Authors: R.L. Stine
his whole mess is Frankie Todaro's fault andâoowww!” I howled. “That hurts, Louisa!”
“Sorry, Brittany. But you knowâlooking great isn't easy. Just read those magazines.” Louisa pointed to a stack of my magazines piled high on the floor. “They all tell you that.”
“Then I won't look great,” I said, yanking her curling iron out of my hair.
It was Saturday afternoon. My best friend, Louisa Wong, had come over to my house. She was always trying out ways to improve my short brown hair. So far, none of them had worked.
“Besides,” I went on, “I don't care what I look like for this dumb community-service thing.”
“Bad attitude, Brit,” Louisa told me, shaking her head.
Louisa is into fashion. That day she had on a lavender baby T-shirt, a long silky skirt, and navy blue nail polish.
I had on a pair of old jeans and a Shadyside Middle School sweatshirt. I'm into comfort.
I flopped down on my bed. “You know,” I went on, “if Frankie hadn't make us look at his dumb pet rat, none of this would have happened.”
“I thought he was cute,” Louisa said.
“Who?” I raised my eyebrows. “Frankie?”
“No!” Louisa cried. “Spike!”
“Spikeâcute? I guessâif you're into albino rats. Why did Frankie bring him to school anyway?”
“Somebody dared him to put Spike on Mr. Bladvig's music stand.” Louisa shrugged. “You know how he is.”
“Who?” I asked. “Spike?”
“No!” Louisa laughed. “Frankie! You know how he loves dares.”
I shook my head. “I barely know Frankie.”
“He was in my class last year,” Louisa told me. “Trust me, he'll do anything.”
Louisa shrieked as my bedroom door flew open.
My little brother crashed into my room.
“Jimmy!” I yelled. “You're supposed to knock. Remember?”
“Pick a card!” Jimmy demanded. He charged over to me, waving a deck of cards. “Come on, Brit! It's my new trick! Pick a card!”
I groaned. I'm not crazy about cards to start with. Then Mom and Dad bought Jimmy a card-trick book for his eighth birthday. Ever since, he's been a total pain.
I was really, really sick of his card tricks. “Ask Louisa to pick,” I told him.
Jimmy fanned the cards. Louisa picked one. She showed it to me. Six of clubs.
“Now put your card back in the deck,” he instructed her.
Louisa slid the card back into the pack.
Jimmy shuffled. “Okay, pick the first four cards.”
She did. “Hey!” she cried. “They're
“Tah-dah!” Jimmy took a bow.
“How'd you do it?” Louisa asked, handing him back the cards.
Jimmy grinned. “Magicians never tell,” he declared. He turned to me. “Your turn, Brit. Pick a card! Any card!”
“Not now,” I said. “We have go to Max Davidson's house.”
“Who is he?” Jimmy asked. “Your new boyfriend? Are you in
“I've never even met him,” I snapped. “He moved to Shadyside last week. But he's sick, so he can't come to school.”
Jimmy wrinkled his nose. “What's he got?” he asked.
“Rabies, for all I know,” I said glumly.
“Brit!” Louisa cried. “You're horrible!”
have to go see him?” Jimmy asked.
“Because Max's mom asked the principal if some Shadyside kids could visit him. So Mr. Emerson picked us.”
“Oh.” Jimmy cocked his head to one side. “Why did he pick you?”
I sighed. He wasn't going to give up.
“We got in trouble for looking at a rat,” Louisa explained.
“It's not fair,” I put in. “We didn't do anything wrong.”
“Tell that to Mr. Bladvig,” Louisa said.
“Hey!” I cried. “That's whose fault it is! Mr. Bladvig's!”
“Really.” Louisa nodded. “If he hadn't come out of the music room and seen us petting Spike, we wouldn't even be in trouble.”
“What about that redheaded kid?” I asked. “The one whose locker is next to Frankie's? What's his nameâJeff.”
“Are you in
with Jeff?” Jimmy asked me.
I ignored him. “I bet Jeff is mad at Frankie,” I went on.
“Why is Jeff mad at Frankie?” Jimmy asked.
“Jimmy, you don't even know Frankie and Jeff!” I exclaimed. “Why do you care?”
“Mr. Bladvig dragged Jeff off to Mr. Emerson's office with the rest of us, and he was just standing at his locker. He wasn't even looking at Spike,” Louisa explained to him.
“I've got it!” I cried. “This is all
Because of one stupid pet rat, I had to visit a kid I didn't even know.
One stupid white rat got us into all this trouble, I thought miserably.
