City of Fallen Angels – Chapter 8: WALK IN DARKNESS

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Chapter 8: WALK IN DARKNESS

Clary had forgotten how much she hated the smell of hospitals until they walked through the front doors of Beth Israel. Sterility, metal, old coffee, and not enough bleach to cover up the stench of sickness and misery. The memory of her mothers illness, of Jocelyn lying unconscious and unresponsive in her nest of tubes and wires, hit her like a slap in the face, and she sucked in a breath, trying not to taste the air.

“Are you all right?” Jocelyn pulled the hood of her coat down and looked at Clary, her green eyes anxious.

Clary nodded, hunching her shoulders into her jacket, and looked around. The lobby was all cold marble, metal, and plastic. There was a big information desk behind which several women, probably nurses, were milling; signs pointed the way to the ICU, Radiation, Surgical Oncology, Pediatrics, and so on. She could probably have found the cafeteria in her sleep; shed brought Luke enough tepid cups of coffee from there to fill the Central Park reservoir.

“Excuse me. ” A slender nurse pushing an old man in a wheelchair went past them, nearly rolling the wheels over Clarys toes. Clary looked after her-there had been something-a shimmer-

“Dont stare, Clary,” Jocelyn said under her breath. She put her arm around Clarys shoulders, turning them both so that they faced the doors that led to the waiting room for the lab where people got their blood taken. Clary could see herself and her mother reflected in the dark glass of the doors. Though she was still half a head shorter than her mother, they really did look alike, didnt they? In the past shed always shrugged it off when people said that. Jocelyn was beautiful, and she wasnt. But the shape of their eyes and mouths were the same, as were their red hair and green eyes and slight hands. How had she gotten so little of Valentines looks, Clary wondered, when her brother had gotten them all? He had had their fathers fair hair and startling dark eyes. Though maybe, she thought, if she looked closely, she could see a little of Valentine in the stubborn set of her jaw. . .

“Jocelyn. ” They both turned. The nurse who had been pushing the old man in the wheelchair was standing in front of them. She was slim, young-looking, dark-skinned, and dark-eyed-and then, as Clary looked at her, the glamour peeled away. She was still a slight, youthful-looking woman, but now her skin was dark blue, and her hair, twisted up into a knot at the back of her head, was snowy white. The blue of her skin contrasted shockingly with her pale pink scrubs.

“Clary,” Jocelyn said. “This is Catarina Loss. She took care of me while I was here. Shes also a friend of Magnuss. ”

“Youre a warlock. ” The words came out of Clarys mouth before she could stop them.

“Shhh. ” The warlock woman looked horrified. She glared at Jocelyn. “I dont remember you saying you were going to bring your daughter along. Shes just a kid. ”

“Clarissa can behave herself. ” Jocelyn looked sternly at Clary. “Cant you?”

Clary nodded. Shed seen warlocks before, other than Magnus, at the battle in Idris. All warlocks had some feature that marked them out as not human, shed learned, like Magnuss cat eyes. Some had wings or webbed toes or taloned fingers. But having entirely blue skin was something it would be hard to hide with contacts or oversize jackets. Catarina Loss must have had to glamour herself every day just to go outside-especially working in a mundane hospital.

The warlock jerked her thumb toward the elevators. “Come on. Come with me. Lets get this done fast. ”

Clary and Jocelyn hurried after her to the bank of elevators and into the first one whose doors opened. As the doors slid shut behind them with a hiss, Catarina pressed a button marked simply M. There was an indentation in the metal beside it that indicated that floor M could be reached only with an access key, but as she touched the button, a blue spark leaped from her finger and the button lit up. The elevator began to move downward.

Catarina was shaking her head. “If you werent a friend of Magnus Banes, Jocelyn Fairchild-”

“Fray,” Jocelyn said. “I go by Jocelyn Fray now. ”

“No more Shadowhunter names for you?” Catarina smirked; her lips were startlingly red against her blue skin. “What about you, little girl? You going to be a Shadowhunter like your dad?”

