For Ages
8 to 12

Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans is a part of the Samantha Spinner collection.

An Excerpt fromSamantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans

Chapter One



Unexplained Vanishing Person



Samantha went searching for Uncle Paul.


Nobody had seen him for days.


On Friday morning, he’d made strawberry waffles and helped everyone get ready for the day. He reminded Buffy to include her books and pencils in the large handbag she lugged to school. Then he waited for the bus with Samantha and Nipper, and he walked their pug, Dennis, to the park and back. After he dropped Dennis at home, he shuffled across the driveway in his bright orange flip-flops to his one-room apartment above the garage.


That was the last anyone had heard or seen of him.


When she looked for him on Saturday, Samantha figured he was at the flea market, where he traded snow globes and souvenirs every weekend. But she couldn’t find him then, or on Sunday, either. So on Sunday evening she went up the stairs and peeked through his apartment door. His crates of books, magnets, stickers, and maps were stacked neatly against the wall, but there was no sign of him anywhere.


On Monday morning, he didn’t show up to make breakfast. That was when the whole Spinner family agreed that Uncle Paul was officially missing.


Two police officers came to investigate, and Samantha’s dad lent them an extra-powerful flashlight. They seemed a lot more interested in the experimental high-candlepower lightbulb than anything they shined it on in Uncle Paul’s apartment.


They returned to the Spinners’ kitchen after a five-minute search.


“We didn’t see anything out of the ordinary,” one officer told them. “We can’t say for certain that he’s dead.”


“Dead?” all five Spinners asked at the same time.


“Well, there’s always a chance that he’s alive somewhere,” said the other officer.


As he spoke, he picked up two apples from the kitchen counter and juggled them absentmindedly with one hand.


“Sometimes uncles just go missing without telling anyone,” he said, and put the apples back on the counter.


They promised to fill out an Unexplained Vanishing Person Form and left.


Soon after that, Mrs. Spinner headed off to the North Seattle Animal Hospital, where she was Director of Rodent and Lizard Care. Mr. Spinner left for the American Institute of Lamps, where he was Senior Lightbulb Tester. And Buffy, forgetting her books and pencils, grabbed her giant handbag and walked to school.


For the first time in years, Samantha and her brother, Nipper, waited by themselves for the bus.


Of course, Samantha knew that Uncle Paul would never just go missing without telling anyone, especially her. She knew something was deeply wrong, but she had no idea what to do about a missing uncle. So when the bus pulled up, she climbed on board and went to school.


That afternoon, all three kids gathered under the basketball net hanging outside their uncle’s apartment.


“Last week, I showed Uncle Paul this new hat and this new handbag,” said Buffy. She held them up as evidence for Samantha and Nipper to examine.


“Usually he’d make a joke about how I need a five-hundred-and-fifty-room mansion for all my accessories,” she recalled with a sigh. “But he didn’t tease me at all. Maybe he knew he was doomed.”


“Maybe he was kidnapped,” said Nipper. “Maybe he exploded.”


Buffy thought about that and looked around.


“If he did, then where are all the blown-up pieces of hideous orange shoes?” she asked.


Samantha was pretty sure Uncle Paul hadn’t exploded. Her brother and sister were exactly as helpful as she expected them to be--not much at all. She left them standing under the basketball net and headed down the block to Volunteer Park.


In the center of the park, an art museum overlooked the city, with a view of downtown Seattle and the Olympic Mountains far in the distance. Uncle Paul spent a lot of time at the museum, so Samantha hoped she might get some help from Olivia Turtle, head of museum security.


When Samantha told her about Uncle Paul’s disappearance, Olivia seemed worried, too. Unfortunately, not for the same reasons as Samantha.


“So he just went . . . missing?” Olivia asked slowly.


Samantha nodded.


“Well, I hope you find him, young lady,” she said. “There’s a big convention here next month, and security guards are coming from all over the world. I was going to ask your uncle to be on my trivia quiz team.”


