Like RL Stine needs any introduction. The incredibly prolific author of such series as Goosebumps and Fear Street, not to mention the Fear Street Reboot and some adult titles as well, Stine’s been around for a while and integral to the formation of horror love for many people my age. Sometimes ridiculous, sometimes creepy, always some of the most excellent deaths in YA, Stine is a mainstay in the young adult horror world and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Don’t open that present!
If only Reva had listened to that warning.
But beautiful, cold Reva won’t listen to anyone. Reva thinks she can have whatever—and whoever—she wants. After all, her daddy owns Dalby department Stores.
Now, someone has some surprises instore [sic] for her. Robbery? Terror? Even murder? Someone wants to treat Reva to a holiday she’ll never forget.
Holiday cheer quickly turns to holiday chills for Reva. Someone is stalking her, someone is trying to get to her.
Her money can’t help her. No one can.
After all, who can you turn to when murder comes gift-wrapped?
Can I get a photo of gift-wrapped murder? Please?
[Wing: We believe holiday horror has no deadline around here, so let’s end 2018 with a few more Christmas-themed stories.]
Shadyside, East Coast someplace. The Cape is mentioned so I imagine somewhere in New England. The weather matches, at least.
Within Shadyside it’s Dalby Department Store, Reva’s house, or Mickey’s house, mostly.
Reva Dalby—Wavy red hair, long purple nails with a nervous habit of tapping them, cold blue eyes. Daughter to Daddy Dalby and works at the perfume counter at Dalby’s. “Works.” A senior, she got accepted to her first choice, Smith. She’s super critical of others and thinks making fun of customers is the only thing getting her through the day. All around piece of shit. Super conceited and spoiled, talks back to her manager, refuses to do work, and doesn’t think she should have to listen to anyone because Daddy owns the store. Calm, controlled, and thoughtful about everything she says. Likes watching people like Hank explode.
Ms Arlene Smith—Perfume counter sales manager and Reva’s boss, a short frail woman who wears men’s suits to be hip, with shoulder pads. Has small, gray eyes.
Hank—Blond, short, spiky hair; large, dark serious eyes, diamond stud in one ear, thick football player’s neck; big, broad-chested, powerful arms. Dating Reva for six months. Reva thinks he’s crude and coarse, but was also warm, caring, kind of innocent. A nice guy. Except for that time he punched through a screen door because she wouldn’t go see a movie with him. “Nice guy.”
Mr Wakely—Head of security. Or former head of security because he got caught drinking on the job and got fired. Father to Mickey.
Mitch—Reva’s next conquest, has dimples in each cheek, a hoarse little boy voice (WTF is that?), and is preppy without being too showy
Michael—Reva’s six-year-old brother, has curly red hair, dark blue eyes, and creamy white skin.
Pam Dalby—Reva’s poor cousin who lives in a ramshackle house on Fear Street. Has straight, blonde hair, a round, friendly face, flashing green eyes and clean-cut, all-American good looks.
Foxy—Pam’s boyfriend who’s always willing to listen to her troubles. He has a lot of good qualities and is a real teddy bear.
Mickey Wakely—Short and thin with inch-long blonde hair, blue eyes and is kind of goofy looking. He has freckles, his jug ears stick out a mile and has a bad complexion. He always appears awkward and uncomfortable even when he isn’t. He’s been friends with Pam Dalby since childhood.
Clay Parker—Tall and thin with brown hair that he wears slicked straight back. Has a mysterious scar over his right eyebrow, steel gray eyes that look restless, stooped shoulders, and a hard expression on his face. He always seems nervous, jittery, with enough raw energy to make him ready to explode. He has a temper. Pam only tolerates him because he’s Mickey’s friend.
Robb Spring—Unbrushed curly brown hair, brown eyes that always seem to be laughing, and a round face. Reva always liked Robb because he was nice and funny and a lot of fun, but he followed her around like an adoring puppy. He’s been on the receiving end of Reva’s scorn when she not-so-subtly turned him down for dating. He’s overweight (a reason why Reva would never date him) and is really involved in a jazz quartet he formed. Reva heard he was a very talented pianist.
Reva’s being smug and making fun of customers when Little Drummer Boy comes on the radio, which she hates. Her boss comes over and asks if she has an ear infection, but Reva just starts complaining about the song. Ms Smith asks her to go stock a display but Reva says no because she doesn’t want to ruin her nails. Ms Smith presses but Reva presses back, causing Ms Smith to storm off to the office.
Reva ignores a customer trying to get her attention and puts on some lipstick. Her lips immediately start bleeding and when she picks up the tube she finds a needle sticking out of it. It’s not a new tube to someone found it and stuck the needle in there knowing she would use it. Dun dun dun!