Clary tried to hide her annoyance. “No,” she said. “Im going to be a Shadowhunter, but Im not going to be like my father. And my names Clarissa, but you can call me Clary. ”

The elevator came to a stop; the doors slid open. The warlock womans blue eyes rested on Clary for a moment. “Oh, I know your name,” she said. “Clarissa Morgenstern. Little girl who stopped a big war. ”

“I guess so. ” Clary walked out of the elevator after Catarina, her mother close behind. “Were you there? I dont remember seeing you. ”

“Catarina was here,” said Jocelyn, a little breathless from hurrying to keep up. They were walking down an almost totally featureless hallway; there were no windows, and no doors along the corridor. The walls were painted a sickly pale green. “She helped Magnus use the Book of the White to wake me up. Then she stayed behind to watch over it while he returned to Idris. ”

“To watch over the book?”

“Its a very important book,” said Catarina, her rubber-soled shoes slapping against the floor as she hurried ahead.

“I thought it was a very important war,” Clary muttered under her breath.

They had finally reached a door. There was a square of frosted glass set in it, and the word “morgue” was painted on it in large black letters. Catarina turned with her hand on the knob, a look of amusement on her face, and gazed at Clary. “I learned early on in my life that I had a healing gift,” she said. “Its the kind of magic I do. So I work here, for crap pay, at this hospital, and I do what I can to heal mundanes who would scream if they knew what I really looked like. I could make a fortune selling my skills to Shadowhunters and dumb mundanes who think they know what magic is, but I dont. I work here. So dont get all high-and-mighty on me, little redheaded girl. Youre no better than me, just because youre famous. ”

Clarys cheeks flamed. She had never thought of herself as famous before. “Youre right,” she said. “Im sorry. ”

The warlocks blue eyes flicked to Jocelyn, who looked white and tense. “You ready?”

Jocelyn nodded, and looked at Clary, who nodded as well. Catarina pushed the door open, and they followed her into the morgue.

The first thing that struck Clary was the chill. It was freezing inside the room, and she hastily zipped her jacket. The second was the smell, the harsh stench of cleaning products overlaying the sweetish odor of decay. Yellowish light flooded down from the fluorescent lights overhead. Two large, bare exam tables stood in the center of the room; there was a sink as well, and a metal stand with a scale on it for weighing organs. Along one wall was a bank of steel compartments, like safe-deposit boxes in a bank, but much bigger. Catarina crossed the room to one, took hold of the handle, and pulled it; it slid out on rollers. Inside, lying on a metal slab, was the body of an infant.

Jocelyn made a little noise in her throat. A moment later she had hurried to Catarinas side; Clary followed more slowly. She had seen dead bodies before-she had seen Max Lightwoods dead body, and she had known him. He had been only nine years old. But a baby-

Jocelyn put her hand over her mouth. Her eyes were very large and dark, fixed on the body of the child. Clary looked down. At first glance the baby-a boy-looked normal. He had all ten fingers and all ten toes. But looking closer-looking the way she would look if she wanted to see past a glamour-she saw that the childs fingers were not fingers at all, but claws, curving inward, sharply pointed. The childs skin was gray, and its eyes, wide open and staring, were absolutely black-not just the irises, but the whites as well.

Jocelyn whispered, “Thats how Jonathans eyes were when he was born-like black tunnels. They changed later, to look more human, but I remember. . . . ”

And with a shudder she turned and hurried from the room, the morgue door swinging shut behind her.

Clary glanced at Catarina, who looked impassive. “The doctors couldnt tell?” she asked. “I mean, his eyes-and those hands-”

Catarina shook her head. “They dont see what they dont want to see,” she said, and shrugged. “Theres some kind of magic at work here I havent seen much of before. Demon magic. Bad stuff. ” She slipped something out of her pocket. It was a swatch of fabric, tucked into a plastic Ziploc bag. “This is a piece of what he was wrapped in when they brought him in. It stinks of demon magic too. Give it to your mother. Maybe she can show it to the Silent Brothers, see if they can get something from it. Find out who did this. ”

Numbly, Clary took it. As her hands closed over the bag, a rune rose up behind her eyes-a matrix of lines and swirls, the whisper of an image that was gone as soon as she slid the Baggie into the pocket of her coat.

