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DOUBLE BLACK DIAMOND
"All those weenies are lined up waiting for us to hit a trough and eat snow."
The Bear Mountain skiers are tough. They love to hang around the Outer Limits trail. You crash and burn make that crash and freeze and they laugh. And clap. It's what they do for fun when they aren't skiing themselves.
And here my brother and I were, about to join the show. I hoped it would be a show that made people oooh and ahhh. Not ha, ha, ha.
"You worried?" Frank asked as we swung ourselves onto the ski lift. He waved to the people lined up with their stupid hot chocolates and their stupid smiles.
I snorted, as if I didn't want to waste words answering such a wet-butt question. Except I was worried. Not much. A little. I'm talking teeny. Outer Limits is ranked double black diamond. That means a trail of extreme extremeness. I'd skied black diamond before. Never a DB.
How much harder can it be? I asked myself.
The ski lift went up. I glanced down. Yowch! A guy in a red jacket hit a mogul in a not-good way. Can I offer some advice? If you're a bad skier, don't wear red. It makes you way too easy to see from the lift. And after the seeing comes the finger-pointing and the snickering.
"It's her. She's going for the package," Frank told me.
I pulled my eyes away from the red jacket and looked at the blond woman riding the chair in front of us. Yep. She'd just snatched the envelope of blackmail cash from under her seat. Now it was stowed in her little backpack.
She wouldn't have the money for long. Frank and I were going to get it back. Which would make a lot of kids at Markham High very happy.
They had trusted Blondie Blackmailer. They'd made friends with her when she pretended to be just another new student at their school. Really good friends. They'd thought she was the kind of friend you could tell all your most embarrassing secrets.
How could they know she made a career of enrolling in high schools in rich neighborhoods, sucking up all the dirt like our Aunt Trudy's trusty Hoover, and then demanding piles of dough to keep quiet?
They couldn't. No one expects something like that.
I was glad Frank and I were going to be bringing her down. She was an especially scummy scumbag, in my opinion.
Blondie dismounted from her chair. Frank and I were right behind her. My breath felt like it started going the wrong way when I rounded the first bend.
I knew the run was steep. But from up here, looking down, it was steep. I'm talkin' ste-e-e-e-e-p. Twelve hundred feet of vertical in a half mile.
After the bend you could go right and cross under the ski lift. Or you could go left a narrower path. Blondie went left.
My twin tips slapped the ground like I was trying to do a drum solo on the snow as Frank and I chased after her. At least I stayed on the skis. And on the Outer Limits, that's saying something.
I had to give her props she could ski. She could wear any color jacket she wanted, with no fear of the snickering and fingerpointing.
Frank was moving up on her. I spotted a deep rut line and rode that hard, my teeth slamming together the whole way. I was neck and neck with Frank now.
Blondie shot a look over her shoulder. Snow was splashed across her goggles. But I could see her green eyes widen. She was surprised to see us on her tail. Surprised and not happy.
Our blackmailing friend took us over another mogul. A mogul that would be the mountain anywhere else. Then she led us right toward a trench. She swerved at the last second and managed to avoid it.
But Frank and I didn't end up having that option. We plunged straight down into it and up the other side.
You didn't gain much with that maneuver, Blondie, I thought. My skis jittered over the crisscrossing tracks in the snow. I leaned forward, so far I thought I was going to face-plant. But the maneuver gained me some speed. I pulled up alongside the blackmailer.
Frank made his move a second later. He started to slide into position on Blondie's other side.
Then she did something totally unexpected. Make that totally insane. She whipped her body toward the tree line. And powered off the trail and right into the woods.
I heard Frank give a cry of surprise. But he didn't hesitate. He rocketed off the trail. I was right behind him and soon found myself on a nightmare natural slalom. No flimsy little flags here. Just lots of pine trees. Running into one of them wouldn't tickle.
I swung to the left. To the right. To the left. A branch slapped against my goggles. Another one cut across my cheek. I'd had about enough of this. Forget skiing. It was football time.
Arrghh! I let out a growl and pointed myself at Blondie. She was just past a nice-sized snow bump. I took it. Tried to get as much lift as I could. When I came down, I brought her with me.
Tackle! Can I get a cheer from the cheerleaders in the short skirts?
I ate snow as I hit the ground. Snow and a little blood from that cut on my face. Electric snowflakes bounced around in front of my eyes.
When I managed to sit up, I saw that Frank had Blondie's backpack in his hands.
I reached over and snapped one of the blackmailer's bindings loose. Then I yanked the ski free. Just as a safety precaution.
Blondie was an amazing athlete. But even she couldn't get far on one stick.
"Give me that backpack!" Blondie ordered Frank. I tried to remember if I'd ever heard a girl sound so furious with my brother. Girls usually get all lovey-dovey oooey-gooey around him. Even though I'm the cute one.
"Sure. It's yours." Frank tossed Blondie Blackmailer the pack but he held on to the cash he'd removed. He waved the envelope of money at her. "This isn't."
"Hey, do you think anybody would mind if the two of us snagged a couple of bucks before we return that?" I asked my brother. "I've gotta buy one of those T-shirts that say 'I Survived the Outer Limits.'"
Frank frowned at me.
My brother can never tell when I'm kidding.
"Don't worry," I told him. "I know we're the good guys."
Copyright © 2005 by Simon & Schuster, Inc.