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Lady Midnight, Page 2

Cassandra Clare

  "I heard some rumors about dead mundanes," Emma said. Most Shadowhunters used the term for normal human beings with intense contempt. Emma just sounded tired. "We don't investigate mundanes killing each other. That's for the police."

  "There were dead faeries," said Johnny. "Several of the bodies were fey."

  "We can't investigate those," said Cameron. "You know that. The Cold Peace forbids it."

  Kit heard a faint murmur from nearby booths: a noise that let him know he wasn't the only one eavesdropping.

  The Cold Peace was Shadowhunter Law. It had come into being almost five years ago. He barely remembered a time before it. They called it a Law, at least. What it really was, was a punishment.

  When Kit was ten years old, a war had rocked the universe of Downworlders and Shadowhunters. A Shadowhunter, Sebastian Morgenstern, had turned against his own kind: He had gone from Institute to Institute, destroying their occupants, controlling their bodies, and forcing them to fight for him as an unspeakable army of mind-controlled slaves. Most of the Shadowhunters in the Los Angeles Institute had been taken or killed.

  Kit had had nightmares about it sometimes, of blood running through hallways he'd never seen, hallways painted with the runes of the Nephilim.

  Sebastian had been helped by the Fair Folk in his attempt to destroy the Shadowhunters. Kit had learned about fairies in school: cute little creatures that lived in trees and wore flower hats. The Fair Folk were nothing like that. They ranged from mermaids and goblins and shark-toothed kelpies to gentry faeries, those who held high rank in the faerie courts. Gentry faeries were tall and beautiful and terrifying. They were split into two Courts: the Seelie Court, a dangerous place ruled by a Queen no one had seen in years, and the Unseelie Court, a dark place of treachery and black magic whose King was like a monster out of legend.

  Since the faeries were Downworlders, and had sworn allegiance and loyalty to the Shadowhunters, their betrayal was an unforgivable crime. The Shadowhunters had punished them viciously in a sweeping gesture that had come to be known as the Cold Peace: forcing them to pay huge sums to rebuild the Shadowhunter buildings that had been destroyed, stripping them of their armies, and instructing other Downworlders never to give them aid. The punishment for helping a faerie was severe.

  Faeries were a proud, ancient, magical people, or so it was said. Kit had never known them as anything but broken. Most Downworlders and other denizens of the shadowy space between the mundane world and the Shadowhunter one didn't dislike faeries or hold much of a grudge against them. But none of them were willing to go against the Shadowhunters, either. Vampires, werewolves, and warlocks stayed away from faeries except in places like the Shadow Market, where money was more important than Laws.

  "Really?" said Johnny. "What if I told you that the bodies have been found covered in writing?"

  Emma's head jerked up. Her eyes were dark brown, almost black, surprising against her pale hair. "What did you say?"

  "You heard me."

  "What kind of writing? Is it the same language that was on my parents' bodies?"

  "Don't know," said Johnny. "Just what I heard. Still, seems suspicious, doesn't it?"

  "Emma," said Cameron warningly. "The Clave won't like it."

  The Clave was the Shadowhunter government. In Kit's experience, they didn't like anything.

  "I don't care," Emma said. She'd clearly forgotten about Kit completely; she was staring at his dad, her eyes burning. "Tell me what there is to know. I'll give you two hundred."

  "Fine, but I don't know that much," said Johnny. "Someone gets grabbed, a few nights later they turn up dead."

  "And the last time someone 'got grabbed'?" said Cameron.

  "Two nights ago," said Johnny, clearly feeling he was earning his payoff. "Body'll probably be dumped tomorrow night. All you have to do is show up and catch the dumper."

  "So why don't you tell us how to do that?" Emma said.

  "Word on the street is that the next body dump will be in West Hollywood. The Sepulchre Bar."

  Emma clapped her hands in excitement. Her boyfriend said her name again, warningly, but Kit could have told him he was wasting his time. He'd never seen a teenage girl this excited about anything--not famous actors, not boy bands, not jewelry. This girl was practically vibrating to pieces over the idea of a dead body.

