“So, basically, you kind of solved the investigation,” said Livvy. She was lying on the rug in Julian’s room. They were all sprawled around his bedroom: Cristina perched neatly on a chair, Ty sitting against a wall with his headphones on, Julian cross-legged on his bed. He’d taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. The cuff links Emma had given him gleamed on the nightstand. Mark lay on his stomach across the foot of the bed, eye to eye with Church, who’d decided to pay them a visit, probably because of the weather. “I mean, now we know who did it. The murders.”
“Not exactly,” said Emma. She was sitting on the floor, leaning her back against the nightstand. “I mean, here’s what we do know. This group, these Followers or whatever they call themselves, they’re responsible for Stanley Wells’s murder. The Followers are mostly people who’ve had some brush with the supernatural. They have the Sight, they’re part faerie—Sterling’s sort of a werewolf. Every month they hold a Lottery. Someone gets picked, and that someone becomes a sacrifice.”
“Wells was a sacrifice,” said Julian. “So it stands to reason that the other eleven murders have been because of this cult too.”
“It also explains the fey bodies,” said Cristina. “Since so many of them are half-fey, it makes sense that they’ve been picked for the sacrifices.”
Julian glanced at Mark. “Do you think the Courts know if the bodies were half-fey or full-blooded?” “Hard to say,” said Mark, still staring at the cat. “They often cannot tell just by looking, and some of the
Followers are full-blood faeries.”
“It seems like full-blood faeries would have better things to do.” It was Ty, having pulled the headphones from his ears. Emma could faintly hear classical music drifting from them. “Why would they join something like this?”
“It is a place for lost souls,” said Mark. “And since the Cold Peace, many of the Fair Folk are lost. It makes sense.”
“I saw them advertising at the Shadow Market,” said Emma. “I saw Belinda there too. They seemed to be specifically looking for anyone with the Sight, anyone who seemed frightened or alone. Having a group to belong to, being promised good luck and wealth, getting strength from the sacrifices—you can see how it would be appealing.”
“They do seem very confident,” Cristina said. “How much do they know about the existence of Nephilim, I wonder?”
“Sterling seemed afraid of us,” said Emma. “It’s weird. He got picked, so that means they’re going to sacrifice him. You’d think he’d want any help he could get, even from Shadowhunters.”
“But getting help is forbidden, right?” said Livvy. “If they caught him accepting it, they could torture him. Do worse than kill him.”
Cristina shuddered. “Or he could be a true believer. Maybe he thinks it would be a sin to accept help.” “Men have gone to their deaths for less,” said Mark.
“How many of them do you think there were? The Followers?” “About three hundred,” said Julian.
“Well, if we can’t go to the faeries yet, we’ve got two options,” said Emma. “One, we track down every one of those three hundred losers and beat them up until they tell us who did the actual killing.”
“That seems impractical,” said Ty. “And time-consuming.”
“Or we could go straight to finding out who the leader is,” Emma said. “If anyone knows, it’s that Belinda girl.”
Julian ran a hand through his hair. “Belinda’s not her real name—”
“I’m telling you, Johnny Rook knows her,” Emma said. “In fact, he probably knows a lot, given that information about the Shadow World is his business. We’re asking him.”
“Yes, you agreed to this already in the car,” Mark said, and frowned. “This cat is looking at me with judgment.”
“He’s not,” said Jules. “That’s just his face.”
“You look at me the same way,” Mark said, glancing at Julian. “Judgy face.”
“This is still progress,” Livvy said stubbornly. She glanced at Mark sideways, and Emma saw anxiety in her gaze. It was so rare for Livvy to show the worry she felt that Emma sat up straight. “We should go to the faerie convoy, tell them the Followers are responsible—”
“We can’t,” said Diana, appearing in the doorway. “The fey were very specific. ‘The one with blood on his hands.’ You might think they want progress reports, but I don’t think they do. They want results, and that’s all.”
“How long have you been eavesdropping?” Julian asked, though there was no hostility in the question. He glanced at his watch. “It’s awfully late for you to be here.”
Diana sighed. She did look bone weary. Her hair was untidy and she was uncharacteristically dressed down in a sweatshirt and jeans. There was a long scrape across one of her cheeks.
“I went by the convergence on my way back from Ojai,” she said. “I got in and out fast. Only had to kill one Mantid.” She sighed again. “It doesn’t look like anyone’s been back there since the night you went. I’m worried our necromancer’s found a new place.”
“Well, if he doesn’t use a convergence, the next time he uses dark magic, he’ll show up on Magnus’s map,” said Ty.
“Did you find anything useful in Ojai?” Emma asked. “What warlock is up there? It’s not anyone we know, is it?”
“No.” Diana leaned against the doorjamb, clearly not planning on saying anything else. “I did hear about the Followers; I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised you were tracking them down here. I wish you’d told me, but—”
“You’d already left,” said Jules. He leaned back on his hands. His dress shirt stretched across his chest. Knowing what his body looked like under the cotton was not helping Emma’s concentration. She looked away, hating her uncontrolled thoughts. “But I can give you the summary.”
As he started to talk, Emma quietly turned and walked out of the room. She could hear Julian’s voice behind her, recounting the events of the evening. She knew he’d tell the story exactly right; she knew she didn’t have to worry. But right now there were two people she urgently needed to talk to, and she needed to do it alone.
“Mom,” Emma whispered. “Dad. I need your help.”
