Friday, December 7, 2012
The Babysitter II (Babysitter Trilogy #2/Point Horror #17)
The book opens with Jenny telling the entire back story from the first book to her psychiatrist, Dr. Schindler. We learn that she and Chuck are no longer dating because she just couldn't deal with his constant laughing and joking around and that Chuck was very upset about the breakup. She knows that Mr. Hagen's death was not her fault because he was crazy and tried to kill her, but she still has this knowledge that somehow she was responsible for his death and Donny no longer has a father because of her. After his death there were no more attacks on babysitters and no more calls or threats. Donny and his mother moved away. Jenny started having very vivid nightmares. In most of them she dreams of Mr. Hagen crawling out of the rock quarry all mangled and bloody.
Jenny’s experiencing some major anxiety right now as she has been asked by the Wexner family to babysit their son Eli and she doesn’t know if she’s ready to be babysitting again. She knows that she could use the money for school and the Wexner's seem like nice people. They only live a few blocks from her house and Eli is ten so he probably wouldn't be that much trouble. They want her to babysit for two days a week and two nights. Jenny decides that she should probably take the job as she needs the money and they could possibly help her get over her fear.
As she leaves the doctor’s she is confronted by Chuck. Jenny's mom told him where he could find her. He wants to talk because they never really got to talk after what happened. Jenny tells him that they did a ton of talking and that she doesn't want to talk anymore and doesn't want him following her anywhere. Chuck says that he doesn't want to lose her. She tells him that she's not the same person. He can't accept that. Jenny's bus comes and she jumps on hearing Chuck threatening and cursing her.
Later, Jenny finds herself at the rock quarry. She doesn't know what brought her back there to the scene of all the horror. She sees two hands emerge from the pit. It is Mr. Hagen: “Part of the flesh of his face had been torn away, revealing curved bone under his cheeks. The rest of his flesh hung loosely about his fixed grin.” She screams and is woken up by her mother—it was only another nightmare. Her mom comforts her telling her that “nothing like that will ever happen to you again.” (We all know how that is totally true comforting words, right? Ha!)
Jenny accepts the job at the Wexner's house. She likes that their house looks well cared for and inviting unlike the horror mansion that was the Hagen's house. Rena is an artist while Mr. Wexner is a short, slightly built man. Eli is a mechanical genius and is not too modest. Rena tells Jenny not to let Eli walk all over her and to be firm but not too firm with him since he's very emotional. Jenny notices that Rena appears to be very nervous. She goes upstairs to find Eli. He's in his room seated at a long white counter which is filled with tons of electronic equipment and tools. He's busily typing away at a computer. Eli tells her that he does not need a babysitter. To try and emphasize this he tells her that he built his computer from scratch. He tells her that he is a mechanical genius with an IQ of 180 and asks her what her IQ is and has trouble believing that she doesn't know.
Soon Jenny is back in Dr. Schindler's office. Eli's only friends are three tarantulas. She scared of spiders and when Eli scared her with them he was laughing to the point of hysterics. She says the look on Eli's face was just evil. Eli never apologized and Jenny has this horrible feeling that he wanted to hurt her, but Dr. Schindler asks if she doesn’t think she’s not reading too much into it.
Jenny is no longer friends with Laura. Claire and Rick are Jenny's new friends that she made after the horrifying events. She had known Claire since elementary school but they had never been close. Rick had been a longtime buddy of Claire's and now they are a trio. Jenny goes to the pizza oven a restaurant at the mall to meet up with them. When Claire and Rick head back to work, Jenny wanders around the mall. She wanders into a music store and looks around for a while before noticing a boy watching her. He is sort of tough looking with short, spiky blond hair, so light it is almost platinum. He is wearing black jeans and an Aerosmith T-shirt. She notices that he's staring at her. He starts to come near her and she notices the scar along the bottom of his chin. She gets trapped against the back wall of the aisle with nowhere to run.
