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First pages

Bowling Mr. Cronin

Wrappers! Chocolate bar wrappers! Right in the middle of the corridor where the stairs ended and the three basement corridors started. Five of them. Chocolate Peanut Hero bars, America’s finest.

“Which of you bastards left these here?” Jason Cronin, the janitor and caretaker of Hawthorne High, hollered in anger. He had the tendency to talk to himself, a habit that had developed during the time he had spent at the veterans’ hospital, where he had been treated for injuries he had received when his military convoy had been attacked by insurgents in a desert country far away. Memories he tried to push as far to the back of his mind as possible.

“Or is Rose getting lazy?” Rose was the Mexican cleaning lady responsible for the basement and ground floors.

Tyler, Cronin’s terrier-sized dog of mixed origin, sniffed at the wrappers, inhaling the delicious aroma of the absent contents. He was more bark than bite but saw himself as the alpha dog of the house.

As normal and boring as Hawthorne High was, its teachers were friendly and well-respected at most times, and not better or worse than elsewhere. The school’s football team was a mess, although the new coach who had joined in that school year was whipping them into shape. Three games into the season, the Hawthorne Hawks were at 3-0, tying with the Alameda Ants at the first place in the state’s regional high school league.

The number of bullies, vandals, and misfits among the students was limited. The usual suspects were known to everyone, and the teachers kept an eye on them, in cooperation with the underworked but efficient Sheriff’s department.

“There are never enough eyes to catch them all,” mumbled Cronin. He was a big man, usually dressed in workman’s clothes, as his job required him to do a variety of handyman’s tasks. Once a man with a muscular body, he had now gotten flabby and walked with a shuffle. He had a staff of one, himself, to make sure that everything was in working order and that the many helpers who he had subcontracted work to did their jobs. It was their job to clean the building properly, maintain the air conditioning, make sure that the floors were swept regularly, the windows were cleaned, and the litter removed. A futile task! A presumptuous and pompous group of football players and their entourage had developed the nasty habit of dropping their snack wrappers and soft drink cups wherever they went, feeling invincible after their string of wins. “Have to talk to Coach Black about it!” he muttered. But the day had seen no football practice, and Rose had already finished her job. Or so Mr. Cronin thought, as he continued his way through the basement for the final evening check.

Further down the corridor, Cronin and Tyler heard a door click into its lock. Tyler looked up to his master, still dazed by the good smell.

“Hello? Anyone still here? Locking up in five!” Cronin shouted down the corridor.

There was no reply. All he could hear were strange noises that seemed to be coming from one of the lab rooms.

“Is there a party going on? Or is that crazy Montgomery kid experimenting on something?” Cronin muttered. He walked down to the first lab door and poked his head into a dark and empty room. He closed the door again and noticed that his dog, usually protective of his territory and master, was not by his side but stood rooted to a spot twenty yards away.

Cronin opened the next lab door and again poked his head into the room. A mistake. He noticed too late that Tyler was whimpering in a way that Cronin had never heard before, walking backward taking small steps. The “guarding” part of the job was now solely left to Mr. Cronin.

Suddenly, something incredibly strong grabbed Mr. Cronin’s workman’s jacket and pulled him into the room with brute force. “Huh” was all he could utter. He was slammed against the doorjamb and then catapulted across the lab floor like a massive rock, taking a few chairs and wastebaskets with him. He was too surprised to defend himself or scream and heard Tyler barking in the distance, who had run away, that stupid, useless piece of…

He had to shake his head to clear it. He touched his face; there was some sort of injury on the left side of his neck. He felt the wound sting when he touched it. It was wet to the touch. Blood! Images of the desert country war flashed before his eyes, and he had to blink several times to wipe them from his mental vision. His head was spinning. Should have taken my medication this morning, was his useless thought. The images of the desert landscape slowly vanished, but the blood on his fingers didn’t; the attack in the here and now had been real after all. He turned around on all fours, and, after his sense of direction returned, he lifted his head to see what had attacked him, but what he saw surprised and confused him. The large shadow in the doorway was one moment there and the other moment gone.

