MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK
“This is the last lap, Danny. We’ve got to catch up!” Lin shouted as she gripped the controller for The Bolt, our remote control car, in her hands. The little dune buggy launched off the Spin Cycle, a jump made out of an old washing machine in the middle of the world’s greatest dirt racing track.
“Wings engaged!” I pressed a button on the screen of my dad’s old smartphone. I had updated his SpyZoom app to operate the upgrades for The Bolt, our jet-fueled, electric-blue, highly modified, nitro-equipped, twelve-inch-long, remote control racer. We were in second place, but I could almost smell the victory, we were so close. Or maybe it was just the jet fuel.
A year ago some kids started racing RC cars in an abandoned dump, and it had really caught on. There wasn’t a prize or a trophy for the winner, but there were bragging rights, and for Lin and me, that was more than enough.
“How close are we to that orange hunk of junk?” Lin asked. She slammed on the brake button and The Bolt drifted around an old toilet bowl, half buried in the dirt.
We didn’t mess around with the normal races; we were in the Super Modified Team Class. A two-person race with one driver and one copilot. But the best thing about the modified team race was that you could upgrade your RC car in any way you could imagine. No rules. No regrets.
I checked my phone. A video streamed from a camera no bigger than an un-popped kernel of popcorn glued to the top of The Bolt. I had a perfect view of everything in front of our RC car. An orange truck with a homemade yellow flame job painted on the side filled the screen. It was twice as big as our car, spit glops of mud from its toothy tires, and it had a jar full of dangerous-looking green sludge bouncing around in its truck bed.
“I think we can catch him if we use Sonic-Earth Shake to boost us down the slide,” I said.
“All right. Bring on the noise,” Lin said.
Lin swerved around a bald tractor tire, then shot The Bolt over an old mattress. She aimed the nose of our car directly at a rusted-out slide that had once been the biggest thing in the Jefferson Elementary playground. The Bolt burst up the old slide, but before it reached the top a beetle-shaped car with eyelashes over its headlights blinked past us so fast it looked like a streak of sparkly purple fingernail polish.
“What was that?” Lin asked as the purple blur whizzed by and caught up to the orange truck.
“Do it again, Daddy!” said a high-pitched voice that we both recognized at once. “I’m winning, Daddy! Do it again!”
“Oh great, it’s Icky Vicky,” Lin said just loud enough for me to hear.
Somehow we hadn’t noticed her standing in the drivers’ area before the race started, but I glanced to my left and sure enough, it was her. Victoria Van-Varbles, the daughter of the mayor, Valerie Van-Varbles, and the richest kid in the entire county. Probably the entire STATE!
It wasn’t the first time I’d seen Vicky and her purple glitter-mobile at the races, but last time she couldn’t drive the car in a straight line, let alone pass Lin and me on the final lap. But one glance and it all made sense. She wasn’t driving the car at all. A guy dressed in a leather jacket covered in brightly colored logos was driving the car for her, and her dad was copiloting, working a large panel of trigger buttons to launch her store-bought, overpriced upgrades.
“She’s not even driving,” I said to Lin, but Lin didn’t care about that right then. She was too busy trying to win!
“Fire the Grappling-Grabber!” Lin said.
I tapped the grappling hook icon on my SpyZoom app and crosshairs raised up in front of the camera. I used the smartphone to line up a perfect shot, right at the back of Vicky’s purple RC car. “FIRE AWAY!” I shouted, then slammed a finger down on the launch button.
A small hook shot out of the side cannon glued to The Bolt. The hook buzzed through the air, then wrapped around the back bumper of Victoria Van-Varbles’s sparkly purple car.
“Direct hit! Crank it in,” Lin shouted. I swiped a command on my phone and a little motor inside The Bolt began to wind the dental floss back up onto the spool.
“Daddy, they are cheating! Do something,” Vicky said in a voice so high-pitched I thought it might crack the plastic windshield on The Bolt.
“Oh, I don’t think you can cheat in the Super Modified Team Class, darling. That is what makes it fun,” Vicky’s dad said, but that just made her mad.
“It’s not fun for me! Do something or I will!” Vicky said. She stomped her foot so hard I thought I felt the ground shake.
With the help of the hook, we quickly slipped right up behind Vicky’s car and the orange truck. The grappling hook was working perfectly, but I had one more trick to try and just enough time before we crossed the finish line.
“Ready for the Hammer of Doom?” I asked Lin.
“Oh yeah, bring it down HARD!”
