The Devil in Nita Dodd, Act 1 (4)


Nita hit Sandy’s Diner after four hours of sleep, most of that uneasy because Jimmy was dead, there had been a skeleton, and then somebody had tried to kill her.  Food first, she thought as she walked into the diner, its egg-yolk-yellow walls and shiny black and white tile feeling like home.  Time to count her blessings: She was still alive, it was getting warmer out, she was wearing her new birthday black cat over-the-knee socks from Keres—“Cat faces on the knees!” Keres had said when she’d handed her the package the day before. “Sadie at Demonista is a genius!”—her hangover was minimal, and she was about to have excellent eggs. 

But Jimmy was dead.  She hadn’t been close to him, he was just a nice guy she knew, but the world needed nice guys.  She was going to miss his big goofy face.  “He looks like a giant thumb,” her sister Keres had said once, “but it’s a good thumb.” 

Just hell.

Somebody called out “Spooky!,” and she waved to the people she knew, which was pretty much everybody.  Phronie Fernal at the counter called out “Happy Birthday, Neet,” and the Hotels waved as Statler said, “And many more, Spook!”  and even glum Dorothy Idle managed a wave.  Nita called back, “Thank you,” ignored Jason Witherspoon scowling at her from the back of the room, and took her favorite seat next to the radiator by the sunny bay window at the front, dropping her black canvas messenger bag on the seat next to her.  Sandy called, “Happy birthday, honey.  Breakfast coming right up, we put it on as soon as you called!” and Nita waved her thanks again, closed her eyes, and sank into the heat, which grew even greater when somebody pulled out the chair across from hers.

Him, she thought and opened her eyes.

He was still absurdly good-looking in the daylight, all chiseled jaw and cheekbones, plus there was all that heat, so she said, “New Guy,” and let him sit down with his plate and large glass of orange juice. 

“My name is Nick.”

Did you send somebody to kill me last night, Nick?  she thought, but looking at him now, it seemed improbable.  He looked like the kind of guy who’d do it himself. “Hello, Nick.”

The bell on the door behind her rang, Jeo and Rab walked in, and Nita looked past them, distracted by the tray that Sandy’s daughter Daphne was bringing.  Hot food. Yes.         

Daphne looked darling in a Rosie the Riveter red-dotted scarf wound round her head like a band, her curly black hair fanning out around it, and Jeo slowed and smiled at her, and she slowed and smiled, too, and Nita thought, Yeah, yeah, young love, bring me eggs.  Rab grabbed a table in the back, whistling at Jeo as he jerked his head toward Nick, and Jeo sighed and walked back to him as Daphne came to the table and unloaded an assortment of thick, white china plates and mugs and two glasses onto the yellow Formica-topped table.

She smiled at Nita, looking like Sandy must have twenty years before. “Happy birthday, Neet!  Eggs over easy.  Bacon. Whole-wheat toast.  French toast. Syrup.  Ice water.  Orange juice. Hot tea.  Anything else, honey?”

“This looks wonderful, thank you,” Nita said, and then was distracted by Nick staring at her food.

Daphne looked at Nick with loathing and left, and Dorothy Idle got up from the next table, sad and defeated in her red puffy jacket and slowed as she reached their table. 

“Happy birthday, Nita.”

“Dorothy, if you’d just tell me–” Nita began, but Dorothy patted her shoulder and moved on, a shadow of her formerly annoyingly cheerful and effusive self.

“Dorothy?” Nick said.

“Dorothy has a problem.  I’ll fix it if I have to use thumbscrews on her to find out what it is.”  Nita picked up a piece of toast. “What did you do to Daphne to make her look at you like that?”

“Jeo can’t date.  She blames me.”

“Why can’t he—never mind, I don’t care.” 

“What’s Dorothy’s problem?”

