Emma hit the training mat hard, rolling quickly so that Cortana, still strapped to her back, wouldn’t be damaged—or damage her. In the early years of her training she’d inflicted more injuries on herself by accident with Cortana’s sharp edges than any exercises had, thanks to her stubborn refusal to take it off. Cortana was hers, her father’s, and her father’s father’s. She and Cortana were what was left of the
Carstairs family. She never left the blade behind when she went to fight, even if they planned to use daggers or holy water or fire. Therefore she needed to know how to fight with it strapped to her in every conceivable circumstance.
“Are you all right?” Cristina hit the mat beside her more lightly; she wasn’t armed, and was wearing only her training clothes. Cristina had sense, Emma thought, sitting up and rubbing her sore shoulder.
“Fine.” Emma stood up, shaking out the kinks in her muscles. “One more time.”
The medal around Cristina’s throat gleamed decorously as she craned her head back, watching Emma shinny back up the rope ladder. Dark gold sunlight was pouring through the windows—it was late afternoon. They’d been training for hours, and before that they’d been busy bringing the contents of Emma’s Wall of Proof (Cristina refused to call it a Wall of Crazy) into the computer room so Livvy and Ty could scan it all. Livvy was still promising to come train with them, though she’d clearly been absorbed into the online search for clues. “You can stop there,” Cristina called when Emma was halfway up, but Emma ignored her and kept going, until her head was nearly bumping the ceiling.
Emma looked down. Cristina was shaking her head, managing to look both composed and disapproving at the same time. “You can’t jump from such a height! Emma—”
Emma let go and dropped like a stone. She hit the mat, rolled, and sprang up into a crouch, reaching back over her shoulder for Cortana.
Her hand closed on empty air. She shot upright, only to find Cristina holding the blade. She’d slipped it from Emma’s scabbard as she was rising to her feet.
“There is more to fighting than jumping the highest and falling the farthest,” Cristina said, and held Cortana out to her.
Emma rose and took the blade back with a grudging smile. “You sound like Jules.”
“Maybe he has a point,” Cristina said. “Have you always been this careless about your safety?” “More since the Dark War.” Emma slipped Cortana back into its scabbard. She drew the stiletto blades
from her boots and handed one to Cristina before turning to face the target painted on the opposite wall. Cristina moved to Emma’s side and raised the blade in her hand, sighting down along the line of her
arm. Emma hadn’t thrown knives with Cristina before, but she was unsurprised to see that Cristina’s
posture and grip on the knife—her thumb parallel to the blade—were perfect. “Sometimes I regret that I knew little of the war. I was in hiding in Mexico. My uncle Tomás was convinced Idris would not be safe.”
Emma thought of Idris burning, of the blood in the streets, bodies stacked like kindling in the Accords Hall. “Your uncle was right.”
“He died in the war, so I suppose he was.” Cristina released her blade; it flew through the air and thumped into the central ring of the target. “My mother owned a house in San Miguel de Allende. We went there, because the Institute was not safe. I always feel a coward when I think about it.”
“You were a kid,” Emma said. “They were right to send you where you would be safe.” “Maybe,” said Cristina, looking downcast.
“Really. I’m not just saying that,” Emma told her. “I mean, how does Perfect Diego feel about it? Does he feel like a coward?”
Cristina made a face. “I doubt it.”
“Of course not. He’s totally well-adjusted about everything. We should all be more like Perfect Diego.” “Hello!” A greeting rang through the room. It was Livvy, in practice gear, heading toward them. She
paused to pet her saber, which was hanging on the wall near the door with the other fencing swords. Livvy had chosen the saber for her weapon when she was about twelve years old and had practiced tenaciously ever since. She could discourse on types of saber, wooden grips versus rubber or leather ones, tangs and pommels, and it was better not to get her started on pistol grips.
Emma admired her loyalty. She’d never felt a need to pick a weapon: Hers was always Cortana. But she liked to be at least competent in everything, so she’d sparred with Livvy more than once.
“I missed you,” Livvy crooned to the saber. “I love you so much.”
“That was heartfelt,” Emma said. “If you’d said that to me when you got back, I would have cried.” Livvy abandoned the saber and bounced over toward them. She commandeered a mat and began to stretch her muscles. She could fold herself easily in half, tucking her fingers under her toes. “I did miss
you,” she said, voice muffled. “It was boring in England and there were no cute boys.”
“Julian said there were no humans for miles,” said Emma. “Anyway, it’s not like you missed anything here.”
“Well, aside from the serial killings,” Livvy said, moving across the room to take up two throwing knives. Emma and Cristina moved out of the way as she lined herself up across from the target. “And I bet you dated Cameron Ashdown again, then dumped him.”
“She did,” said Cristina. Emma shot her a look that said traitor.
“Ha!” Livvy’s knife went wide of the target. She turned around, her braid bouncing on her shoulders. “Emma goes out with him, like, every four months, then dumps him.”
“Oh?” Cristina cut a glance toward Emma. “Why has he been singled out for this special torture?” “Oh, for goodness’ sake,” Emma said. “It wasn’t serious.”
“Not to you,” said Livvy. “Bet it was to him.” She held out her second knife to Cristina. “Want a try?” Cristina took the knife and moved into Livvy’s position.
“Who’s Perfect Diego?” Livvy asked.
Cristina had been frowning at the knife; now she turned around and gaped at Livvy.
“I heard you,” Livvy said cheerfully. “Before I came in. Who is he? Why’s he so perfect? Why is there a perfect boy in the world and no one’s told me?”
“Diego is the boy Cristina’s mother wants her to marry,” Emma told Livvy. Now it was Cristina’s turn to look betrayed. “It’s not an arranged marriage, that would be gross; it’s just that her mother loves him, his mother carried the Rosales name—”
“He’s related to you?” Livvy asked Cristina. “Isn’t that a problem? I mean, I know Clary Fairchild and Jace Herondale are a famous love story, but they weren’t actually brother and sister. Otherwise I think it
would probably be a . . .”
“Less famous love story,” said Emma with a grin.
