Title: Fear Street #44 – The Rich Girl, a.k.a. “Capitalism Stinks!”
Author: R.L. Stine
Cover Artist: Bill Schmidt
Tagline: Would you kill to be rich?
Summary: Whom can you trust?
Emma Naylor and her best friend Sydney Shue always share their secrets. And now they have a big one. They found a duffel bag stuffed with money.
They swore never to tell anyone. But Sydney broke her promise. She told her boyfriend, Jason, about the money.
Now Emma is terrified. She doesn’t trust Jason – and she thinks he would do anything to get the money for himself. Even kill…
It’s finally spring, which means it’s time to think green. And what could be greener than money!
Money, the root of all evil and the root of this later entry Fear Street book. “The Rich Girl” was one of the earliest Fear Street books I can remember purchasing and a point of small interest for me over the years. As of this recap, it’s the first time I’ve re-read the book from beginning to end since middle school.
Despite what the summary says, Emma’s best friend Sydney is technically the main character since most of the action is happening from her point-of-view. The implications of this book are definitely rather uncomfortable to think about and there’s a lot of ableism going on near the end. Sorry, Wing.
[Wing: Eh, I’m never surprised by that around here. Also, no matter how many times I see that tagline, I first read it as “Would it kill you to be rich?”]
Emma Naylor and Sydney Shue are best friends despite being so totally different from each other. Sydney’s a tall brunette, Emma’s a short blonde. Sydney’s parents are happily married, Emma’s dad walked out on the family years ago. Sydney’s family has a mansion and at least two horses, Emma’s house has a leaky roof and her mom has to sleep on the fold-out bed in the living room. Sydney’s parents got her a car for her birthday, Emma has to work to save up for college. Sydney’s got a silver charm bracelet that belonged to her grandmother, Emma’s mom needs knee surgery or she might lose her job as a waitress.
But they aren’t so different! They both work at the movie theater in the Division Street Mall. Of course, Sydney could walk away from the job if she really felt like it while Emma desperately needs the money, especially if her mom loses her job. It’s not like Sydney doesn’t need money too, if only because her parents have always kept her on a tight budget since she was a kid. They’ve been doing their best to make sure she doesn’t turn out like a spoiled brat, so if she really wants new clothes, CDs, stuff like that, her parents aren’t gonna simply give her whatever she wants. That car they got her? She has to pay for the insurance.
[Wing: Oh the horror.]
So Sydney and Emma got jobs at the Cineplex together. It was just about the only time the two were able to spend together outside of school. Sydney suspected why. It was because of Jason Phillips, her boyfriend. Sydney knew Emma and Jason didn’t get along, but she hoped that would change. They just needed to get to know one another, that’s all.
While the girls were gossiping about Cathy Harper and Marty Griffin’s fourth reunion this year, Emma mentioned needing to ask their manager about putting in more hours. Her mom’s knee is getting worse and they need to start saving for the operation. The Shadyside Diner won’t cover for them and they have no health insurance.
[Wing: Ahahahaha, Murica, we’re #1. America’s so Great people go into bankruptcy just to get healthcare or die from lack of it. Best country EVAH.]
By around 5 PM the girls were almost done with their shift when they needed to bring out the trash to the dumpster behind the mall. The alley’s enough to give anyone the creeps and the girls hate having to do this part. Just as Sydney was swinging the heavy bags into the dumpster, her charm bracelet got snagged on one of the corners. Unfortunately, Sydney tugged too hard and the clasp opened. Ugh her grandma’s bracelet just slid into the dumpster!
Sydney has to go dumpster diving to get the bracelet back and asks for Emma’s help to stack a couple of cement blocks so she can peer inside the dumpster. Trying to carefully move the garbage bags, Sydney hopes the bracelet didn’t slide to the-OH FUCK RAT ATTACK!
An angry rat leaps out from beneath the trash bags and hisses at the girls. Emma and Sydney jump out of the way before the rat lunges at them and it scurries off down the alley. That’s not enough to deter Sydney’s quest to retrieve her favorite thing in the world, but Emma’s getting anxious because she still needs to talk to the manager. She warns Sydney she loves her, but she is NOT climbing to the bottom of all that garbage to get the bracelet back. Friends have limits. Thankfully, Sydney manages to find the bracelet on top of a tan duffel bag, but the bracelet’s caught on the bag’s zipper. Sydney has to pull the bracelet and the bag out together, but she’s relieved to finally have her family heirloom back and…
What is that sticking out of the duffel bag?
