It was the perfect weekend for murder.
1985, 170 pages
Lara thought the ski trip should be a blast. The old gang was getting together for the first time in years. What could be better than six single girls out for sun and ski and après ski – plus a huge house and a warm fire? Even with the memory of what had happened last time, it looked like the perfect weekend. Until things started to go wrong….
It wasn’t much at first – a snowman that melted when it shouldn’t have, a weird phone call. But then somebody went out for “one last run” and didn’t come back. And the storm they heard about on the radio was getting worse. Lara thought everyone was up there for a good time. But she was beginning to realize that someone was up there for murder.
Dana Miller – not beautiful
Lara Johnson – guilt-ridden
Celeste Winston – gimpy, quiet
Rachael Grayson – beautiful
Mindy Casey – whiny, gum-chewing airhead
Nell Kutroff – rich and disfigured
So, we know that years ago there was an accident – a fiery accident – and Nell is hosting her old gang of friends at her ski chalet. I find it in poor taste that the book description makes it sound like fire is a good thing. Once you read this shiz, you’ll be like: “F-ya, Cavemen, f-ya”.
A road closure stops the gang of girlies (Dana, Lara, and Celeste) on their way to Nell’s super mansion in the woods. The Park Ranger guarding the blockade tells them to ski the last three miles and he will take their car and keys to the lodge for safekeeping when the road opens. This guy looks like Colonel Sanders, actually refers to himself as “The Colonel”, says words like “yonder”, and isn’t even wearing a nametag or uniform (!). I know, Ranger Danger! Ranger Danger! I wouldna trusted him. But Dana could see that Rachael’s BMW had already been left there with him, so she had no beef leaving her VW.
They do the cross-country ski thing through the woods to Nell’s place. Fragile Celeste some kinda cripple thing going on with her back so she doesn’t take gym or carry her own bag. It’s weird because Celeste doesn’t actually know Nell. She’s a new friend of Lara’s. They met and bonded in their school library over – I shit you not – Stephen King novels. No specific one is mentioned, but the book has critics’ raves on the jacket. So, Stine isn’t the only King namedropper.
The three girls arrive at Nell’s hella-awesome house to find Rachael and Mindy already there with Nell. This place is awesome and it’s mentioned quite a few times. It’s a slumber party, but not a “slum”ber party, if ya know what I’m sayin’. Nell got her face pretty much burnt off in a not-yet-specified accident and looks pretty terrible. She doesn’t even put makeup on to greet her guests. Rachael and Mindy had been busy building a New Wave snowman with a cowboy hat and sunglasses. When they go to the backyard to show the other girls, all they find is a big, solid, shallow disc of ice. There is no better way to describe it. Their Adam Ant bonhomme de neige is no more. His accessories are frozen into the shallow, big, wide, ice disc. Rachael and Lara demand answers. The only solution is either bandits with cordless hairdryers, which didn’t even exist in ’85, or a jerk with a really big magnifying glass. No one knows, or even cares for long. Rachael and Mindy have boys to meet at the slopes, so everyone heads to the lodge except Nell and Celeste, who stay at the house.
Dana and Lara get to the lodge and decide to eat first. Dana’s kind of a fat ass, I gather, and not hot. Maybe hot mess. She wishes there was a way to catch anorexia. Then orders a cashew chicken sandwich and chocolate cake. That combo sounds like it would help with bulimia more.
A guy shows up and introduces himself as Percy Chand from San Francisco. Lara is smitten. They flirt over the fruit bowl for a while until Rachael shows up. OMG – this is totally the guy she’s there to meet!! And he’s mackin’ on her bud. And in the meantime Dana totally took off with Percy’s roommate Cal. And he was Mindy’s date!!! These guys have no scruples. They were not that into Rachael and Mindy. Mindy goes kinda crazy whiny because Dana left with her man. And gets even more pissed when Dana shows up looking haggard because the guy mauled her in his room.
Lara and Rachael are all pissy at each other on the slopes because of the Percy situation. Rachael comes to an extreme stop in front of Lara and Lara goes body-first into a tree. Rachael skis off, but luckily for Lara Percy comes to her rescue. She’s got a bleeding head and busted up knee, but she’ll be all right. She thinks that Rachael purposely caused her to fall. Not only are they rivals over Percy, but they’re both on the Homecoming Court at school and Rachael would do anything to win. Lara takes this opportunity to invite Percy and his friend Cal to Nell’s place for a party. They agree that he will show up between seven and eight.
Lara slowly skis back to Nell’s in no shape to ski anymore today. Mindy is coming toward her on the path, intending to return to the lodge to look for Cal. She is not happy with Dana, and wants to get her mitts on the guy asap. They meet at some tracks and see a lone ski in the snow. Odder still, there’s another 6-foot wide shallow ice disc in the snow on that spot. Whassssup?? Lara immediately thinks the ski is Dana’s and that something happened to her. Mindy thinks it’s proof that Dana went back the lodge for more Cal lovin’. Nell tells Lara to chill (heehee) because the ski probably isn’t even Dana’s.
