An Island Surfer's Secret | Teen Ink

An Island Surfer's Secret

May 20, 2022
By dolphins23, Elk River, Minnesota
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dolphins23, Elk River, Minnesota
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I never expected to become a hero when I went after that sick man who called himself Maximiliano, which means “The Greatest”.  I just wanted to settle an old score of mine and, as an added bonus, he was in my element. I was an avid surfer and he was out at sea on a bodyboard, so I surfed out there to get a few hits in and came back a hero. 

I guess I should back up a bit. My name is Matthew and I live on a tiny island of the mainland.  I was just a normal human doing normal things, just not at normal times.  It all started a week before the big annual surfing competition. Me and my friend, Jake, had an ongoing, friendly competition and we were tied this year, so each of us were working extra hard to win. I was at the beach early one morning, getting some waves in, when I saw something strange —a ship. It was sailing alone, coming closer and closer to the island. I normally would not have thought anything of it as there were ships coming and going all the time for tourism, but there were three things that made this ship different: it was smaller than most tourist ships, the port was in the complete opposite direction, and it was moving way too quickly. I was thinking of all possibilities, when a hand touched me on the shoulder and said “Boo!” in a friendly tone of voice. Now I am no fraidy cat, but my most recent possibility included pirates invading the island, so I swirled around, lost my balance and landed on my knees in the water. My friend Jake, the owner of the hand, promptly laughed at me. “What's wrong?”, he mocked. “Are you scared?”  

“No,” I grunted, accepting his hand and letting him pull me to my feet. “I was just thinking that you were a pirate who stepped off that boat.” I pointed to the ship in question. He squinted, then replied, “That's just a new, nosy vacationer. I talked to him, because I had never seen him and wanted to know why he was pushing a boat into the water from his house, not at the pier. He told me that he was a fisherman and that he wanted to catch fish on the other side of the island because they were bigger and asked to look at my board when I went to use the restroom. Then he started asking questions … about you and me.” Now Jake was the one looking spooked. Wanting to cheer him up, I suggested going surfing. He accepted, looking relieved so we paddled out to sea, both of us wanting to forget the strange man, whoever he was. However, in the minutes that followed, he could not be more present. We hit one big wave… And Jake and his board disappeared. 

I was a part-time lifeguard trained in first aid, and not a very patient person when it came to how long someone stayed underwater before I had to jump in and rescue them. I typically waited about ten seconds before jumping in, but by the time I finally got my board under control, Jake was pushing twenty. Thankfully, it was easy for me to find him when I dove underwater. He was alert and awake but completely still and was in the position we had been taught to be in when knocked off a board into rough water. I grabbed him firmly, wrapping my arm around his waist and hauling him to the surface. All this took about five seconds to complete. He was still conscious, so I laid him on his side on my board  and told him to relax. After nearly ten seconds had passed, he began to cough up water. When he was done, I went after his board. I was just returning when he tried to sit up. “What happened?” he asked, letting me support him briefly before sitting up fully. “You wiped out,” I told him, not going into detail. With his surfboard in tow, we started swimming toward the beach. 

We were halfway there when Jake abruptly laid down on the surfboard and did not move. I paddled back and examined him and found every sign of exhaustion. His breathing was slow and shallow and his heart rate had dropped significantly. His hands were sweating and his face was pale. “You will be fine,” I told him. “Just relax. I'll pull you.” I could tell he wanted to help, a lot, as I practically had to pin him to the board, but I've always been the more stubborn of the two so he (reluctantly) did what I asked. When we had swum to shore, I loaded him in the car and drove him to Sara’s house. Sara is my girlfriend, although I would never admit it, and she was going for her medical doctorate’s degree. I mixed a sleeping pill in with a can of pop and gave it to Jake to drink. It knocked him out fast. I moved quickly. If he was awake, he would have insisted that he was fine, but I knew there was something more up. Sara somehow knew that I was coming, and she was waiting for me. Once she let me inside her house, she dumped two young kittens into my arms and shoved me into the other room, telling me to wait. With the kittens climbing up my legs and shoulders, I examined Jake’s board. The break across it was obviously intentional, and it was clearly that of a long knife. Suddenly, I was distracted from my rising anger and suspicion by Jake, who had awakened on the impromptu examination table. He was yelling my name, sounding very unhappy. 

