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
He grinned. "I don't."
"What happened to Paul?"
"Oh, nothing too bad."
"Nothing too bad like what?" I asked.
Mike gestured toward the tree. "Want to sit down?"
Under a tree, alone with him in the moonlight? I wasn't sure.
"You climb trees, don't you?" he persisted. "You must if you're a gymnast."
The first strong limb was about four feet off the ground. I hoisted myself onto it—Mike was going to help me but thought better of it. Then I climbed up to a limb that grew in the opposite direction, about seven feet high. Mike made himself comfortable on the long lower limb. I wondered if he and Liza used to sit there together.
"Paul hangs around town and gets himself in trouble with the locals," Mike said. "I should have let him get his head split open by the giant he took on tonight. It's the only way he' l get any sense knocked into it."
"You rescued him?"
"Are you kidding? I'm not an idiot. I grabbed him and ran like a good coward."
"Listen," Mike said, "you've got to keep this quiet, okay?"
"Give me a reason why."
"We need Paul for the production. But more important, Paul needs us," he added, his blue eyes intense, persuasive. "Theater is the only thing that has kept Paul in school. It's what has kept him from getting into the really bad stuff. We can't get him bounced out of here."
"He makes me very uncomfortable."
"He aims to," Mike replied. "It's just an act."
"Brian said the same thing about Walker."
Mike smiled. "Don't be fooled by Walker. At heart, he's a good guy."
I must have made a face, for Mike laughed up at me. "Yeah, I can see he's got a fan in you. But really, I don't know what I'd do without him. He found grant money for me so I could attend last year and this. He has taught me more than the books I've read or any of my other teachers. I'm really grateful to him."
"I'm glad he has helped you," I said, "but I still think he's an egotistical tyrant with a nasty streak in him."
"A lot of creative people are that way."
I prickled. I'd heard that justification one too many times. "Creativity is no excuse for obnoxious behavior."
"Are you worried about performing?" Mike asked quietly.
my reason for disliking him."
"I didn't think it was. I just wanted to tell you that there is nothing to be afraid of. The audience is rooting for you, Jenny. They see you on stage and want you to do well. Everyone out there wants to love you."
Speaking of ego, I thought to myself, what an assumption!
"Trust me," Mike said, his face animated, "it's a blast."
"For you, maybe."
"There's nothing like it. I've been putting on shows since I was five."
"Are you part of a theater group?"
He grinned. "No, the kid of a minister. I spent a lot of growing-up years hanging around the church next to our house in Trenton. It had a stage—the altar; a balcony—the choir loft; sort of an orchestra—the organ; even costumes—my father often wondered why his vestments were wrinkled on Sundays. I put on a lot of performances for my friends, all of them unauthorized."
I laughed out loud. Mike laughed with me, gazing up at my face. His smile, the brightness in his eyes made my heart feel incredibly light. Then I remembered Liza and looked away. I could imagine her slipping out to meet him here in the moonlight.
"Anyway, my parents aren't thrilled about my dream of being an actor. My oldest brother is doing mission work in Appalachia. The second one is studying at Union Theological. And then there's me. Since I don't seem to have a religious calling, they would like me to pursue something practical, you know, something that guarantees a good salary."
"But you have to follow your heart," I said.
"Yes… Yes, you do."
He waited for me to meet his eyes, but I didn't. I couldn't.
"You know, some of the guys have been talking about you, Jenny."
"They have? Saying what?"
"They're disappointed that you paired off so quickly with Tomas."
"Why should it matter to them that we're friends?"
He looked at me curiously. "You really don't know, do you?" he said."'Her hair gives dawn its fire, her eyes give dusk its soul.'"
He knew how to use his voice to melt a girl's heart, to make a girl want to believe. I steeled myself against the seductive words. "Excuse me?"
"It's a line of poetry describing a beautiful girl, one who doesn't seem to know it."
I dug my fingernails into the bark of the tree. "Well, there's your answer, the reason I like Tomas. He's real. He's not an actor."
"What's wrong with actors?"
"They quote poetry. A girl has to be crazy to believe one," I told him. "It's far too easy for an actor to give you a good line."
"You're quick to judge."
