Title: Graveyard School #6 – Camp Dracula a.k.a. “The Purple Bear Jamboree”
Author: Tom B. Stone/Nola Thacker/D.E. Athkins
Cover Artist: Barry Jackson
Summary: Camp At Your Own Risk!
Welcome to camp – Camp Dracula, as Jeep Holmes jokingly calls it. [Wing: JEEP.] Jeep may be joking, but he isn’t laughing. He can’t take this weird new summer place! Never mind that the counselors always wear dark glasses and the activities are all at night. What bothers him most are the other campers, a bunch of sickly-looking creeps who like to keep bats in the bunks! Why did his parents send him to this horrific place? Will Jeep make it through the summer without going batty?
And now we get back into the chronological order of things (at least for a little bit), but hey, this is a vampire book, and what goes better with February than vampires?
This is the first book in the series to take place outside of the school and Grove Hill, and the first summer-themed story. I mentioned there were only two camp-related books, and it’s interesting it would involve vampires since they’re nocturnal by nature and camp tales take place mostly during the day. This is also the first to have a protagonist who can be genuinely grating on the reader. It’s admittedly one of the few books I haven’t reread as much.
But you’d be surprised at the use of Dracula references.
[Wing: I love summer camp stories and vampire stories and Dracula references, and that cover is adorable. I’m excited.]
Jeep Holmes’ dad was late dropping him off at Camp Westerra, [Wing: Is that a Lucy Westenra (vague) reference?] but Jeep didn’t mind as much because he wanted to be anywhere else. Everybody else got to have a fun, interesting vacation after surviving a year at Graveyard School, but not Jeep. [Wing: What, a summer camp isn’t interesting enough?] Jeep briefly wondered if he’d ever see his parents again because his dad has a nasty tendency to get lost when driving the car. It was already sunset by the time Jeep arrived. From what he could see of the camp, Jeep couldn’t help but feel the buildings were so… artificial. Fake. Like they were built from Lincoln logs instead of real wood. Down the hill from the mess hall Jeep could see the evening sun lowering behind Lake Minaharker. [Wing: Literally just exclaimed out loud and scared Monster Dog. BEST.] Jeep was looking forward to getting wet as much as he was looking forward to camp. The place is so empty, he’s not even sure if his dad dropped him off the right place. Truly this was going to be a “fun” summer.
As Jeep considers the possibility the camp is empty because some ax murderer got loose, a voice welcomes him. Startled from his thoughts, Jeep stumbles trying to grab the wooden gate and gets a splinter in his thumb. Immediately pulling the splinter out, Jeep turns around and meets camp director Seward Renfield, [Wing: Am I going to die over every reference? Probably.] who’s got to be the tallest, thinnest, palest guy Jeep’s ever met. Renfield’s wearing thick sunglasses underneath his pith helmet, yet Jeep gets the unnerving sense Renfield’s eyes have zeroed in on his wounded, BLEEDING finger. Renfield inquires if Jeep would like they’re highly qualified wellness expert, Nurse Hatchett, to have a look, because Camp Westerra places GREAT emphasis on the health of all their campers.
Renfield is seemingly incapable of recognizing Jeep’s sarcasm as he commends Jeep for his “enthusiasm” for camping and explains he’ll be spending the summer as a Purple Bear. Camp Westerra’s made up of eight outposts divided by gender, with four cabins divided by color in each outpost. [Wing: Why does this camp have outposts?] Jeep’s been placed in the Bear Outpost’s purple cabin, a particularly good cabin this year. Renfield gives Jeep a map of the camp plus a schedule of the activities, indicating towards Lake Minaharker and the mess hall and saying he’ll have plenty of time to settle in with his outpost counselor and new Purple Bear friends. Jeep’s thoughts about gagging are waylaid when he notices an odd, cavelike structure on the porch of the mess hall.
Mr. Reinfield turned. “Bats,” he said.
“Bats?” Jeep said. His voice went up into the sonar range. “Bats?” [Wing: SONAR RANGE OH MY GOD.]
“My pest-control patrol,” said Renfield. “I let them out at night. They’re quite effective at patrolling, er, controlling the pests. We have quite a mosquito population around the lake.”
“I don’t like bats,” said Jeep flatly.
“An unfortunate prejudice,” said Renfield. He seemed amused by Jeep’s reaction. “But then, perhaps the bats don’t like you, either. You’ll be learning more about bats in our nature groups. As well as about other animals native to this region.”
“I can hardly wait,” Jeep said.
Of course even with the map and animal symbol signposts Jeep is having a hard time trying to find the Bear Outpost, yet loudly denies to no one in particular he is not his dad so he is definitely not lost. When it looks as though Jeep’s on the right path, he hears a sound in the trees, like the fluttering of wings. He begins to wonder what kind of sounds a bat would make when he tries to dodge something swooping past him. Jeep then looks up… and sees the sky has become pitch black because of the hundreds of silent bats filling the air. Jeep panics as the bats dive bomb like homicidal Halloween decorations, feeling the bat wings brush his arms and hands light as feathers. Unable to even scream, the next thing Jeep knows is the sensation of someone or something crashing into him. Or was that the other way around?
Jeep continues to freak out, accidentally punching the other kid who proceeds to ask what the fuck is wrong with him. Jeep begins to calm down, finding himself face to face with a kid whose clothes are all painfully brand new. This magazine cut out come to life introduces himself as Martin and helps Jeep stand up. Jeep explains the bats scared him, but Martin doesn’t see any save for a lone fruit bat viewed through his binoculars. Martin explains the fruit bat’s a common mammal and isn’t dangerous at all, causing Jeep to wonder if he’s related to Renfield. Martin thinks that’s funny, but asks if Jeep might’ve imagined the “Thousands” of bats. Jeep assures Martin the bats attacked him, not understanding how Martin could’ve missed them. Jeep thinks Martin must be blind, leading to Martin ramble about how he just got contact lenses. Jeep can’t believe it, that he was almost murdered by a swarm of bats and no one believes him. Martin seems insulted by this on the grounds that bats would never murder someone, and suggests Jeep should stop taking Alfred Hitchcock flicks so seriously. Jeep’s had about enough of Martin and continues on his quest to find the Bear Outpost, only to learn Martin’s heading the same way. Martin’s a veteran Westerra camper, but never had the privilege to be a Purple Bear before. As Martin lugs his big, battered red suitcase with him, Jeep can’t believe he’s been stuck with the camp nerd.
