Luke accepted a white paper bag from Gretel, and with a nod, bounded back to the pickup. Folding his lanky body behind the wheel, he handed her the bag. “You’re in charge of this.”
Clary peered at it suspiciously. “What is it? Weapons?”
Luke’s shoulders shook with soundless laughter. “Steamed bao buns, actually,” he said, pulling the truck out into the street. “And coffee.”
Clary ripped the bag open as they headed uptown, her stomach growling furiously. She tore a bun apart, savoring the rich savory-salt taste of the pork, the chewiness of the white dough. She washed it down with a swig of black supersweet coffee, and offered a bun to Luke. “Want one?”
“Sure.” It was almost like old times, she thought, as they swung onto Canal Street, when they had picked up bags of hot dumplings from the Golden Carriage Bakery and eaten half of them on the drive home over the Manhattan Bridge.
“So tell me about this Jace,” said Luke.
Clary nearly choked on a bun. She reached for the coffee, drowning her coughs with hot liquid. “What about him?”
“Do you have any idea what Valentine might want with him?”
Luke frowned into the setting sun. “I thought Jace was one of the Lightwood kids?”
“No.” Clary bit into a third bun. “His last name is Wayland. His father was—”
She nodded. “And when Jace was ten years old, Valentine killed him. Michael, I mean.”
“That sounds like something he would do,” said Luke. His tone was neutral, but there was something in his voice that made Clary look at him sideways. Did he not believe her?
“Jace saw him die,” she added, as if to bolster her claim.
“That’s awful,” said Luke. “Poor messed-up kid.”
They were driving over the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge. Clary glanced down and saw the river turned all to gold and blood by the setting sun. She could glimpse the south end of Roosevelt Island from here, though it was just a smudge to the north. “He’s not so bad,” she said. “The Lightwoods have taken good care of him.”
“I can imagine. They were always close with Michael,” observed Luke, swerving into the left lane. In the side mirror Clary could see the caravan of following vehicles alter its course to mimic his. “They would want to look after his son.”
“So what happens when the moon comes up?” she asked. “Are you all going to suddenly wolf out, or what?”
Luke’s mouth twitched. “Not exactly. Only the young ones, the ones who’ve just Changed, can’t control their transformations. Most of the rest of us have learned how to, over the years. Only the moon at its fullest can force a Change on me now.”
“So when the moon’s only partly full, you only feel a little wolfy?” Clary asked.
“You could say that.”
“Well, you can go ahead and hang your head out the car window if you feel like it.”
Luke laughed. “I’m a werewolf, not a golden retriever.”
“How long have you been the clan leader?” she asked abruptly.
Luke hesitated. “About a week.”
Clary swung around to stare at him. “A week?”
He sighed. “I knew Valentine had taken your mother,” he said without much inflection. “I knew I had little chance against him by myself and that I could expect no assistance from the Clave. It took me a day to track down the location of the nearest lycanthrope pack.”
“You killed the clan leader so you could take his place?”
“It was the fastest way I could think of to acquire a sizeable number of allies in a short period of time,” said Luke, without any regret in his tone, though without any pride either. She remembered spying on him in his house, how she’d noticed the deep scratches on his hands and face and the way he’d winced when he moved his arm. “I had done it before. I was fairly sure I could do it again.” He shrugged. “Your mother was gone. I knew I’d made you hate me. I had nothing to lose.”
Clary braced her green sneakers against the dashboard. Through the cracked windshield, above the tips of her toes, the moon was rising over the bridge. “Well,” she said. “You do now.”
The hospital at the southern end of Roosevelt Island was floodlit at night, its ghostly outlines curiously visible against the darkness of the river and the greater illumination of Manhattan. Luke and Clary fell silent as the pickup skirted the tiny island, as the paved road they were on turned to gravel and finally to packed dirt. The road followed the curve of a high chain-link fence, the top of which was strung with curlicues of razor wire like festive loops of ribbon.
When the road grew too bumpy for them to drive any farther, Luke pulled the truck to a stop and killed the lights. He looked at Clary. “Any chance if I asked you to wait here for me, you would?”