Her heart was pounding, though. This isnt going to the Silent Brothers, she thought. Not till I see what that rune does to it.

“Youll talk to Magnus?” said Catarina. “Tell him I showed your mama what she wanted to see. ”

Clary nodded mechanically, like a doll. Suddenly all she wanted was to get out of there, out of the yellow-lit room, away from the smell of death and the tiny defiled body lying still on its slab. She thought of her mother, every year on Jonathans birthday taking out that box and crying over the lock of his hair, crying over the son she should have had, replaced by a thing like this one. I dont think this was what she wanted to see, Clary thought. I think this was what she was hoping was impossible. But “Sure,” was all she said. “Ill tell him. ”

The Alto Bar was your typical hipster dive, located partially under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway overpass in Greenpoint. But it had an all-ages night every Saturday, and Eric was friends with the owner, so they let Simons band play pretty much any Saturday they wanted, despite the fact that they kept changing their name and couldnt be counted on to draw a crowd.

Kyle and the other band members were already onstage, setting up their equipment and doing final checks. They were going to run through one of their old sets, with Kyle on vocals; he learned lyrics fast, and they were feeling pretty confident. Simon had agreed to stay backstage until the show started, which seemed to relieve some of Kyles stress. Now Simon peered around the dusty velvet curtain at the back of the stage, trying to get a glimpse of who might be out there.

The interior of the bar had once been stylishly decorated, with pressed-tin walls and ceiling, reminiscent of an old speakeasy, and frosted art deco glass behind the bar. It was a lot grungier now than it had been when it opened, with permanent smoke stains on the walls. The floor was covered in sawdust that had formed into clumps as a result of beer spills and worse.

On the plus side, the tables that lined the walls were mostly full. Simon saw Isabelle sitting at a table by herself, dressed in a short silver mesh dress that looked like chain mail, and her demon-stomping boots. Her hair was pulled up into a messy bun, stuck through with silver chopsticks. Simon knew each of those chopsticks was razor sharp, able to slice through metal or bone. Her lipstick was bright red, like fresh blood.

Get a grip, Simon told himself. Stop thinking about blood.

More tables were taken up by other friends of the band. Blythe and Kate, the respective girlfriends of Kirk and Matt, were at a table together sharing a plate of pallid-looking nachos. Eric had various girlfriends scattered at tables around the room, and most of his friends from school were there too, making the place look a lot more full. Sitting off in the corner, at a table all by herself, was Maureen, Simons one fan-a tiny waifish blond girl who looked about twelve but claimed she was sixteen. He figured she was probably actually about fourteen. Seeing him sticking his head around the curtain, she waved and smiled vigorously.

Simon pulled his head back in like a turtle, yanking the curtains closed.

“Hey,” said Jace, who was sitting on an overturned speaker, looking at his cell phone, “do you want to see a photo of Alec and Magnus in Berlin?”

“Not really,” said Simon.

“Magnus is wearing lederhosen. ”

“And yet, still no. ”

Jace shoved the phone into his pocket and looked at Simon quizzically. “Are you okay?”

“Yes,” Simon said, but he wasnt. He felt light-headed and nauseated and tense, which he put down to the strain of worrying about what was going to happen tonight. And it didnt help that he hadnt fed; he was going to have to deal with that, and soon. He wished Clary were here, but he knew she couldnt come. She had some wedding responsibility to attend to, and had told him a long time ago that she wasnt going to be able to make it. Hed passed that on to Jace before theyd gotten here. Jace had seemed both miserably relieved and also disappointed, all at the same time, which was impressive.

“Hey, hey,” Kyle said, ducking through the curtain. “Were just about ready to go. ” He looked at Simon closely. “You sure about this?”

Simon looked from Kyle to Jace. “Did you know you two match?”