Once they reach the Bear Outpost and their cabin, Jeep and Martin are greeted by Pete, an obnoxiously chipper counselor with bleached blonde hair and an obviously artificial tan from his hairline to his feet. Pete introduces the boys to their cabin mates, Lucian Noir and William Ang. Jeep’s the only newbie camper in the bunch, which Lucian and William seem to instantly pick up on.
“It’s Jeep’s first time at Camp Westerra,” explained Martin.
“Ah,” Pete said. Giving Jeep a big wink, he waved his hand at William, Lucian, and Martin. “First come, first choice on bunks here at Camp Westerra, Jeep. The sun never sets on fun, but we never forget that the early bird gets the worm. Looks like your bunkmates have beat you to the best bunkaroo. Ha, ha!”
Jeep can’t believe he’s being subjected to this as Pete departs to finish some more Bear Leader duties. The moment he’s out of earshot Jeep asks the other boys if Pete’s for real. No one answers Jeep, who starts to assess Lucian and William. Jeep notices these two are dressed nearly identically to Pete, with multi-pocketed khaki shorts and short-sleeved cotton shirts bearing identical animal insignias, matching colored socks, and hiking boots. Jeep asks if the camp has some dress code before finally snapping at them to take a picture for staring at him. It’s then the two finally speak; Lucian laughing uproariously at Jeep’s joke, William being perpetually unimpressed at Jeep’s… everything. Lucian tries to be friendly as he and Martin explain to Jeep how they keep the cabin organized and what the rules are, while William snarks that Jeep can go home if he’s too much of a wuss to handle camp.
Things don’t go any smoother from there after Jeep unpacks his bag. Lucian simply stares and smiles at Jeep, Martin organizes his clothes by color, and William finds making his bed much more invigorating than acknowledging Jeep’s existence. Jeep tries to ask them about the bats in the woods but doesn’t add his near fatal experience since he knows Martin won’t back him up. Pete returns just in time for Jeep to discover William literally made his bed so efficiently a quarter can and DID bounce off it. Pete congratulates William on setting such a good example before herding the boys to the camp meet n’ greet. As they march into the woods, Jeep is happy to at least be in a crowd to shield him from more bat attacks, even if it’s company he’s not fond of.
The first day of camp starts off with canoe rowing on Lake Minaharker, under the sunglassed watch of the severely malnourished teenage counselor Elizabetta. Jeep is forced to share a canoe with Martin, who makes them crash into a two-girl boat. One of the girls, Dawn of the red-brown braid, goes into exposition mood as she tells Martin not to worry since the canoes are only aluminum, not like real canoes or the expensive guide boats in the Adirondacks. Dawn’s rowmate Nora tells her no one gives a crap. Jeep suggests they rest for a bit, mentally noting this is just the latest in a number of accidents Martin’s been in since the day started. Martin preemptively mentions this is the first time he hasn’t turned the canoe over in all his years at the camp. All Jeep can think about is how much he hates Lake Minaharker. For as good a swimmer he is, Jeep’s always had a problem being in any body of water where you can’t see the bottom. Who knows what could be down there waiting to pull you under? He thinks about how his classmates are probably spending their summer at Slime Lake near Grove Hill. Even though Jeep wouldn’t swim in the lake he’d still prefer to be with his friends. But that wasn’t all. There’s just something not right about Lake Minaharker. [Wing: YOUR FRIENDS ARE SWIMMING IN SLIME LAKE. Pretty sure that’s just as weird as Lake Minaharker, and possibly far grosser.]
Lake Minaharker looked plain evil. It was a dark, muddy red color that made the bottom of the lake impossible to see, even in the shallow water around the edge.
Oh shit it could quite possibly be an actual lake of blood.
Jeep watches Martin put on another coat of sunblock, for as much good it would do since he’s become pretty red. In fact, a lot of the other campers, those light and dark skinned, were frying pretty badly, or worse. And many of them were wearing the same multi-pocket khaki shorts and similar cotton tees. Martin’s green shorts and red skin and baseball cap make him look like some discount Christmas ornament. Jeep is content knowing he’s no frybaby like the rest.
Elizabetta calls everyone back to shore when Martin somehow loses control of the canoe and sends both boys into the water. As Martin and Jeep thrash in the lake, Dawn tries to help by telling Jeep he can stand. Jeep does, discovering the water goes up to his chest, but Martin manages to drag Dawn out of the boat as she attempts to calm him down. Dawn resorts to punching Martin to make him stop, screaming he should know at this point the lake isn’t that deep. Nora basically ditches Dawn while the three waterlogged kids make their way to the shore, Dawn feeling utterly humiliated and pissed off. Jeep, on the other hand, feels uncomfortable as the other campers stare at him and wonders why they seem so interested if Martin always overturns his canoe. Mr. Reinfield silently joins the kids as they drag the overturned canoe to the shore, commenting on Jeep’s string of accidents while Elizabetta assures him the kids are fine. Jeep, Martin, and Dawn are told to change their clothes while Elizabetta will inform the counselors at their next activities they’ll be late.
