Natalie Bayfield and her Shadowhunter friends have discovered a new Greator Demon - the Demon of Death, dedicated to killing humans, Shadowhunters, and Downworlders alike in the most torturous ways. When murders of humans are put off as gang activity, Natalie tries to explain to her parents that the murders are compliments of a new Greator Demon that no one heard about - but no one believes her. Every demon is known, and Natalie's sightings of this Death Demon are put off as an overactive imagination.
But when more and more Shadowhunters turn up murdered, Natalie knows only she can stop it. With no adults on her side, only her friends Clarity and Dylan at her back, will she conquer the Demon of Death, and be one of the only? Or will her and her friends fall victim to the Demon's torture?
The moon was a sliver of white, hanging suspended in a sea of black. No stars were visible in the sky, and there was little light shed.
The man stood on the roof of the casino, the always-busy town of Detroit Michigan bustling below him. The Detroit River stretched before him, sleek river racing past, Canada easily visible on the other side.
The view was incredible, but the man seemed uninterested, like he'd seen it a million times before. The wind lifted his shirt, unbuttoned, to reveal the swirly black tattoos arcing around his arms, torso and neck. He glanced down at his watch and scowled, impatiently crossing his arms.
"My Lord," A voice rasped from the darkness. The Shadowhunter turned and frowned.
"You're late." He leaned against the high, cement barrier that normally kept people from falling off the ten-story building. The demon before him bowed low.
"My apologies, master. I ran into a homeless man in the streets. His death called to me." The man waved a long, pale hand, obviously not interested in the demon's affairs.
"Did you find her?" The man demanded, leaning forward as if excited. The demon let out a sigh, like the wind rushing through a bare hill.
"I did, my lord." The man rubbed his inked hands together, eyes sparked.
"Is the job done?" The demon seemed to hesitate.
"It is not, my lord. I could not get close enough to the girl. She was surrounded." The man cursed and punched the cement, a crack forming up the side.
"Get it done," He ordered. He raked a hand through his hair and sighed. The demon hesitated.
"Why does the girl need to die?" The man turned and narrowed his eyes at the demon, who seemed to curl in on itself.
"The girl is the only Shadowhunter on this world who can defeat me." With that, the man turned, hauled himself onto the edge of the cement barrier, and stepped off lightly. There were no screams from below as a man committed suicide - that's because when the demon peeked over the edge, there was nothing there. The Shadowhunter had disappeared into the night.
"I'm telling you, I didn't touch your freakin' seraph blade!" I shifted my cell phone to hold it between my shoulder and her ear, struggling to tie the laces on my sneakers while keeping up the conversation with my brother. I scowled at my best friend, Clarity, who was giggling like mad in the corner.
"Well then who did?" Adam was talking in his you-can't-hide-from-the-truth voice, and it irritated me to no end. Giving up, I dropped my laces and hit the speaker button on my phone, and tossed it on the bed, going back to my shoes.
"I don't know. Where did you last see it? Did you check there?" Triumphant, I finished the knot on my shoe and plopped down on the bed next to my phone.
"The hallway table, and yes, I checked there. Mom told me to wash the dishes from dinner, so I put my blade down on the table and went to go do them. I came back, not fifteen minutes later, and guess what? Table's empty, my knife is gone. Dad and Mom both denied touching it, so who does that leave? You." I rolled my eyes at Clarity, and the girl giggled.
"I didn't move it, Adam. What need would I have of your unnamed blade? I could just go get my own."
"To drive me crazy!" He burst, static crackling. I sighed.
"While the thought is tempting, I swear on the Angel that I didn't move your knife. Maybe Comet did?" I suggested helpfully, naming the family's loyal black Lab.
"Very funny, Natalie." I shook my head and picked up my phone, finger hovering over the disconnection button.
"Look, I didn't move your blade, and no one else did either. It was unamed, so calm down and go get another. I gotta go. I'll see you at dinner." I hit the button, cutting off my brother's shout of protest. I groaned and flopped onto the bed, covering my eyes with my hands.
"You're so lucky you're an only child, you know that?" I mumbled through my fingers at Clarity; I peeked through my hands just as my friend shrugged.
