It's almost Halloween, and SMS is going to be holding its first Halloween Masquerade in 28 years. Stacey wants to have more to her life than just the BSC (even though she likes being back in the club), so she signs up for the decorating committee. She's not too excited to find out that Cokie Mason is also on the decorating committe, but she doesn't have anything to worry about for that quarter. From the very first committee meeting, Cokie's constantly getting ignored, and her ideas are always getting voted down by everyone else in the group. This includes Grace Blume, Cokie's supposed BFF. They also have a cool advisor: Mr. Rothman, who's news to teaching at SMS.
In other news, a group called the Mischief Knights has taken hold of the school. They're pulling pranks, like switching items in people's lockers, writing messages on blackboards, and soaping up windows. No one knows who they are, and no one is owning up to being a part of the group. The beginning of the pranks just happened to coincide with none other than Cary Retlin starting at SMS, though. The BSC isn't going to put two and two together until closer to the end of the book, but I thought I'd throw that little piece of information in now. :)
One day before school, Rick Chow (also on the decorating committee) finds Stacey with some big news. Someone trashed all the supplies they'd bought so far for the dance. First, they think it might be the Mischief Knights. They more or less rule them out, since that level of destruction isn't really their style. Plus, there was no "signature" note, and the Knights always leave those. Then, Stacey wonders if it could be Grace. Cokie had mentioned that Grace had been bragging about some hot date she was planning to bring to the dance, and Cokie isn't sure he really exists. Stacey thinks that Grace could be trying to get the dance cancelled to save face.
The following week, there's more destruction. Claudia had made some ad posters for the dance, and someone cuts them into confetti. The culprit leaves one intact, though, and paints "Will you still love me tomorrow?" across it. This time, Cokie is a suspect. She's been kind of bitter about no one in the committee liking her ideas from the start, and Claudia thinks that she might have wrecked the posters for revenge. Less than a day later, someone spray paints "$10" on the walls of the gym. The Mischief Knights are also brought up as possible suspects again, as is a Mr. Wetzler. He's a Stoneybrook resident who doesn't like the fact that SMS is using funding for the dance,and the girls think he might be trying to get it cancelled for that reason. The BSC members decide they need to do some research. Apparently, there was some sort of tragedy at the last Masquerade, which is why the school hasn't had one in 28 years. They question Sharon and Richard first. Neither remembers much about that night (they were only in 6th grade at the time), but they DO remember that a teacher was killed. After checking old issues of the Stoneybrook News at the library, the club gets all the details they need: during the dance, someome turned off the lights, then set off the fire alarm. There was a stampede of panicked students trying to leave the school, and this teacher had a heart attack during all the commotion. Next, the girls decide to hunt up a copy of the yearbook from that year, just to see what they can find. Interestingly, both Mr. Wetzler and Mr. Rothman were at SMS back then...
Just as the girls are finishing up their yearbook research in the school library, a special assembly is announced. At first, the club thinks it's either another prank, or that the cancellation of the dance is about be made. Neither is the case; it's a legitimate assembly featuring a local theater group. What happens during the assembly, though, isn't legitimate. The lights go out, and a good chunk of the student body freaks out. When the lights come back, they discover that one of the actresses had fallen and broken her arm. Other than that, no inuries, and everyone is sent back to class.
After that, Stacey decides that she needs to interview Mr. Wetzler. She cooks up a story about being with the SMS Express, and that she's doing a story about the school budget. She manages to steer the conversation around to the dance, and finds out that some girl was dumped at the last masquerade. Rumor had it that she was the one responsible for the lights and fire alarm going off, and she left school not long after. Mr. Wetzler suddenly remembers an appointment after revealing that, and rushes out like he's on fire. The BSC again turns to the yearbook for help. The culprit wouldn't have a picture in there if she left before it went to press, but yearbooks usually come with a list of students that aren't pictured. Sure enough, there are three girls listed. The next stop for the club is the school basement, to check out old school records. By looking at the files on all three girls, they figure out that the one they want must be Elizabeth Connor. She left SMS in early November, right after the dance. Not only that, but when she lived in Stoneybrook, she lived in the Johanssen's house.
Luckily, Mary Anne has a sitting job at the Johanssen house that night. Since all the Stoneybrook kids are into playing Ghostbusters, she figures that it would be a perfect cover for taking a close look at the house. Stacey joins her, along with the Braddock kids. In Charlotte's room, they find height markings on the door frame, along with the name "Elizabeth." They've been painted over, but are still readable. In the basement, they find a heart containing the initials "LC+MR" carved into it. Liz Connor and Mike Rothman...as in the decorating committe advisor. Stacey confronts Mr. Rothman, and he tells her everything. Back in middle school, he was one of the most popular kids at SMS. Liz, on the other hand, was not. Mr. Rothman tried to be nice to her, though, and she developed this big crush on him. His friends dared him to ask her to the dance, and bet $10 that he wouldn't last all evening with her. Since being popular was important to him, he agreed. He made it all the way to the last dance of the evening ("Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?") before confessing. Then, Liz stormed out of the gym, and not long after, the lights went out and fire alarm went off. It appears that Liz just might be back in Stoneybrook, and Mr. Rothman's fears are confirmed the next morning when he and Stacey find a dummy hanging from a noose on one of the basket ball hoops.
The day of the dance arrives without any further problems. It looks like everything is going well, until Stacey heads into the bathroom and finds one of the teachers in there, missing the big heavy cloak from her costume. She tells Stacey that someone spilled dip on it, then followed her into the bathroom and stole it when she tried to clean it up. Stacey puts two and two together, figures out who must have taken the cloak, and runs back into the gym. She spots Mr. Rothman, dancing with someone who just happens to be wearing the cloak. It's just about time for everyone to unmask themselves, and when they do, Mr. Rothman finds himself face to face with Liz Connor. He's really very gentle with her, gets her out of the gym, and makes sure she gets the help she needs.
Thoughts and Things
- Exactly how is this dance different from the Halloween Hop that SMS has every year? The way that everyone was talking, you'd think they hadn't had a Halloween dance at all since the tragic one.
- Why did the BSC have to go to the SMS library to look at the right yearbook? Sharon and Richard would have had copies, too.
- Cary Retlin is a real guy. :) No kidding... he lives (or did at one point) in my home state of Washington!
- Still no hot Sgt. Johnson, but I decided that Mr. Rothman bears a striking resemblance to Matthew Morrison from Glee. :D