City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments 6) - Page 17

5

MEASURE OF REVENGE




Maia looked up as the door to Jordan’s apartment banged open and he raced inside, almost skidding on the slippery hardwood floor. “Anything?” he asked.


She shook her head. His face fell. After they’d killed the Endarkened, she’d called the pack to come help them deal with the mess. Unlike demons, Endarkened didn’t just evaporate when you killed them. Disposal was required. Normally they would have summoned the Shadowhunters and Silent Brothers, but the doors to the Institute and the Bone City were closed now. Instead Bat and the rest of the pack had showed up with a body bag, while Jordan, still bleeding from the fight with the Endarkened, had gone to look for Simon.


He hadn’t come back for hours, and when he had, the look in his eyes had told Maia the whole story. He had found Simon’s phone, smashed to pieces, abandoned at the bottom of the fire escape like a mocking note. Otherwise there’d been no sign of him at all.


Neither of them had slept after that, of course. Maia had gone back to wolf pack headquarters with Bat, who had promised—if a little hesitantly—that he would tell the wolves to look for Simon, and try (emphasis on try) to reach the Shadowhunters in Alicante. There were lines open to the Shadowhunter capital, lines that only the heads of packs and clans could use.


Maia had returned to Jordan’s apartment at dawn, despairing and exhausted. She was standing in the kitchen when he came in, a wet paper towel pressed to her forehead. She took it away as Jordan looked at her, and felt the water run down her face like tears. “No,” she said. “No news.”


Jordan slumped against the wall. He was wearing only a short-sleeved T-shirt, and the inked designs of lines from the Upanishads were darkly visible around his biceps. His hair was sweaty, plastered to his forehead, and there was a red line on his neck where the strap of his weapons pack had cut into the skin. He looked miserable. “I can’t believe this,” he said, for what felt to Maia like the millionth time. “I lost him. I was responsible for him, and I goddamned lost him.”


“It’s not your fault.” She knew it wouldn’t make him feel any better, but she couldn’t help saying it. “Look, you can’t fight off every vampire and baddie in the tristate area, and the Praetor shouldn’t have asked you to try. When Simon lost the Mark, you asked for backup, didn’t you? And they didn’t send anyone. You did what you could.”


Jordan looked down at his hands, and said something under his breath. “Not good enough.” Maia knew she should go over to him, put her arms around him, comfort him. Tell him he wasn’t to blame.


But she couldn’t. The weight of guilt was as heavy on her chest as an iron bar, words unsaid choking her throat. It had been that way for weeks now. Jordan, I have to tell you something. Jordan, I have to. Jordan, I.


Jordan—


The sound of a ringing phone cut through the silence between them. Almost frantically Jordan dug into his pocket and yanked his mobile out; he flipped it open as he put it to his ear. “Hello?”


Maia watched him, leaning so far forward that the countertop cut into her rib cage. She could hear only murmurs on the other end of the phone, though, and was nearly screaming with impatience by the time Jordan closed the phone and looked over at her, a spark of hopefulness in his eyes. “That was Teal Waxelbaum, second in command at the Praetor,” he said. “They want me at headquarters right away. I think they’re going to help look for Simon. Will you come? If we head out now, we should be there by noon.”


There was a plea in his voice, under the current of anxiety about Simon. He wasn’t stupid, Maia thought. He knew something was wrong. He knew—


She took a deep breath. The words crowded her throat—Jordan, we have to talk about something—but she forced them back down. Simon was the priority now.


“Of course,” she said. “Of course I’ll come.”






The first thing Simon saw was the wallpaper, which wasn’t that bad. A bit dated. Definitely peeling. Serious mold problem. But overall, not the worst thing he’d ever opened his eyes to. He blinked once or twice, taking in the heavy stripes that cut through the floral pattern. It took him a second to realize that those stripes were, in fact, bars. He was in a cage.


He quickly rolled onto his back and stood, not checking to see how high the cage was. His skull made contact with the bars on top, knocking his gaze downward as he cursed out loud.


And then he saw himself.


He was wearing a flowing, puffy white shirt. Even more troubling was the fact that he also appeared to be wearing a pair of very tight leather pants.


Very tight.


Very leather.


Simon looked down at himself and took it all in. The billows of the shirt. The deep, chest-exposing V. The tightness of the leather.


“Why is it,” he said after a moment, “that whenever I think I’ve found the most terrible thing that could happen to me, I’m always wrong.”


As if on cue the door opened, and a tiny figure rushed into the room. A dark shape closed the door instantly behind her, with Secret Service–like speed.


She tiptoed up to the cage and squeezed her face between two bars. “Siiimon,” she breathed.


Maureen.


Simon would normally have at least tried to ask her to let him out, to find a key, to assist him. But something in Maureen’s appearance told him that would not be helpful. Specifically, the crown of bones she was wearing. Finger bones. Maybe foot bones. And the bone crown was bejeweled—or possibly bedazzled. And then there was the ragged rose-and-gray ball gown, widened at the hips in a style that reminded him of those costume dramas set in the eighteenth century. It was not the kind of outfit that inspired confidence.


