City of Fallen Angels / Page 35

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"No," he said. "No, I guess it doesn't." And he took her hand.

Chapter 16

NEW YORK CITY ANGELS

"We're here," Maureen said to Simon.

She had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and was looking up at a massive glass-and-stone building that rose above them. It was clearly designed to look like one of the luxury apartment complexes that had been built on Manhattan's Upper East Side before the Second World War, but the modern touches gave it away-the high sheets of windows, the copper roof untouched by verdigris, the banner signs draping themselves down the front of the edifice, promising LUXURY CONDOS STARTING AT $750,000. Apparently the purchase of one would entitle you to the use of a roof garden, a fitness center, a heated pool, and twenty-four-hour doorman service, starting in December. At the moment the place was still under construction, and KEEP OUT: PRIVATE PROPERTY signs were tacked to the scaffolding that surrounded it.

Simon looked at Maureen. She seemed to be getting used to being a vampire pretty fast. They had run over the Queensboro Bridge and up Second Avenue to get here, and her white slippers were shredded. But she had never slowed, and had never seemed surprised not to have gotten tired. She was looking up at the building now with a beatific expression, her small face aglow with what Simon could only guess was anticipation.

"This place is closed," he said, knowing he was stating the obvious. "Maureen-"

"Hush." She reached out a small hand to pull at a placard attached to a corner of the scaffolding. It came away with a sound of tearing plasterboard and ripped-out nails. Some of them rattled to the ground at Simon's feet. Maureen tossed the square of plasterboard aside and grinned at the hole she'd made.

An old man who'd been passing by, walking a small plaid-jacketed poodle on a leash, stopped and stared. "You ought to get a coat on your little sister there," he said to Simon. "Skinny thing like that, she'll freeze in this weather."

Before Simon could reply, Maureen turned on the man with a ferocious grin, showing all her teeth, including her needle fangs. "I am not his sister," she hissed.

The man blanched, picked up his dog, and hurried away.

Simon shook his head at Maureen. "You didn't need to do that."

Her fangs had pierced her lower lip, something that had happened to Simon often before he'd gotten used to them. Thin trickles of blood ran down her chin. "Don't tell me what to do," she said peevishly, but her fangs retracted. She wiped the back of her hand across her chin, a childish gesture, smearing the blood. Then she turned back to the hole she'd made. "Come on."

She ducked through, and he followed her. They passed through an area where the construction crew had clearly dumped their junk. There were broken tools lying around, smashed bricks, old plastic bags, and Coke cans littering the ground. Maureen lifted her skirts and picked her way daintily through the wreckage, a look of disgust on her face. She hopped over a narrow trench, and up a row of cracked stone steps. Simon followed.

The steps led to a set of glass doors, propped open. Through the doors was an ornate marble lobby. A massive unlit chandelier hung from the ceiling, though there was no light to spark off its pendant crystals. It would have been too dark in the room for a human to see at all. There was a marble desk for a doorman to sit at, a green chaise longue beneath a gilt-edged mirror, and banks of elevators on either side of the room. Maureen hit the button for the elevator, and to Simon's surprise, it lit.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

The elevator pinged, and Maureen stepped in, Simon behind her. The elevator was paneled in gold and red, with frosted glass mirrors on each of the walls. "Up." She hit the button for the roof and giggled. "Up to Heaven," she said, and the doors closed.

"I can't find Simon."

Isabelle, who had been leaning against a pillar in the Ironworks and trying not to brood, looked up to see Jordan looming over her. He really was most unreasonably tall, she thought. He had to be at least six foot two. She had thought he was very attractive the first time she'd seen him, with his tousled dark hair and greenish eyes, but now that she knew he was Maia's ex, she had moved him firmly into the mental space she reserved for boys who were off-limits.

"Well, I haven't seen him," she said. "I thought you were supposed to be his keeper."

"He told me he was going to be right back. That was forty minutes ago. I figured he was going to the bathroom."

"What kind of guardian are you? Shouldn't you have gone to the bathroom with him?" Isabelle demanded.

Jordan looked horrified. "Dudes," he said, "do not follow other dudes to the bathroom."

