Night Shift Page 12

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“Shall I ask Quigley nicely to give us another source?” She perked up at the prospect of action.

Lemuel looked at Olivia steadily. She was brave and strong and lethal, but she’d never understand that a vampire could snap her spine in a second. Any vampire. “Olivia, please don’t approach him unless I ask you to,” he said, making sure she saw how serious he was.

Lemuel squatted by the card table to pick up little puzzle pieces that had landed on the floor. As he began returning them to the table, he glanced up at Olivia. Her brow was furrowed as she tried to match piece after piece. Though he had never told her—and she had never asked—Lemuel planned to make Olivia a vampire someday. She was bright and wounded and lethal and loyal. Only her mortality kept her from being nearly perfect in his eyes. She was about to speak again; she turned away from the puzzle.

“Listen, I guess there’s no shortcut you could take, or you would have taken it already, right?”

“What shortcut did you have in mind?” Lemuel lay the book down and simply looked at her.

“Like scanning the text for the word that means ‘Midnight,’ or ‘Crossroad.’ Something like that.” Olivia shrugged, to let him know she thought her idea feeble.

Lemuel reached up to put his cold hand on her cheek. “Remember, I told you that whatever happened to make this place so odd and queer must have happened before this crossroad was even called Midnight?”

She nodded.

“I think the town is here because of whatever event took place.”

“You think people have come to this spot because they were drawn to it because of the event,” Olivia said slowly.

“Yes.”

“I knew this wouldn’t be easy,” Olivia said, and her voice was just shaky enough to remind Lemuel to remove his hand before he took too much energy from her.

“If you have any other ideas, I will be glad to hear them,” he said. “Never keep one to yourself.”

“I won’t.” Olivia flashed him a smile, and Lemuel said, “That’s my bold woman.” He spied one more bit of puzzle and leaned beneath the table to retrieve it.

The bell over the door tinkled as a man came in, a rough and hairy man with a coarse brown beard. A gust of cool air came in the door with him.

“Evening,” Olivia called, standing up and moving behind the counter. Lemuel, out of her sight, stiffened.

“I came to redeem my knife,” the man said, his voice deep.

“Got your ticket?” Olivia asked. Lemuel glanced up and nodded to himself. Olivia knew what he was. She had remembered to smile with her teeth covered, as you should around a werewolf.

“I do.” The customer fished around in his jeans pockets and came up with a bit of cardboard, which he put on the counter. He paused and sniffed. “Do I smell a dead . . . kinsman?” His own teeth became very apparent, and they seemed longer and sharper than they should have been.

“I have no idea what you smell,” Olivia said. “But I bet you’re getting a whiff of metal, buddy.” She was holding a gun in her hand.

Lemuel thought, I did not tell her about the bookbinding. He stood. At the sight of him, the werewolf stepped back a little. “So overcome by the cover of an old book that you couldn’t smell me?” Lemuel asked, his voice rusty and slow. “This shop is under my protection. That includes everyone who works here.”

“I can take him,” Olivia said. She sounded remote, calm.

“I know you can, Olivia. But in this case, I just about owe this man an explanation.”

The werewolf looked surprised. “My name is Theo Barclay,” he said more civilly. “I wait to hear it.”

“See this book, Theo Barclay?” Lemuel held it up. “You can see it is ancient. I had nothing to do with the construction of it. As you smelled, some person used the skin of a were to construct it.”

“It should be buried with respect.”

Lemuel paused before he spoke. “I have to read this book, because magic is brewing here, magic that will do none of us any good. If I can find out what is going to happen, maybe I can prevent it. The answer lies here.” He tapped the book to emphasize his point. “When that danger is passed, I will give the book covering to your packmaster. Until then, I have to keep the book intact, lest something I can’t foresee might happen to it if I simply remove the cover.”

It was Barclay’s turn to think out his response. “That’s a deal,” the werewolf rumbled, finally. “I’ll tell my packmaster. Now, I want to redeem my knife.”

Within minutes, Barclay was out the pawnshop door, his very fine knife in its custom sheath on his belt.

Lemuel could feel Olivia simmer during this whole exchange.

“I could have handled him,” Olivia said, the minute the rumble of Barclay’s motorcycle faded in the distance.

“Woman, I know you can kill,” Lemuel said. “This is not an issue we need to debate. And you are proud. You should be. But this incident had nothing to do with pride. It had only to do with the werewolves’ right to bury their dead, if that was how they want to honor her.”

“It’s a female?” Olivia looked at the book, impressed but also a little disgusted.

“I think it is,” Lemuel said. “I can’t know how she died, or when, but I know it was many, many years ago.”

“So she’s not likely to be Barclay’s literal kin?”

“No.”

“Well, all right.”

Lemuel wasn’t sure what Olivia had resolved within herself as a result of this discussion, but he could tell she was at peace with him now, and that was what he cared about.

That, and reading this damned book.

 

 

5

 

 

John Quinn came into The Inquiring Mind the next morning with Fiji’s newspaper tucked under his arm. She realized she’d forgotten to go out to get it that morning. It had been an atypical and incredibly irritating day, and it was only nine a.m. Until Quinn entered, Fiji had been sitting behind the counter, gripping the edge with both hands, staring straight ahead with her teeth in a line, listening to her sister sing in the shower. Every word was perfectly audible, and it was all in the wrong key.

Fiji had never realized before how simple her life was merely because she was the only person living in the house. She had to make an effort to smile at Quinn, which was a first. Like most women, she’d always found it easy to be happy when she saw him. Quinn was tall, bald, and muscular, with pansy-purple eyes. Pleasant to look at, pleasant to talk to.

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