Izzy and Julia have been on the same team for years. Izzy is frustrated that Julia spends too much time cherry-picking and getting all the credit when they score. But when someone starts threatening the team and their home field is sabotaged, the friends must work together to find the answers. Why would someone threaten their star player? And what is the connection to a century-old train robbery and the rumor of buried treasure? Trying to solve the mystery and keep the team in the playoff race, Izzy and Julia find themselves in deeper than they thought, and in more danger than they imagined.
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Michele Martin Bossley
Copyright © 2007 Michele Martin Bossley
All rights reserved. No part of this publication 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 now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Bossley, Michele MartinKicker / written by Michele Martin Bossley.(Orca sports)
Electronic MonographIssued also in print format.ISBN 9781551437088(pdf) -- ISBN 9781554696581 (epub)
I. Title. II. Series.PS8553.O7394K53 2007 jC813’.54 C2006-907028-8
Summary: When electronic threats and sabotage seem set to derail the soccer season, Izzy and Julia have to find out the truth.
First published in the United States, 2007 Library of Congress Control Number: 2006940589
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design: Doug McCaffryCover photography: Getty Images
In Canada:Orca Book Publishers PO Box 5626, Station BVictoria, BC CanadaV8R 6S4
In the United States:Orca Book PublishersPO Box 468Custer, WA USA98240-0468
010 09 08 07 • 4 3 2 1
For Mike, with love.
Izzy’s story is completely fiction, but I have based some parts on a real event. There really was a train robbery that took place in the Crowsnest Pass area of Alberta, Canada in 1920. While I have fictionalized the name of one of the robbers (Richard Ausby) and his family’s homestead for my story, as well as the value and extent of the loot, information about the Bellevue Café shootout was taken from the Wikipedia entry on Bellevue, Alberta. It is used here, in a modified format, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. The page can be found here.
“Izzy! Take the shot!” my coach hollered from the sidelines. I deked sideways to avoid the sweeper on the other team and focused on the upper left corner of the goal.
Please, I thought. Let me do it this time. My stomach tightened. I drew back my foot and kicked the ball. It skittered sideways, heading right for the sweeper. Desperate, I scrambled forward and kicked the ball again toward the net.
The goalie blocked it. I heard the sound of leather smacking skin as the ball hit her thigh, just below the hem of her shorts.
The goalie winced and dove for the loose ball, but it was too late.
Julia, our star player, raced in for the rebound and blasted the ball into the net.
Our team cheered, leaving me and the beaten goalie with sour looks on our faces. Not that I wasn’t happy to have the goal. It’s just that Julia—who also happens to be my best friend—gets all the fanfare while, when it really counts, I seem to botch every shot. Never mind the fact that I just got an assist. Jules is our star, and anything she does is met with applause.
“Are you ever going to quit hogging the ball?” I grumbled to her on the bench. Our team’s next shift took the field.
“Nope.” Julia teased, taking a swig of water and swishing it around in her mouth.
“You’ve been doing this to me since we were eight.” I adjusted the laces on one of my cleats and retied the knot. “I set you up for the perfect shot, you score, everyone thinks you’re terrific, and then you don’t even say thank you.”
Julia fastened her big blue eyes on me and smiled sweetly. “Thank you.”
“It doesn’t count now,” I told her. “I just told you to say it.”
“It still counts if I mean it,” said Julia.
“You don’t,” I said.
“I do too.” Julia’s gaze turned to the field. “Besides, you should be happy. We’re winning.”
“We’re always winning,” I answered. I had my curly brown hair braided back, but I could feel the elastic coming loose. I quickly retied it as our coach, Dan Collins, walked up.
“Don’t count your chickens, ladies.” He’d overheard my last remark. “Izzy, I want you to watch your footwork out there. This isn’t a cattle stampede. You’ll find more chances to pass if you finesse around the opposition. Julia, keep your head up, mark your man.”
“Girl,” Julia corrected.
“You’re very good at game strategy. Keep it up,” Coach said.
He glanced at his watch. “Should be nearly time to switch shifts. Get ready.” He moved off down the line.
I pulled up my socks and took a last gulp of water. Then I chewed on a hangnail, waiting for the coach’s signal.
Julia watched me. “Why are you so nervous, Iz?”
I put my hand in my lap. “I’m not.” “You are so.”
I opened my mouth to explain, but just then Coach motioned for a shift change.
“Come on.” Julia jumped up.
I raced after her and took my position. I usually played midfield, but today Coach had me up as a forward. Julia played striker, which was the center forward. The striker was usually the player with the best opportunities to score, and Julia made the most of every single one.
Julia and I have been friends since we started playing soccer together when we were eight. We didn’t always get to play on the same team, but we go to the same school as well, so we always hung out together. I can’t even remember when she wasn’t my best friend.
Julia snagged the ball from the other team’s forward and began to work her way down the field. I kept pace with her, waiting to support the play. She didn’t need it. She maneuvered around player after player, and then she looked straight at me, dashed ahead and passed back to me.
“Go for it, Iz!” she yelled.
I took the ball and dribbled up the sideline. Three players were blocking me—they had materialized from nowhere—and I couldn’t get through. Then I remembered Coach’s advice.
Finesse. Don’t bulldoze.
I shifted the ball from foot to foot— backward, forward, side-to-side. I turned. I twisted. I began to feel as though I was dancing a ballet in Swan Lake.
