"If you do not wish to come with us, we are authorized to use force to bring you."
The dagger seemed to leap into Isabelle's hand; or at least, she barely seemed to move, and yet she was holding it. She twirled it lightly. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
Mr. Archer bared his teeth at her. "Since when have the Angel's children become the bodyguards for rogue Downworlders? I would have thought you above this sort of business, Isabelle Lightwood."
"I'm not his bodyguard," said Isabelle. "I'm his girlfriend. Which gives me the right to kick your ass if you bother him. That's how it works."
Girlfriend? Simon was startled enough to look at her in surprise, but she was staring down the two subjugates, her dark eyes flashing. On the one hand he didn't think Isabelle had ever referred to herself as his girlfriend before. On the other hand it was symptomatic of how strange his life had become that that was the thing that had startled him most tonight, rather than the fact that he had just been summoned to a meeting by the most powerful vampire in New York.
"My master," said Mr. Walker, in what he probably thought was a soothing tone, "has a proposition to put to the Daylighter-"
"His name is Simon. Simon Lewis."
"To put to Mr. Lewis. I can promise you that Mr. Lewis will find it most advantageous if he is willing to accompany us and hear my master out. I swear on my master's honor that no harm will come to you, Daylighter, and that should you wish to refuse my master's offer, you will have the free choice to do so."
My master, my master. Mr. Walker spoke the words with a mixture of adoration and awe. Simon shuddered a little inwardly. How horrible to be so bound to someone else, and to have no real will of your own.
Isabelle was shaking her head; she mouthed "no" at Simon. She was probably right, he thought. Isabelle was an excellent Shadowhunter. She'd been hunting demons and lawbreaking Downworlders-rogue vampires, black-magic-practicing warlocks, werewolves who'd run wild and eaten someone-since she was twelve years old, and was probably better at what she did than any other Shadowhunter her age, with the exception of her brother Jace. And there had been Sebastian, Simon thought, who had been better than them both. But he was dead.
"All right," he said. "I'll go."
Isabelle's eyes rounded. "Simon!"
Both subjugates rubbed their hands together, like villains in a comic book. The gesture itself wasn't what was creepy, really; it was that they did it exactly at the same time and in the same way, as if they were puppets whose strings were being yanked in unison.
"Excellent," said Mr. Archer.
Isabelle banged the knife down on the table with a clatter and leaned forward, her shining dark hair brushing the tabletop. "Simon," she said in an urgent whisper. "Don't be stupid. There's no reason for you to go with them. And Raphael's a jerk."
"Raphael's a master vampire," said Simon. "His blood made me a vampire. He's my-whatever they call it."
"Sire, maker, begetter-there are a million names for what he did," Isabelle said distractedly. "And maybe his blood made you a vampire. But it didn't make you a Daylighter." Her eyes met his across the table. Jace made you a Daylighter. But she would never say it out loud; there were only a few of them who knew the truth, the whole story behind what Jace was, and what Simon was because of it. "You don't have to do what he says."
"Of course I don't," Simon said, lowering his voice. "But if I refuse to go, do you think Raphael is just going to drop it? He won't. They'll keep coming after me." He snuck a glance sideways at the subjugates; they looked as if they agreed, though he might have been imagining it. "They'll bug me everywhere. When I'm out, at school, at Clary's-"
"And what? Clary can't handle it?" Isabelle threw up her hands. "Fine. At least let me go with you."
"Certainly not," cut in Mr. Archer. "This is not a matter for Shadowhunters. This is the business of the Night Children."
"I will not-"
"The Law gives us the right to conduct our business in private." Mr. Walker spoke stiffly. "With our own kind."
Simon looked at them. "Give us a moment, please," he said. "I want to talk to Isabelle."
There was a moment of silence. Around them the life of the diner went on. The place was getting its late-night rush as the movie theater down the block let out, and waitresses were hurrying by, carrying steaming plates of food to customers; couples laughed and chattered at nearby tables; cooks shouted orders to each other behind the counter. No one looked at them or acknowledged that anything odd was going on. Simon was used to glamours by now, but he couldn't help the feeling sometimes, when he was with Isabelle, that he was trapped behind an invisible glass wall, cut off from the rest of humanity and the daily round of its affairs.
