Joining Omega Phi Delta is the best thing that’s ever happened to Maxie. Since she pledged with Salem University’s coolest sorority, she’s never had trouble finding a party to go to or a boy to date. Her new life is perfect—until death strikes Omega House. The terror starts when Maxie’s sorority sister Erica’s jewelry box goes missing, with all of her valuables, including her grandmother’s priceless ring, inside. Erica is tearing her room apart when she gets a package: the box, with all the jewelry safe inside. Erica wants to forget the strange incident, but the strange pranks escalate and Maxie sees them as a warning. Some unknown lunatic wants her sisters’ blood, and only Maxie can save them. A year ago, she would have done anything to become an Omega girl. Now she may die for it. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Diane Hoh including rare photos and never-before-seen documents from the author’s personal collection.
About the Author
Diane Hoh (b. 1937) is a bestselling author of young adult fiction. Born in Warren, Pennsylvania, Hoh began her first novel, Loving That O’Connor Boy (1985), after seeing an ad in a publishing trade magazine requesting submissions for a line of young adult fiction. After contributing novels to two popular series, Cheerleaders and the Girls of Canby Hall, Hoh found great success writing thrillers, beginning with Funhouse (1990), a Point Horror novel that became a national bestseller. Following its success, Hoh created the Nightmare Hall series, whose twenty-nine installments chronicle a university plagued by dark secrets, and the seven-volume Med Center series, about the challenges and mysteries in a Massachusetts hospital. In 1998, Hoh had a runaway hit with Titanic: The Long Night and Remembering the Titanic, a pair of novels about two couples’ escape from the doomed ocean liner. She now lives and writes in Austin.
Read an Excerpt
By Diane Hoh
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1994 Diane Hoh
All rights reserved.
It began slowly, with little things, so at first the sisters of Omega Phi Delta didn't even realize anything was wrong.
On Saturday morning, Maxie McKeon and Tinker Gabrielle were hanging out in their room at the Omega house, when Erica Bingham, Omega's president, appeared in the open doorway.
She was frowning. "I can't find my jewelry box," she informed the roommates. "Have either of you seen it? It's big, and lacquered in black with an Oriental print painted on the top, remember? Tinker, you said something about it when you were in my room last weekend."
"I said it was pretty," Tinker agreed. "You can't find it? How could you lose something that big?"
Erica stood up very straight, wide shoulders stiff in her gray university sweatshirt. "I didn't lose it, Tinker! It was on my dresser yesterday afternoon. I remember getting my pearl earrings out — the ones my grandmother gave me — to wear last night."
"Was the jewelry box there last night when you came home?" Maxie wanted to know. "When you took the earrings off?"
Erica shook her long, blonde pageboy. "I don't know. I was out dancing at Johnny's Place, and I was so tired when I got back, I just stuck the earrings on my dresser. I didn't notice the box was missing until I straightened my room this morning. I've been looking and looking, and I can't find it anywhere. Not only is it not on top of my dresser where it belongs, it is not in my room."
Maxie and Tinker exchanged a concerned glance. They were both thinking the same thing. Erica was the most organized person in the house. She was the one everyone else went to when they were hunting for a pair of scissors or the sewing kit or a flashlight. She always knew where everything was.
And now she couldn't find her own jewelry box?
"We'll help look," Maxie offered. In shorts, T-shirt, and bare feet, her dark hair bobbing on her shoulders, she padded down the hall with Erica and Tinker. "If we don't find it in fifteen minutes, you're on your own, Erica."
They didn't find the jewelry box.
Tears of frustration filled Erica's eyes. "The ring my grandmother gave me when I graduated from high school is in that box," she said.
"You didn't lose it, Erica," Maxie pointed out loyally. "You never lose anything. I think you should tell Mildred the box is missing."
Mildred was Mildred Booth, Omega Phi's housemother and cook. She would not be happy to hear that something of value was missing.
