Jem was seated in a chair, looking up at Will with a dubious expression. “It serves you right if you break it,” he said, and inclined his head as he caught sight of Tessa. “Good evening, Tessa.” Following her stare, he grinned. “I was hanging the gasolier crookedly, and Will is endeavoring to straighten it.”
Tessa could see nothing wrong with the gasolier, but before she could say so, Jessamine stalked into the room and shot a glare at Will. “Really! Can’t you get Thomas to do that? A gentleman needn’t—”
“Is that blood on your sleeve, Jessie?” Will inquired, glancing down.
Jessamine’s face tightened. Without another word she turned on her heel and stalked to the far end of the table, where she set herself down in a chair and stared stonily ahead.
“Did something happen while you and Jessamine were out?” It was Jem, looking genuinely worried. As he turned his head to look at Tessa, she saw something green gleam against the base of his throat.
Jessamine looked over at Tessa, a look of near panic on her face. “No,” Tessa began. “It was nothing—”
“I’ve done it!” Henry entered the room triumphantly, brandishing something in his hand. It looked like a copper tube with a black button on one side. “I’ll wager you didn’t think I could, did you?”
Will abandoned his efforts with the gasolier to glare at Henry. “None of us have the slightest idea what you’re on about. You do know that?”
“I’ve gotten my Phosphor to work at last.” Henry proudly brandished the object. “It functions on the principle of witchlight but is five times more powerful. Merely press a button, and you will see a blaze of light the like of which you have never imagined.”
There was a silence. “So,” said Will finally, “it’s a very, very bright witchlight, then?”
“Exactly,” Henry said.
“Is that useful, precisely?” Jem inquired. “After all, witchlight is just for illumination. It’s not as if it’s dangerous… .”
“Wait till you see it!” Henry replied. He held up the object. “Watch.”
Will moved to object, but it was too late; Henry had already pressed the button. There was a blinding flare of light and a whooshing sound, and the room was plunged into blackness. Tessa gave a yelp of surprise, and Jem laughed softly.
“Am I blind?” Will’s voice floated out of the darkness, tinged with annoyance. “I’m not going to be at all pleased if you’ve blinded me, Henry.”
“No.” Henry sounded worried. “No, the Phosphor seems to— Well, it seems to have turned all the lights in the room off.”
“It’s not supposed to do that?” Jem sounded mild, as always.
“Er,” said Henry, “no.”
Will muttered something under his breath. Tessa couldn’t quite hear him, but was fairly sure she’d caught the words “Henry” and “fatheaded.” A moment later there was an enormous crash.
“Will!’ someone cried out in alarm. Bright light filled the room, sending Tessa into a fit of blinking. Charlotte was standing in the doorway, holding a witchlight lamp aloft in one hand, and Will was lying on the floor at her feet in a welter of broken crockery from the sideboard. “What on earth …”
“I was trying to straighten the gasolier,” Will said crossly, sitting up and brushing crockery bits off his shirt.
“Thomas could have done that. And now you’ve gone and wrecked half the plates.”
“And much obliged to your idiot husband for that.” Will looked down at himself. “I think I’ve broken something. The pain is quite agonizing.”
“You seem quite intact to me.” Charlotte was remorseless. “Get up. I suppose we’ll be eating by witchlight tonight.”
Jessamine, down at the end of the table, sniffed. It was the first noise she’d made since Will had asked her about the blood on her jacket. “I hate witchlight. It makes my complexion look absolutely green.”
Despite Jessamine’s greenness, Tessa found she rather liked the witchlight. It laid a diffuse white glow over everything and made even the peas and onions look romantic and mysterious. As she buttered a dinner roll with a heavy silver knife, she couldn’t help but think of the small apartment in Manhattan where she, her brother, and her aunt had eaten their meager suppers around a plain deal table by the light of a few candles. Aunt Harriet had always been careful to keep everything so scrupulously clean, from the white lace curtains at the front windows to the shining copper kettle on the stove. She had always said that the less you had, the more careful you had to be about everything you did have. Tessa wondered if the Shadowhunters were careful about everything they had.
Charlotte and Henry were recounting what they had learned from Mortmain; Jem and Will listened attentively while Jessamine gazed in boredom at the window. Jem seemed especially interested in the description of Mortmain’s house, with its artifacts from all over the globe. “I told you,” he said. “Taipan. They all think of themselves as very important men. Above the law.”
“Yes,” Charlotte said. “He had that manner about him, as if he were used to being listened to. Men like that are often easy marks for those who want to draw them into the Shadow World. They are used to having power and expect to be able to get more power easily and with little cost to themselves. They have no idea how high the price for power in Downworld is.” She turned, frowning, to Will and Jessamine, who seemed to be quarreling about something in snappish tones. “What is the matter with you two?”
Tessa took the opportunity to turn to Jem, who was sitting on her right side. “Shanghai,” she said in a low voice. “It sounds so fascinating. I wish I could travel there. I’ve always wanted to travel.”
As Jem smiled at her, she saw that gleam again at his throat. It was a pendant carved out of dull green stone. “And now you have. You’re here, aren’t you?”
“I’ve only ever traveled before in books. I know that sounds silly, but—”
Jessamine interrupted them by slamming her fork down onto the table. “Charlotte,” she demanded shrilly, “make Will let me alone.”
Will was leaning back in his chair, his blue eyes glittering. “If she’d say why she has blood on her clothes, I would leave her alone. Let me guess, Jessie. You ran across some poor woman in the park who had the misfortune of wearing a gown that clashed with yours, so you slit her throat with that clever little parasol of yours. Do I have it right?”