Authors: R.L. Stine - (ebook by Undead)
“I don’t want to stay here. Please don’t leave me here.”
Evan Ross tugged his mother’s hand, trying to pull her away from the front
stoop of the small, gray-shingled house. Mrs. Ross turned to him, an impatient
frown on her face.
“Evan—you’re twelve years old. Don’t act like an infant,” she said, freeing
her hand from his grasp.
when you say that!” Evan exclaimed angrily, crossing his arms
in front of his chest.
Softening her expression, she reached out and ran her hand tenderly through
Evan’s curly, carrot-colored hair. “And I
when you do that!” he
cried, backing away from her, nearly stumbling over a broken flagstone in the
walk. “Don’t touch my hair. I hate it!”
“Okay, so you hate me,” his mother said with a shrug. She climbed up the two
steps and knocked on the front door. “You still have to stay here till I get back.”
“Why can’t I come with you?” Evan demanded, keeping his arms crossed. “Just
give me one good reason.”
“Your sneaker is untied,” his mother replied.
“So?” Evan replied unhappily. “I like ’em untied.”
“You’ll trip,” she warned.
“Mom,” Evan said, rolling his eyes in exasperation, “have you ever seen
trip over his sneakers because they were untied?”
“Well, no,” his mother admitted, a smile slowly forming on her pretty face.
“You just want to change the subject,” Evan said, not smiling back. “You’re
going to leave me here for weeks with a horrible old woman and—”
!” Mrs. Ross snapped, tossing back her straight
blonde hair. “Kathryn is not a horrible old woman. She’s your father’s aunt.
Your great-aunt. And she’s—”
“She’s a total stranger,” Evan cried. He knew he was losing control, but he
didn’t care. How could his mother do this to him? How could she leave him with
some old lady he hadn’t seen since he was two? What was he supposed to do here
all by himself until his mother got back?
“Evan, we’ve discussed this a thousand times,” his mother said impatiently, pounding on his aunt’s front door again. “This
is a family emergency. I really expect you to cooperate a little better.”
Her next words were drowned out by Trigger, Evan’s cocker spaniel, who stuck
his tan head out of the back window of the rented car and began barking and
giving me a hard time, too!” Mrs. Ross exclaimed.
“Can I let him out?” Evan asked eagerly.
“I guess you’d better,” his mother replied. “Trigger’s so old, we don’t want
him to have a heart attack in there. I just hope he doesn’t terrify Kathryn.”
“I’m coming, Trigger!” Evan called.
He jogged to the gravel driveway and pulled open the car door. With an
excited yip, Trigger leapt out and began running in wide circles around
Kathryn’s small, rectangular front yard.
like he’s twelve,” Evan said, watching the dog run,
and smiling for the first time that day.
“See. You’ll have Trigger for company,” Mrs. Ross said, turning back to the
front door. “I’ll be back from Atlanta in no time. A couple of weeks at the
most. I’m sure your dad and I can find a house in that time. And then we’ll be
back before you even notice we’re gone.”
“Yeah. Sure,” Evan said sarcastically.
The sun dipped behind a large cloud. A shadow fell over the small front yard.
Trigger wore himself out quickly and came panting up the walk, his tongue
hanging nearly to the ground. Evan bent down and petted the dog’s back.
He looked up at the gray house as his mother knocked on the front door again.
It looked dark and uninviting. There were curtains drawn over the upstairs
windows. One of the shutters had come loose and was resting at an odd angle.
“Mom—why are you knocking?” he asked, shoving his hands into his jeans
pockets. “You said Aunt Kathryn was totally deaf.”
“Oh.” His mother’s face reddened. “You got me so upset, Evan, with all your
complaining, I completely forgot. Of
she can’t hear us.”
How am I going to spend two weeks with a strange old lady who can’t even hear
me? Evan wondered glumly.
He remembered eavesdropping on his parents two weeks earlier when they had
made the plan. They were seated across from each other at the kitchen table.