“She used to run the Idle Hand’s Gift Shoppe and then some off-islander bought it and is ruining it.  There’s something really wrong there, but she won’t talk to me.”  Nita stabbed her toast point into the middle of one of her eggs, sopping up the hot, golden yolk that burst out, thick and rich over the shiny, peppery white.  When she bit into it, it was marvelously warm and savory and buttery and crunchy, and she closed her eyes at the sheer pleasure of all of it.  “So you sent Jimmy out yesterday to get information for you. What was it?” 

Nick was staring at her plate.  “What kind of eggs are those?” 

“These?  Eggs over easy.” She looked at the pale slab of protein on his plate as she chewed. “What is that?”

“Egg white omelet.”  Nick looked down at his plate with no enthusiasm.  “I was told it’s healthy.”

“It is.  That’s no reason to eat it.  Don’t go giving a moral dimension to breakfast, you’ll ruin it.”   Nita sopped up more egg yolk.  “What did you send Jimmy after?”

He watched, fixated on the eggs. “I sent two agents to this island to find something.  They both disappeared.  I asked Jimmy to see what he could find out them.”

She stopped sopping egg yolk.  “Two people disappeared here?  Did you file missing persons reports?”

“No, we investigated.  Sadiel, the first one, was staying at a bed and breakfast outside of town, the Inn Fernal, and Forcas was staying at Motel Styx.  The trail goes cold there.” 

Nita nodded over her eggs.  “There’s nothing wrong about the Inn.  It’s a family business, been on the island for years.  Phronie, Euphronia Fernal, the woman who runs it now, is very nice, grew up here, came back to the island after she got her medical degree, runs a clinic out of the back of the Inn.  She’s the one sitting over there at the counter next to Jeo’s table if you want to talk to her, pretty black woman in the blue dress.  She did not make anybody disappear.  But Motel Styx . . .”  Nita stopped to dip her toast again.  “Motel Styx is hinky.  The Hotels used to run it, and it was tacky but fun, and then about a year ago they sold it to an off-islander for a reason they will not explain, and they’ve been miserable ever since.”

Nick frowned.  “Like Dorothy.”

“Exactly like Dorothy.”  Nita finished the toast and picked up her fork.  “I am not at all surprised somebody disappeared at Motel Styx. Why didn’t you file reports so we could look for these missing people?”  She followed his eyes to her plate.  “Why do you keep staring at my eggs?”

“I’ve never seen eggs like that before.”

She frowned at him, incredulous.  “Where do you live, on the moon?”

“I used to live in Italy,” he said.

“They have eggs over easy in Italy.”

“And now I live in Hell.”

“Don’t we all.  Stop staring at my breakfast and tell me about your missing people.”

He leaned back in his chair and waved to Sandy, and she came over, beaming at them both. 

“Oh, this is nice, you two knowing each other,” she said. “What can I get you?”

Nick pointed at Nita’s plate. “Those eggs, please.”

Sandy beamed harder.  “Oh, thank god.  It really hurt me giving you those egg white omelets.”

When she was gone, Nita got back to her eggs and business. “So, these missing people.”

“Sadiel reported back once and went missing.  Forcas came down and tried to find her and the gate. He reported three times and then went missing.  I tried to talk to the Inn Fernal woman—”


“–about Sadiel, but she shut the door because I’m a stranger, and the Motel Styx guy just kept saying he didn’t remember any Forcas, although I know he stayed there.   So I sent Jimmy out to ask questions.”

Nita nodded.  “We’re careful on the island.  We’ve had some off-island journalists make up stuff about demons, so we don’t talk to strangers much. If we want to talk to a reporter, we have our own.”

“You have a newspaper here?”

“The Demon Island Daily.  Staff of three.  Dom, the editor, is very smart, good guy to have on your side.”  She flipped the last of her egg onto her whole-wheat toast and made a sandwich.  “What did Jimmy find out?  Did you file a missing persons report?”

“I don’t know, we got shot.  No, I didn’t file a report.  Where can I get a copy of today’s Daily?”

“It comes out on Fridays.”  Nita bit into her eggs-and-toast.

“The Demon Island Daily is a weekly.”