“Hey, Maureen,” he said cautiously.


Maureen smiled and pressed her face harder into the opening.


“Do you like your outfit?” she asked. “I have a few for you. I got you a frock coat and a kilt and all kinds of stuff, but I wanted you to wear this one first. I did your makeup too. That was me.”


Simon didn’t need a mirror to know he was wearing eyeliner. The knowledge was instant, and complete.


“Maureen—”


“I’m making you a necklace,” she said, cutting him off. “I want you to wear more jewelry. I want you to wear more bracelets. I want things around your wrists.”


“Maureen, where am I?”


“You’re with me.”


“Okay. Where are we?”


“The hotel, the hotel, the hotel . . .”


The Hotel Dumort. At least that made some kind of sense.


“Okay,” he said. “And why am I . . . in a cage?”


Maureen started humming a song to herself and ran her hand along the bars of the cage, lost in her own world.


“Together, together, together . . . now we’re together. You and me. Simon and Maureen. Finally.”


“Maureen—”


“This will be your room,” she said. “And once you’re ready, you can come out. I’ve got things for you. I’ve got a bed. And other things. Some chairs. Things you’ll like. And the band can play!”


She twirled, almost losing her balance under the strange weight of the dress.


Simon felt he should probably choose his next words very carefully. He knew he had a calming voice. He could be sensitive. Reassuring.


“Maureen . . . you know . . . I like you . . .”


On this, Maureen stopping spinning and gripped the bars again.


“You just need time,” she said with a terrifying kindness in her voice. “Just time. You’ll learn. You’ll fall in love. We’re together now. And we’ll rule. You and me. We will rule my kingdom. Now that I’m queen.”


“Queen?”


“Queen. Queen Maureen. Queen Maureen of the night. Queen Maureen of the darkness. Queen Maureen. Queen Maureen. Queen Maureen of the dead.”


She took a candle that burned in a sconce on the wall and suddenly poked it between the bars and in Simon’s general direction. She tipped it ever so slightly, and smiled as the white wax dropped in tear-like forms to the rotted remains of the scarlet carpet on the floor. She bit her lower lip in concentration, turning her wrist gently, pooling the drips together.


“You’re . . . a queen?” Simon said faintly. He’d known Maureen was the leader of the New York vampire clan. She’d killed Camille, after all, and taken her place. But clan leaders weren’t called kings or queens. They dressed normally, like Raphael did, not in costumey getups. They were important figures in the community of the Night’s Children.


But Maureen, of course, was different. Maureen was a child, an undead child. Simon remembered her rainbow arm warmers, her little breathy voice, her big eyes. She’d been a little girl with all the innocence of a little girl when Simon had bitten her, when Camille and Lilith had taken her and changed her, injecting an evil into her veins that had taken all that innocence and corrupted it into madness.


It was his fault, Simon knew. If Maureen hadn’t known him, hadn’t followed him around, none of this would have happened to her.


Maureen nodded and smiled, concentrating on her wax pile, which was now looking like a tiny volcano. “I need . . . to do things,” she said abruptly, and dropped the candle, still burning. It snuffed itself out as it hit the ground, and she bustled toward the door. The same dark figure opened it the instant she approached. And then Simon was alone again, with the smoking remains of the candle and his new leather pants, and the horrible weight of his guilt.






Maia had been silent the whole way to the Praetor, as the sun had risen higher in the sky and the surroundings had turned from the crowded buildings of Manhattan to the traffic-clogged Long Island Expressway, to the pastoral small towns and farms of the North Fork. They were close to the Praetor now, and could see the ice-blue waters of the Sound on their left, rippling in the cool wind. Maia imagined plunging into them, and shuddered at the thought of the cold.


“Are you all right?” Jordan had hardly spoken most of the way either. It was chilly inside his truck, and he wore leather driving gloves, but they didn’t conceal his white-knuckle grip on the wheel. Maia could feel the anxiety rolling off him in waves.


“I’m fine,” she said. It wasn’t true. She was worried about Simon, and she was still fighting the words she couldn’t say that choked her throat. Now wasn’t the right time to say them, not with Simon missing, and yet every moment she didn’t say them felt like a lie.


They swung onto the long white drive that stretched into the distance, toward the Sound. Jordan cleared his throat. “You know I love you, right?”


“I know,” Maia said quietly, and fought the urge to say “Thank you.” You weren’t supposed to say “Thank you” when someone said they loved you. You were supposed to say what Jordan was clearly expecting—


She looked out the window and started, jerked out of her reverie. “Jordan, is it snowing?”


“I don’t think so.” But white flakes were drifting past the windows of the truck, building up on the windshield. Jordan brought the truck to a stop and rolled one of the windows down, opening his hand to catch a flake. He drew it back, his expression darkening. “That’s not snow,” he said. “That’s ash.”


Tags: Cassandra Clare The Mortal Instruments Young Adult
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