The Fall of the Hotel DumortCassandra Clare
The Fall of the Hotel Dumort
About Cassandra Clare and Maureen Johnson
"What do you do?" the woman asked.
"This and that," Magnus said.
"Are you in fashion? You look like you're in fashion."
"No," he said. "I am fashion."
It was a bit of a twee remark, but it seemed to delight his seat companion on the plane. The comment had been a bit of a test, actually. Everything seemed to delight his companion--the seat back in front of her, her nails, her glass, her own hair, everyone else's hair, the barf bag . . .
The plane had been in the air for only an hour, but Magnus's companion had gotten up to use the restroom four times. Each time she'd emerged moments later, furiously rubbing her nose and visibly twitching. Now she was leaning over him, her winged blond hair dipping into his champagne glass, her neck reeking of Eau de Guerlain. The faint trace of white powder still clung to her nose.
He could have done this trip in seconds by stepping through a Portal, but there was something pleasant about aircraft. They were charming, intimate, and slow. You got to meet people. Magnus liked meeting people.
"But your outfit?" she said. "What is it?"
Magnus looked down at his red-plaid-and-black-vinyl oversize suit with a shredded T-shirt underneath. It was au courant for the London punk set, but New York wasn't quite there yet.
"I do PR," the woman said, apparently forgetting the question. "For discos and clubs. The best clubs. Here. Here."
She dug around in her massive purse--and stopped for a moment when she found her cigarettes. She shoved one of these between her lips, lit it, and continued digging until she produced a small tortoiseshell card case. She popped this open and picked out one card, which read: ELECTRICA.
"Come," she said, tapping the card with a long, red nail. "Come. It's just opening. It's going to be smash-ing. Soooo much better than Studio 54. Oh. Excuse me a second. You want?"
She showed him a small vial in the palm of her hand.
"No, thank you."
And then she was fumbling out of the seat again, her purse bumping into Magnus's face as she went back to the bathroom.
The mundanes had gotten very interested in drugs again. They went through these phases. Now it was cocaine. He hadn't seen this much of the stuff since the turn of the century, when they'd been putting it in everything--tonics and potions and even Coca-Cola. He thought for a while that they'd put this drug behind them, but it was back again, in full force.
Drugs had never interested Magnus. A good wine, absolutely, but he steered clear of potions and powders and pills. You didn't take drugs and do magic. Also, people who did drugs were boring. Hopelessly, relentlessly boring. Drugs made them either too slow or too fast, and mostly they talked about drugs. And then they either quit--a gruesome process--or they died. There was never a step in between.
Like all mundane phases, this too would pass. Hopefully soon. He closed his eyes and decided to sleep his way across the Atlantic. London was behind him. Now it was time to go home.
Stepping outside at JFK, Magnus got his first reminder of why he'd summarily left New York two summers before. New York was too damn hot in the summer. It was just touching a hundred degrees, and the smell of jet fuel and exhaust fumes mixed with the swampy gasses that hung around this far tip of the city. The smell, he knew, would only get worse.
With a sigh he joined a taxi line.
The cab was as comfortable as any metal box in the sun, and his sweating driver added to the general perfume in the air.
"Where to, buddy?" he asked, taking in Magnus's outfit.
"Corner of Christopher and Sixth Avenue."
The cabbie grunted and hit the meter, and then they pulled out into traffic. The smoke from the driver's cigar streamed back directly into Magnus's face. He lifted a finger and redirected it out the window.
The road from JFK to Manhattan was a strange one, weaving through family neighborhoods, and desolate stretches, and past sprawling graveyards. It was an age-old tradition. Keep the dead out of the city--but not too far. London, where he had just been, was ringed with old graveyards. And Pompeii, which he'd visited a few months back, had an entire avenue of the dead, tombs leading right up to the city wall. Past all of the New York neighborhoods and graveyards, at the end of the crowded expressway, shimmering in the distance--there was Manhattan--its spires and peaks just lighting up for the night. From death to life.