When I got to the room, Jake peppered me with questions. “Why am I on the table? What did you give me to make me fall asleep? Why do I have an IV in my arm?” I had an answer for the first two, but the last question stumped me. Turning to Sara, I asked, “Was the IV really necessary? What’s in there, anyway?” 

“No, the IV was not completely necessary, but I needed to get his sugar levels back up, so I pumped sugar water into his bloodstream.” At our strange stare, she added, “You lose a lot of natural sugars when salt is exposed to your body. He just lost too much.” This made no sense, but I was willing to trust her.  

“Give him an apple,” I told her. “I need to talk with you.” We went to sit with the kittens, and I showed her the break in the board. She came to the same conclusions I did, but urged me to remain calm, because we did not know anything for sure yet, and we had no one to suspect of sabotaging the board. 

When Jake and I got back in the car, she urged us to take it easy. We were only on the road for five minutes when Jake abruptly asked me to tell him what happened and not to leave out any details. I reluctantly gave him a sixty-second rundown, excluding the part about my suspicions on the board. This seemed to satisfy him, and nothing more was said between us. After dropping him off at his house, I drove straight home, completely exhausted, but mind whirling. My roommate, Max, was already asleep when I came into our apartment; I immediately fell asleep as well. 

The next day was Saturday, so I had half day off to find out more about Maximiliano. I had just finished up in the shower when the doorbell rang. Max answered it. “Hi!” An unfamiliar voice greeted. “My name is Maximiliano. I am on a vacation and have come to fish. Are you Matthew?” I quickly dressed and entered the room just in time to see Max talking to a man in his thirties. I assumed that he was the nosy vacationer Jake had talked to.  I heard Max reply, “No. My name is Max; Matthew is my roommate. He is in the shower and will be out soon. Why do you want to talk to him?” 

“I am here,” I interrupted. “What do you want?” Maximiliano raised his hands, palms out, and said, “I just want to know what happened to your friend. I heard he had a wipeout while I was fishing. I was talking to him the other day and he seemed like a nice guy. I just wanted to see if he was okay.” 

“He’s fine,” I muttered through my teeth. “His board flipped over when we hit a big wave.” This was a white lie and we both knew it. I wanted to watch his reaction. He squirmed a little, then replied, “Oh. Is that normal with a board as sturdy as his?” His question implied that he had seen it before. My temper raged and I was barely resisting the overwhelming urge to hit him in his little lying face. Max took that as his cue and planted himself firmly between Maximiliano and me. 

“Yes,” he fibbed. “Now if you will excuse me, we have to get going for work and I think you do too.” With a nod to the two of us, Maximiliano left in a hurry. When he was gone, the two of us gave a collective sigh. “What a pain,” Max sighed. “Who is that guy?” 

“He,” I growled, “is a lying fish-face of a man, and he also is probably the one who sabotaged Jake’s board so when we hit a big wave, he was trapped under there with a board that refused to function properly! I thought it was suspicious that he would ask to look at the board and then the next time it was used it malfunctioned.” I said this all with one angry breath. Max stared at me a second, trying to digest this, then asked, “Is he okay?” 

“He’s fine,” I told him. “No thanks to Mr. Crazy over there.” Max sighed deeply, then replied, “Creep is another good word for him. I think he followed you home. How else would he know where you live?” Another thought occurred to me, and it was frightening.

“That means he knows who you are too, so you might be in danger! It's my fault you’re involved in this whole mess in the first place!”  

“Now, don’t be ridiculous, Matthew. You know as well as I do that if what you think is true, then, sooner or later, he is going to realize that you suspect him and go after you. When or if that happens, I will be involved all over again, regardless of what you say to try to deter me. If it makes you happy, I will try my best to stay out of it until I absolutely have to get involved . . . Starting tomorrow. Right now, we need to go to get to the beach for work and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will try something soon. Be careful, Matthew, this might be dangerous. We’re dealing with someone with a very long knife and not very nice intentions.”  

How did you know about the knife?” I asked, worried. “Did I tell you in my sleep?” 

“No,” he replied. “I saw a glimpse of it when he turned to look at you when you came in. Now, let's go save some people. We have to go to work or we’ll be the dead ones.” 