  "Why don't you do it, if you're so worked up about these murders?" Cameron demanded of Johnny. He had nice eyes, Kit thought. They were a ridiculously attractive couple. It was almost annoying. He wondered what the fabled Julian looked like. If he was sworn to be this girl's platonic best friend for eternity, he probably looked like the back of a bus.

  "Because I don't want to," said Johnny. "Seems dangerous. But you guys love danger. Don't you, Emma?"

  Emma grinned. It occurred to Kit that Johnny seemed to know Emma pretty well. Clearly she'd come around before asking questions--it was weird that this was the first time he'd seen her, but he didn't come to every Market. As she dug into her pocket now, took out a roll of bills, and handed it over to his father, he wondered if she'd ever been in his house. Whenever clients came to their home, Kit's dad made him head down to the basement and stay there, not making a sound.

  "The kind of people I deal with aren't the kind of people you should meet" was all he said.

  Once Kit had wandered upstairs by accident while his father was meeting with a group of robed and hooded monsters. At least Kit thought they looked like monsters: their eyes and lips were sewn shut, their heads bald and gleaming. His father had told him they were Gregori, Silent Brothers--Shadowhunters who had been scarred and magically tortured until they became something more than human; they spoke with their minds, and could read other people's. Kit had never come upstairs again while his father was having a "meeting."

  Kit knew his dad was a criminal. He knew he sold secrets for a living, though not lies: Johnny prided himself on having good information. Kit knew his own life would probably follow the same pattern. It was hard to live normally when you were constantly pretending you didn't see what was going on in front of your face.

  "Well, thanks for the info," Emma said, starting to turn away from the booth. The gold hilt of her sword gleamed in the light from the Market's illuminated stalls. Kit wondered what it would be like to be Nephilim. To live among people who saw the same things you did. To not ever be afraid of what lurked in the shadows. "See you around, Johnny."

  She dropped a wink--at Kit. Johnny whirled around to look at him as she disappeared back into the crowd with her boyfriend.

  "Did you say something to her?" Johnny demanded. "Why'd she zero in on you like that?"

  Kit held his hands up defensively. "I didn't say anything," he protested. "I think she noticed me listening."

  Johnny sighed. "Try to get noticed less."

  The Market was starting up again now that the Shadowhunters had left. Kit could hear music and a rising bubble of chattering voices. "How well do you know that Shadowhunter girl?"

  "Emma Carstairs? She's been coming to me for stuff for years. Doesn't seem to care that she's breaking Nephilim rules. I like her, as much as you can like any of them."

  "She wanted you to find out who killed her parents."

  Johnny yanked a drawer open. "I don't know who killed her parents, Kit. Probably faeries. It was during the Dark War." He looked self-righteous. "So I wanted to help her out. So what? Shadowhunter money spends."

  "And you want the Shadowhunters paying attention to something that isn't you," said Kit. It was a guess, but, he suspected, a good one. "Have you got something going on?"

  Johnny slammed the drawer shut. "Maybe."

  "For someone who sells secrets, you sure keep a lot of them," said Kit, jamming his hands into his pockets.

  His father put an arm around him, a rare affectionate gesture. "My biggest secret," he said, "is you."

  "It's just not working out," emma said. "This relationship, I mean."

  Disconsolate noises came from the ot
her end of the phone. Emma was barely able to decipher them--the reception wasn't particularly good on the roof of the Sepulchre Bar. She paced along the edge of the roofline, peering down into the central courtyard. Jacaranda trees were strung with electric lights, and sleek ultramodern tables and chairs were scattered around the garden space. Equally sleek and ultramodern young men and women thronged the place, glasses of wine glimmering in their hands like clear bubbles of red and white and pink. Someone had rented out the place for a private party: A sequined birthday banner hung between two trees, and waiters made their way through the crowd carrying pewter chargers of snacks.

  There was something about the glamorous scene that made Emma want to break it up by kicking down some of the roof tiles or doing a front flip into the crowd. The Clave would lock you up for a good long time for that kind of behavior, though. Mundanes weren't supposed to ever glimpse Shadowhunters. Even if Emma did jump down into the courtyard, none of the partygoers would see her. She was covered in glamour runes, applied by Cristina, that rendered her invisible to anyone without the Sight.

