Say what you will about Mr. Pang, but at least he never ran for public office. Winston Chu vs. the Wingmeisters, from New York Times best-selling author, Stacey Lee is on sale now!
And if you thought the first installment in the duology, Winston Chu vs. the Whimsies was chaotic, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Check out this exclusive chapter excerpt and learn firsthand why you should never elect a magpie to a position of power. No matter their campaign promises.
Never talk to a magpie, I once read. I didn’t understand it at the time. But after rescuing my baby sister, Coco, from a certain Javan magpie who had swapped her with a changeling and stole a bunch of my stuff to power his bizarro magical objects called Whimsies, I get it. Never talk to a magpie, because sometimes they talk back. And your life will never be the same again.
The smell of pie mingled with the rubbery scent of asphalt in the blocked-off intersection where my friends and I were standing. Our attention swung about the trees. We’d been looking for Mr. Pang ever since we stopped the magpie man from draining the moon of qi in an epic battle in the San Francisco Bay two and a half weeks ago. Who knew when he’d strike again?
“Smart move. Pie attracts crowds.” My best friend, Maverick McFee, scanned the pie-laden tables, his white oxford shirt pulling free from his pants and his necktie with the Towne School logo flapping like a deflated balloon. He looked like he’d gone through a wind tunnel, though his dark and wavy Senegalese hair never budged. It was like a postal carrier. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom could stop it from doing its job. “There must be a few hundred people here. News crew, too.”
I’d never been to a political rally before, but I knew they didn’t generally come with pie. Mom usually made us avoid this seedy neighborhood, the Tenderloin, where even a police station didn’t keep people from peeing on trees and hawking fake Gucci slides. But none of that ugliness was visible now. Only people carrying GU IS GOOD FOR SF signs and news crews.
Cassa Kowalski, our business-savvy striker, swished one of her blond braids, like she was painting her shoulder. “But are these pies enchanted?” she asked in her roughed-up voice, good for sales pitches and trash talking, whether in softball or the sport that connected us all, soccer.
Enchanted pie was how we’d become embroiled with the heavenly magpie also known as Mr. Pang in the first place. My shoofly pie had been magically spring-loaded, hitting one of the two seagull-men casing his store, Mr. Pang’s Whimsies. As a “reward,” Mr. Pang had sicced me with a thieving broom and dustpan, hoping to steal enough potent Chu family qi to send his brother, our longtime family friend and current mayoral candidate for the city of San Francisco, Mr. Gu, back to the heavens. With his shop disappeared, now Mr. Gu was our only lead to him.
Our fidgety Stealths defender, Bijal Vakil, sniffed longingly as a woman passed him carrying a wedge of chocolate-cream pie with candy-cane crumbles, even though it was only October. “We should test out a slice.” He was usually the most risk averse of our foursome, but he had a sweet tooth. And despite all the sugar he consumed, he didn’t have a single pimple or cavity.
Mom, in a boxy pantsuit with an asymmetrical haircut that gave her a futuristic look, returned from the pie tables, somehow managing to balance four plates while holding her phone under her ear. “Kids, take one.”
She had gotten off work early to attend this rally after Mr. Gu left her a cryptic message inviting us specially. The man had been impossible to reach these past few weeks. Mom said the campaign was keeping him busy. But she didn’t know he was being hunted by his brother, a magpie man who wouldn’t hesitate to take another run at the Chu family qi if given the chance.
This time, we were on the offense.
We each relieved Mom of a wedge, though only Bijal looked interested in eating his. If a pie could be charmed to hit someone, what other booby traps lay in those sugary sludges?
“There he is!” shouted someone.
Mr. Gu strode up the sidewalk toward a canvas-covered structure the size of a telephone booth parked on one corner. His style—Hawaiian shirt with palm trees and khaki shorts— always made him look younger than his sixtysomething years. Stepping onto a stage the size of a folding table, he applauded the cheering crowd.
Phones clicked, and people pressed in, held back by a couple private security guards, neither of whom was the mutant seagull-men bullies we called Bert and Ernie.
Mom’s warm presence bumped up next to me. “Doesn’t he look great?”
Mr. Gu didn’t look any different than he usually looked, though his shock of white hair looked extra combed and his red glasses looked extra shiny on his round, tanned face. His crinkled eyes along with an easy smile invited you to trust him. I’d always thought Mr. Gu was cool. He’d hired Mom as a paralegal before leaving their firm to open up Treasure, where he sold upcycled goods. Spotting us twenty feet away, he waved, and Mom gave him a thumbs-up.
Bijal scooped a bite of his apple pie into his mouth and chewed, the fuzz on his lip like a bouncing caterpillar. “Fruity fresh with a hint of cinnamon. But it needs ice cream.”
“Give me that.” Cassa took the pie and sniffed it cautiously.
We all watched Bijal swallow. His square shoulders popped up. “It’s just pie.”
When Mom wasn’t watching, I dumped my pie into a trash can.
“Hello, everyone,” Mr. Gu’s friendly voice sailed from a pair of speakers. “I know I’m a newcomer to the mayor’s race and to politics, but I hope that’s a feather in my cap. In my work as an environmental lawyer, I’ve seen how people neglect this planet. Worse, I’ve seen how people neglect each other. We must change that.”
Clapping peppered the air. People pumped their signs.
“It gives me great pleasure to unveil my solution in the fight against inequality.” Mr. Gu pulled the canvas off the structure next to him, revealing a doorless, old-fashioned telephone booth, painted bright Javan magpie green.
Want to read more? Be sure to pick up your copy of Winston Chu vs. the Wingmeisters today!