Night of Danger
Frank looked at his brother and wished he could make everything okay as Joe’s expression seemed to be pleading for him to do. “They wouldn’t necessarily want to kill her, but that could have been the unintended result. They were taking a chance. Likely they wanted the car to break down in order to grab her.”
“What if they weren’t after Iola but the girl who owns the car?” Joe suddenly asked. “The car belongs to Bethany’s cousin.” Frank nodded, letting him know he wasn’t grasping at straws but had a valid point.
“I was also wondering when the ‘special’ work on the car was done, after it was decided Iola was going to borrow it? If so, then someone at Bethany’s would have to be a part of this. But there is a very good possibility they were after the owner of the car.” Frank’s expression was serious as he contemplated the theories, knowing it was just as likely that Iola was the intended victim.
“Still doesn’t change the fact that they’ve kidnapped Iola…”
“We’ll find her, little brother.” Frank placed a strong hand on Joe’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. His eyes then caught sight of something behind Joe and excitement sparked in their depths.
“What?” Joe turned quickly and followed the direction of Frank’s gaze. The diner was situated in between two stores, both closed at the time. As soon as he saw what it was, hidden in an upper corner, Joe hurried back into the diner with his brother.
Jeff looked over as the door opened, surprised to see Frank and Joe again so soon. He quickly finished telling the police what he knew about the kidnapping then hit ‘end’. He didn’t have a chance to ask what had happened that had such looks of hope on the brothers’ faces because Joe started talking as soon as Jeff was done on the phone.
“That security camera out there, what can you tell us about it?” Joe asked eagerly.
“Well, it doesn’t work for one thing,” Jeff began, hating to tell them that, understanding their hopes. He started walking toward the door as he talked, with the two brothers keeping in step. “They were supposed to fix it. I’ve been after them to do that for awhile now. The camera is a joint investment of the diner and the two stores. They were supposed to let me know when it was fixed.”
They stopped once they were outside then looked up at the camera.
“Hey, that’s a new one!” Jeff exclaimed in surprise. “Since it was taking such a long time, I had even suggested we should just get a new one! The other two owners apparently went ahead and bought it and had it installed. They just forgot to tell me.”
He motioned for the two brothers to follow him as he rushed back into the diner. Jeff had arrived there in the morning while it was still dark out and hadn’t left all day, so he wouldn’t have seen that it was a new camera. He guessed it had been installed the previous day, a day off for him.
Frank and Joe followed him then watched as he got his laptop and started tapping keys. “I have the feed for this!”
With anticipation, they all focused intently on the screen as Jeff swiftly pulled up the software that held the information and, they hoped, clues that they sought.
Joe tensed as he saw the two kidnappers appear on the screen, along with Iola. They could tell she was trying to stall as long as possible. Leaning closer to the screen as if he could reach out and stop what was happening, Joe’s face was intense. One of the guys held tightly to Iola’s wrist while the other opened the passenger door to their Ford. So far they hadn’t faced the camera.
“Come on, make them show their cowardly faces,” Joe muttered. Then almost as if Iola had heard him, she managed to twist away from one of her kidnappers, ultimately doing what Joe said. Iola twisting free caused the kidnapper’s face to be seen on camera when the jerk turned to keep her from getting away.
“Freeze frame,” Frank instinctively said. Jeff immediately hit the key to pause the picture. He quickly saved the screen capture to file.
Joe committed that face on the screen to his memory. They would meet, and soon. His fists clenched even tighter as he watched the two jerks shove Iola into the car. Frank could sense the anger emanating from his brother and he reached over to put a hand on Joe’s shoulder, understanding how he was feeling. His own anger was barely controlled.
The angle of the camera was such that they had not yet clearly seen both of the kidnappers, although they were facing the right direction since they had pulled into the parking spot. The lights in the parking lot did well to illuminate the area and were proving to be extremely helpful.
They continued watching and before long they were finally able to see both kidnappers fairly well and in color. It was good that Jeff had seen the license plate because it was never in view to record it due to the camera’s position.
“Hey, the police are going to show up here soon and we don’t want to have to wait around to recap,” Frank noted, hoping they weren’t already too late in leaving. He didn’t want to even think of how exasperated Joe would be at having to put their search on hold to give their statements to the police.