He hadn't meant to be away from the city for so long. He had just been going to take the briefest trip to Monte Carlo . . . but then, these things can go on. A week in Monte Carlo turns into two on the Riviera, which turns into a month in Paris, and two months in Tuscany, and then you end up on a boat headed for Greece, and then you wind up back in Paris again for the season, and then you go to Rome for a bit, and London . . .
And sometimes you accidentally go for two years. It happens.
"Where you from?" the cabbie asked, eyeing Magnus in the rearview mirror.
"Oh, around. Here mostly."
"You're from here? You been away? You look like you been away."
"For a while."
"You hear about these murders?"
"Haven't read a paper in a while," Magnus said.
"Some loony-tune. Calls himself Son of Sam. They called him the forty-four-caliber killer too. Goes around shooting couples on lovers' lanes, you know? Sick bastard. Real sick. Police haven't caught him. They don't do nothing. Sick bastard. City's full of them. You shouldn'ta come back."
New York cabdrivers--always little rays of sunshine.
Magnus got out on the tree-lined corner of Sixth Avenue and Christopher Street, in the heart of the West Village. Even at nightfall the heat was stifling. Still, it seemed to encourage a party atmosphere in the neighborhood. The Village had been an interesting place before he'd left. It seemed that in his absence things had taken on a whole new level of festivity. Costumed men walked down the street. The outdoor cafes were swarming. There was a carnival atmosphere that Magnus found instantly inviting.
Magnus's apartment was a walk-up, on the third story of one of the brick houses that lined the street. He let himself in and sprang lightly up the steps, full of high spirits. His spirits fell when he reached his landing. The first thing he noticed, right by his door, was a strong and bad smell--something rotten, mixed with something like skunk, mixed with other things he had no desire to identify. Magnus did not live in a stinky apartment. His apartment smelled of clean floors, flowers, and incense. He put the key into the lock, and when he tried to push the door open, it stuck. He had to shove it hard to get it to open. The reason was immediately clear--there were boxes of empty wine bottles on the other side. And, much to his surprise, the television was on. Four vampires were crashed on his sofa, blankly watching cartoons.
He knew they were vampires at once. The draining of the color behind the skin, the languid pose. Also, these vampires hadn't even bothered to wipe the blood from the corners of their mouths. All of them had dried bits of the stuff around their faces. There was a record spinning on the player. It had reached the end and was stuck on the blank end strip, hissing gently in disapproval.
Only one of the vampires even turned to look at him.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"Magnus Bane. I live here."
She turned back to the cartoon.
When Magnus had left two years before, he'd left his apartment in the care of a housekeeper, Mrs. Milligan. He'd sent money every month for the bills and the cleaning. Clearly she had paid the bills. The electricity was still on. But she hadn't cleaned, and Mrs. Milligan probably hadn't invited the
se four vampires to come and stay and generally trash the place. Everywhere Magnus looked there were signs of destruction and decay. One of the kitchen chairs had been broken and was in pieces on the floor. The others were piled with magazines and newspapers. There were overflowing ashtrays, and makeshift ashtrays, and then just trails of ash and plates full of cigarette butts. The living room curtains were cockeyed and torn. Everything was askew, and some things were simply missing. Magnus had many lovely pieces of art that he'd collected over the years. He looked for a favorite piece of Sevres porcelain that he'd kept on a table in the hall. That, of course, was gone. As was the table.
"I don't want to be rude," Magnus said, unhappily eyeing a pile of stinking garbage on the corner of one of his best Persian carpets, "but may I ask why you're in my house?"
This got a bleary look.
"We live here," said the girl at the end, the spunky one who could actually turn her head.
"No," Magnus said. "I think I just explained that I live here."
"You weren't here. So we lived here."
"Well, I'm back. So you're going to need to make other arrangements."
"Let me be more clear," he said, standing in front of the television. Blue light crackled between his fingers. "If you're here, you may know who I am. You may know what I'm capable of. Perhaps you'd like me to summon up someone to help you out? Or perhaps I could open a Portal and send you to the far side of the Bronx? Ohio? Mongolia? Where would you like to be dropped?"
