Chapter 8! This is it, and then the epilogue. *Sniff* my baby's grown up so fast. Sorry for the lateness, I was at my uncle's birthday party in Oakland until 6:00 and didn't start writing until 8:30 yesterday, and I had my baby cousin's christening today, with the same thing happening. Hey, give me some feedback you guys! Like everyone here, I'm an aspiring writer, but I need feedback and advice to get better. Tell me what you think, and give me any editing suggestions you might have!

Enjoy!

….

We went into action immediately. My plan's success required I me to skip school, something I had avoided doing up until this point, given my love of school. The plan was simple: get the word out about the opening any way possible. The thing Muckle was relying on was that no one would know, so we needed to do the opposite. I had Bea putting up posters all over town and calling the mayor's office about the change in dates. Garret was alerting the news media, and I was doing what I'm best at: research.

I looked up Burrowing Owls online, and discovered that, surprise, surprise; they're an endangered and protected species. I printed the laws regarding endangered species in Florida, and biked over to the county library to look up the permits and environmental reports on the construction site.

The guy in public records was suspicious. Apparently, in Florida it's unusual for a high school freshman to be interested in stuff like that. I came in just in time to see him nab a fly with a flyswatter. I walked up and smiled.

"Hi! Um, excuse me?" He looked up, annoyed. What is it with people and service here?

"What is it little lady? I'm busy." I bristled at the derogatory term.

"Yes, I can see that." I said with a hint of sarcasm. " Um, is this the right place to look up files on a construction site? Permits, that sort of stuff?" He got that condescending tone grown ups get when they think you're wasting their time.

"You see that sign? It says 'Public Records'."

"I'll take that as a yes. I'm doing a school project on fast food chains, and the impact they have on the environment."

"What is it you want?" He sounded less annoyed.

"Could I please have the records on the Mother Paula's construction site, please?"

"East Oriole Avenue?"

"The very same." He smiled, despite the rocky start to the conversation, and moved off. "Thank you!" Most library folk love assisting me when I ask them for help with research. They get bored out of their minds most days, because the tragedy is that most kids don't bother to read, and when I ask for help, they jump at the chance to encourage me.

He came back, smiling, with a huge stack of documents. Oh, no. He put them down in front of me, and said, "Here you are! Plans, permits, and environmental reports on the Mother Paula's construction site. We close in half an hour, so be sure to get what you need fast. I'll be at the desk if you need any more help." I thanked him, smiling, and flipped through the papers. After a few minutes, I found the one I had been searching for. I pulled the Environmental Impact Study out of the pile, and flipped through it. When I got to where the seventh page should have been, there was evidence of a page having been ripped out. A picture formed in my mind of the fraud that had transpired to keep the owls a secret. I picked up the pile, and walked over to the desk. The man smiled and looked up.

"I've got what I need, thank you. Um, do you know if there's another copy of this report?" I asked sweetly, passing him the study. He frowned thoughtfully, and looked it over.

"Yeah, the foreman's supposed to have one at the job site."

"Great, thanks for all your help!" I turned around to see the police officer who'd dropped me off peering through the window, mouthing 'Sasha?' My heart near about stopped, and not in the nice way that happens whenever I see Mullet. It stopped from the sudden rush of adrenaline and fear that filled my veins. He turned and started for the door. I shot off and hid behind a pillar, just as he walked through. He seemed like a nice guy, but right now the police were not Mullet, Bea, and my friends.

I heard him come in through the front door, and I shut my eyes briefly, trying to staunch my panic. I couldn't get caught skipping school. Not today. I heard him rush up to the public records and ask the nice guy, "Say, um, excuse me, where'd that girl go?"

"I don't know, she was just here. Is she in trouble, officer?" He sounded genuinely concerned. I smiled, grateful.

"It's police business. What was she doing here?" I didn't understand why he was so interested.

"She was looking at the files on the new pancake house. Said she was doing a something for school on the impact fast food has on the environment." Halfway through his response, I started creeping toward the second door. If he connected me to Mullet's efforts, we were all screwed. And, I had to get to school for biology.

I was riding off on my bike, when I heard a shout. Damn it! He'd spotted me leaving. I peddled faster, praying I would beat him to the school in time for me to say what I needed too.

I burst into the biology classroom in the middle of one of Mr. Ryan's lectures. He turned to me, a disappointed expression on his face. I felt bad for disappointing him. He was my favorite teacher.

"Sasha, you're late. Take a seat."

"I'm sorry." I looked at the class, a mix of indifferent or hostile faces that I was not yet familiar with. I prayed that my plan would work. I turned back to my teacher. "Mr. Ryan, I know this is weird, but could I please say something to the class really quick? It's very important." He looked both incredulous and surprised, but he nodded. I faced the room.

