Authors: Tony Abbott
and the Golden Lizard
illustrated by Joanne Scribner
For my brother, Rick,
an original danger guy
and one of the immortals
It was a dark night. No moon. No stars.
A soft breeze swept across the rooftop of the three-story building.
The sound of footsteps running up hard behind me. I whirled around.
It was my best friend, Zeek Pilinsky, dodging skylights and exhaust pipes.
“We'll never make it,” I whispered.
“Forty-five seconds, Noodle. We'll make it.”
Zeek flashed me a big grin and punched his thumb up in the air. Then he trotted across the roof.
I love when he does that with his thumb.
But I still didn't think we'd make it.
I followed him to a low wall at the edge of the roof and peeked over the side. “Three floors. It sure seems a lot higher when you look down.”
“Hey, getting down is easy. The tricky part is getting over there.” Zeek nodded toward the rooftop of the far building. It was at least fifty feet away.
Zeek laughed. “Sure it is. For everybody else in the world. But we're Danger Guys, and we happen to have one of these.” Zeek held up a long thin rope with a claw tied to the end of it.
He's right. We
Danger Guys, a couple of buddies who get into some major danger stuff. And right then, we were smack in the middle of another dangerous mission.
Zeek hurled the claw into the air toward the other building.
It hooked tight over the edge of the roof.
What an amazing arm!
Yeah, that's Zeek. Great at baseball, great at football, great at basketball. The star of Mayville.
He tied the end of the rope to a metal hook on our roof. Then he dug into his pocket and took out a couple of pulleys. The kind you hold on to.
“You first, Noodle. Over the side.” He handed me a pulley.
I looked again to the far roof. “I don't know.”
“It was your plan, Noodle.”
He was right. It was my plan. I'm the plan man, the guy who thinks of all the ideas.
I'd even written this one down.
I whipped out a crinkled piece of brown grocery bag paper, unfolded it, and stared at the dotted lines and Xs. “I gotta rethink this.”
“Give me that!” Zeek grabbed the paper and shoved it in his pocket. “It'll work. Let's go.”
He was right. With his muscles and my ideas, of course the plan will work. We're a great team. We do everything. We've
Well, not exactly everything. I imagined the long fall we would take if this plan did not work. We've never been broken into a thousand pieces.
“Twenty-eight seconds, pal.”
“Okay, okay.” I set the pulley thing on the rope and grabbed the sides with both hands. Just as I was about to leap offâ
A shiny black limo pulled up fast and screeched to a stop below. Six men in black suits tumbled out onto the sidewalk.
“Wait a second,” I whispered. “Who areâ”
Zeek gave me a shove.
I slid down the rope to the far building.
I kicked against the wall when I hit it. Zeek slid down right after me.
A second later we were lowering ourselves down the wall, from window to window, like spider kids.
“This one,” I said, nodding at the window in front of me. “It's in here. It has to be.”
“If it isn't,” whispered Zeek, “we're toast!”
I pushed lightly. The window opened.
We hopped down into the room. Zeek pulled out two pen-sized flashlights and tossed me one.
We darted across the room to where I thought we would find what we were looking for.
I searched. “It's not here! We're dead!”
Then I heard a rustle. My flashlight beam caught Zeek in the face. He was grinning, holding a sheet of paper covered with writing.
I smiled, too. “Bingo!”
Moments later we were out the window, on the ground, and scrambling across the grass to the main building.
“Spotlight!” Zeek hissed, pointing to a bright white glow flooding our path.
I froze and looked around. “Drainpipe!” I whispered. Zeek nodded.
We did a Double N-Double Z zigzag run to the far wall of the main building. It was one of Zeek's famous football moves. It always worked.
In a flash, we were shinnying up the drainpipe.
We were quiet. We were fast. We were good. Noodle and Zeek, masters of the smooth move.
Up to the rooftop, through the skylight, into the building, and down to the floor. We were in a long dark hallway of the central building.
Zeek tapped my arm and nodded at a small gray door. “That's it, but what about alarms?”
I checked my watch and shuddered. “Four seconds!” I said. “We'll just have to risk it.”
We tore down the hallway. Zeek, the incredible sports star, took huge leaps. He reached the door first, grabbed the handle, and pulled hard.
“One second!” he cried.
I dived into the darkness.
Lights went on all around us. We were completely surrounded.
“Noodle Newton and Zeek Pilinsky!” echoed a deep voice.
That's when the whole place exploded.
The whole place exploded, all right.
Zeek and I leaped out onto the stage in the Mayville School auditorium. Mr. Strunk, our teacher, jumped aside as we skidded over to the microphone.
Zeek handed me the piece of paper with writing on it. The paper we'd forgotten in our classroom and retrieved on our mission.
I flashed a smile to the crowded room and began to read. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. And teachers too, of course!”
“Ahem,” coughed Mr. Strunk. Everybody laughed.
“As part of the Mayville School Evening Learning Series,” I read, “it is our pleasure to introduce to you a world-famous husband-and-wife exploring team.”
“Since we first met them fighting underground treasure thieves,” Zeek added, “and then helped them battle sunken ship raiders, we've sure learned a lot about archaeology and other cool adventure stuff.”
“Yeah,” I went on. “Mr. and Mrs. Emerson are a couple of our favorite people. Because, well, they saved our lives about a gazillion times!”
More laughter from the audience.
“Please welcome the Emersons!”
The two adventurers walked onstage. Mrs. Emerson was really pretty, even if her hair was all bunched up in back like a teacher's. But you'd never think she was a teacher. Teachers don't wear exploring gear!
Mr. Emerson had a short beard and wore a really cool wide-brimmed sun hat. He looked like he had stepped right out of a safari movie. He gave a nod to Zeek and me. We smiled back.
“Thank you, and good evening,” Mrs. E. said.
Zeek and I walked to the side of the stage. I waved to my mom and dad sitting in the front row. Zeek's parents and his sister, Emily, were right next to them. They all grinned back at us, but their smiles were weird. Really big, with all their teeth showing.
Mr. Emerson began. “This evening we'd like to tell you a little about our next expedition, to the tiny country of Maribo, deep in the jungles of Central America.”
“Cool!” whispered Zeek. “If only we couldâ”
But I was hardly listening. At that moment, the back doors of the auditorium opened, and six men in black suits stepped in. The same men from the limo outside.
Four of them were as big as pro football players. One was small and skinny with a really thin mustache. It looked like his lip was dirty.
The last guy was short and very pudgy. His hair was all slicked back, and he wore a shiny ring on each fat finger.
Every time he pointed, the other men went right where he pointed. He had a mean face. I didn't like the look of him.
“They must go to another school,” Zeek said.
“Good one,” I said. “Let's check them out.” I started up a side aisle to the back of the auditorium.
Zeek went with me.
“Tomorrow,” Mrs. Emerson was saying, “we go in search of the Golden Lizard of Maribo!”
Zeek and I got halfway up the aisle, but the pudgy-fingered suit guy suddenly pointed toward the back door, and the men filed out and disappeared.
“Ha! Scared of us,” whispered Zeek.
That's when I heard it.
“â¦ and what will make our search for the mysterious Golden Lizard even more exciting,” Mr. Emerson said, “is that we'll be joined by a couple of junior explorers. Their parents have already said they can come with us.”
I froze. I looked over at my mom. She was smiling weird at me again.
“A couple of very active young adventurers,” Mrs. Emerson added.
“Z-z-z-zeek?” I said. He didn't answer. His mouth was hanging open like it does when Mr. Strunk hands him back a test with an