Saving Raphael Santiagopart #6 of The Bane Chronicles Series by Cassandra Clare / Young Adult / Fantasy
It was a violent heat wave in the late summer of 1953. The sun was viciously pummeling the pavement, which seemed to have become flatter than usual in submission, and some Bowery boys were opening a fire hydrant to make a fountain in the street and gain a few minutes of relief.
It was the sun getting to him, Magnus thought later, that had filled him with the desire to be a private eye. That and the Raymond Chandler novel he had just completed.
Still, there was a problem with the plan. On the covers of books and in films, most detectives looked like they were dressed up in Sunday suits for a small-town jamboree. Magnus wished to wash away the stain of his newly adopted profession and dress in a way that was both suitable to the profession, pleasing to the eye, and on the cutting edge of fashion. He ditched the trench coat and added some green velvet cuffs to his gray suit jacket, along with a curly-brimmed bowler hat.
The heat was so awful that he had to take off his jacket as soon as he set foot out of doors, but it was the thought that counted, and besides, he was wearing emerald-green suspenders.
Becoming a detective wasn’t really a decision based wholly on his wardrobe. He was a warlock, and people—well, not everyone thought of them as people—often came to him for magical solutions to their problems, which he gave them, for a fee. Word had spread throughout New York that Magnus was the warlock who would get you out of a jam. There was a Sanctuary, too, up in Brooklyn, if you needed to hide, but the witch who ran it didn’t solve your problems. Magnus solved problems. So why not get paid for it?
Magnus had not thought that simply deciding to become a private eye would cause a case to land in his lap the moment he painted the words MAGNUS BANE, PRIVATE DETECTIVE onto his window in bold black letters. But as if someone had whispered his private conviction into Fate’s ear, a case arrived.
Magnus arrived back at his apartment building after getting an ice-cream cone, and when he saw her, he was glad that he’d finished it. She was clearly one of those mundanes who knew enough about the Shadow World to come to Magnus for magic.
He tipped his hat to her and said, “Can I help you, ma’am?”
She wasn’t a blonde to make a bishop kick a hole through a stained-glass window. She was a small dark woman and though she was not beautiful, she had a bright, intelligent charm about her, powerful enough so that if she wanted any windows smashed, Magnus would see what he could do. She was wearing a slightly worn but still very becoming plaid dress, belted at her small waist. She looked to be in her late thirties, the same age as Magnus’s current lady companion, and under black curling hair she had a small heart-shaped face, and eyebrows so thin that they gave her a challenging air that made her both more attractive and more intimidating.
She shook his hand, her hand small but her grip firm. “I am Guadalupe Santiago,” she said. “You are a—” She waved her hand. “I do not know the word for it precisely. A sorcerer, a magic maker. ”
“You can say ‘warlock,’ if you like,” said Magnus. “It doesn’t matter. What you mean is, someone with the power to help you. ”
“Yes,” said Guadalupe. “Yes, that’s what I meant. I need you to help me. I need you to save my son. ”
Magnus ushered her in. He thought he understood the situation now that she had mentioned help for a relative. People would often come to him for healing, not as often as they came to Catarina Loss but often enough. He would much rather heal a young mundane boy than one of the haughty Shadowhunters who came to him so often, even if there was less money in it for him.
“Tell me about your son,” he said.
“Raphael,” said Guadalupe. “His name is Raphael. ”
“Tell me about Raphael,” said Magnus. “How long has he been sick?”
“He is not sick,” said Guadalupe. “I fear he may be dead. ” Her voice was firm, as if she were not voicing what must assuredly be the most horrible fear of every parent.
Magnus frowned. “I don’t know what people have told you, but I can’t help with that. ”
Guadalupe held up a hand. “This is not about ordinary sickness or anything that anyone in my world can cure,” she told him. “This is about your world, and how it has touched mine. This is about the monsters from whom God has turned his face away, those who watch in the darkness and prey on innocents. ”
She took a turn about his living room, her plaid skirt belling about her brown legs.
“Los vampiros,” she whispered.
“Oh God, not the bloody vampires again,” said Magnus. “No pun intended. ”
The dread words spoken, Guadalupe regained her courage and proceeded with her tale. “We have all heard whispers of such creatures,” she said. “Then there were more than whispers. There was one of the monsters, creeping around our neighborhood. Taking little girls and boys. One of my Raphael’s friends, his small brother was taken and found almost on his own doorstep, his little body drained of blood. We prayed, we mothers all prayed, every family prayed, that the scourge would be lifted. But my Raphael, he had started hanging around with a crowd of boys who were a little older than him. Good boys, you understand, from good families, but a little—rough, wanting a little too much to show that they were men before they truly were men at all, if you know what I mean?”
Magnus had stopped making jokes. A vampire hunting children for sport—a vampire who had the taste for it and no inclination to stop—was no joke. He met Guadalupe’s eyes with a level, serious gaze, to show that he understood.
