Read Dark Secrets 2: No Time to Die; The Deep End of Fear Online

Authors: Elizabeth Chandler

Tags: #Murder, #Actors and Actresses, #Problem Families, #Family, #Dysfunctional Families, #Juvenile Fiction, #Family Problems, #Horror Tales; American, #Fiction, #Interpersonal Relations, #Death, #Actors, #Teenagers and Death, #Tutors and Tutoring, #Sisters, #Horror Stories, #Ghosts, #Camps, #Young Adult Fiction; American, #Mystery and Detective Stories

Dark Secrets 2: No Time to Die; The Deep End of Fear (5 page)

BOOK: Dark Secrets 2: No Time to Die; The Deep End of Fear
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Tomas delivered his first three lines with one less stutter. I listened, measuring with my eyes the distance between him and me. When the cue came, I raced forward and sprang, executing a handspring and round-off, landing five inches from his face. He laughed.

"'Here comes my messenger,'" he read, still laughing some. It worked wel for his character. "'How now, mad spirit?'"

I had done gymnastic routines to music, but never to Shakespeare's iambic pentameter. The report to Oberon ran twenty-nine lines. I performed only easy stunts and thoroughly mashed my script, but I kept everyone entertained—most important, Tomas. I made sure to finish up close to him so I could give him a nudge if he missed his cue, but he was ready for me. We ran through a bit of dialogue, and Mike and Kimberly entered to read their parts. Then it was our turn again with lines Tomas hadn't yet read, but he did okay, I guessed because he felt more relaxed.

When we finished, some of the kids broke into applause. Walker didn't say a word, just went on to the next group. I had probably ticked him off. I wondered what Mike was thinking. I was careful not to look at him; hoping for his approval seemed too much like competing with Liza.

The audition went on with Walker trying different combinations of actors. He dismissed us at four o'clock, a half hour early, instructing us to read the play once again for tomorrow. The cast would be posted in the morning.

Brian showed the group the way down to the back exit and we filed out quietly. As I reached the grass outside, someone yanked on me from behind, pull ing my arm so hard it hurt, forcing me to turn around.

"That role was mine," Paul said.

I could have insisted that I didn't want to play Puck, but he wouldn't have believed me, and if I explained why I had interrupted the scene, I'd embarrass Tomas.

"My name is Jenny," I told him. "If you want me, call my name, okay?"

"There's only one girl I ever wanted."

I could guess who.

"Since you're new around here, Jenny, I'm going to give you some advice." He gazed at my mouth, the only feature of mine that was like Liza's. "Watch your step. Don't play too many games with people. Don't cross Walker. Last summer there was a talented actress who did, and she ended up dead."

For a moment I could say nothing. "If you mean Liza Montgomery, I believe she was the victim of a serial killer."

"That's what people say," Paul replied, walking past me. "That's what people say."

Chapter 7

Keri and Mike hurried after Paul and a stream of campers followed. Realizing that I had better straighten things out with Brian and that this would be a good time to catch him alone, I ducked back inside Stoddard. I found him walking down the ground floor hall, deep in thought, jangling a ring of keys.

"Can I talk to you?"

Brian turned around. "Sure. What's up, Jenny?"

"I want to apologize. I shouldn't have gotten you involved with my stage fright stuff."

"No problem," he assured me.

"And I want to explain about playing Puck."

Brian grinned. "I have to admit you had me very confused for a moment, then I figured you were rescuing the fat guy."

"Tomas," I said, wanting Brian to use his name.

Really, there's no need to apologize. It was worth it to see someone stand up to Walker. Most people don't."

"Why does Walker act the way he does?" I asked. "One moment he's nice, the next moment, obnoxious and insulting."

"It's how he keeps control," Brian replied. "Walker would say it's how he gets the best from us. Since we never know what's coming next, we stay on our toes."

"Why do
put up with him?"

"Good question." Brian leaned against the stairway railing and smiled that slow-breaking smile of his. "Basically, for the money and experience. I can't go to L.A. broke. I can't go there with nothing on my resume."