Or more accurately Rum Tum Tum!
She’s driving with her boyfriend, Hank, when she suddenly pulls over.
Can I just say being in Reva’s head is like wading through the Bog of Eternal Stench in flip flops? Absolutely putrid.
Because she’s a shitty person who gets off on making other people miserable, she thinks about how much of a Neanderthal Hank is and wonders why she wasted her time with him. So she dumps him right there in the car and she studies his face while doing it and revels in his sadness. She rubs it in a little more when she tells him she wants to date someone more interesting in the new year. Then she ditches him on the side of the road. Before Hank gets out of the car, in proper Stine fashion, he tells Reva she’ll be sorry. Add that to his violent tendencies and here’s Red Herring #1. To add even more insult to injury before she pulls away she calls him back over to the car and says Happy Holidays before driving off.
As she’s on her way to the store to pick up her dad she thinks about who she’ll date next and the ticker lands on a guy named Mitch who she’ll maneuver away from his current girlfriend. Details, you know?
But she’s not a completely awful person because she loves her daddy and wants to spend as much time with him as possible since her mom died in a plane crash. She’s trying to fill a void she thinks he has. “Redeeming quality.”
Here’s the thing: Reva is 100% unlikeable. At this point am I supposed to care about her at all? Oh no, she got a needle in her lipstick. Seems like she deserved it?
She gets to the store and the quiet, empty space freaks her out as she’s making her way to the offices. Someone touches her shoulder and she jumps.
Of course it’s just a mannequin that Reva bumped into and she laughs at herself before she goes up to the executive offices where her dad is.
Mr Wakely, the head of security, barrels into her without saying hi and when she gets to her dad she finds out he just got fired for drinking on the job. Her dad tries to tell her about other problems at the store but Reva gets bored and brushes him off. He asks if she knows anyone who needs a job for the holiday because he needs some stockers and Reva gets really excited for some reason. For such a rich snob she’s oddly enthusiastic about a minimum wage job at a department store.
Reva conspires to get Mitch a job and steal him from his girlfriend, Lissa. When she gets home she calls him and talks to him in a “sexy” voice as she offers him a job. He accepts and then asks if Lissa can get one too. Reva begrudgingly accepts but when Lissa gets on the phone Reva tells her to dress her best because she’ll be working the Chanel perfume counter. Reva revels in the deception.
Her cousin, Pam, who’s so poor it hurts Reva, calls to ask for a job. Reva’s actually jealous of Pam’s natural good looks and non-shitty personality and is very spiteful toward her. Instead of extending an offer she lies and says there’s nothing available because she doesn’t want her poor cousin hanging around making her feel bad.
When they hang up Pam wants Reva to pay for lying to her. As is Stine’s way.
Pam’s pissed at Reva and doesn’t understand what she ever did to have Reva be such an ass to her. Pam never told her how everyone at Shadyside hates her. That’s a kindness right there. Pam wants to call her boyfriend but he had a paper to write so she calls Mickey and says she’d meet him and Clay at the 7-11.
They shoot the shit while collecting food and when Pam notices the cashier watching them they bring their stuff up to the front to pay. The cashier accuses Clay of stealing but Clay won’t empty his pockets. Pam and Mickey try to get him to back down but when the cashier yells for his co-worker to call the cops Clay jumps the counter and starts smashing the guy into the register. Then they hear police sirens.
They run for Pam’s car and Clay gets in the driver’s seat and peels out, sending them on a high speed chase in Pam’s car. They nearly hit people and things but eventually they lose the cops and stop the car. At first Pam thinks it’s exhilarating but then Clay reveals that he had stolen some dip and that dampened things. She scolds Clay for his temper and Mickey comes to his defense, telling her about his dad getting fired after 25 years and a month before Christmas. She commiserates with him, saying she can’t even get a job there but then Mickey and Clay tell her about Reva giving Mitch and Lissa jobs that night. Pam gets pissed and vows to really get Reva.
Reva’s driving home when she comes upon Robb walking (what’s with everyone walking everywhere in the winter?). They chat for a while and then she figures he’d make a great Santa because of his size. So she offers him a job but tells him it’s a public relations position so he’ll dress up and then get humiliated when he gets handed a Santa costume. And this is how she treats people she actually likes.
She goes home and has to babysit Michael. Once he’s in bed she settles in with a magazine until a knock sounds at the door and it’s after 10 pm.
It’s Hank and he wants to ask for a job, admitting how hard it is for him to be there asking her. Reva goes full bitch on him and says no. Then he grabs her arm hard and Reva sics her attack dog on him. He gets chased off and Reva laughs.