The first half of the afternoon went well. Things were quiet and the only excitement was that we had to break up a fight between two very drunk men. Who gets drunk at 10:00 in the morning anyway? Sheesh. Then 1:00 rolled around. That's when the trouble started. Lunch was at 12:30 and our shift got done at 2:00. It was the in-between hour, and usually the busiest, so we were both on high alert. I felt a strange sense of Deja Vu and when I scanned the horizon, I saw why. The same boat was out there again in the same spot and the engine was still idling but there was no one on board. 

We also had a different problem to deal with. Max was dead focused on a group of boys, counting the seconds under his breath. I had counted six boys in that same group before. Now there were only four of them. One reappeared, looking half concerned and half annoyed. The other missing boy had been gone for twelve seconds. He appeared briefly in the same spot he had disappeared, then vanished again. His friends headed back to the beach. Looking at each other, we counted the seconds in unison until a hand appeared at nine seconds. 

By this time, one of his friends had spotted the hand and the rest were in a semicircle on the beach around what we called the “Spotter”. Every group had one, whether planned or not. Once he had spotted the hand, which was beginning to disappear, the Spotter began to run into the water again. He waded about two yards in, when two of his friends grabbed him by his shoulders and pulled him to a stop. I glanced briefly at the boat and saw that there was a fully dressed scuba diver about to dive. I looked at Max and I knew he saw the diver too. Max shot me a look back, and I knew what that look meant. The diver would have to wait.  We had work to do. I was doing fine until we got within a yard of where we had seen the hand go down. That’s when the flashbacks started.

In my world it was Jake under the water, needing my help. We successfully hauled the teen out of the water and on to the “Rescue Boat” as the little ones liked to call it (or my surfboard). When Max was making sure that he was all right, I went back for Jake (who in my mind needed my help). I dove deep, but because it was only in my mind, I could never get close enough. Breathing became optional and I simply forgot to do it. However, Max didn’t forget. At the instant our back-up showed, he went in for me. I struggled, but I was out of strength since I had almost no air left. 

I must have blacked out because the next thing I knew, Max was staring at me, looking both confused and concerned. “Hey, buddy. Welcome back to the land of the living. What got you so spooked? One instant we were on a rescue and the next, you were trying to do a version of ‘death by drowning’ in real life.” 

“NO!” I screamed at him, jumping off the surfboard on which I had been placed, and not comprehending a word of what he was saying. “I have to rescue Jake!” A look of comprehension crossed his face. “Stay here ,” he commanded me. “I will get him.” Trusting Max to retrieve my friend, I waited with our very grateful and understanding patient, who said his name was Sam. We both waited intently. The whole situation was thrilling to Sam, so he was just as confused as I was when Max brought up a human-sized scarecrow. “What . . . is . . . that?” I slowly demanded. 

“This is what your brain told you was Jake. For a minute there, I thought it was too. Now I am thinking something very different,” Max replied. We looked at each other, then at Sam. “What?”, he asked, looking confused. We both realized something at the same moment. The diver had not been preparing to dive at all! He had just come back from his mischief-causing deeds! 

“I have a gut feeling that this creep has been watching you guys for a lot longer than you had originally anticipated,” Sara said. She and I and Jake had met up later that day to officially discuss the Maximiliano problem at hand. Max had wanted to come too, but I had reminded him of his promise to stay out of the whole dilemma. The last thing I wanted to do was to be fishing him out of the sea because Maximiliano had attacked him. Jake was still in shock over the whole thing. “Okay,” he said. “Let me get this straight. There is a man named Maximiliano who has been stalking us for a long time without our knowledge and once he found the information he needed, he stole my board and sabotaged it, then twelve hours later, he lured Matthew into a flashback mind field to try to eliminate the two of us. We are essentially dealing with a madman bent on revenge. Right?” 

We both stared at him, then I slowly replied, “Well... I guess that's one way to look at it.” 

“So... yes? Okay,” he said  “I can take a hint. I’ll be quiet now.”  Turning to Sara, I said, “You’re the genius here. What’s our next move?” She thought a minute, then replied, “I say we get a one-up on him because he’s had a one-up on us.”  This implied something I did not like. It was clear that Jake was thinking the same thing too. We both gave her a look that demanded an explanation. 

“He knows all this stuff about you two, so why don’t I try to dig up some stuff on him?” Sara was also the computer geek of the group, so we decided on it. Jake and I agreed to go to the beach and surf to blow off some steam. 

Jake was jumpy and understandably so. Something had to change. I grabbed him by the shoulders and made him look at me. “Okay, spit it out already. What’s up with you?” I asked.  