"No," I argued. "I've had experience with theater types. After a while they can't tell real from unreal.
They believe their own creation of themselves and can't understand why everyone else isn't convinced they're wonderful."
He jumped down from the limb, then stared up at me, his eyes sparking with anger. "It's efficient, I guess, judging an individual by a group. You don't waste any time trying to know somebody."
But I don't want to know you! I thought as I watched Mike walk away. I can't risk knowing you.
Experience had taught me not to get close to guys who fell in love with Liza. I had been burned twice and knew I couldn't compete. It didn't matter that I could no longer give a guy access to my sister; if Mike knew who I was, I'd be access to his romantic memories of her. He'd start looking for traits and signs of her in me. And I wasn't setting myself up for that kind of heartache.
How are you doing, Jenny?" Maggie asked me Thursday morning.
"Good. Ready to go."
"Glad to hear it," she said. "We're going to work at the gym later today to block your movements. Walker thought it would be good if Tomas went with us.
Knowing the set and being as visual as he is, he might see some possibilities we don't."
"Sounds like fun."
"Also, I'm photocopying a set of relaxation exercises and organizing tapes for you to listen to."
"Sorry to be so much trouble," I said.
"Nonsense," Maggie replied, putting an arm around me, giving me a hug. "I love a good challenge."
"Maggie," Walker called. "I need you to get maintenance. Arthur still hasn't replaced those lights."
She winked and moved on. From across the stage, Brian smiled at me.
"I know who the camp pet is," a girl said.
I turned my head to see who had spoken, then wished I hadn't. Ken was standing next to Paul and Mike, hoping for a reaction. I ignored her and called to Shawna, who had just come in.
"Jenny didn't hear you," Paul said.
"Oh, I think she did," Keri replied. "Hey, Shawna. Don't you think Jenny is the camp pet?"
"She's the camp redhead, that's for sure," Shawna answered.
"Obviously, I'm not Walker's pet," I pointed out.
Keri flicked her long, dark-lined eyelids. Perhaps conflict kept her from being totally bored. "Walker gave you a hard time at first," she said, "something he does with all his favorites. Usually, he doesn't share favorites with Maggie. She likes girls who aren't sure of themselves, girls she can mother. But then, there is that little problem of yours."
"Ease up, Keri," Shawna said.
"So she's adopted you," Keri continued, "made you her project for camp. And Brian is close to sending kisses from across the stage."
I glanced at Mike, who stood silently, his face providing no hint of what he was thinking. I knew my cheeks were red.
Paul laughed. Standing close behind Keri, as if he would hug her from behind, he leaned his head over her shoulder and pressed his face against hers.
I saw Keri's shoulders relax, her body rest back against him.
But the glimmer in Paul's green eyes told me he didn't feel any real affection for her; he was just yanking her chain.
"I don't like Jenny," he said, his mouth against Keri's cheek. "She's not
Keri turned her face toward his, letting her mouth brush his mouth.
Paul's hands cupped her shoulders and he pushed her away. "You try too hard."
Keri spun around to look at him.
"The girls who are worth it don't try," Paul told her. "They are helpless to stop a guy from wanting them."
Keri's eyes flashed. "Liza was never helpless," she spat. "Only you were."
They walked off in opposite directions. Shawna, Mike, and I stood silently for a moment.
"Walker sure is good at casting people," Shawna observed. "It won't be hard for anyone to believe they're a quarreling couple."
"I don't know why he can't let go of Liza," Mike said.
As much as I didn't like Paul, I knew how Liza could haunt a person's thoughts. "It's not easy when you love someone," I said. "A year is not enough time to get over anything."
Mike's eyes met mine.
"Of course," he replied stiffly.
"Did I just miss something?" Shawna asked as Mike strode away.
"Well, you can begin by explaining to me why you just defended Paul, who's being ignorant and creepy. You know, he has pictures of Liza hanging in his room, hanging all around it, that's what Andrew told me."
I wriggled my shoulders at the thought of it—a museum for the dead.
"Paul needs to get on with his life. It's not like he and Liza were the love story of the century. The guy Liza was hot for was Mike."
"So I heard."
"Not that she was alone in that," Shawna added. "How 'bout you, girlfriend?"
