Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Wrong Number

*Alternately titled "Caller ID: The Before Time" *

Book Description:

It begins as innocent prank, when Deena Martinson and her best friend Jade Smith make sexy phone calls to the boys from school. But Deena's half-brother Chuck catches them in the act and threatens to tell their parents unless the girls let him in on the fun. Chuck begins making random calls, threatening anyone who answers. It's dangerous and exciting. They're even enjoying the publicity and the uproar they've caused. Until Chuck calls a number on Fear Street. To his horror Chuck realizes he has called THE WRONG NUMBER. The jokes are over when murder is on the line. The murderer knows who they are and where they live-and they have nowhere to call for help.

My Description:

These "prologues" are always so f-ing pointless. This one takes us inside the mind of an unidentified male. The gist: he likes to scheme (ooo, he loves the scheming like crack!); he's messed up in the past, but he won't this time because his plan is foolproof (doubt it); all he has to do is be patient...everyone is in for a big surprise. Can't wait.

The first chapter starts at the beginning of September. Deena Martinson and her best friend, Jade Smith, are sitting in the bathroom doing something stupid with hair gel. Deena glops the stuff all over Jade's hair because Jade claims that when it dries, her hair will be shiny and glorious. More like dry and shellacked. Seriously, Stine, I don't think you understand how gel works. You must be thinking of conditioner. Anyway, the girls talk about school (the fall semester starts Monday; it's currently Saturday) and about the fact that Deena's half brother, Chuck, is coming to live with the Martinsons. Apparently Chuck is a punk ass troublemaker who got kicked out of his last school. I suppose living in Shadyside is his punishment. Since Jade is a hardcore flirt, she's immediately intrigued. Jade says boys in Shadyside are boring and predictable. I agree. They always wanna kill you. I can see how that would get old after a while. Jade picks up Deena's new phone and says she's gonna prank call her sister Cathy who happens to be babysitting this evening. The call is pretty lame: Jade pretends to be calling from the Division Street Mall to inform Cathy that she is "worse-dressed shopper of the month." Cathy has an IQ over 40 and quickly figures out that it's Jade. Since that didn't go over so well, Jade decides to call the nerdiest guy in Shadyside, Henry Raven. Come on! This guy probably puts up with enough shit...he doesn't need you adding to it with your lame ass "pranks", Jade. When Henry picks up, Jade attempts to talk seductively: "You're just the kind of guy a girl like me yearns for." But Henry ain't buying it: "Find another guy. I don't have time for this." Go Henry! Nerds rule. Jade and Deena find this absolutely hilarious and laugh for what seems like forever before calming down enough to discuss Deena's prank call. Deena gets the privilege of calling Rob Morell, the most popular guy at Shadyside High. The call is almost as lame as Jade's calls: Deena tells Rob (in her most seductive voice, natch) that she's his secret admirer. Rob, interested, asks her what she looks like and she says people tell her she looks like Kim Basinger which sets Rob's loins aflame. One would think that Rob would have plenty of dates since he's "most popular", but he appears to be as lame as Deena. Deena hangs up after telling Rob that she'll be in touch soon and the girls call it a night.

The next day, the Martinsons head to the airport to pick up Deena's brother from another mother, Chuck. When Deena spots him, we get the following description: "He was tall and his T-shirt and tight jeans showed off the taut muscles of an athlete. His hair was thick and sandy above startingly blue eyes." Easy now, Deena! Chuck doesn't look too bad, but Deena doesn't care for the expression on his face, a look she dubs 'the snowl' (sneer + scowl = snowl) Clever. On the drive home, they're involved in a car accident. Daddy Martinson tells everyone to get out of the car. They all do, but Chucky has to be a damned hero and runs over to a little boy who keeps pointing to a burning car and screaming "Save Tuffy!" Chuck makes his way through the thick cloud of smoke and saves Tuffy, a little black and white dog. Aw...stop manipulating my emotions, Stine.

