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Wild & Chance
By Allen Zadoff
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- ebook $7.99 $9.99 CAD
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 28, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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When a girl wakes up trapped on a sinking ship with no memory of who she is, she has nothing but her instinct to survive. As she fights her way to freedom, she quickly discovers two incredible facts: She is a dog and she can understand human speech.
Soon, she befriends a thirteen-year-old boy named Chance who gives her a name of her own: Wild. But Wild and Chance find themselves running for their lives, pursued by relentless Animal Control officers.
Joined by a mysterious hacker girl named Junebug, the unlikely trio fight for survival while trying to solve the mystery of Wild's extraordinary strength, super-intelligence, and high-tech collar.
Equal parts heart-pounding action and heartfelt journey, Wild & Chance grabs the reader from page one and never lets go.
IT’S DARK WHEN I OPEN MY EYES.
Pitch-black, like a night without a moon.
Where am I?
I can’t remember anything. Not my name or how I got here. Wherever here is.
I feel a deep, stabbing pain in the base of my skull. It radiates through my head, making it hard to think straight.
Why can’t I remember anything?
The floor rocks violently beneath me, causing my stomach to churn.
Get it together, girl!
I steady myself against the swaying motion. That’s when the smell hits me.
Diesel fuel. The odor is all around me in the darkness.
I start to run, but I jerk to a stop, choked by something around my neck. I claw at it and discover a thick rope tied around me, traveling from my neck to the wall.
Who did this to me?
The smell of fuel grows more powerful, and a wave of panic rolls through me.
Calm down. Focus.
First step. Get this rope off my neck. I fight to squirm out of it, and when that doesn’t work, I try to undo the knot from the wall.
Not a chance. It’s wound tight, rock hard, impossible to unsnarl.
I’m in big trouble.
That’s when the idea comes to me.
I can use my teeth on the rope. It’s not my favorite idea, but desperate times, right?
I take the rope in my mouth. It’s wet with mildew and it tastes like old socks, but the instinct to survive drives me onward. I bite down hard, grinding at the fibers.
My jaw aches, but I don’t give up. I chew and chew. The rope softens with each bite, until at last it breaks, and I’m free.
I run and smash into a wall, slamming my face hard.
Not smart. The headache ratchets up to level ten, but I shake it off and keep moving, feeling my way in the darkness until I find a door. I search for the lever, praying it’s unlocked—
The door opens!
I see light ahead. And a staircase.
I race up the steps, away from the sickening diesel smell, moving toward the light. I pass through an opening at the top of the stairs and pop out into bright sun.
I blink hard, waiting for my vision to adjust.
Details come into focus. Blue sky above, dark water below. I’m on the top deck of a luxury yacht. In the middle of the ocean.
The deck is decorated with expensive furniture, but there’s not a person in sight. Who owns a fancy yacht like this, and why is it floating in the middle of the ocean?
I feel like I know the answers, but they’re trapped in my head and I can’t access them.
That’s when I hear it. The sound of a boat propeller fighting through the waves.
I run to the railing just in time to see a speedboat racing away from the yacht. There are four men on the boat—soldiers or officials of some kind. They wear blue uniforms that make them hard to spot against the color of the sea.
“Help! I’m trapped here!”
I shout at the top of my lungs, but the distance and the roar of the engine makes me doubtful they’ll be able to hear me.
One of the soldiers glances back and elbows his buddy. I see the two of them talking, and a moment later, the speedboat slows and turns, coming around until it faces the yacht.
“Yes! I’m up here!”
I jump up and down, trying to get their attention. For some reason, the boat stays at a distance. One of the soldiers lifts a pair of binoculars and studies the deck of the yacht.
“Please help me!” I race in circles, fighting to be seen behind the railing.
The soldier reaches into a bag and pulls out what looks like a small pistol.
What’s he doing?
He lifts the pistol and aims carefully, adjusting his stance several times. Then he fires a red-hot flare into the sky.
At first I think he’s signaling to let me know I’ve been seen, but my excitement turns to horror as I follow the trajectory of the flare. He’s aimed too low, and the flare soars through the wind and drifts down toward the yacht, closer and closer, still burning bright.
I smell the fuel around me, and I see the hot light of the flare as it arcs toward the upper deck.
There’s a loud whoosh as the flare hits the yacht and the fuel ignites. The explosion comes less than a second later, a thunderclap that shakes the entire vessel and causes the deck to tilt at a steep angle.
