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Real danger in the world of make believe.
Fifteen year olds Jake and Peter land dream jobs: roles as skateboarding stuntboys on a movie set.
But sabotage points to a jealous friend but who? As if the pressure of performing on a movie set for a demanding director isn't enough, the boys have an uneasy relationship with three local skateboarding "toughs."
Adding to their problems is a BMX bike gang determined to use ramps from which they've been banned. They'll do anything to use the ramps including befriending Jake's sister.
Jake and Peter are coached by the town's new skate park manager a former X-Games champ. But his flock of misfit helpers adds to the intrigue.
When police chase down their street skating and someone lands in the hospital, the boys know it's time to get to the bottom of who has it in for them, and why.
Skateboard Stuntboys is an action-packed story that never stops rolling.
About the Author
Pam Withers' best-selling series combines her passion for outdoor adventure with her journalism career. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times and Adventure Travel magazine. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: The Carpenter
The late August sun beat down on his tense body and mosquitoes whined in his ear as Jake Evans bent over the narrow deck of his nearly finished halfpipe, drill in hand and a screw between pursed lips.
"Now, where the heck was I going to sink this last screw?" he mumbled as its metallic taste seeped into his mouth. Then, "Aha."
But as he poked strands of sweaty brown hair back under his baseball cap and lifted the drill to its target, two screeches made his body jerk around: the sound of a skateboard sliding down the metal stair railing behind him, and the "Yahoo!" of his buddy Peter Montpetit landing victoriously just inches from Jake's work-in-progress.
The screw in Jake's mouth dropped out, but a bitter, unwanted taste remained: jealousy.
"Jake, my man, it's comin' along, lookin' good. But all work and no play can make a dude boring. Dare you to grind the rail fifteen steps, old buddy, one for each year we've lived. And we do know how to live, don't we?"
Jake, wiping sweat from his brow and casting his eyes on the grass for his lost screw, tried hard to keep his tone even.
"Peter, I'd just as soon make it to sixteen. I'm not ready for that rail. And if you hadn't noticed, I seem to be doing all the work on this half-pipe, even though I know you're going to use it as much as me."
Instead of prompting Peter to set his skateboard down and help, this only brightened Peter's smile as he stepped off his board and put a hand on Jake's shoulder.
"Never would I mess with the work of a master carpenter,' he declared. "I'm all thumbs and no patience. Better that I be the official tester -- andscope out the best places for us to do tricks while you're occupied. Think Sam will mind if I wax this ledge over here so it grinds better?"
In answer, Jake hurled the drill onto the ground and sprinted up the back steps of Sam's Adventure Tours' two-storey garage. But as he reached for the door, it opened outwards, nearly sending him tumbling.
"Oh, Jake, sorry. And hello, Peter" said Sam Miller, the bulky red-bearded owner of the outdoor adventure company for which Jake and Peter worked. Sam let the door close behind him. "I see you put those spare pieces of plywood to good use. I don't mind you boys having a little fun on your time off back here. Maybe you can teach me a trick or two on those dangerous-looking boards, you think?" He chuckled at his own joke, tugged his beard, nodded at Jake, then hurried past him down the stairs to a dirt path leading to his truck. Mid-stride past Jake's construction project, he paused and peered at the half-pipe. "Jake, you built this with no plans in two days? I tell you, you've got your dad's gift. He was the best mechanic and carpenter I ever knew 'round these parts."
Jake felt his throat constrict, but before his face could burn with unwanted emotion, he converted it to a steely mask and exhaled slowly. Sam's eyes darted to Jake and quickly away, as if he knew he'd said something wrong. Then he smiled overly wide.
"You boys been hearing rumors about a big-name stunt coordinator from Los Angeles coming to town this week?"
Jake, still smarting from the mention of his dad, merely shuffled his feet on the landing.
"We've heard stuff7 Peter enthused as he plunked down on the bottom step. "What's going on with that?"
"Well, I'll let you be the first to know. He's hired Sam's Adventure Tours to coordinate stunt work for a low-budget sports-action movie. It'll be his debut as a director. There's whitewater rafting and heli-skiing in it, even skateboarding. We're doing logistics for the stuntmen on the whitewater rafting and skiing parts."
"Skateboarding?" Peter's voice cracked with excitement, prompting Jake to roll his eyes. Here it comes, he thought: Peter who aspires to be a movie star and has the looks for it, Peter the all-around athlete who never lacks for confidence or energy. He's imagining himself the star of a film with skateboarding in it less than a nanosecond after hearing of it.
"Where are they filming the skateboarding, Sam?" Peter pressed as Jake held his tongue. "Are they using any local skateboarders? And why here in Chilliwack, British Columbia?" Peter was visiting from Seattle, just south.
