purple glow. She caught a clear glimpse of Hodge crossing a street, his gray head bobbing above the crowd.

She dashed out of the library and down the stairs, pausing only to shove the stele back into her jacket pocket. She took the stairs running and hit the street with a stitch already forming in her side. People walking their dogs in the humid twilight jumped aside as she barreled down the walkway alongside the East River. She caught sight of herself in the darkened window of an apartment building as she careened around a corner. Her sweaty hair was plastered to her forehead, her face crusted with dried blood.

She reached the intersection where she had seen Hodge. For a moment she thought she’d lost him. She darted through the crowd near the subway entrance, shouldering people aside, using her knees and elbows as weapons. Sweaty and bruised, Clary pulled free of the crowd just in time to see a flash of tweed suit disappear around the corner of a narrow service alley between two buildings.

She wriggled around a Dumpster and into the mouth of the alley. The back of her throat felt like it was burning every time she breathed. Though it had been twilight on the street, here in the alley it was as dark as nightfall. She could just see Hodge, standing at the far end of the alley, where it dead-ended into the back of a fast-food restaurant. Restaurant trash was piled outside: heaping bags of food, dirty paper plates, and plastic cutlery that crunched unpleasantly under his boots as he turned to look at her. She remembered a poem she’d read in English class: I think we are in rats’ alley / Where the dead men lost their bones.

“You followed me,” he said. “You shouldn’t have. ”

“I’ll leave you alone if you just tell me where Valentine is. ”

“I can’t do that,” he said. “He’ll know I told you, and my freedom will be as short as my life. ”

“It will be anyway when the Clave finds out that you gave the Mortal Cup to Valentine,” Clary pointed out. “After tricking us into finding it for you. How can you live with yourself, knowing what he plans to do with it?”

He cut her off with a short laugh. “I fear Valentine more than the Clave, and so would you, if you were wise,” he said. “He would have found the Cup eventually, whether I helped him or not. ”

“And you don’t care that he’s going to use it to kill children?”

A spasm crossed his face as he took a step forward; she saw something shine in his hand. “Does all this really matter to you this much?”

“I told you before,” she said. “I can’t just walk away. ”

“That’s too bad,” he said, and she saw him raise his arm—and remembered suddenly Jace saying that Hodge’s weapon had been the chakram, the flying disk. She ducked even before she saw the bright circle of metal spin singing toward her head; it passed, humming, inches from her face and embedded itself in the metal fire escape on her left.

She looked up. Hodge was gazing at her, the second metal disk held lightly in his right hand. “You can still run,” he said.

Instinctively she raised her hands, though logic told her the chakram would just slice them to pieces. “Hodge—”

Something hurtled in front of her, something big, gray-black, and alive. She heard Hodge shout in horror. Stumbling backward, Clary saw the thing more clearly as it paced between her and Hodge. It was a wolf, six feet in length, with a jet-black coat shot through with a single stripe of gray.

Hodge, the metal disk gripped in his hand, was white as a bone. “You,” he breathed, and with a sense of distant astonishment Clary realized he was talking to the wolf. “I thought that you had fled—”

The wolf’s lips drew back from its teeth, and she saw its lolling red tongue. There was hatred in its eyes as it looked at Hodge, a pure and human hatred.

“Did you come for me, or for the girl?” said Hodge. Sweat streamed from his temples, but his hand was steady.

The wolf paced toward him, growling low in its throat.

“There’s still time,” said Hodge. “Valentine would take you back—”

With a howl the wolf sprang. Hodge cried out again, then there was a flash of silver, and a sickening noise as the chakram embedded itself in the wolf’s side. The wolf reared back on its hind legs, and Clary saw the disk’s edge jutting from the wolf’s fur, blood streaming, just as it struck Hodge.

Hodge screamed once as he went down, the wolf’s jaws clamping shut over his shoulder. Blood flew into the air like the spray of paint from a broken can, splattering the cement wall with red. The wolf lifted its head from the tutor’s limp body and turned its gray, lupine gaze on Clary, teeth dripping scarlet.

She didn’t scream. There was no air in her lungs that she could have dragged up to make a sound; she scrambled to her feet and ran, ran for the mouth of the alley and the familiar neon lights of the street, ran for the safety of the real world. She could hear the wolf growling behind her, feel its hot breath on the bare backs of her legs. She put on one last burst of speed, flinging herself toward the street—

The wolf’s jaws closed on her leg, jerking her backward. Just before her head struck the hard pavement, plunging her into blackness, she discovered that she did have enough air to scream, after all.