“Could you give me a copy of the file of the footage as well as the screenshots?” Joe asked, holding up his phone.
“No problem,” Jeff said, In seconds he was sending the saved footage and pictures to Joe’s phone.
“Thanks again, Jeff,” Joe said, as he hurried to exit the diner while looking at the screen of his phone again.
“Thanks, Jeff!” Frank called as well as the two brothers left the diner.
As they headed to their bikes, Frank glanced toward the road, hoping that the police weren’t arriving yet. “Those are excellent leads, send copies to Phil as well as Con.” Frank felt cautiously optimistic, knowing that they had been quick in obtaining these valuable clues. And the kidnappers didn’t have too much of a head start since it had taken place while the Hardys were on their way there.
“Doing that already,” Joe told him. A minute later he slipped his phone into his pocket.
“We’ll stop down the road to make plans.” Frank put his helmet on and seconds later was turning the key and hitting the start switch. His brother did the same and with a burst of speed they were on the road.
Phil had just pulled into his driveway after his date. As he was getting out of his car to go in his house, he heard the sound indicating he had a new email. Slipping his phone out of his pocket, he was surprised to see a message with a high priority flag on it from Joe.
Tapping it, he read with increasing alarm the younger Hardy’s short but informative message. Hurrying up the few steps and into the house, he ran up the stairs to his room. His parents weren’t home right then so he didn’t have to stop and explain that he couldn’t take time to talk.
He quickly went over to his computer and began to try to get the information that Joe had asked for. He opened the file attachment of the security camera footage and felt a cold chill run through him as he watched while a good friend of his got kidnapped on the screen in front of him. Anger stayed with him as he worked.
Phil’s deep eyes were filled with determination as he clicked on the photo attachment. Then he immediately began a search for a facial match, knowing from Joe’s message that Con would be doing the same with his resources. Phil was running a program that Frank had gotten from a security expert the Hardys had worked with before.
While that was working, he began trying to see what all he could glean from the footage. His fingers flew over the keys and a short time later he was calling Chet on the phone as he waited for the results of his search. He didn’t want to tell his friend the disturbing news, but knew he had to let him know.
Joe’s mind was full of thoughts of Iola as he and his brother raced out onto the street. The two motorcycles went by the approaching police cruiser about one minute after leaving the diner. With a glance at each other, Frank then pointed down the street and with quick signs let his brother know that they would be stopping at a gas station a short distance from there.
Nodding, Joe turned his attention back to the road. Just yesterday he and Iola were laughing and ice skating. Well, they hadn’t actually had skates with them at the time, so it was more sliding around on the ice with their boots rather than skating, but it had been every bit as much fun. Maybe more. Joe smiled from his memory.
They had gone over to the park in Bayport; home to a popular pond many enjoyed skating on. There had been a long enough time of cold weather so that the pond had solid ice on it. Iola’s eyes had sparkled while Joe had held her securely around the waist and pulled her around on the ice.
How long before he held her in his arms and kissed her again? How long before she was safe once more? Where was she right then? It scared him just how much she meant to him.
Knowing how Joe was about people he loved, Frank was well aware he needed to worry for his brother as much as for Iola. Maybe even more so.
They had no idea which direction the kidnappers had headed. There was a myriad of lanes that ran past the town, and several through it, so there were a number of possibilities. They could easily still be around there or on the highway.
Signaling the turn, Frank and Joe entered the gas station parking lot. Right as they were slowing down, a call came in to Joe’s phone. He startled his brother as he applied both the front and back brakes and slammed to a stop. Joe answered it and heard Con’s voice.
“Hi Joe, got some info for you.”
Joe signaled to Frank that he was on the phone and set it to conference so the elder Hardy brother could learn what Con had found out as well. “We’re both here.”
“Got a match on the fingerprint. He has a few aliases but his name is Roger Bryan. He’s only been caught once, but suspected of a lot more than what he was sent up for. Guys, he’s always, I repeat, always, considered armed and dangerous, and to approach with extreme caution. Although as your friend and a police officer I suggest you not approach him at all.” Con paused a moment before stating wryly, “For all the good that warning does.”