The next morning, Deena makes herself and Chuck a bowl of cereal each. Chuck takes two bites and dumps the rest down the sink. Asshole. At lunch, Deena tells Jade that Chuck isn't all that. Jade wants to meet him, but he isn't around so the girls just gossip about the two fattest kids in school (that's how they describe them) Bruce Kipness and Sherry Murdoch, becoming a couple. That's not juicy news, girls. It's downright dull and quite shitty of you. Anyway, just as Jade starts to make fun of a teacher's new haircut, two boys in the midst of a fight burst through the doors. It's Bobby McCorey (local badass) and Chuck (out-of-towner badass) and Chuck is holding a knife! NOOOO! Yes, the chapter ends there. *sigh*

The next chapter is like the prologue. We get more vagueness from the unidentified gentleman: he's having trouble keeping it together, but the plan is on schedule; one more week and his troubles will be over. Oh joy.

On Saturday afternoon (an entire week has already passed?!) Deena is outside washing her mom's car and thinking about classes, her social life (practically non-existant), and Chuck. After he got into the knife fight, Daddy Martinson grounded him indefinitely and made empty threats ("If you make so much as one misstep, you'll be kicked out on your ear!") Your son tries to stab a kid and all you do is ground him? Chuck doesn't even suspended/expelled from school because Dad talked to the principal. Whatever. I call bullshit, man. Anyway, Jade shows up because some guy cancelled their date so she thought she'd come over and see what Deena was up to. I'm sure Deena enjoys being Jade's afterthought. Deena invites Jade to stay for pizza and movies (and don't worry--MORE prank calls) and Jade agrees. Of course she HAS to bring up Chuck--"He sure is good looking." She'll probably molest him before the day is over.

After the girls finish eating, Jade decides it's time for Deena to make another sexxxxxxxy call to Rob Morell. Rob is so turned on, he gets tongue tied: "Well, couldn't we go out for a cuff of coppee?" Ha. As Deena gives him her answer, she hears an odd clicking noise on the line and quickly tells Rob she'll call back another time. Chuck comes into the room a few minutes later and Deena is forced to introduce him to Jade who is staring at him like he's a god...or maybe a big juicy steak that she'd like to take a bite of. Chuck confesses he heard everything Deena said to Rob (that explains the clicking noise) and promises he won't tell Dad...if the girls let him in on the fun. Chuck seems like the type of guy who would think prank calling is far below him, but I guess not. He calls the bowling alley first and tells the girl who answers that there is a bomb somewhere on the premises and everybody better evacuate immediately. He hangs up and laughs as Jade and Deena freak out. That wasn't even funny! It was unnecessarily evil and ILLEGAL. Next, Chuck wants to call someone on Fear Street. Jade and Deena tell him that he's playing with fire; everyone knows Fear Street is a terrible, awful place. Chuck doesn't listen and places a call to Bobby McCorey, the kid that he tried to gut like a fish. When Bobby answers, Chuck says "This is the Phantom of Fear Street. And I've got my eye on you. If I were you, I'd make sure all the doors and windows were locked tonight--and every night." and hangs up. THE PHANTOM? Are you serious? I'm a fucking geek, Chuck, yet I still manage to be more intimidating than you. And that, sir, is quite pathetic. Then Chuck runs over to the window, hangs his head out (it's raining and lightning) and screams "Spirits of Fear Street! Come and get me! I'm waiting!" Yes, spirits, get him. Get him now so I don't have to waste anymore time reading about a fake bad boy with mental problems and a giant chip on his shoulder. Suddenly lightning crackles and Chuck crimples to the floor. Good work, spirits! The girls rush over, horrified, but Chuck is just kidding. He's completely ok...unfortunately. Jade decides that it's time to leave and Chuck offers to walk her home. He later apologizes to Deena for his shenanigans and offers to help her with her homework which prompts the question: why would she want help from a moron?

