Los angeles, 2012
Shadow Market nights were Kit’s favorite.
They were the nights he was allowed to leave the house and help his father at the booth. He’d been coming to the Shadow Market since he was seven years old. Eight years later he still felt the same sense of shock and wonder when he walked down Kendall Alley through Old Town Pasadena toward a blank brick wall—and stepped through it into an explosive world of color and light.
Only a few blocks away were Apple Stores selling gadgets and laptops, Cheesecake Factories and organic food markets, American Apparel shops and trendy boutiques. But here the alley opened out into a massive square, warded on each side to prevent the careless from wandering into the Shadow Market.
The Los Angeles Shadow Market came out when the night was warm, and it both existed and didn’t exist. Kit knew that when he stepped in among the lines of brightly decorated stalls, he was walking in a space that would vanish when the sun rose in the morning.
But for the time he was there, he enjoyed it. It was one thing to have the Gift when no one else around you had it. The Gift was what his father called it, although Kit didn’t think it was much of one. Hyacinth, the lavender-haired fortune-teller in the booth at the market’s edge, called it the Sight.
That name made more sense to Kit. After all, the only thing that separated him from ordinary kids was that he could see things they couldn’t. Harmless things sometimes, pixies rising from dry grass along the cracked sidewalks, the pale faces of vampires in gas stations late at night, a man clicking his fingers against a diner counter; when Kit looked again, he saw the fingers were werewolf claws. It had been happening to him since he was a little kid, and his dad had it too. The Sight ran in families.
Resisting the urge to react was the hardest. Walking home from school one afternoon he’d seen a pack of werewolves tearing each other apart in a deserted playground. He’d stood on the pavement and screamed until the police came, but there was nothing for them to see. After that his father kept him at home, mostly, letting him teach himself out of old books. He played video games in the basement and went out rarely, during the day, or when the Shadow Market was on.
At the Market he didn’t have to worry about reacting to anything. The Market was colorful and bizarre even to its inhabitants. There were ifrits holding performing djinn on leashes, and beautiful peri girls dancing in front of booths that sold glittering, dangerous powders. A banshee manned a stall that promised to tell you when you’d die, though Kit couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to know that. A cluricaun offered to find lost things, and a young witch with short, bright-green hair sold enchanted bracelets and pendants to catch romantic attention. When Kit looked over at her, she smiled.
“Hey, Romeo.” Kit’s father elbowed him in the ribs. “I didn’t bring you here to flirt. Help put the sign up.”
He kicked their bent metal footstool over to Kit and handed him a slab of wood onto which he had burned his stall’s name: JOHNNY ROOK’S.
Not the most creative title, but Kit’s father had never been over-burdened with imagination. Which was strange, Kit thought as he clambered up to hang the sign, for someone whose clientele list included warlocks, werewolves, vampires, sprites, wights, ghouls, and once, a mermaid. (They’d met in secret at SeaWorld.)
Still, maybe a simple sign was the best. Kit’s dad sold some potions and powders—even, under the table, some questionably legal weaponry—but none of that was what brought people to his booth. The fact was that Johnny Rook was a guy who knew things. There was nothing that happened in L.A.’s Downworld that he wasn’t aware of, no one so powerful that he didn’t know a secret about them or a way to get in touch with them. He was a guy who had information, and if you had the money, he’d tell it to you.
Kit jumped down off the footstool and his dad handed him two fifty-dollar bills. “Get change off someone,” he said, not looking at Kit. He’d pulled his red ledger out from under the counter and was looking through it, probably trying to figure out who owed him money. “That’s the smallest I’ve got.”
Kit nodded and ducked out of the booth, glad to get away. Any errand was an excuse to wander. He passed a stand laden with white flowers that gave off a dark, sweet, poisonous aroma, and another where a group of people in expensive suits were passing out pamphlets in front of a sign that said PART
SUPERNATURAL? YOU’RE NOT ALONE. THE FOLLOWERS OF THE GUARDIAN WANT YOU TO SIGN UP FOR THE
LOTTERY OF FAVOR! LET LUCK INTO YOUR LIFE!
A red-lipped, dark-haired woman tried to thrust a pamphlet into his hands. When Kit didn’t take it, she cast a sultry glance past him, toward Johnny, who grinned. Kit rolled his eyes—there were a million little cults that sprang up around worshipping some minor demon or angel. Nothing ever seemed to come of them.
