The next morning, shortly after visiting hours started, Nancy stopped by to see Frank, who had been discussing with Joe and Callie, mostly via sign language, what had happened the previous evening.
“Hi, Frank, Joe, Callie,” she smiled, her blue eyes alight with thankfulness that the brothers had survived the fire. “How are you feeling?”
“Hi, Nancy,” Frank responded with a return smile, his voice still husky from the smoke he’d breathed in. “I’ll live.”
Callie waved and smiled from her spot sitting next to Frank’s bed. “Hi, Nancy.”
“Hey, Nance!” Joe grinned, and pulled a chair over for her with a flourish. “Solve the case yet?”
She laughed and sat down. “Thank you. And in answer to your question, no, I didn’t.”
“Darn.” Joe shrugged. “Not going to break any records with that kind of slackness, Nancy.”
She smiled. “But I do have some news to share with you. I saw Chief Collig in the parking lot of the Bayport Police Department on my way here, so I stopped to chat.”
“And what did you find out, Nosy, I mean, Nancy?” Joe teased, anxious to hear what Nancy had learned. He could tell she had some important information she wanted to share.
Nancy made a face at Joe. “Just for that, I’m not telling you, I’m just going to tell your polite brother and his polite girlfriend.”
Frank smiled and listened as Nancy began to tell her news after purposely turning to look only at him and Callie. “They just made two arrests.”
Frank’s and Callie’s, and Joe’s, eyebrows shot up simultaneously. “Already?” Joe asked.
“Stop butting in on a private conversation,” Nancy told Joe teasingly, but then nodded in answer to his question. “Chief Collig had his officers working all night on it.” She paused with the big news and watched Joe out of the corner of her eye, seeing that he was about to fall off his chair waiting for her to say who the police had arrested. Just as Joe was about to open his mouth to ask ‘who?!?!’, Nancy told them, “The restaurant owners, Craig and Monica Hampton.”
“Seriously?” Frank asked in surprise.
“Yep. Motive’s the insurance money. The Hamptons’ fancy restaurant was costing them more money than they were profiting and they were in debt big time. And the police have quite a lot of evidence that points to the owners.”
“But I heard Con and the fire marshal talking about professional explosive devices that were set along the perimeter of the roof,” Joe said, frowning. “And most of all, I can’t believe the Hamptons would be willing to kill everyone in order to gain insurance money.”
“Well, the police found much of their evidence from computer searches and credit card purchases. So while there wasn’t a big paper trail, the digital one led them right to the Hamptons,” Nancy said.
Frank shook his head and whispered, “But I saw Craig Hampton there at the restaurant.”
“You must have seen him right before he left because he and his wife were on the road when the place exploded,” Nancy told him.
Thinking over the timing, Frank agreed that it was a little while before the explosions when he had seen Craig at his office. Frank wondered whether the suspicious character leaving the Hampton’s office had anything to do with the fire or not. He made a mental note to check into it.
“I’m not saying it’s not possible that the Hamptons would blow up their own restaurant for the insurance money, but I just can’t believe they would do that with anyone in there and be okay with killing everyone,” Joe reiterated. “There are evil people out there, but I don’t think the Hamptons are evil. Stupid maybe, but not evil.”
“I remember meeting them. I agree with that assessment,” Callie stated.
Nancy nodded. “That fits with what else Chief Collig said, too. The fire marshal told him he thought the explosive devices went off early and not all of them actually blew. They found an unexploded one not far from the building and are checking it out,” Nancy glanced at her watch and stood up. “I’ve got to get going. I need to meet my dad about a case we’re working on. He’s in Delaware right now.”
“Hey,” Frank started to say, but then coughed and Callie handed him the water glass from the table nearby. “Thanks.” Frank drank a little before glancing up at Nancy. “You never said why you were in Bayport.”
“I wanted to ask you if you had ever heard about Manifest Corporation, a global conglomerate of businesses, possibly moving their headquarters to the US. And thought I’d stop to see you guys since I was in New York City and would go by here on my way to Delaware,” Nancy explained, smiling.
“Offhand I don’t think I’ve heard of Manifest Corporation, but if we come across something we’ll make sure to let you know,” Frank promised with a smile.
“The main thing is to rest and get well, Frank Hardy,” Nancy told him. “By the way, Iola told me about the charity auction and that someone named Olive Charlton won. Out of curiosity, how much was the winning bid? I forgot to ask Iola.”
Joe named the amount and Nancy whistled. “Well, Frank, you gave Olive a date she’ll never forget.”
“And one I’d like to forget,” Frank muttered, rolling his dark eyes.
“I had asked Frank whether her middle name was ‘Oyl’ and he said to forget the ‘l’. Just ‘Oy’,” Joe said, grinning.
“I’m really interested in hearing the rest of the story!” Nancy stated, gently touching Frank’s arm, mindful of not jostling him with his likely aches and bruises.
Frank smiled at her. “Then you’ll have to keep safe so you can hear it.”
“Yeah, be careful, Nancy,” Joe told her. “Don’t let anyone catch you being nosy. ‘Cause I know you can’t keep from that.”
Nancy laughed, waved at Callie and hurried to meet her dad. She hadn’t been able to get in touch with him earlier and she was anxious to see him.
Just five minutes after Nancy left, Frank had another visitor.
Olive burst into the room, interrupting thoughts and discussion on the case and how quickly it appeared to be wrapped up. They had a feeling there was more to it.