Why it’s a fifty dollar bill!
Emma unzips the bag and discovers it’s LOADED with wads of fifty dollar bills! Stacks and stacks of fifties! There must be over a hundred grand in this bag! Emma is positively gleeful, but Sydney’s confused. Who would throw away a bag full of cash? Oh well, she’s sure the police will figure it out. Emma’s all “Whatchu talkin’ bout, Syd?” Sydney thinks they should report the money to the police. After all, nobody just throws away this much cash. What if it was stolen? Emma points out they could just, you know, KEEP IT. With this much cash split between them, Emma could pay for her mom’s surgery! And she could finally get new clothes and she might have enough for college tuition! It’s not like Mrs. Naylor would care if Emma told her they just found the money. Finder’s keeper’s!
[Wing: Uh, between the surgery and clothes, there is no way you’ll also have college tuition for anything more than a semester or two, maybe a couple years at in-state community college. And that was in the 90s, much less now.]
Sydney realizes she’s sounding like a narc, but she doesn’t feel comfortable keeping this money in case it does belong to someone else. Emma’s not having it.
“Come on, Sydney! Anyone else would keep it. Why shouldn’t we?” Emma demanded. “You know what else I could do with this money? I could go to college. I wouldn’t have to worry about getting that scholarship anymore. And I could buy some decent clothes!”
Sydney’s eyes widened in surprise. “What’s the matter with your clothes?”
“I wear the same things every day.” Emma sighed. “It’s embarrassing. But you wouldn’t know about that,” she added bitterly. “You don’t understand what it’s like to be really poor. What it’s like to want something you can’t have. But I do. And I’m telling you, we’ve got to keep this money!”
Sydney gazed at her, stunned. Has Emma always resented me for being rich? she wondered. Did I just not see it? I never made a big deal about having money. I never bragged about myself or put her down for being poor. I wouldn’t do that to anybody – especially to my best friend!
Sydney tries to remind Emma it’s not like she’s flinging cash around herself, or using one dollar bills for napkins at lunchtime. Her parents have spent years making sure Sydney grew up responsible so they don’t give her cash whenever she feels like. Of course there’s shit she wants to buy if she had the money to spend.
Okay, Syd, look, you’re not spoiled but you’re still privileged. Your parents have plenty of cash, you’ve never had to worry about being homeless. You have comfort, Emma doesn’t. Even if you aren’t constantly reminding Emma of how affluent your family is, she knows you’ve never had to deal with the same problems she has right now. Like you acknowledged, you could walk away from that job whenever you want and you’ll still have a freaking mansion to go home to and parents who don’t have to struggle to take care of your basic needs. Emma has never had that. Yeah, there’s gonna be some resentment from Emma.
[Wing: Plus even if she’s not resentful at all, just the fact it could pay for the surgery (maybe, I’m not entirely convinced it would cover the whole thing in the USA) makes it a life-changing amount of money for her. And if she could use it just for college instead, that’s also life changing. These are things Sydney has never had to deal with.
On the other hand, I dislike the poor person is a real crook thing going on here.]
Sydney points out they have no idea where this money came from, so it might be stolen and the police are looking for it. Emma proposes they’ll hide the money for a few days and keep their eyes and ears open for any news reports about a large amount of stolen money. If they DO hear anything, they’ll turn the cash in. If there’s no mention of missing money within like a week or so, the money’s there’s for the spending. They can bury the money near the old willow tree in the Fear Street Woods where they used to have picnics and tell secrets when they were younger.
Man, I wish I had a Secret Willow when I was a kid. Thank God we’ve progressed as a society and now have things like Wells for Boys from Fisher-Price.
Sydney drives Emma to the woods and, with a folded snow shovel from the car trunk, the two head for the Secret Willow to bury their biggest secret ever when OH SHIT SOMEONE’S THERE!
No wait it’s just a raccoon. [Wing: Hey, raccoons are serious business. Also thieves.] Damn Syd is on edge, Wing. After dropping Emma off at her house in the poor part of town, Sydney drives back to her house but can’t shake her doubts. Why did she let Emma talk her into this? Parking the car into the stables her parents also used as a garage (they owned two horses so three/fifths of the stable had been converted to house cars), Sydney finds her boyfriend Jason working on the BMW owned by Sydney’s dad.
