Authors: Tui T. Sutherland
For Mum and Dad,
who are brave enough to wake sleeping dragons,
even without a fireproof suit.
unlight reflected off the tails of the mermaids gathered at the edge of the lake. The two unicorns bent their heads gracefully to sip the water, pretending they weren't eavesdropping. In the distance, Logan Wilde could hear the yips and squawks of the griffin cubs playing in their enclosure, happy to be home.
It seemed like a peaceful Sunday morning in the Menagerie .Â .Â . except for the bloodstained feather lying on the wet grass between him and Zoe.
It had been only two days since Logan Wilde woke up to find giant feathers on his bedroom floor. Those feathers had belonged to a griffin cub hiding under his bed, who had led him here, to the Menagerieâa secret home for mythical animals run by the family of Logan's classmate Zoe Kahn.
But this feather was white, bigger than the griffin feathers, and part of a murder scene.
Logan crouched to pick it up and Zoe grabbed his shoulder.
“Don't touch it,” she said. “It could be evidence.” She shuddered. “Also, it's horrible.” She rubbed her wrist anxiously and shook her chin-length red-brown hair out of her face. Her eyes were fixed on the door of the Aviary. No one had emerged in half an hour, not since Zoe's dad had sent the two of them away from the crime scene.
Logan studied the feather for a moment, then used his phone to take a picture of it with the Aviary in the background. There had been feathers all
the place in there, not to mention the blood splatters on the pillows and silks of Pelly's nest. At least there wasn't a bodyâthe goose herself was nowhere to be found. Logan was pretty sure he wouldn't want to see whatever was left of her.
“What do you think happened?” he asked Zoe. “That poor goose.” He'd spent only five minutes with Pelly, but it was horrifying to think that someone who had been alive two days ago was now gone.
“I have no idea,” said Zoe. “There's never been an attack in the Menagerie before. It feels impossible.”
Logan wanted to agree, but in the past couple days he'd learned to be careful of using that word. After all, there were lots of things that Logan had thought were impossible that turned out to be not just possible but living only a few miles from his house.
The yeti currently zipping toward them on a golf cart, for instance.
“What's happening?” Zoe called as Mooncrusher jumped off the cart and bounded toward the Aviary, brandishing a walkie-talkie in his paws.
“BLAAAAAARGH!” the yeti answered before disappearing inside.
“Hmm,” Zoe said. “Okay. I guess I asked for that.” She narrowed her eyes at the mermaids, who were whispering and snickering behind their hands.
“At least the birds have stopped screaming,” Logan said. A muted bellow came from the white dome of the Aviary. “Apart from whatever that is.”
“The roc,” Zoe said. “We have this tranquillity mist Dad must have released to calm down the other birds, but she's too big for it to work on her. Poor Aliya, she sounds totally traumatized.” She pulled out her phone and checked it again. “Come
, Blue, where are you? I've texted him like forty times.”
“He's trapped inside Jasmin's house,” Logan reminded her. “Where we left him.” They'd called their friend Blue to distract Jasmin while they snuck out of her house with the last missing griffin cub. But given her crush on Blue, Logan wasn't entirely sure Jasmin would ever let him leave. “We might have to mount a follow-up rescue mission,” he tried to joke, but Zoe looked too devastated to smile.
Logan shifted uncertainlyâhe was no good at comforting peopleâthen glanced up at the house. A large, furry shape was lumbering down the hill toward them. “Here comes someone who might cheer you up,” he said.
“No one can cheer me up right now,” Zoe said. “Nothing and no one andâ” She let out a little shriek as the mammoth came up behind her, wrapped its trunk around her waist, and lifted her off the ground.
“Well, Captain Fuzzbutt is willing to try,” said Logan.
Zoe patted the Captain's trunk until he put her down, and then she turned and hugged him. “All right. Maybe you,” she said. “I can't believe Pelly's really gone. Do you think it's our fault? We should have protected her betterâbut from
? I can't even imagine. .Â .Â . It doesn't seem real.”