“I know it’s dumb, but this dude freaks me out.  There is less than a week before the surfing competition and we still have no idea why he’s even targeting you and me. I’m just afraid he’s going to strike out at the competition and hurt someone just because.” I decided that was it. This dude was going down! Jake was right. We had to end this before someone innocent got hurt. 

“Then we’ll just have to end this now. We don’t want to through the competition, now, do we?” 

“No, we don’t, unless it’s against his favor,” Jake replied. We were now both smiling and nose to nose with competitive determination. 

“Did I miss something?” A confused voice came from behind us. We both swiveled around to see who said it. It was one of our competitors in the race, a girl named Caroline. At 5’10 she was tall for a girl and was a gymnast with the ability to literally fold herself in half. This gave her lots of points at the seasonal competition. She was currently staring at us like we had two heads each. 

“No,” came a second voice from the opposite direction, “They were just discussing competition strategies that you can’t hear.” It was Max and he had a huge grin on his face. He was also holding something in his hand that sparkled in the sunlight. Pulling us aside, he showed us what it was. It was a jeweled and very expensive-looking bracelet. “He came to me, I promise. He was looking for something and clearly could not find it, but he dropped this on the floor.” 

The “He” Max was referring to was clearly Maximiliano. That creep had come to my house looking for something. “What does he think we have?”, I asked. 

“Probably a jewel, a tool, or our surfboards,” Max shrugged.  

“I think he’s building something,” Jake suggested. We all considered that a possibility but agreed there was probably something more. As if on cue, my cell phone rang. It was Sara. “Listen, I have something and it’s important. Could you and Jake meet me at the beach in five minutes?” Grinning to myself, I said, “We’re there. Literally.”  

“Okay. I’ll be there before you know it,” she responded. Turning to Jake and Max, I spoke, “I don’t care how dangerous that creep is. I am going to turn him into dust!” By now, Caroline had realized that she did not belong in the conversation and began to look uncomfortable. “Well, you do that, and I’ll go surfing now,” she said. 

We decided to join her, so we borrowed a surfboard for Max and hit the waves. As we practiced, I realized two things: A—I had some tough competition this year and B—we weren’t alone. 

“He never quits, does he?” Max sighed. From the angry look I saw on Jake's face, he had seen him too. Caroline looked half perplexed, half frightened. “What are you not telling me?”, she nervously asked. It was at this moment Sara made her appearance. She had driven to the beach to show us something. 

“Maximiliano?” She guessed without even glancing at the water. Max, Jake, and I all nodded. She handed me something and said, “He cannot get his hands on this. Protect it with your life.” I put it in the hidden pocket of my shorts and prepared to meet our creep once and for all. 

We hit a wave and sped toward a dark shape emerging from the water. A man in an all-black scuba suit came into view. “ Watch out!” Max shouted ”he’s got a Taze gun!”  

“Five against one. I like those odds,” I thought to myself. That was until I saw his thugs. The now five-to-three ratio worried me a little. But then suddenly, the thugs vanished. Max and I got ready for a fight. “Where’d they go?”, he asked tensely, clearly itching for a fight. That's when Caroline screamed the answer. A second later, she vanished. Jake went after her, a huge grin across his face. He was clearly just as eager for a fight. That left me, Max, and Sara to fight the scuba dude and his thug. 

But before we had a chance to do anything except locate the second thug, Jake reappeared with a very angry-looking Caroline in one hand and an apparently unconscious thug in the other. He was looking very pleased with himself. The first thug, seeing his comrade’s apparent condition, looked at the scuba man for orders to retreat. He gave a hand signal that obviously gave the thug permission to do so, which he did, and was quickly followed by the other thug who had freed himself from Jake by punching him in the stomach. Max tried to grab the thug and I grabbed a very angry Jake who was muttering “Lemme at ‘em!” under his breath over and over. Max gave the signal, and we all headed back to land. Once on the beach, I took the envelope Sara had handed to me out of my pocket and asked, “What is this thing, anyway?”   

“That,” she said, “is proof that that scuba diver, Maximiliano, is a treasure hunter who thinks that you two have the missing map piece.”  

“That sounds like something out of a story book. Are you pulling our leg here, Sara?” I asked. 

