***Special thanks to Angie Brillhart of Barbour Books for sending me a review copy.***
“Shhhhhhh!” Sydney told Bailey. “What was that noise?”
“What noise?” asked Bailey.
“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” commanded her new friend.
The two listened with all their focused energy. Then, there it was. Footsteps. Large, heavy footsteps.
The girls stood in terrified uncertainty.
Sydney gasped as the eerie shriek filled the air.
Yahahoho ho ho!
Bailey trembled uncontrollably as the crazy, unworldly laugh followed.
“Run!” Sydney screamed. The two dashed as fast as their legs could carry them, back toward the camp. Sydney stopped twice, waiting for Bailey’s shorter legs to catch up.
Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth sat in the middle of the dusty road, trying to cram her underwear back into her suitcase before anyone saw. I thought wheels were supposed to make a suitcase easier, she thought. Instead, the rolling blue luggage had tipped over three times before it finally popped open, leaving her belongings strewn in the street.
Suddenly, she was nearly barreled over by two girls running frantically. “Run for your life!” the smaller one cried. “It’s after us!”
“Whoa, calm down,” Elizabeth focused on the terrified girls.
The taller one panted. “Something’s back there!”
Elizabeth looked toward the golf course but saw nothing. She noticed that the smaller girl seemed to struggle for air, and her protective instincts took over. “Calm down. You’ll be okay.”
“Need. . .inhaler,” gasped the girl.
Elizabeth sprang into action, digging through the girl’s backpack until she found a small blue inhaler. Then she helped hold it steady while the slight girl gasped in the medication. The taller girl kept looking toward the miniature golf course they’d just left. “Sorry,” the small girl whispered. “I’m supposed to keep that in my pocket, but I got so excited I forgot.”
“I’m Elizabeth. Why don’t you tell me what happened.”
“I’m Bailey,” said the short, dark-haired girl. “Bailey Chang.”
“And I’m Sydney Lincoln,” said the tall, dark-skinned girl with beaded braids. “We were at the golf course, and. . .and. . .”
“And something came after us!” exclaimed Bailey.
Elizabeth looked skeptical as she tucked a strand of long blond hair into the clip at the base of her neck.
“Is this your first year here? This is my third year here, and the most dangerous thing I’ve seen is a skunk.”
The girls giggled but didn’t look convinced. “Come with us. We’ll show you.” Bailey pulled Elizabeth back toward the golf course.
“I thought you were afraid of whatever it was! Why do you want to go back there?” Elizabeth asked.
The young girl stood to her full height. “Because I am going to be a professional golfer. And I’m not going to let whatever that was bully me. I plan to practice my golf strokes while I’m here.”
“Will you tell me exactly what happened?” Elizabeth asked Sydney.
Sydney looked each girl in the eye and spoke slowly. “Something or someone is in the woods by the golf course. And it wasn’t a friendly.” She paused for dramatic effect. “And. . .it came after us.”
Kate Oliver leaned back on her bed and smiled. Yes! I got the bed by the window! she thought. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get good reception for my laptop and cell phone. She tucked a strand of blond hair behind her ear. It was too short to stay there, and just long enough to drive her crazy.
Bam! The cabin’s outer door slammed, and Kate heard voices. Pushing her black-framed glasses up on her nose, she sat up. Two girls entered the room, giggling and talking.
“I can’t believe I’m finally here! This is so cool. And look at this cute little dorm room! It’s just like the cabin in The Parent Trap! Oh, hello!” The fun-looking brunette with piercing blue eyes greeted Kate. “I’m Alex Howell. Alexis, really, but nobody calls me that except my mother. I am so excited! This will be the best two weeks ever!”
Kate smiled and reached to shake the girl’s hand. “Kate Oliver,” she said. “Welcome to cabin 12B.” She looked at the other girl.
The girl’s freckles matched her curly auburn hair, and she offered a friendly smile. “Hi there. I’m McKenzie Phillips.”
The two girls looked at Elizabeth stubbornly, as if needing to prove their story to her. Hearing another bus pull up, Elizabeth remembered her belongings, which were still lying in the middle of the road.
“I’ll tell you what. You help me get this awful suitcase to cabin 12B, and then I’ll walk to the golf course with you. Deal?”
Bailey’s mouth dropped open, and Sydney’s eyes widened.
“You’re in cabin 12B?” asked Sydney.
“That’s our cabin!” exclaimed Bailey.
Now it was Elizabeth’s turn to be surprised. “You’re kidding! Wow. It is a small world. Okay, roomies, help me hide my underwear before the entire camp sees, and we’ll be on our way.”
