His drive to preserve their beauty for eternity cannot be controlled
Derrick, now David, tried to suppress the bad place within himself—the part that wanted to punish the girls who had shunned him. He knew he was good at his work—his actual photography—and he tried to make that more important than the darkness inside. But it was no use. His mission was to immortalize the beauty of young women—and nothing would stop him.
Senior Vicki Valentine is devastated by the loss of her best friend, SueAnne, unable to believe that someone would actually murder her. Spending time with the new guy in town, Scott, helps, but she can't shake the feeling that something else is about to happen. Little does she know that David has been preparing his next photo shoot already . . . with her.
|Publisher:||Open Road Media|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||2 MB|
|Age Range:||12 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Barbara Steiner (1934–2014) was an acclaimed author known for her books for children and young adults. Steiner authored over seventy titles, including picture books, early chapter books, mysteries, young adult thrillers, historical novels, and romances. In her lifetime, Steiner visited more than ninety-four countries and all seven continents, and many of her books were inspired by her travels. She lived in Boulder with her family until her death in January 2014.
Read an Excerpt
The Photographer II
The Dark Room
By Barbara Steiner
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1993 Barbara Steiner
All rights reserved.
Scott smiled the minute he laid eyes on her, hurrying down the hall away from him. It was because of her T-shirt that said A WOMAN'S PLACE IS IN THE HOUSE. AND IN THE SENATE. So—she was a liberated female. He could handle that. He hoped. He was a liberated male.
Numero uno on his list of girls he'd flirt with was one who knew her own mind and had a sense of humor. He was a sucker for a female who smiled on a regular basis. One who could laugh at herself. And, most important, one who could make him laugh at himself. He knew one of his major failings was taking himself too seriously. He'd had one honest male amigo and a record number of blunt females tell him so to his face.
When she turned around, he was hooked, dead meat. Honey-colored hair tumbled wildly around her face, saying I don't spend hours with a blow dryer and a curling iron. Startling green eyes stared right at him. A smile started slowly, ending up almost too large for her small features.
"Are you following me?" The smile disappeared into eyes that teased.
"I didn't think so at first," he said. "But now I've decided I will."
He was grateful the words slipped out before he could think about what to say, since small talk, especially with a girl, didn't come naturally to him. Uppermost in his mind this morning was entering a new school and now, finding the chem lab. He'd never even dreamed about meeting or talking to a new girl, one that got an A-plus for stirring up his own chemistry.
She laughed and shifted a stack of books to her other hip. He had time for one more thought. He liked the small firm breasts that filled out her shirt. Big-busted girls intimidated him.
"Come walk beside me then. You're obviously the new guy in town and could use a girl guide. You a senior?"
"Yeah." He reverted to monosyllables.
"Got a schedule?"
He handed her a card that he'd only had time to glance at.
"God, why do they give new people the leftovers? You're stuck with all the toughest subjects and the workaholic teachers." One blunt-cut, unpolished nail followed the printout of his day. "Look at this. Second-year algebra, trig, chemistry, advanced physics, and advanced journalism. What do you do for fun?"
"I blew up the lab in my last school." It was his only claim to fame as a regular guy.
"No kidding? Do you do cafeterias?" Setting down her books, digging into a denim tote over her shoulder, she pulled out a pair of huge glasses. When she'd put them on, she wrinkled her forehead into a serious frown. "Better? Do you like intellectual girls? Or do you prefer girls who have nothing in common with you? I'm ultimately flexible."
He grinned, liking her better by the minute.
She pulled off the glasses, put one earpiece into her mouth, and studied him. "Think it over. You have all day. This is the chem lab—I think. It smells like chemistry, but it may be physics. I'm sure not going in there. Not my thing. I'll see you in journalism, though, and it's your last class." Her smile suggested that an invitation to continue their conversation after school wouldn't be rejected. With that promise, she bounced away.
"Wait," he whispered. "What's your name?" He realized he hadn't asked and she hadn't volunteered. Rooted, he stared after her.
Behind him, a male voice broke the spell. "Vicki Valentine. Yes, it's her real name, and she's everybody's fantasy woman. But she refuses to go with only one guy, so there's always hope. Incidentally, there's a huge purse waiting for the guy who changes her mind. If no one wins by June first, the money goes into the fund for the senior project. Interested?"
Scott still couldn't speak and it made him feel incredibly foolish.
"Alan Berkman—friends call me Berk." Tall and gangly thin, with zits scarring his face, the guy who spoke to Scott looked like a misplaced seventh grader. "You're new here, aren't you? Going into the chem lab?"
"Yeah, yeah, sure." Scott gained his senses. "Scott Lawrence. Don't call me Scottie, and no, I'm not going to be an engineer in a star fleet. I'm headed for science writing."
"Newspaper can probably use your help." Berk pushed wire-rimmed glasses back onto his nose. "Where you from?"
"New York City."
"Godzilla, what are you doing in this burg?"
"My dad's new head of the reactor in Russelville."
"Keep it a secret. It's not a popular subject."
"I figured that, but you'll have to admit, nuclear power is the only answer for a future fuel source." Scott had strong opinions on science subjects.
