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Saving Raphael Santiago - [Bane Chronicles 06]

Cassandra Clare

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  It was a violent heat wave in the late summer of 1953. The sun was viciously pummeling the pavement, which seemed to have become flatter than usual in submission, and some Bowery boys were opening a fire hydrant to make a fountain in the street and gain a few minutes of relief.

  It was the sun getting to him, Magnus thought later, that had filled him with the desire to be a private eye. That and the Raymond Chandler novel he had just completed.

  Still, there was a problem with the plan. On the covers of books and in films, most detectives looked like they were dressed up in Sunday suits for a small-town jamboree. Magnus wished to wash away the stain of his newly adopted profession and dress in a way that was both suitable to the profession, pleasing to the eye, and on the cutting edge of fashion. He ditched the trench coat and added some green velvet cuffs to his gray suit jacket, along with a curly-brimmed bowler hat.

  The heat was so awful that he had to take off his jacket as soon as he set foot out of doors, but it was the thought that counted, and besides, he was wearing emerald-green suspenders.

  Becoming a detective wasn’t really a decision based wholly on his wardrobe. He was a warlock, and people—well, not everyone thought of them as people—often came to him for magical solutions to their problems, which he gave them, for a fee. Word had spread throughout New York that Magnus was the warlock who would get you out of a jam. There was a Sanctuary, too, up in Brooklyn, if you needed to hide, but the witch who ran it didn’t solve your problems. Magnus solved problems. So why not get paid for it?

  Magnus had not thought that simply deciding to become a private eye would cause a case to land in his lap the moment he painted the words MAGNUS BANE, PRIVATE DETECTIVE onto his window in bold black letters. But as if someone had whispered his private conviction into Fate’s ear, a case arrived.

  Magnus arrived back at his apartment building after getting an ice-cream cone, and when he saw her, he was glad that he’d finished it. She was clearly one of those mundanes who knew enough about the Shadow World to come to Magnus for magic.

  He tipped his hat to her and said, “Can I help you, ma’am?”

  She wasn’t a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole through a stained-glass window. She was a small dark woman and though she was not beautiful, she had a bright, intelligent charm about her, powerful enough so that if she wanted any windows smashed, Magnus would see what he could do. She was wearing a slightly worn but still very becoming plaid dress, belted at her small waist. She looked to be in her late thirties, the same age as Magnus’s current lady companion, and under black curling hair she had a small heart-shaped face, and eyebrows so thin that they gave her a challenging air that made her both more attractive and more intimidating.

  She shook his hand, her hand small but her grip firm. “I am Guadalupe Santiago,” she said. “You are a—” She waved her hand. “I do not know the word for it precisely. A sorcerer, a magic maker.”

  “You can say ‘warlock,’ if you like,” said Magnus. “It doesn’t matter. What you mean is, someone with the power to help you.”

  “Yes,” said Guadalupe. “Yes, that’s what I meant. I need you to help me. I need you to save my son.”

  Magnus ushered her in. He thought he understood the situation now that she had mentioned help for a relative. People would often come to him for healing, not as often as they came to Catarina Loss but often enough. He would much rather heal a young mundane boy than one of the haughty Shadowhunters who came to him so often, even if there was less money in it for him.

  “Tell me about your son,” he said.

  “Raphael,” said Guadalupe. “His name is Raphael.”

  “Tell me about Raphael,” said Magnus. “How long has he been sick?”

  “He is not sick,” said Guadalupe. “I fear he may be dead.” Her voice was firm, as if she were not voicing what must assuredly be the most horrible fear of every parent.

  Magnus frowned. “I don’t know what people have told you, but I can’t help with that.”

  Guadalupe held up a hand. “This is not about ordinary sickness or anything that anyone in my world can cure,” she told him. “This is about your world, and how it has touched mine. This is about the monsters from whom God has turned his face away, those who watch in the darkness and prey on innocents.”

  She took a turn about his living room, her plaid skirt belling about her brown legs.

  “Los vampiros,” she whispered.

  “Oh God, not the bloody vampires again,” said Magnus. “No pun intended.”

  The dread words spoken, Guadalupe regained her courage and proceeded with her tale. “We have all heard whispers of such creatures,” she said. “Then there were more than whispers. There was one of the monsters, creeping around our neighborhood. Taking little girls and boys. One of my Raphael’s friends, his small brother was taken and found almost on his own doorstep, his little body drained of blood. We prayed, we mothers all prayed, every family prayed, that the scourge would be lifted. But my Raphael, he had started hanging around with a crowd of boys who were a little older than him. Good boys, you understand, from good families, but a little—rough, wanting a little too much to show that they were men before they truly were men at all, if you know what I mean?”

  Magnus had stopped making jokes. A vampire hunting children for sport—a vampire who had the taste for it and no inclination to stop—was no joke. He met Guadalupe’s eyes with a level, serious gaze, to show that he understood.

