Are You in the House Alone?

BOOK: Are You in the House Alone?
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I felt utterly alone.

I eased the receiver back on the cradle, and the minute—no, the second I took my hand away, the phone rang. It was almost supernatural. When the receiver was next to my ear again, it was still warm.

And there at the other end was the most terrifying voice I’d ever heard. Sometimes I still hear it, just as I’m going to sleep or in a room that’s too quiet. It wasn’t quite human. Neither male nor female. A high, hollow voice, someone crying out the words from the inside of a bell. Disguised, falsetto, almost like a child shrieking. But more controlled than that because I understood every word.


There was a sobbing, whistling laugh. It was too terrible to be real. And too real to be a horror movie. If there’d been a hundred people in the house with me, all ready to defend the place, I’d still have been paralyzed.

And then that voice again.


Also by Richard Peck


Amanda /Miranda

Bel-Air Bambi and the Mall Rats

Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death

Close Enough to Touch

Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt

The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp

Dreamland Lake

Fair Weather

Father Figure

The Ghost Belonged to Me

Ghosts I Have Been

The Great Interactive Dream Machine

Here Lies the Librarian

The Last Safe Place on Earth

A Long Way from Chicago

Lost in Cyberspace

On the Wings of Heroes

Princess Ashley

Remembering the Good Times

Representing Super Doll

The River Between Us

A Season of Gifts

Secrets at Sea

Secrets of the Shopping Mall

Strays Like Us

The Teacher’s Funeral

Those Summer Girls I Never Met

Three-Quarters Dead

Through a Brief Darkness

Unfinished Portrait of Jessica

Voices After Midnight

A Year Down Yonder



London Holiday

New York Time

This Family of Women


Past Perfect, Present Tense


Monster Night at Grandma’s House


Anonymously Yours

Invitations to the World

Richard Peck

are you in
the house alone?

For Dr. Richard L. Hughes, who helped


Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,

Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Registered Offices: Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published in the United States of America by The Viking Press, 1976

Published by Puffin Books, a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2000

Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2012

Copyright © Richard Peck, 1976

All rights reserved


Peck, Richard. Are you in the house alone?

p.  cm.

Summary: A sixteen-year-old girl with a steady boyfriend suddenly begins receiving threatening phone calls while she is babysitting and anonymous notes in her high school locker.

[1. Stalking—Fiction. 2. Rape—Fiction. 3. Mystery and detective stories.]

I. Title.

PZ7.P338 Ar 2000

[Fic] lcac 76-28810

ISBN: 978-1-101-66438-4

Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.


Table of Contents














CHAPTER Thirteen

CHAPTER Fourteen

Special Excerpt from: THREE QUARTERS DEAD


From the first warm night of spring until autumn, Steve and I would slip out to the Pastorinis’ cottage on the lake, Powdermill Lake. How often? Ten times? Twelve? I don’t remember now. I kept no diary. We left no clues.

All our fantasies, Steve’s and mine, seemed to come true in that little dark corner of time. We thought that making love was being in love. I never wanted to imagine what might come next. That would have spoiled everything. The best part was the way we seemed to be absolutely alone together. And now I know we weren’t alone out there at all. Someone was watching us, maybe every time.

We’d leave our clothes in a heap before the cold stove in the cottage. Then we’d bang back the screen door and pound down the sloping lawn to the pier, our footsteps rumbling on the boards like thunder. And then we’d dive into the lake.

I remember one October night when it was still as warm as August. I remember it because it was nearly the
last time. There was sheet lightning over the Connecticut hills to the north, and the steamy mist rolled off the center of the lake. The surface of the water wrinkled with raindrops all around the white circle of Steve’s head, and his arms wavered just below the surface. I stood with my toes hooked around the end of the pier, wet already from the rain. But I hung there, almost overbalanced, before I plunged into the black water.

