Don't Look Behind YouLois Duncan
Table of Contents
Q&A with the Author
“There are a lot of smart authors, and a lot of authors who write reasonably well. Lois Duncan is smart, writes darn good books and is one of the most entertaining authors in America.”
—Walter Dean Myers, Printz award–winning author of Monster and Dope Sick
“She knows what you did last summer. She knows how to find that secret evil in her characters’ hearts, evil that she turns into throat-clutching suspense in book after book. Does anyone write scarier books than Lois Duncan? I don’t think so.”
—R. L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps and Fear Street series
“I couldn’t be more pleased that Lois Duncan’s books will now reach a new generation of readers.”
—Judy Blume, author of Forever and Tiger Eyes
“Lois Duncan has always been one of my biggest inspirations. I gobbled up her novels, reading them again and again and scaring myself over and over. She’s a master of suspense, so prepare to be dazzled and spooked!”
—Sara Shepard, author of the Pretty Little Liars series
“Lois Duncan’s books kept me up many a late night reading under the covers with a flashlight!”
—Wendy Mass, author of A Mango-Shaped Space, Leap Day and Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall
“Lois Duncan is the patron saint of all things awesome.”
—Jenny Han, author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series
“Duncan is one of the smartest, funniest and most terrifying writers around—a writer that a generation of girls LOVED to tatters, while learning to never read her books without another friend to scream with handy.”
—Lizzie Skurnick, author of Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading
“Haunting and suspenseful—Duncan’s writing captures everything fun about reading!”
—Suzanne Young, author of The Naughty List series and A Need So Beautiful
“In middle school and high school, I loved Lois Duncan’s novels. I still do. I particularly remember Killing Mr. Griffin, which took my breath away. I couldn’t quite believe a writer could do that. I feel extremely grateful to Lois Duncan for taking unprecedented risks, challenging preconceptions and changing the young adult field forever.”
—Erica S. Perl, author of Vintage Veronica
“Killing Mr. Griffin taught me a lot about writing. Thrilling stuff. It was one of the most requested and enjoyed books I taught with my students. I think it’s influenced most of my writing since.”
—Gail Giles, author of Right Behind You and Dark Song
“If ever a writer’s work should be brought before each new generation of young readers, it is that of Lois Duncan.The grace with which she has led her life—a life that included a tragedy that would have brought most of us to our knees—is reflected in her writing, particularly in I Know What You Did Last Summer. Her stories, like Lois herself, are ageless.”
—Chris Crutcher, author of Angry Management, Deadline and Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes
“Lois Duncan’s thrillers have a timeless quality about them. They are good stories, very well told, that also happen to illuminate both the heroic and dark parts of growing up.”
—Marc Talbert, author of Dead Birds Singing, A Sunburned Prayer and Heart of a Jaguar
I could not move.
I was incapable of screaming.
All I could do was stand there, frozen with shock, as the reincarnation of my worst childhood nightmare stared back at me.
For Jim and Mary Lavin, Betsy, Jamie and Michael, and, of course, Clare
The world as we knew it ended for us on a Tuesday afternoon in May. There were four of us in the family, if you didn’t count Lorelei. Our last name was Corrigan. My father worked for an airline called Southern Skyways, and my mother was an author of children’s books. My little brotherBram—George Bramwell, Jr.—was a third grader at Crestwood Elementary School. His claim to fame was that he had one blue eye and one brown one. My name was April, and I was a junior at Springside Academy. My claim to fame was that I was a killer tennis player.
Except for the size of the family, none of that is true anymore. We lived in Norwood, Virginia, not very far south of Washington, D.C. Spring is a magical time of year in Virginia; I awoke to a morning filled with sunshine and birdsong. I lay there in bed for a while, too comfortable to make the effort to get up, enjoying the gentle warmth of the sun on my eyelids and the faint, sweet scents drifting up from the backyard garden.
If I close my eyes today, I can still smell those flowers. They were hyacinths, I think.