It turns out the boy only wants to hand her a small envelope that she dropped it. It was the bill from Dr. Schindler's office. Looking more closely at him, she discovers he's actually pretty good looking and they strike up a conversation about music. He tells her that he just moved there a few weeks ago and he will be starting school in the fall at her high school. He introduces himself as Cal. She tells him that she's got to get going and he follows her, finally shyly asking her if she may be like go out Friday night. Jenny wonders if she should take the chance by going out with him.
When Jenny arrives on Friday night to babysit Eli, she goes upstairs to find him watching a horror movie. As the guy on the screen walks into the cabin and gets his head cut off, Eli starts giggling and laughing out loud. She asks if he should be watching this and he says it is his room and no one can stop him. He tells her that he had a bad day and that his parents don't like his pets. She tries to get him to talk but he refuses and she goes downstairs. She begins thinking about the fact that she agreed to go to the party on Saturday night with Cal. She's never done anything like that before and doesn't know a thing about him but, on the other hand, what does she have to lose. She is startled by the phone ringing and she picks it up to hear a whisper on the other end saying, “Hi, babes. I'm back.”
The line goes dead in her hand. Her nightmare is coming true. The voice sounded like air—like a voice from beyond the grave. It couldn’t be Mr. Hagen but if it wasn't him how did the caller know the same exact words that Mr. Hagen said that terrified Jenny. Suddenly, she's back in her nightmare seeing Mr. Hagen pull himself out of the quarry: “His head appeared, the skin torn off one side of his face, pale skeleton showing through from underneath. One eye was missing, the gaping, empty socket bulging with pulsating veins.”
She goes to check on Eli and he is watching his tarantulas. He said he turned the movie off because he didn't want to see the end—he doesn't like it when they kill the bad guy. Jenny decides that he's definitely twisted. He tells her about a movie that he saw on TV that had a bunch of giant tarantulas that were bigger than his house. She asks him what he would do with giant tarantulas and he says he would have them eat everybody. He doesn't want to go to bed so he asks if it's okay if he reads instead. It turns out he's reading a Steven King book. When she asks him why he doesn't read something for kids his age he says that everything is boring.
As Jenny walks home she encounters Chuck again. He looks crazed and he refuses to let her go until she talks to him. He tells her that she was the best thing that ever happened to him and then she dumped him with no explanation. She yells at him, saying she went through a nightmare being stalked by a crazy man that she was responsible for him dying. She needed a complete change. She is still haunted by everything that happened. Unfortunately Chuck happens to be a reminder of everything. He gets mad because he believes that he was there for her when she needed him and she repays him by dumping him. Jenny asks him if he called her tonight. He says that he did but not at the Wexner's. He called her house and her mother told him where he could find her. He throws her down onto the pavement. She's very scared and wonders what happened to the old Chuck who is lovable and funny. She tells her that she'll be sorry. He then runs away.
Jenny goes out with Cal on a date. When she returns home, there is someone in the bushes who runs away. Cal is pretty sure it was a burglar. Jenny wonders if it is Chuck. She decides to read in bed some and falls asleep. She is woken later by her phone ringing and she thinks it is Eli, who has called her late at night before on his secret phone his parents don’t know about. She picks it up and tells Eli that she told him not to call her that late but, of course, a whispered voice replies, “It isn't Eli. Jenny, I'm back. Are you all alone, babes? Company's coming.” For the first time, the nightmare is following Jenny—she’s receiving calls at her own home.
The next day Jenny is at the mall waiting for Cal to meet her. It is raining hard and as she waits all of the stores go dark and all the cars drive off leaving her all alone in an unending parking lot. It is getting very late and she wonders why she agreed to meet him so late at night especially in a strange meeting place. She realizes that she decided to meet him because she wanted to see him. She begins to get impatient. She hears someone groan. Something moves near by: “Then, standing under the yellow light, the cold rain beginning to fall, standing halfway between the car and clothing bins, she saw the hand, and then the arm. There was a hand sticking out of the clothing bin.” Without thinking she thinks that something horrible has happened to Cal and she rushes towards the bin, grabs the hand, and pulls. “Mr. Hagen grinned at her. One eye was missing, revealing a dry, empty socket. His skull showed through where pieces of his cheek and forehead flesh had decayed and fallen off. The stench. The stench was so strong. The stench swirled around him, swirled around both of them, holding her, drawing her toward him, not letting her run.” He calls her name and when he opens his mouth “she could see the gaps in his mouth, the rotting, black teeth.” He repeats her name and his voice is nothing but dry, rancid air: “A black bug crawled over his swollen tongue. He repeatedly lifted his dry lips, but his tongue was dry and caked with dirt.”