She had taken off her dress and boots and stashed them in a corner with her weapons. The weather had worsened: Gusts tore around the Institute, rattling the copper gutters, streaking the panes of glass with feathery patterns of silver. In the distance, lightning flashed over the water, illuminating it like a sheet of glass. In her pajamas, Emma sat cross-legged, facing her open closet.
To a stranger the closet might look like a jumble of photos and string and scribbled notes, but to her it was a love letter. A love letter to her parents, whose photograph was at the center of the compilation. A photo of them smiling at each other, her dad caught in the middle of laughing, his blond hair shining in the sun.
“I feel lost,” she said. “I started this because I thought there was some connection between these murders and what happened to you. But if there is, I think I’m losing it. Nothing connects to the attack on the Institute. I feel like I’m wandering through fog and I can’t see anything clearly.”
It felt like there was something stuck in her throat, something hard and painful. Part of her wanted nothing more than to run out into the rain, feel it spill down over her. Walk or run down to the beach, where the sea and the sky would be melding into one, and let her screams be drowned out by thunder.
“There’s more,” she whispered. “I think I’m messing up. As—as a Shadowhunter. Ever since the night Jules got hurt, when I healed him, ever since then when I look at him, I feel—things I shouldn’t. I think about him the way you aren’t supposed to think about your parabatai. I’m sure he doesn’t feel the same way, but just for a few minutes tonight, when we were dancing, I was . . . happy.” She closed her eyes. “Love’s supposed to make you happy, isn’t it? It’s not supposed to hurt?”
There was a knock on her door.
Jules, she thought. She scrambled up just as the door opened. It was Mark.
He was still in his formal clothes. They were very dark against his blond hair. Anyone else would have seemed awkward, she thought as he moved into the room and glanced at her closet, then at her. Anyone else would have asked if they were barging in or interrupting, considering she was in pajamas. But Mark behaved as if he’d arrived for an appointment.
“The day I was taken,” he said. “It was the same day your parents were killed.” She nodded, glancing at the closet. Having it open made her feel strangely exposed.
“I told you I was sorry about what happened to them,” he said. “But that isn’t enough. I didn’t realize that this investigation would become about me. About my family trying to keep me here. That my presence would be stealing from you the meaning of what you were doing.”
Emma sat down on the foot of the bed. “Mark . . . It’s not like that.”
“It is like that,” he said. His eyes were luminous in the strange light—her window was open, and the illumination that streamed in was touched by the glow of lightning-infused clouds. “They should not be working on this only to keep me, when I might not stay.”
“You wouldn’t go back to Faerie. You wouldn’t.”
“All that was promised was that I would choose,” he said. “I have not—I cannot—” His hands balled into fists at his sides, the frustration clear on his face. “I thought you would understand. You are not a Blackthorn.”
“I am Julian’s parabatai,” she said. “And Julian needs you to stay.” “Julian is strong,” he said.
“Julian is strong,” she agreed. “But you are his brother. And if you go—I don’t know if I can pick up those pieces.”
His eyes flicked back to her closet. “We survive losses,” he whispered.
“We do,” Emma said. “But my parents didn’t leave me on purpose. I don’t know what would have happened to me if they had.”
Thunder cracked, snapping through the room. Mark’s hand crept to his throat. “When I hear thunder, see
lightning, I think I should be riding through it,” he said. “My blood calls out for the sky.” “Who gave you that pendant?” she asked. “It’s an elf-bolt, isn’t it?”
“In the Hunt, I had skill with them,” he said. “I could strike at an enemy while riding, and hit the target nine times out of ten. He called me ‘elf-shot’ because—” Mark broke off, turning to look at Emma where she perched on the bed. “We are alike, you and I,” he said. “The storm calls you as it calls me, doesn’t it? I saw in your eyes earlier—you wanted to be out in it. To run on the beach, perhaps, as the lightning comes down.”
Emma took a shaking breath. “Mark, I don’t—”
“What’s going on?” It was Julian. He had changed out of his suit and was standing in the doorway. The look on his face as he glanced from Mark to Emma—Emma couldn’t describe it. She’d never seen Jules look like that before.
“If you two are busy,” he said, and his voice was like the edge of a knife, “with each other, I can come back some other time.”
Mark looked puzzled. Emma stared. “Mark and I were talking,” Emma said. “That’s it.” “We are done now.” Mark rose to his feet, one of his hands resting on the elf-bolt.
Julian looked at them both levelly. “Tomorrow afternoon, Diana’s taking Cristina to Malcolm’s,” he said. “Something about Cristina needing to interview the High Warlock about how we do things here as opposed to Mexico City. Probably Diana just wants to check up on how Malcolm’s translation is coming and she needs an excuse.”
“Okay, then we can head to Rook’s,” said Emma. “Or I could go on my own if you want—he’s used to me. Not that our last interaction was so friendly.” She frowned.
“No, I’ll come with you,” Julian said. “Rook needs to understand it’s serious.” “And I?” said Mark. “Am I to be a part of this expedition?”
“No,” Julian said. “Johnny Rook can’t know you’re back. The Clave doesn’t know, and Rook is someone who doesn’t keep secrets, he sells them.”
Mark looked up at his brother through his hair, his strange, odd-colored eyes gleaming. “Then I suppose I will sleep in,” he said. He gave one last glance at Emma’s closet—there was something in his expression, something disquieted—and left, closing the door behind him.
“Jules,” Emma said, “what’s wrong with you? What was that about, ‘if you two are busy with each other’? Do you think Mark and I were making out on the floor before you came in?”
