Cut to the Chase
by Ann Chvq
While the brothers are on a case in NYC, Joe disappears and Frank starts a full-scale search for him. Frank knows he has to find Joe before the Assassins kill them. And that job is even more difficult than expected. Joe’s convinced that he has to go into hiding to keep his family and friends safe. As Joe tries to evade Frank, it’s brother vs. brother in the pursuit of freedom and security.
When fighting Assassins, the Hardys’ goal is always the same no matter what – justice.
For fans of the Hardy Boys and fans of the Casefiles. 🙂
Always to the Creator and my family and friends. 🙂 I love you and thank you forever. 🙂 You help me with my writing, and even more – you help me with everything. 🙂
Joe leaned his chin on his hand, blue eyes watching as his brother tapped some more keys. Both brothers read the information that appeared on the screen, searching for clues for their current case. Diamonds had been disappearing from Levinshefski’s, one of the diamond merchants in New York City. Frank and Joe were working with owners David and his wife, Golda, Levinshefski to repair that situation.
“While you finish checking that, I’ll go get us some food. I’m starving and I’m sure you are, too,” Joe said, standing and stretching. Breakfast felt like a long time ago to the brothers.
“Thanks. Yeah, I’m hungry, too.” Frank glanced up from the computer at his ‘little’ six foot tall brother. “Be careful, okay?”
“I’ll be as careful as always,” Joe said with an easy grin, assuring his big brother, who was an inch taller and a year older. His words earned him a mock frown from Frank, as expected.
“Careful. My definition, not yours. How about that?” Frank suggested, his tone mild yet firmly meaning what he said.
“Okay, but don’t be surprised if it takes me a long time to get back here. Being careful is time consuming. And it might make me hungrier and then I’ll have to eat the food I already bought and then I’ll have to go get more….” Joe was just about to the door of the hotel room, a smile in his voice.
“I think you know what I mean. Don’t forget about your poor, starving brother here, okay?” Frank gave him a grin before turning back to the laptop on the table.
“Of course not! But don’t you forget, seems like there’s always a long line at the deli.” With that, Joe left and hurried down to one of the Hardys’ all-time favorite places to eat when in New York City. The pastrami sandwiches alone were worth traveling a distance for, but Joe was thankful they had strategically chosen a hotel located near the diamond store and the delicatessen.
It was after the lunch crowd and right before the dinner crowd, but as Joe pointed out, they were always busy at the deli. Entering the eatery, he saw today was no different. He already knew exactly what he would be ordering. The mouth-watering aromas filling the deli were driving him crazy. As he stood in line, he tried to keep his mind off of his stomach by thinking on the case.
Once he ordered, he went and stood over by the window, out of the way, to wait. It seemed like forever before he was buying the food and heading back to the hotel, dodging other pedestrians, all on their way somewhere. So many individuals, each one with cares and concerns, some with desires to make the world a better place while others were determined to make sure they got all they could for themselves.
Joe noticed the homeless man standing near a store front, seemingly forgotten in the shadows. He couldn’t help but feel sadness for the man’s plight. For all Joe knew it could be the homeless man’s fault or even his own choosing to be in that predicament, but that didn’t change the fact that he wasn’t happy. Joe wondered about the man’s family, if he had one, where they were. His thoughts weren’t a result of curiosity but of compassion which drew him to stop and speak with the homeless man.
“Hi,” Joe said. He could practically hear his brother’s many words of caution about being too trusting. Frank was just as compassionate as Joe but he was a lot more cautious.
“Hello, got an extra dollar or two?” the homeless man asked hopefully, his eyes wandering to the bags of food Joe was carrying. The look wasn’t lost on Joe, who had already decided what he was going to do. He could easily go back and get more food. He had been fairly quick, so he should be able to be back at the hotel before Frank even had a chance to worry.
“Well, how about some food instead?” Joe offered. The homeless man’s eyes lit up, having already gotten a whiff of the pastrami sandwiches. His stomach felt the effects of not having eaten a meal in a while.
Joe smiled easily. “Sure.” He reached the man the sacks of food, who took them gratefully.
“No problem.” Joe gave a wave and turned to go back to the deli.
