About the Book
In this magic shop the magic is real. And the trick is on you.
Citrus Glade is a dying town that needs new businesses, but the one that just opened is doing much more harm than good. Stranger Lyle Miller’s magic shop seems to only stock what its select customers desire. When four outcast boys buy common party tricks, only Lyle knows what those tricks can really do. As subtle changes occur around town, a few residents realize that something is amiss…and getting worse. But it may already be too late. Lyle’s black magic has empowered more townspeople to help him execute his Grand Adventure, a plan that will reduce the town, and half the state, to rubble.
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A single fried egg stared at Lyle Miller from the center of the white plastic plate. It was sunny side up, a perfect match for his ebullient mood. He was about to banish his ennui and embark upon a new Grand Adventure. He picked up a bottle of hot sauce from the diner counter and painted a ring around the egg yolk.
He noticed that Gloria, the waitress, watched him from the end of the counter. Lyle wasn’t the usual Sunrise Diner customer, who was generally of the south Florida cracker variety. Lyle combed his thick, black hair near straight back, razor part on the right. High cheekbones gave his face great definition and his eyes sparkled sapphire blue. Despite the stifling summer heat, he wore a black, long-sleeve silk shirt. No doubt he looked a cut above Gloria’s usual ten-percent tipper.
Lyle touched the yolk with the tine of his fork. It shuddered, as if in protest at its coming fate. He gave the egg the slightest pressure and pricked the sac. Others attacked a fried egg, slashing the liquid yolk in half and mixing it with the hard fried white. But Lyle preferred to savor that moment of victory. Bright yellow yolk oozed from the egg’s wounded side. Lyle smiled at the almost imperceptible drop in the yolk’s crown and the slow trickle from the base that telegraphed the inevitable end.
With his fork, he led the streaming yellow liquid in a counterclockwise journey around the egg and through the red hot sauce. By the third trip, the yolk sac was flat and Lyle had a masterpiece, threads of swirled red, orange and
yellow that covered the white of the egg. It reminded him of his new Grand Adventure.
Gloria sauntered up with a carafe of steaming coffee at the ready. She was well past thirty with platinum hair and the kind of skin damage only tropical sun can inflict at that age. She tucked her gum into the corner of her mouth with her tongue and fired up a big homespun smile.
“Warm you up?” she said with a dip of her carafe to his coffee mug.
Lyle looked up from his plate. He guessed her life story. High school cute. A failed marriage or two. A variety of addictions and a slide down into a career at the Sunrise Diner off Alligator Alley. Nursed a stubborn denial that she was as past her prime as week-old fish. Nobody anyone would miss. He flashed her a shining salesman’s grin.
“Has anyone ever turned down that offer?” he answered.
She refilled his cup. “So what brings you out into swampy south Florida today?”
Lyle caught the arrival of an old man in a green John Deere baseball hat. He shuffled in and took a seat in a booth. Collateral damage.
“I’m a magician,” Lyle answered. “A master of illusion and prestidigitation.”
“Like that Criss Angel?”
Lyle kept from cringing. “Exactly. Allow me.”
He pulled a deck of cards from his shirt pocket, though it had appeared empty. All fifty-two cards expanded into a fan in his right hand. Gloria’s eyes locked on the large dark blue sapphire ring on Lyle’s third finger.
“Pick a card,” he said.
She passed her hand back and forth across the deck, hesitating as if the fate of the world rested on her selection. Lyle swallowed his impatience. She pulled out a card. He placed the rest of the deck against his forehead and closed his eyes in mock concentration.
“Seven of diamonds.”
“Oh my gawd!” she shrieked. “How’d you do that?”
Lyle winked away the world’s stupidest question. He extended his hand and she returned his card. He tucked it into the deck and cut it in half, face down. He held his hand over it and the top card levitated into his palm. He flipped over the queen of hearts and handed it to her with a flourish.
“For you,” he said. “The queen of hearts, as you are destined to break so many.”
Gloria managed a star-struck smile and stared at the card. Lyle rose and left ten dollars on the counter for his uneaten three-dollar breakfast. By the time Gloria looked up from the face of the playing card queen, Lyle’s black convertible was pulling away in a cloud of white dust.
She tucked the card into the breast pocket of her white working blouse, behind her hand-lettered name tag. She walked the coffee pot over to the old man in the booth.
“A little java, Sid?” she asked the Sunrise regular.
She started to pour and she felt the card in her pocket get hot. A look of shock crossed Sid’s face. His mouth opened in a silent scream and his eyes bulged. He went red as a beet, looking like some horrific Christmas decoration in his green hat. Sid clutched his chest and fell against the table so hard his coffee mug jumped with a clank.
“Sid!” Gloria screamed. She dropped the coffee pot. It shattered on the floor into a muddy sunburst. She bent to help Sid.
The card in her shirt went white hot.
She jerked upright. Fiery fingers dug into her chest and wrapped her heart like bands of flaming steel. She hitched one last, incomplete breath and collapsed to the floor.
Ten miles away, Lyle’s black convertible took a right on CR 12 and headed north. It passed a sign that said: CITRUS GLADE 35 MILES.
About the Author
Russell R. James was raised on Long Island, New York and spent too much time watching Chiller, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and The Twilight Zone, despite his parents’ warnings. Bookshelves full of Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe didn’t make things better. He graduated from Cornell University and the University of Central Florida.
After a tour flying helicopters with the U.S. Army, he now spins twisted tales best read in daylight. He has written the paranormal thrillers Dark Inspiration, Sacrifice, Black Magic and Dark Vengeance. He has two short story collections, Tales from Beyond and Deeper into Darkness. His next novel, Dreamwalker, releases in 2015.
His wife reads what he writes, rolls her eyes, and says “There is something seriously wrong with you.”
Visit his website at http://www.russellrjames.com and read some free short stories.
Follow on Twitter @RRJames14, or drop a line complaining about his writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Black Magic Giveaway
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