Isabelle sighed. "Latent homosexual panic will do you in every time," she said. "Come on. Let's look for him."

They circled the party, moving in and out among the guests. Alec was sulking alone at a table, playing with an empty champagne glass. "No, I haven't seen him," he said in response to their question. "Though admittedly I haven't been looking."

"Well, you can search along with us," said Isabelle. "It'll give you something to do besides look miserable."

Alec shrugged and joined them. They decided to split up and fan out across the party. Alec headed upstairs to search the catwalks and the second level. Jordan went outside to check the terraces and the entryway. Isabelle took the party area. She was just wondering whether glancing under the tables would actually be ridiculous, when Maia came up behind her. "Everything all right?" she inquired. She glanced up toward Alec, and then in the direction Jordan had gone. "I know a searching formation when I see one. What are you guys looking for? Is there trouble?"

Isabelle filled her in on the Simon situation.

"I just talked to him about half an hour ago."

"So did Jordan, but he's gone now. And since people have been trying to kill him lately..."

Maia set her glass down on the table. "I'll help you look."

"You don't have to. I know you're not feeling super-fond of Simon right now-"

"That doesn't mean I don't want to help out if he's in trouble," Maia said, as if Isabelle were being ridiculous. "Wasn't Jordan supposed to be watching him?"

Isabelle threw up her hands. "Yeah, but apparently dudes don't follow other dudes to the bathroom or something. He wasn't making a lot of sense."

"Guys never do," Maia said, and followed her. They glided in and out through the crowd, though Isabelle was already pretty sure they weren't going to find Simon. She had a small cold spot in the middle of her stomach that was growing bigger and colder. By the time they'd all convened back at their original table, she felt as if she'd swallowed a glass of ice water.

"He isn't here," she said.

Jordan swore, then stared guiltily at Maia. "Sorry."

"I've heard worse," she said. "So what's the next step? Anyone tried calling him?"

"Straight to voice mail," Jordan said.

"Any idea where he might have gone?" asked Alec.

"Best-case scenario, maybe back to the apartment," said Jordan. "Worst, those people who've been after him finally got him."

"People who what?" Alec looked bewildered; while Isabelle had told Maia Simon's story, she hadn't had a chance to fill her brother in yet.

"I'm going to head back to the apartment and look for him," said Jordan. "If he's there, great. If not, that's still where I should start. They know where he lives; they've been sending us messages there. Maybe there'll be a message." He didn't sound too hopeful.

Isabelle made a split-second decision. "I'll go with you."

"You don't have to-"

"Yes, I do. I told Simon he should come here tonight; I'm responsible. Besides, I'm having a crap time at this party anyway."

"Yeah," Alec said, looking relieved at the prospect of getting out of there. "Me too. Maybe we should all go. Should we tell Clary?"

Isabelle shook her head. "It's her mom's party. It wouldn't be fair. Let's see what we can do just the three of us."

"Three of you?" Maia asked, a tone of delicate annoyance shading her voice.

"Do you want to come with us, Maia?" It was Jordan. Isabelle froze; she wasn't sure how Maia would respond to having her ex-boyfriend speak to her directly. The other girl's mouth tightened a little, and for just a moment she looked at Jordan-not as if she hated him, but thoughtfully.

"It's Simon," she said finally, as if that decided everything. "I'll go get my coat."

The elevator doors opened onto a swirl of dark air and shadows. Maureen gave another high-pitched giggle and danced out into the darkness, leaving Simon to follow her with a sigh.

They stood in a large marble windowless room. There were no lights, but the wall to the left of the elevator was fitted with a towering set of double glass doors. Through them Simon could see the flat surface of the roof, and above it the black night sky overhead pinpointed with faintly glowing stars.

The wind was blowing hard again. He followed Maureen through the doors and out into the cold, gusting air, her dress fluttering around her like a moth beating its wings against a gale. The roof garden was as elegant as the signs had promised. Smooth hexagonal stone tiles made up the flooring; there were banks of flowers blooming under glass, and carefully clipped topiary hedges in the shapes of monsters and animals. The walkway they followed was lined with tiny gleaming lights. All around them rose high glass-and-steel apartment buildings, their windows aglow with electricity.

