Night Shift Page 59

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“What’s up?” Bobo asked, once they were all assembled. He was doing his best not to stare at Fiji, Lemuel noticed. And Fiji resolutely kept her face turned from him. It was sad to see trouble between them.

“I was kind of in the middle of something,” Fiji said. A couple of faces turned to her. Fiji had never sounded this snappish before.

Lemuel waited until they all were paying attention. It didn’t take long. “I just finished reading the translation of the text I hoped would explain what is happening here,” Lemuel said. “And I will tell you. Manfred has told me that Sylvester Ravenwing also has things to tell us.”

“What did you find, Lemuel?” Olivia asked. She was sitting on the edge of a wooden chair at least fifty years old.

“The creature buried under the crossroad is a demon, and he’s about to rise,” Lemuel said.

There was a long moment of silence.

“The demon’s been talking to me,” Fiji said.

Everyone else was frozen in place by this revelation. Finally, Quinn said, “Okay. Let’s hear about this. Maybe starting with Lemuel.”

“Crossroads have a lot of magical connotations,” Lemuel said. “Places to put magical sites, like cairns. Places to worship, places to bury suicides, places to execute criminals and to leave the bodies as warnings.”

“I think we’re all aware of the magic of crossroads,” Chuy said, and Joe placed a warning hand on Chuy’s shoulder.

“Not me,” Diederik said cheerfully.

Manfred cleared his throat. “Maybe I can shortcut this process. I think you’ve all met Sylvester, who’s taken over the Gas N Go. Sylvester has told me he’s my grandfather. It’s his father who’s buried out there.” Manfred jerked his head in the stoplight direction. “The demon. My great-grandfather.”

After another long, significant pause, Fiji got up and went over to the two. She looked down at Sylvester, whose dark eyes met hers with a sort of recognition, a kinship.

“You didn’t say anything when I came in the store?” she asked, because of that look.

“I had to talk to Manfred first,” Sylvester said. “And I had a hard time working up to it. But the time is close at hand. You say you’ve been hearing his voice?”

“Yes.”

“Demons love witches, for their power. They like to consume it,” Sylvester said, in a disturbing, matter-of-fact way. “But no mistake, you have the power to imprison him again. So he wants you on his side.”

“So this demon’s tried to pull people who don’t like me to the circle, and get them to kill themselves, to make me believe he’s on my side. A demon has been talking to me,” she said slowly, as if this were the worst thing that had ever happened to her. Maybe it was.

Sylvester nodded.

“Your father is a full demon?” said an echoing voice.

Everyone jumped, and they all looked around for the source of the voice.

“It’s Joe,” Diederik whispered. “His wings are back.”

Chuy’s were, too. The two men were standing in a haze of light, and they had drawn swords, and their wings reached almost to the ceiling.

“Yes,” Sylvester said. “I helped to imprison him. His name is Colconnar.”

“Don’t speak his name,” Chuy said, his voice echoing like Joe’s. “It’s an abomination.”

The Rev stood, too. The scrawny old man looked terrifying. “Brothers,” he said. “We all stand together this night.”

Olivia ducked her head. She whispered, “Wow.”

“Joe and Chuy, your presence is glorious,” said Lemuel. “But Col— the demon’s return to earth is a crisis we can forestall with Sylvester’s help.”

The swords gradually vanished, but the outline of the wings remained. Sylvester went down on one knee before the angels to show respect, and then sat. He nodded at Lemuel as if to give the vampire the floor.

“Before Christine so sadly passed away, she completed the translation. I’m glad I obtained her services, since we have only a few days to spare.” Now Lemuel was satisfied he had everyone’s complete attention.

“The witch who sent Sylvester away gave a full account of the ritual, and Arria Auclina recorded her words. We all have a part to play,” Lemuel began. “And I will ask each of you to do a few things. But if we don’t do this together, we will die. And we will just be the beginning of the death.”

Olivia took in a deep breath through her nose. “That’s an incentive,” she muttered.

Lemuel continued, “The witch then was a powerful virgin. I know that seems unlikely, but it was the case. She accepted the role of bait in luring the demon to the circle. The circle was drawn in salt and ash, and it was very large.”

“We’re going to be busy,” Diederik whispered to Quinn.

“All the people the witch assembled had a part to play,” Lemuel said. “And I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this crowd echoes that one. There were angels, psychics, vampires, shapeshifters. Men and women who were brave enough to face a demon. They all focused their beliefs and what magic they had on the witch, who was powerful in and of herself. This girl was stuffed with magic in every orifice by the time the shaman started the summoning, Colconnar manifested with a roar, determined to have sex with the witch and then eat her. He never wasted part of a human.”

Everyone in the room looked as though they had something to say, but Lemuel motioned them all to be silent so he could finish this story.

“Colconnar emerged from his realm in the circle where the witch was waiting, but instead of permitting him to have sex with her, the group threw a magic net over him, imprisoning him in our world. He was sealed in the circle. Then a shaman had sex with the virgin witch on top of his prison, sealing Colconnar in the earth with virgin blood. That magic was strong enough to keep the demon buried for two hundred fifty years. But now he stirs. And we have to reenact the ritual to rebind him.”

There was a long silence.

“Is there a virgin in Midnight?” the Rev said. “I am not one.” His gaze went to Diederik. The boy turned red and shook his head.

“Me, neither,” he said.

They all exchanged glances, but it was so evident that Lemuel, Olivia, Quinn, Bobo, Joe, and Chuy did not qualify that everyone looked hopefully at Manfred. Manfred said, “Sorry, not in the club.”

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