She adjusted her badge.


“Nobody knows about art and architecture like Pajama Paul,” she said.


It always bothered Samantha when people called her uncle Pajama Paul. True, he did walk around in green plaid pajamas and a pair of bright orange flip-flops all day every day. She had never seen him wearing anything else.


But there was so much more to Paul Spinner than plaid pajamas.


Every night, he would sit with Samantha and Nipper on the stairs to his apartment above the garage, and tell stories about amazing places all over the world. He talked about the Great Wall of China and a mountain city called Machu Picchu. He talked about what it would have been like to travel on the Titanic.


He knew an awful lot about cathedrals and fountains and faraway countries, especially for someone who wore green plaid pajamas and bright orange flip-flops all day every day.


He’d taught Samantha how to say “Please,” “Where is the tallest building in the city?” and “Thank you” in eleven languages.


Every now and then, he’d come back from the flea market with something interesting and give it to Nipper. Last year, he’d given Nipper an old postage stamp with a picture of an upside-down airplane on it. Nipper took it to school on a windy day and it blew away during recess.


Buffy made it clear that she didn’t want anything from the flea market. Nothing involving fleas of any kind was welcome in her life.


Paul didn’t bring items for Samantha, either. Instead, he’d always bring her a story or a riddle or an amazing fact about the world.


Sometimes she’d even help him find things to collect and trade.


Samantha spent the next several days looking for secret magnets or stickers left behind by her uncle to let her know he was all right, or that he was thinking about her. She looked everywhere in the house and around the neighborhood. She found nothing.


After a week, Samantha’s parents finally let her investigate the apartment above the garage. She led Nipper and Dennis up the stairs, and the three of them sniffed around.


The sofa bed was closed up neatly. Dozens of books about everything from ancient weapons to scuba diving filled one tall bookcase. There were also a lot of books about travel and languages. The two wooden crates Uncle Paul carried to the flea market each Saturday were full of his usual collections.


Samantha and Nipper sifted through the stacks of license plates and brochures. They recognized most of it. Uncle Paul had shown it to them many times.


Samantha inspected her uncle’s prized trophy, which rested on a coffee table in the middle of the room. Two years earlier, Uncle Paul had taken a trip to Washington, DC, and won second place in a hula hoop contest by keeping his hoop going for twenty-two hours. The winner was a trained monkey that twirled its hips for twenty-two hours and five minutes. Some people thought Uncle Paul should have claimed victory and demanded the first-place trophy. The competition was only supposed to be open to humans. But he seemed quite happy with second place--as if it were his first choice.


Dennis sniffed the second-place trophy. He licked it a few times and trotted away.


Samantha and Nipper noticed a piece of paper pinned to the wall opposite the windows.












Samantha examined the note up close.


“What could this possibly mean?” she said.


“It means that Dad’s going to have to step up and become the new breakfast maker,” said Nipper.


Both kids stared at the note. They read the first letter of each word. They read it backward. They read it forward. They looked for numbers hidden somewhere on the page that might reveal a secret code. Nope. There was nothing they could make of the odd message.


Samantha and Nipper spent the rest of the afternoon searching the apartment, but they couldn’t find any clues. Uncle Paul hadn’t left a phone number or an address anywhere. There was nothing special or mysterious hidden behind the sofa or under the rug. Just the note on the wall.


That evening, Samantha’s parents called everyone into the kitchen for a family meeting.


“Join us here, you three,” said their dad, who sat next to their mother at the table. He held what looked to be a handwritten letter in one hand. In his other hand he held one of the experimental lighting gadgets he often brought home from work.


“When you told me about the note you found in Uncle Paul’s apartment, I decided to look around the kitchen,” their mother said. “Your father’s been struggling to make oatmeal and toast all week, so he never went near the waffle iron. It turns out this letter was hidden under it the whole time.”


