DAVID R. SMITH
About The Author
David R. Smith lives in Livonia, NY with his wife and two children. He is a teacher in the Canandaigua City School District. Ever since he was a young boy he's been writing fiction. He loves a good fantasy or ghost story. His favorite authors include Ray Bradbury, Mary Downing Hahn, Neil Gaiman, Vivian Vande Velde, and Stephen King. He's won numerous narrative writing contests and published short stories in e-zines and local magazines.
I hope everyone is staying safe during these uncertain times.
Since I'm not currently "touring" to promote my newest books, check out the free gift I'm giving to all my loyal readers. My latest Animal Quest book, Rise of the Dolphins, will be published chapter by chapter each week, so you can enjoy it for free!
Stay tuned for events and book signings in 2021.
3 Animal Quest adventures in one book! Birds of Prey: A mysterious illness is attacking Professor Feathers and the birds of prey at a nearby animal sanctuary. With the help of a special friend, Olivia and Alex leap into action to save the wise owl and other birds. Their quest will take them into a forest filled with dark magic and danger. Will they find the cure before it's too late? Land of Ice: Danger is waiting for Olivia and Alex when Professor Feathers whisks the children off to Antarctica to find their lost penguin, Flipper. It will take more than courage to save them from a terrifying blizzard—they will need help from some unlikely friends. Will the children find Flipper before it's too late? Or will this mission leave them frozen in fear? The Amazon Adventure: Professor Feathers, Olivia, and Alex enter a magical portal into a dark and dangerous world of adventure. Deep in the Amazon Rainforest, trees are being cut down by the thousands every day. The threat to the animals that live there is very real—but the threat to the whole planet is even greater! Will they be able to stop the damage to the rainforest, and rescue Alex's lost spider monkey before it's too late?
Professor Feathers, Olivia, and Alex enter a magical portal into a dark and dangerous world of adventure. Deep in the Amazon Rainforest, trees are being cut down by the thousands every day. The threat to the animals that live there is very real--but the threat to the whole planet is even greater! Will they be able to stop the damage to the rainforest, and rescue Alex's lost spider monkey, before it's too late?
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Key West, Florida
DR. CHELSEA GOODE GAZED out across the vast Atlantic Ocean. From here, on the bow of her research vessel One World, the ocean seemed to go on forever. As if the whole planet was one big watery blue marble. She looked at her diving partner and smiled.
“Ready?” she asked.
Her partner, Jamie, finished putting on her scuba gear and gave the thumbs up. “Let’s do it!” she said.
Together they slid off the boat and sank into the water. Swimming swiftly through the soft currents, they explored the underwater world of the Atlantic Ocean. Schools of fish swam past. Corals and sea plants colored the ocean floor. Tiny exotic fish darted in and out of the coral beds, spying on the newcomers.
Chelsea couldn’t help beaming with joy when she was down here. The ocean was like no other place on Earth. Down here, all was calm and peaceful. No one fought. There was no care in the world. She wished she could remain down here forever.
When she was little, she used to stare at her fishbowl and pretend she was the goldfish swimming around in there. What would it be like to live in water all the time? She always imagined it would be like living in deep space. A little bit lonely but a lot of fun. And you would have all the time in the world!
Jamie tapped on Chelsea’s arm and pointed off in the distance. Swimming toward them at amazing speed was a pod of dolphins—exactly what they were waiting to see. The dolphins circled around them, welcoming the guests to their watery world. Chelsea never stopped marveling at how friendly and intelligent dolphins were. Humans could learn a lot from them, she thought. She reached out and stroked one of their beaks. The dolphin gave a little chittering laugh and shot off playfully, trailing a line of bubbles behind it.
“Do you see that?” Jamie asked, pointing to one of the dolphins. The scuba outfits had microphones so they could hear each other talk.
Chelsea swam over to have a closer look. She noticed something wrong with the dolphin’s dorsal fin, or the fin on top of its blue-gray body. It was covered in streaks of yellow. It looked like a rash or disease of some kind.
“He looks ill,” said Chelsea. “We should take ecological samples and see if anything is wrong with the—”
“Look over there!” Jamie cut her off. “What is that?”
Chelsea turned to look where her partner was pointing. A black mass moved through the water toward them, like a giant inky cloud. The dolphins, apparently sensing danger, shot off in the opposite direction. Chelsea and Jamie were abandoned by all the sea life, to face this thing down alone. The mass of darkness rolled closer to them until it completely surrounded the two scientists. They could see nothing but blackness. They grabbed each other’s hands and swam fast toward the surface before the dark ocean blob, whatever it was, swept them away.