"I know we don't know each other well yet," I began, "but I need all of you guys' help." I started pacing slowly, still facing the room. "When I heard there was a pancake house being built here, I thought, awesome! I mean, who doesn't love pancakes?" everyone nodded, and I continued, my courage rising. "But when I went over there with a friend, I saw something that totally changed my mind." I heard a car door slam, and I looked out the window to see the officer walking towards the classroom. I faced the class again, feeling the time pressure. Everyone was whispering. "Just—I—everyone, come out to the lot today, right after school." I ran to the exit, frantic. RUN! The primitive part of my brain was shrieking.

I ran into Bea as I was making my escape, and I whispered "Meet me at the marina in fifteen minutes. The hidden docking spot." And with that, shot down the stairs to my bike. I heard the officer shouting after me.

"Hey! Wait up! Stop!" Yeah, right I snorted to myself. I'm not stupid. "Freeze! Sasha! Sasha Foster!" I got on my bike, and shot away. I could hear him cursing behind me. I smiled. This was going to be terrifying, but fun.

After a long and merry chase, involving one hilarious incident involving a narrow, dirt road lined with trees and a sudden u-turn from me, I got to the marina. I hopped off my bike and ran to the end of the pier I had discussed with Bea. I feigned exhaustion, and slowed so that the officer (what was his name…Delinko! That's it! Why couldn't I remember that?) could catch up.

"You got no where else to go, Sasha!" Well, I thought, he's going to find out how wrong he is on that one pretty soon. "Sasha! Sasha, stop! Hey, Sasha, stop!" Finally, about fifteen feet from the edge of the dock, I turned and started backing away from him.

"If you give me a second, I can explain everything, if you just give me one second. I-," I turned to gage the distance between me and the edge.

"That was option 'A', Sasha. OK, but then you fled the scene and you resisted an officer." I was five feet away now. I prepared myself. "Alright? I know you're involved in this somehow." I turned and climbed on top of the wall. I looked at Bea, who gave me the thumbs up. "I got no other choice; I've got to take you in. Okay?" I looked at him with a sad smile. He looked a little rattled at the sight. I must've looked like some sort of goddess, with my hair undone, blowing in the wind, my green and brown clothing flapping, and with the sun lighting me from behind.

"I'm sorry, Officer Delinko. I know this looks bad, but there is something I have to do." And with that, I jumped into the boat with Bea, and we drove out into the water. I heard him shout my name, but Bea and I just waved, before laughing.

...

As we pulled up to the dock near the site, Mullet asked with dread, "How'd it go?"

Bea answered, very annoyed with me, "You're never going to believe this."

"Oh, Bea, it be worse!" I said to her, before answering him over her protest of "How?" "We ran into a little trouble with our beloved boys in khaki. The police are after me, and we've nearly run out of time." We were marching side by side towards the trailer. Mullet snorted.

"If you think that's a little trouble, then you'll really get a kick out of this." I groaned.

"Do I really want to know?" We jogged up to the trailer. Mullet whipped the door open, and we followed him in.

"What are we doing here?" Bea asked in a dangerous voice. Oh, no.

"Mullet," I said warily, "What's going on?" He stood in front of the door to the closet, a guarded look on his face. He opened the door, to reveal a corporate guy tied to the office chair, and duct tape over his mouth. I blinked closed my eyes, turned away, and then looked again. He was still there. I moaned. He closed the door, and I started in on him. "Oh. My. GOD, Mullet! You can't kidnap someone!"

"It just happened!" He proclaimed, wide-eyed.

"How? How did it 'just happen'?" I asked, starting to feel more than a little hysterical.

"He was trying to kill the owls! What was I supposed to do?" He asked passionately.

I groaned again. "We got to get him out of here, NOW, before people start…" I looked out the window, and groaned a third time. "…coming." Bea, who had been standing in a state of disbelief until now, spoke up.

"Too late." I growled at her, and started pacing.

Bea spotted the mayor coming towards us, and burst out of the cabin. Bless that girl, she has a talent for thinking on her feet I do not possess. I started looking through the documents on the desk for the foreman's copy of the report.

"What're you doing?" Mullet asked, confused.

"I'm looking for the other copy of the environmental report. I found it in one of the drawers, and flipped to the page that had been missing. "Eureka! Page 7!"

"There is a cop walking this way." Mullet reported, starting to freak. "Let's go!" We sprinted into the closet holding Muckle, and closed the door. Mullet listened, while I taped the page to the back of Muckle's chair. Mullet motioned to me, and we slipped out the second door to the outside.