"Very well," said Mr. Walker, stepping back. "But my master does not like to be kept waiting."
They retreated toward the door, apparently unaffected by the blasts of cold air whenever someone went in or out, and stood there like statues. Simon turned to Isabelle. "It's all right," he said. "They won't hurt me. They can't hurt me. Raphael knows all about..." He gestured uncomfortably toward his forehead. "This."
Isabelle reached across the table and pushed his hair back, her touch more clinical than gentle. She was frowning. Simon had looked at the Mark enough times himself, in the mirror, to know well what it looked like. As if someone had taken a thin paintbrush and drawn a simple design on his forehead, just above and between his eyes. The shape of it seemed to change sometimes, like the moving images found in clouds, but it was always clear and black and somehow dangerous-looking, like a warning sign scrawled in another language.
"It really ... works?" she whispered.
"Raphael thinks it works," said Simon. "And I have no reason to think it doesn't." He caught her wrist and drew it away from his face. "I'll be all right, Isabelle."
She sighed. "Every bit of my training says this isn't a good idea."
Simon squeezed her fingers. "Come on. You're curious about what Raphael wants, aren't you?"
Isabelle patted his hand and sat back. "Tell me all about it when you get back. Call me first."
"I will." Simon stood, zipping up his jacket. "And do me a favor, will you? Two favors, actually."
She looked at him with guarded amusement. "What?"
"Clary said she'd be training over at the Institute tonight. If you run into her, don't tell her where I went. She'll worry for no reason."
Isabelle rolled her eyes. "Okay, fine. Second favor?"
Simon leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "Try the borscht before you leave. It's fantastic."
Mr. Walker and Mr. Archer were not the most talkative of companions. They led Simon silently through the streets of the Lower East Side, keeping several steps ahead of him with their odd gliding pace. It was getting late, but the city sidewalks were full of people-getting off a late shift, hurrying home from dinner, heads down, collars turned up against the stiff cold wind. At St. Mark's Place there were card tables set up along the curb, selling everything from cheap socks to pencil sketches of New York to smoky sandalwood incense. Leaves rattled across the pavement like dried bones. The air smelled like car exhaust mixed with sandalwood, and underneath that, the smell of human beings-skin and blood.
Simon's stomach tightened. He tried to keep enough bottles of animal blood in his room-he had a small refrigerator at the back of his closet now, where his mother wouldn't see it-to keep himself from ever getting hungry. The blood was disgusting. He'd thought he'd get used to it, even start wanting it, but though it killed his hunger pangs, there was nothing about it that he enjoyed the way he'd once enjoyed chocolate or vegetarian burritos or coffee ice cream. It remained blood.
But being hungry was worse. Being hungry meant that he could smell things he didn't want to smell-salt on skin; the overripe, sweet smell of blood exuding from the pores of strangers. It made him feel hungry and twisted up and utterly wrong. Hunching over, he jammed his fists into the pockets of his jacket and tried to breathe through his mouth.
They turned right onto Third Avenue, and paused in front of a restaurant whose sign said CLOISTER CAFe. GARDEN OPEN ALL YEAR. Simon blinked up at the sign. "What are we doing here?"
"This is the meeting place our master has chosen." Mr. Walker's tone was bland.
"Huh." Simon was puzzled. "I would have thought Raphael's style was more, you know, arranging meetings on top of an unconsecrated cathedral, or down in some crypt full of bones. He never struck me as the trendy restaurant type."
Both subjugates stared at him. "Is there a problem, Daylighter?" asked Mr. Archer finally.
Simon felt obscurely scolded. "No. No problem."
The interior of the restaurant was dark, with a marble-topped bar running along one wall. No servers or waitstaff approached them as they made their way through the room to a door in the back, and through the door into the garden.