It completely slipped Sydney’s mind that she was going to study with Jason, but how will she ever be able to focus with everything that’s happened? Jason reveals he was fixing the spark plugs in the car for Mr. Shue, but would like to know where Sydney’s been. Sydney fumbles for an excuse, saying she had to unexpectedly work late for a no-show co-worker. Jason doesn’t buy it and seems offended Sydney believes he’d fall for such a thing. He can see it in her eyes, she’s hiding something! Well what is it Syd? You going out with some other guy? Are you cheating on Jason?
Oh boy, once again a female protagonist in an R.L. Stine book is going out with a real winner.
Jason is prepared to walk out on Sydney if she doesn’t tell him the truth, so Sydney gives in but first she tells Jason he has to PROMISE not to tell anyone else. Going inside Syd’s (okay look I’m calling her “Syd” from here on out because I keep misspelling “Sydney”) mansion, Jason kisses her and wants to know everything. Syd spills her guts and tells him everything that happened with finding the money. Jason reminds Syd Emma’s not the only one who could use some cash, causing Syd to remind him his family’s got enough to get by.
After finishing her story, Jason asks Syd who, exactly, found the bag first. Syd reveals she did, so Jason figures all they have to do is kill Emma and they can keep the money for themselves! You know, like in that movie with those four guys. You know the one, right Syd?
GEEZ Syd, take a chill pill! It’s not like Jason was serious about killing Emma. He was just joking around!
The next day, Syd’s a wreck. She couldn’t get any sleep, she’s messed up her homework, and she probably flunked an English quiz. Emma catches up with her in the hallway (since they don’t have any classes or even lunch together) and Syd can’t believe how un-paranoid Emma looks. Emma gleefully reveals there’s been no news, but Syd doesn’t wanna talk about this in public. At least Emma only said she read the news, it’s not like she blabbed about thousands in cash buried out in the woods. Like DUH, Syd.
Syd tries to smile, but that smile quickly vanishes when Emma falls down the stairs! Unable to catch her best friend, Syd’s forced to watch as Emma falls onto the middle step and rolls down to the floor in a heap. Syd’s about to run down towards Emma when someone bumps into her. Looking up, Syd sees Jason at the top of the stairs and he’s… smiling? No, no he couldn’t be smiling about this!
Syd rushes down to Emma through the crowd of students, but Emma’s not moving. She’s dead, Wing! DEAD!
No wait she’s not.
Emma was brought back to her house and Syd had her family doctor, Dr. Lasher, take a look at her. [Wing: Man, rich people really can get anything exactly when they want it.] Amazingly, Emma hadn’t broken anything but she’ll be sore and bruised for a few days. Miraculously she didn’t get a concussion, too. Syd thanked Dr. Lasher for his help and was left alone in Emma’s living room, clean but sparsely decorated and with a bucket in the corner for the leaky roof. When Emma wakes up in her bedroom (the only bedroom in the house), Syd brings her a gel pack from the fridge. Syd reports Dr. Lasher’s diagnosis and how lucky Emma is to have not been more seriously injured by that fall. Well Emma’s got some news for Syd. She didn’t fall. She was PUSHED!
Emma describes how she felt Jason push her down the stairs, but Syd doesn’t want to believe it. Not even after Emma makes her confess how Syd told Jason about the money since Syd’s such a lousy liar. That’s why Jason pushed Emma, because he’s greedy. Emma points out how Jason’s also coercing Syd into buying him stuff, like $150 sneakers he wouldn’t stop hinting about. Oh and that CD player. And that beeper, because it was the 90s you see! Just because Jason’s not poor doesn’t mean he’s not greedy.
Syd doesn’t want to believe Emma; girl be talkin’ cuh-razy! But the more she thinks about it, the more she remembers that smile on Jason’s face while he was looking down at Emma from the top of the stairs. Was that the smile of a murderer?
Another restless night made school into a nightmare as Syd was plagued with doubt. All this because of that stupid money. They should’ve turned it in the moment they found it in the dumpster. Syd finds Jason and talks to him about Emma, wanting to know if he really cares about her fall the other day. Jason can’t believe he’s being accused of pushing Emma, that’s paranoia talking! No, wasn’t trying to kill her. See, he tripped on the stairs and stuck his hands out to catch his balance, and in the process he must’ve bumped into Emma.
He feels AWFUL, about it Wing, just AWFUL.