Martin tries to temper Dawn’s mood by saying it was just a little water, but Dawn is livid. She’s never had an accident like that before, and even worse, she was against coming back to this stupid camp. She goes on for a bit about how the rest of the kids are a bunch of babies getting worried about a little sunburn and all the dumb activities, but gets surprised when Jeep says he never wanted to come here as well. Martin is aghast by such blasphemy against Camp Westerra as Dawn and Jeep go over the places they would’ve preferred spending the summer.
Ignoring Martin, Dawn turned to Jeep, “I wanted to go to Outward Bound. Or hike one of those mountains in the Adirondacks in New York that don’t have trails. You know, one of those really tall mountains. The kind people get lost on and fall of and die.” She paused for a moment, her eyes glowing at the thought. Then she said, “So, what did you want to do?”
Jeep shrugged. “A friend of mine, Skip, went with his family on a wolf-watching expedition to Alaska. [Wing: WHAT YES OH MY GOD, SKIP, WHY HAS YOUR FAMILY NOT ADOPTED ME YET?!] That would have been cool. Or I could have gone to baseball camp like another guy at my school, Park. Or maybe I would have just gone to the beach.”
“The beach?” said Dawn, as if Jeep were using words she didn’t understand.
“The beach,” said Jeep. “Sand. Sun. Surf.”
“Sharks,” said Dawn, becoming enthusiastic again.
“No sharks,” said Jeep. “I don’t do sharks.”
“Oh.” Dawn looked at Jeep. “I didn’t think you were a real camper,” she said.
First off, she’s a redhead. Second, she’s pissed off at everyone. Third, she’s giddy at the prospect of people dying on mountains or swimming with sharks. Voting for Dawn as MVP in this book right now. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.
“Oh yeah? Jeep sputtered. “Oh yeah?” Then he shouted at her, “Oh yeah? Well I’m glad I’m not a real camper! I wouldn’t want to be like the other campers around here for anything!”
Dawn stopped. She turned. She studied Jeep for a moment. “Well,” she said at last, “at least you’re honest.”
AND SHE’S BLUNT AND SNARKY AS FUCK.
Jeep and Martin both consider Dawn a weirdo, although Jeep finds it humorous Martin thinks he can call anyone weird. But then Jeep starts to think, he’s only been at Camp Westerra two days, but is he turning into a weirdo as well? As Jeep and Martin head back to the cabin, Jeep’s white sneakers stained bright red from Lake Minaharker, Jeep remembers the bats and thinks “Better weird than dead.”
Or did he mean the reverse?
Later that evening, Jeep is bored out of his mind as the campers finish off the official anthem while two kids from another cabin fold the Camp Westerra flag (red with the silhouette of a bat and “Camp Westerra” in Gothic letters). Martin explains it’s a real honor to be chosen as the flag guard with Jeep figuring Martin’s never been chosen. Jeep dreads his realization that Martin, a book-reading klutz he’d have avoided like the plague back at school, somehow became his only friend at Camp Westerra. They were both misfits through no choice of their own, but at least Martin was a misfit who loved the camp. Dawn, who openly yawns during the flag guard ceremony, was a misfit by choice and loving every second of it.
Renfield announces there’s a surprise for the campers back at their cabins; Martin is giddy, Jeep is… not. As the groups march in the woods back to their designated outposts, Jeep notices some of their sunburns have gotten worse, and despite all the activities they performed today almost none of them seem tired. Yet he still can’t shake the feeling someone, or something, is watching him hidden in the forest. When Jeep and Martin return to the Bear Outpost, Jeep is not thrilled to learn the “surprise” is Pete telling them ghost stories, especially when the first tale is about some headless ghost. Jeep boasts the headless ghost Grove Hill has would make mincemeat of the one in Pete’s story.
(Somewhere, Kirstin Bjork smiles, but she’s not sure why)
Jeep looks around the campfire at some of the other campers holding their flashlights under their faces to make things all spoopy. Jeep has enough and decides to shake hands with the senator in the bath house, getting bit by a mosquito on the way and wondering where the so-called pest control is. Lucian runs into Jeep on his way out of the bathroom, apologizing for startling Jeep in a way that’s not really an apology. Jeep is all alone in the cement bath house, but doesn’t feel comfortable enough to relieve himself until he checks the stalls and the showers. Nothing but the crickets and bugs outside. For the first time in two days Jeep manages to relax… and then the lights go out the moment he leaves his stall. Jeep thinks this is some camp prank before he hears the sound of something scritching across the cement floor. Something big and hairy that brushes past Jeep’s ankle. Jeep panics and then feels something brush his cheek, causing him to lash out, stumble into a shower stall, and accidentally turn the cold water on. The lights return and, sure enough, Jeep’s totally alone.
Emerging from the bath house completely drenched for the second time, Jeep declines from returning to the camp fire and heads for the Purple Bear cabin before anyone sees him. Changing into dry clothes, Jeep climbs into bed with his flashlight, but doesn’t fall asleep until he knows Martin and the others have returned. Some time into the night, Jeep suddenly wakes up for reasons he’s not sure of. He can hear Martin’s snoring and only just make out the forms of Lucian and William in their beds, when Jeep hears that same scrabbling noise from the bath house. Jeep feels his heart begin to race as the sound of little claws on wood head closer to his bed. Something tugs on Jeep’s blanket, so he whips out his flashlight and shines it on… a huge, red-eyed rat with sharp, white teeth! [Wing: YES RATS.]
