Chapter no 13

My Heart Is a Chainsaw

After a thorough search of her coveralls turns her charging cable up, Jade plugs into a socket, gets no little lightning bolt on her screen, which doesn’t surprise her in the least. This isn’t a romcom, after all. But then, on what feels like a lark, she unscrews the lightbulb in the sconce on the wall above the socket and hits the switch on the wall.

Magic. Juice starts pouring into her phone. While it’s charging, Jade walks up and down the hallway of whoever’s house she’s in. Out in Terra Nova—over all of Pleasant Valley

—dusk is coming in, the light going granular, the lake darkening to ink. Every few minutes she paranoids out, sure her phone isn’t on vibrate, that it’s going to ring with alerts and give her position away. And when it’s not that, then she’s just as certain that the front door’s about to open, that Theo Mondragon’s going to be wading in behind a weed whacker or jackhammer or even just a random board. A length of 2 x 4 would do the job on her just fine. Or even just a dry-cleaning bag pulled tight over her head, Black Christmas–style.

Speaking of: has there ever been an Independence Day slasher?

Yes: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. And also I Know What You Did Last Summer. More important, why does the Fourth matter to Theo Mondragon? Jade knocks on her forehead with the knuckle of her thumb, tells herself to wait for tomorrow night, all will be revealed at the Reveal, dummy, it’s not your job to figure it all out.

For right now, what she needs to concern herself with is

not being seen, plain and simple. Which should be easy,

with night falling. Just, the temptation to use her phone’s flashlight is strong in this one.

“Alone in the Dark, 1982,” she mumbles into the empty house, just to see if anybody gets it.

Silence. Good.

Jade promised herself to wait to use her phone until it hit ten percent, since under ten is when it tends to tank all at once, but she swipes into it at eight percent, dials before even checking the signal.

Her phone informs her that cellular data is temporarily unavailable.

“What the hell?” she asks, carrying her phone high to all corners of the room. Not even a blip, not even a thready iota of a dot that could stand up into a bar.

“Because this is horror,” she reminds herself. Not that it helps.

She executes a neat flipturn at the end of the hall, just allowing herself a glimpse of the big second-floor window before removing herself from the chance of being spotted through it.

But… didn’t she see Theo Mondragon on his cell over at Camp Blood? Didn’t Letha call her from the yacht the other night? How do Founders on the Proofrock side of the lake even call across for a ride?

Jade studies her settings to see if she’s the problem, but it’s not her. She shakes her phone because that always works, then shakes her head at how stupid she is.

So she can’t call the cavalry in. It would be a betrayal anyway, she tells herself. Indians run from the cavalry, not to them. But, were the Blackfeet the ones who scouted for Custer? Jade isn’t sure, and of course can’t look that up now. That was a hundred and fifty years ago, though. This is now. And Jade can’t stay up here all night. Staying put in a slasher is just setup for a blade coming through the door

you’re leaned up against, and splashing out your mouth.

Going slow, and knowing it’s hopeless from the get-go, Jade takes the stairs down one at a careful time, finally stepping into the long-shadowed kitchen, checking every cabinet for some leftover lunch or a stashed bag of jerky, half a bag of chips that got hidden at a last moment. She drinks from the faucet, only realizing afterward that the spigot is actually pull-down, pull-out—whatever the term is for those ones that come off, have a nifty little hose, can point wherever. Jade detaches it from its magnet base, aims it here and there around the room, understands it’s best she didn’t grow up with one of these. People with these over their sinks must be naive, overly trusting.

She magnets it back to its home, pats it like a good dog, which is exactly when a determined silhouette crosses from one side of the kitchen window to the other, not bothering to look in.

If Jade had been holding coffee to her lips, that mug would be in pieces on the expensive tile floor now. As-is, she just stands there, and a second later she knows that’s what saved her: she didn’t burst into motion in Theo Mondragon’s peripheral vision. She drops fast to her fingertips now, though, her legs gathered under her so she can explode whatever direction. When no doors creak open ten seconds later, then twenty, and when the air pressure inside the house doesn’t seem to change, signaling a door having opened, and when her bat ears can’t detect any floorboards taking on new weight, any rubber soles twisting for a better grip, she hustles into a room in the direction Theo Mondragon had been walking, just to confirm that he’s still moving away, not closer.

Through the window she sees him stepping into the one house she’s already been through.

Two minutes later he emerges, dragging Cowboy Boots— Cody, Cody Cody Cody—by his right heel, the rest of him wrapped in foggy plastic, Tina-style.

Theo Mondragon stands there casing the night for maybe thirty more seconds in which he pulls his own phone out, unlocks it, and stares into it, finally shaking it just as Jade did. His doesn’t get a signal either. He smiles to himself about it, though, nods, slips the phone back into his pocket, and walks a straight line out from Terra Nova, a flashlight or headlamp coming on once he’s in the trees. It dims a few steps later, then fades completely.

Jade wants to follow, wants to know, but her legs don’t agree.

Instead she counts under her breath until he steps back into the clearing she can see: six hundred and forty-one. Which has got to be something like ten minutes, right? Does he know of a cave over here to stash a body in? Has nothing changed since 1872?

Jade steps back from the kitchen window, careful not to be a body-shaped shadow against the tall silver rectangle the refrigerator is.

But he’s not coming for this house. Not even close to this one.

He goes to the third or fourth house back, his headlamp— she can see that now—a disc of yellow light against the windows from room to room until he steps back out onto the porch to turn the light off, his chest heaving, breath steaming.

He’s just staring at the yacht.

When he’s satisfied he’s alone, he hauls Mismatched Gloves out through the front door. Unlike Cody, Mismatched Gloves is belly-down. It’s because his back is bristling with dull golden nails. His face dribbles down the stairs, and when there’s a snag in the forward motion, making Theo Mondragon have to chock up on a shin, it’s because the top row of Mismatched Gloves’s teeth have caught on a step.

Jade blinks her eyes against the tears trying to spill, hates herself for them.

What she knows but doesn’t want to have to think is that Mismatched Gloves and Cody and Shooting Glasses shouldn’t have sold their friend for eight hundred dollars each. That’s got to be why Theo Mondragon’s doing this, doesn’t it? He found out about the accident, the coverup. So the first thing he does is take care of Deacon Samuels, who really should have known better. And now he’s taking care of the only witnesses.

If nobody knows the story about your big wonderful house, then it can just keep on being big and wonderful, can’t it? Kill the storytellers, kill the story.

Except Jade knows it too. Second-hand, but still.

“Sorry, Letha,” she says, and then shrinks forward when the voice comes from behind her, crawling over every last inch of her skin: “For what?”

It’s Letha, standing in the doorway by the refrigerator, cupping a Yankee candle at her sternum, the shadows on her face upside down, the wrongness sending a jolt up Jade’s spine that she has to consciously not let show.

She does wonder if she maybe just peed a little, though.

Or a lot.

“For trespassing,” Jade pulls out of the thinnest of thin air.

Letha steps in, says, “What are you looking at?” in a way that can either be charged honestly and innocently, which Jade so wants to believe, or can be charged with that cat-playing-with-its-food way, which would mean that Letha completely knew her dad wasn’t after wasps earlier. That she knew it was a different breed of pest getting taken care of. And yes, Mars Baker, a shotgun would have been more efficient. Good one, sir.


“Looking for the bear,” Jade says.

“It’s still around?” Letha says in either real or mock shock, holding the candle away so she can lean over the sink and study Terra Nova in the dark, her dad’s disc of light just

barely gone into the woods. Or, if not gone, then she doesn’t say anything about it.

“Don’t know,” Jade says. “That’s why I’m, y’know, looking.”

Every word that comes out of her mouth is stupider than the last.

“You’re running away, aren’t you,” Letha says then, turning around to fix Jade in her hundred-watt caring eyes. “The sheriff called over looking for you.” Letha sets the guttering candle down by the sink between them.

“C-called over?” Jade stammers. “Um, yeah?”


Jade pulls her phone out, like that proves the lack of signal.

“Oh, did he not turn that off?”

Letha gets her own phone up, shakes her head at how stupid this is.

“We—” she starts, then picks her words more carefully: “Some of the construction crew was spending too much time on their phones, and Instagramming stuff too. Mr. Baker said the floorplans for some of our houses could be in the backgrounds of their selfies, so—”

She leaves that hanging. “So?” Jade prompts.

“Mr. Pangborne had a jammer installed? The yacht’s out of the radius, but all the houses are in it, or in them, however it works.”

“A jammer,” Jade repeats.

“Like an umbrella, except it blocks from the—” “No, I get it,” Jade says. “Is that legal?”

“There’s no guarantee of service over here,” Letha says with a shrug. “It’s the wilderness, right?”

What do they call those jammers, though? She’s heard it online. A… a rape tent, or something? At least when they’re used to keep a victim from calling the cops.

Or, a potential victim.

“Hardy was warning you about me?” she says.

“No, no,” Letha says, crossing to Jade to touch her forearm, swat that possibility away. “He was worried that you might be in danger.”

“Figured he’d be busy.”

