SECRETS LOVE THREE THINGS: darkness, solitude, and quiet.
The docks had all three.
Almost no one used these particular docks anymore. Their lamps were burned out, their boards beginning to rot. The surrounding water was sludgy and black. Pleasure boats had migrated to nicer boatyards years ago. Fishing boats had all but disappeared.
The docks were left alone with their quiet, muddy darkness. And their secrets.
It was well past midnight on one summer night when an old gray boat scraped up against the pilings. Despite the darkness, the boat didn’t turn on its lights. The city, twinkling across the bay like a pile of fallen stars, provided the only glow.
The boat was an old fishing craft, just large enough for the small crew that slunk up from belowdecks. Two men settled a plank between the boat and the dock. One of them—a man in a battered sweater, with grizzled hair tucked under a knit cap—carried crates and boxes down the plank and placed them in a waiting pickup truck. When everything was loaded, the man in the battered sweater climbed into the truck’s cab and rattled away into the darkness. The rest of the crew slipped back out of sight.
For a moment, everything was still. Black waves knocked softly at the boat’s hull.
And then, on the deck, a shadow split from the surrounding darkness. The shadow was hunched and long-limbed, and as it moved, a pool of other shadows moved with it, rippling like a cloak around its body. It slid out from behind a heap of cargo, glided across the deck, and leaped over the boat’s side. Its feet against the dock were nearly soundless.
No one heard those feet anyway. No one saw that shadow watching the truck dwindle away, its head cocked as though sensing something in the air. No one saw that shadow bend, its shape changing, growing lower, longer, faster, until on four silent feet it raced down the dock and along the streets, where it, too, melted into the darkness, one secret following another.
Copyright © 2019 by Story Pirates and Jacqueline West; illustrated by Hatem Aly. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.