Night of Danger
With its strong, clear bark acting as the signal for Frank, Joe, and Iola to swing into action, the newly arrived collie leaped right at the closest gunman.
Frank and Joe, using precise momentum, swung the helmets simultaneously and hit two of the gunmen with well-placed force. The distraction of the collie’s barking and help worked effectively in their favor. With the strong blows from the helmets, Frank and Joe’s opponents were practically out as soon as they were hit. The Hardy brothers conclusively directed the gunmen to the state of unconsciousness and quickly disarmed them before tying them up.
Iola had gotten the pepper spray she had hidden away in her sleeve and made good use of it; spraying it directly into the fourth gunmen’s face. He had tried to hold onto his gun while screaming and putting his hands up to his eyes. Iola had then taken the opportunity to put a Krav Maga move into play and the gun fell from his hands and he had dropped to the ground, writhing in pain. Iola then helped Frank and Joe tie the gunman up.
The collie had knocked down the one gunman and was successfully keeping him from reaching the gun that had fallen from his hand. Frank came over and removed the gun from his reach and tied him up.
Once all four gunmen had been disarmed and immobilized, Frank glanced over at his fighting team, proud of each one of them, including their new friend. Joe and Iola were petting the beautiful collie on the head and talking to the dog enthusiastically. Frank smiled, hearing Joe say that he thought the name ‘Lassie’ was appropriate, not seeing any collar to let them know the name of the grand, heroic animal.
Frank plucked his helmet he had hit the gunman with up off the ground. As he was about to check it to make sure the police were on their way, he spotted a movement up at the road. It was still too dark to see very well, although it was beginning to get a little lighter out. Frank could see the outline of a person but not who it was. ‘Lassie’ started barking sharply and would have run up the incline except Joe and Iola were right there, stopping the dog.
Quickly reaching over and grabbing one of the presently empty guns and reloading a clip into it, Frank kept his eyes trained on the person. Then he saw the gun the guy had. And it was pointed right at Frank.
Without much time, Frank dove to the ground while yelling to Joe and Iola. He was fast and almost missed the bullet hurtling toward him. Almost. The older Hardy brother gasped as he felt the pain explode in his ribs and things started to go black. With a determination borne in strength on the wings of silent prayer, he battled passing out. Grasping hold of consciousness, he climbed back as he heard Joe and Iola yell in fear for him. Frank’s dark eyes opened and he looked up toward the gunman.
Even as Frank had been getting hit, his focus was not on himself, but on how best to protect those he cared about. He set his jaw, the goal of stopping the gunman from taking any more shots top priority.
Frank could see the person aiming again. The time to act couldn’t wait a second longer. But did Frank have even a second before the trigger was pulled once more? Or before the gun was turned on Joe and Iola?
Resolve and strength shone from Frank’s eyes. The pain in his ribs fought for his attention and increased as he moved his arms into position. The figure on the ridge blurred for a moment for him and he squeezed his eyes shut. Opening them back up, he willed them to focus.
Then he raised the gun, aimed with purpose and shot the figure, who fell to the ground. Having been careful not to kill him, Frank hoped his act of mercy didn’t turn around and cause any of them to get wounded further or killed. He would re-assess the situation if the guy made the mistake of trying to shoot at them again.
“FRANK!!!!!” Joe yelled as he ran over to his brother, fear emanating from him. As soon as Frank had hollered and warned them when he had first seen the gunman, Joe had instinctively protected Iola and covered her with his body, moving them as much out of the line of fire as he could. He had glanced up at the gunman to see his location and had kept his brother in his peripheral vision. When he had seen the gun aimed at Frank, he had looked over toward his brother, hoping desperately he had cover. Then Joe had seen as the bullet hit and terror washed over him.
After quickly telling Iola to stay down and hidden, making sure she was safe, Joe had then immediately launched himself toward his brother, unconcerned for his own safety. Although he heard Iola’s cry of fear for him, he couldn’t stop. He reached Frank just as the older Hardy brother had removed the immediate danger of the gunman and looked like he was about to collapse.
Frank tried to calm his scared younger brother. “I’ll live, Joe.” He was very surprised he was not feeling woozier than he was. Adrenaline is a pretty cool thing, Frank thought to himself. He had an arm wrapped instinctively around his rib area.
“Lie down!” Joe commanded, his hands helping his brother do so. He then frantically opened Frank’s jacket after carefully moving his arm out of the way.
