City of Fallen Angels
Page 6

 Cassandra Clare

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"They're my friends," Simon muttered.
"They're your friends, and they're idiots."
"I want people I care about to know the truth about me."
"Oh?" Clary said, not very kindly. "So when are you going to tell your mother?"
Before Simon could reply, there was a loud rap on the garage door, and a moment later it slid up, letting more autumn sunlight pour inside. Simon looked over, blinking. It was a reflex, really, left over from when he had been human. It no longer took his eyes more than a split second to adjust to darkness or light.
There was a boy standing at the garage entrance, backlit by bright sun. He held a piece of paper in his hand. He looked down at it uncertainly, and then back up at the band. "Hey," he said. "Is this where I can find the band Dangerous Stain?"
"We're Dichotomous Lemur now," said Eric, stepping forward. "Who wants to know?"
"I'm Kyle," said the boy, ducking under the garage door. Straightening up, he flipped back the brown hair that fell into his eyes and held out his piece of paper to Eric. "I saw you were looking for a lead singer."
"Whoa," said Matt. "We put that flyer up, like, a year ago. I totally forgot about it."
"Yeah," said Eric. "We were doing some different stuff back then. Now we mostly switch off on vocals. You have experience?"
Kyle-who was very tall, Simon saw, though not at all gangly-shrugged. "Not really. But I'm told I can sing." He had a slow, slightly drawling diction, more surfer than Southern.
The members of the band looked uncertainly at one another. Eric scratched behind his ear. "Can you give us a second, dude?"
"Sure." Kyle ducked back out of the garage, sliding the door closed behind him. Simon could hear him whistling faintly outside. It sounded like "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain." It wasn't particularly in tune, either.
"I dunno," Eric said. "I'm not sure we can use anyone new right now. 'Cause, I mean, we can't tell him about the vampire thing, can we?"
"No," said Simon. "You can't."
"Well, then." Matt shrugged. "It's too bad. We need a singer. Kirk sucks. No offense, Kirk."
"Screw you," said Kirk. "I do not suck."
"Yes, you do," said Matt. "You suck big, hairy-"
"I think," Clary interrupted, raising her voice, "that you should let him try out."
Simon stared at her. "Why?"
"Because he is superhot," Clary said, to Simon's surprise. He hadn't been enormously struck by Kyle's looks, but then, perhaps he wasn't the best judge of male beauty. "And your band needs some sex appeal."
"Thank you," said Simon. "On behalf of us all, thank you very much."
Clary made an impatient noise. "Yes, yes, you're all fine-looking guys. Especially you, Simon." She patted his hand. "But Kyle is hot like 'whoa.' I'm just saying. My objective opinion as a female is that if you add Kyle to your band, you will double your female fan base."
"Which means we'll have two female fans instead of one," said Kirk.
"Which one?" Matt looked genuinely curious.
"Eric's little cousin's friend. What's her name? The one who has a crush on Simon. She comes to all our gigs and tells everyone she's his girlfriend."
Simon winced. "She's thirteen."
"That's your sexy vampire mojo at work, man," said Matt. "The ladies cannot resist you."
"Oh, for God's sake," said Clary. "There is no such thing as sexy vampire mojo." She pointed a finger at Eric. "And don't even say that Sexy Vampire Mojo sounds like a band name, or I'll-"
The garage door swung back up. "Uh, dudes?" It was Kyle again. "Look, if you don't want me to try out, it's cool. Maybe you changed your sound, whatever. Just say the word, and I'm out."
Eric cocked his head to the side. "Come on in and let's get a look at you."
Kyle stepped into the garage. Simon stared at him, trying to gauge what it was that had made Clary say he was hot. He was tall and broad-shouldered and slim, with high cheekbones, longish black hair that tumbled over his forehead and down his neck in curls, and brown skin that hadn't lost its summery tan yet. His long, thick eyelashes over startling hazel-green eyes made him look like a pretty-boy rock star. He wore a fitted green T-shirt and jeans, and twining both his bare arms were tattoos-not Marks, just ordinary tattoos. They looked like scrolling script winding around his skin, disappearing up the sleeves of his shirt.
