Authors: Gary Paulsen
AN UNDERGROUND PRISON
Suddenly the truck plunged straight downward and stopped. They could hear the two men get out and slam the doors but couldn’t see anything. It was silent for a few minutes and then they heard Ripper yelling.
“Hurry and get it covered up. It’ll be daylight soon and we don’t want no nosy neighbors seeing anything.”
Something loud crashed over their heads, and they could hear dirt and bits of gravel hitting the top of the truck. It happened again and again. The last sound they heard was the scrape of a shovel picking up more dirt. Then it was quiet.
“I don’t like it,” Mitch said. “Something’s wrong. Real wrong.”
Roman moved to the windows. Nothing was visible. He tried the door. It was locked.
“Where do you think we are?” Woody asked. “It’s really getting cold in here.”
Roman hit the back door with his fist. “I’ll tell you where we are. We’re buried alive!”
an imprint of
Random House Children’s Books
a division of Random House, Inc
New York, New York 10036
Copyright © 1995 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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Interior illustration by Michael David Biegel
Real adventure is many things—it’s danger and daring and sometimes even a struggle for life or death. From competing in the Iditarod dogsled race across Alaska to sailing the Pacific Ocean, I’ve experienced some of this adventure myself. I try to capture this spirit in my stories, and each time I sit down to write, that challenge is a bit of an adventure in itself.
You’re all a part of this adventure as well. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of talking with many of you in schools, and this book is the result of hearing firsthand what you want to read about most—power-packed action and excitement.
You asked for it—so hang on tight while we jump into another thrilling story in my World of Adventure.
Roman Sanchez sat in the back of the classroom pretending to be asleep the way he always did. The bell had rung over ten minutes ago and the teacher was late. A paper airplane shot past Roman’s head, just clipping his ear. He slowly opened one eye and looked up.
Woody—“the Worm”—Winslow was reaching cautiously for the plane when he noticed Roman stirring. He turned to run, but it was too late. Roman already had him by the back of his coat.
“Stuff the Worm in the trash can!” Jeff Dodsen
yelled. Jeff was the captain of the Mason City Mustangs football team and the most popular kid in school. He started clapping and the whole class took up the chant.
“Stuff him. Stuff him.…”
Woody closed his eyes and waited for sure death.
It didn’t happen.
Roman simply hauled Woody across the floor to his desk and dropped him like a puppy on the seat. Then the tall, quiet, dark-haired boy returned to his own desk, slid in, leaned back, pulled his cap low, and tried his best to get comfortable again.
The door opened and Miss Bently rushed in, carrying an armload of papers that smelled like fresh ditto fluid. She adjusted her glasses and looked disapprovingly at the paper wads and airplanes lying on the floor.
She cleared her throat. “Sorry to be late, class. Mr. Smathers was running off his semester tests, too, and as you know there’s only one ditto machine, so I had to wait my turn.”
Mitch Tyson, the president of the student
council, grinned up at her. “So does this mean we don’t have to take the test now? Because we all know you wouldn’t want us to be short on time and rush through it.”
Miss Bently began passing out the test papers. “Nice try, Mitch. But no cigar. We still have plenty of time.”
Silently the door behind her opened and closed. Two men wearing ski masks and dark clothes entered.
Someone in the front row screamed.
Miss Bently turned. The men were pointing guns at her and the class. She clutched the papers to her chest and backed up to her desk. “Wha … What is the meaning of this?”
The shorter man moved menacingly toward her, still pointing the gun. “School’s out, Teacher. Have the kiddies all line up. We’re going on a little field trip.”
Miss Bently hesitated. The man slammed her against the desk, knocking the test papers from her hands. “I’m not playing games here, Teach. If you don’t want nobody hurt you better line ’em up.
Frantically Miss Bently motioned for the
students to move away from their desks. They scrambled to obey, spilling books to the floor on their way.
The larger of the two gunmen, an enormous man with long, curly black hair pulled back in a ponytail, opened the door a crack and looked out into the hall. “It’s clear, Ripper. Let’s go.”
The short man walked up and down in front of the kids, swinging his gun carelessly. “Listen up, students. We’re all going to follow Spoon here, right down this hall and out the double doors. If you want to live, don’t get out of line and don’t make any noise. There’s a school bus parked right outside the door—everybody gets on.”
Anyone watching Miss Bently’s class walk down the hall and across the school parking lot would have marveled at their seemingly perfect behavior. Not one student stepped out of the single-file line, and no one made a sound.
A closer look would have revealed the fear and confusion etched on their faces. One girl stumbled and fell to her knees. She was hastily helped to her feet by the student behind her so that there was no visible delay and their captors would have no reason to notice them.
Miss Bently’s face had lost all color as she moved along behind her students. She felt somehow responsible for what was happening, but her mind refused to believe that any of this was real.
Inside the bus the two men pulled off their masks. The big man with the ponytail, the one called Spoon, slid into the driver’s seat, closed the door, and cautiously pulled out of the parking lot onto the street.
The short man moved up and down the aisle, silently watching the kids. He was younger than the other man, blond and muscular. His mean, lizardlike eyes constantly searched the faces of the cowering students. His gaze lingered warily for a moment on a big kid with dark hair in the back of the bus who seemed to be sleeping. Then the man moved on.