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
Of course, anyone could have fastened a watch on her, then smashed it. What if someone had done so to make it look like a crime by the serial killer? I shuddered at the idea and dismissed it, for that kind of murder suggested a more personal motive. And no one could have hated my sister enough to kill her.
Sunday morning I went to church. I sat in the back and prayed my visions would go away. I knew it was a dangerous thing to do—God has a habit of answering prayers in ways different from what we have in mind.
When I returned to Drama House, I found a note from Tomas asking if I wanted to hang out in town. I changed into a sleeveless top and shorts, slipped some money and tissues in my pockets, then went next door. Tomas emerged carrying his stuffed backpack, like a snail hauling his shell.
"Would you like to put anything in here?" he asked as he adjusted the pack on his shoulders.
"Yeah, and never see it again," I teased.
We spent an hour visiting shops on side streets, then bought two iced cappuccinos and strolled down to the river. The town harbor had a public dock, a rectangular platform extending over the water and lined with benches—a perfect place to sit and sip.
Tomas pulled out his spiral pad and began to sketch. I lay my head back on the bench and sprawled in what my mother would call "an unladylike manner," happily soaking up the late-morning sun.
"Ahoy!" I heard Tomas call out.
I grinned to myself and kept my head back.
"Ahoy!" he called again.
"Are there pirates on the horizon, Tomas?"
"No, just Mike."
I sat up.
Mike waved. He was in a small boat, maybe fifteen feet long with an outboard, painted in the maroon and gold colors of Chase College. He guided the skiff toward the dock, nosing it in, then lassoing the piling next to us.
"What's up?" he asked.
"Just hanging out," Tomas said. "How about you?"
"The same, only on water. Hi, Jenny."
"Hi." I wished his eyes weren't so much like the water and sky. The anger I had seen in them the other night had disappeared, leaving them a friendly, easy blue. Like the river, they made me feel buoyant.
He turned back to Tomas. "What are you working on?"
"Just sketches—boats, docks, houses, trees, whatever I see."
"Want to see some things from the water?" Mike invited.
"Wel—" I began.
"Yes," Tomas replied quickly.
But Mike had heard me hesitate. The light in his eyes dimmed. "Maybe another time," he said. "Your sketches could be ruined if they got wet."
"They won't," Tomas assured him. "My backpack is waterproof. I'll tear out a couple sheets and use my clipboard." He rummaged through his pack, pull ing out an assortment of things, then putting them back in.
"What all do you have in there?" Mike asked curiously.
"Everything but a refrigerator," I told him. "I'd like to come, too, Mike."
He smiled and I felt that buoyancy again.
Tomas strung two cameras around his neck, then grasped a clipboard and pencils in one hand and his cappuccino in the other. "Ready."
"Why don't I hold your art supplies and drink while you get in?" I suggested.
Mike, looking as if he was trying not to laugh, guided the two of us down the four-foot drop into the boat. We settled onto its plank seats, Tomas in the middle, me at the bow.
"I'm glad I didn't sign out a canoe," Mike observed as we rocked back and forth.
"Next time," I replied.
"Next time I'll let you go by yourselves," he answered, smiling, then tossed us two life jackets. "When I'm chauffeur, I make people wear these."
"How about you?" I asked, when Mike didn't put one on.
"I can swim."
"So when the boat turns over and bonks you on the head and you're unconscious, you expect me and Tomas to save you?"
"Good point," he said. "After all, I am with two such graceful boaters." He put on the orange vest, grinning at me. Then he untied the rope and pushed off from the dock.
"Can anyone sign out a boat?" Tomas asked as Mike started the motor.
"You're supposed to have experience on the water and be connected to the college somehow," Mike replied. "My grandfather was from the Eastern Shore and used to take me crabbing. He lived down in Oxford, which is where the manager of the college boathouse grew up."
We puttered out of the tiny harbor. With each boat length we put between us and the shore I felt more at ease, free from the things that had been haunting me recently. The sun was warm on my skin and the breeze cool, ribboning my hair across my eyes. I drew an elastic from my shorts pocket, leaned forward to catch my blowing hair, then pulled it through the elastic in a loopy ponytail. When I looked up, Mike was watching me.
"She's beautiful!" Tomas breathed.
Mike glanced at him, startled.
"Yes, that yacht sure is pretty," I said, nodding toward the moored sailboat that we were passing.
Mike laughed and Tomas photographed the boat.
"Cool perspective! Jen, can you believe it? There are so many cool perspectives out here."