  Emma sighed and put the phone back to her ear. "All right, our relationship " she said. "Our relationship isn't working out."

  "Emma," Cristina hissed loudly behind her. Emma turned, her boots balanced at the edge of the roof. Cristina was sitting on the shingled slope behind her, polishing a throwing knife with a pale blue cloth. The cloth matched the bands that held her dark hair back from her face. Everything about Cristina was neat and put together--she managed to look as professional in her black fighting gear as most people would look in a power suit. Her golden good-luck medallion glimmered at the hollow of her throat and her family ring, twined with a pattern of roses for Rosales, shone on her hand as she placed the knife, wrapped in its cloth, beside her. "Emma, remember. Use your I statements."

  Cameron was still wittering away on the other end of the phone, something about getting together to talk, which Emma knew would be pointless. She focused on the scene below her--was that a shadow slipping through the crowd below, or was she imagining it? Maybe it was wishful thinking. Johnny Rook was usually reliable, and he'd seemed very sure about tonight, but Emma hated getting all geared up and full of anticipation only to discover there was going to be no fight to work off her energy.

  "This is about me, not you," she said into the phone. Cristina gave her an encouraging thumbs-up. "I am sick of you." She smiled brightly as Cristina dropped her face into her hands. "So maybe we could go back to being friends?"

  There was a click as Cameron hung up. Emma tucked the phone into her belt and scanned the crowd again. Nothing. Annoyed, she scrambled up the slope of the roof to flop down beside Cristina. "Well, that could have gone better," she said.

  "Do you think so?" Cristina took her hands away from her face. "What happened?"

  "I don't know." Emma sighed and reached for her stele, the delicate adamas writing instrument Shadowhunters used to ink protection runes onto their skin. It had a carved handle made of demon bone and had been a gift from Jace Herondale, Emma's first crush. Most Shadowhunters went through steles like mundanes went through pencils, but this one was special to Emma and she kept it as carefully intact as she kept her sword. "It always happens. Everything was fine, and then I woke up one morning and just the sound of his voice made me feel sick to my stomach." She looked at Cristina guiltily. "I tried," she added. "I waited weeks! I kept hoping it would get better. But it didn't."

  Cristina patted her arm. "I know, cuata," she said. "You just aren't very good at having . . ."

  "Tact?" Emma suggested. Cristina's English was nearly accentless, and Emma often forgot it wasn't her first language. On the other hand Cristina spoke seven languages on top of her native Spanish. Emma spoke English and some scraps of Spanish, Greek, and Latin, could read three demon languages, and swear in five.

  "I was going to say relationships," Cristina said. Her dark brown eyes twinkled. "I've only been here for two months and you've forgotten three dates with Cameron, skipped his birthday, and now you've dumped him because it was a slow patrol night."

  "He always wanted to play video games," said Emma. "I hate video games."

  "No one is perfect, Emma."

  "But some people are perfect for each other. Don't you think that has to be true?"

  A strange look flashed over Cristina's face, gone so quickly Emma was sure she'd imagined it. Sometimes Emma was reminded that however much she felt close to Cristina, she didn't know her--didn't know her the way she did Jules, the way you knew someone whose every moment you had shared since you were children. What had happened to Cristina in Mexico--whatever had sent her running to Los Angeles and away from her family and friends--was something she'd never spoken of to Emma.

  "Well," said Cristina, "at least you were wise enough to bring me along for moral support to help you through this difficult time."

  Emma poked Cristina with her stele. "I wasn't planning on dumping Cameron. We were here, and he called, and his face came up on my phone--well, actually a llama came up on my phone because I didn't have a picture of him so I just used a llama--and the llama made me so angry I just couldn't help myself."

  "Bad time to be a llama."

  "Is it ever a good time, really?" Emma flipped the stele around and started to ink a Sure-Footedness rune onto her arm. She prided herself on having excellent balance without runes, but up on a roof it was probably a good idea to be safe.

  She thought of Julian, far away in England, with a sting at her heart. He would have been pleased she was being careful. He would have said something funny and loving and self-deprecating about it. She missed him horribly, but she supposed that was how it was when you were parabatai, bound together by magic as well as friendship.

