Black City Page 1

Author: Christina Henry

Series: Black Wings #5

Genres: Fantasy

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JUDE, SAMIEL AND NATHANIEL STOOD IN FRONT OF the TV, their eyes grave. They cleared a space for me so I could see.

At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. A reporter’s voice came intermittently over the images, but the camera kept jiggling everywhere, and it was hard to see exactly what was going on. People were screaming and running, but I couldn’t see what they were screaming at and running from.

Then the camera finally stabilized, and I realized what I was looking at. It was live footage from Daley Plaza, and the camera was shooting the action just in front of the Picasso statue.

There were vampires everywhere, and the sun blazed down on the plaza.

“Gods above and below,” I whispered. “Azazel’s formula worked.”

The angle of the camera shifted and tipped to one side. Blood splattered over the lens. The reporter stopped speaking. The animal growls of vampires and the sickening squelch of flesh being eaten broadcast far too clearly.

“We have to do something,” I said.

“You can’t fly anymore,” Beezle pointed out. “No wings. And you’re wearing your pajamas.”

A woman’s high-pitched wail broke through the sound of feasting.

“I can carry you,” Nathaniel said, and I ran for my things.

Jude had already changed into a wolf, discarded his clothes, ran to the door.

I grabbed my sword, pulled my boots over my pajama pants, yanked on my coat and followed Jude. Nathaniel was right behind me, Samiel close on his heels.

Beezle launched from the mantel to my shoulder as I opened the front door. Jude darted down the stairs in front of me.

“Why can’t you stay home where I know you’ll be safe?” I said to Beezle as he crawled inside my coat.

“Like I would miss this,” he said, his voice muffled. “And besides, somebody needs to make sure you don’t go dark side.”

I ignored his jibe. I’d made some questionable choices lately, to be sure, but when I looked back over them I wasn’t sure I could have made different ones. And there were far more important things to worry about right now than my shades of gray.

Jude burst through each of the front doors and bounded onto the porch, my apartment door slamming against the wall as he went through with a burst of speed.

By the time Nathaniel, Samiel and I had clattered down the front steps, Jude was already gone.

Nathaniel scooped me up, carrying me like a child, and opened his wings. Samiel lifted off a moment later. As we rose above the treetops I realized that neither of them was under a cloak of magic.

“That was a little conspicuous,” I said. “I wonder what the neighbors will make of two angels taking off from my front lawn.”

“Given all the weird shit that occurs in the nexus in and around our house, they probably won’t be surprised in the least,” Beezle said. “Besides, vampires are eating up all the nice little commuters in the middle of the day. I don’t think the regular rules are going to apply from now on.”

As we sped downtown as fast as Nathaniel and Samiel could fly, I knew Beezle was right. In a single instant everything had changed. The world that had been hidden from normal people, a world of creatures they’d seen only in their dreams and nightmares, had been split wide-open. Nothing would ever be the same again.

The news report had come from Daley Plaza, the distinctive figure of the Picasso statue looming in the background of the shot. Nathaniel angled a little west from the lake and headed toward the plaza.

As we got closer I could see traffic snarled on the surrounding streets, buses and taxis at a standstill, drivers abandoning their vehicles to run. People crammed on the stairwell to the El, pushing, shoving, stepping on anyone who tripped and fell. The vampires were monsters to be feared, but people didn’t exactly show the best face of humanity at times like this.

Then we were over the plaza, and it was worse, far worse, than I’d imagined.

I’d thought that Azazel’s potion had to be limited, that there couldn’t possibly be that many vamps colluding with him. And even if there were, I’d assumed his death would have cut off the production of the serum that allowed the vamps to walk in sunlight without turning to flames.

After all, Jude, Nathaniel and I had fought several perfectly ordinary vampires at Azazel’s mansion only a couple of weeks before.

But there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of vampires on the streets below. They poured from the blue line subway station, emerged from the sewers through manhole covers, an endless seething mass of bloodthirsty insects falling upon any human they could find.

I’ve never liked vampires, even when they’ve kept a low profile. I’d always suspected their veneer of civility was just that, and I’ve never bought into the notion that it’s romantic to have your blood drained by a vamp.

This was one occasion when I would have been happy to be proven wrong. It was pretty clear from the carnage going on below us that vampires didn’t entertain any romantic notions about humans. To them, we were nothing more than walking, talking bags of meat.

Beezle poked his head out of the lapel of my coat and looked down. “Gods above and below. Where do you even start?” For once there was no sarcasm in his voice.

“We just have to do what we can,” I said, and tried to sound confident. “Let’s go, Nathaniel.”

He brought us down to the platform that the Picasso statue rested upon, which gave us a slightly elevated view of the plaza. On any given day you can see a few brave kids climbing the tilted platform and sliding, whooping and hollering, to the ground below.

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