“It wouldn’t have been my business if you had been,” Julian said. “I was giving you privacy.”
“You were being a jerk.” Emma slid off the bed and went over to her dresser to take off her earrings, looking at Julian in the mirror as she did so. “And I know why.”
She saw his expression change and tighten, surprise giving way to unreadability. “Why?” “Because you’re worried,” she said. “You don’t like breaking the rules and you don’t think going to
Rook’s is a good idea.”
He moved restlessly into the room and sat down on her bed. “Is that how you think of me?” he said. “Emma, if we need to go to Rook’s, then I’m part of the plan. I’m in it, a hundred percent.”
She looked at herself in the mirror. Long hair didn’t hide the Marks on her shoulders; her arms had muscles; her wrists were strong and sturdy. She was a map of scars: the old white scars from used-up runes, wending trails of cuts, and the splotches of burns from acidic demon blood.
She felt suddenly old, not just seventeen instead of twelve, but old. Old in her heart, and too late. Surely if she were going to find her parents’ murderer she would have done so by now.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
He leaned back against her headboard. He was wearing an old T-shirt and pajama bottoms. “What for?”
For the way I feel. She shoved the words back. If she was having strange feelings about Jules, it wasn’t
fair to tell him about them. She was the one in the wrong.
And he was hurting. She could see it in the set of his mouth, the darkness behind his light eyes. “Doubting you,” she said.
“Back at you.” He flopped back onto her pillows. His shirt, untucked, rode up, giving Emma a clear view of his stomach, the corrugation of muscles, the smatter of golden freckles over his hip. . . .
“I don’t think I’m ever going to find out what happened to my parents,” she said.
At that he sat up, which was a relief. “Emma,” he said, and then paused. He didn’t say Why would you say that? Or What do you mean? Or any of the other things people said to fill up space. Instead, he said, “You will. You’re the most determined person that I’ve ever known.”
“I feel farther away now than I’ve ever felt. Even though we actually have a connection, even though we’re following up on it. I don’t see how their deaths could be connected to the Midnight Theater or the Lottery. I don’t see—”
“You’re afraid,” Jules said.
Emma leaned against the dresser. “Afraid of what?”
“Afraid we’ll find out something about them you don’t want to know,” he said. “In your mind, your parents are perfect. Now that we’re actually closing in on answers, you’re worried you’ll find out they were—”
“Not perfect?” Emma fought to keep the edge of tension out of her voice. “Bad people?” “Human,” he said. “We all find out the people who are supposed to take care of us are human
eventually. That they make mistakes.” He pushed his hair back out of his eyes. “I live in dread of the day the kids all figure that out about me.”
“Julian,” Emma said. “I hate to tell you this, but I think they’ve already figured that out.”
He smiled and slid off the bed. “Insults,” he said. “I guess that means you’re fine.” He moved to the door.
“We can’t tell Diana we’re going to Rook’s,” she said. “She thinks he’s a crook.”
“She’s not wrong.” The dim light in the room sparked off Julian’s bracelet. “Emma, do you want me to —”
He hesitated, but Emma heard the unspoken words. Stay with you?
Stay with me, she wanted to say. Stay and make me forget my nightmares. Stay and sleep next to me. Stay and chase the bad dreams away, the memories of blood.
But she only forced a smile. “I should get to sleep, Jules.”
She couldn’t see his expression as he turned to leave the room. “Good night, Emma.”
Emma woke late the next day: sometime overnight, the storm had washed the sky clean of clouds, and the afternoon sun was bright. Her head aching, she clambered out of bed, showered and changed, and nearly collided with Cristina outside her bedroom door.
“You slept so long, I was worried,” Cristina scolded. “Are you okay?” “I will be once I have breakfast. Maybe something chocolate.”
“It’s much too late for breakfast. It’s past lunchtime. Julian sent me up to get you—he says he has drinks and sandwiches in the car but you have to get going now.”
“Do you think they’re chocolate sandwiches?” Emma inquired, falling into step beside Cristina as they both headed for the stairs.
“What’s a chocolate sandwich?”
“You know: bread, chocolate bar, butter.”
“That is disgusting.” Cristina shook her head; the pearls in her earlobes gleamed. “Not as disgusting as coffee. You off to Malcolm’s?”
Cristina flashed a smile. “I shall ask a million questions of your purply-eyed warlock so that Diana
doesn’t think about you and Julian or whether you might be at Mr. Rook’s.”
“I’m not sure he’s a mister,” Emma said, stifling a yawn. “I’ve never heard anyone call him anything but ‘hey, Rook’ or sometimes ‘that bastard.’”
“That is very rude,” said Cristina. There was something playful in her dark eyes. “I think Mark is nervous about being alone with the younger ones. This should be very amusing.” She tugged one of Emma’s damp braids. “Julian is waiting for you downstairs.”
“Good luck distracting Malcolm,” Emma called as Cristina strode off down the hallway toward the kitchen where Diana was, presumably, waiting.
Cristina winked. “Good luck getting information, cuata.”
Shaking her head, Emma headed down to the parking lot, where she found Julian standing beside the Toyota, examining the contents of the trunk. Beside him was Mark.
“I thought Cristina was going to be here,” Mark was saying as Emma approached. “I did not realize she was going to Malcolm’s. I did not think that I would be left alone with the children.”
“They’re not children,” Julian said, nodding a greeting at Emma. “Ty and Livvy are fifteen; they’ve looked after the others before.”