“Hey!” he shouted after the…what did he shout after? All he had seen was a fuzzy shadow. Had this been an animal attack? Or that by a person?

Sally Storm's Curious Morning

Sally Storm’s day didn’t start well. In her opinion, it was pretty bad from the get-go. First, she had missed the school bus. The stupid, misaligned doorjamb would not let her properly lock the trailer, and she had not wanted to risk facing the wrath of her Mom and explain why thieves had been able to walk in and steal the old television set, which not even a desperate drug junkie would probably consider stealing. Even though Hawthorne was on the whole a safe place to live, her mom and Sally had their residence in a bad part of the town. By the time she had managed to close the door with help of the key and a screwdriver, the school bus had gone, and her bicycle was the only option if she was to reach her school. Unfortunately, it was an uphill ride almost all the way to Hawthorne High. Sally had made it long after the first lesson had started, and she was trying to sneak into the building when she was caught red handed by Deputy Principal Zach who ran patrol near the entrance. Gleefully, he wrote down her name. “Third time this month, Sally Storm!” This led to some internal administration process kicking in that resulted in her name being called through the aged school’s PA system an hour later. “Sally Storm, please report to the principal’s office,” Ms. Bowden’s distorted voice sounded like Darth Vader’s.

The announcement caused some of her obnoxious classmates to whistle and cheer. “Way to go, Storm,” Foster Jenkins, one the class assholes and Mr. Popular with the girls, shouted. Sally was not the most popular person, and Jenkins definitely wasn’t anywhere close to being Mr. Pop with her.

“Class, quiet,” Ms. Perkins admonished them and nodded at Sally. “You may go, my dear.” Ms. Perkins was the only person in the world who called Sally ‘my dear’, oblivious to Sally’s constant, dark scowling from underneath her mop of fire-red hair and her endless string of conflicts with her teachers and co-students. Sally nodded and made her way to the principal’s office, which was in a different part of the building. Hawthorne High was the only high school in the county, and it was massively overpopulated due to the fact that the nearby military base and two high-tech companies had caused many new families to settle in the area, bringing a constant influx of new kids.

Sally was fifteen years old. She had the slim but trained body of a Karate fighter and shock-red hair that no one believed to be natural. But it was. Her favorite movie was “Lola runs”, an old German movie about a girl, not unlike herself, who runs throughout the movie to rescue her boyfriend from some bad guys. She liked the film for two reasons, Lola’s red-haired look and her loyalty to her no-good boyfriend. However, Sally herself had neither a boyfriend nor close friends. But she liked the movie even more so for the attention for detail one had to have to catch all the small clues that added to the suspense in the movie. Every little thing influenced the outcome of the story, and Sally tried with all her heart to identify all the little things that influenced her life.

Unfortunately, the workings of the door lock of her house had not been one of the events that she could influence. She was pretty sure that Principal Osborne had no patience for non-influenceable events, either. Little did Sally know that the non-working door lock had set a series of events into motion that started right then and would change her life forever.

She knocked on the principal’s open front office door, and Ms. Bowden waved her in, a sixty-year-old, kind lady who had run the school’s administration for as long as anyone could remember. She had seen generation after generation of students, both good and bad ones, and in her opinion, there had, over the years, been no difference in the kids who went up to the Principal’s office to talk with him. Most kids turned out fine, after all, in one way or the other. Some did not, and that was the way it went with everything in the world. “Hello, Sally,” she said. “Have a seat. Principal Osborne will be with you in a minute.”

Sally sat down on the bench beside the Principal’s door, like she had done many times before. Ms. Bowden said, without looking up from her paperwork, “You know, I had thought about creating a stamp card. Collect nine stamps to get out of jail the tenth time.”

Sally wasn’t sure whether Ms. Bowden had made a joke or was serious, so she just scowled from underneath her hair. There came low voices from the Principal’s office. Sally could recognize them as Principal Osborne’s and Deputy Principal Zach’s. And Mr. Cronin, the janitor’s.

