Authors: R.L. Stine
He's so good-looking, she thought.
I had to call him. I couldn't resist.
She let her coppery hair fall over his face and kissed him again.
Reva chuckled to herself. She wondered what her cousin Pam was doing right then. Waiting by the phone for Victor to call?
Pam is such a loser, Reva thought scornfully.
Victor is just too good-looking for a loser like Pam.
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Diane gripped the steering wheel tightly in both cold hands. The heater still wasn't working. She glared at Pres. “Will you stop cracking your knuckles?” she demanded shrilly. “I thought you said you weren't nervous.”
Pres gave the knuckles one more loud pop, then lowered his hands to his lap. “I'm n-not nervous. I'm a little excited. I never kidnapped anyone before, you know.”
“Neither have I,” Diane replied sharply. “So stop trying to drive me crazy. First you wouldn't stop tapping your foot. Now you're cracking your knuckles till I'm ready to scream.”
Pres turned his gaze to the Dalby house at the top of the sloping lawn. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Look. There goes Dalby.”
Pres's beat-up Plymouth was parked at the curb three houses down, the engine running. From there,
Pres and Diane could see a corner of the Dalbys' big stone house and the three-car garage beside it.
A silver Mercedes pulled out of the drive between two tall hedges, stopped at the street, then headed to the right, away from where Pres and Diane watched.
“It's not bright enough,” Diane complained. “I can't really see him.”
“It's him,” Pres said in a whisper, his eyes trained on the Mercedes until it disappeared down the tree-lined block. “There goes Mr. King-of-the-World Dalby.”
“Leaving his princess all alone,” Diane said. She shifted into Drive. “Shall we get going?”
Pres put a hand over hers to stop her. “No. Wait. Let's wait t-ten minutes. Make sure Dalby doesn't come back.”
Diane obediently shifted back into Park. She sighed impatiently. “What time is it?”
Pres glanced at the dashboard clock, then remembered it was stuck at three-thirty. “Must be a little after seven. I told you, Dalby leaves at seven. I watched four mornings in a row. He's always right on schedule.”
He started to crack his knuckles. Remembering Diane's protests, he stopped himself. A car rolled by, a station wagon loaded with kids. Pres ducked low in the passenger seat and turned his face away.
“Oh, sigh,” Diane murmured. “I wish this was over.”
“And we were home counting our money,” Pres added, tapping his fingers on the knees of his jeans.
“Where's her bedroomâupstairs or down?” Diane asked, her tight voice revealing her nervousness.
“Upstairs. On the left,” Pres answered. “I watched the light go on two different nights. I know how to find it.”
Diane tugged at a strand of hair that tumbled out from a black baseball cap pulled low over her forehead. Her worried expression suddenly changed. She flashed Pres a toothy smile. “This really is like the moviesâisn't it!” she exclaimed.
Pres didn't smile back. He narrowed his dark eyes. “Yeah. But I don't exactly feel like a movie star,” he said dryly.
“You will when we have a million dollars!” Diane insisted.
“Let's get it over with,” he said. “Come on. Pull up.” He motioned with both hands.
Diane shifted into Drive and inched the car along the curb until they were at the Dalbys' driveway. “Should I pull up the drive?” she asked, peering at the tall hedges that surrounded the Dalby property on all sides.
“No. Keep it here,” Pres instructed. “By the drive. But don't block the drive. It might look suspicious.”
He grabbed the door handle. “And keep the engine going. Once we've got her, we have to bomb out of hereâfast.”
He started to push open the passenger door.
“Heyâkiss for luck!” Diane called after him.
He leaned toward her and accepted a quick kiss. Then he jumped out of the car and hurried toward
the driveway, his head low, his hands buried in his jacket pockets.
The morning sun was a red ball climbing up the Dalbys' enormous house. Pres's breath came out in puffs of white steam as he jogged toward the side of the house, keeping in the deep shadow of the tall hedge.
He was halfway up the drive when he saw the black Doberman attack dog coming for him.
Pres stopped short. “Heyâwhere's your chain?” he called.
The big dog lowered its head and snarled out a warning. Its eyes flashed red and locked on Pres. It pulled back its lips and, with another furious snarl, bared its teeth.
Pres fought back the wave of fear that surged over him.
“I'm ready f-for you, doggie,” he called. His hand was trembling as he reached into his jacket pocket.
He kept his eyes on the growling dog. The dog stopped at the edge of the driveway, preparing to attack.
Pres pulled out the strips of bacon he had brought, and thrust out his hand to show the dog. “Bacon!” he cried. “No dog can resist baconâright?”
Pres tossed the bacon onto the grass.
“Go get it, boy. See? Pres is your friend.”
The dog ignored the bacon. Opening its jaw and pulling back its lip to bare its teeth, the Doberman leapt for Pres's throat.
A PIECE OF CAKE
res cried out as the snarling dog attacked. He thrust up both arms to shield himself.
The weight of the big Doberman forced Pres to stagger back into the hedge. The dog's mouth closed around the sleeve of Pres's leather bomber jacket and held on.
