Authors: Lauraine Snelling and Kathleen Damp Wright
© 2013 by Lauraine Snelling & Kathleen Damp Wright
Print ISBN 978-1-61626-570-0
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-62416-451-4
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.prc) 978-1-62416-450-7
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without written permission of the publisher.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
Cover illustration: Jamey Christoph /
Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio
Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses
Printed in the United States of America.
Dickinson Press, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI 49512; August 2013; D10004051
To Cami M., Evan and Naomi W. and Natalie A.
Looking forward to buying your books one day.
Heartfelt thanks to Annie Rose for the exquisite
sculptures of each animal in the series.
Thanks most especially to Julie, Alex, and Natalie for night-vision goggle drills in their backyard, and to Daniel for letting me borrow his. Students are indeed the gifts that keep on giving. Becky, for naming the book during a Bossy Girls lunch. Corinne K., for the pickle story. Dalyn at Utah Wildlife Rehabilitation of Utah Center, for both her time and the work she and her faithful volunteers do for the wild ones. The Tracy Aviary, for lovely places to learn about all things avian.
Always to my husband, Fred, for his support.
Always to You, Jesus, for being our wind,
our wings, and our guiding light.
Melissa’s Menacing Message
they? Eleven-year-old Esther Martin began to wonder if the rest of the S.A.V.E. Squad was going to show up at the community center on this rainy Saturday. But they had
Large, draped dog crates sat along the stage. “We’ll be beginning our bird show in just a few minutes. I’ll be introducing you to Beverly Beake, a licensed bird educator and rehabber for wild birds.” The short, round mayor of Oakton City paused and stuck the mic closer to her mouth to whisper, “But not the little birds you’re thinking of!” She stepped off the stage.
A bird lady named
. Snorting with amusement, Esther snuck another quick look back toward the doors. This very auditorium was where Esther, Vee, Sunny, and Aneta first found out they’d won spots as Junior Event Planners for a city festival. Way back in the summer. Before they even liked each other. Now Monday would be Spring Break, and the Squad would have a whole week together.
She loved everything about being a member of the S.A.V.E. Squad. Sunny, Aneta, and Vee. The serious-minded, dark-haired, and dark-eyed list maker, Vee. Spinning Sunny with the red hair, freckles, and friendly smile. Blue-eyed, blond-haired Aneta who loved her adoptive home with her lawyer mom. These girls liked her. Even when she was prickly. Sometimes she
be prickly. But only when she was right and nobody was listening. They teased her about her need to be right and her love of the Internet. It was the first time she’d had friends. Like this, anyway. Esther gave another little hop in her seat and glanced back. She wanted the Squad to be together always and continue their wild adventures.
A whoosh of air lifted the back of her hair as someone flopped next to her. Esther turned to say the seats were
—because all three were protected by her fierce glare, her bike helmet, and her wet raincoat. Her eyes widened.
“Hello, Esther. Oh, ew, just saying, but with your mouth hanging open? You look like you have three chins instead of two.” The girl with brown hair delicately highlighted and a perfect French manicure regarded her with what Aneta called “The Melissa Smile.” It was not a friendly smile. It meant that she was sizing you up, all the better to eat you.
“M–Melissa.” Melissa Dayton-Snipp was not supposed to be in Oakton, Oregon. Aneta, who had endured Melissa at the girls’ private school last year, had been happy to report at the start of school that Melissa had flown to France to attend a fancy horse-riding school.
“In about a week and a half April will arrive, a lovely time of year here in Oakton.” The mayor was back on stage. As always, her scratchy voice boomed as though she were introducing the most exciting thing on the planet. “Don’t you love the changes that come with each new spring?” The mayor directed her question to the tall, thin woman who stood next to her. With her neck slightly humped and horns on the corners of her glasses, she looked like the turkey buzzard Esther had researched for her recent extra-credit science project. Yes, the one she got an A on. The woman’s nose resembled the turkey buzzard a bit with its sharp hook, yet the woman’s eyes, even seen from the second row, were friendly. Her wide, thin-lipped mouth was smiling. She nodded in response to the mayor’s question.
The mayor glanced out at the crowd. “Don’t you all love the changes of spring, too?”
, Esther thought in a panic, while Melissa, other kids, and parents nodded their heads.
didn’t want anything to change. Life was perfect as part of the S.A.V.E. Squad. Melissa showing up only proved that change was not good.
“How come you’re back?” Esther managed to choke some words out.
Wait until Aneta shows up. Aneta will freak
Looking down her nose at Esther, Melissa smoothed her perfect hair. “I am recovering from an unfortunate accident at
École D’élite Pour Des Cavaliers.”
She rolled the name of the French riding school off her tongue like she said it a lot. Which, Esther thought, she probably did. Even to people who didn’t care.
Then, craning her neck past Melissa at the empty row, Esther continued, “Where are all your friends?” She meant “servants,” as Melissa ran a group of girls who dressed like Melissa, acted like Melissa—
—and talked like Melissa. They followed the Rules of Melissa or risked nobody talking to them.
girls?” Melissa’s curled lip indicated Esther had been living in a cave or was stupid. Or both. “Nothing stays the same.”
“The Squad does.” Esther knew as soon as she said it that she should have kept it in her head.
Melissa cocked her head and flicked her tongue along her perfect white teeth, like a snake flicking its forked tongue. “Hmm. Yes, well.”
Back in their first adventure, once Sunny, Aneta, Vee, and Esther joined forces to save Wink, an adorable basset hound, they had discovered that their success made Melissa look bad. Melissa hated anyone who made her look bad.
Where are you guys?
Esther twisted in her seat. She needed the S.A.V.E. Squad to help her not be afraid of Melissa. Around Melissa, she felt fat, ugly, and stupid. And she knew she wasn’t at least
of those things.
“Like I said, Esther. I’m moving on.” She stood and leaned in close to Esther. “Even the S.A.V.E. Squad could change.” She pushed past Esther’s knees and was lost in the last-minute bustle of people finding seats.
As sure as she was sitting in the second row, and as sure as she knew that macaroni and cheese was her favorite food, she knew why Melissa had lasered in on her with her snaky smile.
She wants to change the S.A.V.E. Squad
An icy finger dripped chills that ran down her neck to her feet and pooled there, freezing her toes.
sther.” Vee frowned as she walked with her friend toward the bike stand outside the community center. “Did you even hear anything the Bird Lady said?” She shook back her glossy black hair and clipped on a green-and-white helmet.
“Hurry, guys! The rain has stopped, and my parents said we could ride bikes to Uncle Dave’s if it did, so let’s roll!” Sunny was impatient, as always.
Esther had remained stunned as the rest of the Squad arrived, and, because they were in the second row, she couldn’t whisper about Melissa’s threat. Vee and Aneta had slid into their seats, removed their wet raincoats, and squeezed Esther’s hand, just as the Bird Lady began her presentation. Sunny had been late, causing all heads—including the Bird Lady’s—to turn toward her as she sprinted to the girls.