Joe stared in disgust as the person jumped into a car and took off down the street, traveling fast. At least he had recognized who it was.
He would just have to wait for a chance to ask Olive what she was doing there at the Riviera.
Going over to the yellow police tape flittering in the light wind, Joe began searching around, hoping for something useful to help figure out the case. He felt pretty sure it wasn’t closed, but that was preferable over the alternative.
It would be better if it was just the Hamptons for the insurance money and that the explosives went off early, instead of some complete whack-job out there willing to kill so many. Why do I have this feeling it’s the latter?
Ned Nickerson drove past the University of Delaware where he had dropped off a friend from Emerson College. The friend had been desperate to get back to his home state in time for his cousin’s wedding and his car had broken down. He hated flying and had asked Ned to drive him to Delaware.
Ned wasn’t very far from where he knew Nancy and her Dad were staying. Knowing he had time to go see if they wanted to get something to eat before he had to head back, he looked for the exit he needed. Ned grinned thinking how surprised Nancy would be when he showed up.
After traveling I-95, Ned took the necessary exit ramp and it wasn’t long before he reached the hotel parking lot. Right away he spotted Nancy’s car and pulled up beside it. He got out to stretch and walk around a little, planning on calling Nancy while he did that.
He had walked around his car, toward Nancy’s, and noted it was cold enough to warrant a jacket, so he moved to the passenger side of his car. Right after he opened the door to grab his jacket, he dropped his phone. Rolling his eyes, he bent his tall frame to pick it up from the blacktop. Easier said than done. It was under Nancy’s car.
Almost having to lay on the ground to reach it, Ned stretched a long arm under the chassis of the car. His brown eyes suddenly spotted something that made him still. He was pretty sure what he was staring at. On his Nancy’s car. It looked like a device set to go off by a radio signal likely, making him wonder whether the person was anywhere around there or not, watching.
If he called the police, it could possibly scare off the person who’d planted the explosives. But if he could disable it and set a trap then Nancy would be safe.
Carefully grabbing his phone, instead of calling Nancy, Ned made a call to someone else. Someone who would likely know how to disarm the explosives. Someone named Hardy.
Phil stopped by, before Joe had gotten a chance to call him again, checking to see that Frank was okay and healing. When he heard his help was needed for the case, he couldn’t wait to do so. The sound of the pencil on the sketchbook handed to him by Aunt Gertrude and Frank’s quiet details were all that were heard for a while. Aunt Gertrude sat knitting while listening to them with interest.
From Frank’s description, Phil expertly drew the suspicious guy at the Riviera. Phil’s sketches had come in handy on cases before. After scanning it into the facial recognition database they had access to, they enjoyed some chocolate ice cream that Aunt Gertrude fixed for all of them. It felt great on Frank’s throat.
“Good medicine, huh?” grinned Phil.
“Yeah,” Frank agreed with a smile.
They talked for a while until Phil needed to leave to head for the airport and pick up his parents, who were returning from a romantic anniversary vacation in Hawaii.
A short time later the phone rang at the Hardy home. Raising his eyebrows in surprise, Frank looked at the screen then answered it. “Ned?”
“Hey Frank,” Ned’s voice was quiet, as if he were trying to keep from being overheard. “Little situation here in Delaware. There’s a problem with Nancy’s car. Can you help me with it?”
Frank frowned at the cryptic words. “Sure. Is Nancy okay?”
“So far. She’s with her dad. Look.” Ned zoomed the camera on his phone in on the device.
As soon as he saw what was displayed on the screen, Frank clenched his jaw. His dark eyes took in every detail he could spot.
Ned asked, “So what do you think?”
“I’m getting my laptop. Ned, you should call the police.”
Shaking his dark head, Ned said, “That will scare the person off. I think they’re somewhere around here. Waiting to blow it with a remote signal. Can you tell what kind of range or how to disarm it?”
Frank sighed, understanding what Ned was saying, but not liking it. “Let me see it again.” Frank typed on his laptop and brought the footage up on his screen, zooming and panning to what he needed to see. He studied it quickly, but thoroughly, and from different camera angles. It’s a professional job, and setup like a few I’ve seen before. Frank would have preferred examining it in person and taking care of it himself, but that wasn’t a possibility.
Only a few minutes had lapsed, so Ned knew that anyone watching would hopefully guess he’d dropped something and was still trying to find it in the disappearing light of the evening. And that lack of light would help Ned stay more hidden as well. The fronts of the vehicles were blocked by a concrete wall that ran along the front of the long, narrow parking lot.
“Okay, here’s what you do,” Frank said over the phone.
Ned listened carefully while Frank clearly and knowledgeably described the specifics he was referring to and what needed to be done to disarm it.
Tense seconds went by, with both guys sweating it out.
“Got it,” Ned muttered, having just done exactly as Frank had instructed him.
No explosion. Just two quiet sighs of relief, one in Bayport and one in Delaware.
Joe continued checking around the Riviera for clues. Anything that was left was mostly ruined. He followed some muddy tracks from where Olive had been running. From the appearance, it looked like she had walked all around the place, maybe searching for something? He wasn’t sure, but thought it was very curious. Was it something she had dropped? Or was she hoping to find a clue? Or did she already know who had set the explosive devices?
He was finding more questions than answers right then and the daylight was disappearing. Deciding to go to the Bayport Police Department and see if they’d found out anything new, he walked back over to his car. Before getting in, he paused and glanced around once more, that chill he’d experienced earlier still bothering him.