“I mean, his office called.” “Meg.”

“Tiff’s mom?”

“You caught that machete last night,” Jade tells Letha.

“T was behind me,” Letha says. “It could have—she might have gotten hurt.”

“It’s for tomorrow night,” Jade says. “Hardy didn’t take it?” “I told him my dad was putting it in the safe. He had to…

you know.”

“Take me to jail, lock me up for my own good, keep me from being a menace to society.”

“He really cares, Jade.”

“This too,” Jade says, unholstering Just Before Dawn. “I couldn’t throw it. That’s… it’s why I came over.”

She holds Just Before Dawn across.

“A videotape,” Letha says, like identifying a bug. “Yeah, it’s the only way—”

“We don’t have a player on the yacht?” Letha says, kind of in apology.

Jade winces, says, “So—wait, does this mean you coudn’t watch Bay of Blood?”

“Bay of—oh, oh, yeah. No, I’m sorry. But I’ve still got it—” She’s walking and talking, Jade’s wrist somehow in her hand now, like she’s been arrested in the kindest way possible.

“No, we can’t, your dad—” Jade starts, unsure how to say what she needs to say.

“He won’t mind,” Letha says, pulling, not stopping, “won’t even know I’ve got someone over. The yacht’s so crowded tonight, everybody’s here for the Fourth! And for, you know,

Mr. Samuels. Anyway, my dad’s room’s all the way in the bow, we’ll be—”

“I can’t, I’ve got to—”

“Walk around the lake in the dark with a bear in the area?” Letha asks, dragging Jade across the living room now. “I mean, if you want, I can call the sheriff, have him send a boat.”

“Or, or. You could—”

“My stepmother won’t let me drive the boat at night,” Letha says with ill-feigned disgust. They’re coming through the front door now, are on the porch.

Jade immediately clocks the inky black trees Theo Mondragon is about to come slouching out of in his burly-lithe way, the bulb in his headlamp off but still warm.

“Okay, okay,” Jade says ahead to Letha, giving up this futile resistance, stepping in alongside so as to get up the pier and into the boat faster, please. If Theo Mondragon really doesn’t know his daughter has a guest for the night? That can almost maybe work. Or, it can work one hell of a lot better than getting caught out in the open by him when his hands are still red.

“So where did you spend the day?” Letha asks in a making-conversation bid.

“Camp Blood,” Jade monotones, looking behind them at the candlelight flickering in the kitchen window like a beacon.

“That old—?”


“Isn’t it scary over there?” “You tell me.”

“I know I’ll never go there again,” Letha says, doing a full-body shiver, the memory of Deacon Samuels apparently washing through her.

“I’m serious about tomorrow night,” Jade says.

“The—the slasher?” Letha’s lips are pressed together in a way that feels one hundred percent patronizing. “So from…

from Camp Blood,” she says, changing direction for them now that they’re up on the pier, “from over there could you see… out onto the lake?”

The way she’s picking through her words, Jade can hear what she’s trying not to say, as she doesn’t want to say it if Jade doesn’t already know: “Mr. Holmes.”

Letha looks over, her eyes blinking fast and tragic.

“It’s funny,” Letha says, then takes Jade’s forearm in both of her hands, draws best-friend close, whispers, “not funny-funny, but… ironic, I guess?”

“What’s ironic?” Jade asks, not sure she wants to know.

“My dad was always saying he wished he had a BB gun for him,” Letha says, letting Jade assemble the rest in her head. But Jade has pieces Letha doesn’t know she has: Mars Baker tracking that duck across the water for Theo Mondragon, saying he should have used a shotgun; Mars Baker saying that to a guy who just had a nailgun.

Jade looks back to the woods.

“The bear?” Letha asks, pulling Jade closer.

Jade shakes her head no. Well. The “bear” that killed Deacon Samuels, yeah. The one that, say, was out turning their handy-dandy jammer on when a certain history teacher buzzed over for the hundred and first time. No, Theo Mondragon didn’t have a BB gun or a shotgun handy, but he could pick up the only gun handy: the one that spits nails.

Why not fling a golden nail up into the sky at the annoyance Mr. Holmes most certainly was? It’s just a gesture. It’s not like the nails are arrows, it’s not like they’re made for flying. It’s not like they’re meant to rip through a Dacron wing.

But what if one did, right? A one-in-a-million shot? Isn’t that exactly the kind of shot someone like Theo Mondragon’s been making his whole life already?

And what if, for sixty seconds after that, Theo Mondragon stood alongside three construction grunts and watched the

little kit plane he’d just shot founder in the air, finally nosedive into the lake, launching its old pilot out into the water?

What if Theo Mondragon had just accidentally killed someone in broad daylight, and done it in front of three witnesses? Probably what he’d do then was what Deacon Samuels had already done: stuff those grunts’ hands with cash, assure them it was an accident, it was just a joke that got out of hand, but someone of his station didn’t need the kind of media attention this could bring, surely they could understand, couldn’t they? And then… he probably didn’t sleep on it, probably didn’t sleep at all. Who would?

What he would do, though, what would make sense at two in the morning, would be to involve himself with the construction the next day, and maybe send everyone but those three back across the lake. So he, the quintessential businessman, taking risk analysis and cost-benefit margins into severe account, could take care of business. Nobody on the yacht would think twice about a nailgun going off in Terra Nova. Nailguns were always going off in the houses.

And—and from his angle, he’d have to do it, wouldn’t he? If he didn’t, Shooting Glasses and Mismatched Gloves and Cody could pull this whole enterprise down. Pull his whole life down.

“What is it?” Letha says, peering over into Jade’s eyes. “Just… thinking about that BB gun,” Jade says back.

“He would never get one, though,” Letha says. “He hates guns.”

Of course he does, Jade answers inside. All slashers do.

She stands up fast when a light’s bobbing through the trees. When Letha starts to look back to see what’s got Jade’s attention, Jade hustles them ahead.

“Hungry,” she says. “Haven’t eaten since, since…” As if she could.

Except then she does, two plates’ worth of smoked salmon and crackers and leftover potato skins warmed in

the microwave, delivered back to Letha’s room because Jade says she doesn’t want to startle anybody in the tight halls, meaning: there are no other girls on this yacht in coveralls, with hair like all the crayons melted together at the bottom of the box.

The salmon is so good, too, and the potato skins themselves, being left over, have a sort of skin over them that’s the most wonderful rubbery sensation to bite through. Each time it scrapes against Jade’s gums, she almost has to wince in a delight so pure she feels guilty for it.

“More if you want it,” Letha says in her jaunty, nonjudgmental way.

What they’re drinking is sparkling grape juice. Only non-alcoholic beverages for final girls.

“What were you, um, doing out there?” Jade asks between bites and gulps.

Letha’s nibbling at the one potato skin she has on her plate, which Jade’s pretty sure she just forked over so Jade wouldn’t have to eat alone.

“In the houses?” Letha asks, which feels like a stall. Jade chews, nods.

Letha shrugs, studies the wall of her grand bedroom, and the way she doesn’t answer at first makes Jade sure that she was part of the hunt, that she was flushing construction grunts for her father, that she was supposed to lure them out in the open.

“Looking for you?” she says at last, in a small voice, her shoulders up by her ears.


“The sheriff—he’s worried about you, Jade.” “So he did call.”

“It was Tiffany’s mom the first time. I wasn’t lying about that.”

“He probably just thinks I’m a threat or something.” “You could never—”

“So you came out with a candle to look for me?”

“The houses aren’t locked yet,” Letha says with a shrug. “And… and you already left me those pants before?”

“So you… knew I could walk around the lake?” Jade says, following this logic.

“I couldn’t sleep, thinking of you over here without a blanket, afraid, alone.”

“Thanks?” Jade says, the word unfamiliar in her mouth. “Not really tired, though, I mean—”

“And if my dad saw you,” Letha adds, no eye contact for this.

“He… doesn’t like trespassers?”

“He’s kind of really into privacy, I guess?”

“Hardy said someone was always calling Mr. Holmes’s plane in, yeah,” Jade says.

Letha tries to suppress her grin, ends up standing to take her earrings out at the dresser, tilting her head this way and that. “It was kind of pervy,” she says.


“My stepmom…” Letha closes her eyes to get through the next part: “On the top deck, she’ll—she’ll lock the deck door and tan her… all of her?”

“No top,” Jade fills in, and about Mr. Holmes, “that dog.”

Letha’s dabbing some solution or formula onto her eyelashes now, blinking fast from it. “She doesn’t like tan lines,” she says.

“White woman married to a black man,” Jade fills in. “She’s trying to catch up.”

“She’s white?” Letha says, lilting her voice up like she might really have not noticed.

Jade waits a beat then looks away, kind of impressed. “She doesn’t want to peel out of her shirt in the bedroom and have literal headlights,” she says, doing bright beams in front of her chest with her hands, Letha clocking that in the mirror.

“Stop!” she says, giggling, and Jade wonders if this is what it’s like, having a best friend. One who’s so

unselfconsciously applying moisturizer to her face now that it seems Jade and her must have been connected at the hip since kindergarten.

