by Valerie L. Egar
Melissa stood in the doorway and started to cry. Melchinor, the orphaned dragon her Dad brought home for her to raise, had just stretched his newly budded wings and took off for town. That a new species of dragons from Iceland had established a lair in a cave at the top of a mountain in our northern Maine town was a secret. Only Melissa, her Dad, his girlfriend, Ms. Quirkhorn, and I knew.
Though Melissa's Dad could have easily become famous for his discovery, he knew the dragons would be hunted for trophies and caged in zoos. Our beautiful mountain wilderness would be destroyed by dragons seekers. We had to catch Melchinor before anyone in town saw him.
"Come on! Hop in the truck!" Mr. Gibbons grabbed his keys.
I jumped in the cab with Ziti.He was huffing and yelping, smoke blowing from his excited dragon nose. I was starting to see that raising a young dragon was going to be harder than I'd thought. What would I do when Ziti's wings started to grow?
Melissa scrambled in, carrying Melchinor's favorite toys: his squeaky knight and chewy bone. We rolled the truck windows down and tried to glimpse Melchinor flying over the trees. The moon was full and silvered the woods. Melissa squeezed the squeaky toy over and over and called his name, but we didn't see him.
When we got to town, the streets were quiet. Jeb's 24/7 was the only place open and nothing was going on there. We rode up and down the streets, looking in trees and on rooftops, but saw nothing.
"Maybe we should walk around and look for him," Melissa suggested.
"Yes," I said. "If he sees Ziti, he might come."
"What we need is more help," said Mr. Gibbons. "I'm calling Sandy."
While he was on the phone with Ms. Quirkhorn, I had an idea. If it was OK with Mr. Gibbons, maybe Mom and Jenna could help, too. The way I saw it, they were going to figure out that Ziti was a dragon sooner or later. They'd keep the secret, I knew they would.
Mr. Gibbons hesitated when I asked him, but we had a lot of streets to cover, and he agreed that Mom and Jenna would find out the truth about Zita soon enough. While he parked the truck, I ran into the house. Mom had just gotten home from the office and Jenna was upstairs doing her homework.
"Come quick!" I yelled."I don't have time to explain, but we need help."
Jenna came down the stairs and rolled her eyes. "What is it now?" Mom looked at me expectantly.
"Melissa's dragon, Melchinor, flew off tonight. He's somewhere here in town and we have to find him before anyone else does."
Mom looked at me. "Terry, it's not like you to make up things to get attention. What's going on?"
Mr. Gibbons and Melissa came inside. "I'm afraid it's true, Ms. Campbell. I'll explain later, but it's really important we find Melchinor as soon as possible. He'll be in danger otherwise."
"More exciting than algebra homework!" Jenna said. "Tell me what to do."
As Mom put her sneakers on, Mr. Gibbons explained that Melchinor was friendly and that the goal was to get him back to the truck without anyone seeing him.
We split up to walk around town, listening for unusual noises. I walked Ziti on his leash and whistled softly, hoping that if Melchinor heard, he would come. The fallen leaves crunched under my feet and the air felt nippy.
When I came to Main Street, I heard a siren and saw flashing blue lights headed our way. Sheriff Joe's car skidded to a stop in front of the hardware store. Melchinor was sitting in the parking lot, glowing in the moonlight, preening his wings.
The police radio crackled. "Send reinforcements!" Sheriff Joe shouted. "Bring plenty of ammunition!"
Published in The Sunday Journal Tribune, November 29, 2015. Copyright 2015 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.