Here’s a sample of my first book, Odd Team Out. Please tell me what you think and take a look on Lulu.com!
The dim lights above the sidewalk cast an eerie yellow glow on the stout figure walking silently through the fog that lay like a blanket over the town. The figure was a man, or so it seemed. The figure glanced around furtively and pulled off the large cap covering its head. Curly, dark hair tumbled out onto the shoulders of a girl. She swiped her arm across her forehead for a moment, and then sighed as she ran her fingers through her tangled hair. The girl tugged lightly at the fake mustache on her upper lip and jiggled her padded stomach while mumbling something. She whirled around as the sound of a stray dog’s footsteps reached her ears. As she realized it was just a dog, the girl shook her head as if to clear it, tucked her hair back up in the hat and resumed walking.
Soon, she reached a large airport hangar on the outskirts of the small town. The 14 year old glanced around quickly and then dashed towards the building, careful to stay in the shadows. She sat by the wall of the hangar and watched a small plane land on the long airstrip lined with twinkling lights.
“Come on!” the girl murmured to herself. “Why am I getting nervous on this mission? I’ve done a million others!” She sighed deeply and looked up the side of the building. “Alright, then.” She kicked her feet, first one, and then the other. Then slowly slipped on gloves. She started climbing slowly but surely up the building. When she reached the roof, she quickly scanned it and found what she was looking for.
On the other side of the roof, she saw the opening to a ventilation shaft. She quickly ran over and took off the top. The sound of metal grating against metal made her wince.
The girl then quickly jumped in and slid down to a place in the vent shaft where it was flat. She looked down the tube to make sure it was safe, squatted down on her knees, and started crawling. Being so small and light, she didn’t make much noise. But the padding on her disguise somewhat limited her movement.
Soon, voices echoed down the tube. The girl crawled to the part in the tube where the voices were coming from and looked through the grate into the room below. In the room there were two men, one smaller and slouched over, the other slightly bigger with a clean-shaven face and blonde-brown hair. They were having a conversation. The teen did her best to listen in. “Alright, I think we’ve got our plan all together. All the gems we need to put it to work are now in our possession … except for one.” The girl knew that she needed to get closer. She slowly and silently pulled off the grate. There, stretched out across the ceiling of the hangar, were rafters.
The teen smiled; rafters were exactly what she needed right now. She quickly climbed out onto the rafter without being noticed and checked it to see if it was stable. One of the ends was loose, but if she were careful, it wouldn’t be a problem. She shrugged and continued listening. Her mission was to find out what their plans were and bring the information back to her agency, the SPI-Superior Protective Intelligence. The conversation down below was becoming more and more heated.
“Fool! We MUST find out the location of the Metalicon!”
“But boss! I don’t even know what it looks like!”
“I don’t care ‘what it looks like’! I want to know where it is, and NOW!”
The teen repeated the word “Metalicon” quietly to herself, but her whisper bounced off the walls in a ghostly echo. Both men stopped talking.
The building was filled with silence for a few moments, and then the taller man barked out “Who’s there?” No answer. “I said ‘Who’s THERE?’!” With that, he thrust the gold-topped cane he was holding violently off to the side, knocking over a pile of equipment. “Oops…” the taller man commented, as the pile slowly toppled over. Buckets clattered to the floor, mops and random rags landed in a large heap and brooms fell every which way. Among the things that fell was a ladder. It creaked, slowly picking up speed as it fell towards the rafter that the girl was on. It fell on the opposite end of the rafter with a terrific crack, splintering the wood and jolting out the already loose screws.
The now nearly demolished end of the rafter rushed towards the floor, landing with a crash that split it in two. The girl scrambled to keep her footing on the nearly vertical beam. Soon, it was obvious that she couldn’t keep up on the beam, so she decided to try and get back into the vent shaft. The girl took a wild leap towards the open shaft, heart pounding; she stretched her arms towards her only hope of escape. She missed it by inches.
Tumbling through the air, she breathed what she thought for sure would be her last breath. With a dull thud, the girl landed, in a pile of mops and rags. Her head whacked onto the hard, cement floor and she was out cold.