"What can I say? I'm blessed." I snorted.
Clarity, born Claire Collins, had been Turned to a vampire nearly a year before. The minute she arose from her grave and realized what she'd become, she packed up her bags and without a single goodbye to her family, joined a sort of vampire apartment complex, where all the tenants were vampires and they looked after each other. She had her own place, didn't need to pay rent. Her and I met through a Downworlder club that my werewolf friend Dylan had dragged me to - the vampire and I had tons in common, which was unusual, and we'd become almost instant friends. Leaving me the weird Shadowhunter with two best friends - one a vampire, the other a werewolf. Oh well. My parents hated it, but Dylan, Clarity and I didn't, so it was all good. So long as they didn't try to snack on me.
"Want to grab Dylan and go eat at the Torn Wing?" Clarity asked, tossing her golden hair over her hair. The Torn Wing was a Downworld diner down the street, considerably nicer than most others. It was glamoured as a nasty, typical abandoned Detroit building, but in reality it was pretty nice.
I sighed and shook my head. "Can't. Promised the 'rents that I'd actually be home for dinner tonight. They're getting pissed that I keep asking for money because I'm blowing my allowance on the Torn Wing's T-bone steaks." Clarity scoffed.
"Those are legendary!" She protested, flouncing out of her overstuffed pink-and-black chair. She snatched her phone from the nightstand and started poking at the keyboard.
"What are you doing, Clarity?" I asked tiredly, leaning against her black walls with my arms crossed over my chest. She raised a slender eyebrow at me - she was a master at that, the one-eyebrow raise thing - without looking up from her screen.
"I'm texting Vanity, Marco and Kelly and telling them to meet you, Dylan and I at Red Moon." I wrinkled my nose. Red Moon was the Downworld club I'd met Clarity at, but I really didn't like it all that much. Werewolves were pushy, vampires were disgusting, the faeries were suggestive, and the warlocks were show-offs. I usually hid in a corner whenever one of my Downworld friends dragged me off there - Shadowhunter females in the Red Moon were like thirteen-year-old virgins in a pedophile correction center.
"I have to meet my parents for dinner-" I started to protest, but Clarity cut me off.
"Eat dinner. But eat fast. And put some half-decent clothes on. Like, maybe that glittery blue top I bought you that you've never worn. And some dark jeans. And some ankle boots." She regarded me thoughtfully. "Straighten your hair." My hand immediately climbed up to touch my curls, and she snickered. My phone gave a sharp beep, and I opened the new text with a mutinous mutter. It was from my dad, demanding I get home now. Dinner was starting. Grunting, I stuffed my phone in my pocket and grabbed my jacket from where I'd tossed it over Clarity's desk chair.
"Gotta bolt?" She asked, lounging across the whole chair. I grunted again and shoved my arms through the olive-green, heavily buckled material. It was my favorite jacket, and I wore it everywhere.
I closed Clarity's door behind me, locking up with the key she'd given me months ago. I trudged down the stairs, trying not to dawdle, but I couldn't resist a quick "Hey" to Rob, a cute guy with dark hair who was struggling to juggle some shopping bags and unlock his door. He nodded back and finally managed to twist the doorknob and fall into his apartment with a gasp.
The streets were empty, but they didn't feel an ominous as they did when I first moved to Detroit, Michigan from Idris. I was terrified of the streets, of the reputation, seeing all the murders and break-ins and rapes that happened on the streets. I didn't want to move here so my parents could run the Institute, but what are you gonna do? Kids never have a say whether or not to move.
But I wasn't afraid of this glorious city, after living here for about three years. I was thirteen now, my brother seventeen, and our opinions on the city had both changed. We saw beauty in the old buildings, talent in the graffiti. Other than Idris, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
But tonight, something didn't feel right. I felt like I was being watched, but when I turned, all I saw was a shadow flitting around the corner. Shivering, I wrapped my arms around myself and shuffled down the streets, my hand fumbling in my pocket for my cell phone.
