Authors: Gary Paulsen
“Sure. I learned that they can’t get you if you stay at least five and a half feet away.”
Dunc rolled his eyes. “This is not worth discussing. The point is, if Fifi is in there, we get the reward. If she’s not, we’ve eliminated one of our suspects.”
“Don’t you mean our only suspect?”
Dunc wasn’t listening. He was already scrambling over the top of the high cinder-block wall around Doc Woods’s house.
Amos dropped his bike and sighed. “Wait for me. I’m not waiting here all by
myself.” He tried to get a foothold on the fence. “Why do you suppose Doc Woods needs a wall this high?”
Dunc dropped to the ground on the other side. “Probably because he doesn’t want any of the neighbors to know what’s really going on in here.”
They slunk toward the house. Dunc tried the back door. It was locked. So were all the windows they could reach.
“Okay, Sherlock,” Amos said. “What do we do now?”
Dunc was staring at the back door. Actually he was staring at the bottom of the door. There was a round hole cut in the door with a flap on it. “That’s kind of an unusual shape for a doggy door.”
Amos knelt down. “Maybe it’s one of those one-size-fits-all doors.”
“One of us might be able to squeeze through it and unlock the door from the inside.”
Amos looked up. “One of us?”
Dunc nodded. “Yeah. Of course, the
opening is kind of narrow. I wouldn’t have a chance. But you—”
“You always have it figured, don’t you?” Amos got down on his hands and knees and pushed at the little door. It opened. He poked his head through. It was pitch black inside. He pulled his head out.
“It’s too dark in there. I can’t see a thing.”
“Here, take this.” Dunc handed him his pen flashlight.
Amos flicked it on and poked his head back into the opening. “This isn’t much better.”
“Try to squeeze through, and then use the penlight to see how to unlock the door.”
Amos dropped to his belly and wiggled through the hole.
Part of the way.
About halfway through he got stuck. He pointed the light down the hall in front of him. Something had moved inside.
“Keep trying, Amos. You’re almost in.”
“Keep your voice down, Amos. Do you want to wake up the whole neighborhood?”
“Two words. Cynthia’s loose.”
“Are you sure?”
“Okay, okay, I was just checking. I’ll try pulling from this end.”
“Do it quick. She just swallowed your flashlight.”
Dunc grabbed Amos’s legs and pulled with all his might. Amos barely moved.
“It’s okay, Dunc.” Amos’s voice was calmer. “I think this snake likes me.”
“What makes you think so?”
“She’s wrapping herself around me to give me a hug.”
“I don’t know how to tell you this, Amos, but boas always crush their victims before they eat them.”
Amos started wiggling furiously. “Get me out of here!”
Dunc looked around. “I think I have an idea. Hold on, Amos.”
“Dunnffff sheez chokkky meee!”
Dunc ran for the spigot and hose near the side of the back porch. He pointed the hose at the door and soaked the opening, then threw it down, wedged his feet against the door, and jerked for all he was worth.
Amos slid out into his lap.
“Whew!” Amos put his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath. “For a minute there I thought I was a goner.” He glared at Dunc. “Next time give a guy some warning before you shoot cold water down his pants.”
Dunc was still studying the door. “You know, maybe you were right before. Maybe we should come back later.”
Amos was still breathing hard. “That’s what I tried to—why? What’s the matter?”
“You know how we were wondering why Doc Woods has such a high wall?”
“And how we thought this doggy door was kind of a weird shape and everything?”
The two boys looked at each other and yelled, “It’s for Cynthia!”
Cynthia’s head slid through the little door. She saw Amos and started after him.
Dunc clawed at the wall and finally made it to the top. He looked back for Amos.
“Amos? Where are you?”
“I’m over here.”
Dunc turned. Amos had cleared the wall and landed in some bushes on the other side.
“Are you all right?”
Amos slowly raised up on one elbow. “Did I ever tell you that being best friends with you has some real major drawbacks?”
Amos stood in the parking lot outside the city pound holding Scruff’s leash. “It’s not what you think,” he said. “Really. Although it’s not a bad idea.”
Dunc eyed him suspiciously. “Are you sure you didn’t bring Scruff down here to get rid of him?”
“Cross my heart. My mom is a little confused about what goes on down here. She thinks the pound is some kind of doggy day care. I tried to tell her what we do, but she was sure Scruff would have a good time
with the other dogs, so she made me bring him.”
Dunc held the door open. “I hope Ms. Craig doesn’t mind.”
“Maybe we’ll get lucky and she’ll get so mad, she fires us.”
“Right. And then Judge Simmons really will sentence you to the electric chair.”
“I forgot about Judge Simmons.”
Dunc stood on tiptoes and peeked through the window in the door to the animal compound. “All clear. Ms. Craig must be late today.”
Amos pushed the door open and tried to drag Scruff inside. Scruff sat down and dug his claws into the floor of the porch.
Amos stopped. “See what I have to put up with?” He looked at Scruff. “You better hope no one comes in here today looking for a border collie, or you’re history.”
