Home > Nightshifted (Edie Spence #1)(10)

Nightshifted (Edie Spence #1)(10)
Author: Cassie Alexander

I wanted to believe they were anthropomorphic, as I assumed I’d met one—the man who’d gotten me to sign the dotted line when I was first here with Jake. I hadn’t seen him since. But Charles said “they” (complete with scare quotes) lurked in the corners by our entrance door, screening visitors, unseen. Since that made them sound like omnipotent dust bunnies, I preferred the version of them in my own imagination.

We did have ancillary staff, and not all of them were permanent Y4 employees. I felt sure the daytime social workers were, the nursing managers, and of course the doctors and all us RNs. But the respiratory therapists that came through and an occasional extra janitor usually seemed to pause in the doorway an extra second or two, both on their way out and on their way in. When you saw them above in County’s normal hallways and waved, they were usually polite in return, but their faces had that look of “Who are you?” that never reached any satisfactory conclusion. Sometimes I waved at them for the fun of it.

I ducked into the break room and surveyed the food-for-all left out from prior shifts on the small table.

“Awwww, you miss us,” Charles said from the door, peeking in.

I put on my best “hardly” face, borrowed from Shawn. “No. You guys just have the biggest refrigerator.” But he was already gone. I pulled a Diet Coke out of the fridge that I’d been holding in reserve, grabbed my PB&J, and followed him to the floor.

“So who’s here tonight?” I asked.

“Two motor vehicle accidents, one end-stage cancer, and one really advanced STD.” He jerked his chin forward. “Go check out the corrals.”

I did as I was told, walking around the nursing station toward rooms one and two. I waved to Meaty, who nodded without looking up. Turning the corner I found Gina with a large flowsheet spread out over two of our skinny desks.

“Whatcha working on?”

“The schedule.” She fluttered a stack of pink time-off requests, and I felt my stomach drop again. Just because they hadn’t deactivated my badge didn’t mean they weren’t going to shortly take it away.

“Am I back on soon?” I asked, glad my voice didn’t break.

“What, you miss us?”

The flush that I denied Charles, I let rise now. “No. My cat. Bills,” I stammered.

“Uh-huh.” She chuckled. “You’re on in two nights. And then I scheduled you straight through a week so you wouldn’t have to burn out your paid time off on your sick leave.”

Brillant! Not that I’d ever be able to afford a vacation, but I derived a certain satisfaction from accruing the hours. “Thanks, Gina, that’s great.”

“No problem.”

There was a rustling and then a scratching sound behind steel door number one. “Who’s on first?”

She pointed up to the closed-camera TV without looking.

I looked up and blinked twice. It isn’t every day you see something that you’ve never seen before. The daytimers and vampires—they look like humans. And high-level zombies (the Haitian-magic kind, not the grungy movie undead) and most of the weres I’d seen, when they visited, all looked human too. No one came in shaped like a wolf, though sometimes once they were here they ended up that way. Those forms were all on my radar, from walking down the street, movies, the zoo or the Discovery Channel. But what was on the camera’s circuit right now was something I was completely unprepared to believe existed.

A dragon.

It roiled around the steel-plated room, two sizes too small for it, overlapping its scaly self. It was a deep emerald green, like it was carved out of moving jade, and it didn’t have any wings, but it had four legs, a tail, and a snout that was muzzled.

“Sweet Jesus Jones.”

“Pretty awesome, right? They’re freaking rare.” Gina put her spreadsheet down. “I’ve only seen one twice before.”

My jaw was still dropped. “What—how?”

“Weres can happen in all sorts of forms. He, as a human, was in town on business. He doesn’t have any other members of his clan here for a safe house—they’re mostly seen in Europe and Asia. He noticed some problems with his parts”—her hand swirled over her lap, indicating her nether regions—“so he came in.”

“What’s he sick with?”

“Syphilis. Would you believe it? We’re treating him now, huge amounts of penicillin, and he’ll be fine, but you can see why we didn’t want him out spreading it on the streets.”

I snorted, remembering a youth misspent reading fantasy novels. “Yeah, just think of the virgins.”

Gina glared at me.

“You’re serious?”

“Totally. He probably wouldn’t get anyone pregnant in human form—the were dragons are pretty inbred. But he could totally transmit his disease, and he does have a genetic proclivity toward pretty young things. He’s very charismatic too. I talked to him some before his form came on. Lovely British accent.”

My heart skipped a beat. “Really?”