  She missed all the Blackthorns. She had grown up playing among Julian and his sisters and brothers, lived with them since she was twelve--when she had lost her parents, and Julian, whose mother had already died, had lost his father. From being an only child she had been thrust into a big, loud, noisy, loving family. Not every part of it had been easy, but she adored them, from shy Drusilla to Tiberius, who loved detective stories. They had left at the beginning of the summer to visit their great-aunt in Sussex--the Blackthorn family was originally British. Marjorie, Julian had explained, was nearly a hundred years old and might die at any moment; they had to visit her. It was a moral requirement.

  Off they'd gone for two months, all of them except their uncle, the head of the Institute. The shock to Emma's system had been severe. The Institute had gone from noisy to quiet. Worst of all, when Julian was gone, she felt it, like a constant unease, a low-level pain in her chest.

  Dating Cameron had not helped, but Cristina's arrival had helped immeasurably. It was common for Shadowhunters who reached the age of eighteen to visit foreign Institutes and learn their different customs. Cristina had come to Los Angeles from Mexico City--there was nothing unusual about it, but she'd always had the air of someone running from something. Emma, meanwhile, had been running from loneliness. She and Emma had run directly into each other, and become best friends faster than Emma could have believed possible.

  "Diana will be pleased about you dumping Cameron, at least," said Cristina. "I don't think she liked him."

  Diana Wrayburn was the Blackthorn family's tutor. She was extremely smart, extremely stern, and extremely tired of Emma falling asleep in the middle of class because she'd been out the night before.

  "Diana just thinks all relationships are a distraction from studying," Emma said. "Why date when you can learn an extra demonic language? I mean, who wouldn't want to know how to say 'Come here often?' in Purgatic?"

  Cristina laughed. "You sound like Jaime. He hated studying." Emma perked her ears: Cristina rarely spoke of the friends or family in Mexico City she'd left behind. She knew Cristina's uncle had run the Mexico City Institute until he'd been killed in the Dark War and her mother had taken it over. She knew Cristina's father had died when she was a child. But not m
uch else. "But not Diego. He loved it. He did extra work for fun."

  "Diego? The perfect guy? The one your mom loves?" Emma began to trace the stele over her skin, the Farsighted rune taking shape on her forearm. The sleeves of her gear were elbow length, the skin below it marked all over with the pale white scars of runes long ago used up.

  Cristina reached over and took the stele from Emma. "Here. Let me do that." She continued the Farsighted rune. Cristina had a gorgeous hand with runes, careful and precise. "I don't want to talk about Perfect Diego," Cristina said. "My mother talks about him enough. Can I ask you about something else?"

  Emma nodded. The pressure of the stele against her skin was familiar, almost pleasant.

  "I know you wanted to come here because Johnny Rook told you that there have been bodies found with writing on them, and he thinks one will turn up here tonight."


  "And you are hoping the writing will be the same as it was on your parents' bodies."

  Emma tensed. She couldn't help it. Any mention of her parents' murders hurt as if it had happened yesterday. Even when the person asking her about it was as gentle as Cristina. "Yes."

  "The Clave says Sebastian Morgenstern murdered your parents," said Cristina. "That is what Diana told me. That's what they believe. But you don't believe it."

  The Clave. Emma looked out into the Los Angeles night, at the brilliant explosion of electricity that was the skyline, at the rows and rows of billboards that lined Sunset Boulevard. It had been a harmless word, "Clave," when she had first learned it. The Clave was simply the government of the Nephilim, made up of all active Shadowhunters over the age of eighteen.

  In theory every Shadowhunter had a vote and an equal voice. In point of fact, some Shadowhunters were more influential than others: Like any political party, the Clave had its corruption and prejudices. For Nephilim this meant a strict code of honor and rules that every Shadowhunter had to adhere to or face dire consequences.

  The Clave had a motto: The Law is hard, but it is the Law. Every Shadowhunter knew what it meant. The rules of the Law of the Clave had to be obeyed, no matter how hard or painful. The Law overrode everything else--personal need, grief, loss, unfairness, treachery. When the Clave had told Emma that she was to accept the fact that her parents had been murdered as part of the Dark War, she had been required to do so.