“I think Ty’s doubled up on his detective reading,” Julian said with a smile. He had his window cranked down, and the air blowing into the car lifted his curling hair off his forehead. “He asked me if I thought the killings were an inside job.”
“Inside what?” Emma smiled.
She was leaning back in the passenger seat of the car, her booted feet up on the dashboard. The windows were open to the night, and Emma could hear the sounds of the city rising all around them as they idled at a red light.
They had turned up Sunset off the Coast Highway. At first as they wound through the canyons and into Beverly Hills and Bel Air, the suburbs were quiet, but they had moved into the heart of Hollywood now, the Sunset Strip, lined with expensive restaurants and massive, hundred-foot-high billboards plastered with ads for movies and TV shows. The streets were crowded and noisy: tourists posing for photos with celebrity imitators, street musicians collecting change, pedestrians hurrying back and forth from work.
Julian seemed more at ease than he had in the past few days, leaning back in his seat, his hands casual on the wheel. Emma knew exactly how he felt. Here, in gear jacket and jeans, with Julian beside her and Cortana in the trunk, she felt like she belonged.
Emma had tried to bring up Mark, briefly, when they had first settled into the car. Julian had only shaken his head and said, “He’s getting adjusted,” and that was all. She sensed he didn’t want to talk about Mark, and that was fine: She didn’t know that she had any solutions to offer. And it was easy, so easy, to slip back into their normal joking banter.
“I think he was asking if I thought the killer was a Shadowhunter.” Traffic was gathering as they reached the intersection of Sunset and Vine, and the car rolled slowly under the palm trees and neon. “I said no—it was obviously someone who knew magic, and I didn’t think a Shadowhunter would hire a warlock to murder for them. Mostly we do our own murdering.”
Emma giggled. “You told him Shadowhunters are DIY about their killing?” “We’re DIY about everything.”
The traffic started up again; Emma glanced down, watching the play of muscle and tendon in Jules’s hand as he shifted gears. The car slid forward, and Emma glanced out the window at the people in line at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. She wondered idly what they would think if they knew the two teenagers in the Toyota were actually demon hunters with a trunk full of crossbows, polearms, daggers, katanas, and throwing knives.
“Everything all right with Diana?” Emma asked.
“She wanted to talk about Ty.” Julian’s voice was even, but Emma saw him swallow. “He wants so badly to go to the Scholomance and study. They have access to the libraries of the Spiral Labyrinth, the Silent Brothers’ archives—I mean, think of everything we don’t know about runes and rituals, the mysteries and puzzles he could solve. But at the same time . . .”
“He’d be the youngest person there,” said Emma. “That would be hard on anyone. Ty’s only ever been with us.” She touched Julian’s wrist, lightly. “I’m glad I never went to the Academy. And the Scholomance is supposed to be much harder. And lonelier. Some of the students have wound up failing out with—well, Clary called it nervous breakdowns. I think it’s a mundane term.”
Julian glanced down at the GPS and made a left turn, heading up toward the hills. “How often do you talk to Clary these days?”
“About once a month.” Clary had been calling her to check on her ever since they’d first met in Idris when Emma was twelve. It was one of the few things Emma didn’t talk about much with Jules: The conversations with Clary felt like something that belonged just to her.
“Is she still with Jace?”
Emma laughed, feeling her tension drain. Clary and Jace were an institution, a legend. They belonged together. “Who’d break up with him?”
“I might, if he was insufficiently attentive to my needs.”
“Well, she doesn’t talk about her love life to me. But yeah, they’re still together. If they broke up I might have to stop believing in love entirely.”
“I didn’t know you did believe in love,” said Jules, and paused, as if he realized what he’d said. “That came out wrong.”
Emma was indignant. “Just because I wasn’t in love with Cameron—”
“You weren’t?” Traffic sped up; the car lurched forward. Julian struck the wheel with the heel of his palm. “Look, none of this is my business. Forget it. Forget I asked about Jace and Clary, or Simon and Isabelle—”
“You didn’t ask about Simon and Isabelle.”
“I didn’t?” The side of his mouth quirked up. “Isabelle was my first crush, you know.”
