Linda and friends were off to Wolf’s house to confront him about the disappearances and deaths in town. They weren’t afraid until they pulled up to his dark house. Maybe they should’ve been more careful and more afraid for their own good.
They pulled up in front of Wolf’s dreary-looking house. David appeared to be having second thoughts about their idea: he was crouched down low down in his seat. Mike had to forcibly drag him from the car.
The four humans walked up to the front door, but it was already standing wide open, beckoning for them to step into its dark depths.
With a slight quiver in his voice David said, “He’s expecting us. The Big Bad Wolf is already waiting for us. We don’t even have the element of surprise.”
“We’ve never had a chance anyway,” Mike said to David. He loved teasing his silly friends. He looked over at David, visualizing him as the weak lion in The Wizard of Oz who lacked courage. He could just imagine him holding his tail in his shaky hands, as they slowly walked down the long hallway to meet the wizard—or in this case, the wolf. If David was the lion, then he must be the Tin Man—the one without a heart. Linda could easily be the silly scarecrow without a brain, which would make Shana Dorothy, who was always searching for a home.
“Great! We get to die in this creepy house. I hope someone finds our bodies before they decay,” David said, making Mike want to pull his tail real hard.
“Stop the theatrics and let’s head in already.” It looked like Shana really wanted to find a home and a happy ending with Sam, mused “without a heart” Mike, but it was doubtful that she ever would. Just click your red heels together, Dorothy, and see what really happens.
“Don’t worry, Todd and Sam will come in time to help us. Todd always seems to know when I’m in trouble,” Linda said. Here goes “no brains” again.
“Which is about all the time,” said Shana. Another genius heard from, announced Mike silently to his invisible audience.
“What if the Father can’t locate them in time?” asked David. Boohoo.
“Todd and Sam have powers of their own and they’ll find us,” said Linda. Sure! Silly scarecrow!
They walked into the house very slowly. “Down the Yellow Brick Road…”
Linda and Shana were investigating their friends’ disappearance from the mysterious party at End House. They extended their search to include the deserted mansion and the quaint gingerbread house, both located on the dirt road leading from town.
They walked outside into the brilliant sunshine. Shana proposed another idea that had Linda sighing unhappily to herself. “Let’s continue interviewing people: we could take a walk down the gravel road, and even swing by the pretty bed and breakfast.”
“We can’t come back too late, because Todd will be waiting for me. Although it is nice outside for a brisk walk…” Linda looked around at all the residents and tourists who were out and about, enjoying the beautiful day. She nodded hello to people along the way, including her friends, Ralph and Lewis, who were bartenders at the Oasis Hotel. They lived in another town and commuted every day to work. It would be nice, for once,to be like everyone else and simply enjoy an innocent stroll through town.
They followed Main Street until it ended at the sheriff’s office. A narrow dirt road led the rest of the way from town. It ran past the bed and breakfast and the huge isolated mansion, before it curved farther inland to join the bustling highway.
THE BODIES WERE BEGINNING TO PILE UP IN THE PEACEFUL TOWN OF OASIS. SINCE THE SHERIFF AND HIS MEN WEREN’T INVESTIGATING THE DISTURBING DISAPPEARANCES AND DEATHS, THE RESIDENTS BEGAN TO DO SOME INVESTIGATING OF THEIR OWN.
The next day Shana entered the bookstore whistling, with a bright smile on her face. Linda knew that she looked this way only when she had a new plan up her sleeve.
Shana rubbed her hands together and said, “I’m ready to begin questioning everyone in town. We might be able to accomplish all this in one afternoon. This time around, we must ask tougher questions to force them to lower their guards.”
“How are we going to get invited to this mysterious party at Diane’s house?”
“Don’t worry, I have a few plans in the works.”
Linda was afraid to find out what those plans might be: her plans usually got them into trouble.
“Let’s begin with Hank, since we are the least familiar with him,” said Shana.
“Okay.” Linda followed her outside.
The bell over the door tinkled as they entered Hank’s Auto Body Shop. Hank came out from behind a car that he was working on to greet them. He has kind eyes. Linda watched him walk over. He was always so nice and friendly to everyone in town.
“What can I help you ladies with today?” asked Hank.
The store was noisy from all the work being done on the cars lined up along the two side walls. The front of the store had two large windows on either side of the door, while the back wall had a glass window to the back room. Hank had ten mechanics working for him up front, and around that many salesmen working in the back office, selling the new cars on the lot behind the store. Even though he was very busy managing his two groups of employees, he always had a ready smile for visitors.
“We’re questioning everyone in town about the party last Friday night. We don’t know who planned it, but it tragically ended with two of our friends missing. Maybe you saw or heard something that might help us?” asked Shana.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with that. I went to bed early and heard only the storm outside.”
“What about the party this Friday night? I heard that Diane throws two parties each year on exactly the same dates. What goes on at her parties?” asked Linda.
“Diane’s parties are very innocent: there’s dancing and food; everyone gets a chance to get dressed up,” said Hank.
“Who are the strangers that are invited each year?” asked Shana.