But then, “What’s that smell?” Jade asks.

Letha angles her head up to sniff, says, “Oh yeah—you’re not allergic, are you?”

“To what?”

“Lavender and melatonin,” Letha says, sitting down on her bed with one long leg folded under her. “A diffuser. Helps me sleep. It’s on a timer.”

“Flowers,” Jade says, patting her pockets for the charger still up on the second floor of the last house she was in.

“The lavender,” Letha says with a shrug. “Makes you think purple thoughts.”

“You have a phone charger, maybe?”

Letha does, and of course her model of phone’s generations newer than Jade’s clunker.

“Want to ask Mr. Pangborne?” she says, standing to go do just that. “He’s got every connector known to man, and some that aren’t out until next year probably.”

“Not important,” Jade says, blinking against the sleeping pills misting through the air.

“I’ll sleep on the futon,” Letha says, gathering an extra blanket and pillow off the bed.

Jade tries to protest but Letha isn’t having it.

“What time is it?” Jade asks, knowing full well it can’t even be seven o’clock yet.

“We can watch a movie!” Letha answers back, and aims a remote at the flat-screen on the wall.

“What do you got?” Jade asks.

“Everything?” Letha answers, and, of course: her dad’s the media mogul. She tosses Jade the remote, says, “Just say a title to it.”

“To the remote?” To remote, yes.

Jade looks down to it for a microphone hole, doesn’t see one, finally just says timidly, to test Letha’s “everything,” “The Dorm That Dripped Blood.”

The movie rolls up by its alternate title Pranks, the cursor blinking on the play button.

“What’s it about?” Letha says.

“Kittens and rainbows, obviously,” Jade says, and falls through all the video shelves in her head, knowing this is her one chance, that she has to pick one single movie that can show Letha how to fight, how to survive, how to win tomorrow night. And Just Before Dawn is practically spinning its two reel hubs in her pocket. But no. Even though it’s 1981, it’s still too seventies for a newbie. No, Letha needs something she can recognize herself in, something where the killer isn’t a cartoon, something—

“Kristy,” Jade says into the remote, with authority. Which brings up all the actresses with that name. “Kristy, 2014,” Jade corrects.

Same result, different shuffle of faces.

“Who you looking for?” Letha asks, snuggled into her blanket on the futon.

“Different dorm that dripped blood,” Jade says, scrolling through. “A Lifetime movie, actually.”

“Like Hallmark?”

“More stalkers and psycho grannies.”

Kristy’s not there, though. Probably because the copy Jade watched was downloaded onto her phone a bit at a time over five nights, and had two stacks of different-colored subtitles on it, neither of which she could read, all of which were in the way.

It would have been perfect, though. Justine, the girl in Kristy, fights. It’s probably more of a home invasion than a slasher, but Letha doesn’t need to know motivations or builds at this point, or what can count as “home.” She just needs to feel a girl insisting on her own life, and living

through the night, and having that slow-down moment where she stops running, turns to face her attacker.

“Wait,” Letha says, rolling off the futon, pulling her phone up, dialing before Jade can stop her. “Dad?” she says, and repeats the title and the year to him, adding a “Pleeease?” at the end, batting her eyelashes even though this is audio-only. “We really want to watch it…”

She sits up straighter from whatever her dad says back.

Sits up straight and looks over to Jade like oops.

“Just—no, of course not, Ginn’s scared enough already. I’m talking to someone on the phone, Dad. We want to watch it at the same time… someone from school… no, it’s not… it’s a Lifetime movie? Thank you, just check, thank you.”

She hangs up, sits back hugging a pillow and making a face that Jade guesses means “parents,” and then before Jade can even ask what exactly that was about, the flat-screen on Letha’s bedroom wall fizzes, resolves back with what Theo Mondragon is pushing to it from upstairs, downstairs, “the bow,” Jade has no real sense.

“Where is he?” she asks.

“They’re probably up on deck?” Letha says with a shrug. “He sleeps up there sometimes.”

Of course he does, Jade thinks. Because creeping out of a bedroom and down a hall can draw attention. Slipping over the railing when you’re already on-deck is nothing, though. And he probably does use a little Zodiac boat with a trolling motor. Or, it’s not like he can’t swim the lake, or walk around it.

“How did he—?” Jade asks, about the shaky opening credits of Kristy starting up.

“Owns the network?” Letha says. “Parent company, I don’t know. Doesn’t matter.”

“Hunh,” Jade says, a little bit impressed. She settles back to watch, hugging the two-hundred-dollar pillow to her.

“Going tomorrow night?” Letha asks. “The movie thing?”

She’s sitting up now like she doesn’t want to, but there’s one pre-bedtime duty left to perform: wrapping her hair up for sleep?

Jade doesn’t understand, just answers the question instead: “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Thirty minutes later Letha’s asleep, snoring cutely into the futon’s backrest, one of her legs hiked up around her body. Jade weighs waking her for Kristy’s excellent lessons against the final girl being tired for her big fight tomorrow night but decides sleep will be the best thing, as each minute in a massacre uses twice as much adrenaline as the previous minute, and it’s probably even harder if you’re having to actually fight the slasher, not just get away from him.

That doesn’t mean Jade’s tired yet, though. But, not like she can step outside and blow smoke up at the stars, either. Anyway, at this point in the game, standing alone in any dark place would be setting out a formal invitation for a beheading. Cigarettes are great and all, but her head staying attached to her body is even better.

Because her fidgety hands need to be doing something, she snoops through the shelf by the bed—Letha’s sleepytime reading. Which are all the extra-credit history papers Jade hand-delivered. The whole sheaf is still folded in the middle. Jade opens them, is ready to be thrilled by all the highlights Letha has to have done, because final girls always do their homework. But these haven’t been read at all, it doesn’t look like. They’re even… Jade checks every third page: yep. Except for the letter Letha evidently keyed on, they’re in the same order even, from revenge and pranks to final girls, on through the big interview debacle of sophomore year, then adding it all together into Jaws: a whole slasher crash course in thirty pages. Just, a crash course Letha doesn’t seem to have bothered with yet, as Jade’s letter was, evidently, so much more fascinating, so much more “revealing.”

Jade has to chuckle. The kind with no smile.

She weighs again the pros and cons of waking Letha to maybe do this Very Important Homework, but finally pulls her phone out instead. Letha wasn’t lying, either: signal’s fine, now. Three bars, same as Proofrock. Not that being connected does anything but remind her that her inbox has zero new messages.

Jade opens her photos, swipes up and up until she finds what she wants: a snapshot of a photograph from that paper they had at the treatment center down in Idaho Falls… Post Register, yeah. The story about Mr. Holmes. The one photo was of him in his ultralight, the sky clear behind him.

Jade touches the heart under the picture, so it’ll be easier to find next time, and then she tries to blink away all the feelings trying to crowd in.

This isn’t the time for that.

Instead, she catalogs the day’s events, plugging them into and out of this or that slasher to see what might fit, and finds herself early on in Scream again. Not the Casey Becker kill, but the Sid-scare, where Sid shows the first glimmer of the survivor she is: when she can’t call the police to her house, she uses her computer to get them there.

Jade’s phone has battery and signal, though. Meaning— meaning she could just dial Hardy up right now, couldn’t she? There are dead bodies over here. And she is a witness, at least to Shooting Glasses. She owes it to him to call Theo Mondragon in, doesn’t she? But if she does, then tomorrow night doesn’t happen like it’s supposed to, either.

Jade studies Letha’s memory wall, all the printed-out photos of her with friends. They’re at dances, scaling cliffs, just walking down streets that don’t mean anything to Jade, but probably mean everything to Letha. And of course there she is with her dad, with Theo Mondragon, both of them with scuba goggles cocked up on their heads, nothing but empty blue water behind them.

If Jade calls Hardy in, then Letha will be taking that photo down, at least. And blaming Jade for it?

Maybe, yeah. Probably.

A half hour later Kristy crescendoes in a beautiful necessary fireball—killing the killer feels so good—then scratches into the credits, and Jade salutes Justine, the bad-ass survivor girl, but all she can think about is Didn’t she have to pee at some point in all that running?

Jade has to pee so bad she can’t keep her legs still, which is only tangling her up deeper in the sheet, making this emergency situation worse.

Instead of jarring Letha awake by pausing the credits— ripping that sound away would have to startle her—Jade uses the remote to bump it back all the way to the pool scene, which gives her like forty minutes to pee. Which, judging by how the whites of her eyes are going yellow, feels like about how much time she’ll need. And the bathroom, Letha was sure to say, is just down the hall to the right.

Jade pulls Letha’s door in, chances a look out into this narrow little Dead Calm, Donkey Punch hallway. It’s just as empty as she hoped, and Jade supposes that, all in all, being in a Dead Calm or a Donkey Punch at least means you’re on top of the water, not down in all that DeepStar Six, Leviathan pressure. Though up here there’s always Triangle and Ghost Ship and Virus. But at some point you just have to find something to pee in, too, ideally a toilet. Jade steps out into the tight hall, immediately feels too exposed. She ducks back into the room, steps out a moment later in Letha’s Italian silk robe, a towel wrapped around her hair. Letha’s tall enough that the robe covers Jade’s combat boots. Score one for the good guys.

