City of Fallen Angels – Chapter 5: HELL CALLS HELL

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Chapter 5: HELL CALLS HELL

Kyles apartment turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Simon expected a filthy walk-up in an Avenue D tenement, with roaches crawling on the walls and a bed made out of mattress foam and milk crates. In reality it was a clean two-bedroom with a small living area, a ton of bookshelves, and lots of photos on the walls of famous surfing spots. Admittedly, Kyle seemed to be growing marijuana plants on the fire escape, but you couldnt have everything.

Simons room was basically an empty box. Whoever had lived there before had left nothing behind but a futon mattress. It had bare walls, bare floors, and a single window, through which Simon could see the neon sign of the Chinese restaurant across the street. “You like it?” Kyle inquired, hovering in the doorway, his hazel eyes open and friendly.

“Its great,” Simon replied honestly. “Exactly what I needed. ”

The most expensive item in the apartment was the flat-screen TV in the living room. They threw themselves down on the futon couch and watched bad TV as the sunlight dimmed outside. Kyle was cool, Simon decided. He didnt poke, didnt pry, didnt ask questions. He didnt seem to want anything in exchange for the room except for Simon to pitch in grocery money. He was just a friendly guy. Simon wondered if hed forgotten what ordinary human beings were like.

After Kyle headed out to work an evening shift, Simon went into his room, collapsed on the mattress, and listened to the traffic going by on Avenue B.

Hed been haunted by thoughts of his mothers face since hed left: the way shed looked at him with loathing and fear, as if he were an intruder in her house. Even if he didnt need to breathe, the thought of it had still constricted his chest. But now. . .

When he was a kid, hed always liked traveling, because being in a new place had meant being away from all his problems. Even here, just a river away from Brooklyn, the memories that had been eating at him like acid-the muggers death, his mothers reaction to the truth of what he was-seemed blurred and distant.

Maybe that was the secret, he thought. Keep moving. Like a shark. Go to where no one can find you. A fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth.

But that only worked if there was no one you cared about leaving behind.

He slept fitfully all night. His natural urge was to sleep during the day, despite his Daylighter powers, and he fought off restlessness and dreams before waking up late with the sun streaming in through the window. After throwing on clean clothes from his knapsack, he left the bedroom to find Kyle in the kitchen, frying bacon and eggs in a Teflon pan.

“Hey, roommate,” Kyle greeted him cheerfully. “Want some breakfast?”

The sight of the food made Simon feel vaguely sick to his stomach. “No, thanks. Ill take some coffee, though. ” He perched himself on one of the slightly lopsided bar stools.

Kyle pushed a chipped mug across the counter toward him. “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, bro. Even if its already noon. ”

Simon put his hands around the mug, feeling the heat seep into his cold skin. He cast about for a topic of conversation-one that wasnt how little he ate. “So, I never asked you yesterday-what do you do for a living?”

Kyle picked a piece of bacon out of the pan and bit into it. Simon noticed that the gold medal at his throat had a pattern of leaves on it, and the words “Beati Bellicosi. ” “Beati,” Simon knew, was a word that had something to do with saints; Kyle must be Catholic. “Bike messenger,” he said, chewing. “Its awesome. I get to ride around the city, seeing everything, talking to everyone. Way better than high school. ”

“You dropped out?”

“Got my GED senior year. I prefer the school of life. ” Simon would have thought Kyle sounded ridiculous if it werent for the fact that he said “school of life” the way he said everything else-with total sincerity. “What about you? Any plans?”

Oh, you know. Wander the earth, causing death and destruction to innocent people. Maybe drink some blood. Live forever but never have any fun. The usual. “Im kind of winging it at the moment. ”

“You mean you dont want to be a musician?” Kyle asked.

To Simons relief his phone rang before he had to answer that. He fished it out of his pocket and looked at the screen. It was Maia. “Hey,” he greeted her. “Whats up?”

“Are you going to be at that dress fitting with Clary this afternoon?” she asked, her voice crackling down the line. She was probably calling from pack headquarters in Chinatown, where the reception wasnt great. “She told me she was making you go to keep her company. ”

“What? Oh, right. Yes. Ill be there. ” Clary had demanded that Simon accompany her to her bridesmaids dress fitting so afterward they could shop for comics and she could feel, in her words, like “less of a frilled-up girly-girl. ”

“Well, Im going to come too, then. I have to give Luke a message from the pack, and besides, I feel like I havent seen you in ages. ”

“I know. Im really sorry-”

“Its fine,” she said lightly. “But youre going to have to let me know what youre wearing to the wedding eventually, because otherwise well clash. ”

She hung up, leaving Simon staring at the phone. Clary had been right. The wedding was D-day, and he was woefully unprepared for the battle.