Sam smiled. "At the massive, private indoor skatepark they're building across town, of course. Yeah, they're doing tryouts for stuntboys. And why here? Well, besides the fact that your fellow Americans like the way your dollars stretch here in Canada, you have to admit that this area has everything the movie needs: whitewater rivers, snowcapped peaks even in summer, and a spankin' new skateboard park. Not to mention a hardworking, reputable outfitter willing to serve movie moguls." He patted his chest in case they hadn't gotten that.
"But the skatepark isn't finished yet." Peter protested.
"As near to being finished as Jake's little half-pipe here," Sam said. "Gotta fly, boys. Stay out of trouble." With that, he hustled his bulk down the path with a silly little wave and another annoying chuckle.
"Gotta fly, boys. Stay out of trouble," Peter mimicked quietly in ~ high voice.
"Shut up, Peter," Jake whispered from the lower landing. "Stop being a jerk or you'll get us fired."
"Jerk? Whoa, old buddy, calm down. What's eating you? And whad'you say we cruise over to the new skatepark and see what's happening there?"
"Peter, we got Sam's permission to build this ramp behind Sam's Adventure Tours 'cause we weren't exactly welcomed by the toughs who seem to have staked it out as theirs, remember?"
"Yeah, well, if there are tryouts for movie stunts going on there soon -- we could get paid to do tricks, Jake. Forget a couple of posers trying to intimidate us, right? We're as good as they are any day. That's probably why they don't want us hanging there.
"You're as good as them. I'm not in their league." Jake regretted the words as soon as they'd left his mouth. Trouble was, every sport he and Peter had taken on since they'd grown up next door to each other, they had shone at equally well. Both were strong and competitive -- natural athletes, as their mothers liked to say. Even Peter's move to Seattle hadn't stopped the friendly competition between them. That had been the same summer Jake's dad had run off after a fight with Jake's mom. He'd disappeared without a trace and had never even written or sent them support payments. But the boys had kept in touch, had kept meeting up for sports events and adventures. Like this week: Peter was crashing at Jake's place before the school year would separate them again. But as much as skateboarding had become the boys' latest passion, for the first time, Jake was feeling outclassed by his best friend, and it was boring a hole in him. That, and the fact that next Saturday -- a week from tomorrow -- was his dad's birthday and the third anniversary of the day he'd disappeared. That double hit alone was making the week tense and sober for Jake, his mother, and his twelve-year-old sister, Alyson. But Peter had no way of knowing that.
"Jake," Peter's voice had taken on an earnest, hurt tone, "why are you so down on yourself? You could take those guys down a notch if you put your mind to it. You're way better than you think. You just have to want it."
Jake knew Peter was only trying to help, but the last words stung him with the force of a wasp landing twice. "Go wax your ledge," Jake muttered, grabbing the door handle, stepping inside Sam's garage, and slamming the door behind him.
He let the dim coolness of the place calm him. He felt his pulse slow, and the sweat on his body begin to dissipate.
"Hey," a woman's soft, gentle voice rose from a desk in the corner of the garage. "Wind catch the door? Not likely, since there's not even a breeze out there. Miserably hot today, isn't it?"
"Hi, Nancy," Jake greeted Nancy Sheppard, Sam's tall, capable manager as she rose from her office chair. "Sorry about the door."
"No need to hang around here, you know," she said. "It's Friday and you finished up hours ago, didn't you?"
"I'm just collecting my stuff to head home. Peter and I swept the garage floor and washed and vacuumed the passenger bus, and I changed its oil and patched those two rafts, like you asked."
"I know. You're amazing," Nancy replied, eyes searching his face as he paused, as if trying to decipher his taut facial muscles. "And made progress on your skateboarding ramp besides, I assume. Can I give you a lift home?"
"No, thanks' With some effort, Jake directed a grin her way. "I've got lots of wheels." He lifted his skateboard down from a shelf, buckled it into straps on his backpack, and grabbed his bike, which was resting against the wall. "So, tomorrow Peter and I are supposed to organize and mark the new snowshoes that just came in for next season?"
"That's right. That'll be just a half-day for you two. You may not even see me. Sam and I will be in meetings with a V.I.P. all morning?"
"A very important person," Jake said. "I know. Sam told us."
"Did he? Yes, the movie director. Well, we'll know more tomorrow what it means for the company. Have a good evening, Jake."
He had a feeling she was about to add something like "Cheer up;' but she wisely refrained.
Jake wheeled his bike across the freshly swept garage floor, out the front door, and around the corner. Once out of Nancy's sight, he leaned his bike against the building and whipped his skateboard off his pack. He had to wait up for Peter, he knew; he had to apologize for hls grumpiness. But why not skate for a few minutes first, on his own?