Ms. Bowden stood up and carried a stack of folders out of the office. “Just a minute more, Sally,” she said.

With the noise of the shuffle of the papers gone, Sally was able to hear the voices from the office a little more clearly, and she could make out the words, “attack”, “imposs…”, “…rink”, “…onster”, “ani…”.

Now, that is an interesting topic, for once, Sally thought. Who had been attacked?

Her curiosity took over, and, after checking that no one was observing, she pressed her ear against the wall that separated the principal’s office from the one she was sitting in. She could hear too many noises; water-gurgling pipe noises, far away footsteps, and her own pounding heart. But no audible conversation from the office. She leaned closer to the door, where the old wood met the doorjamb, or better, did not really meet the doorjamb. By holding her ear close to the fraction-of-an-inch gap, she could hear the conversation much better.

Principal Osborne’s voice said, “Jason, we know that you believe you have been attacked. But don’t you think this was just an accident? Your dog, Tyler, is a little wild at times, and both you and I know that, sometimes, you like to drink a little too much after duty.”

Mr. Cronin argued. “I told you, Mr. Osborne, sir, I did not have anything last night. Did not even take my medication. I was as clear-headed as I can be. And Tyler never bit or scratched me. These are no dog scratches, look!”

Mr. Zach intervened. “You are putting us in an impossible dilemma about what and what not to believe. An attack at night in the basement, that too from an unknown person or animal? Come on, Jason, who would believe that?”

“We can’t even call the police for that. Has anything been vandalized or stolen?” Mr. Osborne asked.

“Stolen? No, nothing,” Mr. Cronin said. “There were wrappers of chocolate lying around, but that’s a different matter altogether. No, I don’t understand that part myself. I was attacked, not by a person, but by… by… I don’t know. A big shadow was all I saw.”

“A big shadow,” Zach echoed, the disbelief in his voice clear.

“Like that of an animal, a monster from a cartoon book or a film.”

“Monster!” Zach exclaimed. “Jason, please! Get a grip, adjust the dosage of your medication!”

“But nothing was stolen?” Osborne went back to fact-checking.

“No,” Mr. Cronin conceded.

“Sorry, Jason,” Mr. Osborne said forcefully. “That is enough. Go, get those two wounds of yours properly treated in the first aid room by Ms. Bowden. The first aid you received was certainly not good enough. I don’t want to hear about this anymore. And no spreading rumors. Thanks, Jason, Jim.”

“Yes, Mr. Osborne,” Mr. Cronin said, deflated.

Sally heard chairs shuffling and sat back straight on the bench, looking uninterested and bored, the easiest thing for her to do.

The door opened, and Mr. Cronin shuffled out. He was old, but it was impossible to tell how old. Maybe forty, looking fifty? Sally had never been able to figure that out, as his hair was blond and long, tied back in an unkempt ponytail, but the skin of his face and hands was really wrinkled. He glanced at Sally, mumbled a “Hello”, and walked out of the office, a figure of dejection. Mr. Zach came out after him. The deputy principal was a pudgy, rosy redhead like Sally, but with extremely thin hair. He had a habit of flickering his tongue over his lips that reminded Sally of a lizard. Maybe out of nervousness, maybe because he had dry lips.

Mr. Osborne stopped at the door of his office, as if he was surprised to see Sally. “Oh, Ms. Storm,” and after a short pause, “Once more.”

“Good morning, Principal Osborne. Here to report.”

Mr. Zach had paused in the doorframe and turned. “Late for school! Third time this month.”

Osborne did not react. Instead, he cocked his head slightly.

“Explain yourself?”

“Sir, I missed the bus.”

Osborne had to be the best poker player among the school faculty. You couldn’t read his face at all. He just looked at someone and then clearly expressed his wish or made his statement. Sally didn’t want to explain about the effing door lock, and she felt that Osborne intentionally did not insist on a more elaborate answer.

He then gave a brief nod. “Thanks, Sally, you may go back.”

“What? No write-up or a letter to the parents?” the over-eager Mr. Zach complained.