“Of course I know.” She threw the cap of her water bottle at him. “It was so obvious! You were staring at her at the party after Aline and Helen’s wedding.”
He ducked the bottle cap. “I was not.”
“You so were,” she said. “Do we need to talk about what we’re looking for at Wells’s place?” “I think we should play it by ear.”
“‘The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon, which enables it to strike and destroy its victim,’” said Emma.
Julian looked at her incredulously. “Was that a quote from The Art of War?”
“Maybe.” Emma felt a happiness so intense it was almost sorrow: She was with Jules, they were joking, everything was the way it should be between parabatai. They had turned onto a series of residential streets: wide mansions twined with flowers rose above high hedges, cocooned behind sweeping driveways.
“Are you being pithy? You know how I feel about pithiness in my car,” Julian said. “It’s not your car.”
“Either way, we’re here,” Jules said, pulling the car up to the curb and killing the engine. It was twilight now, not quite full dark, and Emma could see Wells’s house, looking like it had in the satellite photos on the computer: the peaks of the roof just rising over the massive wall that surrounded it, covered with draped trellises of bougainvillea.
Julian hit the button that raised the car windows. Emma looked over at him. “Just about dark. We worried about demonic activity?”
He checked the glove compartment. “Nothing on the Sensor, but just to be sure, let’s rune up.” “Okay.” Emma pushed up her sleeves, holding out her bare arms as Julian drew the pale-white,
glimmering stele from his pocket. In the dark of the car, he leaned over, put the tip of the stele to her skin, and began to draw. Emma could feel his hair brush against her cheek and neck, and smell the faint scent of cloves that hung around him.
She looked down, and as the black lines of runes spread across her skin, Emma remembered what Cristina had said about Jules: He has nice hands. She wondered if she’d ever really looked at them before. Were they nice? They were Julian’s hands. They were hands that painted and fought; they had never failed him. In that way they were beautiful.
“All right.” Jules sat back, admiring his handiwork. Neat runes of precision and stealth, soundlessness and balance decorated her forearms. Emma drew down her sleeves and reached for her own stele.
He shivered when the stele touched his skin. It must be cold. “Sorry,” Emma whispered, bracing her hand on his shoulder. She could feel the edge of his collarbone under her thumb, the ribbed cotton of his T-shirt soft beneath her touch; she tightened her grip, her fingertips sliding against the bare skin at the edge of his collar. He drew in a sharp breath.
She stopped. “Did I hurt you?”
He shook his head. She couldn’t see his face. “I’m fine.” He reached behind himself and unlocked the driver’s side door; a second later he was out of the car and shrugging on his jacket.
Emma followed him. “But I didn’t finish the Sure-Strike rune—”
He had moved around to the trunk and opened it. He took out his runed crossbow and handed her Cortana and its sheath.
“It’s fine.” He closed the trunk. He didn’t seem bothered: same Julian, same calm smile. “Besides, I don’t need it.”
He raised the crossbow casually and shot. The bolt flew through the air and plunged directly into the security camera over the gate. It blew apart with a whine of shattered metal and a wisp of smoke.
“Show-off,” Emma said, sheathing her sword.
“I’m your parabatai. I have to show off occasionally. Otherwise no one would understand why you keep me around.” An elderly couple appeared from a driveway near them, walking an Alsatian. Emma had to fight the urge to conceal Cortana, though she knew the weapon was glamoured. To the mundanes walking by, she and Julian would look like ordinary teenagers, long sleeves concealing their runes. They passed around the corner of the road and out of sight.
“I keep you around because I need an audience for my witty remarks,” she said as they reached the gates and Jules took out his stele to draw an Open rune.
The gate popped open. Julian turned sideways to slide through the opening. “What witty remarks?” “Oh, you are going to pay for that,” Emma muttered, following him. “I am incredibly witty.”
Julian chuckled. They had come to a lined pathway that led up to a large stucco house with enormous arched front doors, two huge panes of glass on either side. The lights lining the path were on, but the house was dark and silent.