She shook her head. “It wouldn’t necessarily be any safer in the car. Who knows what Valentine’s got patrolling his perimeter?”
Luke laughed softly. “Perimeter. Listen to you.” He swung himself out of the truck and came around to her side to help her down. She could have jumped down from the truck herself, but it was nice to have him help, the way he’d done when she was too small to climb down on her own.
Her feet hit the dry-packed dirt, sending up puffs of dust. The cars that had been following them were pulling up, one by one, forming a sort of circle around Luke’s truck. Their headlights swept across her view, lighting the chain-link fence to white-silver. Beyond the fence, the hospital itself was a ruin bathed in harsh light that pointed out its dilapidated state: the roofless walls jutting up from the uneven ground like broken teeth, the crenellated stone parapets overgrown with a green carpet of ivy. “It’s a wreck,” she heard herself say softly, a flicker of apprehension in her voice. “I don’t see how Valentine could possibly be hiding here.”
Luke glanced past her at the hospital. “It’s a strong glamour,” he said. “Try to look past the lights.” Alaric was walking over to them along the road, the light breeze making his denim jacket flutter open, showing the scarred chest underneath. The werewolves walking behind him looked like completely ordinary people, Clary thought. If she’d seen them all together in a group somewhere, she might have thought they knew each other somehow—there was a certain nonphysical resemblance, a bluntness to their gazes, a forcefulness to their expressions. She might have thought they were farmers, since they looked more sunburned, lean, and rawboned than your average city-dweller, or maybe she would have taken them for a biker gang. But they looked nothing like monsters.
They came together in a quick conference by Luke’s truck, like a football huddle. Clary, feeling very much on the outside, turned to look at the hospital again. This time she tried to stare around the lights, or through them, the way you could sometimes look past a thin topcoat of paint to see what was underneath. As it usually did, thinking of how she would draw it helped. The lights seemed to fade, and now she was looking across an oak-dusted lawn to an ornate Gothic Revival structure that seemed to loom up above the trees like the bulwark of a great ship. The windows of the lower floors were dark and shuttered, but light poured through the mitered arches of the third-story windows, like a line of flame burning along the ridge of a distant mountain range. A heavy stone porch faced outward, hiding the front door.
“You see it?” It was Luke, who had come up behind her with the padding grace of—well, a wolf.
She was still staring. “It looks more like a castle than a hospital.”
Taking her by the shoulders, Luke turned her to face him. “Clary, listen to me.” His grip was painfully tight. “I want you to stay next to me. Move when I move. Hold on to my sleeve if you have to. The others are going to stay around us, protecting us, but if you get outside the circle, they won’t be able to guard you. They’re going to move us toward the door.” He dropped his hands from her shoulders, and when he moved, she saw the glint of something metal just inside his jacket. She hadn’t realized he was carrying a weapon, but then she remembered what Simon had said about what was in Luke’s old green duffel bag and supposed it made sense. “Do you promise you’ll do what I say?”
The fence was real, not part of the glamour. Alaric, still in front, rattled it experimentally, then raised a lazy hand. Long claws sprouted from beneath his fingernails, and he slashed at the chain-link with them, slicing the metal to ribbons. They fell in a clattering pile, like Tinkertoys.
“Go.” He gestured the others through. They surged forward like one person, a coordinated sea of movement. Gripping Clary’s arm, Luke pushed her ahead of him, ducking to follow. They straightened up inside the fence, looking up toward the smallpox hospital, where gathered dark shapes, massed on the porch, were beginning to move down the steps.
Alaric had his head up, sniffing the wind. “The stench of death lies heavy on the air.”
Luke’s breath left his lungs in a hissing rush. “Forsaken.”
He shoved Clary behind him; she went, stumbling slightly on the uneven ground. The pack began to move toward her and Luke; as they neared, they dropped to all fours, lips snarling back from their lengthening fangs, limbs extending into long, furred extremities, clothes overgrown by fur. Some tiny instinctual voice in the back of Clary’s brain was screaming at her: Wolves! Run away! But she fought it and stayed where she was, though she could feel the jump and tremble of nerves in her hands.