Saturday morning, the day everyone starts work, comes around and Lissa’s dressed all sharp and so is Robb and they’re rather furious with Reva. Lissa has to go home and change and Robb grudgingly takes the job because he needs the money. Reva laughs and applauds her own hilarity.
She goes to the stockroom manager to request Mitch and Lissa get separate departments, which Mitch overhears. She’s not subtle in her coming on to him, but I guess subtlety isn’t her thing.
On her way to the main floor someone grabs her and drops her into a closet.
It’s Hank playing a joke on her and letting her know he got himself a job without her help, in security. Reva gets indignant at that and accuses him of following her and not accepting that she dumped him. He says he’ll get her back and the way he says it make her nervous.
Pam, Mickey, and Clay are at Mickey’s house listening to Mickey’s dad drown his sorrows. Foxy ended up getting a job at Dalby’s and Pam’s pissed that she couldn’t. Then Clay mentions that he knows how to have a good Christmas and get back at Reva. He worked it out with a security guy (red herring to Hank) and they’re going to rob the store.
Except it’s not really a robbery, just an inside job theft. John Maywood, Clay’s contact in the night guard, is sore about Mr Wakely getting fired so he’s willing to help set it up. He’ll let them in, Clay pretends to knock him out, and they take what they want, excluding the safe. That’s off limits. Honor among thieves, I guess.
Initially Pam is reluctant while Mickey jumps on board almost immediately. Clay wants Pam to drive the getaway car because hers has a big trunk. Maywood won’t flip the alarm until after they’re gone so she reluctantly agrees. Then Foxy comes to pick her up and she has Clay and Mickey keep their plan from him. He wouldn’t like it because he’s a bit of a straight arrow.
Pam wonders what happened to Reva over the years. They used to be close until Reva’s mom died and then she turned into an icy bitch and pushed Pam away. She can’t comprehend that Reva would be jealous of her except maybe because Pam still has a mom. Ding ding ding!
Reva’s on the phone with Pam, who Reva thinks sounds distant, and wonders what she has to be upset about. While she doesn’t have money or good clothes she still has a mom. They hang up and Michael tries to get Reva to take him to see Santa, but she can’t because she’s already casually late for work.
When she gets to work she decides to pounce on Mitch, throwing herself at him and kissing him. Of course he kisses her back after two weeks of not returning her gestures and telling her they need to talk. Then Lissa interrupts them.
Lissa catches them in the act and Reva rubs it in. Mitch is struck dumb as Lissa fumes, but says nothing. Lissa storms off and Mitch chases after her and Reva chases after Mitch trying to get him to forget Lissa. It seems like he won’t, but he’s totally flustered by Reva’s come-ons.
Hank walks by and Reva drapes herself over Mitch and then leaves, saying she’s late for her shift.
When she gets to the perfume counter Ms Smith is furious because now she’s late for an engagement, of which Reva gives no fucks. Ms Smith tells Reva there’s a package for her and to open it when she’s done with the customers, which Reva ignores. She turns her back on the customers so she can open the gift. Inside is what looks like a heavy bottle of perfume, but it’s red. Thinking it’s blood Reva drops the bottle and it shatters, spilling red all over her white cashmere sweater.
Apparently it is blood and she immediately thinks it’s Hank trying to get back at her. She storms up to the executive offices and finds Hank on the floor in the security room installing VCRs. She confronts him, but he has no idea what she’s talking about. He’s been up there all morning with witnesses. She doesn’t believe him and storms to Daddy’s office, but he’s in a very important meeting and can’t be disturbed. She deflates a little until she hears what she thinks are gunshots.
Screams come from the floors below and Reva ducks. Her dad bursts out of his office, gets one look at Reva and thinks she’s shot and faints. When he comes to a security guard is there telling him there was a surge in a string of Christmas lights and they burst. Of course, more electrical problems.When Reva fakes the reason she came to see him as she just wanting to tell him she was going home to change, he asks her why she doesn’t just grab a sweater from the store. To which she responds they’re too tacky. He laughs and goes back into his meeting.
Reva gets in her car and starts driving home only to see a while Taurus tailgating her. She tries to lose him and can’t and she can’t see him well because of the glare on his windshield. She decides to pull into her garage and straight into her house, but when she gets to the driveway she realizes she forgot her garage door opener. So she makes a run for the front door only to have the big, burly dude in the Taurus get out and follow her.
Turns out it was just a guy trying to tell her that he’d hit her taillight. He’d tried signaling her but she didn’t notice. He gave her his insurance information and she thinks that Daddy will just fix the car and she didn’t need the information. Then the guy leaves. She walks into an empty house and thinks about whoever is trying to scare her and what could possibly be next.