When Syd asks why he was smiling, Jason claims he was in shock and sort of froze seeing Emma on the floor like that. Boy is Syd’s face red, accusing gentle Jason of a misdeed. Syd apologizes and suggests Jason clear the air with Emma. She’s sure Emma will understand if Jason explains like it he did just now. Jason doesn’t think Emma will believe anything he has to say, but he’ll give it a shot. For you, Syd.
That afternoon, Syd’s studying in her bedroom when she gets a call from Emma. Jason was just at her house and he was actually civil for once. They had a long talk about the stairs incident and to show there were no hard feelings, Jason took a look at Emma’s old VW and it’s purring like a kitten for the first time ever. Emma even apologizes to Syd for making such accusations against Jason, she was just super stressed from the fall. Her shoulder bruise is now eggplant-colored and she keeps getting headaches. [Wing: Yeah, no head injury on that one.]
Emma suggests the girls can window shop at the mall, to think about all the stuff they can buy once they’re free to spend the money. It’ll help take Emma’s mind off her accident. Emma insists on driving the two, but can’t pick up Syd since she has to keep her eye out for her neighbor’s kids when they arrive at the bus stop. Syd can drive over to Emma’s house, and Emma can drive them over to the mall.
Finishing her call with Emma, Syd dials up Jason and invites him to join them on their mall excursion. Sure Syd, sounds like fu-wait. Did you say Emma is driving? What’s wrong with your car, Syd? Or better yet, Jason can pick you guys up in his. Syd doesn’t get why Jason’s being so fussy. He practically made Emma’s car good as new so why is he so worried? Syd tells him not to worry and hangs up before he can protest any further.
Syd drives over to Emma’s house and go for a ride in Emma’s car. Emma cannot believe how smoothly the car’s running, and it sounds fantastic. Guess she had Jason figured all wrong. Only why can’t she stop the car?!
Emma panics, slamming the brake pedal down over and over again and honking the horn. A nearby minivan stops seconds before Emma’s car would’ve slammed into it. Syd screams at Emma to pull the emergency brake, but Emma’s frozen so Syd takes matters into her own hands. After avoiding the minivan and spinning in several circles, the car comes to a stop. Emma snaps out of her stupor to tell Syd she’s not hurt, just scared, even though Jason probably wanted them dead. She says this is proof Jason wants the money for himself because he must’ve tampered with the brakes when he looked at the car.
Syd again tries to defend Jason until Emma explains there was nothing wrong with the brakes before, it was her carburetor causing trouble. Jason would’ve had no reason to go near the brakes unless he wanted to sabotage them. It looks like Emma’s right when she pops the hood and shows Syd the brake lines have been cut clean through. Syd doesn’t want to admit Jason’s trying to kill them until she admits how weird he sounded during their last phone call. While Syd thinks Jason didn’t want her in the car, Emma scoffs at his supposed protective side. Even if Emma was the only one in the car, she’s sure Jason plans to get rid of Syd at some point too. Emma reasons they can only do one thing. They have to kill Jason!
Oh RELAX Syd, it was a joke. You’re so tense!
[Wing: Jesus, no wonder Syd is so jumpy all the time with friends like these.]
Syd’s getting pretty sick of these jokes and doesn’t have the energy to consider an alternative. After calling for a tow truck from a nearby payphone the girls discuss what to do. Again Emma doesn’t want anything to do with the cops because they’d have no choice but to tell them about the money. Even if they didn’t, Jason would tell the police all about the money when they inevitably question him. Syd’s sick of the money and begs Emma to bring it to the police like they should’ve done at the beginning. Emma brings up her mom again but Syd asks if the money’s really worth dying over. Emma says no, but pleads with Syd to understand how much the money will help her mom.
That’s when Emma comes up with a great way to keep the money and put an end to Jason’s devious plans. Cut Jason in on the loot, split the money in thirds. That way no one has to die…
Jason of course pleads innocence to doing anything to Emma’s brakes. Even Emma’s doubting if it was him. Regardless, the girls announce they’re officially splitting the money with Jason to avoid any other “accidents.” They estimate he’ll get like $33,000. Jason’s ecstatic by this decision and suggests they go check out the money now. I mean, only to look at it. They cleared up all that “attempted murder” nonsense so what’s the harm?
The trio heads for the Fear Street Woods just as the sky begins to darken, so they want to hurry before it rains. Emma leads Jason and Syd to the hiding spot and they begin to dug. While discussing all the stuff they’re gonna buy with the money, Syd starts to get cold and heads back to the car for her sweater…
And then hears a piercing scream!
