It's almost Halloween, and Dawn is out shopping with Carol. Dawn is done first, and as she's waiting in the car for Carol, she hears a commotion in a nearby store. Someone wearing a clown mask runs out, followed by a clerk from that store who yells that they've been robbed. The clown robber jumps into a nearby black Chevy Cavalier and drives away. Dawn is questioned by the police about what she saw, and about whether or not the "clown" saw her (he didn't). Dawn's pretty terrified by the experience, and bummed that the fact that robber wasn't caught. The Palo City parents have decided that it will be too dangerous for their kids to go trick or treating with a criminal on the loose, so they've instituted a curfew until he's caught.
Dawn is talking over the robbery with the other members of the We Love Kids Club, and they decide they need to catch the crook. Their first stop is the little variety store that Dawn had been shopping in before the robbery happened. It isn't the same place that was robbed, but they carry a lot of Halloween stuff, and Dawn thinks they might carry the kid of mask that the robber wore. They don't, but the salesperson points Dawn and the others towards another store that's only open during Halloween. The clerk there tells the girls that all three of those masks that they had in stock had been sold, and he describes the buyers: one was a high school guy with long, brown hair who left on a skateboard, one drove away in a van from a nearby flower shop, and one was a woman. Right away, the girls decide that the woman doesn't fit as a suspect, so they concentrate on tracking down the two male suspects. The guy at the flower shop bought the mask for his daughter, and it doesn't look like he borrowed it beforehand to rob any stores. The high school guy, turns out to be one of the nicest kids going: he does charity work, helps old ladies and pets cross the street, picks up litter, etc. The girls decide that he's probably not guilty, either, and they're left without any more leads. Actually, not quite: the car that was used in the robbery had a bumper sticker on it from a local fast food place, so the club decides to stake it out and see who comes and goes. The cashier is a blond woman who looks a bit older than most fast food workers (about 35), and the girls mention that they're looking for a boy who drives a black Chevy with a bumper sticker from the restaurant. The cashier tells them that the bumper stickers are free to all customers, so it would be hard to narrow it down based on that. The girls order sodas (no way any of them are eating hot dogs, which is what they serve there), and wait as long as they can to see if anyone suspicious comes in. The only weird thing that happens, though, is that the cashier keeps staring at them. Hmmmm.....
Dawn has been sitting for Erick and Ryan DeWitt a lot lately, and they've got a new friend. His name is Timmy Ford, and he and his dad have just moved in across the street. Timmy is nice, but really shy, and he's having some family problems. His mom isn't in the picture at the moment, and his dad is at work a lot. They're having money problems, too, and Timmy doesn't even think he'll be able to attend the We Love Kids Club Halloween party that's being held in place of trick or treating. Dawn (and the salesperson at the aforementioned variety store) help him put together a cheap costume, so Timmy can look forward to Halloween right along with his new friends. Since the robber hasn't been caught, it looks like the We Love Kids Club Halloween party will be the only celebrating they do that year. In fact, there's actually been another robbery.
On Halloween, Dawn is on her way to a sitting job when she notices the gate to the Fords' backyard sitting open. She goes to close it, and notices some footprints in the yard that match the ones left by the robber (the type of sneakers leaves a very distinct mark). She doesn't think much of it, since lots of people have that type of shoes, but when she passes by the Fords' garage, she stops in her tracks. Inside is a black Chevy Cavalier, complete with a bumper sticker from the hot dog place. Dawn puts two and two together, and figures out that Timmy's dad MUST be the robber. She hurries across the street to the DeWitts and tells Mrs. DeWitt what she suspects. They call the police, who take Timmy's dad into custody.
Since the robber has been caught, the Palo City parents decide that trick or treating can go ahead as planned. Dawn is in charge of taking Clover and Daffodil Austin, and Stephie Robertson around, and all three girls are having a blast. Dawn is a little creeped out, though; at one point, she thinks she sees someone creeping around through backyards. She figures Halloween is just getting to her, so she puts it out of her mind. Then, as they're passing the Fords' house on the way home, she's sure she sees someone back there digging. Not only that, but the mystery person is wearing an all black outfit and a clown mask. That's exactly what the robber was wearing when Dawn saw him. She rushes the kids over the to DeWitts and tells Mrs. DeWitt what's going on. The police had already determined that Timmy's dad wasn't the robber (he had a solid alibi for the time of the first robbery), so Dawn is mystified about who it could be. When the police arrive and umask the clown, it's Timmy's mother, aka the lady from the hot dog place. Guess they shouldn't have wrote off the idea of a female robber, should they?
Back in Stoneybrook, the DeWitts and Barretts are househunting. The parents find one that would be perfect for the family, except for one thing: it's in Greenvale, not Stoneybrook. The kids don't really want to leave all their friends, or their school, so they eventually agree on a house not far from SES. It's smaller than the Greenvale one (and sounds much less awesome, if you ask me), but the kids would rather have a smaller house in Stoneybrook than have to move.
Thoughts and Things
- It really surprises me that Dawn, of all people, wouldn't consider that the robber could be female. I would pick her as being totally into equality.
- If I were Dawn, I would have been more scared of the clown mask than the fact that the person inside it had just robbed a store!
- "A clown is my friend. A clown will not bite me and throw me in the basement...."
- I like that this one took place at the same time as the last book, but it would have been nice if either book had referenced the other in some way.
- Dawn dresses as Pippi Longstocking for the WLKC Halloween party. She must have used a lot of wire and hairspray to get her hair to stand out to the sides like that. Plus, she must have had to walk in to rooms sideways!