A pair of small boat shoes skid across the deck toward me and catch on a table leg. They are fluorescent-pink children’s shoes with hearts painted around the sole.
I have a brief memory of a girl, maybe eight years old with bright red hair, running toward me wearing the pink shoes. She’s laughing and holding her arms out to me—
The memory slips away, and I’m back on the burning deck. I look around for the girl, fearful that she might be trapped on the yacht with me. I listen and hear only the cries of seagulls in the distance and the crackling of the ship burning beneath me.
The ship is on fire and it’s sinking. I have to get away. But how?
I look over the side at the dark water, angry with white-capped waves. The speedboat with the soldiers is racing away, the vessel no more than a speck on the horizon.
The flare was not a mistake. They were trying to sink the yacht.
I don’t understand what’s going on, but I know I can’t stay here. I peek over the railing and see there’s at least a fifty-foot drop to the water below.
Another explosion rocks the ship, and the deck groans in protest.
I have no choice. I have to jump.
Can I survive the fall?
Time to find out.
I back up from the rail, crouch down, and spring forward, muscles rippling in my legs.
The yacht tilts as it takes on water, and I’m suddenly running uphill toward a railing that’s rising into the sky. I fight the angle, speeding up and leaping at the last second—
A high-pitched howl comes from deep in my throat as I clear the railing and jump into the unknown.
I LAY PANTING ON THE SHORE.
It’s twilight and the wind is blowing along the beach, sending a shiver through me. I’m wet and exhausted from hours on the open ocean, and I need to eat. Or drink. Or both.
After the explosion, I paddled away from the sinking yacht and clung to a piece of wreckage, floating with the current, alive but in shock. I held on, kicking, then resting, then kicking again through the night and into the next day. Eventually I saw land in the distance and swam toward it.
Now I’m on this beach, and I’m so thirsty my tongue hangs out of my mouth and touches the sand. An abandoned towel lies next to me. A cartoon blue fish with giant eyes looks up at me, her face half-buried in the sand.
I roll over, using the towel to dry myself off. Then I drag myself to my feet and shake my body, flinging off water in every direction.
I hear voices carried on the wind.
Two kids are throwing a Frisbee down by the water. I get a sudden urge to run down and grab the disk from their hands and play with them. I take a step toward the Frisbee, then I think better of it. It’s no time for fun.
I turn away from the kids and trot across the sand, through a tangle of high grass, and up onto a concrete path that separates the beach from the houses on the other side.
A jogger approaches with a golden Labrador retriever on a leash by his side.
“Excuse me—” I start to say, and the dog explodes in a fit of barking, practically choking himself to get to me.
“What’s with you?” I ask him.
The owner pulls the dog back hard, and the two of them run past without speaking to me.
I dart across the path and find myself on a narrow street of dilapidated beach houses. It’s getting dark, and I can see families through the windows, moving around kitchens, putting out food, sitting together at tables.
The wind shifts, and I smell meat sizzling on a grill. I follow the scent until I see a family grilling in their tiny backyard. The mother manages the grill while the father puts out plates. There’s a dog under the table, a little corgi with a cute haircut. The boy waits until his parents are distracted, then he slips a piece of bread to the dog who hungrily scarfs it down.
My mouth waters as I watch. I get a flash of the redheaded girl in the pink shoes again. I’m sitting on an expensive marble floor, looking up at her as she smiles at me.
Am I remembering my family?
I draw closer to the boy and his corgi, fascinated. Suddenly the corgi is up on all fours and barking in my direction.
“Shhh,” the boy warns her, but the dog ignores him, focused on my scent and barking a nonstop alert.
“Would you keep her quiet?” the boy’s mother says.
The boy grabs the corgi’s collar and looks around to see what’s upsetting her. I silently back up and fade into the night.
I need to figure out why everyone’s reacting to me so strangely, but I can’t think straight until I get something to eat.
I’m drawn to the scent of garbage cans in the alley behind the house. My mouth waters.
I’m not desperate enough to eat garbage, am I?
I run over to the can, knock off the lid, and dive in.
I guess that answers the question.
My sense of smell is so acute, I can distinguish fresh from rotting garbage inside the bag. I’m disgusted with myself, but it doesn’t stop me from tearing open the bag to get at what’s inside.
A tiny dog races through the alley toward me, barking at full volume.
“It’s just garbage. Don’t get excited.”
I must be intruding on its territory, because the little thing won’t give up.
I turn and roar at the dog, shouting for it to get away from me. The barking instantly stops, and the dog whimpers and retreats.
