Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
A Fighting Chance
Just then Chet poked forward with his staff, catching Bo Reid solidly in the chest. Reid stumbled back and fell onto his rear end. Chet did a little victory dance, like a winning prizefighter. He didn’t see Reid’s staff swinging at his legs.
“Look out!” Frank called, too late.
Reid’s blow swept Chet’s feet out from under him, and the big teen stumbled back into one of the wide brick chimneys. Daphne gasped as Chet hit the mortar with a dull thud.
Willingham pulled out a referee’s whistle and blew it. “Hold it!” he said. “That’s enough!”
“I’m okay,” Chet replied, pushing himself up off the chimney.
As he did, though, several of the bricks under his hands gave way. A low, rumbling groan filled the air. Chet looked up as the big chimney crumbled—right toward him.
“‘The Great Contestant Hunt Continues’!” Chet Morton read the headline from the
as though he were reciting Shakespeare. “‘Ward Willingham, creator of the hit reality TV game show
will be in Bayport this afternoon to interview prospective contestants for the show’s pilot episode. . . .’”
“How can a TV show be a ‘hit’ if they haven’t even filmed the pilot yet?” Frank Hardy asked. The tall, dark-haired eighteen-year-old regarded both Chet and the newspaper skeptically.
“Maybe ‘hit’ is part of the title,” Joe Hardy suggested. His blue eyes twinkled mischievously, and a broad grin spread across his handsome face. “You know, like Marvelous Marvin Haggler—who added
‘Marvelous’ to his legal name so announcers would use it when he entered the ring.”
Iola Morton put down her forkful of salad and cocked an eyebrow at her boyfriend. “So, you’re suggesting that the name of this show is
The Hit Reality TV Game Show: Warehouse Rumble
? That’s a bit long, isn’t it?”
Callie Shaw, who was sitting at the lunchroom table opposite her boyfriend, Frank, shrugged. “It could be true,” she said. “TV people do strange things to get attention.”
Daphne Soesbee, the pretty redhead sitting at Chet’s elbow, pursed her lips in thought. “Ward Willingham was the producer of
TV’s Greatest Cop Arrests,
” she said. “That show was a hit. Maybe that’s what the article means.”
“So, if you have one hit show, then the next one is automatically a hit too?” Frank asked.
“Sneer if you want,” Chet replied amiably. “But I think this could be our big chance.”
Chet’s sister, Iola, frowned. “Big chance for
?” she asked.
“Fame . . . fortune . . . all the usual stuff,” Chet replied. He puffed up his chest, preened his sandy hair in movie star fashion, and shot the rest of the group a million-dollar smile. Chet had always dreamed of fame, and liked opportunities like this. “I’m gonna try out. Want to come with me, Daphne? The article says they need teams of two people.”
“Sure,” Daphne said, smiling. “After sitting out the Halloween contest that my mom ran, this might be a good chance to pick up a few bucks.”
Joe took the paper from Chet. “It says here that the game is a treasure hunt that will involve both physical challenges and mental puzzles,” he said.
Iola sighed. “Don’t tell me
falling for my brother’s crazy scheme too?” she said. She tousled Joe’s blond hair playfully.
“Hey, we’re off from school for the rest of the week for teacher conferences,” Joe said. “TV auditions sound like fun.”
“I agree,” Frank said. He finished his carton of milk and crumpled it with one hand. “Want a partner, bro? Or are you teaming up with Iola?”
“Oh no,” Iola said. “Not me. I’ve got better things to do this week than humiliate myself on television.”
“Me too,” Callie added, smiling at Frank. “Iola and I promised to help out at the food pantry during our spare time. So you and your brother are free to run around like crazy men, trying to impress TV producers.”
“Well, the trying-to-impress-TV-producers part would be new,” Chet said, “but the running around like madmen—”
“How would anyone tell the difference?” Daphne asked, finishing his thought.
All four teens laughed.
Chet, Daphne, and the brothers decided to carpool out to the auditions after classes. They dropped off their school stuff at their homes, then headed for the address the newspaper had given for the show auditions.
Bayshore Road wound northeast from the center of town, past business offices and the waterfront park all the way to the old warehouse district on the north shore of Barmet Bay. The warehouses and factories lining the inlet were old and had fallen into disuse many years ago. Tall brick smokestacks still stretched crumbling fingers toward the sky, but no fires burned within any of them. The structures surrounding the chimneys still stood, though their brick walls were cracked and blackened, and Ivy had crept up many of the aging facades. Much of the translucent glass in the buildings’ high, narrow windows was cracked and broken. Rotten holes showed through the wooden factory doors; the corroded metal doors of the warehouses hung askance.
The warehouses had been built early in the twentieth century to serve both the factories and the bayside docks that connected Bayport’s industry to the world. The wharves behind structures looked as decrepit as the buildings themselves. Wide, concrete posts and slimy wooden piers jutted out of the water at crooked angles. Worm-eaten boards and crumbling concrete platforms rested atop the jumbled pylons. The wave-tossed waters
of the bay clawed against the piers, threatening to finally drag them under.
Frank pulled the van off the main road and into the wide, dirt parking lot next to the building. A set of weed-clogged railroad tracks ran into the factory grounds from the north. The tracks looked every bit as abandoned as the warehouse itself.