The vampires on the sofa said nothing for a minute or two. Then they managed to look at one another. There was a grunt, a second grunt, and then they pulled themselves up from the sofa with tremendous difficulty.
"Don't worry about your things," Magnus said. "I'll send them along. To the Dumont?"
The vampires had long ago claimed the doomed old Hotel Dumont. It was the general address of all New York vampires.
Magnus looked at them more closely. He had never quite seen vampires like these. They appeared to be--sick? Vampires didn't really get sick. They got hungry, but they didn't get sick. And these vampires had eaten. The evidence was all over their faces. Also, they were twitching a bit.
Considering the state of the place, he didn't feel like worrying over their health.
"Come on," one of them said. They shuffled out onto the landing and then down the stairs. Magnus shut the door firmly and, with a swoop of his hand, moved a marble-topped dry sink to block the door from the inside. At least that had been too heavy and sturdy to break or remove, but it was full of old dirty clothes that seemed to be covering up something he instinctively knew he never wanted to see.
The smell was terrible. That had to go first. One crack of blue hit the air, and the funk was replaced with the light smell of night-blooming jasmine. He took the record off the record player. The vampires had left behind a pile of albums. He had a look through this and picked out the new Fleetwood Mac album that everyone was playing. He liked them. There was a light magical sound to the music. Magnus swept his hand through the air again, and slowly the apartment began to right itself. As a thank-you, he sent the garbage and the various disgusting little piles over to the Dumont. He had promised to send them their things, after all.
Despite the magic he used on his window air-conditioning unit, despite the cleaning, despite everything he had done--the apartment still felt sticky and dirty and unpleasant. Magnus slept poorly. He gave up at around six in the morning and went out in search of coffee and breakfast. He was still on London time anyway.
Out on the street some people were clearly just coming home for the night. There was a woman hopping along in one high heel and one bare foot. There were three people covered in glitter and sweat, all wearing flopping feather boas, emerging from a cab by his corner. Magnus settled down in the corner booth of a diner across the street. It was the only thing open. It was surprisingly full. Again, most of the people seemed to be at the end of their day, not the start, and were gobbling pancakes to soak up the alcohol in their stomachs.
Magnus had purchased a paper by the cash register. The cabbie hadn't been lying--the news in New York was bad. He'd left a troubled city and returned to a broken one. The city was broke. Half the buildings in the Bronx had burned down. Trash piled up on the streets because there was no money for collection. Muggings, murders, robbery . . . and yes, someone calling himself the Son of Sam and claiming to be an agent of Satan was running around with a gun and shooting people at random.
"I thought that was you," said a voice. "Magnus. Where you been, man?"
A young man slid into the other side of the booth. He wore jeans, a leather vest with no shirt, and a gold cross on a chain around his neck. Magnus smiled and folded his paper away.
Gregory Jensen was an extremely handsome young werewolf with shoulder-length blond hair. Blond was not Magnus's favorite hair color, but Greg certainly carried his well. Magnus had had a bit of a crush on Greg for a while, a crush he'd eventually let go of when he'd met Greg's wife, Consuela. Werewolf love was intense. You didn't get near it.
"I'm telling you"--Greg pulled the ashtray from under the table's jukebox and lit up a cigarette--"things have been messed up recently. I mean, messed up."
"Messed up how?"
"The vampires, man." Greg took a long drag. "There's something wrong with them."
"I found a few in my apartment last night when I got home," Magnus said. "They didn't seem right. They were disgusting, for a start. And they looked sick."
"They are sick. They're feeding like crazy. It's getting bad, man. It's getting bad. I'm telling you . . ."
He leaned in and lowered his voice.
"Shadowhunters are going to be all over us if the vampires don't get it under control. Right now I'm not sure the Shadowhunters know what's going on. The murder rate in the city is so high, maybe they can't tell. But it won't be long before they figure it out."
