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Authors: Randi Reisfeld,H.B. Gilmour

T*Witches: Double Jeopardy

BOOK: T*Witches: Double Jeopardy
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T*Witches:
Double Jeopardy

H.B. Gilmour
& Randi Reisfeld

 

 

 

© 2002, 2012 H.B. Gilmour and Randi Reisfeld

All rights reserved.

First published by Scholastic in 2002.

CHAPTER ONE

FAMILY STRIFE

The front door slammed. Then, again. Just in case the first time wasn’t enough to express the fury of the people who came barreling through it.

“I’ve never been so humiliated!” a woman’s shrill voice raged.

“I don’t see what the big deal is,” came the sulky, defensive response of a teenage boy.

“You don’t see what the big deal is?” A man’s voice echoed in frustration, “Well, it looks like we’re going to have to show you!”

Camryn Barnes heard all this from her second floor bedroom, where she’d been bent over her tenth grade history book, trying — and failing — to concentrate. Even
before the sudden loud interruption from downstairs, she’d been antsy and anxious.

Her identical twin, Alexandra Fielding, was pacing all around their shared bedroom, equally flipped out. Too jumpy even to pretend to be dealing with homework, Alex alternated between trading IMs with her Montana homeys, channel surfing, and tuning her guitar.

It was as if someone had told them not to think about a big test that was coming up, and now it was all they could think of. Only, in this case, the test was their long-lost mother.

It was late Friday afternoon and, though neither twin wanted to talk, let alone think about it, both were waiting for a message from her. It might arrive by phone, by e-mail, or possibly drift into their daydreams. Weeks had gone by since they’d been promised it would come. And each passing day made them ever more edgy, made their expected message seem ever more momentous.

So when the door slammed downstairs, it was a relief to be startled out of their shared obsession. Cam threw down her textbook; Alex laid aside the guitar. They bounded down the carpeted steps to the family room, where the weird row raged, out of character and out of control.

David and Emily Barnes, Cam’s adoptive parents, were going at it with their son, Dylan. At fourteen, he
was a year younger than Cam and Alex, a head taller, and, lately, a whole lot more trouble-prone.

“What’s gotten into you?” Emily shrieked at her son, whose blond hair peeked out from under an American flag do-rag.

She took a step toward him and shook her finger. “If you’re smoking again or fooling with drugs …”

Dylan rolled his cornflower-blue eyes, which matched Emily’s own. “Oh, man! Would that make you happy? Would that explain it all?”

Alex’s stomach churned. This was a bad one.

Dave’s thick mustache, usually turned up with his smile, was drooping with disappointment. His generally jovial manner had done a 180. “Don’t you talk to your mother like that. Explain yourself. Now.”

Dylan dropped onto the couch. “What’s the big deal? I was walking down the street. I wasn’t bothering anyone.”

“The police picked you up for just walking?” Emily sarcastically interrupted him. “You call kicking over trash cans, dumping garbage all over the street, not bothering anyone?”

Mindlessly tugging at the tiny gold earring he wore, Dylan grumbled defiantly, “I was trying to figure something out. I got frustrated.”

“At two in the afternoon, during school hours?” Lawyer Dave objected. “You were cutting.”

“Sue me,” Dylan mumbled.

Cam flinched. Was he deliberately trying to bait their dad? “What’s going on?” she asked nervously.

Alex bounded over to Dylan and touched his arm. “You okay?” she whispered.

Emily growled at them through clenched teeth. “This is between your brother and us. Please leave the room. Both of you.”

Two startled pairs of identical silver-gray eyes stared at her. “But Mom …” Cam started. She backed off when Dave waved her away.

“Can I just —” Alex asked.

“No, you cannot,” Dave snapped. “Go upstairs. Now.”

They retreated only as far as the kitchen. Something told them to stick around, not only to eavesdrop, but to prevent Dylan from doing anything he’d regret — which, in his hyper-defiant, self-destructive state, was a given.

As the argument continued to rage in the next room, the twins tried to figure it out. Their brother had been logging more extreme disobedience than extreme sports time lately. He’d already been caught and chewed out for breaking curfew and cutting last-period phys. ed. Worst of all, his grades were in free fall.

Dave and Emily had been all over him, done the “concerned parent, let’s communicate” thing. Only now the Marble Bay police were apparently involved. Buh-
bye
, reasonable ’rents — hello, screaming accusations. The home game of family strife was in the penalty phase.

Emily went into default blame. “It’s that computer. You’re on it morning and night — wasting hours on the Internet or in those chat rooms, instead of doing your homework,” she accused.

