Pandemonium sat in its display case in the Museum for Finer Antiquities. It was the museum’s crown jewel.
Its greatest source of pride.
Its most difficult acquisition.
It had taken five Shadowhunters, two Magnus Bane clones, and seven faerie to capture the constantly morphing creature and seal it inside a closed acrylic box.
It now sat in a clear triple-layered, bulletproof glass display case. Magic wards shielded it night and day, twenty-four/seven with no paid holidays, no PTO, and no thank you/please.
If a thief could steal it without triggering any alarms or getting themselves decapitated and/or blown up, they would win major bragging rights as well as fame and infamy.
The girl waited until the day was over and all the lights shut off.
She counted to thirty-nine. It was the biggest number she knew.
No one entered the display room.
Not even a security guard.
She counted to thirty-nine one more time for good luck.
No one made an appearance.
Not a sound.
Not a shadow.
She crawled out of her hiding place. Her long black shadow rushed ahead of her, eager to get his inky fingers all over what rightfully belonged to him and his own.
The shadow stopped and looked back at her.
She gestured for him to return NOW.
He glanced at the display and slithered back to her.
“We do this together.”
Hsst coiled his long sleek body at her side, waiting for her command.
“Okay. Follow me.”
She walked around the case, sniffing for any gaps in the magic. He followed alongside her.
She was deliberately wasting time. If only she’d just give Hsst the word, he could slide and slither through all of those pesky wards. Even the glass case posed no problem to him.
But he was magically bound to her. He had to follow her lead and her command, no matter how wasteful it was.
And she wanted to say that she did it on her own, which was just so typical of her.
She scowled. “I don’t see any way past.”
Her scowl darkened.
“Or we could just go home and let some other thief break through and—”
“Oh, fine. Do your thing.”
If Hsst had a mouth, he would have smiled.
He sank into the carpet and sank even lower into the floorboards. He tunneled silently through wooden beams and sawdust and mouse droppings.
He sensed the dull ache of warlock magic.
He kept going.
The dull ache increased to a pain to a throb to a horrible need to scream.
That’s when Hsst knew that he was right under Pandemonium’s display.
He rose through the floorboards, the carpet, the marble, the glass.
Into the acrylic box.
Pandemonium looked at him with tired gray eyes.
Best bowed his head in respect. “Hello, master. I have come to take you home.”
Pandemonium stood. “Home?”
“Yes, master. But first: There is a human who needs your help. His name is Valentine. Valentine Morgenstern.”
“As long as he doesn’t imprison me, I’ll do whatever he says.”
Hsst twirled his long body around his master and they both disappeared, leaving behind an empty display case and one seriously ticked off thief.