Pam, Clay, and Mitch are driving to Dalby’s at 11:30 on Friday night and Pam’s so nervous she’s ready to puke. She decides to actually go in with them instead of sitting in the car, thinking that’ll help with her nerves. Clay’s being a dick but I’m not sure that’s a surprise. They roll up, get out of the car, and Mitch sees that Clay is actually holding a small gun.
They go inside and slowly make their way to their meeting point with Maywood: electronics, which is on the farthest side of the store. He’s supposed to meet them there, but no one’s there when they get there so Clay and Mitch start in without him, grabbing stuff off the shelves while Pam watches.
A security guard approaches and at first Pam thinks it’s Maywood and he startles everyone by yelling out, but when Clay sees him he knows it’s the wrong guy. The guard has his gun on his holster and he tells everyone to freeze, then trips the alarm. The guard has his eyes on Clay and Clay yells for Mitch and Pam to run, but once they do they hear a gun shot and turn to see the guard go down. Clay joins them but when they get out to the loading dock they see that Pam’s car is gone.
But no, not gone. They just came out the wrong loading bay. They scramble to the car and take off, passing a couple of cop cars going in the opposite direction to the store. Pam drops everyone off and then makes her way home to pass out in her clothes. When she wakes up the next morning she’s still dressed and for a second thinks it’s all a dream. Of course it’s not and she’s riddled with guilt. She doesn’t want to face her parents but they’re out anyway.
The radio comes on talking about the break-in and how the guard was fatally shot and $25,000 was stolen from the safe. Pam calls Clay and he says his gun wasn’t even loaded (WTF?) and Pam wants to go to the police but Clay doesn’t think they’ll be believed. No, probably not.
Michael’s begging Reva to take him to see Santa, but she keeps brushing him off. She and her dad drive to the store together and while she’s at the perfume counter Mitch asks to talk to her. They go to the stock room behind electronics where Reva lets him kiss her and then stops it. He says Lissa broke up with him and now he wants to ask her out, but because she thinks he’s such a wimp she wonders what she ever saw in him so she says no. He gets angry, saying she can’t keep playing with people (which she can’t) and he throws a bench. She says she already has [played with people] and thinks him a baby for the tantrum and walks away, leaving him there.
When Reva gets back to the counter the girl at cosmetics tells her about a package that came for her and it’s a big box wrapped in brown paper and a bid, red ribbon. Reva opens it and finds a corpse and screams.
The corpse is just a mannequin and it comes with a card torturing Reva. Now Reva’s really freaking out.
Meanwhile Pam, Mickey, and Clay are all twitchy at Mickey’s house, trying to figure out why they weren’t caught yet. Clay can’t get a hold of Maywood. The phone rings and Pam answers it. It’s someone with a gruff voice saying he knows what they did and he wants a cut.
Pam’s with Foxy and she ends up confessing everything after she gets a call at her house from that same gruff-voiced guy demanding $10,000 to keep quiet. Foxy ends up being concerned and understanding, but when he tells her to go to the police she won’t because they won’t believe them and Clay won’t do it. So they go over to Mickey’s house to see Clay. When Pam tells him about the phone call he says he’ll kill the guy. And because Clay only ever says what he means Pam begs him to reassure her that he’s kidding.
Reva confronts Hank and practically begs him to stop trying to scare her. Only he has no idea what she’s talking about. She thinks he hates her because of the way she dumped him and she actually apologizes for how cruel she was, but he only feels sorry for her. Everyone hates her and she doesn’t have any friends. She tries to deny it but when Hank asks her to name one close friend she can’t and she breaks down in Hank’s arms, blaming her mom’s death for her behavior.
Pam’s trying to get a hold of Foxy and Reva but Foxy’s phone is busy and Reva’s not answering. Since it’s warmer out she decides to walk to Foxy’s house. She’s dwelling on how great a guy he is when someone jumps out and grabs her, covering her mouth and dragging her into the bushes.
The man with the raspy voice holds Pam tight and threatens her, demanding $10,000 or he’ll go to the police. She tries to tell him they didn’t take any money but he doesn’t listen. He shoves her away and Pam turns around and recognizes who it is and he attacks.
Pam’s dazed and coming to with a couple of headlights in her face. Foxy pulls up and asks who that was. When the world stops tilting Pam exclaims he’ll never guess who’s blackmailing them.
Reva actually gets to the store early only to find Mitch and Robb fighting in the stock room. Mr Dawson breaks them up and sends Robb off but not before Mitch blames Robb for the fight, attacking him unprovoked.