The sound of dripping water woke her. Slowly Clary peeled her eyes open. There wasn’t much to see. She lay on a wide cot that had been placed on the floor of a small dingy-walled room. There was a rickety table propped against one wall. On it was a cheap-looking brass candleholder sporting a fat red candle that cast the only light in the room. The ceiling was cracked and damp, wetness seeping down through the fissures in the stone. Clary felt a vague sense that something was missing from the room, but this concern was overwhelmed by the strong smell of wet dog.

She sat up and immediately wished she hadn’t. Hot pain drove through her head like a spike, followed by a racking wave of nausea. If there had been anything in her stomach, she would have thrown it up.

A mirror hung over the cot, dangling from a nail driven between two stones. She glanced in it and was appalled. No wonder her face hurt—long parallel scratches ran from the corner of her right eye down to the edge of her mouth. Her right cheek was crusted with blood, and blood was smeared on her neck and all down the front of her shirt and jacket. In a sudden panic she grabbed for her pocket, then relaxed. The stele was still there.

It was then that she realized what was odd about the room. One wall of it was bars: thick iron floor-to-ceiling bars. She was in a jail cell.

Veins surging with adrenaline, Clary staggered to her feet. A wave of dizziness washed over her, and she caught at the table to steady herself. I will not faint, she told herself grimly. Then she heard the footsteps.

Someone was coming down the hallway outside the cell. Clary backed up against the table.

It was a man. He was carrying a lamp, its light brighter than the candle, which made her blink and turned him into a backlit shadow. She saw height, square shoulders, ragged hair; it was only when he pushed the door of the cell open and came inside that she realized who he was.

He looked the same: worn jeans, denim shirt, work boots, same uneven hair, same glasses pushed down to the bridge of his nose. The scars she’d noticed along the side of his throat last time she’d seen him were healing patches of shiny skin now.


It was all too much for Clary. Exhaustion, lack of sleep and food, terror and blood-loss, caught up with her in a rushing wave. She felt her knees buckle as she slid toward the ground.

In seconds Luke was across the room. He moved so fast, she didn’t have time to hit the floor before he caught her, swinging her up the way he’d done when she was a little girl. He set her down on the cot and stepped back, eyes anxious. “Clary?” he said, reaching for her. “Are you all right?”

She flinched away, throwing up her hands to ward him off. “Don’t touch me. ”

An expression of profound hurt crossed his face. Wearily he drew a hand across his forehead. “I guess I deserve that. ”

“Yeah. You do. ”

The look on his face was troubled. “I don’t expect you to trust me—”

“That’s good. Because I don’t. ”

“Clary …” He began to pace the length of the cell. “What I did … I don’t expect you to understand. I know you feel that I abandoned you—”

“You did abandon me,” she said. “You told me never to call you again. You never cared about me. You never cared about my mother. You lied about everything. ”

“Not,” he said, “about everything. ”

“So your name really is Luke Garroway?”

His shoulders drooped perceptibly. “No,” he said, then glanced down. A dark red patch was spreading across the front of his blue denim shirt.

Clary sat up straight. “Is that blood?” she demanded. She forgot for a moment to be furious.

“Yes,” said Luke, his hand against his side. “The wound must have torn open when I lifted you. ”

“What wound?” Clary couldn’t help asking.

He said with deliberation: “Hodge’s disks are still sharp, though his throwing arm is not what it once was. I think he may have nicked a rib. ”

“Hodge?” Clary said. “When did you …?”

He looked at her, not saying anything, and she remembered suddenly the wolf in the alley, all black except for that one gray streak down its side, and she remembered the disk hitting it, and she realized.

“You’re a werewolf. ”

He took his hand away from his shirt; his fingers were stained red. “Yep,” he said laconically. He moved to the wall and rapped sharply on it: once, twice, three times. Then he turned back to her. “I am. ”

“You killed Hodge,” she said, remembering.

“No. ” He shook his head. “I hurt him pretty badly, I think, but when I went back for the body, it was gone. He must have dragged himself away. ”

“You tore at his shoulder,” she said. “I saw you. ”

“Yes. Though it’s worth noting that he was trying to kill you at the time. Did he hurt anyone else?”