Rachael comes in and is surprised that Lara is all bloody-headed. So… accident? But she agrees with Mindy about Dana, saying that Dana “likes nothing better than a good feel”. Man, no one ever says anything nice about Dana. Like she has pretty eyes or a nice personality. It’s all fat, slutty, big nose. It’s getting late, so Lara calls Park Admin, which is in the ski lodge to see if there’s any sign of Dana there. And also to check if The Colonel is 2 legit 2 not be chop-shopping their cars right now. Ranger Roger doesn’t know, but he’s going to look into it.
At this point, we get a flashback to THAT! FATAL! NIGHT! It’s a sleepover at Dana’s. Haha, I obvs mean a SLUMBER PARTY. Christ, I’ve never called it that in my life. In this case I sort of have to, no? Nell and her younger sister Nicole bring a fancy projector and the girls are all watching Doctor Zhivago, ogling Omar Sharif. Is this realistic? Five 10 year olds watching Doctor Zhivago? That’s, like, 3 hours long. Tell me, was it the pre-Titanic Titanic? For a 1977 slumber party, I woulda guessed this. Or this. Did they even have VCRs then? Never mind. I’m digressing on the best part!
The girls have fun playing charades, which, as far as I know, has never happened before. Rachael wants to get into the booze cabinet. Nicole is, like, 6 and doesn’t know what drunk is. Seriously? Then they give her two different definitions – Nell, on drinking: “Drunk is when you have a hangover and you can’t drive and your head hurts”, and Rachael, on drinking: “Drunk is when you feel good and laugh a lot”. Kids say the darndest things, don’t they?
They all get a little bit lit and get out the Ouija board. God, I wasn’t doing this stuff until wayyy later in life. They get some fortunes, including for poor Dana. She’s gonna have six kids and be plump all her life. You know what? It’s good she found that out now. No wonder as a young adult she won’t diet and thinks she needs a disease in order to be thin. It was her foretold future. Her lard ass was written in the stars that night. The board spells out that there is an evil presence in the room – and it’s Nicole! She gets upset and grabs the little pusher-thingy, and doing so knocks over an ambiance candle. The carpet ignites. Dana and Mindy beat out the fire with magazines and cushions. Nicole, for some reason, is wearing a polyester robe with a wool sweater over it. That’s a look I’ve never seen. Usually it’s one or the other. I dunno. But apparently that’s a flammable combo. This:
At that moment, Nicole opens her eyes and looks at Lara and says: “I’m going to die.” Very Shakespearean. Lara tells Nicole that she won’t let her die. And she doesn’t. She survives for a week in the UCLA Medical Centre Burn Clinic, before contracting an infection and dying. But not before she has a chance to tell Nell to “stay gold”. Nicole gets a fancy funeral and Nell gets skin grafts and bitterness. A long time passed after the accident before Nell was willing to talk to any of the girls. When she and Lara finally got back in touch, “only once did they cry, reflecting on how beautiful Nicole would have been when she grew up”.
Back in the present, Lara overhears Rachael in her room plotting on the telephone. She says something about the cars, and Dana being out of the way, and Lara’s another fly to swat. Lara knows a cool phone trick for listening in: don’t just pick up the receiver; that can be heard on the line. Instead, first unplug the phone from the jack, pick up the receiver, and plug the phone back in. This allows you to silently go about your eavesdropping. Lara goes into the nearest bedroom to practice her neato trick and comes upon Nell doing something suspicious in the closet. If this were at my house, she would probably be turning on the heat lamps or something. Lara listens in briefly in private before Nell comes back in acting all creepy.
They all head downstairs and find that the two boys have arrived. Actually, Cal is old as hell to be hanging out with these girls. He was in the service for 4 years and spent 2 of them in Germany. He loved killing German citizens. His favourite was how the napalm flames looked like the Fourth of July and how proud it made him feel to be an American. I guess what else would you expect from a guy like this: “Cal was standing with his fingers hooked – macho style – in his pockets, talking to Nell.”? Hawt.
Celeste has spent the evening cooking and the result is like something out of Gourmet Sleepover Friends: “Chickens basted in rosemary, baked potatoes sliced through the middle and tucked with sour cream and butter, two casseroles of assorted vegetables coated with an inch of melted Swiss cheese, wild rice with minced green peppers and hot spices, two bottles of expensive red wine, and, of course, the artful carrot cake”. Yow! Cal is also staying refreshed with his own bottle of Bacardi 151. Wicked. That’s what my family drinks on Christmas Eve.
After the eats, Lara realizes that Dana still isn’t back. She thinks that maybe Dana didn’t like getting molested by Cal earlier and decided to stay away. She puts another call into Ranger Roger, who obviously needs some customer service training. He tells Lara that there’s no employee named The Colonel, to which she says: “I’m sure it’s a nickname”, and Rog pulls out the old: “I realize that”. Oh snap! If he woulda added a “ma’am” onto that, I wouldn’t believe he was a park ranger. He would obviously work for my cell phone company. But Dana still isn’t anywhere and Lara has to move on with her evening.