“One of your girlfriends?” Kyle asked curiously. “Was that redheaded chick at the garage one of them? Because she was cute. ”

“No. Thats Clary; shes my best friend. ” Simon pocketed his phone. “And she has a boyfriend. Like, really, really, really has a boyfriend. The nuclear bomb of boyfriends. Trust me on this one. ”

Kyle grinned. “I was just asking. ” He dumped the bacon pan, now empty, into the sink. “So, your two girls. What are they like?”

“Theyre very, very . . . different. ” In some ways, Simon thought, they were opposites. Maia was calm and grounded; Isabelle lived at a high pitch of excitement. Maia was a steady light in the darkness; Isabelle a burning star, spinning through the void. “I mean, theyre both great. Beautiful, and smart. . . ”

“And they dont know about each other?” Kyle leaned against the counter. “Like, at all?”

Simon found himself explaining-how when hed come back from Idris (though he didnt mention the place by name), theyd both started calling him, wanting to hang out. And because he liked them both, he went. And somehow things started to turn casually romantic with each of them, but there never seemed to be a chance to explain to either of them that he was seeing someone else, too. And somehow it had snowballed, and here he was, not wanting to hurt either of them, and not knowing how to go on, either.

“Well, if you ask me,” Kyle said, turning to dump his remaining coffee out in the sink, “you ought to pick one of them and quit dogging around. Im just saying. ”

Since his back was to Simon, Simon couldnt see his face, and for a moment he wondered if Kyle was actually angry. His voice sounded uncharacteristically stiff. But when Kyle turned around, his expression was as open and friendly as ever. Simon decided he must have imagined it.

“I know,” he said. “Youre right. ” He glanced back toward the bedroom. “Look, are you sure its okay, me staying here? I can clear out whenever. . . ”

“Its fine. You stay as long as you need. ” Kyle opened a kitchen drawer and scrabbled around until he found what he was looking for-a set of spare keys on a rubber-band ring. “Theres a set for you. Youre totally welcome here, okay? I gotta go to work, but you can hang around if you want. Play Halo, or whatever. Will you be here when I get back?”

Simon shrugged. “Probably not. I have a dress fitting to get to at three. ”

“Cool,” said Kyle, slinging a messenger bag over his shoulder and heading toward the door. “Get them to make you something in red. Its totally your color. ”

“So,” Clary said, stepping out of the dressing room. “What do you think?”

She did an experimental twirl. Simon, balanced on one of Karyns Bridal Shops uncomfortable white chairs, shifted position, winced, and said, “You look nice. ”

She looked better than nice. Clary was her mothers only bridesmaid, so shed been allowed to pick out whatever dress she wanted. Shed selected a very simple coppery silk with narrow straps that flattered her small frame. Her only jewelry was the Morgenstern ring, worn on a chain around her neck; the very plain silver chain brought out the shape of her collarbones and the curve of her throat.

Not that many months ago, seeing Clary dressed up for a wedding would have conjured up in Simon a mix of feelings: dark despair (she would never love him) and high excitement (or maybe she would, if he could get up the nerve to tell her how he felt). Now it just made him feel a little wistful.

“Nice?” echoed Clary. “Is that it? Sheesh. ” She turned to Maia. “What do you think?”

Maia had given up on the uncomfortable chairs and was sitting on the floor, her back against a wall that was decorated with tiaras and long gauzy veils. She had Simons DS balanced on one of her knees and seemed to be at least partly absorbed in playing Grand Theft Auto. “Dont ask me,” she said. “I hate dresses. Id wear jeans to the wedding if I could. ”

This was true. Simon rarely saw Maia out of jeans and T-shirts. In that way she was the opposite of Isabelle, who wore dresses and heels at even the most inappropriate times. (Though since hed once seen her dispatch a Vermis demon with the stiletto heel of a boot, he was less inclined to worry about it. )

The shop bell tinkled, and Jocelyn came in, followed by Luke. Both were holding steaming cups of coffee, and Jocelyn was looking up at Luke, her cheeks flushed and her eyes shining. Simon remembered what Clary had said about them being disgustingly in love. He didnt find it disgusting himself, though that was probably because they werent his parents. They both seemed so happy, and he thought it was actually rather nice.

