Sammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen

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O
THER
F
AVORITES BY
W
ENDELIN VAN
D
RAANEN

Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief

Sammy Keyes and the Skeleton Man

Sammy Keyes and the Sisters of Mercy

Sammy Keyes and the Runaway Elf

Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Moustache Mary

Sammy Keyes and the Hollywood Mummy

Sammy Keyes and the Search for Snake Eyes

Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception

Sammy Keyes and the Dead Giveaway

How I Survived Being a Girl

Flipped

Swear to Howdy

Shredderman: Secret Identity

Shredderman: Attack of the Tagger

Shredderman: Meet the Gecko

Shredderman: Enemy Spy

For Tante Helen, who has lived amazing adventures of her own,
and has been a fan of Sammy's from the beginning

As always, special thanks to my lucky charms Nancy Siscoe and
Mark Parsons, who helped shape this book,
and to Michele Burke for her early comments and suggestions.

There are things in life you can predict, and then there's my mother. And I swear it's on account of her that things happened the way they did. She just has that kind of cosmic power.

Grams says it's silly to blame her, but I know in her heart my grams has suspicions, too.

Strong suspicions.

I mean, the minute my mother hit town, one thing after another went wrong. I tell you, that woman's the Diva of Disasters.

And then all her little disasters sort of added up to a
big
disaster, which made me go and do something I
swore
I wouldn't do anymore.

Snoop around the seedy side of town.

I have to admit that it didn't
start
with my mother. It started on Hudson's porch. Hudson Graham is my favorite old guy in the whole wide world because he's got great stories, great advice, and he knows how to listen.

He's also got the coolest porch you'd ever want to hang out on, and when Hudson's home, it's usually equipped with iced tea and cake.

“Sammy!” he said when he saw me turn up his walkway on my skateboard. “How are you?”

“Starved!” I grabbed my board and trotted up the steps, eyeing the crumbs on his plate. In a flash I knew it had been a piece of his mega-maple upside-down cake.

He took one look at my face and laughed. “Your grandmother let you out of the house without breakfast?”

“She was preoccupied. And besides, I wasn't hungry then—now I am!”

“Why don't I fix you some eggs and toast. Then cake.”

“Aw, come on, Hudson. It's Saturday.” I plopped down in the chair beside him.

He looked doubtful. “Somehow I don't think your grandmother would approve. And you know I've been working hard to get out of her doghouse …”

“Forget the doghouse. If she asks, I'll just tell her it was an early piece of birthday cake.”

“Birthday cake? When's your birthday?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” He jumped out of his chair. “Why didn't you mention it before?”

I shrugged. “I don't really like my birthday, that's why.”

“You don't
like
it?” He was hovering over me. “Why not? Kids your age love their birthday!”

I kicked my feet up on his railing. “Well, let's see… When I turned twelve my mother celebrated by taking me to McDonald's, which is where she broke it to me that she'd be leaving me with Grams while she went off to Hollywood. Then, when I turned thirteen, she didn't even bother to call or send me a card or
anything.
She finally called two days later gushing excuses, but it was pretty obvious she just forgot.”

“Yes, but Sammy, I thought you had gotten past resenting your mother.”

“I know, I know,” I sighed. “I guess I just have negative associations when it comes to my birthday.” I swung my feet down and laughed. “So could you help me get over it? I want some cake!”

He laughed. “Coming right up.”

I followed him inside, saying, “Actually, Grams always tries to surprise me with a really nice cake on my birthday. She goes all out and is totally secretive about what she's concocting. I'll bet that's what she's doing right now.”

Hudson handed over a giant piece of mega-maple cake. “So you're double dipping, huh?”

I laughed. “I'm entitled, don't you think? I mean, given the circumstances and all.”

He chuckled and opened the fridge. “Can I at least insist on milk?”

“Perfect!”

When we were seated back outside, he said, “So catch me up. What's going on at school? And with Heather! You haven't said anything about her in a while.”

“That's because there's absolutely nothing going on with Heather.” I laughed and took a bite of cake. “Can you believe it?”

Actually, I was finding it hard to believe myself. Ever since my first day of junior high, Heather Acosta has worked hard to make my life miserable. That rabid redhead has done everything from jab me in the butt with a sewing pin to frame me for vandalism. But for the last couple of weeks, there's been nothing.

Well, nothing serious, anyway. I don't count glaring and sneering and catcalls. That's just junior high stuff that everyone goes through. I'm talking diabolical, evil, twisted plots to take over the world. Or at least the school. Elections aren't for another month, but she's already angling to be elected William Rose Junior High's “Most Popular Seventh Grader,” or “Class Cutie,” or whatever other stupid category she can con the rest of the seventh graders into believing she should win.

Too bad they don't have a “Most Likely to Psycho.” I'd vote for her in a hot second.

Hudson shook me from my thoughts, saying, “Two
months until summer vacation. Is that what you're thinking about?”

I laughed. “Actually, I wasn't.”

“Aren't all kids in countdown mode by now?”

“It's only the first week of April!”

He gave a knowing nod. “Ah. Maybe I'm confusing the kids with the teachers.”

I said, “Huh?” but then he said, “So what else have you been up to?” and I remembered what I had come to tell him about. “Oh!” I said, swigging down some milk. “Holly and I have been checking out Slammin' Dave's. Hudson, I've got a whole new perspective on pro wrestling.”

He raised a bushy white eyebrow. “You do, do you?” Then he grumbled, “I still can't believe that Bargain Books is now a pro wrestling shop—”

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