Jeep throws his flashlight at the rat, screaming the whole time. Martin wakes up and tries to interrupt Jeep’s tea kettle impersonation to find out what’s wrong. The rat has vanished once again when William wakes up and Pete bursts into the cabin in his bathrobe and mismatched shoes. Martin tries to assure Pete that Jeep only had a nightmare but Jeep is livid and exclaims it was a very real rat on his bed. And that rat ran towards Lucian’s bed. That’s when everyone notices Lucian somehow hasn’t woken up. Pete tries to wake Lucian up, Martin repeating it was a dream even though he does seem frightened. Jeep’s mind is going to dark places, fearing the rat killed Lucian and realizing from the panicked expression on Martin’s face that he DOES believe Jeep but is lying. When Lucian finally stirs, he thinks the presence of a rat sounds cool. Pete finds nothing hiding under Lucian’s bed and passes it off as Jeep getting spooked by his masterful ghost story skills. William is all “Rat. Funny. Ha. Bed now.” Martin asks if Jeep is scared.
“He’s not scared,” said Lucian softly. A sudden beam of light blinded Jeep. Lucian had his flashlight pointed directly in Jeep’s face.
Jeep put his hand in front of his eyes. “Hey! Why are you trying to blind me?”
“Jeep’s not afraid of a rat. Are you, Jeep?” Lucian kept the light in Jeep’s eyes.
“Depends on the rat,” said Jeep.
Lucian switches off the flashlight while William adds “OKAY YES JEEP BRAVE NIGHT-NIGHT NOW.” And now I’m kinda loving William too. But rather than going back to sleep, Jeep waits until he’s sure Lucian and William are zonked out so he can grill Martin on why he lied. Jeep demands to know what’s going on, if this is some newbie initiation bullshit, but Martin seems truly terrified of something. Martin pleads with Jeep to end the discussion with promises of finishing it tomorrow. Jeep wants to know what Martin is scared of. Martin says it’s nothing, but Jeep is definitely gonna drag it out of him.
Most of the boys are up before the morning bell. Martin’s gone to the bath house, Jeep is working on a letter home, while William is hanging around to give Jeep shit for being such a good son. Only Lucian’s still in bed. William inquires as to whether or not Jeep is sharing with his parents about his misadventures with the invisible rat when Jeep tells him to go suck the camp flag pole. William departs in a huff just as Martin returns, and Jeep immediately gives him the Good Cop/Annoyed Cop routine about the big Camp Westerra secret. Martin doesn’t want to talk here, motioning to Lucian and saying they don’t have the time. Martin tries to wake up Lucian, but he doesn’t respond. And then the blanket is removed and we find out why Lucian’s such a heavy sleeper.
“Lu-Lu-Lucian,” Martin stammered. His glasses slid down his nose. Sweat popped out on his forehead. His cheeks turned pale.
But not as pale as Lucian. Lucian’s face was a colorless mask. Deep purple circles made half-moons beneath Lucian’s closed eyes. His whole body was stiff as a board.
“He… he’s dead!” shrieked Martin. “Lucian’s dead!”
Jeep is in a state of shock and Martin’s hysterical, to the point when Pete rushes to Lucian’s side he gets angry for the first time ever and tells Martin to act like a camper for once. William coldly asks if Lucian is dead for real and Jeep, despite his obvious dislike for everyone at Camp Westerra, is a little disgusted by William’s apathy since he thought Lucian was his friend. Martin whimpers things like this don’t happen at camp while Pete orders William to get Nurse Hatchett. Jeep then notices something below Lucian’s ear: two tiny tooth marks. From a rat? Or something else? [Wing: Nice.]
Down at the mess hall, Dawn is the first to congratulate Jeep on having murdered one of his bunkmates. Jeep tells Dawn to keep her voice down as he corrects her. Martin is just barely functioning, having clung to Jeep tighter than before after Renfield and Nurse Hatchett carried Lucian away on a stretcher. Dawn invites herself to sit down with Jeep and Martin, asking which of them really killed Lucian. Martin babbles Nurse Hatchett said he just caught the flu, but Dawn responds with her impersonation of how badly Martin freaked out. Dawn observes that William’s pretty upset, but Jeep doesn’t notice a visible change in how William’s acted before this point. Jeep finally snaps at Dawn when she continues to nag the boys on what Lucian looked like before Martin finally relents.
“So what did Lucian look like? Dead? Completely, you know, dead?”
“He’s not dead!” Jeep said.
Staring at Dawn, Martin said, “He was pale. Really, really pale. He had these big circles under his eyes. And when I touched him, he felt as cold as ice.”
“That’s dead,” said Dawn in a satisfied tone of voice.
“He’s not dead!” Jeep’s voice rose. Several people turned to stare. More snickers followed.
I’ve got to stop doing that, thought Jeep.
Martin’s about to describe the marks on Lucian’s neck before Jeep kicks him under the table. He tells Dawn, *hint*, that MARTIN, *hint hint* doesn’t wanna talk about it anymore. Martin’s about to protest before Jeep *HINT* says he’s not *HINT FUCKING HINT MARTIN* gonna talk about it anymore. Dawn isn’t fooled, and declares she suspected something’s going on and is determined to learn what.
After Dawn leaves, Martin’s gaze turns to William and Jeep notices Martin’s developed a twitch in his eye. Since the two are alone at their table, Jeep reasons now is the best time to talk because everyone’s already watching them. If they don’t talk, people will become suspicious of their behavior so they need to at least SEEM like nothing’s wrong. Well, wronger than it already is. And no one can sneak up on them here. Jeep suggests Martin at least keep his voice down while he waits for the kid to stop twitching. Jeep finally starts to dig into what Martin knows, accusing him of being aware of whatever’s actually going on at Camp Westerra. Martin denies it, but Jeep doesn’t let up as he lists what he knows so far:
- The skinny, pale counselors who all wear sunglasses
- The camp director keeping bats which, while bats are normally good animals, is not the case with THESE bats
- The rat attack that was aimed at Jeep the same way the bat attack was, which Martin was lucky to avoid
- CONCLUSION: Renfield and the counselors are vampires, and have probably turned a few of the kids
Martin can only let out several groans of horror, reminding Jeep this kid is not in his daily Top 10 Kids To Turn To When Things Are Fucked Up, but beggars can’t be choosers. Jeep even reveals the incident in the bath house the previous night, suggesting it was the same rat who was after him in the cabin. Someone or something’s been after Jeep from the start, and it could be after everyone. Jeep proposes they talk to Lucian in the nurse’s station. Martin doesn’t want to be near Lucian again, but his complaints fall on deaf ears.
