Teen Killers Club by Lily Sparks
Signal Deere, the Girl from Hell, is on a prison transport, which is just like the bus to high school. Terrible. A warden loads another prisoner on, a girl in a ski mask called Nobody, and says she'll stick her in the back with the other Class A so they can be together. The rest of the prisoners freak out about having two Class As on the bus, but what are they going to do besides cower in fear? Class As are the worst. They're sociopaths, they're murderers, and they're proud of it. The warden rips off Nobody's ski mask and Signal glares at the girls that turn around to gawk at her and, unlike high school, they shrink away instead of laughing. At least she's got that going for her.
When the regular gen pop girls are dropped off, Nobody breaks free of her cuffs and rushes the driver, stabbing him in the neck with a paperclip. Nobody gets tased, but Dave, a warden, sends the driver and the other warden off the bus and keeps going to Signal and Nobody's destination. A summer camp? When Signal met Dave before the bus ride, he told her he was taking her to a new place for young Class As since they're so dangerous they don't even get the option to appeal anymore. Even though Signal tells Dave she's innocent, he doesn't believe she didn't decapitate her best friend, Rose.
Signal remembers a time when she and Rose kind of stopped being best friends. Rose's mom, Janeane, had been raising Rose on her own for years in the trailer next door to Signal, but then she got a rich husband who moved them to a nice neighborhood and they started going to church. Rose told Signal that she would be able to spend the night in their new house all the time, but that didn't really happen. Rose made new church friends, got a boyfriend, and started ignoring Signal. She started seeing a new guy in secret known only as Mr. Moody, and then she started calling Signal again.
The bus arrives at Camp Naramauke and Signal is surprised when it really is a summer camp. No gun towers, no razor wire, not even any walls! Dave introduces Signal and Nobody to Kate, the only other adult there, who takes them over to meet the rest of the Class A campers who are... coloring? Signal and Nobody learn names and some kill counts... Dennis the nerd has killed zero people, Kurt and Troy, the horny twins, have killed three each. Jada, the only other girl, doesn't disclose her kill count, but threatens Signal to keep away from Erik, who is currently up in a tree, or else. Javier, the final camper, is working in the kitchen. Suddenly an air horn sounds and everybody takes off running.
Signal and Nobody join right in and run with everyone else. The air horn means that they have to gather as fast as they can for an activity. Sounds fun! Except that this activity is... dismembering and hiding corpses? Okay, they're not *real* corpses, just mannequins or science lab donations. The body reserved for Signal kind of looks like Rose and, unlike anyone else's, it's made of silicone and is full of fake blood. The motto of the camp is to not get caught so the teens have to hide the body without a trace. Signal fails spectacularly and freaks out, but she can't do that. No one can think she's weak. Javier offers to trade bodies with her, but Dave catches on and makes them switch back. The last one to finish, Signal wraps up Fake Rose and tosses her into the lake.
After dinner, Kate takes Signal and Nobody to gather clothes, bedding and other supplies and makes Jada show them to the girls' cabin where she threatens Signal again about liking Erik, who, after Nobody and Jada leave, is standing right behind her, apparently having climbed in through the window. Creepy. Erik recognizes Signal as the Girl from Hell and reveals his kill count, ten, and asks hers. She says eleven, but he knows she's lying immediately and that she's actually innocent. That’s all she’s ever wanted to hear, but does she want to hear it from a killer?
Nobody comes back to check on Signal then and pretends to be her girlfriend because obviously Erik is putting out big creep vibes. Then Kate and Dave come in and insert trackers in their necks. If they leave camp or cut the trackers out, they'll die instantly. Oh, and Kate and Dave have fobs and can also kill them immediately if they want to. Yikes.
After their kill switches are embedded, Signal and Nobody join the rest of the campers around a campfire where they have s’mores. After some bullying from Jada about Signal not telling anyone her kill number, Nobody swoops in to save her again by telling everyone Signal has killed one person (cue laughter) by decapitation (stunned silence). Signal doesn't want any of these killers' approval though, which maybe Javier notices, because he says that camp, even though they're learning better ways to kill and hide bodies, can maybe be a chance to do good for once.
