A father-son monster hunter duo must save the Bay Area from an evil villain in The Monster Catchers, a madcap middle-grade fantasy debut from George Brewington.
If there's something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call? Buckleby and Son!
Whether it's a goblin in the garden or a fairy in the attic, Bailey Buckleby and his dad can rid your home of whatever monster is troubling youfor the right price. But when Bailey discovers that his dad has been lyingtheir pet troll Henry is actually a kidnapped baby sea gianthe begins to question the family business. Enter Axel Pazuzu, criminal mastermind, who will stop at nothing to make a buck. With everyone and everything he loves in peril, it's up to Bailey to save his family and set things right in this funny, fantastical adventure.
About the Author
George Brewington makes his middle-grade debut with The Monster Catchers. Four days a week, George writes middle-grade and adult fantasy fiction, having been published most recently in an anthology titled Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers, and Robots. The other three days he is a respiratory therapist at a hospital in Charleston, SC. He lives with his wife and baby daughter in Folly Beach, South Carolina.
Read an Excerpt
BAILEY BUCKLEBY sat behind the register in the front room while his father fed the monsters in the back. A stack of Frisbees towered next to him for easy access. There had been no customers all morning, so he had been rereading his favorite book — In the Shadow of Monsters by monster hunter and photographer Dr. Frederick March — when four slouching tenth graders rolled through the front door with the Pacific fog. They had droopy eyes and bad ideas and gravitated to the back, feigning interest in the hermit crabs for sale. A purple curtain separated the front room from the back room, and the tenth graders knew that whatever was behind that purple curtain could make their small-town Saturday a lot more interesting.
"Hey, little seventh grader," the one without a chin said, "what's in the back?"
Shrieking pierced through the wall in perfect rhythm like an evil metronome. Mad chirping added a vicious melody. Barking as loud and deep as a bass drum boomed ROUMP, ROUMP, ROUMP!
"Those are dogs," Bailey said, flipping the rusty shag of hair out of his bright green eyes. He was scrawny but tough, his arms and legs well scratched from frequent falls off his skateboard and even more frequent scrapes with monsters.
"Those aren't dogs," said the one with the caveman forehead.
"Cats." Bailey shrugged, not even looking up from his book.
The sophomores didn't appreciate being put off. They were in high school after all.
"Those aren't cats." The one with chronic burping burped.
"They're cats and dogs. There's also an extra-large parrot. Are you guys going to buy something or waste my time?"
But the high schoolers didn't care about hermit crabs that made their homes out of plastic skulls. They didn't care about the handmade shark tooth necklaces, the bins of saltwater taffy, the cheap straw hats, the easy-to-break sunglasses, or the snow globes of Santa with a bare belly kicking back on the beach. Only tourists bought that stuff, and the squishy fake whale blubber, and the T-shirts that read I ATE THE WHALEFAT, because the town of Whalefat Beach, California, was famous for its barbecued whale blubber sandwiches. Barbecued whale blubber sandwiches had been the town's traditional lunch for three hundred years, because legend was that a giant whale had drifted ashore there and exploded, freeing its fifty inhabitants, who feasted off the blubbery remains of their former captor while building the town with their very own hands. To tourists, and even most locals, the story was amusing but too far-fetched to be believed. Bailey's father said it was the absolute truth, and he claimed to be a direct descendant of one of those original Whalefatians, which made Bailey a Whalefatian, too.
The sophomore with three patches of fuzz on his face, who thought he had a full beard, snarled.
"Listen, Monster Boy. We know you have monsters back there, and we wanna see 'em."
"Yeah," Caveman grunted. "We wanna see 'em."
Bailey looked up at them, annoyed that they hadn't left yet. "Despite whatever rumors you idiots have heard, there are no monsters here." Then, raising his voice a pitch higher to imitate his teacher Mrs. Wood, he shooed them away. "Run along, boys.Shoo!"
Bailey grinned, looking back down at his book, laughing at his own joke. The teenage thugs could barely stand the insubordination. Fuzzy made one fist, then another. "Listen, boy. You're in seventh grade and we're in high school. You have to respect the chain of command, son!"
Pft! In less than a second, Bailey pulled a Frisbee from the stack and whipped it at the center of Fuzzy's forehead. He was momentarily stunned like a dumb cow. Bailey wasted no time, grabbed two more, and flicked his wrist. Pft! Pft! Two more to Fuzzy's forehead for good measure. Bailey never missed.
"Hey!" Caveman yelled. Pft! Grab, flick, Frisbee to his forehead.