Okay, Simon had to admit. He wasn't hideous.
"You know," Kirk said finally, breaking the silence. "I see it. He is pretty hot."
Kyle blinked and turned to Eric. "So, do you want me to sing or not?"
Eric detached the mike from its stand and handed it to him. "Go ahead," he said. "Give it a try."
"You know, he was really pretty good," Clary said. "I was kind of kidding about including Kyle in the band, but he can actually sing."
They were walking along Kent Avenue, toward Luke's house. The sky had darkened from blue to gray in preparation for twilight, and clouds hung low over the East River. Clary was trailing one of her gloved hands along the chain-link fence that separated them from the cracked concrete embankment, making the metal rattle.
"You're just saying that because you think he's hot," said Simon.
She dimpled. "Not that hot. Not, like, the hottest guy I've ever seen." Which, Simon imagined, would be Jace, though she was nice enough not to say it. "But I thought it would be a good idea to have him in the band, honestly. If Eric and the rest of them can't tell him you're a vampire, they can't tell everyone else, either. Hopefully it'll put an end to that stupid idea." They were nearly at Luke's house; Simon could see it across the street, the windows lit up yellow against the coming dark. Clary paused at a gap in the fence. "Remember when we killed a bunch of Raum demons here?"
"You and Jace killed some Raum demons. I almost threw up." Simon remembered, but his mind wasn't on it; he was thinking of Camille, sitting across from him in the courtyard, saying, You befriend Shadowhunters, but you can never be of them. You will always be other and outside. He looked sideways at Clary, wondering what she would say if he told her about his meeting with the vampire, and her offer. He imagined that she would probably be terrified. The fact that he couldn't be harmed hadn't yet stopped her from worrying about his safety.
"You wouldn't be scared now," she said softly, as if reading his mind. "Now you have the Mark." She turned to look at him, still leaning against the fence. "Does anyone ever notice or ask you about it?"
He shook his head. "My hair covers it, mostly, and anyway, it's faded a lot. See?" He pushed his hair aside.
Clary reached out and touched his forehead and the curving scripted Mark there. Her eyes were sad, as they had been that day in the Hall of Accords in Alicante, when she'd cut the oldest curse of the world into his skin. "Does it hurt?"
"No. No, it doesn't." And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear. "You know I don't blame you, don't you? You saved my life."
"I know." Her eyes were shining. She dropped her hand from his forehead and scrubbed the back of her glove across her face. "Damn. I hate crying."
"Well, you better get used to it," he said, and when her eyes widened, he added hastily, "I meant the wedding. It's what, next Saturday? Everyone cries at weddings."
She snorted.
"How are your mom and Luke, anyway?"
"Disgustingly in love. It's horrible. Anyway-" She patted him on the shoulder. "I should go in. See you tomorrow?"
He nodded. "Sure. Tomorrow."
He watched her as she ran across the street and up the stairs to Luke's front door. Tomorrow. He wondered how long it had been since he had gone more than a few days without seeing Clary. He wondered about being a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, like Camille had said. Like Raphael had said. Thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. He wasn't Cain, who had killed his brother, but the curse believed he was. It was strange, he thought, waiting to lose everything, not knowing if it would happen, or not.
The door shut behind Clary. Simon turned to head down Kent, toward the G train stop at Lorimer Street. It was nearly full dark now, the sky overhead a swirl of gray and black. Simon heard tires squeal on the road behind him, but he didn't turn around. Cars drove too fast on this street all the time, despite the cracks and potholes. It wasn't until the blue van drew up beside him and screeched to a stop that he turned to look.
The van's driver yanked the keys from the ignition, killing the engine, and threw open the door. It was a man-a tall man, dressed in a gray hooded tracksuit and sneakers, the hood pulled down so low that it hid most of his face. He leaped down from the driver's seat, and Simon saw that there was a long, shimmering knife in his hand.
Later Simon would think that he should have run. He was a vampire, faster than any human. He could outrun anyone. He should have run, but he was too startled; he stood still as the man, gleaming knife in hand, came toward him. The man said something in a low, guttural voice, something in a language Simon didn't understand.
