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The Magician's Secret
The Magician's Secret
The Magician's Secret
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The Magician's Secret

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At a stage magic show, sixteen-year-old psychic medium Nick Michelson notices a frightening knife-wielding female ghost standing on stage watching the magician perform his act.  Later, she disappears and Nick thinks he’s seen the last of her.

At the beach the next day, a strange girl runs up to Nick and asks him to help her before she is brusquely escorted away by her group leader.  After she leaves, the same ghost from the previous night appears before Nick, claims her daughter is innocent and begs Nick to help her.  She then vanishes.

Nick later discovers that the ghost’s daughter is accused of her mother’s brutal murder and is locked up at a psychiatric facility awaiting to be tried as an adult. After visiting the young girl at the facility, he reluctantly decides to help prove her innocence.

But why was the ghost at the magic show? And how is the magician tied to the murder of an innocent woman?

As Nick becomes more involved with the girl and her ghostly mother, things only get stranger in the coming days — and more dangerous for him, the magician and the magician’s son. When an attempt is made on Nick’s life, he vows to step away from the situation. But the ghost - and the murderer - aren’t so quick to let Nick get away.

LanguageEnglish
Release dateJan 2, 2018
ISBN9781943005093
The Magician's Secret
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Author

Roger Hyttinen

Roger Hyttinen a fiction author of titles including A Clash of Fangs and A Touch of Cedar. His latest projects include a YA series featuring a high school medium who read Tarot cards and a Werewolf novel featuring a handsome prince, all of which should be released later this year. He has a Master's degree in Foreign Language & Literature and has worked as a French teacher, an English teacher, a technical writer, and a computer programmer. He currently lives in the chilly midwest with hopes of eventually moving about 1200 miles south.

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    The Magician's Secret - Roger Hyttinen

    Chapter One

    There was a ghost in the house. Nick was sure of it. Unless the familiar flip-flop of his stomach was simply informing him that the extra-cheesy burrito he and Gabe had eaten earlier didn’t agree with him. Or that the scratchy, prickly, itchy feeling on his skin was the result of an allergic reaction to the new laundry detergent that his mom had recently begun using. But he doubted it. He’d come to trust the signals that his body gave him. Another wave of nausea rolled over him, and he shivered .

    Yeah, no doubt about it. There was definitely a ghost nearby.

    Nick’s gaze roamed over the two hundred or so people who were crammed into the small amphitheater to see Benny the Astounding, a well-known stage magician. Nick’s eyes drifted past rows and rows of seated people, over the standing-room-only crowd pressed against the back wall, over the tuxedo-clad ushers moving up and down the aisles and over the burly stern-looking security guards watchdogging the entrances. But nothing — or no one — seemed out of the ordinary. It wasn’t going to be easy to pick out one lone ghost in a crowd this size, especially given that most spirits are nearly indistinguishable from normal living folk.

    Nick sighed under his breath and turned his attention back to the empty stage in front. A strong waft of perfume that smelled of peaches drifted from the young blond woman seated in front of him. Nick crinkled his nose at the odor and then squirmed in his seat, trying to ignore the physical warnings that his body was giving to him.

    He and his best friend Gabe had purchased tickets months ago for Benny’s performance, and while Nick had looked forward to their evening out, it was Gabe who was more interested in stage magic. Gabe liked to show off his own sleight-of-hand tricks at school, often drawing in and dazzling groups of kids (and sometimes even a teacher). Inspired by Gabe’s handwritten cardboard sign: "Tips Welcome and Encouraged," some of them even tossed the occasional coin into the little wooden bowl next to him. Though his magical illusions thus far had been limited to playing cards, his signature magic coin trick and the disappearing pea under the walnut routine, Gabe swore that someday he was going to be a famous magician. Maybe he would. Nick couldn’t remember how many times Gabe had tortured him with a repeat viewing of films such as The Illusionist and The Prestige.

    I think they’re fixin’ to start, drawled Gabe. Nick never got tired of hearing Gabe’s southern accent, although since Gabe had moved to Gallowspine Mountains from Kentucky, it wasn’t as pronounced as it was when he’d first arrived.

    Nick took one last look around, trying to see if he could catch a glimpse of anyone in the crowd that might have a ghost attached to him or her but no luck. He’d learned from past experiences that the more powerful the ghost, the more intense Nick’s physical reactions were to it. And right now, they were intense. Really intense.

    Who are you looking for? asked Gabe. The irritation was evident in his voice. You expecting someone?

    Nick leaned over to whisper in Gabe’s ear. Ghost.

