Michael Buckley

The Unusual Suspects

The second book in the Sisters Grimm series, 2005


Sabrina scrambled through the darkness armed with a shovel and using the cold, stone walls as a guide. Each step was a challenge to her balance and senses. She stumbled over jagged rocks and accidentally kicked over an abandoned tool, sending a clanging echo off the tunnel walls. Whatever was waiting for her in the labyrinth knew she was coming now. Unfortunately, she couldn't turn back. Her family was somewhere in the twisting maze and no one else could help them. Sabrina prayed they were all still alive.

The tunnel made a sharp turn, and around the corner Sabrina spotted a distant, flickering light. She quickened her pace, and soon the tunnel opened into an enormous cave, carved out of the bedrock of Ferryport Landing. Torches mounted on the cave walls gave the room a dull light, not strong enough to dissolve the black shadows in every corner.

Sabrina scanned the cave. A few old buckets and a couple of shovels leaned against a crumbling wall. She started to retrace her steps when something hit her squarely in the back. She fell hard on her shoulder, dropping her shovel. Searing pain swam through her veins, followed by a throbbing ache. She could still move her fingers, but Sabrina knew her arm was broken. She screamed, but her cries were drowned out by an odd clicking and hissing sound.

As she crawled to her feet, Sabrina grabbed the shovel and swung it around threateningly, searching the room for her attacker.

'I've come for my family,' she shouted into the darkness. Her voice bounced back at her from all sides of the rocky room.

Again, she heard clicking and hissing, followed by a cold, arrogant chuckle. A long, spindly leg struck out from the shadows, narrowly missing Sabrina's head. It slammed against the wall behind the girl, pulverizing stone into dust. Sabrina lifted the heavy shovel and swung wildly at the leg, sinking the sharp edge deep into the monster's flesh. Shrieks of agony echoed through the cavern.

'I'm not going to be easy to kill,' Sabrina said, hoping her voice sounded more confident to the monster than it did to her own ears.

'Kill you? This is a party!' a voice replied. 'And you're the guest of honor.'


Three Days Earlier

Let's get this party started, already!' Sabrina complained under her breath as she rubbed the charley horse in her leg. She and her seven-year-old sister, Daphne, had been crouching behind a stack of Diaper Rash Donna dolls for nearly three hours. She was tired, hungry, and more than a little irritated. For a week they had been on this 'stakeout' and it was beginning to look as if they had wasted another perfectly good night of sleep. Even Elvis, their two- hundred-pound Great Dane, had given up and was snoring on the floor next to them.

Of course, how Sabrina wanted to spend her time wasn't really considered, she had learned, especially if there was a mystery afoot. Their grandmother loved a good mystery, so when Gepetto complained that his toy store had been robbed every night for two weeks, Granny Relda volunteered herself and the sisters Grimm to help the police catch the crooks. Sabrina wondered what an old woman, two kids, and a sleepy dog could do that the expensive security cameras and motion detectors the old man had installed couldn't, but once Granny sunk her teeth into something she wouldn't let go.

In most towns, the police do not rely on an old woman, two kids, and a sleepy dog to solve crimes, but Ferryport Landing was no ordinary town. More than half of its residents were part of a secret community known as the Everafters. Everafters were actually fairy-tale characters who had fled Europe to escape persecution. Settling in the little river town almost two hundred years ago, they now used magical disguises to live and work alongside their normal neighbors. Ogres worked at the post office, witches ran the twenty-four-hour diner, and the town mayor was the legendary Prince Charming. The humans were none the wiser- except the Grimms.

As fantastic and thrilling as it sounded to live among fairy-tale characters, it wasn't a dream come true for Sabrina Grimm. Being the last in a long line of Grimms (descended from the famous Brothers Grimm), she and her sister had had the family responsibility of keeping the peace between Everafters and humans thrust upon them no less than three weeks ago.