“Tiberius is angry that you are not allowing him to come with you to Rook’s,” said Mark. “He said he was going to lock himself in his room.”
“Terrific,” said Julian. His voice was rough; he looked as if he hadn’t slept. Emma wondered what could have kept him up. Research? “I guess you’ll know where he is. Look, the only one who needs looking after is Tavvy.”
Mark looked ill with horror. “I know.”
“He’s a kid, not a bomb,” said Emma, buckling on a weapons belt. There were several seraph blades and a stele thrust through it. She wasn’t in gear, just jeans and a jacket that would hide the sword on her back. Not that she expected trouble, but she hated going out without Cortana, currently napping in the trunk. “It’ll be okay. Dru and Livvy can help.”
“Maybe this mission of yours is too dangerous,” Mark said, as Julian slammed the trunk shut. “A faerie would tell you that a rook is a black crow—a bird of ill omen.”
“I know,” Julian said, sliding a final, thin dagger into the holder strapped around his wrist. “It also means to cheat or to swindle. It was my word of the day last year from Diana.”
“Johnny Rook is a swindler, all right,” Emma agreed. “He swindles mundanes. We’ll be fine.” “The children could set themselves on fire,” Mark said. He didn’t sound like he was joking.
“Ty and Livvy are fifteen,” said Emma. “They’re nearly the same age you were when you joined the Hunt. And you were—”
“What?” Mark turned his odd eyes on her. “I was fine?”
Emma felt herself flush. “An afternoon in their own home is not exactly the same as being kidnapped by cannibalistic faerie predators.”
“We didn’t eat people,” Mark said indignantly. “At least not to my knowledge.”
Julian unlocked the driver’s side door and slid inside. Emma climbed into the passenger seat as he leaned out the window and looked sympathetically at his brother. “Mark, we have to go. If anything happens, have Livvy text us, but right now Rook is the best chance we have. Okay?”
Mark straightened up as if readying for battle. “Okay.” “And if they do manage to set themselves on fire?” “Yes?” Mark said.
“You’d better find a way to put them out.”
Johnny Rook lived in Victor Heights, in a small craftsman bungalow with dusty windows sandwiched between two ranch houses. It had a disused air that Emma assumed was carefully cultivated. It looked like
the sort of place neighborhood children would skip over when searching for candy on Halloween. Otherwise it was a nice street. There were kids playing hopscotch a few houses down, and an old man
reading a newspaper in his gazebo, surrounded by lawn gnomes. When Julian pictured mundane life, it looked a lot like this. Sometimes he thought it wouldn’t be so bad.
Emma was strapping Cortana on. They were already glamoured, so there was no worry about the children down the street seeing her as she pulled the strap tight, a small frown line appearing between her eyebrows as she got the fit right. Her hair shone in the California sunlight, brighter than the gold of Cortana’s hilt. The white scars on her hands gleamed, too, diffuse, a lacelike patchwork.
No. Mundane life was not an option.
Emma lifted her head and smiled at him. A familiar smile, easy. It was like last night—the dancing and the music that still seemed to him like a fever dream—hadn’t happened. “Ready to go?” she said.
The paved path that led to the front door was cracked where the roots of trees had grown up, their inexorable force snapping the pavement. The persistence of growing things, Julian thought, and wished he had a canvas and paints. He was reaching for his phone to snap a picture when it went off with the dull ring that signaled a text message.
He glanced at the screen. It was from Mark.
CAN’T FIND TY.
Julian frowned and thumbed a reply while jogging up the steps after Emma. DID YOU LOOK IN HIS
There was an ornate knocker on the front door in the shape of a wild-haired, wild-eyed Green Man. Emma lifted it and let it fall as Julian’s phone beeped again.
DO YOU TAKE ME FOR A BUFFOON? OF COURSE I DID.
“Jules?” Emma said. “Is everything all right?”
“Buffoon?” he muttered, his fingers flying over the touch pad. WHAT DOES LIVVY SAY?
“Did you just mutter ‘buffoon’?” Emma demanded. Julian could hear footsteps approaching from the other side of the door. “Julian, try to act not weird, okay?”
The door flew open. The man standing on the other side was tall and rangy, dressed in jeans and a leather jacket. His hair was so close-cropped it was hard to tell its color, and tinted glasses hid his eyes.
He slumped against the doorjamb the moment he saw Emma. “Carstairs,” he said. It was a sound between a prayer and a groan.
Julian’s phone pinged. LIVVY SAYS SHE DOESN’T KNOW.
The man raised an eyebrow. “Busy?” he said sardonically. He turned to Emma. “Your other boyfriend was politer.”
Emma flushed. “This isn’t my boyfriend. This is Jules.”
“Of course. I should have recognized the Blackthorn eyes.” Rook’s voice turned silky. “You look just like your father, Julian.”
Julian didn’t much like the man’s smirk. Then again, he’d never liked anything about Emma associating with Rook. Mundanes who dabbled in magic, even ones with the Sight, were a gray area to the Clave— there wasn’t a Law, but neither were you supposed to deal with them. If you needed magic done, you hired a nice, Clave-approved warlock.
Not that Emma had ever cared much about the approval of the Clave.
LIVVY’S LYING. SHE ALWAYS KNOWS WHERE TY IS. MAKE HER TELL YOU. Jules shoved the phone back into
his pocket. It wasn’t unusual for Ty to vanish, into corners of the library or places in the hill where he could coax lizards out from under their rocks. And he was angry, which made it more likely he’d hide.