When their heads broke the surface, Chelsea and Jamie were surprised to find their boat far away. Whatever that black mass was in the ocean, it pulled them like a riptide farther out to sea. If they hadn’t acted fast, they both could have drowned.
We have to get to the bottom of this, Chelsea thought. Something is very wrong in the ocean.
Chapter 1 -- A New Friend
THE NEW DOG, JASPER, was fast. He was also big, strong, and loved to play. No matter how many tennis balls and Frisbees Olivia and Alex threw, he always raced after them. His long pink tongue hung out the side of his mouth as he panted. Jasper’s heavy breathing sounded like he was saying more, more, more!
Of course, if he wanted to, Jasper the great black golden doodle could have talked. Like Ruby, their other golden doodle, and Professor Feathers, the stuffed owl who came to life and took the kids on all sorts of magical adventures, Jasper had secret powers. All animals, it turned out, could communicate with each other in a special language. And when Professor Feather’s was around, Oliva and Alex could hear and understand that language, too.
But today Oliva and Alex’s dad was out here with them, playing fetch with the two dogs. He wore an uncertain smile on his face.
“Where did you two say you found the dog?” he asked his children.
“In Olivia’s closet!” Alex blurted, but quickly covered his mouth before anything else slipped out
“That’s ridiculous.” Their father chucked the tennis ball across the backyard and Jasper tore after it. “Olivia, where did Jasper come from?”
“Don’t you like him?” Olivia asked, batting her eyelashes.
“That’s not the question I asked,” he replied. “I’m simply wondering where he came from.”
“He just kind of…showed up,” she answered, smiling shyly.
“Showed up, eh?” Her father shook his head. “When your mother comes home and sees we have another dog, she’s going to –”
“Say she loves him!” Olivia finished for him. “Mom loves dogs! She’s wanted two dogs for a long time.”
“Yeah, and Ruby needs a friend,” Alex added.
“I see.” They watched their father throw the Frisbee as far as he could, and the dogs take off happily after it. Then he turned to his two children, “I need honesty here. Do you know where Jasper came from? This is twice now—with Ruby and Jasper—that a dog has shown up mysteriously in our home. I’m starting to think something is up with you two.”
“What do you mean, Dad?” Alex asked.
“I don’t know.” He shook his head slowly and rubbed his chin in deep thought. “It’s just that, you two go in Olivia’s room sometimes, get really quiet, and then suddenly reappear … and everything’s different.”
“Just … different.”
Olivia winked at Alex. Dad still didn’t know about Professor Feathers. The trips around the world. Their adventures in India, Ireland, California, Antarctica and Brazil. The times they almost … well, let’s not go there. Thinking of how close they’d come to danger—and possibly even death—gave both of the kids a serious case of the willies.
“So can we keep him?” Olivia asked their father.
She sighed. “Jasper, of course.”
“Oh, right. Yes, I guess so. He seems nice enough. A little big and goofy, though. I hope he doesn’t knock over any of the plant stands in the living room or chew on your mother’s collection of wooden figurines.”
“He won’t. He promised to be good,” said Alex.
“Promised?” His dad looked at him oddly. “You say it like he told you that himself.”
Alex blushed. “Uh, no. Talk to a dog? That’s crazy! Who does that?”
We do, Olivia thought.
Thanks to Professor Feathers.
Suddenly, she could hear the professor calling for her. Not in words, but in a ringing that echoed in her ears. A sense that he needed to speak to the children.
“I’m tired,” she said, glancing at Alex. “I think I’m going to go up to my room to rest.”
Alex caught on. “Yeah, me too. These dogs wear me out.”
“Can they come upstairs with us, Dad?” Olivia asked.
“Oh, I don’t see why not.” Their father gave Jasper and Ruby a good scratching behind their ears before they followed the kids inside.
Still seems crazy, he thought. He never saw his kids get along so well. Almost as though they were becoming true friends.
Or maybe something else entirely was going on.
Chapter 2 -- The Calling
BACK UPSTAIRS IN OLIVIA’S bedroom, the kids immediately got to work with Professor Feathers.
The mighty owl sat on Olivia’s bed, flexing the muscles in its mighty wings, as it gazed sharply at the big woolly dog.
“What am I to do with you?” the owl asked itself.
“What do you mean?” Alex asked.
“What I mean, my child, is how do I train this beast? When Ruby joined us, it was easy to see that speed would be her strength. She brought you quickly to the raptor sanctuary and helped you find an antidote to my illness. But what of Jasper?”
