Frank didn’t waste time staring over at the doorway while hearing the sound of a key in the lock coming from the front door. Whoever was there would first enter the small foyer before having to walk a few more steps to reach the doorway to the living room. Yeah, they had all the time in the world.
Joe was quickly hauled to his feet. Frank normally wouldn’t have had any trouble lifting his brother, but he was still in the process of recovering. Even so, he managed to heft Joe over his shoulder, realizing that it had been the right thing to rest as much as he had earlier.
Callie grabbed the small, flat box and moved with Frank toward a door almost hidden against the wood paneling of the room. Near the bookshelves Frank reached out while keeping a secure hold on his brother and turned the small handle. Giving it a gentle shove, the door swung open. He had no idea where it led or whether it was a tiny storage area or if it would hide them. He just knew when he’d spied it that it was their best chance.
The light beam from Frank’s penlight he’d snagged out of his jacket pocket revealed a narrow, but wide enough, set of wooden stairs. Holding on to Joe, and after a glance behind to make sure Callie was doing okay, Frank then turned back around and started up the stairs.
Callie got the door closed in time. Moving silently, Frank wondered where the steps would lead. He reached the top and hoped the door in front of them wasn’t locked.
Callie could hear Olive entering the living room, talking to someone, likely on the phone because the other person’s voice was never heard. Not that Olive gave anyone with her a chance to say much. She was complaining so loudly that Callie could hear her even while backing quietly up the steps.
“I can’t believe the signal went off that someone had opened the box!” Olive paused as the other person must have said something. “But there is no one in the living room! I’m standing right here. I’m going to check for the box now. Maybe it was a false alarm.”
One moment later a stream of bad language was heard. “It’s not here! How am I not tripping over an unconscious body right now? That dart should have done its job, then when he or she woke up we’d have a little chat. But no one is in here! I don’t know who it was. I’m sure the Hardys don’t have any idea about us.”
Callie sensed Frank was trying to get her attention and hurried stealthily up the stairs to him.
He was standing in an open doorway that led to a finished attic. Callie stepped into the large room and closed the door behind her. Frank then set Joe down on the floor, propping him against the wall, and walked over to one of the windows. He wiped the light perspiration above his lip as he glanced out into the foggy night, leaning his hand on the window frame.
He looked back at his still-groggy brother and his girlfriend. The one-story house would normally not be any problem to egress through the attic window and quickly climb down the porch roof then jump easily onto the ground of the back yard. Little different story now.
Going back over to his brother, he put his hand on Joe’s head. “Joe, how’re you doing?”
“Go sleep now?” Joe murmured groggily.
“No, not yet. I need you to wake up for real, okay, buddy?”
“’m ‘wake,” Joe said, barely moving his lips, his words not entirely convincing since his eyes were still closed.
“Not enough. Come on, Joe, please.”
Struggling through the fog, much thicker than what was just outside the house thanks to what was on the dart, Joe opened his eyes. That alone was exhausting work.
Frank smiled at his brother’s effort. “Doing good, Joe.”
Callie listened at the door, thankful Olive hadn’t checked the stairs yet, apparently convinced that the person was long gone with the box. Still, any minute, maybe once she got done complaining to the person on the phone, she would start checking around a little better. Callie tried to think over everything to make sure nothing would give away that they were the ones looking around Olive’s house.
Hurrying over to the brothers, Callie helped pull Joe to his feet. He swayed quite a bit as they tried to steady him. They couldn’t make any noise, so walking him around to wake him up wouldn’t work. Frank set his jaw, knowing what he needed to do.
“I’m sorry, Joe,” he muttered then he slapped his brother across the face, as quietly as possible.
Joe looked at him, a little startled and wounded. But only a little bit less groggy.
Frank closed his eyes a moment then asked, “Callie, do you happen to have any perfume or anything like that with you?”
“No,” Callie answered. “Well, I have some peppermint puffs in my pocket.”
“That might work. Wouldn’t hurt.” Frank nodded and held out his hand for one. Callie quickly pulled a candy out of her pocket and handed it to her boyfriend.
Frank opened it and waved it under Joe’s nose, hoping the strong scent would at least invigorate him a little bit. His brother blinked as Frank continued to wave the candy under his nose for a few moments.
“We could wait until she leaves and go out that way,” Callie suggested quietly.
“Yeah, but she could set a trap, if she thinks whoever took the box is still in here,” Frank said as he watched his brother, who was still looking really groggy. “And she could come up here to check around any minute. We need to get out of here.”
“We need some water to throw in his face,” Callie commented to Frank.
Joe swerved his eyes from the candy, which he’d been content to watch Frank wave back and forth, over to Callie. Frank took that as a good sign that Joe was hearing and comprehending.
“Yeah,” Frank said, glancing around. Callie did as well. They both spotted a little alcove around the corner of the uniquely-shaped room, but couldn’t see what was there. Callie hurried to check it out.
“There’s a tiny room off the alcove – with a sink!”
Frank frowned. “I’m not sure about getting any water. The pipes could make noises and alert Olive that we’re up here. I’d like for her to never know we were here.”
“Maybe if I just run it a little. There are other house sounds to disguise it.”
Looking at his brother, Frank knew that if they were going to climb out of the house successfully, Joe really needed to be more awake. They would have to chance it.
“Yeah, and Olive’s probably still talking so she won’t hear it,” Frank said. They quietly went over to the mini-bathroom, with Frank and Callie holding on to Joe. And soon Joe was being splashed with water. He didn’t much care for it.