When, in about five minutes, she woke up, she was sitting in a chair with her hands tied behind her back and both men in front of her, looking smug.
The taller man spoke. “Why hello,” he said in mock surprise. Then, ripping off her fake mustache, “Agent Jean McStone.”
Jean groaned, “Hello, Dr. Übel.”
The doctor nodded and lit a cigarette with a flourish, then cast the burnt match off to the side. “So, Agent McStone, what was the object of your mission this time?”
Jean sighed. “Now, don’t you start! You know I won’t give anything away!”
Dr. Übel shook his head and clicked his tongue. “Pity! Then I guess we’ll have to kill you.” He walked out, calling for the shorter man to follow him.
As they both walked out of the hangar to talk, Jean smiled and started fiddling with the rope that tied her to the chair.
“Poor Dr. Übel!” she commented to herself as the ropes fell to the ground. “His men could never tie a knot.”
Jean bundled up the ropes and ran over to where broken pieces of wood from the ladder lay. She picked up one piece, tied the rope to it, and then pitched it towards the opening in the vent shaft that she had used to get into the building. The wood clattered on top of the tube and then slid off with a thud.
Jean winced looked toward the door. No one came, so she tried again. The plank of wood hurtled through the air until: BONG! It landed squarely in the vent. Jean yanked lightly on it until she was sure the board was lodged firmly enough to hold her and then walked quickly over to the wall. She glanced around and knew the spot was perfect. A pile of rubble from the falling of the rafter would hide her most of the way while she climbed up.
Jean started climbing up slowly, making sure to stay hidden behind the rubble. Once she was at a high spot on the wall, she tied the rope to her waist so it would catch her before she hit the ground, if she fell. She continued the slow, painstaking climb up the side of the wall. Her hands sweated and stuck to the rope. It hurt to uncurl her fingers from their positions of hanging on so tightly.
Just then, a different man came into the room, looked around, sat down in the chair Jean had been tied up in and started smoking. Jean shrugged and thought, Well, guess I’ll just have to be a little bit quieter!
Suddenly, one of the knots around her middle untied, flipping her upside-down. “OH!” She gasped as the rope tightened around her stomach and arms. The blood rushed to her head as she hung, suspended in midair. The man jumped to his feet and drew his gun, “Who’s there?” he questioned into the echoing silence. He slowly turned, staring into the deepest corners of the hangar. Jean silently prayed, Please, please, please don’t let him find me!
Just then, she felt something letting loose in her pocket. Oh, my gosh! She thought, I picked up a penny earlier and put it in my pocket! Oh, PLEASE don’t fall out! But despite her wishing, the penny toppled out of her pocket and fell quickly downwards. “Tink!” the penny clinked lightly onto the floor.
The man whirled and ran towards the pile of rubble hiding Jean. He peeked tentatively behind the pile and stared. Jean stared back at him, “Er… lovely night, isn’t it?” In response, the man put a whistle to his lips and blew loudly.
Immediately, The doctor and his other henchman ran into the hangar. “What happened?” Dr. Übel asked, as he ran over to where Jean and her captor stood. The confusion on the doctor’s face quickly disappeared as he saw who it was that his man had caught. “Ah, Agent McStone. Trying to escape, eh?” His men swiftly cut the rope, caught Jean and set her down on another chair.
This time, Dr. Übel insisted on tying the ropes himself. Jean knew it was time to use the emergency button on her belt. It would call back to base, so they would know where she was and send someone to come and help her get out of this mess. She curled her fingers up and tapped the small button with her knuckle. The button made a small buzzing noise, lit up and then was silent. The doctor stopped for a second, looked around, puzzled, then shrugged and went back to tying the knots. Jean breathed a sigh of relief; he wasn’t going to examine her.
