*Technically, this isn't a Fear Street book, but it has a lot of the hallmarks of that series (a bitchy rich girl, "death", crazy ending) Side note: this cover sucks!*
Too bad about Dex. He was in love with Joanna. She broke up with him. And then he died. Joanna's very sorry, of course. But it's not her fault he's dead, is it? Besides, she never loved him. Boys are just toys, to be used and thrown away. But this time, Joanna's gone too far. Because Dex is back. From the dead. For one last date with her...
Joanna - pretty blond rich girl with a daddy complex. Her mother and father divorced a few years ago and her dad ran off to Tucson with a "cheap-looking redhead". I think we're supposed to sympathize with Joanna, but I'm siding with the father here. Joanna's mother gets a shitload in alimony and child support so Joanna is living pretty well. Joanna transferred from public school to private school and she hasn't really made any friends yet. Wah wah wah.
Dex - Joanna's kind-of boyfriend. Dex is fairly good looking (he resembles Matt Dillon) and has a strong desire to become an actor. We're given a little background on his dramatic history (a few plays in high school in which the other actors sucked, making him look like a regular Marlon Brando) Dex is really in love with Joanna...unfortunately.
Pete - Dex's best friend and the object of Joanna's distaste. Pete is described from Joanna's point of view: "With his short, spiky hair, the diamond stud in his ear, and the heavy metal music rattling in his Walkman all the time, he was such an adolescent. What was he trying to prove--that he was cool or something?" Joanna is also an adolescent so I'm not really sure why she's so disgusted by that. Pete also has really bad skin which repulses Joanna. Go to hell, Jo.
Mary - It seems this is Joanna's only friend. Mary still goes to the public high school that Joanna transferred from so they don't see each other often. Mary shocks easily and is appalled by a lot of the things Joanna does (so am I, actually.) She's a brunette so of course she isn't as important as Joanna. Mary redeems herself at the end of this book, though.
Shep - Joanna's other love interest. Shep goes to the same school as Joanna and Joanna has been seeing him behind Dex's back. Shep has little sense of humor, but his personality doesn't really matter. He's rich, after all.
This book was, dare I say it, fairly good! Seriously. I might have a hard time making fun of it. Except not.
The book begins with our "heroine" Joanna spying on the guy she's dating, Dex. Dex is waiting in front of the bookstore at the mall, pacing impatiently because he thinks Joanna is late. Joanna is actually standing a few feet away, hiding and watching him. She's enjoying the fact that he's obviously getting irritated. She laughs to herself as she leaves the mall. She just showed up to watch him squirm? What a bitch...and a waste of gas driving there.
Joanna goes home and calls Mary to gloat about what she did. Mary is, of course, shocked at Joanna. Then they start talking about Shep. Shep is basically a living Ken doll except the doll has more personality. Joanna compares Dex and Shep, stating that Dex isn't as rich as Shep. There is more to a person than their bank account! Mary has a crush on Dex, but she doesn't mention that to Joanna. Joanna tells Mary to hang on a sec because she has another call coming through. It's Dex and he's still at the mall! He says he thought they had a date and Joanna tells him she forgot. In the middle of the convo, Joanna switches back over to Mary without even telling Dex. Someone needs to teach this chick some manners. Joanna just can't wait to brag to Mary about how she dissed Dex. Mary insists Joanna is being really mean (she is!) and should cut this shit out (she should!). I think we all know that Joanna isn't giving in that easily...there's still 100 pages left, after all. Mary changes the subject by asking Joanna if she bought that fur coat she had her eye on. Joanna says yes, she certainly did and then remarks "I'm so spoiled. It's disgusting, isn't it?" Damn straight. I'm puking up my chicken nuggets just thinking about it. And Mary agrees! They end the conversation a few minutes later and Joanna decides to call Shep. Shep kind of sounds like a dog's name. Anyway, she makes a date with him for Saturday night. As soon as she hangs up, she looks out the window and theeeeeeere's Dex! He climbs in the window (houses have doors, dumbass, use 'em!) and tells her that it's a beautiful night and he wants her to come to the Promontory (some cliffs at the edge of town that serve as a popular make-out spot for the local teens) with him and Pete. Joanna doesn't really wanna because she doesn't like Pete but she goes anyway. They make out a little in Joanna's room (I thought she didn't like him?) and we find out that Dex smells "soapy sweet." Yeah, I don't get it either. They finally reel their tongues in and head out to the car where Pete is waiting with his trusty Walkman. When they get to the Promontory, Dex goes wild, running and shouting "I feel good!" He's been possessed by James Brown! He notices that Joanna really isn't paying attention to him so he jumps on the edge of a cliff and starts hopping on one foot. Joanna freaks and tells him to get down, but he just laughs. Things aren't so funny when he falls, though. Oh wait, he's just joking! Not funny. There was a little ledge right beneath the place where Dex jumped...ok then. Pete is nearby smoking a cigarette and wasn't paying attention to Dex's prank. Dex wants Pete to see him do it so he attempts it again. Unfortunately, when he lands on the ledge, it crumbles beneath him. Joanna and Pete hear a sound "like eggs breaking" as Dex hits the rocks. Joanna runs away. Pete calls out for her, but she just gets in the freaking car and leaves! Joanna's thoughts: "How could she stay? Her mother would take away her car. Take away her charge cards. Take away everything. For Dex? Stay and have her life ruined by Dex? She'd stay if it weren't already too late. She heard the horrifying sound when he hit the bottom." Holy shit! You asswipe! He could still be alive down there!!! She would rather have Dex die than not be able to use her fucking credit card? I mean, he never even did anything to her. He was a decent human being and she's gonna let him die like a rat in the gutter. Go fuck yourself with a red hot poker, Joanna!
While she's driving away, Joanna cons herself into thinking that she's actually running for help. Whatever! As she's thinking about Pete and Dex, karma kicks Joanna's ass: she's gets into a car accident. While she's in the hospital, Joanna dreams that she's back at the Promontory with Dex. "He ran past her, right over the cliff's edge. His legs scissored in midair. His hands flailed wildly above his head. He spun, turned to face her, an accusing look on his face. Then he started to drop." Ooo...ACCUSING. Joanna wakes up and sees her mother. Damn, this woman seems broken: "Joanna could see the crisscross of lines at the corners of her mother's eyes, the small pores of her made up cheeks, the crumbs of orange lipstick on her lips." CRUMBS of orange lipstick? Uh, ok. And then: "She hated the smell of her mother's makeup. So orangey. So ugly." I have never smelled makeup that smells like oranges. Maybe lipgloss or something, but whatever. Joanna falls asleep again and when she wakes up a few hours later, Pete is sitting beside her bed. They make awkward conversation for a few minutes and then sit in awkward silence...until Pete angrily asks Joanna if she's even wondering what happened to Dex. Joanna just sits there and Pete jumps up and tells her "Dex died, Joanna. He didn't make it. He died that night and you couldn't even bother to ask me about him." Heavy.
A few days later, Mary comes to visit. She brings Joanna a Snickers bar and tells her to hide it in case someone tries to take it away from her. I don't know why anyone would, but Mary is a doll for thinking of a shit like Joanna. They talk for a few minutes and the conversation eventually turns to Dex. Joanna confesses that she didn't feel anything at all when she found out Dex had died. Of course not. Mary is predictably shocked and leaves a few seconds later.
Weeks later, Joanna is out of the hospital and back on the dating scene. Yippee. She's chatting with her mom before her date and her mother brings up Dex. Joanna realizes that she never told her mom about Dex's death...and she doesn't plan to. Could she be any more avoidant? She's trying to act as if this kid never existed! She just tells her mom that she isn't going out with Dex anymore, she's now dating a rich schmuck named Shep. Everytime I say his name I roll my eyes. Her mother is happy about this because she knows Shep's family. She tells Joanna that Shep is much more appropriate (i.e. RICH) than Dex was. I hate rich snobs.
Joanna and Shep's date consists of them both kissing one another's ass...and going to a public high school dance. Remember, Shep and Joanna attend a private school (Landover). I guess they're slumming it this evening. Shep tells Joanna that it'll be "a total goof". Why? What's so funny about it? Anyway, after Joanna admires Shep's cashmere sweater and silver Jaguar ("I guess we'll be going in style to the Garland High hop!" The 50s called. It wants it's hop back.) they head off to the dance. And yes, it's as lame as you would think. As soon as Joanna enters the gym where the dance is taking place, she makes fun of what some girls is wearing: "Good lord--look at that girl's outfit. How tacky." Granted, the chick is wearing a fringed skirt and plastic cowboy boots (I swear) but that STILL doesn't give you the right to make fun! And Shep...well, Shep is just in a daze because he used to go to this high school and he remembers a lot of these people. He tells Joanna he thinks that plastic boot girl looks sexy. I think he's using the term 'sexy' a little loosely. After criticizing outfits, Joanna moves on to decorations: "They could have spent a few dollars to decorate this place better. I mean, balloons and crepe paper streamers? Get real." Shut. The. Fuck. Up. It's a frigging high school dance! What do you expect?! Shep just says "They can't afford to have their dances at a hotel ballroom the way we do at Landover." I bet they have ten times more fun than those Landover kids do, though. I picture the Landover boys and girls as being a little stiff. Anyway, they dance until 11:00 which is when Joanna starts whining and wanting to leave. Shep agrees and says goodbye to all his old friends. As they're leaving, he tells Joanna "I told you it would a goof." What the hell was so goofy about it? I know that high school dances aren't the height of sophistication, but I've never really thought of them as outright goofy. On the way home, Shep asks Joanna is she wants to see a movie next weekend and she says yes. He walks her to her door where she molests his face with her tongue. He walks off with a stupid grin on his face. Thank God it's over!
When Joanna goes inside, her phone rings. Guess who? It's Dex! The connection is a little fuzzy, but apparently he's calling from the fucking GRAVE so I guess a little fuzziness is expected. He just says hello and asks her how she's doing. Joanna slams the phone down and assumes that it's someone playing a stupid, cruel joke. Namely, Pete. She pushes it out of her mind and goes to bed. The next day, Joanna hangs around the house doing homework, watching old movies, and mooning over Shep. Very boring shit. The day after that is slightly more interesting. On the way to her French tutor's house, Joanna spots Dex. He just stands there staring at her. She calls to him, but he doesn't answer. A bus passes and suddenly Dex is gone. He was just waiting for the bus, Joanna, chill! Dead guys have places to be, too.
Later that night, Joanna is lying in bed trying to sleep. She hears a scratching sound outside...and then sees a hand pop up in the window. Dex pulls himself into Joanna's room and she's a lot cooler than I would be if a dead guy climbed through my window. I'd literally shit my pants and promptly have a heart attack immediately after. Joanna reasonably freaks out and tells him he's dead. He acts confused and then we find out that Dex isn't dead after all. Seriously? I feel ripped off...I thought this was a zombie story. Joanna explains that Pete told her that Dex was dead. Dex simply replies that Pete must have been so upset that night at the cliffs that he just assumed that Dex was dead. Joanna asks where Dex has been for the past two months and Dex says he was recovering from his injuries in a hospital upstate. Joanna accepts this and she and Dex make out for a little bit. And for once, she actually feels some real emotion. Of course she feels guilty about it because of Shep and everything. Forget Shep! Dex was practically dead for two months! Cut him some slack. She breaks the kiss and tells him she thought he was dead. Duh. He says he isn't and he'll prove it. Dex, I think you already proved it by walking, talking, breathing...you see where I'm going with this? He tells her that they'll go out on Friday night and he'll prove it to her then.
The next chapter opens with Joanna breaking her date with Shep. Shep is whining like a little biotch and Joanna is thoroughly enjoying it. He asks her if he can stop by later and she tells him no, her mom has the flu and she wouldn't want him to catch it. Her mom isn't really sick, but like she would care if Shep would catch anything. Anyway, she leaves to go meet Dex at the mall. R.L. Stine really wants to drive it home that JOANNA IS RICH so he describes in detail what she's wearing (blue Ralph Lauren sweater and expensive fur coat) and driving (her mother's BMW). She finds Dex in front of the bookstore (deja vu anyone?) and he comes running up to her when he spots her. They see a movie that is described as "some kind of action comedy with Robert DeNiro grinning and shooting a lot of people and then driving a pick-up truck the wrong way on a freeway with a dozen police cars chasing him." Sounds like a real winner. Does this film actually exist or is it a figment of Stine's twisted imagination? Either way, I'm sure DeNiro would feel honored to have his name in a Stine novel. Anyway, as they're watching the film, Joanna notices that Dex smells like old fruit or meat that has gone bad. A far cry from the soapy sweet days of old! She doesn't think much more of it and the chapter ends there. Dex said he was going to prove to Joanna that he's alive...he didn't really prove anything, though.
The next day, Joanna is hanging out with Mary. When Joanna tells Mary that Dex is alive, Mary pratically has a coronary. Of course the conversation turns to Shep the Magnificent soon after. Joanna wonders what she should tell Shep about Dex. She decides that she'll string them both along for a while because it's fun to mess with people's emotions! Mary asks her if she still likes Dex or not and Joanna says that she's only seeing him because she feels guilty. Sweet. Joanna starts thinking about how bored she is with Mary and wishes that she would leave her alone. Joanna, I think that you should cling to Mary for dear life. She's pretty much the only friend you have... The phone rings and it's Dex. Mary asks to talk to him and Joanna actually says yes. Mary just says she's glad he's ok and such. Dex asks Joanna if she wants to go out again on Friday. She says yeah, even though she's sitting there thinking of Shit...I mean, Shep. They hang up and Mary goes home a second later.
Days later, Joanna is at her tennis lesson with her hottie instructor, Rod. She's kind of bitching, but not too much because Rod is a hot piece of ass...unfortunately, he's also an "inane idiot". You have to take the good with the bad, Jo. Joanna is practicing her backhand and staring at a woman on the next court over: "Look at that fatso over there, wearing a parachute for tennis shorts, she thought, snickering at the woman chasing a ball across the next court. If I looked like that, I wouldn't play tennis. I'd shoot myself instead." You won't have to shoot yourself. I'll do it for you. Rod jogs off to get more balls (tee hee) and Joanna decides to waste this free time by thinking about SHEP. Shut up about Shep! Damn. He's a shallow moron with more money than brains and you're wasting your time, sweetheart. Seriously. She's startled out of her thoughts when she sees Dex pacing beside the fence with his raquet. She does a double take because Dex is looking quite green. Rod comes back with the balls and they start to play again. When she glances back at the fence, Dex is gone.
After the lesson, Joanna showers and changes and as she comes out of the locker room, fucking SHEP is waiting for her. Kill me now. They walk together, chatting about tennis. Shep brags about his skills and I vomit in my mouth. Joanna isn't paying attention (for once!) to Shep because she spots Dex again. Joanna looks at him and "Dex's eyes caught hers. They suddenly seemed to glow ruby red, like the red eyes in a bad flash photo. Glowing red eyes like a dog's eyes at night." Dog's eyes glow red at night? You learn something everyday, I suppose.
Shep and Joanna are at school a few days later, flirting shamelessly. It's the end of the day and Shep is kind of harrassing Joanna about why she can't go out with him on Friday night. She just says that her mother is forcing her to study to make up for all the school she missed when she had her accident. Shep finally drops the subject and Joanna thinks about how grateful she is that he's so gullible. For this moment only, I feel sorry for Shep. On her way home, Joanna thinks about how nice it is to have two boyfriends: "It was a lot like having two winter coats. It was nice to be able to trade them off." You're cold, lady, you're just so damn cold! Will I ever find a likeable main character in any of Stine's books?
On Friday night, Joanna and Dex go to a club called Barks. People, I seriously cannot stop laughing at this shit. They get inside the club and the first thing out of Joanna's mouth is "How tacky!" and for once, I have to agree. There are giant dogs painted all over the walls and a big moose head over the entrance. WTF? Dex laughs and says "I knew you'd like it." He's joking...I think. The dance floor is small and a Gloria Estefan record is being played...ok, whatever floats your boat. Joanna notices a "particularly ugly wall painting of a German shepherd rearing up on its hind legs with its head tilted back in a howl." This place is fucked up. Dex drags Joanna out on the dance floor. They're only out there for a few seconds (long enough for Joanna to smell that nasty stank that seems to float around Dex these days) and Dex runs off. Joanna follows and asks him what's wrong. He says it's just loose teeth. *silence* Joanna chalks it up to his fall and shuts up about it. Dex says he's going to go get them some Cokes. Joanna watches him walk off. Suddenly he stops and "[Joanna's] breath caught in her throat.She suddenly felt sick. She was sure she had just seen Dex reach up and pull a big chunk of skin off his face." Only at Barks!
The next night, Joanna is attending a charity drive with her mother. She, of course, makes time to express her disgust for the surroundings ("Ugh! Those hideous portraits!") and she's pissed because she has to serve punch and pretend to be polite. Joanna's thoughts turn to Shep and Dex. Does she have nothing else in life to think of? The place is mostly filled with older ladies and one of these charming geriatrics comes up to Joanna and tells her that she heard Shep and Joanna are dating and that she thinks they're a perfect couple. Do not encourage this union, lady. It is slowly sucking my soul out of my body. Joanna decides then and there that she is going to break things off with Dex. After a few more hours of boredom and punch serving, Joanna and her mother leave. Joanna's mom tells her to take the car on home because she is going out with "the Waynes and the Sturbridges" and they'll drop her off later. Mom likes to par-tay. The parking attendant brings the car around and Joanna recognizes him immediately: Pete. They make small talk and then Joanna tells Pete that she saw Dex last week. Pete gets really pissed off because he thinks Joanna is just messing with him. He tells her "He's dead, Joanna. I saw him die. And I saw him at his funeral. He's dead forever and that's the truth." Another curveball!
As Joanna drives home, she thinks about the things Pete said. She thinks he's just messing with her mind. Dex is no ghost! Joanna gets home, makes herself some tea, and relaxes in an armchair to think about dead guys and probable liars. Her mother arrives home just as Joanna is deep in thought. Mom was only gone for like 20 minutes? What was the point of "going out" at all? She didn't have time to do anything! Oh well. Anyway, her mother starts gabbing about the charity event and Joanna just tunes her out and thinks about Dex: "She thought about how he had changed. The green tinge of his skin. The stiff, straight legged walk, the musty stale odor, the loose tooth, the skin that peeled off like...a zombie. Night of the Living Dead (LOVE!)" Her mom finally stops talking and Joanna tells her that she needs to go out. Her mother doesn't want her to because it's getting fairly late, but Joanna goes anyway. Joanna gets in the BMW and drives to Dex's house because she's just gotta know if this dude is a zombie.
As she's driving through Dex's neighborhood, Joanna does what she does best: judgement! She can't help but ruminate on how claptrap the houses are (if this were a Fear Street book, this street would be Fear Street) and how small they all are. Dex's house is exceptionally junky and Joanna thinks "Do I really know someone who lives here?" *sigh* She knocks on the door, but no-one answers. She starts to back off the porch, but someone behind her grabs her shoulder. She screams, turns around, and finds Dex standing there. Dex is looking pretty broke-ass: "His skin was pea-soup green. His eyes, still not blinking, were red. His skin was peeling. His forehead was pocked and cratered, as if pieces of skin had fallen off. His black hair, once so beautiful, looked as if it had slipped to one side. The skin was missing from his scalp and a patch of gray showed through from underneath. His skull?!" Personally, I think Joanna should run like hell, but instead she just asks him if he's ok. Yeah, he sure looks ok. He smiles at Joanna and she notices that all his teeth are gone. I laugh out loud when he asks Joanna if she'd like a kiss.
The next day, Joanna's mother comes into her room to wake her up for church. Yeah right. Joanna says that she's sick and doesn't wanna go. Her mother believes her and leaves. Joanna lies in bed and thinks about the night before. She starts to feel seriously freaked out so she calls Mary. That's very considerate of you, waking your friend up early on a weekend. Mary says she'll be there in an hour. When Joanna hangs up, she hear's a tapping sound at the window. She freaks, thinking it's Dex. But don't worry. It isn't some undead freakshow. It's just a friendly pigeon. Joanna takes a shower and goes downstairs. Mary arrives a few minutes later, yelling "Coffee!" Yeah, when it's early in the morning, I can only manage one word, too (except mine isn't "Coffee!" It's more like "Shit!") Joanna makes the damn coffee and then tries to explain to Mary what happened the night before. She says she thinks Dex is sick or something. The girls come to the conclusion that Dex has some weird disease. If you call death a weird disease, then yeah, he's got it bad. A few minutes later, the phone rings. It's Pete. He tells Joanna she has to get the hell out of her house because Dex is coming for her. Holy shit. Pete tells her that Dex is indeed back from the dead and he's come back to punish Joanna for being such a hardcore biotch. Pete hangs up and Joanna just sits there feeling strange. As she hangs the phone up, she hears the doorbell. Joanna flips out, but honestly, if a zombie were coming to your house to kill you, do you really think he'd use the bell? I doubt it. It's only Shep! Joanna is freaking out, trying to explain to Shep and Mary about the whole Dex thing. Shep and Mary just stand there looking at her like nothing is happening whatsoever. Shep even says he'd like a cup of coffee. Your friend is having a nervous breakdown. Worry about the fucking coffee later! Mary and Shep really don't seem to care about Dex killing Joanna. It's only when Joanna says "He'll kill us ALL!" that they start moving their asses. Suddenly they hear a loud banging noise and the front door is blown inward against the wall. Shep didn't close the damn door because he "thought the maid would." You lazy piece of crap. You can't even shut the damn door by yourself?! Dex enters the room in all his red-eyed glory. Pete runs in right behind him, begging him to stop. Dex says to Joanna "You shouldn't have left me to die, Joanna." and picks up a huge kitchen knife. Luckily, Shep knocks the knife out of Dex's hand. Joanna dives for the knife and stabs Dex in the chest. One would think that this would the end of it all, but one would be mistaken. Pete says to Joanna "What have you done? You killed him Joanna! You killed him!" Well, duh. That was the point. Joanna is shocked and asks him what the hell he's talking about. Pete says "It was just a joke. Just stage make-up. It was all a gag, Joanna. To pay you back." Uh-oh. Joanna calms herself with the reassurance that it was in self-defense because she thought Dex was going to kill HER first. As if murdering someone isn't bad enough, Mary tells Joanna that they can't call the police. They should all drag the body out to the woods and bury it there. Joanna is very enthusiastic about this because it lets her off the hook completely. I'm hating these kids right now. Shep is the only one who says it's wrong and that he won't take part in the burial. Mary and Pete drag Dex away and Joanna and Shep stand there instead of wiping up the blood. Joanna hears the housekeeper come in and grabs a knife and cuts Shep's palm. Uh, ok? When the housekeeper comes into the kitchen, Joanna tells her that Shep has had an accident and that's where all the blood came from. Shep and Joanna leave the housekeeper to her work. Shep leaves, but before he does he tells Joanna "You're not really human. I had no idea how cold you really are." Finally!
The next week or so goes by in a blur for Joanna. Shep completely avoids her. Hahahaha. On Friday afternoon, Joanna has another tennis lesson. This time it's with an instructor named Gary. What happened to Rod? Anyway, Joanna is totally unfocused and throughout the entire lesson, she keeps staring at the spot where she saw Dex the last time she had a lesson here. Her mind turns to the fact that he is now lying in a shallow hole in the woods. Pleasant thoughts! Gary asks her what's up, but she just turns and runs off.
When she gets home, Joanna has dinner with her mother, but she isn't too hungry. She goes upstairs to call Mary, but the phone rings. And oh my heavens, it's Dex. WTF? He just says "It's me. Dex. I'm back, Joanna. This time I really DID come back. See you." Joanna flips out as usual and drives over to Mary's house. She knocks on the door and as she does, she starts to smell something really terrible...Dex comes up behind her and says "Joanna, why did you kill me? Look, I'm still bleeding." Damn it, would you just DIE already?! Joanna reaches up and starts pulling chunks of "plastic makeup" off his face. He isn't dead after all. This is getting on my last nerve. Dex pulls out a knife and tells her it's real. Doubt it. Dex explains that he's still pissed off at her. That when he "died" a second time, Joanna didn't even care. She just wanted to get him away from her. Joanna somehow gets the knife away from Dex and tells him that it's his turn to die again! AGAIN? He hasn't died even once, apparently. Mary comes running out of her house, screaming " Get away from him! Were you really going to kill him? Haven't you done enough to him?" Apparently, Mary was in on the whole thing. She and Dex are an "item". Mary tells Dex that she wants to kill Joanna (hurry up!) but Dex just tells her that they should go back inside now. Joanna watches them go. She looks down and spots the knife. She picks it up and figures out that it's a phony stage prop. That explains everything. Well, one thing anyway.
Joanna goes home and cries a lot. Once she's calmed down enough, she calls Shep and says "Shep, I have to talk to you. I'm back from the grave." Shut up, Joanna. The last line of the book: "He didn't understand what she meant. She hoped he'd give her a chance to explain."
I feel like I've been on a wild goose chase...