Osborne looked over Zach’s shoulder and saw that Ms. Bowden was still out. “Mr. Zach, could you ask Coach Black to come to my office when she has the time?” Even Sally could see that this was a dismissal for both her and Deputy Zach.

“Uh, all right, sir.” Sally got up. “Thank you.” She squeezed past Zach, who still stood seething in the doorway.

Now, that had been easy for a change. Nothing distracts a principal like a mysterious attack on his janitor.

 

By the time Sally made her way to the classroom, the mid-day break had already begun. Many students, mostly seniors who had a more diverse schedule, moved from room to room. Sally was just walking down the main corridor that housed the lockers on the left and the right side, when one of the senior groups called her name. Sally had named it the A-Team, because it consisted of the school’s football team A-lineup, including the best-looking cheerleaders. And all of them were a-holes.

 “Storm, in trouble again?” the starting quarterback sniped at her, followed by laughter and hoots from the hanger-on boys and girls surrounding him.

“Shut up and mind your own business, Daniel,” Sally shot back, tired of this constant bullying.

A new kid in town, the wide receiver whose name Sally didn’t know but who had quickly and nicely integrated into the A-Team, threw back. “Why do you care at all about coming here and getting in trouble? You’ll become a waitress, after all, right?”

Sally stopped in her tracks, turned, and immediately walked towards the new senior, who had almost one foot and hundred pounds on her. Daniel pulled him back, whispering something in his ear, which Sally made out as “Lion, you don’t want to mess with her”, but he automatically shrugged his friend’s hand off. No, an A-Team member never shrank back from a challenge, especially not a newcomer with something to prove. On the other hand, he noticed Sally’s unwavering stare, her resolve, and her change in gait to lower her point of balance. She was a brown belt in Karate and not afraid to put her skills into use. She raised her hands in front of her, readying herself for fight. Daniel made a face at Sally and raised his palms to her in a gesture that said, “I tried, his bad”.

“You said?” Sally threw at the new kid, her face two inches away from his, invading his private space.

“You’ll become a waitress, anyway,” the new kid said, more slowly.

“And you might lose your front teeth in the process. Not a fair deal, but one I might enjoy,” Sally spat at him.

“You’re threatening me?” The kid had nerves, Sally had to give him that.

“Absolutely! I will pay back any psychological harm done to me by inflicting physical harm on you. That’s what I call a fair and balanced response. You will lose your front teeth immediately, with no further long-term pain. I, on the other hand, will endure your mobbing. It will eat me up inside, I will become embittered and will sue the school district for damages when I am twenty-one because I will not be able to find a college, a degree, or a job because of the mobbing I will have received at this shitty institution.”

New Kid’s eyes widened in shock. Who was this lunatic?

“On the other hand, I could use more aggression than intended. Instead of front teeth, I will first kick you in the nuts, immobilize you with a Karate chop to the neck, and then take off your trousers, your underwear, and show your friends what I mean by playing ball.” She stared into his eyes, meaning every word. Sally Storm could be that kind of girl! When it came to swag, she ruled this place!

New Kid stepped back. The description had obviously scared him. Sally moved forward, nullifying his move.

Daniel stepped in. “All right, Storm, I think Lionel here now understands not to mess with you. We still need our new wide receiver to earn us some six-pointers, so cut him some slack.”

“Is he sorry?”

“Yeah, he is, but don’t push it, Sally, lay off. He’s a jackass, worse than me. Let him go.”

She turned to stare at Daniel. “I don’t want to be the reason behind your losing your next game, Quarterback!” She turned and walked back to her classroom. She could sense the A-Team breathe out slowly, but there were no further call-outs.

Man, she hated this place.

The Misfit Table

Sally sat beside Ryan Montgomery, the school’s super-nerd. Their table was in the front row, so that the teachers had them on their radar. The misfits, that’s what their peers called them. Sally’s fame was founded in her smart mouth, her famous last words on everything, and her fighting skills that made anyone think twice before messing with her. The drawback was that no one asked her out, as no one dared to approach her, temper flares and all. This was not much of a problem for her, as she liked to keep to herself. She had social contacts outside school at the Karate training or tournaments she attended three times a week, plus at the occasional get-together with the neighboring kids. That her grades were only so-so was too bad, but it could not to be helped right then.

