From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse novels comes the third novel of Midnight, Texas, the town where some secrets will never see the light of day...
At Midnight’s local pawnshop, weapons are flying off the shelves—only to be used in sudden and dramatic suicides right at the main crossroads in town. Who better to figure out why blood is being spilled than the vampire Lemuel, who, while translating mysterious texts, discovers what makes Midnight the town it is. There’s a reason why witches and werewolves, killers and psychics, have been drawn to this place...
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About the Author
Date of Birth:November 25, 1951
Place of Birth:Tunica, Mississippi
Education:B.A. in English and Communication Arts, Rhodes, 1973
Read an Excerpt
NIGHT SHIFT excerpt
The first suicide arrives one October night.
He is a middle-aged man with a scruffy beard. He parks his battered pickup in front of the Midnight Hotel. The six-to-midnight clerk, a junior college
Marina’s hope is dashed pretty quickly.
Peering out the glass door, she watches the man fall out of the pickup “like he was drunk,” she tells Deputy Gomez and Sheriff Arthur Smith.
Since Gomez knows Marina’s family, she also knows Marina is fully conversant with the behavior of drunk people.
“What did he do then?” the deputy asks.
“He walked funny, kind of leaning, like a big magnet was pulling him into the middle of the crossroad. And then he . . .” Marina’s voice trails off,
“You saw this from the front desk?” Smith asks. He’s checked the line of sight, and he’s skeptical.
“No, you can’t see the whole intersection from the desk,” Marina says immediately, but not as if she’s really thinking about the question. “I had
“Smart,” Gomez says. “So he was just carrying a gun in his hand?”
“He pulled a gun out of his waistband. And he shot himself.”
Gomez makes herself keep her eyes on Marina, though she’s tempted to turn to look at the dark heap still crumpled by the road. An ambulance is waiting
“He didn’t say anything? You didn’t see him make a phone call?” Sheriff Smith says instead, going over ground already covered. He’s seen a cheap cell
“No sir,” Marina tells him. “He didn’t do nothing but get out and shoot himself.” And she starts crying again. Deputy Gomez sighs and pats Marina on
Anna Gomez has never liked Midnight, and its people are all guilty until proven innocent to her, no matter what her boss says. But even Gomez can’t
Gomez gives in to the prickling on her skin and turns to look around her, feeling the eyes on her. The locals are awake and watching. Though this is
Midnight and its people give Gomez the creeps. But she has to admit, none of them approach her to ask questions, and none of them try to get close to
It never occurs to Anna Gomez that this is because they are all well aware of what a body looks like.
The next night, almost all the people in Midnight went up the steps to gather in the pawnshop owned by Bobo Winthrop, owner and proprietor, who worked the
Midnight Pawn was a very old store with wooden floors that creaked in a friendly way. It was crowded with many curious items. The big open area at the
But when there weren’t, like tonight, Bobo sat in his favorite velvet chair. It was very old, and the velvet was worn, but Bobo found it comfortable and
And there was one secluded corner full of magical items. Fiji Cavanaugh, the witch who lived across Witch Light Road, had suggested that Bobo let her
Tonight, Fiji came in first. She smiled at Bobo and found a place to sit where she could see everyone. The witch, a brown-haired woman in her late
The Rev and his ward, Diederik, took up chairs beside Fiji. The Rev was a sparse man; short in stature, short of words, thin and bony and dry. His thinning
The Rev’s companion, Diederik, provided a sharp contrast. Diederik radiated health and vitality. The boy looked as though he were nineteen, perhaps
Before he settled into his chair, Diederik gave Fiji a kiss on the cheek. She smiled at the boy, hoping the smile held nothing but motherly interest. When
Fiji looked over at Olivia Charity, the only other woman present. Did Olivia, too, have a few slightly conflicted feelings about Diederik? But she sensed
But Olivia let Fiji know who she was thinking about. “Lemuel’s still working on those books,” she said to Fiji, who hadn’t asked. “In fact, he eats,
“Golly,” said Fiji, who couldn’t think of anything more helpful to say. Lemuel could focus like a laser beam, but she’d never seen him that concentrated on
Chuy Villegas and Joe Strong, the couple who ran the Antique Gallery and Nail Salon, nodded easily to Bobo as they entered. Chuy patted Fiji’s shoulder.
