Night of Danger
Frank and Joe entered the town a short time later, smoothly traversing from one road to the next, heading for the diner and, they thought, Iola. As they made one turn, Frank pulled ahead of his brother, as Joe tried to see exactly where the diner was located.
Spotting the sign for the diner a short distance away, Frank caught Joe’s attention and pointed over to the right. A nod of Joe’s helmet indicated he had seen his brother’s signal, and the two headed for the public eating place.
Even before the tires had hit the blacktop of the parking lot, Joe’s eyes immediately went to the car parked near the entrance that matched the description Iola had given him. The brothers pulled up next to it, with them automatically trying to spot her through the glass of the door and windows of the diner. Unable to see her, they figured she must be out of sight.
After a quick flick of his left foot to knock the kickstand down and shutting of the engine, Joe took off his helmet and swung a leg over his bike in one fluid motion. He headed in to get Iola, while his brother slowly went by the car, glancing over it and planning to check out under the hood later to see what might be the trouble. More significantly, he wanted to check to see whether it had been tampered with or not.
Frank entered the diner and, with a concerned frown, quickly observed that Iola was still nowhere to be seen. His dark eyes rested on Joe talking earnestly to the guy behind the counter. Moving quickly to stand next to his brother, Frank caught the last part of what the guy was saying.
“…..she said that she should go with those two. I wasn’t sure about it and then the ultimate klutz back there started a fire and they were supposed to follow.”
Joe turned to his brother. “Couple of jerks grabbed Iola while we were on our way here!” He quickly introduced their new friend, Jeff.
Then, briefly, he told Frank what Jeff had told him so far, including observant descriptions of both of the kidnappers. Recounting the information hurriedly but clearly, Joe couldn’t believe all that had happened since Iola had called him. If we could have just gotten here sooner, before those jerks showed up, he berated himself.
Seeing the depth of fear in Joe’s eyes, Frank tried to remain calm for him, although he was also very scared for Iola. Noting Joe’s hands shake slightly as he was talking, he had no doubt that Joe was trying very hard not to panic but to find out what they could in order to find Iola. The older Hardy brother turned to speak with Jeff.
“How long ago was this?”
“Not very long at all. I saw her car still out there, so they must have left in the jerks’ car.”
“Did you see what kind it was?”
“Yeah, I saw when they pulled up. It was a Ford,” Jeff told them the color, year, and model as well. “I even know the license plate. Whenever I see numbers, I try to memorize them. Kind of a game I started when I was a little kid, so I just do it automatically.” Jeff then rattled off the New Jersey license plate number.
Frank took out his phone and entered the number on a note. “That’s great. Thanks, Jeff.” He took a second to call their dad, but it wouldn’t go through.
“Right before you two came, I was about to call the police so they could make sure everything was okay.” Jeff pointed over to one of the booths. “She was sitting there when the two creeps came over.”
Hearing this, Joe immediately went over to the booth. His eyes swept the area, his heart beating double time, worrying and chafing over the time necessary to gather all of the information they could to help Iola. Not much time had gone by, but it felt like a lot to Joe. As Frank continued to talk with Jeff, Joe interrupted to call over with a quick question.
“Did either of the jerks touch anything here? Like pick up the napkin dispenser or anything?”
“Um, no…well, one of them did have his hand on that chair right there.” Jeff indicated a chair with a chrome frame.
Quickly exiting without a word, Joe was back in record time with a small kit. Expertly lifting a print that he found on the chrome, he took his phone out of his pocket and took a picture, zooming in to get a clear shot. With a few quick hits of the buttons, the print was emailed to Con Riley of the Bayport Police with an urgent message for help, along with the other information Jeff had told them.
Joe then looked over the booth where Iola had been sitting a short time ago. Spotting something, he frowned as he tried to figure out what he was seeing. Moving over to the seat cushions, he reached his hand down and pulled out a phone. Iola’s phone.
“Frank!” Joe immediately began examining the phone. Was it placed there on purpose? Maybe there was something that would hopefully enable them to find Iola more quickly.
“I was really hoping she had her phone with her.” Frank came over, frowning, having already planned to trace her via the phone. “Wonder why she didn’t keep it with her?”
“She must have had a reason,” Joe muttered as he tapped the screen, checking it out while trying to figure out what that reason might be. Good thing she’d shared her passcode with him. “Or it wasn’t her idea. Probably the jerks weren’t planning on her taking the phone with her.”
“Likely.” Frank watched Joe check the phone, as did Jeff, who had also come over to the table.
Then voices could be heard, barely discernible at first before Joe turned up the volume.
“Voice notes. Smart girl.” Frank nodded at Iola’s clear thinking, obviously impressed. Joe beamed a second then focused on listening to what had been recorded.
From the conversation that had been picked up, they could hear the two jerks’ voices. It didn’t give them much to go on, but every little bit helped. Neither Frank nor Joe recognized either of the voices of Iola’s kidnappers. More sounds of feedback from movement could be heard until the kidnapper spoke again.
“What was that he just said?” Joe frowned.
“Sounded like something about a picture. Replay it,” Frank said.
Joe played it back, the three guys heard one of the kidnappers telling Iola that she was even prettier than her picture.
“So they purposely targeted her?” Frank contemplated the possible meanings behind those words. They heard when the one threatened Iola, and Jeff as well, if she didn’t go along with them. The voice notes ended a short time after her purse and phone were demanded.
