Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
Frank pushed the medic aside and crouched by his brother.
“Frank?” Joe said weakly.
“It's me, Joe. How do you feel?”
Joe shook his head, then straightened his legs into a more comfortable position. “I think I'm okay. Got the wind knocked out of me, that's for sure.”
“That was a gnarly wipeout,” Neal said, helping Frank lift Joe to a seated position.
Vale stood up. “You're not hurt? Not even a broken arm or something?” He seemed almost disappointed.
“No, I'm fine. How's my snowmobile?” Joe stood up, and the crowd cheered when they saw he wasn't hurt.
Vale grinned and put his shades back on. “That's the spirit.” He turned to the cameraman. “Did you get the crash?”
The man nodded.
“Awesome!” Vale clapped his hands together. “Here, get Neal Jordan in the picture helping his friend Joe. And get these Secret Service agents, too.”
Ken Ardis went over and covered the lens with his hand. “That's enough,” he said.
“Okay, okay,” Vale said, holding his hands up. “I got what I needed. Come on,” he said to the cameraman. “I want to get that tape to the local
news so they can show it later tonight. It'll really bring in the crowds tomorrow.”
Agent DuBelle took Neal by the arm. “Let's go,” she ordered. “Joe's okay. Back to the stands.”
Another race official came over and handed Joe his helmet. “You sure you're okay, young man?”
“Well,” the official continued, “nobody even completed the first lap. So if you're up for it, we're going to restart the race in”âhe glanced at his watchâ“three minutes.”
“If my ride's okay, I'll be there,” Joe said.
The Hardys walked over to Joe's snowmobile. It lay on its side next to the hay bales. Frank and the official helped Joe roll it upright.
“The handlebars are a little bent,” Frank noted.
Joe steered left and right. “As long as it runs.” He turned the key and punched the ignition switch. The supertuned engine fired to life.
Joe got on his snowmobile and put on his helmet. He strapped it on extra tight this time; he didn't want the thing flying off again. He gave his brother a high five. “All I have to do is finish in the top four,” he said. “Wish me luck.”
Joe gunned the engine, and the rubber tanklike track bit into the snow and launched the snowmobile forward. He headed back to the starting line.
Frank joined Neal in the stands.
“He's going to try to race again?” Neal asked in disbelief.
Frank nodded. “Joe's pretty stubborn.”
“Nice,” Neal said. “I think I'm going to like you guys.”
The race started again. This time Jim Edwards easily pulled out in front.
“He's all alone,” Neal said. “No one's even challenging him.”
Frank held his breath. He could tell Joe was struggling to keep his snowmobile under control. “Joe'll be lucky to make it through this heat,” he said.
It became a race for second, third, and fourth. The crowd cheered every time Joe successfully landed a jump. The front end of his snowmobile shook and jumped as he bounded over the whoop-de-doos.
Every time he made the turn at the far end of the track, Frank lost sight of him. Then he would see the dark blue snowmobile pop up into the air as Joe attacked the jumps on the far side of the track.
Several racers smashed into one another going around a turn.
“Watch it, Joe!” Frank shouted.
Joe threw his weight to the left, barely dodging the accident.
Up ahead Jim Edwards launched his snowmobile high into the air off the last jump. In midair he
stood up and let go of the handlebars, playing to the crowd as he crossed the finish line.
“Wow!” Neal shouted. “Fat stalled air!”
A few seconds later Joe wrestled his damaged ride under the checkered flag to the finish line in third placeâgood enough to qualify for the next round.
Frank sighed with relief.
When he and Neal left the stands to congratulate Joe, Agent DuBelle intercepted them. “Time to go, Neal,” she said.
Neal's shoulders sagged, but he didn't argue.
“Hey,” Frank said. “I'm going to practice on the ice wall tomorrow morning. Want to come?”
Neal looked at Agent DuBelle. She nodded her assent. “Be in the Metropolitan Hotel lobby at eight,” she said to Frank. “The two of you can drive over together.”
Neal smiled and held out his fist to Frank again. “Later,” he said. “Tell your brother âRighteous race.'Â ”
As agents whisked Neal away, Frank went to look for Joe. He found his brother under the stadium, where all the riders had separate pit areas set up to work on their snowmobiles.