The pack encircled them, facing outward. More wolves flanked the circle on either side. It was as if she and Luke were the center of a star. Like that, they began to move toward the front porch of the hospital. Still behind Luke, Clary didn’t even see the first of the Forsaken as they struck. She heard a wolf howl as if in pain. The howl went up and up, turning quickly into a snarl. There was a thudding sound, then a gurgling cry and a sound like ripping paper—
Clary found herself wondering if the Forsaken were edible.
She glanced up at Luke. His face was set. She could see them now, beyond the ring of wolves, the scene lit to brilliance by floodlights and the shimmering glow of Manhattan: dozens of Forsaken, their skin corpse-pale in the moonlight, seared by lesionlike runes. Their eyes were vacant as they hurled themselves at the wolves, and the wolves met them head-on, claws tearing, teeth gouging and rending. She saw one of the Forsaken warriors—a woman—fall back, throat torn out, arms still twitching. Another hacked at a wolf with one arm while the other arm lay on the ground a meter away, blood pulsing from the stump. Black blood, brackish as swamp water, ran in streams, slicking the grass so that Clary’s feet slipped out from under her. Luke caught her before she could fall. “Stay with me.”
I’m here, she wanted to say, but no words would come out of her mouth. The group was still moving up the lawn toward the hospital, agonizingly slowly. Luke’s grip was rigid as iron. Clary couldn’t tell who was winning, if anyone. The wolves had size and speed on their side, but the Forsaken moved with a grim inevitability and were surprisingly hard to kill. She saw the big brindled wolf who was Alaric take one down by tearing its legs out from under it, then leaping for its throat. It kept moving even as he ripped it apart, its slashing ax opening up a long red cut along Alaric’s glinting coat.
Distracted, Clary hardly noticed the Forsaken that broke through the protective circle, until it loomed up in front of her, as if it had sprung up from the grass at her feet. White-eyed, with matted hair, it raised a dripping knife.
She screamed. Luke whirled, dragging her sideways, and caught the thing’s wrist, and twisted. She heard the snap of bone, and the knife fell to the grass. The Forsaken’s hand dangled limply, but it kept coming on toward them, evincing no sign of pain. Luke was shouting hoarsely for Alaric. Clary tried to reach the dagger in her belt, but Luke’s grip on her arm was too strong. Before she could shout at him to let go of her, a lick of slim silver fire hurtled between them. It was Gretel. She landed with her front paws against the Forsaken’s chest, knocking it to the ground. A fierce whine of rage rose from Gretel’s throat, but the Forsaken was stronger; it flung her aside like a rag doll and rolled to its feet.
Something lifted Clary off her feet. She shouted, but it was Alaric, half in and half out of wolf-form, his hands taloned with sharp claws. Still, they held her gently as he swung her up into his arms.
Luke was motioning at them. “Get her out of here! Get her to the doors!” he was shouting.
“Luke!” Clary twisted in Alaric’s grasp.
“Don’t look,” Alaric said in a growl.
But she did look. Long enough to see Luke start toward Gretel, a blade in his hand, but he was too late. The Forsaken seized up its knife, which had fallen into the blood-wet grass, and sank it into Gretel’s back, again and again as she clawed and struggled and finally collapsed, the light in her silvery eyes fading into darkness. With a shout Luke swung his blade at the Forsaken’s throat—
“I told you not to look,” Alaric growled, turning so that her line of sight was blocked by his looming bulk. They were racing up the steps now, the sound of his clawed feet scraping the granite like nails on a blackboard.
“Alaric,” Clary said.
“I’m sorry I threw a knife at you.”
“Don’t be. It was a well-placed blow.”
She tried to look past him. “Where’s Luke?”
“I’m here,” Luke said. Alaric turned. Luke was coming up the steps, sliding his sword back into its sheath, which was strapped to his side, beneath his jacket. The blade was black and sticky.
Alaric let Clary slide to the porch. She landed, turning. She couldn’t see Gretel or the Forsaken who had killed her, only a mass of heaving bodies and flashing metal. Her face was wet. She reached up with a free hand to see if she was bleeding but realized that she was crying instead. Luke looked at her curiously. “She was only a Downworlder,” he said.