The man swung the door open. “Come in,” he said in a resigned tone. “You know the rules. No taking out weapons, Carstairs. And no back talk.”
“Define ‘back talk,’” Emma said, stepping inside. Julian followed her. A wave of magic as thick as smoke in a burning building hit him. It hung in the air of the small living room, almost visible in the dim
light that filtered through the yellowing curtains. Tall craftsman bookshelves held spell books and grimoires, copies of The Malleus Maleficarum, the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum, The Lesser Key of Solomon, and a blood-red volume with the words Dragon Rouge lettered on the spine. A yellowish rag rug that matched the curtains lay crookedly on the floor; Rook kicked it aside with an unpleasant grin.
Under it was revealed a spell circle chalked onto the hardwood planks. It was the kind of circle warlocks stood inside when they summoned demons; the circle created a protective wall. It was actually two circles, one inside the other, making a sort of frame, and inside the frame were scrawled the sigils of the seventy Lords of Hell. Julian frowned as Rook stepped neatly into the circle and crossed his arms.
“A protection circle,” Rook said unnecessarily. “You can’t get in.” “And you can’t get out,” Julian observed. “Not easily, anyway.” Rook shrugged. “Why would I want to?”
“Because that’s some powerful magic you’re playing with.”
“Don’t judge,” Rook said. “We who cannot wield the magic of Heaven must use what comes to hand.” “The sigils of Hell?” Julian said. “There’s some middle ground between Hell and Heaven, surely.” Rook flashed a grin. “There’s all the world,” he said. “It’s a messy place, Shadowhunter, and we don’t
all get to keep our hands clean.”
“There’s a difference between dirt and blood,” Julian said. Emma shot him a quelling look, one that said: We’re here because we need something. She didn’t always have to write on his skin for him to know what she was thinking.
The curtains rustled, though there was no breeze. “Look, we’re not here to bother you,” Emma said. “We just want some information, and we’ll go.”
“Information isn’t free,” said Rook.
“I’ve got something good for you this time. Better than cash,” Emma said. Avoiding Julian’s eyes, she took a pale column of silvery-white stone from the inside of her jacket pocket. She flushed slightly, aware of Julian’s eyes on her as he realized what she was holding: an unnamed seraph blade.
“What is he going to do with adamas?” Julian demanded.
“Adamas that has been treated by the Iron Sisters goes for a high price at the Shadow Market,” said Rook, not taking his eyes off Emma’s prize. “But it still depends on what you want to know about.”
“The Midnight Theater and the Followers,” Emma said. “We want to know about them.” Rook narrowed his eyes. “What do you want to know?”
Emma gave him a brief rundown of the events of the night before, leaving out Mark and how they’d found out about the Lottery in the first place. When she was done, Rook whistled.
“Casper Sterling,” he said. “I always thought that guy was a scumbag. Yakking on about how he was better than werewolves, better than humans, too. Can’t say I’m sorry his number came up.”
“Johnny,” Emma said severely. “They’re going to kill him.”
An odd expression flickered across Rook’s face, but it vanished quickly. “And you want me to do what about it? They’re a whole organization, Carstairs.”
“We need to know who their leader is,” said Julian. “Belinda called him the Guardian. He’s the one we need to find.”
“I don’t know,” said Rook. “I’m not sure pissing off the Followers is worth even adamas.” But his eyes clung to the silvery-white stuff longingly. Emma pressed the advantage.
“They’ll never know you had anything to do with it,” she said. “But I saw you flirting with Belinda at the Shadow Market. She’s got to know.”
Rook shook his head. “She doesn’t.”
“Huh,” Emma said. “Okay, which of them does?”
“None of them. The leader’s identity is totally secret. I don’t even know if it’s a man or a woman. The Guardian could be either, you know?”
|LIVVY WON’T TELL ME ANYTHING. SHE’S LOCKED|
“If I find out you’re hiding something you know from me, Johnny,” Emma said in a cold voice, “there will be consequences. Diana knows I’m here. You won’t be able to get me in trouble with the Clave. But I could get you in trouble. Serious trouble.”
“Emma, forget it,” Julian said in a bored voice. “He doesn’t know anything. Let’s take the adamas and go.”
“They get two days,” Rook said in a thin, angry voice. “When their numbers get picked. They get two days before the kill has to happen.” He glared at them both, as if somehow this was their fault. “It’s sympathetic magic. The energy of the death of a supernatural creature powers the spell that makes them all stronger. And the leader—he shows up for the kill. That much I know. If you’re there for the death, you’ll see him. Or her. Whoever it is.”
“The Guardian shows up at the murder?” Emma said. “To harvest the energy?”
“So if we shadow Sterling, if we wait for someone to attack him, we’ll see the Guardian?” Julian said. “Yeah. That should work. I mean, you’re crazy to want to be there at some big dark-magic party, but I
guess it’s your business.”
“I guess it is,” Julian said. His phone buzzed again.
HERSELF IN HER ROOM. HELP.
A tendril of worry uncurled in Julian’s stomach. He told himself he was being stupid. He knew he worried about his siblings too much. Ty had probably wandered off after an animal, was petting a squirrel or cuddling a stray cat. Or he might have shut himself away with a book, not wanting to socialize.
Julian thumbed out a response: GO OUTSIDE AND LOOK FOR HIM IN THE BACK GARDEN.
“Still texting?” said Rook, a mocking tone to his voice. “I’m guessing you have a pretty rich social life.”
“I wouldn’t worry,” said Julian. “My phone’s almost out of battery.”
