Killer Strikes Again "Hey, Killer! How's your boyfriend?" Juliet Dove felt her cheeks begin to burn. Why couldn't Bambi Quilp just leave her alone? Why couldn't everyone just leave her alone? "I don't have a boyfriend," she said softly. "Oh, we've seen you walking with Arturo," said Bambi knowingly. "Yeah, we've seen you walking with Arturo!" repeated Samantha Foster, who was sort of Bambi's official leech. That Bambi and Samantha had seen Juliet and Arturo walking together was no surprise. Arturo Perez was Juliet's across-the-backyard neighbor, and they had been walking to school together since first grade. "Artureo and Juliet, the love story of the century!" cried Bambi. Clasping her hands she placed them against her cheek and fluttered her eyelids. "How Juliet does luh-uve that may-unn!" Juliet flared. "Look who's talking, you pea-brained, metal-mouthed boy chaser! Did you ever see anything in pants that you didn't want? You'll probably have to wait to get the tin off your teeth, though. I hear boys don't like the taste of stainless steel!" Juliet knew she'd made a mistake the moment the words left her mouth. Bambi had only been wearing braces since Monday and she was still sensitive about them. But Juliet had been desperate to turn the attention away from herself, and the blistering comments had escaped her lips before she even had a chance to think about them. Explosions like this were what had earned her the ridiculous nickname Killer to begin with-ridiculous because, in truth, Juliet was the most painfully shy person in the entire Venus Harbor Middle School. Or the entire state, by her father's calculation. But Mr. Dove was given to poetic exaggeration. Juliet hated the nickname, especially because the ferocious comments that earned it for her had never been spoken out of anger. It was just that the minute people started teasing her about personal matters, she felt such an acute panic that she would say anything-anything-to get them to leave her alone. Unfortunately, whenever she tried to explain that she did this because she was shy, people laughed. "It's because you're too good at it," Arturo had told her once. "I mean, when you set your tongue on slice and dice, it's like you've got a Ginsu knife between your teeth." Juliet might not have lashed out at Bambi quite so horribly if she hadn't already been upset over their language-arts teacher's announcement that they would be doing oral reports at the end of the month. As far as Juliet was concerned, doing an oral report was not much different from being slowly ground up in a sausage machine-except that, given a choice, she would have opted for the sausage machine. She could not think of anything more excruciating than having to stand up in front of people and speak. All this was going through Juliet's mind later that afternoon as she pressed herself against the brick wall of the alley that ran alongside the Venus Harbor Cinema. She had ducked around the corner to hide when she saw Bambi and Samantha coming toward her. Though she kept telling herself that the simplest way to deal with the situation would be to walk up to Bambi and apologize, Juliet found the very idea terrifying. So she remained tight against the wall, barely breathing, wishing she could melt right into it, until the girls had gone by. Unfortunately, Bambi and Samantha-Did either of them ever go anywhere alone? Juliet wondered-did not keep walking. Instead, they stopped to examine the poster for the weekend's big event, the Third Annual Venus Harbor Valentine's Day Poetry Jam. Go away, thought Juliet desperately. Go away! The mental command didn't work. Bambi and Samantha stayed right where they were. "My pathetic mother is totally jazzed because Scott Willis is coming to this," said Bambi. "Who cares about a fat weatherman?" scoffed Samantha. "Corey Falcon is the onCoville, Bruce is the author of 'Juliet Dove, Queen of Love A Magic Shop Book', published 2003 under ISBN 9780152045616 and ISBN 0152045619.