Later in the day Reva takes Michael to see Santa and he complains that it’s not the real Santa because there was a pillow under his jacket. Reva had assumed it was Robb but this detail says it’s not.
After Reva drops Michael off at her dad’s office she makes her way back to the perfume counter only to find another carton with a big ribbon and bow on it. Promising herself not to freak out over nothing she opens it only to find a bloody Mitch inside with a knife between his shoulders.
Reva dwells on who could kill Mitch as the police and all the authorities come and do their thing. Lissa cries on the counter and for the first time in years Reva wants to cry too.
She forces herself to sleep then bolts awake in the middle of the night saying she knows who killed Mitch. Of course she does.
Mitch had been the one blackmailing them. He was at the store watching them that night and now that he’s dead Pam’s asking Clay if he did it.
They’re at Mickey’s house and Pam’s badgering him with Mickey waffling. Clay’s being kind of coy and elusive and Mickey and Clay almost get into a fight and Mr Wakely kicks them out. Mickey says he believes Clay and Clay gives him this creepy smile that sends a chill down Pam’s back.
Reva tells her dad she has a theory about Mitch’s death but she has to show him. They get to the store and go to the security monitors where Reva has Hank bring up Santa Land. There she proves that Santa isn’t Robb but it’s supposed to be him and then she mentions the pillow thing Michael mentioned.
Police come and arrest Robb straight out of Santa Land. Reva and her dad are already there when Pam bursts in yelling to Foxy. Because Foxy = Robb (Finkle is Einhorn).
Okay. I have to admit I didn’t see that coming. Even in hindsight I think that’s pretty well-hidden.
As they drag him away he yells about doing it for Pam in order to show Reva, but neither Reva nor Pam knows what he’s talking about. That doesn’t stop Pam from death-glaring Reva anyway.
Reva busies herself at the makeup counter, actually doing her job. When she leaves she leaves alone because Daddy had to stay late for a meeting. Pam’s waiting for her and they talk. Pam insists that Robb couldn’t have killed Mitch. He’d snuck away to see her, but Robb was the person sending Reva those gifts because he was angry with the way Reva treated Pam and how Reva tricked him. But he didn’t kill Mitch. Reva believes her, they hug, and Reva apologizes to Pam.
Pam was giving Reva a ride home when Reva realizes he forgot her bag. Pam turns around and Reva runs into the store. It’s dark except for the Christmas lights and Silent Night playing over the speakers. She makes her way upstairs to find someone still at the security monitors. She calls out to Hank but quickly realizes it’s not him but Mr Wakely with a gun.
Enter the killer’s monologue—Mr Walkey was working with Maywood. It was him and Maywood that took the money. Maywood said three kids were planning on robbing the store and they could be a distraction for the other guard. Only when Mr Wakely stepped out and saw it was Mickey he couldn’t just leave it. The other guard was going to shoot Mickey so Mr Wakely shot him first. When he left he saw Mitch hanging around outside the store. When Mitch started blackmailing Mickey Mr Wakely couldn’t abide that so he killed Mitch and stuffed him into a carton—that was already addressed to Reva so it got delivered all over again.
Then Reva bolts and Mr Wakely runs after her, shooting at her. She ends up with her back to the railing, not making it to Daddy’s office, and Mr Wakely lunges.
Reva ducks and Mr Wakely sails over her like a cartoon and plummets five stories onto the Christmas tree that promptly shorts out and electrocutes Mr Wakely to death. Hank comes running over saying he got the whole confession on tape and he’s sorry he couldn’t get there sooner. Reva collapses in his arms.
They end up at the police station. Robb had just been released and he, Reva, and Hank are waiting for Pam. She comes out with her parents and says there’s going to be a hearing. Mickey’s won’t be until after his dad’s funeral and Clay’s is the following week. Until her hearing Pam’s in her parents’ custody. As a minor isn’t that already the case?
Reva’s thawed out and actually feels things again. Apparently this absolves her of years of shitty behavior and she and Hank are back together like okay this is fine.
You know, the story would have been a whole hell of a lot better had we not had a total shit stain of a character as the dominant protagonist. Ugh. Reva is awful. Not even a real shred of likability until the very end and by then? Too little, too late. So kill her all you’d like. I don’t care.
Pam was by far more sympathetic, as was pretty much everyone else since nearly all of them ended up on the receiving end of Reva’s taint. Removing Reva, the character, the story’s really not that bad. I mean you don’t even have to remove her. Just make her take a step or two back and let someone else be the main character. Get out of her head, please. It’s nasty in there.
But death by Christmas tree. Only the best. Truly.