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Authors: Ann M. Martin

Baby-Sitters Beware

BOOK: Baby-Sitters Beware
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Baby-Sitters Beware

 

Ann M. Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue.

Kristy.

Now, the Baby-sitters Club, or BSC, of which I am president (more about that later) has been involved in its share of mysteries. But it wasn't until we were in the middle of this mystery that I realized we should be keeping a mystery notebook, too.

Too? Well, we already keep a club notebook. In it, we write about each and every babysitting job we have: who, where, when, what happened, and whatever else we think might be important. The dub notebook is a handy reference tool. We're able to keep up with what is going on in the lives of our baby-sitting charges, and with any habits or changes we need to know about, such as allergies, teething problems, or phobias. We use the information to solve problems, too.

So it seems only logical that we should record our detective work. Reporting strange occurrences, and keeping a list of suspects and clues, could help solve the mystery.

Of course, as usual, when this mystery began, we didn't know it was a mystery right away. But once I realized what was happening, I decided to persuade everybody to think back and write up the incidents that marked the beginning of the mystery.

I can be very persuasive.

We now have a BSC mystery notebook.

I just wish I'd thought of it sooner, because the BSC has, as I mentioned, been involved in a number of mysteries. Such as the time Dawn Schafer realized that there was a pet-napping ring here in Stoneybrook, when certain breeds of dogs started disappearing. Or the time we all had jobs at the mall as part of a school project, and we discovered that someone was involved in a lot more than shoplifting. And the time Claudia spotted a clue in a photograph and ended up helping to solve . . .

Well, anyway, you get the idea.

 

We know our way around a mystery. This mystery, however, was a lot scarier than the others. Creepy. Like something you see in horror movies.

It started as a simple vacation. But it ended up being a trip through our worst nightmares. ...

Chapter 1.

Kristy.

The bony, gory hand shot out of the snow and grabbed the skier by the ankle. She screamed. She fell. She tried to escape, but it was no use. Slowly, slowly, the hand dragged her backward.

"What are you watching?" I asked, coming into the den.

David Michael and Karen both made a dive for the remote control. But I, a wily and experienced baby-sitter, as well as a seasoned older sister, had perfect instincts, impeccable timing, and lightning reflexes.

I reached the remote control first and clicked the mute button.

"It is an excellent, excellent movie," pleaded Karen, her blue eyes huge and maybe just a tad too sincere behind her glasses. "You can learn a lot about, about . . ." She frowned, thinking hard.

"About how not to go to sleep tonight?" I suggested. "About how to have nightmares when you do?"

"Oh, we won't have nightmares," said David Michael. "We've seen this about a million times."

"Gazillions," said Karen.

On the television screen, the skier escaped. She tried to run. The thing underneath the

snow suddenly erupted out of it, right in front of her, holding one of her skis in each of its hands.

I jumped in spite of myself.

"Don't worry," said Karen reassuringly. "He doesn't eat her yet."

"And it's really fake-looking when he does," added David Michael.

I gave up. I handed the remote control back to Karen and David Michael and retreated with as much dignity as I could manage.

It was Friday night at the Thomas-Brewer mansion (my very large, blended family really does live in a mansion) and I, Kristy Thomas, thirteen-year-old eighth-grade student at Stoneybrook Middle School (in Stoneybrook, Connecticut), oldest daughter of the house, and president of the BSC (as I mentioned before), was baby-sitting for my seven-year-old brother David Michael, my seven-year-old stepsister Karen, my four-year-old stepbrother Andrew, and my two-year-old adopted sister Emily Michelle.

Emily Michelle was not watching the movie. She was asleep. I had just finished overseeing Andrew's bath, and he was enjoying staying up "really late." (I'd told him he could stay up as late as he liked as long as he stayed in bed. I'd left him sitting bolt upright, looking

at picture books. I knew from past experience that half an hour later, he'd be fast asleep.)

My maternal grandmother Nannie was with her bowling league; Charlie, my oldest brother (who's seventeen), was at a basketball tournament; and my brother Sam (fifteen) was out on a date breaking up with his current girlfriend (although I didn't know that at the time). My mother and Watson, my stepfather, had gone to a Christmas party.

Shannon
, David Michael's Bernese mountain dog puppy, was asleep on the sofa in the den. Boo-Boo, the cranky cat, was lurking somewhere in the house, no doubt waiting to claw whomever was unwary enough to walk by. The other assorted Brewer-Thomas pets, such as the goldfish, were, I hoped, in their proper places. And the ghost of Ben Brewer (an ancestor of Watson's), who — Karen firmly believes — lives on the third floor, was, I also hoped, in his room for the night.

That is my family. I've always had a larger than average family, but not always this large. I haven't always lived in a mansion, either.

When David Michael was just a baby, my father walked out on us. He turned up in
California
, and that was more or less the last we heard of him (I don't count random Christmas

and birthday cards and gifts, usually late). We had a pretty tough time, Mom most of all, I think, but she held us together and things gradually improved.

Then, not too long ago, Mom met Watson Brewer. It was like at first sight, and love at second sight, and they ended up getting married. Watson was (and is) a real, live millionaire, so we Thomases moved from our tiny house on
Bradford Court
, where I'd lived my whole life, to Watson's mansion. Good thing it is a mansion, too, because Karen and Andrew, Watson's kids from his first marriage, spend every other month with us. Plus Mom and Watson adopted Emily Michelle, who was an orphan from
Vietnam
. Then Nannie came to stay with us, to exercise her organizational abilities and to help keep everything running smoothly. It usually does, but even when it doesn't, it's always interesting.