Cristina threw her knife. It hit close to the target’s center. “His full name is Diego Rocio Rosales— Rocio is his father’s last name, and Rosales his mother’s, just like my mother’s last name is Rosales. But that doesn’t mean we’re even cousins. The Rosaleses are a huge Shadowhunting family. My mother just thinks he’s perfect, so handsome, so smart, such a Shadowhunter, perfect perfect perfect—”
“And now you know how he got his nickname,” said Emma, going to retrieve the knives from the wall. “Is he perfect?” Livvy asked.
“No,” Cristina said. When Cristina was upset, she didn’t get angry; she just stopped talking. She was doing that now, staring at the target painted on the wall. Emma spun the knives she’d retrieved in her hands.
“We’ll protect you from Perfect Diego,” Emma said. “If he comes here, I’ll impale him.” She moved toward the throwing line.
“Emma’s a master of the impalement arts,” Livvy said.
“You’d be better off impaling my mother,” Cristina muttered. “All right, flaquita, impress me. Let’s see you throw two at a time.”
A knife in each hand, Emma took a step back from the throwing line. She had taught herself to throw two knives at once over the course of a year, throwing again and again, the sound of the blades splitting the wood a balm to shattered nerves. She was left-handed, so normally would have taken a step back and to the right, but she’d forced herself to be nearly ambidextrous. Her step back was direct, not diagonal. Her arms went back and then forward; she opened her hands and the knives flew like falcons whose jesses had been cut. They soared toward the target and thudded, one after the other, into its heart.
Cristina whistled. “I see why Cameron Ashdown keeps coming back. He’s afraid not to.” She went to retrieve the knives, including her own. “Now I am going to try again. I see that I am far behind where I should be.”
Emma laughed. “No, I was cheating. I practiced that move for years.”
“Still,” Cristina said, “if you ever change your mind and decide you don’t like me, I’d better be able to defend myself.”
“Good throw,” Livvy said in a whisper, coming up behind Emma as Cristina, several feet away, paced back and forth at the throwing line.
“Thanks,” Emma whispered back. Leaning against a rack of gloves and protective gear, she glanced down into Livvy’s sunny face. “Did you get anywhere with Ty? And the parabatai thing?” she inquired, almost dreading the answer.
Livvy’s face clouded. “He still says no. It’s the only thing we’ve ever disagreed about.”
“I’m sorry.” Emma knew how badly Livvy wanted to be parabatai with her twin. Brothers and sisters who became parabatai were unusual but not unheard of. Ty’s stark refusal was surprising, though. He rarely said no to Livvy about anything, but he was obdurate about this.
Cristina’s first blade slammed home, just at the rim of the target’s inside circle. Emma cheered. “I like her,” Livvy said, still in a whisper.
“Good,” Emma said. “I like her too.”
“And I think Perfect Diego maybe broke her heart.”
“He did something,” Emma said guardedly. “That much I’ve guessed.” “So I think we should set her up with Julian.”
Emma almost overturned the rack. “What?”
Livvy shrugged. “She’s pretty, and she seems really nice, and she’s going to be living with us. And Jules hasn’t ever had a girlfriend—you know why.” Emma just stared. Her head seemed full of white noise. “I mean, it’s our fault—mine and Ty’s, and Dru’s and Tavvy’s. Raising four kids, you don’t exactly
have a lot of time to date. So since we sort of took having a girlfriend away from him . . .”
“You want to set him up,” Emma said blankly. “I mean, it doesn’t work like that, Livvy. They’d have to like each other. . . .”
“I think they could,” said Livvy. “If we gave them a chance. What do you say?”
Her blue-green eyes, so much like Julian’s, were full of affectionate mischief. Emma opened her mouth to say something, she didn’t know what, when Cristina let her second knife go. It slammed into the wall so hard that the wood seemed to crack.
Livvy clapped her hands. “Awesome!” She shot Emma a triumphant look, as if to say See, she’s perfect. She glanced at her watch. “Okay, I have to go help Ty some more. Yell for me if anything awesomely exciting happens.”
Emma nodded, a little stunned, as Livvy danced away to hang up her weapons and head for the library. She was nearly startled out of her skin when a voice spoke from just over her shoulder—Cristina had come up behind her and was looking worried. “What were you two talking about?” she asked. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Emma opened her mouth to say something, but never found out what, because at that moment, a commotion burst out from downstairs. She could hear the sound of someone pounding on the front door, followed by running feet.
Catching up Cortana, Emma was out the door in a flash.
The pounding on the front door of the Institute echoed through the building. “Just a minute!” Julian yelled, zipping up his hoodie as he jogged toward the door. He was almost glad someone had shown up. Ty and Livvy had ordered him out of the computer room with the announcement that Julian was wrecking their concentration by pacing, and he’d been bored enough to consider going to check on Arthur, which he was fairly sure would put him in a bad mood for the rest of the day.
Julian swung the door open. A tall, pale-haired man lounged on the other side, wearing tight black pants and a shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest. A plaid jacket hung from his shoulders.
“You look like a strip-o-gram,” Julian said to Malcolm Fade, High Warlock of Los Angeles.
There had been a time when Julian had been so impressed by the fact that Malcolm was High Warlock —the warlock to whom all other warlocks answered, at least in Southern California—that he’d been nervous around him. That had passed after the Dark War, when visits from Malcolm had become commonplace. Malcolm was in reality what most people thought Arthur was: an absent-minded professor type. He had been forgetting important things for almost two hundred years.
All warlocks, being the offspring of human beings and demons, were immortal. They stopped aging at different points in their lives, depending on their demon parents. Malcolm looked as if he had stopped aging at about twenty-seven, but he had been (he claimed) born in 1850.
Since most of the demons Julian had ever seen had been disgusting, he didn’t like to think too much about how Malcolm’s parents had met. Malcolm didn’t seem inclined to share, either. Julian knew he’d been born in England, and he still had traces of the accent.
“You can mail someone a stripper?” Malcolm looked bemused, then glanced down at himself. “Sorry, I forgot to button my shirt before I left the house.”
