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The Buddy Files, #3 The Case of the Missing Family
By Dori Hillestad Butler
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2010 Dori Hillestad Butler
All rights reserved.
No Jumping to Conclusions
My name is Buddy. I'm a dog, but I'm also a detective.
I used to solve mysteries with my old human, Kayla. Now I solve them by myself.
Here is a list of mysteries I've solved:
* The Case of the Missing Boy
* The Case of the Mixed-Up Mutts
Those were easy cases to solve. I'm working on another case that is much harder to solve. I call it the Case of the Missing Family.
I'm a pretty lucky dog. I have both an old family and a new family. The people in my new family are:
They are not missing. They're inside that house over there. It's nighttime, so they're asleep. I love my new family, but I can't help wondering what happened to my old family. My old family is the family that is missing.
The people in my old family are:
Sometimes when my new family is asleep, I come outside, lie down under the stars, and gaze at my old family's house. My old family used to live in the house behind this one, but they haven't been there in a long time. There is a sign in their front yard. It says: For Rent. That means:
* My old family isn't coming back to Four Lakes.
* A new family will move into their house.
I know where the mom from my old family is. She's in a place called the National Guard. She's been there for eleventy-hundred-thousand days. I don't know what happened to Kayla and Dad. That is the mystery.
If you want to solve a mystery, you should make a list of things you know and things you don't know. That will help you make a plan so you can solve the case.
Here is what I know:
* Kayla and Dad left me at Barker Bob's.
* They said they were going to visit Grandma in Springtown and that they would be back in one week.
* They never came back.
* There was a tornado in Springtown.
Here is what I don't know:
* Are Kayla and Dad at Grandma's house?
* Did the tornado hit Grandma's house?
* Are Kayla and Dad okay?
I don't have a plan for finding out the things I don't know, but I am trying to make one. Sometimes it's hard to make plans when you have a family to take care of.
"BUDDY? ARE YOU THERE?" Mouse calls. Mouse is the biggest, loudest dog on our street. He is my best friend who is not human.
"I'm here," I say.
There is one house between my house and Mouse's house. We can't see each other, but we can hear each other. We like to catch up every night after our people are asleep.
"YOU'RE QUIET TONIGHT," Mouse calls to me. "ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT YOUR OLD FAMILY AGAIN?"
Mouse thinks I think about my old family too much. He thinks I should stop worrying about my old family and pay more attention to my new family. It's hard to do that when I don't know what happened to my old family.
"I only think about my old family at night," I tell Mouse. "After my new family is asleep. I just wish I knew what happened to them. I wish I could solve this case."
"BUDDY," he says in a tired voice. "I THINK YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM."
Mouse thinks Kayla and Dad are ... I can't say it. It's too bad a word to say out loud. It's too bad a word to even think inside my head.
Mouse thinks that Kayla and Dad are that word because Kayla's Uncle Marty came and took me to the P-O-U-N-D. He says Uncle Marty would not have done that unless Kayla and Dad were ... that word.
I know Kayla and Dad aren't ... that word. Here is how I know:
* Just because a tornado went through the town where they were visiting doesn't mean they got caught in it.
* Just because they haven't come back home and their house is For Rent doesn't mean they are ... that word.
* If Kayla and Dad are ... that word, someone would have told Mom and she would have come home from the National Guard. She hasn't come home so they can't be ... that word.
* A dog always knows if his human is ... that word. You don't even have to be there. You can sense it. I'm NOT sensing it.
There could be eleventy-twelve reasons why Kayla and Dad never came back from Springtown. There could be eleventy-ten reasons why their house is For Rent. I just don't know what those other reasons are yet.
If I thought Kayla and Dad were ... that word, then I would be Jumping to Conclusions. Jumping to Conclusions is kind of like jumping on the couch. It can get you in a whole mess of trouble. It's also not a good way to solve a mystery.
Mouse changes the subject. "WHAT DID YOU DO TODAY, BUDDY?"
"Mom and I practiced for our test," I say.