Clary sank her teeth into her lip. She tasted blood, but it was old blood from where Hugo had attacked her. “Jace,” she said in a whisper. “Hodge knocked him out and handed him over to … to Valentine. ”

“To Valentine?” Luke said, looking astonished. “I knew Hodge had given Valentine the Mortal Cup, but I hadn’t realized—”

“How did you know that?” Clary began, before remembering. “You heard me talking to Hodge in the alley,” she said. “Before you jumped him. ”

“I jumped him, as you put it, because he was about to slice your head off,” Luke said, then looked up as the cell door opened again and a tall man came in, followed by a tiny woman, so short she looked like a child. Both of them wore plain, casual clothes: jeans and cotton shirts, and both had the same untidy, flyaway hair, though the woman’s was fair and the man’s was a badgery gray and black. Both had the same young-old faces, unlined but with tired eyes. “Clary,” said Luke, “meet my second and third, Gretel and Alaric. ”

Alaric inclined his massive head to her. “We have met. ”

Clary stared, alarmed. “Have we?”

“At the Hotel Dumort,” he said. “You put your knife in my ribs. ”

She shrank against the wall. “I, ah … I’m sorry?”

“Don’t be,” he said. “It was an excellent throw. ” He slid a hand into his breast pocket and removed Jace’s dagger, with its winking red eye. He held it out to her. “I think this is yours?”

Clary stared. “But—”

“Don’t worry,” he assured her. “I cleaned the blade. ”

Wordlessly, she took it. Luke was chuckling under his breath. “In retrospect,” he said, “perhaps the raid on the Dumort was not as well planned as it might have been. I had set a group of my wolves to watch you, and go after you if you seemed to be in any danger. When you went into the Dumort …”

“Jace and I could have handled it. ” Clary slid the dagger into her belt.

Gretel aimed a tolerant smile at her. “Is that what you summoned us for, sir?”

“No,” said Luke. He touched his side. “My wound’s opened up, and Clary here has some injuries of her own that could use a bit of tending. If you wouldn’t mind getting the supplies …”

Gretel inclined her head. “I will return with the healing kit,” she said, and left, Alaric trailing her like an outsize shadow.

“She called you ‘sir,’” said Clary, the moment the cell door closed behind them. “And what do you mean by your second and your third? Second and third what?”

“In command,” said Luke slowly. “I am the leader of this particular wolf pack. That’s why Gretel called me ‘sir. ’ Believe me, it took a fair bit of work to break her of the habit of calling me ‘master. ’”

“Did my mother know?”

“Know what?”

“That you’re a werewolf. ”

“Yes. She’s known since it happened. ”

“Neither of you, of course, thought to mention this to me. ”

“I would have told you,” said Luke. “But your mother was adamant that you know nothing of Shadowhunters or the Shadow World. I couldn’t explain away my being a werewolf as some kind of isolated incident, Clary. It’s all part of the larger pattern that your mother didn’t want you to see. I don’t know what you’ve learned—”

“A lot,” Clary said flatly. “I know my mother was a Shadowhunter. I know she was married to Valentine and that she stole the Mortal Cup from him and went into hiding. I know that after she had me, she took me to Magnus Bane every two years to have my Sight taken away. I know that when Valentine tried to get you to tell him where the Cup was in exchange for my mom’s life, you told him she didn’t matter to you. ”

Luke stared at the wall. “I didn’t know where the Cup was,” he said. “She’d never told me. ”

“You could have tried to bargain—”

“Valentine doesn’t bargain. He never has. If the advantage isn’t his, he won’t even come to the table. He’s entirely single-minded and totally without compassion, and though he may have loved your mother once, he wouldn’t hesitate to kill her. No, I wasn’t going to bargain with Valentine. ”

“So you just decided to abandon her?” Clary demanded furiously. “You’re the leader of a whole pack of werewolves and you just decided she didn’t even really need your help? You know, it was bad enough when I thought you were another Shadowhunter and you’d turned your back on her because of some stupid Shadowhunter vow or something, but now I know you’re just a slimy Downworlder who didn’t even care that all those years she treated you like a friend—like an equal—and this is how you paid her back!”

“Listen to you,” Luke said quietly. “You sound like a Lightwood. ”

She narrowed her eyes. “Don’t talk about Alec and Isabelle like you know them. ”

“I meant their parents,” said Luke. “Who I did know, very well in fact, when we were all Shadowhunters together. ”

She felt her lips part in surprise. “I know you were in the Circle, but how did you keep them from finding out you were a werewolf? Didn’t they know?”

“No,” said Luke. “Because I wasn’t born a werewolf. I was made one. And I can already see that if you’re going to be persuaded to listen to anything I have to say, you’re going to have to hear the whole story. It’s a long tale, but I think we have the time for it.”

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24