“I’m not
wasting
hours,” Dylan was protesting. “You guys always think the worst. It would never occur to you that I was doing something important, would it? No, to you I’m just the brother of Cam-the-golden-girl and poor-little-orphan-Alex. I’m just some snowboarding slacker with nothing better to do than goof around on the Net.”

The tone of Dylan’s voice had changed. Belligerent had become bitter. Cam and Alex went into high alert: Something was about to blow.

It was more than a hunch. The gifted twins’ talents went way beyond educated guesses and honed instincts. At fifteen, Cam and Alex were capable of knowing and doing things ordinary adults couldn’t fathom — including reading each other’s minds.

Alex could hear things she shouldn’t have been able to — and often didn’t want to — like other people’s
thoughts. Even from the next room, she read Dylan’s mind loud and clear.

Cam, who could see and sense things she shouldn’t have been able to, like the future — immediate or long-range — “saw” her brother eyeing …

Emily’s proud new purchase, a pricey “signed McCoy” antique vase!

Alex thought,
He’s ballistic, he’s actually going to —

smash it to smithereens!
, Cam telepathically finished Alex’s panicked thought.

On damage-control patrol, the twins raced into the den in time to see Dylan grab the antique mustard-colored monstrosity.

Can you stop him?
Cam anxiously asked her twin.

Too late
, Alex responded, as Dylan, fueled by fury, had already drawn his arm back, about to pitch the antique.

Horrified, Emily screamed, “Don’t!”

Dave made for his son.

Neither was fast enough to stop Dylan.

Alex was.

Using her powers — the ability to move things just by thinking about them — she closed her eyes and pictured the vase, now arcing through the air, changing direction. It was only inches from the wall, where it would
have been destroyed, when it miraculously made a hairpin turn, and spun toward Cam. With the reflexes of an athlete, she caught it.

It had all happened in a nanosecond, too fast for Emily or Dave to comprehend that something very strange had just happened.

Dylan had no clue he’d just dodged a bullet. Disgusted with himself, he stomped toward the staircase.

CHAPTER TWO

THREE’S A CROWD

Cam hung downstairs with Emily and Dave. Partly to comfort her parents and partly to be sure they were still too unhinged to suspect she and Alex had magically prevented the vase from breaking.

Alex hit the stairs, hurrying after Dylan. They weren’t biologically related but the brazen blond boy was the brother she’d have picked if she’d had a choice. Dyl had been reared with Cam, yet he was much more like her, Alex thought.

She shared with Cam’s blond bro a love of music, a not-quite mastery of the guitar, and a tendency to find trouble wherever it hid. Not that Dyl qualified as a true
delinquent. Proof: Only the sneaky survived; Dylan always got caught.

Alex clumped up the stairs in her scuffed Doc Martens and tapped on Dylan’s door. Music, or some ear-shattering attempt at it, had deafened him to her knock. She pounded on his door again and let herself in.

As usual, Dyl’s room looked like a cross between a locker room and a laundry hamper. One of his two snowboards was lying across a hill of clothing tossed onto his bed. On his nightstand were the can and cloth he’d been using to wax the board. His guitar, plugged into an amp hidden under another mound of clothes, leaned against his dresser with, Alex was pleased to note, a couple of pages of lyrics she’d written during one of their sessions. In the middle of it all, his back to the door, clicking away at the forbidden computer, was the bad boy himself.

Sidestepping the floor mess, Alex pushed the
OFF
button on his CD player. “’S’up?” she said, coming up behind him. “You okay?”

Dylan jumped. “Yeah, yeah,” he answered, spinning around on his computer chair. “Cool. Gnarly. Okay? I … I just need to be alone —”

“What’re you doing?” She peered at the screen and saw that he was having a chat-room convo with someone named KC. “Besides what you’re not supposed to?”

“What’re you, on their side now?” Dyl grumbled.

“Yeah, right.” Alex dismissed the lame remark. “Who’s KC? And why is he important enough to get you in more trouble than you’re already in?”

Dylan’s face turned to stone. “Why are you looking over my shoulder? Who I’m writing to is none of your …” He stopped, suddenly realizing Alex had only come to help. “Look,” he said, his eyes pleading with her, “it’s important — and private. Do me a solid and just go now, okay?”

Alex shrugged. “If that’s what you want. But if you change your mind … if you need me …”

“I know,” he answered.

Alex took the shortcut to the room she shared with Cam, through the bathroom that connected their den with Dylan’s. What she ran into puzzled her. Cam was at the sink, putting on makeup.

“Uh … what are you doing? Going somewhere?” Alex asked.

“Taking advantage of the cease-fire,” Cam answered as she applied a final touch of lip gloss. “Going out for pizza. So are you. C’mon, get ready. Beth got her permit. We’re all going out to celebrate.”