They thought Evan was out in the backyard. But he was in the hallway, his back
pressed against the wall, listening.
His father, he learned, was reluctant to leave Evan with Kathryn. “She’s a
very stubborn old woman,” Mr. Ross had said. “Look at her. Deaf for twenty years, and she’s refused to learn sign language or to lip-read.
How’s she going to take care of Evan?”
“She took good care of you when
were a boy,” Mrs. Ross had argued.
“That was thirty years ago,” Mr. Ross protested.
“Well, we have no choice,” Evan heard his mother say. “There’s no one else to
leave him with. Everyone else is away on vacation. You know, August is just the
worst month for you to be transferred to Atlanta.”
“Well, excuuuuse me!” Mr. Ross said sarcastically. “Okay, okay. Discussion
closed. You’re absolutely right, dear. We have no choice. Kathryn it is. You’ll
drive Evan there and then fly down to Atlanta.”
“It’ll be a good experience for him,” Evan heard his mother say. “He needs to
learn how to get along under difficult circumstances. You know, moving to
Atlanta, leaving all his friends behind—that isn’t going to be easy on Evan
“Okay. I said okay,” Mr. Ross said impatiently. “It’s settled. Evan will be
fine. Kathryn is a bit weird, but she’s perfectly harmless.”
Evan heard the kitchen chairs scraping across the linoleum, indicating that
his parents were getting up, their discussion ended.
His fate was sealed. Silently, he had made his way out the front door and around to the backyard to think about what he had
He leaned against the trunk of the big maple tree, which hid him from the
house. It was his favorite place to think.
Why didn’t his parents ever include
in their discussions? he
wondered. If they were going to discuss leaving him with some old aunt he’d
never seen before, shouldn’t he at least have a say? He learned all the big
family news by eavesdropping from the hallway. It just wasn’t right.
Evan pulled a small twig off the ground and tapped it against the broad tree
Aunt Kathryn was weird. That’s what his dad had said. She was so weird, his
father didn’t want to leave Evan with her.
But they had no choice. No choice.
Maybe they’ll change their minds and take me to Atlanta with them, Evan
thought. Maybe they’ll realize they can’t
this to me.
But now, two weeks later, he was standing in front of Aunt Kathryn’s gray
house, feeling very nervous, staring at the brown suitcase filled with his
belongings, which stood beside his mother on the stoop.
There’s nothing to be scared of, he assured himself.
It’s only for two weeks. Maybe less.
But then the words popped out before he’d even had a chance to think about them: “Mom—what if Aunt Kathryn is mean?”
“Huh?” The question caught his mother by surprise. “Mean? Why would she be
And as she said this, facing Evan with her back to the house, the front door
was pulled open, and Aunt Kathryn, a large woman with startling black hair,
filled the doorway.
Staring past his mother, Evan saw the knife in Kathryn’s hand. And he saw
that the blade of the knife was dripping with blood.
Trigger raised his head and began to bark, hopping backward on his hind legs
with each bark.
Startled, Evan’s mother spun around, nearly stumbling off the small stoop.
Evan gaped in silent horror at the knife.
A smile formed on Kathryn’s face, and she pushed open the screen door with
her free hand.
She wasn’t anything like Evan had pictured. He had pictured a small,
frail-looking, white-haired old lady. But Kathryn was a large woman, very
robust, broad-shouldered, and tall.
She wore a peach-colored housedress and had straight black hair, pulled back
and tied behind her head in a long ponytail that flowed down the back of the
dress. She wore no makeup, and her pale face seemed to disappear under the
striking black hair, except for her eyes, which were large and round, and steely
“I was slicing beef,” she said in a surprisingly deep voice, waving the
blood-stained kitchen knife. She stared at Evan. “You like beef?”
“Uh… yeah,” he managed to reply, his chest still fluttery from the shock
of seeing her appear with the raised knife.