I notice movement nearby and whip around, ready to defend my smelly treasure. Sure enough, there’s another dog next to me, snout-deep in a garbage bag just like me.
“What’s up with the dogs in this neighborhood?” I ask. “Why do you guys hate me?”
The dog’s mouth moves like it’s imitating me.
“Are we going to have a problem?” I ask her.
I step away from the can, and the dog steps away.
I shake my head, and the dog does the same.
That’s when I realize.
The dog is me.
I’m looking in a broken mirror that’s been thrown out in the alley. A long, jagged crack runs down the center of my reflection.
I move closer and examine myself in the cracked glass. I’m a medium-size mixed breed with brown-and-white patches covering a muscular physique. I’m in great physical condition, but I look terrible. I’m dirty and my fur is matted. I lick at myself a little, trying to improve my appearance, but it doesn’t help much. Let’s face it, I’m a girl in desperate need of a bath.
When I turn my head, I see an ugly wound on the back of my neck, which is probably why I have such a terrible headache. There’s also a thick rope leash around my neck with a dangling section that has been gnawed off at the end.
This is the rope I chewed through in the dark earlier.
I stare at myself in the mirror, and I see the familiar brown patches over both eyes and the white stripe that travels down the center of my muzzle. I’m hit by two thoughts at the same time.
1. I’m the same dog, the same girl I’ve always been.
2. I don’t know who that dog is.
I’m horrified to realize I can’t remember anything about where I come from or how I got into this situation.
I yelp in pain and frustration, the weird events of the last day catching up to me in a burst of howls. I’m embarrassed to be crying alone in a pile of garbage, but I can’t stop.
A loud whistle turns me around. A burly man with a shaved head is coming toward me, and he’s smiling like he knows me.
“GOOD DOG,” HE SAYS WITH A GRIN.
“Who are you?” I ask, but he doesn’t respond. He just stands there looking at me. Tattoos run the length of both arms, and he wears a sleeveless white T-shirt and long black shorts.
“I think you might be a stray,” he says.
Stray. What is that?
“I don’t know what’s going on,” I say. “I think something happened to my head.”
He squints at me, curious.
“I need help.”
“You’re barking a lot, girl. I’m guessing you’re hungry.”
Barking? I’m talking directly to him.
“Can you understand me?” I ask, slowing down the words in case he’s confused.
He looks at me, not comprehending.
This is weird. I can understand everything he’s saying, yet for some reason, he doesn’t understand me.
The man smells of strange dogs, and I look behind him, expecting to see them. But there are no dogs.
Why would a man smell of dogs with no dogs nearby?
I detect another scent, too.
He reaches into his pocket and holds out a chunk of meat in his hand. My stomach rumbles, and my mouth begins to water.
“Do you want something to eat, girl?”
I really want something to eat, but who is this guy?
“I help dogs like you,” he says as if he can sense what I’m thinking. “Lost dogs. Strays.”
“I’m not lost. I just can’t remember who I am.”
He smiles, again misunderstanding, and he puts the meat on the ground. He backs up a few steps, giving me space.
The man is smiling and his voice is friendly, but I’m suspicious. Why is he in this alley? Why is he talking to me?
But the smell is magnetic!
I edge toward the meat, sniffing. It seems okay to me, so I dart forward and grab the cube. I scarf it down and back up before the man can get near me.
“Wow, you’re fast. You’ve got good instincts, girl.”
More meat appears from his pocket. This time he flings it high into the air. I jump for it, all four paws leaving the ground as I snatch it from midair, land, and back away from him in a split second.
He laughs and applauds. “Bravo. My name’s Ruben. I’ve been looking for a dog like you. A dog with game.”
“I don’t know what game is.”
“It looks like you ate right through that thick leash. You must be strong, huh? Strong and agile. I could use a dog like that.”
“Use me for what?”
Ruben disappears around the corner without answering, and I follow him, peeking around the wall.
He’s standing by a truck with a lightning bolt painted on the hood and an enclosed cargo bed in the rear, the doors open wide. He spills an entire bag of meat cubes across the bed of the truck, and my stomach does somersaults.
“I think you earned yourself a feast,” he says. “I’m going to treat you like a princesa.”
A wave of dizziness comes over me. My body feels like it’s floating, and I’m having trouble concentrating.
Ruben pours water into a bowl, and he gestures inside the truck, offering it to me.
My instinct screams for me to be cautious around him, but it’s hard to think clearly with food and water so close—
I give in to temptation and hop into the truck. I bury my nose in the water bowl, tongue lapping at top speed. The bowl becomes two bowls, then three, the images dancing up and down.