“In the winter, it’s a weekly,” Nita said when she’d swallowed. “May through October, it’s a daily.” The door behind her opened again. “Listen I can help you find your agents.”  She picked up a piece of bacon and waved it at him.  “You know.  Because I’m the police.

A brown-haired bear of a man stopped beside the table. “Yes, you are.  So what happened last night?”

Nita looked up into the guy’s broad face.  “Speak of the devil.”  She looked at Nick.  “Not you.” She looked back at the bear. “Nothing happened, Dom.  Go away. Have some breakfast.”

The bear frowned down at her.  “Cut me a break Nita.  It’s March. You know what the news is like here in the winter, and then there are two shootings in one night?’

“Two shootings?” Nick stared at her.

“I’ve got the background on Jimmy,”  Dom went on, “but I want to know about your exchange of gunfire, too.  Since when do you shoot people?”

Nita shook her head.  “I have no comment except that the Demon Island police are doing their usual fine job of protecting the populace.  Go eat your breakfast.”

“Detective Nita Dodd refused to comment, perhaps because she has something to hide?”

Nita put her fork down.  “Come on, Dom.  I have nothing to hide.”  Lie, she thought, but then everybody had something to hide.

“Everybody has something to hide.” Dom nodded to Nick. “Hi.  I’m Dominic Brown, editor of the Demon Island News.  You’re Nick Giordano?  And the Devil, I hear.”

“Yes on Giordano, not yet on the Devil.” Nick looked at Nita. “Exchange of gunfire?”

“Somebody tried to shoot Nita last night,” Dom said helpfully.

“And now I’d like to eat breakfast,” Nita said, seeing the pit of her lies open before her.  “Dom, Nick’s company sent two agents to the island who disappeared.  Print that.”

Dom got out his notebook.  “Let’s start with their names.”

“No,” Nick said.  “We’re keeping that quiet until we find them.”

Dom looked at them both with equal disgust.  “You know I’m going to get this stuff.  Why don’t you just tell me the truth?”

“Because you’ll print it,” Nita said, as the door behind her opened again.  “Go away, Dom.   You’re ruining breakfast.”

Dom sighed and ambled over to the counter where Sandy greeted him with a big smile and a hot cup of coffee.

“He’s a good guy,” Nita said to Nick.  “But he’s a demon about getting the news.  That’s a metaphor, he’s not really a demon because demons are a myth.  So about your missing agents.  You need my help.”

Nick shook his head.  “Thank you, no, we’ll find them.  You shot somebody?”

“Forget the shooting, that’s over.” Nita shot a glance at Dom, who was now laughing with Sandy but not that far away, so she leaned forward, enjoying the extra heat, and lowered her voice.  “We have two missing people and a murder, and it’s all tied up with you.”

Nick leaned in, too, bringing his heat with him.  “That’s two shootings on an island that is supposed to be gun free.  That’s not a coincidence.”

“I sincerely doubt Jimmy and I have a common enemy.”  She took a bite of bacon and realized he wasn’t listening to her any more, looking past her instead.

“Don’t look around,” he said, and she resisted the urge to immediately look around.  “There’s a man in a suit at the register, staring at you.  Middle-aged, balding, round face, round glasses–”

“Looks very sweet, probably heading this way now,” Nita finished for him.   “That would be the Mayor, here for breakfast as usual.” She dropped the bacon, wiped her fingers on her napkin, and pointed a finger at him.  “Do notsay anything about the supernatural. Or about the guy who tried to shoot me last night.  Especiallyabout the guy who tried to shoot me last night.”

She stood up and turned.

“Good morning, baby,” the Mayor said as he reached the table and opened his arms.  “Happy birthday.”

“Hi, Daddy.” Nita hugged him.  “This is the New Guy in town.  New Guy, this is the Mayor.”

“Nick Giordano.” Nick stood to offer his hand. 

The Mayor let go of her long enough to shake it.  “Hello, Nick.  How do you know my daughter?”

“Back up, Daddy.” Nita moved between him and Nick.  “Did you see what happened to your streetlight?  Big damage.  Better get on that.”

