Night Shift Page 63

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Quinn ran up the stairs to his room, as Diederik and Marina exchanged a few words before Diederik went back to his job of dusting, vacuuming, and mopping the lobby and the bathroom off of it.

The apocalypse might be coming, but work had to go on. Quinn called up the diagram of the venue of the next wedding he was hired to produce, in this case a true production—almost a three-ring circus, he thought. Velda and Ramon, both true shapeshifters, would be tying the knot in two weeks.

He paused for a moment when he pictured the bride and groom. He wondered if he’d ever get to have his own conventional marriage. His mate, Tijgerin, hadn’t survived and his mother, too, was dead; they’d been the only two full-blooded female weretigers he’d ever known. But he had a son, which was all he could ask for. Quinn decided he’d be glad to find a woman of any heritage.

I’m a little old to be making such a resolution, he thought. But he was smiling. It was doable.

 

 

29

 

 

Nothing the next day went as planned. Nothing.

While the inhabitants of Midnight were preparing themselves for one crisis, which would fall in one more day, another presented itself without any of them seeing it coming—even Manfred, the psychic.

Just at eight o’clock in the morning, a big vehicle rumbled into town from the east. Joe and Chuy were running the water (the shower and the sink respectively), and they didn’t hear the sound as anything special. It roused Teacher, though, because he’d driven a vehicle that sounded like that at one point in his life. He pulled on his shoes and hurried out of his trailer.

No one in the hotel, except the man who lived in the front room overlooking the pawnshop, gave it a second’s thought. And he only thought how out of place it seemed.

The rumble gradually subsided into silence in front of Midnight Pawn. Lemuel’s shift was over and Bobo hadn’t come down yet, so no one came out of the shop to see what was happening.

“This vehicle is an abomination,” the Rev whispered, when he heard the noise of the motor. He was kneeling in prayer before the bare altar in his church.

The Rev liked to start the day with prayer. Diederik lived with the Rev, so his attendance was obligatory, and that morning Quinn had joined them, too. The Rev had spent the previous day reducing a chunk of hawthorn tree to ash, and Quinn had to put the ash in a bucket. But all that was on hold as the Rev cut short his prayer and the three men came out of the church to look at the abomination.

“That’s a stretch Hummer,” Quinn told Diederik, who had never seen one before. Since Quinn was an event planner, he was well versed in ostentatious vehicles.

Diederik was impressed, but Quinn saw that the Rev was having a bad reaction to the Hummer. The older man’s eyes went golden. He was sensing a threat, so his tiger was getting close to the surface. At his age, the Rev could change any time he wanted, as could Quinn. But Diederik still had to have the moon’s help, so if it came to fighting . . . Quinn laid his hand on his son’s shoulder. “You have a key, I think. Run. Wake Olivia. Tell Bobo to get out of the shop. Hurry.”

Diederik streaked across the road to unlock the side door of the pawnshop. He disappeared inside. Standing on that landing, he could yell upstairs for Bobo and downstairs for Olivia.

There were men getting out of the Hummer, now, men as unlike the Rev and himself as it was possible to get. They wore suits but with gun belts underneath. They had rifles in their hands. They looked in all directions. They might as well have had “HIGH-CLASS HOODS” tattooed on their foreheads. There were five of them, plus the driver, who got out but remained by the vehicle.

This looked a lot like a small invasion.

Quinn didn’t want to transform in public in broad daylight, but he didn’t have a weapon, and he was certain he was going to need one. He wished he hadn’t sent Diederik into the pawnshop, a wish that was confirmed when he saw all the armed men turning toward it.

The pawnshop was the target.

The newcomers began to move in the direction of the front door. They walked spread out, not in a clump; they knew what they were doing, Quinn thought. The men were watchful, glancing from side to side, but they seemed not to fear the Rev or Quinn, maybe because the two stayed still.

Quinn couldn’t risk making a move, though, not until Diederik reappeared. Every second made him tenser. Just as he was about to run across the street to put himself between the invaders and the pawnshop, the Rev took an unexpected step.

“Fiji!” the Rev bellowed in his deep voice, and out of her front door the witch popped. Fiji looked like a fluffy puppet in her nightgown and rose-colored bathrobe. Her eyes widened as she took in the armed men and their approach to the pawnshop. Then she came off her porch and down the path to the sidewalk, her hands held ready as if she were about to perform surgery. Her zebra-striped slippers thwacked against the concrete in the eerie silence.

Not too surprisingly, the invaders did not recognize Fiji as a threat until she got halfway across the road. And then she froze them.

“I feel like a one-trick pony,” Fiji said. The Rev ran to stand by her. Quinn was right on his heels. Quinn stopped to examine the closest gunman, as still as a department store dummy. He was so overwhelmed with relief that he couldn’t find the voice to tell Fiji how grateful he was.

“No shame in that, if the trick works,” the Rev said practically. He began going from man to man, divesting each one of weapons and telephones. The telephones were Quinn’s suggestion, and Quinn helped.

Bobo unlocked the front door of the pawnshop as if he were opening for business on an ordinary day. But he stepped out with a shotgun in his hands.

Fiji, who had set the spell firmly, was going from man to man in the Rev’s wake, looking into each face to make sure the man was good and frozen.

“They all seem good for ten more minutes,” she pronounced. “Enough time for Olivia to come check ’em out.”

“You sure she needs to be here?” Bobo said. “She might want to start getting in some licks. Olivia’s not going to turn down an advantage. Why can’t we just call Arthur Smith? Any reason why we wouldn’t?” He looked hopeful.

“I think this is about Olivia,” Fiji said with conviction.

Quinn thought so, too. Then he expelled a lungful of relief, because Diederik exploded through the front door with Olivia at his heels.

Olivia strode down to the loose cluster of men, gun in her hand and an incredulous look on her face. “You did this?” she asked Fiji.

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