  “They formed a gang,” said Guadalupe. “Not one of the street gangs, but—well, it was to protect our streets from the monster, they said. They tracked him to his lair once, and they were all talking about how they knew where he was, how they could go get him. I should have— I was not paying attention to the boys’ talk. I was afraid for my younger boys, and it all seemed like a game. But then Raphael, and all his friends . . . they disappeared, a few nights ago. They’d stayed out all night before, but this—this is too long. Raphael would never make me worry like this. I want you to find out where the vampire is, and I want you to go after my son. If Raphael is alive, I want you to save him.”

  If a vampire had already killed human children, a gang of teenagers coming after him would seem like bonbons delivered to his door. This woman’s son was dead.

  Magnus bowed his head. “I will try to find out what happened to him.”

  “No,” said the woman.

  Magnus found himself looking up, arrested by her voice.

  “You don’t know my Raphael,” she said. “But I do. He is with older boys, but he is not the tagalong. They all listen to him. He is only fifteen, but he is as strong and as quick and as clever as a grown man. If only one of them has survived, he will be that one. Do not go looking for his body. Go and save Raphael.”

  “You have my word,” Magnus promised her, and meant it.

  He was in a hurry to leave. Before he visited the Hotel Dumont, the place which had been abandoned by mortals and haunted by vampires since the 1920s, the place where Raphael and his friends had gone, he had other inquiries to make. Other Downworlders would know about a vampire who was breaking the Law that flagrantly, even if they had been hoping the vampires would work it
out among themselves, even if the other Downworlders had not yet decided to go to the Shadowhunters.

  Guadalupe grasped Magnus’s hand before he went, though, and her fingers clung to him. Her challenging look had turned beseeching. Magnus had the feeling she would never have begged for herself, but she was willing to beg for her boy.

  “I gave him a cross to wear around his throat,” she said. “The padre at Saint Cecilia’s gave it to me with his own hands, and I gave it to Raphael. It is small and made of gold; you will know him by it.” She took a shaking breath. “I gave him a cross.”

  “Then you gave him a chance,” said Magnus.

  Go to faeries for gossip about vampires, to werewolves for gossip about faeries, and do not gossip about werewolves, because they try to bite your face off: that was Magnus’s motto.

  He happened to know a faerie who worked in Lou Walters’s Latin Quarter nightclub, on the seedier and nakeder side of Times Square. Magnus had gone to see Mae West here a time or two and had spotted a chorus girl with a glamour that covered up her faerie wings and pale amethyst skin. He and Aeval had been friendly ever since—as friendly as you could be when both you and the dame were in it only for information.

  She was sitting on the steps, already in costume. There was a great deal of delicate lilac flesh on display.

  “I’m here to see a faerie about a vampire,” he said in a low voice, and she laughed.

  Magnus couldn’t laugh back. He had the feeling that he would not be able to shake off the memory of Guadalupe’s face or her hold on his arm anytime soon. “I’m looking for a boy. Human. Taken by one of the Spanish Harlem clan, most likely.”

  Aeval shrugged, one graceful fluid motion. “You know vampires. Could be any one of them.”

  Magnus hesitated, and then added, “The word is, this vampire likes them very young.”

  “In that case . . .” Aeval fluttered her wings. Even the most hardened Downworlders didn’t like the thought of preying on children. “I might have heard something about a Louis Karnstein.”

  Magnus motioned for her to go on, leaning in and tipping back his hat so she could speak into his ear.

  “He was living in Hungary until very recently. He’s old and powerful, which is why the Lady Camille has welcomed him. And he has a particular fondness for children. He thinks their blood is the purest and sweetest, as young flesh is the tenderest. He was chased out of Hungary by mundanes who found his lair . . . who found all the children in it.”

  Save Raphael, Magnus thought. It seemed a more and more impossible mission.

  Aeval looked at him, her huge oval eyes betraying a faint flicker of worry. When the fey were worried, it was time to panic.

  “Get it done, warlock,” she said. “You know what the Shadowhunters will do if they find out about someone like that. If Karnstein is up to his old tricks in our city, it will be the worse for us all. The Nephilim will kill every vampire they see. It will be seraph blades first and questions later for everybody.”

  Magnus did not like to go near the Hotel Dumont if he could help it. It was decrepit and unsettling, it held bad memories, and it also occasionally held his evil former lady love.

  But today it seemed like the hotel was his inescapable destination.

  The sun was scalding in the sky, but it would not be for long. If Magnus had vampires to fight, he wanted to do it when they were at their weakest.

  The Hotel Dumont was still beautiful, but barely so, Magnus thought as he walked inside. It was being buried by time, thick clusters of spiderwebs forming curtains on every arch. Ever since the twenties the vampires had considered it their private property and had hung around there. Magnus had never asked how Camille and the vampires had been involved in the tragedy of the 1920s, or what right they felt they now had to the building. Possibly the vampires simply enjoyed the allure of a place that was both decadent and abandoned. Nobody else came near it. The mundanes whispered that it was haunted.

  Magnus had not let go of the hope that mundanes would come back, claim and restore it, and chase the vampires away. It would annoy Camille so much.

  A young vampire hurried toward Magnus across the foyer, the colors of her red-and-green cheongsam and her henna-dyed hair vivid in the gray gloom.

  “You are not welcome here, warlock!” she said.