Contradictory to this, Ryan was the certified genius in the room, actually in every place he had ever been to. He was a thirteen-year-old Afro-American boy with an Irish name who had skipped two classes and now studied among a group of much bigger and older kids. He was as skinny as a beanpole and wore thick black glasses on his ever-slippery nose that made him adjust them every so often. On account of his genius, Ryan got into trouble with other kids who were older than him but had a weaker intellect, politely speaking. Or in simple terms, everyone was more stupid as Ryan Montgomery. Just as Sally never gave in, Ryan never held back with his intelligence. He was both the school’s genius and a certified wiseass in one person. Like Sally, he was a loner, and also content within his own space.

Ryan and Sally made an unlikely pair, but Ryan’s scientific X-ray vision suited well with Sally’s tactless into-your-face attitude. Sally had not yet been able to faze young Ryan with anything she had tried to throw at his head. However, one side look from Ryan could make Sally feel like she was under the microscope, like the things in Ryan’s experiments. Both kept up an unspoken competition of who could annoy the other one.

Mrs. Perkins just had assigned the group work, and the class was doing anything else but sitting still. A loud buzz filled the room, and the various class groups and clique stood huddled together. Only Moe, their inclusion special kid with some mental disabilities, sat alone at his desk, staring into nothingness. Sally had observed him closely from the beginning of the school year and had noticed that by not reacting to his classmates’ provocations, Moe had the best chance of not being teased or bullied by the other kids, especially in the schoolyard or the cafeteria.

Every one of us has their own strategy, Moe.

“Storm, you don’t look frazzled or bedazzled after your meeting with the principal,” Ryan asked her and pushed his thick black glasses up his nose.

“Ryan, you wouldn’t believe what I overheard,” Sally whispered and leaned over to him so that the next table couldn’t listen in.

“Someone stole the tests for the mid-term evaluations?” Ryan guessed.

“No. Mr. Cronin has been attacked.”

“Mugged? In Hawthorne?” Ryan stared at her in disbelief. Hawthorne was as safe as any American town could be. Some even opined that it was just as boring. The sheriff and his police force were notoriously underworked.

“Attacked, not mugged,” Sally whispered. “Here!”

“This school gets worse every day. Attacked by whom?” Ryan asked.

“That is the thing I didn’t quite get. Osborne, Zach, and Cronin were in Osborne’s office, and I could hear some of their conversation through the closed door while I was waiting in the next room. I thought I heard the word “monster” in the beginning, but that, of course, might have been some other similar-sounding word.”

“Monster?” Not too many words sound similar to that,” Ryan pointed out. “I can’t think of any word that rhymes with “monster”, and I know quite a few words.” Ryan had long given up on hiding his intelligence, even if it got him in constant trouble with the other kids, who took him to be arrogant and a show-off.

“Whatever! Mr. Cronin looked quite shaken and distracted when he walked out, and he had three scratches on the left side of his jaw and neck and some more on the back of his hand.”

“In theory, he could have fallen down the stairs with a glass in his hand, and blamed the result on a monstrous attacker,” Ryan considered. Mr. Cronin was known to like a drink or two, even the students had realized this over time.

“Yeah, I know, that was Osborne and Zach thought. But the way Cronin described the attack, he sounded earnest. As if the attack had really happened. He also sounded a little desperate. As if he had no idea what had attacked him.”

“But why go to Principal Osborne with such a story? Cronin must have known how far-fetched he sounded,” Ryan said.

“He’s a caretaker, he may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier,” Sally said.

“In other institutions, a caretaker is called a ‘facility manager’, holds a university degree, and receives a six-figure salary. But with Mr. Cronin, I agree with you. Where did the attack happen?”

“In the basement, that’s all I know.”

“Of course, in the basement! Where all the monsters feel at home.”

