Friday, December 7, 2012

The Babysitter III (Babysitter Trilogy #3/Point Horror #23)

The Babysitter III (Babysitter Trilogy #3/Point Horror #23)
R.L. Stine
Scholastic, 1993

Genre: Horror


Jenny’s back! It is now nearly two years later and she still thinks about it all the time. It, of course, is the death of Mr. Hagen. She still sees Dr. Schindler, who thinks she's doing really well. Claire and Rick are still Jenny's best friends and are now dating. Jenny is still dating Cal. Jenny's mother surprises her with some good news. Jenny’s been invited to spend the summer with her cousin, Debra. She thinks a change of scenery will do her good. She spoke with Dr. Schindler and he agrees.

When Jenny arrives at Debra’s she’s shocked to hear that Debra babysits an adorable baby three nights a week. When she asks if Jenny would like to come, Jenny suddenly feels cold all over. Debra tells her it'll be fine because all he does is sleep the whole time. Jenny tells herself that she is not the babysitter this time around so there's nothing to be afraid of. Debra apologizes for bringing Jenny along. Jenny says that it is okay; that she thinks it will be good for her to face her fears. However, Jenny confides in her that she has this weird feeling—a sick feeling that Mr. Hagen is still alive and that's why she can't stop dreaming about him.

Jenny meets Mark, Debra’s boyfriend. Jenny decides that he's good looking with his wavy red brown hair and sideburns. He is tan because he's a lifeguard. Jenny says that she misses having a job and Mark says that he may be able to get her a job with his dad's best friend who owns a riding stable and needs some wranglers.

Jenny gets offered the job as a wrangler for three days a week and is doing a pretty good job. She's made a new friend, Gary Killeen, who is about 19 or 20 and is a real wrangler from Wyoming. He says that all the kids seem to really like her. Jenny starts thinking about Cal and how he promised to write but she's been here for more than a week and hasn’t heard from him. One day she sees a solitary rider riding up from the woods. He is a big man with close cropped brown hair and a red face. He looks at Jenny with steel gray eyes and says, “Hi. I'm back.” Jenny sees Mr. Hagen's face and screams. The next evening Debra is talking on the phone with Mark about Jenny. She tells him how Jenny just totally freaked out the other day. Jenny thinks that Mr. Hagen is coming back from the grave and is really obsessed about it. Jenny was really embarrassed about it, but she went back to the stable this morning because she really likes the job.

Debra heads out to her job and is a little nervous because she realizes it is the first time she will be all alone in Mrs. Wagner's house for the entire evening because Mark can’t come over. Feeling a sudden tingle of fear, Debra decides to make sure that all the doors are locked and to her surprise the kitchen door was wide open. Debra decides she needs to talk to someone as it would help kill the time and hopefully help her get rid of an uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong tonight. She asks herself, “Besides, weren't babysitters supposed to spend the whole night talking on the phone?” She decides that she'll call Jenny but just as she reaches for the receiver the phone rings. Hoping that its Mark calling, she answers and hears a low whispered voice saying, “Hi, babes. It's Mr. Hagen. I'm alive. I'm back. Company’s coming, babes.”

Later that night, Debra tells Mark about the telephone call and says that she hasn't told Jenny yet. She knows that it's not Mr. Hagen because why would he be calling her and not Jenny? So it has to be someone playing a mean joke on her. Mark says that it has to be someone that knows that Debra knows about what happened to Jenny back in her hometown. Debra says that she only told Mark and he admits that he actually told a couple guys, one of which is Terry. Debra can't tell Mark about her prank calls to Terry but she is pretty sure he might be the one who did it. Clearly Terry decided to make a secret call of his own to try and scare Debra. Terry tells Debra that he did try calling her but it was too late and she's already left Mrs. Wagner’s. Debra apologizes for all the dumb calls she made him.

The girls go on a double date with Mark and Terry and when the return to Debra’s house Jenny sees something lying in the low shrub besides the front stoop. In the pale light, the girls can see a small round head with arms and legs. It looks like a baby. For a moment Deborah thinks it is baby Peter. She discovers that it's just a doll. There is a small piece of paper around the doll’s neck. It's a note that reads, “Hi, babes. I'm back. See you real soon. Mr. Hagen.”

Deborah ties to tell Jenny that it's a dumb joke but Jenny doesn't believe her and is sure Mr. Hagen is really back. Debra admits that someone called her last night at Ms. Wagner's. It can’t be Mr. Hagen calling Debra because it makes no sense so it must be some stupid creep playing a joke. Debra asks Jenny if she gave Debra's address to anyone who might have followed her up here. Jenny just says Cal, her boyfriend from back home, but he wouldn't do anything like that. Debra demands that she call him to eliminate him from the suspects. Cal’s mom answers the phone and says that Jenny can't speak to Cal because he ran away from home a week ago.

Debra is babysitting at Mrs. Wagner's again. She's waiting for Mark to show up because she is jumpy. For the past three days Jenny has been having the worst nightmares ever, dreams that mix her boyfriend and Mr. Hagen together. Debra keeps hearing a scrabbling sound from upstairs. She finally decides to call Mark and he answers. He says that he's not coming and maybe she should invite Terry to come over instead. He heard about her little phone calls to Terry. She decides that she'll try to call him back and apologize. As she reaches for the phone it rings. A menacing voice says, “Wait for me Debra. Wait for me. I've come from so far away to get you.” She realizes one horrible thing from the phone call. Mr. Hagen had called her Debra. He wasn't coming after Jenny—he was coming after her.