Manfred Bernardo, the psychic who rented the house next door from Bobo, hurried in and threw himself into a chair by his landlord. He gave everyone a wave
“Why volunteer for pain?” she said.
“It’s for my art,” Manfred said dramatically, and they all laughed. Manfred regarded the tattoo with admiration. “Actually, I think it makes me look
No one raised the topic of the evening.
They were all waiting on Lemuel, who would be there when the sun set.
In October, the sun went down a little before seven thirty p.m. One of the clocks in the pawnshop chimed the half hour, and a minute or two later, Lemuel
The two were as much of a contrast as the Rev and Diederik. Bobo always seem relaxed, and now that he was in his thirties his blond hair was a little
“Did anyone know the man who killed himself last night?” Fiji asked the little crowd. “Joshua Allen, right, Manfred?”
“That’s what they said on the news.”
“I didn’t know him,” Lemuel said. His hoarse voice was at odds with his white, gleaming appearance. “But I knew the first one.”
There was a moment of absolute silence.
“The first one. The first what?” Olivia said.
“The first suicide.” Lemuel’s pale eyes went from one of them to another. If he was looking for someone to nod in agreement, he was disappointed.
Fiji was stumped. “Are you looking back a decade or something?” Vampires could lose track of time.
“I’m looking back a week,” Lemuel said, in a bored way. “The first one was at three in the morning last Tuesday. A homeless woman stabbed herself to death
Even Olivia had not expected this bombshell. “You didn’t tell me,” she said.
“I could not imagine that it had anything to do with Midnight,” he said. “No one was awake but me.”
Lemuel was up all night, of course. Though the pawnshop was up a few steps from the ground level, and though he was often behind the counter, the pawnshop
Fiji smiled to herself at the long silence. Even if Lemuel had said he’d been facing the wall when it happened, none of them would have dared to question
“I’ve met Tabby Ann,” she said. “She used to come by my place, looking for my aunt. Evidently, Great-Aunt Mildred used to give her leftovers. I gave her
“Where is her body, then?” Manfred asked. “Tabby Ann. What did you do with her?” There was another profound silence. “Wait, sorry, don’t need to know.” He
Lemuel smiled at Manfred, briefly. “Tabby Ann Masterson was a homeless woman,” Lemuel said, “as you call it now. I knew her during her better days, when
“Two suicides,” Joe Strong, who looked exactly like his name, said. “In the same spot, in the same town. Joshua Allen can’t be a copycat, since he couldn’t
Manfred said, “The article I read about him online said he was an itinerant laborer.”
“Which is another way of saying he didn’t belong anywhere.” Olivia’s voice was harsh. “But why choose Midnight for his death? Could it be a coincidence?”
Fiji felt doubtful, and she saw that same expression on the faces of everyone around her.
Bobo said, “This seems like a magic thing.” These were the first words he’d spoken all evening. Bobo had seemed a little broody for days, though no one was
Fiji made herself concentrate on the moment as she brushed her wild hair away from her face. “It would have to be because this is a crossroads,” she said
Reluctantly, Chuy Villegas raised a hand. When they all looked at him, he said, “The ghosts have been agitated.”
Manfred sat up straight and stared at Chuy. Short and swarthy and in his forties, Chuy did not look like the kind of man who would talk about ghosts in a
“We do,” said Joe. Joe was just as muscular as his partner, but taller and fairer.
“Do you see Aunt Mildred?” Fiji asked, startled. Her great-aunt had left her the cottage she lived in, and Fiji had adapted to life in Midnight as if she’d
“All the time,” Chuy said.
“She’s okay?” Fiji looked anxious.
“Right as rain,” Joe reassured her. “But lately, along with all the other ghosts, she’s been breaking routine.”
Manfred so wanted to ask what “routine” was for a spirit, but that would be veering off the subject. “Maybe I can ask some questions later,” he
“So they are feeling the pull of the crossroad, too,” Lemuel said, though not as if he were completely sure. “Or maybe something is coming to Midnight,
Fiji cleared her throat. “I think it must be already here. Otherwise, why two deaths on the same spot?”
Diederik said, “Can we kill it?” The boy was definitely excited.
“Not until we know what it is and what the consequences would be.” Joe turned to Lemuel. “Is this what you’ve been looking for in the books? Facts about
“I’m working on a translation,” Lemuel said rather coldly. “The books are all books written by vampires. For a few of them, the volume I have is the only
“When was it written?” the Rev said.
