Home > Nightshifted (Edie Spence #1)(5)

Nightshifted (Edie Spence #1)(5)
Author: Cassie Alexander

The Filipino women I used to work with believed in ghosts. After working in Y4, I probably should too.

I sat up and turned around. A portion of the photographs had been ripped off the walls revealing mold underneath, dark and crusted, like deep scabs. Shredded images littered the floor showing little strips of flesh, the corners of stained mattresses, and bleak stares with darkness behind.

“I’m so sorry.” I started backing out of the room, unwilling to turn my back on what was there, out of fear and shame. “I’m so, so sorry.”

A cold wind went through the room, stirring the photos like fall leaves. And when it finished running through me and out the door behind, the fragments of photos on the floor resolved into the shape of an address number and a name.

I remembered a quote from my grandma—just being sorry never helped anyone. I dusted my hands off and reached for my phone.

* * *

Three cab companies and a credit card number later, I found someone who’d pick me up. They wanted me at the curb at 7:12 on the nose and if I wasn’t there, they’d gladly keep my deposit. After I hopped in I gave the cabbie my next address—much different from the one I’d given his company on the phone.

“You gotta be kidding me.”

“I’ll triple your fare.” It was do it now, or not at all.

I watched him weigh the extra money against his personal safety, divided by the time of night, and he must have gotten an answer he agreed with, because he went my way.

I stared out the window as the cab ignored stop signs, rolling through perpetually grimmer neighborhoods until he brought the car to a halt.

“You sure you want off here? I ain’t coming back for you.”

“If this is the right address.” I peeled bills out of my bra and handed them over. So much for this month’s student loan payment. The cab rushed off the moment I closed the door.

There weren’t address numbers posted here, but I saw that the third floor on one building had metal sheets nailed up over all the windows. A homemade asylum, a pot farm, or a dark place to keep vampires in captivity—someone had something to hide. I pulled out a cologne bottle and headed for the door.

* * *

The air inside this new place had the smell of cat pee and vinegar—the pungent byproducts of cooking large-scale meth or personal-use he**in. Luckily, I was used to junkies. A hairless girl in the stairwell was picking at a nonexistent scab. I skirted her and mounted the stairs two at a time.

My hand began to throb as I walked down the third-floor hall. I took off my winter gloves and found the bruise covering my entire palm, and it ached, bad. Without thinking about why I knew to do it, I placed my hand on one door after another until I found one that was cold, and the pain stopped.

No landlady and no House here. I hit the door with my marked hand, hard. “Delivery!”



There were sounds behind the door. Metal scraping against metal. Whispers. The door opened to reveal a narrow-faced man, and the smell of sex and blood washed out around him.

I knew I was in the right place. I just knew.

“What do you want?” he asked. I held up the cologne bottle and pressed the plunger, hard and fast. Nothing happened. He tried to slam the door shut and would’ve too, if my steel toe hadn’t been in the way.

“Fuck this.” I unscrewed the cap and sloshed the contents at him. He started shrieking. Mr. November had managed to get the good stuff.

“Jesus Christ!” He stumbled to his knees and started scratching at his face.

“Something like that.” I shoved him out of my way with the door. “Anna?”

The room’s devastation was almost complete. Two lightbulbs dangled from the ceiling on threadbare wires. Waterlogged wallpaper sagged down to the floor. A shiny black camera on a tripod occupied the center of the room, keeping its mechanical eye on a dirty mattress on the dirty floor, where a girl was chained like a bad dog. She looked about nine, but I knew there was no way to tell.

“Anna?” I repeated.

Her eyes flickered over my shoulder, which is why I ducked just in time.

All the sexy vampires on TV and all the weakened half ones I’d seen on Y4—nothing prepared me for the disgusting creature that hurled itself at me, arms out, lips stretched tight against a smile full of knives. I twisted away and ran to get my back against the wall. His breath washed over me as he passed by, with the scent of smoke and rotting apples. I held the open bottle of holy water out in one hand, and held the other up like a grenade, unscrewing its cap with my thumb.

“I just want the girl!” I shouted.

Was killing a vampire still murder? The man I’d first hit with the fluid was still writhing around the floor, his hands against his face—only now, dust was leaking through the gaps between his fingers.

“Get out!” the fresh attacker said with a heavy accent. His gaze flickered to the open bottle. His nose was flat, his nostrils mere slits, and the skin of his cheeks rippled upward to accommodate his wide swath of teeth.

