Night of Danger
With little traffic on the roads, the brothers were able to safely cover the distance more quickly. Joe shot a look through the visor of his helmet over at Frank, checking on his progress. The winds had been mild earlier that day, but were steadily picking up so that the need for vigilance increased with every minute. This required the Hardys to lean into the wind at times to handle it; the combination of the black ice and winds made travel extra tricky.
Joe was glad they had already been wearing their boots before they found out they had to take their motorcycles, so they hadn’t had to take time to go change. It was warmer, so he was happy, and it was safer, so Frank was happy.
Frank had warned him before they took off to be careful and not shoot ahead. Joe had done well with his brother’s advice, so far. He was impatient to get to Iola, but Frank’s words of wisdom about helping her most by safely making it there with not only himself intact, but also his means of transportation, made sense, he had to admit. So he reluctantly squelched his desire to open up the bike.
With the biting wind, Joe was thankful for the helmet. He had also brought along the helmet that Iola wore the many times she rode with Joe on his motorcycle. He had been so pleased when he had found out she was as excited about cruising as he was, always looking forward to it.
Thinking about her made the miles seem even longer before he could see that she was okay and safe. He glanced at the speedometer and chafed at how slow they seemed to be going.
Joe suddenly felt a chill, but it wasn’t from the wind. His leather jacket and jeans protected him well from the weather, but that wasn’t his present concern. His blue eyes glanced around as he instinctively tapped the accelerator. He suddenly had the feeling that something hostile was out there, just waiting for a chance, any chance.
Seeing Joe’s bike shoot forward, Frank shook his head. Well, it had lasted several miles at least, but they still had farther to go. He had the distinct feeling he had made the right decision to come along. Leaning to the right as they headed around a curve, his detective mind was busy, feeling concern for Iola for some reason and theorizing about the van’s leak.
Might just be a little overly suspicious with this, Frank informed himself. Not everything is covered in mystery and danger. Yet he wasn’t convincing himself. Maybe we should call Iola back….With their integrated phones in their helmets, they could do so. On the road they made sure to only use them if it was an emergency. If either of the incidents were connected, with the anti-freeze leaking from the van and the car breaking down, then that would easily qualify as an emergency.
Frank watched as his brother took the next curve, leaning hard and making it tight. He was thankful Joe was such an expert at handling the bike, knowing just how much to push without wrecking. Regardless of how skilled he was, Joe didn’t need the distraction of talking on the phone while on the dangerous road. Proficient riders were also susceptible to accidents. Not to mention Frank didn’t want his brother to worry more and he would if Joe knew he was concerned as well.
“I’m calling Iola,” Frank said through the two-way radio between the brothers’ helmets.
“I’ll call her,” Joe started to say but Frank cut him off.
“I said I would,” Frank reiterated and turned off the two-way and proceeded to initiate the call to Iola via preprogrammed, voice-activated speed dial. He listened as it rang until an automated voice informed him that the person he was trying to reach must be away from their phone. The weather and the area they were currently in at the time were obviously causing a problem.
With a sigh, he ended the call and reluctantly but quickly told his brother what had happened. Then as Frank again reminded his younger brother to keep his traveling to a safe speed, Joe only half-listened. His mind was on the miles that needed to be erased before he could reach his girl.
As Frank turned off the two-way radio once more, his thoughts returned to the unique timing of events. With the van leaking anti-freeze and the car breaking down, is there a connection? If so, what and why?
Iola glanced over at the few patrons left in the diner. Her soda, with mostly melted ice left in the glass, sat on the table in front of her. She had chosen a booth facing the door so she could keep an eye on it. Looking at her watch again, she tried to guess how long before the boys would get there. She was so glad that Frank would likely be coming along to keep Joe from traveling too fast.
As she thought over what had happened, she moved the glass a little, making prints on the table. Bethany, who had gone to Bayport High until she and her parents had moved, had picked Iola up after school to spend the rest of the day making party plans at her house. It wasn’t too far so Bethany got to see her old friends occasionally, but it put her in a different school district. She had gone with home schooling and, after acing her tests, had graduated a couple of months ahead of the Bayport senior class.
Iola shook her head as she thought about the broken-down car outside. It belonged to Tracy, Bethany’s visiting cousin. Earlier, the idea of buying the car, once Iola had found out it was for sale, had appealed to her. It had been recently inspected, well taken care of, and the price reasonable. Having spent much time hanging around her brother, Chet, the Hardys, and others, Iola had knowledgeably given it a quick once over shortly after she had first arrived. She then had accepted the offer to try it out for a day or two to see if she would want to buy it or not. Iola wanted to get her dad’s opinion on it, too.
She couldn’t figure it out. It had checked out fine but hours later it was a different story. Now it wasn’t looking like a sale as far as Iola was concerned.
A few minutes later, Iola was about to glance at her watch again but was interrupted as the door to the diner opened. Looking over in anticipation of seeing her gorgeous boyfriend and his wonderful brother, the disappointment she felt was clearly seen on her expressive face. A frown appeared at the sight of the two guys who did enter. Definitely not the Hardy brothers. They weren’t bad looking, but they weren’t great looking, either. Plus, they seemed shifty.
Iola decided she didn’t want to make eye contact, but tried casually to keep an eye on them without being noticed. She silently groaned as she saw they had spotted her, the only single female in the diner. And apparently they didn’t have a problem with openly staring.