Syd rushes back to the willow tree and sees Emma and Jason fighting! Syd’s best friend and boyfriend are struggling over the shovel, Emma screaming she knew he couldn’t be trusted. Syd’s screaming for them to stop when Jason drops the shovel, Emma dives for it, and then WHACKS JASON UPSIDE THE HEAD WITH IT!
Jason’s eyes roll back in his head and he falls to the ground. Syd’s frozen in place as Emma falls to her knees in the mud by Jason’s body. She watches as Emma confirms Jason’s dead when Syd finally asks what happened. Emma says Jason tried to grab the duffel bag as soon as it was uncovered. She tried to talk him out of it, saying Jason could have half instead when he swung the shovel at Emma’s head.
Emma tries to make Syd understand they can’t go to the police, saying Jason can’t ruin their lives and that technically EMMA is the one who killed him. She promises she’ll take care of everything and they’ll get rid of Jason’s body by putting it in Fear Lake. It’ll be months before anyone finds him. All Syd can do is think about them being murderers. Emma grabs Jason’s body by the arms and drags it down to the lake as Syd watches in numb shock. She tries to block out the sight but can still hear the sounds of the body being dragged across the forest floor.
From far away, Syd hears Jason’s body dropped into the lake when Emma suddenly calls for help. She can’t get Jason’s body under the water, he won’t sink! Emma asks to use Syd’s belt to tie a big rock around Jason to weigh him down. Syd gives Emma the belt and apologizes for not helping, but this whole situation’s left her beyond nauseated. Emma assures her it’s okay and heads back to finish disposing of the body.
Alone, Syd begins crying and then vomits when she hears something. Voices. There’s someone else in the woods! Syd’s about to flee when she remembers Emma, but then the voices stop. Emma suddenly appears and is asked if she heard anyone nearby. When told she didn’t hear anything, Syd thinks she was imagining things. Maybe the wind.
Before they leave, Emma assures Syd that Jason’s gone.
Syd drives to Emma’s house first when Emma begins crying as reality sets in. She killed someone, and now they both have to go to school and carry on with their lives like nothing happened. Syd insists no one at school will suspect them, then can’t believe what she’s saying right now. She tells Emma everything will be okay, but knows that’s not true. How could it be?
Arriving home, Syd sneaks in without her parents seeing, then calls down to them acts like everything’s normal. Oh yeah school, the mall, perfectly fine. Retreating into her bedroom, Syd starts shaking as she recalls Jason’s death. Taking a bath calms her down and Syd goes to sleep trying to think about tomorrow’s history exam. Waking up around 3:30 AM, Syd realizes someone’s in her room with her.
Standing at the foot of her bed, Jason stares at Syd. He’s wet and filthy, covered in mud and pond scum, dried blood on his head and neck. Syd begins screaming he’s dead and tries to turn on the bedside lamp, knocking it over in the process. She grabs the lamp before it hits the floor and turns it on. In the newly illuminated room, Jason’s nowhere to be seen.
Suddenly, Syd’s dad calls to her and asks if she’s okay. Syd says she only had a bad dream but she’s perfectly fine. But she knows she saw Jason and goes back to sleep with the light on.
The next morning, Syd’s alarm buzzes and wakes her up, but she doesn’t want to get out of bed. She immediately remembers what happened the previous day but knows she has to go to school. She has to pretend everything’s fine. In the bathroom Syd can see dark circles under her eyes. She’s so nervous she can’t even fix her hair without the comb getting tangled up. It’s only when she gets dressed does Syd notice the two muddy footprints in front of her bed, right where Jason stood the previous night.
Emma tries to calm Syd down at school, figuring Syd’s the one who made those footprints since her shoes were so muddy after leaving the woods. Syd didn’t notice because she was too spooked when she came home. She only dreamed Jason was in her room. Dreams don’t leave footprints.
After English class, Syd’s approached by her classmate Tori Johnson wondering if she’s seen Jason. What’s that? You don’t know where Jason is, Syd? Well that’s strange since you two are a couple.
“Don’t tell me you broke up with Jason!”
No. I just helped kill him, Sydney thought.
Syd answers Tori she hasn’t seen Jason, but she didn’t break up with him. Tori’s sated, but she’s not the only one asking Syd where Jason is. It’s like the whole school wants to know where Jason is today. Every time Syd lies about Jason she can feel her face blush and her heart begins to pound. She’s certain everyone knows she’s lying.