"You mean to do film?"

He nodded. "Of course, it annoys Walker that I'd choose film over stage. It shouldn't matter to him, since he's always tell ing me I can't act. But Walker has this loyalty thing. The way he sees it, everyone is either for him or against him, there's no in-between. He takes everything personally."

I could imagine how personally he took Liza's response to him. "That's a narrow way of looking at the world."

"It's a very egotistical way," Brian replied. "And stupid. I mean, in the end, everybody is out there for himself. Sometimes it makes a person seem for you. Sometimes it makes a person seem against you."

a very cynical view!"

"Probably." He smiled at me, then continued down the hall.

I'd had enough of theater types, and when I exited the building, I turned away from Drama House, heading left on Ink Street, the road that separated the quad from the houses, then taking another left on Scarborough, walking toward the main street of town. I remembered from Liza's e-mails that there was a cafe called Tea Leaves with terrific pastries and cappuccino.

Wisteria had to be the most peaceful town I'd ever strolled through. You could almost hear the flowering vines climbing their trellises. Every house had a sitting porch, every shop a tinkling bell on its door. Pedestrians moved much more slowly than in New York, adding to the sense of a town not subject to time. At the end of the long street of sycamores, sun glittered off the river. I walked all the way down to the harbor, then retraced my steps back to Tea Leaves.

The cafe was like a great-aunt's kitchen, with painted wood furniture and a linoleum tile floor, everything scrubbed clean. I had just settled down at a table with a chocolate doughnut and a cappuccino when I saw Tomas across the room from me, sitting by the big window. He gave me a small, self-conscious wave. I smiled back at him but stayed where I was.

When I looked up again, he was gazing intently out the window. His hand was moving quickly, sketching on an open pad. For fifteen minutes he managed to ignore the decadent pastry on his plate, drawing like a person possessed. I finished my doughnut and carried my cappuccino over to his table, wondering what he was working on.


He looked up and flushed. "Hi."

"May I sit with you?"

"Oh, uh, sure," he stammered and tried to clear a space quickly, knocking his backpack on the floor. It landed with a heavy thud. "Oh, nooo!" His head disappeared beneath the table, there was a lot of rustling around, then he popped up again. "Sorry."

"Everything okay?"

"I hope so."

"What do you have in your pack?" I asked curiously.

"Stuff. Sketch pads. Pencils. Pens. Chalks. A camera—two of them—color film and black and white. Lenses. They're in padded cases, they're okay."

"That's an awful lot to carry around."

"I like to be ready," Tomas explained. "You never know what kinds of interesting things you're going to see.

"I guess not." I leaned closer, trying to see his sketchpad, but he was practiced at covering his work with his arms. "May I look at what you're sketching?"

He glanced down at his drawing, then passed it over.

It was a street scene showing the buildings across from the cafe, an old movie theater, a Victorian-looking hotel, a restaurant, and a large brick home.

"Wow, you're really good!"

"When I sketch buildings," he agreed. "I've always been better with things than people."

"May I look at the rest of the sketches?" I asked.

He nodded. "It's a new book. There's just a couple."

Two of them were of Drama House, one of a tree and patch of brick walk, another of Stoddard Theater from the outside. I admired the way Tomas used lighting to create drama and emotion.

"You know how to give buildings and objects feeling," I said. "I guess that's what makes you a good set designer."

"I love doing art," he replied happily. "People look at what you produce, rather than at you."

I imagined that both acting and athletics were miserable activities for him.

"Thanks for earlier this afternoon," he went on. "I know why you interrupted the scene."

"It was fun," I said, taking a sip of cappuccino. "Walker is lucky to have a real artist in his troupe. I hope he figures that out."

Tomas flushed again and studied his pastry. I began to talk about New York and gradually he relaxed with me. We compared notes on schools and friends and art exhibits we had seen in the city. Finishing our snacks, we walked up and down Wisteria's streets, poking around in shops. Time slipped away and we had to rush back to the meal hall. When we carried our food trays to the table area, everyone else was already seated.