In the next forty minutes Tomas found heaven: a house with double-decker porches overlooking the river, an old bridge across Wist Creek, an abandoned mill. "I'm going to have enough stuff to draw for the next year and a half," he said, clicking away on his camera. We motored a distance up Wist Creek then turned around and headed back to the river.
"I'd like to stay out awhile longer," Mike said. "You can stay on or I can drop you back at the town dock."
"Stay on," Tomas replied immediately. "I mean, if Jen wants to." Sure.
We sailed past the town harbor again, then two marinas.
"That's the commercial harbor over there," Mike said, pointing toward shore. "They have all kinds of interesting boats, Tomas. See those long ones with low sides and little houses on one end? They're like my grandfather's. They're used for crabbing."
"Can we stay here a few minutes?" Tomas asked.
"I can drop anchor."
"Great! Then I can sketch."
"Is that okay with you, Jenny? You're not nodding off on us, are you?"
"I'd hate to see you fall asleep and fall overboard," Mike said, smiling. "It would be useless this time of day. The crabs don't bite when the sun's high."
"Lucky for you, I don't, either."
Mike smirked, shut off the motor, and dropped anchor. "Lift up your seat, Jenny, and slide the board beneath Tomas's, then you can hunker down safely."
I did and Mike tossed me two extra life vests, which I placed in the bow to cushion my back. He did the same thing on his side, then pulled his sunglasses and script from a boat bag.
With the motor off it was quiet enough to hear the light scratch of Tomas's pencil, the occasional turn of a page by Mike. I nestled down happily. The gentle rocking of the boat made me feel safe as a child in a cradle. I fell into a warm, luxurious sleep.
I don't know how long I napped, but I had slept so heavily that I couldn't open my eyes at first. I just lay there, too content to stir, and listened to their voices.
"Do you think we should wake her?" asked Tomas. "I sort of hate to. She told me she hasn't been getting much sleep."
"I'm afraid she's going to get burned," Mike replied.
"We could cover her with our shirts and let her rest a little more," Tomas suggested.
"That's an idea."
There was some movement and a bit of boat rocking, then I felt a soft cloth being laid over my legs and another one over my arms.
"Her ankles are sticking out," Tomas reported.
"I'm more worried about her face," Mike replied. "I think I have sunblock. Yeah, here it is. Put some on her face."
"On her face?"
"And her ankles."
"I can't do that."
"Why not?" Mike asked. I just can t.
"Tomas, it's no different from helping people put on their stage makeup."
"Then you do it."
"You're closer to her,* Mike pointed out.
"So switch seats."
"Why? It's no big deal," Mike said.
"You have experience," Tomas insisted. "Switch seats."
There was more movement. "Jeez! Careful."
I'd probably get us capsized, but there was no way I was going to open my eyes, not yet. This was too interesting.
"Okay," I heard Mike mutter, close to me now. "Okay."
He dabbed a bit of lotion on my left cheek, waited a moment, then rubbed it in. He added some more, then rounded a glob over my chin. He spread the lotion across my forehead and down my nose, the way my mother used to, but more slowly. He must have remembered my right cheek and added some there, working it in gently and even more slowly than before. His hand stopped, resting on my cheek. A tip of a finger touched. my mouth, lightly tracing the shape of my lips.
This was how he put on stage makeup? I opened my eyes.
"Oh, hello," he said.
I thought he'd draw back, but he simply pushed up his sunglasses. His face was ten inches from mine and in its own shadow, his eyes bright with reflections off the water. I couldn't stop looking at him.
"I guess you're wondering what I'm doing," he said.
"Urn…" I tried not to look in his eyes and ended up staring at his mouth. "Sort of."
What a mouth! I thought. If
had fallen asleep, I would have been tempted to touch it.
Why wasn't he wearing his shirt? Because you are, stupid, I reminded myself.
I tried not to stare at his muscular shoulders and found myself gazing at the bare expanse of chest between the flaps of his life jacket. I quickly lifted my eyes to focus on his ear. Cripe, even his ear was good-looking! I didn't need this—I didn't need to notice these things about Liza's old boyfriend.
"I have some fairy ointment here," he said.
"Magic stuff, just like Puck's. I spread it on your eyelids."
"As you know, you must fall in love with the first person you see upon opening your eyes."
I stared at him, speechless.
"Oops!" He pulled back. "Wrong stuff. This is sunblock."
I sat up and managed to laugh.
"We were worried about you," Tomas said.