“They have a doom hammer thingy, Daddy!” Vicky jumped up and down, and her black braids bounced higher with every shout. “Push a button or something! LIGHT THEM ON FIRE!” Vicky screamed.
“Get as close as you can,” I said to Lin. She bumped into the back of Vicky’s car, and it swerved over and buzzed against the wheels of the huge orange truck.
“Close enough?” she asked. But instead of answering I discharged the Hammer of Doom. The top of The Bolt split in two, and a big red hammer extended out. It was cocked back on a spring I had taken out of an old mini-trampoline. A second before it smashed down on Vicky’s car and the big orange truck, Vicky’s expert driver swerved and smashed into the orange truck. The Hammer of Doom missed them both, clobbering down in front of us, creating nothing more than a big splat of mud.
The jar of green goop in the back of the orange truck teetered and bobbled. Vicky’s dad grinned and pushed a button on his controller.
A poof of shiny purple glitter exploded from the rear of Vicky’s car just as the green goop tumbled from the back of the truck, and all I could see was green slime and purple sparkles. The camera was no use now.
With its engine full of glittery goop, The Bolt sputtered to a stop. The orange truck did about twelve somersaults, and then its race came to an end in a cloud of dust. But that wasn’t the worst part. Not by far.
“I won, I won! Did you see that, everyone? I totally won that race!” Victoria Van-Varbles shouted at the top of her voice, scaring every bird, squirrel, and human within ten miles.
Lin growled like a bear that had just lost its honey pot to a clever chipmunk. A bright purple, hair-bow-wearing, totally-annoying chipmunk.
Vicky spoke as she walked away. “It was fun winning, Daddy. But I want a grappling hook and a big hammer thingy on my car for next week. Oh, and a bottle of green goop, too. I’m never going to lose again!”
Lin grumbled, and I could tell that she’d had enough of Icky Vicky. I tried to grab Lin’s shirt to hold her back, but I missed and she took off after Vicky.
“Oh yeah?” Lin asked. “You’re never going to lose again? Want to make a bet?”
Vicky turned around and gave Lin a smile so sweet that I think I got a cavity by just looking at her. “Oh hi, Lin. I didn’t see you there,” she said, which was totally a lie. “Um, sorry. I don’t bet.”
“Well, that’s too bad because I’d bet The Bolt and all its upgrades, plus half a box of chocolate-covered raisins that you can’t beat me again right now,” Lin said.
“Oh, I don’t want that trashed-up car. Besides, I already beat you. Why would I want to do it again?” Vicky said.
“Come on, honey,” her dad said, putting his arm on her shoulder. “You’ve got ballet in fifteen minutes. We don’t want to be late.”
“It won’t take me fifteen minutes to beat you,” Lin said. “Or maybe you’re just scared.”
Victoria Van-Varbles put her hands on her hips and cocked her head to the left. The sickly sweet look on her face swapped to serious in a flash. “Check my schedule, Daddy. I need fifteen minutes to teach Miss Lin Song a lesson.”
“Let’s just wait until next week, Victoria, darling,” her dad said.
“Um, no. I need to beat her as soon as possible. I’m not scared of anything,” Vicky said. “Let’s do it today.”
Vicky’s father didn’t argue, and I could tell she was very used to getting her way. “Oh, all right, sweetheart. Hang on.” Vicky’s dad pulled a tablet out of his jacket pocket and started scrolling through her calendar. “Ballet at eleven. Lunch at your mom’s office today at twelve thirty. Then there’s soccer practice, yoga, and swimming lessons. You’re booked until four thirty today, Victoria, darling.”
“Lemme check my schedule,” Lin said. She pulled an imaginary calendar out of her back pocket, licked her finger, then started turning through the pages. “Nothing. Watch some TV. Corn dogs for lunch. Oh, look at that. Four thirty—Beat Vicky at the Dump Track. You’re already in my schedule.”
“Better make it four forty-five. I’ll need to blow-dry my hair after swimming. I want to look good for my championship selfie at five,” Vicky said. She turned and started walking away with her dad and the professional driver. She stopped and looked over her shoulder. “Oh, and on second thought, I do want that car of yours. Even if it is a hunk of junk, it will look nice on my trophy shelf.” She waved, gave that sugary smile to Lin and me again, then skipped away with her pom-pom braids bouncing around her shoulders.
“She’s going down,” Lin said quietly to me.
“Like an old tree in a hurricane,” I agreed.
Copyright © 2017 by Dustin Hansen