“Aren’t there monsters in the woods, too? Like Bigfoot, or in the snowy mountains, like the Yeti? Alien? At a spaceship…”

“The attack happened neither in the woods, nor in snow-covered mountains, nor in the confines of a spaceship. It happened at our school. The basement seems to be the most likely place.”

“Don’t tell me you have seen all movies about monsters?”

“Have you ever heard of evil happening in broad daylight in a regular classroom?”

“Haven’t we seen ‘Bowling for Columbine’ together earlier this year in Social Studies?” Sally reminded him of a movie about two kids who had gunned down their classmates and teachers.

“You win on that one. Back to monsters; a surprise attack always happens at night, in dark and uncomfortable places where monsters can feed on our primal fears or on an unsuspecting, lone person or the nice guy who has separated from his group with the words ‘You stay here, I will go and check outside’,” Ryan said.

“All right, it makes sense for the monster to hide down there. Much less crowded.” Are you even aware how crazy you sound, Sally Storm? You are discussing about a monster in the basement during class.

“The basement is a lot of area to cover. The complete main school building has a basement.” He rubbed his hands in glee, as if he was gearing up for the investigation. “Great, we have a mystery on our hands. Ryan Montgomery, Teen Monster Hunter! Although it sounds much cooler with your name in it: Sally Storm, Teen Monster Hunter, featuring Mad Doc Ryan

“Did I ever tell you that your genius IQ does not stop you from being childish? What is it with this Mad Dog thing?”

“Not dog! Mad Doc, like doctor! I call my madness a strength, not a weakness. Anyway, the child prodigy has a plan!” Ryan declared.

“Let me guess: It has to do with visiting a certain basement?”

“Genius!” Ryan poked her shoulder. “It feels so good to be among peers once in a while.”

“I can never make out if you’re serious or making fun of me,” Sally muttered.

Mrs. Perkins looked over at them. “I know that Mr. Montgomery has the skills to finish the group work in the remaining thirty minutes. Do you, Sally Storm?”

“Sure, yes, I hope, Mrs. Perkins. Getting to it,” Sally stuttered.

That brought them back to the task at hand, monster or no monster.

A Basement Like Any Other Basement

“This basement is like any other basement,” Sally said, as Ryan and she made their way down the wide stairway during their lunch break. Life in the morning and during lunch circled around the cafeteria and the school yard. Few students could be seen down here during breaks. A few voices and running steps followed them, but the basement itself was quiet.

“And yet it isn’t. It has witnessed a mysterious attack on our janitor,” Ryan added, his excitement clear in his voice. They arrived at the bottom of the stairs, where three corridors painted light-green stretched out in three directions. Hawthorne High’s main building resembled a big T, and the main staircase was positioned just at the intersection. Two of the wings were lit brightly with neon tubes under the ceiling; no scary shadows could be seen anywhere. The last one to the left had lights along the first ten yards, then two black barrier belt stanchions cordoned off the area to indicate that it was off-limits for students.

“I’ve been down her every week for chemistry and physics, the labs are down that way,” Sally pointed to the right.

“I know, and straight ahead, you will find storage rooms for sport teams to stash everything that cannot be left on the field or in the locker rooms upstairs. There is a direct access staircase at the end of the corridor connecting it to the gym, plus some additional wide stairs that exit directly onto the field.”

Sally pointed to the left. “Now, with the knowledge that a mysterious monster attack happened here, this cordoned-off area seems like an invitation for trouble, and it looks most intriguing.”

“And this is where we’ll go,” Ryan decided.

As they walked down the corridor past the barrier, the automatic light went out and plunged them into darkness.

“Now that is like a scene out of a bad movie,” Ryan remarked.

“There must be some sort of timer that ran out,” Sally said, and she felt her way along the wall up to the next door where she hoped to find the next switch.

“Almost there,” she called out to Ryan. She could only make out his shadow a few yards away. Where was the stupid light switch? Somewhere…

A piercing scream startled Sally, and she whirled around, terrified. “Ryan!” she shouted, squinting her eyes to see what was going on.

