Hey everyone. Just writing this to say thank you for taking the time to read this. Constructive criticism is always welcome, so if you think you see something when reading this that you think could use improvement, feel free to let me know. Reviews are always welcome, but there are just two things I want you to keep in mind when reviewing: First of all, I don't accept flames. Constructive criticism I'll take; insults or bashing, I will not. Second, don't give me ANY ideas for plot events, new characters, or anything else that could drastically change the plot. As with all my other stories, I have this outlined from beginning to end and I know exactly what's going to happen in it, and nothing you say will convince me to change what I've planned.

But for now, that's it. Thus commences The Night Shift

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A dark figure was walking through the night in a forest. He seemed as if he was going in a designated or planned direction. Behind him was a large sign that had a large map on it with the words ARBUR WINSLOW STATE FOREST MAP written at the top.

"All right, where is it?" the figure asked.

Out of nowhere, a sharp knife was plunged into the figure's neck. Then there was silence. The figure fell to the ground, dead without question.

The knife was removed. A large gate that led to an abandoned part of the woods opened and another figure ran in quickly. The sign that read ARBUR WINSLOW STATE FOREST MAP was seen covered in graffiti and littered with small holes.

The dead figure continued to remain motionless on the dirt.

-ONE YEAR LATER-

"All right. Welcome to Arbur Winslow."

Collin's eyes lit up and his face suddenly had excitement plastered all over it. "You mean, I…got the job?!"

Lisa smiled. "Sure did. Welcome aboard."

"Awesome!" Collin anxiously reached out and shook Lisa's hand from across the desk. "Thank you so much, Ms. McNorr. I promise I won't disappoint you!"

The grin stayed on Lisa's face.

It was around the beginning of the summer, with Collin once again looking for a gig that would last him the season and help earn some money that would pay for college and everything else that required his hard-earned cash in life.

He had just graduated from High School only a few days ago, but he wasn't wasting any time job searching for some summer work. At least, that's what he told everyone who asked him what he was doing that summer, anyway. But everyone found it strange, for some reason. It sounded like Collin knew that he wanted to work there for the summer for the longest time, even though he never really seemed to have too much interest in being an outdoorsman. Working in a state forest and helping to keep campsites clean for tourists dropping by for a few days seemed like the last thing he wanted to do, especially considering how serious his last summer job was.

"Wow…thank you so much!" Collin said anxiously. He looked more delighted than a small boy on Christmas who just got a truck that he had wanted for five weeks. (Which would be like an eternity to a four-year old)

Collin had thin and short brown hair and looked like he was built to work, which was good, because he would have done a lot of it while working at Arbur Winslow State Forest that summer.

"No, thank you," Lisa responded. "It's been awfully hard to get new people to work here for a while. I think you're the first person to apply for a job here in almost a year."

"Heh…imagine that," Collin lightheartedly answered. "You think it's because of the murder that happened here last summer?"

"Probably. And actually, that leads me to one more question I have for you."

"What?! I thought you said I had the job?..."

"No, you do," Lisa confirmed, "I just wanted to ask you why you want to work here."

Collin looked a little confused and annoyed by that question, but he tried to retain a smile on his face, even though the one he was wearing now was obviously fake. "I thought I already answered that: because I like being outside and breathing fresh air and meeting all sorts of weird people."

Lisa looked at Collin very suspiciously. She was thirty-three years old and was a twelve-year veteran at the forest. She started working there after she dropped out of college for financial constraints. She had long black hair and a serious face, but was really a nice person and encouraged people to goof off on the job occasionally or have some fun, which she believed would help get the work done faster and with more quality instead of if people just did work because they had to and only put half their real effort into it. She was the "second-in-command" for about three of those years until last summer when her boss quit and she got the promotion.

"You sure that's the reason?" she asked once again as she looked at Collin's previous job records.

"…Yeah," he insisted, now sounding a tad uncomfortable. "Is there a problem with that?"