The next day starts bright and early with a run on the ridiculously difficult obstacle course. Signal is very bad at it and comes in last place. The next time she runs, because they have to do it multiple times, Javier catches her when she nearly falls off a fake apartment building she’s supposed to be free climbing. Erik tackles her when she’s back on the ground and calls her a weakling, and even though he’s swoony to look at, that’s not okay. Signal passes out from exhaustion and wakes up when Dave tells her she has to run laps instead of running the obstacle course again and makes Jada watch her. When they’re out of view, Jada cuts Signal’s face telling her Be a slut, get cut. Damn!
Erik comes to Signal’s rescue this time and manipulates the hell out of Jada and makes her break down into a rocking, sobbing mess. Signal runs off to eat lunch with everyone else, but that’s interrupted by Dave slamming a sopping wet trash bag in front of her. She failed her test of corpse-hiding and is forced to try again, and Javier helps even though he’s not supposed to. They head out to a far away clearing in the woods to where the campers keep a burn barrel and begin loading the body parts in.
As the fire burns, Signal sits and loops dandelions into a crown, which Javier is mesmerized by. Then she notices he has a tattoo of a little kid and they talk about that for a bit and about dandelions being weeds or not and then Javier places the flower crown onto Signal’s head. Erik strolls up right then, making comments about how flirty Signal and Javier are even though Signal has a girlfriend. Erik then talks about how weak Signal is again, but then offers to help her figure out who actually killed her best friend since she obviously didn’t do it. Then he also realizes that the body they’re trying to burn is made of silicone so it’s uh, not going to burn at all.
They get water from a stream to put out the useless fire and continue talking about Rose and how her boyfriend Mike had an alibi but it fell through, which Signal didn’t know about. Her public defender told her to take a plea deal even though there was still clear evidence that she was not responsible and, like a fool, she accepted it. And also like a fool, she has now definitely let Erik, the master manipulator, know that she’s really innocent, which isn’t good for her rep at camp. He claims he won’t do that and that he really wants to help. They go over everything Signal can remember about the night.
Rose wanted Signal to meet with her in a shed in the woods and a party was going on nearby. Rose told Signal she needed a photo for a school project and that Mr. Moody was coming, too, so Signal would finally get to meet him. The next thing she remembers is waking up the next morning. Erik asks about Mr. Moody and Signal says she had been covering up the secret relationship Rose was having with him but that she knows nothing about him. All she knows is that Rose asked her to sleep over at her house and cover for her if her mom or step dad came to check on them, and she did. This first time they were supposed to meet, Signal can’t remember it at all and then she woke up with her friend’s body and head in her lap. Seems like maybe Mr. Moody used Signal just like Rose, but for much worse reasons. So who is he? Maybe the local drug dealer, Jaw Itznicki? Or maybe the killer is Mike, Rose’s actual boyfriend? Or maybe Mike and his alibi that fell through, Vaughn, had something to do with it?
Dave interrupts this investigation and summons Signal and Erik back to camp for survival training, then they are free for the evening. Signal and Nobody talk about camp and about the other campers. Nobody seems to like camp just fine and sees deeper inside the other campers than Signal does. She convinces her to look more closely at Jada and determine why she acts the way she does. Same with Erik. As they walk to their cabin, they encounter a figure wearing a dog mask. Nobody chases after the masked man and Signal manages to stop her just before she crosses the kill switch line. When they get back to camp, Kate seems worried and moves all the girls to the boys’ cabin.
While there, they all speculate who Dog Mask could be and how he seemed to know about the kill line at the creek, but then someone farts and everyone explodes into giggles and the serious discussion is over. As she goes to sleep, Signal finds a note under her pillow from Javier who says that a dandelion is a flower for sure, which definitely means that he likes her and thinks she’s a flower and not a weed.
The next morning, Dennis and Signal get to do other activities instead of the obstacle course because they’re both so bad at it. Kate gives Signal a lock to break and sets Dennis to work at hacking a pacemaker. Dennis’s strengths clearly lie in computers and that’s obviously the way he’s being trained to kill and not get caught. It turns out, Dennis hasn’t killed anyone, but he created a creepy website about death and murder and has the ability to pretty much do anything he wants with a computer and thought everyone would be safer if he were locked away. He also says he doesn’t believe that Signal is a nice person, after all, she’s a Class A Killer, but really, really, she’s not. This makes Signal think of her time in court when Rose’s mom, Janeane said that she’s not fooled by Signal and that she knows that she murdered her daughter.
