Keep the lights on
Frank and Joe investigate a murder and wind up captives in an eerie castle where every step in their attempts to escape could be costly.
Special Notes ~
I’ve always been impressed with how a person can “see” without physical sight as well as symbolically seeing by faith. Brothers Frank and Joe, like every strong family does, works through and overcomes whatever obstacles arrive in their paths. And they do that through faith and working together.
This is dedicated to everyone bravely overcoming obstacles, whatever they may be; love and faith are powerful things that help to prevail. To overcome obstacles, not allowing them to cause you to stumble but rather to soar, makes you even stronger.
After reading Lily’s excellent “The Mystery at the Beach” with her awesome original character, Seth, I asked her if I could give him props in my story. She said “Sure!”, so I wrote about Joe learning from Seth. Thank you, Lily! 🙂
As always, thanks to the Creator and my wonderful family, friends and your families worldwide, this is for all of you, as are my prayers. ❤
Hope everyone enjoys the story! 🙂
Frank awoke but didn’t move. All he heard at first was silence. Had he made that observation out loud his brother, Joe, would be quick to ask him, “How can you hear silence?” Joe. Where was Joe? Groggily but resolutely, Frank fought to open his dark eyes. As soon as he had, a chill went through him. Not liking the result he tried again; opening and closing them a couple of times, but with the same result.
Blinking and determined not to give in to fear, he tried yet again. Still darkness.
Okay, just…take it easy, Frank told himself as his heart pounded within his chest. Moving carefully he sat up, thankful he wasn’t tied. He could tell he wasn’t blindfolded and his eyes were, without a doubt, open. Rubbing a hand over his eyes, he stared out at the dark but there was no difference.
As his brain cleared, what had happened was coming back to him very clearly. He and Joe had been investigating a murder which had led them to the trail of the owner of an import company, Harlan Baxter. He had found out that the Hardys suspected him and were working to uncover solid proof against him. When they had finally obtained it they’d been caught by two of Baxter’s associates, or thugs as Joe termed them, just as the brothers were leaving his otherwise empty office. Remembering being rendered unconscious, Frank would try to figure out the rest shortly, but first…
“Joe,” Frank whispered as his hands reached out to find his brother. “Joe! Please be okay!” A moan greeted Frank’s ears. “That’s it, little brother. Let me know where you are.”
Continuing to move cautiously, Frank’s hands felt around methodically, his brain not even being able to give him a mental map since he had no idea what the room they were in was like. As he slid his knees along the floor he could tell it was made of smooth, cold stone. The sound of his jeans sliding along the floor didn’t make much of a noise but Frank could still hear it. Yet even more he could hear the very quiet sound of Joe’s breathing and occasional moan. Tuned into the direction those slight sounds were coming from, Frank made his way there.
“Joe?” Frank knew he had to be reaching him soon. Sure enough the next sound Frank heard was directly in front of him. Gently moving his hands around he felt his brother’s chest as it rose and lowered. He’s breathing good, Frank thought with relief. Moving upward Frank’s hand touched Joe’s face. Still mostly unconscious, Joe gasped.
“Easy, Joe, easy. It’s just your scary big brother,” Frank allowed a grin to come over his face at his words. Both the grin and his words were borne of sheer relief that Joe was there and alive. Maneuvering himself so that he could be right next to his brother, Frank tried to bring Joe around. “Come on, wake up, Joe. Please.”
Joe moaned again and moved his head toward Frank. He could hear his brother’s comforting voice encouraging him to wake up. He felt so groggy though…but he managed to open his eyes. At least he thought he had. “Frank?” He tried to say his brother’s name calmly, but there was fear mixed in. Joe’s thoughts became more worried. Frank is here, right? I didn’t just imagine it? Frank has to be here! Joe’s breathing became a little faster. Before he could say Frank’s name a second time, his brother spoke, his reassuring voice coming from right next to him.
“Easy, Joe. I’m right here.” Frank reached out and gave Joe the comforting gesture of a hug as his little brother struggled through the effects of what they’d been given, as well as the blow to the head. “I’m right here.” He could feel the tension leave his brother and his breathing calmed immediately. “That’s it.”
“Wha…what happened?” Joe worked to recall previous events that had put them in this situation. “Can you see, Frank? I can’t!” His former relief of seconds ago became in jeopardy of disappearing again.
“It’s okay, Joe. We’ll be alright.” Frank’s calm voice broke through the thick darkness and vanquished the fear that threatened to engulf Joe. Grasping onto the hope found in Frank’s words, Joe again calmed down. Moments later, finally fully awake, the younger Hardy had another question.
“Where are we?”
“Not sure. The floor is solid stone,” Frank noted. Both brothers began to speculate where they might be.
“Baxter has a castle-like home,” Joe stated. “It could have stone floors.” They’d seen exterior photos of the huge house as they were investigating. It was a well-guarded secret where it was actually located. That had been one of the things they’d been working on.
