City of Fallen Angels
Page 23

 Cassandra Clare

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"About three weeks later it started to hit. Waves of uncontrollable rage and anger. My vision would just black out, and I wouldn't know what was happening. I punched my hand through my kitchen window because a drawer was stuck shut. I was crazy jealous about Maia, convinced she was looking at other guys, convinced ... I don't even know what I thought. I just know I snapped. I hit her. I want to say I don't remember doing it, but I do. And then she broke up with me..." His voice trailed off. He took a swallow of coffee; he looked sick, Simon thought. He must not have told this story much before. Or ever. "A couple nights later I went to a party and she was there. Dancing with another guy. Kissing him like she wanted to prove to me it was over. It was a bad night for her to choose, not that she could have known that. It was the first full moon since I'd been bitten." His knuckles were white where he gripped the cup. "The first time I ever Changed. The transformation ripped through my body and tore my bones and skin apart. I was in agony, and not just because of that. I wanted her, wanted her to come back, wanted to explain, but all I could do was howl. I took off running through the streets, and that was when I saw her, crossing the park near her house. She was going home..."
"And you attacked her," Simon said. "You bit her."
"Yeah." Jordan stared blindly into the past. "When I woke up the next morning, I knew what I'd done. I tried to go to her house, to explain. I was halfway there when a big guy stepped into my path and stared me down. He knew who I was, knew everything about me. He explained he was a member of the Praetor Lupus and he'd been assigned to me. He wasn't too happy that he'd gotten there too late, that I'd already bitten someone. He wouldn't let me go anywhere near her. He said I'd just make it worse. He promised the Wolf Guard would be watching over her. He told me that since I'd bitten a human already, which was strictly forbidden, the only way I'd evade punishment was to join the Guard and get trained to control myself.
"I wouldn't have done it. I would have spit on him and taken whatever punishment they wanted to hand out. I hated myself that much. But when he explained that I'd be able to help other people like me, maybe stop what had happened to me and Maia from happening again, it was like I saw a light in the darkness, way off in the future. Like maybe it was a chance to fix what I'd done."
"Okay," Simon said slowly. "But isn't it kind of a weird coincidence that you wound up assigned to me? A guy who was dating the girl you once bit and turned into a werewolf?"
"No coincidence," Jordan said. "Your file was one of a bunch I got handed. I picked you because Maia was mentioned in the notes. A werewolf and a vampire dating. You know, it's kind of a big deal. It was the first time I realized she'd become a werewolf after I-after what I did."
"You never checked up to find out? That seems kind of-"
"I tried. The Praetor didn't want me to, but I did what I could to find out what happened to her. I knew she ran away from home, but she had a crappy home life anyway, so that didn't tell me anything. And it's not like there's some national registry of werewolves where I could look her up. I just ... hoped she hadn't Turned."
"So you took my assignment because of Maia?"
Jordan flushed. "I thought maybe if I met you, I could find out what happened to her. If she was okay."
"That's why you told me off for two-timing her," said Simon, thinking back. "You were being protective."
Jordan glared at him over the rim of the coffee cup. "Yeah, well, it was a jerk move."
"And you're the one who shoved the flyer for the band performance under her door. Aren't you?" Simon shook his head. "So, was messing with my love life part of the assignment, or just your personal extra touch?"
"I screwed her over," Jordan said. "I didn't want to see her screwed over by someone else."
"And it didn't occur to you that if she showed up at our performance she'd try to rip your face off? If she hadn't been late, maybe she even would have done it while you were onstage. That would have been an exciting extra for the audience."
"I didn't know," Jordan said. "I didn't realize she hated me so much. I mean, I don't hate the guy who Turned me; I kind of understand that he might not have been in control of himself."
"Yeah," said Simon, "but you never loved that guy. You never had a relationship with him. Maia loved you. She thinks you bit her and then you ditched and never thought about her again. She's going to hate you as much as she loved you once."