"Redheads shouldn't go out without their sunscreen," Mike added, then handed the tube to me. "You need it from the neck down."
He changed places with Tomas, and I began spreading the stuff on my neck and arms. "How are the sketches going?" I asked. "I'd like to see them."
The truth was I'd liked to have seen anything that would distract me from Mike. Brian had held my face in his hands; he'd even kissed me. Why didn't I think
ears were cute?
"Tomas wants to stop by the Oyster Creek Bridge to take some photos," Mike said. "Is that okay with you, Jenny?"
Just what I needed, visiting Liza's bridge with Liza's guy—talk about a reality check!
"Why wouldn't it be?"
Tomas looked up, surprised by the snap in my voice.
"Because you have gotten so much sun," Mike answered patiently. "I thought you might be feeling it."
"I'm fine. Thanks for asking," I added lamely.
Surprisingly, I didn't feel much of anything when we anchored by the bridge or slipped beneath its shadow. We passed the pavilion, ringed by the tall, plumed grass, then turned in to the floating docks that belonged to the college and tied up silently.
"I'm going to stay down here and hose off the boat," Mike told us.
"Do you need some help?" Tomas asked.
"No, it's a one-person job."
"Well, then, thanks'. It was cool," Tomas said. "I mean really, really cool."
"Glad you enjoyed it," Mike replied.
"It was nice. See you," I said quietly, anxious to escape up Goose Lane.
Did Mike have any idea how he affected me? I wasn't as good an actor as he, but I doubted he could see through my rocky performance. I probably just confused him, running hot and cold as I did. In the future I'd be more careful around him. As long as I kept my distance and he didn't leam my identity, I was safe—safe from being compared to Liza and getting my heart broken again.
Monday morning Tomas, several strong guys, and Arthur moved the gymnastic equipment I needed. The athletic department had given us permission to keep it at the theater for the next six weeks.
Tomas explained to the cast and crew the changes to the set that Walker had authorized. Walker sat back looking a bit smug, as if the rough time he'd given Tomas at the beginning of camp was responsible for bringing him out of his cocoon.
As before, there would be a waterfall-shredded Mylar lit with stage lights—cascading down the back stage wall. But now a stream would run from its base, and the bridge over the stream would have a balance beam as its downstage side. The vaulting horse, disguised as a stone wall, would be placed near the right wing, its springboard offstage. For one entrance I would appear to fly forward and upward, launched from behind the curtain, then use the "wall" and my arms to propel myself even higher into a one-and-a-half twist.
"How about adding a rope?" Walker asked. "Jenny, can you shinny up and down a rope?" Sure.
"Brian, I want you to check out a sports store and acquire what is needed for decent climbing rope. Arthur—"
Perhaps guessing where the rope would be hung, the custodian was slinking toward the exit.
"—we're going to hang the rope from the catwalk. Put it on your list."
"When the ladder comes," he replied, and continued on.
I had a feeling I'd be climbing the rungs to attach the rope, but I preferred that so I could make sure the rope was secure.
Walker wanted to see the blocking we had worked on for Act 2, Scene I.I was wearing a leotard beneath my shirt and shorts and began to remove my outer clothes. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Paul watching me. Of course, guys do that at gym meets and swimming pools, but his gaze wasn't the usual curious or flirty one—more like that of a cat, still and silent, observing its prey.
Keri joined him onstage since she, too, was part of the scene. I turned my back on them.
"Show 'em your stuff, Jen," Tomas encouraged me.
I would. I wanted to do both of us proud.
The scene went better than I had hoped. Though we weren't yet expected to be off book, I had spent the rest of Sunday memorizing my lines for that scene. And, as chilling as Paul could be offstage, he did his work like a professional onstage. There was spontaneous applause at the end, which made Maggie smile. Walker frowned a bit and made a few changes that I noted in my script. I was careful not to look at Mike until I was in the audience and he onstage and in character.
Walker reviewed Friday's work on the end of Act 4, then began blocking Act 5. It came to a screeching halt at the play-within-the-play that is performed by the clownish rustics—Walker doing the screeching. Shawna was on top of things, but the other five actors couldn't get straight stage left and stage right, or anything else for that matter.
Walker erupted. "What the hell are you doing?" he shouted.
The kids on stage froze and glanced at one another.
"Don't any of you listen? Do I need to put up traffic signs? If I did, would you bother to read them?" He paced the stage. "Perhaps I should get an orange vest, white gloves, and a whistle," he suggested sarcastically. "Make a note, Brian—a vest, gloves, and whistle."