“What’s happening to me?” I ask. My voice sounds far away, like it’s coming from a different dog.
“I’ve got a good feeling about you,” Ruben says. “I think I’ve hit the jackpot.”
I swallow hard, and I notice a bitter flavor in my mouth. There’s something wrong with the water, a chemical aftertaste I missed in my desperation to fill my belly.
Get out of the truck!
I panic, knowing I’m in trouble. I try to run, but it’s like I’m moving in slow motion. By the time I turn around to jump from the truck, it’s too late.
The door slams shut in my face.
I DREAM ABOUT A SOLDIER IN A BLUE UNIFORM.
The dream happens in flashes like a memory that’s been chopped into pieces.
At first I see a soldier with blond hair. He’s tall and lean in a military uniform, and he calls me by a name I don’t recognize.
Next, I am running toward him, breathing hard, anger driving me forward.
A moment later we are on the ground. The blond soldier is beating my chest and screaming in terror.
Why am I attacking this soldier? Why am I so angry?
“Girl!” a man shouts.
The dream disappears, and I open my eyes, my throat still clenched in anger. I don’t know where I am, at least until I look up and see the strange man with tattoos looking back at me through the open cargo doors of the truck.
I jump to my feet, ready to attack him for tricking me, but I’m unsteady, and I fall down.
“You were having a bad dream,” he says. “You’d better go slow. I put a little something in the food to relax you. It will wear off in a minute.”
“You drugged me!” I shout, but the words come out muffled.
I try to open my mouth, but I’m restricted by a leather muzzle over my jaw. I shake my head, trying to get it off me.
“I put some gear on you. It’s a safety issue until we get to know each other better.”
Know each other? Why would I want to know you?
“I got rid of that ugly wet rope you were wearing, too. Put a black leather collar on you to give you an edge. Ruben takes care of his animals.”
I get to my feet slowly, the dizziness lessening.
The moment my vision settles, I make a break for it, trying to dart past him. He yanks an unseen leash and pulls me up short, surprising me. The leash is attached to my new collar. I choke and growl, fighting him.
“You’re angry. That’s good. You’ll need that anger in a few minutes.”
What’s happening in a few minutes?
He pulls at the leash, forcing me to jump from the truck.
We’re in a large dirt lot with fancy cars parked in neat rows. The air is filled with the smell of expensive leather as we weave between BMWs, Teslas, and Porsches. For some reason I recognize cars like these. Some part of me wants to hop into the backseat of the Tesla and settle down for a ride.
Have I been in a car like this before? I try to remember, but nothing comes to me.
We approach a large warehouse and a thick man in a three-piece suit steps out and blocks the door, a bulge under his shoulder.
It’s a gun.
I pull back on the leash, recognizing the weapon and the danger it poses.
“You know he’s packing, huh? I hope you’re not a police dog,” Ruben says under his breath.
The man greets Ruben with a wave, and I growl at him.
“Easy, girl,” Ruben says.
The man at the door just laughs. “She got something against a good-looking man in a suit?”
“Maybe it’s the cologne, Vasily. I could smell you across the parking lot.”
“I want to smell good for our fancy clientele.”
“You can smell like them, but you’ll never be one of them.”
“Ain’t that the truth. For both of us.”
Ruben grunts and adjusts his belt. “Full house tonight?”
“Full house and deep pockets. Didn’t expect to see your face around here again. I heard you gave up the wrestling game.”
Ruben shrugs. “I owe some people, you know?”
“The kind of people who play rough. Watch yourself, my friend.”
“I hear you. But I’ve found a special dog this time. Wait until you see what she can do. One last match, then I’m gone like the wind.”
Vasily looks me over and sighs. “I hope she can get you out of trouble.”
“Me, too,” Ruben says, and Vasily swings open the steel door.
We step through the entrance into chaos. The air is filled with the scent of dogs. They are everywhere inside, big dogs wearing muzzles, restrained by rough-looking men and women who hold them on short leashes. I recognize breeds like pit bulls, rottweilers, and Dobermans. I can feel their excitement at being here. They pivot this way and that, snapping at one another when they cross paths.
There’s a raised platform on one end of the warehouse where a tuxedoed bartender pours cocktails for a group of people in expensive clothes. The crowd mills around, chatting and drinking as they look down at the noise and chaos below them.
I’m instantly distrustful of these wealthy people. What are they doing in a warehouse filled with dogs?