  “Am I not? Oh dear, what a social faux pas. I do apologize. Before I go, may I ask one thing? What can you tell me about Louis Karnstein?” Magnus asked conversationally. “And the children he has been bringing into the hotel and murdering?”

  The girl shrank back as if Magnus had brandished a cross in her face.

  “He’s a guest here,” she said, low. “And the Lady Camille said we were to show him every honor. We didn’t know.”

  “No?” Magnus asked, and disbelief colored his voice like a drop of blood in water.

  The vampires of New York were careful, of course. There was a minimum of human bloodshed, and any “accidents” were covered up fast, under the nose of Shadowhunters as they were. Magnus could easily believe, however, that if Camille had reason to please a guest, she would let him get away with murder. She would do it as easily as she would have the guest plied with luxurious surroundings: silver, velvet, and human lives.

  And Magnus did not believe for a second that once Louis Karnstein had brought the succulent morsels home, carrying all the blame but willing to share some of the blood, that they had not feasted. He looked at the delicate girl and wondered how many people she had killed.

  “Would you rather,” he said very gently, “that I go away and come back with the Nephilim?”

  The Nephilim—the bogeyman for monsters, and all those who could be monsters. Magnus was sure this girl could be a monster if she wanted. He knew that he could be a monster himself.

  He knew something else. He did not intend to leave a young boy in the monsters’ lair.

  The girl’s eyes widened. “You’re Magnus Bane,” she said.

  “Yes,” Magnus said. It was sometimes good to be recognized.

  “The bodies are upstairs. In the blue room. He likes to play with them . . . after.” She shuddered and stepped out of his way, disappearing back into the shadows.

  Magnus squared his shoulders. He assumed the conversation had been overheard, since no challenge was offered to him and no other vampires arrived as he made his way up the curving staircase, the gold and scarlet of it lost under a carpet of gray but the shape intact. He went higher and higher to the apartments, where he knew that the vampire clan of New York would entertain their valued guests.

  He found the blue room easily enough: it was one of the largest and had probably been the most grand of the hotel’s apartments. If this had still been a hotel in any normal sense of the word, the guest in these quarters would have had to pay substantial damages. A hole had been staved in the high ceiling. The arched ceiling had been painted baby blue, robin’s egg blue, the delicate blue that artists imagined the summer sky to be.

  The true summer sky showed through the hole in the roof, a blazing unforgiving white, as relentless as the hunger that drove Karnstein, burning as brightly as a torch wielded by someone going to face a monster.

  Magnus saw dust all over the floor, dust that he did not think was simply an indication of the accumulation of time. He saw dust, and he saw bodies: humped-up, tossed aside like rag dolls, sprawled like crushed spiders upon the ground and against the walls. There was no grace in death.

  There were the bodies of teenage boys, the ones who had come in an eager fearless bevy to hunt the predator who was stalking their streets, who had innocently thought good would triumph. And there were other bodies, the older bodies of younger children. The children that Louis Karnstein had seized off Raphael Santiago’s streets, and killed, and kept.

  There was no saving these children, Magnus thought. There was nothing in this room but blood and death, and the echo of fear, the loss of all possibility of redemption.

  Louis Karnstein was mad, then. It hap
pened sometimes, with age and distance from humanity. Magnus had seen it happen with a fellow warlock thirty years before.

  Magnus hoped if he ever went mad like that himself, so mad that he poisoned the very air around him and hurt everyone he came into contact with, that there would be someone who loved him enough to stop him. To kill him, if it came to that.

  Arterial spray and bloody handprints decorated the dingy blue walls, and on the floor there were dark pools. There was human and vampire blood: vampire blood a deeper red, a red that stayed red even when it dried, red forever and always. Magnus edged around the spots, but in one pool of human blood he saw something glittering, submerged almost past hope but with a stubborn shine that caught his eye.

  Magnus stooped and plucked the shining thing out of that dark pool. It was a cross, small and golden, and he thought that he could return this to Guadalupe at least. He put it in his pocket.

  Magnus took a step forward, and then another step. He was not sure the floor would hold him, he told himself, but he knew that was only an excuse. He did not want to step out amid all that death.

  But suddenly he knew that he had to.

  He had to because at the farthest corner of the room, in the deepest shadows, he heard ugly, greedy sucking sounds. He saw a boy in the arms of a vampire.

  Magnus lifted his hand, and the force of his magic flung the vampire through the air into one of the blood-streaked walls. Magnus heard a crack and saw the vampire slump to the ground. He would not stay down long.

  Magnus ran across the room, stumbling over the bodies and sliding on the blood, to fall to his knees beside the boy, to gather him into his arms. He was young, fifteen or sixteen, and he was dying.

  Magnus could not magic blood into a body, especially not one already shutting down from the lack of it. He cradled the boy’s lolling dark head in one hand, watched his fluttering eyelids, and waited to see if there might be a moment in which the boy could focus. In which Magnus could tell him good-bye.

  The boy never looked at him and never spoke. He clutched at Magnus’s hand. Magnus thought he was reaching out by reflex, as a baby might, but Magnus held on and tried to give the boy what comfort he could.