Jeep makes it known to everyone and no one he’s mailing his letter home, and when he finishes that he drags Martin with him to Nurse Hatchett’s office. Martin tries to weasel out of it by saying Pete warned them Lucian couldn’t have visitors for at least a day, but Jeep thinks waiting a day would doom them all. The boys sneak to the nurse’s cabin, and discover she’s watching a game show on TV.
“Aorta,” the nurse practitioner shouted at the television. “The answer is ‘aorta,’ you ignorant biped!”
Martin is now outraged at the hypocrisy that the nurse can have a TV but they couldn’t bring their Walkmans (Because it was the 90s, you see!). With Hatchett in her reclining chair and her attention aimed solely at the game show, Jeep and Martin quietly sneak past her into the dark back room to find Lucian in one of the beds. The boys try to get his attention without alerting the nurse, but when Lucian finally comes to the first thing he does is accuse Jeep of something being his fault. A moment later, Lucian apologizes, having apparently not realized it was Jeep he’s talking to when Jeep asks what happened to him. Lucian believes he really did catch the flu.
He smiled weakly up at Jeep. It was a gruesome sight. His teeth looked too big for his mouth.
“Stop smiling,” begged Martin.
Jeep brings up the question of the rat. Lucian claims he doesn’t remember a rat before he mentions he suddenly doesn’t feel good and asks the boys leave. Jeep can only just make out in the dark that the bite marks on Lucian’s neck have vanished. Jeep keeps piling it on, insisting Lucian does know it was a rat that got him, but it wasn’t an ordinary rat, was it Lucian? Lucian suddenly grabs Jeep’s collar and pulls him forward, and as Jeep looks into Lucian’s eyes he feels very weak. And cold. Lucian whispers something about blood as he pulls Jeep closer, when Martin intervenes and tries to free Jeep. When that doesn’t work, Martin opens the curtains and Lucian almost loses it as the sunlight washes over him. But then things get REALLY scary when Nurse Hatchett appears in the doorway. Martin’s nerve vanishes again, so it’s up to Jeep to lie through his teeth they wanted to visit Lucian because they were worried about him. Hatchett warns the boys they might catch what Lucian has before promising in a day he’ll be back to normal. Or maybe, even better. Martin quickly drags Jeep out of there as the nurse “kindly” suggests they leave.
As Martin dragged him out of the front door of the infirmary, Jeep looked over his shoulder. The last thing he saw was the nurse, standing in the doorway of Lucian’s room, the sweater thrown over her shoulders outlined against the darkened room behind her like the wings of a giant bat.
At dinnertime, Jeep tries to find Dawn, realizing his only possible chance to save the rest of the campers from Renfield’s vampiric influence is to get help from someone with experience in the camp’s layout. When Jeep tells Dawn he needs to speak with her in private, Nora and a couple of other girls can’t help but giggle. Outside the mess hall, Martin babbles they only have a theory before Jeep finally tells her they’re dealing with vampires. Instead of letting out her usual weird cackling, Dawn quietly asks Jeep for the rest of the details as Jeep notices the bats flying around in the evening twilight. Jeep hurriedly recaps the incident in the nurse’s station before the counselors notice the three aren’t inside. Dawn believes Jeep about Renfield and the counselors turning kids, but feels they need proof if they’re going to get help.
Without seeming to realize it, Dawn turned the collar up on her rugby shirt. “Vampires,” she said almost to herself. “The undead. Which makes this camp a sort of Club Dead. Get it?”
Jeep tells Dawn to stop joking, who admits she makes jokes when she’s scared. Jeep internally panics, because if Dawn’s scared they’re screwed. Dawn claims of course she’s not scared when Renfield smoothly asks why they aren’t in line for dinner. The three kids quickly head inside to get away from the camp leader. Dawn insists they need proof and a plan, because good campers are always prepared. Jeep says he’s not a good camper and Dawn lays it out for him that’s the difference between life, death, or something worse.
In the Purple Bear cabin that night, William mentions he tried to see Lucian and was told that story about having the flu. William says he doesn’t want to catch whatever Lucian as, to which Martin earnestly agrees. Jeep briefly wonders if he can trust William, but casts William as the type who would need hard evidence before he believed anything about vampires. Jeep and Martin have set up a system to keep watch during the night with Jeep taking the first shift and wondering what Dawn’s doing to watch her back. As Jeep stays awake he wonders about the counselors and campers out in the sun, trying to figure out how they could be vampires and survive even with those bad sunburns. Jeep remembers something about vampires having human servants who do stuff for them in the daytime, like, say, bring them victims? Are the counselors being controlled by vampires who hide during the day? Unfortunately, while Jeep is going over this theory, he seems to blink and suddenly it’s morning! He slept through the whole night! And thanks to him, William and Martin are both dead and he’s left to be preyed on by the other campers!
Except no that was a dream and Martin’s trying to get him to stop screaming in his sleep before asking HOW he could let that happen on his shift. But Jeep knows if he’s not careful, the dream could become a reality.
Dawn and Jeep don’t particularly look good this morning, and Nora teases them at breakfast asking if Dawn would rather sit with Jeep. Jeep, Martin, and Dawn decide they need to do research on stopping vampires, Dawn proposing Martin check out the camp library and if he can do some “Computer stuff” for the investigation. Looking around the mess hall, seeing other kids laughing, having fun, Jeep can’t believe he used to be one of them, so happy and carefree. Now he’s embroiled in a matter of life or death. With Martin declared the Information Gatherer, Dawn takes Field Maneuvers since she obviously knows more about the woods than Jeep does. Jeep argues he never said anything to the contrary, but realizes arguing with her’s not gonna help. The three settle to watch their backs and their necks while pretending everything’s normal. Dawn has that covered.