Brian glanced up and said nothing.
"Did you make a note?"
"A mental one," Brian replied calmly.
"Dumbbel s!" Walker exclaimed, turning on his actors again. "You're supposed to
ignorant people, not
them. When I speak, you listen. When I say something, you do it. Is that a difficult concept for you to grasp?"
The kids onstage had drawn together like a herd of sheep.
"Following directions—is this something new to you? You speak English, don't you? Next to
Shakespeare's ignorant rustics are rocket scientists!"
Well, I thought, with that kind of encouragement and confidence boosting, everyone should be nervous enough to make more mistakes. Feeling bad for the kids, I made a suggestion. My father always talked about understanding the whole pattern of a play's blocking, seeing it as a large piece of choreography. I pointed out the pattern Walker was creating so that the individual directions would become clearer to the actors. I could tell from their faces that they understood.
"I get it," Denise said.
"Yeah, that makes sense," added a guy named Tim.
Shawna gave me the thumbs-up sign.
Walker sent me a cool, thankless stare. To the rustics he said, "We'll work on this after lunch."
We all figured we'd been dismissed early and started gathering our things. Then Walker turned to me. "There are fifteen minutes remaining. Puck, fairy group, Oberon, Titania. Act Two, Scene One. Let's go."
I wondered why we were doing the scene for the second time that morning.
"Brian and Doug," Walker added, addressing one of the tech directors, "I want it run with lights."
I saw Brian's eyes narrow and I realized then what was going on.
"I think that's a bad idea, Walker," Maggie said.
"And I think you're not the director," he replied, then descended the stage steps. "I want house lights all the way down, stage lights up. Doug, who do you have working with you?"
Walker nodded. "Good. Do it."
I walked up on the stage knowing it was useless for me to argue. Walker was in a bad mood, my suggestion had come unsolicited, and worse, it was a good one. Now he planned to put me in my place and erase the applause from earlier that morning.
I took off my shorts, but left on my T-shirt; it made me feel less vulnerable.
"Walker, we have already discussed the best program for Jenny," Maggie reminded him. "You agreed that incremental exposure was the remedy.
There is no point in doing this."
Oh, there's a point, all right, I thought.
"Places," Walker said, ignoring Maggie. "Lights."
I stood in the right wing, watching as the lighting shifted, then measured my steps back from the springboard.
"Enter Fairies and Puck," Walker directed.
I raced forward and sprang. Flying through the air, propelling myself off the horse, tucking for my rotation—I was focused totally on the gymnastics. Then my feet touched ground and I was in a flood of light, aware of a sea of dark faces below me. Fear clutched my heart. I fought it—it was stupid, irrational, senseless—but it was as strong as ever.
"'How now, spirits, whither wander you?'" I asked the fairies, my voice thin as thread.
Katie and another girl, who split that particular fairy part, began their speech of fifteen lines:
"Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire…"
I tried to concentrate on what they were saying, but my stomach felt queasy. My hands grew moist.
"We do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And we serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green."
My heart beat fast. I took deep breaths, trying to slow it down.
"The cowslips tall her pensioners be,
In their gold coats spots you see:
Those be rubies, fairy favors,
In those freckles live their savors."
My knees shook. I was drenched with sweat. I needed chalk to grip the beam.
"'Farewell, thou lob of spirits,'" the fairies concluded. "'We'll be gone. Our Queen and all her elves come here anon.'"
The next set of lines was mine.
"'The King doth keep his revels here tonight,'" I said, pull ing myself up on the beam as if I'd never mounted one before. "'Take heed the Queen come not within his sight.'"
I rose slowly from a crouch, my heart pounding.
"'For Oberon is passing fell and wrath because that she as her attendant hath—'"
It was unnerving the way the others watched me, as if waiting for me to slip.
"'—A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king.'"
I struggled to keep my focus.
"'She never had so sweet a changeling. And jealous Oberon—'"
A wave of sickness washed over me.
"'And jealous Oberon—'"
I clutched my stomach. My mind went blank. I couldn't even think to call "line," as actors do when they forget one. I began to teeter. I caught my balance then heard a collective catching of breath.
"For heaven's sake, Walker!" Maggie chided.
"All right. House lights."
I dismounted the beam, then grasped it like a stair rail, trying to steady myself. The lights came on. Walker climbed up the steps and stood in the middle of the stage, pivoting slowly, looking us over.
"Take lunch," he said, then strode toward the back stairs. No one moved until the sound of his footsteps disappeared.