Despite the setting’s bleak appearance, more than a dozen cars—including a TV news van—lined the parking lot. Frank parked the car at the end of a row, and the four teens climbed out.
The Hardys and their friends hiked toward a sign on one of the warehouses that read
! They entered through a rusting metal door that appeared to have been repaired recently so it would hang right.
The interior of the building was no more impressive than the door. It was gray and dirty, with brick and cinder-block walls covered by crumbling plaster. The room they entered was large; its walls stood at least three stories tall and were capped by a corrugated-metal roof. A skeleton of rusting catwalks snaked through the air two stories up. Once, the gangways must have been used to service huge machines, but no trace of those machines remained.
The warehouse’s high, narrow windows admitted only a bit of light, making the big room seem as though it were trapped in perpetual twilight. Fallen frames and plasterboard walls, broken masonry,
and other rubble lay scattered around the floor.
Three big chimneys dominated the wide, open space on the right side of the room. They jutted up from the uneven wooden floor like massive brick pillars and thrust through the rusting roof overhead. Despite the shabbiness and disrepair, the sheer size of the place made it impressive.
A folding table had been set up next to the door where the teens entered the building. A well-dressed woman behind the table stood as they came in. “Here to try out?” she asked optimistically. The name tag on her lapel read
“Yep,” Chet replied. The others nodded.
“Great,” Ms. Kendall said. She gathered up four packets of photocopied sheets and handed one to each of the teens. “Here’s some information about the show, as well as a confidentiality agreement, a sample contract . . . and a liability release, of course. You can join the other prospects by the refreshment table, read the papers over, then return them to me.”
She pointed to a nearby makeshift waiting area. Folding chairs lined one wall. A table topped with a coffee machine, a hot chocolate dispenser, and doughnuts sat in the center. A number of other would-be contestants milled around the area, talking and sipping drinks.
“Mr. Willingham will explain the game and exactly what we’re looking for in contestants in a few minutes,” Ms. Kendall continued. “After he’s
finished speaking, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.”
“Thanks,” Daphne said, looking over the stack of forms.
Ms. Kendall smiled. “Good luck making it on to the show.”
The four teens headed for the waiting area as Ms. Kendall turned to greet another group of newcomers.
“Trouble,” Joe said as they approached the coffee machine.
“Where?” Chet asked.
“Missy Gates and Jay Stone,” Frank said, eyeing two teens leaning against the wall nearby.
Missy was short, thin, and had dyed-blond hair; Jay was tall and very lean, with dark hair and a sharp-featured face. Both of them wore beat-up jeans and black leather jackets with the word
painted on the backs. The Kings were a “gang” of local punks who specialized in shady dealings—though neither Missy nor Jay had ever actually been arrested.
“We can handle them,” Chet whispered to the rest. “We did last Halloween, right?”
“Hey!” Jay Stone called as he spotted the four friends. “If it ain’t the Boy Scout Brothers and their twin sidekicks.” He laughed, and Missy Gates snickered.
“Ignore them,” Frank advised. “They’re just looking to stir things up.”
“Yeah,” Joe agreed. “No sense getting kicked out of here before the auditions start.”
The brothers, Chet, and Daphne got some drinks and doughnuts from the refreshment table and then found a spot on the folding chairs relatively far away from Missy and Jay. They read over the papers as they waited for the auditions to begin.
A dozen more people filtered into the waiting area over the next half hour. The Hardys didn’t know any of them. A few talked with the others present, but most just stood in small, solitary groups, sipping their drinks and munching on doughnuts.
“Everybody’s putting their game faces on,” Joe whispered to the rest.
“Smart idea,” Frank replied. “’Cause here comes the game-master.”
Everyone looked up as a tall man with bushy brown hair walked into the room. He was as large as Chet, but not quite as stocky. He’d perched a pair of sunglasses on his nose, and was wearing a gold chain around his neck. A reporter with a microphone and two cameramen were covering the event. One of the cameramen had an
logo on his equipment, the other had a camera with a
—United America Network—logo and the words
roughly stenciled on the side.
Julie Kendall quickly got up from behind her table and fell into the short parade near the front. When the group stopped, she said, “Applicants, I’d
like you to meet Ward Willingham, the producer and director of
She smiled, and everyone in the assembly applauded—all except Missy Gates and Jay Stone. They leaned against the wall, unimpressed.
Ward Willingham stepped between the cameras, smiled, and propped his beefy hands on his hips. “Hey, welcome!” he said. “Glad to see so many people here this afternoon to audition for
!” At this, he thrust his fists in the air enthusiastically, and the audience applauded. Some began whooping and cheering.
“That’s the kind of homegrown enthusiasm that we’ve come to Bayport for!” Willingham said. “I know you’re all pumped up to work on this smash hit with us—and we can’t wait to see you strut your stuff.
“But first, let me tell you what the show is about. What you’ve read or heard about
doesn’t begin to capture the thrill of the game itself!”
“Tell us about it!” Jay Stone called from the back of the crowd.
Joe and Frank thought he was heckling, but Ward Willingham didn’t seem to care; his smile grew even wider. “
is a game that requires both strength and smarts. Teams will have to work together to compete and overcome obstacles. The game will have both physical challenges and mental puzzles. The awards will be amazing!”