They glanced down at themselves, and then at each other. Both were wearing jeans and long-sleeved black T-shirts. Jace tugged on his shirt hem with slight self-consciousness. “I borrowed this from Kyle. My other shirt was pretty filthy. ”

“Wow, youre wearing each others clothes now. Thats, like, best-friend stuff. ”

“Feeling left out?” said Kyle. “I suppose you want to borrow a black T-shirt too. ”

Simon did not state the obvious, which was that nothing that fit Kyle or Jace was likely to fit his skinny frame. “As long as everyones wearing their own pants. ”

“I see I have come in on a fascinating moment in the conversation. ” Eric poked his head through the curtain. “Come on. Its time to start. ”

As Kyle and Simon headed for the stage, Jace got to his feet. Just below the hem of his borrowed shirt, Simon could see the glittering edge of a dagger. “Break a leg up there,” Jace said with a wicked grin. “And Ill be down here, hopefully breaking someone elses. ”

Raphael had been supposed to come at twilight, but he kept them waiting almost three hours past the appointed time before his Projection appeared in the Institute library.

Vampire politics, thought Luke dryly. The head of the New York vampire clan would come, if he must, when the Shadowhunters called; but he would not be summoned, and he would not be punctual. Luke had spent the past few hours whiling away the time by reading several of the librarys books; Maryse hadnt been interested in talking and had spent most of the time standing by the window, drinking red wine out of a cut-crystal glass and staring at the traffic going by on York Avenue.

She turned as Raphael appeared, like a white chalk drawing on the darkness. First the pallor of his face and hands became visible, and then the darkness of his clothes and hair. Finally he stood, filled in, a solid-looking Projection. He looked at Maryse hurrying toward him and said, “You called, Shadowhunter?” He turned then, his gaze sweeping over Luke. “And the wolf-human is here too, I see. Have I been summoned to a sort of Council?”

“Not exactly. ” Maryse set her glass down on the desktop. “You have heard about the recent deaths, Raphael? The Shadowhunter bodies that have been found?”

Raphael raised expressive eyebrows. “I have. I did not think to make note of it. It has nothing to do with my clan. ”

“One body found in warlock territory, one in wolf territory, one in faerie territory,” said Luke. “I imagine your folk will be next. It seems a clear attempt to foment discord among Downworlders. I am here in good faith, to show you that I do not believe that you are responsible, Raphael. ”

“What a relief,” Raphael said, but his eyes were dark and watchful. “Why would there be any suggestion that I was?”

“One of the dead was able to tell us who attacked him,” said Maryse carefully. “Before he-died-he let us know that the person responsible was Camille. ”

“Camille. ” Raphaels voice was careful, but his expression, before he schooled it into blankness, showed fleeting shock. “But that is not possible. ”

“Why is it not possible, Raphael?” Luke asked. “She is the head of your clan. She is very powerful and famously quite ruthless. And she seems to have disappeared. She never came to Idris to fight with you in the war. She never agreed to the new Accords. No Shadowhunter has seen or heard tell of her in months-until now. ”

Raphael said nothing.

“There is something going on,” Maryse said. “We wanted to give you the chance to explain it to us before we told the Clave of Camilles involvement. A show of good faith. ”

“Yes,” said Raphael. “Yes, it is certainly a show. ”

“Raphael,” said Luke, not unkindly. “You dont have to protect her. If you care for her-”

“Care for her?” Raphael turned aside and spat, though as he was a Projection, this was more for show than result. “I hate her. I despise her. Every evening when I rise, I wish her dead. ”

“Oh,” said Maryse delicately. “Then, perhaps-”

“She led us for years,” said Raphael. “She was the clan head when I was made a vampire, and that was fifty years ago. Before that, she came to us from London. She was a stranger to the city but ruthless enough to rise to head the Manhattan clan in only a few short months. Last year I became her second in command. Then, some months ago, I discovered that she had been killing humans. Killing them for sport, and drinking their blood. Breaking the Law. It happens sometimes. Vampires go rogue and there is nothing that can be done to stop them. But for it to happen to the head of a clan-they are supposed to be better than that. ” He stood still, his dark eyes inward-looking, lost in his memories. “We are not like the wolves, those savages. We do not kill one leader to find another. For a vampire to raise a hand against another vampire is the worst of crimes, even if that vampire has broken the Law. And Camille has many allies, many followers. I could not risk ending her. Instead I went to her and told her she had to leave us, to get out, or I would go to the Clave. I didnt want to do that, of course, because I knew that if it were discovered, it would bring wrath down on the entire clan. We would be distrusted, investigated. We would be shamed and humiliated in front of other clans. ”

