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New kid in town Roy Eberhardt isn't having the best day.
He's getting a beat-down from the school bully (never fun) when, face smashed up against the glass, he notices a strange boy running. He's intrigued…even through the pain and humiliation of having to deal with Dana, who has the personality of a rhino and the IQ of a bowl of oatmeal.
Meanwhile, Officer Delinko reports to the Mother Paula's Pancake House construction site to investigate some vandalism claims. It's just another boring day of work for a cop in Coconut Cove, Florida.
When Roy sees the strange boy again, he jumps off the bus (nearly knocking over a blond girl we later learn is named Beatrice) to go and follow him. He follows the strange boy to a golf course…but is hit in the head by an airborne golf ball and blacks out.
Yeah. Roy's life in Coconut Cove is off to a less-than-awesome start.
Over in cop-land, more shenanigans are going down at the Mother Paula's construction site. After poking around, Officer Delinko finds that someone put alligators in the porta-potties—which is both hilarious and also not. (Imagine sitting on that.) Delinko's police captain orders 'round the clock surveillance, which Delinko volunteers for.
Roy, meanwhile, is still obsessed with his Man of Mystery. He sneaks out and bikes back to the golf course. The good news? He meets the strange running boy. The bad news? The boy kinda ties Roy up.
But Roy learns his name, which is—drum roll, please—Mullet Fingers.
The next day, Roy learns that Mullet Fingers is Beatrice's stepbrother, and that he's living in the woods and not attending school. Beatrice and Roy are starting to get along (after the rocky start of him almost knocking her over) and this makes Roy even more intrigued by Mullet Fingers.
Things turn serious when Beatrice informs Roy that Mullet Fingers is hurt…and that he got hurt while he was vandalizing the construction site of the future Mother Paula's. Roy also realizes why Beatrice and Mullet Fingers are trying to stop the construction—to protect the burrowing owls that live on the land. But Mullet Fingers is getting worse, so Beatrice and Roy rush him to the hospital.
Meanwhile, Roy's parents get a call from the emergency room with news that Roy's been hurt. Don't worry, Roy's okay. He just let Mullet Finger use his name. But when Roy's parents show up, his cover is blown. The adults start asking questions, but Mullet Fingers goes missing. At home, Roy's dad gets the full story out of him.
The next day, Roy and Mullet Fingers go to a secret creek where Roy gets to meet his first mullet—a kind of silvery, slippery fish. It's a nice bonding moment between the two boys. But Roy isn't sure if he wants to get involved in any vandalism.
Taking guidance from his father, Roy heads down to city hall to view the paperwork for Mother Paula's construction. There's one problem: the file he's looking for is checked out already. The next day, Roy gives Mullet Fingers his mother's digital camera so he can snap some pictures of the owls. But Mullet Fingers has no clue how to use such a contraption: he's better at catching mullets with his bare hands.
The groundbreaking ceremony starts off smoothly… until Roy interrupts and tries to prove that owls are on the land. His plan is to show everyone the pictures on his mom's camera—but it turns out that the pictures are nothing more than blurs. Roy is crushed, and he thinks his plan to save the owls has failed.
But then Mullet Fingers reveals himself, he's submerged in one of the owl's burrows. A full blown peaceful protest ensues and news crews who were there for the groundbreaking now have a whole new story on their hands.
The demonstration makes the front page of the newspaper and a reporter comes to Roy's house asking him all sorts of questions. Roy's father tells him to give her the file that was checked out of city hall—it's missing the Environment Impact Statement.
The whole story breaks open and makes national news. Roy and Beatrice's friendship grows…although Mullet Fingers has disappeared into the woods again. The novel ends with Roy going back to the secret creek that Mullet Fingers showed him, where he (unsuccessfully) attempts to catch his own mullet.
But he vows to keep trying.