Many New York restaurants had garden terraces; few were open this late into the year. This one was in a courtyard between several buildings. The walls had been painted with trompe l'oeil murals showing Italian gardens full of flowers. The trees, their leaves turned gold and russet with the fall, were strung with chains of white lights, and heat lamps scattered between the tables gave off a reddish glow. A small fountain plashed musically in the center of the yard.
Only one table was occupied, and not by Raphael. A slim woman in a wide-brimmed hat sat at a table close to the wall. As Simon watched in puzzlement, she raised a hand and waved at him. He turned and looked behind him; there was, of course, no one there. Walker and Archer had started moving again; bemused, Simon followed them as they crossed the courtyard and stopped a few feet from where the woman sat.
Walker bowed deeply. "Master," he said.
The woman smiled. "Walker," she said. "And Archer. Very good. Thank you for bringing Simon to me."
"Wait a second." Simon looked from the woman to the two subjugates and back again. "You're not Raphael."
"Dear me, no." The woman removed her hat. An enormous quantity of silvery blond hair, brilliant in the Christmas lights, spilled down over her shoulders. Her face was smooth and white and oval, very beautiful, dominated by enormous pale green eyes. She wore long black gloves, a black silk blouse and pencil skirt, and a black scarf tied around her throat. It was impossible to tell her age-or at least what age she might have been when she'd been Turned into a vampire. "I am Camille Belcourt. Enchanted to meet you."
She held out a black-gloved hand.
"I was told I was meeting Raphael Santiago here," said Simon, not reaching to take it. "Do you work for him?"
Camille Belcourt laughed like a rippling fountain. "Most certainly not! Though once upon a time he worked for me."
And Simon remembered. I thought the head vampire was someone else, he had said to Raphael once, in Idris, it felt like forever ago.
Camille has not yet returned to us, Raphael had replied. I lead in her stead.
"You're the head vampire," Simon said. "Of the Manhattan clan." He turned back to the subjugates. "You tricked me. You told me I was meeting Raphael."
"I said you were meeting our master," said Mr. Walker. His eyes were vast and empty, so empty that Simon wondered if they had even meant to mislead him, or if they were simply programmed like robots to say whatever their master had told them to say, and were unaware of deviations from the script. "And here she is."
"Indeed." Camille flashed a brilliant smile toward her subjugates. "Please leave us, Walker, Archer. I need to speak to Simon alone." There was something about the way she said it-both his name, and the word "alone"-that was like a secret caress.
The subjugates bowed and withdrew. As Mr. Archer turned to walk away, Simon caught sight of a mark on the side of his throat, a deep bruise, so dark it looked like paint, with two darker spots inside it. The darker spots were punctures, ringed with dry, ragged flesh. Simon felt a quiet shudder pass through him.
"Please," said Camille, and patted the seat beside her. "Sit. Would you like some wine?"
Simon sat, perching uncomfortably on the edge of the hard metal chair. "I don't really drink."
"Of course," she said, all sympathy. "You're barely a fledgling, aren't you? Don't worry too much. Over time you will train yourself to be able to consume wine and other beverages. Some of the oldest of our kind can consume human food with few ill effects."
Few ill effects? Simon didn't like the sound of that. "Is this going to take a long time?" he inquired, gazing pointedly down at his cell phone, which told him the time was after ten thirty. "I have to get home."
Camille took a sip of her wine. "You do? And why is that?"
Because my mom is waiting up for me. Okay, there was no reason this woman needed to know that. "You interrupted my date," he said. "I was just wondering what was so important."
"You still live with your mother, don't you?" she said, setting her glass down. "Rather odd, isn't it, a powerful vampire like yourself refusing to leave home, to join with a clan?"
"So you interrupted my date to make fun of me for still living with my parents. Couldn't you have done that on a night I didn't have a date? That's most nights, in case you're curious."
"I'm not mocking you, Simon." She ran her tongue over her lower lip as if tasting the wine she had just drunk. "I want to know why you haven't become part of Raphael's clan."
Which is the same as your clan, isn't it? "I got the strong feeling he didn't want me to be part of it," Simon said. "He pretty much said he'd leave me alone if I left him alone. So I've left him alone."