Once Joe got to the police department, he found out Con wasn’t there, but Chief Collig told him that the Hamptons hadn’t changed their story and said they had acted on their own, for the insurance, and no one was to have gotten hurt.
Walking back out to his car, Joe decided on his next course of action. Like checking out Olive’s place for clues. He had a feeling she wouldn’t be very forthcoming were he to ask her why she’d been at the Riviera earlier.
When he stopped to get a chocolate milkshake, he saw Callie and they talked for a few minutes. She was anxious to help figure out the details of what was going on. Joe could see the worry Callie had for Frank still in her eyes.
He thought to himself, Like Iola, she’s proven herself a great sleuth, with good instincts, over and over. And I think I have an idea….
Choosing a spot near enough to Olive’s place, but where his car wouldn’t be seen, Joe rolled to a stop then turned off the engine and headlights. The houses were spaced far apart and had large yards with plenty of trees and bushes around to give the area a nice view.
In the passenger seat, Callie finished the call she had just made and told Joe, “Operation-Get-Olive-Out-Of-The-House-So-We-Can-Snoop-But-Not-Get-Caught-Because-She-Is-Busy-At-An-Impromptu-Girly-Talk-Party is underway. Seriously, Joe, why does Frank let you name these things?”
Joe grinned. “He loves me. And they’re great titles.”
Callie rolled her eyes, but smiled and nodded toward the sidewalk. “Let’s do this.” She stopped when she saw Joe staring at her, aghast.
“What?” she asked.
“That’s my line!” he exclaimed, pretending to be upset.
“Oy vey. Let’s go.”
Joe grinned and stepped out onto the sidewalk. He closed the door back very quietly, as did Callie.
Once the two of them reached Olive’s sister’s property, they moved stealthily around to the back yard. Joe took every precaution he could to make sure no one was home. Olive’s sister was out of town, from what she’d told Frank. Joe had already made sure they didn’t have to worry about an alarm system.
Joe and Callie were soon standing on the wide wrap-around white porch.
“This is a really pretty place,” Callie commented, looking at the colorful wind chimes hanging on the back porch and the stained-glass and wood door. “How are we going to get in? We can’t break in.”
“No need to break in when there’s an open or unlocked door or window,” Joe commented.
Callie looked at him. “You think Olive is going to leave her windows or doors unlocked?”
“Not all of them, no,” Joe said. “Try that one.” He pointed to a window down on the right of them. Callie hurried over and tried lifting it.
“Nope, locked tight.” She sighed and came back over to where Joe was standing in front of the door. “What now?”
“Check the door and see if it’s open,” Joe suggested.
She did and found, much to her surprise, that, “It is!” She realized she shouldn’t be surprised because she knew that Joe was quite an expert at lock-picking.
“Hmmm, how ’bout that,” Joe said innocently. She looked at him with his twinkling blue eyes. “The doorknob is actually still locked, but it wasn’t shut all the way, so there you go, no need to pick the lock.” Pushing the door open a little more, he called quietly, “Olive? Mind if we come in and ask you some questions?” He looked at Callie and grinned. “Suspects freak out at those words.”
The two quickly entered the house and began to look around carefully, diligent not to allow it to be seen that they had been there.
In the inviting-looking living room bookcases lined one wall, while the rest of the room was decorated with a large, sectional couch and a television, a stone fireplace, and a roll-top desk that was open.
“Ooooh, I call the desk!” Callie whispered.
Joe chuckled quietly at her excitement as he walked over to the bookshelves to check them out. Olive and her sister had quite a variety of books, he noted, his blue eyes reading the titles. Thick, hardback volumes filled the shelves with a range of fiction and nonfiction. They all looked like they were kept dusted. He slid a couple off of a shelf and glanced at them.
Returning them to their spots, he stepped back and looked at the shelves then began to check behind the books. Not all of the volumes touched the back wall of the bookcases, allowing for some space. For a little while the search was unsuccessful. Until he found a small, flat, black box behind several books that weren’t as deep as the shelf. Intrigued, he picked it up and examined it. It was locked. One little panel on it seemed like it might slide….
Checking out the cubby holes and drawers in the roll-top desk, Callie heard Joe give a slight gasping sound. She quickly looked over at him.
“Don’t think….that….was a good idea,” he muttered, the flat box gripped in one hand.
“Why?” Callie asked, something in his tone causing her to start walking across the room toward him.
He turned around, holding a small dart between his index finger and thumb of his other hand. His usual tan was not as dark as normal. “Call it a gut feeling….if you’ll pardon….the expression.”
“It got you?” she asked anxiously, fear in her soft brown eyes. She really hoped the answer was no.
He reached to place a hand on one of the bookshelves in an attempt to steady his balance as Callie rushed over to help him. With her holding onto his shoulders, he slid to the carpet.
“Yeah, sprang out….of box….hit my stomach,” Joe gasped, his eyelids half closed. “Box….is open….now.”
“We should get you to the hospital!” Callie was terrified for Joe, having no idea what might be on that dart.
“Just feel a little….dizzy.” He gasped again. “Make that…lot dizzy. Really….really sorry, Callie.” He looked up at her as tidal waves seemed to wash over him and things began to get foggier every second. “Call….Frank….please.”
She could tell he was getting close to passing out. “Hang on, Joe!” She held on to him, her arm under his shoulder. “Joe!”
He could hear her, but her voice seemed so very far away and he was too sleepy to try to walk all the way back to hear her better.
That time he didn’t hear her at all.