Here it is my last chapter. I want to thank everyone for reading and reviewing my story.
Iola's Treasure 32
Later that night, at the Hardy home, Laura began rubbing her tired eyes. She'd spent the majority of the day helping Gertrude take care of Hattie. Gertrude had insisted the younger woman go and get some rest, which Laura had yet to do.
She was too worried about her boys to sleep. Needing some comfort she went into Fenton's office; though it was empty, the moment she sat down in his chair she felt herself relax, comforted by the sense of his presence she got.
Frank and Joe were supposed to go get Hattie her things yesterday evening and come straight home. She began to worry when they didn't back and feared they had gotten caught up in the storm. She had a bad feeling they had gone after those criminals for hurting Hattie.
Fenton and Sam had gone out sometime early this morning, after the first storm hit, to look for the boys. It was now late in the evening and Laura still hadn't heard anything from Fenton. Glancing out the window, she sighed; the rain was coming down so hard she could barely see anything. And to make matters worse, power lines were down all over the city, making communication extremely difficult.
"God, please bring my family home safely." Laura prayed, willing herself not to start crying again.
Gertrude stepped out of Hattie's room, quietly shutting the door behind her. She began to dab the tears from her eyes with a white laced handkerchief, before stuffing it back into her pocket. Just then a clap of thunder boomed overhead and heavy rain continued to beat down on the roof.
With a flashlight in her hand Gertrude made her way down the dark hallway. She stopped suddenly when she heard someone crying in Fenton's office.
"Laura," she whispered, shining the beam of her flashlight into the room. "Laura, I thought you were resting?"
"Oh, Gertrude I..." Laura looked up, startled, quickly wiping the tears from her eyes. "Hattie is she…" She asked, rising to her feet.
"No, not yet, she's still with us." Gertrude answered softly, trying not to tear up. "She's waiting for…"
"Joe." Laura slowly sat back down and began tearing up. Gertrude entered the room, stopping in front of Fenton's desk as she noticed the younger woman's eyes were filled with fear and worry.
"Why, Gertrude… why is she waiting for Joe?"
"I don't know where he and Frank are or Fenton". A surge of anger crept into her voice. "I wish Joe'd never found Iola's gift! It's like it's unleashed some sort of curse on the family. Without it, Joe wouldn't have been so hell-bent on saving that island! He wouldn't have met Mr. Douglas or Hattie for that matter. After the pain Joe went through when Iola died...to let him go through that again, it's too much!"
Laura paused to take a breath. "Fenton thinks he's strong enough to handle Hattie's passing away, but I'm not so sure".
A streak of lightning flashed outside the window. "It was a mistake to let her into our lives. Now here she is, dying in my home and my family is going through hell!" Laura gasped; slapping a hand over her mouth, suddenly realizing what she was saying and feeling ashamed for it.
"Oh, Gertrude, I...I didn't mean… Hattie's your friend, our friend and I'm sorry to be so rude."
"It's okay, Laura I understand." Gertrude replied, excusing her sister in-law's angry outburst. Her heart went out to her sister in-law who was worrying herself sick over Fenton and the boys.
Despite her own worries, Gertrude had decided to step in and be the pillar of strength and support that the family needed to keep going. As such, she spent most of her time taking care of Hattie and looking after Laura. This was one responsibility she could take off her brother's shoulders; she had faith that Fenton would find the boys and bring them home.
"Just hang in there; Laura, Fenton will be home with the boys soon." Gertrude said, placing a hand on her shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. "You can bet he'll move heaven and earth to get them here."
"You know our Hardy men as well as I do. They've been in tougher situations before and still managed to get out. They are smart and very resilient; all three of them know how to take care of themselves as well as each other."
"I know what you're saying, Gertrude, it's just..." Laura paused for a moment in order to collect her scattered thoughts. "I've been the wife of a law enforcement officer for over twenty years now. I've spent many nights waiting, sometimes cradling a baby in my arms, for my husband to come home. I've hoped and prayed several times, that I won't get a knock at the door or a telephone call from someone telling me that Fenton's not coming home because he was killed in the line of duty".