She nodded. “Why?”

I shook my head. The chances of me having recently slept with a charismatic dragon with an STD had just gone from absolute zero to something in the finite range. Compared to this, my angry Germanic mystery in pediatrics was boring.

Charles came around the corner. “Finding a virgin in this town must be pretty hard, charisma or no.”

Gina shrugged. “It does happen, you know.”

“Hell, finding a virgin in this hospital must be pretty hard,” Charles continued. I gave a nervous laugh.

“Since seventy-six here,” Meaty offered from around the bend.

The three of us looked from one to the other. Was that when Meaty had lost his/her/its virginity? Or the last time he/she/it had had sex? I shuddered. There were some things about your charge nurse that you didn’t want to know.

After an awkward silence, Gina cleared her throat. “Anyhow, move along, there’s nothing to see here. I’ve got scheduling to do.”

I went and sat back at the station for the rest of my break, eating dinner there like we’re not supposed to, and reviewing the charts of the patients that might be mine if they stuck around till I got back.


When I returned to pediatrics, the German was rising to a fever pitch.

“Did you turn that on?” I asked the Hello Kitty nurse who’d relieved me.

She raised an eyebrow. “I thought you’d put it on?”

I waved my hands. There was an effing dragon on Y4. Who cared about a broken CD player now? “I probably did and forgot. Did I miss anything?”

“Nothing, really. I charted your vitals and kept an eye on the fort.” She packed up her things. “Oh, a diaper change on the little one. Weighed seventy-five grams.”

Score! Only five more hours to avoid a diaper change for the rest of the night. It was hard to resist pumping my fist in the air in triumph.

“Thanks so much!” I said, and she waved through the glass door as she left.

I set up shop on the desk again, stethoscope, charts, pen, and notes just the way I liked, and then paced around the table to see where the CD player was set. I turned it off, flipped it over, and popped out the four double A’s.

“There,” I said, and set it back down.

I’d only taken three steps away when the German began again. I looked down at the batteries in my hand, and back at the CD player. The CD player’s on light was shining a defiant green.

“You have got to be kidding me.”

The only other thing on the table with the CD player was the telephone. And then it occurred to me—what the hell was he saying?

I picked up the phone and dialed the hospital translation hotline. I got their night message and waited on hold for an operator.

“Hello—I need a German translator, please.”

“One moment!”

There was hold music while the German continued. Would they be able to hear it too? It wasn’t just in my head, though, Hello Kitty had heard it—so had the P.M. shift nurse.


“Hello—I have a German patient here, and I need to translate their questions. Can I put you on speaker phone?”


The translator on the phone sounded much more perky than I felt. Maybe she was in a time zone where it was daylight outside. I hit the speaker button and set the headset down.

The German continued. It rose and fell in inflection, always with the same serious tone, but now that I listened to it, it sounded like a Bible story, preachy and full of hidden meaning.

“Is this some sort of prank?” the translator asked. “Or a test?”

“What are they saying?” I pressed.

“I think they’re telling a story about Wayland the Smith.”

“Really? What kind of story is that?”

“You’re wasting my time—”

“Who else needs German translators this time of night?”

“I also speak Tagalog,” she huffed, then hung up.

I looked down at the little CD player that could. Well, well, Wayland the Smith. At least that was a start.

* * *

I made sure to catch up on all of my charting before hopping online for my current goose chase. I sat down behind the desk, double-checked that the charge nurse couldn’t possibly see me again, and did a search on Mr. Smith, Wayland the.

Through the County’s loose firewall, I found a few pages. It was an olden-times story, mostly myths, about a smith capable of producing great jewelry and weapons. An evil king wanted Wayland to work for him alone, so he captured the smith, then hamstrung him to trap him on an island. In retaliation, Wayland took the king’s sons, who’d come privately to him for their own work, and killed them and made their skulls into goblets and brooches from their teeth, sending these back to the king. In the end, he’d escaped captivity on wings he’d forged himself.

I could get the parallel between a mythical hamstrung Wayland and a quadriplegic Shawn; it was just a bit morbid, was all. I looked back at Shawn, the player’s green light illuminating his face. Maybe the CD was full of charming German folktales to tell kids at hospitals. Kids love being threatened with ovens for liking candy. But if it provided him solace, who was I to question? After Mr. November’s apartment, I was willing to believe in ghosts. I pulled the batteries from my pocket and set them back inside the machine. “Sorry about that, Grandfather.”

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