Chapter 31

It was around noon by the time Joe arrived at the hospital with Chet and his father. The whole place was still on high alert as Hayden was still missing. The fire at the Bellevue hospital seemed a little suspicious to Joe. Had someone planned for this to happen or was it just coincidence? Either way, Joe knew neither he nor Frank believed in coincidences; his gut feeling was telling him that someone had helped Hayden disappear.

If so, then the question was, who had helped him? Was it Nurse Matthews, his brother, Ryan Hayden or maybe even Cindy Hayden? Then there was this Karen Marshall, who was she? How dangerous were these people? Without the details, Joe had more questions than actual answers.

Then a horrible thought entered his mind; the drive from Bellevue New York to Bayport was probably only a three to four and a half hour drive, if you didn't consider the potential traffic.

"Oh God, what if Hayden was already on his way to get his revenge? Joe was certain Hayden knew Henry would have to testify against him in the upcoming trial. He could feel his anxiety level already starting to rise, just thinking about it.

"Now stop it!" He silently berated himself. This wasn't the time to freak out, instead he needed to concentrate on keeping Henry safe. Suddenly he felt his temper began to flare up inside of him, a part of him was hoping to come face to face with the abusive teacher; he was itching to rip the man apart. Let him come for me, he'll be sorry! Joe was back and ready for a fight.

Joe focused his thoughts on Henry, the subject at hand. "I hope Henry likes the gifts we got for him?" Joe said holding up a black bag. They had stopped at a comic bookstore to pick up a few things for Henry.

"I am sure he will." Chet answered as they made their way to Henry's room.

"I'm sure Henry will be glad to leave the hospital as well." Charles Morton said to the teenagers. "Once we get him home he'll have a nice home cooked meal and a soft bed to sleep in. And let's not forget the welcome home party we've got planned." He chuckled lightly. "Hopefully, Henry will feel so welcome that he won't want to leave."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Chet mumbled under his breath. He was still a little unsure about this. With Frank's plan in the back of his mind, it was his job to keep an eye on Henry. By God for the sake of his family, he was going to do just that.

Officer Riley and Dr. Reese were already outside Henry's room waiting for the group when they arrived. "Hey, Joe. You're looking better then the last time I saw you." Con greeted the younger Hardy after greeting Chet and shaking hands with Mr. Morton. He was a little surprised that Frank wasn't here with Joe. He hoped everything was okay with them.

"Thank you, Con, I'm feeling much better now that my stitches are gone. Right now I'm just thrilled that Henry is getting out of here." Joe replied to the police officer before turning to Dr. Reese and asking, "How's Henry? Is he ready to go?"

"He's feeling a bit anxious, it's been like pulling teeth trying to convince him to get up and out of his bed," Dr. Reese replied. "It's understandable; there's a lot going on today."

"We have some things to give to him; is it okay for us to do that?"

"Yes, that would be perfectly fine. Go spend some time with him. I think your company is exactly what he needs right now." The doctor smiled. With that, the boys went in to see Henry.

(OOOOO)

"Hi, Henry can we come in?" Joe asked softly as he opened the door. Once again, Chet noticed the big grin on Henry's face as soon as he saw Joe.

"Please come in." Henry slowly sat up, hugging his arm to his side, as his ribs were still a little sore. He straightened his Spider-Man t-shirt, as he made sure his blankets covered his legs. Chet saw that the Spider-Man comic book he'd gotten Henry the other day was lying at the foot of the bed, his drawing of superhero Joe between the pages, marking his place.

Henry's eyes shifted over to Chet, the smile remaining on his face. "Hi."

"Hi, Henry, how are you?" Chet smiled back. "Aren't you excited you're finally getting out of the hospital?"

"Fine I guess."

The boys could see the faint bruising on his face, an ugly reminder of his father's abuse. They could also see he was a bit nervous.

"What do you mean you guess? You're staying at Chet's. Wait until you see this place, you are going to like it." Joe said with some enthusiasm as he and Chet entered the room and stood by his friend's bedside.

Henry turned to Chet and asked. "Are you sure you want me to stay at your place?"

"Hum, yeah, yes we do. We're happy to have you." Chet replied plastering a friendly grin on his face hoping to sound convincing. "My mom has your room all set up and everything."

