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Authors: R.L. Stine

All-Night Party (10 page)

BOOK: All-Night Party
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Its blade covered with dark stains.

Chapter
26

“T
he knife used to kill Cindy,” Gretchen murmured.

They all stood staring down at the sleeping bag.

At the knife.

Gretchen's gaze fixed on the razor-sharp edge of the blade.

She shivered and tore her eyes away. The thought of the knife slashing into Cindy made her feel sick.

She hugged her arms around her stomach. And forced herself not to look at it again.

“I can't believe it,” she heard Hannah moan. “I can't believe that Patrick…”

Gretchen suddenly felt light-headed. She staggered to the couch and sat down. She dropped her head down to her knees and swallowed deep breaths.

She heard someone walk toward her.

“Are you okay?” Jackson asked softly.

Gretchen pushed her hair out of her face. “I'm okay,” she answered. “I guess.”

“This is all the proof we need,” Marco said. “Let's see Patrick try to deny this!”

Marco led the way back to the kitchen.

“I can't go back in there,” Hannah whispered. She clutched Gretchen's arm. “Stay out here with me. Please?”

“I want to hear what Patrick says when he sees the knife,” Gretchen told her.

She put her arms around Hannah and gave her a hug. “I'll come back in a minute, okay?”

“Okay,” Hannah nodded. She twisted the bottom of her sweater in her hands. “I'll wait out here, by the door. I'll be okay.”

Gretchen turned from Hannah and stepped into the kitchen.

Marco, Jackson, and Gil stood in a grim circle around Patrick.

“I knew you wouldn't find anything,” Patrick said angrily. “Now untie me!”

“You're wrong, Patrick,” Gretchen said. “We did find things. Two things.”

All the blood drained from Patrick's face. His mouth fell open, and he stared at Gretchen as if he hadn't heard her correctly. “Excuse me?”

Gretchen stared hard at Patrick.

Either he's telling the truth and didn't murder
Cindy. Or he's giving the performance of his life, she thought.

“We found two things,” Gretchen repeated. “We found a note in your backpack. From Cindy. She said she was going to tell her parents about the secret the two of you shared. She said she couldn't keep it anymore.”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” Patrick said through gritted teeth. “Cindy and I didn't share any secret. The note is a fake. It has to be a total fake. I never got any note from Cindy.”

They all stared hard at Patrick, studying his face.

Patrick sighed. “What else did you find?”

Gretchen took a deep breath. “The missing bread knife… smeared with blood… in your sleeping bag.”

“You murdered her!” Gil cried suddenly.

“I didn't! I didn't!” Patrick screamed.

“But Patrick,” Gretchen cut in. “How do you explain the knife in your sleeping bag?” Gretchen asked.

“I don't know. I really don't. I didn't put it there,” Patrick insisted.

“But it
was
there,” Gretchen stated. “And it's smeared with blood.”

“I didn't murder Cindy!” Patrick cried. “Why won't anyone listen to me? If you'd only untie me, I could help you figure this out.”

“Save it,” Gil ordered harshly. He moved closer to Patrick. “We're not untying you. We're going to hold
you until we can get the police. When they get here, you can tell them that you're innocent.”

“Please,” Patrick begged. “You have to listen to me.”

Gretchen shook her head. “There's nothing left to say,” she told him. “There's just too much proof.”

“That's the whole point!” Patrick exclaimed. “If I killed Cindy, would I make it so easy for you? Would I leave so much evidence around?”

Patrick's eyes darted frantically around the kitchen.

“If I was the killer, would I hide the knife in
my
sleeping bag?” Patrick demanded. “Would I walk around in a bloody shirt, and leave flour on my boots? Would I leave my cap in Cindy's hand? And leave her note in my own backpack?”

Patrick's eyes pleaded with Gretchen.

She suddenly felt uncomfortable.

Patrick's words made sense.

“Gretchen,” Patrick pleaded, “you're the only one willing to keep an open mind. You know I couldn't have done this.”

Gretchen swallowed hard and stared down at the floor.

“Please, just think about it,” Patrick continued. “Somebody is trying to make me look guilty. I'm not stupid. If I were the killer, I wouldn't leave clues all over the cabin.”

He let out an angry cry. “Don't you see? Someone is trying to pin the blame on me. It has to be one of
you.”

Gretchen turned to the open doorway. She saw Hannah standing there. Their eyes met.

Sometimes I wish she was dead!

Hannah's words about Cindy echoed in Gretchen's mind.

“You're not going to listen to him, are you?” Hannah asked shrilly. “He'll say anything so we'll untie him. If we let him loose, we'll all be in danger.”

“Don't you see what's happening here?” Patrick demanded. “Someone in this cabin is trying to frame me.”

“Frame you?” Gretchen asked. “Why would someone want to frame you?”

