Just in time, Joe regained his balance. His whole body shook a little but it wasn’t because of the coolness of the early morning. That was a loooong way down! Closing his eyes briefly, he opened them back up to continue toward the elevator. It was soon time to jump.
Taking a deep breath, he held it as he jumped down, landing agilely on the roof of the elevator. Breathing a sigh of relief, he was thankful to the One Who always looks out for His children. Even the crazy ones.
Then he waited. He had guessed earlier that the closer it was to the light of day would shorten the length of time he had to wait.
When the elevator finally began to move, Joe held on tight, and hoped that he would have time to get off before the next guest got on. And without anyone seeing him. As they reached the ground floor the muted light helped keep him from being noticed as he climbed down. At last he was back on good ol’ terra firma.
Joe quickly began to travel a circuitous route with precautionary detours to the hotel where Iola was.
Frank and the others had stayed awake all night working to find Joe. The older Hardy brother reminded himself of his father’s words – that everything told them something, whether it was the presence or lack of clues. Frank determined what he could gather with that in mind. Abdel had done an extremely thorough job of cleaning his apartment. That meant he thought someone might, or would, come check it out, and was obviously trained on how to make sure not to leave any traces.
Phil had noted the phone number of the apartment and planned to see if he could find out about any calls to or from there. Working for hours during the night on his computer and making calls, by the time the morning light touched the room, he had a lead.
“Abdel rented an office not too far from here,” Phil said, taking his glasses off and rubbing his eyes as he gave the address. Everyone was very impressed with Phil’s work and out the door in seconds heading for the van, all in high hopes with the lead.
The small office building was located in a picturesque part of the city, with the occasional tree dotting the neatly kept sidewalk. The scene was complete with pleasing-looking buildings and even clean benches and ornate lights lining the tidy street.
Hoping for clues, they were about to do even better. With someone gunning for them, Frank decided on caution, and quietly asked Phil and Tony to stay with Callie in the van.
As Frank, Biff and Chet went into the brick office building, they saw Abdel entering the elevator, so they took the stairs. Arriving on the fourth floor, they waited, keeping out of sight, as the suspect exited the elevator and walked toward an office down the hall.
Right when “the little weasel”, as Tony referred to the suspect, was about to go into the rented office, another person came up behind the guys. He loudly asked what the Bayporters were doing and consequently alerted Abdel.
Startled, the little weasel came to find out what was going on. Seeing Frank and the other guys he took off in the opposite direction. He immediately went and opened the window to the fire escape and began to climb down as fast as he could. Hearing those pursuing him also taking the fire escape, he attempted to quicken his pace. Deciding he was close enough to the ground to jump, he did just that.
Managing not to break any bones even though he was a little further from the ground than he expected, the little weasel started running down the alley toward the street. His thoughts were centered on getting to his car and getting away.
Right as he reached the end of the alley a van suddenly pulled right in front of him, effectively cutting off his escape route. The pretty blonde behind the wheel smiled calmly at him.
“This silly thing, now what’s the little letter you need to select to make it go?”
“Take your foot off the brake!” the little weasel yelled, looking back at the guys in pursuit.
“Oh!” She blinked and moved slightly, but the vehicle didn’t. “Now what?”
“You want the little letters ‘D’ or ‘R’,” he yelled frustrated.
“Not ‘N’?” she asked.
“How about ‘P’?” she questioned, her expression indicating she was trying.
“‘D’ or ‘R’ and hit the gas!” the little weasel hollered, trying one more time. He thought about shooting her, or hauling her out of the van and taking off, or trying to climb across the hood.
While those thoughts were swirling around his mind, the driver’s door suddenly came toward him much quicker than he could react. Knocking into him, it threw him back. Right into Frank.
As Frank yanked the guy’s wrist behind his back, the Hardy brother looked over at his girlfriend.
“You said ‘stay in the vehicle’,” Callie said, smiling. “And I did!”
Frank couldn’t help but smile briefly. Biff moved over and got the little weasel in an arm-lock while Frank began to question him.
“Why were you leaving?” Frank asked.
“I got a better job offer,” the little weasel said sullenly.
“Why did you pretend to be Chassidic?”