A hand grabbed my arm, hard. I whirled around, a scream bursting from my throat before the guy could clamp a hand over my mouth. He hissed in alarm when a few people farther up the street turned and shouted; he dropped my arm and darted away into the darkness. The bystanders were racing to my side; a teenage girl and her frightening-looking boyfriend.
"Are you okay?" The girl demanded, her boyfriend darting after the attempted...what? Murderer? Mugger? Rapist? Who knows.
"I'm fine," I whispered, rubbing my wrist where the man had grabbed it.
"Oh, God, look at your arm!" She fretted, reaching for my wrist. I jerked away, but stared down at the skin. A line of red welts had risen on the skin - almost like the man's grip had begun to burn me where I stood.
I paused at the gate to the front of the Institute, digging through my pockets to find my keys. A quick iratze had taken care of the redness around my wrist, and it had faded easily. But it had still dumbfounded me - how had a mundane's touch burned me? My ring, an opal set in diamonds and gold, was also a Sensor, and it hadn't pulsed, the way it did when a demon was present. Wbich meant the man was either a mundane, a Shadowhunter or a Downworlder - and neither was able to burn something with their hands. Maybe a warlock, but he wasn't. There was nothing unordinary about him the way warlocks were.
Shaking my head, I fished my key ring from my pocket. It had been a birthday present from my dad the year before - it was two long pieces of real, heavy silver, twisted around eachother with flower designs imprinted in it. It was beautiful. The only thing that made it look tacky was the keys hanging from it - I'd gotten tired of having to try every single key before I found the one that opened a door, so I'd painted each one a different neon color.
I stuck the bright purple key in the lock of the front gate, jiggling it till it caught, making the metal bars of the gate shake wildly. I turned the bolt over and the gate swung open. Locking up behind me, I followed the cobblestone path that led to the front doors of the Institute, whistling tunelessly.
I'd just shoved the metallic blue key in the lock on the heavy oak door when it swung open from the other side, yanking my key ring from my hands.
"What was that for?" I whined, stooping to scoop up the jumble of brightly colored metal. They'd landed at the feet of the person who'd opened the door. I froze. They were low, black heels, connected to tan legs that hinted at a natural pallor to the skin. I straightened slowly, my eyes level with the hem of a black pencil skirt, then a red wool sweater, a slender neck - and then the cold blue eyes of Nasha.
"H-hi, Mom," I stammered, fiddling with the twisted silver of my key bangle. "I thought you were going to be in Alicante for a few more days." She glared at me, her arms crossed firmly over her chest.
"Change of plans. Consul Nahali canceled the meeting. I got home a few hours ago." One foot started tapping impatiently on the well-polished wood floor. "Your father texted you half an hour ago telling you to get home. Why are you so late?" I rose to my full five-feet-three-inches, feeling defenseful.
"For your information, I got jumped. I screamed and they ran off. My apologies if that set me back a few minutes." Mom rolled her eyes and turned on her heels.
"I expect you to be in the dining room in three minutes." Scowling, she turned around and clacked her way to the stairs, her gunshot steps fading away as she climbed the steps. I waited till she was out of sight to follow - my mother was big on manners, and in my mother's world, it was ill-mannered to follow people around. So my brother and I were taught never to follow anyone, wait till they were gone and then follow.
The Detroit Institute is a big, cavernous place, much like other's but more modernized. The base floor is nothing but the Infirmary, and guest rooms. They were all set in the one long hallway that ended it the stairwell, which led to the second floor, which was the family's bedrooms, the kitchen and dining hall, the library, my dad's study, my mother's casual room, and a few bathrooms. The attic was the training center, and the weapons room. The basement was used to hold rouge Downworlders - there was a serperate enterance, that wasn't church-blessed, that vampires could enter from, but were unable to come upstairs.
I stopped by my room on the way to dinner and shucked off my jacket and abandoned my shoes. If I wanted to just piss my mom off, I could've stopped to change out of jeans into sweats. But frankly, I didn't want to piss her off. So I dumped all my weapons and my stele and went off to dinner.
The dining room, with it's posh mahogany table and wooden chairs with black velvet cushions, was filled with my family: Adam, who shot me a look of daggers - he obviously hadn't found the seraph blade he was spazzing about earlier - my father, who gave me a lopsided grin, and my mother, who gave me a cold stare. I sighed and sunk into my chair.
