The Night Shift by Alex Finlay: Cover Reveal and Excerpt
By Crime HQMay 25, 2021
Take a first look at the cover and read on for a note from the author and an excerpt!
A Note from Alex Finlay
I was thrilled and humbled by the reception to Every Last Fear—from prominent newspaper reviewers, to librarians, to independent booksellers, to readers—and I’m incredibly grateful. I’m also optimistic that The Night Shift will be a worthy follow-up, and am particularly excited about the return of Special Agent Sarah Keller. —Alex Finlay
New Year’s Eve 1999
The night was expected to bring tragedy.
Planes falling from the sky. Elevators plunging to earth. World markets collapsing.
A digital apocalypse.
But Y2K was an otherwise typical Friday night at the Blockbuster Video in Linden, New Jersey. Steve had been store manager for two months now, and it was sure as shit a step up from his last job at the Taco Bell. Where his clothes always smelled of cooked meat (if that’s what was really in the tacos, he wasn’t so sure) and where a cadre of drunk teens arrived loudly around eleven until he kicked them out at 2 a.m.
Here, they closed at ten, sharp. The customers were polite, mostly families looking for the latest Toy Story movie or couples seeking “something scary.” They didn’t call him “pizza face,” on account of his acne; didn’t mock his uniform or leave smashed Enchiritos all over the floor. He tried not to take it personally. He’d been a dick himself in high school. Enjoy it kids, cause once you’re out, life ain’t so easy. You’ll see.
His employees were better here too. The night shift included four sweet, albeit mischievous, teenage girls. All juniors or seniors like the Taco Bell hooligans. Hell, like Steve just two years ago himself, but somehow the girls treated him like he was their embarrassing dad. After only a month on the job, he truly felt for each of their real fathers.
“Can I go on break?” Amanda said, shoving a VHS cartridge into the store’s machine. It was the bane of the job, nobody read the Be kind, rewind stickers on the tapes.
Steve looked at the long checkout line, the new hire, Ella, fumbling at the register next to him. “We close in half hour,” he said, exasperated. “Can’t you wait? I need you to take register three.”
“But Steeevie,” Amanda said, lowering her voice to a whisper, “I have girl issues.”
Steve blew out a loud breath. Unless he’d missed something in Sex Ed, it was impossible to have girl issues every single weekend, but what could he do?
“I can cover for her,” Megan said, coming in from the cold, snowflakes in her hair, a pile of videos stacked in her arms from emptying the metal return receptacle stationed at the curb. She was the most responsible of the group, a Catholic school kid, a rule-follower.
“Make it fast,” he said to Amanda. “And where’s Candy?”
Candy O’Shaughnessy was a pain in his ass. Though the store was 4,000 square feet of open space, she always managed to disappear. She constantly gave him attitude, and once smuggled wine coolers into the breakroom. And Steve remained convinced that she was the one who put Friday the 13th inside the box for 101 Dalmatians. Those parents had given him an earful. Said their kid would need therapy.
Join the club.
“I think she was in the kids’ section,” Amanda said with a smirk as she sauntered off to the breakroom. Steve shook his head as he reached around the theft censors at the door and handed the customer the small blue-and-white plastic bag full of movies.
By closing time, neither Candy nor Amanda had emerged. They’d be hearing about this. For sure. Not cool.
Steve instructed Ella to work the door, unlocking and locking the deadbolt to let customers out but ensuring no one gets in. She could handle that much, he thought. He told Megan to close out the registers. He’d go deal with the other two. Always something. He just wanted to get out of there, stop by Dad’s house for a Pabst to celebrate surviving another year before the old man fell asleep. Then maybe catch more beers at Corky’s Tavern, watch the ball drop on the TV behind the bar, see if there’d been any real chaos from the computer bug the news wouldn’t shut up about. Not exactly a “Party like it’s 1999”—if he never heard that song again it would be too soon—but it beat being alone at his crap apartment.
He navigated through the shelves of tapes, past the newer section with DVDs, and to the breakroom. It was cold as hell in there.
“Dammit, girls,” he said to nobody, as he noticed the back door open, the wind howling. If they were smoking out there, he swore to God . . . He’d told them a million times that for security they weren’t supposed to open the back door. Steve could get in big trouble with Corporate if somebody—
He froze when he saw two sets of legs on the floor jutting out from behind the breakroom table.
As fear shredded through him, Steve felt someone grab a fistful of his hair and yank his head back. Then a strange coldness at his throat.
He was on the floor now, an ugly gurgle emanating from his neck. He watched as the figure turned out the breakroom lights. Though it took less than a minute, it felt like a small eternity before the door flew open, a burst of light filling the room. The sound of teenage chatter abruptly dying.
Steve wanted to call out, to warn them. But he felt his body convulsing and the world turning dark.
The last thing he heard was the screams.
Copyright © 2022 by Alex Finlay. All rights reserved.