"Okay, don't keep it secret. You look like a guy who can take a strong stand and defend it. It just so happens I agree with you. I'll help you write your first article."
Scott liked Berk. They chose seats side by side, agreed to be lab partners, and exchanged groans when the teacher outlined the class expectations.
The rest of the day he settled into the familiar routine of classes feeling he'd made two friends—well, one, Berk, with Vicki a maybe. To his surprise, since Sparksville High certainly wasn't a New York City school, he had all good teachers except one, and that in a subject that didn't matter as much. He could learn it on his own if he had to.
He was able to keep his mind firmly on the subject matter most of the day. But an occasional vision of Vicki surfaced when he least expected it. She had definitely made an impression on him. Maybe he could change his image, become a ladies' man, by moving. Dream on, old man, dream on. What if cats could fly and spiders weave magic spells on nerds?
She waved at him in journalism class, but sat across the room, talking to a guy with an obvious triple major in sports.
After class, in the hall, she turned around, seemed to be looking for someone. He followed her, hoping. But two girls and a teacher got to her first.
He had never experienced anyone else's pain so incredibly from a distance. His stomach clinched as if someone had used it for a punching bag. Bile rose in his throat, and a bitter taste filled his mouth.
At first her face registered shock. Then her smile faded to a grimace as her features contorted with pain. Crumpling into the arms of the two girls, she bent double with sobs. The teacher reached out her hand helplessly and touched Vicki's shoulder with empathy.
Students drifted into small islands of curiosity and dismay like clumps of grease on the surface of cold soup. Whispers circulated Vicki's news.
Berk dropped his hand on Scott's shoulder, but Scott took no offense from the gesture from an almost stranger.
"What? What is it, Berk? What happened?" Scott whispered, too, as he would at a funeral.
"SueAnne Groober, Vicki's best friend. She disappeared a month ago. They found her this morning."
"Very dead. But her body wasn't even cold. Apparently, she had just died, so where has she been for a month? And the strange thing is that she wasn't dressed in the jeans and sweatshirt she was wearing the last time anyone saw her."
"What do you mean?"
"She had on a yellow prom dress, the one she wore to the junior-senior prom last spring. Yellow roses were woven into her hair—fresh roses—and there was a smile on her face."
Being from New York City, Scott was familiar with a certain level of violence. But he'd never known anyone who'd been a victim of it. It had stayed a comfortable distance from him and his circle of friends.
He hadn't known SueAnne, but the picture that Berk had painted for him was as real as his sister's recent wedding photos, as real as today's front page from the small-town newspaper. As real as the pain he'd experienced, reflected from Vicki Valentine's face.
My Lovely SueAnne
When SueAnne faded and died, he felt a satisfying explosion of pleasure. She looked lovely, so lovely laid out in her yellow prom dress. The yellow roses were a brilliant touch of perfection. They looked so right in her hair, and she would be buried before they wilted and turned brown. Like the roses, SueAnne had gone on while she was in the bloom of youth. Her beauty was preserved.
He stood beside her bed, tingling from head to toe. Outside, the woods, framed by the tall windows, glowed with summer's end. Like her body, the earth was still warm.
"Winter will not come to you, my lovely SueAnne. Your beauty will never fade."
He felt his mission return, stronger than before. His need, fueled by saving SueAnne, flooded back, a driving desire.
Uppermost in his mind when he returned her, when he finished arranging her dress as she lay on the courthouse lawn, was one thought.
Whom shall I choose next?CHAPTER 2
She woke to the pain starting all over again. SueAnne was dead. Her best friend—gone.
Vicki had worried a lot, but she had never believed that something bad had happened to SueAnne. Had she? Had she just lied to herself, not wanting to think otherwise? She had told herself over and over that SueAnne had finally made her move. She had finally run away as she'd threatened time after time for the last year.
"I'm almost eighteen—almost legal. I'll leave here and get a job. I look eighteen. I can lie about my age until my birthday, then I can come back and get my things and leave for good. My daddy can't have any say about it then. He won't be able to tell me what to do. Even though he'll try. He thinks he can run my life forever. Why, I'll bet if I was forty years old, he'd try to tell me I couldn't go out with Billy Ray Wiser. He'd still think he knew what and who was best for me."
Vicki smiled through her tears. SueAnne's voice was imprinted on her mind so deeply that she could almost imitate it perfectly. She had tried over and over, keeping SueAnne laughing for hours. Or coaching. After a few tries, SueAnne had given her pointers. "Stretch out the A's and the O's more, make them two syllables. Co-oke. Now leave off all the G's on ing words. Like this, comin', thinkin', doin'." Vicki would laugh and try again. Her favorite word was fixing, or, more correctly, fixin'. "I'm fixin' to go shoppin', Vicki. Want to go with me?"