"When Fenton is home, I cherish every moment I have with him. I never know where the next case will take him or the danger he will face. Sometimes when I'm lying next to him in bed, I listen to the sound of his breathing just to know that he is here and alive, and I have him for that moment."
"And now that the boys are following in their father's footsteps." Laura began to tear up. "The waiting gets harder and harder."
"Well, then Laura that's what we're going to do. We're going to wait for our men to come home. They will be home soon! You have to believe that." Gertrude said, adding her encouragement. "We have to believe that."
"Thank you Gertrude." Laura brushed the tears off her face. She too had faith in Fenton. He would bring her family home. "They'll be home soon".
She glanced out the window at the teeming rain.
Suddenly there was a beam of headlights followed by the sound of a car pulling into the driveway. The ladies both looked at each other and their hearts started racing when they heard the sound of car doors slamming.
Laura held her breath until she heard the front door open and voices call out, "Mom!"
"Fenton!" Laura called out and jumped to her feet. She and Gertrude hurried out of the room. Sure enough, there they were, their men standing in the living room all drenched from head to toe.
"Good heavens!" Gertrude exclaimed, bringing a hand to her chest in shock at the men's conditions.
Laura threw her arms around her husband, letting his strong arms wrap around her as tears of joy rolled down her face. "You're here! You're here!"
Fenton kissed the top of Laura's blond head. Then he pulled back a little. "Sshh...we're all here. Everything's okay". He soothed, gently wiping her tears away.
"You don't look okay!" Laura immediately released Fenton and turned her attention to her sons.
Frank placed the bag full of Hattie's things they'd retrieved on the couch, before accepting his mother's hugs. It felt wonderful to have her loving arms around him.
"Look at you! All of you!" Laura exclaimed, as she took in the sight of her family's bruises and the makeshift sling keeping Joe's arm immobile. There was a black backpack hanging on his other shoulder. "I want to everything that happened!"
"Laura, we will, but later. Right now we have something more pressing that needs our attention," Fenton replied as he glanced at Joe.
"Oh baby, just look at you". Laura wrapped her arms carefully around her youngest. She could feel his whole body shaking. No sooner than the tears started to fall, he pulled away from Laura.
"Mom..." His blue eyes were wide and utterly serious. "Hattie… Are we too late?" he asked, dreading the answer to his question.
A clap of thunder boomed overhead and the heavy rain continued as flashes of lightning lit up the living room.
"Hattie's dead, isn't she? I'm too late." Joe concluded when Laura didn't answer right away. When he repeated it, his voice cracked. "She's dead."
"No, Joe. I was with Hattie not more than five minutes ago." Gertrude answered softly trying not to tear up. "I don't know for how long, she's very weak and tired. My guess is that she won't live to see the morning. I believe she's holding on for you, Joe".
"I'll go and let Hattie know you're here, okay?" She placed a gentle hand on her nephew's bruised cheek.
Joe slowly nodded his assent. Leaving the room, Gertrude came back a few minutes later, "Hattie's ready to see you, Joe."
Joe all at once couldn't move his feet, they felt like a block of cement. He started breathing heavily and looked up at his family. "I can't do this."
"I thought I could, but I can't watch her die. It's too hard." His voice quivered as he attempted to hold back the tears that were threatening to fall. "I'm scared..."
"Douglas and Underwood tried to kill you more than once, you just survived a hurricane." Frank reminded his brother; he heard a small gasp from his mother. "If you can survive all that Joe, you can get through this. You are strong, Joe, you are".
"Joe, look at me."
Joe looked at his father with tears in his eyes. It was killing Fenton to see him like this. Dealing with a hardened criminal was one thing but watching his son go through this kind of pain, this was hard, maybe the hardest thing he'd ever done.
"I know this is hard for you. If I could shield you from this kind of pain, I would. But, you need to say goodbye to Hattie. You need to make peace with this."