Emma sprang up the steps and peered in through one of the windows; she could see nothing but dark, smudged shapes. “No one home—oh!” She jumped back a step as something flung itself against the window: a lumpy, hair-covered ball. Slime slicked the glass. Emma was already crouching, about to pull a stiletto from her boot. “What is it?” She straightened. “A Raum demon? A—”
“I think it’s a minipoodle,” said Julian, the corner of his mouth twitching. “And I don’t think it’s armed,” he added as she glanced down to stare accusingly at what was, yes, definitely a small dog, its face pressed to the glass. “I’m almost positive, in fact.”
Emma hit him on the shoulder, then drew an Open rune on the door. There was the snapping click of the lock, and the door swung open.
The dog left off licking the window and rushed out, barking. It darted around them in a circle, then lunged toward a fenced area at the far end of the yard. Julian darted off after the canine.
Emma followed him through ankle-high grass. It was a nice garden, but nobody had taken real care of it. The plants were running wild, the flowered hedges overgrown. There was a pool, bordered by a waist-high ironwork fence, the gate hanging open. As Emma neared it, she could see that Julian was standing by the side of it, very still. It was the kind of pool that had LED lights in it, cycling through a rainbow of garish colors. Rows of pool chairs surrounded it, made of white metal with white cushions, dusted with fallen pine needles and blown jacaranda blossoms.
Emma slowed as she reached the water. The dog was crouched by the pool ladder, not barking but whimpering. At first Emma thought she was looking at a shadow on the water; then she realized it was a body. A dead woman in a white bikini, floating on the surface of the pool. She was facedown, long black hair drifting around her head, arms dangling at her sides. The purple glow from the pool lights made her skin look bruised.
“By the Angel, Jules . . . ,” Emma breathed.
It wasn’t as if Emma hadn’t seen dead bodies before. She’d seen plenty. Mundanes, Shadowhunters, murdered children in the Hall of Accords. Still, there was something plaintive about this body: the woman was tiny, so skinny you could see the lines of her spinal column.
There was a splash of red against one of the pool chairs. Emma moved toward it, thinking it was blood, then realized it was a Valentino handbag made of bright red intaglio leather, slightly unzipped. A gold wallet had spilled out of it, and a pink phone.
She glanced at the phone, then picked up the wallet and flicked through it. “Her name’s Ava Leigh,” she said. “She is—she was—twenty-two. Home address listed as here. Must have been his girlfriend.”
The dog whimpered again and lay down, his paws by the pool’s edge. “He thinks she’s drowning,” Julian said. “He wants us to save her.”
“We couldn’t have,” Emma said softly. “Look at her phone. None of the calls have been answered in two days. I think she’s been dead at least that long. We couldn’t have done anything, Jules.”
She put the wallet back into the bag. She was reaching for the handles when she heard it: the click of a crossbow loading.
Without looking or thinking, she threw herself at Jules, knocking him down. They hit the Spanish tile hard as a bolt whistled by them and vanished into the hedges.
Julian kicked off against the ground and spun them over, rolling between two of the chairs. The phone Emma had been carrying flew out of her hand; she heard it hit the pool water with a splash and cursed silently to herself. Julian levered himself up, his hands gripping her shoulders; his eyes were wild, his body pressing hers into the ground. “Are you all right? Were you hit?”
“I wasn’t—I’m fine—” she gasped. The dog was huddled by the fence, howling, as another bolt whistled down and struck the corpse in the pool. Ava’s body flipped over, baring her swollen, drowning-blackened face to the night sky. One of her arms floated up, as if she were raising it to protect herself. With a brief flash of horror, Emma saw that her right hand was missing; not just missing, but looked as if it had been hacked away, the skin around her wrist ragged and bloodless in the chlorinated water.
Emma rolled out from under Julian and sprang to her feet. There was a figure standing on the roof of the house; she could see it only in outline. Tall, most likely masculine, dressed all in black, crossbow in hand. He raised it and took aim. Another bolt whistled by.
Rage settled over Emma, cold and hard. How dare he shoot at them, how dare he shoot at Jules? She took a running jump and cleared the pool. She hurtled over the gate and ran at the house, leaping up to seize hold of the wrought-iron bars covering the lower windows. She levered herself higher, aware that Julian was shouting at her to get down, ignoring where the metal bit into her palms. She swung herself up, then up again, pushing off from the wall to flip herself onto the roof.