The phone whirred again. HEADED OUTSIDE, it said, and then the screen went black. He shoved it into his pocket as an enormous crash sounded from downstairs, and after it, the sound of a bitten-off cry.
“What the hell?” said Rook.
The shock in his voice was real; Emma must have heard it too, because she was already moving toward the steps that led downstairs. Rook shouted after them, but Julian knew it would take him a moment to free himself from his protection circle. Without another glance at Rook, he darted after Emma.
Kit Rook pressed himself into the shadow of the stairwell. Voices filtered down from upstairs, along with dim sunlight. His father always sent him down into the cellar when they had visitors. Especially the kind of visitors that had him running for his chalk so he could draw a protection circle.
Kit could only see shadows moving upstairs, but he could hear two voices. Young voices, to his surprise. A boy’s and a girl’s.
He had a pretty good idea what they were, and it wasn’t Downworlders. He’d seen the look on his father’s face when they’d knocked on the door. Rook hadn’t said anything, but he wore that expression for only one thing: Shadowhunters.
Nephilim. Kit felt the slow burn of anger start in his stomach. He’d been sitting on the sofa watching TV and now he was crouched in the basement like a thief in his own home because Shadowhunters thought they had the right to legislate magic. To tell everyone what to do. To—
A figure hurtled at him out of the shadows. It hit him hard in the chest and he staggered back and slammed into the wall behind him, breath knocked out of his body. He gasped as light flared up around him—pale white light, held in the cup of a human hand.
Something sharp kissed the base of Kit’s throat. He sucked in air and raised his eyes.
He was staring right at a boy his own age. Ink-black hair and eyes the color of the edge of a knife, eyes that darted away from his as the boy scowled. He had a long, thin, black-clad body and pale skin Marked
all over with the runes of the Nephilim.
Kit had never been this close to a Shadowhunter. The boy had one hand on his glowing light—it wasn’t a flashlight or anything electronic; Kit knew magic when he saw it—and the other gripped a dagger whose point rested against Kit’s throat.
Kit had imagined before what he’d do if a Nephilim ever grabbed him. How he’d stomp on their feet, break their bones, snap their wrists, spit in their faces. He did none of those things, thought of none of those things. He looked at the boy with the knife to his throat, the boy whose black eyelashes feathered down against his cheekbones as he glanced away from Kit, and he felt something like a shock of recognition pass through him.
He thought, How beautiful.
Kit blinked. Though the other boy wasn’t looking directly at him, he seemed to note the movement. In a harsh whisper, he demanded, “Who are you? What are you doing here? You’re too young to be Johnny Rook.”
His voice was lovely. Clear and low, with a rasp to it that made him sound older than he was. A rich boy’s voice.
“No,” said Kit. He felt dazed and puzzled, as if a bright camera flash had gone off in his eyes. “I’m not.”
The boy still wasn’t looking directly at Kit. As if Kit weren’t worth looking at. Kit’s dazed feeling was starting to fade, to be replaced by anger.
“Go on,” Kit said, challenging. “Figure it out.”
The boy’s expression clouded, then cleared. “You’re his son,” he said. “Johnny Rook’s son.”
And then his lip did curl, just the slightest curl of contempt, and anger boiled up in Kit. He jerked aside fast, away from the dagger, and kicked out. The other boy spun, but Kit caught him with a glancing blow. He heard a cry of pain. The light tumbled from the boy’s hand, winking out, and then Kit was being shoved up against the wall again, a hand scrabbling to fist itself in his shirt, and the dagger was back at his throat, and the other boy was whispering, “Be quiet, be quiet, be quiet,” and then the room was full of light.
The other boy froze. Kit looked up to see two other Shadowhunters standing on the cellar steps: a boy with blazing blue-green eyes and the blond girl he had seen at the Shadow Market the week before. They were both staring—not at him, but at the boy gripping his shirt.
The boy winced but held his ground, defiance chasing alarm across his face. Aha, Kit thought with dawning realization. You’re not supposed to be down here, are you?
“Tiberius Blackthorn,” said the boy with blue-green eyes. “What on earth are you doing?”
Emma stood and gawked at Ty, completely brought up short. It was as if the Institute had suddenly appeared in the middle of Johnny Rook’s cellar: The sight of Ty was familiar, and yet totally incongruous.
Ty looked rumpled and more frazzled than she’d seen him in years, though his grip on his dagger was steady. Diana would have been pleased. She would probably not have been pleased that he was pointing it at the throat of a mundane boy—he looked about fifteen, and oddly familiar. She’d seen him before, Emma realized, at the Shadow Market. His hair was a mass of blond tangles; his shirt was clean but ragged, his jeans worn to a faded pallor. And he looked ready to punch Ty in the face, which was unusual for a mundane in his position. Most of them were much more unsettled by a knife to the throat.
“Ty,” Julian said again. He looked furious—fury with an edge of panic. “Ty, let go of Johnny Rook’s son.”
The blond boy’s eyes widened. “How did you—how do you know who I am?” he demanded.
Julian shrugged. “Who else would you be?” He tilted his head to the side. “Maybe you know something about the Lottery at the Midnight Theater?”
“Jules,” Emma said. “He’s just a kid.”
“I’m not a kid!” the boy protested. “And my name is Kit.”
“We’re trying to help,” Julian said. The blond boy—Kit—scowled. Julian softened his voice. “We’re trying to save lives.”
“My father told me that’s what Shadowhunters always say.” “Do you believe everything he says?”