He patted her on the shoulder.  “Just looking out for my little girl.” He leaned around her to survey Nick.  “So, Nick, staying on the island long?”

“And now it’s time for you to have breakfast.” Nita turned him gently back toward the rest of the diner.  “Before I arrest you for harassing tourists.”

“So you’re a tourist, Nick,” the Mayor said, trying to turn back.

Daddy,” Nita said and he kissed her cheek, said, “Happy Birthday, baby,” looked Nick up and down one more time, and then moved on to greet everybody else in the diner, one by one. 

Nita sighed and sat down.   “I have to finish this fast before the Mayor sits down beside Dom and finds out about the shooting.”

“Your father has very blue eyes,” Nick said.

Nita pulled her French toast over.  “I’d fix the two of you up, but I don’t think he likes you.” She poured syrup over her toast, thick and sweet.

“There’s a lot of that this morning,” Nick said, watching her. “Why would somebody try to kill you if you’re this well-liked and the mayor’s daughter? That makes no sense.”

Nita picked up her fork.  “What makes no sense is somebody killing Jimmy.  Everybody liked Jimmy.  So it has to be this job you sent him on.  What were your agents looking for here?” 

She cut into the thick egg-battered toast, and Nick said. “What is that?”

“Is this the first time you’ve had breakfast?  Because French toast is not esoteric.  Is this part of your con that you’re not human or are you just ducking my question?”

“I’m human, I’m just dead.” Nick frowned at her toast. “Usually I don’t eat when I’m on Earth, so I have to learn how to do it again.  Explain French toast and then tell me about this shooting.”

He seemed genuinely curious, so she said, “It’s bread cooked in egg with butter and topped with syrup.  Here.”  She flipped a piece over onto his white omelet and shoved the syrup over to him. “Sandy puts the butter on for me so all it needs is syrup.”

He put a little syrup on the slice.

“You really have to slosh it on,” she said.

He held up his fork to silence her and then cut into the bread.  After he chewed and swallowed, he picked up the syrup and sloshed it on.

“There you go.” Nita went back to her own breakfast.  “So I will ask you once more politely, and then I will get out the thumbscrews: What were your agents looking for?”

“A hellgate.” Nick chewed his toast and then nodded.  “This is good.  Who tried to shoot you?”

“You’re not helping,” Nita said.   

Daphne brought Nick’s eggs over, scowling, slapped the plate down on the table with a new glass of orange juice, and left again.

 Nick looked down at his eggs.  “Do you have extra toast to dip in this?”

Nita shoved her toast plate across to him and signaled to Daphne, mouthing the word toast.

Daphne rolled her eyes.

Nita went back to her interrogation.  “Okay, I promise not to arrest you for whatever weird con you were going to pull but now will not pull because I’m on to you, but I need to find out who ordered Jimmy killed, sostop ducking my questions.”

“I want the guy who ordered Jimmy killed, too.”  He bit into his egg-drenched toast again and nodded at her.  “This is really  good. I don’t know who ordered the hit.” He stabbed his egg again.  “Vinnie is bankrolled by Mr. Lemmon and tells him everything, so that’s who I’m going to track down today.”

“Good luck on that.” Nita sat back to chew on her bacon and missed his heat.   In a way, it was a shame he wasn’t staying.  This was the warmest meal she’d had in . . . ever.   “Mr. Lemmon is not on the island, and there’s no guarantee that the guy e-mailing with Vinnie is him.  You have to give up this hellgate con.  I can’t help you if you don’t tell me the truth.”

“I can’t help you if you won’t accept the truth,” Nick said. “Can I try the bacon?”

“Oh, for the love of . . .”  Nita handed him a piece of her bacon and flipped another piece of French toast on his plate.  Then she signaled Sandy.

Sandy arrived with Nick’s whole wheat toast.  “How’re we doin’?”

“More French toast and bacon,” Nita said.  “He’s mooching.”