“Hell, no.” She’d invited me in. Or Mr. November had. I needed to be here. Stone-gray eyes regarded me and then looked at his dust-weeping friend. He squinted and sniffed the air deep, like an animal, then came to a decision.

“Fine.” He reached into his pocket and found a lighter, lit it, and backed away from me and toward his accomplice.

What was it Gina had said? The dust was bad? It was—flammable? I dropped to one knee and braced.

What it was, was like gunpowder.

A flash of heat billowed out. I threw my arm up to protect my face. Not all of the first vampire was dust yet—the part that wasn’t screamed until it couldn’t anymore. When I could see again, the second vampire had taken off, running down the hall. By then, what was left of the first one was debatable.

I looked to the girl. She watched the burning vampire, the light of his fire glittering in her eyes.

“Anna?” I asked again. She made no response for or against the name. “Look—” I began. I was pretty sure the apartment wouldn’t go up in flames, but she couldn’t stay chained here. I gestured with my free hand so she could watch me put the bottles back in my pocket. And then I reached out with my bruised hand, not for her, but for the pipe that she was chained to.

She lunged forward like a feral cat and bit my outstretched hand. I felt her grind her teeth together, scissoring through my flesh, one fang hitting bone. I screamed and fell to my knees. She stood above me, my blood smeared across her face, teeth latched into the crotch of my hand.


I thought I might pass out from the pain. My vision was narrowing, and my breath came in gulps. My free hand found the full cologne bottle in my pocket—I could give her what I’d given them. Then I felt the photo I’d brought beside it. I had one choice, before she bit off my thumb.

“Stop!” I said, with the voice of nursing command, the voice that made it through even the densest skulls and thickest stupors.

“Anna!” I shouted, and I showed her the picture, the half-dollar-sized photo that may or may not have had her in it.

The chewing lessened. Slowly, almost regretfully, she unfastened her bite from my hand with a sickening pop.

“Thanks.” I took a moment to breathe, and stumbled to stand up, to get farther from the temptation of the floor. I was riding adrenaline and endorphins now, and maybe narcotic vampire saliva too. I’d get through, but for how long? I looked at my mangled hand like it was someone else’s, wound my scarf around it, and shoved it in my pocket. I needed to finish what I’d come to do.

The dwindling embers of the vampire behind us gave me enough light to work by. I popped the camera off its tripod, ejected its media, and tossed it onto the vampire’s dying flame. It went up in bitter smoke, and I pocketed the camera before turning to reach for the ridiculously ancient plumbing. Anna’d been too short and light to pull down the pole she was chained to herself, but I was healthy and tall—I reached for it with my unharmed hand and hauled down with all my weight.

The pipe crumbled in my hands. Flakes of rust showered down and some foul, puslike substance oozed out from its upper end. Anna saw the free end appear and ran for it, unlooping her chains and running away at full speed. She leaped over the embers of the first vampire’s corpse, off into the night.

Was that saving her? Did I rescue her, or set her loose? My pocket was heavy with the warm weight of my own blood. I fumbled for my cell phone, hit the history key, and redialed up a cab.

* * *

The same cabbie picked me up, despite his promise to the contrary. Funny how cash will do that to people.

“It was you or an ambulance,” I explained as I got inside. I didn’t think he could see the blood, as it was dark and my coat was black, but I would have bet all my remaining cash that he could smell it.

“This shit is why we do not come down here,” he said. He started driving uptown. I slumped against the passenger side window.

“Take me to County.”

“What?” He spared a glance at me. “I’m taking you to Providence General.”

“No, take me to my hospital.”

“County’s a shithole,” he said. I didn’t have the strength to argue, and besides, he was right.

I dialed Jake next, my brother. He picked up on the third ring.

“I knew you’d come around, Sissy—”

“Jake—you gotta meet me at County.”

There was a pause. I could almost hear him making up excuses. “It’s late.” The truth was he’d lose his bed at the shelter for the night if he left.

“You can crash at my place for a few days.” I flexed my bleeding hand, unwisely. Pain lanced up my arm and I hissed into the receiver. “I need someone to watch Minnie. Take a cab over, right now, I’ll pay.”

“You sure?” An unfamiliar worry tinged his voice.

“Yeah. Just hurry, okay?”

He’d already hung up.

I fought to stay awake as the cab flew along. We passed the exit for Providence, another freeway, up toward the nicer part of town. But my cabbie stayed the course, going south, until a blue HOSPITAL sign glowed outside the window, the cab’s headlights making its silver right-turn arrow into a shining command.

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