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McGrave's Hotel by Steve Bryant
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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.
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McGrave’s Hotel by Steve Bryant
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Tantrum Books
At the six available elevators that serviced the hotel, the other bellhops and luggage consumed so much space in the first that there was little room for Victor Lesley and James.
Mr. Lesley tapped James on the shoulder with his walking stick. “You, Ace, stick with me. We’ll take the next one.”
A moment later, James and his box and Mr. Lesley and his walking stick entered the adjacent elevator. When the doors closed and they were alone in the carved oak interior, Mr. Lesley let out a sigh of relief, leaned against one of the walls, and closed his eyes.
James used the moment to steal a close look at the object in his hands. The box was the elephant in the room.
“Want to know what’s in there?” the actor said. He opened his eyes and tapped the box with his walking stick.
“My biggest secret. Thus it must remain. Room 3913, please.”
The floor buttons and indicator lights formed a matrix of four columns. James had to stretch to push the button for the thirty-ninth floor. Holding onto the box made it even more difficult.
“Aren’t you a little young for this line of work?” Mr. Lesley said.
“I’m almost twelve, sir.”
James had a basement room, but it was large and well-ventilated, and Chef Anatole let him order anything off the spectacular menu. Mr. Morton, the accountant, tutored him in Arithmetic; Miss Frobish, the head of reservations, tutored him in Geography; and Mr. Clancy, the electrician, tutored him in Science. Anything else he wished to learn was available on the sixth floor, in the hotel library. The library originally belonged to Thaddeus McGrave himself, and the management since Mr. McGrave’s era had not only preserved the collection but had updated it regularly.
James was an avid reader and used the library often. His room was filled with borrowed books, and he discussed them at length with Mr. Nash and Miss Charles. He was particularly fond of books about ancient Egypt because they reminded him of the summer he and his parents spent in Cairo. He remembered laughing at the wobbly, lurching camel ride to the Great Pyramid of Cheops, at Giza. On the small bureau in his room, James kept his only souvenir of that excursion: a photograph of his mom, his dad, and himself. Their names—Blanche, Alex, and James—were inscribed on the back in his mother’s neat hand. His mom had long blond hair and looked quite beautiful in the khaki riding outfit she wore in the photo, and his dad always said she was the bee’s knees.
The elevator, which had been ascending, passed the twentieth floor.
“Did you like my gals tonight?” Mr. Lesley asked.
“The ladies in the red dresses? They seemed nice,” James said. “Were they really what you said? Your fan club? Your agent?”
“Never met them before,” Mr. Lesley said. “Look, Ace, it’s all the same. It doesn’t matter if you are a stage star, a screen star, or President Roosevelt. You have to make an entrance. In most towns, the limo comes from the local funeral home. Here in New York, you can get a real limo with all the trimmings. So tonight, the limo, the girls, even a couple of the guys asking questions, were all part of a package deal. You pay for it. It’s one of the expenses of being a star.”
As they passed the thirtieth floor, the elevator suddenly slowed. When it stopped prematurely, James stared anxiously at the button and light panel as the doors opened. All the lights were flashing. “Nuts!” he said at once. It was the wrong floor!
The opened doors revealed a corridor lit entirely by candles. The corridor seemed to drift off to infinity. From far down the hallway, something large and green was floating toward them fast. James recognized it as the ectoplasm of a lost, angry spirit. He had had trouble with this one before. Jockeying the wooden box into an arm hold with his right arm, James furiously pressed the Close Door button with his left hand. The doors sealed right before the green cloud was upon them.
The elevator jerked once and then resumed its ascent. The lights calmed down.
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.
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