Pft! Preemptive strike on Burper. Burper stumbled backward. Pft! One more to the bridge of Chinless's nose just for being ugly. Bailey's accuracy was dead-on.
The boys grabbed their foreheads in pain, paralyzed with disbelief. The Frisbee injuries would leave welts on their foreheads for all their classmates to see Monday morning — undeniable proof that they had been defeated by a seventh grader.
Just one seventh grader.
And Bailey had plenty of Frisbees left.
"I don't care what grade you guys are in. Read the sign above the door. Buckleby and Son's Very Strange Souvenirs. This is my turf. I'm the son in Buckleby and Son's, SON!"
"You think you can scare us off with Frisbees, little boy?" Caveman demanded.
Bailey Buckleby was a hunter and seller of monsters. He had dealt with far worse than these four adolescents. He leaned forward on the counter, his fingers crossing thoughtfully, like an adult.
"You want to know what's in the back?"
The four thugs leaned forward, gaping and slouching, and there wasn't a single twinkle of intelligence in any of their cold, dull eyes.
"You want to know what my dad and I are keeping back there? You want to know what's back there that has my back?"
Bailey flipped his hair out of his eyes again and slowly reached under the register. He placed a portable baby monitor carefully on the counter, turning it to face them. The sophomores crowded together to look at the dark screen, and Bailey wondered just how long he could make these goons stare at absolutely nothing. He watched them with amusement for long stretched-out seconds until finally, with a wicked grin, he flipped the monitor switch to ON.
The screen lit up and showed them what was on the other side of the purple curtain.
Their eyes grew big.
And they ran.CHAPTER 2
THE BRASS BELL above the door to Buckleby and Son's Very Strange Souvenirs dinged twice as another customer came in. He was a frightened man with thin wisps of hair wandering on the top of his head at the whim of the ocean breeze. He kept his hands in his pockets and beelined straight for Bailey at the counter.
"Yes, sir. How can I help you?"
"Hello," he whispered. "I heard from a friend of mine that you help people who have certain ... pest problems."
"We don't kill roaches," Bailey said decisively, flipping a page in his book.
"Yes, I know. But you are familiar with certain strange creatures, right? How old are you?"
Bailey sat up straight. "Twelve!"
"Sorry. Listen. Am I in the right place?"
"Keep talking and we'll find out."
But the shrieking and the mad chirping and the roump, roump, roump behind the purple curtain were sure clues to the frightened gentleman that, yes, he was.
"I have photos," he explained. He showed Bailey the photos on his phone. The first showed some strange thing that seemed to be hanging upside down as it gripped the bark of a redwood tree. The thing had long fingers, long toes, and long ears. The second photo showed the same creature reaching out for a thick rope swing, and the third showed it swinging out over a pond. Then finally, the fourth photo showed it letting go with its knees held tight to its chest in fine cannonball position.
"This is the pond on my land."
"Is that your kid jumping into your pond?" Bailey asked.
The man swallowed, horrified. "No! I don't know what it is. But it keeps coming back. And it steals things."
"What kind of things?"
"The lights off our porch and the headlights from my car."
"Hold on," Bailey said. He pressed the red intercom button. "Dad?"
No response. The intercom only amplified the shrieking, the chirping, and the roump, roump, roump.
"Yes? What? Hello?"
"Can you come meet this customer?"
"Be there in a second. Ow! You little —"
The customer put his hand to his mouth. "What in the world is back there?"
Bailey shook his head. "I don't think you want to know."
"I don't think I want to know, either," he whispered.
Dougie Buckleby slid the purple curtain aside and entered the room. Like Bailey's, his father's hair was a rumpled rusty shag that nearly covered his bright green eyes. Unlike Bailey, Dougie was as big and hairy as a gorilla. He could barely fit through the entryway that connected the front and back rooms.
"Hello, my friend!" Bailey's father said happily and loudly. "I've seen you at the coffee shop."
"Yes. John Hanson. I live at the intersection of Ahab and Blackwater."
"Very good, John Hanson. How can I help you?"
The frightened man showed him the four photos of the strange intruder. Bailey's father took the phone from him and enlarged the photos with his fingers.
"Is that your kid?"
"No, it's not my kid," he insisted. "And it steals things."
"What kind of things?"
"The lights off our porch and the headlights from my car."
"I already asked him that," Bailey murmured.
