Saving Raphael Santiago, Page 2Cassandra Clare
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 happened 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.
The boy breathed once, twice, three times, and then his grip went slack.
“Did you know his name?” Magnus demanded roughly of the vampire who had killed him. “Was it Raphael?”
He did not know why he asked. He did not want to know that the boy Guadalupe had sent him to find had just died in his arms, that the last member of that gallant, doomed mission to save innocents had almost survived long enough—but not quite. He could not forget the imploring look on Guadalupe Santiago’s face.
He looked over at the vampire, who had not moved to attack. He was sitting down, slumped against the wall where Magnus had thrown him.
“Raphael,” the vampire answered slowly. “You came here looking for Raphael?” He gave a short, sharp, almost incredulous laugh.
“Why is that funny?” Magnus demanded. A dark fury was rising in his chest. It had been a long time since he had killed a vampire, but he was willing to do it again.
“Because I am Raphael Santiago,” said the boy.
Magnus stared at the vampire boy—at Raphael. He had his knees pulled up to his chest, his arms wrapped around them. Under his head of loose curls was a delicate heart-shaped face like his mother’s, big dark eyes that would have enchanted women—or men—when he was grown, and a soft, childish mouth stained with blood. Blood masked the lower half of his face, and Magnus could see the white gleam of teeth against Raphael’s lower lip, like diamonds in the darkness. He was the only thing moving in that whole room full of terrible stillness. He was shaking, fine tremors running all along his thin frame, shaking so hard that Magnus could see it, so hard that it looked violent, the teeth-rattling chill of someone so cold, they were about to slip into stillness and death. It was as hot as the mundanes imagined Hell to be in this room full of death, but the boy shook as though he were so cold, he could never be warm again.
Magnus stood up, moved carefully around dust and the dead until he was close to the vampire boy, and then said gently, “Raphael?”
Raphael lifted his face to the sound of Magnus’s voice. He had seen many other vampires with skin as white as salt. Raphael’s skin was still brown, but it did not have the warm tone of his mother’s skin. It was not the flesh of a living boy any longer.
There was no saving Raphael.
sp; His hands were covered in dirt and blood, as though he had crawled out of his grave very recently. His face was streaked with grave dirt too. He had black hair, a soft-looking curly mass of it that his mother must have loved to run her fingers through, that she must have stroked when he had nightmares and called for her, touched with light fingers when he was sleeping in his bed and she did not want to wake him, hair that she might have kept a baby curl of. That hair was full of grave dust.
There were red tear tracks on his face, shining darkly. There was blood on his neck, but Magnus knew the wound had closed over.
“Where’s Louis Karnstein?” Magnus asked.
When Raphael spoke, this time in low, soft Spanish, he said, “The vampire thought I would help him with the others if he turned me into one of his own kind. ” He laughed suddenly, a bright, mad sound. “But I did not,” he added. “No. He wasn’t expecting that. He’s dead. He turned to ashes and they blew away on the wind. ” He gestured toward the hole in the roof.
Magnus was startled into silence. It was extremely unusual for a new vampire to rise and overcome the hunger enough to think, or do anything else besides feed. Magnus wondered if Raphael had killed more than one of his friends.
He would not ask, and not only because it would have been cruel to ask. Even if Raphael had killed and then turned on his master and overcome Karnstein, he had to have a will of iron.
“They’re all dead,” said Raphael, seeming to master himself. His voice was clear suddenly. His dark eyes were clear too as he stared at Magnus, and then he deliberately turned away from Magnus, dismissing him as unimportant.
Raphael, Magnus saw with an ever-growing sense of unease, was looking at that blazingly bright hole in the ceiling, the one he had gestured to when he said that Karnstein had turned to ashes.
“They’re all dead,” Raphael repeated slowly. “And I am dead too. ”
He uncoiled, as swift as a snake, and sprang.
It was only because Magnus had seen where the vampire was looking and because he knew how Raphael felt, the exact exquisitely cold feeling of being an outcast, so alone that he barely seemed to exist, that he moved fast enough.
Raphael sprang for the spot of lethal light on the floor, and Magnus sprang at Raphael. He knocked the boy to the floor just before he reached the sunlight.
Raphael gave an incoherent scream like a bird of prey, a vicious cry that was nothing but rage and hunger, that echoed in Magnus’s head and made his flesh creep. Raphael thrashed and crawled for the sun, and when Magnus would not let him go, Raphael used every bit of his fledgling vampire strength to struggle free, clawing and twisting. He had no hesitation, no remorse, and none of the usual vampire fledgling’s discomfort with his new power. He tried to bite Magnus’s throat out. He tried to tear him limb from limb. Magnus had to use magic to fasten his limbs to the floor, and even with Raphael’s whole body pinned, Magnus had to evade his snapping fangs and only just managed it.
“Let me go!” shouted the boy at last, his voice breaking.
“Hush, hush,” Magnus whispered. “Your mother sent me, Raphael. Be still. Your mother sent me to find you. ” He drew the gold cross he had found from his pocket and held it gleaming in front of Raphael’s face. “She gave me this, and she told me to save you. ”
Raphael flinched away from the cross, and Magnus put it away hastily, but not before the boy stopped fighting and began to sob, sobs that racked his whole body, as if he could wrench himself, his hated new self, apart from the inside out if he shook and raged enough.
“Are you stupid?” he gasped out. “You can’t save me. Nobody can do that. ”
Magnus could taste his despair as if it were blood. Magnus believed him. He held on to the boy, newborn in grave dirt and blood, and he wished that he had found him dead.