The low-slung fog lights glowed brighter as the car accelerated down the driveway toward the street.
Straight toward Flaky.
Run! She told herself.
But she couldn't move. She stood transfixed, clutching the umbrella.
The car engine roared. The lights loomed closer.
A voice in Flaky's head screamed at her to run.
Inside the house, Smudge barked hoarsely. Finally, Flaky's blood started flowing again. Her legs unlocked and now she could move.
With a scream that shattered the quiet of the street, she dived out of the way of the incoming car and landed stomach-down in the soggy grass of her front garden.
The car's tires spun and whined on the wet pavement. Scrambling to her knees, Flaky looked back just in time to see its taillights moving down the street. They flared like matches for a moment, and then the fog snuffed them out.
The car was gone.
Flaky sat back on her heels, her heart racing. The dog was still barking, frantic now from hearing her scream.
Then Flaky heard a voice from across the street. "What's going on here?" It was Petunia's voice. "Hey!" she called sharply. "Who's out here?"
"It's me." Flaky's voice was shaky and not very loud. She took a shaky breath. "It's me. Flaky!" she called out.
She heard footsteps on the street, and then Petunia appeared like a ghost out of the fog. "Flakes, are you okay?" she asked. She took Flaky's arm and pulled her to her feet. "What happened? I was putting some mail out for tomorrow morning, and I heard this blood-curdling scream. I thought somebody was getting killed!"
"So did I." Flaky's teeth were chattering. "That's why I screamed. I thought I was going to die."
"Geez, you're not kidding, are you?" Petunia said.
Flaky shook her head. Her hands were muddy and plastered with blades of grass. Her knee hurt. But she was alive.
She looked toward the street. "That car," she said. "It wasn't somebody just turning around in the driveway. It was facing the street. I was standing right there in the lights and it didn't slow down. It went faster. It was so awful!"
"Wait a sec," Petunia said. "Are you saying what I think you're saying? That it tried to run you down?"
Flaky nodded, thinking. Cuddles' car wasn't that big, and neither was Flippy's. Flippy's truck was, but it didn't have fog lights. None of them did.
But someone had tried to kill her.
"Flaky?" Petunia said. Her blond hair was frizzy from the damp and she looked scared. "What's going on?"
Flaky said in a choking voice, "Come on, let's go inside."
Flaky unlocked the door and they went in. The dog quieted down, then started sniffing her knees.
Flaky leaned against the wall, but she didn't move any father into the house. "I don't want to go in," she said. "I know Smudge would be barking if somebody was here. But I'm afraid I'll find another message. Help me look around, okay?"
There were no messages. No bloodred writing on the doors or mirrors, no notes, no ugly voice on the answering machine.
Upstairs, Flaky took off her wet clothes. Her hands shook as she put a plaster on her knee. She wrapped herself in a long white dressing gown and put thick socks on her feet. But she couldn't get warm.
She couldn't stop shivering.
Somebody had tried to kill her.
Down in the kitchen, Petunia handed Flaky a cup of tea. "You look like hell," she said bluntly. "Would you mind telling me what's going on now?"
"I told you before," Flaky said, warming her hands on the mug. "Somebody doesn't want me finding Giggles' secret."
Petunia's mouth fell open. "And you think they just tried to run you down? Flakes, are you serious?"
"Whoever was driving that car was serious!" Flaky shouted. "Does it sound like just a coincidence to you, after everything else that's happened?"
"No, I guess not. But Flaky, who?" Petunia asked. "Who'd do such… crazy things?"
"Crazy? Then how about Cuddles?" Flaky said. "Or maybe it's Flippy."
"Flippy?" Petunia's eyes widened. "Do you really believe that?"
"I'm afraid not to," Flaky said.
"But wait." Petunia thought a second. "Flippy couldn't have put that note in the book, could he? Wouldn't somebody have seen him on a monitor?"
"Maybe not." Flaky pulled the blind away from the patio doors and peered out. All she saw was fog. "It wouldn't take very long. Mrs. Joy doesn't watch the monitor every second."
"He's not the only one who could have done it, though," Petunia said.
"Right." Flaky dropped the blind against the glass and started pacing. Her heart wouldn't slow down. She couldn't keep still. "If I just knew what Giggles' trying to say, then I'd know who's after me."
Petunia got herself a drink. "Go over those places where Giggles signaled you," she said, "maybe something'll hit me."
Flaky got the papers- wrinkled from being in her shorts' pocket- and smoothed them out on the kitchen table. She finished the tea and paced some more while Petunia read them.
When Petunia finished reading, the two of them talked about the quotes and came up with about ten different stories Giggles could be trying to tell.
"We're just making things up," Flaky said finally. "The only one who really knows is Giggles."
Petunia nodded. "Hey, I've got an idea," she said. "Why don't you write a bunch of questions and show them to her? Nobody would be able to read them on a monitor."
"No, but they'd be able to tell what I was doing."
"So, hide them in a magazine," Petunia said. "Pretend you found some fascinating article or you're showing her pictures or something."
It wasn't a bad idea, Flaky thought. And it was much better than what she'd been doing- trying to figure out everything on her own. She should have thought of it two days ago.
Petunia decided to spend the night. After she called home, she and Flaky spent a little while longer talking about what questions to ask and how to phrase them.
Flaky's parents called to see if she was okay. With tears running down her cheeks, she said she was.
So far, Flaky thought later when she got into bed. So far, she was still alive.
But how long would it last?
Petunia had already left for work when Flaky woke the next morning. Still nervous from the night before, she locked the bathroom door when she took a shower and didn't ley Smudge stay outside long. The fog had thinned, but it wasn't completely gone. A fine rain came down steadily.
At the kitchen table, she cut up strips of paper and taped them on pages of an entertainment magazine. Then she started printing questions on them for Giggles to read.
The first question was the key: Was there a crime?
Flaky was almost sure of the answer. Anyone desperate enough to try to kill her had to be hiding a crime.
Suddenly, only the first question mattered. If Giggles did blink yes to it, then Flaky would call the police.
It was eleven o'clock. Over two hours before she was supposed to be at Giggles' house.
But Flaky couldn't wait. Pulling a jumper on over her t-shirt and jeans, she grabbed the magazine and left the house.
Fear was making her heart race again. But the fear wasn't just for herself. It was for Giggles, too. She was in danger, too.
Giggles was a much easier target than Flaky. Flaky could run if she had to. She could fight. She could scream.
But Giggles couldn't walk or even speak. Giggles was trapped.