He had to apologize to Peter, Jake told himself sternly, because Peter was his houseguest. And besides, did Peter even know about the birthday/anniversary thing? Probably not, and it's not as if Jake was about to tell him. Jake shrugged out of his backpack and sat down on his skateboard. He stared vacantly at the thirsty grass of the big lawn. It sloped at a steep angle toward the quiet, tree-lined street in front of Sam's business, interrupted only by a set of concrete steps.
He sighed. During that dark first year after Jake's dad's disappearance, Peter had been so busy adjusting to his move to Seattle three hours south, he'd never really witnessed the turmoil forced on the remains of Jake's family. He hadn't been around for any of it: The initial expectation that Robert Evans would come loping back with apologies. The rising panic. The fruitless police search. The gradual shock, denial, and anger, and the unbearable sympathy of neighbors and teachers. It had all taken a toll. Jake buried his head in his hands. Worst of all had been the brief spell of highly embarrassing "Missing" posters and media attention. Eventually, Jake had bottled up both the good memories of his dad and the pain of his disappearance and swallowed them -- sealed as tightly as a medicine capsule. Flushed them silently into the battered sea of his soul. How could he have known that the capsule would knock against his ribs annually like a ghost banging to get out of a closet?
Jake set his jaw, stood up, placed his feet on his skateboard, and began to rock back and forth. This week would pass. It always did. He just had to ride out the lousy feelings until it ended. People who'd lost someone to death must go through the same thing, this cruel and uninvited anniversary pain. He had more in common with them than they knew. But at least they knew, for certain, where their loved one was, and in most cases, they knew that it wasn't by choice that person had left and failed to return.
The roar of a passing motorcycle brought Jake back to the present. He looked at his feet positioned on his skateboard, and let it begin to roll. Steady, he told himself as his board slid toward the nine steps down Sam's front walkway, which he'd been practicing ollieing -- in other words, jumping. Nine steps, three for each year his father had been gone without a trace. Nine ludicrously tall and deep steps of body-slamming hard concrete. If he could land his board this time, it would be a cool move, his best trick. He'd been getting close. If he could clear the steps today, he'd go back and make things right with Peter who was, after all, his best buddy. If he could jump clear, it would lighten his mood for sure, allow him to be as happy-go-lucky as Peter always was. Well, for a few minutes, anyway, he thought with a shadow of a grin on his face.
Shifting his left foot toward the front of the board, Jake crouched for a wide ollie and imagined that the board was super-glued to his feet. He shot up and over the steps, leaned forward, sucked his board up, and prepared to land both trucks (axle and wheel unit) on the pavement below. But the invisible gnome who inhabited the middle step of Sam's Adventure Tours' front walkway lifted his pudgy little arm and punched the underside of the board -- sending him as usual to a crash landing. As Jake lay defeated with yet a new case of road rash, he was sure he could hear the gnome cackling.
A memory from eight years earlier pushed itself on him:
"Mom? Dad?" Jake, just off the school bus, clutched his skateboard to his chest, ran into the kitchen, smelled fresh-baked cookies, heard the deafening thump-thump of the dryer dancing in the basement. He figured she was down there, probably hadn't heard him. No sign of his little sister, either. Tiptoeing now, seeing his big chance to check out the secret in the garage, he slipped out the back door and sprinted across the backyard. He paused before the door that his dad had forbidden him to enter until tomorrow, his seventh birthday It was quiet in there now, unlike yesterday with all the hammering and sawing noises.
He knew he shouldn't spoil the surprise, but he had a pretty good idea of what it was all about, which is why he was cradling his precious skateboard in his arms. A gentle push on the door, a backward glance. He was undetected. And there, before him, sat two little quarterpipes, just the right distance apart to play on. Reverently he ran a hand along the transition, the steep bit.
Chest bursting, he climbed up onto his father's masterpiece with his board. He hadn't done this before, but he knew every move from watching the big boys at the local skatepark. He placed his feet wide apart on the board, which hung over the drop like a diving board. He closed his eyes, visualized the perfect dropping in, tilted his body a little sideways. Failed to notice a shadow emerge from behind him.
Qops. Leaned too far back. He began to dive, heading for a nasty, butt-landing, head-banging tumble. Suddenly strong arms caught him, swung him up in the air, embraced him as his board clattered to a stop.
Jake clutched his dad's suspenders, rested against his ample stomach, looked guiltily into his face.
"Sorry Dad, I ruined the surprise, didn't I?"
All he got was a glowing smile and a bear hug.
"Happy birthday a day early, Jake."
Table of Contents
- The Carpenter
- Sam's Backyard
- The Evans Family
- A skating Shrink
- Right On!
- Peter's Day
- We're It!
- Under the Bowls
- The Perfect Double
- Midnight Skate
- The Kickflip Indy
- Garage Clash
- Final Shoot
About the Author