A woman in a sleeveless vest blocks Ruben’s way, a gray rottweiler by her side. The huge rottie sports a thick chain collar and a muzzle with silver spikes. He’s nearly twice my size, and he stares at me over the muzzle with undisguised hatred.
“What’s with you?” I ask him, but he doesn’t respond.
“I thought they ran you out of town,” the woman says to Ruben.
“I don’t run, Jackie. Not when I have this kind of talent. Meet La Secreta.”
Jackie reaches toward me, and I jerk away, not wanting to be touched.
“She’s nervous for a wrestling dog. Maybe the secret is she’s part Chihuahua.”
“She’s special. You’ll see.”
Jackie scoffs and walks away.
“I hope I’m right about you,” Ruben says.
A loud whistle cuts through the noise. A heavy man in a tuxedo shouts, “Take your places, ladies and gentlemen!” The wealthy crowd cheers and rushes down the stairs from the platform, fanning out around the warehouse.
“That’s the Commissioner,” Ruben says. “We have to get ready.”
“Ready for what exactly?” I ask.
He pulls me through the crowd, and I have no choice but to follow, still dizzy from the drugs and not yet fully in control of my body.
Ruben stops briefly to slip money into the Commissioner’s pocket. The two of them exchange a wink and a nod.
“Change of roster,” the Commissioner shouts. “First match will be Thunder versus Secreta!”
“Match?” I say.
The room erupts with shouts as money is waved in the air. I hear a hundred simultaneous conversations, people discussing the merits of my physique versus Thunder’s and predicting how long it will take Thunder to win.
Thunder and Jackie position themselves on one side of a dirt pit, while Ruben takes us to the other. Jackie pulls a leather vest on Thunder. There are storm clouds painted on its sides.
“You gotta be kidding me,” I say.
Ruben leans down and whispers in my ear. “I owe a lot of money, girl. They would have broken my legs if I didn’t bring a dog tonight.”
“I’m sorry you’re in trouble, but what does it have to do with me?”
“I know you can’t understand any of this,” he says, “but you’re getting me and my family out of a jam. I just need you to stay in the match for two minutes. It’s like wrestling, only with dogs. Keep your head down and do your best.”
I look into his eyes and see the sincerity there, but whatever is going on with this man and his family, I can’t forgive him for putting me in this situation.
“Release!” the Commissioner screams, clapping his hands together.
Ruben unsnaps the muzzle and whips off my collar in one motion. He aims me toward the center of the ring.
“Get him, Secreta!”
“Not a chance,” I say, and I go in the opposite direction, looking for a way out.
The crowd yells at me and surrounds the pit, packed in tight. There’s no way to get past them.
I hear a roar and I spin around. Thunder is racing toward me at full speed, his vest flapping around at his sides. He’s so fast he covers the distance in a few seconds.
“Stay back,” I warn him, but he can’t understand me. I bark instead, a deep staccato warning that he ignores.
He’s nearly on top of me, and I react without thinking. I pivot left, avoiding the head-on attack. Thunder is moving too fast to stop and he runs past, crashing into the dirt where I was standing a moment ago.
I hear laughter in the crowd, punctuated by the enraged snorts of Thunder.
It’s been less than fifteen seconds, and Ruben said I had to last for two minutes. Maybe I’ll be able to dodge Thunder for another minute—
“Watch out!” Ruben shouts, interrupting my train of thought.
I whirl around to see Thunder coming at me again, chest heaving.
For a split second, I don’t know what to do. Then something inside me shifts, and I feel rage in the back of my throat.
Fight! My instinct demands, and I imagine myself taking on this dog, knocking him back or maybe even taking a bite out of him—
I’m not going to fight a dog I don’t even know. I dart to my right, hoping to avoid Thunder again. But the big rottweiler learned from his last attack, and he pulls up short, stopping his charge and bringing us face-to-face.
He’s smarter than I thought. I cut left and right, and Thunder does the same, matching me move for move, edging me back against the circle of screaming bystanders. I try to run between their legs to get away, but they kick at me, boots connecting with my hindquarters.
I hear snorting behind me, and I have no choice but to turn and face Thunder.
The rottie is three feet away in a low crouch. The moment I turn, he leaps at me, mouth open wide as he springs for my neck.
- "Readers will not want to put this story down until the very end!"—School Library Connection
- "An action-heavy adventure for plot-loving readers."—Kirkus Reviews
- On Sale
- Apr 28, 2020
- Page Count
- 256 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers