Read Danger in the Extreme Online

Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

Danger in the Extreme (4 page)

• • •

At home Fenton and Laura Hardy sat at the kitchen table, listening to their sons recount their exciting evening.

“I've never met Ken Ardis,” Fenton was saying. “But I remember Agent DuBelle. She seemed very professional.”

Frank laughed. “She has her work cut out for her.”

“I'll say,” Joe added. “Neal Jordan is a better escape artist than Houdini.”

Laura Hardy brought more hot soup over from the stove and filled Joe's bowl. “I'm sure it's hard for Neal,” she said. “All this attention every place he goes.”

Joe slurped up a spoonful of vegetable soup. “I'm just psyched Agent DuBelle asked us to help. And then Frank here came to the rescue when he poofed. That was amazing. How'd you know he'd be talking to Jim?”

“A hunch,” Frank said. “Neal doesn't say much, but while we were watching the snocross he seemed to be a big fan of Edwards.”

Joe tipped the bowl and spooned up the rest of his soup. “Well,” he said, wiping his mouth, “he's going to be disappointed when I whip up on Edwards in the final, then.”

The Hardys all went into the living room to watch the late news. There, in the sports wrap-up, was a section on the Max Games. Sammy Fear was shown landing in the middle of the stadium, and then the footage cut to Edwards's landing his snowmobile right on top of Joe.

“If you can believe it,” the sportscaster said, “the young man on the bottom, Joe Hardy, was not injured in the crack-up. He later returned to qualify for tomorrow's snocross semifinals.”

Frank gave Joe a high five. “Excellent, man. You got your name on the sports highlights.”

Laura Hardy gasped. “Goodness, Fenton,” she said. “I don't know why we let the boys participate in such things.”

“Because if we didn't, they'd be here all day tearing up the house,” Fenton said with a grin.

After the news Frank and Joe said good night to their parents and headed upstairs to bed. The next morning, Saturday, was the first big day of competition.

• • •

It was seven o'clock, and the sun was barely up when the Hardys rolled out of bed and dragged themselves out to their van.

“Hold up,” Joe said, running back into the house.

Frank could see his breath as he started the van and cranked up the heater. Joe returned a few minutes later, arms loaded with gear. He opened the sliding side door and dumped in two packed parachutes and the rest of their sky-surfing stuff.

“Sky surfing's not until tomorrow,” Frank said.

Joe slammed the sliding door shut and climbed into the passenger seat. “I know,” he said, tossing Frank a chocolate breakfast bar. “I just want to have everything in one place so we don't forget it.”

Frank drove to the Metropolitan Hotel in downtown Bayport to meet Neal. The old building had a drive leading under an awning at the front door. Usually, several cars and taxicabs idled under the awning as guests checked in or out. This morning, however, a Bayport police officer stood at the door waving people on.

When Frank rolled in and stopped, the officer stepped quickly over to the driver's window. “You can't stop here,” he said as Frank grabbed his climbing pack and hopped out. Joe slid into the driver's seat.

“Just getting dropped off, sir,” Frank said politely.

The cop frowned. “Go on,” he said to Joe. “Get this thing away from the door.”

“See you at the games,” Joe said, closing the door and taking off.

Frank noticed that all the parking meters along the street in front of the hotel were covered with orange No Parking signs. He figured the Secret Service must be worried about car bombs or something.

“What's in the bag?” the cop asked.

“Oh,” Frank said, taking the pack from his shoulder. “My climbing gear.”

The cop grabbed the pack and opened it. He pulled out an ice ax. “Hey, buddy. What's this?”

DuBelle and an agent Frank recognized from the night before stepped out of the hotel. “It's okay,” DuBelle said. “He's been cleared.”

The officer zipped the bag up and handed it back to Frank.

Inside, as Frank and DuBelle exchanged good mornings, Frank watched an agent exit from an elevator across the lobby. The man made a small hand signal to DuBelle, then spoke briefly into his radio.

A minute or so later, Neal Jordan came out another elevator flanked by two more sturdy-looking agents. Neal was wearing baggy jeans, a big fleece pullover, and a candy-striped stocking cap.

