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Storm clouds swirled over the library. I held up the water bottle. “Shh, shh, Zhu. Don’t be scared.”
A flash of lightning and a crack of thunder. She wasn’t calming down.
“We need to get to the Chinese Garden now,” Kyle said.
We slipped behind a group of pedestrians to avoid being spotted by the animal control officers. When we reached the crosswalk, Kyle and I veered down a side street and headed to the river valley. I glanced behind me. No sign of the van.
We trudged through the streets until we reached a set of wooden stairs leading down to the river valley. A dozen joggers were using the stairs for an exercise boot camp. In the field below sat a gazebo with a pagoda roof, and on the edge of the Chinese Gardens perched two stone lion statues.
“We’re here!” I announced. “Let’s go.”
We slipped between the joggers, trying not to disrupt their exercise routine. Thunder boomed.
“Relax, Zhu,” I cooed. “Relax.”
One of the joggers raised an eyebrow at me talking to the plastic bottle. I smiled sheepishly and slipped past her to join Kyle at the bottom of the stairs. He pointed across the field at the stone lions. We were almost there.
“Hey!” a man’s voice bellowed. “Kids, we want to talk to you!”
I spun around. The uniformed animal control officers zipped past confused joggers. They were almost on top of us. I had to do something fast.
I unscrewed the lid and poured Zhu out. She transformed into her giant form. The joggers gasped in fear.
“Monster!” an old man squealed.
Even the animal control officers paused for a second.
“Run for the statues!” I barked.
We sprinted toward the stone lions, our only hope of saving Zhu.
“Stop!” The animal control officer extended his snare pole and chased after us. His partner froze on the steps.
The lions were only a few feet away. We were going to make it. Suddenly, Zhu yelped.
“Gotcha!” said the uniformed man.
Zhu hissed in fear and thrashed about, trying to shake off the wire loop now around her tail. The officer clung to the pole attached to the loop.
The clouds opened up and water gushed down like a thousand fire hoses shooting at the same time. Kyle tried to free Zhu from the snare but she thrashed her tail, slamming him and the man to the ground. A flood of water gushed at them and swept them down the slope.
They were about to fall into the rushing river.