I looked around for a place to sit. Keri's black-and-blond hair made her easy to spot in a crowd. She raised her head, saw Tomas and me, then leaned close to Mike, whispering something. He glanced up, then looked away. Just then Shawna held up a fork with a napkin stuck on its end and waved it like a flag.

"Come on, Tomas," I said.

"You sure?"

"About what?" I asked, though I knew what he meant and wasn't sure.

"That I'm invited, too."

"Of course you are."

"It's all girls," he observed.

"Lucky you!"

Tomas got an earful at dinner. The girls were annoyed because Maggie had announced that those of us who lived in Drama House would read together in the common room that evening.

"She says she wants to build camaraderie," Shawna said.

"Yeah, right. She wants to make sure we do our homework," Denise observed.

Several girls had already made plans to sneak over to the frats—not that we were supposed to visit unchaperoned.

"You guys, we've got to speed-read," one of them said.

Back at Drama House we tried, but Maggie wouldn't let us. Every time we rushed, she told us to slow down, explaining why this or that line was particularly meaningful. We lost more time than we gained. Two and a half hours later, just thirty minutes before curfew, we finished.

Keri and a new girl went immediately to Lynne's room, which had a first floor window, an easier exit than the fire escape. Shawna waited for me outside Lynne's door.

"Want to go with us?" she asked.

"Not tonight, thanks."

I returned to my room, turned on the bedside lamp, and carried a sketchpad belonging to Tomas to the window seat. Sitting down, I pulled my legs up on the bench and opened the spiral-bound book. Tomas had said that most of the drawings were done in New York. On the first page I discovered the carousel in Central Park, which Liza and I had ridden about a million times. I continued to turn the pages, feeling a twinge of home-sickness—a park bench and street lamp, a greengrocer's striped awning and boxes of fruit, St. Bartholomew's Church. Then I found myself in Wisteria.

All three drawings were of the bridge over Oyster Creek. I studied one, tracing with my finger the dark lines of its pilings. I began to feel light-headed.

The moonlit paper turned a cool silvery blue. The image of the bridge swam before my eyes like a watery reflection.

It was happening again, the same strange experience that I'd had last night and in the theater. Frightened, I tried to pull back, tried to pull out of it. My muscles jumped, my head jerked. I felt wide awake and relieved that I could focus again. But when I looked around, I wasn't in my room.

Oyster Creek Bridge stretched above me. I heard a car drive over it, its wheels whining on the metal grating, the pitch rising, then dropping away.

Silence followed, a long, ominous silence.

"Liza," I whispered, "are you there? Liza, are you making this happen? Help me—I'm scared."

The image of the bridge dissolved. I could see nothing now, nothing but darkness with an aura of blue, but

I could sense things moving around me. The air was teeming with words I couldn't discern—angry words and feelings worming in the blackness.

I felt something being fastened around my wrist. I didn't know who was doing it or why and tried to pull my hand away. My arms and legs wouldn't respond.

"Help me! Help me, please."

The words stayed locked inside me. I tried to move my lips, but I had no voice.

Then a pinpoint of light broke through the darkness. I moved toward the light, and it grew larger and radiant as the sun. But something stirred in the darkness behind me and I quickly turned back. I saw another light, a smaller, dimmer image, like the reflected light of the moon. Suddenly there was the sound of breaking glass. The moon shattered.

I blinked and looked around. I was back in my room at Drama House, and the moon was in one piece high in the sky, shining down on a mere sketch of the bridge.

I clutched the art pad til its spiral bit into my fingers. What was happening to me?

When I had the blue dreams as a child, I was always asleep, but these visions were invading my waking hours. If I was awake, they had to be daydreams, imaginings about the place where Liza had died. And yet they came unsummoned like nightmares—dreams I couldn't control.

Now, more than ever, I needed Liza here to comfort me. And yet, it was the memory of her that gave these visions their terrifying life.