"Also," Hanson whispered, leaning closer, "it scratches on our bedroom window at night if we turn the lights on. My wife and I have seen its face. Bug-eyed, boils all over it, long pointy ears. It has a lot of sharp teeth — all pointed and yellow!"
His father leaned in for a closer look, squinting, but then smacked his hand down on the counter.
"Ah. No cause for concern. What you have here is a common garden gnome. They are harmless little vegetarians. Sometimes they steal chicken wire to make into necklaces. They dance in the woods and sing stupid, meaningless songs. They dig burrows and build furniture out of broken-up fence posts. Really, they're nothing more than tiny hippies. No need for alarm, but I'd suggest investing in electric fencing, which we sell and will install for you for a small additional charge. You have to shock the daylights out of garden gnomes. Only way to deal with them."
"A garden gnome?" John Hanson gasped. "Like those ceramic statues, but alive? Are you certain? My fence posts haven't been damaged."
Bailey looked closer. A garden gnome would have small stubby ears, small stubby fingers, and practically unseparated stubby miniature toes.
"Dad, are you sure? Maybe this is a North American tunneling goblin. Gobelinus cuniculus. I have a picture of it right here in my book."
His father smiled and sighed and ruffled his boy's hair. "My son is fascinated by the work of Dr. March, but really, although he's an outstanding photographer of monsters in their natural habitat, the doctor is far too sympathetic to them, as if they wouldn't eat him given the chance. We can't forget that for all their faults, humans have survived because they have kept nature's most horrifying beasts in cages. I'm sure you would agree, John."
By his confused expression, Bailey could tell this man had never even heard of Dr. Frederick March, even though In the Shadow of Monsters was the essential companion for monster hunters and traders around the world. All of Dr. March's monster photographs were accompanied by fascinating adventure stories describing how the doctor had found each monster in the wild using science and his wits, and although he quite often escaped a monster just before being eaten, he never harmed any creature he encountered, big or small. Bailey admired that, even though he felt guilty about that admiration sometimes. His father had taught him that for seven generations, Bucklebys had maintained a proud tradition of keeping their neighbors safe from monsters by whatever means necessary, which included blowing up the whale that swallowed the town's founders so many years ago. If Bailey were to believe otherwise, he knew his father would not only think he was "soft" but that he was rejecting their family's history and, even worse, rejecting him.
But sometimes, his father just missed important details. Bailey turned to page fifty-seven and showed him Dr. March's photograph.
"See, Dad? Look how the fingers and toes are double-jointed in both photos. Both have long and pointy ears, and the arch in the back of this goblin matches the curve of the spine of this one."
The book looked tiny in his father's giant hands. "I must admit, this photograph is quite stunning. How do you suppose the good doctor managed such close-ups? My wife, Katrina, would have been so intrigued to know goblins could be living right here in Whalefat Beach. She was a monster photographer herself with a keen eye for the perfect candid shot. You should see her photos of faeries in flight."
Bailey's father put the book down and wiped away the beginning of a tear before it could mature. Katrina Buckleby had been gone six and a half years and still, just the mention of her brought all his grief back to the present. John Hanson could only stare at him blankly.
"Well," his father said, forcing himself to smile. "My son appears to be quite right. Your pond intruder does resemble a North American tunneling goblin —"
"No. No, no, no!" Hanson interrupted. "I don't care what it is. I cannot have that thing living on my land!"
"It may not have taken up residence," Bailey's father assured him. "It may be just going for a swim. But this is quite something. At the annual Las Vegas Monster Hunters Conference, I heard rumors that goblins had been living under San Francisco in the BART tunnels before the city was destroyed by the sea giants, but you can't always believe what you hear in Vegas."
The customer put his face in his hands like his whole world was crumbling apart. "Are you telling me you really think San Francisco was destroyed by sea giants?"
Bailey's father rolled his eyes. "I suppose you hold to the earthquake theory?"
"Of course," Hanson said softly. "That's what the president said, and it's the only logical explanation. I don't believe in sea giants, or people bursting out of whales, or bogeymen, either."
Bailey's father shook his head and took the liberty of texting himself the four goblin photos from Hanson's phone. "You say you don't believe, John, and yet here you are in our store, asking us to help rid your property of a monster. We live in a newly fashioned high-tech Dark Age, my friend. The American government has become so adept at lying to the public, altering video, and disputing obvious facts with fake scientists, that it can even hide a city's destruction by two thousand-foot-tall sea giants by inventing an earthquake. But I assure you, San Francisco was destroyed by two sea giants seeking revenge on humans for polluting their waters. But enough politics — let's talk business. My son and I are expert monster hunters and catchers, and we would take measures to avoid as much bloodshed as possible on your property. We prefer a catch-and-release approach to monster hunting, or even better —" he said, giving Bailey a sly wink, "catch-and-keep.