“He was right this time, wasn’t he?” Kit pointed out. His gaze slid to Emma; she remembered noticing that he had the Sight. She’d thought he was Rook’s assistant, though, not his son. They looked nothing alike. “You said it.”
“I meant—” Julian began.
“I don’t know anything about a lottery,” Kit snapped. He glanced at Tiberius. What was odder, perhaps, was that Ty was looking at him. Emma remembered Ty, years ago, saying, Why do people say “look at me” when they mean “look at my eyes”? You could be looking at any part of a person and you’re still looking at them. But he was looking curiously at Kit’s eyes as if they reminded him of something.
“Kit!” The voice was a roar. Emma heard skidding footsteps on the stairs, and Johnny Rook appeared. One of his sleeves was singed. Emma had never seen him look so furious. “Leave my son alone!”
Ty steadied his grip on the knife, straightening his spine. He faced Johnny Rook without a speck of fear. “Tell us about the Lottery,” he said.
Kit winced. Emma could see it, even in the gloom. Ty didn’t seem frightening to her, but then, she’d cuddled him when he was three years old. But fear was clear in Johnny Rook’s face: As far as he was concerned, Nephilim had snuck a Shadowhunter into his basement to murder his son.
“I’ll give you Casper Sterling’s address,” he said as Kit stared at him, looking bewildered. Clearly he had rarely seen his father so shaken. “I’ve got it, okay? He’s got a bunch of identities, he isn’t easy to find, but I know where he lives. All right? Good enough? Let my son go!”
Ty lowered the knife and stepped back. He kept it in his hand, his eyes on Kit as the other boy rubbed ruefully at the dent in his throat. “Dad, I—” Kit started.
“Be quiet, Kit,” Johnny Rook snapped. “I’ve told you. Don’t say anything in front of Nephilim.” “We’re on the same side,” Julian said in his calmest voice.
Johnny Rook whirled on him. His face was red, his throat working. “Don’t you dare tell me what side I’m on, you know nothing, nothing—”
“Enough!” Emma shouted. “By the Angel, what are you so frightened of?”
Johnny slammed his mouth shut. “I’m not frightened,” he said through his teeth. “Just get out,” he said. “Get out, and don’t ever come here again. I’ll text you the address but after that, don’t call, don’t ask me for favors. We’re done, Nephilim.”
“Fine,” Emma said, gesturing for Ty to come toward her and Julian. “We’ll go. Ty—”
Ty slid the knife he’d been holding into his belt and darted up the steps. Julian turned and went after him. The boy at the bottom of the stairs didn’t watch them go; his eyes were fixed on his father.
He wasn’t much younger than Emma—maybe by a year or two—but she felt a sudden inexplicable surge of protectiveness toward Johnny Rook’s son. If he had the Sight, then all of Downworld was open to him: terrifying and inexplicable. In his own way he was like Tiberius, living in a world he saw differently than everyone else.
“Fine, Johnny,” Emma said again, loudly. “But if you change your mind, you have my number in your phone. Under Carstairs.”
Johnny Rook glared at her.
“Call me,” Emma said again, and this time she looked directly at Kit. “If you ever need anything.” “Get OUT.” Rook looked as if he were going to explode or have a heart attack, so with a last look
over her shoulder, Emma went.
Emma found Ty out by the car. Clouds had gathered, scudding in quick bursts across the sky. Ty was leaning against the trunk, the wind ruffling his black hair. “Where’s Jules?” she asked as she got close.
“Over there.” He pointed. “I got into the house with an Open rune. I broke the lock on the basement door. He’s fixing it.”
Emma glanced over toward Johnny Rook’s and saw Jules’s lean, long figure outlined by the stuccoed wall. She opened the trunk of the car, unbuckling her weapons belt. “How did you get here, anyway?”
“I hid in the backseat. Under that blanket.” Ty pointed. Emma could see the edge of a pair of headphones peeking out from under the quilt’s fuzzy edge. “You think Julian’s mad at me?” With the knife put away, he looked very young, his gray eyes clear and open, fixed on the clouds overhead.
“Ty.” Emma sighed. “He’s going to murderate you.”
Julian was heading back toward them. Ty said, “That’s a neologism.” Emma blinked. “It’s a what?”
“A word you made up. Shakespeare made up words all the time.”
Emma smiled at him, oddly touched. “Well, ‘murderate’ isn’t exactly Shakespeare.”
Ty braced himself as Julian walked directly up to him, not breaking stride, his jaw set, his blue-green eyes as dark as the deep part of the ocean.
He reached Ty and caught hold of him, pulling him into a fierce hug. He pressed his face down into his little brother’s black hair as Ty stood, frozen and astonished at Julian’s lack of anger.
“Jules?” he said. “Are you all right?”
Julian’s shoulders shook. He held his little brother tighter, as if he could crush Ty into himself, into a place where he’d always be safe. He put his cheek against Ty’s curls, squeezing his eyes shut, his voice muffled. “I thought something happened to you,” he said. “I thought Johnny Rook might—”
He didn’t finish his sentence. Ty put his arms carefully around Julian. He patted his back, gently, with his slender hands. It was the first time Emma had seen Ty comfort his older brother—almost the first time she’d ever actually seen Julian let someone else take care of him.
They were silent on the long highway drive back to the Institute; silent as the clouds cleared away, blown inland by the ocean air. The sun was low on the water as they drove up the Pacific Coast Highway. They were silent as they got out of the car and Julian finally really spoke.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” he said, looking at Tiberius. He’d stopped shaking—thankfully, since he’d been driving—and his voice was steady and soft. “It was too dangerous for you to come with us.”