“No, it seems that this guy is even more crazy than we thought. He’s a veteran and the war messed up his thinking. To quote the villain himself, ‘This all probably started during the war. It was there that I heard of the greatest treasure known to man. That changed my whole goal in life.’ Apparently, the great pirate Blackbeard left the greatest treasure to his son. The day he was supposed to give it to him, someone snuck into the son’s room, put a sword up his ribs, and left without making a sound. Now Maximiliano is searching for a fake chest, collecting pieces of the map. He has been in and out of mental asylums for his crazed actions. Apparently, A—there are only two pieces left and B—he thinks you two have them!” We all stared at her, unable to comprehend the news she had given us. 

“So… there is a crazy person with the ability to shoot a gun well who is tracking a rumored treasure and you two because he believes that you can lead it to him and now he is currently on the island stalking you??!!” It was Caroline who we had all forgotten. She was pale and a little shaken, but otherwise fine. None of us could deny that everything she said was true, but something did not sit right with me. “Why would he think we have it?”, I asked Sara. 

“Because of those,” she pointed to the envelope. Upon opening it, we found old black-and-white photos of what looked to be our doubles. Their facial features were so like ours that I swore we each had a long-lost sibling. “He was told that those people have the last two pieces of the map.” Sarah said.  Jake’s double looked like he could have been a father to Jake. I had no idea how close I was to the truth. Jake had gone very pale and had started to breathe harder. “No, no, no, no no! This can’t really be happening. That's not possible,” he said. He looked like he could fall over and pass out at any second. Max immediately pushed him into one of the chairs that the beachgoers had left and put him between his knees, ordering him to breathe. He then looked at me expectantly. “Three seconds,” I said. This caused him to jump up and down in anger. 

I giggled a little, and Sara just laughed. It was an inside joke. We did that move so often, he bet me ice cream (he loves ice cream) that he could do it in two seconds flat. Jake had realized what the number meant and grinned as he caught his breath. Then he bolted before anyone could catch him. 

“Give him a minute to calm down,” Sara suggested. After eight minutes had passed, I was getting nervous, so Max and I headed over to his house to check it out. Max was my backup and medic. As a rule of thumb we both knew that having a backup was necessary in almost any situation. When we got there, my gut told me something was terribly wrong. Max planted himself as a look-out and I opened the door… and gasped. 

Jake was lying on the ground face-down and a man in a ski-mask was standing over him, grinning as if he were admiring his handiwork. He had clearly not heard me enter. “Hey! What do you think you’re doing?!”, I demanded. He started and turned around to face me. I saw that Jake had gotten a few hits in himself, because, even with the mask on, the thief had spots where it was obvious that the area was swelling. He also had a tattoo on his wrist in the shape of a snake. When he saw me, his eyes went wide with panic, floated to his target, and wandered back to me. Then he fled, muttering something about thugs and dirty work. I had no time to warn Max. 

Knowing that he could take care of himself, I knelt beside Jake to check for a pulse. Not only was he breathing just fine, he was semi-conscious. The instant my hand touched his neck, his own hand shot out from underneath himself and grabbed my wrist while the other took a swing at me. “Jake,” I spoke gently, knowing that he probably had a major-scale headache.  “It’s me. Please don’t hit me; that would not be beneficial for my health.”

He looked at me skeptically, recognized me, then grinned and said, “Are you really sure about that?” 

“Yup!” I responded. He got to his feet, then swayed a little, so I shoved him into a chair and told him to “stay put.” Then I ran off to help Max. He did not need helping. Max was sitting in the sun, resting his foot on the back of a chair. “You good?” I asked. He turned to face me, and his face had a bruise on one cheek where he had been hit and one hand was holding his ribs. But it was clear that he had gotten the better of the bargain. He was holding a garden spade and a garden hoe was on the ground next to him. In addition, he was grinning like a Cheshire cat. “Never been better. If- if- we decide to involve the police you could also tell them, in addition to Jake’s description, that the creep has a broken ankle. He tried to knock me out with a kick (don’t ask me why his foot was his weapon of choice), so I grabbed his foot and may or may not have broken it…” Max explained. 

“Let me see…” I demanded, referring to his ribs, leaving no room for argument. The area was bruised and turning a rainbow of colors, but it was obvious that Max had thwarted any attempt to break his ribs. It was only a surface level injury. “Yes.” he reassured me. “That’s because he was not trying to hurt you,” a voice spoke up from behind. It was then that I saw Jake had gotten up and was now making his way toward us. 