“Don’t worry.” Dawn suddenly laughed. “Nora thinks you have a crush on me. I’ll just tell her it’s true.”
She laughed her maniacal laugh and turned and walked into the mess hall.
“Great,” said Jeep, glaring after Dawn. “This is all I need.”
“Is it true, Jeep?” Martin sad, his eyes round behind his glasses. “Do you have a crush on Dawn?”
During an arts and crafts session, Jeep is briefly horrified when he discovers the counselor overseeing the period isn’t wearing sunglasses like the rest of them. Jeep fears what this means, and he soon finds himself becoming lost in her cold, icy blue eyes when he suddenly hears Nora sing “Jeep has a girlfriend.” For once teasing saves the day as it snaps Jeep out of the trance he almost fell into, and briefly notices the tiniest bit of annoyance in the counselor’s face. Jeep asks Nora why she doesn’t go on “Oprah” and tell everyone. Jeep tries to go back to focusing on the paper-maiche bear mask in an effort to seem normal when Martin comes in and shows Jeep some “mask sketches.” Martin shows Jeep the info he wrote down, adding he gave Dawn a copy. The basics are there: blood sucking, how they can use that to turn people or straight up murder them, their inability to eat real food or cast reflections, and their superhuman abilities like strength and shapeshifting. They can also control animals to do their bidding, like wolves, cats, bats, rats. There are only a few ways to repel vampires, such as using garlic. Or you have to flat out destroy them through impalement, sunlight, or setting them on fire. Jeep is impressed by all this reconnaissance. Jeep then sacrifices his dignity by giving a glued-shut note to Nora, asking her to deliver it to Dawn. Nora says she’ll be MORE than happy to do so. Jeep sighs, saying it’s a dirty job but somebody’s gotta do it.
After dinner, Renfield announces tonight is the Senior Campfire, to welcome in all the new senior campers. Jeep observes most of the campers haven’t gone near their food, they just made to look like it was eaten. Although, Jeep admits he’s familiar with the trick, since a lot of his classmates used it during the brief tenure of their previous lunch lady. Martin, however, isn’t any less hungry and hides a few extra rolls in case of an emergency. Jeep wonders how many of the senior campers are already vampires before thinking on the qualifications of being a senior. Nearby, Nora takes out a compact mirror and comb, forcing them into Dawn’s hands when she notices Jeep heading their way. Dawn scowls but takes the mirror and comb… and suddenly notices something before practically throwing the mirror back to Nora. Pete appears, asking if the kids are sneaking out. Dawn is too terrified to speak, so Jeep answers they’re only getting some fresh air. Pete advises them not to wander because they have to plan for the “Camp show.” After Pete leaves, Nora drags Martin off thinking she can give Jeep and Dawn alone time. The thought makes Jeep want to vomit, but he brings Dawn to a nearby tree so they can confer their battle plan. Dawn is able to come out of her stupor long enough to affirm she got Jeep’s note, but has bad news. Jeep thinks they’re talking about the senior campers, that they might find proof at the campfire. Dawn reveals she already has proof.
“Didn’t you see it, Jeep? When Pete came up behind me? I could see him out of the corner of my eye. I could see him and you and Martin. And I could see all of you in the mirror Nora gave me…
“Except Pete. Pete doesn’t have a reflection. Pete is definitely a vampire!”
At this point, Jeep isn’t surprised, but is still creeped out just the same.
Jeep quickly asks if Pete saw Dawn’s reaction or the mirror, but Dawn doesn’t believe so. Dawn starts to act like her usual self again, but fails to realize trying to see the bright side, that Pete’s not the only vampire out there, ISN’T the bright side. Jeep turns to Lake Minaharker, wondering if the bats are out patrolling for mosquitoes, wondering if the bats are REAL bats, before he tells Dawn they’re going on a vampire hunt.
Jeep and Dawn are the only ones scoping out the Senior Campfire, not that Martin was complaining. His job was to stay at the cabin and tell anyone asking about Jeep’s absence that he went to look for his sweatshirt in the mess hall. Hidden within the forest, Jeep and Dawn are able to watch from a distance as Renfield and the senior campers gather around the fire. The flicker from the flames makes the trees like deformed and evil, causing Jeep to briefly consider if vampires can control trees as well when he hears Renfield speak. It was the first time Jeep saw the camp director without his dark glasses, and the light of the fire reflected in his eyes made them terrifying.
“Senior campers are… special,” Mr. Renfield said. “When you arrived, you were ordinary. Afraid. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of failure. Weak. Puny. Average.
“But now. Now…” Renfield raised his arms again. Sparks leaped madly up toward the sky. “Now you are… changed. Forever. You are true members of Camp Westerra. Now you will always have a home. Now you will always belong. You have new… privileges. New… powers. You have passed many tests. You have been faithful campers. You have earned your dark glasses.”
He paused and gestured. Proudly each camper put his or her sunglasses on. Proudly they all smiled.
The senior campers pulled their dark glasses on, too. They stood up. They began to applaud. And smile. Their smiles were particularly horrifying.
“No…,” Jeep whispered.
All the campers, every single one of them, had gleaming white fangs.
Who says it’s not cool to be part of the crowd?
Dawn feels nauseous as Renfield announces the campers have earned a reward, when one camper seems to smell something… and turns her head in Jeep and Dawn’s direction.
“I smell…” The camper opened her mouth and reached up and tapped her fang.
In spite of himself, Jeep put his hands up protectively around his throat.