The girls gathered the strewn articles of clothing. Bailey held up one particular article of clothing and giggled. “Tinkerbell? Seriously, you have Tinkerbell on your . . .”
Elizabeth snatched the unmentionables from Bailey, crammed them in her suitcase, and snapped it shut. “Not another word, shorty!” Elizabeth scolded, but with a twinkle in her eye. The three girls chattered all the way to cabin 12B. As they approached the cabin, the two younger girls pulled their luggage out from behind some bushes.
“We sat together on the bus from the airport, and we both wanted to see the golf course before we did anything else. So we stowed our suitcases here until we got back,” explained Sydney.
Elizabeth laughed. With these two as roommates, this year’s camp experience would be far from dull.
The girls entered the cabin and located room B to the right. Three girls were already there, smiling and laughing.
“Hello, I’m Elizabeth. I guess we’ll be roommates!” She tossed her things on the lower bunk closest to the door, and Sydney placed her things on the bunk above that. Bailey took the top bunk next to Sydney. After an awkward pause, McKenzie stepped forward.
“I’m McKenzie Phillips,” she said. “I’m thirteen, and I’m from White Sulphur Springs, Montana.”
Alex bounced forward. “I’m Alexis Howell, Alex for short. I’m twelve, and I’m from Sacramento.”
“Sydney. Twelve. Washington, D.C.”
“Oh, that is so cool. Do you know the president?” asked Bailey, and everyone laughed. “I’m Bailey Chang. I’m nine, and I’m from Peoria, Illinois. And just so you’ll all know, I plan to be the next Tiger Woods. I’ll be glad to sign autographs, if you want. They’ll be worth money some day.”
Elizabeth stepped forward. “I’ll take one, Bailey. I’ll sell it and use the money for college. I’m Elizabeth Anderson, fourteen, from Amarillo, Texas.”
“Well, I guess that leaves me,” said Kate. “Kate Oliver, eleven, Philadelphia.”
Alexis jumped up and down. “Oh, this will be so much fun! Kate brought her laptop with her. I have the coolest roommates ever!”
Everyone’s attention turned to Kate’s bed, which was covered with a laptop and several small gadgets. “What is all that stuff?” asked Sydney. The girls gathered around Kate’s bed and watched her pull items out of a black backpack.
“It’s like a magician’s bag. It has no bottom,” mused McKenzie.
Kate laughed. “My dad teaches robotics at Penn State, so he’s always bringing home little devices to test out. Some of them are really helpful. Some of them are just fun to play with.”
One by one, she pulled the oddly shaped gadgets out of her bag, describing the functions of each.
“This is my cell phone. It can take pictures and short video clips, has a GPS tracker, a satellite map, Internet access, a motion sensor, a voice recorder, and about a zillion other things!” Aiming it at the others, she said, “Say cheese!”
The other girls leaned together and smiled. “Cheeeeeeeeeeeeese!”
Kate saved the picture, then passed the phone to the others and dug through her backpack again. “This digital recorder can record conversations up to thirty feet away.”
Sydney squinted her eyes. “You’re kidding! That thing is the size of a contact lens! Let me see!” Kate handed her the recorder and kept digging.
“This is a reader,” she continued, holding up a small penlike device.
“A what?” asked McKenzie.
“A reader. You run it across words on a page, and it records them to memory. Like a small scanner.”
“That is so cool! I had no idea stuff like this existed!” McKenzie examined the reader.
“Here, I have my Bible. Will you show us how the reader works?” Elizabeth grabbed a worn Bible from her bag and handed it to Kate.
“Sure. You turn it on by pressing this button, and. . .” She ran the pen over a page in Psalms.
Elizabeth giggled. “I’ve heard of hiding God’s Word in your heart, but never in your pen!”
The gadget girl suddenly stopped her display to announce, “Hey, I’m starved. Is anybody else hungry?”
“It’s almost dinnertime,” announced Elizabeth. “But first, we have some business to take care of at the golf course.”
The girls listened as Sydney and Bailey described their experience.
“Whoa, cool!” exclaimed Alex. “We have a mystery on our hands! Why don’t we go right now and check it out?”
“Why don’t we eat first?” called out Kate. “Starving girl here, remember?” The others laughed at the petite girl whose stomach was growling loudly.
Since it was almost dinnertime, the group decided to head to the dining hall first. Bailey led the way, taking over as tour guide.
“Wait for me,” called Alex. “I need to grab my lip gloss!” She shoved strawberry Lip Smackers into her pocket.
