The Great Pet Heist

Emily Ecton
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Аннотация: ***Ocean's Eleven* meets *The Secret Life of Pets* in this hilarious and delightfully illustrated novel following a ragtag group of pets who will do whatever it takes to avoid being sent to the pound.** Butterbean knew she wasn't always a good dog. Still, she'd never considered herself a BAD dog--until the morning that her owner, Mrs. Food, fell in the hallway. Admittedly the tile was slipperier than usual, mostly because Butterbean had just thrown up on it. Now Butterbean and her fellow pets have to come up with a grand plan to support themselves in case Mrs. Food is unable to keep taking care of them. When they discover a mysterious man in their building who seems to have lots of loot, they plan a heist. Oscar the mynah bird is the brains of the operation. Walt the cat has the necessary slyness and slink. Marco and Polo are the reconnaissance rats. And Butterbean...well, no one would ever suspect a cute little wiener dog, right? Can these animal...

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The Great Pet Heist

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To Binky, Howdy, Tuppy, and apartment pets everywhere

—E. E.


1

BUTTERBEAN KNEW SHE WASN’T ALWAYS a good dog. But until the morning of Tuesday, October 20, she’d never considered herself a BAD dog. And she definitely never thought that by Wednesday, October 21, she’d be a member of an International Crime Syndicate.

“The Fall,” as they all described it afterward, happened at precisely 10 a.m. (Oscar was watching the clock. His shows were coming on.)

The tile in the kitchen had always been a little slippery, but on Tuesday, October 20, it was much more slippery than usual, mostly because Butterbean had just thrown up on it.

To be fair, she’d spent most of the morning chasing her tail, and she’d actually been feeling pretty proud of herself for barfing on the tile instead of the cream-colored carpet.

But that was before everything changed.

At precisely 9:59 a.m. Central Time (one minute before The Price Is Right), Mrs. Food emerged from her office and started down the hallway for her second cup of coffee. Exactly forty-five seconds later, her foot made contact with Butterbean’s former breakfast. And at 10 a.m. on the dot, she hit the floor.

The crash was so loud and it scared Butterbean so badly that she tried to wedge herself into the gap under the couch. (She was not successful.)

It was so loud that Walt stopped her morning grooming ritual and sat frozen for a full minute with her tongue out and her leg poised in midair.

It was so loud that Oscar squawked and puffed his feathers out in a very undignified way. (Oscar denies this.)

Then there was a terrible silence.

No one moved.

Finally Walt lowered her leg and glared at Butterbean. “Way to go, Pukey.”

Butterbean ignored the comment. It was hardly her fault that Mrs. Food had decided to take a nap. It wasn’t even unusual for Mrs. Food to lie down—she did that all the time. Sure, she usually did it on the couch or on her bed or someplace squishy. But Butterbean wasn’t one to judge.

Butterbean did wish that Mrs. Food would get up, though. Butterbean had never seen her lie on the floor quite like that. It seemed wrong, somehow.

“Mrs. Food?” Butterbean said.

Mrs. Food didn’t respond.

Butterbean frowned.

Usually Mrs. Food got cranky when Butterbean tried to chat during her naptime. Sometimes she even threw pillows or socks, which was huge fun. But this time she just lay there. She didn’t even look comfortable.

A terrible thought crossed Butterbean’s mind.

Maybe this wasn’t a nap.

“Mrs. Food?” Butterbean said again, but louder. “Are you dead?”

Still nothing from Mrs. Food.

“Is that a yes?” Butterbean said after what she thought was an appropriate amount of time. She wasn’t sure how long dead people usually took to respond. She was willing to be patient.

“Check her vitals,” Oscar said from his cage overhead.

“Yes. Her vitals. Of course.” Butterbean went cautiously over to Mrs. Food and began inspecting her carefully, starting with the butt. “Where would those be, exactly?”

Walt snorted from the top of the bookshelf. Which was not particularly helpful, in Butterbean’s opinion.

Oscar fluffed his feathers in irritation. The shows he watched made it very clear that the vitals were important, but unfortunately, they weren’t very clear about the specifics. Like location, for instance. Not that he wanted to admit that. He was obviously a very well-informed bird, and well-informed birds knew about things like vitals.

“In her mouth,” he said after a moment. He was pretty sure that was right. And it wasn’t like Butterbean would know either way.

“Got it.” Butterbean stuck her nose as close to Mrs. Food’s mouth as physically possible. “Her vitals smell like… coffee and… something minty. Is that good?”

