Night of Danger
Flashing lights from emergency vehicles competed with the amazing sunrise lighting up the morning sky. As the deep, rich colors emblazoned the heavens, it was obvious that the scene unfolding nearby reflected a remnant of what had happened just a short time ago.
“Joe, will you relax?” Frank mumbled as the paramedic worked on him. If Joe thought Frank was overprotective, Joe was no less, as evidenced by him questioning his big brother and the emergency workers and hovering around anxiously. Am I like that? Frank wondered, probably, and with good reason. Watching his brother out of the corner of his eye, he corrected his earlier thought, Nah, I’m not that bad.
“Me? You’re the one injured!” Joe was sitting on a stretcher, with Iola right next to him and near the one Frank was lying on. One of the EMTs had checked Iola’s ankle and was impressed with the job Joe had done to wrap it for her.
As the EMT finished getting Frank ready for transport, his brother’s concerned eyes watched all that was happening. It had been too close. If that bullet had hit other than right where it had…..
Iola, with Joe’s arm protectively around her and snuggling her against him, felt him begin to shake. The adrenaline that had been sustaining him through the emotional and traumatic night was dissipating. Joe had nearly lost his girl and his brother in one night. With his right hand, he ran a hand through his curly hair, not even realizing it was shaking. Iola tightened her arm around his waist, hoping to give him some comfort. She reached up with her left hand to touch his face and he gazed down at her lovingly.
“Everything is okay,” she told him quietly with assuredness, looking into his beautiful blue eyes, hoping to get through to him. He appeared to be unsure of whether he could truly relax. “Frank will be fine, he’s even conscious and teasing you. The bad guys have been caught. I’m here. You, Frank, Phil, Jeff and Con saved my life.” She held his gaze as he took in her words, allowing them to get through. He knew what she said was true. He drew in a shaky breath but his next one was much more relaxed. Iola smiled and again caressed his face.
The female EMT, who had been joking with Frank while checking his ribs, threw a quick smile over at Joe and Iola.
“Quite a lot of excitement stirred up,” she noted. Her red hair was pulled back in a ponytail to keep it out of the way as she took care of her patient. She made it a habit to always remember that the victims whom she tended to were people, in pain, and often scared. Her current patient, Frank, wasn’t scared, but his brother certainly was for his sake. The brother’s feisty little girlfriend was doing very well at reassuring him, though.
Frank’s ribs were hurting and he felt tired, but he was happy Iola was now safe and sound and the bad guys were being arrested. As soon as he had allowed himself that short time of comforting thoughts, he mentally moved on.
The EMT noted the frown that had come over Frank’s face. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” came the quiet, deep answer that didn’t convince her.
Frank tried to relax but his mind was still busy. Knowing that the efficient EMT was doing what needed to be done for his injury, he felt no concern in regards to that. This allowed his brain to focus on something that had been bothering him since they had found the anti-freeze leaking from the van at home.
A sigh escaped Frank’s lips and the EMT wondered if perhaps the tough guy was hurting a little more than he had let on. He needed X-rays to see if there was any internal damage. She flicked a quick look again at his face. In just a minute he’d be ready for the trip to the hospital. It wasn’t the pain that held Frank’s attention at the moment. He kept thinking what Joe had pointed out a little while earlier. Since it was mistaken identity concerning Iola then the anti-freeze leak from the van was unrelated to that. So had the van been sabotaged?
Walking alongside the stretchers with his brother on one and his girlfriend on the other, Joe looked over at them both every once in awhile, noting that the EMTs and police were being very careful as they carried them. He was so thankful that Frank and Iola were alive and well.
Frank saw him look over one time. “You okay, little brother?” He was worried about Joe’s leg hurting and how bad it was injured.
“Yeah. Thankful you two are okay,” Joe said. He was quiet for a minute as they neared the road. “Frank, what about the van?”
His expression showing his concern, Frank shook his head. “I don’t know. I’ve been wondering about that, too.”
Detective Thomas met them at the road. He had already talked to Frank and Iola for a couple of minutes earlier before going back to directing arrests. “The four gunmen were very interested to hear about the cleaner. And after telling them their rights, I let the name of their suspected boss ‘slip’, that we heard about over your helmet phones. They decided to cooperate. How did you come up with that particular name?”
“Just a guess,” Frank said modestly and explained his mental travel to that theory.
“A very smart guess,” Detective Thomas commented. He glanced over and saw another hero he had met that night, Lassie, arrive next to him and he petted the graceful dog’s head. He turned back to the Hardys and Iola. “You guys heal up and I’ll talk to you in a little bit.” Later, as soon as he got the chance, he found out that the license had fallen off ‘Lassie’ and was able to reunite the dog with the relieved owners.