Lisa sighed. "No, I just thought I'd ask. All right, once again, welcome to Arbur Winslow."

Collin smiled and shook her hand again. "Thank you," he answered proudly.

"You'll start tomorrow, working 8:30 to 4:30 Monday through Thursday. You'll be more of a maintenance worker and help out wherever you're needed. Sound good?"

"Sounds perfect."

"Great. Why don't I show you around today and you can meet some of the people you'll be working with? With any luck, you'll get a feel for the kind of work we'll have ya doing."

"Sounds good to me."

"All right. Let's go."

Lisa got up and left her office, which was the only place around the entire forest where there was any air conditioning. There was a typical desk that came equipped with a few drawers and had walkie-talkies and radios placed by the computer. Posters were all over the walls, encouraging people to not litter, doing anything they could to prevent forest fires and told campers where to go in case there was an emergency and what they should do.

Collin really didn't notice anything too special about the entire office, save for one thing that caught his eye right as he was about to leave with Lisa to see what his work would have in store for him. Next to Lisa's computer was a framed picture that showed Lisa smiling at the camera and having her arm around the shoulder of a man who looked about her age and had heavy blonde hair. His was a face Collin knew all too well, but he wasn't expecting to see a picture of him right there.

"Oh, I almost forgot," Lisa exclaimed right as she was at the door, not noticing at all that Collin hadn't been following her and instead had been staring at the photo on her desk, "I got something for you."

Those words snapped Collin out of his possessed state. He power-walked his way over to the front door of the office to see what it was. Lisa had just drawn something from her pocket and was giving it to him.

It was a small pocketknife that looked like it had never been used before. "I figured you'd get the job as soon as I started looking at your paperwork a few days ago, so I went ahead and got it ready."

Collin didn't know what she was talking about exactly, and any wonder about it faded away when he pushed up the small button on the side and forced the sharp blade of the knife to come out. The silver blade looked flawless, which Collin was sure wouldn't last for long. But something even more dazzling about it caught his eye: down near the base of the blade, his name was written in tiny lettering- COLLIN BANSEN.

"Whoa! It's got my name on it!" he stated.

"Yup. All workers have camp issued knives specifically for them. You'd be amazed how often you'd need that knife for a job here. So just in case someone were to lose theirs, we started a policy a few years ago where we put the owner's name on the knife so it could be returned to them."

"Cool," Collin casually answered. He had no idea what he was supposed to say to that.

"But be careful not to lose that, all right? It takes us over a week to order those knives and get them delivered. Trust me, you don't want to go ten days without one of those things."

"All right, I believe you," he said as he deposited his new knife into one of the pockets in his khaki shorts.

"Okay, you ready to meet your new co-workers?" Lisa asked with a small smile.

"Yeah. Sure thing."

Lisa led Collin outside and into a white truck that had a logo featuring a large "A" and "W" side by side in front of silhouettes of simply drawn trees. As soon as they were both in, Lisa put the keys into ignition and drove the truck away from headquarters and onto a one-way road leading deeper into the forest.

"Hey, this'll give you a good chance to learn the layout of the forest," Lisa noted while driving.

"Yeah. Good point," Collin admitted. Today, all he wanted to do was be polite and make a good first impression. He wasn't this used to always agreeing with people and merely saying, "Yeah," or "Sure thing".

The truth was that Collin already knew the layout of the forest pretty well. About four miles from the start of it was headquarters. From headquarters, the road forked; one way led to the campsites and the small lake segments where people were free to swim or fish during the appropriate hours. The other way led to the employee break rooms, warehouse, and other camp facilities that were off limits to campers.

Lisa pulled into the meeting room in the employee area and hopped out of the car. Collin was slightly nervous to be walking in there for the first time. He was always a bit awkward meeting new people when the meetings were forced, although he was slowly trying to get better at it.