Just another day in paradise, eh?
After dinner, I changed out of my stiff olive jacket and yellow shirt and traded it for the sleeveless blue gitter top Clarity bought me, and dark jeans - but instead of the ankle boots she suggested, I wore a pair of casual white wedges. I did whatever I could to appear taller, but I was klutzy enough without stilhetto heels, so wedges were better. I fell less in them.
I slid my stele, a few daggers, some cash, and my cell phone into a glittery silver clutch and gave myself a final once-over. I'd ignored Clarity's order to straighten my hair, leaving it in tight, thick curls that framed my face.
Shrugging at my reflection, I crept out the door and glanced down the hallway. It was empty; most likely my father was in his study, reading or writing some important paper or other, my mother was probably in her casual room, curled up on one of the plush white couches in her pajamas and reading a book, and no doubt Adam was in his room, sitting in front of the TV with his Xbox controller molded to his hand, shouting into his phone to his mundane friends. I loved teasing him about the fact that his best friends were human - it was even worse than having Downworlder friends.
I slipped out into the hall and made my way silently to the hall table where Adam had supposedly lost his blade. I scribbled a vague note saying I went out for a while, and left it on the table - and felt a hand grab my arm from behind. I gasped and whirled, coming face-to-face with my brother.
"Where are you going?" He demanded, his eyes narrowed. Feeling defenseful, I yanked my arm from his grip.
"It's none of your business! But for your information, I'm going over to Clarity's." Adam's eyes narrowed and he tugged the edge of my shirt.
"You're going to that Downworlder club, aren't you? That's why your so dressed up. I swear to the Angel, Natalie, you're going to get so grounded, you know mom and dad hate you going to those stupid clubs-"
"And who's going to tell them? You? Tattletale?" Adam scowled and shoved something into my hands.
"It's your turn to walk Comet," He snapped, leaving a leather tendril in my hand. I glared.
"Yes, it's my turn, because you live to make my life as hellish as possible!" I snapped. But I whislted, and the black Labrador bounded up, her brown eyes warm as she panted at my feet, excited. Still fuming, I snapped the clip onto her pink collar with the silver rinestones on it, from the period when I'd been obsessed with my bejeweler.
"You're a jerk, Adam," I said calmly as I led my dog down the hallway and down the stairs, leaving my brother behind.
I locked the door to the Institute behind me, leaning against the dark wood and staring down at my sweet puppy. Sensing my anger and sadness, she whined softly and shoved her wet nose into my hand. I patted her head affectionately. "That's right, Com," I told her, scratching her ear. "We don't need anyone else, do we? Just ourselves." She barked softly, and I smiled.
I took the long way to Clarity's house, so it would count as a walk for Comet. It was late, but if anyone had any ideas of mugging me or something, they were easily discouraged by the look of hostile protectiveness on Comet's face. My sweet little puppy, always the greatest guard dog in the world.
I used my key to get into Clarity's apartment, unclasping Comet's leash. She immediately went off to sniff inquiringly at Clarity's cat, Venus, who hissed right on cue.
Clarity was on the balcony, the heavy double doors to it open, the white curtains rippling in the soft breeze. She was wearing a black dress, that was body-hugging up till her waist, where it fanned out in loose and wavy skirts. She was barefoot, her hair hanging loose, and her eyes were closed, a small smile on her lips. I knew Clarity well enough to know she was remembering her human life, and all she left behind. I leaned against the doorframe, content with watching her for a while, but when I leaned on the door it moved, creaking. Her eyes opened and she turned, smiling at me.
"Ready to go?" She asked in a falsely cheery voice, pulling on some strappy black and red heels. I nodded, smiling easily. Clarity could pretend all she wanted, but I knew she missed her family more than anything.
The heel of my wedge caught in a pock-hole in the street, and Clarity just barely caught and steadied me when I stumbled with a gasp.
“I need to teach you how to walk in heels,” She declared, wrinkling her nose when I stooped to rub at my wrenched ankle.
“Vampires have natural balance,” I only grunted, straightening up and walking on. I heard Clarity snicker.