But it worked! I wormed through the barrier. There was only the goalie to contend with now.
She faced me grimly, probably remembering the nasty welt I’d left on her leg the last time I’d approached. This time her gloved hands were outstretched, ready for the hefty thump she was sure was coming.
Instead, I chose a deft delivery, something with a little more skill. And as I wound up to kick the ball, in a beautiful position to score a goal, someone snagged the ball from behind me. The other defenseman shot forward and belted the ball, a swirl of black and white, back down the field.
So much for finesse.
“Nice try, Iz,” Julia called back as she raced down the field after the ball. I shook my head and followed her.
I didn’t get another chance to score during that shift. Instead, the other team out-passed us, leaving me gasping and breathless by the time our shift was called off.
“Girls! You can’t let them play keep-away with you,” Coach said as we came to the bench. “If they start passing the ball around, you have to mark your man. That’s the only way we’ll get possession. Otherwise they’ll just run you down, get you too tired, and then they’ll have us.”
I dropped onto the bench in relief. “Are we still winning?” I groaned.
“By one point,” said Julia. She was red-faced and sweating too. Her pale blond hair escaped in straggling wisps from her ponytail and stuck to her forehead.
“Good.” I craned my neck to see around some of my teammates. “Nicola, could you please move?”
Taller than the rest of the girls on our team, Nicola shot me an annoyed look, like I was trying to insult her. “Why?”
“I’m looking for someone.”
“Who?” Julia doused her face with a squirt from the water bottle.
“Remember when you asked me why I was so nervous? Well, I think that must be a scout over there.”
“A what?” Julia said.
“A scout. As in for the national team.”
I jerked my head toward a man who was standing near the sidelines, wearing a shirt and tie. His light brown hair was streaked with artificial blond, and his face was evenly tanned to a rich color. He looked like he spent a lot of time in the tanning salon. Expensive sunglasses were propped on top of his head, a cell phone dangled from a hip holster. He stood a little away from the crowd, squinting at the wooded area in the distance, beyond the soccer fields.
Julia eyed him curiously as Nicola bent down to get something from her soccer bag. I could tell she was listening. “Why do you think he’s a scout?” Julia asked.
“I don’t recognize him. He’s not one of the parents,” I answered.
“So? He could be a parent on the other team.”
“None of the parents dress like that.”
“They do if they just came from work,” argued Julia.
“At ten o’clock on a Saturday morning?” I scoffed. “Get real.”
“Some people work weekends. Realtors, for instance,” Julia said.
“You’re only saying that because your mom is one. And he has a clipboard. Look, he’s taking notes.”
Finally, Julia paid attention. “Well, I suppose he could be...but he seems to be paying more attention to the scenery than the game.”
The coach motioned to us. “Get ready to go back on, girls. Last shift before half-time.”
I stood up. “This time,” I said, “I’m going to score.”
Julia grinned. “Not if I get the ball first.” And she raced me out onto the field.
“See you later, Dad!” I called. I slammed the minivan door. Julia and Nicola hopped out the other side and the three of us raced across the field toward the practice field. It was Monday after school, our first practice since the last game.
A couple of other girls from the team were already there, standing around.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Kaitlin looked at me, her eyebrows arched. “Have a look,” she said. I glanced in the direction she pointed.
The goalposts looked totally normal at first. But then I could see that the nets had been slashed—the nylon mesh hung in tattered fragments like a hula skirt.
“What happened?” Julia asked.
Kaitlin shrugged. “No idea. We just got here, and it was like that.”
I walked over to have a look. The mesh was heavy, strong nylon cord, and it had been deliberately cut with scissors or cutters—the cord wasn’t frayed the way it would have been if someone had sawed at it with a knife.
Julia joined me. “Someone came prepared to do this,” I whispered. “It wasn’t just random vandalism.”
“What do you mean?” Julia asked. I explained to her why I thought it had been deliberate.
“Why would anybody want to do that?” Julia wanted to know.
“I don’t know.” I felt uneasy. Something about this didn’t feel right. I’d seen vandalism before, of course: spray-painted graffiti on the school’s walls, handwritten messages inside toilet cubicles. Even the thick glass had been smashed at the bus shelter on my street. All of those things were aimed at sending a message of rebellion to the world. This was different. This was a deliberate strike against our team—against all the soccer teams that used the field. Why?
A figure in a dark tracksuit hefted a bright yellow mesh bag of soccer balls over his shoulder and started across the field toward us. It was Dan Collins, our coach.
“What’s the matter?” Coach asked, dropping the balls on the grass. “Why aren’t you girls warming up?”
I gestured to the nets. “The park had a visitor,” I said.
Coach looked disgusted. “Some kids just have nothing better to do,” he said. “Come on, let’s get started.” He emptied the balls out onto the grass. “Each of you grab one, and we’ll start by doing some laps around the field, dribbling the ball.”
Before we had completed even one lap, a truck with the city parks logo on the door pulled onto the grass near the edge of the field.
“You can’t practice here today,” a woman called, striding across the grass.
Coach crossed his arms over his chest. “Why not?” he asked, frowning. Coach took practices very seriously and insisted we did too. Canceling wasn’t really an option.
“We’ve just had a case of vandalism reported. No one can use the field until we’ve investigated,” explained the young woman.
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