“Frank!” Olive exclaimed and hurried over to Frank’s hospital bed. She grabbed his hand, making him wince a little.
“Hey, careful!” Joe reproved.
“He’s injured!” Callie wanted to smack Olive.
“I was so worried about you!” she said, looking at Frank and totally ignoring Joe and Callie. “Are you alright?”
Frank nodded and tried to get his hand back, which took a little effort, but he won.
“His throat is pretty messed up right now from the smoke, so he can’t really talk,” Joe explained, watching Olive.
“Oh, that’s too bad!” Olive turned around and both brothers and Callie wondered if she were about to leave. No such luck. Olive grabbed a chair and pulled it closer to Frank. “But don’t worry, I can talk for both of us.”
You can talk enough for an auditorium full of people, Frank thought to himself. Maybe several auditoriums.
“How’re you doing?” Frank asked in a whisper.
“What?” Olive asked, leaning closer, which caused her strong perfume to waft over Frank. He couldn’t help it. He did a combination cough-choking.
“He asked how you’re doing,” Callie repeated for Frank, looking at her boyfriend in concern and handing him some water again. He took it gratefully.
“Oh,” Olive said. “It was traumatic. We could have all been killed! And what an awful thing happened to that sensational restaurant!”
Joe realized this was an opportunity to question Olive, see what she had to say, so he asked, “What happened with you after the explosion hit?”
“My, but that was scary!”
“So were you unconscious?” Joe questioned.
While Frank listened to the conversation, with his eyes closed, he wondered whether Olive talked while she was unconscious or not. Probably.
“For a short time, yeah, I think so, I was a bit out of it,” Olive said.
“For how long?” Joe asked.
“I don’t know.” Olive sounded like she was getting a little annoyed at Joe’s questions.
“My brother looked for you and couldn’t find you,” Joe said.
“That’s so wonderful of you.” Olive gazed adoringly at Frank. “Very brave.”
“He would have done that for anyone. That’s the kind of guy he is,” Joe told her matter-of-factly.
Olive turned and gave Joe a look that made him want to grin, but he refrained and just looked back at her with big, innocent eyes. Callie couldn’t help it, she flat-out grinned at the exchange.
Turning back to Frank, who had struggled a little with not grinning also at what his younger brother had said, Olive began to talk about what a sensational time she’d had on the date. Prior to the explosion, of course.
Finally, Joe decided Frank needed a break, or else the doctor was going to think he needed to stay longer since the headache couldn’t be getting better around Olive. “My brother still has a headache. We should let him rest.” He went over to the door and opened it for her.
Callie smiled at Joe’s lack of subtleness.
Olive, however, didn’t look pleased at being ushered out. She patted Frank’s arm and looked at him sympathetically again. “Get well, Frank. And thank you for the memorable date. I had a nice time.” She smiled at Frank, who raised his eyebrows.
“You’re welcome. Didn’t expect all….of the drama, but glad you aren’t going to hold it against me,” he whispered jokingly.
“Of course not. It wasn’t your fault. I’ve had worst dates. Did I tell you about this one date-”
Joe loudly cleared his throat. “Bye, Olive.”
Olive’s eyes showed her irritation, but then she smiled again at Frank, patted his arm once more, told him she’d talk to him later, and left.
Shortly after that the doctor came to examine Frank again then released him so he could go home.
Later, at home, Frank was finally settled in his own comfortable, clean bed. Already he felt better than he had.
His mom brushed a lock of hair off her eldest son’s forehead, thankful he was allowing her to fuss over him some. Her sapphire blue eyes looked into his dark ones and she asked quietly, “Are you sure you’re okay?”
He smiled at her somewhat sleepily. “Yeah. It’s good to be home. The smoke smell is going away. Slowly.”
She nodded, her hand resting softly against his cheek, noting his usual tanned coloring was coming back. “If you need anything, let us know. Best thing to do is rest. I love you.”
“I love you, Mom,” he said. He could see she was thinking about how close a call it had been. “I’m alright.”
“And I’m very thankful.” She leaned down to kiss him on the cheek. He watched as she left his room, his thoughts on her. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten to witness what a strong, brave, admirable woman Mom is. Impresses me every time and makes me grateful. No words could ever fully express my love and gratitude for her, but I hope my “I love you” somehow conveys it, from my heart to hers. She goes through a lot and handles it all with such grace and strength. Takes quite a lot of effort and prayer to be like that. And it’s because she loves us.
Frank’s eyes slid shut with those thoughts and he went to sleep with a prayer of thanks in his soul.
Nancy drove steadily through from New York to Delaware to meet her dad. She had called him from the hospital parking lot and had finally gotten an answer. His cell phone had been blocked while in a meeting. Feeling so relieved, Nancy was still anxious to see her dad. Maybe it was the scare with the Hardy brothers almost getting killed, or the case she and her dad were working on, but a worrisome feeling had stayed with her.
Pulling into the hotel parking lot where her dad had made reservations, she spotted her handsome lawyer father at his vehicle. He grinned and waved as she parked her car next to his. With a big smile on her face, she jumped out of her car and hurried around to get her hug.
The father and daughter had a happy mini-reunion, even though it hadn’t been long since they’d last seen each other. Unseen by them, someone not far away carefully observed them, recognizing the Drews.
The person was unmoved by the touching scene as Carson and Nancy talked and decided where to go eat. Father and daughter got into his car and left the parking lot. Walking casually toward Nancy’s vehicle, the individual then made a small addition to the car in mere seconds.