Mom is going to be the new principal at Connor's school. That means she is going to be the alpha human there. When school starts, she wants to bring me to school with her. She wants me to be a therapy dog. That means I get to make friends with all the kids at the school. I LOVE making new friends. It's my favorite thing!
But before I can go to school with Mom, we have to take a test. It's called the Pet Partners Team Evaluation. If we pass the Pet Partners Team Evaluation, Mom and I will be a registered therapy dog team.
"WHAT DID YOU DO TO PRACTICE FOR THE TEST?" Mouse asks.
"Lots of things," I say. "Mom practiced telling me to sit, stay, and lie down. She's pretty good at that."
"We went to the dog park and practiced walking past other dogs."
"WHY DID YOU DO THAT?" Mouse asks.
"I don't know. It's something we have to do for the test. We have to walk past other dogs without talking to them. Even if they talk to us first."
"THAT SEEMS A LITTLE RUDE," Mouse says.
I agree. Isn't the whole point of being a therapy dog to make new friends?
"DID YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE TODAY?" Mouse asks.
All of a sudden a light comes on in Kayla's house.
I hear Mouse call my name, but I can't answer. I can't take my eyes off that light. If no one is home over there, then why did a light come on?
"BUDDY?" Mouse says. Louder this time. "WHAT'S THE MATTER?"
"There's a light on at my old house," I say. It's the light in the kitchen. The kitchen is the most important room in a house. It's where all the food is.
Another light blinks on. It's the hall light upstairs. Then one more light blinks on: the light in Kayla's room!
Now I am going a little bit crazy inside myself.
"Mouse!" I cry. "I think my people are back!"CHAPTER 2
Kayla's Secret Notebook
I push my way through the dark bushes that line the fence between our yard and the Deerbergs' yard next door. There's a secret tunnel back here. I dug it myself eleventy-five nights ago.
Connor and Mom don't know about this tunnel.
I jump down into the hole and claw my way under the fence. The only light comes from the moon.
Ow! My collar snags on the bottom of the fence.
I jerk and pull, and one of the tags on my collar comes loose. It drops into the hole at my feet. Uh-oh. I think this is the tag that tells humans where I live in case I get lost.
Oh, well. I don't really need that tag. I'm just going to my old house. I'm not going to get lost.
I claw the rest of the way through the tunnel and come out in the Deerbergs' yard next door. I run through the back flower bed, into the Sanchezes' backyard, and around to their front yard. My old house is right next door.
"WAIT, BUDDY!" Mouse calls. "WAIT FOR ME!"
I turn. Mouse is barreling through the Sanchezes' yard.
"What are you doing here?" I ask as he skids to a stop in front of me.
"I DON'T KNOW WHO IS IN YOUR OLD HOUSE," Mouse pants. "BUT I DON'T THINK IT'S YOUR OLD FAMILY."
"Who else would it be?" I ask. "Who else would go inside my old house in the middle of the night?"
"I DON'T KNOW," Mouse says. "BUT YOUR OLD FAMILY IS—"
"Don't say it!" I raise my paw. If I'm not going to say ... that word out loud, then I don't want anyone else to say it, either.
Mouse frowns at me. "WELL, I DON'T THINK YOU SHOULD GO IN YOUR OLD HOUSE ALONE," he says. "IT COULD BE DANGEROUS."
Mouse is a good friend. Even if he thinks my family is ... that word.
We walk next door together, our noses pressed to the ground.
"I DON'T SMELL YOUR OLD FAMILY," Mouse says. "DO YOU?"
Actually, I do smell them. Sort of. It's strange. It doesn't smell like they're actually here, but their scent is stronger than it was the last few times I was here.
The scent is strongest over by the street. I look up and see a strange van parked at the curb. There's a trailer hooked to the back of the van, and the trailer is piled with Kayla, Dad, and Mom's furniture. That must be why I smell them. Their scent is on their furniture.
I gaze up at my old house. The front door is standing wide open and all the windows are lit up behind the shades. I see a human moving around in Mom and Dad's room, but I can tell by the shape that it's not Mom or Dad.
"BUDDY!" Mouse yells. "DON'T GO IN THERE! YOU DON'T KNOW WHO'S IN YOUR HOUSE! YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY WANT!"