"You don't have to be there when..." Fenton cleared his throat as a lump rose in it before continuing, "Hattie passes away. No one will make you. It's your choice, okay?"
"Would it help if your father and I go in there with you?" Laura gently asked, doing her best not to cry. She felt Fenton slide a strong arm around her shoulders. She gratefully leaned into the silent support.
Joe quickly wiped away the tears from his eyes, as he thought about his mother's offer; he didn't want to be a baby about this and have his parents hold his hand; he was seventeen years old for goodness sake! No, deep down, he knew he had to be brave and face his fear like a man. But right now he didn't feel like a man, more like a scared little boy.
"I do need to give Hattie her things." Frank spoke up as he picked the bag of items up off of the couch. "So if you want we can go in together?" He knew perfectly well what his brother was thinking.
"Okay." Joe softly replied, feeling better about having Frank in the room with him.
"We'll be right out here, if you need us." Fenton offered.
"We love you Baby." Laura added, reaching to give her youngest a hug.
Wordlessly, both parents knew and understood why Joe wanted his brother with him. Frank would give him the sense of being more independent and capable to face his fear in order to say goodbye to Hattie. With his parents there, Joe would feel the exact opposite.
A few minutes later the brothers stood outside the door of Hattie's room. Frank noticed Joe was shifting nervously from one leg to the other. He put an arm around his brother's shoulders and squeezed comfortingly. "We're in this together."
"Are you ready to go in?"
Letting out a sigh, Joe squared his shoulders, somehow finding the courage he needed at that moment. He finally nodded, wiping the tears from his eyes. "Yes, I'm ready."
A clap of thunder boomed overhead and heavy rain continued to pour down on the roof. Frank opened the door as he and Joe made their way inside.
The room was dark. The only source of light was a lamp that sat on the night table beside the bed. To the boys' surprise, Hattie was dressed in a floral bed jacket, covered with a light blanket and propped up with many pillows surrounding her. She looked so small and frail.
"Hello boys." She said weakly holding out a hand to them.
"Hello Hattie," Frank replied softly, going to seat by the bed beside her. As he took her hand he quickly noted that her hand felt cold and clammy. In the dim light he could see that Hattie's skin was ghostly white with her lips tinged a light blue color. There were dark circles around her eyes. This kind woman was dying! He took a deep breath to fight back the tears wanting to come out. God, this is hard. How did one say goodbye to such a sweet and dear person?
Coming in behind his brother, Joe could feel his confidence dwindling as he fought the urge to panic. His palms were sweaty and his stomach was in knots. He, too, couldn't believe just how ill Hattie looked. He couldn't do this, he just couldn't! He froze right where he stood.
Keeping his voice calm and steady, Frank continued. "Joe and I brought you the things you asked for" He laid the items on the bed beside her. "Here's the floral dress you asked for as well as the antique clock and the Barmet family photo album".
"Oh, how nice of you," Hattie smiled, patting his hand. "Thank you Frank. You are such a kind and generous young man. I've never met a young man of such outstanding character who carries himself with the poise and maturity you do. You're just like your father".
"Grandfather used to say that was the mark of a true gentleman. A man of calm demeanor with a strong, intellectual way of thinking. A man who'd fight for what was just. You are special Frank, don't you ever forget that"."
"I won't." Frank responded, giving Hattie a peck on the cheek. "Thank you, Hattie." He quickly wiped at a tear that had escaped his eye and was trailing gently down his face. He turned to see his brother leaning against the doorframe giving Hattie a look of utter panic; Frank thought Joe was going to bolt out of the room.
"Huh?" Joe replied breathlessly.
"Don't you have something for Hattie?" Frank nodded at the backpack slung over Joe's shoulder. "In the backpack. You wanted to give it to Hattie personally."
"Oh my goodness, Joe, your arm," Hattie expressed her concern. "What happened? Are you alright?"
