All eyes went to Clary, but she shook her head in frustration. "You didn't see them together. Nobody acts like that when they're a hostage. He seemed totally happy to be there."
"Then he's possessed," Alec said. "Like he was by Lilith."
"That was what I thought at first. But when he was possessed by Lilith, he was like a robot. He just kept saying the same things over and over. But this was Jace. He was making jokes like Jace does. Smiling like him."
"Maybe he has Stockholm syndrome," Simon suggested. "You know, when you get brainwashed and start sympathizing with your captor."
"It takes months to develop Stockholm syndrome," Alec objected. "How did he look? Hurt, or sick in any way? Can you describe them both?"
It wasn't the first time he'd asked. The wind blew dry leaves around their feet as Clary told them again how Jace had looked-vibrant and healthy. Sebastian, too. They had seemed completely calm. Jace's clothes had been clean, stylish, ordinary. Sebastian had been wearing a long black wool trench coat that had looked expensive.
"Like an evil Burberry ad," Simon said when she was done.
Isabelle shot him a look. "Maybe Jace has a plan," she said. "Maybe he's tricking Sebastian. Trying to get into his good graces, figure out what his plans are."
"You'd think that if he were doing that, he'd have figured out a way to tell us about it," Alec said. "Not to leave us panicking. That's too cruel."
"Unless he couldn't risk sending a message. He'd believe we would trust him. We do trust him." Isabelle's voice rose, and she shivered, wrapping her arms around herself. The trees lining the gravel path they stood on rattled their bare branches.
"Maybe we should tell the Clave," Clary said, hearing her own voice as if from a distance. "This is-I don't see how we can handle this on our own."
"We can't tell the Clave." Isabelle's voice was hard.
"If they think he's cooperating with Sebastian, the mandate will be to kill him on sight," Alec said. "That's the Law."
"Even if Isabelle's right? Even if he's just playing along with Sebastian?" Simon said, a note of doubt in his voice. "Trying to get on his side to get information?"
"There's no way to prove it. And if we claimed it was what he's doing, and that got back to Sebastian, he'd probably kill Jace," said Alec. "If Jace is possessed, the Clave will kill him themselves. We can't tell them anything." His voice was hard. Clary looked at him in surprise; Alec was normally the most rule-abiding of them all.
"This is Sebastian we're talking about," said Izzy. "There's no one the Clave hates more, except Valentine, and he's dead. But practically everyone knows someone who died in the Mortal War, and Sebastian's the one who took the wards down."
Clary scuffed at the gravel underfoot with her sneaker. The whole situation seemed like a dream, like she might wake up at any moment. "Then, what next?"
"We talk to Magnus. See if he has any insight." Alec tugged on the corner of his scarf. "He won't go to the Council. Not if I ask him not to."
"He'd better not," said Isabelle indignantly. "Otherwise, worst boyfriend ever."
"I said he wouldn't-"
"Is there any point now?" Simon said. "In seeing the Seelie Queen? Now that we know Jace is possessed, or maybe hiding out on purpose-"
"You don't miss an appointment with the Seelie Queen," Isabelle said firmly. "Not if you value your skin the way it is."
"But she'll just take away the rings from Clary and we won't learn anything," Simon argued. "We know more now. We have different questions for her now. She won't answer them, though. She'll just answer the old ones. That's how faeries work. They don't do favors. It's not like she's going to let us go talk to Magnus and then come back."
"It doesn't matter." Clary rubbed her hands across her face. They came away dry. At some point her tears had stopped coming, thank God. She hadn't wanted to face the Queen looking like she'd just been bawling her eyes out. "I never got the rings."
Isabelle blinked. "What?"
"After I saw Jace and Sebastian, I was too shaken to get them. I just raced out of the Institute and Portaled here."
"Well, we can't see the Queen, then," said Alec. "If you didn't do what she asked you to, she'll be furious."
"She'll be more than furious," said Isabelle. "You saw what she did to Alec last time we went to the Court. And that was just a glamour. She'll probably turn Clary into a lobster or something."