He took a step inside the Institute and instantly fell over, sprawling lengthwise on the tiles. Julian moved aside and Malcolm rolled onto his back, looking disgruntled. He peered down his long body. “I seem to have also tied my shoelaces together.”
Sometimes it was hard not to feel bitter, Julian reflected, that all the allies and friends in his life were either people he had to lie to, ridiculous, or both.
Emma came rushing down the staircase, Cortana in her hand. She was wearing jeans and a tank top; her damp hair was pulled back in an elastic band. The tank top was sticking to her skin, which Julian wished
he hadn’t noticed. She slowed down as she approached, relaxing. “Hey, Malcolm. Why are you on the floor?”
“I tied my shoelaces together,” he said.
Emma had reached his side. She brought Cortana down, neatly severing Malcolm’s shoelaces in half and freeing up his feet.
“There you go,” she said.
Malcolm looked warily at her. “She may be dangerous,” he said to Julian. “Then again, all women are dangerous.”
“All people are dangerous,” said Julian. “Why are you here, Malcolm? Not that I’m not pleased to see you.”
Malcolm staggered to his feet, buttoning his shirt. “I brought Arthur’s medicine.” Julian’s heart thumped so loudly he was sure he could hear it. Emma frowned. “Has Arthur not been feeling well?” she asked.
Malcolm, who had been reaching into his pocket, froze. Julian saw the realization dawn on his face that he’d said something he shouldn’t, and he silently cursed Malcolm and his forgetfulness a thousand times.
“Arthur told me last night he’s been under the weather,” Julian said. “Just the usual stuff bothering him. It’s chronic. Anyway, he was feeling low on energy.”
“I would have looked for something at the Shadow Market if I’d known,” Emma said, sitting down on the bottom step of the staircase and stretching out her long legs.
“Cayenne pepper and dragon’s blood,” said Malcolm, retrieving a vial from his pocket and proffering it to Julian. “Should wake him right up.”
“That would wake the dead up,” said Emma.
“Necromancy is illegal, Emma Carstairs,” scolded Malcolm.
“She was just joking.” Julian pocketed the vial, keeping his gaze fixed on Malcolm, silently begging him not to say anything.
“When did you have a chance to tell Malcolm that your uncle wasn’t feeling well, Jules? I saw you last night and you didn’t say anything,” Emma said.
Julian was glad he was facing away from Emma; he was sure he’d gone white. “Vampire pizza,” Malcolm said.
“What?” Emma said.
“Nightshade’s opened up an Italian place on Cross Creek Road,” Malcolm said. “Best pizza for miles, and they deliver.”
“Don’t you worry about what’s in the sauce?” Emma asked, clearly diverted. “Oh!” Her hand flew to her mouth. “That reminds me, Malcolm. I was wondering if there was something you’d look at.”
“Is it a wart?” said Malcolm. “I can cure that, but it’ll cost you.”
“Why does everyone always think it’s a wart?” Emma pulled her phone out and in a few seconds was showing him the photos of the body she’d found at the Sepulchre Bar. “There were these white markings, here and here,” she said, pointing. “They look like graffiti, not paint but chalk or something like that. . . .” “First, gross,” Malcolm said. “Please don’t show me pictures of dead bodies without a warning.” He peered closer. “Second, those look like remnants of a ceremonial circle. Someone drew a protective ring on the ground. Maybe to protect themselves while they were casting whatever nasty spell killed this guy.” “He was burned,” Emma said. “And drowned, I think. At least, his clothes were wet and he smelled
like salt water.”
She was frowning, her eyes dark. It could have been the memory of the body, or just the thought of the ocean. It was an ocean she lived across from, ran beside every day, but Julian knew how much it terrified her. She could force herself into it, sick and shaking, but he hated watching her do it, hated watching his strong Emma torn to shreds by the terror of something so primal and nameless she couldn’t explain it even
It made him want to kill things, destroy things to keep her safe. Even though she could keep herself safe. Even though she was the bravest person he knew.
Julian snapped back to the present. “Forward me the photos,” Malcolm was saying. “I’ll look them over more closely and let you know.”
“Hey!” Livvy appeared at the top of the stairs, having changed out of her training gear. “Ty found something. About the killings.”
Malcolm looked puzzled.
“On the computer,” Livvy elaborated. “You know, the one we’re not supposed to have. Oh, hi, Malcolm.” She waved vigorously. “You guys should come upstairs.”
“Would you stay, Malcolm?” Emma asked, scrambling to her feet. “We could use your help.” “That depends,” Malcolm said. “Does the computer play movies?”
“It can play movies,” said Julian cautiously.
Malcolm looked pleased. “Can we watch Notting Hill?”
“We can watch anything, if you’re willing to help,” Emma said. She glanced at Jules. “And we can find out what Ty discovered. You’re coming, right?”
Silently Julian cursed Malcolm’s love of romantic movies. He wished he could head to his studio and paint. But he couldn’t exactly avoid Ty or abandon Malcolm.
“I could get snacks from the kitchen,” Emma said, sounding hopeful. After all, for years it had been their habit to watch old movies on their witchlight-powered TV, eating popcorn by the flickering illumination.
Julian shook his head. “I’m not hungry.”
He almost thought he could hear Emma sigh. A moment later she disappeared after Livvy, up the stairs. Julian made as if to follow them, but Malcolm stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s gotten worse, hasn’t it?” he said.
“Uncle Arthur?” Jules was caught off guard. “I don’t think so. I mean, it’s not great that I haven’t been here, but if we’d kept refusing to go to England, someone would have gotten suspicious.”
“Not Arthur,” said Malcolm. “You. Does she know about you?” “Does who know what?”
“Don’t be dense,” Malcolm said. “Emma. Does she know?”
Julian felt his heart wrench inside his chest. He had no words for the feeling of upheaval Malcolm’s words caused. It was too much like being tumbled by a wave, solid footing giving way in the slide of sand. “Stop.”
“I won’t,” Malcolm said. “I like happy endings.”
