I remember the end of this book pretty well. Stacey and Claudia (and maybe others) think they’re tracking a “bad guy” they suspect is squatting in the Johanssens house while Stacey’s house-sitting. Only, it turns out he was a friend of the family, but Stacey didn’t get the note about why he was there. So, she tries and pretends she wasn’t at all worried and Claudia laughs at her.
I also remember her finding red hair in a brush and freaking out because none of the Johanssens are redheads.
The Johanssens are going to Paris for two weeks – Charlotte’s aunt’s some kind of art dealer looking for new artists, and she invited the family to go with her. Stacey’s asked to house and dog-sit while they’re away. At first everything’s fine, but one day Carrot (the dog) is acting a little strange, and has chewed up a bunch of paper in the kitchen. After that, Stacey starts noticing some more weird things. There’s a glass in the sink she can’t remember using, there’s something in a garbage can she thought she emptied, a light she hadn’t used was on, Carrot’s leash wasn’t in the right place, etc. At first she tries to blow them off as little things she’s remembering wrong, but as the occurrences add up, she becomes convinced something’s wrong. All this is especially nerve-wracking because there’s an escaped prisoner in the area, and Stacey’s worried he could be in the house.
A few days later, she opens a closet (looking for towels, not to snoop) and sees a brush with red hairs in it. She leaves the house and walks to Claudia’s place, where they end up having an emergency BSC meeting. They all go back to the house, and check the spot in the yard where the Johanssens keep a key hidden – it’s gone. At this point, she stops going to the house alone. Instead, she goes with another 13-year-old who would be super-helpful if there were an actual criminal around. The BSC also decides to have a sleepover at Jessi’s (since you can see the Johanssens’ house from there) and watch the place. But, everything they see can be explained (a light going on because it’s on a timer, etc).
After the sleepover/stakeout, Stacey and Claudia go to walk Carrot. Stacey sees that someone has written a phone number on a pad of paper in the Johanssens’ kitchen. She calls the number and hears an auto message of train times. So, the BSC heads to the train station and see a red-headed guy hanging around. But, before they can do anything (and I’m not sure what they were planning on doing), Dr. Johnassen gets off a train, sees the red-head, walks over smiling, and gives him a hug. Then we find out that he’s an old friend of the Johanssens and is always welcome to stay at their place, and that he had left Stacey a note, but Carrot chewed it up. And because of his work schedule, he and Stacey never ran into each other. Stacey admits she didn’t get the note, but tries to pretend and be cool about it.
As a subplot, it’s December and the BSC’s planning a holiday party for some of their charges. Watson was given a free hay/sleigh ride (depending on the weather) and he passed it on to Kristy. Of course, they decide to use this for the kids they sit for. However, Kristy accidentally gets the Arnold twins thinking it’s definitely a sleigh ride, and is all upset about disappointing them if it doesn’t snow (as well as a bunch of other kids the twins talked to). But it does snow, so everyone’s happy and has fun at the party. And the kids are all sweet and give the BSC members gifts.
- I’d really like clarification on Dawn/Mary Anne’s barn. They’re having the party there (after the sleigh ride) because it’s winter….but is the barn actually heated?
- I don’t quite get the hay-ride/sleigh-ride thing. Watson gets it as a gift from work, and like I said, gives it to Kristy. But they end up taking a good 40 people (on two sleighs). Why would someone give him a gift for that many people?
- Stacey mentions having a new coat a couple of times, but we don’t get to hear what it looks like.
- Kristy actually suggests calling the police (which amazed me), but Stacey says they would just get laughed at, since there’s no proof. I see her point, but maybe she could have told her mother?
- This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about an escaped convict in Stoneybrook, is it?
- Stacey tells us that the Arnolds are people who over-the-top decorate their house for Christmas, which I think is mentioned in other books. That’s a pretty minor detail for them to stay consistent with. I’m impressed.
- So, the Johanssen’s really have an arrangement with their friend that he can just let himself into their house whenever he’s in town? Without calling at all?
- So, the Kuhns are worried about the escaped convict, but Jake tries to pretend he’s all tough and says he wants to catch the guy. Mary Anne tells him to leave things up to the cops (even though Stacey acknowledges the BSC doesn’t always do this). But, she thinks this is okay because they are so much older than Jake.
- Because being 13 makes it totally okay to track down criminals. It must be all that police training that they give kids in middle school.
- Did we know that Margo and Claire consider each other best friends? It’s believable, I guess, but I always got the impression they bickered a lot.
- Who keeps a hairbrush in a linen closet? That’s where Stacey found the one full of red hairs.
- Mal and Jessi help the Pikes make potato-print wrapping paper. Has anyone ever done this? They cut potatos in half, cut designs into them, then dip them into paint and stamp the design on paper. It sounds like fun, but a waste of potatos (at least when you give each of the Pikes one).
- Byron Pike eats a peanut butter and salami sandwich. And I think this is on raisin bread. How can that be good? Seriously?
- Robert keeps referring to Carrot as other vegetable names (Eggplant, Celery, etc). I kind of like it, because you almost never see the BSC laugh/make fun of the kids they sit for. They usually use a “oh, isn’t that cute” tone when talking about them.
- This book takes place when people had actual answer machines. The Johanssens have one where they can call into a number and hear what’s happening in their house. Jessi knows this because she has the same answering machine, and the BSC calls into the Johanssen’s number (the code is listed on the bottom of the machine) to listen to noise there. First of all does/did this exist? And secondly, lso, it’s kind of creepy to do, even if you know no one’s home.
- Dr. Johanssen’s first name is Peggy. That surprises me, I’m not sure why.
- There’s a lame plot line where Stacey accidentally mentions to a meter reader (with red hair) that the Johanssens are away. So, the girls think she’s a suspect for a while, but it turns out to be nothing.
- The gifts for the BSC members are supposed to be a “surprise” and it is to the girls themselves. But it was really obvious because at a sitting job for a crowd of kids, one or two kept disappearing into the basement for a secret project.
- So, the gift list: Claudia gets a basket of junk food, Kristy gets a decorated baseball cap, Stacey gets some paper mache earrings, Mary Anne gets a painting of Tigger, Jessi gets some hair ties, and Mallory gets a sketch book with her name on it in glitter. Dawn’s in California for this book, but she still gets a pair of sunglasses. Logan and Shannon are also included. They get a paperweight and a “bead” necklace made from magazine pages.