Oscar hesitated. He’d never heard anyone on his doctor shows use the word “minty” to describe vitals. Minty only came up in the commercials, but it was generally positive. That must be good, then. Oscar nodded confidently. “Yes, minty sounds good. Now wake her up.”

Butterbean nodded. Obviously this was not a situation where low woofs and intense staring would do the job. This situation called for more drastic measures. Serious stuff. The Big Guns. It was time for licking up the nostril.

Butterbean got herself into prime nostril-licking position. She was just deciding which nostril to try first when Walt jumped down from her bookshelf and pushed Butterbean aside.

“Oh no you don’t.” Walt sat on Mrs. Food’s chest, tail twitching. “We don’t have time for a nostril probe.”

Butterbean blinked. There was ALWAYS time for a nostril probe.

Walt raised a paw and soundly bopped Mrs. Food on the nose. “Hey! HEY!” She bopped three more times in rapid succession and then shook her head. “No good. She’s out cold.”

Oscar sighed. “Well, we’ve done all we can.”

“Now the nostril probe?” Butterbean said hopefully.

Oscar shook his head sadly. “If Walt’s paw bop didn’t do it, nothing will, I’m afraid. It’s hopeless.”

Walt narrowed her eyes. “Not quite. We could use the secret device.”

Butterbean gasped.

“You wouldn’t dare!” Oscar screeched.

The secret device was a small plastic box with a button that Mrs. Food wore on a cord around her neck. She always said that if anything happened to her, the device would save her. (Although from what Butterbean could tell, it hadn’t done much so far in the way of saving.) What the device was had been the subject of much debate. Oscar maintained that they didn’t need to know what it was, and Walt just wanted to push the button. Because, you know, buttons.

“WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT THE DEVICE DOES!” Oscar screeched again, raking his beak against the bars of his cage.

Walt just watched him, calmly twitching her tail.

“We don’t know what it does,” Oscar said, visibly trying to calm himself. “I’ve seen shows on the Television. It could destroy us all.”

“Destroy us all,” Butterbean echoed.

“It could mean the end of the world,” Oscar said ominously.

“End of the world,” Butterbean echoed.

“Of course,” Walt said, batting the box with her paw.

“We’ll figure out another way,” Oscar said. “Right?”

“Right,” Butterbean said.

“Right. Of course. We shouldn’t push it,” Walt said, pushing the button. “Oops, too late.”

“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!” Oscar shrieked, flinging his wing over his face to protect himself, as Butterbean dove for cover under the couch (unsuccessfully again).

There was silence.

“Apparently nothing? Nothing is what it does?” Walt said, swatting the button again. “It’s a button that does nothing. Mrs. Food must’ve been making a joke this whole time.”

“It’s not a funny joke,” Butterbean said, backing away from the couch. She was starting to get a bald spot on the top of her nose from jamming it under the couch so many times. “Not funny ha-ha, anyway.” Although to be fair, sometimes Butterbean didn’t get Mrs. Food’s sense of humor. She’d never been a fan of the hilarious “we’re going for a fun ride, oh wait, it’s actually a trip to the vet” joke that Mrs. Food seemed so fond of.

“We’re just lucky we weren’t blown to smithereens,” Oscar said smugly. “We could’ve all been killed. We need a new house rule about button pushing.”

Walt licked her paw and shrugged. “I pushed a button. Sue me. No harm done, right?”

It was then that they heard the sirens.


2

“WELL, THAT DOESN’T SOUND GOOD,” said Walt, looking uncertain for the first time.

Then the doors burst open, and the apartment was under attack.

From her position under the coffee table, Butterbean watched three strangers storm the apartment. They were wearing matching outfits and seemed to be aided in their invasion by Bob the maintenance guy. Butterbean growled. Traitor.

“INVADERS! INVADERS!” Oscar shrieked, jumping from his perch to the bottom of his cage in the noisiest way possible. The cage rocked so violently that it sounded like it was about to crash to the floor.

Walt leaped into position on top of the bookshelf and hissed angrily at the strangers, who seemed to have taken an unusual interest in Mrs. Food.

“One wrong move and I’m going for the eyes,” Walt said, claws at the ready. She also inadvertently knocked a book off the shelf, but she shot it a look that told it not to try any more funny business. It didn’t.

The strangers didn’t seem to be intimidated by the fearsome displays put on by Oscar and Walt. (Butterbean wasn’t sure if her growls actually qualified as fearsome, but she was doing her best.) In fact, they ignored the animals completely and continued their inspection of Mrs. Food. If Butterbean hadn’t known better, she would’ve said that those were the same checks she and Oscar had tried to do. But slightly more effectively, since they had people hands with working thumbs and seemed to know what they were doing.