For some reason I’d grabbed up my yellow slicker and held it over my head all the way to the end of the pier. Then I let it drop, and it collapsed there at my feet like a parachute. Steve floated farther out on his back, and I could see the length of his body luminous in the darkness. The lake was shallow a hundred yards out. It was always exciting, never dangerous. Before I dropped into the water, Steve called my name and laughed, waving me in.

My name, Gail, carried in waves across the lake and probably up above the treetops.

There was a big stand of rock up there, just above the cottage. It was like a watchtower, and the top of it was as flat as a table, weathered smooth. Everybody knew the path that led up to it. On clear nights sometimes Steve and I climbed up there to count the stars—or just to sit together, very close and quiet, pretending we could read each other’s thoughts.

I wonder now if someone else was with us that night, standing up on the watchtower rock, hearing Steve call my name, watching me drop into the water and seeing us swim toward each other.


Only the mighty Lawvers would give a dinner party for a bunch of high-school juniors. A real dinner party, with damask dinner napkins and finger bowls, with Lawver Mother at one end of the Duncan Phyfe table and Lawver Father at the other end. And two pairs of edgy sixteen-year-olds facing each other in between, across a bowl of stiff chrysanthemums.

Of course nearly everybody in Oldfield Village went to the Lawvers’ Thanksgiving Day receptions. But for the rest of the year the Lawvers withdrew into their Old Settlers’ Set.

While I was trying to get dressed for the ordeal, my mother was in and out of my room twenty times. On the last trip she was carrying an evening skirt of hers, jet black. “Gail, with a dressy blouse, maybe you could carry this off.”

“Mother, I’m practically pulled together already. A non-dressy blouse with a V-neck sweater and a short skirt. Alison’s wearing more or less the same. We worked it out.
And look, Mother,
” I stuck out one leg at her.

“Well, at least you’re not in Levi’s,” she said, still holding the evening skirt high. I’m not in Levi’s any more than anybody else, but she had to say something. Finally she gave up, coming back only once to fire a zinger at me. “Better be downstairs when Steve gets here. It would
him if he actually had to come in and carry on a civilized conversation with me and your father.”

, Mother.” No time to get into Steve with her. I’d have met him on the corner if I’d had the nerve. And it wasn’t even our own plan. The only reason we were going to the Lawvers was because of Alison.

I thought of her as my best friend then. Since she’d been going with Phil Lawver for two years, his parents had given in and decided it was time to Receive Her Socially. To be subtle about it, they told Phil to invite another couple,
other couple, probably. So Steve and I were appointed. Or maybe
is the word. “Do it for me,” Alison had said. “Then I’ll owe you a favor, and I won’t forget.”

I stood in front of the mirror, brushing my hair, waiting for all that body and bounce they promise you on the commercials. I was just getting past the phase where you still search the mirror expecting to surprise yourself with Sudden New Beauty. Instead, I just looked very very clean. Besides, my mother kept appearing in the mirror over my shoulder every two seconds, which is distracting.

When I couldn’t think of anything else to do to myself, I started down the stairs. In the living room Mother’s conversation was coaxing Dad out from behind the October
Architectural Record
magazine. She was all over the house that night.

If I sat down, quietly, on the third step from the landing,
I could look straight out through the fanlight window over the front door. That way I’d see Steve when he started up the walk and could pass the time eavesdropping on the living-room conversation. I was just beginning to see my parents as people once in a while, and not just as parents. This wasn’t one of the times.

“Seems a bit—premature—to me,” Mother was saying.

“What does?” Dad said.

“Lydia and Otis Lawver putting their stamp of approval on the Bremer girl. Now if she and Phil were already in college, and the whole thing looked inevitable—”

“Lydia and Otis Lawver never put their stamp of approval on anything,” Dad said, trying to quell the conversation.

“You know what I mean. Of course, it’s very nice—and gracious. I suppose we’d do the same thing if Gail was—seeing—a suitable boy.”

BOOK: Are You in the House Alone?
11.78Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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