Alex was truly bewildered. “Was there a memo I didn’t get? I thought we agreed to wait until —”

“Until what?” Cam said, sighing. She turned away from the mirror to stare at her sister. Which, it occurred to Alex, was totally redundant, since they looked exactly alike.

Except for their hair — Cam’s gleaming auburn, the result of her ritual twenty minutes of daily shampoo-conditioner-blow-drying vs. Alex’s two seconds of head shaking and hand-raking her choppy, bleached ’do.

And their attitudes — they didn’t always think alike. And right now, the difference was total.

Alex followed Cam back into their bedroom, where her twin began the process of figuring out what to wear. She decided on a baby-blue sweater set and black boot-cut jeans and began to pull the combination out of the closet.

Alex, in an old sweatshirt and faded jeans, plopped down on her bed, hands clasped behind her head, staring out at an ice-white moon. “She said she’d call.”

“She
said
she’d be in touch,” Cam corrected.

“Yeah. Soon.”

“It’s been a month, Als.” Cam wriggled into the jeans. “We’ve been waiting for her for a month. Make that a year. Whoops, try all our lives. She can wait for us tonight.”

“Wow, cruel and unusual comeback, Cami.” Alex tried to make a joke of it. It didn’t work.

It was just too big.

It was all about the twins’ birth mother. Miranda. A woman they’d never met but had wondered about, obsessed over, probably every day for nearly a year. She’d been assumed dead, until the twins themselves made the startling discovery that she was alive.

Miranda. She’d called them just last month. Her voice on the telephone had been soft, sweet, eager.

Nervous, Cam had thought, uncertain.

Quivering with excitement, Alex was convinced, with joy!

She’d promised to visit them soon.

So far, “soon” had totaled a month — which was, not so weirdly, about as long as their nerves had been jangling.

Tonight’s family feud had shaken up Cam. She was out of patience. Much as she loved Dylan, she didn’t understand why he was purposefully upsetting their parents. Especially Emily — in most ways, her real mom. There was way too much going on at home, Cam decided. The Miranda issue would have to be shelved. For now. She guessed.

Alex wasn’t as attached to Emily, hadn’t grown up with her. Alex’s “mom-eries” were all about Sara Fielding — in every way,
her
real mom.

As for Miranda, Alex was perplexed about what was taking so long. Four weeks, going on five. She had to admit — to
herself only — that while she longed for the day they’d meet, she was worried about it, too.

What if Miranda didn’t like them? Didn’t like
her
. Unlike Cam, she wasn’t everybody’s cup of chai. And she didn’t have a substitute family to fall back on.

Both of Alex’s adoptive parents, Ike and Sara, were dead. At least Cam still had Dave and Emily, who’d adopted her as an infant, and Dylan, their bio-child.

Different as they were about some things, Alex thought, watching her sister’s endless prep for a date with a pizza, she and Cam shared more than being adopted.

Neither of them had known she was, or had, a twin until a year ago when, at age fourteen, they’d met by accident.

And, although both of them had always wondered why they weren’t exactly like other kids, they hadn’t realized they were witches.

Now they were fifteen. Cam’s ’rents had become Alex’s court-authorized legal guardians. And of all the uncertainties in their still-strange lives, they were sure of this: They were teens. Twins. Witches.

T’Witches.

“Look,” Cam said, reading Alex’s mind, “I’m just as anxious and scared about meeting her as you are. I mean, I’m dying to. But —”

“Dying? Interesting choice of words, Camryn,” Alex
pointed out, turning away from her sister and back to the comforting moonlight.

Cam knew what her twin meant. Alex was convinced that their uncle, the billionaire warlock, Lord Thantos, had been involved in the long-ago disappearance — and now sudden and strange reappearance — of their mother.

Thantos, the brutal and powerful warlock, had supposedly murdered his own brother, their dad, Aron, on the very day of their birth on Coventry Island, home to a community of witches and warlocks. He’d been on their trail ever since.

If Alex was right, if evil Uncle T was behind their mother’s recent, startling phone call to them, then
dying
was not just an apt word but a good possibility.

A weird smell hit Alex’s nostrils. “What’s that new cologne called?” she asked, wrinkling her nose. “Displeasure?”

Cam looked like she’d caught the same scent. Her face went all sweaty. She sat down suddenly at the edge of Alex’s bed and threw off her cardigan. “It’s warm in here.”

“And getting hotter,” a deep voice rumbled.

Alex and Cam spun toward the sound.

And gasped.

Leaning back in Cam’s chair, his hobnail boots resting on her desk, his broad, black-cloaked back to them, was Thantos.

BOOK: T*Witches: Double Jeopardy
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