A few days later, Debra is babysitting alone during a horrible thunderstorm. She calls home to talk to Jenny but is told she hasn't gotten home yet from the stables. She stares out the window and swears she sees something moving behind the rose bushes. The weather is making her more jumpy and nervous. Ever since the frightening phone calls her job hasn't been fun anymore. Mrs. Wagner calls to tell her that she's unfortunately going to be out a little later than usual. If she's not home by 11 she wants Debra to wake Peter and feed him. Eleven o'clock comes and she prepares Peter's formula. As she's about ready to climb the stairs, she looks at the front door and notices it is open a crack. She rushes upstairs and leans over the crib only to find it empty.

Debra freaks out. Peter is gone and she has to find him. She sees a dark footprint on the rug in front of the crib. A dark, wet footprint. Someone was here and took Peter. Fighting off her dizziness she tries to rush to the phone to call the police. She stops halfway down the stairs when she sees a boy in the front entryway. She instantly recognizes him. It's Cal. He says he is looking for Jenny and since the door was unlocked and no one answered he walked in. She rushes to the phone and tries to dial 911 but the phone is dead. Cal volunteers to run next door to see if the neighbor’s phone is working. Debra decides she wants to go with him because she can't stay in the house alone. They finally find a house with neighbors at home. They let them inside and she dials 911.

The police are pretty certain it has to be a cruel joke that someone is playing and that Mr. Hagen is not back from the dead. They are trying to discuss anything Debra remembers about the night with the police when the telephone rings. It is Mr. Hagen saying that he got rid of Jenny and that he has the baby. Luckily, Debra heard the baby crying in the background so Peter is alive. Debra is pretty sure that she heard a horse in the background and they are at the stables. They all rush to the stables. As the police surround the barn, a horse approaches. The baby is held tightly in the rider's arms. The rider starts screaming, “I'm alive, babes! I'm back from the dead—and I'm alive!”

With a gasp of terror and disbelief, Debra tells Jenny to put down the baby.

Jenny tells everyone that she is Mr. Hagen, that no one believed that he was back, and that he has his baby back, the baby that the babysitter killed. The police shoot. Jenny falls off the saddle still holding the baby. The police retrieve Peter and give him back to Mrs. Wagner while Debra screams that the police have killed Jenny. Jenny tells her that she fell. The sound of the shot was actually lightning. Cal tries to comfort Debra and tells her that Mr. Hagen was so much alive in Jenny's mind that by thinking about him all the time he finally took over her mind completely.

Thoughts and Nuggets of Wisdom for Research

When reading the first babysitter novel, I remembered from when I was in sixth grade or so that the father of the family she’s babysitting was the creepy caller. Half way through the second novel, I was able to figure out that the secretary was the crazy one (it was something about the attention she was giving Jenny). The third one, however, I had no idea Jenny was Mr. Hagen and that she finally just snapped.

Debra seems to be a reincarnation of Jenny’s old high school friend, Laura. Jenny says that likes Debra but “she's a little too perfect, though. With that perfect figure. And a perfect will face. And that perfect blonde hair. And she can be very competitive. She always has to win, always has to get her way.” When readers are introduced to Debra we get the impression that she’s not really that nice of a person. Debra likes to make prank calls to a boy named Terry. She calls saying she's a secret admirer and enjoys playing with Terry's mind. Her ex-boyfriend is Don, a boy on the wrestling team at school. She had gone out with him the previous fall because she had never gone out with a “real jock” before. He wants to get back together but she refuses and he threatens to tell Terry who his secret admirer is and then threatens to tell her boyfriend, Mark, about how she likes to call Terry at night.

Debra also lies to her mom. Debra says she gets along with her mom most of the time but she thinks she's in her face too much. That is why she told mom that she babysits three nights a week when in fact it's only two. On the third night she goes out with Mark who her mom doesn't really approve of. She also lies to Mrs. Wagner, the woman she babysits for. Every night when Mrs. Wagner leaves, Debra turns on the porch light which is her signal to let Mark know that it's okay to come over. Jenny overhears Debra playing telephone pranks and Terry one night where she was whispering sexy things to him. Jenny thinks the whole thing is kind of cruel and asks if Mark knows about it. Debra says that he doesn’t and he would never find out because while he's quiet he can get really jealous.

At one point, Debra makes up with Terry. She decides to be nice and ask him if he’d like to come out with her, Mark, and Jenny. The four of them go and see a movie. All throughout the night, Debra finds herself thinking about Terry and wishing she was with him instead of Mark. She decides that she obviously has a bigger crush on Terry than she was willing to admit. When Mark finally discovers the phone calls she was making to Terry, she thinks to herself that now she'd have to “cry and grovel and beg Mark's forgiveness, and make a total fool of herself to get him back. If she wanted him back.”

While I liked this book, there were just too many inconsistencies with it. We are told that Jenny is doing much better and she turns out to just loose it and start Mr. Hagen-ing Debra. It doesn’t make sense. Yes, she was never around when Debra was receiving her calls but, still, there was no event that occurred that would explain what triggered Jenny into taking on Mr. Hagen’s persona. I also didn’t like the ending—Cal seems to be a heartless guy buttering up to Debra and there is no explanation for what will happen to Jenny. I was unable to read the fourth book as I have yet to acquire it for my series book collection. I can’t wait to read it though to see how Jenny’s story is further continued. (I do know from the Amazon book preview that after the event of the third book Jenny spent a year in a “hospital” so I know that the open-ended ending does explain somewhat what happened to her next.)

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