“They’re not strangers, but Diane’s friends and business clients,” said Hank, beginning to sound annoyed with them.
“I guess we were misinformed,” said Linda. It didn’t look like they were going to get anything else from him. She looked around at the employees and noticed that all the mechanics had stopped working to glare at them. She could even see the salesmen watching them through the back window. The climate of the store had changed from a friendly workplace to an uncomfortable atmosphere full of distrust and suspicion.
Linda thanked Hank and hurried out of the store, pulling Shana along behind her. As soon as they returned to the coffee shop, Linda locked the door and slowly sank to the floor. Shana sat down beside her.
“I’m afraid that we’re never going to get a straight answer from anyone,” said Linda. “Even Sam and Todd are holding back vital information from us. I don’t want to have to leave this town.” Not when she was beginning to like Todd so much.
“We have to attend this party ourselves in order to find any answers. Hank wants us to believe that these parties only have food and dancing. He must think that we’re pretty stupid: any idiot could figure out from the last party that something evil is loose in town. Somehow, we must find a way to get invited to this party.”
THE DEAD GAME — DAY 87Much more impatient, Linda cried out, “Louise! You’re alive! We assumed that you were dead! Mike saw you hanging in the gazebo!”
“I’d been so sure that I was going to die. I remember thinking that I was too young to die. Instead I woke up on the sand below End House. But I remember hanging in the gazebo with creatures dancing around me, chanting in a weird language.”
Todd began throwing questions at her, fast and furiously: “Did you happen to see their faces? Do you remember anything else? Why—”
“I remember recognizing one of the faces,” Louise said. “But I just can’t seem to recall his or her face.”
“Don’t worry; it will all come back to you. We’re so happy that you are alive and well. Mike, David, and Shana will want to hear that you’re back.” Linda tucked the colorful knitted blanket, which had been lying across the back of the couch, around Louise’s shivering body. She was surprised to find Louise’s hands cold, like ice. She placed her hand on Louise’s forehead and also found it cold to her touch.
Todd appeared eager to grill Louise with more questions, so she pushed him away from Louise; suggesting that he should notify everyone of her surprise return from the dead.
Once Todd left the room, Louise rose up from the couch to announce that she was hungry. Linda led her to the kitchen. Louise walked zombielike with her head down—without her usual chatter and happy bounce to her step. She seemed much different than before. It had to be because of the traumatic experience that she’d survived last night. But then she remembered that Louise had been moody and unhappy this whole past week. She would just have to accept the fact that they had all changed in some way since that awful party.
Linda almost emptied out her whole refrigerator in her eagerness to feed Louise. But Louise sat before the huge display of food, only nibbling on a breadstick. As Linda watched her, she realized that Louise didn’t have enough strength to eat anything. Just as she was about to lead her back to the couch, Shana rushed into the apartment. She enveloped Louise in a big bear hug…all the while sobbing about her supposed death. Louise appeared uncomfortable as she tried to pull away.
Linda heard loud voices in the living room, and then the door burst open with David and Mike running in. Mike stood back while David hugged Louise. Louise closed her eyes and Linda could have sworn that she was smiling contentedly back at David.
At Sam’s office, they found the restless group waiting for them.
Sam stood before them and explained their current
situation. “End House has been wiped clean of all the props that were used in the deadly game. There are no candles, no bodies, or blood. It is now just a deserted house. And we can’t find Louise anywhere: she’s not in the gazebo.”
“Louise could still be alive.” David stood up.
“It’s too dark outside to search for her tonight….We’ll
begin our search early tomorrow morning,” explained Sam.
Todd looked into Linda’s troubled eyes, seeing her shock and fear. “How could everything have been cleaned up already? What about the basement?” she insisted.
“We checked the rooms upstairs. Everything is gone. The basement will be examined tomorrow.”
He came to a quick decision and said to Linda, “I’m
sleeping on your couch until we figure out who was responsible for tonight’s prank.”
“It was much more than a prank! Louise might be dead!
And we don’t know what happened to Tom and Edward!”
Linda shouted in reply.
Todd watched her face turn bright red in her growing agitation. He understood that she was upset about her missing friends. He replied, “Of course I understand that it
was much more than a mere prank. We must remain calm if we want to figure out this mess.”
“I think it’s a great idea for you to sleep at Linda’s apartment….Maybe I should sleep on Shana’s couch.” Sam turned to Shana and asked, “Are you going to argue with
me?” To everyone’s surprise, Shana gave him a sweet smile.
“What about us?” David asked.
“I’ll be right next door if you need any help. All you have to do is call out,” replied Sam.
“I’m still afraid,” protested David, while Mike rolled his
eyes at David’s incessant whining.
Deputy Carl slipped into the room and offered, “I can sleep on your couch.”
David relaxed. “That’ll make me feel much better.”
“Maybe not safer,” murmured a worried Todd.
It was already 3:00 a.m., so Todd and Sam drove everyone home.
Meanwhile at End House, levers and doors creaked open and shut, covering up any evidence of the game that had taken place that fateful evening.