Authors: R.L. Stine
Pres hadn't been able to find another job. It had been nearly three months. Three months of anger and rejection.
Diane's voice broke into his bitter thoughts. He realized she had been talking to him, but he hadn't heard a word.
“So?” she asked impatiently. “Did you?”
“Did I what?” Pres asked. The potato chip bag was empty. He crinkled it into a ball and tossed it across the room.
“Did you scout out Dalby's house?” Diane demanded, her eyes narrowed at him, questioning him.
“Yeah, I checked it out,” he told her.
“And it wouldn't be hard to get in there,” he said without enthusiasm.
“Really?” Diane grabbed his hand and squeezed it excitedly.
“I saw one guard dog. That's all,” Pres told her.
“You really think we could get in?” Diane demanded, holding on to his hand.
“Piece of cake.” He turned to study her face. “Hey, you're really serious about this? About robbing Dalby's house?”
serious?” she replied. “It's the perfect revenge, isn't it, Pres?”
He frowned. “Not if we get caught.”
He flashed back three months and felt the store security guard's hand on his shoulder. Once again he saw everyone in the store staring at him, staring as he was dragged up to Dalby's sixth-floor office to be fired.
“You were in Dalby's house once, right?” Diane asked, lost in her own thoughts. “You saw the stuff in there?”
“Yeah. It was last winter. Some kind of store party,” Pres replied. “The place is loaded with antiques.”
Diane is really serious about this, he realized again.
Am I serious about it?
He wasn't sure.
“We could do it, Pres,” Diane said excitedly, squeezing his hand. “We could pay Dalby back for firing you. We could get in there and grab enough antiques to make sure we have a
Christmas! I mean, we could have a tree and presents and a turkey dinnerâand
With a burst of enthusiasm she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and kissed him. Her lips felt hot against his. “We could do it!” she cried. “It would be just like a movie, Pres. Just like a movie!”
She held him tightly, her thin body trembling with excitement. “What do you say?”
He stared across the room. His eyes moved from the shabby furniture to the threadbare carpet.
Then, in a quick, sudden movement, he stood up. He turned and stared at her, a smile breaking out on his handsome face. “I have a better idea,” he said.
“Huh?” Diane gaped up at him, her mouth hanging open.
“Forget the antiques,” Pres told her with a sneer. “What do
know about antiques? Nothing.”
“Yes, butâ” Diane started to say.
He raised a hand to silence her. “What is Dalby's most precious possession?”
Diane shrugged. “How should I know?”
“His daughter!” Pres declared.
“Reva,” Diane murmured, surprised she remembered the name. “Reva Dalby.”
“Right,” Pres said. “How much could we get for antiques? A few thousand maybe? Maybe. But Dalby will fork over
for his daughter.”
Diane chewed tensely on her lower lip. Her gray-blue eyes locked on Pres. “You meanâ?”
“Yes!” Pres declared. “Y-you want a movie? It'll be just like a movie, Diane! We just have to work it out carefully, step by step. Scene by scene. And with a little luckÂ .Â .Â .” He grinned excitedly at her. “With a little luck we could be
by Christmas! All we have to do is kidnap Reva Dalby.”
REVA IS CAPTURED
eva Dalby backed up to the railing and raised her hands as if to shield herself. The dark figure continued to move toward her, advancing slowly, steadily.
She let out a soft cry.
The department store was dark and empty, silent except for the chorus singing “Silent Night” on the speaker system.
The man drew closer. He was breathing hard, each breath a menacing groan.
Reva pressed her back against the low chrome balcony railing. She glanced down to the main floor of the department store, shadowy and still, five floors below. She stared at the enormous Christmas tree twinkling brightly in the center aisle. Another chorus of “Silent Night” jarred the eerie quiet.
“Pleaseâno!” she cried to her attacker.
He had a pistol in one hand.
He leapt at her, arms outstretched.
She shut her eyes and ducked.
She could feel a cold gust of wind as he sailed over her, sailed over the balcony.
She could hear him scream all the way down.
Then she heard shattering glass. A loud crack.
And then a long, tortured scream as her attacker landed on the Christmas tree. It shorted out. He twisted and writhed in the blue-white electrical current.
The stinging hiss of death. A sound Reva knew she'd never forget.
And then she heard his thin voice. He was saying, “Excuse me, miss. Miss?”
“Excuse me, miss,” he was saying. “Can you help me?”
Reva blinked. She realized she wasn't up on the balcony. She was behind the perfume counter on the first floor. Slowly, she left the past and the scene she had pictured again and again since the Christmas before.
Now it was a year later. One year later, and she still thought about that horrifying night every time she heard “Silent Night” over the store's sound system.
She couldn't help but remember.
“Can you help me, miss?” The voice finally cut all the way through her thoughts.
She was facing a middle-aged man with thinning
gray hair. He was wearing a brown overcoat and carrying a worn leather briefcase. From the impatient frown on his face, she could tell he had been trying to get her attention for some time.
“Do you work here?” he asked, staring at her with gray watery eyes.
“No. I just like to stand behind the counter,” Reva replied, rolling her eyes. Cold blue eyes that grew colder as she gazed at the man's threadbare overcoat.
“Could you help me choose a perfume?” he asked, staring down at the shiny glass bottles inside the display case.
Reva demanded with a scornful laugh.
The man blushed. “No. Of course not. For my wife.”
“Sorry. I'm on my break.” Reva turned away from him. She lowered her gaze to an oval mirror on the counter and began pushing at her wavy red hair with one hand.