"Huh, oh yeah, I'm okay." Joe shook himself out of his trance. He noted she had her gaze fixed on the cast of his wrist as well as the sling that was keeping his arm immobile. "Dr. Bryce said my wrist will be good as new in a few days."
"Anyway, I do have a surprise for you." Joe said quickly changing the subject. He came closer to Hattie's bedside. Getting his breathing under control, he approached Hattie's bedside. "Frank, would you give me a hand?" Frank nodded and taking the backpack from Joe, he set it down beside Hattie.
"Frank and I went to Barmet Island and found these," Joe went on. He didn't have the heart to tell her the island was gone because of Douglas and the hurricane. She didn't have to know that part anyway, he concluded. He unzipped the top part of the bag, "your grandfather's coins."
Hattie gasped at the sight of the bag filled to the brim with tarnished gold coins. "I can't believe it, after all these years..." Her voice trailed off as she brought a hand to her head. A tear ran down Hattie's face.
"Hattie, I'm sorry," Joe put his hand on top of hers. "This is too much for you…" He sat down beside her.
"No, I'm fine." Hattie shook her head. "Thank you Joe." She paused to sniff back her tears. "You're an amazing young man with a heart of gold; you're so kind, and caring. You think of everyone else's needs instead of your own."
"You remind me a lot of my Grandfather James Joseph Barmet. I guess that's why I have a special place in my heart for you. If I had been blessed with a son, his name would've been Joseph."
Joe couldn't help the tears from rolling down his face. He felt Frank's hand on his shoulder, offering him his support.
"Other than going around the country collecting treasures," Hattie went on." "Grandfather was also a great storyteller. That's probably the best treasure he left me, his stories."
"Everyone has a story, Joe. You have a story, a life story, it is important to share it with the people you love. It tells them your story; your past, present and even future. It lets people know who you are and where you come from".
"It's what keeps you alive even after you're gone." Hattie looked right at Joe. "That's what I wanted to tell you. All the stories that I've told you are now yours. Promise me; after I'm gone...you'll share my story."
"I promise". Joe replied softly, wiping his tears away. "Frank and I both will."
Frank nodded in agreement.
"I can't think of anyone else, to whom I could entrust all my treasures too." She placed a hand on the backpack. "My grandfather's coins as well as my house, now belong to you and your brother. I trust you will use them wisely."
"What…" Joe's eyes widened as he glanced at Frank, who was just as stunned by this news, before turning back to Hattie.
Frank couldn't believe his ears. Had Hattie really just given them her family's home plus two and a half million coins? Joe was utterly speechless.
"Hattie," Joe said, finally finding his voice. "That is awfully generous, but are you sure about this?"
"Yes, Hattie, are you sure?" Frank repeated. "You want us to have your treasures?"
"Yes, I'm sure." Hattie simply answered. "It's stated in my will, which I gave to your Aunt Gertrude. Your father can see to all the legal stuff."
"You are a special lady, Hattie." Joe replied softly, wiping his tears away. "I lost someone very special to me last year, my girlfriend, Iola Morton. It pained my heart greatly when she died, because I loved her; she was the love of my life. I don't know how, Hattie, but you somehow filled that empty space in my heart Iola once was."
Tears began to trickle down his cheeks as his voice trembled, "And it's hurting again." Joe clutched his chest as he cried, "I didn't know how to say goodbye to you. I didn't want you to die."
Frank couldn't stop the tears from falling in his eyes as he began rubbing Joe's back trying to comfort him, his own heart was breaking for his brother.
"I will always be in your heart, Joe. Every time you share one of my stories, I'll be with you. Just like Iola will always be in your heart. You'll find love again, Joe. When you find it, she'll be someone special and the pain you're feeling will go away".
Her voice began to grow weaker as she spoke. "I've lived a long and happy life. The truth is I'm ready to go. Harold is waiting for me… I miss him so...When I see him… I'm going to tell him about you Joe and all you young folks." Hattie laid her head back down on the pillow. "Thank you, for making an old woman… feel… young again."
