Night Shift Page 49

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Later that night, while Christine worked down in Lemuel’s apartment, Olivia came up to visit with Lemuel. She had a lot to tell him. First of all, she reassured him that she missed him, and she made sure he missed her. When they stepped apart, Lemuel’s eyes were not cold any more. Olivia seemed to be very satisfied with that.

Lemuel said, “The girl needs to hunt. I didn’t think about her hunger. She doesn’t look good.”

“What’s her progress?”

“She is close to finishing, but I haven’t read the newest stuff. However, I think I must let her go hunting tomorrow night. Since it has to be blood, one of us will have to take her to a bar.” Lemuel’s mouth pressed down tight, with his distaste.

“I think it would be better if I watched the shop while you drove her,” Olivia said.

“I was going to suggest the same thing. I would not have been so sure, if she had not suggested you driving her. That made me suspicious.”

“I don’t know if she means me harm or not. Probably, she does. I’m on the edge of wishing her some serious harm, myself,” Olivia said. “So if you and your little buddy want to scamper off and get some grub, I’ll mind the store tomorrow night.”

Lemuel felt relieved and grateful. “You are the best woman I’ve ever met,” he said. “All the way around.”

Olivia gave him a slight smile. “Glad you think so, husband of mine,” she said.

“I like hearing you call me that more than I ever imagined I would, wife,” Lemuel said.

“Same here. Now I’m going to have a nap, down there with Miss Dark and Crazy. If you need me, ring the alarm.” She winked at him; she knew he wouldn’t. Bobo had had to use the alarm bell a couple of times, so far. Lemuel never had. He considered himself the trouble.

Lemuel watched Olivia leave with regret. She was good company, and he liked having her sit with him during the night shift. But he recognized that she needed to get some sleep. He hoped that soon their situation would get back to normal. Normal these days? Impossible to come by. Lemuel was glad he himself could not see dead people, as Joe and Chuy could. There were more new dead citizens of Midnight than there were live ones, even with the new convenience store manager. Lemuel had not yet had a chance to go to Gas N Go to meet Sylvester Ravenwing, but he’d had a full account from Olivia.

Lemuel usually enjoyed his night shift at Midnight Pawn. But now that people had started killing themselves, he caught himself checking the landscape at least ten times a night. He’d think, Is someone out there? He’d rise, go to the door, stand on the steps, look into the darkness. And every time, he saw no one: no human committing suicide.

But that night, the rats and mice began dying. Lemuel caught a tiny flicker of movement in the darkness, one so small only a vampire could have detected it. He went out into the parking lot. When he realized he was seeing a tiny mouse run toward the middle of the intersection, he took a step back out of sheer astonishment. The next moment, he was aware that he could detect many small movements, some larger than the first.

As a vampire, Lemuel had lost what little squeamishness he’d ever possessed, but he did not like vermin. Nonetheless, he stepped out into the street. He saw a few dozen creatures hurrying to the center of the road, and there, right under the stoplight, they died. After ten minutes, there was a noticeable pile of little furry bodies. A skunk arrived. Two raccoons.

How many of these will it take to equal one human death? Lemuel wondered. The creature must feed, to break out. Though Lemuel did not yet know the name of what was buried under the crossroads, he knew it was dark and hungry.

Across the street, Fiji’s front door opened, and she staggered out of her house. Afraid that she was headed to the crossroads, Lemuel threw himself across the road and ran to her, seizing her by the shoulders to stop her forward progress.

Then he understood that she was grieved for all these creatures, and she was weeping. “I had to shut Mr. Snuggly in his cage,” she said. “He started to go out the cat flap, and he said he was going to die.” There were scratches all over her arms.

“He put up a fight,” Lemuel said.

“LET ME OUT!” screamed Mr. Snuggly from inside the house.

“That’s it,” Fiji said, and he understood she was crying not from sorrow, but from anger.

Lemuel got her back into her house a few minutes later, and he made her take two sleeping aids. For once, he was sorry he didn’t have the power of glamour.

Lemuel came out of Fiji’s house, shutting the door quietly behind him, and went to borrow the Rev’s wheelbarrow and shovel from the little shed in the pet cemetery behind the chapel. It was not a surprise that the Rev was waiting for him under the traffic light, and he was praying. The mound of furry bodies was up to Lemuel’s knees, but the herd of sacrifices had stopped scurrying to die.

“I don’t think it’s any secret what’s here, Lemuel,” the Rev said after his prayer was finished.

“We just have to find out how to stop it,” Lemuel said. “The book is almost translated.”

He and the Rev began their grim cleanup job.

“Did you feel the pull?” Lemuel asked. “Your animal nature?”

The Rev nodded, to indicate that was a legitimate question. “I felt a tug,” he said. “The boy, a strong one. His father held him down.”

It was a long, long, night. Finally, all the animals were buried and the road was cleaned up. The Rev trudged away to his house. Lemuel, grateful they had not been spotted at their corpse disposal, went back in the pawnshop to write Bobo a note, telling him that Olivia would be in charge of the shop the next night. Lemuel went downstairs feeling more tired than he could remember being, but he showered before he crawled into Olivia’s bed before dawn. He smelled of small deaths.

When Lemuel’s eyes opened at the next dark, he felt better. Apparently, he’d taken some energy from Olivia as he slept beside her. Soon they would not have to sleep together all night. He would have his own bed back. Lemuel loved being next to her, but he feared that he would drain Olivia by his proximity if that became a nightly situation. She was not in the room, or even downstairs, his senses told him. He dressed and made himself ready in a very short time.

He found himself a little excited at the prospect of escaping Midnight, even if the odious Christine would be with him when he left. The brooding atmosphere of something bad’s about to happen was getting to him, the same way it was to the humans.

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