Callie reached the flat porch roof then glanced back. Joe was almost there, moving a bit slower than usual. Frank kept hold of Joe’s right arm, ready to make sure his younger brother didn’t stumble. Frank’s eyes moved past the roof and down to the ground. They would just need to get past a small amount of yard before there was cover. Hopefully Olive was still busy checking out the basement.
Walking silently, Frank saw Callie listen for Olive. She turned back and gave the ‘all clear’ sign.
“Joe, sit here a minute, okay?” Frank watched as his brother looked over at him and nodded. After helping Joe carefully sit down, Frank hurried over to Callie. Seeing his tense face, she gave him a smile and a wink and he smiled back, letting out a nervous breath. He needed to get both his brother and his girlfriend and himself back to their cars, without getting caught. And in one piece.
With Frank’s strong hands securely around Callie’s forearms, she held tightly on to him and he began to lower her over the edge of the lowest part of the roof. They kept their eyes locked on each other as she stretched her feet in hopes of feeling the railing beneath them. Her tiptoes hit what she figured must be the porch railing, but it was just a little too far away.
Tense moments went by with Frank holding on to her securely while he was stretched flat and hanging partway past the roof. He glanced down to the railing below and saw he needed to lower her a little more. He was already stretched quite a bit and his bruises and aches from being injured at the Riviera were reminding him all about that. His lungs especially were not happy with the exertion.
Then he felt hands on his ankles, anchoring him. Joe. That gave Frank the help he needed.
A few more moments and Callie’s feet were on the railing. It was wide enough for her to stand steady. She was near enough to a post so that Frank let go of one of her arms, and she stretched over to grab hold of it. Once he felt like she was secure, he let go.
As Frank started to return to the roof, scooting back, he felt his brother grab hold of his belt and pull. Between the two of them, it was a lot easier task.
They had to wait a minute to catch their breath before it was Joe’s turn to climb down to the porch. Frank could see his brother was still having some problems from what was on the dart, but he seemed to be doing better. They definitely needed to have him checked out as soon as possible.
It was a quick and careful climb from the porch roof to the railing for Joe, who, being taller, was able to reach it easier than Callie.
Frank waited a moment, making sure Olive wasn’t going to spot them through a window. Breathing lightly, he’d been battling constantly not to cough. Then he was climbing down, too, while holding on to the edge of the roof. Once his feet were on the railing, he paused momentarily, let go of the roof, turned then jumped down.
They hurriedly ran toward the cover of the foliage along the perimeter of the yard. As they made their way to where their two cars were parked out of sight, Frank asked, “Do you still have the box, Callie?”
She nodded. “I closed it up and stuck it in my pocket.”
“Excellent. I’m anxious to see what is in here,” Frank said as they reached his car and she handed it to him.
“Me, too,” Joe agreed, wishing they could check it then, but knew it wouldn’t be wise.
“How’re you feeling, Joe?” Callie asked in concern.
“Oh, back to normal, huh?” Callie smiled at Joe, who returned it.
“Pretty much, yep.”
Frank wasn’t too sure and couldn’t truly let go of his concern until they found out what was on the dart and now in Joe’s bloodstream.
Opening the door of his car, Frank handed his keys to Callie. “I’ll drive Joe’s car if you’ll drive mine.”
“Cool. Now I can see what this baby can really do,” she said playfully, accepting the keys, her adrenaline still pulsing.
Joe snickered. “Lead-foot Callie.”
Frank groaned, but didn’t take back the keys. Instead he leaned down and gave Callie a quick, but passionate kiss. “Please try not to get any tickets.”
“Are we heading for the hospital?” Callie asked.
Before Frank could say anything, Joe jumped in to announce, “No.”
“Joe,” Frank started to say.
“We can stop by the police station, give it to Con if he’s there or leave it for him to have analyzed at the police lab. Be a lot easier than going to the hospital,” Joe stated.
“But what about you?” Frank demanded. “You should get checked out.”
“I feel okay. Just sleepy. We should go home,” returned Joe. “We wouldn’t know anything until it was analyzed anyway. And you look beat. I don’t think it would be a good idea for you to go to the hospital run down like you are. Germs, you know.”
Frank sighed and ran a hand over his eyes. He felt Callie’s hand on his arm and he looked at her.
“You do need to get some rest, Frank,” Callie said, her concern continuing for him.
“I’m more worried about my goofy little brother than about getting rest,” Frank said regarding his brother with a serious look on his face. Joe did seem to be doing better so Frank agreed to the plan. Callie would follow them, get to see what was in the box, and borrow Frank’s car again, to be picked up by the brothers the next day.
After dropping off the dart with Con, who accepted – temporarily – the abbreviated version of what had happened, they headed for the Hardy home. Con had told them he would probably have an idea of what it was within the next couple of hours since there was a lab technician working late who had just wrapped up what she had been working on and could get right to it.
