City of Nightmares by Rebecca Schaeffer

City of Nightmares by Rebecca Schaeffer

Author:Rebecca Schaeffer
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins
Published: 2022-10-28T00:00:00+00:00


I stand outside a restaurant in the south end of the city. It’s got that grimy, sort of unkempt look that most things have in Newham. A brick facade with a smooth, old wooden door. It has a more classic look than a lot of the places in the city, a more homey, old-world feel. Or rather, what the people fantasize about the Old World being.

Hanging above the door is a wooden sign with black letters scrawled in cursive: The Lantern Man’s Restaurant.

I slip inside, my shoes clicking on the hardwood floor. It’s a small, cramped place, but most buildings here are. Tables line the walls, and barstools perch around the counter. Braced above the counter is a massive, boxy television. Koval Enterprises’ newest invention, a household model that’s actually too expensive for most households. I bet watching it is a big draw for people—I’ve not seen one in a restaurant before, and my first instinct is to say whoever runs this place has great business sense.

The TV is on, and an advertisement for a new drink that promises to make you immortal flashes across the screen. I snort, wondering who’s dumb enough to buy into that kind of scam.

The restaurant is empty right now, and the sound on their little TV is off.

A Black woman comes out from the back room smiling. “Hi, sorry, we’re not open for another half hour.”

I blink. “Oh. I’m not—I’m not looking to eat.”

“You here about a job?” She eyes me speculatively. “We’re hiring a night server.”

Night server. That’s side speak for someone to work in a speakeasy. I glance around, but I don’t see where their hidden entrance is, though it wouldn’t be much of a speakeasy if I could see the door to it.

I actually agree with prohibition—alcohol stops the drugs that prevent Nightmares from working. So I’m generally against the existence of speakeasies and anywhere else that sells bootleg liquor.

But I’m pretty screwed right now, and money does sound good.

“Oh? What’s the pay?” I shake my head. “Ah, no. I mean, maybe. But I’m actually here to see someone. Do you know Estelle?”

The woman nods. “Yeah, sure. You a friend?”

“A friend of a friend.” I hesitate. “I need to talk to her. Is she here?”

The woman shakes her head. “Not yet. But her shift starts at opening, so she’ll be here in the next ten or so.” She nods to one of the empty tables. “You can sit over there and wait if you want.”

My shoulders loosen. “Yeah, thanks. I will.”

I seat myself at the table indicated. A newspaper has been forgotten on the chair, yesterday’s issue. I spread it across the table, running my hand over the grainy black-and-white images, ink smearing on my fingers.

The first page is still about the boat explosion.

My skin crawls, and my mind flicks back to the assassin, the way her blade whistled through the air. And before that, the heat of the air as the flames licked the boat, the cold of the water.

I don’t want to think about the boat explosion right now.


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