The Johanssens are off to Paris, and they've asked Stacey to look after their house (and Carrot) while they're away. It's a big responsibility, especially since Carrot likes to chew things up while no one is there, but STacey is enjoying herself. At least, she is at first. Then, the odd things start to happen. When Stacey goes to check on Carrot one afternoon, he growls at her. He's never done that before, and even though he calms down when he sees that it's someone he knows, Stacey is still a little shaken up. Then, Stacey finds a glass in the sink on two separate occasions when she's sure she didn't use one. Even though those things could be explained away fairly easily (Stacey thinks she just might have forgotten she used a glass), stuff keeps happening. The coffee pot is warm one morning, and there are some Kleenexes in a wastebasket that Stacey is sure she emptied. Carrot's leash is also hung up in a different place, and the house smells like toast at one point. Stacey tries to ignore all those little things, as creepy as they are, but she can't ignore the woman she finds in the bushes in front of the Johanssens' house. She's just a meter reader, but Stacey lets it slip that she doesn't actually own the house. Later, she sees the meter reader arguing with her husband and business partner. When she gets back after walking Carrot that same day, she notices that the newspaper is missing. That's when Stacey decides to get help from the BSC.
At the next club meeting, Stacey gives the others a rundown on what's happening. They agree that each one of those little events by themselves could be explained away, but when they're all put together, it looks pretty creepy. The girls decide not to take any action, since it doesn't seem like the house has been broken into. The next time that Stacey is at the Johanssens', though, things get even weirder. Her watch, which she'd taken off and left the previous time, isn't where she left it. Then, when she's looking for towels to dry off Carrot after a walk in the rain, she notices a hairbrush in the bathroom with red hairs in it. This discovery totally freaks her out. Not only did that meter reader have flaming red hair, but so does this escaped prisoner that's currently on the run. Stacey quickly gets Carrot back on his leash and runs to Claudia's in a panic.
Claudia manages to calm Stacey down, and they go back to the Johanssens' to take a closer look at everything. They notice something that Stacey didn't see before: there's a vase in the front hall that's been broken. Stacey figures that Carrot probably did it, so she decides to replace it. Claudia isn't so sure that Carrot is responsible, so she suggests calling an emergency meeting of the BSC. The girls decide that Stacey shouldn't be alone in the house anymore, so they work out a schedule so one of them will be with her on each of her visits. They also decide to stake out the house by having a slumber party at Jessi's that Friday (the back of the Johanssens' is visible from the Ramseys'). It starts snowing while they're there, so Claudia and Stacey decide to og and look for footprints. There are none, but there's something else: the vase that was broken is now sitting on the hall table, totally intact.
The next morning, Claudia and Stacey go over the Johanssens' together again. The message pad next to the phone is different than Stacey left it; the pages she used have been turned over, and there's a number written on the next page in handwriting that Stacey doesn't recognize. She calls the number, and it's a recording of train schedules. She gets the others together quickly and they head down to the station, sure they're going to figure out the identity of the mysterious, red-headed intruder. They DO see him down there...meeting the Johanssens as they get off their train. He's a friend of theirs from out of town who had an open invitation to use the house whenever he was in Stoneybrook. He left so early in the morning and came back so late at night that he never crossed paths with Stacey. He was also the one who broke (and later replaced) the vase.
Also, the sitters are planning a sleigh ride for their charges. They need snow to make it happen, though, and for awhile, it looks like it might not. Luckily, the white stuff arrives just in time.
Thoughts and Things
- At one point, Stacey sees Carrot twitching and whining in his sleep like dogs do and kind of panics. The same thing happened to me once. I knew full well that dogs sometimes kick a little when they're "dreaming," but this dog was thrashing around like nobody's business. I seriously thought he was having a seizure.
- By the way...the escaped criminal is caught, and the meter reader and her husband make up after their fight (in case you care).
- Charlotte keeps trying to speak French at the beginning of the books, and she thinks that "thank you very much" is pronounced "mercy buckets." I am totally going to start saying that...
- So Mrs. McGill used to live in Paris and almost married a French guy? Cool.
- Claudia seems awfully excited about the museums in Paris in this book. I always wondered why she didn't really want to go on the Europe trip later in the series. Those playground jobs are NOTHING compared to London and Paris!