"She knew," Clary said. "She said, 'When you find him again, he may well not be quite as you left him.'" The Seelie Queen's voice drifted through Clary's head. She shivered. She could understand why Simon hated faeries so much. They always knew exactly the right words that would lodge like a splinter in your brain, painful and impossible to ignore or remove. "She's just playing around with us. She wants those rings, but I don't think there's any chance she'll really help us."
"Okay," Isabelle said doubtfully. "But if she knew that much, she might know more. And who else is going to be able to help us, since we can't go to the Clave?"
"Magnus," Clary said. "He's been trying to decode Lilith's spell all this time. Maybe if I tell him what I saw, it'll help."
Simon rolled his eyes. "It's a good thing we know the person who's dating Magnus," he said. "Otherwise, I get the feeling we'd all just lie around all the time wondering what the hell to do next. Or try to raise the money to hire Magnus by selling lemonade."
Alec looked merely irritated by this comment. "The only way you could raise enough money to hire Magnus by selling lemonade is if you put meth in it."
"It's an expression. We are all aware that your boyfriend is expensive. I just wish we didn't have to go running to him with every problem."
"So does he," said Alec. "Magnus has another job today, but I'll talk to him tonight and we can all meet at his loft tomorrow morning."
Clary nodded. She couldn't even imagine getting up the next morning. She knew the sooner they talked to Magnus the better, but she felt drained and exhausted, as if she'd left pints of her blood on the library floor in the Institute.
Isabelle had moved closer to Simon. "I guess that leaves us the rest of the afternoon," she said. "Should we go to Taki's? They'll serve you blood."
Simon glanced over at Clary, clearly worried. "Do you want to come?"
"No, it's okay. I'll grab a cab back to Williamsburg. I should spend some time with my mom. All of this stuff with Sebastian has her falling apart already, and now..."
Isabelle's black hair flew in the wind as she whipped her head back and forth. "You can't tell her what you saw. Luke's on the Council. He can't keep it from them, and you can't ask her to keep it from him."
"I know." Clary looked at the three anxious gazes fixed on her. How had this happened? she thought. She, who had never kept secrets from Jocelyn-not real ones, anyway-was about to go home and hide something enormous from both her mother and Luke. Something she could talk about only with people like Alec and Isabelle Lightwood and Magnus Bane, people that six months ago she hadn't known existed. It was strange how your world could shift on its axis and everything you trusted could invert itself in what seemed like no time at all.
At least she still had Simon. Constant, permanent Simon. She kissed him on the cheek, waved her good-bye to the others, and turned away, aware that all three of them were watching her worriedly as she strode away across the park, the last of the dead fall leaves crunching under her sneakers as if they were tiny bones.
Alec had lied. It wasn't Magnus who had something to do that afternoon. It was himself.
He knew what he was doing was a mistake, but he couldn't help himself: it was like a drug, this needing to know more. And now, here he was, underground, holding his witchlight and wondering just what the hell he was doing.
Like all New York subway stations, this one smelled of rust and water, metal and decay. But unlike any other station Alec had ever been in, it was eerily quiet. Aside from the marks of water damage, the walls and platform were clean. Vaulted ceilings, punctuated by the occasional chandelier, rose above him, the arches patterned in green tile. The nameplate tiles on the wall read CITY HALL in block lettering.
The City Hall subway station had been out of use since 1945, though the city still kept it in order as a landmark; the 6 train ran through it on occasion to make a turnaround, but no one ever stood on this platform. Alec had crawled through a hatch in City Hall Park surrounded by dogwood trees to reach this place, dropping down a distance that would probably have broken a mundane's legs. Now he stood, breathing in the dusty air, his heart rate quickening.
This was where the letter the vampire subjugate had handed him in Magnus's entryway had directed him to go. At first he had determined he would never use the information. But he had not been able to bring himself to throw it away. He had balled it up and shoved it into his jeans pocket, and all through the day, even in Central Park, it had eaten at the back of his mind.
