Lower and lower it came, revealing the gargoyle perched on it and a glimpse of the night sky above. At last it clunked to a stop at ground level, and metal plates closed over the open space above it.
The gargoyle stepped down off the pedestal and stretched, then shook himself. A few seconds later, a man stood before them.
Julian looked at Nick. “So what class is he?”
“I’d say titan.” The other gargoyle was large, but not Nick’s size.
“Is that right, Maxim?” Julian asked. “Are you a titan?”
“Da,” Maxim said, his Russian accent thick even in that one word. He looked at Nick. “You are new night shift?”
“I am.” Nick stuck his hand out. “Nick Hardwin.”
“Maxim Petrov. Is good to meet you.”
“Maxim has been with the town the longest of all the gargoyles. He was the first one to work this fountain since we redesigned it to accommodate your kind.”
Maxim shrugged. “What vampire means is I am oldest.” He laughed. “Is okay. Work is good. I like making the children laugh.”
Something Nick knew he had very little chance of doing. Fortunately, his late-night shift meant he’d have more drunk bachelorettes than inquisitive kids. “Any advice?”
Maxim pointed at the platform. “Get on. Shift. Push button. Go up.” He lifted one shoulder. “Say hello, answer questions, make small talk. Is no trouble. Is good job.”
Nick looked at Julian. Maybe he’d been worried about nothing. “Is that really all there is to it?”
“Besides the surveillance aspect, pretty much. You won’t have as much traffic as the day shifts, but you’ll probably have a slightly rowdier crowd for the first couple of hours. And if they’re really wound up, ignore them. Hell, feel free to ignore all of them if you want.”
He pointed to a medium-sized gargoyle statue on the other side of the lift. “Before you, we always just put this in place at night so it’s not like people expect the same show they get during standard hours. Really, if you want to just sit there and keep watch, that’s fine. We don’t care either way.”
That was a relief to Nick. He wanted to make Julian happy, but not having to entertain took a lot of the pressure off. “Okay, so I just get on and shift like Maxim said.”
“That’s all there is to it.” Julian pointed at a recessed square on the platform. “This is the button that raises and lowers the platform. Position yourself so that one of your feet is on it. Then you can press it without being seen. Remember, as far as the tourists know, you guys are animatronic creatures. Not actual gargoyles.”
“Who would believe?” Maxim laughed.
“Exactly,” Julian said as he stepped back to give Nick clear access to the platform.
“All right then.” Nick climbed onto the stage. He crouched down in a typical gargoyle position, making sure one of his feet was on the button, then he shifted. He barely had two inches of space left around the platform.
Maxim let out a slow whistle. “Leviathan,” he muttered. “Is rare.”
Julian’s brows lifted. “So I hear.”
“Is good.” Maxim nodded. “Is very good.” He looked at Nick. “You will be fine, brother.”
“Thanks.” To call another gargoyle brother was a show of respect. It took the edge off Nick’s nerves. Made him feel like this was going to work out.
Maxim went to the lockers and retrieved his things. He checked his phone, then held it up. “I go home now.” He wiggled his brows. “Wife misses me.”
Julian laughed. “Thanks, Maxim. Have a good night.”
Nick nodded. “Yes, thank you.”
As the Russian left, Nick looked at Julian. “I guess that’s it then.”
“That’s it. If you need anything—or see anything—hit that button and come straight down. You don’t need to explain it to anyone.” Julian jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “That black phone by the door goes straight to a voice-mail system that will connect you to me, my brothers or Sheriff Merrow, any time, night or day.”
“Got it. I’m sure everything will be fine.”
“I’m sure it will be. Have a good one.” With a short wave, Julian headed for the door. The gleam in his eyes probably had more to do with the waiting bachelorettes than his happiness about Nick being on the job.
Nick pressed the button with his foot. A small jerk, and the lift started to rise. As soon as the platform was even with the fountain, it stopped.
Nick settled in. In gargoyle form, he was fairly impervious to weather, so while he knew the night air was pleasant, he couldn’t really feel it, although he could see the wind bending the branches of the trees in the park surrounding the fountain.
With the stars twinkling in the cloudless sky and the peaceful burbling of the water in the fountain, Nick realized two things. He’d sweated this job unnecessarily.
And he still hadn’t found the action he’d been hoping for.
Willa had closed the shop, gone upstairs to her apartment, fed Jasper, then herself (which was the order Jasper preferred) and finally settled on the couch with a glass of wine to watch a little TV.
As it turned out, everything was in summer reruns and nothing on her DVR seemed that interesting, despite the long lists of shows waiting for her. She flipped around for a movie, finally settling on an old favorite, but even that couldn’t hold her attention. Finally, she grabbed her tablet and flipped through the books in her To Be Read list, but as much as she loved a good romance novel, she wasn’t quite in the mood to be reminded of what she was missing out on.