“Great,” said a voice from the back of the group. “Because I want to talk to Alexander Lightwood in private.”
Helen Blackthorn stepped away from the crowd and stood, her arms crossed, staring Alec down.
Aline froze, staring. Alec’s first impulse was to run and jump out the window. Then he remembered how high above the ground they were.
Helen herded him into the records room, which jutted out from the side of the Rome Institute so there were windows on all sides, and only one door. Aline followed them. She had gone entirely quiet and was being no help. Leon followed along, giving Alec a little wave.
Helen stood in front of the only exit, and said:
“So, Alec. First you refuse to come to Rome for questioning, then you hightail it out of Venice from the scene of a crime, and head for Rome under your own steam. Rome, which is where our informant Mori Shu told us the cult of the Crimson Hand was headed. That was the last piece of information we received from him, before he was found dead.”
“Are you following me?” Alec asked.
“I don’t have to follow you,” said Helen. “Wherever you go, you leave a trail of dead bodies and collapsed mansions! Where is Magnus Bane? What happened in Venice?”
Helen was clearly about to level several more questions when Aline waved a hand in between them. “Excuse me.”
“What!” Helen seemed to notice her for the first time. Their eyes met.
“Hey,” said Aline.
There was a momentary pause.
“Hi,” said Helen.
More silence followed.
“Sorry,” said Alec. “I was too busy getting interrogated to make proper introductions. Helen Blackthorn, this is Aline Penhallow. Aline, this is Helen.”
“And I’m Leon,” said Leon. Aline did not even glance at him.
Helen kept staring at Aline. Alec wondered if she was suspicious of her as well.
“Right,” Helen muttered at last. “Anyway, I have questions.”
“I have a question too,” said Aline, and swallowed. “Who do you think you are, Helen Blackthorn, and why are you talking to my friend as if he’s a criminal?”