“There!” Dr. Übel said triumphantly “She won’t be getting out of that anytime soon!” Jean wiggled slightly and agreed. Good thing I called in help! she thought. “Now,” Dr. Übel declared, staring at Jean, “We are going outside to talk about how to kill you! You are going to stay right here!!! Verstehen Du!?!*” (*”understand” in german)
Jean rolled her eyes, “Sheesh! Why are you so worried? You know I can’t get out of these by myself!” Then to herself she thought happily, Somone else will untie them for me! Übel and his men walked out of the hangar. Jean waited patiently until she heard a light clinking in the vent shaft.
She looked eagerly up towards the ceiling, a head poked out of the vent and glanced around. The person tied a rope to the inside of the shaft, then, hanging onto the long rope, quickly slid down the tilted rafter. The woman ran over to Jean and started untying her.
“Thanks for coming so quickly, Mom!” Jean whispered. “No problem.” Her Mom whispered back, and then as the ropes went loose around Jean’s body, “Now let’s go.”
Jean stepped out of the ropes and jumped up from the chair. They both ran quietly across the room and grabbed onto the rope lying on top of the rafter. First the woman, and then Jean grabbed the rope and started climbing. “I would have been really in trouble if you hadn’t come!” Jean whispered, once they were inside the vent shaft.
Her mom looked back at her and said in a worried tone “You might still be in trouble…with the SPI.”
* * *
“I’m sorry Jean. You have to have serious consequences for this – it’s rules.” Jean lowered her head in shame as the SPI director, Mr. Ecks, spoke. “I’m sorry.” Jean mumbled. The man nodded “We know you are, but you bungled the mission. Your mission was simple: find out where Übel and his men would strike next – but you failed.”
The word “failed” echoed in Jean’s ringing ears. She stood there in front of the desk of the director of the SPI, awaiting her final judgment. She reached down to scratch her ankles just inside her socks.
Mr. Ecks stared at her, looking almost sorry as he said, “We are going to have to assign you to a team, but we don’t have any SPI agents that need teams left.” Jean looked confused, “So… um… what does that mean?” The director shrugged and leaned back in his chair. “What that means, young lady, is that we are going to have to look outside the SPI to get you some team partners.”
Cobalt Winter was a seaman in a rather unusual U.S. Navy squadron. His squad was outfitted to be one of the strongest in the Navy. The men were younger than most – around 13 or 14, but the difference was mostly in their uniforms… they wore robot suits. To all these young men though, they seemed completely normal.
During dinnertime on their ship one night, Cobalt, wearing his blue suit and red helmet, had nothing but a bottle of Coke at his place setting. “Psst! Jazz!” Cobalt whispered to the dark skinned boy in the green suit next to him. “What, Winter?” Cobalt took off his shiny red helmet, revealing a mop of jet-black hair. “Watch this!” He bit his lip, made his hand into a fist and rubbed it across his helmet, making a squeaky farting sound into the chaos of dinnertime.
Everyone stopped and turned to stare at Cobalt. Cobalt sat up straight, clunked his helmet back onto his head and casually drank his Coke as if nothing had happened. Jazz buried his head in his arms and made a couple funny snorting noises. Cobalt looked over at his friend and saw his shoulders shaking with laughter.
Happy with the success of his joke, Cobalt looked up and saw that everyone was still looking at him. He took advantage of his moment of glory. “Oh, well excuse me!” At that, Jazz broke out in laughter. Slowly, everyone joined into Jazz’s merriment until tears rolled down the cheeks of half of the soldiers there. But almost as soon as the laughter broke out, it stopped.
Cobalt looked around, dismayed, and then noticed that everyone was now looking towards the front. Before he looked, he knew what everyone was staring at. Slowly, Cobalt turned his head to look towards the front and found that their Captain, Captain Navio, was glaring at him. “Will that be quite enough, Winter?” Cobalt straightened his back and replied. “Yes, Sir!”
The Captain nodded and looked towards his men, “Now men, we have been called to help another ship off the coast of Maryland. But do you know what we are going to do first?” All his men chorused “Pray!” the captain cocked his head, “And…?” He prompted. “Recite Psalm 91!” the soldiers shouted. The captain nodded “Good. Let’s begin by praying.”