Julian spoke through his teeth. “Malcolm, this is not a love story.” “Every story is a love story.”
Julian drew away from him and started toward the stairs. He was rarely actually angry at Malcolm, but right now his heart was pounding. He made it to the landing before Malcolm called after him; he turned, knowing he shouldn’t, and found the warlock looking up at him.
“Laws are meaningless, child,” Malcolm said in a low voice that somehow still carried. “There is nothing more important than love. And no law higher.”
Technically, the Institute wasn’t supposed to have a computer in it.
The Clave resisted the advent of modernity but even more so any engagement with mundane culture. But that had never stopped Tiberius. He’d started asking for a computer at the age of ten so that he could keep up to date on violent mundane crimes, and when they’d come back from Idris, after the Dark War, Julian had given him one.
Ty had lost his mother and father, his brother, and his older sister, Jules had said at the time, sitting on the floor amid a tangle of wirestouch, sleeping in bed together. As kids they’d fought over the blankets, stacked books between them sometimes to settle, at least it would be something.
And indeed, Ty loved the computer. He named it Watson and spent hours teaching himself how to use it, since no one else had a clue. Julian told him not to do anything illegal; Arthur, locked away in his study, didn’t notice.
Livvy, ever dedicated to her sibling, had also taught herself to use it, with Ty’s help, once he’d familiarized himself with how it worked. Together they were a formidable team.
It looked like Ty, Dru, Livvy, and even Tavvy had been busy. Dru had spread maps all over the floor. Tavvy was standing by a whiteboard with a blue dry-erase marker, making possibly helpful notations, if they could ever be translated out of seven-year-old.
Ty was seated at the swivel chair in front of the computer, his fingers moving swiftly over the keyboard. Livvy was perched on the desk, as she often was; Ty worked around her, completely aware of where she was while at the same time focusing on the task at hand.
“So, you found something?” Julian said as they came in.
“Yes. Just a second.” Ty held up his hand imperiously. “You can talk to each other if you like.” Julian grinned. “That’s very kind.”
Cristina came hurrying in, braiding her damp, dark hair. She’d clearly showered and re-dressed, in jeans and a flowered blouse. “Livvy told me—”
“Shh.” Emma put her finger to her lips and indicated Ty, staring intently at the computer’s blue screen. It lit up his delicate features. She loved the moments when Ty was playing detective; he so clearly fell into the part, into the dream of being Sherlock Holmes, who always had all the answers.
Cristina nodded and sat down on the overstuffed love seat beside Drusilla. Dru was nearly as tall as she was, despite being only thirteen. She was one of those girls whose body had grown up quickly: She had breasts and hips, was soft and curvy. It had led to some awkward moments with boys who thought she was seventeen or eighteen years old, and a few incidents where Emma had barely stopped Julian from murdering a mundane teenager.
Malcolm settled himself in a patched armchair. “Well, if we’re waiting,” he said, and began typing on his phone.
“What are you doing?” Emma asked.
“Ordering pizza from Nightshade’s,” said Malcolm. “There’s an app.” “A what?” said Dru.
“Nightshade?” Livvy turned around. “The vampire?”
“He owns a pizza place. The sauce is divine,” Malcolm said, kissing his fingers. “Aren’t you worried what’s in it?” said Livvy.
“You Nephilim are so paranoid,” said Malcolm, returning to his phone.
Ty cleared his throat, spinning his chair back around to face the room. Everyone had settled themselves on couches or chairs except Tavvy, who was sitting on the floor under the whiteboard. “I’ve found some stuff,” he said. “There definitely have been bodies that fit Emma’s description. Fingerprints sanded off, soaked in seawater, skin burned.” He pulled up the front page of a newspaper on-screen. “Mundanes think it’s satanic cult activity, because of the chalk markings found around the bodies.”
“Mundanes think everything is satanic cult activity,” said Malcolm. “Most cults are actually in service of completely different demons than Lucifer. He’s quite famous and very hard to reach. Rarely does favors for anyone. Really an unrewarding demon to worship.”
Emma and Julian exchanged looks of amusement. Ty clicked the computer mouse, and pictures flashed up on the screen. Faces—different ages, races, genders. All of them slack in death.
“There are only a few murders that match the profile,” said Ty. He seemed pleased to be using the
word “profile.” “There’s been one every month for the past year. Twelve counting the one Emma found, like she said.”
Emma said, “But nothing before a year ago?” Ty shook his head.
“So, there was a gap of four years since my parents were killed. Whoever it was—if it was the same person—stopped and started up again.”
“Is there anything that links all these people?” Julian asked. “Diana said some of the bodies were fey.” “Well, this is all mundane news,” said Livvy. “They wouldn’t know, would they? They’d think the
bodies were human, if they were gentry fey. As for anything linking them, none of them have been identified.”
“That’s weird,” said Dru. “What about blood? In movies they can identify people using blood and DTR.”
“DNA,” corrected Ty. “Well, according to the newspapers none of the bodies were identified. It could have been that whatever spells were done on them altered their blood. Or they could have decayed fast, like Emma’s parents did. That would have limited what the coroners could have found out.”
“There is something else, though,” Livvy said. “The stories all reported where the bodies were found, and we mapped them. They have one thing in common.”
Ty had taken one of his hand toys out of his pocket, a mass of intermingled pipe cleaners, and was untangling it. Ty had one of the fastest-working minds of anyone Emma knew, and it calmed him to have a way to use his hands to diffuse some of that quickness and intensity. “The bodies have all been dumped at ley lines. All of them,” he said, and Emma could hear the excitement in his voice.
“Ley lines?” Dru furrowed her brow.
“There’s a network, circling the world, of ancient magical pathways,” said Malcolm. “They amplify magic, so for centuries Downworlders have used them to create entrances into Faerie, that sort of thing. Alicante is built on a convergence of ley lines. They’re invisible, but some can train themselves to sense them.” He frowned, staring at the computer screen, where one of the images Cristina had taken of the dead body at the Sepulchre was displayed. “Can you do that thing?” he said. “You know, where you make the picture bigger?”