“It was written a couple of hundred years ago, so it is the most recent of the books. But it was written in a language that has not been spoken for two
The Rev nodded. Fiji could not tell if the ancient minister was glad, surprised, or irritated at this information.
“Who would be the intended reader of such a book? And how come you have to translate it?” Fiji was curious. “If it’s about America, shouldn’t it be in
Lemuel said, “It was written by a vampire who was touring the U.S. before I was born.”
“But the book’s only a couple hundred years old?” Fiji didn’t get it.
“Yes. I believe from the binding and the printing that this book has only been around for two centuries, give or take. And it may have been written long
“But . . .” She stopped, deciding to think rather than talk, which was always a good idea around Lemuel.
“The vampire was from a long-dead culture,” Joe said.
Lemuel nodded. “Before the Romans. I believe the vampire was Etruscan. I found a rough dictionary, written by a child of the only Etruscan vampire I’ve
Rasta whined at Joe’s feet, and he picked up the little dog and settled it on his lap. Chuy reached over to scratch Rasta’s head.
“Is there any way you can skip around a little in the book to find out if our crossroad is in there?” Manfred said tentatively. Offering Lemuel advice was
“I dare not skip around because I may miss the very thing I am reading the book to discover,” Lemuel said. “This place wasn’t named Midnight until the late
“More?” Bobo said. He gave Fiji a dismayed look.
Lemuel said, “Why stop at two?”
“At least they’re dying at night,” Fiji said, trying to find something to be glad about. “And at least no one else knows about the first one.”
“And that’s better because?” Manfred looked at her with his eyebrows raised.
“Because we have a chance of covering it up,” Diederik said promptly. “As Lemuel did the first one.”
“Can you imagine the news coverage?” Bobo spoke quietly, but everyone listened. “The headlines? ‘What Draws Suicides to This Remote Texas Town?’”
“Honey, I think they’re urging you to read quick as lightning,” Olivia said to Lemuel.
The vampire smiled. “I can get a lot done on night duty here,” he said. Lemuel worked the night shift at the pawnshop, which was closed from late afternoon
“Should we set some kind of watch?” Fiji asked. “To stop people?”
Manfred’s mouth turned down with distaste. Joe and Chuy looked grim. Olivia hunched her shoulders. Even for the Midnighters, who were used to weird and
“I’m not sure how we could stop them,” Bobo said. They all looked at him. “If someone’s determined, he just walks out there and shoots himself, like the
“But we had no warning, and now we know,” Fiji said.
“I don’t think we can stay awake all night for the remote chance that someone else will stop to off himself,” Manfred said. “We’d have had to have been right by Joshua Allen last night. He got out of his truck, took a step or two, pulled out the gun, and blam! What if one of us had tried
There was a scattering of nods.
“So we won’t keep a night watch,” Lemuel concluded. “But I’ll do my best to spot any others who appear at the crossroad.”
“Did you see that there’s a new guy at Gas N Go?” Olivia said.
Chuy and Joe, who lived one vacant building away from the corner convenience store, smiled simultaneously. “You should see him,” Chuy said. “He’s . . .
Fiji, who was removing the spell that had kept interlopers out of the store during their meeting, finished her task and rejoined the conversation. “Not
“Nope. Go see.” Chuy laughed. “Teacher was in to fix our showerhead and faucet yesterday, and he was delighted to be free of the Gas N Go.”
“He didn’t have to take charge,” Joe said.
“He said the money was good and steady.” Olivia shrugged. “Hard to turn down when you have a baby. Madonna said she enjoyed knowing where he was all the
“I’m surprised she talked to you enough to tell you that,” Joe said.
It was true that Madonna was not much of a talker. None of the Midnighters felt they knew her. And no matter how friendly her husband Teacher was, he never
“I’ll go down to Gas N Go soon. It’s always nice to have a new community member,” Fiji said brightly, as they all stood up to leave.
Joe and Chuy laughed.
Before Fiji could ask them to explain what was so amusing about the newcomer, a customer came in.
They all turned at the ringing of the bell over the door.
The customer was haggard, and very young, and he was towing a girl by the hand. She was in her teens, but she hadn’t gotten there easily. From the way her
“Here!” the boy said to Lemuel, shoving the girl toward him. “I want to pawn her!”
They all froze, waiting to hear what Lemuel would say.
“I don’t take live people or live animals,” the vampire said mildly. “And lest you should think that means I want her dead, you best think again.”