He took off his hat and bowed his head and all his men did likewise. The captain began, “Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for the food that we have just eaten, and also for all these wonderful boys, father. Help them all be strong in this battle, help them stay uninjured and help them not be careless so that we may help our friends as best as possible. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.” “AMEN!” The boys echoed heartily.
“Now Psalm 91!” said the captain. All the boys started. “He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in him will I trust’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with his feathers and under his wings you shall trust; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor for the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor for the destruction that lays waste at noonday. A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not come near you. Only with your eyes shall you behold, and see the reward of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands, they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the adder, the young lion and the dragon you shall trample underfoot. ‘Because he has set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known my name. He will call upon me and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.’”
Captain Navio nodded, “Good, now you are dismissed to go get ready. We set forth at once.”
* * *
Cobalt’s gray-green eyes pierced the fog, looking for any sign of the other ship. “Horrible stuff, this fog. Eh, Winter?” The captain called up to him. “Yeah, worst I’ve seen in a while!” Cobalt replied, still straining his eyes for the American navy vessel that had sent out the distress signal, calling their ship to this fog bank. The fog seemed to wrap around the ship like a cold, damp blanket. Jazz’s usually curly hair hung in limp strands around his dark face.
Cobalt squinted off to the right; “Captain, it looks like we might have something, over starboard!” Jazz ran up next to Cobalt and looked over the edge. “That’s not a ship, Winter. It’s just a thicker spot in the fog.” Then Jazz ran back down to report to the captain. Cobalt took his helmet off and ran his fingers through his damp hair. “Still no sign! Holy Smoke, You’d think it was a prank call!” Cobalt sighed and rubbed his eyes.
Suddenly, it hit him “Prank call?” he gasped. He started running down to where the captain stood. His boots clanked noisily on the wet, metal deck of the ship. “Captain! Captain Navio!” Cobalt hollered, skidding into the control room. The Captain, his hands still on the wheel, looked up and smiled, giving Cobalt the impression of cheerfulness. “Hello! And what brings you down here?” Cobalt struggled to catch his breath, and then gasped out “Captain, did the ship sending out the S.O.S. give its name?” The captain ran his hand over his chin thoughtfully. “Well… come to think of it, no. Why do you ask?” Cobalt pounded his fist down on the nearby table and scowled. “What is it, Winter?” Captain Navio persisted. “Something just doesn’t sit right about this!” Cobalt growled. The captain stared “About what?” He asked, confused. Cobalt looked at him, frustrated “The S.O.S. Signal!”
Just then, there was a booming sound and the ship shook. “See?” Cobalt exclaimed, “Now we’ve walked right into their trap!” He pulled his helmet on and ran out the door, leaving Captain Navio to try in vain to pull the ship away from the heavy enemy fire. The enemy ship was now almost right next to theirs and still firing.
“JAZZ!” Cobalt shouted up to his friend. Jazz looked down and cupped his hand around his ear. “Help all the guys get guns!” Jazz nodded and ran off. Cobalt stretched his arms out towards the ship. His metal hands retracted and white stuff shot through the air and plugged a couple of the guns on the enemy ship. “Yes! First try, too!” He said happily.
Jazz ran up beside him “I got you your gun!” he gasped. “Thanks!” Cobalt replied, getting his hands back out and taking the weapon. “This gun’s the best!” he said. The gun could also turn into a sword. If one end attached to his hand then a gun would come out, but if the other end connected, then a sword would come out. Cobalt put it on so the gun would come out.
“Come on!” he yelled over the sound of the gunfire “I’m boarding their ship, Jazz! You coming?” Jazz’s jaw dropped “You know we can’t board the enemy’s ship without special permission!” Cobalt stuck his jaw out. “Fine! Then I’ll go myself!” Seeing that Cobalt was going on that ship no matter what, Jazz sighed, “I’m in. But you’d better know what you’re doing!” Cobalt gave a crooked smile “I don’t. Come on!” and then ran off.