    Really? Gabe swirled his head around. Where?

    Not that Gabe could see a ghost even if Nick pointed one out to him. Of the two of them, it was only Nick who could see spirits. So could his friend and mentor Katrina, but only if Nick was nearby. She had the uncanny talent of being able to channel the abilities of other psychic mediums, so when they were together, whatever spirits Nick saw, she saw as well.

    Nick settled back into his seat. His stomach quailed again. I’m not sure. I still haven’t been able to figure out where it is. But judging by the state of my gut, I’d say that it’s pretty close.

    Good luck trying to find it here.

    Nick laughed. That’s what I was thinking. If it needs something, I’m sure it’ll find me. They always do.

    Gabe pursed his lips and blinked his eyes a couple of times. Damn, what’s that god-awful stench? It smells like rotten apples in here.

    Sssh, said Nick, holding up his index finger to his lips. It’s the lady in front of us.

    Gabe glared at the back of her head for a moment then turned to Nick. You’d think people would have the decency not to drench themselves in cheap perfume before going to a show, he whispered. That’s just plain rude.

    Nick was about to tell Gabe that sometimes he put on a wee bit too much cologne but thought better of it. He liked the way Gabe smelled and didn’t want to say anything to discourage him.

    The murmuring of the crowd suddenly stopped, and Nick looked up at the stage. A tall elegant-looking young man with a broad smile on his face stood facing the audience. He appeared to be about Nick’s age, with long straight black hair that flowed down to his shoulders. He wore a black shirt accompanied by a hot pink necktie, black pants and situated on top of his head was a jaunty black fedora, similar to the one Gabe often wore. Could this be Benny the Astounding? Nick couldn’t recall ever having seen a picture of Benny, so he had no idea what the man looked like — though he did picture him as being much older than the kid on stage.

    Ladies and Gentlemen of Gallowspine Mountains, the young man said into the microphone. Are you ready to be amazed, astounded, bewildered and bedazzled? Dumbfounded, mystified, baffled and perplexed?

    Yes, several people in the audience shouted out.

    The young man cupped his hand behind his right ear. Huh? I didn’t quite hear you.

    Yes! Yes! Yes! the crowd cried out, much louder this time. Nick and Gabe looked at each other at the same time and burst out laughing.

    The man chuckled into the microphone. Now that’s more like it. He glanced at the corner of the stage, nodded once and then turned his gaze back to the audience. Then without further ado, it is with great pleasure that I now present to you, the one, the only — Benny the Astounding!

    Loud applause erupted in the theater, with Nick and Gabe joining in. A moment later, the heavy dark red curtain jiggled and then parted slightly. An extremely tall man poked his head through the gap in the curtain, grinned at the crowd and then entered onto the stage. He was about 6’4, appeared to be in his late 30’s and had a head of enormous brown hair, piled high and combed — and most likely heavily sprayed — into a backward swoop on top of his head. With the exception of his shiny black vest and the dark green cape that hung loosely from his shoulders, he was clad entirely in gray: light gray shirt, dark gray pants, and bluish-gray shoes. A gray handkerchief peeked out from the pocket of his vest. He was darker complexioned, as though he’d recently suntanned in the tropics. Sideburns about an inch and a half long snaked down the sides of his face.

    He kind of looks like a young Elvis, whispered Nick to Gabe. Gabe flashed him a dirty look but said nothing.

    You don’t think so? asked Nick.

    No, he doesn’t. Now shhh!

    Benny the Astounding handed his flowing cape to the young man, who placed it on a stool situated at the corner of the stage. The magician brushed his hands together and loudly snapped his fingers once. His young assistant ran behind the curtain and then reappeared a moment later, rolling out a small brown table with loud squeaky wheels. On the table were placed numerous items that Nick couldn’t make out from where he was sitting. After a bad joke about how the squeaky wheel gets the grease, Benny started his routine.

    He performed all of the standard tricks: pulling a coin from someone’s ear, extracting a white dove from a red scarf and even plucking out a small green duck from the inside of a Bowler hat, a trick that Nick found especially impressive. When he and his young assistant wheeled out a black cart encasing a lovely young blond woman wearing bright red lipstick, Nick assumed the magician was going to perform the usual ‘cutting the woman in half’ stunt. But not only did he cut her in half, but he also made half of her disappear. Cool trick.

    How in the hell did he do that? Gabe asked.

    Nick shrugged his shoulders. You tell me. You’re the one who’s aiming to be the next Houdini.

