The Devil at Play
The Devil in Miss Drake’s Class, 3
“Everyone loves the devil until they know him. Until they see him for what he really is.”
Nobody ever did, even as the bodies started to pile up.
But now, too late for it to matter, Audrey understands at last. The devil of Fairview has been courting her for days, and watching her for much longer than that. The murderer is her boyfriend—and he’s been killing on her behalf.
His name is Jack Maddox, but everyone calls him Mad Jack. He’s planning a party, where everyone is invited, especially Audrey’s tormentors—especially the Facebook Fifteen.
Audrey will have her revenge, whether she wants it or not.
Because, in Miss Drake’s class, the devil will have his due.
14+ due to violence and adult situations
As he cleaned the knife, she fought her way back to the surface. Eventually, she managed words. “I still don’t know which parts of this were real. Or if I’m completely crazy.”
“You’re not crazy, Audrey,” he reassured her. “You never were. No more than I was. And you’re not crazy now. Just the opposite, in fact.”
When she let the silence stretch again, making it meaningful, he continued.
“Your problem is the same as mine. You see things how they really are, and it makes you sad. Makes you angry. What happened here wasn’t a hallucination. What happened here was justice—for you.”
Polishing the blade, he glanced at her sidelong, expectantly.
He’s holding a knife, she said to herself. And spoke her mind anyway. “I’m nothing like you.”
He smiled. “You’re nicer than me, that’s for sure. No contest.”
“You’re… like the devil, Jack.” Please don’t kill me. You can read my thoughts, I know it now. You’ll know if I lie. I’m being honest with you. I want the truth.
“The devil?” Jack said, chuckling. “Not sure if I believe in ‘the devil.’ Never been to the other side, either way. But I know from pictures he has red skin, pointy tail, horns, carries a pitchfork… usually has pretty big eyebrows.”
Audrey put her hand over his wrists, stopped his polishing. “No, Jack,” she said. “The devil is far too smart to look like that. Everyone loves the devil, until they know him. Until they see him for what he really is.”
They regarded each other.
“Does this mean we can’t be friends?” he joked. “Bet you never thought you’d have first period English with the devil.”
“No,” she said. “I never did.”
“By your description,” Jack said, his smile fading. “The devil was in Miss Drake’s class. But it wasn’t me.”
“Jack,” Audrey said, giving up. “I want to go home. Can I go home, please?”
“Soon,” he said, tossing the knife in the sink, turning around, and leaning up against it. “You have to do something for me first. Don’t worry. I don’t think you’ll have a problem with it. I hope not, anyway.”
Audrey narrowed her eyes. She wasn’t afraid. After tonight, she didn’t know if she had any fear left in her. “What?” she asked.
“In order for you to understand the ‘what,’” he said. “You first have to understand who Ireally am. Completely—or at least as much as I understand, myself. Time is short, so pay attention.”
BRINGING IT ALL TO AN END
When I first started writing the story that grew into a trilogy called THE DEVIL IN MISS DRAKE’S CLASS, I knew that the real-world content backing up the horror story (cyberbullying and teen suicide) was something I didn’t want to exploit or glorify. I needed it to be about a kid who learns to live. And its end had to be a real ending. The reader could not even entertain the idea, “Well, looks like there could be a Book 4.”
And so I made THE DEVIL AT PLAY, its final installment, completely un-sequel-able. It’s difficult to be specific without spoiling the story, but I feel pretty confident that readers will understand that any further exploration of these characters would either be impossible—or, at best, irrelevant. I’m hoping, instead, that those who have read these books will, upon reaching the end, breathe a sigh of relief and just say, “Wow. What a ride.” That was the goal.
Of course, anyone in Hollywood will tell you there’s no such thing as an un-sequel-able project. Think of the title Final Destination 2. I mean, really, think about that title. I always hated it when, in a horror film series, one part resolved an issue entirely—like Jason getting “killed” in God-knows how many Friday the 13th installments—only to have him resurrected by a bolt of lightning (or something equally stupid) in the first five minutes of the next movie.
Alternatively, how many of you remember the little girl being rescued in the second Alien movie? It was Sigourney’s whole reason for taking on the monster queen in the climax of the film. In order to make Alien 3, however, years later, the girl is found dead in the spaceship’s stasis tube in the first five minutes of that gratuitous rehash. You see, too much time had passed to cast the original actress—and this story just had to continue.
Nonsense. Let the end be The End.
For me, that does not necessarily mean killing off every character in the book (although I kind of did that in The Forever Show). It just means providing resolution, good or bad, to the major conflicts. So, without spoilers, here’s what ending the series with THE DEVIL AT PLAY meant to me:
Audrey’s bullying conflict: resolved. The threat of Jack Maddox, a.k.a. “the Observer”: resolved. The damage to the friendship between Audrey and Val: resolved. Maggie Lassiter’s relentless pursuit of “justice”: resolved.
The list could go on. Readers will have their ending. I hope they like where the story ultimately takes them.
It’s still kind of sad, though, for me. I imagine this must be something like what it feels like when parents send their kids off to college. You know—you feel like you’ve done your best by them, helped them grow, dealt with them when they were difficult … Now it’s up to them. And, mostly without your help, you want them to do well. Your hopes are high, but you worry for them. That’s pretty much how I feel about the three books in my little trilogy.
I love ’em to death, but their fates are now out of my hands.
About the Author:
Marcus Damanda lives in Woodbridge, Virginia with his cat, Shazam. At various times throughout his life, he played bass guitar for the garage heavy metal band Mother’s Day, wrote for The Dale City Messenger, and published editorials in The Potomac News and The Freelance Star. Currently, while not plotting his next foray into fictitious suburban mayhem, he spoils his nieces and nephews and teaches middle school English.
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