At school on Monday, Jade shows Deena an article from the Shadyside Morning Press titled "Bomb Threat A Hoax, Police Say". In it, an officer is quoted as saying that the police are taking the threat very seriously. Uh, I thought they knew it was a 'hoax'? Oh well...Shadyside cops suck. They've got to know that their town has the highest crime rate in the country (possibly the world) and yet they don't seem to be doing shit about it. Anyway, Jade is very amused, but Deena tells her they need to stop with the stupid calls. Deena then claims that they call Chuck made to Bobby McCorey was more serious than the bomb threat. Looks like Chuck's stupid is rubbing off on Deena. Deena says once again that she thinks they shouldn't make anymore calls. Jade smiles and says "Maybe I ought to tell Rob Morell who's been calling him." What a bitch! If Jade wants to prank people, why doesn't she keep her ass at home and use her own damn phone?!

Saturday night rolls around and Deena has made up her mind: NO MORE CALLS no matter what Jade says. Ma and Pa Martinson leave to visit friends and Deena decides to grill hamburgers and make potato salad for she, Jade, and Chuck. After eating, Deena tells them that she wants to stop the calls and they all agree. A few minutes later, a bat decides to make an appearance right in Deena's face. She and Jade freak out and run inside while Chuck plays the macho man, sticking around and making jokes ("It's not carrying a switchblade or anything." No, but it's probably carrying a nasty case of rabies and if there is a God, Chuck, you'll catch it!) Finally, he goes inside and the conversation somehow turns to Fear Street. Of course. Chuck doesn't believe that anything bad happens there; he thinks it's all stories and nothing more. To prove that there's nothing freakish about Fear Street, Chuck decides to make another call. You've got to be joking. How will this prove anything? He finds a random number in the phone book for a house on Fear Street and dials that sucker before anyone can protest. He turns on speaker phone and lets it ring. On the sixteenth ring, a frightened woman picks up and screams "Please come quickly! He's going to kill me! You're my only hope!" Then she screams and the sound of shattering glass is the last thing the gang hears before some man gets on the line. He tells Chuck that he must have gotten the wrong number (tying in to the title, good job) and hangs up. Chuck decides they have to go to that house and save that lady. He doesn't wanna call the cops because they would wonder why he called the house in the first place. Chuck, you could have told them that you dialed THE WRONG NUMBER by accident. The Shadyside police force sucks, but they would be able to do more for this chick than you ever would. Ever since Chucky saved the dog from the burning car, he's had a God complex that he just can't shake.

They all run out to the car and Deena dives behind the wheel. Chuck gives her the address and she flips out because the house is close to the cemetary. I think that's the least of your problems, sweetheart. When they arrive at the house, they think they've gotten the wrong address because the house looks junky and deserted. That pretty much describes ALL houses on Fear Street. Chuck gets out to investigate and the girls stay put until curiosity gets the best of them and they follow Chuck. All three of them stand on the porch; Chuck rings the bell. As if anyone is going to answer! They make their way to the side of the house and find a door hanging open. How convenient. They go in and find that the house has been ransacked, objects thrown helter skelter. Suddenly they spot someone lying on the floor in the next room. It's a lady corpse! She's been stabbed! I didn't see this coming from a mile away or anything! That's always the method of death in these things. There are other weapons than knives: guns, flamethrowers, brass knuckles, clubs, hammers. Get creative, Stine. Just as Chuck picks up the phone to call 911, a man wearing a ski mask enters the room. He tells Chuck to drop the phone and Chuck does, picking up the bloody knife lying beside the corpse. The man tells Chuck to put it down, but Chuck doesn't listen because it's really hard to take a ski mask seriously. Deena and Jade run to the car and Chuck follows close behind. Unfortunately, Captain Ski Mask decides to do the same thing, getting into his car and following them. Chuck makes a series of wild turns, bouncing from one street to the next until he's sure he's lost the ski mask for good. But as soon as he pulls into the Martinsons' driveway, he spots ski mask's Honda barrelling down the street. A Honda? I would imagine that such a sinister ski mask would have a more intimidating ride. The car pulls into the driveway and promptly pulls right back out and drives away. Ok then.