    Gabe smiled. "I have got to figure that one out. He furrowed his brow. Except I’ll make her head disappear, rather than the legs. I think that’d be more dramatic. Don’t you think?"

    Nick nodded and then leaned over towards Gabe so his whispering wouldn’t bother the people sitting next to him.

    Nick pointed to the right corner of the stage. So what do you think the story is with that weird masked lady in the corner? She’s hardly moved at all. Almost looks like a statue. Nick squinted. I’m pretty sure it’s a woman underneath the mask though I suppose it could be a dude.

    What are you talking about?

    Nick flipped his thumb toward the stage. The woman in the corner of the stage, wearing the creepy white theater mask. She’s been there for almost the entire show but has yet to participate in any of the tricks. Funny, Nick couldn’t recall when she came out on stage.

    Gabe turned his head from one side then to the other. Where? I don’t see anyone.

    Ah-ha! Nick had found his ghost.

    Nick gestured with his head. You sure you don’t see anyone on the far-right corner of the stage?

    Positive. There’s only Benny and his assistant on the stage.

    In that case, it looks like our elusive ghost has made an appearance, Nick said.

    Gabe’s eyes grew wide. Kwel!

    Nick never thought seeing a ghost was cool. If given the choice, he’d prefer not to see them ever again, but unfortunately, that choice was not his to make. Whether it was destiny, karma or his ‘calling’ as Katrina referred to it, he was stuck with this unsettling ability. He squinted his eyes, trying to get a better look at the strange figure on the stage. Usually when he saw spirits, it meant that they wanted something from him, help of some sort or that they had a message they needed him to pass on to others. But this one seemed intently focused on what was happening on the stage.

    What’s she doing now? Gabe asked.

    Nothing really. She’s just staring at Benny and the kid.

    She then turned her head so slowly that it was almost imperceptible. Nick blinked, not quite sure at first whether she was actually moving. Her head continued its movement, and two bright green eyes glowed in the eyeholes of the mask. The eyes roamed over the crowd as though they were searching for someone and then her body eerily — and unnaturally — began to rotate slowly towards the audience, her feet not quite touching the floor. Nick watched the figure’s curious movement for several moments when all of sudden her eyes locked onto his and the mouth underneath the mask smirked. Nick gasped as a quick swoop of vertigo slammed over him, and he grabbed tightly onto the arms of his seat. Damn, this was one hell of a spooky ghost.

    It was then he noticed it.

    Shit Gabe, Nick whispered urgently, trying to suppress the fear that his now adrenaline-charged body was signaling to him. She has a friggin’ knife!

    The ghost was holding a long gleaming kitchen knife in her right hand, its shiny blade pointed towards the floor. Nick hadn’t noticed it at first because until now, her left side had faced the audience, with the hand that held the knife completely hidden from view. It wasn’t until she turned that he noticed the shiny object in her hand.

    Gabe reared back in his seat and stared at Nick wide-eyed. What are you going to do? he whispered from the side of his mouth.

    Nick held up his hands in an I-have-no-idea gesture. I don’t know if there’s anything I can do. She’s there, and we’re here. It was true. Their seats were about fifteen rows from the front and almost right in the center of the row. It would no doubt cause a significant disturbance if they tried to worm their way toward the stage. Not that it’d do any good. As far as Nick knew, there was no physical way to stop a ghost. If she wanted to hurt someone, there was little Nick could do to prevent it.

    Does it want to hurt Benny? Gabe asked. Do you think it’s gonna try to stab him?

    Nick shrugged, his eyes still glued to the stage. I dunno. Dammit! I wish I could see its face. It’s wearing a dress, so I’m fairly certain that it’s a lady underneath that mask. He swallowed and turned to look at Gabe. And I think she noticed me.

    Gabe looked alarmed. How do you know?

    She was surveying the audience like she was searching for someone in particular. But when she saw me, she stopped looking. I swear she was staring right at me with those glowing eyes of hers. And when her eyes met mine, it affected me physically somehow — made me dizzy and lightheaded.

    Her eyes glow? Gabe asked wide-eyed.

    Nick nodded. Yeah. There’s a light greenish glow coming from the eyeholes of the mask. I’ve never seen anything like it.

    Now if that isn’t the creepiest thing ever, Gabe said. He shivered and then squinted at the stage, as though desperately trying to see the ghost.

    Tell me about it, Nick said.

    So what’s she doing now?

