Read Danger in the Extreme Online

Authors: Franklin W. Dixon

Danger in the Extreme (8 page)

9 Soft Target

Frank threw up his arm to shield his eyes from the flying glass.

“We're sitting ducks!” Joe shouted. “Get out of the van.” He opened his door and rolled to the ground. He scrambled to his feet in front of the van.

A man wearing a snocross helmet with a shaded visor dropped lightly from the roof. He faced Joe, holding the ice ax in the air like a club.

Frank jumped from the van and ran to his brother's side. “It's two against one,” he said. “I'll take those odds.”

The Hardys heard a muffled laugh. “Try two against two,” a voice said.

Frank watched as a second thug appeared from
the darkness. He swung the heavy rubber track of a snowmobile over his head. The tiny steel spikes that helped the tread grip the snow sparkled in the moonlight.

“Uh-oh,” Joe said. “We're in trouble.”

The thug with the ice ax leaped forward and took a chopping swing at Joe.

Joe ducked and heard the blade whistle beside his ear. He nailed the guy with a short punch to the ribs, then danced away.

The other thug faked swinging the track at Frank, then smashed a front kick into his chest.

Frank staggered back. He couldn't get air. All he knew was that he had to keep his balance. His attacker stepped forward. Frank saw the track moving toward him. He lifted his left arm to block it.

The blow felt like being hit with a chair. Frank fell to the ground, his cheek and jaw thumping with pain.

He looked up. The thug was standing over him, track held high.

“You won't be baby-sitting Neal Jordan anymore,” the man growled.

Then it seemed as if a spotlight lit up his attacker. The guy quickly darted out of the light.

Frank heard footsteps as the two men ran away. “Joe?”

“Are you okay, Frank? Can you stand?”

Frank felt himself nod. He was still groggy, but he stood up.

He found himself facing the headlights of a pickup truck. Those must have been the spotlights, he said to himself.

A young man Frank recognized as a snocross competitor stepped out of the truck. “Looks like I got here just in time,” he said. “You two were getting the hard end of that fight.”

“We could've taken them,” Joe replied.

Frank rubbed the side of his face. “We were getting our clocks cleaned, Joe.”

“Speak for yourself.”

The other racer asked Joe what the fight was about.

Joe had some ideas, but he didn't think it was a good idea to share them with just anyone. “Don't know,” he said. “Maybe they wanted my sled.”

The Hardys helped the pickup driver load his own snowmobile up on its trailer, then got in the van and started home.

Cold air rushed in the broken side window as they drove.

“One of those guys had an ice ax,” Frank said. “The other one had a snowmobile track.”

“And they both wore snocross helmets.”

Frank nodded. “That means it probably was Rick Salazar and Jim Edwards.”

“The only question is, why?” Joe observed. “Salazar probably did try to take you out on the ice
wall, and Edwards played rough in the snocross, but it's over now. Edwards has no reason to be after me anymore.”

Frank told Joe about his attacker saying something about Neal Jordan.

Joe rubbed his chin. “Maybe Fred Vale put them up to it. He was hoping for a big blowup between me and Jim.”

“That's pretty far-fetched, Joe. Those two guys were trying to put us out of commission permanently. Imagine the headlines: ‘Two Athletes Killed After Snocross Race.' That kind of publicity would ruin Vale and the Max Games.”

Joe had to agree.

When they got home, Frank taped a piece of plastic over the broken window before they headed inside.

Joe found a note on the kitchen table. “Mom and Dad are out,” he told Frank. “They say congratulations. They saw my race on TV and they'll be at the medal ceremony tonight. Dinner's in the oven.”

They sat down to plates of delicious hot roast beef, carrots, and garlic bread.

“I've got a plan,” Frank said as he ladled gravy over his meat.

“Let's hear it.”

“Most of the athletes are staying at the Atlantic Bay Hotel, right?”

Joe took a swig of milk. “It's the only place big enough.”

“While you and Jim Edwards are at the stadium getting your medals tonight, I'll sneak into the hotel to see if I can get into his room. Maybe we'll get some clue about what he and Salazar are up to.”