“Oh, good, we’ll have him eating like a real man in no time,” Sandy said, and Nick looked up from his plate, startled.

“If you’re dead, how come you’re eating?” Nita said when she was gone. 

“It takes energy to maintain this facade, and burning food, especially sugar, is a way to maintain it, which is a hassle.” Nick bit into the bacon and chewed. 

“And that’s why the gallons of juice.  This is a very elaborate con.”  She picked up her last strip of bacon.  “Look, I have to get to work.  If you have anything else to tell me, now’s the time.  Like who you really are.”

“I’m Nicolas Giordano, I died five hundred years ago, I became Satan’s fixer, and I’m here looking for a hellgate, my two missing agents, and the guy who hired Jimmy’s killer.”  He stopped and frowned.  “And whoever sent the shooter to kill you last night.”

“Died five hundred years ago.” Nita shook her head.  “You sound pretty modern for a five-hundred-year-old dead guy.  How come you don’t say ‘forsooth’?”

“I never said ‘forsooth’.”

“Why not?”

“I was Italian.”

Nita frowned at him, annoyed.   “This whole story is so dumb and on top of that, I can’t see what it gets you.  Lucifer’s errand boy is not exactly a power position.”

Nick shook his head.  “Not Lucifer.  Satan.”

“What’s the difference?”

“Lucifer was the first Devil.  He tried a corporate takeover and God demoted him to organize Hell because humanity was starting to get prolific, and the afterlife was getting out of hand.  He managed Hell for five thousand Earth years, but people began to build civilizations, and he got annoyed at the complexity, and God told him he could retire if he picked a successor.”

“And he picked Satan,” Nita said, not believing a word of it.

“Beelzebub,” Nick said.  “Is there any more bacon?”

“It’s coming.” Nita frowned at him.  “You do know that Lucifer, Beelzebub, and Satan are all the same guy.”

“Not even close.” Nick reached for more toast.  “Lucifer is lazy, arrogant, and intelligent. Beelzebub is incompetent, narcissistic, mean, and stupid.  God stepped in a after two hundred years and booted him out of office and brought Satan down from corporate to clean up the mess he’d made.  Satan is focused, ruthless, and intelligent, and this Saturday night Earth Time, he retires and turns it all over to me.  I am also focused, ruthless, and intelligent.  Tell me about this person who tried to shoot you.”

“Forget that–” 

The door behind her opened again and Mort came to the table and pulled out a chair.  “You okay?” he said to her as he sat down. 

“Why does everybody assume I’m bad for you?” Nick said to Nita.

“They’re keen judges of character.  Eat your toast.”  Nita looked at Mort.  “If this is about the guy last night, yes, I’m fine.”

“Not the demon yesterday, the doughnut yesterday,” Mort said. “You said it made you sick.”

Nick stopped chewing.  “Demon?” 

“I’m better today,” Nita said.   “Also ix-nay on the last night stuff, the Mayor’s at the counter talking to Dom.”

“Demon,” Mort said to Nick, lowering his voice.  “Tried to kill Nita, died instead.  I’d offer to show you the body, but of course it’s gone. Tell Hell to look for somebody with four gunshot wounds, one chest, one shoulder, and double tap between the eyes.”

“Efficient.” Nick looked at Nita with respect.

“That would be Button,” Mort said.

Nick put his fork down. “Button?”

Mort nodded.  “The little blonde with Nita last night.  Her new partner.  Chloe Button.”

“Your partner is a Button,” Nick said to Nita. 

“Yes,” Nita said.  “As opposed to a Zipper.  And you’re both nuts.”

“Pay attention,” Mort said.  “Those doughnuts were poisoned with iron filings.  Two people have died.”

Nita frowned at him.  “Iron doesn’t kill people.”

“Not usually.  Thank god, Jimmy didn’t give any to little kids.  But iron does kill–”

“Demons,” Nick finished for him.

Nita scowled at him.  “Stop that.” She went back to Mort. “Who died?”

“Two elderly Ashtons.  The family refused autopsies, and now the bodies have disappeared.”