Jade speedwalks down to the first door on the right, ducks in, doesn’t turn the light on until she’s got the door closed again.

Right across from her is a gas mask.

Jade flinches back, not ready to die yet, but the mask doesn’t shoot two arms out for her. It’s just hanging there, along with… a full scuba suit, complete with goggles, a slicker and hat Creighton Duke would like, and… no hockey mask. No fedora. Just a rack of scuba tanks, which is a stupid thing to keep all the way down here instead of up on some deck, right? Unless… unless someone’s keeping them hidden?

But why?

Oh, Jade realizes: because of Scooby-Doo. In the big reveal, there’s always the careful walk-through of how the fake ghost or whatever was doing it, isn’t there? These tanks are probably going to be part of that, aren’t they? Someone, maybe Jade, will pull a holding strap and let the tanks roll out into the middle of the confession.

Jade should most definitely not be in here with them right now, though. It’s too early. But still, and mostly just because she’s seen Scream 3, Jade pushes her hand into the belly of each hanging outfit just to be sure none of them are going to reach out for her as soon as she turns her back. She turns the overhead light off, listens hard for footsteps or breathing in the hall, and steps out again, darts across to the bathroom, which is to the right from Letha’s bedroom, but is on the left.

She’s just done, is dealing with the many complications of coveralls and this impossibly soft robe, when she takes stock of the counter, and the beauty toolkit exploded all over it. No, this isn’t a workbench, she decides, it’s an artist’s station. She touches a smudged sponge, runs her fingertip along the spine of a brush, and… what’s this? Cylindrical, electric, surely not…

Jade picks it up as delicately as she can: Oh, clippers. Phew. Meaning… she stares at the door, is thinking about the halls beyond it, and all the rooms it connects to, and Letha saying the yacht’s full tonight, because everybody’s in town for Deacon Samuels, and for the Fourth.

This is a dude’s clippers. She can tell because they’re big to fit big hands, and don’t have any feminine accents. And… the only one of the Founders with a roguish soul patch that probably needs constant attention is Mars Baker.

So: Mars Baker is close enough to also be using this bathroom.

Jade swallows hard, looks at herself in the mirror, and has to touch her hair to make sure it’s real. It looks more like she smeared glue all over her scalp and thrashed her head around in a New Year’s Eve dumpster.

Touching it just leaves her fingers oily, too. She’s probably ruining Letha’s expensive pillow.

“Fuck it,” she says, and before she can think twice, she takes Mars Baker’s clippers, peels the guard away, and stares herself down while shaving off hank after hank of hair. It’s supposed to turn her into Ripley from Alien 3, when space lice were an issue, but she’s really just a stubbly mess now, a slightly taller Tommy Jarvis, her scalp still unevenly stained from the shoe polish. Her head looks like a kindergarten class’s pottery project.

“Well you asked for it,” she tells herself, and runs the faucet to try to swirl all the hair down the drain. When it clogs, she has to reach into the mucky water, grainy with the spit-out toothpaste of probably ten people, and grab onto the oily clump of her hair, deliver it to the trashcan like the drowned rat it is.

Finally the water gurgles and burps down, leaving the rest of her split-ends all over the steep walls of the sink. Jade runs more water, guides those strays down as best she can, and almost has them all gone—no evidence—when the knob rattles and a shoulder thunks into the metal door.

“Um?” she says.

“Hurry,” someone whispers—female, thank you, not old and male and litigious.

Still, someone’s standing right out there now, waiting.

“Okay, okay,” Jade says in her best Letha-sleep voice, which she knows can’t be very convincing, because final girls don’t let their frustration and grogginess make them snappy.

Jade runs water over her hands, pats them dry on her cloud-soft hips, wraps the towel back around her prickly scalp—a completely new sensation—and turns the light off. She breathes once, twice, and on three she spins out, keeping her back to whoever this is, stepping around them in a way that’s also kind of pushing them into the bathroom they evidently need in a desperate way.

For a flash she sees that it’s one of the twins, either Cinnamon or Ginger, which is the best she could hope for: kids. Not Mars Baker, not Ladybird Samuels or Macy Todd, not Ross Pangborne or Lewellyn Singleton, not Lana Singleton, not—not whatever Ross Pangborne’s wife is named. Donna?

Lemmy, though, Lemmy Singleton would have been all right. Him or Galatea. Kids she can deal with. Kids she can bluff.

“Thanks,” either Cinnamon or Ginger says to Jade’s back, stepping into the bathroom, and Jade nods, keeps moving, the hallway surely free and clear all the way back to—

Facing her now is the other twin, either Cinnamon or Ginger.

She’s looking Jade full in the face, not recognizing her. “Who—who are you?” this other twin asks.

“Letha’s friend,” Jade mumbles.

“There’s hair in here!” the first twin announces from the toilet.

“Does her dad know you’re spending the night?” the other asks.

“He ordered us a movie,” Jade says, turning sideways to slip past.

“The bathroom’s not even steamy,” this other twin says, which is the same as asking why Jade has a towel wound

around her head.

Jade doesn’t explain, just keeps on trucking down to Letha’s room, ducks in breathing hard, feels exactly like Justine in Kristy, always hiding behind this door, in that locker room, certain death around every corner.

She feels for the lock on Letha’s door, twists it over, falls back onto the bed.

Her heart thumps slower and slower, the adrenaline flushing out, and in its wake is lavender and melatonin to inhale. Jade fights through it as best she can, Letha’s light snoring not helping.

“Friday the 13th,” she whispers into the remote, and pulls up The Final Chapter which wasn’t, hoping the carrot of counting machete-strikes into Jason’s head at the end will keep her awake. It’s the scene she always imagined watching with a garageful of classmates, all of them chanting the numbers higher and higher, some of them acting it out, all of them killing Jason together, because it takes a village.

Jade makes it through, does the count alone in her head, then dials back to Part III, is in and out until the headstand, which she suspects is not actually part of sex, but when Jason splits that guy from crotch to head, one side of her falls away with him, and—because all the camera angles and compositions are built around 3-D—Jade tracks it down. To her phone, awake in her hand somehow.

No, not somehow. Very much on purpose.

This is the decision she’s been avoiding, isn’t it? Cutting all her hair off hasn’t made her forget, though. Not quite. Even Jason hasn’t distracted her enough.

She can save a lot of lives if she just makes one phone call, can’t she? If she just touches one phone number?

It means… it means all her slasher dreams don’t come true, but—if they do? Is it really winning if everybody dies? More to the point: if she’d have nipped this slasher cycle in

the bud already, by turning that pink phone in, would Mr. Holmes have ended up dying in Indian Lake?

That decides it for her.

She calls Hardy’s office. Not 911, where a dispatcher will answer, give her time to lose her nerve, but the actual office.

It rings three times, four, and on five—

“Fremont County Sheriff’s Office,” Meg says, as chipper as the day is long.

“Ms. Koenig?” Jade says, not speaking too loud. “Um, who is this?” Meg asks back.

“I just want to report something.” “May I have your name, please?”

“I saw a—I saw someone die. I saw him get killed, I mean.”

For a moment, nothing, then, so cheery, “And where are you, dear?”

“Across the lake,” Jade says, obviously. “Terra Nova.” “And who is this?”

“It doesn’t matter. It’s…”—quieter, much quieter—“it’s Theo Mondragon who did it.”

“Excuse me?”

“He’s the one who did it. Theo Mondragon.”

“This is Jade Daniels,” Meg says, switching ears it sounds like.

“I’m anonymous,” Jade says back. “We do have caller ID, dear.”

Jade closes her eyes in pain.

“I’m sorry,” Meg says. “But the sheriff left specific instructions for if you called. He said it would be your next… what was the word? Oh, yes. ‘Gambit.’ Your next gambit. That’s like a gamble plus a ruse, it means—”

“I know what it means.”

“Yes, yes, of course. Grady… he had said you have a vocabulary on you.”

Grady, Bear, Sherlock, Holmes, pirate of Indian Lake, Night Flier—some history teachers have as many names as A Bay of Blood, don’t they?

No: had. Some history teachers had that many names.

More important, “He talked to you about me?” Jade asks, fully aware this is giving away that it’s really her.

“He was proud of you,” Meg says, her mouth closer to the phone now, but all Jade can hear is that past tense.

“This isn’t a gambit,” Jade says. “This is… I saw it, you’ve got to believe me.”

“Was it like a—a slasher movie?”

“Just because… that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. If you don’t—a lot of people are going to die tomorrow night.”

“Sheriff said you would say that,” Meg says. “Something about ‘closing the beaches,’ I believe?”