The shingles crunched under her feet as she landed in a crouch. She looked up and caught a quick glimpse of the black-clad figure on the rooftop; he was backing away from her. His face was covered with a mask.
Emma unsheathed Cortana. The blade glittered long and wicked in the dusk light.
“What are you?” she demanded. “A vampire? Downworlder? Did you kill Ava Leigh?” She took a step forward; the strange figure backed away. He moved without alarm, very deliberately, which only angered Emma more. There was a dead girl in the pool below them, and Emma had arrived too late to save her.
Her body was thrumming with the desire to do something to fix it.
Emma narrowed her eyes. “Listen up. I’m a Shadowhunter. You can either surrender to the authority of the Clave, or I’ll bury this blade in your heart. Your choice.”
He took a step toward her and for a moment Emma thought it had worked; he was actually giving up. Then he dived suddenly to the side. She lunged forward as he tumbled backward off the roof. He fell silently as a star.
Emma cursed and ran to the edge of the roof. There was nothing. Silence, darkness; no sign of anything or anyone. She could see the glimmer of the pool. She moved around the side and saw Julian bending down, one of his hands on the dog’s head.
Trust Jules to try to comfort a puppy at a time like this. She braced herself and jumped—the image of the training room flashed behind her eyelids—landing in the overgrown grass with only a slight sting.
“Jules?” she said, coming closer. With a whimper the dog darted away, into the shadows. “He got away.”
“Yeah?” He straightened up, sounding preoccupied. “What do you think he was doing here?”
“I don’t know; I guessed vampire, but Nightshade keeps a pretty tight leash on them and—Jules?” She heard her voice skip upward an octave as she drew close enough to see that he had one hand pressed against his side. His black gear jacket was torn. “Jules? Are you okay?”
He drew his hand away from his side. His palm was a welter of blood, black under the blue LED lighting of the pool. “I’m fine,” he said. He rose to his feet and took a step toward her—and stumbled. “It’s fine.”
Her heart flipped over. He was holding something in his bloody hand, and her insides went cold as she saw what it was. A short metal crossbow bolt, with a wide triangular head like an arrow, wet with blood. He must have pulled it from his side.
You were never, never supposed to pull an arrow out of your skin: It did more damage coming out than going in. Julian knew that.
“What did you do?” Emma whispered. Her mouth had gone dry.
Blood was leaking steadily from the tear in his jacket. “It was burning,” he said. “Not like a normal arrow. Emma—”
He dropped to his knees. His expression was dazed, though he was clearly fighting it. “We need to get out of here,” he said hoarsely. “The shooter might come back, alone or with more—”
His voice choked off and he fell backward, sprawling in the grass. Emma moved faster than she ever had in her life, leaping across the pool, but she still wasn’t there in time to catch him before he hit the ground.
Clouds were gathering out over the ocean. The wind up on the roof was cool, the ocean acting like a giant air conditioner. Cristina could hear the roar and crash of the surf in the distance as she moved gingerly across the shingles. What was it about the Blackthorns and Emma that meant that ever since she’d come to Los Angeles she’d spent half her time on top of buildings?
Mark was sitting near one of the copper gutters, his legs dangling over the side. The wind blew his fair hair around his face. His hands were long and white and bare, bracing him against the roof tiles behind
He was holding one of the Institute’s spare cell phones in his hand. It seemed incongruous—it was incongruous, the faerie boy with the long, tangled hair, the tapestry of stars behind him, and the phone in his hand. “I am so sorry, Helen,” she heard him say, and the word echoed with such a depth of love and loneliness that she nearly turned away.
Leaving silently didn’t seem to be an option, though. Mark had heard her approach: He turned slightly, and gestured for Cristina to remain.
She hovered uncertainly. It was Dru who had told her that she would find Mark on the roof, and the others had urged her to go up and see if he was all right. She had wondered if it was really her place, but Ty and Livvy had been absorbed in their translation job, and she’d sensed Dru was afraid of Mark’s harsh words. And it wasn’t as if Tavvy could be sent to fetch his brother down. So with some reluctance, Cristina had climbed the ladder to the roof.