Iola had raced over and grabbed the first aid kit from where they’d dropped it a short time ago and arrived next to Frank with it. “Well, this kit is getting a lot of use.” She smiled at Frank, who managed one of his own right before his dark eyes flickered shut. Iola continued to feel terrified for Frank as she helped her boyfriend, but took the fact the older Hardy brother was conscious as a very comforting sign.
She held the gauze in her hands ready for when Joe uncovered the bullet wound. The same puzzling question running through Iola’s mind was also in Joe’s. Where was the blood? How could the wound not be bleeding?
Iola’s eyes followed Joe’s progress as he tended to his brother. With careful hands, Joe was working on getting Frank’s jacket and shirt out of the way so he could take care of the wound. The younger Hardy brother was frowning deeply as the unrelenting questions demanded answers.
Frank gave a quiet groan and opened his eyes wondering, and getting concerned, at the silence coming from two people who weren’t often quiet. He looked at his brother, whose eyelashes were lowered, focused intently on Frank’s wound. A look over at Iola told him she was watching as well. Lifting up his head slightly, he could see the gauze ready in Iola’s hands. His eyes moved back to his brother.
Right as Frank was about to give his theory, Joe met his eyes. “No blood!” That agreed with what Frank was thinking. He was hurting but hadn’t felt any blood.
“Easy,” Joe said softly when Frank flinched a little as his brother gently checked his ribs. “I’m sorry.” Joe hurt more then than he would have had he been the one shot.
Iola’s voice could be heard as she quietly called 911 on Joe’s cell that she had slipped out of his pocket.
“You have a really deep bruise already and I think you’ve got a couple of cracked or fractured ribs, at the very least, but the bullet didn’t enter.” Joe talked quietly as he examined Frank’s jacket where the bullet would have hit, then in the inner pocket. He could tell something was in there.
“Look!” he exclaimed, taking out the small Book Frank had slipped into his inside pocket earlier that day. Joe held it so both Frank and Iola could see that there, lodged right in the pages, was the bullet.
“Wow,” was all Frank could manage right then. Callie had given him the special present, which, as a military edition, had a metal plate sewn into the cover. Her cousin had recently been honorably discharged from military service and, when visiting Callie, had given it to her. She in turn had given it to her boyfriend earlier that very day.
“Yeah…wow!” Joe’s voice held awe as his hand shook slightly thinking about what a different story it might have been without those life-saving words standing between his brother and death. More than one prayer of thanks would be sent up after that.
Joe moved his blue eyes over to the brother he loved so much. He was still worried about Frank, but the sense of terror he had felt just a short time ago had lessened.
“Joe?” Frank said quietly, trying to breathe shallow enough for his ribs.
“Take one of the guns and go check on the shooter, okay? It’s making me nervous not knowing,” Frank stated. Joe nodded.
“The ambulance and police should be here any minute,” Iola said, glancing up at the road.
“The police should have already been here,” Joe muttered, checking the gun. “And with the open line to the police, they should have heard the entire conversation. Including the confession.”
“I didn’t get to check the helmet. Our plan might not have worked.”
“Be a shame if it didn’t. It was a good plan.” Joe grinned at his brother and his girl and turned to go.
“Be careful,” Frank admonished.
“Of course,” Joe returned.
“For real,” Iola said, her face serious.
“For real.” Joe smiled and agreed.
Two sets of concerned eyes followed Joe as he made his way up to the road. He traveled the path they were on before the four gunmen had arrived.
‘Lassie’, having covered ground quickly to get to the road, currently was keeping watch to make sure the fallen gunman didn’t get up.
Joe moved as quickly as he could up the incline considering his injured leg was giving him problems the more he moved. He almost fell a couple of times, but regained his footing.
Once there, he petted Lassie’s head as he went by. A glance down the road didn’t yet reveal the sight of emergency vehicles or sound of sirens.
Joe went over to the gunman, who appeared to be unconscious. He eyed the gun that had been used to shoot Frank and kicked it out of reach. Using caution that he was sure would please both his brother and his girl, he kept the gun in one hand and checked to see how the gunman was faring. Taking the gauze Iola had handed him, Joe pressed it against the bleeding gun wound.
Not recognizing him from any of the pictures of known associates of Bryan’s, he used his gun hand to press down the gauze and checked the gunman’s suit coat pocket for ID.
What he saw made him wonder how in the world he was going to break it to his brother. He looked down at the ID he was holding in his hand. Issued by the state of New York…Police Department. Detective. His brother had just shot a police detective? And why had a detective shot at his brother?
