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I Know What You Did Last Summer

Lois Duncan

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  Table of Contents

  Q&A with the Author

  Copyright Page

  “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

  With slowly growing horror she stared at the letter, at the one black sentence that peered up at her from the smudged paper.…

  For Ginger Palmer


  The note was there, lying beside her plate when she came down to breakfast. Later, when she thought back, Julie would remember it. Small. Plain. Her name and address hand-lettered in stark black print across the front of the envelope.

  At the time, however, she had eyes only for the other letter, long and white and official. Hurriedly, she picked this up and paused, glancing across the table at her mother, who had just come in from the kitchen.

  “It’s here,” Julie said.

  “Well, aren’t you going to open it?” Mrs. James set the coffeepot down on its hot plate. “You’ve been waiting for this long enough. I would think you’d have had it open before you even sat down.”

  “I guess I’m scared,” Julie admitted. She slipped her forefinger under the corner of the flap. “Okay. Here goes.”

  Running her finger the length of the envelope, she drew out the folded sheet of stationery and smoothed it flat on the table.

  “Dear Ms. James,” she read aloud. “I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted—”

  “Oh, honey!” Her mother gave a little gasp of delight. “How wonderful!”

  “Accepted!” Julie repeated. “Mom, can you believe it? I’m accepted! I’m going to Smith!”

  Mrs. James came around the table and gave her daughter a warm hug.

  “I’m so proud of you, Julie, and your dad certainly would be too. If only he could have lived to have known about it, but—oh, there’s no sense in looking backward.” Her eyes were suspiciously bright. “Maybe he does know. I like to think so. And if not, I’m proud enough for the both of us.”

  “I can’t believe it,” Julie said. “I honestly can’t. When I took those tests, I felt as though I was missing so many questions. I guess I knew more than I thought I did.”

  “It’s your senior year that’s made this possible,” her mother said. “I’ve never seen such a change in anybody as in you this past year. The way you’ve buckled down and studied—you’ve been a completely different person. And, I’ll admit this now, it’s worried me a little.”

  “Worried you?” Julie exclaimed in surprise. “I thought you always dreamed of my going to the same college you did. Last year you were on me all the time about being out too much and never cracking a book and spending half my life at cheerleading practice.”

  “I know. It’s just that I never expected you to do such an about-face. I can almost pinpoint the day it happened. It was just about the time you broke up with Ray.”

  “Mom, I’ve told you—” Julie tried to keep her voice light despite the sudden shock of cold that hit her stomach. “Ray and I didn’t exactly break up. We just decided we were seeing too much of each other and we’d slow it down for a while. Then he left home and took off for the coast, and that took care of that.”

  “But to give up dating so completely—”

  “I haven’t,” Julie said impatiently. “I still go out some. In fact, Bud’s coming over tonight. That’s a date.”

  “Yes, there’s Bud. But that’s only been recently, and it’s not the same. He’s older, more serious about everything. Of course, I’m happy and proud that you’ve put in enough work to get accepted by a good East Coast college, but I wish you’d been able to balance it better. Somehow I have the feeling that you’ve missed a lot of the fun of your senior year.”

  “Well, you can’t have it all,” Julie said. Her voice sounded high and sharp, even to her own ears. The cold feeling in her stomach was spreading higher, up where it touched her heart. She shoved back her chair and got up. “I’m going up to my room. I’ve got to find my history notes.”

  “But you haven’t eaten,” Mrs. James exclaimed, gesturing toward the plate of scrambled eggs and toast, still untouched on the table.

  “I’m sorry,” Julie said. “I-I guess I’m too excited.”

  She could feel her mother’s worried gaze upon her as she left the table. Even after she was out of eyesight, the worry stayed with her as she climbed the stairs and went down the hall to her room.

  Mom knows too much, she thought. She has this funny way of knowing more than you ever tell her. “I’ve never seen such a change
in anybody,” her mother had said. “I can almost pinpoint the day…”

  But you can’t, Julie told her silently. Not really. And you shouldn’t try. Please, Mom, you shouldn’t ever try.

  She entered her bedroom and shoved the door shut. It closed with a sharp click, and her mother was left behind, back down in the breakfast room with the uneaten eggs and the coffeepot. The room closed protectively around her, a perfect room for a teenage girl who was pretty and loved and happy with herself, a girl who had never had a problem.

  Her mother had had the room decorated for her a little over a year ago, on her sixteenth birthday. “We’ll have it done in any color you want,” she had said. “You can choose.”

  “Pink,” Julie had said immediately. It was her favorite color, the one she wore most often, even though she had red hair.

  There was a pale pink T-shirt in the farthest corner of her closet, buried behind the other clothes. It had been new that night last summer. “You look like a rosebud with freckles,” Ray had teased her. The shirt looked great on her, but she had never worn it after that night. She would have given it away, if she had not been afraid that her mother might remember it sometime and ask what had become of it.

  Now she seated herself on the end of her bed, drawing deep, slow breaths while the cold within her faded and her heart grew still.

  This is dumb, Julie told herself firmly. It’s been almost a year since the thing happened. It’s over and done with, and I swore to myself I’d never think about it again. If I let myself get this uptight over some innocent little comment of Mom’s, I’ll wind up right back where I started, an absolute basket case.

  Across from her in the oval mirror over the bureau another Julie looked back at her, pale and unsmiling. I have changed, she thought with mild surprise. The girl in the mirror bore little resemblance to last year’s Julie, bubbly, bouncy, spark plug of the pep squad, the cheerleader with the smallest size and the biggest yell. This girl had shadows behind her eyes and a tightness about the mouth.

  You’re going to Smith, Julie told herself. Just keep that in mind, will you? You’re getting out of here in only a couple of months. You won’t be going to the university, you’ll be going east, away from this town, and the road, and the picnic area above it. You won’t be running into Ray’s mother at the drugstore. You won’t see Barry on campus or Helen on television. You’ll be out—free! A new place, new people, new things to do and think about, a whole new set of things to remember.

  She felt steadier now. Her breathing was slow again and even. She picked up the letter from Smith, which she had dropped on the bed beside her, and looked again at her name, neatly typed, on the official-looking envelope. She would take it to school with her, she decided; there were people there she could show it to. Not to any other students, especially—there wasn’t anyone she was that close to this year—but Mr. Price, her English teacher, would be happy for her, and Mrs. Busby, who taught American Studies.

  And tonight when Bud came over she would show it to him. He’d be impressed, and sorry, maybe, because she would be going away. Bud had been calling so often recently that it was possible he was getting more serious than he should be. It would be good for him to realize that this relationship wasn’t going to go anywhere, that it was just for now and in the fall she would be somewhere else.

  There was a rap on the bedroom door.

  “Julie?” her mother asked. “Are you keeping track of time, dear?”

  “Yes. No…I guess I wasn’t.” Julie got up off the bed and opened the door. “I was just sitting here, gloating over the acceptance. Honestly, I’d just about given up hoping. It’s been so long since I applied.”

  “I know,” Mrs. James said sympathetically. “And I didn’t mean to take the wind out of your sails by criticizing. I know how hard you’ve been working, and I’ve just been afraid you were overdoing it. I’m glad that now you can relax and enjoy your summer.”

  “I’m glad too,” Julie said.

  She put her arms around her mother and gave her an impulsive hug. Her mother’s arms came back around her, surprised and glad.

  I ought to hug her more often, Julie thought. I don’t deserve to have somebody like this for a mother. I love her so much, and I’m all she has since Daddy died. Now I’ll be going away and she’ll be alone, and still she’s happy for me.

  “Are you sure you’ll be okay?” she asked against her mother’s soft cheek. “Can you get along, do you think, with me so far away?”

  “Oh, I think so,” Mrs. James said with a catch in her voice that was supposed to pass for laughter. “I made out all right before you were born, didn’t I? I’ll keep busy. I’ve been thinking that maybe I’ll go back to work full time.”

  “Would you like that?” Julie asked. Her mother had been a home economics teacher before her marriage, and since her husband’s death eight years ago, she had been working as a substitute.

  “I think I would. It would be nice to have my own class again. With you out of the nest there won’t be anyone to need me at home, so it’s time to be needed somewhere else.”