“You mean zoom in?” said Ty.
Before Malcolm could answer, the doorbell of the Institute rang. It was no ordinary, shrilling doorbell. It sounded like a gong being struck through the building, shivering the glass and stone and plaster.
Emma was up and on her feet in a second. “I’ll get it,” she said, and hurried downstairs, even as Julian half-rose from his seat to follow her.
But she wanted to be alone, just for a second. Wanted to process the fact that these killings dated back to the year of her parents’ death. They had started then. Her father and mother had been the first.
These murders were connected. She could see the threads coming together, forming a pattern she could only begin to glimpse but knew was real. Someone had done these things. Someone had tortured and killed her parents, had carved evil markings on their skin and dumped them in the ocean to rot. Someone had taken Emma’s childhood, torn away the roof and walls of the house of her life, leaving her cold and exposed.
And that someone would pay. Revenge is a cold bedfellow, Diana had said, but Emma didn’t believe that. Revenge would give her the air back in her lungs. Revenge would let her think about her parents without a cold knot forming in her stomach. She would be able to dream without seeing their drowned faces and hearing their voices cry out for her help.
She reached the front door of the Institute and threw it open. The sun had just set. A glum vampire stood in the doorway, carrying several stacked boxes. He looked like a teenager with short brown hair and freckled skin, but that didn’t mean much. “Pizza delivery,” he said in a tone that suggested that most of his
closest relatives had just died.
“Seriously?” Emma said. “Malcolm wasn’t making that up? You really deliver pizza?” He looked at her blankly. “Why wouldn’t I deliver pizza?”
Emma fumbled at the small table near the door for the cash they usually kept there. “I don’t know. You’re a vampire. I figured you’d have something better to do with your life. Your unlife. Whatever.” The vampire looked aggrieved. “You know how hard it is to get a job when your ID says you’re a
hundred and fifty years old and you can only go out at night?”
“No,” Emma admitted, taking the boxes. “I hadn’t considered that.”
“Nephilim never do.” As he tucked a fifty into his jeans, Emma noticed that he was wearing a gray T-shirt that said TMI across the front. “Too much information?” she said.
He brightened. “The Mortal Instruments. They’re a band. From Brooklyn. You heard of them?” Emma had. Clary’s best friend and parabatai, Simon, had belonged to them when he was a mundane.
That was how they’d wound up named after the three most holy objects in the Shadowhunter world. Now Simon, too, was a Shadowhunter. She wondered how he felt about the band going on without him. About everything going on without him.
She made her way back up the stairs, her mind on Clary and the others in the New York Institute. Clary had found out she was a Shadowhunter when she was fifteen years old. There had been a time when she thought she’d lead a mundane life. She’d talked about it before, around Emma, the way anyone might talk about a road not taken. She’d carried a lot with her into her Shadowhunter life, including her best friend, Simon. But she could have chosen differently. She could have been a mundane.
Emma wanted to talk to her, suddenly, about what that might have meant. Simon had been Clary’s best friend for her whole life, like Jules had been Emma’s. Then they had been parabatai, once Simon was a Shadowhunter. What had changed? Emma wondered. What did it feel like to go from best friend to parabatai without having always known you were going to do it, how was it different?
And why didn’t she know the answer to that herself?
When she arrived back in the computer room, Malcolm was standing near the desk, violet eyes snapping. “You see, it’s not a protection circle at all,” he was saying, then broke off as Emma came in. “It’s pizza!”
“It can’t be pizza,” said Ty, staring perplexedly at the screen. His long fingers had nearly untangled all the pipe cleaners; when he was done, he’d tangle them back up and start again.
“All right, enough,” said Jules. “We’re taking a break from killings and profiles for dinner.” He took the boxes from Emma, shooting her a grateful look, and set them down on the coffee table. “I don’t care what you all want to talk about, it just can’t involve murder or blood. Any blood.”
“But it’s vampire pizza,” Livvy pointed out. “Immaterial,” Julian said. “Couch. Now.”
“Can we watch a movie?” Malcolm piped up, sounding remarkably like Tavvy.
“We can watch a movie,” Julian said. “Now, Malcolm, I don’t care if you are the High Warlock of Los Angeles, sit your butt down.”
The vampire pizza was shockingly good. Emma decided fairly quickly that she didn’t care what was in the sauce. Mouse heads, stewed people parts, whatever. It was amazing. It had a crispy crust and just the right amount of fresh mozzerella. She sucked the cheese off her fingers and made faces at Jules, who had excellent table manners.
The film was much more puzzling. It appeared to be about a man who owned a bookstore and was in love with a famous woman, except Emma recognized neither of them and wasn’t sure if she was supposed to. Cristina watched in large-eyed bafflement, Ty put his headphones on and closed his eyes, and Dru and Livvy sat on either side of Malcolm, patting him gently while he wept.
“Love is beautiful,” he said while the man on-screen ran through traffic.
“That’s not love,” said Julian, leaning back against the couch. The flickering light from the screen played over his skin, making it seem unfamiliar, adding frecklings of darkness to the smooth, pale places and lighting the shadows under his cheekbones, at the hollow of his throat. “That’s movies.”
“I came to Los Angeles to bring back love,” Malcolm said, his dark violet eyes mournful. “All great movies are about love. Love lost, found, destroyed, regained, bought, sold, dying, and being born. I love movies, but they’ve forgotten what they’re about. Explosions, effects, that wasn’t what it meant when I first got here. It was about lighting cigarette smoke so it looked like heavenly fire and lighting women so they looked like angels.” Malcolm sighed. “I came here to bring true love back from the dead.”
“Oh, Malcolm,” said Drusilla, and burst into tears. Livvy handed her a napkin from the pizza place. “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”
“I’m straight,” Malcolm said, looking surprised.
“Well, all right, then a girlfriend. You should find a nice Downworlder girl, maybe a vampire, so she’ll live forever.”
“Leave Malcolm’s love life alone, Dru,” said Livvy.