“He was after this,” he said. In his hand, there was a glass capsule and it contained what looked to be a map piece.

“Jake…what is that…?” I asked him slowly, wondering if my best friend was hiding something from all of us. By now we were all staring at Jake and his bottle. Jake sighed. “You probably wouldn't believe me if I told you,” he said, sinking into the nearest chair. I went to him. 

“Tell us. We’re your friends, and I'll believe you,” I reassured. Max and Sara, who had followed us here, both nodded in agreement. 

“That man in the picture is my grandpa” he began, “and this is what he gave to me on my eighteenth birthday. He was in the navy before he retired, and he told me that it was something he had picked up along the way. For some odd reason, he said that he had saved it until my eighteenth birthday and no sooner. What he gave me was this beautiful ship, a model of the Santa Maria, one of Christopher Columbus’ ships. I found this capsule on the inside of its hull. I left the ship on the mainland with my cousin, a ship collector. He says it is the prize of his collection and that he has it in a glass case. There’s more, but you have to promise not to tell anyone about it.” Receiving a nod from all of us, he went on to open the capsule and showed us its contents: one rock, two paperclips, and what looked to be a map written on the back of a note. “When I opened the thing, I had found my first thought was that this was just crazy man's talk. However, I was intrigued so I did a little asking, and I found out about the supposed location of this treasure.  It’s not real, I promise, but if he finds this, who knows what his crazy brain might turn this into.”  

The wheels in my brain were going a million miles an hour. “Let me see that map a minute,” I told Jake. I looked at it, looked at the shape of the mainland in the distance, looked at the crazy-shaped tree and compared it to a line on the map, then slowly turned around and spotted the clearing in the center of the island and realized something. “Who wants to go on a wild goose chase?”, I asked. The three of them chorused, “We do!” 

I looked at the map of our island with the X offshore and realized that the map took us right by my house. “This map goes right by our apartment. Let’s stop there and see what I have.” After grabbing shovels, snacks, and Max’s hand pistol for self-defense, we headed off towards the looming X in the middle of a cove. We stopped diagonal to the big rock adjacent to the X and I said, “Just to be clear, not that I think we’re going to find anything, but if we do this is just between us and most of the treasure goes to the museum, right? And please don’t get your hopes too high up because this could just be a myth.”

“Right” and “I totally agree” were the responses. 

“Let’s get rich, then!” I grinned, and we were off, armed with metal detectors we found on the beach and all of us thinking of student loan debts.

The first person to find something was Sara. It was an amazingly expensive-looking ring that sparkled in the sunlight (this would be the same ring that I eventually used to propose to her). She put it on, and it fit perfectly. Jake and I also found rings. Ours were identically gold with intricate impressions, studded with tiny multicolored stones. Like little. Most were only about the size of a small pea. Sara, Jake, and I all found intricately carved pieces, preserved under six inches of sand. That only left Max. He had found nothing… yet. 

“Oh no,” Jake muttered. “You have got to be kidding me. Are you serious? Not again!” I thought he was referring to the now-familiar boat harbored in the distance. However, he was referring to the large amount of sand and bubbles in the water. Max! With a sigh, I jumped in. Max was trying to haul a large, cylinder-shaped tube to the surface, but it was slippery and half-submerged in mud. I swam over and kicked furiously, creating a hole and freeing the tube. Max fell over, still holding the cylinder. Grabbing Max with one hand and the cylinder with the other, I hauled both to the beach. Jake was too excited to do CPR on Max, who had not moved or breathed much, so he just sat on his chest. Then he began to bounce, saying, “Come on, come on, come on, I want to see what you found, and I can’t do that with you lying around like this!” 

Max responded by puking up the water he had inhaled, as well as a minnow, all over Jake. Sara said, “Eww!” and plugged her nose. I laughed at the three of them. Jake just stared at the minnow with amazement. The first word out of Max’s mouth was, “Mine!” 

“You can have it. Be my guest.” Jake was referring to the still wiggling minnow that Max had recently ejected. However, Max was referring to the cylinder and no one was arguing with him, especially when we realized that it bore his name. 

I hauled him to his feet, sat him in a chair, and examined him thoroughly. After he had been cleared with nothing more than a cough, we all stared at the cylinder. Everyone was shocked that we had found something, but especially at how our find had “MAX” written in large letters on it. We all held our breath as he looked inside. 