“H….ey!” He frowned, blinking, but he still wasn’t truly awake, maybe just a little less unsteady.
“One more idea,” Frank stated, and pulled Joe’s cell phone out of his pocket and hit a button. He heard it ring then said quietly, “We’ll explain later, but can you just tell Joe something that will wake him up?” Then he held the phone next to Joe’s ear. He watched as Joe’s eyes lit up when he heard a very familiar voice.
“’kay. Love you,” Joe said after listening a minute, continuing to smile. Frank took the phone back.
“Thanks, Iola,” Frank said and ended the call. He regarded his brother’s face again and almost chuckled. Yeah, that worked – Joe definitely looks more awake now!
“Let’s go.” Frank went over to a window facing the back yard and carefully unlocked and opened it, again thankful it didn’t have alarms like the Hardy home. He glanced back at Joe and Callie and told them, “I’ll be right back.” Climbing onto the roof, he cautiously and silently walked toward the section over the porch. As he’d thought in his mind, they could ease down to that level then climb down and jump from there. He quickly returned to the other two.
Hearing a sudden sound coming from the stairs, they all stopped their flight, not wanting to make any noise. Olive was talking, having just opened the bottom door. Then her heels were hitting each wooden step.
“I doubt there’s anyone up here; I checked most of the house. That dart must have failed to hit whoever opened the box. Or maybe the signal that’s supposed to let us know someone’s opened it went off anyway.” Her loud sigh echoed up the stairway. The clomping of her heels stopped as she listened to the person on the phone. “I’m not picking on your setup. I’m nice. Oh? Well, how would you describe me?”
“Mean girl,” Joe stated. Frank looked at him in surprise. Joe knew to keep quiet. Even though Joe enjoyed being a smart-mouth, he was quiet when it was really necessary. Like when they needed to stay hidden.
Joe started to say something else and Frank quickly clapped a hand over his brother’s mouth. Frank and Callie looked at each other, wondering whether Olive had overheard or not. Hopefully her loud voice had kept her from hearing.
“Fine, I’ll go check the basement,” Olive said, sighing again. They listened as her voice and the sound of her heels were exchanged eventually for silence after she’d gotten far enough away.
Now was the time to leave.
“Callie, you first,” Frank instructed in a whisper then he carefully helped her climb out the window. She watched, ready to help, as Frank gave his brother a steadying hand on his back for balance. Considering Joe was still feeling the serious effects of the dart, he did pretty well climbing out the window.
Even while exiting the attic himself, Frank didn’t let go of Joe. Callie was also steadying Joe, unsure how being on the slanted roof would go right then. He usually handled such things agilely.
After closing the window back, Frank did a quick mental checklist of what clues Olive might be able to discern by checking out the attic. They couldn’t lock the window back, she could notice that. Not much water had ended up on the floor, but that would hopefully be dry by the time she checked.
Callie quickly walked along the slanted tiles of the roof, following Frank’s suggested route, with Joe behind her then Frank.
Nancy and Carson arrived not long after Ned had called her. Carson’s cell phone rang as soon as he had gotten out of the car and he quickly answered it, knowing it was a call he’d been waiting for about the case.
As she greeted her boyfriend, Nancy was so thankful Ned was okay and relished feeling his strong arms around her. Gazing up into his warm brown eyes while he tenderly brushed a strand of her reddish-blonde hair from her face, she asked quietly, “What’s your plan?”
Bending his head near her ear, he began to tell her.
“I don’t like it,” she stated when he’d finished explaining.
“Didn’t think you would. But Nancy, it could work.”
She sighed. “I didn’t say it wouldn’t work; I said I didn’t like it. And I’m referring to the danger you’ll be in.”
He kissed her hair and looked into her eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Nancy said. She glanced over at her dad, who was finishing up the call he’d received. “Let’s run it by Dad.”
Anyone observing would think they were just having a casual conversation. Nancy’s eyes seemed to be on Ned and Carson, but she was intent on figuring out where the best place would be for the person ready to engage the explosive device. She agreed with Ned’s assessment of which hotel rooms would have the best vantage point. Some of the curtains were open, or partially so, but no one was visible from where Nancy stood.
Nancy and Ned walked into the hotel lobby. They talked briefly with the helpful hotel manager who had been delighted that the famous detective, Nancy Drew, was staying there.
A short time later, Nancy was back out in the parking lot walking with her dad toward her car.
From one of the hotel rooms, watching with evil anticipation, the person who had placed the explosive device on Nancy’s car waited, ready to detonate it. His angry face took on an extra-irritated look as the father and daughter paused a distance from Nancy’s car. Talking. That’s what they were doing. His finger poised near the button, his aggravation increasing as he watched them start again for the car. Only to stop. Again. And talk.
Then they started walking again. He leaned toward the window, his cold eyes following the Drews’ progress toward the car. They were getting closer. Soon, he was sure, they would be opening the doors and getting in. That’s when he would hit the button. Right now they weren’t close enough.
He couldn’t believe it. They were stopping again. And talking. Again. Would they ever get to the car? They were apparently on the way there to go somewhere. He couldn’t figure out how it could take them so long to walk such a short distance.
Intently focused on his plan, he was caught completely by surprise when the door to the hotel room burst open. Turning from the window in shock, he saw Ned Nickerson holding the disarmed explosive device.
“Here. Catch.” Ned tossed it to the other man then let loose with a powerful right, socking him hard in the face.