The Night Shift
Animal Control Officer Rebecah Pearsall hates working the night shift. As a full moon rises over Seattle, there are even more crazy people than usual roaming the streets, and Becah really doesn’t need any more complications. But an encounter behind the local pizzeria brings her into contact with the strangest dog she’s ever seen – and Gabe, who really isn’t your average black-leather-clad elf….
An Excerpt from
THE NIGHT SHIFT
© Anna Reith. All rights reserved.
REBECAH PEARSALL LOATHED THE NIGHT SHIFT. For one thing, it brought all the crazies out of the woodwork. Not two weeks ago, she’d had to deal with a guy who swore he was a werewolf. At first he’d seemed harmless enough, just tagged around after her making weird snuffling noises and asking if she had any lady dogs in the back of the van… but then the clouds had parted, the moonlight spilled over West Barrett Street, and Mr. Werewolf went totally crazy. He’d tried to simultaneously hump her leg and bite her throat and, in the end, Rebecah had been forced to hit him in the head with her flashlight.
She hated to do that to street people; even with the crazy ones it still left a bad taste in her mouth. And it wasn’t as if the moon had even been properly full that night. She’d wondered, for a while, what would have happened if it had been… which was why Rebecah didn’t like the night shift. It changed the way you thought.
Hard to believe she couldn’t carry a Taser or a gun, either. Not even a nightstick. Rebecah’s tough nylon jacket, with its faux sheepskin collar, and her heavy duty—though decidedly unflattering—black pants gave her the appearance of a cop, but afforded her neither the powers nor the perks. A shame, given that a lot of her job involved confrontation with hostile and often unpleasant members of the public; people who didn’t see why their dogs barking incessantly at four a.m. caused a problem, or why some woman from Animal Control should dare to come by and suggest they fed the damn thing before it got hungry enough to howl. Then there were the packs of kids who roamed around by the cemetery. Sick, twisted little creeps who usually ran away when Rebecah pulled up in her panel van and left whatever poor creature they’d been flame-grilling or stoning to her mercies but, one of these days—so her mother kept saying—one of the weirdoes would turn on her with a knife.
Rebecah understood the dangers of her job. She just didn’t think about them; it made it easier to get through it that way. Besides, she had her two-way radio and a good relationship with the beat cops who often had to call her in to assist with corralling a dangerous dog or to identify some mysterious animal bite.
Despite all the blackness and the evil she saw, Rebecah still felt at home on her patrol. As if what she did mattered. Some little comfort she could offer, some kind of relief to the suffering out there….
She just wished she drew the day rounds more often.
Rebecah pulled the van in at the mouth of an alleyway behind Bernardino’s Pizzeria. This was the worst time of year for it, as well. Christmas… season of goodwill and charity? Bullcrap. Oh, they had some ragged tinsel and a few paper chains up in the reception at the shelter, and they usually experienced a brief surge in the donations of food and blankets for the animals, but it didn’t make up for what they had to see between now and February. The cruelty cases, the unwanted presents, crumpled up like paper cups and tossed in the trash….
Time for peace and goodwill? Yeah. My holly jolly ass it is.
She flicked her radio on to register her presence at the scene—just another stray dog sighted rooting through the garbage—and promised Dean, her supervisor, that it wouldn’t be long before she’d be back at the shelter.
“Honestly? No, it’s been a pretty quiet night. Just those licensing violations you sent me on, the two stray cats from outside that apartment block, and the neglect case on 10th Avenue. Yeah, she’s in the back now. Poor girl’s got nothing on her. Like a bag of coathangers wrapped in a furry chamois.”
The radio buzzed and crackled, and Dean’s voice cut through the static.
“You takin’ another one home, Becah?”
She curled her lip. That wasn’t even a full joke. Rebecah couldn’t stand to see the most elderly, the sickest, or the really terrified ones shut in kennels night after night. Not when it was as cold and dark as this. The shelter’s foster program helped get a lot of animals out into loving temporary homes and allowed them to increase the number of spaces available for emergencies… but it would never be enough. Nothing was ever enough, and that was what drove a lot of people out of animal welfare.
Bleeding hearts get far too easily broken.
Available in print in Black Ice: collected stories, and also in ebook edition, from Amazon, Smashwords, and all good ebook retailers.
This title was previously published as two stories under the pen name M. King, and is presented here in a wholly revised and expanded single edition.