“Frank, man,” he said in his totally relaxed way.
“Early, huh?”

Frank grinned. “Can't wait to get on that ice wall.”

DuBelle clicked her radio, and seconds later one of the black sport-utes and a two-car police escort rolled up in front of the hotel.

“That's handy,” Frank said as he and Neal slid into the backseat. DuBelle joined Agent Ardis up front.

“It's one of the perks,” Neal admitted.

Ardis steered them quickly through the quiet streets toward the stadium.

Neal slumped down in his seat, hands stuffed in his pockets, cap pulled down all the way to his eyebrows. Frank expected him to stay silent, but a few minutes into the ride, Neal started talking.

“Some of the stuff is cool,” he said. “You know, about being the president's son and all that. It's like being on a cruise ship—all the food you can eat, whenever you want it. People dressing up and stuff all around you. There's an indoor pool, a gym. They even let me build a kickin' half-pipe on the East Lawn. That was sort of cool.”

“What's not to like?” Frank asked.

Neal shrugged. “Being on a cruise ship all the time gets to be a drag. You know, the ship is nice, but you can't leave—you're in the middle of the stupid ocean.”

“I think I get it,” Frank said. “You like being the son of the president, but it stinks that you can never
get away from it. You can never just go somewhere to be yourself.”

Neal glanced at Frank. “Exactly, man. That's it exactly.” He spoke in a low voice. “Last night wasn't the first time I got away from them.”

Agent DuBelle looked over her shoulder and frowned at Neal.

“Once I climbed over the White House fence and went to see a late movie,” Neal continued. “The only problem was, it was easier to break out than to break in. They caught me when I came home.” He giggled. “You should've seen them, acting like I was some kind of terrorist trying to sneak into the White House. They were pretty embarrassed when they figured out it was me.”

“You could have been shot,” Agent DuBelle said angrily. “It wasn't funny.”

Neal shrugged again and smiled. “I was laughing,” he said.

Agent Ardis swung the truck into a parking lot across the street from the stadium. The ice-climbing wall had been set up over there, with its own temporary bleachers rising up on both sides of it.

Frank noticed the Hardys' van in the stadium lot. Joe was there, getting ready for the next round of snocross. Some spectators had already arrived and were waiting at the gate. Max Games employees hustled around getting things ready.

• • •

Back at the stadium, Joe threw his screwdriver across the pit area in frustration.

“Hey! Watch it there. You'll take someone's eye out!”

Joe looked up to see Amanda Mollica standing there, smiling.

“Morning, Amanda,” he grumbled.

Amanda knelt down beside him. “What's the malfunction?”

“The right ski is all twisted up. I'll never get through the next round on this thing.”

“You don't have a spare?”

Joe shook his head. “Edwards isn't the only one who doesn't have a sponsor,” he said glumly. “I don't carry around a bunch of extra parts.”

“Stay here,” Amanda said, standing up. “I'll be right back.”

She jogged off, and Joe went over to look for the screwdriver he'd thrown. He asked another competitor if he had a ski he could use. The guy said he was sorry, but no.

A few minutes later Amanda came jogging back around the corner, carrying a brand-new ski. She handed it to Joe.

Joe ran his hand over the smooth edge. “Wow. Thanks. Where'd you get it?”

Amanda didn't answer right away. “Hurry up,” she said. “I heard them announce the first semifinal heat. You've got to get out there.”

“Where did you get it?” Joe asked firmly.

Amanda stared at the floor. “I asked Jim Edwards for it,” she admitted. “He said he felt bad about what happened last night and he wants you to have it.”

Joe turned the part over in his hands. He didn't want to accept it, but the alternative was to drop out of the race. No way he was going to do that.

“Okay,” he said finally. “Thanks. Tell Jim thanks.”

Amanda smiled with relief. “I will,” she said. “Good luck.”

Twenty minutes later Joe pulled his snowmobile up to the starting line next to those of nine other drivers. He revved the engine, and it crackled with power.

As the green flag fell, Joe cranked the throttle and surged forward. He cut in, trying for the hole shot, but Edwards flashed by to take the lead going into the first turn.