Chapter 8

Fear of slipping into another nightmarish vision made it difficult for me to fall asleep that night, but once I did, I slept solidly and could not remember any dreams when I awoke Wednesday morning. I walked to the meal hall with Shawna and Lynne, who reported that last night's adventure had been pretty dull. The girls had simply stood at a window of one of the frats and talked for a while to the guys.

In the middle of her analysis of this year's selection of guys, Shawna suddenly stopped and pointed to a group of kids clustered around the back door of Stoddard. "They posted the cast. Come on!"

She and Lynne rushed down the path. Tomas, who had been standing at the back of the crowd of campers, hurried toward me, grinning.

"You did it, Jenny. You did it! Congratulations! I knew you would get the part."

"Part—what part?"

"Puck," he said.

"As understudy, you mean." Please let that be what he means, I thought.

"No, no, you're it," he announced happily. "Isn't that great?"

great… if you like a fairy that looks nauseated, sweats profusely, and speaks in a squeaky voice. I have to talk to Walker."

"Jenny," Lynne called to me, "you're Puck."

"Way to go, Reds!" Shawna hollered.

"I'm Hermia," Lynne called. "Shawna is Peter Quince, the director of the rustics."

"Congrats!" I turned to Tomas. "Did you get a part?"

"Not even understudy," he said with relief. "I'm head of scenery and props. This is going to be great. Want to eat? I sure do."

"You go ahead. There's something I have to take care of. tell Shawna and Lynne I'll catch up with you at the theater."

Tomas walked on happily and I retreated to the porch of Drama House. From there I watched the four houses empty out. When it looked as if everyone had seen the posting and gone on to breakfast, I headed back to Stoddard. At the door I stopped to check the list. Mike had gotten the role of the lover Demetrius, Paul was Oberon, the jealous king of the fairies, and Keri, his queen, Titania. I—under my new "stage name," Jenny Baird—was listed next to
Liza would have been astonished.

When I entered the building I heard voices coming from a distance down the hall. One of them, Walker's, bristled with irritation.

"You've always got an excuse."

"I asked for a ladder," came the quiet reply. "Asked for it last Friday. When I get it, I'll do the job."

"I want it done

I followed the voices past a series of doors marked Women's Dressing Room, Wardrobe, and Props, and reached the corner of the building, where the hall made a right-angle turn. Rounding the bend, I came upon Walker standing in an office doorway, his hands on his hips, a scowl on his face. He was talking to a man whose streaky hair was either blond turning gray or gray turning yellowy white. His veined hands had a slight tremor. Suddenly aware of me, he glanced back nervously.

"You don't need a ladder to get to the catwalk," Walker continued. "I told you before, there are rungs on the wall."

I tried to imagine this fragile man climbing the rungs to a narrow walkway hanging thirty feet above the stage. I had seen custodians like him before: tired, emotionally worn men just trying to get to the end of each day.

"tell your boss I want to speak with him," Walker went on. "I'm tired of the crap they're sending me for custodians. You're worse than the last guy."

The custodian took a step back. "Yes, sir, I'll tell 'im. And maybe he'll climb up those rungs," he added. "You and him together."

I fought a smile. Arthur was tougher than he looked.

He walked away, his pale blue eyes glancing at me as he passed.

"Miss Baird," Walker said, "we don't meet til eight-thirty."

"I wanted to talk to you about the casting. I can't play Puck—you know I can't and you know why."

He cocked his head. "I'm afraid I don't. You do gymnastics."

"Yes, but—"

"Don't you ever compete?"

I shifted my weight from foot to foot. "Well, yes, I'm on the school team, but—"

"Performance is performance," he said. "If you can do one, you can do the other." He turned to go back in his office. "Now, if you don't mind, I—"

"I do mind," I said, following him in. "I need you to listen."

He sat in his chair and checked notes on his desk. He didn't look too interested in listening.

"We are talking about two different things," I explained. "When I compete in gymnastics, the performance is on a gym floor, not up on a stage. I don't see a sea of strange faces looking up at me. I'm not in a spotlight—the gym is fully lit. And any butterflies I get are over as soon as I start, because I can shut everyone out.