Pres frantically reached with his free hand into his jacket pocket. Struggling to shake his jacket sleeve free from the dog's grasp, he pulled out a chloroform-soaked handkerchief.
Wrenching his arm free, he grabbed the dog's snout.
“Yaaaii!” Pres cried out as the dog nipped his hand.
The Doberman snapped its jaws, pulled back its
head, then let out a snarl of rage as it struggled to squirm free.
But Pres held on to the dog, wrapping his hand around its snout, holding its mouth shut as he pressed the chloroformed handkerchief over the dog's nostrils.
The dog's chest heaved. Its head snapped back as it struggled to breathe.
Got to hold on! Got to hold on!
Pres told himself.
The animal's eyes glared angrily at Pres. Its head twisted one way, then the other.
Then the eyes closed. The struggle ended. The dog slumped heavily to the ground with a long groan.
Pres stepped back. Swallowing hard, he stared down at the dog. It lay stretched out on its side, its jaws open wide, breathing steadily, quietly.
Pres stuffed the chloroformed cloth back into his pocket and zipped the pocket shut. Always be prepared, he thought. That's my motto.
He stood in the shade of the hedge for a moment, observing the unconscious dog, waiting for his own breathing to return to normal.
He touched the back pocket of his jeans, made sure the small pistol was still there. He could have used it on the dog, he knew. It would have been quicker, easier.
A pistol shot might have awakened Princess Reva, sleeping upstairs. And Pres didn't want that. He wanted to save that pleasure for himself.
Feeling a little better, his blood still pumping at
his temples, Pres examined the sleeve of his bomber jacket. Just a slight scratch. No big deal.
With a last glance at the defeated guard dog, he quickly made his way around the side of the house to the back door. Two of the three garage doors were open. He could see Reva's red Miata parked inside.
Nice car, he thought, stopping at the back stoop to admire it for a moment. Maybe I'll get one of those with the ransom money.
He snickered to himself. Maybe I'll get
“First things first,” he muttered to himself. He pulled the small silver pistol from his back pocket. Stepping up to the back door, he tapped the gun grip a few times against the pane of glass closest to the doorknob.
The rising sun reflected in the window glass. The kitchen on the other side of the door lay mostly hidden in long shadows.
“Easy does it,” Pres murmured. He tapped the gun handle a few times more, testing the glass, testing his touch.
He tapped harder. Harder.
He gave the windowpane a hard hit. The glass cracked, then shattered, dropping onto the kitchen floor.
Pres reached in the window, fumbled around till he found the lock, and turned it. A second later he was standing in the kitchen.
“Wow,” he whispered to himself, glancing quickly around. The kitchen was bigger than his entire apartment. Bigger than some houses he'd been in.
Look at that, he marveled.
refrigerators! How much can people eat?
He forced himself to stop sight-seeing. Taking a deep breath, the pistol still clenched in his hand, he made his way to the front hall.
The dark carpet was thick and plush. His sneakers sank into it. His footsteps were silent.
The hall stretched on endlessly. Big oil paintings covered the walls on both sides. Pres glanced into the living room. Still filled with the same delicate antique furniture.
He paused at the bottom of the carpeted stairway, leaning against the smooth polished-wood banister. He listened.
Silence. Beautiful silence.
He was all alone. All alone in Dalbyland.
Just me and Reva, he thought, gazing up the steep stairway.
This is going to be a piece of cake. Piece of cake.
Holding the pistol at his waist, he started up the stairs to Reva's room.
he?” Diane asked herself, leaning over the steering wheel, trying to see up to the Dalbys' house.
“What's taking Pres so long?”
She had the engine running and the heater on full blast even though it didn't do any good. Diane still felt cold all over. Her throat ached, suddenly dry as cotton.
Pres had instructed her not to move. But she decided she had to have a better view. She shoved the gearshift into Drive and inched the car forward until she could see up the long driveway.
No sign of him.
Hurry. Hurry, Pres.
What was that dark lump by the side of the driveway?
At first Diane thought it was some kind of black plastic garbage bag. Squinting through the passenger window, she saw it was a dog.
Pres must have had to use the chloroform, she realized.
Diane was still staring at the unmoving dog when she heard the sirens.
Her hand trembling, she rolled down the window to hear better.
The sirens were a faint wail on the still air. Far away, Diane realized. She held her breath, listening hard. The sirens were getting louder.
They're coming here. To the Dalbys' house, Diane told herself.
Pres must have tripped some kind of burglar alarm.
A chill of fear made Diane shudder. She rolled up the window, but the sour wail of the sirens lingered in her ears.
She gazed up the long drive to the house. The red sun was up to the roof now, the house bathed in early morning light.
“Presâwhere are you? Presâplease get
The sirens grew louder.
Diane's panic began to constrict her breathing. Pres had been inside for only a few minutes, but she was losing all sense of time.
She pressed down on the gas pedal, and the engine responded with a roar. She shifted into Drive.
Pres, I don't want to leave you here, she thought, staring frantically at the house. I don't want to leave you here. But if the police are coming, I have no choice.
She squeezed the wheel in her icy hands.
“If the police come, I'm
of here!” she cried aloud.