Joe had thrown his helmet and gloves to the cement floor. He had a wrench in his hand and was busy loosening the right ski.
“Nice work,” Frank said.
“Thanks, bro.” Joe stood up and dropped the
wrench in disgust. “My steering's shot, though. I'll never make it through the next round tomorrow unless I get this thing fixed.” He turned to his brother. “It was Edwards who ran over me, wasn't it?”
Frank nodded. “It looked like he did it intentionally.”
A female voice interrupted them. “He did.”
The Hardys turned to see a young woman about their own age. She had long, dark hair and wore a white jumpsuit.
“Hey, Amanda,” Frank said. He knew Sammy Fear's sky-surfing partner from previous competitions. “You saw Joe's wipeout?”
She laughed. “See it? I couldn't believe he walked away from it.” She looked at Joe. “You sure you're okay?”
“Better than my racer,” Joe said, giving his snowmobile a kick. “I'd like to give Jim Edwards a little tune-up, though. Only problem is, I don't see him around anywhere.”
“He's in a stall around the corner,” Amanda said, pointing down the wide hall behind the Hardys. “I think your head did some damage to his snowmobile.”
Joe started down the hall, but Frank grabbed him by the shoulder. “Save it for the track, Joe. You don't want to get disqualified.”
“Yeah, Joe,” Amanda said. “You've just got to
understand how desperate Edwards is. Remember when he got injured last year?”
“His sponsors dropped him,” she continued.
“He's paying his own way this year, and he really needs the prize money.”
“Enough to take my brother's head off?” Frank asked.
“Like I said, he's desperate. He'll do just about anything to win.”
Joe started putting his tools away. “He's always been dangerous. We trade knocks every race, but this is the first time he's tried to take me out like that.”
Amanda pursed her lips and nodded sympathetically. “Yeah. He definitely wants you out of the way.”
“What about you?” Frank teased. “That was some chance you and Sammy took tonight. I thought for a second his chute had malfunctioned.”
“Believe me, I had no idea Sammy was going to pull that stupid stunt,” Amanda said, shaking her finger in the air. “I was just as scared as you guys were.”
“Fred Vale seemed to like it,” Joe said, digging in his tool box for a socket wrench. “He's out for blood.”
“Yeah,” Frank agreed. “He seemed pretty disappointed when you weren't hurt, Joe.”
Amanda glanced around as if to see if anyone was listening. “I hear he has money problems,” she whispered.
Frank's eyebrows went up. “Oh? I thought the Max Games made tons of money.”
“They do,” Amanda said. “Or they will this year, that is. He lost money on the first two Max Games because they weren't popular yet. And he dropped a whole lot of money on that rock concert last year.”
“I remember that,” Joe said. “The lead singer got sick, and Vale had to refund millions of dollars in tickets.”
Amanda nodded. “If he doesn't get great TV ratings this year, there may be no Max Games next year.”
Frank gave his brother a playful shove. “So there,” he said. “You should thank Jim Edwards for flattening you. You guys are helping to keep ratings high.”
Joe slapped the socket wrench against the palm of his hand. “I'll give Vale something to see next time I run into Edwards.”
Amanda smiled. “I just wanted to make sure you were okay,” she said, turning to go. “On the other hand, if you get too caught up with snocross, you might as well give the sky-surfing gold medal to Sammy and me.”
“No way,” Frank said. “That medal's ours.” He waved goodbye.
After Amanda was gone, Frank helped Joe lock up his tools and cover his snowmobile.
With everything secure, they made their way back out onto the field. The crowd was cheering the final preliminary heat of the snocross, but Joe was in no mood to watch.
“Let's just go home,” he said. “I'm tired.”
The brothers skirted the track and headed back out the main entrance to the parking lot.
The lot seemed dark after the bright lights of the stadium. The Hardys' van was parked somewhere in the middle, but Frank stopped about halfway there.
“What's up?” Joe asked.
Frank pointed to a pair of steel doors about fifty yards from the main stadium entrance. A security light glowed over the doors, and a shiny black sport utility vehicle with tinted windows was idling right in front of them.