When he did, he gasped and jumped back in surprise. Jake went and grabbed him, too afraid himself to look inside. Sara and I crept up closer to get a better look. There was one very important observation that stuck out to me first, and that was the little fact that the object was moving. Or at least part of it was. I spotted a tab that read Pull here, so I pulled it and jumped back. 

A separate cylinder popped out, and this one bore Jake’s name. This object was the one that was moving. It also had a note attached that was addressed to him. Max was standing in the back and staring at the cylinder as Jake read the note aloud. 

“My name is Alexander, but my nephews know me as Max and you probably just know me as Grandpa. There is a truth about me you probably don’t know and that is that I was much more than a naval seaman. I also worked for the FBI and the CIA. If you are reading this note, then you have probably followed the map that led you to this spot. Inside this cylinder is a secret project I have been working on. If the cylinder is hatching, do not panic. We have found an egg frozen in the ice and brought it here to hatch. I did find a map hidden in that ship, but it was the one that led us to the egg. It also led us to the contents of the other cylinder.” We looked at each other, then at the egg. It was unanimously decided who would hold the egg as it hatched: Max. We formed a circle around him to watch. With one final shake, the egg broke open. 

Out popped a bird that was all the colors of the rainbow. However, it was strange in one way. Most chicks come out of their shells tiny, wet, colorless, and almost completely useless. This one was wet and tiny, but it was incredibly strong for a baby bird, especially one that had just hatched out of its egg. Also, it was full of color; basically a wet, miniature version of its parents. 

Max was trying to flee the bird even though he was holding it. This was because the baby bird was pecking at his fingers, evidently hungry. We sat in a circle on the ground and Max put the bird in the center, his treasure forgotten. It promptly lay down in the warm sand and began to call for its mother. It was a beautiful sound, one that cannot be described with words. 

“Mine!” A voice suddenly screamed from behind us. Sara grabbed the sandy bird and the rest of us stood up, preparing to fight. We came face-to-face with a very surprised-looking thug who was trying to steal the rest of the cylinder. We exchanged glances, then hit him upside the head. He flattened out on the sand and did not move. Removing the mask revealed a boy who was sixteen or seventeen years old—obviously a son. His greed had caused him to compromise his mission. 

We all peered into the cylinder to see what the thief had been trying to steal: heaps and heaps of Spanish gold. “This one's definitely not mine,” Max whispered. 

“Let's bring this to my house,” Sara suggested. “It’s the only place he doesn’t know about yet.” We reluctantly agreed and loaded into the car, driving over to her house. 

“Okay, so here’s the deal. We have a priceless baby bird and I have two kittens. I’ll take the kittens and you guys take the bird,” Sara spoke. She handed me the rainbow bird, and we went inside. Once we were all gathered, we sat in a circle and let the bird go. It didn’t move. Sara returned and picked up the baby bird to examine it. “Let's fix you up,” she said, cupping it between her hands. It snuggled down and tried to sleep. “We are idiots!”, Sara said with a revelation. “This little chick is wet and cold and tired. We have entirely neglected the fact that it is a brand-new baby that literally just came out of its egg an hour ago.” That made a whole lot of sense to the rest of us. We wiped it off, warmed it up, and, after dinner, fed the bird. Then Jake, Max and I went home.

Jake was bunking with us for the night, so we stopped at his house first to let him grab some things. I went inside with him to wait. I grabbed a few bags of chips to snack on and sat down at the table. Unfortunately, though, I never got a single chip in my mouth. 

I was just about to eat one when I spotted movement.  I thought it was Jake, so I turned around to go and the last thing I knew, I got a slab of wood to the head. From what I was later told, Jake came down and found me gone, so he ran and got Max and they traced the footprints to me. 

I woke up with a massive headache and heard Max’s very surprised voice. I tried to get up, then realized that I was tied hand and foot. There was a cloth beside me on the ground that I assumed had covered my mouth. “Great. Just great,” I thought to myself with a sigh. “How am I supposed to get out of this one?” 

The answer came to me pointedly clear as I was rolling around trying to find something useful to escape. “Ow!” I exclaimed loudly without even meaning to. 

“Matthew?” Max called. 

“I'm fine,” I replied. “I just sat on a nail.” Max entered and freed me. “Where am I?” I asked. 