Pulling into the Hardy driveway, Frank remembered how scared he was when he had left there, on his way to Olive’s house, fearing for Joe’s life. He was somewhat less worried now. He frowned as the headlights picked up a car already parked in the driveway.
The brothers stared at the car, seeing the vanity license plate. Olive’s car.
“Let’s just play it cool,” Frank muttered, reaching for the door handle. He could see Olive walking from the house to her car.
“Hi!” she called cheerfully when she saw Frank’s tall form getting out of the driver’s side of the car. He waved back.
Joe groaned and got out of the car as well, looking at Olive.
“Frank!” Olive exclaimed as she hurried over. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“What?” he asked, keeping his expression from revealing anything and wondering if she knew they’d been at her house.
“Going out when you are probably not fully recuperated from the restaurant fire,” she said.
“What about you? How’s your arm?” Frank asked.
Olive looked startled that he knew about her arm.
“I asked about you at the hospital when they were taking care of me,” he explained, not giving her the extra information that Iola was the one who had taken care of her first.
“Oh! Isn’t that sweet?” Olive said, looking extremely pleased at Frank’s considerate ways.
“He would do that for anyone,” Joe told her, just as he had at the hospital. And just like at the hospital, Olive glared at him. She then turned her attention back to the eldest Hardy brother.
“I missed talking to you earlier when I stopped by and your aunt said you were sleeping, so I decided to come back.” Olive looked like she expected Frank to be thrilled at the attention and effort she had put into seeing him.
He was busy trying to figure out whether or not she had any suspicion they had been at her house a short time ago. Callie walked up to them and Olive’s lip curled in disdain.
Joe saw that and, remembering what Frank had told him Olive had said at dinner, decided he had something to say. “You know why you don’t like Callie? Because she has Frank.”
Turning to direct another glare at Joe, Olive said, “What do you mean by that?”
“Exactly what I said. Callie has Frank. You don’t. And you’re a mean girl, so you aren’t nice about it.”
Frank’s and Callie’s eyes widened at Joe’s words. And Joe wasn’t done yet.
“Mean girls are mean. You’re pretty, but looks don’t make up for an obnoxious personality.”
“Uh.” Frank cleared his throat, grabbing a hold of Joe’s arm and starting for the house. “My brother is past tired and sometimes doesn’t know when to shut up. Sorry about that, Olive.” He nudged Joe to apologize. Joe wasn’t interested.
Olive was stunned as she watched them hurry to the house; with Frank walking backward, apologizing and Joe looking like he wanted to say more. Callie was the first one to the door to open it.
“Joe!” Frank stared at his brother as soon as they had gone in the house and closed the door.
Frank looked at him as if to say, ‘what do you mean what?’ “Were you trying to anger her?”
Joe shrugged, “No, I was just saying the truth.” He looked at his brother in puzzlement.
“I agree it’s the truth, but sheesh!” Frank ran a hand through his hair, but then he started to laugh. He was exhausted and the flat-out truth of Joe’s statements to snobby Olive was too much.
Joe’s ringtone was heard then and he quickly answered it. “Hey Con!” Joe listened to what the lieutenant was telling him. “No kidding.” He laughed.
“What?” Frank asked.
“I’m going to be fine, but until this stuff wears off, I’ve got the equivalent of the truth serum in my system.” Joe apparently thought that was hilarious.
“Well, you don’t lie and no one was trying to get information from you, so you didn’t really seem different, except you were slightly mouthier than usual,” said Frank. He remembered that Olive had said that the person who got hit with the dart would be unconscious then they would have a chat.
“Con said we should get some rest,” Joe said. Frank agreed wholeheartedly. He was exhausted. But first things first….
Pulling the box out of his pocket, with Joe and Callie watching, Frank carefully opened it up. And stared at the contents.
Frank grinned. “This confirms something Joe and I had wondered and talked about when we were thinking back over everything earlier.” He looked at Callie. “That was the crazy theory I didn’t want to mention at Olive’s.”
The following morning, Frank called and checked on Nancy. He was happy to hear they had caught the jerk who had tried to kill Nancy and Carson. They hadn’t been sure whether it was Nancy or her dad who had been the target, or both of them. It turned out to be both.
The capture in Delaware would lead the Drews to someone they were already suspicious of, but hadn’t yet had proof. The vice-president of Manifest Corporation had been smuggling stolen gems in and out of countries. One of the victims was the Drews’ client. Nancy had suspected the guilty party for a while, but she had also wondered about the president of the company. He was difficult to catch up with.
Once Frank got off the phone with Nancy, he made a couple more calls then went to his computer and looked at their notes. Seeing the time, he grinned. The idea he had thought of while he’d been resting could now be put into play.
He was going to ask Olive out on a date to the movies.