Unfortunately, just as Dawn tries to flee, the fire blazes again and this time it reveals her’s and Jeep’s shadows. The senior campers make their move while Renfield declares a reward as Dawn counters they’ll never take her alive and throws her flashlight at them. Jeep tries to hide his face under his baseball cap before fleeing to make sure no one can recognize him, trying to remember if it’s werewolves or vampires who can identify someone by smell. Dawn orders him to move it and they begin to run through the woods. Dawn orders Jeep to trust her on knowing the way to go before asking him to stop in order to listen if anyone’s followed them. Jeep can’t figure out how Dawn can tell if they’re near the main camp or not but doesn’t have a chance to argue when Dawn goes over the top of the hill. Jeep tries to follow her… but Dawn’s not on the other side. He can see the lights from camp headquarters… and something red and glittery in the woods.
And whatever it is, it probably has Dawn.
At breakfast, Dawn’s nowhere to be found, and Nora hasn’t giggled once. Not good. Martin asks Jeep what happened the previous night and sounds somewhat disgusted when he tells Jeep “and you ran away.” Jeep replies by asking what Martin would’ve done in his position, feeling whatever morsel of patience he had left slipping before revealing their only option is to escape. Martin proposes they just wait out the last two days and be super careful, maybe even make garlic necklaces. Jeep reminds him there’s no way they’d find any garlic in this camp. No, their only choice is to flee.
Meanwhile, before the next canoe session begins, William’s super excited because Lucian’s finally back. And is wearing sunglasses. Martin is horrified when Lucian lifts the aluminum canoe with one arm, like it was nothing. Jeep, on the other hand, is more concerned because Dawn is back. But can she be trusted? She doesn’t seem pale and she’s not wearing sunglasses. Dawn cheerfully asks why Jeep got scared and ditched her the previous night. Jeep can only sputter.
“You’re alive?” asked Martin.
“Well I’m not dead yet,” answered Dawn.
At the end of the session, Martin’s ecstatic because he finally managed to avoid tipping over his canoe. Even William congratulates him without a shred of sarcasm, and I can’t tell if that makes me like him more or less. Jeep congratulates Martin too, and then reveals he told Dawn they had a plan. Jeep considers the possibility of rowing to the other side of Lake Minaharker, but the thought of being out on the lake in the dead of night is too scary for him to fully accept. As Jeep figures the one safe option is to make it through the woods to the road, Dawn joins them on the pier. Dawn sits down, putting her foot in the water and swinging her leg back and forth. The effect is almost hypnotic until Jeep realizes Dawn’s leg isn’t reflected in the lake. And sticking out of her back pocket is a folded up pair of sunglasses. [Wing: OH DAWN NO.]
Jeep immediately tries to make it less likely for Dawn to realize he noticed her lack of reflection, and stops Martin from mentioning their plan to escape through the woods. Jeep quickly explains they plan to row across the lake to find some other house or cabin with a phone, even as Dawn replies she doesn’t see other cabins. And just to be on the safe side, Jeep smoothly adds he wants to wait until tomorrow night because he hurt his arm during their getaway the previous evening. For added measure, Jeep asserts they still need evidence if they’re going to convince anyone outside of the camp to help them. Dawn agrees and states if anyone can get them back to civilization, it’s her. Elizabetta blows the whistle signaling the canoe session’s officially over. Once Dawn’s left, Jeep explains to Martin that Dawn’s one of THEM. But she’s worse than a vampire. She’s a vampire spy.
The rest of the day passed by and Jeep tried his best not to get Dawn’s attention, but that was difficult. By dinner, he was a nervous wreck, while Martin ate with his usual gusto. When Martin sees Jeep’s lack of appetite he briefly worries that Jeep’s been turned before Jeep snaps he’s not hungry. Jeep forces himself to eat some bread to prove his body can still handle human food before turning to the other campers.
He watched the others in the room watching.
I know who you are, he thought silently. I’m not afraid.
But it wasn’t true. He was afraid. Very, very afraid.
And the worst part of the night was still ahead.
The plan is to wait until everyone else is asleep so Jeep and Martin can escape the cabin. William’s snoring, but Lucian’s sleeping so silently you’d think he was-oh, yeah. Unfortunately, Jeep hasn’t done anything to fix his sleeping habits because before he knows it his eyelids start to droop… and some time later, he wakes up to discover something awful. Lucian’s not in his bed, but William is. And so is Martin. But Martin’s not going to be escaping after all.
Before he even reached out to shake Martin, Jeep knew what had happened.
Martin had met a vampire.
I can still get away, thought Jeep wildly. I can leave Martin and go for help. He doesn’t have to be a vampire. They can help him. Get him counseling. Yeah, that’s it. Aren’t there guidance counselors out there? Career consultants. People who specialize in problems like this?
Jeep unintentionally makes a noise loud enough to wake William, who looks in the direction Jeep is pointing towards and assumes Martin’s “sick.” William is afraid of catching what Martin has before Jeep corrects him, saying you can’t catch it if they don’t catch YOU. William leaves to find Pete for help while Jeep inspects Martin’s teeth. They haven’t become fangs just yet, so Jeep hopes there’s still time to save Martin. Jeep concludes he has to think of something before tomorrow evening when Pete, William, and Lucian return. Lucian’s saddened Martin caught what he had, but Jeep swears he hasn’t. Not if he can help it.
Stuck in camp one more day is sheer torture for Jeep but he will not leave Martin behind. More kids are wearing sunglasses and Jeep thinks he might be the only human left in the entire area. He tries his best not to cringe when Dawn appears to bemoan “Poor Martin” but still lets out a sarcastic remark on how “they” certainly got Martin. Jeep knows for sure Dawn’s been turned when she doesn’t even argue Jeep’s plan to hold out until tomorrow. Dawn says they have to trust each other to survive. Jeep waits for Dawn to leave before he spits out a venomous retort when the counselors announce the camp awards ceremony later in the evening. They promise after dinner will be a special night EVERYONE is gonna remember. Jeep realizes the awards ceremony may give him an opening to save Martin.