The homeless man waved back before turning to go share with his friends the food given to him by the kind stranger. He had nothing to give back, but he sent up a quick prayer for blessing. Prayer, now that was something he hadn’t done for a while. Even so, he still sensed it was heard. The homeless man had no idea that Joe would shortly be in dire need of prayer.
Frank glanced at his watch and noted that it was unlikely that his brother could be back yet. He rubbed the back of his neck in an effort to loosen the tension he was feeling. The case was an intriguing one, and it appeared to be an inside job considering the information that would be required to pull it off. Everyone seemed so unlikely thus far.
Another glance at the computer clock, and Frank went back to doing as much tracking for clues as he could with the laptop.
Joe was hoping it wouldn’t be too crowded when he got back to the deli. While he was waiting he would even call his brother and let him know he might be a few minutes late, if that looked likely.
The sky was a little overcast but there was the promise of brighter hours in the future, hinted at by the sunshine fighting its way through. Joe’s vibrant blue eyes glanced around in his natural way of observing his surroundings as he had long been taught by his dad, Fenton.
Joe thought about how his dad had walked the beat around there and went on to be a highly successful detective with the NYPD. Fenton was currently in Washington, D.C., helping law enforcement there on a case, his expertise now utilized as a private investigator.
The resilient sunshine continued to battle the dark clouds, desiring to wipe away any drabness that might be lurking around by brightening things up. Joe grinned thinking of when he and his brother were little they had tried to guess how many rooms and windows one of the huge buildings had. Tilting his blond head up, he determined they still needed to find out.
As his eyes lowered back down to street level, he frowned. Wasn’t that one of the employees from the diamond store over there, having just left Burgers Galore?
Something not quite kosher here. Joe got his phone and casually took some pictures without being noticed by anyone. Then he quickly emailed the photos to Frank and let him know he was going to follow the employee. As the other guy started walking so did Joe, who was careful to keep out of sight.
After walking a block, the employee stopped, looked at his watch then boarded a nearby tourism bus.
Joe, intent on following the suspect, making sure he wouldn’t be seen and recognized, ignored the almost non-existent stinging sensation near his left shoulder blade.
It was warm out but not hot, made even more comfortable by the subtle breeze. So Joe was a little surprised when he started sweating slightly. It’s not that warm out, he thought, puzzled. He blinked, trying to focus as everything suddenly began to blur. What? Peoples’ faces as well as buildings were looking fuzzy but he continued to walk, albeit slower and slower.
Something is seriously not right, he thought as everything seemed to be shifting. He stumbled but managed to keep from falling.
Joe decided he needed to stop for a minute, hoping the dizziness would disappear shortly, so he made his way over to a building and leaned back against it. He sighed and ran a shaky hand over his face.
In what felt like extreme slow-motion, Joe then tried to retrieve the phone from his pocket. Need…call…Frank. His mind was really feeling foggy, but he was desperately attempting to stay alert. Have I been poisoned?, he wondered. He hadn’t eaten anything for hours, so he knew it shouldn’t be food poisoning. With a feeling of fear that was increasing as his level of consciousness was decreasing, he fought panic.
Just when he was trying to hit the button to call his brother, the phone was snatched away. An individual had appeared near Joe, unseen by him as he had feverishly worked to get his phone out.
“No, Mr. Joseph Hardy, you won’t be needing your phone,” a man’s voice said. “Your minutes have all been used up.”
Frank shut off the computer with a frown. Something isn’t right. It was possible that Joe was still in line waiting on the food, but Frank decided he was going to go meet him. He was hoping it was his usual concern of wanting to see that his brother was okay.
Just as he was picking his phone up off the coffee table, an email arrived from Joe. With a sigh of relief, but very curious as to why his brother would be emailing him right then, he read it and looked at the picture attachments. He wished his initial thought that Joe was emailing him for fun while standing in line at the deli had been right. Now, he wanted to kick his brother’s butt for following a suspect by himself. He knew Joe’s reasoning would be that he did let him know, and would lose the suspect waiting for Frank to catch up.