Tracking down one of his favorite stands, Kit bought a cup of red-dyed shaved ice that tasted like passion fruit and raspberries and cream all mashed up together. He tried to be careful who he bought from —there were candies and drinks at the Market that could wreck your whole life—but no one was going to take any risks with Johnny Rook’s son. Johnny Rook knew something about everyone. Cross him and you were liable to find your secrets weren’t secret anymore.
Kit circled back around to the witch with the charmed jewelry. She didn’t have a stall; she was, as usual, sitting on a printed sarong, the kind of cheap, bright cloth you could buy on Venice Beach. She looked up as he drew closer.
“Hey, Wren,” he said. He doubted it was her real name, but it was what everyone at the Market called her.
“Hey, pretty boy.” She moved aside to make room for him, her bracelets and anklets jingling. “What brings you to my humble abode?”
He slid down beside her on the ground. His jeans were worn, holes in the knees. He wished he could keep the cash his father had given him to buy himself a few new clothes. “Dad needed me to break two fifties.”
“Shh.” She waved a hand at him. “There are people here who’d cut your throat for two fifties and sell your blood as dragon fire.”
“Not me,” Kit said confidently. “No one here would touch me.” He leaned back. “Unless I wanted them to.”
“And here I thought I was all out of shameless flirting charms.”
“I am your shameless flirting charm.” He smiled at two people walking by: a tall, good-looking boy with a streak of white in his dark hair and a brunette girl whose eyes were shaded by sunglasses. They ignored him. But Wren perked up at the sight of the two Market-goers behind them: a burly man and a woman with brown hair hanging in a rope down her back.
“Protection charms?” Wren said winningly. “Guaranteed to keep you safe. I’ve got gold and brass too, not just silver.”
The woman bought a ring with a moonstone in it and moved on, chattering to her partner. “How’d you know they were werewolves?” Kit asked.
“The look in her eye,” said Wren. “Werewolves are impulse buyers. And their glances skip right over anything silver.” She sighed. “I’m doing a bang-up business in protection charms since those murders started up.”
Wren made a face. “Some kind of crazy magic thing. Dead bodies turning up all covered in demon languages. Burned, drowned, hands chopped off—all sorts of rumors. How have you not heard about it? Don’t you pay attention to gossip?”
“No,” Kit said. “Not really.” He was watching the werewolf couple as they made their way toward the north end of the Market, where the lycanthropes tended to gather to buy whatever it was they needed— tableware made out of wood and iron, wolfsbane, tear-away pants (he hoped).
Even though the Market was meant to be a place where Downworlders mingled, they tended to group together by type. There was the area where vampires gathered to buy flavored blood or seek out new subjugates from among those who’d lost their masters. There were the vine-and-flower pavilions where faeries drifted, trading charms and whispering fortunes. They kept back from the rest of the Market, forbidden to do business like the others. Warlocks, rare and feared, occupied stalls at the very end of the Market. Every warlock bore a mark proclaiming their demonic heritage: some had tails, some wings or curling horns. Kit had once glimpsed a warlock woman who had been entirely blue-skinned, like a fish.
Then there were those with the Sight, like Kit and his father, ordinary folk gifted with the ability to see the Shadow World, to pierce through glamours. Wren was one of them: a self-taught witch who’d paid a warlock for a course of training in basic spells, but she kept a low profile. Humans weren’t supposed to practice magic, but there was a thriving underground trade in teaching it. You could make good money, provided you weren’t caught by the—
“Shadowhunters,” Wren said.
“How did you know I was thinking about them?”
“Because they’re right over there. Two of them.” She jerked her chin to the right, her eyes bright with alarm.
In fact the whole Market was tensing up, people moving to casually slide their bottles and boxes of poisons and potions and death’s-head charms out of sight. Leashed djinn crept behind their masters. The peris had stopped dancing and were watching the Shadowhunters, their pretty faces gone cold and hard. There were two of them, a boy and a girl, probably seventeen or eighteen. The boy was red-haired,
tall, and athletic-looking; Kit couldn’t see the girl’s face, just masses of blond hair, cascading to her waist. She wore a golden sword strapped across her back and walked with the kind of confidence you couldn’t fake.
They both wore gear, the tough black protective clothing that marked them out as Nephilim: part-human, part-angel, the uncontested rulers over every supernatural creature on earth. They had Institutes—like massive police stations—in nearly every big city on the planet, from Rio to Baghdad to Lahore to Los Angeles. Most Shadowhunters were born what they were, but they could make humans into Shadowhunters too if they felt like it. They’d been desperate to fill out their ranks since they’d lost so many lives in the Dark War. The word was they’d kidnap anyone under nineteen who showed any sign of being decent potential Shadowhunter material.