“Are they going for her vitals?” Butterbean said. She glared at Bob the maintenance guy. She would deal with him later. Nobody betrayed Mrs. Food and got away with it. Not on Butterbean’s watch.

“If they try anything with her vitals, I’m going for the eyes,” Walt hissed.

“Are they waking her up? What are they doing!” Oscar screeched angrily. Walt kept waving her tail and blocking his view, so he was missing a good portion of the action. It was very frustrating.

“They’re not even going to TRY the deep nostril probe?” Butterbean said, watching carefully. “It’s the number one wake-up method!”

“If they try a nostril probe, I’m going for the eyes,” Walt hissed again, leaning forward and teetering dangerously on her toes. “We’ve got to save Mrs. Food.”

“Don’t go for the eyes, Walt!” Oscar said, hopping onto the side of his cage. “It’s too late for Mrs. Food! Save yourselves!”

It looked like Oscar was right. The three strangers grabbed Mrs. Food, and before anyone could launch a counterattack, they loaded her onto a wheely contraption and rolled her out into the hallway. (It was a stretcher, Oscar reminded them later. How could they not remember that? They’d seen them on the Television a thousand times.) At the last minute, Walt tried to go for the eyes, and a panicked Butterbean made a dash for the hallway, but it was no use.

Bob the maintenance guy pushed Butterbean back into the living room with his foot. “Don’t worry, dog. Your mommy is in good hands,” he said, closing the door behind him.

“Wait, what?” Butterbean said, frowning.

“Don’t listen to him. He’s delusional,” Walt said. She looked up at Oscar. “Well, now what?” She sat down in front of the door and twitched her tail anxiously.

“We’re doomed,” Oscar said, sitting on the floor of his cage. He didn’t even make sure he was in a clean patch, that’s how depressed he was. (He wasn’t, incidentally. In a clean patch, that is.)

“Wait, WHAT?” Butterbean gasped. “Mrs. Food is my MOMMY?” She swayed slightly on her feet. It was a lot to take in. She always knew she had a bond with Mrs. Food, sure, but she thought it was more of a snack-based relationship.

“Good grief,” Walt muttered under her breath. “Not this again. Oscar?”

Oscar sighed. “No, Butterbean, Mrs. Food is not your mommy. We’ve been over this before. You were adopted, just like the rest of us,” he said, still sitting on the floor of his cage.

“There are papers,” Walt said. “I’ve seen them.”

“Ah. Papers.” Butterbean nodded in relief. She did remember having this talk before, but she still didn’t understand why people like Bob kept lying to her about her relationship with Mrs. Food. It was very confusing.

Walt rolled her eyes and turned back to the door. All three animals watched it carefully. It didn’t open.

“So what now?” Butterbean said. Her butt had started to go numb from sitting so long.

“What do you mean, what now?” Oscar said. Only the top of his head was visible from Butterbean’s position on the floor. It was a little disturbing to Butterbean that he hadn’t gotten back up onto his perch.

“I mean, what do we do now? How long until Mrs. Food comes back? I miss her.”

“We do nothing now. There’s nothing to do. Mrs. Food isn’t coming back. Ever. We’re doomed.” Oscar’s voice was totally flat. Butterbean had never heard him sound that way before. His voice usually fell somewhere between shrill and shrieky. If she didn’t know better, she’d say he sounded depressed.

“What? But I want Mrs. Food back,” Butterbean whimpered.

“Me too,” Walt said under her breath.

“It doesn’t matter. She’s gone.” Oscar didn’t even look up.

“But Bob said not to worry.”

“Bob’s a liar,” Walt said.

“Bob said Mrs. Food is your MOMMY,” Oscar said.

Butterbean winced. “Yes. I remember that.” She licked her lips anxiously. “But who will feed us? I can’t use the can opener. And who will take me out? Will I use Walt’s box?” Butterbean tried to control the panic in her voice, but it was hard. She was starting to freak out.

“You’re not using my box.” Walt shot her a nasty look.

“NO ONE!” Oscar screeched finally, jumping up onto his perch. “No one is walking you. Don’t you get it? Mrs. Food is gone. I’ve seen this on the Television. When people go out in stretchers, they don’t come back. And as for food, even if we could open the cans, we’re still doomed, because we can’t get new ones. According to my sources, a can of dog food costs a dollar forty-five. And I don’t have that kind of money. Do you?”