That evening Jeep purposefully lags behind the other campers as they make their way to the central campfire, finding a spot to hide in the woods and waiting out til the last of the kids have joined the others. Jeep has a much easier time making it through the forest, but becomes nervous realizing it’s TOO easy. Jeep circles the nurse’s station, discovering Nurse Hatchett with the TV on and asleep in her recliner before going through the back entrance. Jeep finds Martin and starts explaining his thought process, that he figures the vampires have used the animals to spy and keep track during the day because they can’t use any of their powers while in the sun. Or at least they can’t use all their powers. Jeep promises he’s gonna get Martin help as they make a break for it. But first, Martin wants to put on his new sunglasses.
“You like ’em?” Martin said. “Of course I don’t really need them at night, but they’re pretty decently cool, don’t you think, Jeep?”
“They got you,” Jeep whispered hoarsely. “They got you, too!”
Martin smiled. His fangs looked very sharp.
“No way!” Jeep screamed. He turned and flung himself towards the window.
But Martin wasn’t slow and clumsy anymore. Somehow he got there before Jeep. He blocked the window. “What’s wrong, Jeep?” he asked. “Aren’t we friends anymore?”
Jeep ducks for the door through Nurse Hatchett’s office, barely missing her grasp and running straight into the horde of vampires waiting for him outside.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, Jeep tries to bluster his way out exclaiming he had garlic for dinner. Of course no one falls for it, Dawn reminding him Camp Westerra doesn’t serve garlic. The vampires march closer as Jeep puts up his fists saying he’ll fight his way through.
And that’s when they start to laugh before someone turns on the porch light and SURPRISE! It was all a joke! Dawn takes out her wax fangs and hands them to Jeep. Jeep doesn’t understand what’s going on as Martin and the rest to begin to laugh. Boy, they really had him fooled! Dawn asks if after they suck his blood, does he want to turn into a bat? LOLJK. Renfield steps forward and explains this was a gag they pulled because Jeep’s brand new, and asks everyone to applaud Jeep for being such a good sport. And hey, it turns out everyone’s gonna enjoy pizza in the mess hall, and it’s gonna have LOTS of garlic. Martin hopes Jeep isn’t too mad when he reveals this was ALL his idea, inspired from Jeep’s freak out over the bats the first evening. And to show there are no hard feelings, Martin gives Jeep his very own pair of sunglasses.
The next day Renfield meets with Jeep’s parents as they pick him up, on time for once. Renfield compliments Jeep saying he’s a very fine camper. As Jeep’s parents drive off, Dawn and Martin wave goodbye and tell him to watch out for any bats. Mr. Holmes drives away… and when they know they’re good and clear of the camp, Jeep’s parents ask for his report.
“They’re definitely vampires,” he said. “A whole campful in various stages of the vampire cycle. But it’s like a real camp. I mean, they do real camp things just like everybody else. By day as well as by night.”
Mrs. Holmes nodded. “The new sunscreens that are on the market. Unbelievable.”
OH SHIT THEY REALLY WERE VAMPIRES AND JEEP’S FAMILY ARE AGENTS IN AN ORGANIZATION THAT MONITORS THEM!
Mr. Holmes asks if there was any trouble, but Jeep says there wasn’t any real danger. He had his garlic repellent the whole time and they played a few dumb tricks but that was it. He admits he even thought Martin actually was some innocent bystander who got mixed up in the whole mess, complimenting how well he’d fooled Jeep. His parents praise the use of code he’d put in his letters and mention wanting a more detailed debriefing at HQ. Jeep asks if they have to wipe out the camp, but his parents are aghast by such a notion. No, it seems their only goal is to monitor, not destroy. Vampires have their synthetic foods, and as long as they don’t bother anyone there’s nothing to worry about. After all, they have to share a planet. Jeep is glad to hear that, because he likes Martin. And Dawn too, but that doesn’t leave the car.
[Wing: WHAT. WHAT. WHAT. I thought for awhile that Jeep was going to end up being a different kind of vampire, but I did NOT see this coming.]
Back at Camp Westerra, the kids and Renfield discuss whether they truly fooled Jeep, but Renfield doesn’t think so. Nevertheless, he feels each of them will grow up to become fine vampires, and this was a choice learning experience about modern humans. William cracks Lucian almost blew everything by turning into a rat. Martin asserts he really did like Jeep, but he truly does hate garlic. Dawn snarks Martin hates garlic cuz he’s weird. So it looks like some of the “info” Martin gave Jeep was crap out of his ass. Renfield advises them not to argue, reminding them to get some rest for the evening. Looking up at the sun and bearing his fangs, Renfield promises the night will be here soon.
[Wing: I want to attend this camp immediately.]
Stone takes what would’ve been a cheap asspull ending and turns it into a much better one.
This is one of the few books I mentioned about the kids being more in tune with the creepy factor than they let on.
As much as a whiny asshole Jeep seemed, you have to give him credit for wanting to stand by Martin instead of just leaving him to rot. But I wonder if Jeep knows about Eduardo in Mrs. Storch’s class? Does Eduardo need sunblock too or can he survive in the sun? I realize Blue never questioned how Eduardo could be in the sunlight and not burn if he was a vampire.
And we’re gonna find out a lot more about Slime Lake in next month’s recap, so stay tuned!
[Wing: I liked Jeep a lot, weirdly enough. I thought he was a fun change of pace, and that a lot of what he was doing was part of his persona for the others because he’s trying to keep a secret within a secret, and that was great.]
Activities Section: A vampire-themed crossword puzzle.
- Polly Hannah’s Wardrobe: N/A