[Wing: Oh, Syd, I feel for you right now. Even though this is a completely ridiculous, unbelievable plot. It is Stine after all.]
By the end of the day, Syd’s relieved to head to her locker so she can go home. Unfortunately, it looks like someone left Syd a little something. Syd pulls out a muddy envelope with a bulge sticking out of it. Open the envelope, Syd removes a familiar looking class ring with the initials “J.P.” inscribed into it.
The last she saw this ring, it’d been on Jason’s hand as Emma dragged his body away.
Emma approaches Syd who then frantically shows her the ring, claiming it had to come from Jason’s body. Emma doesn’t remember seeing the ring yesterday; Jason could’ve left it in the locker since he sometimes puts things in Syd’s locker. Syd informs Emma she’d been to her locker twice before earlier in the day, and the envelope and ring weren’t there before. Emma asks if Syd’s absolutely positive the ring wasn’t there earlier, and Syd’s forced to admit she doesn’t know what to think at this point.
When told to get a grip, Syd exclaims how almost everyone’s been asking about Jason and she’s a mess right now. Emma pleads with Syd not to fall apart now.
As they leave school, Emma says she took the day off from work because her head’s still pounding from her previous fall. The two are in for a rude surprise when they get to Syd’s car, as someone left a little gift for them. A muddy, blood-covered shovel on the car seat.
Emma’s thoroughly freaked and finally believes Syd about the ring. She’s forced to admit she forgot all about the shovel after what happened to Jason. [Wing: What the ever loving fuck. You think to tie a rock to his body to make it sink (though you shouldn’t have used someone’s belt, it’s like you’ve never hidden a body before!) but you forgot about the shovel with his blood and your prints?! Bullshit.] That’s when Emma remembered the voices Syd mentions and fears someone DID see them in the woods. Only they have no idea who it could be or what the person plans to do next beyond scare them.
Syd quickly puts the shovel in her trunk and Emma suggests they drive to Syd’s house to think. When asked if they should bury the shovel, Emma reminds Syd they’re being stalked right now. They could be followed. In fact, Syd realizes a blue car is following them now!
The blue car stays with Syd’s car for several blocks until they reach North Hills, but when she brings it to Emma’s attention she says there’s no car behind them. True enough, looking in the mirror Syd sees the blue car’s vanished. Emma believes Syd, though. Thankfully Syd’s parents aren’t home by the time Syd and Emma reach the house. What IS waiting for them is another envelope, containing a letter saying “I saw you in the woods. I know your name. It’s Murderer.”
Now Syd’s panicking, asking Emma what they can do now. Emma states no one’s found Jason’s body and no one can prove they killed him if they did. Plus the two can alibi each other. Syd doesn’t think that’ll mean anything if someone did see them. And then Syd remembers there’s proof she killed Jason because Emma used her belt to weigh Jason’s body down! Emma refuses to go back to the lake and anywhere near Jason’s corpse. She earnestly believes the person following them is only bluffing.
Well, no, she admits she’s not 100% positive, so the two go back to Fear Lake. [Wing: Oh, yes, return to the scene of the crime, that’s exactly what a killer and accomplice should do, yes indeed.] Emma tries to remember as best she could the spot where she sunk Jason’s body. Syd can only wonder if the fish already started to eat away at Jason’s corpse, nibbling at his flesh and eyes while. Seems Syd doesn’t have much to worry about because Jason’s body is GONE.
Driving back to Syd’s house, Emma’s certain someone moved the body. If it was the cops, they would’ve announced his death or gone to his parents to ask questions. The girls aren’t sure if this person saw the money, so is this only about Jason? It’s possible Jason told someone else about the money. Emma’s sure he couldn’t resist bragging about it. The only thing either of them can be sure of now is their lives have officially gone horribly, horribly wrong.
Dropping Emma off and returning home, Syd keeps avoiding her parents and manages to shower before they notice her covered in lake muck. The rents step in to mention they’re heading out for a fundraiser dinner and ask how the history test went. Syd barely remembers but lets them think otherwise. Once Syd’s alone, she reaches for her old stuffed bear Goldy and notices something odd. Seems Goldy likes to dress up because he’s got Syd’s belt wrapped around one of his legs!