Maxie wasn't happy about it, either. She loved Omega house. Living in Lester dorm when she first arrived on the campus of Salem University had been fun. She'd made new friends there. But after the first Omega party, she knew this was where she belonged. The girls were all so nice and so much fun. She couldn't wait to belong. And once she'd been initiated she'd found it was even better than she'd expected. She was proud to be seen in her Omega Phi sweatshirt. Now she always had a party to go to, a group to hang out with. College was more fun than ever.
It had been a major disappointment when Tinker hadn't been pledged at first. But halfway into the semester, one of the pledges had dropped out of school, and Tinker had gleefully taken her place, moving in with Maxie. Now, in March of second semester, Maxie could hardly remember living at Lester. If Jenna Dwyer, her ex-roommate at Lester and still her good friend, and Brendan Rafferty, her boyfriend, weren't around to remind her, she'd feel as if she'd always lived at Omega house.
And in all this time, from late October until the end of March, there had never been any trouble at the sorority house. None.
Now this. Erica's jewelry box missing. Maxie didn't like the way that made her feel. Off balance, as if the planet had suddenly tilted sideways. Or at least Omega house.
Maxie and Tinker went back to their room, telling Erica to come and get them if she needed support when she approached Mildred with the bad news.
"Keep looking and asking around in the meantime," Maxie suggested as they left Erica's room. "Maybe someone just borrowed it." But she didn't really think anyone would do that. Not without permission. A lot of borrowing went on in the house ... clothes, hair dryers, class notes, occasionally even a few dollars, but never without asking first.
Their mood had changed when they returned to their room with the flowered wallpaper, white trim, and rose-colored carpet. A row of windows along the far wall let in ample sunlight on what had turned out to be a beautiful late-winter day.
"You don't think someone actually took Erica's jewelry box, do you?" Tinker asked nervously, running a hand through her very short, almost-white hair. A track athlete, Tinker, in direct contradiction to her name, was tall and broad-shouldered. Her real name was Belle. As a small child, her parents had nicknamed her Tinker Bell. When, as an adolescent, she experienced a sudden growth spurt, they refused to drop the nickname. Tinker seemed to find that really funny. "The Tinker Bell in Peter Pan is no bigger than my hand," she told Maxie laughingly. "When they say love is blind, they must mean parents."
"Do I think someone took the jewelry box?" Maxie asked. "I don't want to believe that someone took it. But we looked everywhere in that room. It's not that easy to lose something so large."
"We should ask around, see if anyone knows anything. Candie might know something."
"Candie might know something about what?" a voice asked from the doorway.
A girl as tall as Tinker but thinner, with a strikingly beautiful face and long, auburn hair, stood in the doorway. "I am incredibly smart, so I probably have the answer. Ask away." She moved into the room and sat down on Tinker's bed.
Maxie recalled the first time they'd met. It was at a rush party, and the girl had been introduced to Maxie and Tinker.
"Candie Barre?" Maxie had whispered later to Tinker. "Is she kidding? Who would name a little kid Candie Barre?"
And from behind her, someone had laughed. "My mother," Candie Barre's voice had said in Maxie's ear. A horrified Maxie had turned around, knowing her face was scarlet, to face the smiling girl. "But it could be worse, right?" the girl had continued. "She could have named me Chocolate. Parents should be forced by law to call their children 'Baby' until the kid is five or six and can pick its own name, right?"
Horribly embarrassed, Maxie had forced a laugh. "You're right. Only a handful of people on this campus know that my real name isn't Maxine. It's Maximilia. Definitely not a name I would have picked for myself."
"Well," Candie had said good-naturedly, "now I know. But I'll never tell." Maxie had laughed then, and decided she liked this tall, very attractive girl with hair the color of chestnuts.
Tinker had laughed and added, "Well, neither of your names is worse than someone my size being called Tinker." Glancing at Maxie, she had added, "It would sound much better on a shrimp like you."
Maxie glowered. She drew herself up to her full height of five feet, three inches and said indignantly, "I have stature that has nothing to do with mere inches! And I have an easier time finding shoes to fit, so there."
When Maxie learned that she had indeed been pledged to Omega Phi, Tinker was the first person she'd shared the news with. But Candie was the second.
