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Chapter 1: Saved By The Bell
Frank Hardy looked up in surprise when the end-of-class buzzer went off. He hadn't been watching the clock. All his attention had been focused on the math problem covering most of the chalkboard.
Others in the class felt saved by the bell. Relieved sighs filled the air as kids began pulling their books together.
"We'll come back to this problem tomorrow," Mr. Patel, the math instructor, said. "For tonight, review chapter five. The secret to cracking this problem is in there." He turned to write on the board. "Also, work on problems three, seven, eleven, twelve, fifteen, and nineteen. If you can't do those tomorrow, I'll know you haven't read the chapter."
Frank scribbled down the assignment and got his books. As he headed for the door, Callie Shaw joined him.
"I almost thought we'd escape without homework," she said.
"Fat chance," Frank replied with a grin. "Even if it's the last class of the day, Patel isn't going to let anyone rush him."
"I don't know how he does it," Callie said, glancing back through the door. Frank followed her gaze. Their teacher, neat as ever, was erasing the board before he left.
"He's a quiet little guy, but nobody ever steps out of line in his class." Callie rolled her big, blue eyes. "Unlike Mr. Weak."
Mr. Weak, whose real name was Mr. Weeks, was Bayport High's new English instructor. This was his first year teaching, and his inexperience showed. His class could best be described as a zoo.
"It's a shame he can't keep a few people quiet," Frank said. "It ruins things for everybody."
"Yeah -- too bad nobody stirs things up in math class, instead." Callie gave Frank a mischievous smile. "If I get another of those questions about the speed of a car..."
She shook her head until her blond hair swirled around her face.
"You need trigonometry if you're going to be a physicist," Frank said seriously.
"Exactly how I plan to spend my future career." Callie burst into laughter at the look on Frank's face.
"Hey, not everybody is a tech genius, you know." She reached out and ruffled his dark hair. "Speaking of tech geniuses, how's it going with that brain-busting college course you're taking?"
"It's a challenge," Frank admitted, "and a rush. This isn't just a computers for dummies course. College seniors are taking this sucker. And I'm not treated like some punk kid who got in by mistake. They really listen to me."
"Why wouldn't they?" Callie wanted to know. She patted Frank on the arm. "Sounds like you're enjoying yourself."
"In a frazzled kind of way." Frank looked at his watch. "Nobody's going to be listening to me if I don't get to the university." He looked at Callie. "Especially if I'm going to give you a lift home."
Callie laughed. "Then let's move it, Hardy."
They stopped off at her locker, then at Frank's. Finally they made their way out a side door in the south wing of the school.
Frank had passed over Bayport High in a plane several times. Seen from above, the school looked like a giant capital E lying on its side. The back of the E was the original high school, built in the 1930s. With its red brick and central tower, the building looked like Independence Hall.
Frank had been to Philadelphia and knew that Bayport High was much larger than the national landmark. The school stretched two blocks long and almost two blocks deep with the additions that had been made over the years. The south wing, added in the sixties, had made the school look like an L. Next came the north wing in the eighties. Frank could remember when the middle stroke of the E had been added. That section held offices, a new gym, and locker rooms. A loading dock jutted out from the rear of the gym, with faculty parking on either side. Then came the paved expanse of student parking, and beyond that the sports fields.
Frank had parked on a side street north of the school, hoping to escape the dismissal traffic jam. To reach his van, he and Callie would have to cut across the parking lot, passing one athletic field.
As they did, the gym door banged open, and the football team headed out for practice. The guys were hustling along. One clown actually came out on the loading dock and jumped down to the pavement. Frank slowed up, watching his former teammates run past.
Callie slipped an arm through Frank's. "Do you miss not going out for the team this year?" she asked.
Frank shook his head. "I couldn't turn down the computer class, once I got in," he said. "Besides, Eddie Taplinger is just as good a quarterback as I was."
Still, he didn't move from the fence as the team broke into squads for different practice sessions. The defensive linemen began setting up tackling sleds. Eddie Taplinger stood tossing a football in one hand, while the running backs took off down the field.
"I think Joe misses me on the team more than I miss football," Frank said with a laugh. The Hardy brothers had made a good passing team in other seasons.
There was no missing his younger brother's short-cropped blond hair. Joe raised a hand as he charged down the field, yelling to Eddie to throw the ball his way.
Callie nodded. "Especially since that new kid joined the team."
"Terry Golden?" Frank shifted his eyes to another kid in a Bayport uniform. He was blond, like Joe, but he wore his hair longer. Golden was maybe an inch taller than Joe, Frank's height, and carrying a little more muscle.
"They're starting to treat him like he is golden," Callie said.
"He helped the team start the season with three wins out of three," Frank pointed out. "It's kind of hard to argue with victory."
"Not to mention that he matched Joe's record ball return," Callie said.
"And in the very first game he played for Bayport." Frank shrugged. "The guy is good." He looked for a moment into the stands. "In fact, I suspect he's already being scouted by college teams."
Callie stared at him. "You think so?"
"If you ask me, it's going on right now." Frank nodded toward a man sitting high in the concrete grandstand. He balanced a briefcase across his knees to act as a desk for the pad on which he was writing.
"That guy up there is taking notes, and Coach Devlin hasn't asked him to leave." The coach was talking with the team manager, both of whom could see the figure in the stands. Neither seemed to mind his being there.
"I can't imagine the coach letting anyone see the team practicing plays." Frank shook his head. "Not unless it would benefit one of his players."
"You really think some college is trying to sign up Terry Golden?" Callie watched Golden catch a pass from Eddie Taplinger. "Would he be leaving Bayport High?"
Frank shrugged. "Pro teams recruit right out of high school," he said. "Colleges have to wait for graduation."
"So we'll still have the golden one to win games for us," Callie said.
Frank winced at the nickname as he watched the new star send the ball flying back to the quarterback.
"Unfortunately," Frank added, "Joe'll have to live with being the second-best pass receiver."
"If you were the quarterback, you could cut Joe a break." Callie gave Frank a sly smile. "And what about me? I liked dating a football hero."
Frank responded with a long look. "Well, then, maybe you should talk with what's-his-face -- the golden one," he suggested.
"I have talked with him," Callie said. "He made me feel as if I should say Œthank you' for the honor."
Before Frank could answer, Callie pointed to the field. "Look! Eddie's finally throwing one to Joe!"
The quarterback launched a long, high pass down the field. Looking over his shoulder, Joe broke into a run, aiming for where the ball would land.
Movement on the other side of the field caught Frank's eye. Terry Golden suddenly launched into a mad charge, aiming for the same spot.
Callie blew up. "Is he trying to make Joe look bad?"
"Golden may be pumping it up for the college scout," Frank said. "You've got to give it to him -- he's fast." He shook his head. "But his little display may come off as showboating."
Still running, Joe shot a quick look over his shoulder. His eyes were aimed in the air, at the ball, not on the ground, though.
"Joe doesn't see him!" Callie's voice was tight.
"He's still on course for the ball," Frank said. "And Golden is right behind him."
"But, Frank -- " Callie cried. "He's not stopping!"
The football came spiraling down. Joe raised his arms to catch it. Behind him, Terry Golden came pounding up.
There was no way Terry could get his hands on the ball. But he would be just in time to ram into Joe....
Copyright and © 2001 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.