“They formed a gang,” said Guadalupe. “Not one of the street gangs, but—well, it was to protect our streets from the monster, they said. They tracked him to his lair once, and they were all talking about how they knew where he was, how they could go get him. I should have— I was not paying attention to the boys’ talk. I was afraid for my younger boys, and it all seemed like a game. But then Raphael, and all his friends . . . they disappeared, a few nights ago. They’d stayed out all night before, but this—this is too long. Raphael would never make me worry like this. I want you to find out where the vampire is, and I want you to go after my son. If Raphael is alive, I want you to save him. ”
If a vampire had already killed human children, a gang of teenagers coming after him would seem like bonbons delivered to his door. This woman’s son was dead.
Magnus bowed his head. “I will try to find out what happened to him. ”
“No,” said the woman.
Magnus found himself looking up, arrested by her voice.
“You don’t know my Raphael,” she said. “But I do. He is with older boys, but he is not the tagalong. They all listen to him. He is only fifteen, but he is as strong and as quick and as clever as a grown man. If only one of them has survived, he will be that one. Do not go looking for his body. Go and save Raphael. ”
“You have my word,” Magnus promised her, and meant it.
He was in a hurry to leave. Before he visited the Hotel Dumont, the place which had been abandoned by mortals and haunted by vampires since the 1920s, the place where Raphael and his friends had gone, he had other inquiries to make. Other Downworlders would know about a vampire who was breaking the Law that flagrantly, even if they had been hoping the vampires would work it out among themselves, even if the other Downworlders had not yet decided to go to the Shadowhunters.
Guadalupe grasped Magnus’s hand before he went, though, and her fingers clung to him. Her challenging look had turned beseeching. Magnus had the feeling she would never have begged for herself, but she was willing to beg for her boy.
“I gave him a cross to wear around his throat,” she said. “The padre at Saint Cecilia’s gave it to me with his own hands, and I gave it to Raphael. It is small and made of gold; you will know him by it. ” She took a shaking breath. “I gave him a cross. ”
“Then you gave him a chance,” said Magnus.
Go to faeries for gossip about vampires, to werewolves for gossip about faeries, and do not gossip about werewolves, because they try to bite your face off: that was Magnus’s motto.
He happened to know a faerie who worked in Lou Walters’s Latin Quarter nightclub, on the seedier and nakeder side of Times Square. Magnus had gone to see Mae West here a time or two and had spotted a chorus girl with a glamour that covered up her faerie wings and pale amethyst skin. He and Aeval had been friendly ever since—as friendly as you could be when both you and the dame were in it only for information.
She was sitting on the steps, already in costume. There was a great deal of delicate lilac flesh on display.
“I’m here to see a faerie about a vampire,” he said in a low voice, and she laughed.
Magnus couldn’t laugh back. He had the feeling that he would not be able to shake off the memory of Guadalupe’s face or her hold on his arm anytime soon. “I’m looking for a boy. Human. Taken by one of the Spanish Harlem clan, most likely. ”
Aeval shrugged, one graceful fluid motion. “You know vampires. Could be any one of them. ”
Magnus hesitated, and then added, “The word is, this vampire likes them very young. ”
“In that case . . . ” Aeval fluttered her wings. Even the most hardened Downworlders didn’t like the thought of preying on children. “I might have heard something about a Louis Karnstein. ”
Magnus motioned for her to go on, leaning in and tipping back his hat so she could speak into his ear.
“He was living in Hungary until very recently. He’s old and powerful, which is why the Lady Camille has welcomed him. And he has a particular fondness for children. He thinks their blood is the purest and sweetest, as young flesh is the tenderest. He was chased out of Hungary by mundanes who found his lair . . . who found all the children in it. ”
Save Raphael, Magnus thought. It seemed a more and more impossible mission.
Aeval looked at him, her huge oval eyes betraying a faint flicker of worry. When the fey were worried, it was time to panic.
“Get it done, warlock,” she said. “You know what the Shadowhunters will do if they find out about someone like that. If Karnstein is up to his old tricks in our city, it will be the worse for us all. The Nephilim will kill every vampire they see. It will be seraph blades first and questions later for everybody. ”
Magnus did not like to go near the Hotel Dumont if he could help it. It was decrepit and unsettling, it held bad memories, and it also occasionally held his evil former lady love.
But today it seemed like the hotel was his inescapable destination.
The sun was scalding in the sky, but it would not be for long. If Magnus had vampires to fight, he wanted to do it when they were at their weakest.
The Hotel Dumont was still beautiful, but barely so, Magnus thought as he walked inside. It was being buried by time, thick clusters of spiderwebs forming curtains on every arch. Ever since the twenties the vampires had considered it their private property and had hung around there. Magnus had never asked how Camille and the vampires had been involved in the tragedy of the 1920s, or what right they felt they now had to the building. Possibly the vampires simply enjoyed the allure of a place that was both decadent and abandoned. Nobody else came near it. The mundanes whispered that it was haunted.
Magnus had not let go of the hope that mundanes would come back, claim and restore it, and chase the vampires away. It would annoy Camille so much.
A young vampire hurried toward Magnus across the foyer, the colors of her red-and-green cheongsam and her henna-dyed hair vivid in the gray gloom.
“You are not welcome here, warlock!” she said.
“Am I not? Oh dear, what a social faux pas. I do apologize. Before I go, may I ask one thing? What can you tell me about Louis Karnstein?” Magnus asked conversationally. “And the children he has been bringing into the hotel and murdering?”