Joe was in second gear as they roared up the big jump. He watched Edwards float up in front of him, then felt weightless for a second as he caught big air. He crashed to earth, using his legs to absorb the shock. Loose snow from Edwards's track shot back into his face, blocking his vision for a second.

The race continued like this—Edwards in front, cutting Joe off every time he tried to pass.

Coming around the last turn, Joe saw his chance. He crouched low on his sled and went to the outside.

Edwards swung out, bumping into Joe. Was Edwards trying to make him crash again? Joe gripped the handbars tight, but he could feel his snowmobile lose traction. He was out of control! He skidded violently right toward the stacked hay bales.

5 The End of the Rope

Joe leaned hard to the left. He was skimming along the hay bales at nearly thirty miles an hour. He hit a rise, and his snowmobile pitched savagely to the right. His repaired right ski had given out!

He slammed into the hay bales just in front of the finish line. The front of the sled caught between two bales as Joe felt himself go airborne.

He tried to hang on as the snowmobile turned two cartwheels, slamming end over end across the finish line.

The final jolt tore his grip from the handlebars, and Joe flew clear. He hit the track on his left shoulder and tumbled to a stop.

Instantly, he was up. He spun just in time to see
another competitor zooming straight for him. He dove for the hay bales.

The breeze of the speeding snowmobile washed over him as he safely cleared the bales. He hit the ground outside the snocross course and popped back to his feet.

Race officials were at his side in seconds. “You okay?” one asked.

Joe removed his helmet. “Fine,” he growled. “Did I finish?”

An official laughed and slapped him on the back. “You came in second,” he said. “But that's not the way I'd choose to cross the finish line.”

Joe walked over to his snowmobile. It lay on its back like a giant dead bug. The replacement ski Edwards had given him was missing. Joe looked back down the course. There it was, lying in the snow right where Joe had lost control.

“He set me up!” Joe growled. He slammed his helmet into the ground and sprinted to the finish area.

Justice Edwards stood next to his snowmobile, signing autographs for a few fans. A camera crew stood by waiting to interview him.

Joe slowed to a stop a few yards from Jim. “Edwards!” he yelled. “You gave me a bad part!”

Edwards turned, a look of surprise on his face. “Get lost, Hardy. I whipped you fair and square.”

Joe felt his face burn with rage. He lowered his
shoulder and barreled into Edwards, sending them both to the ground.

They rolled over a few times, each athlete struggling for an advantage.

Edwards tried to get Joe in a headlock. Joe tucked his chin close to his chest and smashed an uppercut into Jim's stomach.

Edwards groaned.

Joe stood up, grabbing Edwards by the collar of his riding suit. He lifted him up and slammed him into the ground again.

He was about to do it again, when four or five pairs of hands pulled him away.

“Chill out!” another racer shouted. “Fight's over, man.”

Two snocross competitors helped Edwards to his feet. Joe twisted free of the guys holding him and pointed his finger at Jim. “That's twice you've tried to knock me out of the race!” he shouted. “It won't happen again.”

“You're a loser!” Edwards shot back. “Deal with it.”

Race officials jumped between the two. “Shut up!” one of them said. “I'll disqualify both of you if you keep this up.”

Fred Vale came jogging over. “I'll take care of this,” he told the other officials. “Go on, get the next heat set up.”

When everyone had cleared out, Vale congratulated Edwards on a good race, then put an arm
around Joe's shoulders and led him away from the finish area.

“You and Edwards are doing great. You're the stars of the Max Games so far, man,” he said. Then he lowered his voice to a whisper. “Whatever you need for your snowmobile, I'll get it for you before the finals.”

Joe froze. It didn't seem fair that the contest organizer would help one athlete. “No thanks,” he said. “I'll get it fixed myself.”

“Whatever,” Vale said, standing back. “I don't care how you do it, just keep this rivalry stoked.” He pointed at Joe. “Let me know if you need anything, Joe. It's yours.”

Joe watched Vale go over to the camera crew to get some more face time on the local news. Then Joe went back to get his helmet and see about his damaged snowmobile.

• • •

Earlier Frank and Neal had arrived at the ice-climbing venue. Frank carried his backpack, while Neal hauled a nylon duffel containing his snowboard and boots.

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