Jade lowers the phone to the sheets, watches her thumb end the useless stupid idiotic doomed call, and she decides to just count the seconds until her phone dims to half-bright, then completely blacks out: fifteen, then thirty. But to be sure she does it again, gets a count of fifteen and thirty-two, so has to do it again to be sure, but this time—or maybe the next?—when the screen goes dark, it takes her eyelids with it. As she’s sinking, she tells herself it doesn’t matter, she’s safe. The door’s locked, the yacht’s still as a tomb, this blanket is soft and warm, the twins haven’t rung the alarm, and, most important, you don’t slash where you live. Theo Mondragon must know that, it’s basic stuff. All she has to do is be sure and wake before dawn, sneak out through the tangle of halls, be gone before Letha can insist on a group breakfast up on deck.

Jade’s first thought when she wakes back up, though, which feels like the same moment she was just in, is the thesis of another paper she wrote for Mr. Holmes: “The Strange Algebra of Horror.” Her lead-in example, and where she got the title, was that hurting the leg of a slasher, instead of slowing it down, it actually makes the slasher

faster, just, now it’s got a scary limp. But her main push, with many examples, was that proximity to the final girl greatly reduces your likelihood of survival. Meaning a fly on the wall might just have a chance of slipping through alive— like, talking Fridays, Ted, the prankster in Part 2 who kind of by convention has to die and die hard. Except he goes out drinking on the town, is safe from all the carnage specifically because he increases his distance from the final girl.

Instead of, say, sleeping right alongside her.

Jade yawns a long luxuriant yawn, her jaw nearly popping out of place from it, and apologizes in her head to Mr. Holmes, as that paper must have been wrong, since, right now, Jade’s as safe as she can be. But… what was it that woke her up, here? A sound? Yeah, some sound, something jarring. A wrong sound. Her memory can categorize it as “sudden,” just can’t hear it again, quite.

She tunes in to the rest of the yacht as best she can, squinting to dial whatever it was in. Because she’s listening so hard, the footsteps suddenly pounding past the door are absolute thunder to her. She kicks back into the corner of the bed, eyes wide, mouth instantly dry, muscles tensed and getting tenser.

Moments later the doorknob rattles violently and someone slaps the door high and to the side like a cop.

Letha squirms on the futon, shaken awake.

“W-what?” she says, not able to completely open her eyes yet, her lids probably gummed together with airborne melatonin. She reaches up to rub them with the back of her wrist, which is exactly when the wall maybe six inches above her head disintegrates with a blast that can only be Mars Baker’s shotgun. One of the barrels, anyway.

Letha rolls away from the wall as if stung with shot. She spills onto the floor just as the next barrel unloads into where she was lying, leaving wisps of foam floating in the air. In the silence after the blast, a single flame flickers at

the edge of the crater in the futon, and, through the hole in the wall, there’s a scream, a gurgle, and then that gurgle’s cut sharply off.

“Macy?” Letha says about that gurgle.

Jade’s on the floor with her already, pulling her close, her breath fast and shallow, but when Letha sees her she pushes away, trying to escape.

“It’s me, it’s me!” Jade yells, running her hand over her scalp like that somehow proves she’s the same, just, with less hair.

“Jade?” Letha says, slowly getting it.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” Jade hisses, fully aware her voice can now be heard through that hole in the wall.


Letha’s cut off by a hammering on her door. Not a slap anymore but the side of a fist, pounding.

“Where’s the machete I gave you?” Jade asks, casting around. “Your dad didn’t really put it in his safe, did he?”

Letha looks over to her like Jade’s talking in possum, and she wants to watch her lips, see how an animal can be making human words like this.

Jade shakes Letha, says, “I know you’re not ready, but you have to be. It’s happening.”

“But… this is—”

“I know, I know,” Jade says. “I said tomorrow night, the party, but I was wrong, I don’t know, I’m sorry, okay?”

“The massacre?”

“It’s happening right now.” “But who—”

“You don’t want to know,” Jade says, standing, pulling Letha up alongside her. “Now where’s that machete?”

Letha pans around the room, her eyes wide and dumb like a cow’s—I should have prepared her better, Jade’s chiding herself—then reaches over behind the dresser, unsheathes the machete from its excellent hiding place. She offers it to Jade but Jade steps away, hands high.

“This is all you,” she says. “I take that, I die fast. That’s Indy’s whip, Thor’s hammer, the Dude’s housecoat. One user only.”

She guides it back closer to Letha.

“I don’t know how,” Letha says, trying to figure where her fingers go, what the balance is, which is the sharp side. After snatching it from the air like a ninja chopsticking a fly in flight, yeah.

“You will,” Jade tells her, and steps forward, hates that she has to but does it anyway: pushes the side of her head to the door, to listen. What she deserves for that, she knows, and would even cheer for, is Ghostface’s knife plunging into the side of her skull, but the only other option is stepping out there without knowing it’s empty.

“Clear,” she says after maybe three breaths of silence, and snaps for Letha to come close, to be ready.

“Where are we going?” Letha asks.

“Off this boat,” Jade hisses back, and hauls the door in all at once.

Ladybird Samuels is lying there eyes open, mouth doubly-open—no chin, no jaw, maybe no throat either, like the skin just kept holding on and holding on. Her bloody handprints are on the door right by Jade’s face.

Letha screams until Jade turns around, covers Letha’s mouth with her hand, bringing her eyes right up to Letha’s, warning her to stop. After nodding to Letha and getting a nod back, she finally—slowly—removes her hand.

Letha draws in like to scream again, to tell the whole boat where they are, but instead she throws up her half a potato skin.

Jade doesn’t hold her hair or pat her back. She steps into the hall.

“Which way is out?” she asks.

When Letha’s just crying, probably replaying Ladybird Samuels in her head, Jade says it again, harsher: “Where to, Letha?”

Letha weakly points back the way they came, past the bathroom. Jade takes her by the wrist, then the hand, and leads her out, both of them stepping carefully over Ladybird Samuels.

“Who’s doing this?” Letha says, unable to look away, or be helpful at all.

“You’ll see,” Jade tells her, and they make it all the way to the stairs before the next body confronts them: Ross Pangborne.

He’s been ripped apart somehow, his torso up at the switchback, his legs playing catchup, though they never will. “W-what could do that?” Letha says, trying to fall to her

knees, give up.

“Shotgun, chainsaw,” Jade says, not letting Letha give up, just pulling her deeper into this.

“But what did he do to—to deserve this?” Letha asks, and Jade lets a grim smile touch her lips: if Letha’s already seeing these deaths like that, as the consequence of previous bullshit, then there’s hope.

Jade eases them around Ross Pangborne, trying not to step in the blood as that leaves red footprints.

“We can’t just—” Letha starts.

“We have to,” Jade completes, and then they’re to the top of the stairs, in the tower part of the yacht, she’s pretty sure, are having to step over a shattered shotgun to see—

Letha falls back shaking her head no, no, and Jade doesn’t want to look, but has to: Mars Baker has been thrust headfirst through the big window, and his jaw has been pulled off too, so his mouth is locked into a forever scream.

Letha falls back shaking her head no, no, and now it’s Jade’s turn to throw up. Just into her mouth at first, but when she can’t swallow that, all the salmon and potato skins and lavender and melatonin comes up and out, splashes her boots and Letha’s bare feet, and it’s not purple, and her eyes are hot and leaky so she guesses that means she’s crying because there’s vomit burning her nasal

passage, and now more’s coming up, and Letha’s hand is on her back, the same as it was for Tiffany K, once upon a puking.

Jade reaches out, steadies herself on the thin blue knee of Letha’s sleep pants.

“Who’s doing this?” Letha says, a kind of checked-out quality to her tone now, her eyes practically flashing vacancy, tilt, like she’s pulled some internal eject lever on this whole situation. Like she’s reached the maximum amount she can sustain, so the rest can now just wash over her.

“Where’s the machete?” Jade asks.

Letha looks down to her empty hand, and then they both hear it: scraping on the ceiling above them. Meaning somebody’s a floor up in the tower.

“Dad?” Letha says, and leads Jade out onto the deck to look up to the top.

With both of them already straining to see, Tiara comes sailing out over the railing of the deck above them, pedaling her legs, waving her arms like there’s anything to grab on to.

“T!” Letha screams, rushing the railing, slamming into it like if she could have just got there a second earlier, she could have reached out, snagged the hem of Tiara’s shirt.

Jade tracks Tiara’s ragdoll body all the way down to one of the posts built into this modular pier. The post isn’t sharp, is flat and blunt, but all the same it plunges up and through Tiara’s chest, splashes out the back, and when Tiara’s face slams into the wood or plastic or plastic wood, whatever it is, Jade feels her own cheek tingle in sympathy.

“This can’t be happening,” Letha says.

“We’ve got to get off this boat,” Jade says back, hauling Letha up and casting around for—for whatever’s next. They have to get off this boat, right? Right. Jade steps to the railing, chances a look down to the lake side of the deck. It’s dizzying. This yacht is a monster.

“How deep is it down there?” she asks. “The water?” Letha asks.

“The water,” Jade confirms, having to lead this final girl along.

“The valley is steep on this side,” Letha pretty much recites from Mr. Holmes’s rambling talks, “that means… that means—”

“It’s deep enough,” Jade says, and, steps up onto the rail, holding Letha’s hand to steady herself.