  “I did lose track of time,” Julie said apologetically. “I’d better get going.”

  Her mother glanced at her watch. “You are late. Would you like for me to drive you?”

  “That’s all right,” Julie told her. “I haven’t been late all year, so it won’t kill me to get a late slip today. And maybe I won’t. Mr. Price is a pretty nice guy about things like that.”

  She gathered up her books and history notes from the bedside table. Downstairs she paused long enough to rummage in the coin bowl on the sideboard for enough money to buy a Coke later.

  “I’ll see you after school,” she said. “Bud’s not picking me up till around eight, so there’s no reason we have to eat early. Are you going out anyplace?”

  “I don’t have any plans,” Mrs. James said. “Wait a minute, honey. You didn’t get your letter.”

  “Yes, I did. It’s here in my notebook.”

  “No, I mean the other one.” Her mother leaned across the table to pick up the second envelope, half-concealed by the edge of the egg plate. “There were two pieces of mail for you this morning. Not that this could possibly be as exciting as the first one.”

  “It’s the size of a party invitation, though I don’t know who would be inviting me to a party.” Julie took the small envelope from her mother’s hand. “That’s funny. It has big block printing and no return address.”

  She tore the envelope open and removed a folded sheet of lined paper.

  “Who is it from?” her mother called back over her shoulder as she carried the breakfast dishes into the kitchen. “Anybody I’ve ever heard of?”

  “No,” Julie said. “Nobody you know.”

  With slowly growing horror she stared at the letter, at the one black sentence that peered up at her from the smudged paper.

  I’m going to be sick, she thought. Her legs felt weak, and she reached out and caught hold of the edge of the table to steady herself.

  It’s a dream, she told herself hopefully. I’m not really awake and standing here in the dining room at all. I’m lying in bed upstairs, asleep, and this is only a nightmare like the ones I used to have back in the beginning. I’ll close my eyes, and when I open them I will wake up. It will be gone…the paper will be gone. It will never have been.

  So she closed her eyes, and when she opened them again the paper was still there in her hand with one short sentence printed on it:



  It was almost dusk when Barry Cox pulled out of the parking area behind the frat house and drove through the campus and then north on Madison to the Four Seasons Apartments.

  It was a familiar drive; in fact, he sometimes said jokingly to his frat brothers that the car knew it so well that it could drive there by itself.

  “Sure it won’t get confused?” they joked back. “It knows the way to a couple of other pads too

  “It keeps them straight,” Barry told them smugly. “It’s got a GPS.”

  It was true that Helen wasn’t the only girl Barry went out with, though he was pretty sure that he was the only guy she was seeing. Crazy too, because living where she did, in an apartment complex full of singles, and looking like a swimsuit model, and holding her showy job—well, there were bound to be plenty of werewolves howling under her window.

  That was one reason he continued seeing her on a regular basis. He hadn’t planned to once high school was over. A college man had a wide territory, and there were some pretty hot girls on the University campus who would be easy to hook up with, no strings attached. Then, when Helen had been handed that job as Future Star, it had changed things. A guy would have to be nuts to throw over the Channel Five Future Star.

  Now as he pulled into the Four Seasons parking lot, he grinned to himself. Helen was doing all right for an eighteen-year-old who hadn’t even finished high school. His mother had gone through the ceiling when she learned about Helen’s dropping out at the end of her junior year. “It proves what I’ve said from the beginning,” she had told him. “A person is the result of her background. That girl isn’t your kind, Barry; I don’t understand how you ever started dating her.”

  Which, of course, was part of the reason—he knew it would bug his mother. And then there were her looks. Helen was beauty queen material, and the fact was already beginning to pay off for her. Not many girls her age had their ownapartments without even having to split the cost with a roommate. Helen’s older sister, Elsa, was still living at home, stashing away half her earnings as a cashier in a department store, hoping that maybe someday, in a year or so, she might be able to make the break and get her own little hole-in-the-wall. And here was Helen with her own car, trendy clothes, anything she wanted, and not a worry in the world.

  So what had she been so upset about on the phone? That call had surprised him. Helen wasn’t like a lot of girls, always calling their boyfriends. She seldom even texted him unless there was a definite reason.