I returned to the seats to gather my things, but Shawna already had them for me. Brian spoke to his mother, and everyone else filed out quietly. I left with Shawna on one side and Tomas on the other, avoiding everyone's eyes. When we got outside, I found that Mike had positioned himself at the top of the concrete steps.
"Jenny? Jenny, look at me."
I glanced up, miserable and ashamed, knowing I could never explain my fear to someone who, like Liza, thought being onstage was "a blast."
"It takes a certain kind of person," I told him, "to believe that everyone wants to love you. And I'm not her."
Dear Uncle Louie,
I'm here at drama camp. (Thanks again for your recommendation.) I have a question, one I'd rather ask you than my father. Our director, Walker Burke, knew Dad years ago in New York. Here at camp Walker is quick to criticize New York theater and put down Dad. (Of course, he doesn't know I'm a Montgomery.) Someone here told me that Dad was in Walker's last show—that Dad pulled out of it and the show failed. Could you tell me what happened?
I'm not going to say anything to Walker—I just want to know what stands between them. Thanks.
I sent the e-mail to my godfather, then took a long shower. I was grateful to Maggie for allowing me to spend lunch alone at Drama House, and I returned to the theater feeling much better. Things seemed back to normal, except that Brian was watching me a lot.
"I'm fine," I whispered to him. "Don't stare. People will notice and I don't need any more attention than I've already gotten."
Walker had decided to spend the afternoon getting the rustics straight. Tomas was told to divide the crew work among the rest of us and proved that he was more savvy about people than he let on. He gave Ken, Paul, and two others flats to paint inside, where they could be supervised, and sent Lynne and three responsible types outside with the spray paint. Two neat, quiet girls were assigned leaf stencils. Maybe he thought Mike and I were friends after yesterday: he asked us to paint the canvas that would cover the vaulting horse.
We worked on the ground floor, underneath the theater, across the hall from the dressing rooms and wardrobe. Sawhorses, drafting tables, and workbenches were spread throughout the cavernous room. There were pegboard walls of tools, shelves of paint supplies, and large rolls of canvas and paper, along with flats and screens that looked as if they had been painted over a hundred times.
After getting the other kids started, Tomas explained the job he was giving Mike and me. He unrolled a piece of prepared canvas, ten feet by five, on which he had chalked outlines of stones to create a wall. He showed us the finished version of pieces that would cover the ends of the horse and how to use varying shades of gray and brown paint to make the stones look three-dimensional.
Mike and I poured our paint and set to work. We talked little and about nothing important, but both the small talk and the silences were comfortable between us, as they were on the boat. I enjoyed the rhythm of our work, dipping and brushing, dipping and brushing. Mike began to sing to himself, snatches of songs. I giggled when a rock song wavered into a religious hymn, then shifted back into hard rock.
The music stopped. "Is something funny?"
"No," I said, but couldn't keep from smiling.
"You're laughing at my voice."
"No, just at you," I told him. "Uh, that didn't come out right."
"No, it didn't," he agreed.
I glanced up and saw his eyes sparkling.
"It's just funny the way you sing, mixing up all your songs. My friend in kindergarten used to sing like that when he finger-painted."
"So am I your friend?"
The question caught me off guard. "Sure."
He must have heard the uncertainty in my voice. "Maybe you'd like to think about it some more."
I didn't want to think about him any more than I already was. I focused on my brush strokes. Mike was silent for a while, then started singing again.
Tomas stopped by to see how we were doing.
"Looks great!" he said. "When you're finished, take it to the drying room next door. You'll see clothesline there. Hang it up securely."
About three-thirty Mike and I carried our canvas to the next room. We lined it up along a rope, each of us attaching an end with a clothespin. Standing on opposite sides of our painted wall, we continued to work our way toward the middle of the ten-foot piece, clipping it every six inches. I made slower progress, having to climb up on a stool each time to reach the high clothesline. Mike waited for me at the center.
"Do you know how many freckles you got yesterday?" he asked when I had attached the last clothespin.
"One point six million."
Aware of being eye level with him, feeling self-conscious, I surveyed the painted rocks, which were on my side of the canvas. "We did a good job."
"Sometimes you look at me, Jenny, and sometimes you don't. Why?"
"You expect girls to look at you all the time?"
He smiled a lopsided smile. "No. But it's as if sometimes you're afraid to meet my eyes."
"I'm not," I assured him, and stared at his neck. It was strong with a little hollow at the base of his throat.
"Higher," he said.
I gazed at his mouth.