Maryse made an impatient noise. “There are more important things than loss of face. ”

“When you are a vampire, it can mean the difference between life and death. ” Raphaels voice dropped. “I gambled that she would believe I would do it, and she did. She agreed to go. I sent her away, but it left behind a conundrum. I could not take her place, for she had not abdicated it. I could not explain her departure without revealing what she had done. I had to pose it as a long absence, a need to travel. Wanderlust is not unheard of in our kind; it comes upon us now and then. When you can live forever, staying in one place can come to seem a dull prison after many, many years. ”

“And how long did you think you could keep up the charade?” Luke inquired.

“As long as I could,” said Raphael. “Until now, it seems. ” He looked away from them, toward the window and the sparkling night outside.

Luke leaned back against one of the bookshelves. He was vaguely amused to notice that he seemed to be in the shape-shifter section, lined with volumes on the topics of werewolves, naga, kitsunes, and selkies. “You might be interested to know she has been telling much the same story about you,” he said, neglecting to mention whom she had been telling it to.

“I thought she had left the city. ”

“Perhaps she did, but she has returned,” said Maryse. “And she is no longer satisfied only with human blood, it seems. ”

“I do not know what I can tell you,” said Raphael. “I was trying to protect my clan. If the Law must punish me, then I will accept punishment. ”

“We arent interested in punishing you, Raphael,” said Luke. “Not unless you refuse to cooperate. ”

Raphael turned back to them, his dark eyes burning. “Cooperate with what?”

“We would like to capture Camille. Alive,” said Maryse. “We want to question her. We need to know why she has been killing Shadowhunters-and these Shadowhunters in particular. ”

“If you sincerely hope to accomplish this, I hope you have a very clever plan. ” There was a mixture of amusement and scorn in Raphaels voice. “Camille is cunning even for our kind, and we are very cunning indeed. ”

“I have a plan,” said Luke. “It involves the Daylighter. Simon Lewis. ”

Raphael made a face. “I dislike him,” he said. “I would rather not be a part of a plan that relies upon his involvement. ”

“Well,” said Luke, “isnt that too bad for you. ”

Stupid, Clary thought. Stupid not to bring an umbrella. The faint drizzle that her mother had told her was coming that morning had turned into nearly full-blown rain by the time she reached the Alto Bar on Lorimer Street. She pushed past the knot of people smoking out on the sidewalk and ducked gratefully into the dry warmth of the bar inside.

Millennium Lint was already onstage, the guys whaling away on their instruments, and Kyle, at the front, growling sexily into a microphone. Clary felt a moment of satisfaction. It was largely down to her influence that theyd hired Kyle at all, and he was clearly doing them proud.

She glanced around the room, hoping to see either Maia or Isabelle. She knew it wouldnt be both of them, since Simon carefully invited them only to alternating gigs. Her gaze fell on a slender figure with black hair, and she moved toward that table, only to stop midway. It wasnt Isabelle at all, but a much older woman, her face made up with dark outlined eyes. She was wearing a power suit and reading a newspaper, apparently oblivious to the music.

“Clary! Over here!” Clary turned and saw the actual Isabelle, seated at a table close to the stage. She wore a dress that shone like a silver beacon; Clary navigated toward it and flung herself down in the seat opposite Izzy. “Got caught in the rain, I see,” Isabelle observed.

Clary pushed her damp hair back from her face with a rueful smile. “You bet against Mother Nature, you lose. ”

Isabelle raised her dark eyebrows. “I thought you werent coming tonight. Simon said you had some wedding blah-blah to deal with. ” Isabelle was not impressed with weddings or any of the trappings of romantic love, as far as Clary could tell.

“My mom wasnt feeling well,” Clary said. “She decided to reschedule. ”

This was true, up to a point. When theyd come home from the hospital, Jocelyn had gone into her room and shut the door. Clary, feeling helpless and frustrated, had heard her crying softly through the door, but her mom had refused to let her in or to talk about it. Eventually Luke had come home, and Clary had gratefully left the care of her mother to him and headed out to kick around the city before going to see Simons band. She always tried to come to his gigs if she could, and besides, talking to him would make her feel better.