So that’s my family.

Now. I have to tell you a secret. We live in a big house, and we all have our own rooms, and I love my family — but I was beginning to get cabin fever. We hadn't been away in ages. I was ready for a change.

I checked on Andrew, gently removed the books from his bed, pulled up the covers, and

turned out the light. In her room, Emily Michelle was sacked out, clutching her Gund bear by the nose.

I wandered around the house restlessly. I wished that something interesting would happen. Anything. (Well, maybe not anything, I thought, remembering the monster movie that David Michael and Karen were watching.)

I decided to concentrate on the future. The near future. Just think, I told myself. In two weeks, you'll be at
Shadow
Lake
.

Maybe that was why I had cabin fever — because I knew we were going away soon for a long weekend at the cabin, and I was in a fever to be there.

Although we'd just finished with Thanksgiving, and the Christmas holidays were around the corner, Watson had decided he needed to check on the cabin. I was thrilled. I loved
Shadow
Lake
in the winter. I knew it was near downhill ski slopes, and I knew I could do some serious cross-country skiing, too.

Plus I was taking friends along.

The cabin at
Shadow
Lake
is basic, but it is big. There are two bunk rooms that can sleep a dozen people each. The first time I'd gone to
Shadow
Lake
I'd invited all my friends in the BSC, and everybody had accepted. We'd

been able to fit everybody in, no problem.

Of course, I couldn't always invite all my friends to come along on our trips to
Shadow
Lake
. But I'd realized recently that every time our family went away, big as it is, I'd been feeling sort of left out. I mean, Charlie and Sam have each other for company, and all the younger kids can play together. That left me alone in the middle.

So I was super pleased when Mom and Watson agreed to let me invite a few friends along for our winter excursion to the cabin. I'd already been talking about the trip at the BSC meetings, and at our next meeting, after I'd asked whether there was any official business (none), then asked if anybody wanted to come along.

Mallory Pike immediately shuddered and said, "No, thanks!"

Jessica Ramsey, who is her best friend, gave a shout of laughter. "Mal, there aren't any insects around in the winter. Not even at Shadow Lake!" We all cracked up.

 

Mallory gave us a sheepish grin. On her one and only visit to the lake, she'd been plagued by hordes of insects in spite of the fact that she had applied gallons of bug spray and was clothed from head to toe. She admitted, "I guess not. But anyway, I can't come because

I have to sit for my brothers and sisters both days that weekend. Mom and Dad are adding more insulation to the house. It’s one of those do-it-yourself projects." She sighed and then added, "At least I don't have to help with that."

Jessi said, "She's telling the truth, because I am the second baby-sitter." (There are seven kids in the Pike family, not including Mal, so the Pikes always hire two baby-sitters.)

Shannon Kilbourne couldn't make it either. Shannon is an associate member, which means she takes baby-sitting jobs only when we're swamped. She doesn't usually come to meetings, but she happened to have a free afternoon that day. Generally, her life is planned weeks (or maybe years) in advance, around her extracurricular activities at Stoneybrook Day School, the private school she attends. "Merd," she said with a shrug. "But the French club is helping out with the library sale at our school that Saturday,"

Shaking her head regretfully, Mary Anne Spier said, "My social studies paper is due the Monday afterward."

Abby Stevenson, who lives one house over from me, grinned and said, "Well, count me

in."

"Don't you have to ask your mom or something?" asked Mary Anne, whose father is kind of picky about things like that.

Abby lifted her eyebrows in surprise. "Sure, I'll ask her," she said. "But if 11 be okay. We can ski up there, right?"

I nodded and Stacey McGill said, "Well, if my mom agrees to it, count me in, too."

"Decent," said Claudia Kishi. "Count me in three."

So the four of us were going to Shadow Lake.

I could hardly wait. I'd already made my packing lists. Waxed my skis. Done a little research on the snowshoe business. Taken my ice skates in to have them sharpened.

Can you tell I was ready?

Only two things worried me. The first was Watson. He's had a heart attack. As heart attacks go, it wasn't a serious one, but any heart attack is bad . . . and scary. He'd recovered and he was following doctors' orders, such as sticking to new diet and exercising regularly. And he seemed to be his old self again, doing everything he'd done before the attack.

In fact, it seemed to me that physically, he was doing more and more. Was Watson pushing himself too hard? Would going to Shadow Lake be too much for him? I told myself that Watson knew what he was

doing. That the doctors and my mother were keeping an eagle eye on him. But still, I couldn't help worrying.

The other thing, which wasn't that big a deal, was Sam. He and Stacey had once been very interested in one another. In fact, their romance had started on our first visit to Shadow Lake. Things had cooled off since then. Stacey and Robert Brewster are dating each other now, and Sam is dating someone else, too.

But I knew that Sam and his girlfriend had been having problems. And I also knew that Sam still liked Stacey, although I wasn't sure if it was in that boyfriend-girlfriend way. He did ask about her regularly, though, and it seemed to me that the more trouble he'd had with his girlfriend, the more he asked how Stacey was doing.

Sam has never been subtle.

What if the trip to the lake, where Sam and Stacey had first gotten together, rekindled their interest in each other? Or what if it did for Sam? Or just Stacey? What if someone got hurt? I mean, it was possible that the cabin could turn out to be Heartbreak Hotel, if you know what I mean.

I definitely didn't want that to happen. And I didn't much want to be around if it did. . . .

Oh, relax, I told' myself now, returning to the den.

David Michael had put his hands over his eyes and was peering at the screen through his fingers. Karen had made her hands into "binoculars" and was watching the movie that way. They were both giggling.

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