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City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments 2) Cassandra Clare 2022/8/5 16:53:10

Bat, the guy sitting next to her—she’d dated him once, but they were friends now—muttered something under his breath that sounded like “Nephilim.”

So that’s it. The boy wasn’t a werewolf at all. He was a Shadowhunter, a member of the arcane world’s secret police force. They upheld the Law, backed by the Covenant, and you couldn’t become one of them: You had to be born into it. Blood made them what they were. There were a lot of rumors about them, most unflattering: They were haughty, proud, cruel; they looked down on and despised Downworlders. There were few things a lycanthrope liked less than a Shadowhunter—except maybe a vampire.

People also said that the Shadowhunters killed demons. Maia remembered when she’d first heard that demons existed and had been told about what they did. It had given her a headache. Vampires and werewolves were just people with a disease, that much she understood, but expecting her to believe in all that heaven and hell crap, demons and angels, and still nobody could tell her for sure if there was a God or not, or where you went after you died? It wasn’t fair. She believed in demons now—she’d seen enough of what they did that she wasn’t able to deny it—but she wished she didn’t have to.

“I take it,” the boy said, leaning his elbows onto the bar, “that you don’t serve Silver Bullet here. Too many bad associations?” His eyes gleamed, narrow and shining like the moon at a quarter full.

The bartender, Freaky Pete, just looked at the boy and shook his head in disgust. If the boy hadn’t been a Shadowhunter, Maia guessed, Pete would have tossed him out of the Moon, but instead he just walked to the other end of the bar and busied himself polishing glasses.

“Actually,” said Bat, who was unable to stay out of anything, “we don’t serve it because it’s really crappy beer.”

The boy turned his narrow, shining gaze on Bat, and smiled delightedly. Most people didn’t smile delightedly when Bat looked at them funny: Bat was six-and-a-half feet tall, with a thick scar that disfigured half his face where silver powder had burned his skin. Bat wasn’t one of the overnighters, the pack who lived in the police station, sleeping in the old cells. He had his own apartment, even a job. He’d been a pretty good boyfriend, right up until he dumped Maia for a redheaded witch named Eve who lived in Yonkers and ran a palmistry shop out of her garage.

“And what are you drinking?” the boy inquired, leaning so close to Bat that it was like an insult. “A little hair of the dog that bit—well, everyone?”

“You really think you’re pretty funny.” By this point the rest of the pack was leaning in to hear them, ready to back up Bat if he decided to knock this obnoxious brat into the middle of next week. “Don’t you?”

“Bat,” Maia said. She wondered if she were the only pack member in the bar who doubted Bat’s ability to knock the boy into next week. It wasn’t that she doubted Bat. It was something about the boy’s eyes. “Don’t.”

Bat ignored her. “Don’t you?”

“Who am I to deny the obvious?” The boy’s eyes slid over Maia as if she were invisible and went back to Bat. “I don’t suppose you’d like to tell me what happened to your face? It looks like—” And here he leaned forward and said something to Bat so quietly that Maia didn’t hear it. The next thing she knew, Bat was swinging a blow at the boy that should have shattered his jaw, only the boy was no longer there. He was standing a good five feet away, laughing, as Bat’s fist connected with his abandoned glass and sent it soaring across the bar to strike the opposite wall in a shower of shattering glass.

Freaky Pete was around the side of the bar, his big fist knotted in Bat’s shirt, before Maia could blink an eye. “That’s enough,” he said. “Bat, why don’t you take a walk and cool down.”

Bat twisted in Pete’s grasp. “Take a walk? Did you hear—”

“I heard.” Pete’s voice was low. “He’s a Shadowhunter. Walk it off, cub.”

Bat swore and pulled away from the bartender. He stalked toward the exit, his shoulders stiff with rage. The door banged shut behind him.

The boy had stopped smiling and was looking at Freaky Pete with a sort of dark resentment, as if the bartender had taken away a toy he’d intended to play with. “That wasn’t necessary,” he said. “I can handle myself.”