Nita stopped eating.  “They stole the bodies?”

“When demons die, equilibrium sucks their bodies back to Hell,” Nick began and Nita pointed her fork at him.

“I have had it with this demon garbage.  You tell me right now what’s going on or we’re going to the station for an official talk.”

“About what?” Nick said.  “I haven’t done anything.”

“Maybe, but you knowthings,” she began, and then the door behind her opened again, and she shut up until Sandy’s latest customer was past.

 Instead of moving on, a kid in a hoodie lunged at Nick and then ran like hell out the door.

“What–” Nita looked back at Nick.

There was a knife sticking out of his chest.

No,” she said and knocked over her chair running for the door.

The kid slowed a little as Nita pounded down the street after him.  Then he looked behind in the next block, saw her almost on him, and picked up speed.  She grabbed him as he got to the cross street, yanking him back by the hood of his sweatshirt just as a white van pulled up, the door sliding open as it slowed.  The kid jumped for the door, and Nita held onto his hoodie, jerking him back as she yelled, “You’re under arrest!”

The kid looked back and snarled, “Demon lover.”

“Up yours.  You have the right–”

She saw a gun barrel slide out from the side of the open van and tried to drag the kid to the pavement with her as she heard the first shot, but he shrugged out of his hoodie and leaped for the van.  She lunged for him again, and there was another shot and somebody behind her cried out, and then the kid was in the van as it hurtled down the street. 

There was mud on the license plate, too much to read the number.

Nita looked behind her and saw Mr. Alcevedo, the proprietor of The Devil’s Candy, slumped against his store front, bleeding onto a sign that said “Under New Management.” 

Damn it,” she said and ran to help him.

“It just grazed me,” the old man said, and then looked at his sign.  “Lotta blood, though.”

“Sit down.” Nita got her phone out of her jacket and punched in 911 as she helped him ease himself on to his doorstep.  “You’re going to be just fine,” she told him, wincing as she saw the gouge the bullet had taken out of his arm, and then she put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding as she told the dispatcher to send EMTS and put out an APB for an unmarked white van, stopping any before they could get on the bridge off the island.

And then she thought, Damn it, he’d dead and I likedhim.


Mort had lunged to help Nick, only to see him straighten and look down at the knife in his chest, frowning.

“Uh,” Mort said, shielding him from the rest of the diner.

Nick pulled the knife out.  “That was annoying.  I think the little bastard nicked a rib.”

“That went into your heart,” Mort said, looking ill.  “I’d buy you’re a demon, but you put a knife in a demon’s heart, he dies. What the hell are you?”

“Dead human.” Nick shook his head at the knife.  Very shoddy workmanship.  “Do you have somewhere to put this?”

Mort pulled an evidence bag out of coat pocket and held it open, and Nick dropped the knife in. 

Mort frowned at him.  “I’m having a hard time with the dead human thing.”

“I died five hundred years ago.  Satan kept my soul in my skeleton because I’m efficient, hardworking, and never complain, being dead.” Nick realized he’d snarled the last word.  “That was for emphasis.  What you’re looking at is a façade he gave me to maintain so as not to scare demons. Or humans.  I’m not alive so stabbing me is, uh, pointless.”  He looked down at the hole in Vinnie’s t-shirt and, under that, the hole in him.  He drank some more orange juice and concentrated on filing in the wound.

“You’re a zombie.” Mort looked at the plate in front of him. “Sustained with French toast and bacon instead of brains.”

“I’m not a–” Nick began and then heard a sharp crack.

Gunshot,” Mort said, but Nick was already out the door.


“It’s okay, really,” Mr. Alcevedo told Nita as she did her best to stop the bleeding.  “Much worse during the war.”

Nita almost said, “Which war?” but there were so many and it didn’t matter.  A gunshot was a gunshot.

And a stab to the heart was fatal.

Damn it,” she said again.  She’d likedthe Devil.  He’d been so warm.  And kind of sweet the way he’d glommed on to breakfast.  And so much fun to look at.