The children sat on the floor beside each other and thought. It was true; it wasn’t easy to see what Jasper’s special powers might be. Unless you considered chasing tennis balls around the yard a power. He was part retriever, so maybe fetching was his superpower? Olivia didn’t think that was likely. There had to be something more.
“I don’t care if Jasper has no powers at all,” said Alex, hugging the dog around the neck. “I just love Jasper.”
“Aw, thank you buddy, thank you!” Jasper said, licking Alex’s face.
“Me too,” Olivia petted Jasper’s shaggy head. “Even Mom and Dad seem to like him, and I thought for sure they’d take him to the pound!” she added.
Professor Feathers nodded at Olivia. It was true that the dog did have a strange effect on everyone he met. Even the wise old owl felt an uncanny connection to the pooch the moment he first saw him. There was genuine tenderness in the dog’s soul. Maybe love was enough of a power to help them on their quests?
“Perhaps,” said Professor Feathers, “Jasper will be of great service to us after all.”
“What do you mean?” Alex said.
“One’s power isn't always visible,” Professor Feathers explained. “It is what’s in our heart that matters most.”
Olivia and Alex thought they understood what the Great Horned Owl was talking about. They were learning from each of their animal quests that you needed courage to succeed. Bravery to face your fears. Those things are found inside you. They are antidotes to the poison of fear.
As Ruby and Jasper curled up on the floor to take a nap, Professor Feathers waved the children over to him. They perched themselves on the edge of the bed and listened as the owl whispered to them.
“We must leave soon for another adventure.”
“Where are we going, Professor?” Olivia asked.
The owl shut its eyes. “I hear a calling from afar, in the ancient language of the sea.”
“You mean, like, a fish?” Alex wondered.
Professor Feathers nodded patiently. “Not exactly. I hear the cry of your lost dolphin Flippy, Olivia. He is in danger and must be rescued at once.”
“Flippy!” Olivia couldn’t believe it. One of her favorite stuffed animals, a dolphin named Flippy, disappeared along with all the other stuffies in hers and Alex’s bedrooms. It had happened when she had made a wish upon a shooting star one night. A wish for Lulu, her cat, to come to life. But the wish had animated all the stuffies, and they escaped back into the wild.
But some, like Lulu and Flippy, wanted to come home. And along the way, they were learning so much about the environmental problems the world now faced.
Problems that threatened every living creature on Earth.
“We must make haste to Florida at once,” announced the owl, spreading his wings and rising into the air. “Ruby and Jasper shall stay here and guard the door. If anything tries to enter our world through your closet door again, Olivia, our loyal friends will be sure to stop it.”
“We are at your service,” Ruby said in her sweet growling voice, bowing her head.
“Excellent,” said Professor Feathers. “Now, children, grab ahold of my legs. We are off to a great adventure at sea. We must help the dolphins rise up against the nemesis that threatens them.”
“Nemesis?” Alex whispered to Olivia.
“He means enemy,” she informed him.
“Oh, I see,” he said, his face turning pale.
“Remember your courage, young one,” Professor Feathers told him.
And with a mighty thrust of his wings and a great whoosh of air, the owl carried the children out of the house and up—and up—into the sky.
Chapter 3 -- A Startling Discovery
THE SKY WAS AS lovely as always. And it seemed to go on endlessly. Large clumps of clouds coasted by like boats on the open sea.
Far below them they could see the coastline. The Atlantic Ocean held various shades of blue, green and white as waves lapped at the beaches. People moved about on foot and in cars, smaller than ants. If they dared to look up, Olivia wondered, what would they see? Were they invisible to people down there? Or would they look like a meteor streaking across the sky?
“I wonder what they’re thinking?” Olivia mumbled to herself.
Professor Feathers overheard. “I think they are just busy going about their lives,” he replied.
“Do they know we are up here?”
The owl shook his head. “No. If they looked up, they would see nothing. We travel by way of magic, which is like a tunnel through reality.”
“A tunnel?” Alex said, confused.
“Life is but a dream,” said Professor Feathers, quoting the famous nursery rhyme. “There is more to life than people can see or understand. When you are alone, do you sometimes feel like someone is with you?”
Olivia chewed her lip and thought about it. Ever since her grandmother died, she sometimes felt like she was still around, watching and protecting her. “Yes,” Olivia said.
“That is what I mean. There is a place above all other places. That is where our true power--love—comes from.”
“I think I understand,” said Olivia, although she wasn’t really sure.
Down below she could see the peninsula of Florida jutting out from the coastline like a thumb.
"Is that where we’re going?” she asked.