“Huh. ” Isabelle didnt inquire further. Sometimes her almost total lack of interest in other peoples problems was something of a relief. “Well, Im sure Simon will be glad you came. ”

Clary glanced toward the stage. “Hows the show been so far?”

“Fine. ” Isabelle chewed thoughtfully on her straw. “That new lead singer they have is hot. Is he single? Id like to ride him around town like a bad, bad pony-”

“Isabelle!”

“What?” Isabelle glanced over at her and shrugged. “Oh, whatever. Simon and I arent exclusive. I told you that. ”

Admittedly, Clary thought, Simon didnt have a leg to stand on in this particular situation. But he was still her friend. She was about to say something in his defense when she glanced toward the stage again-and something caught her eye. A familiar figure, emerging from the stage door. She would have recognized him anywhere, at any time, no matter how dark the room or how unexpected the sight of him.

Jace. He was dressed like a mundane: jeans, a tight black T-shirt that showed the movement of the slim muscles in his shoulders and back. His hair gleamed under the stage lights. Covert gazes watched him as he moved toward the wall and leaned against it, looking intently toward the front of the room. Clary felt her heart begin to pound. It felt like it had been forever since shed last seen him, though she knew it had been only about a day. And yet, already, watching him seemed like watching someone distant, a stranger. What was he even doing here? He didnt like Simon! Hed never come to a single one of the bands performances before.

“Clary!” Isabelle sounded accusing. Clary turned to see that shed accidentally upset Isabelles glass, and water was dripping off the other girls lovely silver dress.

Isabelle, grabbing a napkin, looked at her darkly. “Just talk to him,” she said. “I know you want to. ”

“Im sorry,” Clary said.

Isabelle made a shooing gesture in her direction. “Go. ”

Clary got up, smoothing down her dress. If shed known Jace was going to be here, she would have worn something other than red tights, boots, and a vintage hot-pink Betsey Johnson dress of hers shed found hanging in Lukes spare closet. Once, shed thought the flower-shaped green buttons that ran all the way up the front were funky and cool, but now she just felt less put-together and sophisticated than Isabelle.

She pushed her way across the floor, which was now crowded with people either dancing or standing in place, drinking beer, and swaying a little to the music. She couldnt help but remember the first time shed ever seen Jace. It had been in a club, and shed watched him across the floor, watched his bright hair and the arrogant set of his shoulders. Shed thought he was beautiful, but not in any way that applied to her. He wasnt the sort of boy you could have dated, shed thought. He existed apart from that world.

He didnt notice her now until she was nearly standing in front of him. Up close, she could see how tired he looked, as if he hadnt slept in days. His face was tight with exhaustion, the bones sharp-looking under the skin. He was leaning against the wall, his fingers hooked in the loops of his belt, his pale gold eyes watchful.

“Jace,” she said.

He started, and turned to look at her. For a moment his eyes lit, the way they always did when he saw her, and she felt a wild hope rise in her chest.

Almost instantly the light went out of them, and the remaining color drained out of his face. “I thought-Simon said you werent coming. ”

A wave of nausea passed over her, and she put her hand out to steady herself against the wall. “So you only came because you thought I wouldnt be here?”

He shook his head. “I-”

“Were you ever planning on talking to me again?” Clary felt her voice rise, and forced it back down with a vicious effort. Her hands were now tight at her sides, her nails cutting hard into her palms. “If youre going to break it off, the least you could do is tell me, not just stop talking to me and leave me to figure it out on my own. ”

“Why,” Jace said, “does everyone keep goddamn asking me if Im going to break up with you? First Simon, and now-”

“You talked to Simon about us?” Clary shook her head. “Why? Why arent you talking to me?”

“Because I cant talk to you,” Jace said. “I cant talk to you, I cant be with you, I cant even look at you. ”

Clary sucked her breath in; it felt like breathing battery acid. “What?”

He seemed to realize what he had said, and lapsed into an appalled silence. For a moment they simply looked at each other. Then Clary turned and darted back through the crowd, pushing her way past flailing elbows and knots of chatting people, blind to everything but getting to the door as quickly as she could.