There would be no more shopping trips with SueAnne, looking for the funky clothes that Vicki wore to be different, or the ruffles that SueAnne said suited her feminine style. SueAnne would never have worn a T-shirt, and knits made up half of Vicki's wardrobe. Especially T-shirts with funny messages. SueAnne had given her one for Christmas last year that said I KNOW I'M EFFICIENT. TELL ME I'M BEAUTIFUL. It suited Vicki so well because she knew she could do homework and term papers in record time; she knew she made all A's, but she had never felt pretty. Not like SueAnne. SueAnne was—had been—the most beautiful girl that Vicki had ever known. And the sweetest.
A lump rose in her throat, threatening to choke her. She swallowed and took deep breaths, but it didn't help a lot. She looked back again, since it was less painful than staying in the present.
When she had moved to Arkansas from California ten years ago, she had expected everyone to talk like SueAnne, with that soft, slow musical drawl. She had been wrong, almost disappointed, but maybe that was why they became good friends so quickly. SueAnne loved to talk, and Vicki loved to listen to her.
But I won't ever hear her voice again.
SueAnne's voice filled Vicki's mind. She had been complaining about her father that first time they met. Apparently, she'd had one idea of what to wear on her first day in high school but Mr. Groober had a different idea. Vicki couldn't imagine her father telling her what to wear. If anything he was amused by her funky styles.
Vicki's mother knocked softly, then came into her bedroom, interrupting Vicki's thinking. "Are you going to be all right, Vicki?" Wearing a very conservative business suit, Mrs. Valentine perched on the edge of Vicki's bed. "I'm going in early this morning so I can take time off to go to the funeral."
She handed Vicki a Kleenex, clasping her other hand tightly. "I'm so sorry, darling. I can't believe we moved from L.A. to get you away from so much stress and violence, and now this—"
"I guess bad things happen everywhere." Vicki heard the quiver in her voice and struggled to get control. She didn't want her mother to worry about her.
"Not usually to people we know, Vicki."
"Have you heard anything else, Mom? How SueAnne was—what happened to her?"
Mrs. Valentine was the district nurse for Lucas County. She got news through her friends who were nurses, long before it was printed in the Sparksville Daily News.
"No, I haven't. There were no marks on her body, no sign of violence. Are you sure you want to hear this?" Her mother wasn't used to protecting Vicki, but Vicki could tell that she thought she needed to now.
"I'll hear it later, Mom. Or read about it in the paper. Don't keep anything from me. I need to know."
"It's very puzzling, to tell the truth. They're doing an autopsy, of course. She hadn't been dead long when they found her."
Vicki struggled to put some distance between her friend and the person they were talking about. The body.
"I—I really thought she'd run away. And maybe she had. Maybe she came back home and—Mom, you know Mr. Groober better than I do. I just heard SueAnne's side of what her father was like. Do you think he—he—"
"Could have anything to do with this?" Her mother pulled Vicki close and held her tightly. Vicki could smell the mixture of soap and perfume that was so familiar to her. She could feel the contrast of her mother's soft figure and the scratchy linen suit jacket she was wearing today.
Suddenly she was filled with a terrible longing to be a little kid again. So young she still thought her mother could protect her from everything bad in the world. She wanted her mother to kiss her and say, "There, all better?"
"I don't know, Vicki. I honestly don't know. I don't like the man, but if everyone who wasn't likable was a murderer, we'd live in a very dangerous world. If the police decide that SueAnne was murdered, and it certainly looks as if she was, everyone who ever knew her will be a suspect until they learn better. The police will question anyone who was around her this summer. Someone will want to talk to you, Vicki. If you can think of anything that seemed different that last week, anyone who might have had some motive for doing this, you must tell them."
"That's all I can think about, Mom. SueAnne. The first time I saw her, the last time I saw her. I can't stop thinking. I wish I could. I wish my mind had an off switch." She pressed her knuckles to her lips.
Her mother kissed her. "I know, baby, I know. Write it down. Put your thinking to good use. That's what you can do for her now."
Two days later, it seemed as if everyone in town was at SueAnne's funeral. Vicki had deliberately chosen a seat about halfway back in the church. No way could she sit right in front of that closed casket—all creamy ivory and gold. No way could she stare at that big portrait of SueAnne.
Mrs. Groober had gushed and raved about the portrait yesterday when Vicki and her mother paid a visit to the Groobers' home. Vicki couldn't go alone, so her mother went with her.
"That nice Mr. Altman insisted we take the photograph of SueAnne that he'd enlarged to put in his window. He said it wouldn't be proper to display it there now, anyway, and he wanted us to have it. No charge. I tried to pay him for it, but he said no, it was a gift, the only thing he could do for SueAnne now. So I'm going to set it up on an easel by the casket. That was Mr. Altman's idea, I have to say. I wanted to leave the casket open—SueAnne looks so lovely—just like she was asleep, but Groober won't have it. He said he didn't want anyone staring at his baby now that she had passed over.
"And, Vicki, Mr. Altman told me not to tell anyone this, but you were her best friend, so you knew it. He said that SueAnne was the prettiest girl he'd ever photographed. That she just sparkled in front of the camera, so natural, with not one self-conscious bone in her body. He said she could have gone to New York and been a model, easy."
Excerpted from The Photographer II by Barbara Steiner. Copyright © 1993 Barbara Steiner. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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