“True love is hard to find,” Malcolm said, gesturing at the people kissing on-screen. “Movie love is hard to find,” said Julian. “Because it’s not real.”
“What do you mean?” said Cristina. “Are you saying there is no true love? I don’t believe that.” “Love isn’t chasing someone to the airport,” said Julian. He leaned forward, and Emma could see just
the edge of the parabatai Mark on his collarbone, escaping above the neck of his T-shirt. “Love means you see someone. That’s all.”
“You see them?” Ty echoed, sounding dubious. He’d turned the music down on his player, but his headphones were still on, his black hair scrunched up around them.
Julian took hold of the remote. The movie had ended; white credits scrolled down the screen. “When you love someone, they become a part of who you are. They’re in everything you do. They’re in the air you breathe and the water you drink and the blood in your veins. Their touch stays on your skin and their voice stays in your ears and their thoughts stay in your mind. You know their dreams because their nightmares pierce your heart and their good dreams are your dreams too. And you don’t think they’re perfect, but you know their flaws, the deep-down truth of them, and the shadows of all their secrets, and they don’t frighten you away; in fact you love them more for it, because you don’t want perfect. You want them. You want—”
He broke off then, as if realizing everyone was looking at him. “You want what?” said Dru with enormous eyes.
“Nothing,” Julian said. “I’m just talking.” And he shut off the TV and picked up the pizza boxes. “I’m going to throw these away,” he said, and left.
“When he falls in love,” said Dru, looking after him, “it’s going to be like . . . wow.”
“Of course then we’ll probably never see him again,” said Livvy. “Lucky girl, whoever she’ll be.” Ty’s brows drew together. “You’re joking, right?” he said. “You don’t mean we’ll actually never see
“Definitely not,” Emma said. When Ty was much younger, he’d been puzzled by the way people talked and the way they exaggerated to make a point. Phrases like “raining cats and dogs” had caused him annoyance—and sometimes a small amount of betrayal, since he liked cats and dogs a great deal more than he liked rain.
At some point Julian had begun a series of silly drawings for him, showing the literal meaning of phrases and then the figurative ones. Ty had giggled at the illustrations of cats and dogs falling out of the sky and people having their socks knocked off, as well as the bubble pictures of animals and people explaining what the idioms really meant. After that he was often to be found in the library, looking up
expressions and their meanings, committing them to memory. Ty didn’t mind having things explained to him, and he never forgot what he’d been taught, but he preferred teaching himself.
He still sometimes liked to be reassured that an exaggeration was an exaggeration, even if he was 90 percent sure of it. Livvy, who knew better than anyone the anxiety that imprecise language could cause her brother, scrambled to her feet and went over to him. She put her arms around him, her chin against his shoulder. Ty leaned against her, his eyes half-lidded. Ty liked physical affection when he was in the mood for it, as long as it wasn’t too intense—he liked having his hair ruffled and his back patted or scratched. Sometimes he reminded Emma a bit of their cat, Church, when Church wanted an ear rub.
Light flared. Cristina had gotten up and flicked the witchlight back on. Brightness expanded to fill the room as Julian came back in and looked around; whatever composure he’d lost was back. “It’s late,” he said. “Bedtime. Especially for you, Tavvy.”
“Hate bedtime,” said Tavvy, who was sitting in Malcolm’s lap, playing with a toy the warlock had given him. It was square and purple and sent off bright sparks.
“That’s the spirit of the revolution,” said Jules. “Malcolm, thanks. I’m sure we’ll be needing your help again.”
Malcolm set Tavvy gently aside and stood up, brushing pizza dust from his rumpled clothes. Picking up his discarded jacket, he headed out into the hallway, Emma and Julian following him. “Well, you know where to find me,” he said, zipping the jacket up. “I was going to talk to Diana tomorrow about—”
“Diana can’t know,” Emma said.
Malcolm looked puzzled. “Can’t know about what?”
“That we’re looking into this,” Julian said, cutting Emma off. “She doesn’t want us involved. Says it’s dangerous.”
Malcolm looked disgruntled. “You could have mentioned that before,” he said. “I don’t like keeping things from her.”
“Sorry,” Julian said. His expression was smooth, faintly apologetic. As always, Emma was both impressed and a little frightened by his ability to lie. Julian was an expert liar when he wanted to be; no shadow of what he really felt would touch his face. “We can’t go much further with this without help from the Clave and the Silent Brothers anyway.”
“All right.” Malcolm looked at them both closely; Emma did her best to match Julian’s poker face. “As long as you talk to Diana about this tomorrow.” He shoved his hands into his pockets, the light gleaming off his colorless hair. “There is one thing I didn’t get a chance to tell you. Those markings around the body that Emma found, they weren’t for a protective spell.”
“But you said—” Emma started.
“I changed my mind when I got a closer look,” Malcolm said. “They’re not protective runes. They’re summoning runes. Someone’s using the energy of the dead bodies to summon.”
“To summon what?” said Jules.
Malcolm shook his head. “Something to this world. A demon, an angel, I don’t know. I’ll look at the photos some more, ask around the Spiral Labyrinth discreetly.”
“So if it was a summoning spell,” Emma said, “was it successful or unsuccessful?” “A spell like that?” Malcolm said. “If it was successful, believe me, you’d know.”
Emma was woken up by a plaintive meow.
She opened her eyes to find a Persian cat sitting on her chest. It was a blue Persian, to be precise, very round, with tucked-in ears and large yellow eyes.
With a yelp Emma leaped to her feet. The cat went flying. The next few moments were chaos as she stumbled over her nightstand while the cat yowled. Finally she succeeded in turning on the light, to find the cat sitting by the door of her room, looking smug and entitled.
“Church,” she wailed. “Seriously? Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
It was clear from Church’s expression that he didn’t. Church was a cat who sometimes belonged to the Institute. He’d shown up on the front step four years ago, left in a box on the doorstep with a note addressed to Emma and a line of script underneath. Please take care of my cat. Brother Zachariah.