After calling Joe and not getting an answer, only a voice message, Frank’s anxiousness escalated. He quickly left the hotel, while trying to contact Joe.
Once down on the street, Frank began to walk the course he knew his brother would have taken. His deep, dark eyes vigilant, he hoped any minute to see Joe safe.
Frank could tell about where the pictures had been snapped and headed toward that area. Joe wasn’t in sight.
As he walked, trying to spot his brother, and not getting any answer by phone or email, Frank initialized the service they had to track Joe’s phone via the GPS in it. This enabled him to get the real-time location of Joe’s cell phone on his own phone.
Retrieving the information, Frank quickly headed to where he hoped Joe was, not knowing whether or not his brother and his phone were at the same location. He had a bad feeling they weren’t, but it would provide clues to find where Joe was. And there was the slim possibility that Joe was somewhere around there, and even okay.
Moving past people on the sidewalk, his eyes swept ahead, trying desperately to spot his brother’s curly blond head. Glancing again at the screen, he looked back up but didn’t see Joe. Seeing an alleyway, he moved toward it with trepidation to check it out.
An apparently homeless man and numerous boxes, crates, and debris were all that were immediately seen by Frank. No Joe and no phone.
“Excuse me,” Frank said from the sidewalk. “Have you seen this guy?” He held out his cell phone to show him a picture of Joe. The man shook his head, not saying anything. “How about a phone lying around?” This time the man looked a little guilty but still didn’t say anything.
“I might be able to help,” a quiet voice near Frank suddenly spoke. Frank turned and saw a battered and scruffy looking man had just stopped on the sidewalk. “Henry’s my friend.”
Looking over at the other homeless man, the newcomer addressed him, “Henry, did you find a phone somewhere?” Henry looked reluctant to answer so the question was asked again. This time, Henry put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a phone. The same model as Joe’s phone.
To Frank the second homeless man said, “Henry finds phones sometimes. Do you want to see if it is the one you’re looking for?” Frank nodded and reached for the phone, which was unenthusiastically handed to him by Henry. It took Frank only seconds to confirm that it was indeed Joe’s phone.
“Where did you find this?” Frank asked, his eyes intense but he tried to remain calm, or at least appear calm. Henry looked over at his friend, who nodded at him.
“In a pocket,” he finally said. The guy’s a pickpocket, Frank thought to himself.
“This guy’s pocket or did you not see whose pocket you found this in?” Frank asked.
“Not his.” Henry pointed to Frank’s phone.
Henry’s friend stepped forward to look at the picture just indicated. A guess he’d made minutes ago upon seeing and talking with Frank was confirmed when he saw Joe’s photo. “Your brother? I spoke with him earlier.”
Frank’s heart pounded with hope at the homeless man’s words. “You did? Where? When?”
“Not long ago. He has that kind look in his eyes, just like you,” the other man noted. “He left a bunch of food for me and my friends and he was going to go get some more. It was from the corner deli.”
Frank nodded. “Did you see him go to the deli after giving you the food?”
“Well….he headed toward the deli, but my friends and I started eating the good food.” The homeless man looked worriedly at Frank. “You think your brother is okay?”
Not sure how to answer that, Frank shook his head. “I don’t know, but I sure hope so.”
“Me, too. Your brother is one of the decent people, you know, a heart of gold,” the man said earnestly. Frank gave a quick smile.
“Thank you. I appreciate your help and your words,” Frank said, anxious to pick up Joe’s trail. He turned to Henry. “What did the guy look like who had this phone?” Henry gave a fairly detailed description, but it was also one that could match a number of guys. Except for one detail. Frank frowned upon hearing that the man might have had a badge in his pocket.
“Thank you, Henry. And thank you,….?” Frank looked at the second man.
“Thanks, Peter. Are you guys usually around here?”
“Yeah, somewhere in the vicinity,” Peter nodded. “Remember, Henry found the phone.”
“I hear you. And if you could find out anything more about where my brother is and about that guy who had his phone, I’d appreciate it.”
“We’ll start now.”
As Frank headed for the deli, he moved to call his dad. His eyes fell on the smiling picture of Joe still on the screen and despite the warmth of the evening, he felt a chill.