Lady Midnight
Page 3

 Cassandra Clare

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Kit froze. His dad moved in front of him quickly, blocking him from Emma’s view. “Now here I thought you were going to ask me about the murders that have been happening. Behind on your information, Carstairs?”
Apparently Wren had been right, Kit thought—everyone did know about these murders. He could tell by the warning note in his father’s voice that he should make himself scarce, but he was trapped behind the counter with no escape route.
“I heard some rumors about dead mundanes,” Emma said. Most Shadowhunters used the term for normal human beings with intense contempt. Emma just sounded tired. “We don’t investigate mundanes killing each other. That’s for the police.”
“There were dead faeries,” said Johnny. “Several of the bodies were fey.”
“We can’t investigate those,” said Cameron. “You know that. The Cold Peace forbids it.”
Kit heard a faint murmur from nearby booths: a noise that let him know he wasn’t the only one eavesdropping.
The Cold Peace was Shadowhunter Law. It had come into being almost five years ago. He barely remembered a time before it. They called it a Law, at least. What it really was, was a punishment.
When Kit was ten years old, a war had rocked the universe of Downworlders and Shadowhunters. A Shadowhunter, Sebastian Morgenstern, had turned against his own kind: He had gone from Institute to Institute, destroying their occupants, controlling their bodies, and forcing them to fight for him as an unspeakable army of mind-controlled slaves. Most of the Shadowhunters in the Los Angeles Institute had been taken or killed.
Kit had had nightmares about it sometimes, of blood running through hallways he’d never seen, hallways painted with the runes of the Nephilim.
Sebastian had been helped by the Fair Folk in his attempt to destroy the Shadowhunters. Kit had learned about fairies in school: cute little creatures that lived in trees and wore flower hats. The Fair Folk were nothing like that. They ranged from mermaids and goblins and shark-toothed kelpies to gentry faeries, those who held high rank in the faerie courts. Gentry faeries were tall and beautiful and terrifying. They were split into two Courts: the Seelie Court, a dangerous place ruled by a Queen no one had seen in years, and the Unseelie Court, a dark place of treachery and black magic whose King was like a monster out of legend.
Since the faeries were Downworlders, and had sworn allegiance and loyalty to the Shadowhunters, their betrayal was an unforgivable crime. The Shadowhunters had punished them viciously in a sweeping gesture that had come to be known as the Cold Peace: forcing them to pay huge sums to rebuild the Shadowhunter buildings that had been destroyed, stripping them of their armies, and instructing other Downworlders never to give them aid. The punishment for helping a faerie was severe.
Faeries were a proud, ancient, magical people, or so it was said. Kit had never known them as anything but broken. Most Downworlders and other denizens of the shadowy space between the mundane world and the Shadowhunter one didn’t dislike faeries or hold much of a grudge against them. But none of them were willing to go against the Shadowhunters, either. Vampires, werewolves, and warlocks stayed away from faeries except in places like the Shadow Market, where money was more important than Laws.
“Really?” said Johnny. “What if I told you that the bodies have been found covered in writing?”
Emma’s head jerked up. Her eyes were dark brown, almost black, surprising against her pale hair. “What did you say?”
“You heard me.”
“What kind of writing? Is it the same language that was on my parents’ bodies?”
“Don’t know,” said Johnny. “Just what I heard. Still, seems suspicious, doesn’t it?”
“Emma,” said Cameron warningly. “The Clave won’t like it.”
The Clave was the Shadowhunter government. In Kit’s experience, they didn’t like anything.
“I don’t care,” Emma said. She’d clearly forgotten about Kit completely; she was staring at his dad, her eyes burning. “Tell me what there is to know. I’ll give you two hundred.”
“Fine, but I don’t know that much,” said Johnny. “Someone gets grabbed, a few nights later they turn up dead.”
“And the last time someone ‘got grabbed’?” said Cameron.
“Two nights ago,” said Johnny, clearly feeling he was earning his payoff. “Body’ll probably be dumped tomorrow night. All you have to do is show up and catch the dumper.”
“So why don’t you tell us how to do that?” Emma said.
“Word on the street is that the next body dump will be in West Hollywood. The Sepulchre Bar.”
Emma clapped her hands in excitement. Her boyfriend said her name again, warningly, but Kit could have told him he was wasting his time. He’d never seen a teenage girl this excited about anything—not famous actors, not boy bands, not jewelry. This girl was practically vibrating to pieces over the idea of a dead body.
“Why don’t you do it, if you’re so worked up about these murders?” Cameron demanded of Johnny. He had nice eyes, Kit thought. They were a ridiculously attractive couple. It was almost annoying. He wondered what the fabled Julian looked like. If he was sworn to be this girl’s platonic best friend for eternity, he probably looked like the back of a bus.
“Because I don’t want to,” said Johnny. “Seems dangerous. But you guys love danger. Don’t you, Emma?”
Emma grinned. It occurred to Kit that Johnny seemed to know Emma pretty well. Clearly she’d come around before asking questions—it was weird that this was the first time he’d seen her, but he didn’t come to every Market. As she dug into her pocket now, took out a roll of bills, and handed it over to his father, he wondered if she’d ever been in his house. Whenever clients came to their home, Kit’s dad made him head down to the basement and stay there, not making a sound.
“The kind of people I deal with aren’t the kind of people you should meet” was all he said.
Once Kit had wandered upstairs by accident while his father was meeting with a group of robed and hooded monsters. At least Kit thought they looked like monsters: their eyes and lips were sewn shut, their heads bald and gleaming. His father had told him they were Gregori, Silent Brothers—Shadowhunters who had been scarred and magically tortured until they became something more than human; they spoke with their minds, and could read other people’s. Kit had never come upstairs again while his father was having a “meeting.”
Kit knew his dad was a criminal. He knew he sold secrets for a living, though not lies: Johnny prided himself on having good information. Kit knew his own life would probably follow the same pattern. It was hard to live normally when you were constantly pretending you didn’t see what was going on in front of your face.
“Well, thanks for the info,” Emma said, starting to turn away from the booth. The gold hilt of her sword gleamed in the light from the Market’s illuminated stalls. Kit wondered what it would be like to be Nephilim. To live among people who saw the same things you did. To not ever be afraid of what lurked in the shadows. “See you around, Johnny.”
She dropped a wink—at Kit. Johnny whirled around to look at him as she disappeared back into the crowd with her boyfriend.