The two friends dashed down the stairs onto the lower deck of the ship. Cobalt backed up a couple steps and assumed a position like he would for starting a race. Jazz ran back next to him and did the same. “Ready?” Jazz asked. Cobalt, losing a bit of his courage, replied shakily “As ready as I’ll ever be!” Jazz took a deep breath and said loudly “GO!” They both sprinted across the deck and, in a huge leap, cleared the railing.
Cobalt swung his arms wildly as he soared though the air towards the enemy ship. In a couple seconds, both Jazz and Cobalt landed with a clunk on the deck of the ship. “Now,” started Cobalt as he ran across the deck, “if we get down to the gun deck and take out the people who are operating the guns, then our ship should be able to get away.” Jazz nodded. “Sounds terrific. Now what the heck are you going to do about those guys?” he jerked his head backwards towards two enemy soldiers following them, loading their guns.
Cobalt shrugged, “Guess I’ll take one, you take the other. How does that sound?” Jazz grinned. “I call the one with the rocket launcher!” both Jazz and Cobalt whirled around and charged towards their two opponents.
Cobalt ran up, kicked the gun out of the first soldier’s hand and jumped on his stomach, knocking the wind out of him. Jazz went straight for the second soldier’s stomach, sending his enemy flying backwards. The rocket launcher went skidding a couple feet across the deck and then ground to a halt.
Then, as soon as both the friends where finished taking care of the two that where following them, Jazz walked over and picked up the rocket launcher. “Oh, this is a nice one.” He commented as they ran on. “Lucky duck.” Cobalt pouted. They clattered noisily down the stairs to the gun deck. A loud humming sound filled the dark room.
Cobalt looked around, it appeared that the guns where firing themselves. He shook his head and squinted at the guns. “ Oh! Now I get it!” Jazz looked at him “Get what?” Cobalt didn’t seem to have heard and mumbled “Yes, that would be the problem…” he walked quickly over to a panel on the other side of the wall and flipped it open. “Now,” Cobalt murmured to himself “If I take out these…” He wrenched a handful of red wires out of the panel.
The humming sound in the room quickly died down and the buzzing guns that had been shooting every which way, clunked down limply onto their stands. Cobalt grinned, “I thought as much – they’re just wired. Now let’s get out of here, and quick!”
He ran back across the room to join Jazz. By now, there was quite a commotion up on deck. “Hey! Who stopped the guns?” “I dunno! Maybe the wires came loose er sumthin.” “Great! Now the ship is getting away, and after we laid the perfect trap too!”
Jazz gasped, “Our ship’s leaving?” Cobalt didn’t answer and ran up on the deck, shouting: “WAIT!” Jazz followed Cobalt up onto the deck and joined in his shouting at their ship. This added to the confusion. “Hey! The enemy!” “What enemy? Where? I don’t see anything!” “They’re waving their arms and shouting, dummy!”
Ignoring the ruckus going on all around them, Jazz and Cobalt plowed through the crowd towards their ship. It looked like all their shouting had done the trick; their ship had stopped and all the other soldiers from their side were waving their arms and shouting for Jazz and Cobalt to jump over to their ship.
That would have been an easy task, except that the enemy had suddenly decided to fire. “Duck!” Cobalt said to Jazz. Both ducked and the bullets whizzed over them as they ran to the side of the ship. “Winter! Use your rocket boots to get to our ship!” Jazz shouted at Cobalt over the din. Cobalt nodded “Gotcha. Grab onto me and hang on tight!” Jazz put his arms around Cobalt’s shoulders and readied himself for the jolt.
Cobalt leaned down and forcefully pressed a button on the side of his knee. Immediately, two jets popped out from the bottom of Cobalt’s boots, lifting him and Jazz both high into the air. Their enemies waved their arms angrily as Cobalt slowly turned off his rocket boots and landed with a thud on the deck of his own ship.
All their friends ran over to see if they were all right, “No, No! Don’t mind us! Quick, someone tell the captain to turn the ship around and get us back, fast! Before they fix their guns!” Cobalt exclaimed. “I’ll do it!” Jazz leaped to his feet and started the short run to the control room.