"What're we going to do?" Mullet asked franticly. We were speed walking toward the platform where the Mayor was speaking.

"We stick to the plan." I told him, trying to calm him. I put my hand on his shoulder. "You gotta let these people know what's going on-," H e interrupted me.

"Not me, I can't be seen. " We stopped, my face only a foot away from his. "Only you can do this, Wolfgirl. You have to tell them." He said it tenderly.

"Ok." I breathed. He quickly pulled me forward and pressed his lips to mine. It felt like electricity had been put on my lips. The kiss lasted only for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. We broke apart, and he grinned.

"Go get 'em." I smiled, pecked his lips again, and walked to the stage feeling like I could wrestle a thousand tigers. I caught sight of Bea, who had had a pleased, surprised smirk on her face. She mouthed, 'WOAH! Guess I know what happened on the trip, huh?' and wiggled her eyebrows. I blushed and mouthed back 'Follow my lead!' She nodded, smile lingering.

I walked up to the stage as the mayor said, "This Mother Paula's is going to be a shining example of my six-point economic development plan, bringing over twelve new jobs to Coconut Cove." I snorted softly. I got onstage, and the mayor asked, a little hostilely, I might add, "Who are you? Where's Muckle?"

"He's networking," I blurted. "He asked me to make an announcement." I decided I needed my brain to regain control my mouth while I was still ahead. "Um, please take a seat, Mr. Mayor." He looked skeptical. "It's okay. " I said to him as he moved away. I now stood at the podeum, with no idea of what to say. I looked at Mullet, who was standing at the back. He smiled and mouthed 'Just talk!' Heartened, I started.

"Who here loves pancakes?" Everyone raised their hands. "Yeah, I do too. I love pancakes. And a pancake house would be great in Coconut Cove." I took a deep breath. "But not here. Not in this lot, because somebody was here first, and they still are. They're baby owls. No," I said, as everyone shouted, scanning the trees, "not in the trees. They live in the burrows that are all around us. If a Mother Paula's is built here, they'll all be buried alive in their burrows, while their parents try to protect them. Think about that while you chow down on your key lime pie pancakes." I heard an engine start up, and looked up at the dozer moving in behind the crowd.

"Oh, no," I whispered in horror.

"Hello Coconut Cove!" Chuck Muckle yelled gleefully, holding his hands in the shape of peace signs (ironic, isn't it?). "Welcome to Pancake House number one hundred!" When he was about ten feet from the burrows, a certain bare-footed boy stepped out, standing between the burrows and the dozer. "Get out of the way, kid!" Muckle yelled angrily.

"If you want to bury those owls, you gotta bury me too!" He yelled back, eyes glinting protectively.

"Me, too." I said loudly, stepping into place next to him.

Bea ran up, and stepped in on the other side. "That makes three of us."

"We will not let you kill these owls," I yelled, taking Mullet's hand.

Muckle stood up, a big, fake, sincere look plastered on his face. "Ladies and gentlemen, these kids are a little misguided. They have no proof of any owls." I gripped Mullet's hand tighter, feeling fury etch itself into every line of my face and blaze in my eyes. "You folks see any owls? '

Mullet couldn't keep quiet any longer. "Of course we don't! Why would they come out of their holes while everybody's here? All we do is make noise! Cars, trucks, bulldozers! We sound like danger to them!" I got an idea.

"Yeah!" I turned to the crowd. "Maybe if we just stay quiet, they'll come out." Muckle revved the bulldozer. I released Mullet's hand and rounded on him. "Or maybe you're afraid we'll see them?" He glared back, until suddenly the engine turned off. I looked at the source, and saw Officer Delinko standing next to him.

"Alright, Sasha. Go ahead." I turned to the crowd.

"Let's try it. Let's stay really quiet for two minutes. Just 120 seconds, okay?"

"This is absurd!" Muckle sputtered. I gave him a short glare, then turned back to the crowd.

"Okay?" Everyone gave noises of agreement "Alright. And….Go." Everyone hushed up, and started to look at the burrows for signs of life. Time seemed to slow down. Gradually, all the sounds that the noise the cars and people had been covering up returned. I could hear the wind through the trees, the birds calling, and the waves of the river hitting the banks. I was shaking with nerves. I looked at Mullet desperately. He appeared calmer, the silence soothing him in the same way it was for me. His apparent calm soothed me. I have always found crowds nerve racking, and it hadn't contributed positively to my nerves when I spoke to the people.

As the end to the two minutes approached, I got more and more desperate. Muckle was looking smug, and this was our last shot. Just when I was about to lose hope, Mullet grinned at something behind me.