“Sounds good,” Joe said, his mouth full of bread.

• • •

At a little after eight o'clock, Joe killed the van's lights and pulled into the service drive behind the Atlantic Bay Hotel. He stopped at the employees' entrance.

Frank was wearing black slacks and a white dress shirt. “How do I look?” he asked, adjusting his narrow black tie.

“Like you're ready to take my dinner order,” Joe said, with a laugh.

Frank did a mock bow. “I'm here to serve you, sir.” Then he jumped out of the van. “See you in an hour or so.”

When Joe was gone, Frank walked into the hotel, acting as though he belonged there.

A wide, well-lit hallway led past the employee locker room. He passed through a pair of swinging doors to his right and found himself in the kitchen. It bustled with activity. A chef worked over a huge gas stove, tossing some kind of vegetables around in a skillet. Other people were busy washing dishes and adding garnishes to great-looking desserts.

Frank kept his head down and walked fast. He went through a door at the far end of the kitchen and found himself in a little alcove with a cash
register and a coffee machine. It was the wait station, where servers calculated the customers' bills and punched in orders.

Frank turned toward the wall as a waitress hustled past. “Can you pick up some clean napkins?” she asked.

Frank held his hand up to shield his face. “Sure. No problem,” he said.

When she disappeared into the kitchen, he checked for a phone where guests would call in room-service orders. There it was, on the wall next to the cash register.

As he'd hoped, he found a stack of room-service orders stuck to a spike on the counter.

Frank flipped through them quickly. Some had no names on them, just the room number and the order. He was looking for Jim Edwards's room, when he passed a familiar name. He flipped back through the last couple of receipts. There it was: R. Salazar—Rm. 506.

Yes! Frank said to himself. Quickly, he grabbed a tray and some stainless steel dish covers from shelves under the counter. Now he looked like a real waiter.

Carrying the tray on his shoulder, he strode to the service elevator. He was up on the fifth floor in no time.

He stepped off the elevator cautiously. He peered down the hall in both directions. It was totally quiet. Frank headed to his right, stopping in
front of room 506. He knocked on the door. “Room service.”

He figured he'd act as if it was a big joke if Salazar came to the door.

No one answered.

Setting down the tray, Frank pulled lock picks out of his wallet and went to work. The door opened easily. He was in.

He flipped on the lights. The room was neat—the bed was made, and no open bags were in sight.

Coiled on the cushion of an overstuffed chair was a length of climbing rope. Frank ran it through his hands. It was the exact same kind as the one that was in the safety harness at the ice wall. Frank touched a frayed end with his thumb. It looked as if it had been cut, and he thought that it might be the rope from the ice wall. Again, there was no way to be sure.

He went to the desk. Now what are these? he asked himself, picking up a stack of maps. There was a road map of the state of New York. Frank unfolded it. He didn't see anything unusual about it.

The other maps were more interesting, though. There were no roads on them. They looked like pools of blue water, with waves running out from the center.

“Topographical maps,” Frank whispered aloud, “used for surveying and hiking.” The maps were all
of the Catskill Mountains and showed the elevation and details of the terrain.

What would Salazar need these for? Frank wondered.

He went over to the closet and opened it. Here was something interesting!

He reached in and pulled out a heavy target air rifle. The kind they use in the maximum biathlon, Frank noted. The only problem was that Salazar wasn't entered in the biathlon.

He turned the gun over in his hands. It was obviously almost new. The wooden stock was carefully oiled, and the blued barrel was polished to a bright shine.

Putting the rifle back, he checked the closet shelf. He pulled down a wooden case about the size of a cigar box.

Opening it, he saw two neat rows of tiny feathered darts. They looked as though they would fit the gun.

Frank was putting the case back when he heard voices approaching from out in the hall.

He froze. “Go away, go on past,” he whispered to himself.

The voices grew louder. Then Frank heard the sound of a key sliding into a lock.

They were coming in.

10 Break-in

At the stadium Joe stood on the running track with Jim Edwards and the third-place finisher in the snocross, Omar Korrel.