“I thought Shadowhunters were supposed to have it too,” She called after me before hurrying to catch up. I only rolled my eyes at her.
A low snarl came from the shadows behind a streetlight. I stopped, holding out a hand to Clarity who paused as well, her eyes blinking as she used her vampire night vision to see past the darkness beyond the smooth metal post.
“Who’s there?” I called, my hand creeping to my belt to pull a dagger free. The snarl was obviously that of a werewolf – too deep and feral to be even the most rabid dog. But the Accords forbid that any Downworlder or Shadowhunter attacks the other – unless a Downworlder has gone rouge. Then, not only do the Shadowhunters have permission to eliminate the Downworlder- the Downworlders no longer follow the peace that the Accords bring.
As I was lost in thought, mind whirling, a lean shape shot out of the darkness with a howl. In a blur Clarity had leaped out of the way, but the wolf, brindled brown and gray in color, was flying straight at me. At the last possible second, I put my Speed rune to the test and stepped wildly to the side, sticking my dagger into its side as it flew past.
The wolf yelped as it crashed to the ground, blood spraying around the hilt of the dagger protruding from the wolf’s flank.
It shuddered once, and then folded in on itself, the fur melting away and body shrinking and elongating into a human form. I snickered as my best friend Dylan was left in place of the rouge werewolf – normally I never got the better of him like that.
“That hurt!” Dylan gasped, yanking the dagger from his side. He let it clatter to the ground and clamped both hands over the wound it left behind with a grimace. I rolled my eyes at him.
“You big baby. It’ll be good as new in thirty seconds.” Confirming my statement, Dylan pulled his hands back to display the rip in his shirt; as I watched, the skin sewed itself shut, cutting off the blood flow.
“Two inches higher and that would’ve been the end of me,” Dylan declared, tugging his ripped shirt over the exposed skin.
“That’s why I aimed two inches low,” I teased, shoving him.
“Let’s go!” Clarity snapped, her eyes gleaming in the harsh light. “Marco, Kelly and Vanity are probably already at the club.” Dylan and I rolled our eyes but raced after the vampire when she started to jog easily towards the abandoned underground building where the club was hidden.
The ifrits guarding the door demanded payment from each of us, and waved us in when we forked it over. The dance floor was swirling with multi-colored smoke, so thick you could hardly see the person you were dancing with, but the smoke ended abruptly when the dance floor did. On the sidelines, the air shimmered with bolts of neon laser lights, compliments of the warlocks who were sitting in the rafters and sending down harmless – at least I hoped they were harmless – sparks of light.
“Let’s head for the bar,” Clarity shouted in my ear above the pounding trance music, catching hold of my wrist and tugging me towards the piece of ice that served as the bar counter. More lights shimmered in the swirls of the transparent ice, turning the pale skin of a pair of vampires sitting there different shades of purple, blue, green and pink.
“One bloody Mary and two gin and tonics,” Clarity shouted to the octopus-armed warlock making eight mixtures at once.
“Gin and tonic!” I yelped, grabbing her arm. “Now my parents really are going to kill me. I just want a Shirley Temple or something-“
“Nonsense,” Clarity scoffed, accepting her blood-and-vodka mixture from one of the arms as it was thrusted her way. “You could use a little alcohol to help you loosen up. And Dylan drinks them all the time, he won’t mind.” Before I knew it, a sticky tentacle was passing a chilled glass of misty, clear liquid towards me, with a slice of lime around the rim.
I sighed and took a tentative sip, making a noise of disbelief when I realized it was good. I usually didn’t like alcohol – it made my nose burn and my head feel stuffy, and I never thought it tasted right so I never drank it when I was offered a sip from my parents. But this…it made me feel light and airy and fresh.
“Wanna dance?” Dylan asked as he appeared out of the smoke to my side. I shrugged, taking another gulp of my drink.
“Sure. Clarity, watch my drink, please.” I giggled as Dylan took my hand and led me into the mysterious mist, the pounding of music drowning out my thoughts and making my head lurch.
And that’s how it all started. Walking into that thick smoke to dance to trance with my werewolf best friend.