It was just like any average school day at S. L. Cooper Public School. In math class, Mrs. Jones, while ‘teaching’ us about the correct order of operations, had, as usual, used subtraction before exponents, and, as usual, insisted that it was all Harold Xavier’s fault (again).

In Gym, Mr. Fletcher had bellowed, as usual, that if we stopped running laps, or doing push-ups, or sit-ups, or knee bends, or something like that (today it was burpees), then we would all be very sorry.

In Science, Mr. Hazel droned on for half an hour about something called an Inferior vena cava, which he claimed was a part of the human heart, and in English, as usual, Mrs. Brock broke several simple rules about the English language, including: You cannot end sentences with any number of prepositions, and also: ‘gruntled’ is not a real word.

I should introduce myself. My name is Philip Oakwood. I am a brilliant, good-looking seventh grader, and I am also famous. Well, I am not famous right now, but someday I am going to be a detective and solve a really hard mystery, and then I’ll be famous, and THEN, people, maybe even my teachers, will respect me. Maybe.

Anyway, this day was just like any other day. As a matter of fact, there was only one thing out of the ordinary: Sammy Hyde was not there. As much as he disliked school, Sammy was almost never absent. He rarely got sick, and he never went on vacation. Nobody in class had been sick since late November, and Sammy hadn’t shown any signs of being sick. If we knew in advance that we were going to be absent, we had to bring our teacher a note. That left one interesting question: Where was Sammy?

Now it was lunchtime. As we ate our lunch, we were all glancing suspiciously at Sammy’s empty desk. No one knew where he was, but almost everyone knew that it wasn’t like him to unexpectedly miss a day of school. Unless something was horribly wrong.

All finished? Continue on the Shufflenet Road Trip!