Three to Die by Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton



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Shannon and her two friends, Marge and Traci, look forward to spending the summer as employees of Arapahoe State Park, but their joy is soon spoiled by a tragic accident. Marge’s cruel rejection of nerdy Del Evans results in a fight, and Del falls from the boat into the deep, choppy waters of Lake Arapahoe.  
 
His body is never recovered.  
 
The following summer, the three friends return to the park. On the anniversary of Del’s death, they are shocked to find words scrawled in red across the boathouse, Die, Die, Die—one word for each girl. Did Del somehow survive the accident? Shannon senses that disaster lies ahead for all of them. And even her innocence may not keep her from being a victim of vengeance.
 
EXCERPT:
 
One hand carelessly on the wheel, Marge turned on Del. “I’ve been nice up to now, but now I’m going to tell you exactly what I think of you! You’re an idiot! I don’t want you to ever bother me again, do you hear? I don’t want you hanging around me; I don’t ever want to see you again! Do you get it?” 
 
Shannon could see Del’s back and thin shoulders tensing. She knew that Del, captive audience to Marge’s rage, was deeply shaken by her foolish tirade.
 
“You don’t have to be so mean about this, Marge!” Shannon yelled, her own voice rising as angrily as Marge’s had. 
 
In answer, Marge increased the boat’s speed. Del’s hands tightly gripped the railing beside him, and Shannon was suddenly reminded of how poorly he swam. He must be terrified!
“You’ve had your say,” Shannon insisted, trying to reason with Marge. “Let’s turn around and drop Del off at the dock.”
 
“Yes, let’s all go back,” Traci pleaded, the wind loosening her wavy, blonde hair and plastering it against her face. 
 
In the center of the lake, Marge suddenly cut the motor and rose from her seat. “If he wants out that bad, let him swim!”
 
Del stood when Marge did, and took an entreating step toward her. The sudden motion made the boat rock dangerously.
 
Marge, in a gesture of loathing, backed away from him.
 
Del attempted to reach out for her. At the same time Marge gave Del a little shove. Shannon felt the boat tilt crazily, saw Del stumbling. Before she could make a move, he had slipped over the side into the deep, angry lake!
 
Shannon leapt to her feet, leaned across the edge of the boat. She could see only his flailing arms, the bobbing of his head above the churning water. 
 
“Del!” She reached out as far as she could, Traci holding on to her. “Del, grab my hand! Del!”
A horrified scream sounded from the water’s surface. One thin arm rose upward. Shannon pounced forward in an effort to clutch it. She strained her eyes, aware of Del’s panicky, floundering motions. She tried to locate the reaching hand. Blackness blotched her vision. She saw it only for a moment, then it slipped downward out of sight. 
 
Shannon followed, diving into the icy water. The shock to her body, the unexpected depth, numbed her efforts. She groped blindly, unable to find Del. 
 
She rose, sucked in her breath and dived again, still deeper. She felt a stab of pain when her knee jabbed against one of the sharp projections of limestone that covered the uneven bottom of the lake. Del’s loose clothing could be snagged on one of these rocks.
 
But she could see nothing in the black water. She continued diving, over and over, until her chest felt as if it would explode. At last, forced to the surface, she swam toward the boat and clung to the side of it, overcome with horror, weak, and gasping for breath.
 
Traci, who had also been diving, now stood inside the boat, screaming at the top of her voice. “Help! Someone help us!”
 
Her howl of terror rose above the wind and the rain that had started to fall in torrents. 
 
Marge had not moved from where she had sunk back into the driver’s seat. She made no motion at all, as if she were gripped by a deep state of shock.
 
Shannon wanted to weep in despair. Finding Del was impossible! Waves billowed up with fury, jolting the small boat. Shannon released the railing and dived again. 
 
Beneath the water Shannon tried to loosen her muscles and be swept along with the flow of the current. Desperately she prayed that in this way she could find where Del had drifted. 
The strong undercurrent pulled her toward the rocky cliffs that towered above the lake. She explored the caves hollowed into solid rock. Del could be anywhere! Even if she found him, by now he would be dead!
 
Hours seemed to have passed before Shannon, barely able to make it back, returned to the others. She remained in the water, clinging, as she had before, to the boat.
 
She noted with relief that Traci’s calling had attracted attention. A park-patrol boat armed with extra lights was speeding toward them. Traci had found a flashlight and now waved it wildly. As the boat careened to a stop near them, she directed the beam on Nick Ryan’s face.
Shannon saw his features clearly for a moment, his sun-streaked hair, wet from the rain and gleaming in the light. A muscular arm pulled the boats together. 
 
“What’s happened?”
 
“It’s Del!” Traci’s voice broke in a sob. “He’s fallen overboard! We can’t find him!”
 
“How long has it been?”
 
“Fifteen, twenty minutes! Oh, Nick, I’m afraid he’s gone!” Traci’s shrill voice faded, then rose again. “He could never survive this! Poor Del could barely swim!”
 
“When I heard you crying out, I called for emergency assistance,” Nick said. “More patrol boats are on the way. We’ll cover every inch of this lake! I’ll do everything I can to find him! I promise you!”
 
A deep frown cut between Nick’s eyes when he spotted Shannon. With several quick motions, he glided the craft forward. She made an attempt, but could not pull herself up into the boat.
Strong arms reached out for her and she felt herself being lifted. The swaying, wooden floor beneath her feet made her head spin and nausea settle over her. Nick’s arms encircled her, held her tightly. 
 
“Everything will be all right,” he said, his mouth against her dripping hair. “You’ve done all anyone could ever expect. We’ll take over now.”
 
As she buried her face against Nick Ryan’s chest, she could hear the sound of roaring boat motors near the dock faintly rising above the noise of the storm. Thank goodness, they were alone no longer. Help was on the way.
 
It was too late, way too late!
 
Opening her eyes, Shannon caught a glimpse of Traci, who had boarded Nick’s boat to huddle close beside her. “When you didn’t come back, Shan, I was so afraid!”
 
Tears and rain streamed freely down Traci’s face. She looked imploringly at Nick. “Could it be a trick? Could Del have swum to shore?”
 
Shannon could mentally picture the jagged line of trees so very far away, and in her heart she knew the answer. 
 
She heard the terrible, gasping sound of her own sobbing. The numbness she had felt suddenly broke away and left in its wake a penetrating coldness that caused a shaking throughout her body. Nick drew her closer. 
 
When Marge’s wooden voice finally broke the silence, the three of them turned to her as if a statue had suddenly come to life. “It was an accident,” she moaned. “I only wanted to scare him. I never meant for this to happen!”
 
Nerdy Del would never be bothering anyone again.

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