“Yay!” Alex blurted. “Are we going to Disney World? I want to ride Thunder Mountain! My dad says it’s awesome.”
Professor Feathers chuckled softly. “I’m afraid not,” he answered. “We have important business to attend to. We are headed to the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Florida.”
“Is that where Flippy is?” Olivia’s voice rose with concern.
"I sense he is close by and in danger. There is something amiss in the waters and threatening all the dolphins.”
“What is it?”
“In time, child. First we must land and get our bearings. You will need to ask the scientists to help you find Flippy.”
“Oh no,” Alex groaned. This was the part he disliked the most. He was always afraid some adult was going to thrown them in jail for trespassing.
Of course, jail would be nothing compared to what he had already been through. So far he’d been shot at, caught by a ghost, trapped in a wildfire, almost eaten by a living tree, nearly frozen to death, and practically trampled by jungle animals.
All so they could rescue their stuffed animals and bring them home safely.
He should be getting used to danger by now.
Professor Feathers glided them to a soft landing in a grassy area next to a shimmering blue pond.
“The Dolphin Research Center is a series of connected lagoons,” the owl explained, “where marine biologists study dolphins and provide education to people about these wonderful animals.”
“Is Flippy here?” Olivia scanned the lagoon and a set of small buildings nearby. “I don’t see any dolphins or scientists.”
“Come,” the owl said, perching himself on Olivia’s shoulder. “Let’s explore the place.”
They wandered around the small island, checking out the lagoons, noticing from time to time how the water rippled, as if something under the surface was following them. But when the kids stopped to investigate, they heard a voice behind them shout: “What are you kids doing here?”
Olivia and Alex froze. What were they supposed to do now?
* * *
Back at home, Jasper and Ruby stared at the closet door. Ruby gave a low growl and Jasper snarled, showing his sharp white fangs.
“Do you feel it?” Ruby asked her new canine companion.
“I do! I do!” Jasper replied nervously. “I can smell it too!”
Something was on the other side of that door. From the moment the kids left with Professor Feathers, the room filled up with a strange dark energy, coming from the closet. It was like another person was with them. A bad person. An invisible person.
Ruby took her duties to protect the house very seriously. She was quite fond of Those Who Walk On Two Legs, even if their ways were strange. And she knew quite well that there was an evil presence in the world, an equal but opposite power to Professor Feathers’. A power that wanted very badly to get out into the world.
But it would have to get through Olivia’s closet door—and Ruby and Jasper—first.
Just then the dogs heard a scraping sound on the other side of the door.
Jasper slid over next to Ruby. “What do we do now?” His teeth were chattering. He’d never been more scared in his life. He didn’t want to go back inside the closet, where he’d been rescued by his new friends. He’d been lost in the dark for so long and couldn’t remember where his home had been. Did he even have a home? He couldn’t be sure, but he had a nice home now, and that’s all that mattered to him.
The scraping sound came again. And then slowly the closet door slid open.
Both dogs started barking wildly. But then they stopped when they saw who walked out of the closet.
It was the children’s father. How did he get in there? Ruby wondered.
The canines watched as the father strode by them on his way out of the room. He looked like the two-legged man. He wore the same clothes and had the same handsome, intelligent features. Even the brown hair salted with gray was the same.
Ruby sniffed the air deeply. There was something off about him. He didn’t have the Dad smell. Instead, this Dad imposter smelled like burnt leaves. It was a bitter smell, an unpleasant odor, and it told her at once that this was not Olivia and Alex’s father but someone quite different.
The one Professor Feather’s called The Night Vulture.
Instinctively, Ruby lunged forward, ready to sink her sharp teeth into the intruder. But the Dad-thing quickly slipped out through the bedroom door and shut it just in time to avoid Ruby’s charge.
“He got away,” Ruby panted to Jasper.
“Who got away?” Jasper wanted to know. “Who was that?”
Ruby looked him in the eye. “I think you know.”
Jasper sank to the floor and flopped his big head over his paws. He knew, all right. And now things were going to turn bad.
Very, very bad.
Chapter 4 -- The Dolphin Keeper
THE YOUNG WOMAN WHO approached the kids wore a pair of khaki shorts and a white polo shirt. Her brown hair was long and tied in a ponytail. The image of a dolphin was stitched on the front of her shirt.
She didn’t look mad to see the kids there, which was good, but she didn’t look happy either. “Who are you?” she asked, looking around. “Where are your parents?”
Olivia was ready for this question. “They’re close by. We just wanted to see the dolphins.”