“It seemed like an unwise electrical decision,” said their father. “Let’s adjust the color balance of the light.”


He tilted the pages and the glowing self-powered bulb at different angles.


“We really should view this with a high-candlepower light source and the most accurate shade of--”


Mrs. Spinner lifted the letter from her husband’s fingers and began to read out loud.



“ ‘Dear Buffy, Sam, and Nipper. By the time you read this, I’ll be gone. But don’t think I haven’t loved getting to know all three of you. I’m sure by now your parents spilled the beans that I’m an explorer and one of very few people  who know about the Super-Secret--’ ”



“I don’t believe this one bit,” Buffy interrupted.


“What a bunch of hooey!” added Nipper.


Mrs. Spinner pointed two fingers at Buffy and Nipper and made eye contact. As a veterinarian, she had a lot of experience getting anxious chinchillas and chameleons to keep still while she bandaged their toes or un-peanut-buttered their tails. Getting children to settle down came easily to her.


Samantha waited patiently.


“Now, where was I?” their mom asked, and continued reading.


“ ‘You kids are probably thinking that this is all a bunch of hooey, but it’s a big secret I’ve kept for a long time . . . for my safety, for your parents’ safety, and for your safety, too.’ ”


The letter was five pages long, and in it Uncle Paul explained that he was one of the richest people in the history of the world. He didn’t do a very good job of detailing where all the money came from. He mentioned underwater treasure and something about gold bars. The story was confusing.


Samantha sat quietly as her mother read page after page. Uncle Paul ended by repeating how much he loved his nieces and nephew and saying that he didn’t want them to be sad that he was gone.


“ ‘Don’t start feeling too bad, kids,’ ” their mother read, “ ‘because it’s time for the grown-ups to break out some big presents.’ ”


The kids all stopped breathing for a second. They sat at the table in silence. Nipper looked at Samantha. Samantha glanced sideways at Buffy. Buffy used her compact to inspect her lipstick, but she was really looking at her brother and sister in the tiny mirror. All three of the Spinner children were trying to play it cool, pretending they didn’t hear the words “big presents.”


Mrs. Spinner put down the letter and handed Buffy an envelope. Eagerly, Buffy tore it open. Inside, she found a check made out to her for $2,400,000,000. A note was attached to it with a paper clip.



Have fun shopping.


--Uncle Paul



Mrs. Spinner looked at her husband. “Where did this money come from?” she asked, not really expecting him to know.


Mr. Spinner shrugged. “I didn’t think Paul had a job,” he said as he handed a folder to Nipper.


Nipper opened it to find a packet of papers. He picked them up and read the top sheet. It was the deed to Yankee Stadium. All the baseball players’ contracts were attached to the deed with a binder clip. Nipper closed the folder to read the note that was taped to the front.



Don’t miss opening day.


--Uncle Paul



“That might be a warning not to lose these, Nipper,” Mrs. Spinner said, tapping the folder.


“Yeah. Like that old superhero comic book you fed to the birds,” said Buffy. “And everything else Uncle Paul gives you.”


“I didn’t feed it to anyone,” said Nipper. “A pigeon flew away with it while I was tying my shoe.”


“Uncle Paul always says if nobody lost anything, nothing would be valuable,” Samantha reminded her family. She had waited patiently. Now it was her turn.


For a moment, her parents glanced at each other without saying anything. Then her dad reached under the table and lifted up a red umbrella. He handed it to her quietly.


It was old and worn. A paper tag dangled from the wooden handle. The tag had a message, too.



Watch out for the RAIN.


--Uncle Paul



Samantha stared at the umbrella.


Her uncle had given her an umbrella. A rusty old umbrella.


“Don’t worry,” said Mrs. Spinner. “I’m pretty sure we can figure out how all this crazy, mixed-up stuff fits together.”


Samantha was pretty sure of one thing already: It wasn’t fair!


It really wasn’t fair.