Inside the house, Chuck dials 911: "Hello. Send an ambulance to eight eighty-four Fear Street. A woman has been stabbed. My name? Just say I'm the Phantom of Fear Street." I'd rather say you're the Dumbass of Fear Street. Get real, Chuck! Later that night, Deena wakes up to the sound of car doors shutting. She runs downstairs and finds her father opening the door for a couple of Shadyside's "finest". Uh-oh. They want to talk to Deena and Chuck about the unpleasant episode a little earlier. They ask questions and Deena and Chuck lie for all they're worth. Sadly, Stanley Farberson (owner of the home on Fear Street) managed to get their license plate number and gave it to the police. He also told cops that CHUCK killed his darling wife. WHA?! One of the cops tells Deena and Chuck that he has to take them into the station for further questioning. How's the Phantom gonna get out of this one?

The next chapter is simply the ramblings of that anonymous male I've come to loathe: he's accomplished the plan; only one more week to wait; if someone gets in his way, he'll kill them. Great. Moving on...

Deena wakes up on Sunday afternoon thinking about the events that occurred the night before: the police let Deena leave, but they officially arrested Chuck because his fingerprints were all over the knife that was used to kill Mrs. Farberson. On the way home from the station, Deena told her parents that when they found Mrs. Farberson, she was already dead. At home, Deena called Jade and told her to come over. The girls told Mr. and Mrs. Martinson the entire story and later told the officers who think that Deena is just trying to protect Chuck. The fact that Mr. Farberson identified Chucky in a lineup isn't helping the case any.
On Monday morning, Deena meets Jade in the school parking lot. Jade hands Deena an article titled "Local Teen Charged In Murder" that makes Chuck look like a horrible burglar/murderer. Mr. Stanley Farberson has concocted quite a story! All day long, kids are talking about Chuck. Bobby McCorey and his thug friends harrass Deena, telling her to inform Chuck that jail will be the least of his troubles. My ass. At lunch, the fabulous Rob Morell comes over to talk to Deena and ends up asking her out. She says yes, but nothing ever comes of this for some reason.

That night, Deena silently questions Rob's motives: "Did he know she'd made those calls? Did he think she was after his bod?" Ah, that's hilarious. Good stuff. Deena turns her attention back to her trigonometry book when the phone rings. It's Jade telling Deena to turn the TV to channel 7 before abruptly hanging up. The local news is on. A large man with a broken nose is being interviewed about the murder. It's Mr. Farberson. When a reporter asks him how he feels about the suspect, he replies "I hope he gets the maximum. I know I'm supposed to turn the other cheek, but I can't forgive someone for such a terrible crime." Deena is shocked because she recognizes that's the voice of the ski mask! Ski mask = Farberson. Interesting...kinda. Deena calls Jade back and they agree that Farb was in the house on the night of the murder even though he's been saying he was at his restaurant at the time. And now I suppose these girls think they're Nancy fucking Drew. Of course. They must solve the crime! It's their duty! To the Batmobile!

The next morning, Deena calls one of the detectives assigned to the case and explains her theory: Mr. Farberson staged a burglary, killed his own wife, and blamed the innocent Chuck. Senseless? Sure! But who cares? Anyway, the detective doesn't believe a word she says and she hangs up feeling disappointed (exactly the way I feel about this book. What a coincidence.) At lunch, Jade leads Deena to her locker and shows her some wigs she ripped off from the drama department. The plan? Disguise themselves and poke around Farberson's restaurant, the Alberga Three (I don't get it) and find out as much as possible about him. How will this help? Oh well...may as well keep my mouth shut and go along for the ride.