Anyone, in other words, who had the Sight.
“They’re heading to your dad’s booth,” Wren whispered. She was right. Kit tensed as he saw them turn down the row of stalls and head unerringly toward the sign that read JOHNNY ROOK’S.
“Get up.” Wren was on her feet, shooing Kit into a standing position. She leaned down to fold up her merch inside the cloth they’d been sitting on. Kit noticed an odd drawing on the back of her hand, a symbol like lines of water running underneath a flame. Maybe she’d been doodling on herself. “I’ve got to go.”
“Because of the Shadowhunters?” he said in surprise, standing back to allow her to pack up. “Shh.” She hurried away, her colorful hair bouncing.
“Weird,” Kit muttered, and headed back toward his dad’s booth. He approached from the side, head down, hands in his pockets. He was pretty sure his dad would yell at him if he presented himself in front of the Shadowhunters—especially considering the rumors that they were press-ganging every mundane with the Sight under nineteen—but he couldn’t help but want to eavesdrop.
The blond girl was leaning forward, elbows on the wooden counter. “Good to see you, Rook,” she said with a winning smile.
She was pretty, Kit thought. Older than he was, and the boy she was with towered over him. And she was a Shadowhunter. So she was undateably pretty, but pretty nonetheless. Her arms were bare, and a long, pale scar ran from one elbow to her wrist. Black tattoos in the shapes of strange symbols twined up and down them, patterning her skin. One peeked from the V of her shirt. They were runes, the sorcerous Marks that gave the Shadowhunters their power. Only Shadowhunters could wear them. If you drew them on a normal person’s skin, or a Downworlder’s, they would go insane.
“And who’s this?” Johnny Rook asked, jerking his chin toward the Shadowhunter boy. “The famous parabatai?”
Kit looked at the pair with renewed interest. Everyone who knew about Nephilim knew what parabatai were. Two Shadowhunters who swore to be platonically loyal to each other forever, always to fight by each other’s sides. To live and die for each other. Jace Herondale and Clary Fairchild, the most famous Shadowhunters in the world, each had a parabatai. Even Kit knew that much.
“No,” the girl drawled, picking up a jar of greenish liquid from a stack by the cash register. It was meant to be a love potion, though Kit knew that several of the jars held water that had been dyed with food coloring. “This isn’t really Julian’s kind of place.” Her gaze flicked around the Market.
“I’m Cameron Ashdown.” The redheaded Shadowhunter stuck out a hand and Johnny, looking bemused, shook it. Kit took the opportunity to edge behind the counter. “I’m Emma’s boyfriend.”
The blond girl—Emma—winced, barely perceptibly. Cameron Ashdown might be her boyfriend now, Kit thought, but he wouldn’t lay bets on him staying that way.
“Huh,” said Johnny, taking the jar out of Emma’s hand. “So I assume you’re here to pick up what you left.” He fished what looked like a scrap of red cloth out of his pocket. Kit stared. What could possibly be interesting about a square of cotton?
Emma straightened up. She looked eager now. “Did you find out anything?”
“If you dropped it in a washing machine with a load of whites, it would definitely turn your socks pink.”
Emma took the cloth back with a frown. “I’m serious. You don’t know how many people I had to bribe to get this. It was in the Spiral Labyrinth. It’s a piece of the shirt my mom was wearing when she was killed.”
Johnny held up a hand. “I know. I was just—”
“Don’t be sarcastic. My job is being sarcastic and quippy. Your job is getting shaken down for information.”
“Or paid,” said Cameron Ashdown. “Being paid for information is also fine.”
“Look, I can’t help you,” said Kit’s father. “There’s no magic here. It’s just some cotton. Shredded up and full of seawater, but—cotton.”
The look of disappointment that passed over the girl’s face was vivid and unmistakable. She made no
attempt to hide it, just tucked the cloth into her pocket. Kit couldn’t help feeling a jolt of sympathy, which surprised him—he never thought he’d be sympathetic to a Shadowhunter.
Emma looked over at him, almost as if he’d spoken. “So,” she said, and suddenly there was a glint in her eyes. “You’ve got the Sight, huh, like your dad? How old are you?”
Kit froze. His dad moved in front of him quickly, blocking him from Emma’s view. “Now here I thought you were going to ask me about the murders that have been happening. Behind on your information, Carstairs?”
Apparently Wren had been right, Kit thought—everyone did know about these murders. He could tell by the warning note in his father’s voice that he should make himself scarce, but he was trapped behind the counter with no escape route.
“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
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.”