Night Shift Page 2

Chuy Villegas and Joe Strong, the couple who ran the Antique Gallery and Nail Salon, nodded easily to Bobo as they entered. Chuy patted Fiji’s shoulder. Diederik rose and hugged them, and scratched their dog’s head. The two took odd chairs, side by side, and set their little Peke, Rasta, down. He snuffled around the room, visiting everyone in turn, and then settled by Chuy’s feet.

Manfred Bernardo, the psychic who rented the house next door from Bobo, hurried in and threw himself into a chair by his landlord. He gave everyone a wave or a word. Manfred, almost as small and spare as the Rev, was pierced liberally and with great effect, and lately he had begun getting tattoos. He pulled up his T-shirt sleeve to show the new one on his left shoulder, an ouroboros, to Fiji, and she shook her head, smiling.

“Why volunteer for pain?” she said.

“It’s for my art,” Manfred said dramatically, and they all laughed. Manfred regarded the tattoo with admiration. “Actually, I think it makes me look badass.”

No one raised the topic of the evening.

They were all waiting on Lemuel, who would be there when the sun set.

In October, the sun went down a little before seven thirty p.m. One of the clocks in the pawnshop chimed the half hour, and a minute or two later, Lemuel Bridger came up from his basement apartment. There was a sense of completion when he took his place in the circle to Bobo’s left.

The two were as much of a contrast as the Rev and Diederik. Bobo always seem relaxed, and now that he was in his thirties his blond hair was a little faded, and his blue eyes were a little sad. But he still could have been featured in an advertising campaign for something casual but expensive, like sunglasses. Lemuel could never pass for human. He was too white, white as bleach, and his eyes were a strange gray. He didn’t even move like a human being.

“Did anyone know the man who killed himself last night?” Fiji asked the little crowd. “Joshua Allen, right, Manfred?”

“That’s what they said on the news.”

“I didn’t know him,” Lemuel said. His hoarse voice was at odds with his white, gleaming appearance. “But I knew the first one.”

There was a moment of absolute silence.

“The first one. The first what?” Olivia said.

“The first suicide.” Lemuel’s pale eyes went from one of them to another. If he was looking for someone to nod in agreement, he was disappointed.

Fiji was stumped. “Are you looking back a decade or something?” Vampires could lose track of time.

“I’m looking back a week,” Lemuel said, in a bored way. “The first one was at three in the morning last Tuesday. A homeless woman stabbed herself to death right under the traffic light. I knew her, a little. Her name was Tabby Ann Masterson.”

Even Olivia had not expected this bombshell. “You didn’t tell me,” she said.

“I could not imagine that it had anything to do with Midnight,” he said. “No one was awake but me.”

Lemuel was up all night, of course. Though the pawnshop was up a few steps from the ground level, and though he was often behind the counter, the pawnshop sat at the northeast corner of the only intersection in Midnight: the crossroads of Witch Light Road and the Davy highway. And from behind the counter, Lemuel could get a somewhat abbreviated view of what was happening there. If he happened to be closer to the window, his view would be unobstructed.

Fiji smiled to herself at the long silence. Even if Lemuel had said he’d been facing the wall when it happened, none of them would have dared to question his word. Lemuel, the oldest of the town’s inhabitants by a century, was not a joker, a kidder, or a fantasist.

“I’ve met Tabby Ann,” she said. “She used to come by my place, looking for my aunt. Evidently, Great-Aunt Mildred used to give her leftovers. I gave her some food once, but the next time I wasn’t there, and she peed on my back porch. I cast a spell to find out who had done it, because Mr. Snuggly didn’t see.”

“Where is her body, then?” Manfred asked. “Tabby Ann. What did you do with her?” There was another profound silence. “Wait, sorry, don’t need to know.” He waved his hands, palms forward, warding off unneeded information.

Lemuel smiled at Manfred, briefly. “Tabby Ann Masterson was a homeless woman,” Lemuel said, “as you call it now. I knew her during her better days, when she had a man and children and a home. She had no one left any longer.”

“Two suicides,” Joe Strong, who looked exactly like his name, said. “In the same spot, in the same town. Joshua Allen can’t be a copycat, since he couldn’t have known about Tabby Ann.”

Manfred said, “The article I read about him online said he was an itinerant laborer.”

“Which is another way of saying he didn’t belong anywhere.” Olivia’s voice was harsh. “But why choose Midnight for his death? Could it be a coincidence?”

Fiji felt doubtful, and she saw that same expression on the faces of everyone around her.

Bobo said, “This seems like a magic thing.” These were the first words he’d spoken all evening. Bobo had seemed a little broody for days, though no one was sure why. Fiji, who was always aware of Bobo, was a little hyped up by the fact that she was almost certain that he was staring at her even when she wasn’t speaking. She didn’t know why; she sadly suspected it was not for the same reason she liked to look at him. In fact, looking at Bobo was one of her favorite things to do.

Fiji made herself concentrate on the moment as she brushed her wild hair away from her face. “It would have to be because this is a crossroads,” she said slowly. “It might be a coincidence that two people committed suicide here in a week, but they killed themselves in the same spot. That just can’t be a coincidence.”

Reluctantly, Chuy Villegas raised a hand. When they all looked at him, he said, “The ghosts have been agitated.”

Manfred sat up straight and stared at Chuy. Short and swarthy and in his forties, Chuy did not look like the kind of man who would talk about ghosts in a very prosaic way. (Manfred himself, with his piercings and tattoos and dyed platinum hair, did look like such a person.) “You see ghosts?” Manfred said, keeping his voice matter-of-fact with an effort.

“We do,” said Joe. Joe was just as muscular as his partner, but taller and fairer.

“Do you see Aunt Mildred?” Fiji asked, startled. Her great-aunt had left her the cottage she lived in, and Fiji had adapted to life in Midnight as if she’d been born to it.

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