The building was solidly built of wood, but that was just about the only thing that made it up. The floors, the walls, the ceiling…everything was made of non-varnished wood. The room was a large and open one with tools piled in a corner and had a somewhat large table in another corner with cheap plastic seats placed around it. There were no clocks to be seen, so anyone wanting to know the time would have to check their watch or cell phone. Right behind it was a large building that looked even plainer; that one was the warehouse.

Collin took a moment to look at everybody and take in the place and people he would be working with for the next nine weeks. Nine weeks didn't sound like a long time for him to do what he wanted.

"Hi, everyone," Lisa said as she walked into the building.

Everyone in the room turned their heads and looked at their boss. One guy who looked a few years older than Collin was smiled and put up his hand as if he was waving, saying, "Hey, Lees."

"Hey, who's the new guy?" said a woman who looked about ten years older than Collin was, like she automatically knew he was a new worker.

"Everybody, this is Collin," she explained.

"Hey," he somewhat weakly said as he quickly glanced at everyone and gave a short wave.

"He's going to be working with you guys this summer. I'm sure you'll all make him feel welcome, right?"

A chorus of "Yeah's" and one "You bet" filled the room.

"Great. All right, I gotta head back up to headquarters to file some paperwork. Why don't you guys get Collin used to this place and show him around?"

"Sure thing, Lees," the guy in his early-twenties said.

Lisa smiled and walked out of the building. Collin listened as he heard her start up the truck and drive off, leaving him there to adjust to his new colleagues.

The first one to approach him was the guy who only looked a few years older than Collin was. He was a bit tall and had dirty blond hair that was almost completely shaved off, save for a thin layer on the top of his head. "Name's Ian."

"Hey, Ian," Collin said as he reached out his hand to shake Ian's. "I'm Collin."

"Ha ha…yeah, I know. Lees just introduced you."

"Oh…right."

"Yeah. This your first day here?"

"Tomorrow will be."

"Ohhhhh. You're gonna love it here. Trust me, there are a LOT of cute babes on the lakes."

"Really?!" He didn't mean to sound so excited and interested.

"Oh, you bet! The best part is when they're lying on their stomachs with their faces in the towel trying to tan! Then you can look at them all you want without worrying about them catching you."

"Cool. I might try that if I ever have to work at the beach with you."

"No, dude, you're definitely going to do that if you ever work up there. Man Law says to never waste an opportunity to look at a girl like that."

"Man Law?"

"Yeah. You don't know what Man Law is, Collin?"

"I know what it is! I just don't think that's actually an official rule, Ian."

"That's Mr. Drosdale to you," Ian corrected with a wide smile on his face. " 'Cause, you know, I'm older than you, and Man Law says you gotta treat those older than you with respect."

Never heard that one before, Collin thought to himself. And you think I should address you the same way as my teachers just 'cause you're five or six years older than I am?

Ian was standing there proudly with his hands on his hips until he looked at his watch. "Well, my shift's about to start. Gotta head to the beach. Later, Collin!"

Ian jogged out the door and headed in a direction Collin was sure was a shortcut to the beach from where they were.

Just as Collin was turning around back to his other coworkers, he saw that one of them had already come over to him to do the same. She was the girl who looked about ten years or so older than he was. She seemed to be in pretty good shape and had a few streaks of electric green coloring in her hair. In both of her ears were two earrings that were attached to the top rather than down at the lobe.

"Hey," she said in a welcoming way.

"Oh…hi."

"Name's Jessica Maldavo, but just call me Jess. That's what my friends call me."

"Hi, Jess," Collin greeted pleasantly as he put his hand out to shake. "You new around here?"

"No, I've been here for the past few years. It's a pretty cool place once you get to know it."

"I'm sure. What do you do?"

"Well, I do a lot of stuff. Sometimes I clean up places like bathrooms or campsites, and other times I fill in as a lifeguard for Ian when he's out sick or something, and other times I just spend my time on patrol and make sure everything's going smoothly."