Kate calls Signal and Dennis back for another activity and sends Signal to the pantry to grab gloves, but while she’s there, she finds newspaper clippings hidden under a shelf. They’re about her trial. Uh, what? Signal hides the newspapers with plans to retrieve them later and joins the rest of the group where Kate teaches them how to melt corpses with acid. She flirts with Javier while the acid works and he ends up drawing a dandelion tattoo on her arm.
Later in their cabin, Signal tells Erik about the newspaper clippings and asks him if he can help her get them. He does, and after everyone else is asleep, they sneak out of the cabin to talk. He pesters her about flirting with Javier and tells her that he’s a sociopath, but … aren’t they all? He says yes, everyone but her. They sit and read the papers and learn that sometime after her trial, Mike, Rose’s boyfriend, left town. Surely Signal can remember more about that night and if Mike had anything to do with it, so Erik suggests he hypnotize her, but then she kind of does that on her own.
Signal remembers when she finally told Rose she couldn’t cover for her anymore. She left Rose’s house but forgot her math book and had to go back for it. When she gets back, she overhears Janeane telling Rose how bad of an influence Signal is and that she and Rose’s step dad, Tom, are concerned. Tom’s pain pills are disappearing and they found cigarettes! Signal isn’t responsible for either of those things, the cigarettes actually belong to Janeane and Tom’s probably abusing his own medication. Janeane catches Signal as she’s leaving and tells her that she was sixteen once, too, and begs her to tell her if Rose is taking drugs. Signal should have told Janeane about Mr. Moody but… she didn’t.
Signal snaps out of the memory when they realize that Kate and Dave are out doing a bed check, which means they need to get to the cabin and quick! They make it back just in time! Signal overhears Kate and Dave talking about keeping them close until they find Dog Mask and that Kate owes him. As Signal drifts off trying to figure out what that means, she also remembers more from the shed with Rose and that Rose made her drink from a thermos that was filled with something that might be alcohol or something worse.
The next day is filled with *fun* camp activities! Dave gives everyone a colorful sharpie and challenges them to slice each others' throats. There are two winners, the one who slices the most and the one who isn't sliced at all, but they could be the same person. Signal is very flirty with Javier again until she sees Erik and gets her throat slashed. After this activity, Kate draws them to a table where they must complete a scavenger hunt, but it's not really a hunt at all. It's a list of embarrassing secrets about each camper and they have to figure out who's who. The secrets are things like who wet the bed until they were thirteen, whose first kiss was with their step brother, who grew up in a trailer park and others. Signal fesses up to one that's not hers to save Jada, then the rest of the campers follow suit, which does not go over well with Kate and Dave. It gets worse when Signal balls up her paper and tosses it. Then everyone else does, too.
Then it gets even worse when Dave yanks Signal up by her collar when he finds her Fake Rose corpse again. When he yells at her the camp motto what did you come here to learn, expecting her to respond how to not get caught and she responds not to end up like you… well, that’s not good at all. He gives her one last chance to hide the body. He sends Jada to watch over her again, of course thinking that Jada still hates her, but that’s much better now what with the scavenger hunt game and Jada ends up helping her dig a hole to bury the body. They talk and realize that they really don’t hate each other and now they’re friends. Soon enough, Dave calls Jada back, leaving Signal alone.
Except not. Erik comes up soon and helps her finish the hole. Signal fills Erik in on what she remembers from the shed. Rose made her drink from the thermos while she set up some sort of weird ritual involving candles, cakes, music and a saw. Erik then talks about how he read in a clipping that Rose was supposed to get a lot of money when she turned eighteen from a family trust, so maybe Mr. Moody was somehow trying to kill Rose to get that. Signal really thinks it’s Vaughn, Mike’s best friend and alibi and that they were in a secret love triangle and found out about it, but Erik really doesn’t think so. He thinks it’s Jaw, the drug dealer, or maybe it actually was Signal. She gets pissed and then comes at him and his manipulation again, but he tries to explain that he really is trying to help her and also that Javier is a bad guy. She’s like whatever, she doesn’t want to judge anyone by their past, and then they go back to the cabin.