Before Jordan could reply, the doorbell rang-not the buzzer that would have sounded if someone had been downstairs, calling up, but the one that could be rung only if the visitor was standing in the hallway outside their door. The boys exchanged baffled looks. "Are you expecting someone?" Simon asked.
Jordan shook his head and put the coffee cup down. Together they went into the small entryway. Jordan gestured for Simon to stand behind him before he swung the door open.
There was no one there. Instead there was a folded piece of paper on the welcome mat, weighed down by a solid-looking hunk of rock. Jordan bent to free the paper and straightened up with a frown.
"It's for you," he said, handing it to Simon.
Puzzled, Simon unfolded the paper. Printed across the center, in childish block letters, was the message:
"It's a joke," Simon said, staring numbly at the paper. "It has to be."
Without a word Jordan grabbed Simon's arm and hauled him into the living room. Letting go of him, he rooted around for the cordless phone until he found it. "Call her," he said, slapping the phone against Simon's chest. "Call Maia and make sure she's all right."
"But it might not be her." Simon stared down at the phone as the full horror of the situation buzzed around his brain like a ghoul buzzing around the outside of a house, begging to be let in. Focus, he told himself. Don't panic. "It might be Isabelle."
"Oh, Jesus." Jordan glowered at him. "Do you have any other girlfriends? Do we have to make a list of names to call?"
Simon yanked the phone away from him and turned away, punching in the number.
Maia answered on the second ring. "Hello?"
"Maia-it's Simon."
The friendliness went out of her voice. "Oh. What do you want?"
"I just wanted to check that you were okay," he said.
"I'm fine." She spoke stiffly. "It's not like what was going on with us was all that serious. I'm not happy, but I'll live. You're still an ass, though."
"No," Simon said. "I mean I wanted to check that you were okay."
"Is this about Jordan?" He could hear the tense anger when she said his name. "Right. You guys went off together, didn't you? You're friends or something, right? Well, you can tell him to stay away from me. In fact, that goes for both of you."
She hung up. The dial tone buzzed down the phone like an angry bee.
Simon looked at Jordan. "She's fine. She hates us both, but it really didn't sound like anything else was wrong."
"Fine," Jordan said tightly. "Call Isabelle."
It took two tries before Izzy picked up; Simon was nearly in a panic by the time her voice came down the line, sounding distracted and annoyed. "Whoever this is, it had better be good."
Relief poured through his veins. "Isabelle. It's Simon."
"Oh, for God's sake. What do you want?"
"I just wanted to make sure you were okay-"
"Oh, what, I'm supposed to be devastated because you're a cheating, lying, two-timing son of a-"
"No." This was really starting to wear on Simon's nerves. "I meant, are you all right? You haven't been kidnapped or anything?"
There was a long silence. "Simon," Isabelle said finally. "This is really, seriously, the stupidest excuse for a whiny makeup call that I have ever, ever heard. What's wrong with you?"
"I'm not sure," Simon said, and hung up before she could hang up on him. He handed the phone to Jordan. "She's fine too."
"I don't get it." Jordan looked bewildered. "Who makes a threat like that if it's totally empty? I mean, it's so easy to check and find out it's a lie."
"They must think I'm stupid," Simon began, and then paused, a horrible thought dawning on him. He snatched the phone back from Jordan and started to dial with numb fingers.
"Who is it?" Jordan said. "Who are you calling?"
Clary's phone rang just as she turned the corner of Ninety-sixth Street onto Riverside Drive. The rain seemed to have washed away the city's usual dirt; the sun shone down from a brilliant sky onto the bright green strip of the park running alongside the river, whose water looked nearly blue today.
She dug into her bag for her phone, found it, and flipped it open. "Hello?"
Simon's voice came down the line. "Oh, thank-" He broke off. "Are you all right? You're not kidnapped or anything?"
"Kidnapped?" Clary peered up at the numbers of the buildings as she walked uptown. 220, 224. She wasn't entirely sure what she was looking for. Would it look like a church? Something else, glamoured to look like an abandoned lot? "Are you drunk or something?"
"It's a little early for that." The relief in his voice was plain. "No, I just-I got a weird note. Someone threatening to go after my girlfriend."