Simon took a step back. "Look," he said, reaching for his pocket. "You can have my wallet-"
The man lunged at Simon, plunging the knife toward his chest. Simon stared down in disbelief. Everything seemed to be happening very slowly, as if time were stretching out. He saw the point of the knife near his chest, the tip denting the leather of his jacket-and then it sheared to the side, as if someone had grabbed his attacker's arm and yanked. The man screamed as he was jerked up into the air like a puppet being hauled up by its strings. Simon looked around wildly-surely someone must have heard or noticed the commotion, but no one appeared. The man kept screaming, jerking wildly, while his shirt tore open down the front, as if ripped apart by an invisible hand.
Simon stared in horror. Huge wounds were appearing on the man's torso. His head flew back, and blood sprayed from his mouth. He stopped screaming abruptly-and fell, as if the invisible hand had opened, releasing him. He hit the ground and broke apart like glass shattering into a thousand shining pieces that scattered themselves across the pavement.
Simon dropped to his knees. The knife that had been meant to kill him lay a little way away, within arm's reach. It was all that was left of his attacker, save a pile of shimmering crystals that were already beginning to blow away in the brisk wind. He touched one cautiously.
It was salt. He looked down at his hands. They were shaking. He knew what had happened, and why.
And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.
So this was what sevenfold looked like.
He barely made it to the gutter before he doubled over and vomited blood into the street.
The moment Simon opened the door, he knew he'd miscalculated. He'd thought his mother would be asleep by now, but she wasn't. She was awake, sitting in an armchair facing the front door, her phone on the table next to her, and she saw the blood on his jacket immediately.
To his surprise she didn't scream, but her hand flew to her mouth. "Simon."
"It's not my blood," he said quickly. "I was over at Eric's, and Matt had a nosebleed-"
"I don't want to hear it." That sharp tone was one she rarely used; it reminded him of the way she'd talked during those last months when his father had been sick, anxiety like a knife in her voice. "I don't want to hear any more lies."
Simon dropped his keys onto the table next to the door. "Mom-"
"All you do is tell me lies. I'm tired of it."
"That's not true," he said, but he felt sick, knowing it was. "I just have a lot going on in my life right now."
"I know you do." His mother got to her feet; she had always been a skinny woman, and she looked bony now, her dark hair, the same color as his, streaked with more gray than he had remembered where it fell around her face. "Come with me, young man. Now."
Puzzled, Simon followed her into the small bright-yellow kitchen. His mother stopped and pointed toward the counter. "Care to explain those?"
Simon's mouth went dry. Lined up along the counter like a row of toy soldiers were the bottles of blood that had been in the mini-fridge inside his closet. One was half-full, the others entirely full, the red liquid inside them shining like an accusation. She had also found the empty blood bags he had washed out and carefully stuffed inside a shopping bag before dumping them into his trash can. They were spread out over the counter too, like a grotesque decoration.
"I thought at first the bottles were wine," Elaine Lewis said in a shaking voice. "Then I found the bags. So I opened one of the bottles. It's blood. Isn't it?"
Simon said nothing. His voice seemed to have fled.
"You've been acting so strangely lately," his mother went on. "Out at all hours, you never eat, you barely sleep, you have friends I've never met, never heard of. You think I can't tell when you're lying to me? I can tell, Simon. I thought maybe you were on drugs."
Simon found his voice. "So you searched my room?"
His mother flushed. "I had to! I thought-I thought if I found drugs there, I could help you, get you into a rehab program, but this?" She gestured wildly at the bottles. "I don't even know what to think about this. What's going on, Simon? Have you joined some kind of cult?"
Simon shook his head.
"Then, tell me," his mother said, her lips trembling. "Because the only explanations I can think of are horrible and sick. Simon, please-"
"I'm a vampire," Simon said. He had no idea how he had said it, or even why. But there it was. The words hung in the air between them like poisonous gas.
His mother's knees seemed to give out, and she sank into a kitchen chair. "What did you say?" she breathed.