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|Publisher:||Whitman, Albert & Company|
|Series:||Curious Cat Spy Club Series , #5|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
|Lexile:||650L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||9 - 12 Years|
About the Author
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Piles and piles of smashed cars rise in metal hills as far as I can see. It's a graveyard where vehicles come to die, filled with broken glass, twisted bumpers, and rotting tires. The air is heavy with the stinky smells of oil, rubber, and other acrid odors I can't identify. Shadows shift, the afternoon sun glinting, and a rusting school bus turns into a lurking dragon with glowing headlight eyes.
Out there, hidden somewhere, are two boys.
"You can find them, Major," I say, gripping the leash tightly. I look down at the German shepherd who sits obediently beside me.
Major is probably smarter than most humans. His velvety brown ears are triangles of alertness, twitching slightly as he waits for my commands. He always seems to be listening, something we have in common. In my large family, I'm the quiet one who listens a lot. My ability to observe and lip-read is why my title in the Curious Cat Spy Club is Spy Specialist. Major may not be able to lip-read, but he used to be a search and rescue dog, so he has lots of cool skills — which is why I brought him to Pete's Pick and Pull, the local car graveyard.
There's a tap on my shoulder, and I turn to face my closest friend, Becca Morales. Her pink-streaked black hair is pulled back in a leopard-print bandanna that matches the stretchy tights below her black skirt. She's a talented fashion designer and makes most of her own clothes.
"Ready to start?" Becca asks, bending down to pat Major's head.
"Are you talking to Major or me?"
"Both!" Her dark eyes sparkle. "It'll be fun to see Major in action."
"I could use some fun." Sighing, I stare at a smashed-car tower. It sways even though there's no wind.
Becca's face softens, and she reaches out to squeeze my hand. "Don't think about your family."
I nod, relieved to escape my house ... well, not really my house but my grandmother's. When Dad's boss, Mr. Bragg, asked us to move out of his cottage, he offered us a fancy suite in his castle until we could find a new house. My older brother and parents moved into the castle, but my twin sisters preferred to stay with friends. I think Bragg Castle is cool, but my dog and kitten had to stay with my grandmother, so that's where I went too. I was surprised when Mom joined me at Gran's a week later. I thought it was weird, but I've enjoyed sharing the guest room with her.
The search and rescue game was Becca's idea. When she found out Major was a trained rescue dog, she thought it would be fun to test his skills. Also, it'll test our CCSC spy skills. Our associate member, Frankie, suggested we use his uncle's wrecking yard, and he and Leo volunteered to hide. Becca and I are in charge of Major. The German shepherd is temporarily living with my grandmother while his elderly owner, Greta, is in the hospital. When she's well enough to come home, she'll take Major back.
"Doesn't Major need clothing from the boys to sniff?" Becca asks, shielding her eyes as she stares up at the panorama of wrecked vehicles. "I always thought SAR-trained dogs followed scented stuff to find missing people."
"They do, but according to Gran Nola, Major had training to locate people trapped in natural disasters. She said he is ..." I try to think of the word my grandmother used. "Air trained."
"Oh, I've heard about that," Becca says. She lives on an animal sanctuary and is our CCSC animal expert and Social Contact Operative. She knows everything there is to know about animals.
"Major will ignore our scents because he can see us," I add. "But when he smells the boys, he won't see them, so he'll search until he finds them."
"Coolness." Becca's ponytail flops as she bounces eagerly on her sneaker toes. "Let's get started."
I reach around Major's blue collar and click off his leash. A thrill of excitement rushes through me as I say, "Major, find the boys!"
He just sits there, doing nothing.
"Let me try." Becca kneels beside the German shepherd. "Major, our club mates Leo and Frankie are lost somewhere out there. They need your help. Please find them."
But politeness doesn't seem to work either.
"Go!" I say firmly, giving Major a gentle push. "Find. The. Boys."
Major doesn't make a move.
"Now!" I shout. "Search!"
Major whines, looking up at me with liquid brown eyes. But the only movement he makes is to lick my arm.
Becca frowns. "Are you sure he's trained to find people?"
"Gran said Major rescued an entire family after an earthquake destroyed their home. I don't understand why he's sitting there doing nothing."