At least he had French toast before he died,she thought, and heard running, and looked up to see the Devil hammering down the pavement toward her, Mort close behind him.

He looked remarkably spry for a dead guy who’d just been stabbed.

“Are you all right?” he said, slowing as he saw her. “I heard gunshots.”

I’mfine,” she said, looking at his chest.  There was a cut in his T-shirt, but otherwise— 

Mort knelt beside her.  “Mr. Alcevedo.  How’s it going?”

“I got shot,” Mr. Alcevedo said, cheerful as ever.

“Son of a bitch.” Mort peeled back Nita’s hand to see the wound.

Nita stood up and squinted at Nick’s shirt.  “How is it you are not dead?  You’re wearing a vest?  After last night, I’d be wearing one, too.  Actually, after last night, I should be wearing one.”

Nick looked calm as ever.  “Who shot at you just now?  Demon?”

“Not unless demons drive unmarked white vans and pick up punks who call me a demon lover.  I’m thinking human, but then that’s what I always think because demons aren’t real.  I’m also thinking that those shots last night were for you, not Jimmy.”

“That make no sense,” Nick said.   “I’m already dead.”

“You need a t-shirt with that on it.” Nita looked down at her most pressing problem: Mr. Alcedeveo, still clutching his sign as Mort cleaned his graze.  “What’s this mean, ‘Under New Management?’”

Mr. Alcedeveo sighed.  “I am forced to sell.”

“No, you are not,” Nita said, alarmed.  “Who’s forcing you?  No, you arenot.”

“Not now, Nita,” Mort said.

“You said you’d never retire.” Nita bend down to the old man. “You said you wanted to be covered in chocolate and put in the front window when you died.  What’s going on?”

“Oh, my arm,” Mr. Alcedeveo said, not convincingly, but then the EMTS pulled up with Frank right behind them in his squad car, and Dom was kneeling beside Mr. Alcevedo, and Nita got out of their way and brought Frank up to date, handing over the kid’s hoodie.   

When Frank had gone with the hoodie to lead the search for a punk demon-hating kid and a white unmarked van with firepower, Nita turned back to Nick.  “Can you tell me anything about the kid who stabbed you?  Aside from the fact that he’s the most inept assassin ever, thank god?”

“No,” Nick said.  “Never saw him before.  Now about this demon last night–”

“No.” Nita gestured to Mr. Alcevedo, now being wheeled toward the ambulance.  “I have to go to work to deal with this mess.” 

Mr. Alcevedo waved with his good arm.

“I’m going to be talking to you about this under new management stuff,” Nita called to him.

Mr. Alcevedeo moaned and closed his eyes, and Mort said, “Stop harassing my patient,” and went to talk to the EMTs.

Nita’s phone buzzed and she answered.

“Nita?” Sue Witherspoon, the desk sergeant said. “The captain is looking for you. She is not happy.”

“Tell her I’m on my way in from a crime scene.  Another damn shooting.  And . . .”  She hesitated, looking at Nick.

He shook his head, once to the right, once to left and then nothing but a stare.

“. . . and we’re going to have to take another look at the Jimmy Murdock shooting,” she finished.  “I’m on my way.”  She shut off the phone and said, “You don’t want me to report the stabbing.”

He pulled up his T-shirt to show her his un-stabbed chest. As chests go, it was pretty damn good.

“No evidence,” he said.  “Hard to explain.”

“You and me?  We’re gonna have a long talk later.” Nita started down the street, turning so she was walking backward, trying not to be so happy he was alive.  He was probably a crook.  He’d mooched most of her breakfast.  He wasn’t that damn attractive.

Well, actually he was. 

“And you can pay for breakfast,” she called back.  “You ate most of mine anyway.”

“Happy to,” he said, looking beautifully real in the sunlight, and she turned and headed for her car. 

At least she’d gotten a free breakfast out of the deal, eaten next to a radiator of a human being.  Because he was a human being.

She was almost positive.