Chapter 2 Next Stop: San Francisco "The new issue ofFierceis out today," Chet said. We were standing in front of Beastly, Chet's favorite comics store at the mall. "Scotty Milner is a total genius." "He's cool," agreed Joe. "But you've got to give P. J. Rodriguez props too. His new series,Dragon's Tooth, is awesome." While my brother and our friend discussed the merits of the famous comic book artists, I noticed a pretty girl staring at us. Immediately I felt a familiar tingle. Not the tingle I get that alerts me to danger. No, this was the embarrassing tingle of a blush beginning to creep across my face. What is it about a pretty girl that gets me so tripped up? I've faced down evildoers of all types with a cool that makes me proud. But put a teenage girl in my path and I'll fall over my own feet. Well, maybe notliterally, but it certainly feels that way. "Why don't we go in and check it out," I suggested, turning away from the girl. Luckily, Joe hadn't noticed her. Otherwise he'd be trying to charm her into joining us. "Excellent." Chet and Joe turned to head into the store. I followed. "Excuse me," a girl's voice said behind me. I froze. "You dropped this." I turned around to discover the girl holding a brand-new CD out to me. "Not mine," I said, turning away again. "Well, hello," Joe said. Great. The girl took a step closer. "This is yours. Take it." Her eyes locked onto mine. But not in a flirty,don't you want to ask me outkind of way. It was more of adon't be a dolt, take the stupid CD. It suddenly dawned on me. This wasn't a typical teenage mall rat, and that wasn't some artist's latest release. She was from ATAC, and that CD contained our next assignment. "That was really nice of you to return it to him," Joe said, still trying to get a conversation started with the girl. "Uh, yeah," the girl replied. "So, Frank," asked Joe. "What's the CD?" "Nothing important." I took the CD from the girl and slipped it into my jacket pocket. The girl vanished into the crowd. ATAC agents excel at that. "You get some new tunes?" Chet asked me. "Or is it a movie?" "Yeah, Frank, quit holding out," Joe added. I gave my brother my best shut-up glare. "Really, it'snothing." "Oh, right," Joe said, finally getting it. "So, Chet, let's check out those new comics." Chet looked from Joe to me then back to Joe again. He knew something was up. How was I going to avoid showing him the CD? He'd probably want to play it as soon as we got back home. Then his face brightened. "I get it, guys. It's for my birthday." Chet's birthday! It was this weekend. I had totally forgotten about it. Luckily, he had not only given me a timely reminder -- he also gave me an easy cover. "Exactly," I said. "You caught us," said Joe, playing along. Chet grinned. "Don't worry. I won't spoil the surprise by trying to interrogate you." "Thanks," Joe said, giving Chet a light punch on the arm. "You know, maybe we should head for home," I suggested. If this was our next case, we shouldn't waste any time finding out what it was. "It's later than I realized." "You're right," said Joe. "But we just got here," Chet complained. "Uh, well, Aunt Trudy was on the warpath this morning about cleaning our rooms," Joe explained. "Yeah," I added. "She was throwing around threats like grounding us until the rooms sparkled...." "Okay, okay," said Chet. "If you don't mind, I'll hang here. I've been waiting forever forFierceto come in." "Catch you later," I called. Then we jogged out of the mall. Up in my room I pulled the CD out of my pocket. "Comic Con Artist," I read from the side of the box. Joe laughed. "That really could be a birthday CD for Chet." It was true -- Chet has comics fever. Even more than me or Joe. And we're pretty big fans. I slipped the CD into the player. A montage of comic-book coverDixon, Franklin W. is the author of 'Comic Con Artist (Hardy Boys (All New) Undercover Brothers Series #21)', published 2008 under ISBN 9781416954989 and ISBN 1416954988.