Well, we'll go visit Max, and that will be the end of it, I told myself.
But I was wrong.
It was just the beginning.
The beginning of
live on Fear Street.” Louisa shuddered as we walked down Hawthorne Drive. “Hey, there's Frankie!” She waved.
Frankie ran to catch up with us. It took him only a few stridesâbecause everything about Frankie was long.
He had long, skinny legs. And long, thin armsâthey practically hung down to his knees. He had a long, narrow face, with a long, straight nose. And long, stringy brown hair.
When he caught up to us, I noticed his T-shirt. It was long too. And blueâjust like his eyes. It said
The three of us walked to Park Drive. Louisa
glanced over her shoulder. “Isn't that Jeff?” She pointed to a thin redheaded boy walking behind us. “Maybe we should wait for him.”
As he walked up, I glanced at my watch. “Hey, guys, it's almost five,” I warned. “We're going to be late!”
“We could cut through Mrs. Marder's yard,” Frankie said.
“No way!” I cried. Didn't he know what people said about Mrs. Marder? “She's a witch!”
Louisa's dark eyes widened. “Right!” she agreed. “No way am I getting hexed!”
“You're afraid of
Frankie said, chuckling. “I'm not.”
“Well, you should be,” I told him. “Don't you remember what happened to Gina Logan?”
“No, I don't,” Jeff said. “What happened to her?”
“She went into Mrs. Marder's yard. And no one ever saw her again!”
“I heard Gina's family moved to Utah,” Frankie pointed out.
“That's not what I heard.” Louisa shook her head sadly. “She just disappeared!”
“Oh, sure,” Jeff scoffed.
“No, really,” Louisa insisted. “Mrs. Marder is weird. She has hundreds of catsâand they hiss
all the time. She hates kids. She's really scary.”
“Scarier than double detention?” Frankie asked. “Because that's what Mr. Emerson said we'd get if we're late.”
Frankie had a point. Two minutes of running through a witch's backyard was better than two weeks of detention.
“I don't think we should cut through,” Jeff said suddenly.
“Don't tell me you're scared too!” Frankie teased.
“I'm not scared!” Jeff scowled. “I just don't think we should go through her yard, that's all. It's trespassing.”
I glanced at Louisa and rolled my eyes. Who cared about that?
I studied Mrs. Marder's house. Its gray paint had peeled away. The bare wood underneath was splintered and rotted. A rickety porch ran all the way around the house.
I stared up at the windows. Dark, grimy windows behind crumbling, crooked shutters.
I turned and gazed across the street. Nothing there but a vacant lot with a huge hole in the ground. It looked as if someone had started to build a house and then gave up.
Who could blame them? Who would want to live across the street from
I turned back to Mrs. Marder's house. Her yard was filled with cats. Cats everywhere. All black.
Black cats snoozing on the porch railing. Crouching on the windowsills. Stalking through the weedy grass.
“Max's house is right behind Mrs. Marder's,” Frankie whispered. “Follow me on three. OneÂ .Â .Â . twoÂ .Â .Â . three!” He opened the creaky front gate and dashed around the side of her house.
Well, that settled that. Louisa, Jeff, and I sprinted after Frankie.
As I rounded the house, something caught my eye.
Mrs. Marder! Standing on the porch.
She held a stick in her bony hands. No, a broom! A green bandanna that was tied around her head only partly covered her coarse gray hair. I could see the deep wrinkles in her skinâand the evil glow in her dark green eyes.
“You rotten kids!” she screeched, shaking her broom at us.
I ran on. Past a wheelbarrow full of soil. Past an old stone birdbath with a face carved into its base.
No. Not a face.
A skull with hollow, staring eyes and a mouth opened wide in a silent scream!
“Come back here!” Mrs. Marder shrieked.
I ran fasterâand tripped over a cat. It hissedâarching its back and baring its teeth. I fell on top of a tray of little flowerpots. Sent them shattering to the ground.
“My herbs!” Mrs. Marder shrieked. “You've ruined them! You've destroyed them all!”
My heart pounded as I scrambled to my feet.
Mrs. Marder pointed a bony finger at me. “You will pay!”
All the black cats gathered around her. They arched their backs. And hissed at me. Hissed horribly.
“I'll make you pay!” she yelled.
I dove behind a clump of bushes at the back of the yardâand found Louisa, Jeff, and Frankie hiding there.
“Wow! Brittany broke a few flowerpots, but Mrs. Marder went ballistic!” Frankie shook his head in disbelief. “Did you hear her?”
“She's going inside now,” Jeff said. “Come on. Let's go.”