And it wasn't an easy job. Most Everafters saw the Grimms as the bane of their existence. A two-century-old magical curse had trapped the Everafters in Ferryport Landing for all eternity, and the girls' great-great-great-great grandfather Wilhelm was responsible. Trying to prevent a war between Everafters and humans, Wilhelm had aligned himself with a powerful witch named Baba Yaga and together they had cast the spell over the town. The Everafters' freedom could only be returned to them when the last Grimm had passed away, and so far, the Grimms were alive and kicking. Yet even with that kind of baggage, Granny Relda had made a few genuine friends in the community. Sheriff Hamstead was one of those friends. The rotund policeman with the Southern charm was actually one of the three not-so-little pigs. Lately, he had turned to the family for help with Ferryport Landing's unsolved cases.

And here the Grimms were, leg cramps and all, waiting for someone or something to make its move. After five long nights, Sabrina's patience had worn thin. There were things she should have been doing, important things, that didn't involve hiding behind Etch-A-Sketches and cans of Silly String stacked miles high for the Christmas season. Sabrina reached into her pocket and pulled out a small flashlight. She flicked its switch and a tiny focused beam illuminated a book sitting at her feet. She picked it up and started reading. She didn't get far.

'Sabrina,' Daphne whispered. 'What are you doing? You're going to give us away. Turn off that light.'

Sabrina grumbled, slammed the book closed, and set it aside. If The Jungle Book held any clue to rescuing their parents it would have to wait. Sabrina's little sister had taken to detective work the way a dog does to a slice of bologna. Like their grandmother, Daphne loved every minute of it-the stakeouts, the long hours. She was a natural and took her new job quite seriously.

Suddenly, there was a rustling sound across the room. Sabrina quickly shut off her flashlight and peered over the stack of dolls. Something was moving near a display for a hot holiday toy, Don't Tickle the Tiger. Daphne poked her head up and looked around, too. 'Do you see anything?' the little girl whispered.

'No, but it's coming from that direction,' Sabrina whispered back. 'Wake up Sleepy and see if he smells anything.'

Daphne shook Elvis until he staggered to his feet. The big dog had recently had bandages removed after a run-in with a bad guy's boot, and was still a bit sluggish. He looked around as if he didn't remember where he was.

'You smell any bad guys, Elvis?' Daphne asked.

The dog sniffed the air. His ears rose and his eyes grew wide. He let out a soft whine to let the girls know he had smelled something.

'Go get 'em, boy!' Daphne cried, and the big dog took off like a rocket.

Unfortunately, that was when Sabrina realized that Elvis's leash had wrapped itself around her foot. As the dog howled wildly and tore through the store, the girl was dragged behind him, knocking over stacks of board games and sending balls bouncing in all directions. They emptied boxes of puzzle pieces and sent an army of Slinkys slinking across the floor. Sabrina struggled to grab the leash, but every time she got close to freeing herself, the dog took a wild turn and sent her skidding.

'Turn on the lights!' Daphne shouted.

'Hey, let me go!' a voice cried out.

'What's the big idea?' another one shouted.

Elvis circled back around, and Sabrina slid into a pile of what felt like sticky leaves. Some clung to her arms and legs and one glued itself to her forehead.

When the lights finally came on, Elvis stopped, stood over Sabrina, and barked. The girl sat up and then looked down at herself. There she was, in the center of Gepetto's Toy Store, covered in sticky glue mousetraps, each of which had a tiny little man, no more than a couple of inches high, stuck quick in the glue.

'Lilliputians,' Sabrina said.

'I knew it!' Granny Relda said, appearing from around a stack

of action figures. The old woman, dressed in a bright blue dress and a matching hat with a sunflower applique sewn into it, had the nerve to laugh. When Sabrina scowled at her, she tried to stop, but couldn't.

'Oh libeling,' she giggled in her German accent.

Daphne rushed over and tried to pull one of the traps off of Sabrina's shirt but found it was stuck tight to her sister, as were a dozen or so Lilliputians.

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