After school, the girls disguise themselves ("We look at least eighteen now.") and head on over to the restaurant. They're greeted by a hostess named Kate. Jade tells her that she and Deena are there to apply for jobs. Luckily for them, a woman named Linda Morrison just quit her job as assistant to Farberson, so Kate says. Kate asks if they're from the agency and Jade lies and says yes. Kate leads them to Mr. Farberson's office where he gives them applications to fill out and exits the room with Kate. The girls use this opportunity to snoop through his things. Jade finds a sheet of paper that has 'Shadyside Travel Agency' printed on it and quickly shoves it into her pocket just as Farberson comes in. Planning on getting the hell out of town, eh? Grand idea. Farb tells the girls he called the so-called agency and he knows they didn't send the girls and he wants to know why they're really there. Busted! Of course Jade lies her way out of it, claiming that Linda Morrison is her cousin and informed her of the job. (I'm sorry if none of this makes sense. I'm barely muddling through it myself. I swear, this book is no longer than any other Fear Street novel, but it feels like a fucking 600 page epic.) Apparently Farb has a plane reservation to Argentina. Oh I get it now--they think he killed his wife, blamed someone else, and is now making a quick getaway before anyone realizes he's the guilty one. The end! Not. Also, the reservation is for two people. Ok. Then girls then begin to wonder if Linda Morrison can tell them anythin salacious about Farb. After all, she WAS his assistant. Just get it on with it.

The next day is a teacher's conference day so NO SCHOOL. The girls decide to use this prime opportunity to go speak with Linda. Hopefully she's completely would give this bland book some much needed spice. Anyway, as an excuse to get into Ms. Morrison's house and talk to her, the girls are going to pretend that they're conducting a survey. I'm sure you can guess who's plan this was. Yeah. Jade actually plays this pretty smooth, informing Linda that the survey is about employer-employee relationships. She launches into questions about Farberson and the restaurant, but she's cut short when the telephone rings. Linda picks up and tells Jade that she needs to take this call in another room so could Jade please hang up this phone when she picks up the one in the next room? Why would you ask a perfect stranger? Couldn't you call the person back later? Jade agrees and Linda walks into another room, but Jade doesn't hang up. Instead, she listens in as Linda has a chat with...Farberson! And it becomes real obvious real quick that this isn't a platonic relationship: "Oh thank goodness it's you, darling. I've had such a dreadful morning. I'm such a wreck. You've got to come and take it away. Please come!" He says he will and they hang up. Jade hangs up, too, just as Linda comes back into the room. Jade tells her that she and Deena have to be going now and they flee to the car before Farb arrives. Jade explains the situation to Deena and they decide to wait until Farb arrives and see what exactly he's coming to get from Linda (besides some sweet sweet looooooove). He shows up and retrieves a package from Linda. As he drives away, Deena says "I know what's in the package, Jade. I just know it for sure. It's the mask and the bloody shirt he wore the night he killed his wife." Don't get too excited, Madame Sleuth. The girls drive straight to the restaurant and see Farb dump the package in a dumpster in the alley. As soon as he's gone, the girls tiptoe into the alley, but before they can nab the package, a chef comes out of the kitchen and asks them what they're doing. Jade makes up a lie and she and Deena run back to the car.

They come back later at night. They both get into the slimy, smelly dumpster and start digging for the package. A couple of guys come out of the kitchen, dump some nasty garbage into the dumpster, and go back inside. The girls are even more repulsed by the smell, but they keep searching. FINALLY Jade finds the package and they leap out of the dumpster, run to the car, and open the package. It sure as hell isn't a mask and a bloody shirt. It's a dead cat. Dammit, Stine! You and your zoo of furry corpses! The girls assume that Linda's cat died and she couldn't bear to get rid of it herself so she got Farb to do it. They glumly get into the car and suddenly some creep wearing a SKI MASK pops up from the backseat. He grabs their shoulders and says "Don't ever let me see you again. I only give one warning." He jumps out and stalks off in the dark. What a gentleman.