“And now,” Eric yelled into his microphone, “were going to sing a new song-one we just wrote. This ones for my girlfriend. Weve been going out for three weeks, and, damn, our love is true. Were gonna be together forever, baby. This ones called Bang You Like a Drum. ”

There was laughter and applause from the audience as the music started up, though Simon wasnt sure if Eric realized they thought he was joking, which he wasnt. Eric was always in love with whatever girl hed just started dating, and he always wrote an inappropriate song about it. Normally Simon wouldnt have cared, but hed really hoped they were going to get off the stage after the previous song. He felt worse than ever-dizzy, sticky and sick with sweat, his mouth tasting metallic, like old blood.

The music crashed around him, sounding like nails being pounded into his eardrums. His fingers slipped and slid on the strings as he played, and he saw Kirk look over at him quizzically. He tried to force himself to focus, to concentrate, but it was like trying to start a car with a dead battery. There was an empty grinding noise in his head, but no spark.

He stared out into the bar, looking-he wasnt even quite sure why-for Isabelle, but he could see only a sea of white faces turned toward him, and he remembered his first night in the Dumont Hotel and the faces of the vampires turned toward him, like white paper flowers unfolding against a dark emptiness. A surge of gripping, painful nausea seized him. He staggered back, his hands falling away from the guitar. The ground under his feet felt as if it were moving. The other members of the band, caught up in the music, didnt seem to notice. Simon tore the strap of the guitar off his shoulder and pushed past Matt to the curtain at the back of the stage, ducking through it just in time to fall to his knees and retch.

Nothing came up. His stomach felt as hollow as a well. He stood up and leaned against the wall, pressing his icy hands against his face. It had been weeks since hed felt either cold or hot, but now he felt feverish-and scared. What was happening to him?

He remembered Jace saying, Youre a vampire. Blood isnt like food for you. Blood is . . . blood. Could all this be because he hadnt eaten? But he didnt feel hungry, or even thirsty, really. He felt as sick as if he were dying. Maybe hed been poisoned. Maybe the Mark of Cain didnt protect against something like that?

He moved slowly toward the fire door that would take him out onto the street in back of the club. Maybe the cold air outside would clear his head. Maybe all this was just exhaustion and nerves.

“Simon?” A little voice, like a birds chirp. He looked down with dread, and saw that Maureen was standing at his elbow. She looked even tinier close up-little birdlike bones and a lot of very pale blond hair, which cascaded down her shoulders from beneath a knitted pink cap. She wore rainbow-stripe arm warmers and a short-sleeved white T-shirt with a screen print of Strawberry Shortcake on it. Simon groaned inwardly.

“This really isnt a good time, Mo,” he said.

“I just want to take a picture of you on my camera phone,” she said, pushing her hair back behind her ears nervously. “So I can show it to my friends, okay?”

“Fine. ” His head was pounding. This was ridiculous. It wasnt like he was overwhelmed with fans. Maureen was literally the bands only fan, that he knew about, and was Erics little cousins friend, to boot. He supposed he couldnt really afford to alienate her. “Go ahead. Take it. ”

She raised her phone and clicked, then frowned. “Now one with you and me?” She sidled up to him quickly, pressing herself against his side. He could smell strawberry lip gloss on her, and under that, the smell of salt sweat and saltier human blood. She looked up at him, holding the phone up and out with her free hand, and grinned. She had a gap between her two front teeth, and a blue vein in her throat. It pulsed as she drew a breath.

“Smile,” she said.

Twin jolts of pain went through Simon as his fangs slid free, digging into his lip. He heard Maureen gasp, and then her phone went flying as he caught hold of her and spun her toward him, and his canine teeth sank into her throat.

Blood exploded into his mouth, the taste of it like nothing else. It was as if he had been starving for air and now was breathing, inhaling great gasps of cold, clean oxygen, and Maureen struggled and pushed at him, but he barely noticed. He didnt even notice when she went limp, her dead weight dragging him to the floor so that he was lying on top of her, his hands gripping her shoulders, clenching and unclenching as he drank.

You have never fed on someone purely human, have you? Camille had said. You will.

And when you do, you will never forget it.

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