Abby said, "And warn the people at the lodge that a very large, very cold, very hungry party is coming in from the wilderness. I volunteer!"
Since the lodge was just around the bend ahead, I wasn't worried about them getting lost or separated from us. I lit a flare and handed it to Abby. "Go for it," I said to Abby and Sam.
As they plunged out of sight, I lit the other two flares and gave one of them to Charlie.
"We're almost there," I said encouragingly. "You go first and I'll bring up the rear."
We fell into line: Charlie, Stacey, Woodie, Claudia, and me. The flares helped, but they made weird shadows in the ghostly swirl of the snow.
To one side I could see the drop down to the lake. To the other, the trees marched up the hillside, twisting and moaning in the wind.
I thought of the dumb horror movie Karen and David Michael had been watching.
Stacey suddenly seemed to slip. Woodie leaped forward, in the same instant, and grabbed her wrist. But he didn't pull her away from the lake to safety. He pulled her toward him, toward the lake, backing into the shelter of a tree.
Claudia stopped. We all stopped.
What was going on?
Then Stacey screamed, "What are you doing? Let me go!"
And Woodie began to laugh.
"Stay back," he shouted. "Stand back or she goes in!"
We stopped in a ragged half-circle around him.
"Woodie?" said Charlie. "What - ?"
"Shut up!" screamed Woodie. His eyes rolled wildly. "It's your fault. You made me do it. You're the ones who caused all the trouble!"
"What are you talking about?" I said.
"My father. Karl Tate - "
"Karl Tate!" Claudia said with a gasp.
"Remember him?" Woodie's lip lifted in a sneer. "Or have you already forgotten how you ruined him? Humiliated him. Sent him to prison!"
"But we didn't," I said. "We just - "
"Don't try to get out of it. Oh, you were big heroes, weren't you? Had your picture in the newspapers! Well, so did my father. Everyone pointed and stared and whispered. Suddenly we had nothing. Nothing! Do you know what that's like?"
Something caught my eye. A flare. It was Sam and Abby hurrying back toward us. Had they heard Stacey scream?
The flare disappeared. Then I saw them again, ghostly shapes crouched low, sneaking up behind Woodie, his arm now around Stacey's throat.
"We're sorry," I said, stalling for time.
"Not as sorry as you're going to be," he snarled.
Sam straightened up. He motioned at me. Then Abby made a throwing motion.
Woodie stepped back.
"No!" I shouted and threw my flare at him. Instinctively he raised his hands and ducked.
Stacey drove her elbow into Woodie's stomach and jumped away.
Woodie staggered back and slipped. For a moment, his arms flailed the air wildly. Sam grabbed for him, but it was too late.
With a wild, mad scream that I will never forget, Woodie Tate fell down the bank and through the ice into the freezing waters of Shadow Lake.
"It's over," I said. "This time, It's really over."
We were sitting in the lodge by the fire, surrounded by hot chocolate, nachos, and every combination of junk food we could lay our hands on. We were warm and dry and fed and safe. And Watson and Mom and Karen and Andrew and David Michael, escorted by the Shadow Lake police, were on their way back to the lodge to join us.
We had been trying to reach Woodie, who was thrashing in the lake, when Kris Renn came running up the trail behind us. At the same time, the sound of snowmobiles was followed by the appearance, from the direction of the lodge, of the Shadow Lake police.
Karl Tate had regained consciousness and told Detective Renn his story - how his son, unable to endure the shame and the poverty his father's actions had caused, had become obsessed with the BSC, blaming them for his family's troubles. By the time Mr. Tate was released from jail, Woodie was beyond control and had already embarked on his mad campaign of terror.
Then he'd disappeared, and Mr. Tate had found out where he'd gone. He didn't know what Woodie planned to do to the BSC members, but he feared the worst.
The Shadow Lake police, alerted by Sergeant Johnson, were more than willing to haul Woodie from the lake and take him off to the local jail. I assumed he was warm and dry now, too. And behind bars.
Our creepiest case ever was solved.
Watson and my mom were not too thrilled when they heard the story. I almost got in trouble for not telling them. But how could I have? I hadn't wanted to worry Watson. Or my mother, for that matter.
And what good would it have done?
Watson wanted to return to Stoneybrook immediately, like that night. But the blizzard ruled, and we ended up staying at the lodge. That was cool. It was sort of like a big party. Everyone there hung out and talked and, of course, we told everyone about our adventures. We went to bed early, though. Capturing criminals and solving mysteries is tiring.
On Monday morning we were greeted by excellent news from home: Nannie called to say that it was a snow day, so we weren't even going to miss school. (Claudia didn't think it was so excellent. She pointed out that if we had missed a day of school, we wouldn't have to make it up, but we often had to make up snow days at the end of the year.) After a big breakfast, we checked on the cabin. Watson made arrangements with Mitch for some repairs and improvements (including locks on the windows). Then we set out for home.
Once we were off the back roads, the main roads were amazingly clear. We arrived home before lunch.
Did we hold the regular meeting of the BSC that afternoon? We did. Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor criminals can stop the BSC. Logan and Shannon came, too, to hear our adventures, mostly.
"No charges are going to be filed against Noah Seger, Sergeant Johnson told me," Mary Anne reported as we all groaned and handed over our weekly dues to Stacey. "I called the police station and he said Noah is going to go to family counseling with his father. His friend is going for counseling, too."
"And Woodrow Tate has made a full confession," said Stacey. She tucked the envelope with our dues away and said, "Isn't that what Detective Renn said, Kristy?"
I nodded. Naturally I'd called the detective the moment we'd arrived home. "I can't believe we thought it was her, even for a second."
"I can," said Stacey. "She was acting oddly. And she did have a gun."
"What about the guy with the eyepatch?" Abby reminded us.
We laughed about that. We'd found out at the lodge the night before that he had been coming there for years - and complaining for years. This year, at least one of his complaints had been legitimate. He'd lost his ski bag (which later turned up in the lost and found).
"I was right," said Claudia. "I did see Karl Tate. His son walks just like him." She stuck her nose in the air. "It's the artist's superior eye for detail."
Jessi whacked her with a pillow and Claudia laughed.
"What I want to know," said Logan, changing the subject, "is who's been writing those notes to Mary Anne and me? It wasn't Wood-row Tate, that much we know."
Shannon said, "You should put them in the mystery notebook. Looks like we still have a mystery for the BSC."
"Speaking of notebooks, Mal, you did an awesome job," Jessi said.
We all agreed, and Mal ducked her head, looking pleased.
Then the phone rang, and it was business as usual.
When we'd taken care of the call, Claudia sighed happily and bit into a Dove chocolate bar. "It was an awesome vacation," she said.
"Yeah," said Abby, trying hard to keep a straight face. "Interesting. Diverting. Entertaining. Awesome. But listen, if we're going to keep up this mystery business, can I ask a favor? No pictures in the paper. Please!"
About the Author.
ANN MATTHEWS MARTIN was born on August 12, 1955. She grew up in Princeton, NJ, with her parents and her younger sister, Jane.
In addition to the Baby-sitters Club books, Ann has written many other books for children. Her favorite is Ten Kids, No Pets because she loves big families and she loves animals. Her favorite Babysitters Club book is Kristy's Big Day.
Ann M. Martin now lives in New York with her cats, Gussie and Woody. Her hobbies are reading, sewing, and needlework - especially making clothes for children.