At the time Emma hadn’t been able to figure out why a Silent Brother, even a former Silent Brother, had wanted her to take care of his cat. She’d called Clary, who’d said that the cat had once lived at the New York Institute but did truly belong to Brother Zachariah, and if Emma and Julian wanted the cat they should keep him.
His name was Church, she said.
Church turned out to be the kind of cat who didn’t stay where he was put. He was endlessly escaping out open windows and disappearing for days or even weeks. At first Emma had been frantic every time he left, but he always came back looking sleeker and more self-satisfied than ever. When Emma turned fourteen, he’d begun to come back with presents for her tied to his collar: shells and pieces of sea glass. Emma had put the shells on her windowsill. The sea glass had become Julian’s good-luck bracelet.
By then, Emma knew the presents were from Jem, but she had no way of reaching him to thank him. So she did her best to take care of Church. There was always dry cat food left out for Church in the entryway, and clean drinking water. They were happy to see him when he showed up, and not worried when he didn’t.
Church meowed and scraped at the door. Emma was used to this: It meant he wanted her to follow him. With a sigh she pulled on a sweater over her leggings and tank top and shoved her feet into flip-flops.
“This better be good,” she told Church, grabbing up her stele. “Or I’ll make you into a tennis racket.” Church didn’t appear worried. He led Emma through the hall, down the stairs, and out the front door.
The moon was high and bright, reflecting off the water in the distance. It made a path that Emma wandered toward, bemused, as Church kept up his trotting. She scooped him up as they crossed the highway, and deposited him on the beach when they reached the other side.
“Well, we’re here,” she said. “The world’s biggest litter box.”
Church gave her a look that suggested he wasn’t impressed with her wit, and sauntered toward the shoreline. They wandered along the edge of the water together. It was a peaceful night, the surf slow and shallow, quieter than the wind. Occasionally Church would make a run for a sand crab, but he always came back, trotting just ahead of Emma, toward the northern constellations. Emma was starting to wonder if he was actually leading her anywhere at all when she realized that they’d rounded the curve of rocks that hid her and Julian’s secret beach, and that the beach wasn’t uninhabited.
She slowed down. The sand was lit up with moonlight, and Julian was sitting in the middle of it, well up from the shoreline. She went toward him, her feet silent on the sand. He didn’t look up.
She rarely had a chance to look at Julian when he didn’t know she was watching. It felt strange, even a little unnerving. The moon was bright enough that she could see the color of his T-shirt—red—and that he was wearing old blue jeans, and that his feet were bare. His bracelet of sea glass seemed to glow. She rarely wished that she could draw, but she did now, just so that she could draw the way he was all one perfect single line, from the angle of his bent leg to the curve of his back as he leaned forward.
Only a few feet from him, she stopped. “Jules?”
He looked up. He didn’t seem the least bit startled. “Was that Church?”
Emma glanced around. It took her a moment before she located the cat, perched on top of a rock. He was licking his paw. “He came back,” she said, sitting down on the sand next to Jules. “You know, for a visit.”
“I saw you coming around the rocks.” He gave her a half smile. “I thought I was dreaming.” “Couldn’t sleep?”
He rubbed the back of his hand across his eyes. His knuckles were splattered with paint. “You could
say that.” He shook his head. “Weird nightmares. Demons, faeries—”
“Pretty standard Shadowhunter stuff,” Emma pointed out. “I mean, that just sounds like a Tuesday.” “Helpful, Emma.” He flopped back down on the sand, his hair making a dark halo around his head. “I’m all about being helpful.” She flopped down next to him, looking up at the sky. Light pollution from
Los Angeles spilled out to the beach, too, and the stars were dim but visible. The moon moved in and out behind clouds. A strange sense of peace had fallen over Emma, a sense that she was where she belonged. She hadn’t felt it since Julian and the others had left for England.
“I was thinking about what you said earlier,” he said. “About all the dead ends. All the times we’ve thought we found something that pointed toward what happened to your parents, but it was nothing.”
She looked toward him. The moonlight made his profile sharp.
“I was thinking maybe there was a meaning to it,” he said. “That maybe finding out who it was had to wait until now. Until you were ready. I’ve watched you train, I’ve watched you get better. And better. Whoever it is, whatever it is, you’re ready now. You can face it down. You can win.”
Something fluttered under Emma’s rib cage. Familiarity, she thought. This was Jules, the Jules she knew, who had more faith in her than she had in herself.
“I like to think things have a point,” she said softly.
“They do.” He paused for a moment, eyes on the sky. “I’ve been counting stars. Sometimes I think it helps to set yourself a pointless task.”
“Remember, when we were younger, we used to talk about running away? Navigating by the North Star?” she said. “Before the war.”
He folded his arm behind his head. Moonlight spilled down, illuminating his eyelashes. “Right. I was going to run off, join the French Foreign Legion. Rename myself Julien.”
“Because no one was ever going to crack that code.” She tipped her head to the side. “Jules. What’s bothering you? I know something is.”
He was silent. Emma could see his chest rising and falling slowly. The sound of his breath was drowned out by the sound of the water.
She reached over and laid her hand against his arm, her finger tracing lightly down the skin. W-H-A-T I-S I-T?
He turned his face away from hers; she saw him shudder, as if a chill had passed over him. “It’s Mark.” Julian was still looking away from her; she could see only the curve of his throat and chin. “Mark?” “I’ve been thinking about him,” Julian said. “More than usual. I mean, Helen is always there for me on
the other end of the phone if I need her, even if she’s on Wrangel Island. But Mark might as well have died.”
Emma sat up straight. “Don’t say that. He’s not dead.”
“I know. You know how I know?” Jules asked, his voice tightening. “I used to look for the Wild Hunt every night. But they never come. Statistically, they should have ridden by here at least once in the past five years. But they never have. I think Mark won’t let them.”
“Why not?” Emma was staring at him now. Jules hardly ever talked like this. Not with this bitterness in his voice.
“Because he doesn’t want to see us. Any sign of us.” “Because he loves you?”
“Or because he hates us. I don’t know.” Julian dug restlessly at the sand. “I’d hate us, if I was him. I hate him, sometimes.”