"But if you prefer, we can offer you a suitable pet monster to protect your land and family. A pit bull isn't going to do the job here. You're going to need a real bone-cracking, blood-sucking devil-of-the-night to fight this here little villain. Although I must admit, when you fight fire with fire you can naturally expect to have twice the fire that you had before and first- degree burns are inevitable. So if you were to go that route, you'd probably end up hiring us to capture two monsters instead of one. So really, although at first it may seem to be the more expensive option, hiring us for our standard stake-out-capture-and-removal service will actually save you money in the long run."
"I just want it gone!" their frightened neighbor moaned, and Bailey grinned. He knew their customer was already hooked — no matter what price they offered.
Bailey's father took a long breath in and exhaled slowly as he pretended to consider a number. "Hmmmmmmm. Six thousand," he decided.
Bailey coughed into his hand. His father looked at him, eyebrows raised.
"Really, son? My son has done a recalculation and insists on seven."
John Hanson looked at Bailey in shock. "Seven thousand? The kid says seven thousand? I don't have that kind of money!"
Bailey shrugged. His father smiled.
"You said you live at Ahab and Blackwater?"
"Yes," their new customer said with renewed hope, putting the wisps of his hair back into place. "Can you offer a neighbor a deal?"
Bailey's father's smile turned into a sneer as he slapped his gorilla hand on the counter. "Absolutely not. If you can afford a home in that neighborhood, then I know you certainly can afford seven thousand dollars to remove a goblin from your property that could very well eat your children. Do you have children, friend?"
"I have a son, yes."
"If you would like to improve your son's odds of growing up to be a lawyer rather than a sandwich, I urge you to reconsider how to best spend your discretionary income."
"Okay! Okay! Seven thousand, then. Can you get rid of it tonight?"
"Yes, of course!" Bailey's father said, his smile immediately returning as he grabbed their new customer's hand with both of his and shook it vigorously. "Always happy to help out a fellow Whalefatian. Your pond, sir, will be goblin-free by morning!"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Monster Catchers"
Copyright © 2019 George Brewington.
Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Pft,
Chapter Two: Catch-and-Keep,
Chapter Three: ;),
Chapter Four: The Infamous Back Room,
Chapter Five: The Cynocephaly,
Chapter Six: One Real Memory,
Chapter Seven: The Stars Are Not Yours,
Chapter Eight: You have Determined Your Own Fate,
Chapter Nine: The Wonderful Lighted Paintbrush That God Uses Every Night,
Chapter Ten: Baboon Butts,
Chapter Eleven: The Bullhead Brigade,
Chapter Twelve: Chirp Chirpety-Chirp,
Chapter Thirteen: The Universal Currency,
Chapter Fourteen: Punks,
Chapter Fifteen: This Wrong Must Be Righted,
Chapter Sixteen: The Machetes,
Chapter Seventeen: The Truth,
Chapter Eighteen: Do Not Eat that Faery,
Chapter Nineteen: The Famous Labyrinthian of the Mojave Desert,
Chapter Twenty: An Honorable Duel,
Chapter Twenty-One: We Vow we will Give You Back the Night,
Chapter Twenty-Two: Lamps, Lamps, Lamps,
Chapter Twenty-Three: Come Back to Me, Boy,
Chapter Twenty-Four: Aaron Aackerman's Sixth-Grade Graduation Party,
Chapter Twenty-Five: Try or Die,
Chapter Twenty-Six: Greed Has Driven the Demon to Madness,
Chapter Twenty-Seven: In Danger Once Again,
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Punks,
Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Sweet Tooth,
Chapter Thirty: Betrayed,
Chapter Thirty-One: Hit the Gas,
Chapter Thirty-Two: Should a Son Jump?,
Chapter Thirty-Three: A Pleasant Dream to Comfort Him While He Drowned,
Chapter Thirty-Four: Alive,
Chapter Thirty-Five: George,
Chapter Thirty-Six: Man to Dog,
Chapter Thirty-Seven: A Big Favor,
Chapter Thirty-Eight: Small,
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Zzt,
Chapter Forty: a Happy, Inconvenient Truth,
Chapter Forty-One: To Have a Happy Life,
Chapter Forty-Two: The Answer,
About the Author,