There were three of them on the lawn looking up at her window. “What do you want?” Joanna hissed. The short one made a come-here gesture. There were all wearing paper plates with holes cut out for the eyes. Joanna swore and swung her legs over the windowsill.

They crowded around to catch her when she dropped down into the bare patch behind the rhododendrons. “Jesus, guys, it’s four in the morning. I was asleep. Do you know how much trouble I could get in?” The short one — who she was pretty sure was Lesley Moore, the shithead — put a finger to her lips, while the other two — probably Mike Foote and Melanie Spring — took her arms.

Chaykin’s van was waiting at the corner. There was something not quite right about him, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. He was too quiet, maybe — she couldn’t even hear the creepy wheeze of his mouthbreathing. Lesley took shotgun and Mike and Melanie squeezed in next to her in the backseat. The whole van reeked of BO; she could hardly breathe for the stink.

She must have dozed off, because the next thing she knew the sun was in her eyes and they were way outside of town. “Where the hell are we?” she asked, stretching. “I’m gonna get my ass kicked when we get back, you realize.”

Lesley held her finger up to her mask, and Joanna got the creepy feeling that there was nothing behind the paper plate. It sat too flat against her head, for one thing, and when she turned back around there weren’t any strings holding the mask on that Joanna could see. The landscape outside the van didn’t look anything like anything she’d ever seen. She reached over to roll the window down and Mel slapped her hand down, but she touched bare metal for a split second; in that instant the tips of her fingers blackened and fell away, crumbling to ash in the air.

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