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.You won’t believe ….”A shrill, high giggle pierced the darkness.Taking a deep breath, Quinn darted out of the woods and dashed over to the barn.She slipped inside, closed the door behind her, and stood with her back to it.Trembling violently, her eyes quickly searched the dark, shadowy barn, seeking a weapon to use against Ivy, if she came.Who was she kidding? Of course Ivy would come.The barn was empty.No tools, no wooden-handled hoes or rakes or shovels to wield against Ivy.Nothing but a few wads of old straw on the wooden floor.A hasty search of a set of wooden shelves leaning precariously against one wall yielded nothing but an old spittoon, a handful of straw, a pair of kerosene lanterns, and a half-empty bag of potting soil.“Quin-nie!” The voice was much closer now.“Quin-nie, are you hiding from me? Ready or not, here I co-ome!”If there was someone inside Nightmare Hall, would they hear Ivy’s voice calling? Get up out of bed, go to the window, and look out?No.Ivy wasn’t calling out loudly enough to penetrate the thick walls of an old brick house.As her eyes became accustomed to this new darkness, blacker even than outside, Quinn spotted a ladder.A tall ladder, made of thick wooden rungs and rails, leaning against … against a high wooden platform of some kind.A hay loft.No longer in use, but useful as a hiding place?There could be an old pitchfork up there to use as a weapon.“Quin-nie!” A note of impatience sounded in the voice.“I haven’t got all night, Quinnie.Where are you?”She hadn’t seen Quinn go into the barn?But she’d figure it out soon enough.She’d realize that since she hadn’t heard pounding on the doors of the house, hadn’t heard Quinn screaming for help, her prey hadn’t gone to the house.That only left the barn.Ivy would figure it out.And come for her.Quinn made her way through the darkness to the ladder and scurried up it.When she reached the top, she thought for a second about pushing it backward, away from the loft.But Ivy would simply put it back, wouldn’t she? Better to spend the few moments remaining looking for a weapon of some kind.A pitchfork, a shovel …Although she got down on her hands and knees and felt with her hands along the wooden floor, scratching her fingers on stiff, old straw, she found nothing.Nothing …I made a big mistake, Quinn thought, sitting back on her haunches.I shouldn’t have come in here, and I shouldn’t have climbed up.Now I’m trapped up here.Ivy will come in and I won’t be able to get down, to fight her on equal footing.She had just moved to the edge of the ladder to climb back down and find a better place to hide, when the door began creaking open.Quinn held her breath.Creak … creak …a sleek, dark head peered around the door.“Well, hi, there, Quinnie!”Quinn could hear the smile on Ivy’s face.Closing the door firmly behind her, Ivy said, “This is such fun, Quinnie.I love hunting for things.I always did the best at hide-and-seek.And this time,” she added, moving on into the barn, “guess what my prize is?”Quinn closed her eyes, despairing.She already knew what Ivy’s prize was.“You, Quinnie! You’re my prize!”Chapter 24“IVY?” QUINN’S VOICE WAS unsteady.“Right you are.” Ivy glanced around the barn.She walked over to the wall of crude wooden shelves and removed an old kerosene lantern and a box of matches.Then she turned to gaze up at Quinn again.“Well, my goodness, Quinnie,” she said, “whatever were you thinking, climbing up there? That won’t do you any good.” She tilted her head.“Sort of backed yourself into a corner, haven’t you?” She laughed.“Or a hayloft.”Quinn sagged back on her haunches.Ivy was right.How was she going to get down, with Ivy barring her way? “I know who you are,” Quinn said heatedly.“And I know what you’ve been doing.The stink bomb, attacking Reed and Jake in the car.You … you deliberately set out to hurt people who were in love.Because you were angry about what happened to Gunther.And then you made it look not only like Tobie had done those things, but like she was trying to frame me for it.Very clever, Ivy.”Ivy sat down on the straw-strewn wooden floor and lit the lantern, holding the burning match aloft for an extra second or two as she peered coldly up at Quinn.“Well, congratulations, Nancy Drew.Gunther would be proud of you.”“Your precious Gunther is a criminal!” Quinn said sharply.“No, he isn’t.And all I have left of him is that ring!” Ivy cried, her voice harsh.“Toss it down here, now!”Quinn could feel the hard gold circle in her jeans pocket.She left it there.As long as she had something Ivy wanted, she had something to bargain with.“Gunther Brach and I were supposed to be forever,” Ivy went on.“That’s what the ring meant.And if it hadn’t been for Tobie and her precious Peter Gallagher, Gunther would be with me now, instead of rotting in some hellhole.By the time he gets out, I’ll be an old woman.”Quinn, watching her with frightened eyes, thought how different Ivy’s face looked in the eerie green-yellow glow from the kerosene lamp.So twisted … so full of hatred.Where was the laughing, friendly Ivy they all knew?“I’ve figured out everything else,” Quinn said, “but I still don’t understand why you stole a sheet of Tobie’s paper and wrote that letter to Simon.What good did it do you when Simon and I stopped seeing each other?”Ivy smiled slyly.“Well, I hate to admit it, but that was probably a mistake.It wasn’t part of my plan.In fact, I hadn’t come up with my plan then.Not the whole thing.It’s just that you and Simon were really making me sick.I couldn’t stand to look at you.So I decided nipping your little romance in the bud would keep me occupied while I was trying to put the finishing touches on my plan to get Tobie.”That cleared up the only remaining part of the puzzle.Time to enlighten Ivy a little.Maybe it would throw her off-balance, finding out why her clever little scheme hadn’t worked.“You must have been really confused when I didn’t turn over the stuff you planted to the police.You expected me to help you frame Tobie, and I didn’t.Didn’t you wonder why?”“Yeah, I did.I figured you were just covering for your roomie, that’s all.Because you felt sorry for her.But I knew you’d reach the end of your rope sooner or later.I was willing to keep at it and be patient.I’m a very patient person, Quinn, or I would have done something about Tobie long ago.” Then, a note of curiosity in her voice, Ivy asked, “You were covering for her, weren’t you, Quinn? That’s why my plan didn’t work? You couldn’t bear to give her up to the police?”Quinn laughed.“No, that’s not why, Ivy.I’m not that noble.If I’d really believed Tobie was doing those terrible things, I would have gone to the police.But I didn’t think it was Tobie.I thought it was me.”Ivy stood up, looping the metal handle of the lantern over her wrist and craning her neck upward toward the hayloft.“You? How could you think it was you? That’s crazy!”“No, it’s not.” In spite of her predicament, Quinn felt a fleeting, warm sense of satisfaction at being able to shock Ivy.“It’s not crazy at all.There’s something you don’t know about me, Ivy.Only Tobie and Simon know.”Suspicion clouded Ivy’s lantern-yellowed face.“What?”“I walk in my sleep.”Ivy looked confused.“What does that have to do with anything?”“I don’t remember what I do when I walk in my sleep,” Quinn explained.“Not much of it, anyway [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]