Candie loved being an Omega even more than Maxie. Her mother had been president of the sorority in her senior year at Salem, some twenty-two years earlier. "I've been hearing about 'the sisterhood' ever since I was born," she told them, "and I couldn't wait to get here. I was sure my mother was exaggerating. But she wasn't."
Maxie told Candie about Erica's jewelry box.
Horror flooded the pretty face. "You can't mean it's been stolen!" she said in a voice filled with disbelief. "I know other houses and some of the dorms have had some problems with thieves, but not us! Not here!"
"Oh, we don't know that it was stolen," Tinker said quickly. "Maybe it just got ... misplaced or something."
"Misplaced?" Candie shot her a cynical look. "I've seen that box. It wouldn't be easy to misplace. Besides, it's not as if Erica lugs it around with her."
"I don't know about you guys, but I don't want this getting around on campus," Maxie said.
"Oh, of course not," Candie said, her dark eyes wide. "That would be awful! We all have to promise not to tell a soul."
But Maxie had a sinking feeling that if the jewelry box really had been stolen, they wouldn't be able to keep it quiet for long. Bad news traveled, very fast on campus. And a lot of people who disliked sororities and fraternities would be delighted.
That included Brendan and Jenna. Brendan would curl that gorgeous upper lip of his and say something like, "So someone over there has sticky fingers, eh?" And Jenna would toss her dyed bangs, stick her chubby thumbs in the straps of her coveralls and say, "Nothing like that ever happens at Lester."
Which probably wasn't true at all, but you'd never get Jenna to admit that.
At lunch, Maxie noticed that Erica's eyes were pink-edged. She'd been crying about her grandmother's ring. When she'd finished eating, Maxie offered to help her search. She didn't really expect to find the box downstairs, but they'd already looked throughout the second and third floors, so she began in the living room. She'd just moved on to the kitchen when the doorbell rang.
"I'll get it!" she shouted, and hurried down the hall to the front door.
A young woman in a messenger's uniform stood on the porch. "Package for Erica Bingham," she said, extending a large box wrapped in plain brown paper. With her other hand, she extended a clipboard. "You her?"
"Perfect timing," Maxie murmured. A package might cheer up Erica.
"Excuse me?" The messenger peered at her from behind sunglasses.
"Nothing. No, I'm not her," taking the cupboard, "but I can sign for her."
She signed with a flourish, then closed the door and hurried up the stairs to Erica's room. Knocking on the closed door, she called, "Erica! Package for you."
Erica, her usually calm, composed face twisted with anxiety, yanked the door open.
The room was a disaster. Bedding was upended, drawers tilted open, clothing spilling out, closet doors ajar, books out of bookshelves, sprawled on the floor. In her frantic search, Erica had left nothing untouched.
"What is it?" Erica cried impatiently when she saw Maxie.
"I said, you got a package. I brought it right up." Thrusting the box forward, Maxie moved into the room. "Can I ... can I help you look or help you straighten up or something?" she asked tentatively.
"Who's it from?"
"The package. Who's it from?"
Maxie shrugged. "I don't know. No return address. Open it. Maybe it's something wonderful."
Fresh tears dangled on Erica's long eyelashes. "Right. The way my luck is going today, it'll probably explode when I open it." But she placed the package on the bed and began unwrapping it. Her fingers, Maxie noticed, were shaking. Praying there would be something good in the box, something to cheer up Erica, she leaned against the wall and watched as Erica pulled the last sheet of paper away from the contents.
The object inside was large. Rectangular. Shiny black lacquer with pastel flowers dancing across the top.
Erica stood beside the bed, looking down. "I ... I don't understand," she whispered. "How ...?"
Maxie moved to stand beside her. "What is it?" Then she reached the bed and looked for herself.
The jewelry box. Undamaged. And, as Erica reached out and lifted the lid, apparently not tampered with. The upper, red-velvetted tray was still overflowing with jewelry, including a beautiful pearl ring that Erica immediately snatched up and slid onto her left ring finger, crying out happily, "My grandmother's ring! It's still here!"
