Thursday, October 06, 2016
CURIOUS CAT SPY CLUB #4 - SECRET OF THE SHADOW BANDIT will be out in just 3 weeks!!
Here's a sneak peek at the opening chapter! (Sorry if the formatting is wonky)
CHAPTER ONE: MONSTROUS!
A shrill scream rips through the house.
I jump off the window seat, fling my mystery novel aside, race out of my bedroom and-
Wham! Solid mass of big brother.
“Whoa, Kelsey!” Kyle’s hair is mussed like he just woke up from a nap. He puts his hands on my shoulders and peers into my face. “Why’d you scream?”
“Not me…Kiana or Kenya,” I say as another scream echoes through the hall. I whirl around, and with my brother close on my heels, run into the twins’ room.
My older sister Kiana is perched on her bed, clutching a pink stuffed bunny to her chest like a shield. “Get the monster out of here!” she shrieks.
“What monster?” Kyle scrunches his forehead, looking around.
“It moved too fast to get a good look but I think it’s a fanged snake or horned lizard with a spiky tail,” Kiana says in a rush.
A fanged horned monster with a spiky tail?
I want to believe Kiana because she’s the nicer twin and sometimes she even helps me with my homework. But there’s no monster in her room—only the usual mess of clothes, shoes and makeup my sisters never bother to put away. There are still moving boxes, too, even though it’s been a week since we moved from our cramped apartment into a two-story “Cottage.”
“It’s in my closet!” Kiana points a shaky finger. “I saw a horrifying shadow on the wall then heard claws running into my closet so I kicked the door shut. And it’s still there!”
“You only saw a shadow?” Kyle scoffs. “Don’t you know that shadows are always more exaggerated than reality? I’m not surprised you’re imagining monsters after you and Kenya stayed up late watching Jurassic Park.”
“That has nothing to do with this…this CREATURE!” Kiana squeals from high on her bed, her gaze glued to the closet. “I came into my room to get my backpack and heard a crunching sound—and look! That THING chewed my book report!” Kiana picks up a shredded piece of paper from her bed and waves it at us.
I stare at stripes of claws and needle-sharp punctures, and my stomach knots. As Spy Tactics Specialist in the Curious Cat Spy Club, I’ve trained myself to observe and analyze evidence. The claw and teeth marks are proof I can’t ignore. A horrible suspicion grows in my mind.
“A monster ate your homework?” Kyle throws back his head and laughs. “Try getting that story by your teacher.”
“It’s true! And it’s probably devouring my clothes and best shoes right now!” Kiana twists a curl of her dark hair around her finger. “Hurry, Kyle! You’re older and stronger than we are. Get rid of it!”
My brother’s smile fades fast. While he’s tall and can play a mean game of hoops, he’s not made of muscles or courage. And lately he’s been too busy researching colleges to play any sports. He glances uneasily at the closet, backing into the hall like he’s poised for a quick getaway. “I’ll go ask Mom to help. Catching animals is her job so she’ll know what to do.”
“She’s working in the garden,” Kiana says.
“No need to bother Mom on her day off,” I say calmly although my heart is pounding. I step forward. “I’ll do it.”
My brother and sister stare at me, shocked. I’m the youngest in the family, after all, the little sister who’s usually so quiet no one notices me. They probably think I’m trying to prove I can be brave but my offer has nothing to do with bravery. It’s the opposite. If my suspicion about the “monster” is right, I’m going to be in big trouble. My only hope is to get my sister and brother out of the room.
“I can handle this.” I visualize I’m a fearless detective from one of my novels and lift my chin confidently. “I’ve learned a lot about dealing with wild animals from hanging out with Becca at her Animal Sanctuary. Alligators, lions and bears—they don’t scare me. Becca’s taught me how to protect myself but I can’t protect both of you so wait in the hall.”
Kiana frowns at her ripped homework then jumps off her bed and comes over to me. “I can’t leave you in here alone,” she says.
“Really, it’s okay. Don’t worry. I won’t get hurt.” As I say this I hear rustling sounds from the closet and wonder what will happen if I’m wrong. Could there really be a spiked-tail snake/lizard in the closet?
“Kel knows a lot about wild animals, so she can take care of this,” my brother says with a shrug. “Come on, Kiana. Let’s get out of here.”
“But Kelsey could get hurt.” She tugs my hand. “Better my shoes get eaten than my baby sister. Let’s all leave and go get Mom.”
“Get Mom to do what?”
I swivel around as Mom strides into the room. Curly brown hair falls out of her red scarf and her gardening gloves are dirt-stained. Before she became a County Animal Control Officer, she worked for a florist because she loves gardening. I just wish she’d stayed outside in the garden.
Things get worse when I hear Kenya’s and Dad’s voices.
Drats! Now my whole family is here.
“What’s going on?” Dad squeezes in beside Mom. He must have been in the kitchen working on a culinary masterpiece because he’s wearing his Eating is a Necessity but Cooking is an Art apron.
“Kiana, did you scream?” Kenya pushes past everyone to hug her twin. They both have long dark-brown hair like Mom’s and full lips like Dad, and everyone says they’re identical. But they can’t fool me because I can tell them apart. It’s Secret 28 in my Notebook of Secrets.
“Mom, Dad!” Kiana gestures to the closet. “There’s a monster in my closet!”
Dad wipes his hands on his cooking apron as he chuckles. “Aren’t you a little old for imaginary friends?”
“It’s not a friend or imaginary! See what it did to my book report!” Kiana waves the ripped homework in the air. A corner breaks off and flutters to the carpet.
Mom pushes her hair from her eyes, leaning in for a closer look at the paper. “Hmmm,” she murmurs. “What does this monster look like?”
“Horrifying! It was huge like a giant lizard or dragon with wicked fangs!” Kiana spreads her arms and juts out her teeth like fangs. “And it had a spiky tail!”
“But you only saw its shadow,” I point out, hoping to calm everyone down and convince them to leave. “I’m sure it’s just a harmless rat. I can get rid of it.”
“No, you will not, Kelsey,” Mom says firmly as she steps in front of me. “Rats carry diseases. Kyle, go out to my work truck and grab my net.”
“Sure Mom.” Kyle runs down the hall.
We all wait, as if frozen in a movie frame. Kiana and Kenya stand close, their hands dramatically clasped together and their gazes fixed on the closet door like they’re actors in a horror movie. Dad stands by awkwardly like an extra, while Mom waits to direct the action.
Minutes later, Kyle’s footsteps pound down the hall and then he hands Mom the net. “Here.” He quickly darts back into the hall.
Mom holds the net in one hand, reaching for the closet door with the other.
I hold my breath as Mom twists the knob.
Slowly, the door opens….