"Sasha!" He whispered happily, putting his hand on my shoulder. "Look!" I turned around, and saw a tiny owl sticking its head out of the burrow. I smiled and laughed with relief, clasping my hands over my mouth. The journalists stated taking photos of the living proof of Muckle's lies. More and more started to pop out, until there were five adults and one baby looking at the people.

Officer Delinko started to arrest Muckle, handcuffing him while saying, "You're under arrest for violating state permits, operating a bulldozer without a license, and, uh, a bunch of other stuff." I was fairly sure that wasn't the protocol for arresting someone, but I wasn't about to correct him.

The people started to clap, sending the owls scurrying back into their burrows, I turned and caught Mullet in a bear hug. "We did it." I whispered into his ear. I felt him smile against my neck.

"We did it." I let him go, and we held each other, grinning softly.

Then Bea, being the moment ruiner she is, cleared her throat loudly, grinning as she did so. We jumped away from each other like we had been electrocuted. Mullet scratched the back of his neck, and I started to chew my hands (Nervous habit.). But of course she couldn't leave it at that. She smirked at Mullet, before saying with all sisterly intent to completely humiliate, "So, baby bro, why didn't you tell me you had the hots for my best friend?" Mullet turned red and started stammering, obviously trying to tell her off, but failing in his embarrassment. I started to laugh at the sight, but attempted (and failed) to cover it with a cough.

There was a commotion on the stage, and mercifully for poor Mullet, we switched our attention to the Mother Paula actress, who was running up the stage towards the podium. "Ladies and gentlemen of Coconut cove!" She arrived on stage, and shoved the mayor, who looked almost as flustered as Mullet was, out of the way. "Ladies and gentlemen. Excuse me, Mr. Mayor. Ahem. I would just like to say that I, Mother Paula, am simply shocked by what has gone on here today. And you, young man," she added, pointing at Muckle, who was turning redder by the minute, "are no longer an employee of Mother Paula's. You're fired!" Her words were met by cheering and clapping. Muckle looked like his head was going to explode.

"You can't do that! She's crazy! I do the firing around here! She's only an actress!" His words were met with jeering and boo's. She looked at him with a smirk, before turning to the mayor.

"And, Mr. Mayor, I would like to donate this land to your town as an owl sanctuary!" She said it smugly, looking at Muckle the whole time, before flouncing off stage. Apparently, she had been waiting a while to get back at Muckle for something.

Bea came up next to me, and rested her elbow on my shoulder whilst asking, "Can she really do that?

I was clapping with everyone else. I inclined my head towards her. "Probably not, but she just did, and on live TV too." The mayor moved her out of the way, having recovered his composure.

"Mother Paula, that's a grand idea. Folks, doesn't that sound like a grand idea?" Everyone cheered, and he continued. "And let me assure you, my office is going to launch a full investigation into how the presence of these fine little creatures was overlooked." Everyone cheered again, and Officer Delinko moved over towards me.

"Guess I owe you an apology, Sasha." He said smiling. He offered his hand, and I shook it.

"No problem, officer. I know you're a good guy, and that you were just trying to do your job." He looked touched, and I smiled.

"Thanks. Oh," he added, lifting the environmental report, "and thanks for the you-know-what. It'll come in handy at the trial."

"No problem. I couldn't have done any of this without Beatrice or…" I said, turning toward Bea. Where Mullet had been standing, there was only a little flattened grass. "-Mulletfingers." I looked around, knowing I wouldn't see him, but hoping to catch a glimpse.

Mr. Ryan and my parents, whom I was very surprised to see, to say the least, came over to congratulate me. They hadn't seen my kiss with Mullet, thank gods, but the amused look Mr. Ryan shot me told me he had. The thought made me flush with embarrassment, which I promptly blamed on excitement. It turned out my parents had come just in time to hear my speech. To my amazement, they weren't angry I'd skipped school. My mom told me, "This was by far more important. We've decided to tell the school you were sick, and Mr. Ryan said he would go along with it."

I stood and endured all the questioning of the journalists and the congratulations, but in my mind, I was back in Mullet's arms, reliving the feeling of his lips against mine, and hardly able to wait until I could see him again.

….….

There it is! Sniffle. Almost done. I'm going to be out of commission all of tomorrow, so I probably won't be able to start and publish the next chapter for a couple days. Epilogue next! Give me some ideas for the sequel, which I've decided to attempt. Plot lines, new characters, etc.! I've also been thinking about doing another version of this story, only Mullet's POV. Should I? Should I not? Read, Review, and tell me! Oh and I've forgotten to do this for the other chapters, I think: All characters, except for Sasha (AKA Wolfgirl), and general plot and lines copyright Carl Hiaasen, and/or the company that did the movie of HOOT, whose name escapes me at the moment.