"How 'bout me what?"
"What do you think of Mike?"
I shrugged. "He's okay."
Shawna grinned. "This place is just full of actors."
The acting began in earnest shortly after that. Walker required that we all be attentive to the blocking that was going on whether we were in the scene or not. It was slow work as we highlighted our lines and noted Walker's directions in our books—the cues on which we were to enter, or rise, or cross over, that kind of thing.
We dragged through Act 2 with the fairies. Having doubled them in number, Walker had created more parts and a lot of confusion. But the pace picked up when Oberon and Titania—Paul and Ken—began to quarrel. I watched them from the wings, waiting for my cue. Walker folded his arms over his chest, looking very satisfied when Titania finally exited with her fairies.
I waited in the wings.
"'Wel go thy way,'" the angry Oberon said to Titania's back. "'Thou shalt not from this grove til I torment thee for this injury.'"
I began to move.
"Wait! What are you doing, Puck?" Walker barked.
I stood still. "Entering?"
"Has Oberon summoned you yet?" Walker asked. "Has he? He's king. You don't emerge til he tell s you to."
I backed up.
"I want you in at the end of 'My gentle Puck,'" Walker added in a milder voice, "and I want you to move close to him. You're conspirators. That line again," Walker said to Paul.
"'Well go thy way. Thou shalt not from this grove til l—'"
The lights flickered, "—torment thee."
The lights blinked off. We were swallowed by darkness. Someone screamed, then muffled it.
"What the… ?" growled Walker. "Arthur!"
Our only light was the glow of the emergency Exit signs and the strings of tiny floor lights that marked the way to them.
"Everyone stay where you are," Maggie said. "We don't want an accident."
"Brian, find Arthur!" Walker ordered.
"Does anyone have a flashlight?" Brian asked. "Even a small one on a key chain would help."
Two girls seated in the audience volunteered theirs.
"Pass the flashlights toward the center aisle," Maggie instructed.
There was whispering and nervous laughter as Brian retrieved the flashlights, then crossed the stage to the steps that led to the ground floor hall.
Suddenly the whispering stopped.
"What's that?" someone asked, her voice thin with apprehension. "What do I smell?"
"Perfume," a guy answered.
I sniffed and my skin prickled. I knew the scent.
"Smells like jasmine," said another girl.
Liza's perfume. I remembered the weeks after she'd died, packing her sweaters in a Goodwill bag, smelling the jasmine. I had felt as if she would walk into our bedroom at any moment. It was a scent that haunted.
The lights suddenly came back on.
"Nobody move," Maggie commanded. "I'm doing a head count."
The vets exchanged glances—perhaps they recognized my sister's trademark scent.
"Look at Paul," someone whispered.
His eyes were shut, his lips closed and smiling. He was inhaling deeply, as if he loved breathing in Liza's scent, as if he couldn't get enough.
I felt sick to my stomach. Turning away from him, I discovered Mike watching me.
Walker paced up and down the stage, obviously irritated.
"What was the problem?" he asked when Brian emerged from behind the stage.
"I don't know. The power came back on before I reached the electrical room."
"Did you see Arthur?"
"No, but I came right back."
"All of us are accounted for," Maggie reported to Walker.
Placing his hands on his hips, Walker eyed Paul and me, then Keri in the wings with her fairies, then the kids in the rows of seats below.
"It was a nice bit of theater," he said. "We might even incorporate it in our production, releasing a certain scent through the air duct system when Puck does his magic or Titania sweeps through. That said, I don't wish to be entertained by further improvisation. Got it?"
Kids nodded and looked suspiciously at one another.
I wanted to believe it was a piece of theater, but I couldn't shake the eerie feeling I'd had the day I arrived here, the strong sense of Liza's presence. I had thought I came out of my own need for closure; now I wondered if Liza had summoned me.
What do you want, Liza?
To find things for her, it was always to find things. Had someone at the camp heard something, seen something? If I probed, would I find clues that could solve her murder?
"Miss Baird," Walker was saying, "please join us on this planet."
No way, Liza,
I answered my sister silently,
to do it.
I'd hunt for barrettes, socks, homework, and phone numbers, but not for serial killers.