"Sounds like that could get boring."

"Trust me. It does."

"Do you bring an iPod or something to help you pass the time?"

Jess started to look more like a typical displeased teenaged girl. "Ugh. I wish. But the people who run the park don't let us use any electronics. It's so dumb! If I could bring an iPod, things wouldn't be half as boring."

"I'm sure. You listen to music?"

"Listen to it? It's my life, kid!"

"Really?"

"You bet. My iPod's only got enough room on it for about twenty more songs, and a lot of the one I already have on it are my own."

"Your own?" He was hardly noticing he was acting almost like a mimicking parrot during the conversation.

"Yeah. Me and some of my friends play in a group, and we record some of the songs we play and put'em on our iPods."

"Sounds cool."

"It is."

"You…uh…ever play in front of a live audience?" Collin asked, now trying to make small talk more than anything else.

"All the time," she answered proudly. "Sometimes even the media comes to watch us. We're that huge."

So huge I've never heard of you?, Collin asked himself.

"Awesome."

"Yeah. When people put an article about us, I always cut it out of the paper and keep it in a drawer with all the others."

"Sounds pretty awesome."

"It is. I love it. Well, see ya! Gotta make another round on those bathrooms!"

As she walked away, Collin overheard her muttering to herself, "I hope there aren't little kids playing Yu-Gi-Oh in there again."

Collin watched as she walked off and sighed lightly to himself. He saw that there were still two other people in the room he hadn't gotten to know yet; one was a girl who looked a year or two younger than him and had long, dark colored hair and seriously looked a bit too pretty to be working in a state forest. Slowly, Collin walked over to her.

"Hey. Haven't gotten to know you, yet."

"Oh, hi," she smiled. "My name's Christine."

"Uh huh. What's your last name?"

"Belle. Why?"

"I dunno. You looked around my age and I thought you looked familiar."

"Uh…maybe we go to the same school?"

"You go to Cashel's Trinity High?"

"A Catholic school? No, I go to a public one. Why, is that where you go?"

"Graduated from it a little while ago."

While Collin was thinking of the next thing to say, he looked to the side and saw the second person he hadn't been introduced to yet. He was a boy who looked a year or two older than Collin was, and he didn't look like he had a problem at all with just staring out a window and avoiding conversation.

"Hey, who's that?" Collin asked, hoping to change the subject.

"Nick. Nick Fust."

"Is he a good kid?"

"Oh, Randy had a few problems with brining him here at first."

"Randy?"

"The guy who ran the place before Lisa did."

"Oh, right. Him. Why'd he have a problem with Nick?"

"Oh, Nick's just been known to be a bit aggressive at times. He's a good worker and I'm sure he's an excellent friend, but he sometimes gets a few "below-the-belt" hits on you."

"Hmmmm…I'm sure I'll get used to him by the end of the summer."

"Um…good luck with that!" Christine said as if she didn't expect that to happen. "I've known for him two summers and I still haven't completely warmed up to him."

There wasn't much for Collin to say to that other than, "Oh." And just like that, the conversation between the two of them ended and Christine walked away.

As she walked away, Collin stared down at the floor and thought to himself, I wonder if…was it one of them?

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There's the first chapter to The Night Shift. Hope you like it so far. And now, for a first look at my next upcoming story.

A pre-teen boy is staring out a window at the ocean right in front of him. The sky is dark, and the waves are a bit rough. He sighs and turns around. He walks out the door and sees two kids standing outside his room, acting as guards but looking more like bouncers.

The "tween" stares at both of his guards and starts walking down a long hall with doors on both sides of the wall. His footsteps are heard echoing through the dark, empty halls.

He walks up one flight of stairs after another until he finally gets to the top floor. Once on the top floors, he walks outside and stares up at the dark sky above him.

He is on a cruise ship in the middle of nowhere. He continues staring up.

STRONG TO SAVE II

COMING 2008