Sam London didn't mean to uncover an ancient secret, but when he found out that mythical creatures are real and living in our national parks, he became the newest recruit to the Department of Mythical Wildlife. Ever since, the middle schooler has been anxiously awaiting the call for his next case…and it finally arrives with the brazen appearance of a selkie in San Francisco Bay.
Along with Dr. Vance Vantana and the guardian Tashi, Sam pursues the selkie, who has taken a peculiar interest in fashion's newest "it" girl and social media star, Pearl Eklund. But the closer he gets, the more questions emerge about Pearl's mysterious connection to the mythical world. Is she the long-lost hope for an entire civilization or the harbinger of its doom? It's up to Sam to find out the truth, and fast…The fate of humanity hangs in the balance.
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"The Selkie of San Francisco!"
As the primary function of the U.S. Department of Mythical Wildlife is in protecting and monitoring the mythical creatures under our jurisdiction, investigations and inquiries into incidents involving these creatures are often conducted to ensure the success of our mission. While the vast majority of the case files associated with these investigations remain classified, the case known as "The Selkie of San Francisco" has been made available to the public through the work of investigative reporter and author Todd Calgi Gallicano.
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Chapter 1 – Stuck in the Middle
Twelve-year-old Sam London believed the term “middle school” described the grades between elementary school and high school perfectly. These were transformative years that saw students grow from playful children into rebellious teenagers. Of course, in school, as in life, being in the middle of anything was never all that comfortable. In the middle meant you were neither getting started nor about to finish. You were trapped between two stages of life--old enough to know better, yet too young to be trusted with major responsibilities.
But for Sam London, middle school had taken on a whole new level of discomfort. Maybe it was all the fantastical things he had experienced just weeks earlier on his adventure to save the gryphon’s claw. Perhaps it was the now-constant presence of the Guardian Tashi, who attended school with Sam and acted as his secret bodyguard. Maybe it was that Sam’s new pet/companion was a shape-shifting raccoon-dog named Nuks who masqueraded as Sam whenever needed. Or it could be the fact that Sam’s new teacher was an old friend reincarnated as a human being without any knowledge of his previous life as a mythical dog-man. Point being, life had recently been pretty exciting for Sam London, and now it was anything but.
School, homework, sleep, became wash, rinse, repeat. It was Sam’s routine, day in and day out. He did have a small semblance of a social life in the form of birthday parties he was invited to or random activities his mom enrolled him in. As for simply hanging out with the boys, Sam had never been the type to have a large circle of friends to play video games with or just shoot hoops. Sam had classmates but no best friends. Most of the kids thought he was an odd duck, including the other odd ducks.
Sam’s mom, Odette London--or Ettie, as people called her--was always encouraging Sam to make friends, and he had made a few lackluster attempts in the past. However, if making friends had been difficult for Sam before his adventure with Dr. Vance Vantana, now it seemed nearly impossible. How could he be friends with someone and not share the life-changing truth that mythical creatures are real and living among us, but a centuries-old gryphon’s curse renders them invisible to human eyes? How could he relate to someone who didn’t--and couldn’t--know anything about this secret? This was why he hung out with Tashi so much, besides the fact that she rarely, if ever, left his side; after all, she had been sworn to protect his life with her own and was steadfastly committed to the cause. But at least she knew the truth and Sam didn’t have to be so careful with his words around her. And besides, Sam’s focus was not on friend-making; rather, it was on preparing for his next case.
Since returning from his first adventure, Sam woke up every day with an anxious excitement that today would be the day when he’d be called on to help the Department of Mythical Wildlife with a new investigation. In the days that followed, Sam started watching the news and scouring the internet for any hint of a potential assignment or any signs of the world that he knew existed, but he consistently came up empty. The secret remained quite secret. Of course, there were dozens of internet sites devoted to cryptids--creatures and plants that the scientific community didn’t recognize as real. And there was even a television show that followed the exploits of Boone “the Wildman” Walker, a self-described monster hunter who traveled the world seeking proof of the existence of legendary creatures, but never found any evidence. As for the individuals who claimed to have seen bigfoot or a chupacabra, Sam figured they either had mythical DNA and didn’t know it or their eyes were just playing tricks on them. So without any indication of recent sightings and no communication from Dr. Vantana, Sam had reluctantly settled into his humdrum life and started to quietly wonder if the call would ever come.
It was a Friday in spring when things finally changed. Sam awoke to find Nuks missing from his bed. A moment later, the raccoon-dog entered the room in Sam’s form. It was still an odd feeling for Sam to stare at a duplicate of himself. He imagined it was similar to what twins experienced.
“Why are you--” Sam started, finding it strange that Nuks would be up and posing as Sam this early on a school day.
“Your mom is cleaning the house,” Nuks explained, interrupting. “I thought I would help and that would help you.”
“You don’t have to do that, you know?” Sam said. “It’s not your responsibility. Next time check with me.”
“Oh yes. Yes, of course. I’m very sorry, Sam. So sorry,” Nuks replied, instantly unnerved and jittery. Sam noticed.
“Nuks, you gotta stop freaking out whenever I tell you something,” he told the raccoon-dog in his most pleasant tone. “I’m not going to send you away, okay? You’ll always have a home here. Always.” Nuks softened and smiled.
Sam found himself having to constantly remind the creature that he wasn’t going to abandon him over the slightest slipup. Nuks adored having a family and a roof over his head, and he would do anything to keep it that way. Normally, a shape-shifting raccoon-dog was prohibited from passing itself off as a human’s pet, but Nuks had found a loophole and had become the envy of his kind.
In return, Nuks had grown into a loyal, trusted friend for Sam. The best part was he never complained and was eager to follow Sam’s lead. In fact, when Ettie wanted Sam to do an activity he dreaded, Sam would send Nuks in his place--in Sam’s form, of course. Tashi was critical of this, as she believed Sam was taking advantage of the creature’s natural desire to please. But Nuks genuinely loved the opportunity to discover new things. Over the past few weeks, he had learned about the origins of folk music, taken a beginner’s ballet class, done some woodworking, and even gone geocaching. The latter activity had proven problematic, as Nuks consistently relied on his nose to sniff out the hidden caches, instead of using the GPS device. This led to an awkward exchange between Ettie and the leader of the geocaching day camp, who was concerned about Sam’s mental state but also wildly impressed with his canine-like olfactory senses.
Find out what happens next in "The Selkie of San Francisco."