"Which one?"
"Har de har." Simon did not sound amused. "I called Maia and Isabelle already, and they're both fine. Then I thought of you-I mean, we spend a lot of time together. Someone might get the wrong idea. But now I don't know what to think."
"I dunno." 232 Riverside Drive loomed up in front of Clary suddenly, a big square stone building with a pointed roof. It could have been a church at one point, she thought, though it didn't look much like one now.
"Maia and Isabelle found out about each other last night, by the way. It wasn't pretty," Simon added. "You were right about the playing-with-fire bit."
Clary examined the facade of number 232. Most of the edifices lining the drive were expensive apartment buildings, with doormen in livery waiting inside. This one, though, had only a set of tall wooden doors with curved tops, and old-fashioned-looking metal handles instead of doorknobs. "Ooh, ouch. Sorry, Simon. Are either of them speaking to you?"
"Not really."
She took hold of one of the handles, and pushed. The door slid open with a soft hissing noise. Clary dropped her voice. "Maybe one of them left the note?"
"It doesn't really seem like their style," said Simon, sounding genuinely puzzled. "Do you think Jace would have done it?"
The sound of his name was like a punch to the stomach. Clary caught her breath and said, "I really don't think he'd do that, even if he was angry." She drew the phone away from her ear. Peering around the half-open door, she could see what looked reassuringly like the inside of a normal church-a long aisle, and flickering lights like candles. Surely it couldn't hurt just to take a peek inside. "I have to go, Simon," she said. "I'll call you later."
She flipped her phone closed and stepped inside.
"You really think it was a joke?" Jordan was prowling up and down the apartment like a tiger pacing its cage at the zoo. "I dunno. It seems like a really sick sort of joke to me."
"I didn't say it wasn't sick." Simon glanced at the note; it lay on the coffee table, the block-printed letters clearly visible even at a distance. Just looking at it gave him a lurching feeling in his stomach, even though he knew it was meaningless. "I'm just trying to think who might have sent it. And why."
"Maybe I should take the day off watching you and keep an eye on her," said Jordan. "You know, just in case."
"I assume you're talking about Maia," said Simon. "I know you mean well, but I really don't think she wants you around. In any capacity."
Jordan's jaw tightened. "I'd stay out of the way so she wouldn't see me."
"Wow. You're still really into her, aren't you?"
"I have a personal responsibility." Jordan sounded stiff. "Whatever else I feel doesn't matter."
"You can do what you want," Simon said. "But I think-"
The door buzzer sounded again. The two boys exchanged a single look before both bolting down the narrow hallway to the door. Jordan got there first. He grabbed for the coatrack that stood by the door, ripped the coats off it, and flung the door wide, the rack held above his head like a javelin.
On the other side of the door was Jace. He blinked. "Is that a coatrack?"
Jordan slammed the coatrack down on the ground and sighed. "If you'd been a vampire, this would have been a lot more useful."
"Yes," said Jace. "Or, you know, just someone with a lot of coats."
Simon stuck his head around Jordan and said, "Sorry. We've had a stressful morning."
"Yeah, well," said Jace. "It's about to get more stressful. I came to bring you to the Institute, Simon. The Conclave wants to see you, and they don't like having to wait."
The moment the door of the Church of Talto shut behind Clary, she felt that she was in another world, the noise and bustle of New York City entirely shut out. The space inside the building was big and lofty, with high ceilings soaring above. There was a narrow aisle banked by rows of pews, and fat brown candles burned in sconces bolted along the walls. The interior seemed dimly lit to Clary, but perhaps that was just because she was used to the brightness of witchlight.
She moved along the aisle, the tread of her sneakers soft against the dusty stone. It was odd, she thought, a church with no windows at all. At the end of the aisle she reached the apse, where a set of stone steps led to a podium on which was displayed an altar. She blinked up at it, realizing what else was strange: There were no crosses in this church. Instead there was an upright stone tablet on the altar, crowned by the carved figure of an owl. The words on the tablet read: