Authors: R.L. Stine
She was about halfway through the dark tunnel when she heard the footsteps.
Slow at first, then picking up speed.
Reva's breath caught in her throat. The wind howled. She could hear the footsteps over the wind.
More than one person.
She froze. Then forced her legs to move.
Gripping her coat collar with both hands, she lowered her head against the wind and ran.
Gray light shimmered at the end of the alley. Reva ran toward the light. She nearly tripped over an empty Coke can. It clattered noisily, bouncing over the asphalt.
The footsteps were close behind.
How many people were there? How many people were chasing her?
She didn't turn around. She kept her head lowered against the whistling wind. The gray light opened like a mist at the end of the passageway.
She gasped for breath, running at full speed. Running to the light.
The rows of cars came into view as she stepped out of the darkness. The lot stretched in front of her. White light from tall poles bounced off the cars like bright comets.
Reva spotted her new red Miata alone by the fence in the first row.
If I can get there, I'll be safe, she thought. SafeÂ .Â .Â .
Safe from whom?
Who could be chasing her? And why?
Without slowing, she turned her head.
And recognized the man and woman.
Two sales managers from the store. They waved good night to each other and hurried across the lot to their cars.
Reva stopped a few yards from her car, gasping for breath, her chest heaving. She watched the car lights come on after the two store employees climbed into their cars.
I'm such an idiot, Reva told herself.
She realized she was still gripping her coat collar with both hands. Staring across the lot as the cars started up, she released her coat and lowered her arms.
“I'm an idiot,” she said aloud. “An idiot.”
Why did I assume they were chasing me?
Why did I allow myself to become so frightened? I never used to be like that. Never!
“Reva, get a life!” she scolded herself. “I'm losing it. I'm really losing it,” she murmured, shaking her head.
She reached into her coat pocket and pulled out
her car key. Her hand trembled as she unlocked the driver's door.
She slid into the leather seat, pulled the door closed, and locked it. Then she tucked her hands into her coat pockets and sat still, very still, staring out into the parking lot, waiting for her breathing to return to normal, waiting for her fear to fade.
I have to stop scaring myself, she thought, watching as a few other store workers crossed the lot and climbed into their cars. I have to stop itâright now.
“I'm Reva Dalby, and I'm not scared of anything,” she said out loud. The sound of her voice, smooth and steady, was somehow comforting.
She turned the key in the ignition, clicked on the headlights, and steered the car toward the exit. Division Street was backed up for blocks. Probably an accident.
With an exasperated groan Reva turned off Division onto a side road. I'll go the back way, she told herself. In the rearview mirror she saw the car behind her make the same turn.
Normally, it was only a twenty-minute drive from the store to her home in North Hills, the expensive and exclusive section of Shadyside. Reva knew there was no real reason to hurry. With Michael away in St. Croix, Yvonne, his nanny, had been given the holidays off. So the house would be empty.
But Reva hated to be caught in traffic. It was so frustrating. And she was a girl who didn't like to be frustrated in any way.
She wheeled the little Miata around a corner, sped past a block of small, boxlike houses, then made a sharp turn past a dark, deserted playground.
Lights flashed in her rearview mirror. Glancing up, Reva saw that the car behind her had made the same sharp turn.
The glare of headlights hid the driver from view. But she could see that the car was old and beat-up. A Plymouth, she thought.
“He's not following me,” she told herself aloud, pushing her foot down on the gas pedal. The little car shot forward. “Don't start freaking out again, Reva. He's not following you. He's not.”
She spun the wheel hard and made a sharp turn onto Park Drive. Houses and trees and hedges whirred by on both sides.
Reva studied the rearview mirror. Twin lights rolled across the back window.
The Plymouth had turned too.
I'm not imagining it. That car
following me, Reva realized with a shudder.
“GRAB HER BEFORE
followed her,” Pres said. “I followed her all the way home. Just to see which way she went. Then I took off.”
He held the ketchup bottle over the hamburger and shook it hard. Then he held the bottle still, staring down at the plate as the ketchup puddled onto the meat.
“Like a little hamburger with your ketchup?” Diane asked, shaking her head disapprovingly. She had her white-blond hair tied under a blue and white bandanna, but several strands had frizzed out and fallen over her pale forehead.
“I like a lot of ketchup,” Pres muttered, watching
the thick red sauce spread over the bun and onto the plate.
“Should I ask for another bottle?” Diane asked sarcastically. “Or maybe a glass? You could just drink your ketchup.”
He didn't reply. Instead, he gestured to the plate of french fries in front of her. “Is that all you're going to eat?”
“Yeah. I'm on a diet.” She reached across the Formica table and dipped a fry into the puddle of ketchup on his plate.
“Get your own!” he snapped.
They were sitting across from each other in a dark booth in the back of Freddy's, a small coffee shop in the Old Village of Shadyside. The narrow restaurant smelled of strong coffee and fried onions. Pres and Diane were the only customers.
Pres lifted the hamburger with both hands and took a big bite. Ketchup ran down his chin. He glared across the table at Diane. “Why are you staring at me like that?”
“I'm waiting to hear the rest of your story,” she replied, waving a french fry between two fingers but not eating it. “You said you followed her?”
“Yeah. I followed her,” he replied, chewing as he talked. “I'm pretty sure she didn't notice me.”
“You were careful?”
He nodded, wiping his chin with a paper napkin. “I stayed pretty far back. She didn't see me. I've been following her all week. You know, getting her routine down.”
“And?” Diane asked impatiently, dropping the french fry, her gray-blue eyes trained on him.
He swallowed a mouthful of hamburger. “Here's the scoop,” he replied, lowering his voice and leaning across the table even though there was no one near. “Dalby leaves the house for work every morning promptly at seven. You can set your watch by him.”
“Does Reva go with him?” Diane asked, whispering too.
Pres shook his head, his black hair falling over one eye. He pushed it back off his forehead. “No way. The princess leaves around nine, sometimes a little later. She drives a new car. A little red Miata.”
Diane gazed at him thoughtfully. She grabbed a french fry and shoved it into her mouth, chewing rapidly, like a rabbit, not taking her eyes off Pres. “What about servants? Is there a maid? A housekeeper?”
He took a long sip of Coke. “I crept up to the house yesterday morning after Reva left and checked it out. There's no live-in help. A maid arrived about ten minutes after Reva headed off to work. That's all. No one else.”
“It can't be that easy,” Diane said, trying to tuck her hair under the kerchief.
“Can I have some of your fries?” Pres asked. He grabbed a handful before Diane could reply. “I'm starving tonight.”
“Do we have any money to pay for this?” Diane asked, glancing toward the waiter, who was at the
front near the door, leaning against the wall, reading a newspaper.
“I've got a few bucks left,” Pres told her, patting his back jeans pocket. He reached across the table and squeezed her hand. “In a few days we won't have to worry anymore.”
He grinned at her with his Elvis grin. Diane could never resist that sexy grin. She smiled back at him. “As soon as we're rich, I want to go to every movie in town. Ten movies a day! I want to see everything five times!”
He raised a finger to his lips, motioning for her to lower her voice. “There was just one minor problem at Dalby's house,” he told her, his grin fading.
“What minor problem?”
“The guard dog,” he replied. “A big, ugly monster.”
“Huh? Did he go after you when you went up to the house?”
Pres shook his head. “He was on a chain. I think they only unleash him at night.”
“Then he's no problem?” Diane asked anxiously.
“Probably no problem,” Pres replied.
Diane narrowed her eyes, thinking hard. “Let's go over this carefully,” she said, resting her chin in one hand. “After her father leaves at seven, Princess Reva is all alone in the house for two hours.”
“Yeah. That's right,” Pres said, greedily finishing off her french fries. “She must be asleep until at least eight-thirty. She doesn't open her bedroom blinds until then. And there's no one else there.”
“So the best time to grab her is at her house
before she wakes up,” Diane said, thinking out loud.
“Yeah,” Pres quickly agreed. “Piece of cake.”
“Then let's kidnap her tomorrow morning,” Diane said, an eager smile spreading across her face.
he windshield and windows were clouded over with thick white mist. Pale light filtered in from the full moon above.
Outside the small car, the air hung cold and still. The bare tree branches clung together as if trying to keep warm.
Victor had turned off the engine after parking on the cliff edge. For a while, before they started to kiss, they had stared out through the windshield, gazing down at the town of Shadyside spread out below.
River Ridge, the tall rock cliff overlooking the Conononka River, was a popular parking spot for Shadyside High students. But on this frosty night Victor's car was the only one there.
Staring out at the star-dotted sky, Victor huddled
in his down jacket and wondered if this was really happening.
As the windshield started to fog up, she leaned over, wrapped her handsâwarm handsâaround his neck, pulled him to her, and started to kiss him.
She moved her mouth against his, tiny sighs escaping her lips. Her warm hands, surprisingly strong, held him tightly, pressing his face to hers.
The kiss lasted a long time.
When he finally ended it, reaching up to pull her hands from the back of his neck, Victor was breathing hard. His face felt hot. His heart pounded.
She smiled at him, a devilish smile, then lowered her forehead to the shoulder of his coat.
“Weâwe shouldn't be up here,” Victor stammered.
She giggled and brushed his hot cheek with her lips.
“No. Really,” he insisted, his voice sounding tight and shrill in the heavy air in the small car. “Weâwe shouldn't. I meanâ”
Reva squeezed his hand. “It's okay,” she whispered, her blue eyes glowing in the pale moonlight that filtered through the windshield.
“But it isn't right,” Victor insisted, turning to face her. “Pam and Iâwe're serious about each other. Weâ”
Reva snickered. “You
a serious guy, aren't you?” she said teasingly.
“When you called me tonight, IâI didn't know. I meanâ” Victor struggled for words.
Reva didn't give him a chance to protest. She
reached up and pulled his head down to her again. Then she pressed her lips against his, hard, harder.
She kissed him until she could barely breathe.