“On your break? But the store just opened!” the man declared, his face growing even redder.
Reva didn't look up from the mirror. “I don't make the schedules,” she said. She stared at his face in the mirror, enjoying his angry, helpless expression. She had to struggle to keep from laughing aloud.
The man took a deep breath. “Listen, miss, couldn't you help me? You seem to be the only salesperson in this department. I've got to be at work in ten minutes.”
“Sorry. Store rules,” Reva replied, yawning into her hand.
Reva turned to face him. Her eyes rolled scornfully over his unstylish brown overcoat, his shabby briefcase. “You'd probably do better in the bargain basement,” she told him. “The stairs are right over there.” She pointed.
The man uttered an exasperated cry. He angrily jerked his briefcase off the counter and stormed toward the exit.
What is his problem? Reva asked herself, laughing. I was just trying to help the poor geek save a little money.
Reva's laughter was cut short by someone noisily clearing her throat behind her. Reva turned to see Arlene Smith, the cosmetics department supervisor, glaring at her disapprovingly, her bony arms crossed tightly in front of her gray suit jacket.
“Reva, you were inexcusably rude to that customer,” Ms. Smith, as she liked to be called, said through clenched teeth.
“He'll probably survive,” Reva replied dryly.
“But will the
survive?” Ms. Smith demanded angrily.
Reva rolled her eyes. “I'm sorry, Ms. Smith,” she said, emphasizing the
“But you really shouldn't get on my case just because you're having a bad hair day!”
Ms. Smith narrowed her eyes menacingly. “I'm going to talk to your father about this, Reva. Your attitude has not improved.”
“I wish you
talk to him,” Reva said with a sigh. “I didn't want to come back to the store this Christmas. But my father made me. He said it would be good for me.”
“I don't think it's good for any of us,” Ms. Smith replied huffily. She made her way across the department, taking angry strides, her high heels clicking on the hard floor.
Where did she get those shoes? At a blacksmith's? Reva asked herself, chuckling.
She raised her hands and examined her nails. They were long and perfect, and the night before she had coated them with a new shade of purple. Just for fun she had put a black dot in the center of each nail. She knew it would drive Ms. Smith crazy.
Even though it was early, not yet ten o'clock, the store had begun to fill up with eager Christmas shoppers. Reva watched a very plump woman across the aisle trying to squeeze between two racks of pocketbooks. “How about eating a
once in a while!” she called to the woman, knowing she couldn't be heard over the din.
Reva reached under the counter and pulled up the tall bottle of Evian water she kept there. She took a sip, then stopped when she saw a familiar figure loping down the aisle toward her. Kyle Storer. The usual grin on his face.
Kyle thought he was so hot. He had been hitting on Reva ever since school vacation had started and they both began working at Dalby's. But she had refused to go out with him.
Why? He was too eager.
Now here he was, coming to try again. Reva groaned to herself, watching him approach, his green eyes twinkling. Kyle wore tan chinos over black boots, and a blue- and white-checked western-style shirt with a navy blue string tie.
Cute. Real cute, Reva thought scornfully. What a cowboy. Maybe he's coming over here to yodel.
“Heyâwhussup?” Kyle asked, his grin growing wider. “Whussup, Reva?”
“What are you supposed to be?” Reva asked, staring at his string tie.
Kyle's grin faded. “Huh? You mean my tie? You like it?”
“I'm kind of busy,” Reva said. “Hint-hint.”
Kyle ignored her cold reception. “The store's really crowded already,” he said, glancing around. “Guess your dad is raking it in today, huh?” He laughed as if he had just made a joke.
“Kyle, I really can't talk,” Reva insisted. “I already got in trouble with Ms. Smith this morning.”
Why can't he take a hint? Reva wondered. If he asks me out again, he's going to be sorry.
“You doing anything Saturday night?” Kyle asked, leaning over the glass counter.
Reva shot her hand out, tipping over the bottle of Evian water. “Oh! I'm sorry!” she cried, watching the water spill down the front of Kyle's chinos.
Kyle took a step back, his mouth dropping open as he saw the big wet stain on the front of his pants.
“How embarrassing!” Reva cried with mock sympathy. “Kyle, what will the customers think?”
Kyle shrugged and tried to act cool, but his face was bright red. “Later,” he mumbled, and hurried away.
When she finished laughing, Reva took a long drink from the Evian bottle. Then she turned to see Francine, the frizzy-haired, mousy woman who shared the perfume-counter duties, step up beside her, shaking her head. “Sorry I'm late, Reva. My car broke down in the middle of Division Street. Has it been terribly busy?”
“Yes, terribly,” Reva replied, sighing. “I'm exhausted already, Francine. I'm going to take my break. See you.”
Francine tried to sputter a protest. But Reva ignored her and hurried down the aisle.
As she passed by the Christmas tree, Reva felt a cold chill on the back of her neck. Once again memories of last Christmas and all its horror forced their way into her mind.
I promised I'd be a kinder person after all that happened last Christmas, Reva remembered. I promised I'd be nicer, warmer, more considerate.
be nicer if I were lying in a bikini on a hot beach somewhere! she told herself. I'd be a
nicer, that's for sure!
But how can I be nice if I have to spend Christmas vacation standing behind a perfume counter, waiting on tacky jerks in this stuffy store?
Reva made her way past the stocking department, headed down three steps, and spotted her cousin Pam beside a long wall of greeting cards.
Pam had red and green ribbons in her straight
blond hair. She wore a short green skirt over red tights and a red stretch top.