Danger in the Extreme (13 page)

“Just a rock,” Neal said. “A rock flew past. For a second I thought it was Frank. Sorry, man.”

Joe didn't reply. He stared down at his clenched fists.

Frank scrambled to find a foothold. He didn't know how long the axes would stay secure. His left boot caught on something firm. He looked down. A gnarled root grew out of the rock face.

Frank clawed his way up, finally reaching the top.

He tossed the ice axes aside and surveyed the clearing. For a minute he thought he'd have to leave Joe and Neal while he went for help, but then he spotted Salazar's coil of rope next to the trunk of a tree.

Making sure the rope was secure, Frank tossed it over the side. “Come on up!”

He helped Neal up first. As they were waiting for Joe to reach the top, they heard the helicopter approaching.

Frank offered Joe a hand, and the chopper broke over the clearing, blades thumping.

Neal waved wildly. “Down here! Down here!”

Frank smiled. “They see us,” he said.

The pilot set the big chopper down at a wide spot in the clearing about fifty yards away. The three teens ran to meet it.

They ducked under the pounding blades, the downdraft whipping at their hair.

Agent DuBelle slid the side door open and helped Neal aboard. “Get on!” she yelled.

Joe shook his head. “It was Salazar, Fear, and Agent Ardis!” he shouted. “They got away on snowmobiles.”

DuBelle's eyes narrowed in anger. “Agent Ardis was involved?”

Neal nodded.

“Amanda Mollica's waiting for them somewhere nearby with their plane,” Frank said. “Find her. Joe and I are going after Ardis.”

DuBelle started to protest, but the Hardys weren't listening. They both sprinted for the snowmobile Joe had disabled earlier.

“The tracks lead south,” Frank said, taking one of the maps from his pocket.

The chopper took off as Joe reconnected the spark plug wire and fired the sled to life.

“Here!” Frank said, pointing to a red mark on the map. “Here's a flat area long enough to land a small plane. That's where they're going.”

He and Frank jumped on and rocketed after the kidnappers.

Joe stayed away from the trees. “I figure they're traveling through the woods,” he said. “They don't want to be spotted from the air.”

“Right!” Frank shouted. “We'll make better time if we stay in the clearing.”

Joe hugged the edge of the ravine. They roared along, and sooner than they expected, Frank caught a glimpse of a snowmobile through the trees.

“Just ahead!” he shouted. “We're right on top of them.”

Fear and Salazar were on one sled, while Ardis drove the other. Joe saw Salazar point back at them.

“They've seen us!”

The two fleeing snowmobiles darted out into the clearing so they could go faster.

Joe opened the throttle and surged ahead.

A cone of flame flashed from Salazar's gun as he squeezed off three rounds in quick succession.

Fearlessly, Joe pulled up right behind them. Counting on Frank to take the wheel, he jumped.

This time Joe connected perfectly with his target. He knocked both Salazar and Fear off their sled,
and the three of them tumbled and somersaulted in the snow.

When Joe jumped, Frank grabbed the handlebars and steered toward Agent Ardis.

Joe struggled to his feet. Salazar lay a few feet away, unconscious. The butt of his gun stuck out of a snowbank.

Joe turned to face Sammy Fear, who stood close to the edge of the ravine. Joe rushed Fear, confident he could take the skinny punk with no problem.

He grabbed Fear by his jumpsuit and tried to wrestle him to the ground. But Sammy was agile, and he managed to get free.

Joe went after him again, expecting him to run. Fear didn't run. He jumped. He jumped, disappearing over the lip of the ravine.

Joe stopped in shock. “No way!”

Then he realized what Fear had done. He ran over to Salazar and ripped the pack off his back. Just as he had thought—a small BASE-jumping chute.

Joe strapped it on, then pitched himself over the side and into the ravine.

Meanwhile, Frank had caught up to Ardis. He dove from his sled, knocking Ardis into a thick snowdrift. The two snowmobiles plowed over the edge of the cliff.

This time Frank knew the agent's weakness. He faked a side kick, then threw a spinning back fist.
His knuckles caught Ardis flush in the face. The agent crumpled in the snow, blood dripping from his broken nose.

Frank found Ardis's radio and called for help.

• • •

Joe plummeted into the ravine headfirst. Rocks that had seemed so far away, suddenly appeared to be rushing up at him at super speed.

Fear had a head start. Joe knew the only way to catch up to him was to let himself free-fall farther than Fear. That way he'd get to the bottom first.

He waited. He kept waiting.

Mere seconds before impact, Joe tossed the chute away. It opened with a powerful snap. The harness dug into his armpits as he slowed.

He slammed into the ground right next to Sammy Fear.

Fear tried to run before releasing his chute. Joe watched him get tangled in the cords and trip.

Joe laughed as he cut his own chute free and walked over to Fear.

“Sammy,” he said. “You look like a bug caught in a web.”

• • •

The next afternoon the Hardys and Jamal stood on the steps of the Bayport courthouse waiting for the president of the United States to pin medals of bravery on their chests.

“So,” Jamal whispered to Joe. “What do you think made Ardis do it?”

“Greed,” Joe said. “And Salazar and Fear got involved for the money and the thrill, I think.”

“They claim they had no idea Ardis planned to let Neal die in the cave,” Frank added. “But kidnapping the president's son—that's still very serious.”

“They were serious about putting us out of commission when they attacked us at the van,” Joe said. “Rick tried to dump Frank off the ice wall, and Sammy admitted he messed with my parachute. Those two are going away for a long time.”

“Mollica says she had no idea what was going on,” Frank whispered. “The FBI's still evaluating her statements.”

Two Secret Service agents came out of the front door of the courthouse, followed by the president.

After a short speech, he lifted three medals from a satin case and turned to face the three teens.

“I thank you,” the president said as he pinned a medal to Frank's suitcoat. “And my son thanks you.”

The president finished and stepped aside. Neal came up and knocked fists with the three friends. “So, you fellas are gonna spend the rest of the winter break snowboarding at the lodge, right?”

“Absolutely,” Jamal said.

Neal smiled. “Cool.”

When Neal went back to stand next to his dad, a crush of reporters surrounded the Hardys and Jamal.

“Frank! Joe! Jamal!” A familiar voice shouted. “Can I use you guys in my advertisements for next year's Max Games?”

It was Fred Vale.

Joe smiled at the camera. “No way, Vale. I think we're maxed out on the Max Games for a while.”

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

First Aladdin Paperbacks edition January 2003

First Minstrel edition October 1998

Copyright © 1998 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Produced by Mega-Books, Inc.

ALADDIN PAPERBACKS

An imprint of Simon & Schuster

Children's Publishing Division

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10020

www.SimonandSchuster.com

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

THE HARDY BOYS and THE HARDY BOYS MYSTERY STORIES are trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

ISBN-13: 978-0-671-02173-3

ISBN-10: 0-671-02173-7

ISBN-10: 978-1-4391-1399-8 (eBook)

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