“In my cabin shed,” said a very surprised Sam, the boy we had saved earlier at the beach. I immediately thought of at least five different explanations for this. Maximillino must have put me here to make Sam look bad or to throw suspicion of off him or simply to hide me. There was no way he would put me in here if he knew someone would hid me so fast. Sam looked terrified, so I gave him a reassuring hug. 

“Don’t worry. I am fine. I’ve had worse.” I said with a smile. hay

“Who wants to frame him?” An angry sounding voice came from behind me. I turned around to see an annoyed-looking man—presumably Sam’s father. 

“Oh, you must be his dad. My name is Matthew. We met your son the other day at the beach,” I said as Max checked my head for any sign of injury. We both shook hands with Sam’s dad. 

“Yes,” he replied. “My name is Luke. Why were you in my shed” Max and I looked at each other, nodded and sighed. “It's a long story. Why don't we go inside, and I will tell you everything?” I asked. 

After we had gone in and I had explained everything, Luke exclaimed, “Wow! You two have had an exciting summer! So what's the next step?”  

“We lay a trap,” I said at the same time Max said, “We lay low.” At this, Luke threw back his head and laughed. “I see we have a disagreement here. If it's any help, the Coast Guard will be on guard and security will be tight for the big competition in two days. It seems unlikely that he will try anything tomorrow so I would suggest practicing while you can and just sticking together. Safety in numbers, as they say.” We both stared at him. “I get paid to know stuff like that. I am on the city council and used to be a security guard at a museum,” he explained at our stare.  So we took his advice and spent the next day practicing. By Tuesday, we were ready to surf up a storm. The big day had arrived.

Jake was a nervous wreck when we got to the beach to warm up, but quickly calmed down when he saw six Coast Guard boats harbored at the entrance. Warm-ups went smoothly, and trash talk was in full swing by the time the competition got started. Caroline had even created her own move and did very well. 

By the time Jake got ready to surf, our problems were forgotten. And then it appeared. The way too familiar-looking boat was setting its anchor down right behind one of the Coast Guard boats. From that boat, a scuba diver jumped into the water. Then Caroline noticed him next. “Is that …?”, she asked.   

“Yes,” I told her. “Don't let Jake see.” But Jake already had. He just glanced at me and told me to be careful. So I hit the waves. 

At first nothing unusual happened. I did a few tricks, but then I spotted him heading toward the cove. I noticed that he was carrying explosives. Suddenly, I got it! He thought that the treasure was inside a mine that had collapsed years ago. It was very unstable and led to what was believed to be an underwater volcano. If he lit those explosives, our whole island would be blown to smithereens and there would be no survivors. I had to stop him—NOW. 

I lifted my board to the left, then to the right, and then straight down. It was my signal to Max and Jake. Instantly, Jake grabbed his board and ran into the water to join me. Max grabbed a random guy’s surfboard and headed in, while the guy grabbed his extra board and followed behind. The three were quickly followed by about ten other surfers, along with Caroline and Sara. 

“All right, listen up! Sara, Max, Jake and you two other surfers come with me. Caroline, split your group into two. Half should notify the Coast Guard, while the rest of you handle the thugs. Just look for the guys in the ski masks. Tie them up, and the Coast Guard will take care of them from there. Everyone understand?”, I told them. They all nodded. “Good. Let's move out.” 

It was Jake who made contact first. When Maximiliano splashed into the water with his surfboard, both boards went in crazy directions. The next couple of minutes were hectic. He almost got away a couple of time so we end up having to knock him out underwater and then came the struggle to get him to shore (he was heavy), but Jake and I ended up slumping his body between two boards and swimming him to shore. There he woke up, only to be arrested on sight by the police, who had been notified by the Coast Guard. At first he struggled, but eventually broke down and confessed to everything when he found out his precious treasure was FAKE! “ I was the one who cut the board.” He moaned “I thought that I could play hero and then you would give me the map. And now it is all ruined!” He and his crew were read their rights and lead away. Sara and her crew had done well and it was obvious that the thugs had angered the rest of them because they had bruises to prove it. The surfers did not even have a scratch. They also were all smiling from ear to ear. I thanked the group of surfers for their help, but they just replied, “Thank you for the adventure! That was the most fun I've had in years!” 

We were interviewed by the news crew and hailed as heroes. I even got a trophy for my work, as well as for winning the competition. And that's how I became a hero. I was just in the right place at the right time. And as for the bird, It now has a happy home in a cage in my room.

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