After a time, the clock on the table next to my bed gave a threatening click, and I reached over blindly to punch the switch to keep the alarm from going off. Then I opened my eyes to the beauty of the day. Sunlight poured in through the open window, and the crystal prism Steve had given me for my seventeenth birthday two weeks earlier to symbolize “a year that will be filled with rainbows” twisted and spun on the end of its thread, creating a multicolored kaleidoscope on the wall across from it.
Mine was an unusual room for someone in high school. My best friend, Sherry Blaugrand, whose bedroom walls were covered with posters of rock stars, liked to refer to it as “Princess April’s Chamber.” The furniture in the “chamber” was composed of antiques handed down by my grandmother, Lorelei, when she sold her house. The four-poster bed and the matching chest of drawers were cherry wood, and an oval mirror in an ornate gold frame hung over the dresser. In one corner there was a rocking chair with hand-carved arms and a blue velvet cushion, and opposite that stood a camphorwood chest that my grandparents had brought back from a trip to Asia.
But the room was not just a reflection of Lorelei. There was a bookcase crammed with my favorite books and a stereo with an iPod dock next to the bed. A shelf beneath the window was lined with tennis trophies, and on the dresser Steve Chandler’s face grinned mischievously out at me from a borderless picture frame.
There was something about that grin that was contagious. I blinked sleep from my eyes and smiled back at the boy in the photograph. Then I let my gaze flick past him to the door of the closet. Prom was only four days away, and in that closet hung my first full-length gown.
Sitting up, I swung my legs over the side and got out of bed. As I passed in front of the window on my way to the bathroom, a breeze slipped in to ruffle the curtains, and the prism hanging from the curtain rod twirled gaily, spattering my cotton pajamas with rainbows.
I brushed my teeth, got dressed, and spent several minutes twisting my long blond hair into a French braid. Then I got panicked about time and hurried downstairs. My mom and brother were already seated at the table in the kitchen, and our fat golden cocker, Porky, was positioned beneath it. Bram was busily burying his cereal under a layer of sugar, and Mom was too engrossed in the morning paper to notice. In front of her sat a coffee mug with i do the job write printed on it. It was filled to the brim with thick, black liquid that looked like the residue from a tar pit.
“Anything new on the trial?” I asked by way of greeting.
“If there is, it’s not in the paper,” said Mom.
“I wish they’d get things settled so Dad could come home,” I said. “You’d think at least they’d let him commute on weekends.”
I got a glass from the cupboard and a carton from the refrigerator and poured myself some orange juice.
Mom raised her eyes from the paper and zeroed in on Bram. “Don’t tell me you’re putting sugar on that presweetened cereal!”
“Only a little,” Bram said, pressing down on the mound with his spoon so it disappeared into a rising sea of milk.
/> “You don’t need any,” said Mom. “Not with Corrigan teeth! Last time you went to the dentist he found three cavities!”
As always, when things came down on him, Bram changed the subject.
“Can I sleep over at Chris’s Saturday night?”
“I thought he was spending the night over here on Friday.”
“He is,” Bram said, “but Saturdays are two-for-one nights at Video Plus. We’re going to rent all the Harry Potter movies.”
“What’s going to happen when you guys grow up?” I asked him. “Will you and Chris build houses next door to each other?”
“We’re going to marry sisters,” Bram informed me. “We’ll live together, and we’ll all take turns cooking.”
“Sit down and eat some breakfast, April,” said Mom. “You can’t make it through till lunchtime on nothing but orange juice.”
“I don’t have time,” I told her. “I’m running late today. Steve will be coming by for me any minute now.”
As if in response to my words, a car horn beeped out front.
“What did I tell you?” I gulped the juice and plunked the empty glass down on the tabletop. “I won’t be home till late. I’ve got practice after school.”
In a matter of seconds I was out the door and halfway down the driveway. Steve’s Honda was pulled up at the curb with the engine idling. I dumped my books in through the window to free my hands so I could open the door. When I climbed into the front seat beside him, Steve reached over and hauled me across so he could kiss me good morning.
