Night Shift Page 67

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“I’m sorry you brought that up,” Fiji said. She’d been feeling fairly warm and cozy with Chuy, but not any longer. She rested her head against the cold glass of the window. She was far beyond caring if her hair got lopsided.

“I am sorry,” Chuy said, sounding awkward. “I know you are thinking about what you have to do. But I am thinking about the next century, and longer.”

“I think it’s more like I’m thinking me and you’re thinking you,” she murmured. He didn’t respond; either he thought she was saying something stupid or he completely agreed. “Have you felt him moving?” she asked.

Chuy sighed. “I have,” he said.

Soon I will rise, the demon told her.

She had not heard his voice in a day or two. She’d felt him, looming in the back of her mind, always present, but he’d been silent.

She hadn’t missed his voice a bit.

Her homecoming was oddly anticlimactic. Fiji had left in the middle of a tumult. She came back in the middle of nothing. There was no one on the street. The limo was gone, the body was gone, all the people who’d been in the street were gone. She didn’t even see Olivia’s blood in the pawnshop parking lot. Chuy pulled behind her house and ran around to open her door, helping her out of the car as solicitously as if she’d been an aged abuela. Her back door was unlocked, as she’d left it. Chuy offered his arm to help her manage the step up to the porch and the back-door sill. She was so weak; she hadn’t felt this way since she’d had mono as a teenager.

Chuy was seldom inside Fiji’s house, so she was ridiculously glad she’d made her bed first thing this morning. In fact, she’d been just about to take off her nightclothes and get in the shower when she’d heard the Rev shouting. Chuy folded back the covers neatly so Fiji could climb into bed. “Anything else I can get you?” he asked.

“Just some water, please,” she said, feeling almost shy about having him move around her house. Chuy returned from the kitchen with a glass of water, and a bowl of soup with crackers on a bed tray. Fiji had never seen the bed tray before, but the soup was Progresso minestrone. She sat propped up and consumed it all. She felt much better.

When Fiji was done, Chuy silently removed the tray. Fiji scooted down in the bed and turned on her side. Her comfort was complete when Mr. Snuggly padded into the room, jumped up beside her, and curled up beside her hand, nudging it and even giving it a raspy lick. Fiji scratched his head and he purred, the most soothing sound in the world. She heard the back door opening and closing; Chuy had left.

Glad you’re home, the demon murmured.

“Fuck you,” she said. And she fell asleep.

When she woke up, it was dark outside.

Fiji felt almost normal. She started to get up, but then she realized someone else was in the room. “Lemuel?” she said, almost certain she could smell him.

“Fiji,” Lemuel said from the shadows. “I’m here to thank you.”

“I was glad to be able to do something,” she said. She wasn’t quite sure what to say next. “Thanks for being here,” she tried.

“And yet I wasn’t able to be there early today when you saved Olivia, my wife.”

“We wished you were awake,” Fiji said. “We were afraid we would lose her.”

“You protected her with your body and you killed the man responsible.”

“Yes,” Fiji said bleakly. “I killed him.”

“You’re not sorry you saved Olivia?”

“No, of course not. He was about to shoot again—me or her. I had to do it. But it doesn’t sit real well.”

“I can remember once I felt that way,” Lemuel said after a moment.

He came closer, perched on the edge of the bed. He took her hand. His was very cold.

“Fiji, you are a young woman. You haven’t seen a lot of life. I don’t want this for you, to have to kill. And I wish I could say this is the only time you’ll have to step up to defend this town and its people. But how can I know that?”

“How did Aunt Mildred handle it?”

“She was a pip,” Lemuel said unexpectedly. Fiji choked back a laugh.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

“Mildred was one of a kind,” he said. “She was sarcastic and downright, and she said what she thought. People were a little afraid of her, and they respected her.”

“I liked her a lot,” she said. “Aunt Mildred had a sense of humor.”

“She kept it well hidden,” Lemuel said dryly. “And she looked forward to seeing you every year, when your family would visit.”

“I don’t remember meeting you, those summers.”

“I wasn’t supposed to exist, when you were a child. When you were a teenager, Mildred was afeared meeting a vampire would be so exciting that you’d tell your parents. They wouldn’t have let you return.”

“You think I’ll get arrested?” she said. It didn’t seem likely to her, but she wanted another opinion.

“No. The medical examiner will say the old man had a heart attack or stroke or something. The coroner would never say, ‘I think a witch killed him with magic.’ Am I right?”

She nodded, smiling just a little.

“I am more worried about what will happen to Olivia. Surely her true name will be known now, and her father will try to make amends to her. She never wanted to see him again.”

Fiji thought of Teacher charging down the sidewalk with the shotgun. “At least now we know the Reeds weren’t on the side of the gunmen,” she said. “But when I feel a little better, I’m going to have to understand Olivia’s past.”

“We’ll tell you,” Lemuel said. “Sleep now, friend. I’m going to Olivia.”

And before too long, Fiji did fall asleep again.

 

 

31

 

 

After a long internal debate, Manfred drove to a little bakery in Davy and bought two doughnuts and two muffins for Fiji. He did not try to pretend he’d made baked goods for her. He took the box to Fiji’s. The front door still had the Closed sign up, so he went around back and knocked quietly, as befitted the house of an invalid. “Come in,” Fiji called, and he opened the door to see her sitting at her kitchen table. There were big circles under her eyes and her skin looked as if someone had erased all her color.

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