Luckily, it was just another nightmare. She woke up screaming her head off with her mom in her room trying to wake her up. Jenny is worried because it's kind of the same dream but is now happening in another place (not the quarry) and it seemed more real. Dr. Schindler asks her why Cal appeared in the dream. He asks if it's because she might be a little suspicious of Cal. He asks Jenny if somewhere in her mind she might suspect Cal of making the phone calls. Dr. Schindler starts talking about her imagination running wild. Jenny gets angry at his implications that she is imagining the phone calls. She feels hurt and betrayed and thinks that Dr. Schindler obviously thinks she's crazy. Dr. Schindler prescribes her a prescription for sleeping pills.
One night while Jenny is babysitting Eli, Rick and Claire show up. Jenny doesn't think it's a good idea for them to stay, but they want to keep her company. Eli demands to know who they are and what they're doing there. He isn’t very nice to them and wants them to leave because it's his house. Claire asks if he’d like some M&Ms and he says maybe and she asks if she can see his room because Jenny told her that he's got a lot of great stuff. Eli agrees and Claire goes upstairs to his room. Suddenly, Jenny and Rick hear shouting upstairs. She hears Eli screaming, “I said no.” She hears something fall down the staircase. It's Claire: “Claire didn't reply. She lay on her back, her eyes opened wide, her face still locked in an expression of terror, her neck bent at an odd, unnatural angle.” Jenny looks up at Eli who was standing at the top of the stairs grinning. Luckily, she just got knocked out and when she comes to she tells Jenny she didn’t slip—she felt like she was pushed.
A few days later, Jenny is waiting to meet Cal at his job at the ice cream shop. She parks her car and waits. She wonders why all of this seems so familiar. Suddenly, she hears footsteps as if someone is running toward her. She remembers the dream that occurred in the parking lot. She tries to force herself to wake up but she can't. Impulsively she decides to turn around and face her pursuer. She is shocked to find Dr. Schindler holding a brown grocery bag. He tells her that he can't find his parking spot and asks if she's waiting for someone. Right then Cal crosses the parking lot coming towards them. Dr. Schindler sees his car and says good night, apologizing for scaring her. She and Cal drive to a Wendy's where Jenny tells him the whole entire story of Mr. Hagen from the beginning. As she was telling him, she realizes suddenly who it is trying to terrify her.
It has to be Dr. Schindler. Besides Chuck (and now Cal) Dr. Schindler is the only one who knows everything. While Chuck is angry at her he really isn’t a bad guy and she believes he would never try to intentionally scare her. Plus, Dr. Schindler looked very nervous in the mall parking lot earlier. She is sure he was following her. Cal isn't ready to believe that her shrink is doing this to her. Why would he want to frighten her? Jenny gets frustrated. If it isn't Chuck it needs to be Dr. Schindler; if it isn’t Dr. Schindler it has to be Mr. Hagen and that would mean Mr. Hagen is still alive. She's going to set a trap for Dr. Schindler and she asks Cal for his help.