With that Hattie closed her eyes. Joe watched her chest, slowly going up and down. Then she took one last breath, and then, nothing.
"Hattie." Joe's voice trembled out. He bit his bottom lip and waited anxiously for a response.
Frank placed two fingers at the pulse point in Hattie's neck. "I'm sorry, little brother." he said emotionally, "she's gone."
For a brief moment the room was silent, neither brother speaking, both lost in their thoughts.
Frank hated the silence that was currently wedged between them. What it a sign that Joe was shutting down? This was the moment he'd been dreading, Joe's reaction. Joe just sat where he was and stared at Hattie. He saw a tear run down his baby brother's face, but no words were spoken.
"Joe, I'm here." Frank placed a hand on Joe's trembling shoulder. He took a deep breath. "Don't shut down on me. Let me know what you're feeling…" Joe jumped to his feet and, not caring about the cast on his wrist, threw his arms around Frank.
Joe started bawling. Without a word, Frank held him tight to his chest. Together, the brothers grieved the loss of their sweet friend, Hattie Granger.
Frank gave Joe a few minutes to get all cried out before pulling him back, using one hand to wipe his brother's tears away. "You okay?"
Joe nodded slightly. "Come on," Frank said, escorting Joe out of the room. Once they were in the hallway they noted that the adults were there waiting for them in silence. Seeing the somber looks on their faces the adults knew it had happened.
"Hattie's gone." Frank confirmed as his tears started to drip down his face.
Joe heard his family crying all around him. Then their voices started to sound farther and farther away. One after the other, Joe felt the adults giving him their comfort. First came his mother and aunt before finally feeling his father envelop him in his strong arms.
"Joe, are you alright?" Fenton asked, touching the side of his son's tear stained face. Instead of answering Joe suddenly went limp in his arms and then fell lifeless to the floor.
Somewhere nearby Joe could make out the sound of a chainsaw. Slowly, he opened his eyes. Again he heard the chainsaws buzzing, they sounded very close.
Now fully awake, he turned his head towards the sound, his eyes meeting the bit of sunlight that was peeking through his window. Looking around the room he was in, he was surprised to find he was not in the hospital as he'd first thought. Spying familiar objects around him he realized he was in his own room.
Flashbacks of everything that had happened started swirling around in his head. Thankfully everyone had made it safely out of the hurricane and made it back to Bayport in one piece. Joe remembered the sense of relief that he, Frank and Chet had felt as they'd watched Sam and Con get Albert Douglas into the squad car.
The minute they'd driven off to the station, the nightmare that had been the day had finally finished. They were free.
After leaving the police station Fenton, with Sam's help, had taken the boys to the hospital. John Kramer had gone to inform Chet's parents about their son, and bring them to the hospital.
It had turned out that Chet had suffered a minor concussion due to his head injury. He had to stay in the hospital overnight for observation. His parents were very relieved and happy to see their son alive. They were very adamant about spending the night in the hospital with Chet.
Frank, miraculously, walked away with only minor scratches and scrapes. Joe's sprained wrist, however, turned out to be a hairline fracture and so it had been set in a cast and given pills for the pain.
Joe looked over to find his book and Iola's locket sitting on the nightstand beside him. He reached over and clutched the locket in the palm of his hand. "Ow!" Pain shot through his injured wrist.
"I'll never forget you Iola. You will always be in my heart".
His thoughts then turned to when he'd found Iola's letter and gift that had led him down the road that was everything they'd been through lately.
"I'll never forget you either, Hattie."
Quickly batting away the tears, Joe looked up to see Frank coming into his room.
"Hey." Joe whispered back. He moved over so Frank could sit down beside him.
"How are you feeling?" Frank noticed the tears on his brother's face, but said nothing.
"Good I guess, considering Hattie…." Joe couldn't bring himself to say the word. "How'd I get here?"