In a couple of seconds, the ship started turning slowly around. Soon, the turning operation was complete and the ship was going full steam ahead for home.
* * *
A few hours later, the ship was back at base, and Cobalt was in Captain Navio’s room getting a speech about obedience. “Winter, what you did back there was brave – very brave. And if it was my choice to make, I would give you a purple heart, especially after what we found lodged in your helmet.” He rolled a bullet in between his fingers. Embarrassed, Cobalt coughed and looked down at his metal boots.
“But,” Captain Navio continued, “this will not be without consequences. You knowingly disobeyed a rule and got Jazz to come with you. He is not being punished, because he had to go along with you; you needed backup and you were doing something that is very dangerous.” He paused, looking regretfully at Cobalt. “The director of the SPI, Mr. Ecks, contacted me to request use of the next soldier to receive disciplinary action. He needs a member for one of his teams, so we’re going to have to ask you to leave.”
Cobalt leaped to his feet. “But, Captain . . .” The captain raised his hand for silence. “Enough, Winter. You’re going and that’s that.” Cobalt still protested, “But all my friends are here and I don’t know how to work outside the Navy and I won’t ever see Jazz again and…” Captain Navio raised his eyebrows. “Winter …” he said warningly, “what did I just tell you?”
Cobalt lowered his head. “Yessir.” He mumbled forlornly. “Good man.” The captain thumped Cobalt’s back heartily. “Now, the new place you’ll be staying is an apartment near the SPI building with your team members. So perk up now! Things aren’t as bad as all that.” Cobalt nodded dumbly, still refusing to meet Captain Navio’s eyes. “I’ll go pack.” He mumbled.
He started to shuffle out of the room, but the captain grabbed Cobalt’s shoulder and spun him around, forcing Cobalt’s eyes to meet his. “Now lad, don’t you think I’m happy to see you go. You’ve been a great kid to be around and I’m sure that everyone will be sad to see you go. This squadron won’t be the same without you and we’ll all miss you.” Cobalt frowned “Everyone except Milton Hueso.” He said, remembering one boy in their squad who took particular pleasure in teasing him. The captain frowned, too. “He has been doing better, Cobalt. And besides, he’s the only one who specifically doesn’t like you.” Then changing back to the previous subject, “Really, Winter, you’re welcome back anytime they send you. Just remember, don’t let Psalm 91 get rusty!”
Cobalt nodded, trying to keep his thin smile pasted on his face. A tear trickled down by the side of his nose. Captain Navio smiled mischievously, “You’re crying? I didn’t know you could do that!” Embarrassed, Cobalt wiped away the silly tear from off his nose. “Don’t tell the guys, okay?” The captain nodded. “Goodbye, Winter. God willing, we’ll see you again someday.”
Gilligan was a black search-and-rescue dog with a white patch on his chest. He was an Otterhound-Labrador Retriever mix. Otterhounds have webbed feet, so they make great search and rescue dogs, being excellent swimmers. The man that owned Gilligan, Taylor Johnson, was a little hard to please, but Gilligan didn’t care.
It was the day of a competition that would decide who the next search and rescue team to leave the country would be. The final competitors included Taylor Johnson with Gilligan, and an Italian man named Mr. Pantaloni, with his female English foxhound, “Ricerca Suprema E Cane da Salvataggio” (Italian for “Supreme search and rescue dog”), but everybody just called her Ricca.
The objective of the competition was to find a mannequin hidden somewhere in the nearby woods. The people had been given clothes from a human volunteer and put them on the dummy. The contestants were each given a small piece of the mannequin’s clothing so the dogs could track the scent. The first team to find the mannequin would win the competition.
The dogs and their owners walked up to the starting line. Both dogs drank a small bowl of water and ate a little dish of dog food before starting. The owners stretched their legs and sighed nervously.
Soon, the dogs were ready. Mr. Pantaloni nodded to the judges up in their booth. The judges nodded back and picked up the microphone. “Welcome, contestants! This is the 4th Annual Search and Rescue Dog Competition. You know the rules, and the first dog that finds the dummy wins. Now, let your dogs sniff the piece of cloth and… On your mark… Get set… GO!”