When Detective Thomas entered his report later, he would include all of the information he had found out. Such as how Frank came up with the name of the boss. Going on Joe’s instinct that the intended kidnap victim was the owner of the car and not Iola, Frank had searched for a motive.
Finding out that her father happened to be CEO of a company that was in negotiations for a sale, Frank had made a phone call to him to find out some information. The CEO had been anxious to help and worried for Iola, but he couldn’t guess who could be behind the kidnapping. After talking a short time, Frank did have some guesses based on answers to his questions. A little more research and he could see the clues were pointing to someone on the board of the company who was looking to expand his own holdings, which would turn out to be extensive.
Con Riley frowned as he pulled up in front of the too-quiet Hardy home. Getting out of his cruiser, he walked quickly, eyeing the van in the driveway and the light on in the living room as he did. His handgun drawn and ready, he hurried to the back of the house.
A lone individual, barely standing, saw him as he came around the corner. The other person didn’t react to the sight of the policeman. He couldn’t. Con tensed, and accurately assessed the situation. Taking a few strides he reached them.
Seeing the one standing about to topple over, Con holstered his gun quickly and caught Biff right before he fell. Easing him carefully to the ground, Con looked at him in concern. Biff was barely keeping hold of consciousness but didn’t feel his job was done yet. He had been worried that Frank and Joe needed help yet he was also afraid to leave the killer unguarded.
“C-con…,” he said. “Frank and Joe…”
“Take it easy. It’s okay,” Con said quietly. He threw a glance over at the killer, unconscious on the ground, to make sure he was out before looking back at Biff. “Ambulance is on the way. I wasn’t far away when the call came in. I was surprised because I didn’t think anyone was home here.”
Biff, looking dazed, stared at Con. “Frank…Joe?”
Con tried to make Biff comfortable and began to do a preliminary check as a first responder. “They are okay.”
“That guy…w-was going to kill them,” Biff managed, weariness from his battle setting in. He was thankful that Con had gotten there so quickly after he had called 911 using the killer’s phone.
“They’re safe. You just take it easy, alright?” Con could tell that the fight had been a fierce one. While they waited for the ambulance, Con told Biff what had been going on with Frank, Joe and Iola. He was relieved when the EMTs came; he was plenty worried about tough Biff. It was obviously a serious knock down, drag-out fight.
As the EMTs were attending to Biff and more police officers arrived, Con began to investigate what the killer had planned. Searching around, he saw something on the roof. Shining a flashlight up there, he frowned. No ladder. That meant the killer had climbed one of the nearby trees.
Following the route he suspected was taken, he climbed out onto the roof. With gloved hands, he examined the items not normally found on the Hardys’ roof. Situated near the chimney that led to the living room fireplace, Con deduced the plan had been to release poison into the room. And Frank and Joe would have been there if Iola hadn’t needed help right then. The killer thought they were home, Con realized, thinking about the light on and the van in the driveway. He was surprised, too, that the brothers hadn’t taken their van on the cold night.
Con would find out later from the crime lab that his deductions were correct about the poison, which would never have been found and would have quickly killed the brothers. Biff had interrupted the killer who had been working on taking a kink out of the tubing that was temporarily blocking the release of the poison. Con handled everything very gingerly.
The killer was transported under guard to Bayport General. Once they released him, he went from there to jail, where someone he had double-crossed before recognized him and killed him. He died before he was able to add more murders to his list.
Bryan’s and the others’ boss, Brent Carlton, who had planned the takeover, was arrested, despite his claims of innocence. On the gunmen’s testimony he would be convicted and his plans for power and more wealth would crumble. He decided he needed a better plan for the future once he got out of jail, finding that he regretted his ruthless ways. Especially if they landed him in jail. And cost him the respect of family, friends, and associates.
Fenton stepped a little closer to the warmth of the barbeque grill as he expertly flipped a burger. A glance up at the sky assured him that snowflakes weren’t yet making their way down to them, but he knew a significant snowfall was expected that night or the next day.
Good thing we decided to do this today, he thought. His dark eyes warmed even more as he saw his lovely wife, bundled up against the cold, step outside their home and walk over to him.
“You’re pretty wonderful,” she said softly, hugging him and then snuggling against his strong left side. He put his free arm around her and hugged her back.
“Happy you think so,” he said, giving her that grin that always made her melt and feel so good.
“Oh, I know so,” she stated with confidence. The look in his deep eyes held his appreciation at her words.
“At least we got Biff to compromise so everyone could eat inside.” Fenton smiled.