“No, if we—”

“There’s nowhere safe here,” Jade says, pulling Letha up onto the rail, which nearly overbalances her.

Letha steps up in her dainty athletic way.

“My dad,” she says, peering around from her higher vantage point to the deck Tiara was just launched from.

“I’m sure he’s fine,” Jade says. Not that she probably just missed him in the costume closet. “He’d—he’d want you to be safe. That would be his first concern, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t he throw you over this railing himself if that’s what it took to keep you safe?”

Letha looks down and down, to the water.

“If he were here, he’d tell you your first job is to survive, wouldn’t he?” Jade asks, and before Letha can answer, Jade pulls her arm hard enough that it’s jump or fall—also hard enough that she’s committed now herself, is already tumbling, wheeling her arms, pedaling her legs just like Tiara was, breathing in as deep as she can with all the air sucking away from her. Once in the open, no footing, she loses Letha’s wrist immediately, which she tells herself is probably for the best, as they don’t want to come down on each other.

Seconds later she hits the surface of the lake with a thought-erasing slap, is slamming down into Ezekiel’s Cold Box, all the breath she thought she was saving gone in an instant, the water around her thinner than makes sense— made of bubbles and speed and thrashing, but in slow

motion too, like it’s not a body of water Jade’s fallen into, but a nightmare pool, the kind you can never surface in.

She hits the slanted bottom, her face scraping rock, and pushes up clawing for air, certain beyond certain that a large hand is about to wrap its cold dead fingers around her ankle. When she surfaces, half of her comes up out of the water, and she’s not a human anymore, is a gasping machine. Five, six seconds later she’s treading, treading, and, way above, can just see Letha, still perched on the railing in her clingy camisole and pajama bottoms.

Of course she was able to regain her balance. Of course a doof like Jade wouldn’t be enough to pull a majestic creature like Letha Mondragon overboard. Now that Jade’s free, though, Letha’s just looking down at her, head cocked over like Michael’s, like Jason’s—like Jade’s a dead thing, a dying thing.

It makes her spin around in the water for whatever’s coming for her.


And then—no.

“Behind you!” Jade screams as loud as she can, pointing with both hands, which makes her face nearly slip underwater.

There’s a head of long hair blowing in silhouette from the railing of the deck above Letha.

Synthetic hair, Jade wants to tell Letha, but in the moment it doesn’t matter.

Ross Pangborne’s dead, Mars Baker is dead, Deacon Samuels was dead before this night even started, and Lewellyn Singleton can’t have enough backstory to be any kind of slasher, can he?

Leaving one man up there in a Norman Bates dress, a Samara wig: Theo Mondragon. Who else could get close enough to Tiara to toss her over like that? Who else would have that upper body strength?

“Jump!” Jade screams up to Letha, and, instead, Letha looks behind her, sees this mask-face from much closer, and this does dislodge her.

It’s a fall that should crunch her ribs in on the railing of one of the three decks below, break her in half, ground her for life if she’s so lucky, but Letha’s Letha: one of her bare feet finds the solid railing she just slipped from and pushes out hard from it so Letha’s no longer going straight down but is arcing out, her body stretching out into a dive so perfect Jade almost gasps.

Three seconds later Letha slips into the water with less splash than a dagger, porpoises up maybe twenty feet out, meaning she turned back for the surface the moment she broke it, to be sure not to mar her face against the stony bottom.

Good for her, Jade says inside. Smoke em if you got em, and this final girl most definitely does.

Jade slaps the water like a beaver tail to get Letha’s attention and Letha clears her hair from her eyes, looks around, awake again. She takes a long, easy stroke Jade’s way, then another, and, right before she’s going to get there, Jade kicks away, going for around the front of the boat, for shore that doesn’t involve the pier.

“Camp Blood,” she manages to get across to Letha. “We have to—”

Letha stills, stops swimming alongside Jade.

“We have to,” Jade says, swirling her hands to stay afloat. “No,” Letha says, and Jade can tell from the set of her lips

that she’s seeing Deacon Samuels all over again. At Camp Blood.


“I can’t,” Letha says. It’s not a plea, just a fact.

“Shit!” Jade says, slapping the water in frustration now, but then she turns back the other way, to the ass-end of the boat, where it’s darker. Where they can hide better, if they can slip into the trees? Maybe bunk in the woods, take the

long long way around to Proofrock, through the national forest? Show up sometime in early August?

“Where are we going?” Letha asks, having to swim slow to not pass Jade up.

“Land,” Jade says, struggling through the water.

They’re almost there when Jade’s hair is sticking into her eyes in a way it hasn’t been—at which point it registers that she doesn’t have hair. And it’s not hair anyway, but a thick coating on her whole face, chunky like canned dog food that’s been poured into the lake and then let spread out until it’s thin. She looks over to Letha, and the chunks on the pale shoulders of her camisole are red in the moonlight. Jade’s next awkward stroke brings her hand into a warm cavity like a floating bowl of oatmeal, a floating bowl that’s… Lewellyn Singleton’s caved-in face? What, is this a Fulci film?

She spins away, swims under the floating body, no breath

this time, hits bottom almost immediately with her fingertips. She pulls ahead rock by rock, finally stands in the shallows, well clear of any floating dead people.

Letha’s already there, chest heaving, her eyes locked on Lewellyn Singleton’s pale form.

“Is it over now?” she asks.

“Not even close,” Jade tells her, and they trudge up into the mud and grass, then scramble for the trees hand in hand, groping through the darkness when the moon’s gone above the trees, and… was this what it was like for Stacey Graves a hundred-plus years ago, when she made it across the new lake? Was she scared like this?

Except she was younger, Jade reminds herself. And what she was scared of, it was herself.

More important, it’s now, not then. And no, Letha, this isn’t over yet.

“We’ve got, we’ve got to—” Jade tells her, pulling her away from the yacht, away from the yacht, that’s all she knows right now.

“Um,” Letha says back, in a way that makes Jade follow where she’s still looking: a space between two trees, like trying to confirm what she just saw. Except why would what she just saw hang around where it just was? Jade looks two trees to the right from that, which is away from the lake, then three trees ahead, focusing on a jagged slash of moonlight, and—

A hunched shadow flits from one blacked-out tree to the next, as skulky and silent as any Ghostface ever was.

“He’s coming,” Jade says, Letha’s hand in hers again. “He?” Letha asks, panic rising in her voice.


They do, Letha pulling ahead without effort, dragging Jade now, and… and this is what it’s like for a final girl to save you, isn’t it? Jade was at the periphery, watching this slasher happen on a drive-in screen she could barely see through the telescope of all her hopes and self-assigned homework, but now she’s right at the center of it all. It’s terrible because it means she can die at any moment, but here at the center of the hurricane, dead bodies down this hall, through that window, falling from the sky, it’s kind of a goddamn wonder, too, isn’t it?

Until the toe of her boot catches under a rock and her left leg stays in place while the rest of her tries to keep going. Letha loses her grip, falls ahead, has to touch her fingertips lightly to the dirt to keep from spilling. But she’s already looking around, probably thinking a wall of fishhooks have slung forward to hook into Jade’s face, pull her soul apart.

Well—no, Jade corrects. That’s what the horror chick’s thinking. The final girl doesn’t know Hellraiser from Hannibal, and why would she.

“My foot?” Jade hisses, feeling down her calf with her hands.

It’s not a root.

“Oh, shit,” Letha says.

It’s a bear trap. Of course.

“What the hell?” Jade says, trying to wedge her fingers in between the metal teeth.

“We thought the bear might come back,” Letha tells her, taking a knee.

“To this tree?”

“All those dead elk?”

Jade looks ahead and nods, remembering them at last. “My dad had some of the guys stack them up in a pile.”

“Interesting,” Jade says, meaning pretty much the direct opposite, still trying to get her fingers into the metal teeth.

“Here,” Letha says, chickenwinging her arms out and breathing in for the coming effort. “Cinn and Ginn aren’t even supposed to come out this far.”

“Me either,” Jade mutters, and draws her lips back from her teeth when Letha jams her fingers down along her calf. That she can at all tells Jade there’s blood. But it bit shut from side to side instead of front and back, meaning her shin bone isn’t involved, just her muscle.

“Do it,” she hisses, looking behind them.

A head-height pinpoint of light is bobbing through the trees, taking an indirect line towards them.

“One, two,” Letha says, and on three she gives all her muscles and weight and effort to the bear trap, and, impossibly, it creaks open. Jade guides her foot up, up, and… her boot.

“You—have—to—” Letha strains out, her shoulders starting to tremble.

“Already doing it,” Jade says, and reaches under to undo the knot her laces are in, slither her foot up and out, just making it past the teeth when the trap springs shut with a hard clack.

“Where are we going?” Letha asks, handing Jade’s boot over.

“The long way around to Proofrock,” Jade says, lacing up, standing with Letha’s help, giving her right leg what weight she can.

It’s not broken, she’s pretty sure, but she’s not running anymore. Or hiking the long way around the lake.

“Shit,” she says, trying to take another step.

“Here,” Letha says, ducking under to be Jade’s too-tall crutch, and Jade lets her for a hopping step or two. Until she stops them.

