by Steve Bryant
Publication: October 11th 2016
Category: Middle Grade
It’s 1936, and nearly twelve-year-old JAMES ELLIOTT is a bellhop at McGrave’s Hotel, there a year since the night his parents died while on a spy mission into Nazi Germany.
JAMES craves a goodbye message from his parents, but is distracted by troublesome guests who require his help.
Assistance with locating a missing and priceless mummy, wrangling mutant spiders, and attaching the head of a bridegroom is just the kind of hospitality guests have come to expect while at McGrave’s hotel where guests are dying to check in.
But over the course of one frightful evening, James will team with Death’s daughter to fight Nazi sympathizers, monsters, and the undead in this riveting, deathly, historical adventure story unlike any you’ve read before.
Miss Charles was already dressed for her evening duties in a long black gown, and her dark wavy hair reflected the dancing flames of the candles. “Sorry, no communications for you this time,” she said, glancing at him fondly. “The Other Side is rather quiet tonight.”
“Hi, Miss Charles,” James said. “Gosh, it looks as if we are going to be extra busy this evening. The hotel is full up. Mr. Nash says things could get interesting.”
“Want to know for sure?” Miss Charles asked.
Miss Charles possessed a versatile arsenal of techniques for telling fortunes including star gazing, palm reading, interpreting tea leaves, casting bones, tossing dice, analyzing bumps on the head, and gazing into crystal balls. Yet of all the arcane methods available to her, her favorite was interpreting cards drawn from a tarot deck.
She didn’t give James the chance to refuse. She produced her well-worn deck and sprang the cards from one hand to the other in a cascade, as a magician might.
“A quick reading,” she said as she spread some of the cards face down across the table. “On the house. Miss Charles knows all.”
She instructed James to slide three cards from the spread.
“These are the cards of the major arcana,” she said. “They never lie.”
James held his breath as she turned the first of his cards face up. It depicted a lady with a sword, sitting next to a pair of scales.
“Justice,” Miss Charles said. Her voice had become deeper, more mysterious. “Interesting. Tonight, you will witness an important act of justice.”
James wondered if he should take Miss Charles’s utterances seriously. Some of the hotel staff thought she merely made up her little prophecies, telling customers what they wanted to hear. Others thought her prophecies were dead on and feared them. Whatever did she mean by justice?
The second card showed a man and a woman holding hands.
“The Lovers!” Miss Charles said. “Why, James, you never told me you had a girlfriend. It appears romance is in your future.”
“Ro-mance?” he said. “I’m eleven! I don’t like girls. I don’t even know any girls. I think the cards are screwy tonight.”
James immediately realized his statement wasn’t quite true. He had known a girl once, the year he was eight, the year he and his family lived in Brazil. Her name was Renata, and she had black hair. The two of them had had real adventures, boating alone on the Amazon despite seventeen-foot-long crocs and even longer anacondas.
But she was only a summer’s best friend, not a romance. Not like Miss Charles and Mr. Nash, the night manager. They were sweet on each other, according to hotel gossip. James wondered what it would be like to be grown up and have a girlfriend like Miss Charles. She was very pretty, but she was also kind of spooky. She knew things.
Miss Charles turned over the third and final card, and her face paled as she beheld its image: a skeleton astride a horse, carrying a scythe.
“Death!” she gasped. “I’m sorry; you’re right, James. The cards are making no sense tonight. We shouldn’t have done this. Silly of me to have tried.”
She hurried the cards back into a pile. She was clearly disturbed at having revealed such a dark indicator.
“Death?” James said. “Don’t worry about it, Miss Charles. Haven’t you noticed? Death pretty much turns up here every night. This is McGrave’s.”
For McGrave’s was indeed unlike any other hotel in Gotham.
~About the Author~
Steve Bryant is a new novelist, but a veteran author of books of card tricks. He founded a monthly internet magazine for magicians containing news, reviews, magic tricks, humor, and fiction, and he frequently contributes biographical cover articles to the country’s two leading magic journals. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.
Steve’s Website | Twitter | Goodreads
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