Signal remembers more about the night in the shed when she goes to sleep and it turns into a nightmare involving mist and smoke and screaming and faceless people and Rose maybe making out with someone with blond hair and then setting Signal up for a fake-kissing photograph. She wakes everyone up with her screaming, then they decide to have a sleepover in the floor of the cabin. They decide that they’re going to try to keep each other safe after Signal’s outburst at Dave, but then Dog Mask shows up. They all attack and Nobody kills him, but as he’s dying, he says “We won’t go quiet. Deal with … the devil. S’all it’s ever been … tell Kate … won’t go quiet.” Kate and Dave rush in then, Kate looking startled. Dave says it looks like they need to report an intruder to HQ. When the Teen Killers start to question him, he dismisses them to clean up the body.
Signal goes to get cleaning supplies and overhears Kate telling Dave that they can’t tell HQ who Dog Mask was because then they’ll send the Teen Killers out early and they’re not ready. Javier comes to find Signal and asks her if she likes him even though Nobody is her girlfriend. Jada interrupts and they gather their supplies, but as they head back toward the cabin, Signal tells Javier that she does like him and they kiss.
Back at the cabin, the group gets Dog Mask wrapped up in trash bags and team-lift him down to the lake then row him out to the middle and dump him in. Signal tells everyone what she overheard with Dave and Kate about headquarters, then they talk about how Dog Mask must have known about the kill switches since he tried to lure Nobody away and decide that maybe he was a counselor with Dave and Kate. Talk then changes to what they’re going to do when they are retired from the Teen Killers Club, which some of them didn’t even know about. Some thought they would be retired after ten years, some thought fifteen, and then they realize that the only way they’ll be retired is when they get killed on a mission and don’t get back. None of this is good. One good thing does come from the body-dump trip… Nobody amicably “breaks up” with Signal, so now she’s free to date Javier, or is it Erik? That’s what Nobody thinks at least. As they head back to the cabin, there’s an explosion!
Kate lets the group know that they are to stay out of all cabins until they are swept for incendiary devices which were left by Dog Mask. The campers are made to gather materials and will sleep out in the middle of a field. Javier kisses Signal there in front of everyone which is a little awkward, but it’s okay. Everyone is excited about it, well, except for Nobody because she thinks Signal likes Erik, and Erik, who uh, also thought that.
In the middle of the night, Erik comes over to Signal and tells her that he overheard Dave and Kate say that the kill switches have been turned off in case they needed to flee camp because of the bombs. He takes her to a little house not far away where they break in and use the internet to find more resources to solve Rose’s murder. On the way, they talk about Erik and his likes and dislikes, but then they break into the house.
They see a video on social media of Mike publicly coming out with Vaughn as his boyfriend. Well… that definitely makes the love triangle angle a little skewed. Erik then tells Signal about a website where amateur sleuths try to solve crimes and Rose’s is one of them. One of the theories put forth on this site is about Rose being killed in a ritual sacrifice, which makes all that weird stuff found in the shed make a little more sense. They also mention that Janeane said she found Signal’s pentagram necklace, which would also make sense with the sacrifice… but Signal has never owned a pentagram necklace. The only person on any of the posts that stands up for Signal is Jaw Itznicki who says she’s not so bad and asks if she could really be the killer? Signal learns that he lives in Southern California now, which means he also left town after the murder. Is it him? Is he the real killer? Erik declares that he’s going to clear Signal’s name and get her out of the camp.
Speaking of camp… when they get back, there’s a helicopter overhead. The Director of the camp has arrived and he’s not a nice guy. One of the twins, Troy, yells at him when he kicks his sleeping bag and so the Director clicks his kill switch without hesitation. WHAT?! Things go quickly after this. The Director breaks the Teen Killers into pairs and gives them assignments of people that they are going to be sent out to kill. He says if they make any mistakes or deviate from the plans provided, he’ll set off their kill switches. Yikes. Nobody and Javier are given an assignment that will take them near the town in Southern California where Jaw lives, and when Signal realizes, she immediately offers to trade. That… doesn’t go well with the Director, but he allows it.
Signal and Javier’s target is called Angel Childs. He is a cult leader who targets people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, most of them female. Yeesh. Javier gets mad at Signal for being out overnight with Erik and for taking Nobody’s place on the mission, which he believes is definitely one they’re not going to come back from. Signal tells him the truth about why she wants to go to Southern California, which includes telling him she’s innocent. He seems to not like her anymore after that, claiming that he’s definitely not innocent.