Jocelyns eyes widened when she saw Clary. “Honey, you look gorgeous!”

“Yeah, you have to say that. Youre my mother,” Clary said, but she grinned anyway. “Hey, is that coffee black by any chance?”

“Yep. Consider it a sorry-were-late gift,” Luke said, handing her the cup. “We got held up. Some catering issue or other. ” He nodded toward Simon and Maia. “Hey, guys. ”

Maia inclined her head. Luke was the head of the local wolf pack, of which Maia was a member. Though hed broken her of the habit of calling him “Master” or “Sir,” she remained respectful in his presence. “I brought you a message from the pack,” she said, setting down her game console. “They have questions about the party at the Ironworks-”

As Maia and Luke fell into conversation about the party the wolf pack was throwing in honor of their alpha wolfs marriage, the owner of the bridal shop, a tall woman who had been reading magazines behind the counter while the teenagers chatted, realized that the people who were actually going to pay for the dresses had just arrived, and hurried forward to greet them. “I just got your dress back in, and it looks marvelous,” she gushed, taking Clarys mother by the arm and steering her toward the back of the store. “Come and try it on. ” As Luke started after them, she pointed a threatening finger at him. “You stay here. ”

Luke, watching his fiancee disappear through a set of white swinging doors painted with wedding bells, looked puzzled.

“Mundanes think youre not supposed to see the bride in her wedding dress before the ceremony,” Clary reminded him. “Its bad luck. She probably thinks its weird you came to the fitting. ”

“But Jocelyn wanted my opinion-” Luke broke off and shook his head. “Ah, well. Mundane customs are so peculiar. ” He threw himself down in a chair, and winced as one of the carved rosettes poked into his back. “Ouch. ”

“What about Shadowhunter weddings?” Maia inquired, curious. “Do they have their own customs?”

“They do,” Luke said slowly, “but this isnt going to be a classic Shadowhunter ceremony. Those specifically dont address any situation in which one of the participants is not a Shadowhunter. ”

“Really?” Maia looked shocked. “I didnt know that. ”

“Part of a Shadowhunter marriage ceremony involves tracing permanent runes on the bodies of the participants,” said Luke. His voice was calm, but his eyes looked sad. “Runes of love and commitment. But of course, non-Shadowhunters cant bear the Angels runes, so Jocelyn and I will be exchanging rings instead. ”

“That sucks,” Maia pronounced.

At that, Luke smiled. “Not really. Marrying Jocelyn is all I ever wanted, and Im not that bothered about the particulars. Besides, things are changing. The new Council members have made a lot of headway toward convincing the Clave to tolerate this sort of-”

“Clary!” It was Jocelyn, calling from the back of the store. “Can you come here for a second?”

“Coming!” Clary called, bolting down the last of her coffee. “Uh-oh. Sounds like a dress emergency. ”

“Well, good luck with that. ” Maia got to her feet, and dropped the DS back in Simons lap before bending to kiss him on the cheek. “Ive got to go. Im meeting some friends at the Hunters Moon. ”

She smelled pleasantly of vanilla. Under that, as always, Simon could smell the salt scent of blood, mixed with a sharp, lemony tang that was peculiar to werewolves. Every Downworlders blood smelled different-faeries smelled like dead flowers, warlocks like burnt matches, and other vampires like metal.

Clary had once asked him what Shadowhunters smelled like.

“Sunlight,” hed said.

“See you later, baby. ” Maia straightened up, ruffled Simons hair once, and departed. As the door closed behind her, Clary fixed him with a piercing glare.

“You must work your love life out by next Saturday,” she said. “I mean it, Simon. If you dont tell them, I will. ”

Luke looked bewildered. “Tell who what?”

Clary shook her head at Simon. “Youre on thin ice, Lewis. ” With which pronouncement she flounced away, holding up her silk skirts as she went. Simon was amused to note that underneath them she was wearing green sneakers.

“Clearly,” said Luke, “something is going on that I dont know about. ”

Simon looked over at him. “Sometimes I think thats the motto of my life. ”

Luke raised his eyebrows. “Has something happened?”