Now he was attentive.

"I don't have to interact with other actors. I'm not supposed to respond to the audience. I seal them out and concentrate on my routine."

"Concentration is essential in theater as well,"

Walker said. "You already have tremendous energy and instinctive stage presence. I am going to teach you to transfer your ability from gymnasium to theater. You'll be doing your gymnastics as Puck, giving Puck quickness and strength, making him lighter than air. Oh, yes, you'll do well."

"Maybe in rehearsal," I argued. "But I told you—"

"You mystify me, Miss Baird," he interrupted. "I checked your application last night. Unlike my friend Tomas, you listed no specific skills in set design, costume, makeup, lighting, or sound. What on earth did you plan to do here?"

I felt caught. "I, uh, I guess I thought I could overcome my stage fright, but when I saw how good everyone was, I figured this wasn't the place to do it. I don't want to sink the production."

"But you're not going to. You're going to pull this off."

"You're taking a big risk," I warned him.

"I've always been a director who takes risks. That's why I didn't make it in New York, where bottom-line mentality rules."

It was the usual artistic gripe, but I was surprised by the bitterness in his voice.

"You will discover, Jenny, that my shows, cast with a bunch of kids and produced in the boonies, are better theater, more imaginative and compelling fare than Broadway shows in which people pay to see Lee Montgomery play himself over and over again."


"You're not a fan of his, I hope."

I wondered if my face had given me away. "I've seen him perform," I replied, "in

"Ah, yes, he played that role a good fifteen years longer than he should have. I began to think it was a play about a man in midlife crisis."

tell that to the people who flocked to see him, I thought, but I couldn't defend my father aloud.

"So, Puck, we understand each other," Walker said, his eyes dropping down again to the notes in front of him.

Hardly, I mused, and left.

We spent Wednesday morning reading the play aloud as a cast. A few kids sulked about not getting the parts they wanted, but most were pretty excited. Brian worked with Tomas and two other tech directors—heads of lighting and sound—putting down colored tape on the stage, mapping the set we would soon be building. In the afternoon we began blocking the play.

My part was blocked sketchily. It was decided that I'd be given certain parameters—where I had to be, by when—and that over the next few days Maggie and I would work on the gymnastic details. She had also volunteered to help with my stage fright, teaching me relaxation exercises and pacing me through extra rehearsals in which she'd expose me to increments of stage lighting in a gradually darkened theater.

Rehearsal ran late that day and was followed quickly by dinner, then a showing of
The Tempest.
Each Wednesday evening was Movie Night during which we'd watch and discuss a film of a Shakespearean production.

After the movie I hung out with Shawna and two other new girls in her cozy room beneath the eaves. Everything was fine until ten o'clock, when I returned to my room.

For the first time since early in the day I was alone and had the opportunity to think about the strange visions I'd had the last two nights. I found myself glancing around anxiously and turning on lights, not just the bedside one, but the overhead and the desk lamp as well. I didn't want any blue shadows tonight.

I pulled down the shades, then drew the curtains over them. It made the room stuffy, but I felt less vulnerable with the windows covered, as if I could seal the opening through which thoughts of Liza entered my mind. It was eerie the way the visions occurred when I sat in the window where she would have sat and stood on the stage where she would have stood.

I walked restlessly about my room, then tried to read. At ten-twenty I knocked on Maggie's door.

"Jenny. Hello," Maggie said, quickly checking me over the way my own mother would have, making sure there was no physical emergency. "Is anything wrong?"

"No, but I'm feeling kind of jumpy. May I go out for a walk? I know it's past curfew, but I'll stay close."

"Come in a moment," Maggie said, stepping aside.

I was reluctant. Come on.

I entered the room. It was extremely neat, her bedspread turned down just so, the curtains pulled back the exact same width at each window, all the pencils on her desk sharpened and lined up. But Maggie's pink robe was a bit ratty, the way my mother's always was, making me feel more comfortable with her. She gestured to a desk chair, then seated herself on the bed a few feet away.