    Nick turned to the stage. She was no longer scanning the audience but once again was watching Benny. The conundrum of what to do weighed heavily on Nick’s mind as he attempted to hold back the panic that threatened to rise within him. Should he disrupt the show to let the magician know that there was a ghost holding a knife on the stage? Or should he do nothing and hope that the spirit wouldn’t try to harm anyone? If he did try to warn Benny, how could Nick get the magician to believe him? They’d most likely end up getting thrown out of the theater once he starting ranting on about a ghost with a knife — and that certainly wouldn’t help the magician.

    She’s watching Benny again, Nick whispered.

    Why do you think she’s here? You don’t think she’d try to stab him or the assistant in front of everyone, do you? Apparently, the same thoughts were going through Gabe’s mind as his.

    Can’t say for sure, Nick said. She doesn’t seem to be threatening them at all. She’s just watching the show. But if she makes a move towards either of them, I’ll do something. I dunno, I’ll jump up and yell ‘Fire!’ or something.

    Nick perched on the edge of his seat and studied the spirit. The knife was once again hidden from view. Now that Nick looked at her more closely, he determined that it wasn’t a dress at all that she was wearing but rather an overly large light green sweater with matching stretch pants. He was still certain however, that it was a woman under the mask. Her arms looked thin, and a long gold necklace hung around her neck. Nick noticed that the sweater was splattered by what appeared to be several dark splotches. It was difficult to tell from this distance but Nick guessed the enormous stains were dried blood. That’d certainly explain the knife she was holding.

    I think she might have been stabbed, Nick said. She has blood on her shirt. Lots of it.

    Gabe cast a sideways glance at him. You thinking she was murdered?

    Nick paused. It was beginning to look that way. Either someone had killed her or she had killed someone else, but judging by her sweater, he guessed it was the former. Nick recalled a conversation he’d had with his Uncle Mitch, during which his uncle had told him that in all of his years of helping ghosts, he’d only encountered a spirit who’d been murdered once or twice. Nick wished that he could say the same.

    I’m thinking yeah, Nick said. I wonder if Benny killed her? If he did, I’m guessing things are not going to go very well for him in the near future.

    Nick, you gotta warn him!

    But what if he’s the murderer? Nick asked. What if he killed that woman?

    He doesn’t look like a murderer to me, Gabe said.

    Me neither, said Nick. But regardless, I don’t think I’d want to be alone with him when I drop the bombshell.

    So you’ll still warn him?

    Nick stared at Gabe for a moment and then nodded. Yeah, I probably should. But not until after the show. I don’t think that she’s going to make a move during the performance.

    I hope you’re right.

    Me too.

    Nick felt bad that Gabe had missed so much of Benny’s act while they were talking, especially since Nick knew how much Gabe had been looking forward to the show. Nick tried to watch the act, but it was difficult with the rush of adrenaline coursing through his body. Instead, he focused all of his attention on the enigmatic spirit on the stage. If she threatened the magician or his assistant, Nick planned to jump up and shout, to distract her — even if it meant getting tossed out of the theater or worse yet, in jail.

    Finally, Benny concluded with his grand finale. What the act was, Nick had no idea as he’d been too preoccupied with the mysterious spirit but luckily, the ghost hadn’t moved from her spot the entire time. Nick breathed a heavy sigh of relief when everyone began clapping, and Benny ducked behind the curtain. Nick wiped the sweat off of his forehead with his sleeve, grateful that he didn’t have to draw any attention to himself during the show.

    Everyone stood up and began making their way towards the door. Nick and Gabe pushed their way in the opposite direction through the crowd to the front of the theater. It was like going up the down escalator during rush hour. People pushed and shoved him out of the way, crashing into him and Gabe as though they were invisible. A small weasel-like man stepped on Nick’s foot, and when Nick cried out in pain, the man glared at him as though it was Nick’s fault. They continued to push their way through the crowd, and it seemed that the more Nick tried to move forward, the more people pushed him back. It was taking forever to reach the front of the theater. Nick glanced over his shoulder back at the stage. The spirit was gone.

    When they finally reached the front, Gabe put his hands on his hips and shook his head. That certainly isn’t something that I want to try again too soon. We should have waited for everyone to exit the theater first.

    Another lesson learned, Nick said. We wasted way too much time burrowing our way through the crowd. He pointed to the curtain. Come on. Let’s see if we can find Benny.

    Behind the curtain, the stage gave way to a long hallway along which were two faded brown doors. One of them had to be Benny’s room.

    Nick glanced at Gabe, shrugged his shoulders and then knocked loudly on the first door.

    Yeah?

    Nick opened the door and peered inside. A lanky older man with gray hair holding a shop broom in his

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