Butterbean shook her head. That sounded like a lot.

“Sources? What sources?” Walt asked skeptically.

“THE PRICE IS RIGHT!” Oscar screeched. “My Television sources are never wrong! Grocery products are very expensive!”

Butterbean nodded in agreement. She wasn’t as into The Price Is Right as Oscar was, so she wasn’t entirely sure of her facts. But she definitely didn’t have a dollar forty-five. “But wait. You mean Mrs. Food is gone forever? She won’t be walking me ever again?”

“Yes. Gone. Forever.” Oscar tucked his head under his wing, ending the conversation.

Butterbean looked at Walt, who shrugged and went back to watching the door.

Butterbean lay her head on her paws and watched too. Just in case Mrs. Food came back.

They were still watching as the light faded and the room grew darker.


3

WHEN THE KEY TURNED IN the lock, Butterbean jumped to her feet. She wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but she had definitely been awake the whole time and hadn’t fallen asleep once. Not even when she’d rested her eyes that one time. Okay, two times.

“Heads up,” Walt whispered. “Stranger danger.”

Butterbean sniffed nervously. Walt was right. It wasn’t Mrs. Food coming through that door, that was for sure. Whoever was coming in smelled more like erasers and pencils and fruit juice and pretzels. Butterbean hadn’t ever smelled that particular combination before—she’d remember someone who smelled like pretzels. “Any ideas?” Butterbean whispered to Walt.

Walt shook her head. “Be ready for anything.”

Butterbean sniffed again and felt the fur stand up on the back of her neck. She recognized a new smell. It was the smell of spackle and paint and toilet cleaner. Butterbean felt a growl form in the back of her throat. She knew who that was. BOB.

“Easy, Bean,” Walt whispered again. “Wait till the door opens. Then you go for the ankles. I’ll handle the rest.”

“Got it,” Butterbean said, swallowing her growl. She really wanted to let loose with the barks, but she knew the element of surprise was important. She’d learned that much from Oscar’s shows.

The door swung open, revealing two people silhouetted in the doorway.

“Now!” Walt said. “Wha— Abort! Abort!” Her pounce turned into an awkward hop.

“Walt.” Butterbean stopped with one foot in the air, then overbalanced and landed in a clumsy heap. “That’s a kid. Do I go for the ankles on a kid? That doesn’t seem right.”

“Hold your position,” Walt said. “We need to reassess.”

Standing in front of Bob in the doorway was a medium-sized girl, not a baby, but also not a grown-up. She had long straight black hair, and she gave a little wave when she spotted Butterbean and Walt.

Butterbean blinked. She’d never been waved to before.

Walt narrowed her eyes in suspicion. It was obviously a tactical maneuver designed to make them let down their guard. But Walt was onto her. It wouldn’t work.

“So here they all are,” Bob said, flipping on the lights without even giving the animals a heads-up so they could shield their eyes. Walt hissed. Oscar gave a bloodcurdling scream, followed by some low-level grumbling.

Bob pointed at Butterbean.

“That’s the dog, there. It’s the biggest problem.”

“Thanks,” Butterbean muttered.

Bob acted like she hadn’t even said anything. “It’ll need to be walked what—two, three times a day maybe? I don’t know, however many times dogs need to be walked so they don’t mess up the carpet.”

“Ten,” Butterbean said seriously. “I need to go outside ten times a day. Maybe twenty.”

“Shut it, Butterbean,” Walt hissed. “Don’t engage with them.”

“Okay, so I’ll walk her three times a day. What’s her name?” the girl asked, squatting down to look at Butterbean.

“Says here…” Bob consulted a crumpled piece of paper in his hand. “Oscar. No, that’s the bird. The dog is Butterbean. He’s a wiener dog.”

“She,” Butterbean corrected. “I’m a she. SHE’S a wiener dog.”

The girl stroked Butterbean’s ear. “Long hair for a wiener dog.”

“I’m a long-haired wiener dog,” Butterbean said. She didn’t know whether this girl could be trusted, but she did appreciate a good ear rub.

“Mouthy little mutt,” Bob said, giving Butterbean a dismissive look. He wasn’t a dog person. “So that’s the dog. And that up there, that’s the bird. Oscar. It’s a mynah bird, so don’t be freaked out if it talks to you. According to this it can say words.”

“Kiss off,” Oscar said in his best out-loud Human voice. He was in no mood. He glared at the girl almost like they were in a staring contest.

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