Now that she was here, though, she felt an aching sympathy for the boy perched at the roof’s edge. The look on his face as he spoke to Helen—she couldn’t imagine what it must be like for him, to know there was only one other person in his family quite like him, who shared his blood and heritage, and to know she was separated from him by a cruel and unbreakable Law.
“And I, you, my sister,” Mark said, and let the phone fall from his hand. It was an old-fashioned one, with a screen that flickered and went dark as the call disconnected.
He slid it into a pocket and looked over at Cristina, the clouds casting shadows on his face. “If you have come to tell me I behaved ill, I already know it,” he said.
“That’s not why I came,” she said, moving closer to him but not sitting down.
“But you agree,” he said. “I behaved ill. I should not have spoken as I did to Julian, especially in front of the little ones.”
Cristina spoke carefully. “I don’t know Julian well. But I do believe he was worried about you, and that’s why he didn’t want you to go with them.”
“I know that,” Mark said, surprising her. “But do you know what it’s like, to have your little brother worry about you as if you were the child?” He raked his fingers through his hair. “I thought, while I was gone, that Helen would be raising them. I never thought it would fall so much upon Julian’s shoulders. I cannot tell if that is why he seems unknowable to me.”
Cristina thought of Julian, of his quiet competence and careful smiles. She remembered saying to Emma in a joking way that perhaps she would fall in love with Julian when she met him. And he had been much more beautiful than she’d thought, than Emma’s blurry photos or vague descriptions had led her to believe. But though she liked him, she doubted she could love him. Too much of him was hidden for that.
“A great deal of him is, I think, locked away,” she said. “Have you seen the mural on the wall of his room? The one of the fairy tale? He is like that castle, I think, surrounded by thorns that he has grown to protect himself. But with time, you can cut those thorns away. I believe you will know your brother again.”
“I don’t know how much time I have,” he said. “If we do not solve their puzzle, the Wild Hunt will reclaim me.”
“Do you want them to?” Cristina asked softly. He said nothing, only glanced up at the sky.
“Is that why you come up to the roof? Because from here you can see the Hunt if they go by?”
Mark was silent for a long time. Then he said, “I imagine sometimes I can hear them. That I can hear the sound of their hooves against the clouds.”
She smiled. “I like the way you talk,” she said. “It always sounds like poetry.”
“I speak the way I was taught by the Folk. So many years under their tutelage.” He turned his hands over and placed them on his knees. The insides of his wrists were marked by odd, long scars.
“How many years? Do you know?”
He shrugged. “Time is not measured there as it is measured here. I could not say.”
“The years do not show on your face,” she said quietly. “Sometimes you look as young as Julian and sometimes you look as the fey do—ageless.”
Now he looked at her sideways. “You don’t think I look like a Shadowhunter?” “Do you want to?”
“I want to look like my family,” he said. “I cannot have the Blackthorn coloring, but I can look as much like Nephilim as possible. Julian was right—if I wish to be part of the investigation, I cannot stand out.”
Cristina held back from telling Mark that there was no world in which he didn’t stand out. “I can make you look like a Shadowhunter. If you come downstairs with me.”
He moved as noiselessly on the shingled roof as if he had the padded feet of a cat or as if he were wearing a Soundless rune. He stepped aside to let her lead the way downstairs. Even that was hushed, and when she brushed by him, his skin was cool as night air.
She led the way to his room; he had left the lights off, so she illuminated her witchlight and set it down by the bed. “That chair,” she said, pointing. “Bring it into the middle of the room and sit down. I’ll be right back.”
He looked after her quizzically as she left the room. When she returned, carrying a damp comb, a towel, and a pair of scissors, he was seated in the chair, still with the same quizzical look. He didn’t sit the way other teenage boys did, all sprawl and legs and arms. He sat the way kings did in drawings, upright but deliberate, as if the crown rested uneasily on his head.
“Are you going to cut my throat?” he asked as she came toward him with the towel and the sharp scissors gleaming.
