Authors: Gary Paulsen
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are designed especially to entertain and enlighten young people. Patricia Reilly Giff, consultant to this series, received her bachelor’s degree from Marymount College and a master’s degree in history from St. John’s University. She holds a Professional Diploma in Reading and a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra University. She was a teacher and reading consultant for many years, and is the author of numerous books for young readers.
For a complete listing of all Yearling titles,
write to Dell Readers Service,
P.O. Box 1045, South Holland, IL 60473.
Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers
a division of
Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.
New York, New York 10036
Copyright © 1993 by Gary Paulsen
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.
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are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.
Duncan—Dunc—Culpepper and Amos Binder were riding their mountain bikes through the woods on the way to the library.
“What a great day,” Dunc said. “You don’t get many Saturdays like this.”
“Don’t try to talk me out of it.” Amos Binder pumped away right behind him.
“I wasn’t going to. I like the library.” The problem was, Dunc didn’t know if he liked it enough to spend a beautiful afternoon there. It was a sacrifice. He had to make those every once in a while for Amos. Amos was his best friend for life.
“I sure hope she’s there.” Amos was in love
with a girl named Melissa Hansen and had been ever since he got out of diapers, or so it seemed. Despite the fact that Melissa had done mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Amos when he nearly drowned and hugged him when he had turned into a dog and even spoken to him when she thought he was his own cousin, she really didn’t even know his name. That didn’t stop Amos.
“Why did you say we’re doing this?” Dunc asked.
“Because I saw Melissa doing her homework there once.”
“Once.” Dunc accelerated into a gully and downshifted to come up the other side.
“I know—it was two months ago. But if she was there once, she’ll be there again.”
Dunc sighed. They whipped around a basswood tree. They were deep in the woods now, so deep they couldn’t even hear the city traffic.
“She called me yesterday,” Amos said.
“Yeah, well … kind of.”
“What do you mean?”
“I was out mowing the lawn. I was just finishing
up the B in my initials—I always mow my initials in the lawn first—when I heard the phone ring. It was Melissa’s ring.”
“Oh.” Dunc nodded his head. Amos swore up and down that Melissa’s ring was different from everybody else’s.
“I headed for the living room as fast as I could go,” Amos said. “Things were going perfectly—I mean good form, legs pumping right. I made the phone before the second ring, and I was thinking, all right, I’ve got it this time.”
“That I was still pushing the lawn mower. I ran over the telephone cord. When I picked up the receiver, it was dead.”
“Too bad. Watch your head.” Dunc ducked. So did Amos.
“Luckily, no one was home,” Amos continued. “I pulled the mower back outside and ran down to the hardware store to buy a new cord. Of course, Mom and Dad found out what had happened anyway.”
“We have that nice shag carpeting in the living room. Or used to. Boy, was Dad mad.” Amos upshifted to pick up speed. He flew off the top of a little knoll and didn’t land until he reached the bottom. He loved doing that.
“Did you hear about the burglary ring?” Amos also liked to talk while mountain biking. Dunc liked to pay attention to what he was doing. That’s why Dunc always came out of the woods without a scratch, while Amos always resembled a television commercial for Band-Aids.
“They struck again,” he said.
“That makes seven robberies in seven days.”
Dunc slowed down for a second to let a chipmunk pass. “What did they steal this time?”
“An antique gold nosering.”
“I guess that’s no big surprise.” So far, the burglars had stolen an old portrait, three spoons, a washtub, and various other odds and ends. At first glance it would seem that none of it was worth much, but first glances aren’t always right. The washtub originally belonged to Napoleon and was worth close to half a million dollars.
“Are there any clues?” Dunc asked.
“Not for sure—there’s a maybe clue in the paper. I’ll show it to you when we get to the library.”
Dunc powered up a hill and stopped on its summit. He waited. Amos stopped beside him. They looked down.
Below them lay Ghastly Gulch. At the bottom flowed Suicide Stream. Together they had claimed more than one inexperienced biker. It had taken Dunc three runs before he figured out how to cross it. Amos had tried a hundred times and still hadn’t figured it out.
“You know what to do, right?” Dunc asked.
“Right. Hang on, close my eyes, and pray.”
“No. Gun it as fast as you can until you get to the big oak tree, then veer to the right to avoid the root. Swing back to the left, or you’ll hit the rocks in the stream. Got it?”
Dunc started down.
“—I think.” Amos followed him.
Just do what Dunc does
, he said to himself.
Dunc hunched forward. So did Amos. Dunc swerved right when he reached the oak tree. So
did Amos. Dunc ducked under a low branch of a maple tree.
He ducked too soon. When he straightened up again he hadn’t cleared the branch.
It wasn’t a pretty sight.
His arms flew up for protection. He managed to get by the branch with only a few leaves and twigs hitting his face. But since his hands were off the handlebars, when he was supposed to turn left, he couldn’t. His front tire hit a rock, and the bike flew up in the air.
When Dunc reached the top on the other side he looked back. Amos’s bike was coming up the hill by itself.
Amos was kissing a tree.
“Quit fooling around, Amos.”
Amos peeled his face off. The imprint of the bark was driven into his cheeks.
“Are you all right?”
Amos nodded. “I’m getting better.” He pulled a maple leaf out of his left nostril.
“What do you mean?”
“I didn’t almost kill myself until
the oak tree. That’s the best I’ve ever done. Next time, I won’t almost kill myself until after the stream.”
He grabbed his bike as it rolled back toward him and ran up the hill.
“Let’s get going,” he said. “Melissa might be there right now.”
“I’m bored, Dunc.” Amos folded up the newspaper and set it on the table.
“This was your idea.” Dunc studied his book.
“I know, but it’s almost five o’clock.” He sighed. “I don’t think she’s going to show. Let’s go.”
“Not now. I’m interested in this.”
“I don’t have anything to do.”
“Finish the newspaper.”
“I already read all the important parts.”
Dunc looked up. “Like what?”
“The funnies and the sports page.”
“Those are the important parts?”
“Sure. In the Foofy the Dog strip, Foofy tried to get the dog food out of the cupboard, and—”
“Why don’t you read the front page? Find out what’s happening in the world.”
“I already know—nothing. Melissa didn’t show up.”
“I’m not leaving until I finish this chapter. Here—read the newspaper article about the burglary ring.”
“All right.” Amos picked the paper back up. “Here’s that clue I told you about. It’s an ad in the Personals column with yesterday’s date and the numbers fifteen, four, and twenty, the letter P, the word
, and the name
on it. The police think it might be a clue—that’s what it said in the article anyway.”
“It doesn’t make much sense, does it?” Dunc looked up.
“What about Mr. Zipzoo?”
“Maybe he’s the ringleader.”
Dunc concentrated on his book again.
“What are you reading?” Amos asked.
“It’s a book about parasitic nematodes.”
“Todes. Nematodes. Roundworms.”
Amos wrinkled up his face. “That’s gross. Why would you want to read a book like that?”
“It’s fascinating. Most of them are microscopic, but the Guinea roundworm can grow to over three feet long. Look, here’s a picture of it.”