Kathryn held open the screen door, but neither Evan nor his mother made any
move to go inside. “He’s big,” Kathryn said to Mrs. Ross. “A big boy. Not like
his father. I used to call his father Chicken. Because he was no bigger than a
chicken.” She laughed as if she had cracked a funny joke.
Mrs. Ross, picking up Evan’s suitcase, glanced uncomfortably back at him.
“Yeah… he’s big,” she said.
Actually, Evan was one of the shortest kids in his class. And no matter how
much he ate, he remained “as skinny as a spaghetti noodle,” as his dad liked to
“You don’t have to answer me,” Kathryn said, stepping aside so that Mrs. Ross
could get inside the house with the suitcase. “I can’t hear you.” Her voice was
deep, as deep as a man’s, and she spoke clearly, without the indistinct
pronunciation that some deaf people have.
Evan followed his mother into the front hallway, Trigger yapping at his
heels. “Can’t you get that dog quiet?” his mother snapped.
“It doesn’t matter. She can’t hear it,” Evan replied, gesturing toward his
aunt, who was heading to the kitchen to put down the knife.
Kathryn returned a few seconds later, her blue eyes locked on Evan, her lips
pursed, as if she were studying him. “So, you like beef?” she repeated.
“Good,” she said, her expression still serious. “I always fixed beef for your
father. But he only wanted pie.”
“What kind of pie?” Evan asked, and then blushed when he remembered Kathryn
couldn’t hear him.
“So he’s a good boy? Not a troublemaker?” Kathryn asked Evan’s mother.
Mrs. Ross nodded, looking at Evan. “Where shall we put his suitcase?” she
“I can tell by looking he’s a good boy,” Kathryn said. She reached out and
grabbed Evan’s face, her big hand holding him under the chin, her eyes examining
him closely. “Good-looking boy,” she said, giving his chin a hard squeeze. “He
likes the girls?”
Still holding his chin, she lowered her face to his. “You’ve got a
girlfriend?” she asked, her pale face right above his, so close he could smell
her breath, which was sour.
Evan took a step back, an embarrassed grin crossing his face. “No. Not
“Yes?” Kathryn cried, bellowing in his ear. “Yes? I
laughed heartily, turning her gaze to Evan’s mother.
“The suitcase?” Mrs. Ross asked, picking up the bag.
“He likes the girls, huh?” Kathryn repeated, still chuckling. “I could tell.
Just like his father. His father always liked the girls.”
Evan turned desperately to his mother. “Mom, I can’t stay here,” he said,
whispering even though he knew Kathryn couldn’t hear. “Please—don’t make me.”
“Hush,” his mother replied, also whispering. “She’ll leave you alone. I
promise. She’s just trying to be friendly.”
“He likes the girls,” Kathryn repeated, leering at him with her cold blue
eyes, again lowering her face close to Evan’s.
“Mom—her breath smells like Trigger’s!” Evan exclaimed miserably.
“Evan!” Mrs. Ross shouted angrily. “Stop it! I expect you to cooperate.”
“I’m going to bake you a pie,” Kathryn said, tugging at her black ponytail
with one of her huge hands. “Would you like to roll out the dough? I’ll bet you
would. What did your father tell you about me, Evan?” She winked at Mrs. Ross.
“Did he tell you I was a scary old witch?”
“No,” Evan protested, looking at his mother.
“Well, I am!” Kathryn declared, and once again burst into her deep-throated
Trigger took this moment to begin barking ferociously and jumping on Evan’s
great-aunt. She glared down at the dog, her eyes narrowing, her expression becoming stern.
“Look out or we’ll put
in the pie, doggie!” she exclaimed.
Trigger barked even harder, darting boldly toward the tall, hovering woman,
then quickly retreating, his stub of a tail whipping back and forth in a frenzy.
“We’ll put him in the pie, won’t we, Evan?” Kathryn repeated, putting a big
hand on Evan’s shoulder and squeezing it till Evan flinched in pain.