“But why take that chance since he thinks we can’t connect him to the murder?” Frank objected.
“Good grief, Frank, he’s a nut-job, do you expect him to always make sense?”
“No, but he’s a clever nut-job, Joe, so I expect him to be a little smarter, as we’ve found out, since he was able to cover his tracks so well.”
“Let’s get out of here and then figure it out. That’s my clever idea,” Joe said while attempting to get to his feet. Frank agreed with the plan and also stood up, each helping the other. Their heads were aching from being knocked out, but other than that, and not being able to see, they felt okay.
As they started ‘looking’ with their hands around the room seeking the door, Frank stopped when he heard a sound. “What was that?”
“You okay? Can you tell what you tripped over?” Frank asked in concern.
“I’m okay, and yeah, I know what I tripped over…my feet,” stated Joe. “This is going to be fun.” After two minutes of the brothers searching around the room, Joe spoke again. “One good thing…”
“We don’t have to take time bemoaning the fact we don’t have a flashlight or candle.”
“Thank you, Pollyanna,” returned Frank as he felt his way along the wall.
There was something about Joe’s sarcasm that actually helped Frank. It was almost like each time he said something smart mouth it was his way of saying it would all be fine. Comforting in a very unique, Joe way, thought Frank wryly.
“Door knob!” Joe called from a few feet away. With a grin he added, “It’s unlocked! Here we go…”
Cautiously listening for guards or any other sounds, the brothers moved slowly out of the windowless room they had been in. Deciding they were likely in a hallway or corridor they moved forward carefully, using their senses of hearing and touch to guide them. They were physically blind but spiritually sighted so they held onto hope. Their parents had taught them when they were little that being brave doesn’t mean never being afraid. Being brave means keep doing the right thing even though you are afraid.
Joe remembered all he had learned from a friend he’d met at the beach when he was three.* Seth had taken the time to explain to Joe how not having sight didn’t have to slow a person down, but in fact had its advantages. Joe had closed his eyes while sitting there on the bench and “watched” a volleyball game. Frank had been just as fascinated when his little brother had shared with him what Seth had told him. Joe’s newly acquired knowledge had helped them solve a mystery then and hopefully now would help them survive whatever was ahead of them.
As a quiet, odd sound reached Joe’s ears, he frowned, focusing on it. What could be making such a weird noise? He wanted to ask Frank what he thought it might be, but his brain continued to try and decipher the problem first. It seemed like he should be able to figure it out…
If Joe had a visual he would have been able to see his brother, also listening as expected, had just lifted his foot to take another step. Frank would not have found anything to stand on though. That would be plenty of reason to put Joe in action, but he had just identified the sounds, which motivated him even more quickly, if possible.
“Frank!” Joe, with lightning fast speed, threw his arm over where he figured his brother to be and with force, flung him backwards. Frank landed on his rear, stunned at the suddenness of Joe’s move. He listened as his brother knelt next to him.
“You okay, Frank?” Joe’s voice shook a little.
“Yeah…what happened?” Surprise and confusion were in his tone.
Joe turned his head slightly toward the sounds that they had just barely avoided and couldn’t suppress a serious shudder. “Snakes.”
“Yeah, that’s the sound we’re hearing.” As Joe sat on the floor, he gingerly scooted his foot forward until he could feel where the floor vanished. The perspiration on his face and the coolness of the air in the castle gave him another shiver.
Frank didn’t say anything for a few moments. The only sounds in the corridor were the disturbing noises of the snakes slithering around down in the opening a short distance away. The brothers needed to get out of there. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
Joe threw him a look even though Frank couldn’t see it. “I think that is what we are trying to do. But with the blind leading the blind it’s taking a little longer.”
“See, you still have your sense of humor. Very good.” Joe stood back up and reached out until he grasped his older brother’s arm and shoulder. “Let me help you.”
“Yeah, since it’s your fault I’m sitting on the floor,” Frank told him, but he was smiling.
“Ingrate,” Joe chuckled. Back up on their feet they cautiously moved a few more steps away from where they’d almost fallen. They would find out later from Chief Collig that it was a pit of vipers, imported by Baxter, they had narrowly missed.
“We need a stick or cane to check ahead of us,” Frank muttered.
“Well, we can take time looking for that or focus our attention on getting out of here!”
Frank had an answer ready for his brother. “Another option would be searching for a stick or cane and instead, finding the exit!”
“Hey, however you want to say it…” Joe reached out until he could feel the wall again. “We need to see if this pit goes all the way to the wall or not.” Knowing there hadn’t been any other way out, they had to get past the snakes.
“As opposed to attempting to jump across the snake pit like the guy on ‘Desert Commando’?” Frank asked, referring to a favorite PC game of his.
“You are really good at that…” Joe noted, raising his eyebrows.