Hearing the welcome sound of sirens, Joe watched as two ambulances and three police cruisers stopped not far from him. He casually hid the gun before they had reached him so he wouldn’t have any trouble from that.
When the EMTs came over, Joe moved out of the way, “My brother and girlfriend are wounded, also.” While two began to check out the gunman, the others followed Joe’s directions to where Frank and Iola were.
“Joe, I’m Detective Thomas,” a tall man said as he walked over to Joe, recognizing the younger Hardy brother from info they’d received at the police department. He shook his hand. “We’ve been in contact with Bayport Police Officer Riley. And we also heard everything over the open line. Nice job.” He looked at the gunman being attended to by the EMT. “This one of the ones we heard?”
“No, sir,” Joe said. “He arrived after the other four thugs were put out of commission. He tried to shoot us for some reason.”
“But someone shot him?”
“It would appear that way…” Joe wanted desperately to be elsewhere.
“Do you know who shot him?”
Joe handed him the gun he’d carried up with him. “This is one of the guns we took off those dudes who were also trying to kill us. For some reason they don’t like us.”
“You don’t know who he is?”
“Not until I looked at his ID. He never identified himself,” Joe said honestly, reaching the gunman’s identification to the detective. “He shot my brother. I need to go see him and my girlfriend.” He was anxious to talk to both of them.
Detective Thomas frowned as he glanced at the ID of the gunman. This explains some things, he thought then glanced over as Joe was quickly limping to go see Frank and Iola. “Joe.”
Joe wanted to pretend he hadn’t heard and to keep walking.
“This man isn’t a police detective.”
“He’s not?” Joe turned around as quickly as his leg would allow. “Who is he?”
“I’m not sure, but this ID isn’t real. We were delayed in getting here because he called in and said he was on his way to this location and that he and the state police had everything under control. He expected me to just accept what he said.” Detective Thomas glanced over at the gunman. “I didn’t.”
“He wanted to gain time for what?” Joe thought out loud. “He’s a cleaner, maybe?”
Detective Thomas agreed with Joe’s guess. “Probably. These four showed up to take out Bryan’s mistake of grabbing the wrong girl. Which meant eliminating you, your girlfriend, and your brother. Then this guy was supposed to ‘clean up’ and kill those four gunmen so they couldn’t talk. Sure wouldn’t want to work for their boss. Although hopefully that will help make them cooperative.”
Joe gave a grin as he resumed walking toward the path to go see Frank and Iola. Relieved that the ID was forged and no one would be accused of shooting a police detective, Joe was thankful he’d found out and Frank wouldn’t have to deal with even thinking that for a short time. No matter what it would have been self-defense, but it could have been more difficult to prove.
“Why don’t you wait here? They’ll be bringing them up shortly. Your leg okay?”
“Just sore. Wrenched it. But I don’t want to wait to see them. I almost lost both of them….” Joe stopped talking and moved quicker, wanting again to make sure they were okay.
Detective Thomas nodded in understanding as exhausted but determined Joe disappeared down the path.
“Police and ambulance are here,” Joe grinned as he stated the obvious. Frank and Iola gave him a look but couldn’t resist smiling back.
“You should have waited up on the road for us and not climbed back down here,” Frank reprimanded him. Joe shrugged his shoulders as Frank and Iola gave each other a knowing look.
“Hardhead,” they said at the same time. They were all feeling relieved, but none of them could push aside the worry that was staying with them.
Biff hit the ground hard and lay there, breathing heavily and fighting to remain conscious. His head was ringing and he knew the murderer would be going in for the kill at any moment. He knew that and he knew he had to do something, but what? He could hardly move. His opponent was like some super villain…one who had decided that Biff was going to have to perish as well, since he had come to the Hardy home at that time.
As Biff tried desperately to pull himself together, feeling consciousness moving away from his grasp, his eyes took in the Hardys’ backyard. Many happy memories suddenly washed over Biff. Scenes of impromptu football games, playing catch, and numerous cookouts appeared in his mind. This jerk didn’t have any business being anywhere near his friends.
Biff’s fighting spirit and determination coursed through his very soul. Recharged, he forced his legs to push off the ground and he staggered to his feet. Things moved crazily and for a moment he thought he was going to fall back down. Barely standing, he faced the killer who was coming at him with no mercy.
This is it, Biff told himself. In the next minute or so, he would either survive or not. One more chance. Should he not win, and not stop the killer, he knew Frank and Joe also would not survive, whether it was that day or another day, the murderer would succeed.
Biff saw the fist rushing toward him like a tank with every intention of running him down.