“I’m going to cut your hair.” She looped the towel around his neck and moved to stand behind him. His head tipped back to follow her movements as she took hold of his hair, running her fingers through it. It was the kind of hair that should have been curly but was weighed down by its own length and tangles.
“Hold still,” she said. “As my lady requests.”
She ran the comb through his hair and began to cut, careful to keep the length even. As she snipped away the weight of his silvery-blond mane, it sprang free in adorable curls like Julian’s. They twined up against the back of his neck as if they wanted to be close to him.
She remembered touching Diego’s hair; it had been thick under her fingers, dark and textured. Mark’s was fine, like corn silk. It fell like gleaming chaff, catching the witchlight.
“Tell me about the faerie Court,” she said. “I’ve always heard stories. My mother told me some, and my uncle.”
“We didn’t see it much,” he said, sounding very ordinary for a moment. “Gwyn and the Hunters aren’t part of any Court. He keeps himself to himself. We joined the Courts and the gentry only on nights when there were revels. But those were—”
He was silent for so long she wondered if he had fallen asleep or was perhaps simply deathly bored. “If you had been to one you would not forget it,” he said. “Great sparkling caves or deserted copses in
woodlands full of will-o’-the-wisp lights. There are still some parts of this world that are undiscovered by all but the Folk. There was dancing to wear your feet down, and there were beautiful boys and girls, and kisses were cheaper than wine but the wine was sweet and the fruit sweeter. And you would wake up in the morning and it would all be gone, but you could still hear the music in your head.”
“I think I would find it very frightening.” She moved around to stand in front of him. He looked up at her with his curious two-colored eyes and she felt a tremor run through her hand, one she’d never felt when she cut Diego’s hair or his brother Jaime’s or any of her little cousins’. Of course, they’d been twelve when she’d clipped their hair, showing off what her mother had taught her, so maybe it was
different when you were older. “Everything so glamorous and beautiful. How can a human compare?” He looked surprised. “But you would be lovely in the Court,” he said. “They would turn leaves and
flowers into jeweled crowns and sandals for you. You would sparkle and be admired. The Folk love nothing more than mortal beauty.”
“Because it fades,” she said.
“Yes,” he admitted. “It is true that eventually you will become gray and bent and withered, and it is possible that hair will sprout from your chin. And there is also the issue of warts.” He caught her glare. “But that time is a long time away,” he added hastily.
Cristina snorted. “I thought faeries were meant to be charming.” She slid a hand under his chin to steady his head as she snipped away the last unruly strands. That was different too; his skin was as smooth as hers, no hint of stubble or roughness. His eyes narrowed, their color thinning to a gleam as she set the scissors aside and cleared her throat. “There,” she said. “Would you like to see?”
He straightened up in the chair. Cristina was bending down; their heads were on a level. “Lean closer,” he said. “For years I have had no mirror; I have learned to make do. The eyes of another can be a mirror more effective than water. If you will look at me, I can see my reflection in yours.”
I have had to make do. Whose eyes had he been looking into, all those years? Cristina wondered as she leaned forward. She didn’t know why she did it, exactly; maybe it was the way his eyes stayed fixed on hers, as if he couldn’t imagine anything more fascinating than looking at her. His gaze didn’t stray, either, not to the V of her shirt or her bare legs or even her hands, as she opened her eyes wide and looked directly back at him.
“Beautiful,” he said finally.
“Do you mean your haircut?” she asked, trying for a teasing voice, but it wobbled in the middle. Maybe she shouldn’t have offered to so intimately touch a complete stranger, even if he did seem harmless, even if she hadn’t meant anything by it—had she?
“No,” he said on a soft exhale. She felt his breath warm on her neck, and his hand slid over hers. His was rough and calloused, scarred along the palm. Her heart gave an uneven leap in her chest just as Mark’s bedroom door opened.
She nearly jumped away from him as Ty and Livvy appeared in the doorway. Livvy was holding her phone, and her eyes were wide and worried. “It’s Emma,” she said, lifting the phone. “She texted nine-one-one. We need to go meet them right away.”