That's exactly why I have to go in.
I take the front stairs two at a time and go inside. Mouse is on my tail.
Wow. The living room looks ... different. There's no furniture. No pictures on the walls. Just a bunch of boxes stacked next to the window.
"Raina?" a voice calls from one of the upstairs bedrooms. "Are you just about done in there?"
I know that voice.
WHO IS IT? Mouse asks me with his eyes. WHO'S UP THERE?
"Uncle Marty!" I tell him.
"UNCLE MARTY?" Mouse says out loud. "HE'S THE ONE WHO—"
"Shh!" I say. "Yes, he's the one who took me to the P-O-U-ND." What is he doing in my old family's house?
We hear someone sneeze upstairs. Then we hear another voice. A female voice.
"Did you hear that?" says the voice. This must be Raina.
"Hear what?" Uncle Marty asks.
"It sounds like there's a dog downstairs," Raina says.
Mouse and I freeze.
"No," Uncle Marty replies. "There's no dog in this house. Whatever you heard must be outside. Are you ready to take some more boxes out to the van?"
"Sure," Raina says. "I hope they'll all fit."
I hear footsteps above us. The footsteps are moving toward the stairs.
"Oh no. They're coming!" I tell Mouse.
We aren't going to make it to the front door without getting caught. We have to hide!
But Mouse is too big to hide anywhere in here. I motion for him to follow me into the kitchen.
Things look different in here, too. The table and chairs are gone. So are the containers of flour and sugar that used to be on the counter. Even the machines that make toast and coffee are gone. All that's in here is another pile of boxes. And there aren't enough of them to hide behind.
Then I notice the basement door is ajar. I nudge it the rest of the way open.
"We can hide down here," I tell Mouse. "But be quiet. Don't let anyone hear your toenails on the stairs."
I tiptoe as quietly and carefully as I can, down the wooden stairs. Mouse follows just as quietly. Just as carefully.
It's dark in the basement, but I don't mind. I'm not afraid of the dark. Neither is Mouse. Darkness doesn't bother us.
My old family used to watch TV and play games down here. But now the TV and the shelf with all the board games are gone. The only thing left is the couch I used to curl up on with Kayla.
Hey, that reminds me ... when Kayla and I were working on a case, Kayla would write about it in her detective's notebook. She kept the notebook under this couch. I wonder if it's still there?
I put my nose to the floor and sniff. There's something under there, something that smells like Kayla. But I can't quite reach it with my nose.
I feel around under the couch and pull out a cookie. I LOVE cookies. They're my favorite food!
I gulp the whole cookie down in one bite.
Hmm. Maybe I should have shared part of that cookie with Mouse?
No. My house = my cookie.
There's something else under the couch, but I can't quite reach it. I run around behind the couch and stretch my front paw as far as I can. Got it!
"WHAT IS THAT?" Mouse whispers. Even his whisper is loud.
"Kayla's detective notebook," I say. I pull the notebook out from under the couch.
"WHAT'S A DETECTIVE NOTEBOOK?" Mouse asks.
"It's where Kayla wrote down the things we knew and the things we didn't know about our cases."
I slide the book into a patch of moonlight that shines through the window and flip the book open with my paw. I gaze at all the funny squiggles on the page. They swirl and curve. Some have lines through them. Others end in sharp points.
"WHAT DOES IT SAY?" Mouse asks.
"I don't know," I say. Because unfortunately, I can't read.
Kayla learned to read and write at school. This is another reason I want to go to school. Maybe I'll learn to read there, too. Just like Kayla. Then one day I'll be able to read her notebook.
But right now I need to figure out what Uncle Marty is up to.
I don't hear any sounds above us. "I wonder if Uncle Marty is still here?" I whisper to Mouse.
"LET'S GO SEE," he whispers back.
I grab Kayla's notebook in my mouth and make my way to the top of the stairs. Mouse is right behind me.
The lights are still on in the kitchen so I don't think Uncle Marty and the strange woman have left. But I don't hear them moving around in the house.
