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By JERRY B. JENKINS CHRIS FABRY
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2006 Jerry B. Jenkins
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTUESDAY, OCTOBER 28
I had just finished mowing my last lawn for the fall, which was sad. You start counting on mowing money-then you realize that the snow is right around the corner and the grass is going to turn brown and stop growing. Usually by Halloween we've had at least one snowstorm, but not this year. I wanted snow so we could get a day or two off school, but the more you want something like that, the less likely it becomes.
Ashley, my twin sister, and Dylan, my little brother, were playing pirate and damsel in distress. Dylan swatted at imaginary enemies with his plastic sword, while Ashley screamed and pushed the hair from her face like some starlet. She wants to be an actress, but she'll never admit it.
Mom watched from the kitchen, a hand over her mouth like she was trying to keep from laughing. Sam, our stepdad, wasn't home from work yet, and Leigh, our stepsister, had just gotten home from having her oil changed. Since she had gotten a car, she'd been gone a lot, mostly with her boyfriend, Randy. She poured some cereal, even though she could see that Mom was making dinner.
The phone rang, and Leigh, Ashley, and I raced for it. With three teenagers that happens a lot. Mom beat us all, but I checkedthe caller ID to make sure it wasn't for me. It read Preston.
"Oh, Jillian, I'm sorry," Mom said. "Was it sudden? ... I'm so sorry." Mom looked a lot like she had when our dad died back in Illinois.
Mom put a hand over the phone and turned to Leigh, who punched a spoon into her soggy cornflakes. "The Prestons need to go out of town for a few days and need someone to-"
Leigh's eyes got big, and she shook her head. "No way," she whispered. "Dad's taking me to look at schools, remember?"
It sounded like she wouldn't consider helping even if she were going to be in town.
Mom took the phone to the next room, and I asked Leigh what was wrong with the Prestons' condo. "Isn't that where you stayed while the rest of us went to the Grand Canyon?"
"Right," Leigh said. "I wouldn't watch that place again for a million dollars. All those animals. All that dog food. Plus the neighbors are weird. That was the worst week of my life. And they didn't pay close to what I expected."
"A million dollars?" Bryce said.
"What's wrong with the neighbors?" I said.
"They share this courtyard, so anytime the dog goes outside he's trespassing. An old lady next door was nice but quirky. And the Preston kid-his room gave me the willies. I shut the door and went in there only to feed his snake. Gross."
"What kind of snake?" Bryce said.
"Boa constrictor or something like that. That I had to feed it a rat turned my stomach, and the thing squealed as the snake chased it."
"Sounds cool," Bryce said.
"A family of daredevils lives in that complex too."
"There're three of them, and they shoot each other with air pistols and ride their bikes around like they're some motorcycle gang. It was almost as bad as going on vacation with you guys."
Leigh made it sound like the Preston Prison, but I'd been there with Mom's book club, and it seemed nice.
Mom stuck her head back in. "Any ideas for someone to watch the place? It's an emergency."
Bryce said, "Ashley and I will do it."
"Yeah," I said. "We could stay there at night and walk to school. Plus there are no classes Friday."
"No way," Leigh hissed. "You guys can't handle all those ... creatures!"
"You'd be surprised," Bryce said. "Mom, tell her we can come over right now, and she can show us what needs to be done."
Excerpted from HOLLYWOOD HOLDUP by JERRY B. JENKINS CHRIS FABRY Copyright ©2006 by Jerry B. Jenkins. Excerpted by permission.
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