"He's retired now and old in dog years. He probably has arthritis." Becca runs her fingers across Major's black-and-tan fur. "He's getting gray around his muzzle too."
"But he rescued his owner and can keep up with me when I'm on my bike," I argue. "He's not too old. I think he's just being stubborn."
"Why is there a delay in the canine discovery experiment?" a familiar voice calls out. Leo Polanski, the CCSC's Covert Technology Strategist, strides toward us. He looks nice in a dark vest over a navy-blue shirt and pressed black slacks — like he's at a wedding instead of in a wrecking yard.
Becca wags her finger at Leo. "You were supposed to stay hidden."
"I did until nineteen minutes passed. Is there a problem?" Leo brushes dust off his vest. I notice that he's changed out of the dark leather shoes he wore in school today and into black-striped sneakers like mine.
"A Major problem." I frown. "He won't search." "I wonder why he won't obey us," Becca says with a thoughtful look at the dog. "It could have something to do with his training. Maybe you're not using the right words."
"Like a magical spell?" I ask, thinking of my favorite fantasy novels. But I doubt fictional commands like accio or mobiliarbus will work on Major. Sighing, I click his leash back on his blue collar. "There's no point in hanging around here. I'm going home ... I mean ... to my grandmother's house."
"Yeah, we might as well leave." Becca sounds as disappointed as I feel. "Kelsey, I'll go with you to your grandmother's and stay until I have to go home for dinner if you'd like."
"Yeah, I would." I give her a grateful smile, then turn to Leo to ask if he wants to come with us. But when I look at him, I catch him looking at me, and the words stick in my throat. Is there dirt on my face? Is my hair messy? Am I blushing? Ever since I went with Leo on his birthday trip to San Francisco, things have been weird between us.
"Um ... go ahead." Leo takes a step back. "I-I have to find Frankie."
I peer around. "Is he still hiding?"
"Yes. And since he knows the best hiding spots, he said no animal or person could find him. But he can't elude me." Leo sweeps his gaze around the wrecking yard. "According to my calculations, and factoring in the direction Frankie took, he's in that school bus."
"It's like a giant metal monster," Becca says with a shudder.
I nod, remembering how I imagined it lurking like a dragon. "But I don't think that's where he's hiding." I point to the towering hill of cars. "I saw that huge pile sway."
Leo purses his lips skeptically. "It would take a tornado to move that mountain of metal."
"Or a boy using it as a hiding place," I suggest. "Check there for Frankie."
"Great observation, Kelsey," Leo says with a grin that makes me grin too. We used to argue a lot, so his compliment feels weird. He stares like he's waiting for me to say something. My cheeks burn.
"We should go, Becca. Come on, Major." I jerk on the leash and quickly turn to flee the wrecking yard.
I immediately regret walking instead of biking. The mile walk didn't seem long coming from my grandmother's house. Now it seems like a marathon.
"Kelsey, slow down," Becca complains when she catches up with me. "Leo isn't watching anymore."
"I don't care what Leo does," I snap.
"You're so obvious." Becca grins as we fall into step, Major leading the way. "You've been crushing on Leo since you went on that date to San Francisco with him."
"It wasn't a date."
Becca giggles. "Okay, a not-date."
"He only invited me because he had an extra ticket to the World Robot Tournament."
"Also because he likes you lots," Becca says. "You two are so cute together."
I kick a rock across the sidewalk and into a ditch. "We are not together."
"Well, you should be. I know!" Becca snaps her fingers, her purple nail polish glinting in the sun. "You should ask him to the Spring Fling dance."
"I can't." I pause. "He already asked me."
Becca's mouth falls open. "Seriously? And you're just now telling me this astounding news?"
"There was no reason to say anything because" — I stumble over uneven sidewalk — "I told Leo I needed time to think it over. Well, I have, and I'm not going."
I don't want to keep secrets from Becca (except for other people's secrets, which I write down in my notebook of secrets), so I lead Major to a shady spot beside a stone wall. "I don't have anything formal to wear, and this is a terrible time to ask Mom to take me shopping. Besides I'm —"
"— afraid to admit you like Leo," Becca says with a knowing smile.