“I am being attacked!” he screamed from ten yards away. In the dim light that shone over from the staircase, Sally could make out Ryan and some shape that was round his leg. For a moment, she stood still, paralyzed with shock and unable to decide what to do. A monster! Attack! Then, abandoning the light switch hunt, she gathered all her courage and ran over to Ryan to help him.

The monster was furry, that much was clear, and about knee-high. It had gotten hold of the left leg of Ryan’s trousers, and when Sally grabbed its fur and started pulling, Ryan lost his balance and fell to the ground. The monster gave a loud, mean growl, but did not let go. Neither did Sally. “Hang on!” she shouted. “I’m trying to free you!”

“Me too!” groaned Ryan. “Ouch!”

Suddenly, a huge shadow loomed over them. With a grunt, a large pair of hands grabbed the monster and pulled it away from the ground. Sally felt her grip on the fur loosen, and she fell flat on her back. In the dim light, she saw one of Ryan’s legs rising into the air, the end of his trousers still in the mouth of the beast. The bigger shadow started shaking and grunting, and, with the sound of a bag of rice hitting the deck of a schooner, Ryan fell and finally was free again. The monster was still yapping and growling up in the air in the grip of the giant.

Sally jumped up, pressed herself against the wall, and frantically tried to find the light switch. There it was!

Click!

The scene was unexpected.

A Monster

 Ryan was on his back, his legs still scrambling across the floor, trying to move away from the monster and the giant as fast as possible. The monster was in the air, held by its hind legs, its body twitching and moving, huffing and puffing. It was whining. The monster was not a monster, but a dog named Tyler. Mr. Cronin’s dog. He hung on the outstretched arm of… Moe, who was out of reach of Tyler’s claws and teeth.

Moe?

Moe was a slow learner that the school district had placed in their class as a part of an inclusion program. He was older than his classmates, maybe eighteen, and huge. Not fat-huge, but big all over, as if his genes had commanded all areas at once to grow, grow, grow. His overall intellectual level was unknown. Most of the times, he simply sat in his classroom chair and stared into space. On the other hand, he always knew where to go next, dressed himself for sport, and had even gone swimming with the class once. He was never fast in anything, instead, he kept up with most things at his pace. Neither Sally nor Ryan were close to him. He had an empty, round face, and his brown hair was cut in an unfashionable but practical manner.

And now he had come to our rescue, Sally thought. Bizarre!

“Moe,” Moe said.

It was the first time that Sally had ever heard him talk.

From the staircase came an angry shout. “What are you kids doing over there? Get back here! Tyler, heel!”

Tyler had difficulties following Mr. Cronin’s command, as his front legs were still three feet above the ground and his hind legs in the grip of Moe’s giant paw.

“Hey, retard, let go of my dog!” Cronin shouted and moved threateningly towards Moe, waving a fist at him. Moe did not even react; he concentrated on the yapping and twisting bundle in his hand. One wrong move could give Tyler’s jaws a new target.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Born in the Beatlemania / Babyboomer years, Alex Ames was raised with some of the greatest spy and action books of the Sixties/Seventies/Eighties/Nineties on his pillow. He always dreamed to — but never dared to — become a famous jewel thief, computer hacker, homicide detective, or super spy. After some consideration the only morally feasible option was to become a writer. Teen Monster Hunters is his first Young Adult series.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
A few years ago I wrote a small alien horror story located at a High School. I thought it had been fine a fine piece, but it got nowhere. But when I thought about a good setting for my first YA novel, the idea stuck to have the alien made into a monster and continue from there.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
The book is pure entertainment, so don't expect a deep meaningful message. I tried to give nods to some great genre inspirations like TV's "Buffy" or the great SciFi movie horror "The Faculty". In the end the message is: Hunt Monsters, talk cool while doing it, and always have a one-liner ready.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
"Teen Monster Hunters" is the first in a series of the three "Hunters" Sally, Ryan, Moe. In each book they will search, detect, or hunt for supernatural events in their own special style. Sally, the level-headed fighter, Ryan, the creative genius, and Moe, the reliable but slow rock.

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