Night Shift Page 62

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What happens if this doesn’t work?” Diederik asked his father. “Nothing good,” Quinn said, after a moment. He and Diederik were taking turns spray-painting a white circle. It encompassed the entire crossroad, and to be sure it was large enough they were including corners of sidewalk, edges of buildings, and one fire hydrant by the Midnight Hotel. Quinn cast an eye along the curve of the line and decided it was good. He continued, “I guess the town will disappear, or the demon will kill all the people living here and then began to rampage, to make up for lost centuries. Diederik . . . I think it would be better if you leave town. I’d like to send you to stay with a friend of mine in Louisiana.”

“Run?” Diederik was outraged. “No, Dad, I’ll fight with you and the Rev. We are tigers!”

“I don’t think even weretigers can beat a demon, Diederik. It’s not like ordinary prey.”

“I’ve never seen a demon.” Diederik took the spray can from his father, taking his turn drawing a section of circle. As the traffic went through the stoplight, they had to wait until it was cleared either way to continue.

“I have. I fought a half-demon in the pits. Like Sylvester. And it tore me up.”

“But you won.” Diederik glanced at the center of the circle, under the stoplight. He estimated they were making the circle fairly even. Quinn had stood under the light for a moment, holding the string, and Diederik had run with it, stopping every few yards to put down a reference mark. They’d had to do it quickly, but it had worked.

“Yeah, I won. But only, I think, because she had already had a bout that day, and I was fresh.”

“Tell me about the pits.”

They’d stopped painting the circle while they talked, and Quinn glanced up at the evening sky. He was tired. It had been a busy day. “I’ll tell you if you’ll keep walking while we get this done,” he said.

“Was it like Gladiator?” Diederik asked. He’d just watched the movie on the hotel television.

“Yes, except real. My own blood. My own pain. My own fear. Every time I went in, I was not sure I would come out. Every fight might be my last. I didn’t like the person I became while I fought. But I had to fight.”

“To save your mom and your sister.”

Quinn nodded. “To save them.”

“Were they grateful?”

“I think they were, way down deep,” Quinn said. “But my mother, because of her ordeal at the hands of hunters, was crazy. And there are some obligations that are too painful to acknowledge. Some debts too big to be paid.”

“I hope I never owe anyone a debt like that,” Diederik said.

“I hope not, too, son.”

This circle was almost complete. Quinn thought it would have been better to allocate the painting to Lemuel, who could have done it at night. There were interested spectators in the windows of the hotel, but no one asked any questions or tried to stop them, which was one of the benefits of living in Midnight. Quinn looked up at the man on the upper floor, the one who rented the room with a great view of the pawnshop. Their eyes met. The man’s face stayed blank.

“How are we going to keep people out of the circle that night?” Diederik said, after they’d worked for a while in silence. “Regular people?”

“Considering only five cars have gone through the light while we’ve been trying to get the circle sprayed, and it’s evening now, I’m not too worried about that. I’m more concerned that some of the hotel people might look out their windows and get alarmed at seeing a couple having ritual sex in the middle of the road. If they call the police, the consequences would be really bad. But I expect defense of the circle will be up to Joe and Chuy. And maybe Sylvester can conceal us. I don’t know how good a shaman he is. I think it was a late calling of his.”

“Joe and Chuy aren’t anything like I thought they were when I met them,” Diederik said. “There’s something cold and scary about them, when you go below the surface.”

“They’re way more than they seem. And it’s a deep difference. They’re very good at acting like regular guys.” Quinn looked down at the section he’d just painted. The circle was now complete.

“I think of Joe and Chuy like they were my uncles. But they kind of scared me, at the meeting.” It cost Diederik something to confess this, Quinn could see.

“That’s a reasonable reaction, Son,” Quinn said. “You don’t mess with angels, even fallen ones.”

“The demon . . . was he a fallen angel, too?”

“Good question. And they don’t always tell you the whole story. This is . . . God stuff. But my understanding is that demons, and devils, used to be angels, too, yes. But God, whatever name he or she wears, can read hearts and minds, and know the degree of evil and rebellion in each. The lust for power can corrupt even the best. So some got banished utterly and early to a different realm, and some were thrown out to earth after the New Coming, like Joe and Chuy. But . . . maybe that’s all bullshit. I know some half-demons who are really good people.”

Diederik made a face. “Doesn’t that make you feel weird?”

“Talking about gods and demons? Yes, it does. I should spend more time thinking about it than I do.”

“I don’t like to think about a god looking at me and judging me.”

“I don’t think anyone enjoys that idea. The love part, yes, but the being-found-wanting part . . . we’re all worried about that.”

Diederik gave Quinn a startled look, as if he’d supposed his father wouldn’t venture into such deep waters. “Not you,” he said. “Not you, Dad.”

Quinn laughed and put his arm around Diederik’s shoulders. They’d been standing outside the hotel, and now they went in. Marina, behind the desk, smiled at Diederik in a very womanly way, and Quinn tried not to sigh. He’d had The Talk with Diederik when Diederik was a little tyke, because he’d known all too soon Diederik would need to know the facts. Diederik was good-natured and charming, and also outstandingly handsome, but there was a touch of feral about him that made the boy truly magnetic.

Quinn didn’t think he himself had ever been as attractive as his son, so he was really proud of Diederik’s lack of conceit. That was where the Rev had proved to be a good guardian. Vanity didn’t stand a chance with the Rev around.

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