Simon hesitated. He certainly couldnt tell Luke about his love life-Luke and Maia were in the same pack, and werewolf packs were more loyal than street gangs. It would put Luke in a very awkward position. It was true, though, that Luke was also a resource. As the leader of the Manhattan wolf pack, he had access to all sorts of information, and was well versed in Downworlder politics. “Have you heard of a vampire named Camille?”

Luke made a low whistling sound. “I know who she is. Im surprised you do. ”

“Well, shes the head of the New York vampire clan. I do know something about them,” Simon said, a little stiffly.

“I didnt realize you did. I thought you wanted to live like a human as much as you could. ” There was no judgment in Lukes voice, only curiosity. “Now, by the time I took over the downtown pack from the previous pack leader, she had put Raphael in charge. I dont think anyone knew where shed gone exactly. But she is something of a legend. An extraordinarily old vampire, from everything I understand. Famously cruel and cunning. She could give the Fair Folk a run for their money. ”

“Have you ever seen her?”

Luke shook his head. “Dont think I have, no. Why the curiosity?”

“Raphael mentioned her,” Simon said vaguely.

Lukes forehead creased. “Youve seen Raphael lately?”

Before Simon could answer, the shop bell sounded again, and to Simons surprise, Jace came in. Clary hadnt mentioned he was coming.

In point of fact, he realized, Clary hadnt mentioned Jace much lately at all.

Jace looked from Luke to Simon. He looked as if he were mildly surprised to see Simon and Luke there, although it was hard to tell. Though Simon imagined that Jace ran the gamut of facial expressions when he was alone with Clary, his default one around other people was a fierce sort of blankness. “He looks,” Simon had once said to Isabelle, “like hes thinking about something deep and meaningful, but if you ask him what it is, hell punch you in the face. ”

“So dont ask him,” Isabelle had said, as if she thought Simon was being ridiculous. “No one says you two need to be friends. ”

“Is Clary here?” Jace asked, shutting the door behind him. He looked tired. There were shadows under his eyes, and he didnt seem to have bothered to put on a jacket, despite the fact that the autumn wind was brisk. Though cold no longer affected Simon much, looking at Jace in just jeans and a thermal shirt made him feel chilly.

“Shes helping Jocelyn,” explained Luke. “But youre welcome to wait here with us. ”

Jace looked around uneasily at the walls hung with veils, fans, tiaras, and seed-pearl-encrusted trains. “Everything is . . . so white. ”

“Of course its white,” said Simon. “Its a wedding. ”

“White for Shadowhunters is the color of funerals,” Luke explained. “But for mundanes, Jace, its the color of weddings. Brides wear white to symbolize their purity. ”

“I thought Jocelyn said her dress wasnt white,” Simon said.

“Well,” said Jace, “I suppose that ship has sailed. ”

Luke choked on his coffee. Before he could say-or do-anything, Clary walked back into the room. Her hair was up now, in sparkling pins, with a few curls hanging loose. “I dont know,” she was saying as she came closer to them. “Karyn got her hands on me and did my hair, but Im not sure about the sparkles-”

She broke off as she saw Jace. It was clear from her expression that she hadnt been expecting him either. Her lips parted in surprise, but she said nothing. Jace, in his turn, was staring at her, and for once in his life Simon could read Jaces expression like a book. It was as if everything else in the world had fallen away for Jace but himself and Clary, and he was looking at her with an unconcealed yearning and desire that made Simon feel awkward, as if he had somehow walked in on a private moment.

Jace cleared his throat. “You look beautiful. ”

“Jace. ” Clary looked more puzzled than anything else. “Is everything all right? I thought you said you couldnt come because of the Conclave meeting. ”

“Thats right,” Luke said. “I heard about the Shadowhunter body in the park. Is there any news?”

Jace shook his head, still looking at Clary. “No. Hes not one of the New York Conclave members, but beyond that he hasnt been identified. Neither of the bodies have. The Silent Brothers are looking at them now. ”

“Thats good. The Brothers will figure out who they are,” said Luke.

Jace said nothing. He was still looking at Clary, and it was the oddest sort of look, Simon thought-the sort of look you might give someone you loved but could never, ever have. He imagined Jace had felt like that about Clary once before, but now?

“Jace?” Clary said, and took a step toward him.

He tore his gaze away from her. “That jacket you borrowed from me in the park yesterday,” he said. “Do you still have it?”