Ty put his hands in his pockets. “I know what you think. But this is my investigation too.”
“Mark texted me to tell me you were missing,” Julian said, and Emma started; she should have guessed that was what all the business with Jules’s phone had been about. “I almost walked right out of Rook’s house. I don’t think he would have let us back in.”
“I’m sorry you were worried,” said Ty. “That’s why I hugged you outside Rook’s house, because I was sorry you were worried. But I’m not Tavvy. I’m not a child. I don’t need to always be there so that you or Mark can find me.”
“You shouldn’t have come into Rook’s house either.” Julian’s voice rose. “It wasn’t safe.”
“I wasn’t planning to come inside. Just to look at the house. Observe it.” Ty’s soft mouth hardened. “Then I saw you go in, and I saw someone moving around downstairs. I thought they might come up and attack you when you didn’t expect it. I knew you didn’t realize anyone was down there.”
“Jules,” Emma said. “You would have done the same thing.” Jules shot her an exasperated look. “Ty’s only fifteen.”
“Don’t say it’s dangerous because I’m fifteen,” Ty said. “You did things just as dangerous when you were fifteen. And Rook wouldn’t have told you Sterling’s address if I hadn’t been holding a knife on his son.”
“That’s true,” said Emma. “He got into that protection circle too fast.”
“You couldn’t have known he had a son hidden down there,” Julian said. “You couldn’t have predicted what would happen, Ty. It was luck.”
“Prediction is magic,” Ty said. “It wasn’t that, and it wasn’t luck, either. I’ve heard Emma talk about Rook. Diana too. He sounded like someone who would hide things. Who you couldn’t trust. And I was right.” He looked hard at Jules; he wasn’t looking him in the eye, but his gaze was direct. “You always want to protect me,” he said. “But you won’t ever tell me when I’m right. If you let me make decisions on my own, maybe you’d worry about me less.”
Julian looked stunned.
“It could help that we know Rook has a son,” said Ty. He spoke with a clear confidence. “You can’t be sure it won’t. And I got you Sterling’s address. I helped, even if you didn’t want me there.”
In the dim light spilling down from the Institute, Julian looked as vulnerable as Emma had ever seen him. “I’m sorry,” he said, almost formally. “I didn’t mean to make it sound like you didn’t help.”
“I know the Law,” said Ty. “I know fifteen isn’t grown up. I know we need Uncle Arthur, and we need you.” He frowned. “I mean, I can’t cook at all, and neither can Livvy. And I wouldn’t know how to put Tavvy to bed. I’m not saying you need to put me in charge or let me do whatever I want. I know there are rules. But some things—maybe Mark could do them?”
“But Mark—” Julian began, and Emma knew his fear. Mark might not stay. He might not want to. “Mark’s just getting to know you all again and know what it’s like being here,” Julian said. “I don’t
know if we could ask him to do too much.”
“He wouldn’t mind,” said Ty. “He likes me. He likes us.”
“He loves you,” said Julian. “And I love you too. But Ty, Mark might not— If we don’t find the killer, Mark might not be able to stay here.”
“That’s why I want to help solve the mystery,” said Ty. “So Mark can stay. He could take care of us, and you could rest.” He pulled his jacket closed, shivering; the wind off the ocean was intensely cool. “I’m going to go inside and find Livvy. Mark too. He was probably worried.”
Julian stared after Ty as he went into the house. The look on his face—it was as if Emma were looking at one of his paintings, but crumpled and torn, the colors and lines jumbled. “They all think that, don’t they?” he said slowly. “They all think Mark is going to stay.”
Emma hesitated. A few days before, she would have told Julian not to be ridiculous. That Mark would stay with his family, no matter what. But she had seen the night sky in Mark’s eyes when he talked of the Hunt, heard the cold freedom in his voice. There were two Marks, she thought sometimes: the human and the faerie. Human Mark would stay. Faerie Mark could not be predicted.
“How could they not?” Emma said. “If I got one of my parents back somehow—and then thought they were going to leave again, voluntarily—”
Julian looked ashen. “We live in a world of demons and monsters, and the thing that scares me the most is the idea that Mark might decide he belongs with the Wild Hunt and leave. Even if we solve the mystery and satisfy the Fair Folk. He might still go. And he’ll smash their hearts to pieces. They’ll never recover.”
Emma moved closer to Julian, laying a hand against his shoulder.
“You can’t protect the kids against everything,” she said. “They have to live in the world and deal with what happens in the world. And that means loss sometimes. If Mark chooses to leave, it’ll be awful. But they’re strong kids. They’ll live through it.”
There was a long silence. Finally Julian spoke. “Sometimes I almost wish Mark hadn’t come back,” he said in a dry, tense voice. “What does that make me?”
H-U-M-A-N, Emma traced on his back, and for a moment he leaned into her, seeming to draw comfort from her, the way parabatai were supposed to. The noises of the desert dimmed around them—it was something parabatai could do, create a quiet space where there was nothing but themselves and the live
connection of magic that bound them.
A loud crash broke through the silence. Julian drew away from Emma with a start. There was another crash, clearly coming from inside the Institute. Julian spun around; a moment later he was racing up the back steps of the house.
Emma followed him. There was more noise: She could hear it even on the staircase, the clanging of dishware, the sound of laughing voices. They hurried upstairs, side by side. Emma reached the kitchen first and swung the door open.