The kiss missed my mouth and landed on the tip of my nose.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” he teased me, giving my braid a threatening tug. He kissed me again, and this time his aim was better. “Mmmm. Toothpaste and orange juice, my two favorite flavors.”
“If you’d turned up three minutes later, I’d have tasted like cereal,” I said.
“Your mom’s got a campaign going for better breakfasts?”
“I don’t know what the deal with Mom is,” I told him. “She never used to get uptight with Dad out of town, but lately, whenever he’s gone, she starts spoon-feeding us.”
“What’s it been now, anyway? A couple of weeks?” Steve asked.
“Longer than that,” I told him. “Try three and a half.”
“Then give your mom a break. No wonder she’s edgy. Imagine if you and I were apart that long!”
Rotating the steering wheel with his left hand, he slid his right arm around me and pulled me against him. With a sigh of contentment I leaned my head back against his shoulder.
“You’re right,” I said. “Three weeks apart would be awful. I hope we never have to be separated three days.”
Steve and I had been going out since Christmas. We had found each other at a tree-trimming party at Sherry’s house. I use the term “found each other” because we didn’t actually meet there. We’d been casual acquaintances since back in middle school, when we had been on the Student Council together because we were presidents of our respective classes.
Even so, we hadn’t really gotten to know each other. In high school we seemed to move along parallel paths, glancing across to say hi, but not brushing shoulders. We never seemed to have any classes together, and whenever Steve had A lunch, I had B lunch. Besides, our extracurricular activities were different. I was into tennis and cheerleading, and Steve was involved in speech and debate and school government. When I went out with guys, which was often, it was usually the jocks, while Steve went out with brainy girls from the debate team.
That night at Sherry’s party the girl’s name was Valerie, and I was with a teammate named Bobby Charo. Bobby and I were fighting that evening. He’d been late picking me up, and in the car on the way to the party I had given him the silent treatment to retaliate. His response was to make a play for Valerie. She grabbed at that opportunity to make Steve jealous, so halfway through the evening Valerie and Bobby were draped all over each other as they danced in a shadowy corner of the Blaugrands’ basement, while Steve and I sat in front of the fireplace and drank cocoa.
Steve gestured toward our dates. “Well, what do you think? Is it possible they’re trying to tell us something?”
“I couldn’t care less what they’re trying to tell us,” I told him. “Bobby is free to dance with anybody he wants to. It’s not like we’re a couple. He’s just a friend.” Honestly though, I was absolutely furious. I wasn’t used to being treated so rudely. Bobby had been showing me so much attention at tennis practice that I had expected him to be adoring all evening.
Steve set down his cup and reached for my hand. “Who needs ‘friends’ like those two? Come on, let’s dance.”
He pulled me to my feet and out onto the dance floor. It was obvious that he was a much better dancer than Bobby. Within minutes I was leaning comfortably into the warmth of his body, drifting effortlessly along to the slow, sweet beat of the music.
“I’ve always thought it would be cool to dance cheek to cheek,” Steve murmured. “Now at last I’ve found a girl who’s tall enough to do it with.”
His cheek was smooth against mine, and his breath smelled faintly of chocolate, and a piece of tinsel from the Christmas tree was caught in his thick, dark hair. Over his shoulder the tree lights twinkled like red and green fireflies, and beyond that the fire filled the room with a golden glow. Magic was all around us, and I realized to my astonishment that I would not care if I never saw Bobby again. When the song was over I started to go sit down, but Steve pulled me back.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked in an injured voice. “Are you going to force me to dance with my chin in the hair of some midget?”
“A fate worse than death!” I said, laughing, and stepped back into his arms. I didn’t leave those arms for the rest of the evening.
When the party was over and Bobby appeared dutifully at my elbow, Steve gave him a look that would have frozen the ears off a snowman.