Now looking even more puzzled, Clary pointed to where the item of clothing in question, a perfectly ordinary brown suede jacket, was hanging over the back of one of the chairs. “Its over there. I was going to bring it to you after-”

“Well,” said Jace, picking it up and thrusting his arms hastily into the sleeves, as if he were suddenly in a hurry, “now you dont have to. ”

“Jace,” Luke said in that calming tone he had, “were going to get an early dinner in Park Slope after this. Youre welcome to come along. ”

“No,” Jace said, zipping the jacket up. “Ive got training this afternoon. Id better head out. ”

“Training?” Clary echoed. “But we trained yesterday. ”

“Some of us have to train every day, Clary. ” Jace didnt sound angry, but there was a harshness to his tone, and Clary flushed. “Ill see you later,” he added without looking at her, and practically flung himself toward the door.

As it shut behind him, Clary reached up and angrily yanked the pins out of her hair. It cascaded in tangles down around her shoulders.

“Clary,” Luke said gently. He stood up. “What are you doing?”

“My hair. ” She yanked the last pin out, hard. Her eyes were shining, and Simon could tell she was forcibly willing herself not to cry. “I dont want to wear it like this. It looks stupid. ”

“No, it doesnt. ” Luke took the pins from her and set them down on one of the small white end tables. “Look, weddings make men nervous, okay? It doesnt mean anything. ”

“Right. ” Clary tried to smile. She nearly managed it, but Simon could tell she didnt believe Luke. He could hardly blame her. After seeing the look on Jaces face, Simon didnt believe him either.

In the distance the Fifth Avenue Diner was lit up like a star against the blue twilight. Simon walked beside Clary down the avenue blocks, Jocelyn and Luke a few steps ahead of them. Clary had changed out of her dress and was back in jeans now, a thick white scarf wound around her neck. Every once in a while she would reach up and twirl the ring on the chain around her neck, a nervous gesture he wondered if she was even aware of.

When theyd left the bridal store, he had asked her if she knew what was wrong with Jace, but she hadnt really answered him. Shed shrugged it off, and started asking him about what was going on with him, if hed talked to his mother yet, and whether he minded staying with Eric. When he told her he was crashing with Kyle, she was surprised.

“But you hardly even know him,” she said. “He could be a serial killer. ”

“I did have that thought. I checked the apartment out, but if hes got an ice cooler full of arms in it, I havent seen it yet. Anyway, he seems pretty sincere. ”

“So whats his apartment like?”

“Nice for Alphabet City. You should come over later. ”

“Not tonight,” Clary said, a little absently. She was fiddling with the ring again. “Maybe tomorrow?”

Going to see Jace? Simon thought, but he didnt press the point. If she didnt want to talk about it, he wasnt going to make her. “Here we are. ” He opened the diner door for her, and a blast of warm souvlaki-smelling air hit them.

They found a booth over by one of the big flat-screen TVs that lined the walls. They crowded into it as Jocelyn and Luke chattered animatedly with each other about wedding plans. Lukes pack, it seemed, felt insulted that they hadnt been invited to the ceremony-even though the guest list was tiny-and were insisting on holding their own celebration in a renovated factory in Queens. Clary listened, not saying anything; the waitress came around, handing out menus so stiffly laminated they could have been used as weapons. Simon set his own on the table and stared out the window. There was a gym across the street, and he could see people through the plate glass that fronted it, running on treadmills, arms pumping, headphones clamped to their ears. All that running and getting nowhere, he thought. Story of my life.

He tried to force his thoughts away from dark places, and almost succeeded. This was one of the most familiar scenes in his life, he thought-a corner booth in a diner, himself and Clary and her family. Luke had always been family, even when he hadnt been about to marry Clarys mom. Simon ought to feel at home. He tried to force a smile, only to realize that Clarys mother had just asked him something and he hadnt heard her. Everyone at the table was staring at him expectantly.

“Sorry,” he said. “I didnt-What did you say?”

Jocelyn smiled patiently. “Clary told me youve added a new member to your band?”

Simon knew she was just being polite. Well, polite in that way parents were when they pretended to take your hobbies seriously. Still, shed come to several of his gigs before, just to help fill up the room. She did care about him; she always had. In the very dark, tucked-away places of his mind, Simon suspected she had always known how he felt about Clary, and he wondered if she wouldnt have wanted her daughter to make a different choice, had it been something she could control. He knew she didnt entirely like Jace. It was clear even in the way she said his name.

