Life was a fickle thing.
A group of twenty-somethings came along next. The woman in the center of the group sported a tiara and white sash that read Bride. Nocturne Falls was a popular spot for bachelor and bachelorette parties, and this group of bachelorettes looked like they’d made a good start to their evening’s alcohol consumption wherever they’d had dinner. Tipsy and giggly, they all smiled at him as they walked past.
He gave them a polite nod but nothing too encouraging. He wasn’t interested in a human woman. He needed another supernatural. Someone he could be himself around. Someone who could handle who he really was. Anything less would be unfair to both parties.
Julian obviously didn’t share that ideal.
The vampire grinned, and the women twittered at the sight of his fangs. He was dressed in one of his usual work uniforms: black velvet frock coat, lace-cuffed white shirt open to the third button. A slick of glitter on his chest. With his fangs and slightly glowing eyes, he made the perfect stereotypical vampire. Exactly what the female tourists wanted. The women clamored for pictures with him, but he held up a hand. “I’m afraid I can’t right now, ladies, I have an appointment to keep. Maybe I can find you afterwards. Where are you headed?”
“Howlers,” they all said in unison. The local tavern was a popular spot. If only the tourists knew it really was a werewolf bar.
“Very good. I’ll come see you there.” He kissed the bride-to-be’s hand and was rewarded with another round of giggles and wistful sighs.
Nick almost rolled his eyes but then reminded himself that Julian was now his boss. Best to keep any commentary to himself.
With an appreciative glance, Julian watched the women leave. His gaze stayed on them as he walked toward Nick. He stopped and sighed. “I do hate to disappoint the ladies.”
“I’m sure you’ll make it up to them.”
“At least one of them.” He waggled his brows. “Two if they’re game.”
Unsure how to respond to that, Nick stayed silent.
Julian just laughed. “If you’re ready to start your first night, follow me.”
Julian went a short way down Eerie, then turned and went through a tall wooden gate between two shops. Beyond that gate was a steel door complete with keyless entry. Julian dug a keycard out of his pocket and handed it to Nick. “Wave that in front of the scanner and see if it works, otherwise I’ll have to get you a new one.”
Nick ran the card past the scanner. A soft click sounded, and the door popped open a half inch.
“Perfect,” Julian said. He pulled the door wide and started down a flight of stairs. “Make sure you shut it behind you.”
Nick followed, pulling the door closed. A mechanism caught on the last inch and latched it firmly. He jogged after Julian.
Julian stopped at the bottom and turned, arms wide. “Welcome to the Basement. This area is only for town employees with approved access, of which you are now one. Through this series of underground passageways, you’ll make your way to and from the fountain stage when you’re working.”
“This is how you hide things from the tourists.” The stairs ended at a long, well-lit hall. Easily wide enough to drive a truck through and still allow foot traffic on one side. There were painted lanes that seemed to designate that very thing. Solid construction, soundproof even to a supernatural’s ears…the whole setup was very impressive.
“Exactly. We borrowed the idea from Disney.” Julian gestured to a directional placard on the wall. Arrows pointed in both directions, the fountain and something called the depot were to the right and City Hall was to the left. “As you can see, the fountain is north.”
“I had no idea something like this existed beneath the town.”
“Not many do, but that’s on purpose.” Julian waved his fingers. “Keeps the magic alive.” He tipped his head toward the fountain. “Come on, this is only the beginning.”
More signs indicated the streets above them. Two blocks down and they arrived at a set of steel double doors. Julian pointed at the scanner above the handles. “Your card.”
Nick flashed his card, which opened the door. They went in, the enormous room before them housing the pumps and filters that ran the fountain. The smell of chlorine filled the air and here and there, an odd water drop fell from one of the pipes. The soft rush of water through the pipes and the pumps that kept the water flowing cast a blanket of sound over the whole space. A bank of lockers sat on the other side of the door.
Over the hum of the water and the equipment, Nick nodded at what looked like a large open freight elevator. “What’s that?”
“That’s the lift that raises and lowers the stage, which is the platform you’ll be on for your shift. Use the lockers for any personal items. We prefer you not have a cell phone go off while you’re up there. Your key card will open one of the lockers, then it will be synced to your card so only you have access to it again.”
“Got it. I’ll stow my stuff now.” Nick put his wallet and cell phone into the first empty locker, then came back to stand by Julian.
The vampire checked his watch. “Maxim should be coming down any minute now. As soon as he does, I’ll explain the rest of the procedure, and then you’re on.”
On cue, the chains clanked to life, and the elevator started to move. A large stone pedestal lowered from the ceiling.