Scruff growled and took a nip at Amos’s leg. He dug his claws in deeper.
“Here.” Dunc took the leash. “Let me try.”
“Watch out. He can be mean.”
Dunc moved toward the door. “Here, boy. Come on, Scruff. Let’s go in here.”
The little dog jumped up and trotted through the door behind Dunc.
“How did you do that? Hey, you don’t want a dog, do you?” Amos followed them in.
“Get serious, Amos. Your family would be heartbroken if they lost Scruff.”
“They’d live. What do you say?”
“I didn’t know you felt so strongly about it. It’s okay, you don’t
to take him. I’ll suffer along somehow.”
Dunc moved to one of the big cages. “It’s not that. Somebody’s adopted Roger, the German shepherd.”
“Oh, is that all? In case you didn’t know it, that’s what happens here. People come in and adopt dogs.”
Dunc sat on the edge of the counter staring at the cage. “I know. I guess I was getting a little too attached.”
Amos patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. There’s always good old Scruff to keep you company.”
The door opened, and Ms. Craig bustled into the room. “Goofing off as usual, I see.” She saw Scruff. “What’s this, a new one?” She wrote something on her clipboard. “Well, don’t just stand there. Get him into a cage. I’ll have the new vet come in and give him his shots later.”
The door slammed shut behind her.
“You’d better take Scruff home. I’ll cover for you until you get back.”
The wheels started turning in Amos’s head. An evil grin spread slowly across his face. “No. I think I’d better stay here and work. After all, if the judge found out I left without permission, I might get in big trouble, right?”
“Amos, what about Scruff?”
Amos shrugged. “What about him? At least he’ll be caught up on his shots.”
The door opened again. This time it was Dr. Keene. “Ms. Craig tells me there’s a new one. Is that him?”
Amos handed him the leash. “He’s all yours.”
“But, Amos! He’s—”
Amos dug his elbow into Dunc’s side. “Put a lid on it, Dunc. The man says he wants the dog. Let him have the dog.”
The doctor led Scruff out of the room.
Dunc looked at Amos.
Amos looked at the floor. “You can turn off the Mother Superior look. It won’t work. You’re not going to make me feel guilty over that dog. He’s been nothing but trouble since the first day I met him.”
Dunc folded his arms.
“You don’t understand. I may never get another chance like this. Besides, he probably needs those shots.”
Dunc raised one eyebrow.
“Oh, all right.” Amos’s shoulders slumped. “I’ll go get the stupid mutt. But only because you’re forcing me.”
“That’s odd. I wonder where they went?” Amos met Dunc in the hall. “I’ve looked everywhere. Dr. Keene and Scruff have disappeared.”
“They’ve got to be here somewhere, Amos. Hmm, that’s strange.”
“What is it?”
Dunc was looking out the window. “Dr. Keene is having a lot of trouble putting something in the trunk of his car.”
The boys watched as the doctor struggled with a cardboard box. He was trying
to shove it into the trunk. Whatever was in it obviously didn’t want to go.
Dunc tapped his chin. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“That depends. What are you thinking?”
“Dr. Keene is trying to get away with Scruff.”
“Is that all?” Amos waved his hand and sat down on a wooden bench. “He didn’t have to go to all this trouble. All he had to do was ask.”
“Come on, Amos. We have to see where he’s taking him.”
Dunc bent down and moved to the back door. He motioned for Amos to follow.
Amos held back. “Let’s think about this logically for a minute. Scruff hates me. I hate Scruff. The doctor wants Scruff.” He shrugged. “Sounds like a happy ending all the way around to me.”
Dunc turned back to Amos. “Doesn’t something about all this seem odd to you?”
“Like what, for instance?”
“Like why would a rich doctor need to steal a dog from the pound?”
“I suppose you’ve got a point there.”
“Then let’s go before we lose him and find out what he’s up to.”
The boys scrunched down and quickly crept out and across the parking lot toward the car. Dunc held his breath and opened the back door of the car. The doctor was having such a hard time with the box, he didn’t notice the two boys crawling into the backseat.
They heard the trunk close. The veterinarian hurriedly slid into the driver’s seat and started the motor.
Dunc tried to shift position so he could see where Dr. Keene was taking them. All he could see, though, were the tops of the trees as they went by. His eyes narrowed. He had the strangest feeling he’d seen these trees before, recently.
The car pulled up into a driveway and stopped. The doctor jumped out and opened the trunk. He took the box into a house.
Dunc peeked up over the edge of the seat. “He’s gone. It’s okay to look now, Amos. But you won’t like what you see.”
Amos popped up to take a look.
“Doc Woods’s house.”
“Why me?” Amos looked up at the sky. “Of all the best friends in the whole world, why did I have to get stuck with Super Sleuth?”
“Come on, Amos. We’ve got this case in the bag. All we have to do is get close enough to hear them admit it. Then we’ll call the police and be two hundred and fifty dollars richer.”
“Aren’t you forgetting one small detail?”