Pete regarded the Shadowhunter. “It’s my bar I’m worried about,” he said finally. “You might want to take your business elsewhere, Shadowhunter, if you don’t want any trouble.”

“I didn’t say I didn’t want trouble.” The boy sat back down on his stool. “Besides, I didn’t get to finish my drink.”

Maia glanced behind her, where the wall of the bar was soaked with alcohol. “Looks like you finished it to me.”

For a second the boy just looked blank; then a curious spark of amusement lit in his golden eyes. He looked so much like Daniel in that moment that Maia wanted to back away.

Pete slid another glass of amber liquid across the bar before the boy could reply to her. “Here you go,” he said. His eyes drifted to Maia. She thought she saw some admonishment in them.

“Pete—” she began. She didn’t get to finish. The door to the bar flew open. Bat was standing there in the doorway. It took a moment for Maia to realize that the front of his shirt and his sleeves were soaked with blood.

She slid off her stool and ran to him. “Bat! Are you hurt?”

His face was gray, his silvery scar standing out on his cheek like a piece of twisted wire. “An attack,” he said. “There’s a body in the alley. A dead kid. Blood—everywhere.” He shook his head, looked down at himself. “Not my blood. I’m fine.”

Bat’s reply was swallowed in the commotion. Seats were abandoned as the pack rushed to the door. Pete came out from behind his counter and pushed his way through the mob. Only the Shadowhunter boy stayed where he was, his head bent over his drink.

Through gaps in the crowd around the door, Maia caught a glimpse of the gray paving of the alley, splashed with blood. It was still wet and had run between the cracks in the paving like the tendrils of a red plant. “His throat cut?” Pete was saying to Bat, whose color had come back. “How—”

“There was someone in the alley. Someone kneeling over him,” Bat said. His voice was tight. “Not like a person—like a shadow. They ran off when they saw me. He was still alive. A little. I bent down over him, but—” Bat shrugged. It was a casual movement, but the cords in his neck were standing out like thick roots wrapping a tree trunk. “He died without saying anything.”

“Vampires,” said a buxom female lycanthrope—her name was Amabel, Maia thought—who was standing by the door. “The Night Children. It can’t have been anything else.”

Bat looked at her, then turned and stalked across the room toward the bar. He grabbed the Shadowhunter by the back of the jacket—or reached out as if he meant to, but the boy was already on his feet, turning fluidly. “What’s your problem, werewolf?”

Bat’s hand was still outstretched. “Are you deaf, Nephilim?” he snarled. “There’s a dead boy in the alley. One of ours.”

“Do you mean a lycanthrope or some other sort of Downworlder?” The boy arched his light eyebrows. “You all blend together to me.”

There was a low growl—from Freaky Pete, Maia noted with some surprise. He had come back into the bar and was surrounded by the rest of the pack, their eyes fixed on the Shadowhunter. “He was only a cub,” said Pete. “His name was Joseph.”

The name didn’t ring any bells for Maia, but she saw the tight set of Pete’s jaw and felt a flutter in her stomach. The pack was on the warpath now and if the Shadowhunter had any sense, he’d be backpedaling like crazy. He wasn’t, though. He was just standing there looking at them with those gold eyes and that funny smile on his face. “A lycanthrope boy?” he said.

“He was one of the pack,” said Pete. “He was only fifteen.”

“And what exactly do you expect me to do about it?” said the boy.

Pete was staring incredulously. “You’re Nephilim,” he said. “The Clave owes us protection in these circumstances.”

The boy looked around the bar, slowly and with such a look of insolence that a flush spread over Pete’s face.

“I don’t see anything you need protecting from here,” said the boy. “Except some bad décor and a possible mold problem. But you can usually clear that up with bleach.”

“There’s a dead body outside this bar’s front door,” said Bat, enunciating carefully. “Don’t you think—”

“I think it’s a little too late for him to need protection,” said the boy, “if he’s already dead.”