"Oh, Chet, why don't you give him this?" Joe said, handing him the bag.

Chet handed Henry the bag. "What's this?" Henry asked puzzled.

"Well open it and find out."

Henry slowly unzipped the bag, his eyes lighting up like a kid on Christmas morning when he saw what was inside. "This is all for me?" He pulled out a brand new black t-shirt with a red Spider-man symbol on it. There were also some sketch pads and drawling pencils and comic books. "Why, you already gave me the comic book."

"It's our way of welcoming you to our family as well as to show you that we care about you." Chet smiled. He was trying to be friends with him.

"Thank you." Henry replied, clutching the t-shirt tightly. He was very touched by this, he wanted to like Chet. He couldn't believe Chet and his parents would want him to stay with them. Why did they want him? He did not have anything to offer them. They really seemed to care about him. He had to admit he was feeling a little skeptical; he hoped this was not too good to be true.

"Well come on, Henry! Get up and get dressed! We have a party to go to and you're the guest of honor." Joe said excitedly.

"Okay." Henry said, got up out of his bed, and went to the bathroom to get dressed. He still felt nervous about what was going to happen next, but as long as he had Joe beside him, he was going to trust that everything would work out.

He was standing in front of the mirror looking at his reflection. Taking off his shirt, he glanced down at his bare chest, placing a hand on the bandage that encircled his torso. He twisted around to get a glimpse of his back in the mirror before righting himself once again. He hated his scrawny, scarred up body. It was time for him to make a change.

Henry couldn't help himself, thinking of Joe. Joe was perfect from his muscular six-foot frame to his short wavy blonde hair. Popular with the girls, hell, he was popular with everyone and everybody liked him. Joe was funny and outgoing and everything Henry wanted to be. He wanted to be like his hero.

He smiled inwardly. Then he ran his hand through his long and shaggy red hair. He knew just where to start. He ran a hand over the faded bruises on his face. His eyes darkened as he vowed, "I hate you Jack. I'll show you...I'm not your scared and pathetic son anymore. You won't lay your hands on me ever again. I'm going to make you regret ever doing so."

Henry stepped out of the bathroom dressed in his new Spider-man shirt and dark jeans. He was starting to feel like a new person already. "Before we head out to your place, Chet," Henry asked slowly. "Could we stop someplace first?"

"Hum, where's that?"

"To find a barbershop…please...if that's okay?"

"I don't know." Chet exchanged looks with Joe at Henry's request. Joe shrugged and answered turning back to his friend, "I'm sure it'd be okay although we'll have to run it by Officer Riley first."

"That's fine." Henry smiled at Joe. Chet suddenly felt uncomfortable with the starry-eyed look Henry was giving to Joe. What was up with that?

About an hour later, Joe, Chet, and Henry walked out of the hospital, accompanied by Con and Mr. Morton. Officer Baker, dressed in plain clothes pulled a black SUV up to the curb, at the same time as the group got there.

Con had reluctantly agreed to let Henry get his hair cut. His orders had been to take the teens out to the Morton farm, not stopping anywhere along the way. Chief Collig would have his hide if Con disobeyed another order; however, after the hell the kid had been through, Con didn't see the harm in granting the kid's simple request.

"There's a barbershop about a block from here. We'll make it a quick stop. Officer Baker will accompany you inside. You are not to leave his sight. Then we'll head out to the Morton farm." Con instructed as he opened the car door for the boys.

"Thank you." Henry said gratefully as he climbed into the back of the vehicle.

"Thank you, Con for doing this." Joe said as he climbed into the SUV beside Henry. Chet and his father were in the seat in front of them.

"Don't make me regret this." Con shut the door before getting into the front passenger seat.

(OOOOOO)

Two blocks away from the hospital, Hayden, Cindy and Carolyn were sitting in their car watching and planning how to get Henry back when they suddenly spot an SUV not far off from where they were parked, leaving with Henry in the back seat.

"They're leaving with Henry!" Cindy cried as they watched the SUV pull away. "We have to..."

"Shut up!" Jack Hayden shouted from the passenger seat. The man's face went to red to near purple with rage.

"I want my son now!" Cindy Hayden shouted.