“Yeah,” he said. “Kyle. Hes kind of a weird guy, but supernice. ” Invited, by Luke, to expand on the topic of Kyles weirdness, Simon told them about Kyles apartment-careful to leave out the detail that it was now his apartment too-his bike messenger job, and his ancient, beat-up pickup truck. “And he grows these weird plants on the balcony,” he added. “Not pot-I checked. They have sort of silvery leaves-”

Luke frowned, but before he could say anything, the waitress arrived, carrying a big silver coffee pitcher. She was young, with bleached pale hair tied into two braids. As she bent to fill Simons coffee cup, one of them brushed his arm. He could smell sweat on her, and under that, blood. Human blood, the sweetest smell of all. He felt a familiar tightening in his stomach. Coldness spread through him. He was hungry, and all he had back at Kyles place was room-temperature blood that was already beginning to separate-a sickening prospect, even for a vampire.

You have never fed on a human, have you? You will. And when you do, you will not forget it.

He closed his eyes. When he opened them again, the waitress was gone and Clary was staring at him curiously across the table. “Is everything okay?”

“Fine. ” He closed his hand around his coffee cup. It was shaking. Above them the TV was still blaring the nightly news.

“Ugh,” Clary said, looking up at the screen. “Are you listening to this?”

Simon followed her gaze. The news anchor was wearing that expression news anchors tended to wear when they were reporting on something especially grim. “No one has come forward to identify an infant boy found abandoned in an alley behind Beth Israel hospital several days ago,” he was saying. “The infant is white, weighs six pounds and eight ounces, and is otherwise healthy. He was discovered strapped to an infant car seat behind a Dumpster in the alley,” the anchor went on. “Most disturbing, a handwritten note tucked into the childs blanket begged hospital authorities to euthanize the child because I dont have the strength to do it myself. Police say it is likely that the childs mother was mentally ill, and claim they have promising leads. Anyone with information about this child should call Crime Stoppers at-”

“Thats so horrible,” Clary said, turning away from the TV with a shudder. “I cant understand how people just dump their babies off like theyre trash-”

“Jocelyn,” Luke said, his voice sharp with concern. Simon looked toward Clarys mother. She was as white as a sheet and looked as if she were about to throw up. She pushed her plate away abruptly, stood up from the table, and hurried toward the bathroom. After a moment Luke dropped his napkin and went after her.

“Oh, crap. ” Clary put her hand over her mouth. “I cant believe I said that. Im so stupid. ”

Simon was thoroughly perplexed. “Whats going on?”

Clary slunk down in her seat. “She was thinking about Sebastian,” she said. “I mean Jonathan. My brother. I assume you remember him. ”

She was being sarcastic. None of them was likely to forget Sebastian, whose real name was Jonathan and who had murdered Hodge and Max and had nearly succeeded in helping Valentine win a war that would have seen the destruction of all Shadowhunters. Jonathan, who had had burning black eyes and a smile like a razor blade. Jonathan, whose blood had tasted like battery acid when Simon had bitten him once. Not that he regretted it.

“But your mom didnt abandon him,” Simon said. “She stuck with raising him even though she knew there was something horribly wrong with him. ”

“She hated him, though,” Clary said. “I dont think shes ever gotten over that. Imagine hating your own baby. She used to take out a box that had his baby things in it and cry over it every year on his birthday. I think she was crying over the son she would have had-you know, if Valentine hadnt done what he had. ”

“And you would have had a brother,” said Simon. “Like, an actual one. Not a murdering psychopath. ”

Looking close to tears, Clary pushed her plate away. “I feel sick now,” she said. “You know that feeling like youre hungry but you cant bring yourself to eat?”

Simon looked over at the bleached-haired waitress, who was leaning against the diner counter. “Yeah,” he said. “I know. ”

Luke returned to the table eventually, but only to tell Clary and Simon that he was taking Jocelyn home. He left some money, which they used to pay the bill before wandering out of the diner and over to Galaxy Comics on Seventh Avenue. Neither of them could concentrate enough to enjoy themselves, though, so they split up, with a promise to see each other the next day.

Simon rode into the city with his hood pulled up and his iPod on, blasting music into his ears. Music had always been his way of blocking everything out. By the time he got out at Second Avenue and headed down Houston, a light rain had started to fall, and his stomach was in knots.