Fred Vale frantically adjusted the camera angles. He kept moving the three athletes closer together, as if that might prompt an outburst from Joe or Jim.

For his part, Joe stayed quiet. He watched Jim closely though, looking for any clue or sign that he'd been one of the guys who'd attacked the Hardys earlier that evening.

Joe was scanning the crowd for his parents when Jim tapped him on the shoulder.

“Look, Joe,” Edwards said quietly. “I'm sorry about being a sore loser earlier. You had a great race.”

This caught Joe by surprise. He hadn't expected Edwards to be nice.

“I guess I've been pretty angry lately about losing my sponsor,” Jim continued. “I took it out on you.” He held out his hand to shake.

Joe took it.

“I've gotten a rap as a dangerous driver,” Edwards admitted. “That's what cost me my sponsorship.”

“You don't think you're dangerous?”

Jim looked away. “I thought I was just doing whatever it took to win. Then I crossed the line and started playing dirty. I'm going to change that, though.”

“You'll win again soon,” Joe replied.

When Vale saw them, his jaw dropped. “What? You two are best buddies now?”

Joe and Jim smiled at the camera. Vale seemed disappointed, but the ceremony went off without a hitch.

Joe lifted the heavy gold medal off his chest and held it out for the crowd to see. The cheers were deafening, and the exploding flashes left colored spots in front of Joe's eyes.

• • •

Swiftly Frank replaced the box of darts and closed the closet door.

The key turned in the lock.

Frank dashed to the bed and dropped to the
floor. Too low! There was no way he could fit under the bed frame.

As the door opened, Frank darted into the bathroom. He climbed into the shower and silently closed the curtain.

He recognized the voices of Rick Salazar and Amanda Mollica out in the main room.

“I want to know why he's acting this way,” Mollica was saying, concern in her voice.

“What do you mean?” Salazar asked. “He always tries to steal the show.”

“But this is different. These are incredible chances he's taking. He opened his chute so late at the opening ceremony that I thought he was going to die.”

Salazar sounded impatient. “Amanda, you don't have to hang with us anymore if you're going to wig out like this.”

“I'm just asking what's going on.”

“It's all part of a plan,” Salazar answered. Frank heard him pull something out of a dresser drawer.

“This is gonna be the greatest stunt anyone ever pulled off,” Salazar continued. “But we don't need you if you're not up for it.”

Then they left the room, and Frank couldn't make out Mollica's reply.

Frank eased out of the shower cautiously. In only a few more seconds, he could complete the search. Going to the dresser, he opened each drawer in
turn. Salazar's clothes, his ice axes—nothing unusual about them—a headset walkie-talkie.

A headset walkie-talkie? Frank lifted the specially designed, lightweight radio from the drawer. It was the kind sky divers used to communicate with each other in midair. A plastic earpiece allowed you to talk without using your hands to touch anything. Why would Salazar need one? He didn't skydive.

Frank put the radio back where he found it, then looked at his watch. There was time to check one or two more rooms before Joe would arrive to pick him up.

He opened the door a crack. The hall was clear. Stepping out, he noticed the room-service tray he'd left outside the door. He wiped his forehead in an exaggerated gesture of relief. He couldn't believe Salazar hadn't noticed the tray and suspected something.

With his foot, he slid the tray down the hall a few feet. Now no one could be sure which room it belonged to.

If Salazar, Sammy Fear, and Jim Edwards were all in on something, Frank wondered, wouldn't they want their rooms to be close together?

He knocked on the room across the hall. No answer. He jimmied the lock and stepped inside. In the closet, Frank found a neat row of business suits. This was obviously not the room of a Max Games athlete. He slipped out.

When he put his ear to the door to the left of Salazar's room, Frank heard the television yapping away. He moved on to the next room down.

This one was also empty. He went in and immediately knew he'd found Jim Edwards's room. Clothes were strewn all over. Edwards's bright green racing suit was draped over the desk chair, and snowmobile parts littered the bed and floor.

He sifted through a stack of papers on the desk. Edwards had three letters from snowmobile companies. Each one said almost exactly the same thing: if Edwards won the Max Games they would seriously consider sponsoring him in the future.

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