""You collapsed on the floor at around 10 o'clock last night from the shock of Hattie passing away". Frank answered, "Dad picked you up and brought you in here. At first we were going to take you to the hospital, but then decided against it and thought you'd rest better in your own bed."
"Mom, Dad, Aunt Gertrude and I have been taking turns checking on you."
"What time is it?"
"It's almost noon."
"Have I been asleep that long?"
"Why am I hearing chainsaws?"
"Our neighbors are cleaning up the fallen tree branches in our backyard. They heard about Hattie and wanted to do something to help us. In fact, everyone is cleaning up the mess the storm's left all over the city. The power lines are back up and running".
"Our electricity came back on sometime this morning." Frank continued giving Joe the run down of the day's events.
"Mom and Aunt Gertrude have been busy in the kitchen cleaning out the fridge. Dad made a run to the store to get things for breakfast, err... brunch. I'm not exactly sure what it is we're having, but anyway its food."
"I came in here to check on you. To see if you're okay." Frank concluded with. "Do you feel like eating anything?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." Joe answered. "And don't worry, I'm not going to fall to pieces or go crazy. I'm fine, really. I mean I'm sad Hattie is gone and everything. But, you heard her say that she lived a long and happy life."
"She was happy when she died, Frank and I'm okay with that. And we have all those wonderful stories of hers." Joe sat up slowly with Frank's help. "We're going to keep Hattie alive every time we share her stories."
"Don't forget about the other treasures she left us." Frank added. He still couldn't believe that Hattie had given them her house as well as the coins. The two and a half million dollar coins were now theirs.
"Where are the coins?" Joe inquired. He too couldn't believe the coins were now theirs.
"Right now they're sitting in the safe in Dad's office." Frank replied. "Mom and Dad were shocked when I told them about what Hattie'd given us. Aunt Gertrude gave Dad Hattie's will which confirmed it".
"What are we going to do with all that money?" Joe shook his head. "Hattie entrusted us with those coins and the house. We have to be sensible and not make greedy decisions. We have to put them to good use like Hattie said."
"What do you suggest?"
"Hattie was a teacher, right?"
"Yeah, that's right." Frank nodded.
"And, she loved kids." Joe put in. "Maybe we could use some of the money to set up scholarships for kids in Hattie's name. She was a teacher, so maybe for kids who want to pursue a career in education? The rest of the money we could use for college."
"As for Hattie's house, I'd to finish the job I started from my community service. We can decide what to do with the house once it's done."
"What do you think?"
Frank thought about his brother's suggestion. He smiled proudly as he said, "That's a good idea. We'll talk to Mom and Dad about that later."
"I do have something else to tell you." Frank said, switching gears. "Chet's going to be just fine, although he has to take it easy for a few days. But he'll be released from the hospital in time to attend Hattie's funeral."
"The funeral is set for the day after tomorrow. All of Bayport is invited to attend and pay their respects to Hattie. Because that is what Hattie wanted."
Joe nodded to show he was listening. Frank noticed he was lost in thought. "Joe, what's wrong?"
"Nothing, I was just thinking."
"About, what Hattie said about everyone having a story," Joe answered, and then he asked, "Do you think people will tell stories about us?"
Without missing a beat Frank responded, "Of course they will. It's what keeps us alive, no?"
Joe searched Frank's face for any sign of deceit and finding none; he finally smiled and then nodded. "Right, except our stories will be a series."
"We'll have to have a bookshelf filled with all our stories." Frank said, rising to his feet. "Now come on and get up before Mom comes looking for us. You'll feel better once you have food in your stomach. I'll help you get dressed."
"Okay." Joe said, letting out a deep breath as he slowly got up out of bed and dressed with help from Frank.
Frank headed out the door. "Joe, are you coming?!" He called from the hallway.
"Yeah, be there in a sec!" Joe called back. He put Iola's locket back inside his copy of Treasure Island and walking over to the shoebox sitting on his desk, placed it inside with his new copy of the book before closing it, concealing their treasures inside.
"Thank you Iola." He said before leaving the room in silence….