The path dead-ended at a row of raised, tiled steps, atop which was a wide square bordered on three sides by the high wall that encircled the garden. It was clearly intended to be an area where the building's eventual residents would socialize. There was a big concrete block in the center of the square, which would probably someday hold a grill, Simon guessed, and the area was encircled by neatly clipped rosebushes that in June would bloom, just as the bare trellises adorning the walls would one day vanish under a covering of leaves. It would be an attractive space eventually, a luxury Upper East Side penthouse garden where you could relax on a lounge chair, with the East River glittering under the sunset, and the city stretched out before you, a mosaic of shimmering light.

Except. The tile floor had been defaced, splattered with some sort of black, sticky fluid that had been used to draw a rough circle, inside a larger circle. The space between the two circles was filled with scrawled runes. Though Simon wasn't a Shadowhunter, he'd seen enough Nephilim runes to recognize what came from the Gray Book. These didn't. They looked menacing and wrong, like a curse scrawled in an unfamiliar language.

In the very center of the circle was the concrete block. On top of it a bulky rectangular object sat, draped with a dark cloth. The shape of it was not unlike that of a coffin. More runes were scribbled around the base of the block. If Simon's blood had run, it would have run cold.

Maureen clapped her hands together. "Oh," she said in her elfin little voice. "It's pretty."

"Pretty?" Simon looked quickly at the hunched shape on top of the concrete block. "Maureen, what the hell-"

"So you brought him." It was a woman's voice that spoke, cultured, strong, and-familiar. Simon turned. Standing on the pathway behind him was a tall woman with short dark hair. She was very slender, wearing a long dark coat, belted around the middle like a femme fatale from a forties spy movie. "Maureen, thank you," she went on. She had a hard, beautiful face, sharply planed, with high cheekbones and wide dark eyes. "You've done very well. You may go now." She turned her gaze on Simon. "Simon Lewis," she said. "Thank you for coming."

The moment she said his name he recognized her. The last time he'd seen her she'd been standing in pouring rain outside the Alto Bar. "You. I remember you. You gave me your card. The music promoter. Wow, you must really want to promote my band. I didn't even think we were that good."

"Don't be sarcastic," the woman said. "There's no point in it." She glanced sideways. "Maureen. You may go." Her voice was firm this time, and Maureen, who had been hovering like a little ghost, gave a tiny squeak and darted back the way they'd come. He watched as she vanished through the doors that led to the elevators, feeling almost sorry to see her go. Maureen wasn't much company, but without her he felt very alone. Whoever this strange woman was, she gave off a clear aura of dark power he'd been too blood-drugged to notice before.

"You led me a dance, Simon," she said, and now her voice was coming from another direction, several feet away. Simon spun, and saw that she was standing beside the concrete block, in the center of the circle. The clouds were blowing swiftly across the moon, casting a moving pattern of shadows across her face. Because he was at the foot of the steps, he had to crane his head back to look up at her. "I thought getting hold of you would be easy. Dealing with a simple vampire. A newly made one, at that. Even a Daylighter is nothing I haven't encountered before, though there has not been one for a hundred years. Yes," she added, with a smile at his glance, "I am older than I look."

"You look pretty old."

She ignored the insult. "I sent my best people after you, and only one returned, with some babbled tale about holy fire and the wrath of God. He was quite useless to me after that. I had to have him put down. It was most annoying. After that I decided I ought to deal with you myself. I followed you to your silly musical show, and afterward, when I came up to you, I saw it. Your Mark. As one who knew Cain personally, I am intimately familiar with its shape."

"Knew Cain personally?" Simon shook his head. "You can't expect me to believe that."

"Believe it or do not believe it," she said. "It makes no difference to me. I am older than the dreams of your kind, little boy. I walked the paths of the Garden of Eden. I knew Adam before Eve did. I was his first wife, but I would not be obedient to him, so God cast me out and made for Adam a new wife, one fashioned of his own body that she might ever be subservient." She smiled faintly. "I have many names. But you may call me Lilith, first of all demons."


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