Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
Slowly Frank and Joe pulled ahead. They left
the pack of racers behind. One by one they passed the kids who had been out front. Soon it was as if they were the only people in the race. No one could touch them. Pedals flying, feet pumping, they raced in silence. The only sounds they made were their heavy breathing, or the occasional “Ooph!” as one of them hit a dip in the road.
They were neck and neck as they came to the end of the race.
Joe managed to get the inside position. For half a mile the boys rode next to each other, so close that Frank could have scratched an itch on Joe's hand. Ahead of them the finish line drew closer. Cheering crowds surrounded it on each side, waiting to see who would win, Frank or Joe Hardy.
Suddenly there was a loud explosion, like a balloon breaking.
“AAAAHHHHHHH!” Frank screamed.
Joe looked ahead of him. There was the finish line. He looked back. Frank was gone. Joe stopped. The voices of the crowd faded. The finish line disappeared. The course behind them was the dirt path that led from the Hardy house down through Bayport Park, which was just outside downtown Bayport. But there was still no sign of Frank.
“Frank? Where are you?” Joe yelled.
“Over here,” came a weak voice.
re you okay?”
Joe peered down into the ditch on the side of the road. Frank lay on his side, half under his bike. Frank shook his head. Slowly he got up.
“Yeah, I think so,” he said.
“My bike blew a tire!” Frank pointed to the front wheel of his bike. Sure enough, there was a nail in it. The tire was as flat as a pancake. There
was no way he'd be riding any farther until they fixed it. Then Joe noticed something else.
“Your armâit's bleeding!”
Frank looked down at his arm. Joe was right. He had a long scratch running down his arm. It didn't look
that deep, but it was definitely bleeding. And it definitely hurt!
“Ow!” said Frank. “I better clean that.”
“Yeah,” said Joe. “First we'll patch you up. Then we'll patch the bike.”
As the other racers started crossing the finish line, Frank pulled his backpack off. In a minute they would have Frank's bike all fixed upâand Frank fixed up too!
Joe opened the backpack for the first aid kit. The bag also had water, sandwiches, a tire patch kit, a Frisbee, a notebook (for any clues they might come across), a baseball (both Frank and Joe were on the local Little League team, the Bayport Bandits), and a mitt.
Joe turned the backpack upside down and shook it. Out tumbled their mom's lunch, her extra sweater, a bottle of water, and her planner!
“Oh no!” said Frank. “I grabbed the wrong bag!”
The whole Hardy family had identical black bags, which their father had purchased for them years ago. This happened a lot. Joe had once had to make up show-and-tell from his Aunt Gertrude's knitting collection, and Mr. Hardy had once brought Frank's science project to an important meeting.
“We'll just have to go get the spare patch kit from the garage,” said Joe. “Hopefully, Mom has some Band-Aids in here too!”
Joe picked up the water bottle. Frank rolled up his sleeve and held out his arm.
“Ready?” Joe said. Frank nodded.
Joe poured the clean water all over Frank's cut.
“Ouch!” said Frank. “That stings.”
It may have stung, but the water did its job, washing out all the dirt that had gotten into his
cut. Now that the wound was clean, Frank found a small first aid kit in a pocket of the bag. He dried his arm with a clean piece of gauze, then pulled out the Band-Aids. One by one he put them across his cut.
“Good as new,” he said. “Now let's get my tire fixed! But it would take me forever to wheel the bike back, and I might damage the tire even more. And we don't have anything to lock them up with. So you'll have to go get the kit, and I'll wait here.”
Joe nodded. He gathered up their mom's stuff and put it all back into her bag. Then he hopped onto his bike and headed home.
Frank sat down next to his bike to wait. It wouldn't take Joe that long. A little farther into the park there was a water fountain. Frank hated to leave his bike alone, but he'd be able to see it from the fountain. And he was pretty thirsty. He decided to go for it.
Halfway to the fountain a familiar dog came bounding over.
“Lucy!” he said. “Down!”
Lucy nearly knocked Frank to the ground, because she was so eager to lick his face. Lucy had once stolen a baseball mitt from one of the Bayport Bandits, but they'd become good friends anyway. Lucy had a long history of crime, but thanks to her owner, Mr. Mack, everything got returned eventually.
“I'm sorry, Frank. Lucy, come here!”
That was Mr. Mack, Lucy's owner. He couldn't keep up with Lucy when she was off her leash, but he was always close behind.
“Hi, Mr. Mack,” Frank said, once Lucy had gotten off him.