I'm saved from answering by a familiar whirring sound.
Spinning around, I stare as Leo zooms toward us on his gyro-board, a robotized skateboard that bends in the middle.
"Here comes your future dance partner," Becca teases, giving me a playful nudge.
"Becca!" I shoot her a murderous look. Just then, I'm jerked forward as Major barks and lunges on his leash. "Settle down, boy!"
"Need help?" Leo rolls up, circling to a stop so we're face-to-face.
"I got this under control." I grip the leash tightly to hold Major back, raising my voice to be heard over the barking. "Why aren't you with Frankie?"
Leo jumps off his gyro-board, grinning. "He stayed with his uncle. I switched to turbo speed to catch up with you."
I try to hide how pleased I am to see him, and I'm so focused on Leo that I don't notice the leash slipping from my fingers. Suddenly, I'm holding empty air. I spin around as a black-and-tan streak bolts across the road.
"Major! Come back!" I cry, then take off running. I keep shouting at Major, but he runs faster down the sidewalk.
Becca races beside me, but we can't outrun a German shepherd. Leo zooms ahead on his robotic skateboard, and I hope he can catch Major.
Leo is gaining on him, squatting on the gyro-board, his hand stretching for the leash. Closer, closer, almost there ...
Major makes a sharp right. He lopes down a country road so rural there's no street sign. Becca and I catch up with Leo, who has stopped in the middle of the rutted dirt road. On either side of the road — and as far as the eye can see — are wheat fields.
"It's too bumpy for my gyro-board," Leo says with a frustrated frown. He tucks his remote in his pocket and carries the board.
"We have to keep looking." I press my lips, scanning the fields for rustling stalks of wheat or a glimpse of the German shepherd.
Becca shades her eyes to peer down the road. "This is a dead end. Major can't go too far."
"Unless he went through the fields." I cup my hands over my mouth and call out for Major again and again. Becca and Leo shout too.
We keep calling as we hurry down the road. Stalks of wheat rise higher than my head. Beyond the horizon of crops, the only visible building is a decrepit old barn that looks like a sneeze could knock it down.
My throat is sore from shouting by the time we reach the dead end. A padlocked metal gate has a sign warning, "Trespassers will be shot! Survivors will be shot again!" Beyond the gate, a narrow dirt road disappears into rolling hills. I look down in front of the gate. The ground is crisscrossed with tire tracks that look fresh, as if different vehicles have driven here recently. There are paw prints too, trailing beyond the gate.
I look up to see Major coming out of the barn.
He's carrying something in his mouth.
When I realize what, I gasp.
Hurrying away from the barn, Major squeezes through a hole beneath the fence near the padlocked gate. With dark eyes shining proudly, he plops a tiny puppy into Becca's hands. It has oatmeal-brown fur, a squishy black face, and big, buggy eyes.
"A pug," Becca says.
"It's unusually minuscule for a canine," Leo observes as we close in around Becca. She snuggles the puppy to her chest.
"Even full-grown pugs only weigh about fifteen pounds, and this one is just a few weeks old. It's a" — Becca lifts the tail — "female. But why is she out here all by herself? Where's your mommy, little one?" she croons. The pug whimpers and buries her black nose in Becca's shirt.
Leo's gaze sweeps over rolling hills and wheat fields. "There are no dwellings except that barn where half of the roof has collapsed."
"Major seemed to know the puppy was there." I glance down at Major, who watches the puppy closely. "You really are a search and rescue dog, aren't you?"
"And a darned good one." Becca pats the German shepherd's head. "This pup wouldn't have survived much longer if Major hadn't found her."
"We should search the barn for clues." I rattle the padlock on the gate, wishing I had my key spider to pick the lock open.
Becca shakes her head. "If we go into the barn, the rest of the roof might fall on us. Besides, we need to leave so the pup can eat and drink."
I reach out toward Becca. "Can I hold her?"
"Sure." Becca gently sets the puppy in my hands.
The pug's little black face is so precious, with black eyes as round as marbles and soft dark-brown ears. She licks my hand, and it tickles. My heart totally melts. "When I looked through the lost-pet flyers Mom gave me this morning, only adult dogs were missing. No puppies."
Leo taps his chin thoughtfully. "So how did she get way out here?"