“What?” Letha asks.

“Do you know how to recock it?” Jade asks about the sprung trap.

Letha looks behind them, must not see the headlamp. She is sensing this danger, though. It’s palpable. Anything can happen, and’s probably about to.

“Why?” she asks.

“Why do you think?”

Letha considers, considers, then gently lets Jade stand on her own. Together—but mostly Letha—they wrench the steel jaws open again, this time far enough to click the trigger in place.

“Worst mousetrap ever,” Letha says, stepping away, the trap practically humming with tension.

“Best,” Jade says, then lowers in her unbalanced way to grab the trap’s chain, drag it over from where it was, moving slow so it doesn’t spring, chomp into her thigh this time.

“Why move it?” Letha asks.

“Maybe he knows where it used to be, right?” Jade says.

Letha looks at the tree it was at and then at the one it’s at now, like clocking for difference, then shrugs whatever, steps under Jade’s arm again. When Jade sneaks a look back, the headlamp is closer now. Though she’s seeing it now as the mining light on Harry Warden’s helmet.

“Go, go,” she says to Letha, and they hop-crutch ahead, moving so much slower now. Jade knows that if she were even ten percent as wholesome as a final girl, she’d push Letha ahead, tell her to save herself, that her survival is

what’s important here, that she shouldn’t endanger herself for someone whose timer’s about up.

But the thing is, Jade’s discovering, she doesn’t want to die. Not really. Not out here in the dark, with whatever new and terrible construction tool Theo Mondragon’s swinging.

Speaking of…

Jade peers behind Letha, across the lake. Not to the barge that makes a daily crossing, but to the idea of it.


Except tomorrow’s a holiday, and the lake’s closed to all powered watercraft. Only paddles and oars. Because everyone not checked into Pleasant Valley is going to be watching the movie from innertubes and canoes and dressed-up rowboats tomorrow night. Unless of course word of this massacre in Terra Nova makes it across the water. Then the staties will break Hardy’s injunction, and the media won’t be far behind.

Jade hitches along with Letha, looking behind them again

—no light, which is fifty times worse—and reaches into her pocket, comes out with her phone. With her dunked phone. Her phone with the case still leaking lake water.

Jade holds it out to the side and drops it, says to Letha, “Breadcrumbs.”

Letha nods about the solidness of that idea, pats her pajama bottom pockets for the phone she doesn’t have.

“Oh,” Jade says then, when they stumble back out into the moonlight of… of the meadow Mr. Holmes was showing them. Sheep’s Head, something like that?

“Too exposed,” Letha says, looking around like a prairie dog with a hawk complex, and Jade agrees, is letting Letha turn them around to hug the treeline, but then… there’s that light again. Even closer.

At their new rate of speed, he’s going to catch them inside two minutes, maybe less.

“No, no,” Jade says, turning them back the other way, to cross the meadow. Which no way can they do.

“Is that my dad?” Letha says, then comes up onto her toes, waving one arm. “Dad, Daddy!”

Jade winces and Letha feels it, comes around, her eyes questioning.

“It is him,” Jade says.

Letha studies Jade’s face about this, then looks up to the light drawing closer, making more of a straight line now that it can echo-locate. Maybe Theo Mondragon can even see them now, for all Jade knows. One wounded duck with a shaved head, one improbably-alive daughter.

“You don’t mean…?” Letha says. “He would never—he couldn’t—”

“He is,” Jade says. “And he has been. Sorry. I saw.” “But Tiara.”

“I don’t know why yet,” Jade says.

“Mr. Pangborne, Mr. Baker,” Letha says. “Ladybird, Mrs.

Todd, Mr. Singleton—”

“Deacon Samuels,” Jade adds. “Those two Dutch kids.” “Two?”

“The other one… she’s still out there somewhere.” Jade tilts her head lakeward.

“And that—in the propeller?” Clate Rodgers.

Jade blinks, looks behind them again, to the light bobbing in.

“Wave again,” Jade says. “You’ll see.”

Letha stares into Jade’s face again, harder, deeper, then turns to call her dad in but this time with hesitation, and not as loud: “Dad! Daddy!”

The light keeps on coming, keeps on, and then—



The bear trap.

Letha turns to Jade and pushes her hard enough Jade spills into the tall grass. “You used me!” she nearly screams, getting what just happened. “You used me to hurt my dad!”

“To keep him from hurting us.”

Out in the trees, her dad is bellowing.

Letha steps forward but Jade grabs her by the knee.

“If it is him, and it is,” she says, “then we approach, we’re dead. If it’s not, and we stay here, then… my leg is a lot wimpier than his, right? He can’t be hurt bad?”

“No, I—”

“Five minutes,” Jade says, not letting go.

Theo Mondragon is free in two, standing again.

The chainsaw he’s carrying rips awake and Letha steps back involuntarily.

“What was that guy’s name in the stairwell?” she asks, even though she knows. Just, Letha needs to be seeing the two halves of Ross Pangborne up and down the stairs right now, and what might have made him like that.

“It can’t be,” Letha says, but she’s talking to herself now. “Do you want to stay and find out?” Jade asks, Theo

Mondragon slinging the chainsaw back and forth before him like Leatherface’s last dance. He’s cutting the brush and limbs out of his way, and kind of lurching now from the bear trap’s bite.

“Shit,” Letha says, looking around for what to do, where to go, how to live.

“This is gonna suck the big one,” Jade says, standing with Letha’s help, then pointing with her lips to where she means.

Letha looks across, doesn’t get it at first, then does. “No,” she says.

“Only way,” Jade says. “We can—” Letha tries.

“Not enough time,” Jade says back, not letting her finish because whatever she’s going to say isn’t taking her hurt leg into account.

“You’re sure he won’t look there first?” Letha asks. “Would you?” Jade asks.

When Letha has no answer, the two of them lunge ahead to the pile of rotting elk. That’s what it is now. Not a killing field anymore, but a mound of corpses, which Jade guesses must be some stage of cleanup: pack them tight enough that a front-end loader can scoop them up in as few runs as possible, since heavy machinery leaves deep ruts in the national forest.

“How are we going to—?” Letha asks, then they both see the answer: there’s a sort of tunnel in, held open with fresh-cut lodgepole pine. Which explains why the chainsaw was handy. But why would Theo Mondragon have been boring a temporary tunnel into all this rotting meat and bone, all this horn and hoof?

There’s no time to figure it out. He’s almost to the trees now, his chainsaw already ripping the night in two, its pungent exhaust seeping in ahead of him.

Jade pushes Letha in first, not because she’s suddenly valiant or anything, but to be sure Letha doesn’t chicken out, start running.

But would that really be so bad? She could stay ahead of her dad, scary limp and all.

This is already happening like this, though. For better or worse.

Jade still has her open hand to the small of Letha’s back when Letha’s muscles contract in a way Jade’s are already starting to: the smell in this tunnel, this literal hell hole. It’s almost sweet, but it’s oily on the roof of Jade’s mouth, too. Thick and oily and there’s not a clean breath anywhere. Worse, they can’t see what they’re touching, can only hear it squishing, feel it between their fingers, and on their lips, against their eyes.

It’s warm, too.

Because… Jade tries to remember, isn’t sure she can: does decay kick off some sort of methane gas, maybe? She becomes extremely aware of the lighter already in her hand, that she was about to spark into light for them.

Shit. Shit shit shit.

They’re only about ten, twelve feet in, too. And hunched over, the only thing keeping the pile up is two X’s of cut tree trunks.

Is this his evil lair, what? At least Jason had the decency to have candles. At least Freddy’s kind of fit a theme. Jade doesn’t have time to wonder anymore, as Theo Mondragon’s headlamp is washing across the elk, the chainsaw idling. Jade lunges across, clapping her right hand tight over Letha’s mouth, pressing her back into the wall of flesh and skin.

Letha’s tears drip down over Jade’s skin, but, instead of fighting free like she could, Letha covers her mouth as well, both her hands over Jade’s one.

The light peers in but the stubby tunnel’s not a straight line, is more like a comma curving to the right. Theo Mondragon makes a retching sound, and now Jade understands why he really had that gas mask. This is even gross to him.

“Hold on, hold on,” Jade whispers to Letha, and Letha nods, and when the light flashes over her perfect face for a tenth of a second, what Jade sees to either side of her is the reason Theo Mondragon was prospecting into these elk: Cody’s pressed into the meat and bone to Letha’s left, and Mismatched Gloves is impaled on sweeping antlers to her right, one of the tips coming out through his mouth, the velvet horn dark black with gore, now.

And then Theo Mondragon’s gone, calling his daughter’s name elsewhere.

Jade lets Letha’s mouth go and Letha sucks air in.

“Now we can—” Letha says, pushing off either Mismatched Gloves or Cody to escape this fetid pit, but Jade blocks her in, whispers, “What slashers do is make you think they’ve left.”

Letha stiffens, is maybe going to make a break for it, but then she falls back, sobbing.

