By Susan Brocker
Check out the following excerpts from Susan Brocker’s latest: a gripping YA tale following 14-year-old Sam who struggles with homelessness and finds herself involved in crime.
Pick up the book if you’re curious to discover how she defies a drug lord and rescues starving dogs and their little pups from a cruel backyard breeder.
Sam shoved as much gear into her pack as she could until it bulged out like a gorged snake. She was about to swing the pack on her back when she heard the sirens. They wailed down the street, approaching at tsunami speed. Sam only had time to switch off her torch and rush out the back door into the dark alleyway.
She sprinted down the alley, the pack bouncing furiously on her back. Her old sneakers smacked against the pavement, the flaps working loose, threatening to topple her.
She kept on running. Suddenly, the sirens fell silent.
Then she heard a dog baying, hot on her trail.
Now she had to climb down the other side of the fence to meet who-knew-what on the ground. Again, she heard whining and whimpering, and a ghastly stench rolled up her nostrils. What was that smell?
She fell the last few feet, landing with a thud on hard concrete. Before she could catch her breath, warm furry creatures scampered all over her, smothering her with hot wet kisses.
She raised the torch and lit up a large concrete yard surrounded by wooden kennels.The kennels were piled four high, their fronts covered in wire. Dog poo smothered the yard; the smell was sickening. The place looked like the inside of a prison without plumbing.
Warily, she walked towards the layered kennels, with puppies tumbling over her feet, trying to follow. She shone the torch inside each kennel. Dogs looked back at her with haunted faces. They moaned, some holding their paws up to the bars as if begging for help.
Sam faced a long hike through dimly lit city streets to the urban caravan park where she lived with her family in emergency housing. As she strolled she cuddled Bobby to her. He was breathing steadily and he felt warm. Thankfully, his first meal for a long time must’ve helped revive him.
It would be difficult to sneak him into her family’s one-room cabin without waking her father and brothers. Hopefully, her mother would still be at work.
Usually when Sam went out at night and came home late, she’d scramble up the gnarled rimu tree growing against their cabin and slip quietly through the open window onto the top bunk where she slept. Nobody heard her coming and going. But with a puppy tucked inside her jacket it might not be so easy.
She’d first found the spot when she’d followed a creek meandering along the back of their campsite down to west harbour. The creek was thick with mangroves and boggy beneath her leaky gumboots. She had been squelching along its muddy banks when something glinted red through the bush. Trudging from the creek into the dense undergrowth and brushing past fern fronds, she had found it.
A bright cherry-red Honda hatchback.
The car was nestled in the bush as if it had always been there. As Sam walked around it, she noticed that, apart from a few dents, the paintwork still looked fresh. But how had it ended up down here?
She peered through the thick bush growing along the valley. A major road ran along the top of the ridge, but the car couldn’t have crashed from there or it would’ve smashed to bits. No, it was as if someone had carefully driven it down and then abandoned it.
Sam studied the bush and could see some kind of path, but the quick-growing native trees had banded together to smother the route. Either way, the car was now hidden by bush and only accessible along the creek.
“But you never turned up with the gear,” Reggie whined. “You said you’d meet us at the cemetery. Fowler will be really peeved.” The other two guys jostled uncomfortably on the seat next to him. As usual, the young lad called Hemi looked away shyly and didn’t say a thing.
Oh no! Sam cursed herself. The backpack full of vape gear! She’d thrown it over the fence into the puppy yard and forgotten all about it in the rush to save Bobby.
“Look, the cops chased me and I had to stash the pack,” she said truthfully. “I’ll go back for it and get it to you by tonight.”
She looked at their worried faces. She’d known these guys since starting high school. They’d been a few years ahead of her and always in big trouble until they were chucked out. They now roamed the streets picking up any jobs they could. They’d managed to get her ‘work’ when she needed it, and she owed them for that. She’d try her best to get the pack to them even if it meant returning to that horrible place.
“You’d better find it, otherwise Fowler won’t be happy, and our jobs will dry up,” Reggie said, pulling a face.
Cage by cage, Sam worked beneath the light of her phone to dish out cans of food to the poor hungry dogs. She also refilled their water containers.
She then turned to all the puppies squirming across the ground. Whoever cared for them had separated them from their parents to wean, which would’ve been the right thing to do if they’d given them food to eat on a regular basis. But they had nothing.
Sam looked for a way to feed them all safely. She found a long plank of smooth wood, about three meters in length, and laid it on the ground. She then spooned out a line of canned puppy food along the length of the wood, watching the puppies spread out in a row to gobble it up. It was tricky feeding the right amount to the different ages and sizes of pup, but she bent down to each pup and spooned out more as needed. She counted thirty-three puppies in all. A few grumbled and growled over their food, but most got stuck into eating, their tails wagging.
This excerpt was provided by the publisher, Scholastic NZ.
By Susan Brocker
Published by Scholastic NZ