Deciding they had learned all they could there about Iola’s kidnapping at that point, the two Hardy brothers shook hands with Jeff. “Thanks, Jeff,” Joe said. “I wish all people were as observant and helpful as you, and willing to do the right thing.”
“No problem, I just hope you find her quickly, and that she is okay,” Jeff said with concern, as he walked with the two brothers to the door. “I wish I could have stopped them. I wanted to stall them until the police got here, but that idiot cook had to start a grease fire. And I thought they would realize they had to help so they wouldn’t look more suspicious. Instead they just cut out.”
“Do you think the cook started the fire on purpose to distract you? Any chance he was a party to this?” Frank asked, wondering exactly how much planning had gone into the kidnapping.
“No, he’s a good guy, just clumsy. He can even cook pretty well when he doesn’t start fires. This was the third time in two months he’s done this.” Jeff shook his head.
Frank nodded as he listened. “Okay, thanks again,” he said, having opened the door to leave and pausing as Joe slipped by and hurried on out. “So you are going to call the police and give them all the information you know about Iola and the kidnapping?”
“Yes. You guys go on. I’ll take care of that.” Jeff was already moving to get his phone out of his pocket as he talked. “And please let me know when you find her.”
“Will do,” Frank said as he threw him a quick wave while leaving the diner. Joe had already reached his bike and had his helmet on. Right as he was going to start the powerful engine, Joe called to his brother, “Let’s go!”
“Just a second, Joe,” Frank called back and motioned Joe to come over. Joe sighed but got off his bike and came over beside his brother, who was standing next to Iola’s borrowed car.
“Pop the hood for me,” the older brother directed as he went to the front of the car. Joe gave him a perplexed frown, but went to do as requested.
Going back over to his bike, Joe retrieved a necessary tool out of the compartment. Returning to the driver’s side, he soon had the door unlocked. Quickly reaching in, he released the hood. He paused for only a moment or two at the car door as he got a faint whiff of Iola’s fresh scent of shampoo. Anxiousness to get going and find her caused his stomach to clench, fearing for her. It threatened to crush him as he hurried to his brother. Joe’s eyes followed Frank’s progress as he carefully examined the engine.
“What are you doing?” Joe demanded.
“Checking to see why the car broke down.”
Joe set his jaw firmly for a moment then asked, “Do you think maybe we should do that….later?” The longer they took, the more difficult it was going to be to catch up to Iola and her kidnappers.
“No, obviously not, or we would,” Frank said patiently, continuing to scrutinize the engine without pause. He’d already seen what was missing and finding it would allow him to know if it had broken by itself or had had help. “Two vehicles are having problems tonight.”
“You think the van was sabotaged?” Joe asked. Truth of the matter was he hadn’t thought about it much; mostly he had focused on getting to Iola quickly.
“I’m not sure. Just trying to gather any clues that might help us. If this engine has been tampered with there could be a connection.” Frank then made a sound of discovery and pulled an item out that had gotten trapped between parts. “What do you make of that?”
Pushing aside his impatience with extreme effort, Joe reached for the serpentine belt and carefully examined it. “You’re right, definitely tampered with. It was maybe cut part way and meant to break the rest of the way.” He turned to his brother, a frown on his face.
“Somebody intended for her to break down, maybe before she left the town or maybe after, I don’t know. I doubt they planned to have a witness if they went to this trouble. If she hadn’t stopped when she did, and she was going on some of those curves on the way home, she could have been killed.” As soon as he had spoken, Frank wished the words hadn’t slipped out, seeing the stricken look on his brother’s face.
“They were trying to kill Iola….” Joe’s voice trailed off as his brother’s words sank in. It was looking as if the kidnappers weren’t interested in money or threats to cease work on a case. Their intentions were appearing to be murder.
Iola glanced out into the dark night, wondering how close her boyfriend and his brother were. She knew they were going to do their best to find her and their best was quite impressive. Hoping to have as much information as possible, not knowing what would prove to be helpful, Iola tried to see where they were going, noting landmarks and signs. She was concerned about the fact that she could identify her two kidnappers. Didn’t that usually mean they didn’t intend for the kidnap victim to live? And she had already seen the ruthless look both of the dudes held.
She felt very alert, although very scared, and she was determined to do everything she could to protect herself. Although at the moment she was physically alone, she wasn’t truly alone she knew, as she looked by faith past the clouds shifting about in the wind.
The two kidnappers hadn’t spoken much since they had gotten into the car. She wanted to know what it was all about, but they refused to tell her. Did it have something to do with a case of any of the Hardys?
Even as she worried and feared, she kept courage. Her eyes took in everything and her mind worked to imagine different possible escape plans. She and Joe had talked about that before. This wasn’t the first time she’d been kidnapped. While she was scared for herself very much, her thoughts were on Joe. He felt things so deep; she knew he was terrified for her right then.
Blinking back tears, she wondered how long it would be before she could see Joe again. She thought about her handsome boyfriend. His love for her, his care, his compassion, and passion, were just a few of the reasons he held her heart. Her mind thought of what she would like to tell him.
Oh, Joe, please be careful, and listen to your brother!
Help him, Frank, try to keep him from doing anything reckless…and please be careful yourself…you’re special, too. A big brother to everyone, really, with your warm ways – friendly, serious, with a good sense of humor, always there for us. Do you know how important that is? As soon as I can I’m going to thank you again…
Stay safe, both of you…please…
Iola glanced again at the kidnapper beside her and the one driving. Whenever she saw an opportunity, she would escape…