Pete was still staring. His ears had grown pointed, and when he spoke, his voice was muffled by his thickening canine teeth. “You want to be careful, Nephilim,” he said. “You want to be very careful.”

The boy looked at him with opaque eyes. “Do I?”

“So you’re going to do nothing?” Bat said. “Is that it?”

“I’m going to finish my drink,” said the boy, eyeing his half-empty glass, still on the counter, “if you’ll let me.”

“So that’s the attitude of the Clave, a week after the Accords?” said Pete with disgust. “The death of Downworlders is nothing to you?”

The boy smiled, and Maia’s spine prickled. He looked exactly like Daniel just before Daniel reached out and yanked the wings off a ladybug. “How like Downworlders,” he said, “expecting the Clave to clean your mess up for you. As if we could be bothered just because some stupid cub decided to splatter-paint himself all over your alley—”

And he used a word, a word for weres that they never used themselves, a filthily unpleasant word that implied an improper relationship between wolves and human women.

Before anyone else could move, Bat flung himself at the Shadowhunter—but the boy was gone. Bat stumbled and whirled around, staring. The pack gasped.

Bat and Amabel swarmed up onto the bar; the boy spun, so quickly that his reflection in the mirror behind the bar seemed to blur. Maia saw him kick out, and then the two were groaning on the floor in a flurry of smashed glass. She could hear the boy laughing even as someone else reached up and pulled him down; he sank into the crowd with an ease that spoke of willingness, and then she couldn’t see him at all, just a welter of flailing arms and legs. Still, she thought she could hear him laughing, even as metal flashed—the edge of a knife—and she heard herself suck in her breath.

It was Luke’s voice, quiet, steady as a heartbeat. It was strange how you always knew your pack leader’s voice. Maia turned and saw him standing just at the entrance to the bar, one hand against the wall. He looked not just tired, but ravaged, as if something were tearing him down from the inside; still, his voice was calm as he said again, “That’s enough. Leave the boy alone.”

The pack melted away from the Shadowhunter, leaving just Bat still standing there, defiant, one hand still gripping the back of the Shadowhunter’s shirt, the other holding a short-bladed knife. The boy himself was bloody-faced but hardly looked like someone who needed saving; he was grinning a grin as dangerous-looking as the broken glass that littered the floor. “He’s not a boy,” Bat said. “He’s a Shadowhunter.”

“They’re welcome enough here,” said Luke, his tone neutral. “They are our allies.”

“He said it didn’t matter,” said Bat angrily. “About Joseph—”

“I know,” Luke said quietly. His eyes shifted to the blond boy. “Did you come in here just to pick a fight, Jace Wayland?”

The boy—Jace—smiled, stretching his split lip so that a thin trickle of blood ran down his chin. “Luke.”

Bat, startled to hear their pack leader’s first name come out of the Shadowhunter’s mouth, let go of the back of Jace’s shirt. “I didn’t know—”

“There’s nothing to know,” said Luke, the tiredness in his eyes creeping into his voice.

Freaky Pete spoke, his voice a bass rumble. “He said the Clave wouldn’t care about the death of a single lycanthrope, even a child. And it’s a week after the Accords, Luke.”

“Jace doesn’t speak for the Clave,” said Luke, “and there’s nothing he could have done even if he’d wanted to. Isn’t that right?”

He looked at Jace, who was very pale. “How do you—”

“I know what happened,” said Luke. “With Maryse.”

Jace stiffened, and for a moment Maia saw through the Daniel-like savage amusement to what was underneath, and it was dark and agonized and reminded her more of her own eyes in the mirror than of her brother’s. “Who told you? Clary?”

“Not Clary.” Maia had never heard Luke speak that name before, but he said it with a tone that implied that this was someone special to him, and to the Shadowhunter boy as well. “I’m the pack leader, Jace. I hear things. Now come on. Let’s go to Pete’s office and talk.”