“That must be Neal Jordan's motorcade,” Joe said. “I bet they take him in and out through that private entrance.”
Now Frank spotted another black truck parked behind the sport-ute. Five Bayport police cruisers were spaced evenly along the drive leading to the main road.
A police radio squawked, but no one picked up the call.
“What are they doing?” Frank asked. “I figured they'd be long gone by now.”
“Something's wrong,” Joe agreed. “No one's guarding that truck. And where are all the cops who go with those cruisers?”
The Hardys heard footsteps moving toward them in the darkness. Frank spun around.
It was Agent DuBelle, her face pale.
“Frank! Joe!” she said, gasping for breath. “Have you seen Neal? He's disappeared.”
“How did it happen?” Joe asked.
“We had him at that entrance,” DuBelle said, pointing to the steel doors. “Agent Ardis drove the truck aroundâ” Her walkie-talkie crackled to life. She pulled it from her belt. “Agent One,” she said.
“We have officers stationed at the back entrance and sweeping the stands,” a male voice said. “Nothing so far.”
“Nothing at the front,” DuBelle said. “Continue the sweep. Out.” She looked at Frank. “He just took off. We lost him in a stairwell.”
Frank thought for a moment, then started to run back into the stadium. “I have an idea,” he said. Joe and DuBelle followed him at a fast jog.
Frank retraced the path he and Joe had just
walked, ending up under the stadium next to Joe's snowmobile. Snocross drivers from the last heat were busy parking their machines and talking over the race. Frank slowed to a walk.
“What would he be doing down here?” Joe asked.
Frank held up a hand as if to say, “Just wait a second.” He pushed between a pair of drivers and rounded the corner.
He stopped and pointed. “There he is.”
Neal was standing next to Jim Edwards's bright green sled, talking to two other young menâEdwards and Sammy Fear.
Agent DuBelle was on her radio immediately.
“Agent One to Agent Six,” she said. “The egg is safe. I'm inÂ .Â .Â . ah, sector sub-nine, I believe. Out.” She sighed. “That kid drives me crazy. Frank, good call. If you guys could pry Neal away from his new friends, I'll work on securing the area.”
The Hardys both nodded and went over to Jim Edwards's pit area.
While Sammy Fear was tall and thin, with long hair, Jim Edwards was about five feet ten and muscular, like a running back. His buzz-cut hair was dyed bright orange, and he'd shaved the word
across the back of his head.
Joe set his jaw to try to control his anger upon seeing Edwards. “Nice hair, Jim,” he said, between clenched teeth.
Edwards spun around quickly. “Yo! Joe Hardy,”
he said with a grin. “Listen, man. I'm really sorry about the heat earlier.”
“Yeah,” Neal added. “Jim says it was an accident.”
“I'm supposed to believe that?” Joe said, getting in Jim's face.
Sammy Fear stepped between them. “Whoa, keep the peace, fellows. It's over and nobody got hurt, right? Let's not get all hostile here in front of the president's son, eh?”
Joe held his ground. It was Edwards who took a step back, holding his hands up. “Joe, man. You gotta believe me. I ride hard. Trying to win, that's all.”
Frank turned the attention back to Neal. “I guess you're a fan of âJustice' Edwards, huh?”
Neal nodded enthusiastically. “Both these dudes, man.” He held up a Max Games T-shirt. “Check it out, Frank. They both signed it.”
“The young prez here tells me he's in the snowboard competition,” Fear said. “That's sweet, man. I'll definitely be there to watch.”
Neal blushed, obviously flattered.
“All right,” Agent DuBelle said, stepping in. “Time to go.”
Agent Ardis showed up and bumped into Frank as he and DuBelle led Neal away. “I told you having those boys watch Neal would only cause problems,” he said, loud enough for the Hardys to hear.
The athletes watched as several agents cleared the way in front of the president's son.
“Ardis doesn't like us too much,” Frank said after they'd gone.
“I guess those agents have a tough job,” Edwards said. “You can't blame them for being rude to people.” He held out his right hand to Joe. “No hard feelings?”
Reluctantly, Joe shook the hand. “See you on the track tomorrow,” he said.