Night Shift Page 70


The little Reed family walked over to Home Cookin, and Madonna felt much better when she began food preparations. She was a woman of many talents, but this was the one that made her happy.

Teacher’s cell phone rang as he was setting the tables. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the caller. “It’s the man,” he called to his wife, and answered the phone in a completely different voice.

“Yessir.” He listened. Then he spoke. “She’s going to be fine. I bribed an orderly to listen and look. Two more days in the hospital, maybe. Then home.” He listened some more.

“No, I don’t think you ought to come, Mr. Wicklow,” he said, trying not to sound horrified by the idea. “Her next of kin now is her husband. He might not want you to see her. You’re the boss, you’ll do what you want, of course. But if you wait until she gets out of the hospital . . . all right, then, good-bye.”

“How’s Wicklow handling the situation?” Madonna said, popping her head out of the kitchen. Her husband was putting his phone away, and he looked relieved.

“He’s plenty worried about her. But now that McGuire is dead and Olivia’s out of danger, I think he’s scared of actually facing her again. And maybe the old man doesn’t really want to know what Olivia does to make her money.”

Madonna shrugged. “Girl’s got to keep alive.”

“I think everybody in Midnight knows Olivia’s business. Everybody but us,” her husband said bitterly. “And that would be a good thing to know. He’d be sure we were on the job. We just can’t get anyone in this town to talk to us.”

Madonna said, “You better take that from Grady.”

Teacher swooped down on his son and took the pepper shaker away. “You’ll sneeze and wheeze if you eat that stuff, Grady,” he chided.

“Neeze,” Grady said, and Teacher laughed.

For the first time since the break-in, Fiji came to eat in the café that evening. She gave Teacher a very direct look, and he looked back, and after that she behaved as though the incident had never happened, or at least as far as Teacher could tell.

Fiji seemed wobbly to Teacher, and he noticed that the other Midnighters all took a moment to hug her or pat her or just say a quiet word. And when she’d eaten, the Rev himself walked her home, though Bobo wanted to, Teacher could tell.

Madonna and Teacher cleaned up the kitchen and were out the door by eight thirty. The night was dark and cool, with a promise of rain. Teacher stood looking up for a moment at the heavy clouds skidding across the sky, driven by the wind.

It was less than seven yards to the door of the trailer, but in that short space Teacher went from thinking of playing a game on his laptop to fearing for his life. Lemuel stood between Teacher’s family and home.

In the only light available, a weak security light over the rear door of the diner, Lemuel’s white skin seemed to glow like mother-of-pearl. Teacher bit back a scream, Madonna made a gulping noise, and Grady stirred sleepily on her shoulder.

“If Olivia had died, you would have died at this moment,” Lemuel said. “You were coming to her aid, they tell me. So you are saved.” And then he was gone.

“Oh my God,” Madonna said, after a moment of shuddering silence. “Oh my God.” Teacher felt even more unsettled by the whole incident when he realized that Madonna had tears running down her cheeks.

He had never seen his wife cry before.






Later that same night, in the hospital in Davy, Olivia woke when a cold hand took hers. “Lemuel,” she said weakly.

“I was here last night, but you slept the whole time,” Lemuel said. “I understand you will recover. I talked to the doctor myself.”

Her room was dim but not dark, and she could see his outline against the light coming in the partially open door. “Lem,” she said. “I almost left you for good. If he’d gotten an inch to the left or an inch to the right . . .”

“And me sound asleep,” Lem said bitterly. “No use to you at all.”

“He shot me,” she said. “Fucking asshole.”

“He’s a dead asshole now,” Lemuel said.

“I thought I heard one of the EMTs say that,” Olivia murmured. “I expected to see Fiji or Bobo today, but they said I couldn’t have any visitors. Was that your doing?”

“Yes, that was my doing. I’m sorry if you wanted company, but I was scared someone bad would come in, and I would not be here to protect you. Now that we are married, I had the right to prevent it.”

She nodded. “Okay with me. I didn’t feel like talking. Did I see Teacher with a shotgun? Guess we know for sure why he’s in Midnight.”

“I’ve had a talk with him and Madonna,” Lemuel said. “Now that I know your father hired them to protect you, not to kill you, we’ve come to an understanding.”

“Did you scare ’em to death?” Olivia said. She smiled at him.

“Pretty near. I’m going to stay here until I have to go, close to dawn,” he said, smiling back.

“They’re gonna come in here to check my blood pressure,” she said, protesting, already half asleep.

“Yes, I know. But they won’t turn me out,” he said. “I’m your husband.”

“You know what’s silly?” she breathed. “For a little while yesterday, I forgot!”

“You’ve been shot and you’re weak,” Lemuel said practically. “I’ll do the remembering until you’re better.”

“That’s good,” she said, and a little smile crossed her lips before she was out again.

Vampires like Lemuel did not have the gift of glamour, so he couldn’t hide himself from the nurse who came in an hour later, even if he’d wanted to.

“How’d you get in here?” she demanded. “No one’s supposed to be here!”

She wouldn’t have been so abrupt if he hadn’t scared her, he figured. That was why he kept his voice calm when he replied.

“I came to sit with my wife as soon as it was dark and I could rise,” he said in a very reasonable voice.

Olivia opened her eyes at the sound of voices.

“Ma’am, do you want this man here?” the nurse asked Olivia directly.

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