The young woman smiled. “I see. My name is Dr. Chelsea Goode. You can call me Chelsea. I’m a marine biologist. That means—”
“You study ocean life!” Alex interrupted, excited to show off how much he knew. He blushed. “Sorry to interrupt you.”
“That’s okay.” Chelsea nodded at the ground by Olivia’s feet. “Friend of yours?”
Olivia looked down. Professor Feathers had swiftly and magically turned himself back into a stuffed animal. He didn’t like to scare other people with his powers—unless it was necessary. And sometimes it was necessary. Like when he had to rally the other birds in California to whip up a rain shower to stop a forest fire. Or help the scientists in Antarctica find Oliva and Alex when they fell into a glacier. People were surprisingly accepting of Professor Feathers … once they got past the shock of a talking Great Horned Owl.
“Yes,” Olivia said, picking him up. “He’s my stuffy. I call him Professor Feathers.”
“Well, you and your stuffy are welcome to hang out for a while if you want. We don’t open for another hour. By the way, how did you get in here?”
We flew by owl didn’t seem like the best answer, so Olivia changed the subject. “Are the dolphins okay?”
“Of course. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, nothing,” she replied with a shrug. “I’m just curious.”
“Why wouldn’t they be all right?”
Olivia and Alex exchanged glances.
“What aren’t you two telling me?” Chelsea asked.
“We can’t exactly say.” Olivia said.
“You wouldn’t believe us.”
Olivia cleared her throat and looked embarrassed. “Before we do, can you tell us more about this place?”
Chelsea led the children over to the edge of one of the lagoons. The water was a deep blue and smooth as glass. The sun sparkled on its surface.
“The Dolphin Science Center started over thirty years ago,” Chelsea explained. “We take in many different kinds of rescued animals. These lagoons were created here in the Gulf of Mexico by our founders, so the dolphins, porpoises and manatees could remain here and be safe. I’ve been caring for the dolphins now for ten years. It’s a great job. I’m lucky to be doing such important work.”
“Why is the work so important?” Alex asked.
“What I and the other marine biologists do here is study the dolphins. We try to learn all we can about dolphins’ intelligence. We also keep them safe and healthy. But it’s much more than that. We do research on the ocean environment as well. We need to know if there are any problems that need fixing.”
“Like what?” Olivia said.
“When we go out on the Misty Lady--that’s our research vessel—we do deep dives. We observe the dolphins, but we also collect data on things like ocean temperature. Climate change is a very real problem on our planet.”
Olivia nodded. “We know.”
She told Chelsea about what that they learned in the Amazon rainforest about deforestation. And what Dr. Marks taught her in Antarctica at the McMurdo research station. The earth was changing rapidly. Melting glaciers, rising ocean levels, increasing global temperatures. None of it was good for the environment—nor for people or animals.
“Wow,” Chelsea said, clearly impressed. “You two really get around. You must have wealthy parents or something.”
Olivia tried not to smile. Everyone always thought it was their parents who took them every place. Then she heard Alex whisper, “She’d never believe us if we told her about Professor Feathers.”
Olivia shot a hard look at her brother. “Be quiet,” she whispered back. But it was too late.
“What are you two whispering about?” Chelsea inquired, looking oddly at the stuffy in Olivia’s arms.
“Nothing.” Olivia shrugged. “Alex just likes to tell tall tales.”
“The taller the better!” he said, playing along.
“I see.” Chelsea looked out across the bay. “Hey, I think see one!”
The kids turned their attention to the water. Suddenly, a sleek gray dolphin shot up into the air, arcing gracefully, and then dove back into the water with a splash.
“Amazing!” Olivia and Alex said together.
"They truly are,” Chelsea agreed. The three watched the dolphin leap out of the water two more times. “Gracie is putting on quite a show for you guys. Acrobatics is something we teach the dolphins here.”
“Gracie?” Alex asked. “Do you name all your dolphins?”
“Yes. We also have a Sparkle, a Pirate, and an Aqua.”
"What about a Flippy?” Alex exclaimed.
Chelsea turned to face the young boy. “Now I know something is up with you two. Go on … spill it. What’s your story?”
“Why are you here and how did you get to the Dolphin Science Center?”
Olivia and Alex sighed. It was time to tell her the truth. But would she believe it?
Praise for Animal Quest:
A celebration of love and loyalty. With a different setting for each story, each book has a different feel to it. What I especially like is how the author handles the relationship between the siblings. They are not perfect children and can get annoyed with each other, but in the end they work together in a caring and supportive way.
YA author of Spellbound and Never Trust a Dead Man