It was like the whole situation with Magnus. He couldn't seem to help worrying at it the way one might worry at a diseased tooth, knowing you were making the situation worse but not being able to stop. Magnus had done nothing wrong. It wasn't his fault he was hundreds of years old, and that he had been in love before. But it corroded Alec's peace of mind just the same. And now, knowing both more and less about Jace's situation than he had yesterday-it was too much. He needed to talk to someone, go somewhere, do something.
So here he was. And here she was, he was sure of it. He moved slowly down the platform. The ceiling vaulted overhead, a central skylight letting in light from the park above, four lines of tiles radiating out from it like a spider's legs. At the end of a platform was a short staircase, which led up into gloom. Alec could detect the presence of a glamour: any mundane looking up would see a concrete wall, but he saw an open doorway. Silently, he headed up the steps.
He found himself in a gloomy, low-ceilinged room. An amethyst-glass skylight let in a little light. In a shadowy corner of the room sat an elegant velvet sofa with an arched, gilded back, and on the sofa sat Camille.
She was as beautiful as Alec remembered, though she had not been at her best the last time he had seen her, filthy and chained to a pipe in a building under construction. She wore a neat black suit now with high-heeled red shoes, and her hair spilled down her shoulders in waves and curls. She had a book open on her lap-La Place de l'etoile by Patrick Modiano. He knew enough French to translate the title. "The Place of the Star."
She looked at Alec as if she had expected to see him.
"Hello, Camille," he said.
She blinked slowly. "Alexander Lightwood," she said. "I recognized your footsteps on the stairs."
She put the back of her hand against her cheek and smiled at him. There was something distant about her smile. It had all the warmth of dust. "I don't suppose you have a message from Magnus for me."
Alec said nothing.
"Of course not," she said. "Silly me. As if he knows where you are."
"How did you know it was me?" he said. "On the stairway."
"You're a Lightwood," she said. "Your family never gives up. I knew you wouldn't let well enough alone after what I said to you that night. The message today was just to prod your memory."
"I didn't need to be reminded of what you promised me. Or were you lying?"
"I would have said anything to get free that night," she said. "But I wasn't lying." She leaned forward, her eyes bright and dark at the same time. "You are Nephilim, of the Clave and Council. There is a price on my head for murdering Shadowhunters. But I already know you have not come here to bring me to them. You want answers."
"I want to know where Jace is," he said.
"You want to know that," she said. "But you know there's no reason I'd have the answer, and I don't. I'd give it to you if I did. I know he was taken by Lilith's son, and I have no reason to have any loyalty to her. She is gone. I know there have been patrols out looking for me, to discover whatever I might know. I can tell you now, I know nothing. I would tell you where your friend is if I knew. I have no reason to further antagonize the Nephilim." She ran a hand through her thick blond hair. "But that's not why you're here. Admit it, Alexander."
Alec felt his breath quicken. He had thought of this moment, lying awake at night beside Magnus, listening to the warlock breathing, hearing his own breaths, numbering them out. Each breath a breath closer to aging and dying. Each night spinning him closer to the end of everything.
"You said you knew a way to make me immortal," said Alec. "You said you knew a way Magnus and I could be together forever."
"I did, didn't I? How interesting."
"I want you to tell it to me now."
"And I will," she said, setting down her book. "For a price."
"No price," said Alec. "I freed you. Now you'll tell me what I want to know. Or I'll give you to the Clave. They'll chain you on the roof of the Institute and wait for sunrise."
Her eyes went hard and flat. "I do not care for threats."
"Then give me what I want."
She stood up, brushing her hands down the front of her jacket, smoothing the wrinkles. "Come and take it from me, Shadowhunter."
It was as if all the frustration, panic, and despair of the past weeks exploded out of Alec. He leaped for Camille, just as she started for him, her fang teeth snapping outward.
Alec barely had time to draw his seraph blade from his belt before she was on him. He had fought vampires before; their swiftness and force was stunning. It was like fighting the leading edge of a tornado. He threw himself to the side, rolled onto his feet, and kicked a fallen ladder in her direction; it stopped her briefly enough for him to lift the blade and whisper, "Nuriel."