Analyzing the cover: I guess I could buy that Tara was in her uniform since she did have a game the night they were kidnapped, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have actually changed into the uniform until she got to school. I don’t know why I’m analyzing this, these covers once portrayed the group as wearing their uniforms to go ice skating.
Mary Ellen invites the squad to come to her house after the game for a party, and Pres reams her out for doing so without consulting him first. Tara calls Patrick as she goes to bed, but he’s super busy and distracted during their conversation, and she falls asleep while they’re still on the phone.
The next day, Tara runs into Mary Ellen at the mall. Neither one has gotten to make things right with their men since the miscommunications of the night before. Mary Ellen offers to take Tara to the school for the basketball game, but when they get in her car in the mall’s parking garage, a person with a stocking over their head pops up from the backseat and points a gun at Mary Ellen’s head. The masked figure calls Mary Ellen “Mrs. Tilford,” so clearly he knows she’s married into the Tilford family and their money. Should’ve married poor Patrick and this wouldn’t have happened.
The masked figure makes Mary Ellen drive to another location. As Mary Ellen drives, she notes the scenery: “It was as though she’d landed in another country, where she didn’t speak the language and couldn’t read the signs. She must have bought hundreds of hot dogs from that stand on the corner, but now the cheerful man who knew she liked them with ketchup looked like a stranger. She’d waited at that bus stop through snow and rain and ninety-degree temperatures, but now the people standing there seemed like extras in a movie. She’d driven this street almost every day since she got her license, but she couldn’t remember if Birch Road had a stop sign or traffic light.” (Nice descriptive writing by Point Horror writer Carol Ellis here).
They meet up with a second kidnapper who asks why there are two girls in the car. Apparently Tara is just very unlucky, and Mary Ellen was the sole target. The girls are tied up and deposited into the back of a van, and the kidnappers take off. This isn’t even ME’s first time – she was kidnapped before with the old squad in book #17. Tarenton must be a rough place to live.
Mary Ellen tries to call Pres (forced by the kidnappers) to tell him what the ransom is, but he is vacuuming and doesn’t answer the phone. She and Tara have been taken to some house and locked in the bathroom, with the window nailed shut. Hey, at least they have a toilet available. Mary Ellen and Tara argue about what they should do – Mary Ellen thinks they should sit tight or risk getting shot. Tara thinks she can outsmart the kidnappers. Still waiting for Mary Ellen to pull the “I’ve been through this before” card.
Tara doesn’t show up for the basketball game, and everyone is disappointed in her. Pres gets a call from the kidnappers telling him they have his wife, and they want money. They say not to tell anyone what’s happening, and that they’ll call him back. So Pres immediately leaves to go find Patrick at the game. I call BS. Wouldn’t he stay glued to the phone for their next call? Pres lies to the squad and says Mary Ellen has a cold (and thus their party is cancelled), but finds Patrick to tell him the truth.
Patrick and Pres argue just like their beloveds were arguing. Patrick insists he’s going to the police even though Pres says they can’t. Patrick wins, and pretty soon they have an Inspector Albright going with them to the Armstrong residence to inform Tara’s parents about her kidnapping. Mary Ellen’s parents are out of town. The police are going to set up shop in Pres’ house to tap any future phone calls from the kidnappers. Pres is no Liam Neeson in the movie “Taken,” that’s for sure.
Meanwhile, the squad still has no idea what happened. Olivia calls Tara’s house, and the maid, putting up the front that was advised by police, says Tara has a really bad case of the flu. Sean and Kate go hiking and find what Sean thinks looks like Mary Ellen’s car abandoned, but because he has no reason to think Mary Ellen is in trouble, and can’t open the locked doors to check the registration, they move along. Kate also finds a butterfly clip in the grass, which unbeknownst to her was worn by Tara, and puts it in her pocket.
Tara wants to pretend she has Stockholm Syndrome and make the kidnappers think she’s on their side, but Mary Ellen still wants to play it safe. It is Monday morning (they were kidnapped Saturday evening) when a kidnapper motions for Mary Ellen to come with him. He puts her on the phone with Pres to ensure him she’s okay, but when Pres demands (as advised by police) to hear Tara’s voice as well, the kidnappers hang up. Pres is angry, and the call wasn’t long enough to be directly traced, but police are able to determine that it was made in Tarenton.
Sean decides to go back and see if that abandoned car is still there, and it is. It looks so much like Mary Ellen’s he decides to call and see if she “lost” her car. Pres asks where it is, and he, Patrick, and a cop go out to get it. Sean is confused about what is going on, and Patrick thinks he’s going to start asking a lot of questions and the squad will figure it all out. Pres thinks about whether or not they should inform the squad. “What if something like this had happened when he’d been on the squad?” IT DID YOU IDIOT, YOU WERE ALL KIDNAPPED INCLUDING PATRICK. Yikes, the problem with multiple authors strikes again. Inspector Albright goes and informs Coach Engborg about the situation at the gym. After the game, she tells the squad and asks them to keep it quiet but keep their ears open for any leads.
The next time Pres is called, they have Tara and Mary Ellen ready to tell Pres they are both okay. They tell Pres they want $500,000. Pres tries to keep them on the phone longer, but they hang up before the call can be traced.
Sean remembers that on Saturday evening, he was running late to the game and got stuck behind a big passenger van that was going really slowly. Thinking back on it, he wonders if that was the kidnappers’ van. He remembers the license plate had SLO as the last three characters, because he’d thought it ironic at the time. The police search a database for vans including those letters in the license plate, and narrow it down to a vehicle registered to a Martin Wyman.
The kidnappers call again and accuse Pres of going to the police. He yells at them that he has the money and they just need to tell him what to do with it, and they hang up. The police say Pres was just being tested, they were just guessing, and he played it convincingly.
By Friday, six days after the kidnapping, police believe they’ve found the suspect vehicle, but it’s parked in an alley by some townhouses, so they’re trying to figure out a way to determine which townhouse it goes with. Then Pres gets a call from the kidnappers instructing him to be at a certain payphone at the library with the money in a canvas bag at 6:35. At the library, Pres answers their call and is instructed to walk 20 blocks to an all-night diner where they will call at 7:45. At the diner, they tell him to go into the movie theatre, buy a ticket for a certain movie, and leave the bag under a seat in the third row. He does so and leaves the theatre, then is shoved into a police car down the street. Pres for some reason is shocked that they have been following him. Inspector Albright says they saw the kidnapper come out of the theatre with the bag, and police are tailing him.
When one of the kidnappers comes in the bathroom to get their leftover food, the thunderstorm raging outside causes the lights to go out. The girls take that opportunity to run out of the open door. He chases after them, but then the police are there and everything is over. I guess they followed that guy back to the townhouse.
Both kidnappers are apprehended, and Mary Ellen and Tara go home. The squad finds out that they are safe and sound during the middle of a game, so even though the basketball team is losing, the squad “cheers their hearts out” in happiness.
Other notes and quotes
- Olivia decides she wants to break things off with both Walt and Duffy for now. She sees Duffy at the pizza place and groans “It’s do or die time.” Yes. Die, Duffy. Die.
- The cops at Pres’ house eat doughnuts. How cliche…
Sign of the Times
- Basically just the payphone mention, and the fact that there’s no such thing as cell phones or caller ID at this point in time.
Author: Carol Ellis
Next time on Cheerleaders… Tara finds out it isn’t the truth that hurts – it’s the lies! Read Cheerleaders #43, TELLING LIES.