“Hi, Frank,” said Mr. Mack. Then he paused. “Oh no,” he said. “What happened?” He pointed to Frank's arm.
“I fell off my bike,” Frank explained. “I just finished patching up my cuts.” He proudly showed off his Band-Aid skills.
“You boys better be careful on those bikes. You go pretty fast,” Mr. Mack warned.
“Yes, sir,” Frank said. But Mr. Mack was already moving away, running after Lucy. Frank started walking again.
“Hey, Frank! Over here! Frank! Frank! Over here! Come play with us! Fraaank!”
There was only one person in all of Bayport who could talk quite that fast. Cissy “Speedy” ZermeÃ±o was Bayport's fastest talkerâand the fastest pitcher on the Bayport Bandits.
Speedy and a few of the other Bandits were playing catch right off the path, doing a little preâ Little League spring training. Before Frank could say anything, Speedy threw the ball his way.
“Ow!” Frank said as he caught the ball. He
hadn't thought about his cut, and it hurt to move his arm. He dropped the ball. Twisting his arm to catch the ball had pulled on the Band-Aids, and now some of them were flapping loose. They wouldn't re-stick, so Frank pulled them off and put them in his pocket.
“Oh, man! What happened? I'm sorry. Did I do that? Does it hurt?” Speedy ran over to Frank, her mouth moving as fast as her feet.
“No. I fell off my bike. I guess catching the ball hurt my arm.”
Speedy scooped up the ball and tossed it to one of the other Bandits.
“You should join us when you're done,” she said. Speedy looked around. “Hey, where's Joe? And where's your bike?”
“Joe went to get our patch kit. We have to finish our race first, but we'll join you when we're done. And my bike is in the ditch back there.”
“Cool. See ya later!” With that, Speedy was off.
Frank finally made it to the water fountain. He carefully stuck his arm under the cold stream of water. It stung, but not as much as when Joe had cleaned it the first time.
“Ew!” came a voice from behind him. “What are you doing? Don't you have a shower at home?”
Frank turned around to find Adam Ackerman standing behind him. Adam was the town bully. He and Frank and Joe had gotten in each other's way before. Adam was just about the last person Frank wanted to see right then.
“I fell off my bike,” Frank explained. He held out his arm to show the cut. “I was just washingâ”
“Aw, are you going to cry?” Adam teased. “Waah! Waah!” he yelled. He balled his hands into fists and rubbed his eyes.
“Boys!” yelled Mrs. Ackerman, who had come
up behind them. “What is going on here? Why are you making that noise?”
“I was just trying to help Frank, Mom!” said Adam. “He was crying because he cut himself.”
Adam grabbed Frank's arm and pulled it toward his mother.
“Ow!” said Frank. Before he had a chance to correct Adam, Mrs. Ackerman had pulled Frank to her.
“My! That is a nasty cut. What happened?”
For what felt like the fiftieth time, Frank explained.
“I fell off my bike, Mrs. Ackerman. Joe went to get a patch kit because my tire was flat. I just wanted to get some water.”
“Well, we're going to have to go to the park ranger's station. They'll fix you right up.”
“Butâmy bikeâI can'tâ” Frank tried to tell Mrs. Ackerman he couldn't leave his bike behind, but Mrs. Ackerman ignored him.
“Now, Adam, you stay here. With that hurt foot of yours, I don't want you walking any more than you have to.”
She waggled her finger at Adam. Adam put
on his best innocent face and nodded. The week before, while chasing some younger kids on the playground at school, he had fallen and hurt his toe pretty badly. He could walk on it, but he was still limping a little. Frank couldn't help but think that it served him right.
Mrs. Ackerman dragged Frank to the park ranger's station, which was in the middle of Bayport Park, far from his bike.
It was probably a good thing she did. Curtis, the ranger on duty, took one look at Frank's arm and tsked.
“That's a nasty cut. Hold out your arm.”
Curtis cleaned the cut, put some antibacterial cream on it, and re-bandaged it.
“Good as new,” said Ranger Curtis. He looked down at Frank and frowned kindly. “Now, be careful in the park, Frank! I don't want to have to do this again anytime soon.”
“Yes, sir,” Frank said. He turned to Mrs. Ackerman. “Thanks, Mrs. Ackerman. Now can I go check on my bike?”
“Sure thing, Frank.”
Before she was even finished speaking, Frank was off and running. Behind him, he heard Mrs. Ackerman yell, “And remember to be careful!”
Two minutes later Frank was back where his bike was. Or rather, where his bike used to be.
The ditch was empty.