After school the next day, Deena goes to visit Chuck. He tells her that she has to get him out because he's going crazy. Deena tells him about all the junk she and Jade have been up to on his behalf. She also tells him that they plan on going to Farb's house and searching for anything that might be incriminating. This infuriates Chuck because he's afraid that Farb will find the girls and kill them. A guard comes and drags him back to his cell, leaving Deena to sit alone in shock. She goes home and has dinner with the parentals and gets into a fight with Dad over Chuck. She storms off to her room. Drama drama drama. Jade calls and she and Deena make plans to visit Fear Street very soon. After 128 pages of mindnumbing boredom, things are finally getting interesting.

On Friday night, both of Deena's parents are stuck at work so she won't have to explain where she's going. Deena eats and then walks to the Division Street Mall to meet Jade. It's pouring rain and by the time she arrives, she's soaked. They take the bus to Fear Street (why the hell didn't Deena take the bus to the mall?!) and creep up to the Farberson house. They go into the house and find that it's a total mess. They make their way upstairs and into Farb's study where they find a letter written by the now deceased Mrs. Edna Farberson. The main points: Mrs. Farberson had a large inheritance and Mr. Farb was blowing through it pretty quickly; she was getting sick of his crap and planned to leave him. The girls decide this is enough evidence to show the police (not still doesn't prove anything!) and they prepare to leave. Unfortunately, they hear someone enter the house. Uh-oh. They wait for a moment until the sound of footsteps stops. They creep into the hall and Jade makes to to the staircase. She looks down and sees Farb snoring on the couch. A life of crime will really take it out of you. She reports back to Deena and these geniuses decide to go quietly down the stairs and swiftly out the door. They can't possibly think it'll be that easy. Anyway, they get halfway down the stairs before Farb starts yawning and stretching. They dash back into his study where Deena has an ill-timed bout of clumsiness, tripping over a wastebasket and catching Farb's unwanted attention. The girls dive into the closet just as he enters the room. It's getting tense, kids. I'm nervous! Farb opens the closet and says "Well, well, girls. Just can't stay away, can you?" Oh damn. Jade says they know he killed his wife and he'll never get away with it. Farb responds by grabbing Jade's arms and yelling "It's time to teach you girls a lesson!" just before slamming Jade into a desk. Deena uses the opportunity to flee downstairs, but she makes the mistake of stopping to try the telephone which is dead. Farb catches her and drags her back upstairs, throwing her to the floor beside Jade. He confesses that he did indeed kill his wife and insinuates that they're going to be his next victims. He leaves the room and locks the door behind him. Probably going to finish his nap. The girls quickly decide to climb out the window and go down a tree that's only a few feet from the window. They hear Farberson putting his key into the lock so they shove a bureau in front of the door to block him. Both girls are clinging to a tree branch when Farb finally gets into the room. He tells the girls that they won't get away and disappears.

He comes outside a few minutes later with a chainsaw. Awesome. Every book needs a chainsaw. Farb revs up the chainsaw and starts to cut into the branch that the girls are hanging on. He almost cuts it completely off....until the cops show up. How very convenient. A couple of officers help the girls down and immediately after, the branch crashes to the ground. Mr. Martinson and Chuck are there, too. Apparently Chuck told one of the detectives about Deena and Jade's plan to raid Farb's house. And everything else just fell into place I suppose.

At school on Monday, everyone is all abuzz about the events. Jade and Chuck are suddenly sickeningly cozy, holding hands in the hall and such. And Rob asks Deena out and it's so cute! *barf* The end.

Conclusion? The first half of the book is pretty dull, but the scene with the chainsaw (and Farberson's maniacal laughter) makes it all worth it.

Up next: "The Secret Bedroom"

Attack of the Jack-O'-Lanterns (Goosebumps #48)

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