In her next appointment, she tells Dr. Schindler of her idea of getting over her fear is to go back to the rock quarry and face the thing down. She tells him that she's made up her mind and she's going to do it because she knows it's going to help her—and she's going to do it tonight. Later that night Cal picks her up and they drive to the quarry. Jenny is positive that Dr. Schindler will be there to try and frighten her. With Cal there she thinks that Dr. Schindler will see that he's been found out and run away. Jenny and Cal get out of the car and walk around. She notices some piles of gravel that weren't there last fall. She finds it strange because the place has been deserted for years. She tells Cal to go hide over near a mound of gravel as she needs to appear alone. Suddenly, a dark figure looms in front of her and a hoarse whisper voice says, “Jenny, I'm here.” The figure comes closer and closer until Jenny can see who it is—and it’s not Dr. Schindler.
The person in front of her is Miss Gurney. She tells Jenny that she can't have Dr. Schindler. Jenny has lots of boyfriends and has everything. She has the pretty hair, the nice clothes, and the boyfriends. She knows everything about Jenny. She's listened to her session tapes and they told her everything. She says that she has seen how the doctor talks to Jenny while he barely says a word to her anymore. She used to be his patient but now he ignores her while Jenny gets all of his attention. She says that she's going to kill Jenny just like poor Mr. Hagen died. She rushes towards Jenny ready to push her over the edge when she screams for Cal and he comes running. Startled by the sound of someone else, Miss Gurney turns to look. Cal sweeps at her but she dives to the ground and he sails over her, plunging headfirst into the quarry.
Jenny fears that she's killed Cal just like she killed Mr. Hagen. Then Jenny sees a hand reach over the quarry side. It is exactly like her dream but the face that emerges is not Mr. Hagen's. It is Cal's. He is soaking wet—the quarry has been filled with water. Miss Gurney runs at Jenny and they both fall into the water. Jenny almost drowns. Cal rescues Jenny and they see all the police cars surrounding the quarry. The police officers try to fish Miss Gurney out of the water but she's putting up a fight. Dr. Schindler appears and says he is the one who called the police. He couldn't find Jenny's tapes this evening and figured it out. He had treated his secretary for violent, jealous episodes before. She had worked for him for three years without having an episode. Jenny is safe now.
Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research
The first thing that will strike readers is that this book is definitely scarier than the first. While there isn’t much in the way of pure horror, there are more descriptions of 1980s gore than there were in the first book.
The book, once again, is heavy on physical descriptions. Dr. Schindler doesn't really look like a shrink. Jenny thinks that he's too handsome and too tanned. He has wavy, coppery hair, blonde eyebrows, and “startling” green eyes. Jenny imagines him as an actor or model. Plus, he seems too young to be a shrink. Dr. Schindler's secretary is a lady named Miss Gurney. She is a plump middle-aged woman with gray streaked black hair who dresses conservatively except for her eyeglasses which are red plastic frames with rhinestones (reminds me of Sally Jesse Raphael which fits the time period!). She has a husky voice and always comments on Jenny's pretty clothes or hair. She also likes to tell Jenny what a wonderful man the doctor is and that she was once a patient of his too.
Jenny’s two new friends also receive detailed descriptions. Rick is a big, good-looking jock with curly black hair and a goofy smile. Rick is unserious while Claire is very serious. Claire is very tall and thin and has straight brown hair she wears in a braid. She isn’t very pretty and a lot of boys make fun of her because she is so tall. Jenny likes her because she is so serious.
There is an interesting relational aspect behind Jenny and her new boyfriend, Cal. First, she’s pretty callous to break up with Chuck and get together with another boy shortly thereafter. I get the whole thing behind her being a totally different person after the nightmare she went through and Chuck being too painful of a reminder but still does she need to throw herself into another relationship so quickly? Basically, Jenny’s first date with Cal is by going to a party. Neither is too impressed with all the couples making out all over the place, some guys trying to figure out how to work a keg of beer, and the booming rap music. Cal and Jenny decide to leave. He admits that he's embarrassed because he wanted to show her a good time and just make a good impression. She demands that he pulls the car over and she flings herself across the seat onto him, throwing her arms around his shoulders, kissing him. The narration says, “He's so . . . needy, Jenny thought, kissing him back, her eyes shut tight. Maybe that's what we have in common. Maybe that's why I feel so attracted to him, even though I hardly know anything about him. We're both so needy.”