I bite a better grip into Kayla's notebook and tiptoe all the way into the kitchen. The boxes that were stacked in here when Mouse and I went downstairs are gone now.
I peer around the corner to the living room. The boxes that were in here are gone, too.
The front door is still standing wide open. Uncle Marty and Raina are carrying boxes to the van.
I feel a low growl forming in my throat. Uncle Marty and his friend Raina are stealing my old family's stuff!CHAPTER 3
"ARE YOU CRAZY?" Mouse asks me.
"Shh!" I say. Mouse and I are hiding behind a big bush next to Kayla's house, and I have just told him my plan.
When Uncle Marty and Raina go back inside the house, Mouse and I will find a place to hide in the back of the van. Then we'll find out where they are going with Kayla, Mom, and Dad's stuff.
"WE CAN'T HIDE IN THE BACK OF THAT VAN," Mouse says softly.
"BECAUSE," Mouse says, "WE DON'T KNOW WHERE THEY'RE GOING."
"That's why we're going to hide in the van," I say.
The only problem is I don't know what to do with Kayla's notebook. I don't want to take it with me; it could get lost. And I don't want to leave it here where anyone could find it. Hey, I know. We can BURY IT! That's what I normally do with important things I don't want to lose.
"Will you help me bury Kayla's notebook?" I ask Mouse.
I look around. "How about under this bush?" There's soft dirt between the bush and Kayla's house. It should be easy to dig a hole here. And I don't think anyone would come along and dig it back up.
Mouse and I start digging. It doesn't take long with two of us working. When the hole is deep enough, I drop the notebook in and we cover it up with dirt.
Now we just have to wait for Uncle Marty and Raina to finish loading the van and go back inside the house.
"I STILL DON'T THINK IT'S A GOOD IDEA TO HIDE IN THEIR VAN," Mouse says out loud. "WHAT IF THEY GO FAR AWAY? WHAT IF THEY LEAVE FOUR LAKES?"
"Shh," I tell Mouse again. "It's better to be inside the van than running along behind it."
"WHAT ABOUT YOUR TEST TOMORROW? WHAT IF YOU'RE NOT BACK IN TIME TO TAKE THE TEST?"
I hadn't thought about that.
Mom and I have to take that test. If we don't, then I won't be able to go to school with her. If I don't go to school with her, I won't get to make friends with all the kids. And I won't ever learn to read.
Then a new thought pops into my head. "What if Uncle Marty is taking this stuff to my old family?" I ask.
Mouse sighs. "IF YOUR OLD FAMILY WAS STILL ALIVE—"
"They are still alive!" I say.
Mouse talks right over me. "IF YOUR OLD FAMILY WAS STILL ALIVE, WHY WOULDN'T THEY COME AND GET THEIR STUFF? WHY WOULD THEY SEND UNCLE MARTY?"
I don't like Mouse's questions. "I DON'T KNOW!" I yell at him.
Then I feel bad for yelling. Because Mouse is my friend, and you should never yell at your friends.
You also shouldn't yell when you're trying to hide.
"Don't you think it's odd that Uncle Marty is taking my old family's stuff in the middle of the night?" I say in a friendly, but quiet voice. "Doesn't that seem just a little suspicious?"
"MAYBE A LITTLE," Mouse says softly.
"The only way to find out what Uncle Marty is up to is to hide in the back of the van," I say.
Mouse drops to his belly. "WELL," he says, "I DON'T WANT TO GET IN A VAN THAT MAY BE LEAVING FOUR LAKES."
I can't blame Mouse for that. But I have to go. I have to find out what happened to my old family.
"I understand," I tell Mouse. "This is probably something I should do by myself, anyway."
I keep my eyes on Uncle Marty and Raina. It takes them a while to pack all that stuff in the van and onto the back of the trailer. But finally the last box is loaded. I watch as Uncle Marty and Raina tie everything to the trailer with a big rope. Then they head back up the front walk.
Excerpted from The Buddy Files, #3 The Case of the Missing Family by Dori Hillestad Butler. Copyright © 2010 Dori Hillestad Butler. 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.
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