Authors: R.L. Stine
e couldn't stop talking about the killer. We tried to shut him out of our minds. But then one of us would remember and say something, and the talk would start all over again.
We were all nervous. Not that any of us admitted it. No, we acted like it was all some big joke. But we were nervous, believe me. Because the murder took place so nearby. Because the victim was a girl our ageâa girl just like us.
“Look at it this way,” Dawn was saying as she buttoned up her white silk blouse. “At least the girl won't have to worry about finding a date for the prom.”
“You're disgusting,” I told her.
“For sure,” Rachel agreed.
It was after my gym class on Tuesday. The locker
room was crowded with girls all trying to get dressed in a hurry for the prom assembly. The hot and steamy air was filled with shrieks and laughter.
I put my left foot up on the wooden bench between Dawn and Rachel, who was wriggling into a pair of black denims, and hurriedly tied my sneaker. “Did you see the thing on the morning news?” I asked them.
Rachel shook her head. Dawn answered, “About the murder?”
“Yeah. They showed the police tramping around in the Fear Street woods searching for clues. And they showed the muddy ravine where the hiker had found the body. Finally they showed the girl zipped up in a blue body bag.”
“Yuck!” Dawn gagged.
“They also showed a blurry black-and-white photo of the girlâshe had a really sweet smile. They said she was stabbed sixteen times.”
“Well, she's not smiling anymore,” quipped Dawn bitterly.
Dawn had been making jokes like that since we'd heard about the murder. I figured it was her way of dealing with it. She was usually pretty good at hiding her emotions.
Rachel glowered at her. “I just don't think it's funny.”
“Lighten up,” Dawn replied sharply. “It's not like it was your sister or something. It's some girl nobody knows.”
“I called my cousin Jackie at lunch,” Rachel answered quietly. “She lives in Waynesbridge. She says she knew her.”
Dawn and I both spoke at once. “She knew her?” “Why didn't you tell us?” “What did she say?” “How well did she know her?”
well,” Rachel said, answering only my last question. “They were like best buddies. Jackie was all broken up, a total mess.”
Rachel had been brushing her straight red hair in long hard strokes, but abruptly stopped. Her face became pale. “I can't believe this really happened right here in Shadyside. I mean, it's so horrible.”
“Does your cousin Jackie have any idea who might have done it?” Dawn asked.
Rachel shook her head. “No. She says Stacy was just a nice kid who everybody liked. The police talked to Jackie, but she was too upset to think clearly. She couldn't tell them a thing.”
She dropped her hairbrush into her backpack and zipped it shut. “I live on Fear Street, you know, and they found the body only a block from my house. I keep thinking it could have been me. I could have been the one they found.”
“Well, it couldn't have been me,” insisted Dawn as she finished applying her lip gloss. “With all the weird stuff that goes on there, I wouldn't be caught
in the Fear Street woods.” She realized what she had said and burst out laughing.
“Yeah?” I said. “Well, this morning they interviewed this cop on TV. And he said that the
murderer must have staked out Stacy's house. He thinks this psycho waited until she was all alone, and thenÂ .Â .Â .”
I looked up and paused just to tease my friends.
“And then?” Dawn demanded.
“He murdered her in her bedroom.”
Dawn's mouth fell open in a frightened little
“I've always hated being alone in my house,” she confided.
“Somehow I don't think this is going to help you get over your problem,” I told her.
Dawn stared blankly at me for a moment. Just a moment. Then she shrieked, clutched her head, and continued to yell at the top of her lungs. Her fake outburst earned her a chorus of laughter from the girls who were left in the locker room.
On the other side of the room Shari Paulsen held up an imaginary knife and started stabbing the air and making that weird sound from
You know the soundâthe one they play whenever Anthony Perkins is stabbing somebodyâ
Eee! Eee! Eee!
Then Shari marched around the locker room like a crazed zombie, pretending to stab everyone in sight. There was a lot of screaming.
It wasn't really funny, but we laughed anyway. I mean, how should someone react when something horrible happens so close to home? Maybe kidding around like that helps. I don't know.
The girl at the end of our row slammed her locker door shut and hurried out. Dawn jumped at the
sound, as if someone had fired a gun, “Okay,” she said, “we've got to stop talking about this. I'm starting to freak out.”
“Then I guess you don't want to hear the worst thing,” I said.
Dawn and Rachel both groaned. “Worse than being stabbed sixteen times?” Dawn asked. “What happened? She was run over by a truck?”
“I thought you didn't want to know any more,” I said.
“What? What? What?” she begged.
I continued. “The police said this killing is just like the killing of that girl in Durham last week.”
Durham was about an hour's drive from Shadyside. But right then that didn't seem very far at all.
“So?” Dawn said. “What does that mean?”
“Well,” I said, “it means there's a good chance this is the work of a serial killer.”
“A serial killerÂ .Â .Â .” murmured Rachel. “That does it, I'm going to make my parents buy a dog.” She stuffed her feet into a pair of torn running shoes. “I mean, we don't even have a burglar alarm at our house.”
It was trueâRachel's parents were pretty poor compared to the rest of ours. I doubted that they could swing for an alarm system, even with a serial killer on the loose.