“If we’re swapping dates, then let’s do it right,” he said. “You take Valerie home, and I’ll take April.”
Later, when I described to Sherry what had happened, she said, “What did you expect? Who else would Princess April end up with but Prince Charming?” There was a note of undisguised envy in her voice. Sherry had been into Steve since the beginning of the school year.
Now, almost five months later, the magic had not lessened. In fact, with each passing day, it seemed to be growing.
“So what’s up with your dad?” Steve asked as we drove to school. “You’ve never explained why he’s stuck up there in Washington. What’s his connection with that guy who’s charged with drug running?”
“Mr. Loftin is one of the bigwigs at Southern Skyways,” I said. “He and Dad have traveled together on business trips to South America, but of course there’s no way my father’s involved in the drug scene. He wouldn’t recognize cocaine if it was sprinkled on his cereal.”
“Maybe the fact that he’s a straight arrow is what makes him valuable,” Steve suggested. “The defense might be planning to use him as a character witness.”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” I told him. “Dad hasn’t been allowed to discuss it with us. Until he gets back, all we know is what we read in the papers.”
Steve steered the car into the student parking lot. Then he and I got out and walked across to the school building. The first bell was already ringing as we stepped through the doorway, and that was the start of my last day at Springside Academy.
It was an ordinary school day, no different from any other. In world history, Mrs. Winnender delivered an hour’s oration on ancient Rome. In English class, Mr. Peyton assigned us the whole last act of Hamlet, and we all groaned appropriately. There was a sub for algebra who gave us permission to do whatever we wanted just as long as we stayed at our desks and talked in whispers. Business as usual, nothing to prepare me for a crisis, nothing to set the stage for End of Our World Day. Since Steve and I didn’t have lunch
the same period, I ate in the school cafeteria with Sherry and some other girls. Then, after lunch, my tennis partner, Jodi Simmons, and I went out to the gym to see if Coach Malloy had posted the seeding for the state tournament. He had, and we were pleased to find we were first in women’s doubles and that I was first, and Jodi second, in women’s singles.
Steve was waiting for me at my locker when the bell rang, and we coordinated our plans for the rest of the day. Steve had an appointment after school to get measured for his prom tux, but he said he’d be back to pick me up after tennis practice. Then, since he’d taken Shakespeare the year before, he offered to spend the evening explaining Hamlet to me.
“Catch you later,” Steve told me as we split forces.
“Later,” I responded with perfect happiness.
The first of my afternoon classes was computers with Mrs. Guthrie. That day there was a timed assignment that involved long columns of numbers, and I was concentrating so hard on increasing my typing speed that I almost didn’t react when I heard my name called.
“April?” The voice broke into my consciousness. “April Corrigan, you’re wanted in the counselor’s office.”
I glanced up then and saw the student messenger standing by Mrs. Guthrie’s desk.
“Do you want me to finish the assignment first?” I asked.
“No, you’d better go now,” the teacher said. “And take your things. You might not make it back before the end of the period.”
More curious than worried, I gathered up my books and papers and logged off the computer. Keyboards were rattling away like a barrage of machine guns as I walked down the aisle between the rows of tables. Nobody dared lose momentum by glancing up at me. Even Sherry, whose desk was three in front of mine, didn’t raise her eyes from her computer screen as I passed her. I didn’t get to say a single good-bye.
By the time I left the room, the messenger had long since gone, so I made my trek to the counselor’s office alone. Except for a monitor stationed at the foot of the stairway and a girl who was getting a drink at the water fountain, the hall was empty. Without its usual cargo of aromatic teenagers, it smelled benignly of chewing gum and chalk dust, with a faint aroma of pot smoke near the boys’ restroom. The door to Mrs. Winnender’s room stood partly open, and as I passed, I could hear her voice, wearier than it had been that morning, still rattling away about Rome in its era of splendor. Aside from that the only sound in the hall was the hollow click of my footsteps bouncing back from the rows of lockers that lined the walls.