Watching her, Maxie smiled with relief. She'd never seen Omega Phi's normally reserved president so elated.
But Maxie's smile didn't last long. In spite of Erica's relief and joy, something wasn't right.
Why would someone take the jewelry box ... and then return it?
It made no sense.CHAPTER 2
With her jewelry box sitting safely on her dresser once again, Erica wanted to forget the whole nasty business. "It must have been a joke," she insisted when Maxie argued.
"Erica," Maxie pointed out, "no one here would find that funny. They wouldn't take something that valuable as a prank."
"Well, what does it matter now, Maxie? I mean, it's over and done with, right? All's well that ends well." Contented, Erica began sifting through her jewelry, making sure that nothing was missing, fingering several rings, fondly letting the necklaces slide through her hands.
Maxie knew a made-up mind when she ran into one. Erica had chosen to put the unpleasant episode out of her mind, as if it had never happened.
But it had.
Giving up, Maxie returned to her room and sat down on the bed, looking out the wall of windows over the lawn. The house was quiet. Were she and Erica the only ones home?
For the first time since she'd moved, bag and baggage, from Lester into the sorority house, Maxie felt uneasiness tingling her spine. Erica could focus all she wanted to on the fact that the jewelry box had been returned, but Maxie McKeon couldn't help feeling the whole incident was ... strange.
That night she had dinner with Jenna Dwyer at Burger's Etc., a long, silver diner across the road from campus. She had told Brendan to meet her at the diner later. She wanted to have a couple of hours alone with her ex-roommate.
Guilty conscience, she had told herself when she'd called Lester earlier that afternoon. You haven't had much time for Jenna lately, and you promised yourself when you left the dorm that you'd stay friends.
Jenna Dwyer was the first person Maxie had met on campus. By the time she learned that Jenna hated sororities and fraternities, the two were already friends. "I wouldn't join even if they asked me," Jenna had said when Maxie received her first invitation to a "rush" party. "And trust me, they won't ask."
She was right. Not one sorority sent outspoken Jenna an invitation to a tea or a party or a lunch. They weren't any more interested in her than she was in them. Her wardrobe consisted mainly of ripped jeans, funky tops, and wild, mismatched earrings. She considered high heels a "plot to cripple women," and she had dyed her short, wiry bangs a garish orange-red.
"Definitely not sisterhood material," she had joked while Maxie was packing her bags to leave their room in Lester, and if Maxie thought she heard a note of wistfulness in the comment, she quickly told herself she had to be imagining it. Jenna had made her feelings about sororities perfectly clear. The wistfulness, if it was there at all, had to be because she didn't want Maxie leaving.
The ironic thing, it seemed to Maxie as she saw Jenna loping across the highway toward her, was that Jenna probably could have been pledged if she'd wanted. She might not dress the way the sorority girls did, but she had a great sense of humor and she was smart as a whip. If she'd given Omega Phi half a chance, they might have welcomed her with open arms. An opening had occurred several weeks earlier when one of the girls had had to leave, due to an illness in her family. Maxie could have put Jenna's name in. She had intended to, and then had decided to ask Jenna first.
Jenna had been horrified. "No way!" she had cried, her big brown eyes open wide. "Leave me out of the sisterhood! They'd make me wear pearls and date someone named Biff. Forget it."
The girl who had been "rushed" instead, and who had eventually decided to pledge the sorority, was Cath Devon, who had been living in an off-campus dorm, Nightingale Hall. She had moved into her room on the third floor the previous Sunday.
Maxie told herself she'd been too busy to get acquainted with Cath, but the truth was, she hadn't yet got over her regret that it was Cath in that room instead of Jenna.
We could have had so much fun, Maxie thought now as she held the diner door open for a cheerful, grinning Jenna. If Ms. Dwyer weren't so darn stubborn ...
"So, what's up?" Jenna asked as they slid into the only available blue booth. "It's not every Saturday night that I get a call from Omega house. Did they kick you out, I hope? What'd you do, floss your teeth at the table?"
Excerpted from Nightmare Hall by Diane Hoh. Copyright © 1994 Diane Hoh. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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