The bell for next period jangled loudly. There was a groan from the few girls still left in the locker room.
“Come on, you two,” Dawn said. “Hurry up.” She stood admiring her face in the mirror and made several sexy faces. “I know what we should talk about instead of the murder,” she said. “Who should I go to the prom with?” She proceeded to name four of the most popular guys at Shadyside High.
asked you?” exclaimed Rachel, astonished.
“Already?” I chimed in. “The prom is still five weeks away.”
“Well,” Dawn said, “none of them has asked me
But they will. Believe me.”
We were the last ones out of the locker room. The hallways were empty, a sure sign we were late for assembly. We started to run, our sneakers squeaking on the tile floor.
“What about you?” Rachel asked me as we tore down the hallway. “You have a date yet?”
I shook my head no.
I would have had a date. If it wasn't for the United States Army. I'm serious. For over a year I'd been dating Kevin McCormack. Then his father, an army major, got transferred to Alabama.
Kevin's family moved in January. Since then I'd been dating him long distance, by mail. We'd talked on the phone a lot at first, but when my dad got the phone bill, he put an end to that.
So far Major McCormack wouldn't give Kev permission to come back to Shadyside for the prom. Kevin's dad felt it was important for Kevin
to get “acclimated to his new home base.” Those were the exact words he used, according to Kevin. I believed it. His dad always talked army talk.
“Tell your father he's a Major Bummer,” I had written back. Pretty clever, don't you think?
Dawn pulled open the heavy doors to the auditorium. A few heads in the back rows turned to stare at us.
Up on stage Miss Ryan had already begun making announcements. Mr. Abner was standing near the back doors. He caught my eye and glared as we took seats in the back row.
“Mrs. Bartlett has asked me to announce that this week you can return overdue library books without paying fines,” Miss Ryan was saying. “So I hope you'll all take advantage of this special opportunity. If you've got overdue library books, please bring them in.”
She rustled through her notes. “Now we can get on to the main business of this assembly, which is to announce our five prom queen candidates.”
This news was greeted with applause and a few catcalls from some of the guys. Miss Ryan stared out over the microphone until she had silence. Then she turned toward our principal, who was waiting onstage a few steps behind her. “Mr. Sewall?”
Mr. Sewall was short, pudgy, and bald. He looked kind of like a character from “Sesame Street,” so we nicknamed him the Muppet.
He stepped up to the mike, holding a white index
card in his hand. All at once I felt a rush of excitement. I knew it was uncool of me, but I was really into the prom. A lot of my friends were.
We seniors were the only ones allowed to vote. I had voted for Rachel. Rachel wasn't the most popular girl in the class or anything, but that was mainly because she was so shy. Well, I guess it was also because she had a bitter streak in her, about being poor and all. But once you got to know her, she was really sweet and a good friend. Maybe being elected prom-queen would help her out of her shell.
Not much chance of her winning, though.
“Before we begin,” the Muppet said, “I'd like to say a few words about the tragedy that occurred in the Shadyside area yesterday.”
Rachel and I exchanged glances. Dawn put her finger in her mouth and mimed gagging.
“I hope,” began Mr. Sewall, “we
hope, that the police catch this killer as soon as possible. In the meantime, I don't want anyone to panic. I do think that all girls should be specially careful for a while.”
“Great way to keep people from panicking,” whispered Dawn.
“Okay,” the principal continued. “Now on with the show.” He chuckled as if he had told the greatest joke in the world.
“The votes are in.” He waved the card. “As you know, the top five vote-getters become nominees for prom queen. What I'd like to do is read off the
names of the five winners and ask them to come forward and join me on the stage.
“I'm going to do this alphabetically.” He smiled, glanced down his card, then looked back up, letting the suspense build. Then finally he said, “Elizabeth McVay.”
For a moment I had absolutely no reaction. I didn't recognize my own name!
Dawn started slapping me on the back and yelling, “Way to go, Lizzy!”
I nearly tripped on my way up the aisle, and since we had been sitting in the back, I had a long way to go. I felt a little dizzy.
When I got onstage, Mr. Sewall shook my hand.
I wished I'd remembered the assembly that day. I was wearing a ratty pair of jeans and my dad's old blue cotton workshirt. My long, curly hair was still wet from the locker-room shower.
My hair is light brown at bestâhoney brown, my mom always calls it. But when it's wet, it's just plain brown. I brushed my wispy bangs out of my eyes. They fell right back down.
The Muppet leaned back over the mike and said, “Our second prom queen nominee isÂ .Â .Â . Simone Perry.”
There was a big burst of applause. Simone stood up and started sidestepping between rows toward the aisle.
Simone was dressed in her flashiest outfitâa silky black blouse and a leather skirt. I guessed that she'd remembered there was an assembly that day.
As she headed toward the stage, she kept tossing back her long dark hair with a dramatic shake of her head.
“Congratulations,” I whispered when she took her place next to me.
“Thanks,” she said, whispering back.
I wasn't surprised when she forgot to add, “You too.” I liked Simone, but she had a tendency to forget that the whole world didn't revolve around her.