As they all make what little preparations they’re allowed before leaving on their missions, Dennis reveals that he found information in Kate’s cabin about previous campers and their missions. Wait. Previous campers? Weren’t they all told that this is a new program? Nope. It’s not. It’s been going on for years. And the majority of the campers who were sent out on missions were killed in action. Signal has an idea then. She remembers how the kill switches were turned off after the explosions and about how if they make any mistakes while they’re out on their missions, the director will kill them. Does that mean that the kill switches can be turned off remotely? Isn’t that something that Dennis, who can shut down someone’s pacemaker just using a computer, would be able to do? Signal pulls Dennis aside and asks him to find a way to shut off her kill switch so she can go find the person who actually killed her best friend. He says he’ll try and unless he contacts her to tell her otherwise, he should have it done in a few days.
As they get ready for bed that night, Signal overhears Javier telling the Director that she’s useless, actually worse than useless. Well that’s not something you want to hear from a guy that you thought you liked a whole lot. Javier tells the Director that he’s got contacts with a gang that’s near the cult and can definitely get in and get out without Signal going in and messing anything up. Sheesh. The Director isn’t really having it though and tells Javier that he’s still sending them both in and we’ll just see who comes out in the end. Later, Signal confronts Javier who says he just said all that stuff to try to keep her safe. Hmm… He also says he’s not a good guy. He killed someone with his bare hands. Hmm …
The teams split up and go to find their targets to kill. The road trip for Signal and Javier is almost normal and they decide that they're not broken up, that they're going to have a clean slate, though Signal was oddly obsessed with trying to say goodbye to Erik. They stop for the night at a hotel and just when you think it's going to get sexy between them, Javier trains Signal to fight. He grabs her by the neck at one point and she flips out, thinking he's going to strangle her or something and then he says he thought they were starting clean. Well no. Signal can't move on from Javier actually killing someone without hearing him tell the story of what happened, which he really doesn't want to do, but he does anyway.
Javier had a little brother, Mateo, and a best friend, Ricky. Ricky's brother was a member of a gang and Ricky wanted to join too, so he started wearing a bandana, which represented the gang. One day, Ricky, Javier and Mateo go out to a shop and on the way, someone from a rival gang drives by and tries to shoot Ricky, but they miss and kill Mateo instead. The cops won't do anything, the gang members won't do anything, no one will do anything about this senseless violence. A little bit later, Javier is at a party and sees the shooter there. He ends up punching the guy's head in. Literally smashes his skull with his fists. Now he's a murderer and in the Teen Killers Club. Damn.
The next day is the day they are to sneak into the cult. It's also the day that Dennis told Signal he should have her kill switch deactivated and she hasn't heard from him so, she decides to test it. While Javier meets with his gang contact who is going to escort them to the cult, Signal says she's going to the store. Before she leaves, she tells Javier that being his girlfriend is the best thing that's ever happened to her, you know, just in case she's about to drive off and be kill-switched. She drives away, actually toward the place where Jaw Itznicki lives, fearing the moment when she passes outside the kill switch range. Nothing happens. Dennis did it! Signal makes her way all the way to Jaw's place.
When she gets there, she uses her obstacle course muscles and her newly learned ability to not get caught and sneaks into his house. When she's searching his room, she hears someone else come in. Oh shit! Jaw is going to find her! Oh wait… that's not Jaw… that's Erik?! Erik tells Signal that his target was oddly easy to take down and, in fact, they killed themselves right in front of him and Jada, so Kate and Dave let them have a little time off, without the kill switches engaged, before coming back to camp. He took the opportunity to come search Jaw's place for evidence. They end up finding pentagrams all over his room and then they find the thermos and the necklace that Janeane said was Signal's. So he did it! He's the killer!
Wait no. Erik says Jaw can't be responsible. He's a peaceful pothead, there's no way he could be a killer. He forces Signal to think of exactly what happened in the shed and of all the memories she's been reliving. He convinces her that whoever killed Rose had no idea that Signal was going to be there that night and frames her by cleaning up everything from the crime scene. He tells her that Rose was trying to stage a photo of Signal and Jaw kissing to hide the fact that Rose was doing the town drug dealer. But then the killer came in and saw them together, paid Jaw off to get out of town, killed Rose and framed Signal. Who could do such a thing?