Both dogs knew that signal and started off. Mr. Pantaloni and Ricca held their heads high and trotted snootily off in the direction of the woods, while Gilligan bounded towards the woods with Mr. Johnson stumbling after him, still holding the leash. Soon, they reached the woods.
Gilligan sniffed energetically around the bushes and trees. “It’s GOTTA be here somewhere!” Mr. Johnson said, looking around. Then, he spotted Mr. Pantaloni and Ricca. “Oh, drat. They’re in the woods now. Quick, Gilligan! Find it!” Gilligan looked up at Mr. Johnson, panting happily. Mr. Johnson scowled. “COME ON! Find it!” Gilligan obediently trotted off towards a different bush.
He rustled around in it for a while, and then suddenly his wagging tail went straight up. “Ruff!” he barked proudly. Mr. Johnson sucked in his breath. “You found it! Good boy, Gill!” Gilligan took the dummy by the arm and pranced out into the open, letting the dummy drag limply in the dirt and leaves. “Good dog! Now let’s bring it to the judges and show them what a good dog you are!” Mr. Johnson crooned, scratching Gilligan behind his ear. Both of them started walking toward the judges’ booth.
Suddenly, sirens started off in the distance. Gilligan stopped stalk still and listened. Mr. Johnson pushed Gilligan forward, “Go! There’s no time to be listening to sirens! Oh, come on, Gilligan!” But Gilligan stayed still and waited. Then, he dropped the dummy, closed his eyes and howled.
Mr. Johnson slapped his forehead, dragged his hand down his face and looked at Gilligan disgustedly through the cracks between his fingers. Gilligan didn’t notice, and continued to bay with all his heart and soul.
Just then, Mr. Pantaloni and Ricca walked casually over to where Gilligan stood. Ricca gently picked up the dummy’s arm in her mouth and started a sprint, off towards the judges’ booth. Mr. Pantaloni watched Ricca approach the judges’ booth with a self-satisfied look. “Handy things, earplugs.” He commented. “What…? Y-You can’t do that!” Mr. Johnson contradicted a smug-looking Mr. Pantaloni. Mr. Pantaloni turned and looked into Taylor Johnson’s eyes. “It’s a rule that the people can’t touch the dummy, or you lose.” He turned and looked pityingly at Gilligan, who was still absorbed in his howling. “It’s just too bad that the sirens started at that exact moment.”
Mr. Pantaloni turned and waved in the direction of the road; someone with what looked like a disc player waved back. Suddenly, a voice came from the loudspeaker. “WE HAVE A WINNER! RICERCA SUPREMA E CANE DE SALVATAGGIO & MR. PANTALONI HAVE WON THE CONTEST!” Mr. Pantaloni grinned at Mr. Johnson. “I have a prize to collect. So, arrivederci!” And with that, he walked off toward the judges’ booth.
Mr. Johnson clenched his fists and glowered at Gilligan, who had just stopped howling. Gilligan panted happily and looked innocently at Mr. Johnson.
Just then, Gilligan noticed that the dummy was gone. “Ruff!” he barked in alarm. He sniffed all over the ground, and then looked questioningly at Mr. Johnson, who continued scowling. “Yes, it’s gone! And all because of you! If you think that I’m going to keep you after this, you’re wrong!”
* * *
Mr. Ecks leaned back in his chair and sighed. He had one team member for Jean, but he needed one more and couldn’t find one to save his life. Mr. Ecks shook his head. I’ll just take a break and read the news, he decided.
He reached over, grabbed the paper, shook it out and started skimming over the classified ads. Mr. Ecks sat there and looked at the newspaper quietly for a couple minutes, and then suddenly, he shot straight up in his chair. “’For sale: Former search-and rescue dog? Good heavens! I think that I’ve just found the last addition to our team!”
He reached over to his desk and dialed the phone.
Will the team get along? What is the mysterious Metalicon and what does evil Dr. Ubel want with it? Buy the book and find out!
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’till next time!