Travis Lindsay could feel the jelly bean inside his nose.
It was green - the perfect
colour, a delighted, red-faced Nish had shouted out to the rest of the Screech Owls. Perfect, he meant, for the Snot Shot.
Travis's assignment was simple. He was to plug his other nostril, tip his head back, and - with the help of his "aimer," Fahd - blow out so hard he sent the green jelly bean flying across the wide hotel ballroom. Longest Snot Shot wins.
Travis had never been so grossed out in his life.
But then, he had to admit, how else should
one feel at the Gross-Out Olympics?
Nish was like a circus master, completely in charge. His big red face looked like it had been plugged into a wall socket. He was sweating, his black hair sticking to his forehead as if he'd just removed his helmet at the end of a hockey game. He was wearing his Screech Owls jersey, the big 44 and "Nishikawa" stitched across the back, holding a cordless microphone and standing centre stage, conducting the proceedings to the delight of every peewee team in attendance.
The Owls were in Park City, Utah, where the ski events at the Salt Lake City Winter Games were held. They had been invited to the Peewee Olympics, a week-long international hockey competition that included teams from most places in the world that played the game.
The Owls had been delighted to run into players they already knew from other tournaments. The Portland Panthers were there, with big Stu Yantha playing centre and little Jeremy Billings on defence. The Boston Mini-Bruins were there, and the Long Island Selects, the Detroit Wheels, the Vancouver Mountain, and even the dreaded Toronto Towers.
The competition was certain to be great, but the greatest thing of all was that the gold- and bronze-medal games were going to be played at the famous E Center, site of the glorious Canadian men's and women's victories in the 2002 Winter Games.
And real, genuine gold- and silver- and bronze-plated medals were going to be awarded to the first-, second-, and third-place finishers.
The Owls could not have been more excited. Sarah Cuthbertson and Samantha Bennett were going to play on the same ice surface that Cassie Campbell and Hayley Wickenheiser had skated on, where Jayna Hefford had picked up her own rebound and scored the winning goal in Canada's remarkable 3-2 victory over the American women.
Travis and his best friend, Wayne Nishikawa, were no different. Nish was already trying to convince Travis to try a "Mario Lemieux" and let a pass from Sarah slip between his legs so that Nish - like his hero (and "cousin") Paul Kariya - could score a goal while everyone else was certain Travis would be shooting.
The Screech Owls' goaltender, Jeremy Weathers, was going to play where his idol, Martin Brodeur, had performed so brilliantly when the Canadian men's team won 5-2, the final goal scored by one of Travis's favourite players, Joe Sakic.
The only Owl not so delighted - or at least pretending not to be - was Lars Johanssen, who said he felt ill every time he thought of the E Center and the shot from centre ice that went off Swedish goaltender Tommy Salo's glove, his head, and his back before landing in the net and giving little Belarus a 4-3 win and knocking Sweden, the early favourite, right out of the Olympics.
Here, too, was where Edmonton ice-maker Trent Evans had hidden his famous loonie at centre ice so both Canadian teams would have a little special luck - a story that had become such a legend in Canadian hockey that the lucky one-dollar coin was on permanent display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Nish, of course, swore he would have something buried at centre ice to bring the Owls good luck. He would not, however, tell them what he planned.
"Just make sure it's not your boxer shorts," said Sam. "We don't want the ice to melt!"
Right now, Nish's mind was as far away from hockey and centre ice and a gold medal as it was possible to get.
He was running the Gross-Out Olympics, an idea he came up with on the long bus ride to Utah. Somehow - Travis didn't care to know the details - Nish had sold the Panthers and the Selects and the Towers on the idea since they were all staying in the same hotel.
And now, to great fanfare, the Gross-Out Olympics had begun. They would continue for the remainder of the hockey tournament, with Nish's version of the gold, silver, and bronze to be handed out the same day the hockey medals would be decided.
Travis, much to his surprise, proved to be extremely adept at the Snot Shot; the jelly bean would shoot across the room as hard as if he'd thrown it. Perhaps it was because he was so small and his tiny nose made the perfect bazooka for a jelly bean. Perhaps it was because he had good wind and could release it with such a snort. Perhaps it was because he figured he'd rather do the Snot Shot than any of the other ridiculous Gross-Out Olympic games Nish had come up with.
Excerpted from Murder at the Winter Games (#18) by Roy MacGregor. Copyright © 2004 by Roy MacGregor. Excerpted by permission of Screech Owls, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.