Emma swallowed. “I hate my parents, too, for dying. Sometimes. It’s not—it doesn’t mean anything, Jules.”
He turned his face toward her at that. His eyes were huge, black rings around the blue-green irises. “That’s not the kind of hate I mean.” His voice was low. “If he was here, God, everything would be
different. Would have been different. I wouldn’t be the one who ought to be home now in case Tavvy wakes up. I wouldn’t be doing an immoral thing, walking down to the beach because I needed to get away. Tavvy, Dru, Livvy, Ty—they would have had someone to raise them. Mark was sixteen. I was twelve.”
“Neither of you chose—”
“No, we didn’t.” Julian sat up. The collar of his shirt hung loose, and there was sand on his skin and in his hair. “We didn’t choose. Because if I’d ever been able to choose, I would have made really different decisions.”
Emma knew she shouldn’t ask. Not when he was like this. But she had no experience of Julian like this; she didn’t know how to react to him, how to be. “What would you have done differently?” she whispered.
“I don’t know if I would have wanted a parabatai.” The words came out clear and precise and brutal. Emma flinched back. It felt like standing in knee-high water and being slapped in the face suddenly and
unexpectedly by a wave. “Do you actually mean that?” she said. “You wouldn’t have wanted it? This, with me?”
He got to his feet. The moon had come out entirely from behind the clouds and it shone down undimmed, bright enough that she could see the color of the paint on his hands. The light freckles across his cheekbones. The tightness of the skin around his mouth and temples. The visceral color of his eyes. “I shouldn’t want it,” he said. “I absolutely shouldn’t.”
“Jules,” she said, baffled and hurt and angry, but he was already walking away, down toward the shoreline. By the time she’d scrambled to her feet, he’d reached the rocks. He was a long, lean shadow, climbing over them. And then he was gone.
She could have caught up to him if she’d wanted to, she knew that. But she didn’t want to. For the first time in her life, she didn’t want to talk to Julian.
Something brushed against her ankles. Looking down, she saw Church. His yellow eyes seemed sympathetic, so she picked him up and held him against her, listening to him purr as the tide came in.
Idris, 2007, The Dark War
When Julian Blackthorn was twelve years old, he killed his own father.
There were, of course, extenuating circumstances. His father wasn’t his father anymore, not really. More like a monster wearing his father’s face. But when the nightmares came, in the dead of night, it didn’t matter. Julian saw Andrew Blackthorn’s face, and his own hand holding the blade, and the blade going into his father, and he knew.
He was cursed.
That was what happened when you killed your own father. The gods cursed you. His uncle had said it, and his uncle knew quite a lot of things, especially things that had to do with the curses of gods and the price of bloodshed.
Julian had known a great deal of bloodshed, more than any twelve-year-old ought to know. It was Sebastian Morgenstern’s fault. He was the Shadowhunter who had started the Dark War, who had used spells and tricks to turn ordinary Shadowhunters into mindless killing machines. An army at his disposal. An army meant to destroy all of the Nephilim who would not join him.
Julian, his brothers and sisters, and Emma had been hiding in the Hall of Accords. The greatest hall in Idris, it was meant to be able to keep out any monster. But it could not keep out Shadowhunters, even those who had lost their souls.
The huge double doors had cracked open and the Endarkened had surged into the room, and like a poison released into the air, where they went, death followed. They cut down the guards, and they cut down the children who were being guarded. They didn’t care. They had no conscience.
They were pressing farther into the Hall. Julian had tried to herd the children into a group: Ty and Livvy, the solemn twins; and Dru, who was only eight; and Tavvy, the baby. He stood in front of them with his arms outstretched as if he could protect them, as if he could make a wall with his body that would hold back death.
And then death stepped out in front of him. A Dark Shadowhunter, demon runes blazing on his skin, with tangled brown hair and bloodshot blue-green eyes the same color as Julian’s.
Julian looked around for Emma but she was fighting a faerie warrior, fierce as fire, her sword, Cortana, flashing in her hands. Julian wanted to go to her, wanted it desperately, but he couldn’t step away from the children. Someone had to protect them. His older sister was outside; his older brother taken by the Hunt. It would have to be him.
That was when Andrew Blackthorn reached them. Bloody cuts scissored across his face. His skin was slack and gray, but his grip on his sword was tight, and his eyes were fixed on his children.
“Ty,” he said, his voice low and hoarse. And he looked at Tiberius, his son, and there was rapacious hunger in his eyes. “Tiberius. My Ty. Come here.”
Ty’s gray eyes opened wide. His twin, Livia, clutched at him, but he strained forward, toward his father. “Dad?” he said.
Andrew Blackthorn’s face seemed to split with his grin, and Julian thought he could see through the split that tore it open, see the evil and darkness inside, the writhing pestilential core of horror and chaos that was all that animated the body that had once been his father’s. His father’s voice rose in a
croon. “Come here, my boy, my Tiberius . . .”
Ty took another step forward, and Julian pulled the shortsword from his belt and threw it.
He was twelve. He was not particularly strong or particularly skilled. But the gods who would soon hate him must have smiled on that throw, because the blade flew like an arrow, like a bullet, and plunged into Andrew Blackthorn’s chest, knocking him to the ground. He was dead before he hit the marble floor, his blood spreading around him in a dark red pool.
“I hate you!” Ty threw himself at Julian, and Julian threw his arms around his little brother, thanking the Angel over and over that Ty was all right, was breathing, was thrashing and pounding his chest and looking up at him with tearful, angry eyes. “You killed him, I hate you, I hate you—”
Livvy had her hands on Ty’s back, trying to pull him away. Julian could feel the blood rushing through Ty’s veins, the rise and fall of his chest; he felt the force of his brother’s hatred and knew it meant that Ty was alive. They were all alive. Livvy with her soft words and her soothing hands, Dru with her enormous, terrified eyes, and Tavvy with his uncomprehending tears.
And Emma. His Emma.
He had committed the most ancient and worst of sins: He had killed his own father, the person who gave him life.
And he would do it again. What kind of person was he?