He cut over to First Street, which was mostly deserted, a strip of darkness between the bright lights of First Avenue and Avenue A. Because he had his iPod on, he didnt hear them coming up behind him until they were nearly on him. The first intimation he had that something was wrong was a long shadow that fell across the sidewalk, overlapping his own. Another shadow joined it, this one on his other side. He turned-

And saw two men behind him. Both were dressed exactly like the mugger who had attacked him the other night-gray tracksuits, gray hoods pulled up to hide their faces. They were close enough to touch him.

Simon leaped back, with a force that surprised him. Because his vampire strength was so new, it still had the power to shock him. When, a moment later, he found himself perched on the stoop of a brownstone, several feet away from the muggers, he was so astonished to be there that he froze.

The muggers advanced on him. They were speaking the same guttural language as the first mugger-who, Simon was beginning to suspect, had not been a mugger at all. Muggers, as far as he knew, didnt work in gangs, and it was unlikely that the first mugger had criminal friends who had decided to take revenge on him for their comrades demise. Something else was clearly going on here.

They had reached the stoop, effectively trapping him on the steps. Simon tore his iPod headphones from his ears and hastily held his hands up. “Look,” he said, “I dont know what this is about, but you really want to leave me alone. ”

The muggers just looked at him. Or at least he thought they were looking at him. Under the shadows of their hoods, it was impossible to see their faces.

“Im getting the feeling someone sent you after me,” he said. “But its a suicide mission. Seriously. I dont know what theyre paying you, but its not enough. ”

One of the tracksuited figures laughed. The other had reached into his pocket and drawn something out. Something that shone black under the streetlights.

A gun.

“Oh, man,” Simon said. “You really, really dont want to do that. Im not kidding. ” He took a step back, up one of the stairs. Maybe if he got enough height, he could actually jump over them, or past them. Anything but let them attack him. He didnt think he could face what that meant. Not again.

The man with the gun raised it. There was a click as he pulled the hammer back.

Simon bit his lip. In his panic his fangs had come out. Pain shot through him as they sank into his skin. “Dont-”

A dark object fell from the sky. At first Simon thought something had merely tumbled from one of the upper windows-an air conditioner ripping loose, or someone too lazy to drag their trash downstairs. But the falling thing, he saw, was a person-falling with direction, purpose, and grace. The person landed on the mugger, knocking him flat. The gun skittered out of his hand, and he screamed, a thin, high sound.

The second mugger bent and seized the gun. Before Simon could react, the guy had raised it and pulled the trigger. A spark of flame appeared at the guns muzzle.

And the gun blew apart. It blew apart, and the mugger blew apart along with it, too fast to even scream. He had intended a quick death for Simon, and an even quicker death was what he got in return. He shattered apart like glass, like the outward-flying colors in a kaleidoscope. There was a soft explosion-the sound of displaced air-and then nothing but a soft drizzle of salt, falling onto the pavement like solidified rain.

Simons vision blurred, and he sank down onto the steps. He was aware of a loud humming in his ears, and then someone grabbed him roughly by the wrists and shook him, hard. “Simon. Simon!”

He looked up. The person grabbing him and shaking him was Jace. The other boy wasnt in gear, but was still wearing his jeans and the jacket hed taken back from Clary. He was disheveled, his clothes and face streaked with dirt and soot. His hair was wet from the rain.

“What the hell was that?” Jace asked.

Simon looked up and down the street. It was still deserted. The asphalt shone, black and wet and empty. The second mugger was gone.

“You,” he said, a little groggily. “You jumped the muggers-”

“Those werent muggers. They were following you since you got off the subway. Someone sent those guys. ” Jace spoke with complete surety.

“The other one,” Simon said. “What happened to him?”

“He just vanished. ” Jace snapped his fingers. “He saw what happened to his friend, and he was gone, like that. I dont know what they were, exactly. Not demons, but not exactly human, either. ”

“Yeah, I figured that part out, thanks. ”

Jace looked at him more closely. “That-what happened to the mugger-that was you, wasnt it? Your Mark, here. ” He pointed at his forehead. “I saw it burn white before that guy just . . . dissolved. ”

Simon said nothing.

“Ive seen a lot,” Jace said. There was no sarcasm in his voice, for a change, or any mockery. “But Ive never seen anything like that. ”

“I didnt do it,” Simon said softly. “I didnt do anything. ”

“You didnt have to,” said Jace. His golden eyes burned in his soot-streaked face. “For it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. ”

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