Biff had had one request after all of the praise for his heroism in facing the killer and saving Frank and Joe’s lives. He wanted a cookout. Right then. In the middle of winter. The Hardys had felt that was an easy request to grant, especially after what Biff had done.
The celebration of survival included Jeff as one of the guests of honor. Iola got to thank the diner owner who didn’t look the other way, but took the time to get involved and helped give her a fighting chance. He told her he was thankful it had worked out alright.
Frank was sitting at the island in the kitchen watching with interest as Callie got some things out of the refrigerator in preparation for the winter cookout. She caught him grinning and couldn’t stop her own grin at the expression on his face.
Setting down the tomatoes to slice, she took a seat next to Frank. “How are the ribs?”
“Better,” he said then picked up a piece of tomato she had just cut and popped it in his mouth. She looked at him and he grinned.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” she said.
“Yes, we can continue to kiss and hug. My ribs aren’t a problem,” he assured her with a cheeky grin.
She returned the grin but shook her head. “Not what I was going to ask.” Her smile said she liked his answer, though. “Your van leaking anti-freeze – what caused that?”
Frank raised his eyebrows. “Oh yeah. Well, Joe checked it out as soon as he got a chance. A broken hose – that wasn’t sabotaged. You know, that broken hose worked out well, all things considered.”
“So the van being there for anyone to see, including the killer and Biff, helped save your life!”
“Yeah, if the killer had come a different time because he thought we weren’t home right then or Biff kept going thinking we weren’t home, it would have been a different story.”
“A tragic one that I don’t even want to think about,” Callie said looking at Frank with love.
“Definitely wouldn’t have worked out the way we preferred,” Frank said, smiling. He put his arm around her and summed up the reassuring truth, “We survived.”
“Thankfully.” Callie picked up a smaller piece of tomato and fed it to Frank. His lips touched her finger tips.
“Finger food, huh?” chuckled Tony, having just entered the kitchen to get a drink.
Startled at the intrusion, Frank and Callie looked over at their friend.
“Sorry…I wasn’t here. Later, dude and dudette.” Tony grabbed the soda and left. Frank and Callie turned back to each other and laughed.
Joe and Iola sat on the couch snuggling by the fire. Others were in the room but were unnoticed by the couple. She was curled up, leaning back against his strong chest, with his arms holding her safe and secure. Both were feeling very happy and thankful.
“Life is an adventure, isn’t it?” she asked softly.
“Mhmmm,” he murmured huskily. “A fun and crazy one with you.” She could feel his grin against her hair.
“Thank you,” she said. “I like that compliment.”
“I’ve got more,” he said, his blue eyes sparkling with love.
She smiled and moved a little so she could see his face. Watching as he grinned, her eyes lingered on his lips.
“You’re looking at me,” he said quietly.
“You’re very nice to look at,” Iola smiled.
“You are beautiful,” Joe stated.
Chet’s voice interrupted them. “Excuse me, but before you two forget others are here and do a lot of kissing, may I just take this commercial interruption to remind you I’m trying to eat?” He held up his plate of appetizers he’d just gotten.
Iola was quick. Before Chet could even blink, his nice little plate of appetizers was in Iola’s hand. “Why, thank you, Chet! How thoughtful of you! Now we won’t have to go get any!” She smiled at him. “Aren’t you going to go get some for you, too?”
Chet grinned good-naturedly, secretly proud of how his little sister had turned it around on him. He went to get some more appetizers, thankful Iola was safe and sound.
Joe and Iola shared the snack Chet had ‘thoughtfully provided’ with much enjoyment.
Later during dinner ~
“Biff, you sure look like you were in a fight!” exclaimed Tony as they were eating the grilled food.
“You should see the other guy.” Biff grinned, making everyone laugh heartily. “I’ve always wanted to say that.”
“You did a great job,” Chet said.
“A hero, without a doubt,” agreed Con.
Biff blushed, feeling shy in the spotlight. “Anyone else would have done the same.”
He wanted to say how he felt, that life is a blessing, but instead he just grinned and glanced around at the people so important to him. His parents, his girlfriend, and his friends. Frank, Joe and Iola were safe and sound. They had survived. Sometimes people let silly things or non-important things get in the way of enjoying life and Biff was determined to never let that be said of him.
Frank and Joe, sitting with their girls, held identical sentiments as Biff. While enjoying the food and the company, they wondered what their next case would be. There was a job to be done and they were more than willing to accomplish their goal of making the world a safer place and had the courage to do so. As the U.S. Marine saying goes: “courage is the ability to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons.”
Never the end!