The group wandered through the camp, with Bailey pointing out different sites. Suddenly, she stopped. “Well, guys, I hate to tell you this. . .but I have no idea how to get to the dining hall from here.”
“It’s this way,” stated Elizabeth. “You’ll get your bearings. My first year here, it took me the whole time before I could find my way around. But I get lost in a closet.”
McKenzie spoke up. “Come on, girls, let’s go. Remember, Kate’s about to starve. We wouldn’t want her to waste away to nothing.”
Everyone laughed at Kate, who pretended to be nearly fainting. “I need sustenance, and I need it now!”
The group arrived at the dining hall with seven minutes to spare. They stood near the front of the line, and Elizabeth said, “Get ready for a long meal. The camp director will explain all the camp rules, introduce the counselors, and tell us more than we want to know about Camp Discovery Lake.”
“Terrific.” Bailey sighed. “I wanted to visit the golf course before dark.”
“Don’t worry,” said Alex. “After the story you and Sydney told, I think we all want to find out what’s down there.”
“Really?” Bailey said. “You’ll all come?”
“You bet!” said McKenzie. “The girls of cabin 12B stick together!”
The sun was dipping behind the horizon by the time the girls left the dining hall.
“Hooray! We can finally go to the golf course!” Bailey called.
“We’d better hurry. It’s getting dark,” said Elizabeth.
“Yeah, and after the story you and Sydney told, I certainly don’t want to be there after dark,” added Kate.
The girls scurried while chattering about the different camp activities they wanted to try. Before they knew it, the sun was gone and they could barely see the road. “Why is the golf course so far away from the main camp?” asked Alex nervously.
Sydney laughed. “So nobody will get hit on the head with a stray golf ball!”
Suddenly, a voice called out from the woods.
“Who? Who? Who?”
“What was that?” whispered Bailey.
“Who?” came the voice again.
McKenzie giggled. “You city girls don’t know much about the country, do you? That was an owl!”
The others burst into laughter as the voice called again, “Who?”
“I’m Sydney! Who are you?” Sydney shouted, and the laughter continued.
“It sure does get dark here, doesn’t it?” said Kate. “It never gets this dark in the city.”
“Are we close to the golf course?” asked Alex.
“It doesn’t seem nearly as far in the daytime,” Elizabeth told her.
They continued, each trying to seem brave. The trees that had seemed friendly and protecting in the daytime now loomed like angry giants. The girls’ steps became slower and slower as they struggled to see where they were stepping.
Finally, Kate stopped and looked at the sky through the trees. “Look, everybody! It’s the Big Dipper!” The other five girls looked to where she pointed.
“Wow, the sky is beautiful. It’s so dark, and the stars are so bright,” whispered Sydney.
“The stars are never this bright in Sacramento,” Alex commented. “The city lights are brighter. Hey, this reminds me of an episode of Charlie’s Angels, where the Angels’ car broke down in the middle of nowhere, and they had to use the stars to find their way home.”
The girls were so focused on the sky that they didn’t notice the image moving toward them. Kate was the first to lower her eyes, and she blinked in confusion. Adjusting her eyeglasses, she whispered, “Uh, guys?”
The girls continued pointing out the brightest stars.
Kate tried to make her voice louder, but terror kept it to a soft squeak. “G–g–guys?” The image moved closer, but still, no one heard her. Finally, Kate grabbed Sydney’s sleeve. “Wh–wh–what is that?” she squeaked.
Sydney looked. “Oh, my word! What in the world is that?”
The girls saw a white stripe in the road, moving slowly, steadily toward them. They were frozen, until Elizabeth yelled, “Skunk!”
Camp Discovery Lake resounded with shrieks and squeals as the girls ran back toward the cabins. McKenzie led the way with Alex close on her heels.
The girls didn’t slow down until they had burst through the door of cabin 12B. Falling onto the beds, they panted, then soon began giggling.
“Can you believe it? A skunk! We were scared of a little bitty skunk!” howled McKenzie.
“I don’t know about you, McKenzie, but I wasn’t about to smell like Pepe Le Pew out there!” retorted Alex, and the girls laughed even harder.
“Hey, Sydney, is that what scared you today? Some forest creature?”
Sydney and Bailey stopped giggling and looked at one another. “No,” they replied.
“Whatever we heard was not small,” said Bailey. “And it wasn’t friendly.”
“And it definitely came after us,” added Sydney.
This book takes place at Camp Discovery Lake. All the girls are staying in cabin 12. They are Sydney, Bailey, Elizabeth, Kate, Alexis, and McKenzie. They are all from different parts of the US. Who all become fast friends and stick together.