It’s the proper response, really. And why Jade isn’t best friend material, even if she’d ever had one? It’s because she’s not thinking about consoling Letha right now. What she’s running through her head is that paper she wrote for Mr. Holmes, about how final girls curl up into a chrysalis before emerging as their true killer self. And what is this elk pile but a custom-made transformation chamber, right?

Everything’s working out. It doesn’t smell good, it’s dangerous as hell and twice as hot, but it’s also just what Letha needs in order to become her truest self.

“We need a high school annual,” Jade says. “Henderson Hawks, 198—when did your dad graduate?”

“You’re trying to distract me,” Letha says. “No—”

“Keep going, please.”

“He must have passed through here for a year, a semester,” Jade says. “And—and I don’t know. Something happened while he was here. Maybe he took a history class, maybe one of those four kids who bought it at Camp Blood back when were related to him, maybe he was there when Hardy’s daughter—”

“I wasn’t looking for you,” Letha says.

“Say what?” Jade says, trying to see through the darkness.

“I told you I was looking for you earlier, in the Pangbornes’ house,” Letha says, sobbing now, but quietly, thank you. “I

—the sheriff did call, but, but—”

“Shh, shh,” Jade says, reaching across for Letha’s mouth, finding her shaking shoulder instead. Letha’s hands immediately clamp onto Jade’s own.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Letha’s saying.

“You were looking for your dad?” Jade asks, trying to give her a way out—trying to be sort of a friend, anyway.

“I was going to burn it all down.”

Jade tries to process this, finally says, “With that candle?” She feels Letha nodding.


“We shouldn’t be here,” Letha says, shuddering now, holding the back of Jade’s fingers to her mouth, speaking warmth right onto them.

“In Proofrock?”

“This side of the lake,” Letha whispers, the hush of her words rushing up Jade’s arm to the base of her jaw, the center of her chest.


“People, I mean,” Letha goes on. “This side of the lake isn’t for people.”

“Why do—why?” Jade asks.

“I’ve seen her,” Letha says, barely able to get it out before pulling Jade closer all at once.

“No, no,” Jade says, letting herself be drawn in. “This isn’t the Golden Age, that’s—it was your dad in a wig. I saw him too, from the water. That’s how these things—”

“On the water,” Letha says. Jade’s skin prickles.

“Paddleboard,” she says.

“He doesn’t know how,” Letha says back.

“Where’s your mom?” Jade asks, her lips right against Letha’s neck, she’s pretty sure.

Letha stills, then pushes Jade’s hand away from her lips.

“You think she can paddleboard?” she asks, and like that, the possibility crystalizes for Jade: Letha’s real mom, the left-behind ex–Mrs. Mondragon, the left-for-dead Mrs. Mondragon, follows her philandering husband and spirited-away daughter out to this mountain retreat, and she—she starts taking her revenge throat by throat, maybe even boiling a rabbit in the process.

It fits. No wig necessary.

“Could it be her?” Jade asks.

“She’s… I went to her funeral,” Letha’s barely able to get out, make real.

Like slashers can’t rise from the grave.

“Next you’ll think it’s me,” Letha says, but Jade can still see her in her bedroom, unsure how to hold the machete.

The machete she… left behind? Not “dropped on purpose.”

Jade forces her eyes shut, won’t allow that to be true. “And it’s not him,” Letha says, her voice more sure now.

“I’m just saying—” Jade starts. The reason she doesn’t finish is that Theo Mondragon is close.

“Lee! Lee!” he’s calling, his throat ragged.

“That’s him,” Letha says, in little-girl wonder.

“It’s not your dad,” Jade tells her. “Not anymore.”

The silence that follows is Letha trying to process this, Jade knows: is Jade saying that the killer’s impersonating her dad, or that her dad is no longer who he used to be?

“But that’s what he calls me,” Letha says, sitting up, Jade sloughing off.

“Lee!” Theo Mondragon says again, closer still.

“I’ve got to—” Letha says, surging forward, and Jade doesn’t need eyes to see what happens half a second later: instead of darting easily through the drippy wet tunnel of gore, Letha conks almost immediately into the two lodgepole pines crossed beside them, holding the elk up.

It’s enough to dislodge them.

“No!” Jade says, trying to stand now herself, but it’s too late. The ceiling of meat is already coming down onto them. A full-grown elk is six, eight hundred pounds, and… how many did Mr. Holmes count? Nineteen of them? However many are directly above Jade and Letha come down like judgment, hardly any sound, and in the small breathing space Jade has directly under her face—air thick with rot— there’s at least Letha’s fingers to her cheeks.

Except those fingers aren’t moving. And they’re too thick anyway, are either Cody or Mismatched Gloves—probably Cody, then, since Mismatched Gloves would have gloves on, wouldn’t he?

Jade breathes the decay all the way in, forces it back out in all the scream she can manage.

It’s not enough.



How about we just consider this the very end of my extra credit career if that works for you, Mr. Holmes. And before I start, first let me say that I know you’re honor bound to not believe me, to believe Manx and Tiffany K and also Gretta who was only there at the end, but me standing on top of the toilet in the last stall wasn’t me reaching up through the ceiling to find something to tie my neck to. What about the black robe and Ghostface mask I was wearing? If I have to

divulge a secret it’s that I was standing on that toilet in the Scream stall to pre honor the coming holiday, Mr. Holmes. Not Spring Break and not tax day two weeks after that, though that would make the perfect slasher, “The Tax Man

Cometh” — ka-ching, my idea, thank you — but the SLASHER one that’s here this week: Friday the 13th. And yes I was reaching into the ceiling, but it was only for my emergency cigarettes, from the stress of the day and the week and the year, which is a habit I think you of all people can understand.

Anyway since you’ll be watching it with the rest of us this summer 1 more time, let me add an extra credit to the kitty here for my tragic absence in the nurse’s office yesterday, which is feeding a shark to the cat, yes, when really it would be the other way around.

I’m talking about Jaws from 1975 here, sir.

It’s a monster movie, but it’s got the beating heart of a slasher. You can tell from memory of having seen it every year probably since 1975 and probably

even having been on the Indianapolis with Quint that it has these characteristics of the slasher, which I’ll list now. Just like with Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, there’s a signature THEME, those 2 piano keys going back and forth. Just like those 2 but also Freddy Krueger, Jaws also has a SIGNATURE WEAPON, which is in the title, that being Jaws and teeth. Jaws also has kids partying it up with beer and a bonfire for the BLOOD SACRIFICE, and it also has the COPS who are useless at least until the very end and it also has a BIG PARTY like Scream, which is July the 4th, and a REVEAL that results in that line about a bigger boat, and it even has a RED HERRING, that being that license plate eating tiger shark.

Very importantly, Jaws also has some excellent SLASHERCAM action, which feels exactly like a giallo OR a slasher, just it’s underwater this time. Jaws also has GORE and SET PIECE KILLINGS and a killer who doesn’t use his words and a

THIRD REEL BODYDUMP. It’s just one head kind of in the middle I guess, but it still counts. And if NUDITY floats your boat into slasher land, then Jaws opens with some of that. And, did somebody say SEQUELS, that being the “killer”

coming back over and over even though it’s killed each time? Check. Is there STALKING? Yes. Is there SLICING and DICING? Yes, yes. Is there one of the best JUMPSCARES in all of horror except for The Exorcist III? Yes definitely. Is there a Crazy Ralph who knows what the real horror is? Yes, in the body of Quint, who knows sharks from fighting with them, but also Hooper, who has shark scars himself.

But where is the REVENGE you promised, Jade? you might be asking.

Let me tell you, and I have to go to the history books and also a 3rd page for this, sir, sorry, just give me extra points if you need to, I understand. But I’m talking about that story Quint tells below decks about his experience when the Indianapolis sank in the ocean and was swarmed by sharks which ate so many

sailors and soldiers, the thing he doesn’t say about that is that his ship then was delivering an atomic bomb called Little Boy. So this is by some views already a guilty ship, a punishable offense. But what do sharks care about bombed cities or ruined centuries? They don’t, sir. But they do care about their reputation, and their reputation went bad when so many of them came in and ate the lower halves of all these floating sailors and soldiers, which started a different war, this 1 against shark kind, BY humans. So that’s what sharks can be generally mad about and need justice for, their bad reputation.

But also, why THIS shark. My idea which tracks is that since in the world of

Jaws we don’t know how long sharks live or if they even die, that the great white attacking Amity Island could have been AT the Indianapolis, and because we

didn’t know radiation shielding the same back then, maybe it even got some

glowing green atomic rays in it, making it big AND smart. Even smart enough to cross over half the world and come to get revenge on a sailor soldier who

escaped its teeth in 1945, but is now spreading word of sharks’ lifeless doll eyes, making everybody just shoot sharks on sight, when really they just want to swim and eat fish and stuff.

Which is why Jaws is a slasher, Mr. Holmes. In addition to all the outer

characteristics of a slasher it has, it also has the internal and most important trait of REVENGE, and it has 1 more too, that being a FINAL GIRL, who is this time a guy, Chief Brody, who starts out meek and afraid and flinchy but gets brave and killy in the scary scary open sea by the end.

This is how slashers work, sir. See you in the water.

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