Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Devil's Pawn by Marylyn Levison

The Devil’s Pawn
by Marilyn Levinson
Paperback price: $12.98
eBook price: $2.99
Publisher: Booktrope Editions
After fifteen-year-old Simon Porte’s family is killed in an automobile crash, his father’s brother whom he’s never met brings Simon to live with him and his wife in upstate New York. Simon doesn’t trust Uncle Raymond, and for good reason. Raymond is dying and using his powers to take over Simon’s body. Simon and his allies—his dotty great-aunt Lucinda, his sister whom he finds living with another relative, and a pair of odd twins—wage war against the evil Raymond and his cronies.
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A former Spanish teacher, Marilyn Levinson writes novels for kids and mysteries for adults. Some of her books for young readers are AND DON’T BRING JEREMY, which was a nominee for six state awards, NO BOYS ALLOWED, and RUFUS AND MAGIC RUN AMOK, an International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council “Children’s Choice.” RUFUS AND THE WITCH’S SLAVE, will be out in the fall. Marilyn like traveling, foreign films, reading, knitting, Sudoku, dining out, and talking to her granddaughter Olivia on Face Time. She lives on Long Island.
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Pol stopped swinging and fixed her gaze on me. It was too dark to see her amazing blue-green eyes, but I felt them studying me. 
 “Did you hear?” she asked. “A girl died yesterday, over in Chatham Falls.”
 Death. My stomach started swirling. 
 “She was going to visit her cousin two blocks away, only she never got there. It was dusk—like it is right now. They found her the next day, lying on the side of a road outside of town.”
 Andy said, “The weird thing is, there were no wounds or bruises on her body. No sign of strangulation, stabbing, head wound, or gunshot. Just like the other one.”
 Pol yanked her brother’s arm. “We don’t need the details.” 
 “You started it. I’m just filling in the facts.”
 “Poor kid,” Pol said. “Melissa went to Shady Brook, but I didn’t know her.”
 A band squeezed my chest so tightly I could barely breathe. “Not Melissa Gordon.”
 “Uh-huh,” Andy said. “They think she was murdered.”
 “Murdered? I can’t believe it. Last week I was teaching her to swim.”
 “I’m so sorry, Simon,” Pol said.
 “She was nine years old,” I mumbled. “The same age Lucy would be...”
 The twins stared at me. 
 “Who’s Lucy?” Pol asked.
 I shook my head. “Gotta go.”
 I took off like a lightning bolt, desperate to get away. I ran down a street I’d never been on before, rubbing away tears brought on by thoughts of my dead sister. I was angry at myself for breaking the one rule I’d set for myself since losing my family: keep your cool, no matter what. But Melissa Gordon! Jeez! She was a cute little thing—two skinny pigtails and a good belly laugh. What monster would kill a kid like that? A few days ago I’d finally got her to put her head in the water. How proud she had been!

I switched off my lamp and fell asleep. The next thing I knew, my uncle was calling my name.
 “Simon, wake up!”
 “What’s wrong? What happened?” My heart pounded like a jackhammer.
 “Time to get up.” Raymond turned on my desk lamp.
 I looked at the clock. “It’s three in the morning! I’m going back to sleep.” I pulled the pillow over my head.
 “No, you’re not!” 
 He sat on my bed and grabbed my shoulders so I’d face him. “Look at me.”
 I tried to turn away, but he gripped my chin.
 “Cut it out! What’s wrong with you? Are you some kind of pervert?”
 “Look at me,” Raymond repeated. His corneas appeared black, with pinpoints of light where the irises should have been. 
 I tried to close my eyes, but his gaze held mine as fiercely as his hands clutched my shoulders.
 I was falling through space. The pinpoints of light widened into a circle of brightness, and I was in the center. Energy as powerful as electricity poured into my palms. The current gathered momentum and coursed through my body. A pressure expanded inside my head.
 “Stop! You’re hurting me!”
 “Hush,” Raymond admonished. “It’s almost over. Soon you’ll sleep and forget this ever happened.”
 I moaned. The pressure receded down my torso and my limbs. A blanket of fatigue stilled my fears and dulled my mind and body. I was barely aware of Raymond settling the covers around me. “Sleep, Gregory, and forget,” he whispered as I drifted off.
 I awoke the next morning feeling groggy. I let out a yelp as I sat up because my head ached something awful. Bits and pieces of a terrifying nightmare floated to the surface of my mind. The cloaked figure of a man—my uncle?—was hypnotizing me, forcing me to…to…I couldn’t remember any more of the dream.

A witch! I stared at my great-aunt’s front door, and told myself Lucinda wasn’t a witch. There were no such creatures, at least not in the fairy tale way! I pulled back my shoulders and, not seeing a bell, knocked.
 She stood in the doorway, her bright blue eyes raking me up and down like cat’s claws. “Clever boy, you found your way.”
 My heart leaped into my mouth, and I turned to run. My aunt’s cackle chased after me. 
 “Don’t be afraid. I’m your great-aunt Lucinda, and I’ve things to tell you. Come along, Gregory.” She spun around and walked through the cozy sitting room, not waiting to see if I was following.
 “My name’s Simon,” I said when we stopped in the kitchen at the back of the house. “Don’t call me Gregory.”
 “That’s what they named you when you were born,” Lucinda said. She pointed to the table against the kitchen wall, and I sat down. “I should know. I saw you when you were five minutes old.”
 “You did?”
 I stared at Lucinda, but she was pulling a dish from the oven. I became aware of the delicious aroma wafting through the small house.
 “Apple crumb cake,” she announced, setting it on top of the stove. “I hope you’ve room for a piece or two, after everything you scarfed down at your friends’ house.”
 “Well, sure. I’d love a piece, but how did you know—?”
 “I know lots of things, Gregory, most of which I wish I could erase from my mind for the pain they cause.”
 “Please don’t call me Gregory. He calls me that.”
 “Your uncle Raymond.” Lucinda grimaced. “He’s some piece of work, isn’t he?”
 “He took me in. I’m grateful for that.”
 “He did it for his sake, not yours.” She let loose a cackle of laughter. “Raymond only does what serves Raymond. He’s evil through and through.”

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