"Are you worried about your role in the play?" she asked.

What could I say? No, I'm worried about my dead sister haunting me. "Sort of."

"Wel get you over the stage fright, Jenny, truly we will. tell me, do you remember how it started?"

"How?" I repeated.

"Or maybe when," she suggested.

"I don't know—I just always had it, at least as far back as kindergarten. I was supposed to recite a nursery rhyme for graduation, 'Little Bo Peep.' We have a video of me standing silently on stage, my mortarboard crooked, the tassel hanging in my face, my eyes like those of a deer caught in headlights."

She laughed. "Oh, my!"

"Why do you ask?"

"I was looking for a clue as to why stage fright happens to you. Psychologists say that performance anxiety is often rooted in unhappy childhood experiences, such as rejection by one's parents, or perhaps physical or verbal abuse by those who are close to the child."

"I wasn't rejected or abused," I said quickly. "Nothing terrible has ever happened to me." Til last summer, I added silently.

She smoothed the bedcover with her hand. "Sometimes memories of traumatic events can be repressed, so that the individual doesn't consciously remember those events, and therefore doesn't know why she is reacting to a situation that is similar in some way."

"I don't think that's it," I said politely.

"Let me give you an example," Maggie continued. "A child is wearing a certain kind of suntan lotion. That day she watches someone drown at the beach. Years later she happens to buy the same brand of lotion. She puts it on and finds herself paralyzed with fear. She doesn't know why, but she can't go on with whatever she planned to do at that moment. The smell has triggered the feelings of the traumatic event she has long since repressed. Only by remembering the event, understanding what has triggered such an extreme response, can she overcome it."

I shifted in my chair, uncomfortable with the psychological talk. "Repressed memory isn't my problem," I told her. "But I will try the relaxation exercises you mentioned."

"And the incremental exposure."

"That, too."

She smiled agreeably. "still need a walk?"


"Stay on this block within the area of the four houses we're occupying. It's perfectly safe, but I'm an old worrywart. Check in with me in twenty minutes, all right?"

I nodded. "Thanks."

For the first few minutes I sat on the front steps of Drama House and gazed at the night sky. Across the road the tall tower on Stoddard cut a dark pattern out of the glittering sky, its clock glowing like a second moon.

I walked up and down the block, then circled Drama House, curious to see my room from the outside. Just as I reached the back of the house, I heard a noise from the fraternity next door, a grunt, then a thud, like a fall that had been muffled by grass. A guy swore softly. I peered around the lumpy trunk of an old cherry tree at the same time that Mike, standing by a window of the frat, turned to look over his shoulder. He grimaced when he saw me.

Maybe he thought I'd mind my own business and walk on, for a moment later he checked to see if I was still there and grimaced again. I wasn't moving; I wanted to know what was going on.

He threw a stone against a second-floor window and someone raised the shade. "I need your help," Mike called quietly.

He waited—I guessed for his helper to come down-stairs—and looked back over his shoulder a third time.

"still here," I said.

The light in the first-floor room went on. The shade rolled up—it was the guys' bathroom. Maybe I shouldn't be looking, I thought, but of course I did. A stubborn window screen was yanked up.

"Ready?" I heard Mike ask the guy inside, then he leaned over, grunting and pull ing. I stepped to the right of the tree to get a better view and saw a heap of a person on the ground, then a head come up above a set of shoulders as Mike heaved him onto the windowsill.

"Got a good hold?" Mike asked. "On the count of three. One, two—"

In the bathroom light I saw Paul's head, then torso go over the window frame.

"Glad he's not any heavier," the guy inside said, tugging on the screen.

"Splash some cold water on his face," Mike instructed, "and let him stay in the bathroom for a while."

The shade was yanked down from the inside, and Mike turned away from the window. He seemed to be debating what to do, then strolled over to me.

"Out for a walk?" he asked.


"I guess you know it's past curfew."

"I have permission," I said. "What about you?"

BOOK: Dark Secrets 2: No Time to Die; The Deep End of Fear
7.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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