Becca's expression darkens. "Someone dumped her."
I suck in a breath. "That's heartless."
"Unfortunately, it happens a lot." Becca twists her pink-streaked ponytail and sighs. "Living at an animal sanctuary, I've seen people do horrible things to animals too many times."
"But why not give her away or sell her?" I cuddle the pup, rocking her like a mother comforting a child. "If she's a purebred, she's worth lots of money."
"Her markings do look purebred." Becca studies the puppy. "But if she wasn't abandoned, how did she get way out here? She's thin but otherwise in good shape, so she can't have been on her own for long."
"Someone must be missing her," I say. "When Mom gets home from work, I'll check the latest lost-dog reports." My mom is an animal control officer and often brings home missing-pet reports for us. I hug the trembling pup and never want to let her go. "I can take care of her until we find her owner."
"It's more logical for me to keep her," Leo says. "You already have two dogs and a kitten at your grandmother's house. I only have fish and a kitten."
"But she may need medical care and bottle-feeding." Becca pushes away her leopard-spotted bandanna as she leans in for a closer look. "She's dehydrated and probably isn't weaned. The best place for her is at the animal sanctuary where Mom and I can nurse her back to health."
Becca's right, and I can tell from Leo's expression that he knows it too. Reluctantly, I hold out the pug to Becca. But she shakes her head and takes Major's leash. "I'll walk Major, and you carry the pup. I know you want to."
"Thanks." I smile and cradle the tiny pup in my arms as we retrace our steps to the main road. The puppy licks my skin and wiggles her curly tail. "Her buggy eyes shine like she's thanking us for rescuing her."
"Buggy." Becca snaps her fingers. "That's what we'll call her."
"That's an inaccurate name. She's a canine, not an insect." Leo clicks his remote to a slow speed and rolls beside us, swerving around a pothole.
"But her eyes bug out funny." I pet the pup's soft tawny head. "Buggy, do you like your name?"
She licks me again, which seems like an overwhelming yes.
By the time we turn onto my grandmother's street, Buggy has fallen asleep in my arms. She's tiny like a fuzzy toy, and I wonder again how she got into that dilapidated barn. There were no homes or cars around — although the tire tracks by the locked gate were proof that someone had been there recently.
Was it the cruel person who dumped Buggy?
I'm reminded of when we found our three kittens in a dumpster and worked together to rescue them but couldn't take them to any of our homes. So we fixed up a hidden shack on Becca's property and cared for the kittens until we could keep them. We also formed the CCSC to help animals and solve mysteries. Will we be able to solve the mystery of Buggy?
When we turn the last corner, there's Gran Nola's dark-blue house. I check the driveway for Mom's animal control truck. Drats. Only Gran Nola's sporty convertible. Mom must be working late. I'll have to wait to ask her about Buggy.
"Gran Nola!" I call out as we enter the house. I hear music from the exercise room. My grandmother teaches yoga, although not usually this late in the afternoon.
The music abruptly stops, and Gran Nola steps out into the hallway, wearing purple capri tights and a black tank top. Sweat gleams on her face as she grins at us. "I thought I heard voices. I was trying out some new poses and ... What is that?"
Excerpted from "Dog-Gone Danger"
Copyright © 2018 Linda Joy Singleton.
Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Barking Mad,
Chapter 2: Buggy,
Chapter 3: Risky Business,
Chapter 4: Missing Mom,
Chapter 5: Suspicions,
Chapter 6: Z Codes,
Chapter 7: Duncan Street,
Chapter 8: Blackberry Lane,
Chapter 9: Surprise Visitors,
Chapter 10: Sisters and Secrets,
Chapter 11: Larkspur Lane,
Chapter 12: A Super Pup,
Chapter 13: Vine Road,
Chapter 14: Buried in the Barn,
Chapter 15: Message from Mom,
Chapter 16: Pedi-Greed,
Chapter 17: Puppy Pondering,
Chapter 18: Peggy Lane,
Chapter 19: Pursuit!,
Chapter 20: Down the Rabbit Hole,
Chapter 21: Moving Day,
Chapter 22: A Major Miracle,
Chapter 23: Truth, Lies, and Spies,