“Hi,” the taller of the two guys said. “Waiting for someone?”
“Yes.” Iola’s voice was polite, but firm and the guys should have been able to pick up on her disinterest. Either they didn’t take hints well, or it didn’t matter.
“Want some company while you wait?”
“No thanks. My boyfriend should be here any minute.” Her large eyes narrowed as the two seemingly didn’t hear her and sat down. “I said ‘no thanks’. Does that mean something else around here? Because if so, I can tell you exactly what it means.”
“Nice mouth on you,” the first guy who had spoken to her said. His companion gave her a smile that she didn’t like at all.
“Real nice mouth,” he agreed.
Okay, that was it; she didn’t have to put up with this. Before Iola could do anything, a voice interrupted from nearby. She glanced over to see the guy who had been working behind the counter walking toward them. Sighing with relief at him coming to her aid, Iola expected the other two to back off.
“How about you fellas leave the girl alone,” the guy said firmly. He had suspected the two were going to be trouble as soon as he had seen them come in. He really hoped they weren’t going to be a problem, but he sensed that was wishful thinking. Having kept his eye on them, he had waited for them to leave Iola’s table. They didn’t. It was obvious she didn’t want their attention, and Jeff Kanterovitz was a gentleman. He was too far away to hear their conversation, but the situation wasn’t lost on him.
“Get lost,” the taller jerk said, sneering at the owner of the diner. He was surprised when the guy wanting to help Iola didn’t back off. Apparently the sight of the troublemaker’s overly-developed muscles wasn’t deterring this guy.
“Do I need to call the cops?” When Jeff’s voice raised slightly, the few customers who were in there at the time overheard and decided they wanted to leave right then and did so, having already paid their checks.
As Iola watched the exchange, she had casually opened her small purse with one hand, having pulled it over onto her lap, and had the pepper spray ready. She wasn’t sure what was going to take place, but she was determined to be ready. That was half the battle. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as her grandmother would say, an ounce of pepper spray.
With her other hand, also hidden by the table, she searched for her phone, hoping her movements wouldn’t be noticed. Her fingers felt the coolness of the phone then pulled it out of her purse.
“Why don’t you two just leave?” Iola requested, trying one more time to encourage them not to cause a scene.
“And miss out on talking with you? Couldn’t do that,” the second guy said, whom Iola had decided creeped her out even more than the other one. He continued to talk to her, making the effort not to be overheard by anyone else.
“I said to leave the girl alone!” Jeff came nearer to the table but was suddenly blocked by the first guy standing up which helped hide his cohort’s actions.
Hidden from Jeff’s view, but clearly seen by Iola, as was the jerk’s intention, was the gun the second goon now allowed her to see. “Go with us quietly, beautiful, or hero over there gets it.” Iola’s eyes widened at the threat. Then the jerk grabbed her arm, careful for Jeff not to see. “Give me your phone and purse.”
Struggling a moment gave Iola enough time to slip the small can of pepper spray into her sleeve. She had also hoped to do that with the phone or slide it into her jacket pocket but the jerk had been watching her too closely up until then. As he pulled her to her feet, she felt the phone slipping from her grasp. She tried not to cringe, afraid they were about to hear when it hit the floor, but it didn’t. Not daring to look to see where it had ended up, she hoped it couldn’t be seen, at least. Until it was found by a good guy.
With the gun trained on her and the threat to Jeff, she didn’t think it would be the right time to use the spray. She handed the jerk her purse and let him assume her phone was in there. If he discovered that it wasn’t, then she already knew what she would say to cover its absence. She wished she could have gotten some pictures, but the opportunity had failed to present itself.
Speaking to Jeff, the first guy attempted to make things seem normal. “Look, buddy, that’s my pal’s little sister, and she’s been giving the family a lot of trouble. This doesn’t concern you.”
Jeff didn’t look like he was buying the story, because he wasn’t, so the overly muscled guy had a suggestion, “Ask her, if you don’t believe us.”
Looking over, Jeff could see that the girl clearly did not look comfortable. “You okay, miss? Is this your brother?”
Iola paused only briefly, having already seen in the armed man’s bland eyes that he would have no problem killing someone. “I, um…you should let me go with these two. Really.”
Still looking doubtful, and noting she hadn’t actually answered his questions, Jeff watched as the three moved over toward the door. “Are you sure, miss?” What could he do if she said she didn’t need help? Yet, if she was being forced to pretend everything was okay, that would mean she certainly did need help.
Right as she was reiterating her previous words, there was a shout from the kitchen area. Glancing back with an irritated look, Jeff yelled and asked the cook what had happened. A frantic cry about fire reached them in reply.
“How many people in New York and I have to hire a guy who cooks like a pyromaniac in training,” Jeff muttered as he rushed to the kitchen. He yelled back over his shoulder, “Come help!” At least this would require the two guys to help and put off leaving and hopefully he could find out about the story they were trying to sell him. That was what reasonably should have happened, but didn’t.
Instead, the two bad guys took the opportunity to leave, dragging Iola with them. The one who had her purse tossed it in the trash as they left, assuming her phone was in there.
Iola’s eyes desperately sought an opening to escape, but the grip on her wrist was too tight to break loose from. Her soul silently prayed for help as her kidnappers shoved her into a car and sped off into the night.