“What was he arrested for, Con?” Frank asked quietly but clearly.
“Assault with a deadly weapon. Extortion. Attempted murder. Murder.”
“And he’s out now.” Joe shook his head.
“Oh, sure, for good behavior,” Con said with disgust. “His lawyer got him out.”
“Frank found that Iola’s borrowed car had been tampered with, Con. They wanted the car to break down. So it was a planned kidnapping. But we’re wondering whether they were after her or the actual owner of the car.”
“Yeah, it depends on when it was tampered with, if they knew who was going to be driving the car,” Frank added.
Con was silent for a moment, “Have you ever run across this guy, do you think?”
“He doesn’t look or sound familiar. The other guy didn’t look familiar either,” Frank noted. Joe agreed with his brother.
“I’m still working on a facial match for the other guy,” Con told them.
“What about the license plate?” asked Joe.
“Yeah, I was getting to that, Mr. Patience.” Con had no doubt that Joe was beside himself with worry over Iola and he hoped maybe his own easygoing manner would help calm the situation somewhat. “Stolen car. From a family in New Jersey. Hoboken.” Con paused only a moment. “Just remember, guys, these kidnappers are extremely dangerous.”
“I know – that’s why I’m anxious to get Iola away from them!” Joe practically shouted. As he did so, he moved, causing his bike to shift dangerously in the prevailing winds. Frank quickly and easily reached over and steadied the motorcycle by the handle grip while shooting a look over at his brother. Joe calmed down slightly. He knew Con was worried about them and understandably so.
“Sorry, Con, I’m…I’m scared for Iola,” Joe said, quietly this time and making sure both feet were firmly planted on the ground. His no-skid boots held sure onto the pavement.
“I understand.” Con hadn’t taken any offense at Joe’s outburst. “Do you two have any other theories? Is there anyone at home to receive a call in case this is connected to any of yours or your dad’s cases?”
“All calls are being forwarded to us,” Frank answered.
“Another thing about Bryan’s M.O. is whenever he grabs a car he torches it when he switches to another vehicle, to keep from being traced. He was very hard to catch up with,” Con told the brothers. “Let me know when you find out anything more. I’ll do the same.”
“Okay, thanks, Con,” Frank said.
“Thanks, Con,” Joe added before they ended the call. As soon as the brothers finished talking with Con, they were going to call Phil but Frank held up a hand. He motioned for his brother to take off his helmet.
Joe complied and looked quizzically at Frank, who had taken off his own helmet, pulled out his phone and was looking at it. Joe made sure the kickstand was down properly and got off his bike to stride over to his brother. Replaying on the screen was the kidnapping footage from the security camera.
“I kept going over this in my head, thinking that there was something there, something that we could use.” Frank looked over at his brother, eyes shining at his idea. Joe returned it with one that said he would also like to know what it was.
Frank deftly flicked the screen with a long finger and his thumb, zooming in on the picture. Pointing he said, “This could lead us right to Iola!”
Joe’s blue eyes narrowed as he glanced at the small glowing screen his brother was holding up. He looked back over to Frank, who was obviously very pleased with what he’d found.
“Look, I can tell it’s something good. But can we do twenty questions some other time?”
Frank just smiled patiently, completely undeterred by Joe’s lack of patience. “Look at it, little brother.”
“We don’t have time for this….” Even as he said the words his eyes lit up as he figured out what Frank had indicated on the screen. “Is that a GPS mounted on the dash?”
“Quite likely.” Frank’s bright grin was in direct contrast to the dark night. “And I think they might use the GPS system since it is right there. Bryan’s not from around here and not knowing about the other guy, they probably don’t know the area.”
Joe nodded in agreement then added another observation while getting his phone out, “We could use some info from the family in Hoboken.”
After speaking again quickly to Con, who promised to get back to them and Phil with the info as soon as he could, Joe finished the call.
The wind howled through the trees, whispering of danger, both known and unknown. The level of danger that can cause a seemingly unstoppable course. For at that very moment, an enemy was at their home instigating a plan to kill the brothers. And one of their friends was about to come face to face with that murderer.