She leaned into the mammoth's thick brown fur. “What if SNAPA decides we're terrible caretakers and shuts down the Menagerie? Fuzzbutt, if they revoke our license and relocate all the creatures, I might never see you again.”
Her pet mammoth gently wrapped his trunk around her again and patted her on the back.
“They wouldn't do that,” Logan said, almost more to reassure himself than her. Not that he knew anything, really, about the SuperNatural Animal Protection Agency. He'd learned about it only in the last two days, despite the fact that apparently his mother had worked for them as a mythical creature Tracker his whole life. Or at least she had up until six months ago, when she disappeared into thin air.
“They definitely would,” Zoe said. “They closed that Amazon menagerie not too long ago. SNAPA's whole job is to make sure we keep the animals safe, and obviously we just failed. This, on top of the jackalope my sister's boyfriend nearly ran off with and the Chinese dragon that went missing on its way here .Â .Â .” She trailed off.
“The one they think my mom stole,” he finished for her.
“I know she didn't,” Zoe said. “We'll prove them wrong. But the point is, SNAPA has a lot of reasons not to like us. I bet they'd love to shut us down.”
Logan didn't know what he would do if he lost the Menagerie now. Zoe Kahn and Blue Merevy were the only friends he'd met since moving to Xanadu, Wyoming, and helping them find the griffin cubs had made him feel happy for the first time in months. The fact that he was the only one who could hear Squorp and the other griffin cubs also made him feel like working with these creatures was his destinyâlike he was born to be a Tracker or a Menagerie caretaker.
Most important, if Zoe's theory was right, this place might be his only chance to find his mom.
“I need you to sign these,” said a voice behind him.
Logan turned and saw that Melissa Merevy, Blue's mom, had followed Fuzzbutt down from the house. She was holding out a silver pen and a clipboard full of papers. Her blond hair was as smooth as shiny metal and in her pressed suit, she looked, as usual, ready for a business meeting, never mind that it was breakfast time on a Sunday morning.
“Um,” Logan said. “Me?”
“Of course you,” said Melissa. “Unless there's someone else I'm supposed to conjure up an entire set of papers for out of nowhere.”
Earlier that morning, Zoe's dad had told the SNAPA agents that Logan was a new hire, which was probably one of the coolest things that had ever happened to Logan. The agents had asked to see his paperwork before they leftâbut in the chaos of Pelly's murder, surely they'd forget, wouldn't they?
Then again, it probably wasn't a good idea to argue, given the look on Melissa's face.
He took the pen and flipped through the papers, signing at each of the little sticky tabs without reading any of it. There was an awful lot of small print.
“Did you hear about Pelly?” Zoe asked Melissa.
“Yes, your father radioed us. Your mom's on the phone with SNAPA headquarters right now,” Melissa said. “It's awful. A complete disaster. To make matters worse, I have no idea how we're supposed to run this place without a weekly golden egg to keep us solvent. Dragons don't exactly eat dandelions, you know. And don't get me started on how expensive certain fish people are.” Melissa raised an eyebrow at the gathered mermaids, all of whom were loyal to her ex-husband, King Cobalt.
“Here comes Blue,” Zoe said, sounding relieved. Logan found that he also felt a bit calmer at the sight of their part-merman friend strolling down from the house with a garment bag slung over his shoulder. Blue never seemed to get stressed about anything. Even the six griffin cubs escaping from the Menagerie hadn't rattled him.
“That should do it.” Melissa scooped the clipboard out of Logan's hands as he signed the last form. She headed straight back to the house, patting Blue's shoulder briefly as she went by. Logan rubbed his head, hoping his forms weren't going to cause more trouble for the Menagerie. They had enough to deal with.
“You owe me big-time,” Blue said, pointing at Zoe and Logan. “Thanks to you, I'm now going to Jasmin's Halloween party as a knight. In a suit of armor.” He tossed the garment bag down and it clanked as it hit the ground.
Captain Fuzzbutt jumped, then cautiously circled the bag.
Blue turned to Logan. “And you are coming with me, whether you like it or not. Also, I get to choose your costume, and heads up, it is probably going to involve bunny ears or fairy wings or whatever is the most embarrassing thing I can think of.”