“Then I’ll pawn my soul!” The boy laughed again, defiant and dramatic, obviously feeling he was making a grand gesture.
“Never say that.” Chuy made his way through the chairs to where the boy stood. “You only have one. You can’t imagine the price of it, or the cost of losing
Under Chuy’s serious eyes, the boy wilted a little. “I owe someone a lot of money, and I was going to sell some Ecstasy, but she took it all,” he
“You mean she ingested it all?” Manfred said, alarmed. “Doesn’t she need to go to a hospital?”
This had obviously not occurred to the boy, who gave a violent sort of shrug, as if to throw off this petty concern when his own problems were so much
Manfred’s fists clenched and he took a step forward. Fiji had the same reaction. Somewhat to Fiji’s surprise, Chuy was faster than either of them. He’d
Chuy removed his thumb.
The boy said, “I’m sorry.” His gaze was almost as blank as the girl’s, but his stance was relaxed and receptive. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “I should be
“Yes,” said Chuy sadly. “It is, boy. You are a bad one, but a young bad one. You may be able to change.”
“I’m going to try,” the boy said. Without another word, he left the pawnshop, and they heard his car start up and drive away.
Fiji said, “What do we do with her?”
Joe crouched by the girl’s chair and took her limp hand. “Her parents are Margaret and Louis Hatter. They live in Davy,” he said with assurance, and no one
Manfred looked the address up on his phone, which he then laid down on the counter and forgot. “I’ll run her home,” he said. “Feej, you want to come with
“Okay,” she said, casting a glance at Bobo, who was looking at her (again!) with an expression she couldn’t read. He appeared to be lost in some unpleasant
Fiji sighed heavily, not even aware she did so, and she turned back to help Manfred. Between them, they supported the Hatter girl across the pawnshop
The search for the Hatters’ house took longer than Fiji had anticipated, since street signs were not abundant in Davy and Manfred had run out without his
Manfred tugged the girl’s hands until he got her out of the back seat. Then Fiji looped one of the girl’s arms around her neck, and Manfred did the same
“Oh, Marilyn,” she said sadly. “Again.”
“You’re Margaret Hatter?” Fiji asked. “Her mom?”
“Yes.” Margaret Hatter didn’t sound happy about it. “Here, I’ll take her.” She didn’t ask Fiji any questions or level any accusations during the awkward
Fiji said, “We found her like this.” She wanted to make it absolutely clear she and Manfred had had nothing to do with Marilyn’s condition.
“All right,” said the woman, as if Fiji had asked her to believe something quite impossible. “Sure, honey.”
Stung, Fiji opened her mouth to protest this implied judgment.
“I hope she gets better,” Manfred said rather loudly, and yanked Fiji away from the door.
It was closing, anyway.
On the drive back to Midnight they were mostly silent. When he dropped her off at her house, Fiji said, “I just didn’t want her to think . . .” The
“Give it up, Feej,” Manfred said. “Mrs. Hatter didn’t ask a single question. She was going to think the worst if we’d had wings and white robes and a
“I can’t really blame her,” Fiji said.
Manfred sighed. “Neither can I,” he said.
“I hope this is the end of the trouble,” Fiji said after a short silence.
“We all do. But you know it’s not.”
From her front porch, Fiji watched Manfred’s car begin moving. Since there was no one coming, he backed across Witch Light Road. She stayed outside for a
Catty-cornered from where she stood, Fiji could see that the lights inside Gas N Go were still on, and someone was moving around inside. As she watched,
After a moment, Fiji went inside and opened a locked drawer under the counter in the shop. There was a curious selection of items in the drawer: a crumpled
Instead of going to read in her bedroom, her original thought, Fiji returned to the window to look out at the traffic light and the pavement below it.
Fiji tried to detect something different about the intersection, but there was nothing visible, even to a witch.
But Fiji was sure this particular crossroad was exerting some malignant pull. She hoped it would not spread a pall over all the people who lived around it,
No coincidence in the world would allow for two people, who presumably did not know each other, to commit suicide in the same place within a few days. This
Or was there? Wasn’t that the kind of cosmic joke that made regular people decide places were haunted, or cursed?
“Well,” she told her marmalade cat, Mr. Snuggly, who’d come to stand beside her, “I guess we’ll know soon.”
Excerpted from "Night Shift"
Copyright © 2017 Charlaine Harris.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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