“I don't know!” Patrick exclaimed. “But they went too far. They planted
too much
evidence! If I killed Cindy, I'd try to
hide
the evidence. I wouldn't leave it all lying around.”

From his seat at the table, Jackson cast a doubtful look in Gretchen's direction. She could see the question in his eyes. He had his doubts, too.

Gretchen turned to Gil and Marco, sitting on the counter. Both looked uneasy. She could tell they were also unsure.

“He's right,” Jackson agreed. “We've been stupid.”

Gretchen didn't know what to believe. She paced the kitchen. She took Cindy's note out of her pocket and read it again.

She saw Patrick watching her, straining at the ropes to see the note. “Is that the note you found?” he asked. “Let me see it.”

Gretchen stopped in front of Patrick's chair. She unfolded the paper and held it up in front of him.

Patrick leaned forward, pulling the ropes taut.

Gretchen watched as his eyes moved across the handwritten words.

When he reached the bottom, his mouth dropped open.

“I don't believe it!” he cried.

Chapter
27

“I
t's phony! A complete phony!” Patrick declared.

“How can you say that?” Gretchen asked him. “I've seen Cindy's handwriting hundreds of times. So have the rest of us.”

“But it
isn't
Cindy's handwriting,” Patrick insisted.

“It looks like her handwriting to me,” Gretchen replied.

“Sure, if you look at it quickly. But you missed something,” Patrick said heatedly. “Something that proves Cindy didn't write it.”

“What?” Gretchen demanded.

“Cindy always dotted the ‘i' in her name with a heart. Don't you remember?” Patrick reminded her. “Look at her signature. It doesn't have a heart!”

Gretchen flipped the note over and studied the handwriting. Instantly, she saw what she had missed earlier. No heart.

“He's right,” she said. “The ‘i' isn't dotted with a heart. And Cindy always did that.”

“Let me see it,” Hannah declared, walking into the room. “I was Cindy's best friend. I would know her handwriting better than any of you.”

Hannah snatched the note out of Gretchen's hand. Her eyes traveled over it, and then she returned it.

“That's Cindy's handwriting,” she said firmly. “Even if the heart is missing. It doesn't matter.”

“But Cindy
always
used a heart,” Patrick repeated. “She never forgot it.”

Gil sighed. “He's right.”

“Cindy and I didn't
have
any secret,” Patrick insisted. “Whoever wrote this note was trying to frame me. But they messed up by forgetting to use a heart.”

Gretchen passed the note to the others. Now no one was sure if it was Cindy's handwriting or not.

“Why don't we look in Cindy's bag?” Gil suggested. “Maybe she has something with her handwriting on it.”

“Good idea,” Gretchen agreed. “That way we'll know for sure if she wrote the note.”

They hurried into the front room.

“There it is!” Gretchen cried, spotting it under the couch where it had fallen.

Sitting on the couch, Gretchen pulled the black bag onto her lap and began emptying it out.

There wasn't much inside. Lip gloss. Eye shadow. A pack of chewing gum. House keys. A compact. Hairbrush. Sunglasses.

“Is that all?” Marco asked.

Gretchen scraped the bottom of the bag and brushed across a few scraps of paper. She grabbed them and pulled them out.

“These might have something written on them,” she announced excitedly.

She unfolded the pages slowly as the others gathered around her. She looked down at the pages, her pulse racing as she tried to figure out what was written on them.

“They're notes,” she murmured, scanning a list of names, dates, and places. “Notes from history class.”

“Let's compare it to the note we found,” Jackson urged.

Gretchen pulled out the note to Patrick. She placed it on top of the coffee table next to Cindy's history notes.

The handwriting looked identical.

Gretchen's eyes traveled back and forth between the two sheets of paper, searching for differences.

She could see that Cindy's history notes were written in a rushed, hurried style. But they were easy to read.

The note from Patrick's backpack looked neater. Gretchen had the feeling it had been written more carefully. The letters were crisper. More detailed.

But it was still Cindy's handwriting.

Except for one small difference.

“Take a look at the ‘y's,” Gretchen pointed out.

“What about them?” Hannah asked.

“The ‘y's in the note from Patrick's backpack are different from the ‘y's in Cindy's notes,” Gretchen told them.

She felt her heart pound as she spoke. “Cindy's ‘y's are loopy, but the ‘y's in the note from Patrick's backpack have squiggles.”

Gretchen set down the notes. Her hand trembled. “You know what this means,” she said.

Marco whistled softly. “Patrick is telling the truth. Someone
is
trying to frame him.”

“But who?” Gretchen whispered. “Who?”

Chapter
28

S
he stared at her friends. All wore stunned expressions on their faces.

She thought she knew them—but did she? Could one of them have murdered Cindy?

If they were wrong about Patrick, then the killer was still loose.

BOOK: All-Night Party
9.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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