Magnus leaned back in his seat.
"Camille usually keeps things under control."
Greg gave a heavy shrug. "I can only tell you that the vamps started coming around to all the clubs and discos. They love that stuff. But then they just started attacking people all the time. In the clubs, on the streets. The NYPD thinks the attacks are weird muggings, so it's been kept quiet so far. But when the Shadowhunters find out, they're going to come down on us. They're getting trigger-happy. Any excuse."
"The Accords prohibit--"
"The Accords my ass. I'm telling you, it won't be long before they start ignoring the Accords. And the vampires are so in violation that anything can happen. I'm telling you, it's all so messed up."
A plate of pancakes was deposited in front of Magnus, and he and Greg stopped speaking for a moment. Greg stubbed out his barely smoked cigarette.
"I gotta go," he said. "I was out patrolling to see if anyone had been attacked, and I saw you through the window. Wanted to say hi. It's nice to see you back."
Magnus dropped five dollars onto the table and pushed the pancakes away.
"I'll come with you. I want to see this for myself."
The temperature had shot up in the hour or so he'd been in the diner. This amplified the pong of the overflowing trash--spilling out of metal trash cans (which only cooked it and intensified the scent), bags of it piled up on the curbs. Trash just thrown down onto the street itself. Magnus stepped over the hamburger wrappers and cans and newspapers.
"Two basic areas to patrol," Greg said, lighting up a new cigarette. "This area and midtown west. We go street by street. I'm working west from here. There are a lot of clubs over by the river, in the Meatpacking District."
"It's quite warm."
"This heat, man. I guess it could be the heat making them freak out. It gets to everyone."
Greg pulled off his vest. There were certainly worse things than taking a walk with a handsome, shirtless man on a summer morning. Now that it was more of a civilized hour, people were out. Gay couples w
alking hand in hand, in the open, during the day. That was fairly new. Even as the city seemed to be falling apart, something good was happening.
"Has Lincoln spoken to Camille?" Magnus asked.
Max Lincoln was the head of the werewolves. Everyone just called him by his last name, which fit with his tall and gaunt frame and bearded face--and because, like the more famous Lincoln, he was a famously calm and resolute leader.
"They don't talk," Greg said. "Not anymore. Camille comes down here for the clubs, and that's it. You know what she's like."
Magnus knew all too well. Camille had always been a bit aloof, at least to strangers and acquaintances. She had the air of royalty. The private Camille was a different beast entirely.
"What about Raphael Santiago?" Magnus asked.
"Rumor is that he's been sent away. I heard that from one of the fey. They claim to have overheard it from some vamps walking through Central Park. He must have known about what was happening and had some words with Camille. Now he's just gone."
This didn't bode well.
They walked through the Village, past the shops and cafes, up toward the Meatpacking District, with its cobbled streets and disused warehouses. Many of these were now clubs. There was a desolate feel here in the morning--just the remains of the abandoned parties and the river slugging along below. Even the river seemed to resent the heat. They checked everywhere--in the alleys, next to the trash. They looked under vans and trucks.
"Nothing," Greg said as they peered into and poked the last pile of trash in the last alley. "Guess it was a quiet night. Time to check in. It's late.
This required a quick walk in the ever-increasing heat. Greg couldn't pay for a cab and refused to allow Magnus to do so, so Magnus unhappily joined in the jog all the way down to Canal Street. The werewolves' den was concealed behind the facade of a takeout-only restaurant in Chinatown. One werewolf stood behind the counter, under the menu and the stock photos of various Chinese dishes. She looked Magnus over. When Greg nodded, she let them pass through a beaded curtain to the back.
There was no kitchen behind the back wall. Instead there was a door that led to a much larger facility--the old Second Precinct police station. (The cells came in handy during the full moon.) Magnus followed Greg down the dimly lit hallway to the main room of the station, which was already full. The pack had gathered, and Lincoln stood at the head of the room, listening to a report and nodding gravely. When he saw Magnus, he raised a hand in greeting.