Before that is revealed, they hear Jaw get home and sneak back out of his house. They run to Signal's car and then Erik reveals that he knows Signal's kill switch is off because Dennis told him. He asks if she's going to go help Javier kill their target or if she's just going to ride off into the sunset, which leads to them arguing all during the drive back to the hotel about Javier being a good person even though he's a killer who is about to kill again. Signal says he's good because he doesn't want her to have to kill anyone, but Erik just makes her think that Javier thinks she's pathetic, and then they're fighting more but then they start kissing. And Javier is standing right outside the car looking at them.
Javier is on the phone with the Director and has been lying to him saying that Signal was asleep. Signal takes the phone and the Director tells her he found out about Dennis turning off her switch and then killed him, and now, if she steps even a little bit out of line, she's dead. She relays this info to Erik and Javier, but Erik refuses to believe that Dennis is dead and leaves to find out for himself. Signal then tries to explain to Javier that she never thought she was going to see Erik again and that's why they were kissing, but he's like, no, stop it. Then they leave for the cult.
When they arrive, the brainwashed cult girls take Javier, his gang friend and Signal to a huge barn where they all sit at a huge table waiting on Angel to get there so they can eat. Everything is really weird and, you know, cultish, and then, soon enough, Angel has latched on to Signal. They decided before arriving that Signal had to get Angel alone long enough for Javier to sneak in and kill him. Well, looks like that's going to happen soon. Angel makes several of his followers take Signal to prepare for their time together and escort Javier to his own private quarters.
The girls bathe Signal and put her in a vintage wedding dress and tell her that they're going to stay there, holding her hand, while Angel essentially has his way with her. Uh. No thank you. She tells them that she wants to be alone with Angel and he allows it, but then, when they're alone, he tells her he knows who she is and what she's doing, then asks her how Kate and Dave are doing. Wait, what? Oh yeah! Angel is a retired Teen Killer. So are the other targets that the rest were sent out to kill. So was Dog Mask. SO ARE DAVE AND KATE. Ahh!!!
Angel explains that they were all Teen Killers together at camp and that some of them died on their jobs and some were retired and allowed to do their own thing and that Dave and Kate stayed behind at camp to train the next group. He also talks about Signal's case and how he's sure that Dave didn't like her very much at camp because, oh yeah, he's Rose's birth father. And her mother, Janeane, WAS ALSO A TEEN KILLER. Whaaaaat?!!! Oh and you know what else? She was actually the one who killed Rose. Angel says she wasn't really the maternal type. WHAAAAT!!!! DAMN!
While this crazy bonkers story is being told, Signal notices that the barn is on fire. She's worried because Javier was supposed to come help her after she got Angel alone for a while, but he hasn't shown up. Angel tells her that he's not coming and that he's probably dead, then he offers Signal the opportunity to try to kill him on her own, but she fails. Luckily Erik arrives then and so does Javier. They take down Angel and then they grab Signal.
She flips out again, just like before when she was afraid that Javier was going to kill her in the hotel. It seems like that might actually be what's about to happen, but then Erik cuts out her kill switch instead. Javier gets Signal out of the barn but before Erik can follow, the barn collapses. Javier takes Signal back to their hotel, then talks to the Director and tells him that both Signal and Erik are dead and that he'll do a full debriefing when he gets back to camp.
Javier explains to Signal what happened after Erik left them before they went to the cult. Like Erik said, he knew that Dennis was still alive, and he was right. Dennis told him that the Director realized the switches were off and sent Jada and Kurt to retrieve Dennis and Nobody or else he'd kill them. Erik had enough time to cut out his own switch after hearing from Dennis and then he came to the cult to get Signal's switch out, too. Well, he did do that much.
The next day, Javier takes Signal to the bus station before heading back to camp. He tells Signal to go as far away as she can because they might get to him and he might slip up and reveal that she's still alive. Signal almost refuses, but then she gets on a bus. She wants to figure out a way to break Javier, Dennis, Nobody, Jada and Kurt out of camp, but how is she going to do that? As she waits for the bus to pull away, Erik sits down next to her. Together now, and free, surely they'll be able to set their friends free.