“Virtually, anyway, which doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to do so in real-life while blind.”
“I guess in this instance, we’ll never know.” Joe grinned as Frank reached out and slugged his brother’s arm. While one brother held onto the other for an anchor and leverage, the other one reached out his foot to find out whether or not the opening went all the way to the opposite walls. The brothers found, much to their relief, a small section of floor along the wall to walk by the opening with the snakes below.
Finally past that obstacle, they continued another minute or two of walking along the corridor until they came to another door.
“Wonder what we’ll find this time!” Joe exclaimed in an exaggerated tone of excitement. “This dude’s home will never make the cover of one of those magazines of Mom’s.”
“I doubt that’s his goal.” Frank tried to focus on the senses that could help them and not on the fact that it would be so much easier if he could see what they would encounter next. Before it was too late.
“Yeah, but maybe it would tear him up. A little anyway,” Joe said, shrugging. The brothers continued in silence for a short time, listening carefully, and ‘seeing’ by feeling what their hands as well as their feet came in contact with. It was slow going but worth the effort. Frank had the added pressure of worrying about his sometimes-impatient little brother. Joe, however, was every bit as concerned with protecting his big brother and would rather something happen to him than to Frank.
“This place needs a good cleaning!” Joe noted as he felt his nose start tickling and then let out with a huge sneeze.
“He obviously hasn’t put the time into the place that he should.” Frank felt another door handle and began a mental debate on whether to bypass it, tell his brother about it, or what. It felt like an interior door. By silently moving the knob he could tell it also wasn’t locked.
“Hopefully he will soon be doing time,” Joe muttered then sneezed again. “What did you find?”
“Huh?” Frank asked, startled by Joe’s question.
“You found something. What is it?”
“How’d you know?”
Joe was tempted to tell him that he wasn’t going to reveal the tricks of his trade, but decided against it. “Your tone. You were listening to me and giving me an actual answer but you were also distracted.”
Frank, with an impressed expression on his face, nodded his head. “Pretty good powers of observation, little brother.”
“Now you are trying to get off-subject while you decide whether whatever you’ve found is a good or bad thing. So what did you find?”
Frank sighed. “I’ve got an unlocked door here.” He leaned his head against the wood finish, feeling the smoothness of the varnish as he listened for any clues that could be heard beyond the door.
After a minute or two, Joe couldn’t resist with a question. “Any monsters breathing heavy?” he asked in a stage whisper. “What’s the name of that big hairy orange thing in the Bugs Bunny cartoons? You know, where the mad scientist is played by a cartoon version of Peter Lorre? Oh, wait, Gossamer, that’s the name!”
“Gossamer,” muttered Frank, shaking his head slightly. “And no, I don’t hear anything like that.”
After agreeing together to go for it, Frank cautiously opened the door which swung into yet another area of darkness. Waiting a moment while listening again, he then stepped through the doorway. Carefully he felt along the wall.
“Why don’t you flip the light on while you are at it?” asked Joe. Frank ignored his little brother and continued his search. When his hand had quickly reached a wall to the left of him, he followed it with the idea that it was another hallway or corridor.
“Just a wall on this side, no doors,” Joe noted. He had felt along the door and had started investigating the other wall. “No monsters, no mad scientists, no canes or sticks, but most importantly no snakes!”
The brothers found that the corridor was a short one as they came to another door.
“Let me try this one!” Joe’s hand went around the ornate-feeling knob. The design made him think that the next room would be more than a hallway, but it didn’t feel like an exterior door. Disappointing, but maybe they were that much closer to one.
“Careful, Joe, careful,” Frank suggested.
“Of course.” Joe’s words made his brother roll his eyes. “Shhhh, I’m listening!”
Frank opened his mouth to retort but quickly shut it again. He listened as well and could imagine his brother, his head turned, using his trained senses to figure out if the area was free of guards. Surprised but pleased that they hadn’t yet come across even one guard, he had the suspicion that Baxter obviously hadn’t felt the need for any. Either he had expected the brothers to remain unconscious or not be able to find their way out or not survive searching for an exit.
“More of that popular commodity. Silence,” Joe stated as he carefully turned the knob.
“We never know what traps might be set up,” Frank warned him. Joe nodded at his brother’s obvious statement, which he knew was just a result of Frank being worried.
As soon as Joe’s foot stepped down he noted the change in flooring. No longer stone, or the polished wood, but carpeting. Moving slowly, Joe took small steps while feeling along the doorjamb and then to the wall.
“Wood paneling on the walls.” A dining room? Library? Living room?
Then both brothers sensed that something was there, in whatever kind of room it was, with them. And they had no idea what it was.
Joe suddenly felt the sensation of something tickling his outstretched hand as the unknown presence brushed against him. A chill shot its way up his spine, which threatened to explode into a yell.
*The Mystery at the Beach by Lily