“Was it so you could fake people out to have a chance to steal the diamonds?”
Again no answer.
“Who do you work for?”
Still silence and Frank had about had it.
“Where’s my brother?” yelled Frank. The suspect jumped but said nothing so Biff tightened his hold – a lot.
“How do I know who your brother is?” the suspect hollered in return.
Holding his phone in front of the weasel’s face, Frank told him in a seriously quiet voice, “This is my brother. Where is he?”
The weasel glanced at the photo and shrugged. “I don’t know.”
Frank tried to maintain control.
“You’re going to break my arm!” the weasel informed Biff.
“Hmmm, my bad,” Biff stated and proceeded to increase pressure on the suspect’s arm.
The weasel looked up at the angry big brother in front of him and obviously some of the friends of the guy in the picture. There wasn’t any doubt that they were angry and wanted answers. Even the girl, whom he suspected had only been putting on a very convincing act a few minutes before, looked like she wanted to tear him up.
“You can’t do anything to me,” the little weasel snarled.
“Wanna bet?” asked Biff very calmly.
What the little weasel blurted out next made everyone’s hearts reel. “He was killed!”
The shocked silence was interrupted by Frank trying to keep his voice steady as he demanded more information. “Why do you say that?”
Suddenly not sure it was wise to have uttered those words, Abdel chose the next ones more carefully. “I want a lawyer!”
After failing to get any more answers from him, Frank called and talked with Police Chief Sam Peterson. An officer was posted at the arrested weasel’s rented office space until a search warrant could be obtained.
As Joe got closer to the hotel where his Iola was, his blue eyes widened when he saw someone he recognized. Nancy! Not just any Nancy but Nancy-Super-Detective-Finds-Clues-Even-When-They’re-Almost-Invisible-Drew.
What was Nancy doing here? And why? Was she on a case? No matter the reason, the goal remained the same. She shouldn’t see me….were Joe’s worried thoughts. He really didn’t want to have to evade any questions, because he had a feeling one of the world’s greatest detectives would see right through him.
All of this went through his mind in seconds and he turned to move so she wouldn’t spot him. No need to put her in danger and it was possible for her to contact Frank and let him know where his younger brother was.
The sunshine was bright and helped cloak Joe from Nancy’s view. Joe turned quickly to get out of sight and bumped right into someone else. Busted.
Bess stood there, also surprised, but she found her voice first and smiled. “Hi there!” She knew not to say Joe’s name in case he was undercover.
“Uh, hi….,” Joe returned, while shooting a look over and noted Nancy approaching. He hoped he wasn’t sweating. Just stay cool and calm, Joe, he silently commanded. Cool and calm. Right.
Nancy also was careful not to address him by name and just said hi to him. He could tell with a glance at her that the puzzle of why they’d run into him right then had her focus. This wasn’t going to be easy. He was on a case, so maybe she’d leave it at that. And not figure out there was much more to it than that. Like the fact that quite possibly he was about to disappear for a long time.
“Hey,” he greeted her back with a grin. He hoped it was a casual grin – that’s what he’d tried for. He was glad he had sunglasses on. When Nancy looked at him in a silent question of whether or not he was on a case, he nodded almost imperceptibly.
“How are you? Didn’t expect to see you here!” Nancy smiled and her look indicated she’d gotten the message. They would make small talk for a minute and go on their way. Don’t make her suspicious….
“I’m okay. Sure didn’t expect to see you here, either!” he laughed, almost rolling his eyes at himself. “Checking out the sights?” She hadn’t indicated whether they were on a case or not. At the moment, they were standing in front of a short row of stores.
“Yep, Ned, Bess, George, and I are here attending a book expo. Having fun so far.” Using their names and the slight movement of her head told him they weren’t on a case. Nancy glanced around curiously, then quietly asked, “Where’s your brother?”
“He’s busy right now,” Joe said. Look right at her. Be smooth. Don’t say too much to give her any clues. Joe hoped Nancy couldn’t read his mind and that he didn’t accidentally voice his coaching to himself out loud. The sun sure was warm. And she was looking at him with a curious look in her eyes. Maybe leaning toward suspicious look in her eyes. He needed to leave. Now.