And underneath the belt is a piece of paper saying “murderer,” only this time Syd finally recognizes the handwriting belongs to Jason. Syd can only scream before calling Emma on the phone to frantically tell her what’s happened. She asks again if Emma was sure Jason died, and if he did, then are they dealing with his ghost? Emma doesn’t think it’s a ghost, but she called to say SHE got a “murderer” note too. Someone must’ve copied Jason’s handwriting to intimidate them.
Emma manages to get over to the house (apparently having borrowed someone’s car or her mom’s station wagon) but when they get to Syd’s bedroom they find the belt and note are gone. Not only that, there’s no trace of mud on Goldy. Syd’s practically hysterical as she starts tearing her room apart until Emma convinces her the belt and note are gone. She’s not crazy, Emma! Again Emma tries to calm Syd down, telling her she needs to sleep. She’s so stressed, Syd’ll probably conk out for 12 hours straight.
Syd walks Emma downstairs, thinking she doesn’t want to sleep. She wants to find the belt and note. Well since Jason’s here maybe he’ll he-WHAAAAAAAAAA?
Syd finds Jason waiting for her on the deck outside her bedroom. His skin’s begun to rot and a chunk falls off his lip. He calls after Syd, saying she killed him as he lurches into the room with the red belt tied around his leg. Syd is overwhelmed by how bad Jason smells as he comes towards her. She backs up against the wall and sinks to the floor, grabbing Goldy and watching in horror as Jason rasps about how she watched Emma kill him. He gets closer, and closer, AND CLOSER, UNTIL-
Emma nervously sat in the hospital waiting room, wondering if everything was okay. How long was it going to take? Finally, she heard the elevator doors open and watched as the doctor walked out with Jason. It’s so weird. He has no idea why Syd’s so terrified of him or why she thinks he’s dead. But they’re going to do what they can to help her.
Outside, in Jason’s car, he gleefully confirms that Syd is certifiably out of her mind. Just as Emma and Jason planned. Emma knew they could get rid of her like this since Syd always cracked under pressure. Oh sure, the two were already pretending to hate each other while they dated behind Syd’s back, but then the money showed up. Syd had to be taken out of the picture before she blabbed to her parents or went to the cops.
Emma set this whole thing up with Jason to drive Syd insane by making it look like Jason wanted Emma dead, and then Emma “killed” him. Syd made it so easy by never bothering to check for herself if Jason died when she hit him. Now Syd’s parents will shuttle her off to some expensive private hospital where she’ll get the best care possible, while Jason and Emma have the money all to themselves.
Instead of first bringing the money home to her mom to discuss paying for the surgery, Emma and Jason decide to go on a little shopping spree at the mall. The two conspirators grab a couple of packs of fifties and head for Hidebound, an expensive clothing store. Emma has her heart set on a $600 jacket, and afterwards Jason wants to get a widescreen TV.
At the front counter, the cashier stops and laughs. He hands the money back to Emma, saying “It’s pretty good.”
For the first time since the book began, Emma takes a closer inspection of the money. Not only does the “fifty” have Benjamin Franklin on it, ol’ Ben’s wearing a baseball cap, his eyes are crossed, and the top says “UNTIED STATES OF AMERICA.”
Grabbing the counter to stop herself from collapsing, Emma’s then asked if she has any REAL money.
Nice job Emma, you drove your best friend nuts and your mom’s not gonna get that surgery after all, and all you have to show for it is a bag of play money and JASON. I can only imagine one or both of them just sort of lost it right in the store and they began arguing and probably killed each other over this.
God you know the only way that ending could’ve been more of a downer is if Emma HAD brought the money to her mom first and how hurt she would’ve been at Emma supposedly mocking her with a bag of fake cash.
In hindsight it was painfully obvious Emma and Jason were in cahoots based on how insistent Emma was on trying out her car with Syd inside it and Jason’s supposed “worry.”
Honestly I think I mistimed recapping this book considering a plot point is affordable health care with everything awful going on right now. I think we need a real palate cleanser right now.
[Wing: No lie, I was surprised by them teaming up. I didn’t think would actually go for that sort of twist. I underestimated him. You win this round, Stine, but our feud will never die!
On the one hand, yeah, health care in the USA is such a fucking mess and right now is driving that home and yet fucking people still back fucking Trump and don’t want single-payer health care because that’s socialist bullshit we just need our bootstraps MURICA…
Where was I? Oh, yes, on the other hand, I love the premise of two people teaming up to gaslight the hell out of their mutual person. It is terrible and could have been creepy and engaging. This was not really that, but it wasn’t the worst of Stine’s books.]