Somehow they get the crazy idea to play charades. Not cool, guys. Percy wants to be on Lara’s team – talk about pissin’ Rachael off. Rach and Lara are in a total war over Percy! Cal is completely wasted and flirting with Celeste. Jeez, man. Mindy is RIGHT THERE and she has a problem with possessiveness. Cal pinches Celeste and Nell goes batshit, calling him a fat slob and telling him to get out of her house/sight. Cal calls her a “tight face bitch”, which seems a little harsh compared to what she said. She was burnt, you asshole. She’s probably not the easiest thing to look at, but there’s no need to go there. Nell puts the boots to him and takes his booze away. Mindy gets all crazy hollering, so Nell tosses the contents of the glass at her. Cal goes for Nell, but Percy punches him out. Mindy tries to catch him and they both fall… where? Into the fire! Mindy’s booze arm catches fire. And again, it’s:
And again, Lara goes for the bottle of 151 to use as a wet, fire stopping fluid. She needs some serious help to change that reflex. Lucky for Mindy, Percy has a fire extinguisher to extinguish-her. Since Lara didn’t get to melt Mindy, she has to make jokes about her getting the Richard Pryor Award. I'm givin' Lara the Charles Nelson Reilly Memorial Poor Taste Award for that one. They call the lodge doctor and decide that putting her to bed with sedatives is good enough, considering the storm outside.
Cal had run out of the house after the altercation, now Percy was on his way out as well. Lara decided to accompany him to the spot where she found the ski to take a second look at the ice-round-circle-shallow-disc-of-ice-I’m-getting-tired-of-describing-it. It’s –10 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people get romantic under those conditions. Lara and Percy go from talking about spontaneous human combustion and pyro-kinetics, to making out. That’s hot. Percy gives Lara flares and leaves. She uses one to melt some of the ice. She’s been entertaining the idea that someone melted Dana and this ice is all that’s left. She takes a sample of the ice disc and walks back to Nell’s. Everyone is sleeping except Nell, and she don’t wanna talk. Lara goes to sleep herself, only to wake in an hour. She checks her ice sample and see that, upon melting, her hypothesis was correct. There is ash mixed in with it, and even a bone fragment.
Lara escapes the house, but starts to freeze in the snow and ice outside. A small avalanche has enclosed part of the woods. Before losing consciousness, she remembers the flare gun in her pocket. But her hands are too frozen to operate the trigger. She thinks fast and thaws them with pee. She shoots the flare, and then fades into semi-consciousness. A figure comes toward her in the snowy darkness, and it’s none other than Cal!! At first, Lara thinks it's an angel. Then she notices that he's overweight and thinks that since she got good grades and never had sex that a "beautiful seraph" should have come to deliver her to heaven. Then she fades away.
She awoke to find herself trapped in the basement, tied up and facing her friends Rachael and Dana who were also tied up. Cal had brought Lara back to the house, and entrusted her to Nell. Dana reveals that she came back early from skiing and Nell knocked her out with drugged hot cocoa and put her in the bedroom closet. Lara says that she had suspected Rachael for all this, especially after overhearing her phone conversation. Rachael had been talking to Ted McDannel, “that creep with the mold on his teeth”, about some work that he had done for free on her car in exchange for feeling her up. Um, Rachael? You’re supposed to be, like, the Marcia Brady of your high school. Maybe you should check your standards.
Celeste comes down into the basement and the girls are wanting her to come untie them. And she’s like: “I don’t think so!!” And she takes off her shirt and she’s all burned to shit. And she’s pissed because Nell’s been telling her for the last eight years that Lara poured gasoline on her. Actually, that might have been safer. So Celeste is really Nicole, who didn’t die and actually knows Nell and has been planning to get her revenge. Nell comes down and starts threatening them with the new propane tank that was installed in the basement, which has been mentioned a few times, but not by me. Whoops. She plans to blow up the whole house and all of its contents. Human contents included.
Lara is able to convince Nicole that it really was an accident and that now that they know who she is, they can be real friends again and Nicole’s life will be awesome. Nicole starts sawing off Lara’s arm restraints. Nell isn’t having any of it and wants the hostages to drink kerosene. Some gets on the floor and Lara sees her chance. She shoots a flare at Nell, and then quickly cuts Dana and Rachael free. The girls escape the house, even remembering to get unconscious Mindy from the upstairs bedroom. As they run from the scene, that propane tank everyone keeps talking about explodes and the house goes everywhere.
Then The freakin’ Colonel shows up. He’s a retired ranger and he was getting wasted at a nearby bar when he ran into Cal, who told him something odd was going on at Nell’s after he found Lara out in the snow at 4 AM.
They lived happy after that. Except Nell. She died in the fire/explosion. They could have roasted marshmallows offa her or something and that would have been fun. The story ends with Mindy and Dana leaving the hospital after getting checked for injuries... and they're still fighting over Cal.