“Well, you kids have fun,” Joe said with what he hoped was another casual grin, wondering briefly in the back of his mind how long he could dodge the two marshals before they found him. He didn’t want to drag Nancy, Ned, George, and Bess into everything so he couldn’t stand around schmoozing, aka chatting, all day.
Nancy wondered what was going on. Her instincts were picking up on something. Was Joe being followed or what? He hadn’t given her any clues as to what it was and he hadn’t indicated he needed help. Or at least hadn’t admitted he needed help. Where was Frank? Had he been kidnapped?
The younger Hardy brother gave a wave. “See you guys. Gotta go.” And then he left.
Nancy watched Joe walk down the sidewalk, noting the way he carefully looked around, although he did it in a very nonchalant manner. She thought back over what all Joe had said, just to make sure nothing had been in code. Nancy felt Ned arrive next to her, having just caught up with her. He’d bought her a special little gift as a surprise, but planned on saving it for later.
“Everything okay?” Ned asked quietly, gently squeezing her hand that he held safely in his.
Looking into Ned’s handsome face, Frank and Joe Hardy level of good looks, Nancy smiled at the love she saw there and that resounded with her. “I sure hope so.”
After spending several hours giving statements to the police and belatedly telling them about someone shooting out the tire, Frank and the others were finally back at the hotel. None of them were willing to believe the words of the little weasel.
With his laptop on the coffee table in front of them, Frank and Callie sat on the couch as they tried to determine the next course of action in successfully finding Joe.
After a short time of talking and searching on the computer, Callie could see Frank’s big dark eyes were starting to close. His lashes would just touch his high cheekbones then he would open them quickly back up, struggling to stay awake. He would think of something to re-check on the computer, go over his notes again, and a couple of minutes later he would start to drop off.
“Go to sleep, Frank. You’re exhausted. You’ll be able to find Joe a lot quicker if you get some rest so your body can recharge,” Callie said softly, looking at her handsome boyfriend in concern. She lovingly and comfortingly touched his face, hoping to give him support and strength. He reached to cover her small hand with his large hand and lifted it over to his lips, kissing her tenderly.
“Thank you for coming, Callie.” Frank’s voice was husky with emotion, his eyes bright with unshed tears as he looked at her.
“I love him, too,” she smiled.
He nodded, gave her a small smile, and turned back to the computer, still holding her hand.
Knowing he needed to rest even though he didn’t want to, she watched as a few minutes later his exhausted body fell into sleep. She caressed his dark hair lovingly with her free hand, careful not to wake her sleeping man.
She prayed in her heart as he slumbered, her mind trying hard not to imagine how messed up Frank would be if Joe had been killed. Callie felt her throat tighten as tears came to her eyes. She and Joe really enjoyed teasing each other in an affectionate way. He would call her ‘bossy big sister’ and she would return the favor by calling him ‘bratty little brother’. That was how they showed they cared. She was very fond of that bratty little brother. He had to be all right. For Frank, for everyone.
Then she smiled, thinking about Joe finally telling her why he didn’t want her helping on the cases.
“I know you’re smart, Callie, and I have no doubt you could help, but I don’t want Frank to ever feel the pain I have. And I don’t want you to get hurt.” He had looked at her with those soulful big eyes, the sincerity of his words shining clear in them.
With those thoughts, Callie leaned her head against Frank’s strong shoulder and before long had fallen asleep as well.
In what seemed like only minutes later, they were both awakened by the sound of the door closing and the smell of food wafting toward them.
“You guys are working so hard, you must be hungry by now,” came Chet’s voice, trying to sound cheerful and hoping to kid them into eating. He and Tony set the bags of food they were carrying down on the coffee table, while Biff pushed the computer over to the side. Phil proceeded to sit down in one of the chairs and began typing on his own laptop. He had eaten already and was anxious to continue working.
Frank mumbled a thanks and accepted the cup of coffee that Tony handed to him. The good smell revived him some, and he closed his eyes as he took a swallow. He smiled as he thought about how his little brother had been so excited when he could finally drink coffee.
Joe, please be okay. Frank’s lashes were moist from tears he tried not to let fall.