Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1)(2)


by Cassandra Clare

“Ouroboros,” Jem said, leaning in close to stare at the knife. “A double one. Now, what do you think that means?”

“The end of the world,” said Will, still looking at the dagger, a small smile playing about his mouth, “and the beginning.”

Jem frowned. “I understand the symbology, William. I meant, what do you think its presence on the dagger signifies?”

The wind off the river was ruffling Will’s hair; he brushed it out of his eyes with an impatient gesture and went back to studying the knife. “It’s an alchemical symbol, not a warlock or Downworlder one. That usually means humans—the foolish mundane sort who think trafficking in magic is the ticket for gaining wealth and fame.”

“The sort who usually end up a pile of bloody rags inside some pentagram.” Jem sounded grim.

“The sort who like to lurk about the Downworld parts of our fair city.” After wrapping the handkerchief around the blade carefully, Will slipped it into his jacket pocket. “D’you think Charlotte will let me handle the investigation?”

“Do you think you can be trusted in Downworld? The gambling hells, the dens of magical vice, the women of loose morals …”

Will smiled the way Lucifer might have smiled, moments before he fell from Heaven. “Would tomorrow be too early to start looking, do you think?”

Jem sighed. “Do what you like, William. You always do.”

Southampton, May.

Tessa could not remember a time when she had not loved the clockwork angel. It had belonged to her mother once, and her mother had been wearing it when she died. After that it had sat in her mother’s jewelry box, until her brother, Nathaniel, took it out one day to see if it was still in working order.

The angel was no bigger than Tessa’s pinky finger, a tiny statuette made of brass, with folded bronze wings no larger than a cricket’s. It had a delicate metal face with shut crescent eyelids, and hands crossed over a sword in front. A thin chain that looped beneath the wings allowed the angel to be worn around the neck like a locket.

Tessa knew the angel was made out of clockwork because if she lifted it to her ear she could hear the sound of its machinery, like the sound of a watch. Nate had exclaimed in surprise that it was still working after so many years, and he had looked in vain for a knob or a screw, or some other method by which the angel might be wound. But there had been nothing to find. With a shrug he’d given the angel to Tessa. From that moment she had never taken it off; even at night the angel lay against her chest as she slept, its constant ticktock, ticktock like the beating of a second heart.

She held it now, clutched between her fingers, as the Main nosed its way between other massive steamships to find a spot at the Southampton dock. Nate had insisted that she come to Southampton instead of Liverpool, where most transatlantic steamers arrived. He had claimed it was because Southampton was a much pleasanter place to arrive at, so Tessa couldn’t help being a little disappointed by this, her first sight of England. It was drearily gray. Rain drummed down onto the spires of a distant church, while black smoke rose from the chimneys of ships and stained the already dull-colored sky. A crowd of people in dark clothes, holding umbrellas, stood on the docks. Tessa strained to see if her brother was among them, but the mist and spray from the ship were too thick for her to make out any individual in great detail.

Tessa shivered. The wind off the sea was chilly. All of Nate’s letters had claimed that London was beautiful, the sun shining every day. Well, Tessa thought, hopefully the weather there was better than it was here, because she had no warm clothes with her, nothing more substantial than a woolen shawl that had belonged to Aunt Harriet, and a pair of thin gloves. She had sold most of her clothes to pay for her aunt’s funeral, secure in the knowledge that her brother would buy her more when she arrived in London to live with him.

A shout went up. The Main, its shining black-painted hull gleaming wet with rain, had anchored, and tugs were plowing their way through the heaving gray water, ready to carry baggage and passengers to the shore. Passengers streamed off the ship, clearly desperate to feel land under their feet. So different from their departure from New York. The sky had been blue then, and a brass band had been playing. Though, with no one there to wish her good-bye, it had not been a merry occasion.

Hunching her shoulders, Tessa joined the disembarking crowd. Drops of rain stung her unprotected head and neck like pinpricks from icy little needles, and her hands, inside their insubstantial gloves, were clammy and wet with rain. Reaching the quay, she looked around eagerly, searching for a sight of Nate. It had been nearly two weeks since she’d spoken to a soul, having kept almost entirely to herself on board the Main. It would be wonderful to have her brother to talk to again.

He wasn’t there. The wharves were heaped with stacks of luggage and all sorts of boxes and cargo, even mounds of fruit and vegetables wilting and dissolving in the rain. A steamer was departing for Le Havre nearby, and damp-looking sailors swarmed close by Tessa, shouting in French. She tried to move aside, only to be almost trampled by a throng of disembarking passengers hurrying for the shelter of the railway station.

But Nate was nowhere to be seen.

“You are Miss Gray?” The voice was guttural, heavily accented. A man had moved to stand in front of Tessa. He was tall, and was wearing a sweeping black coat and a tall hat, its brim collecting rainwater like a cistern. His eyes were peculiarly bulging, almost protuberant, like a frog’s, his skin as rough-looking as scar tissue. Tessa had to fight the urge to cringe away from him. But he knew her name. Who here would know her name except someone who knew Nate, too?

“Yes?”

“Your brother sent me. Come with me.”

“Where is he?” Tessa demanded, but the man was already walking away. His stride was uneven, as if he had a limp from an old injury. After a moment Tessa gathered up her skirts and hurried after him.

He wound through the crowd, moving ahead with purposeful speed. People jumped aside, muttering about his rudeness as he shouldered past, with Tessa nearly running to keep up. He turned abruptly around a pile of boxes, and came to a halt in front of a large, gleaming black coach. Gold letters had been painted across its side, but the rain and mist were too thick for Tessa to read them clearly.

The door of the carriage opened and a woman leaned out. She wore an enormous plumed hat that hid her face. “Miss Theresa Gray?”