"I told you to shut up!" Hayden bellowed as he reached back, belting the woman hard across the face. I don't have my baby brother because of that damn judge placing him under house arrest. Now, I have you three to work with, I'll get the boy back when the time is right. Understand me?"

"Y-yes." Cindy said holding her hand to her face. Shamefully, she turned away crying as she looked out the window.

"Carolyn, do you have it on you?" Jack inquired sharply. He shifted his dark eyes to the young woman sitting next to Cindy.

"I got it right here." Carolyn reached into her purse and pulled out a syringe. She saw Cindy turn back towards her, her eyes wide. "No need to worry, it's just a sedative; it won't kill him. It'll just make him fall asleep." Cindy relaxed, relieved to hear that. "It will make it easier to transport him."

"Good, Carolyn very good." Jack smiled coolly. "Daniel follow that SUV, but not too close." He ordered the young lawyer in the driver seat. "You see Cindy, as I promised I will get Henry back…My plan will work…we'll wait for the right time….when Henry is alone…that's when we'll grab him."

Cindy just looked at him and nodded tearfully.

Daniel Bartend shook his head nervously as he took off after the SUV. "I don't know about this Jack. This isn't what I agreed to when I took you on as my client. I'll work my ass off getting you off on an insanity defense, but I'm risking my career now, first helping you get out from the hospital... and now we're talking kidnapping. That's a federal offense you know."

"How do you feel about murder?" Jack replied coldly giving the young lawyer an icy stare. "I am not going to prison, you understand me, Danny boy? You will see to that. As for Henry, I need to spend some quality time with my boy to make sure he doesn't testify against me."

"Okay, okay." Daniel huffed, adjusting his tie. "Then let's forget about the Hardy kid? Kidnapping your son is one thing, but... we're talking about Fenton Hardy's son. I have not officially met the detective, but I've heard he's very protective when it comes to his sons..."

"No!" Jack shouted. "You leave the Hardy kid to me. I have plans for him." He laughed sadistically. "They think I'm crazy? Well, they haven't seen anything yet."

(OOOOOOO)

The Morton Farm: later that afternoon

Frank and Callie got out of the van and stepped up to the Morton's front porch, where Ginger greeted them. "Hey Ginger, how you doing girl?" Callie crouched down to pet the black and white Border collie's head. The dog barked and licked her face.

Duke, a big German Shepherd with a black and tan body, was lying in his bed by the front door. Frank went to the dog when he suddenly jumped up, his tail wagging, startling the teenager.

"Duke, get down!" Mrs. Morton reprimanded the dog as she came out the front door. "Get down boy." She pulled the dog off and held him back. "I'm so sorry Frank; he's just excited, there's a lot going on today."

"Don't worry about it Mrs. Morton." Frank answered as he brushed the dirt off of his shirt. "Hey Duke." Then he leaned down to the dog, stroking the dog's head to show him there were no hard feelings. "You're in for a treat today, boy, with so many different people for you to greet."

"Yes that he is." Mrs. Morton agreed. "Come on inside." She held the door open and gave them each a friendly hug. It was obvious to Frank that Mrs. Morton was the older version of Iola, with her raven hair that she had pinned up on her head; she was petite like Iola, and she even had a big heart and sparkling personality. God if Henry ever hurt this woman, he'd have Frank to answer to.

With the dogs in tow, Frank and Callie followed the petite woman into the house, through the spacious living room and into the kitchen where they were hit with mouth-watering scent of food cooking. There they found Laura preparing a veggie platter.

Laura stopped what she was doing to greet her son and his girlfriend. "Hello Callie, how are you?" She asked, giving her a hug.

"I'm doing well, thank you, Mrs. Hardy." Callie replied politely.

"Hi, Mom." Frank greeted his mother with a hug. He couldn't explain it; there was something about being in his mother's arms that made him feel like a little kid; he wanted to cling to her and cry but he couldn't, the man inside of him was telling him to stay in control.

"Have you heard from your father?" Laura asked as she released her son and saw the worry in his eyes.

Frank shook his head. "Not since this morning." He replied keeping his voice strong.

Fenton had called Laura a few hours ago to let her know about the fire in Bellevue and Hayden's subsequent escape. He was planning on staying in the area to help in the search. He advised her to stay alert and to call him or the police if there were any signs of trouble. With Frank at the farm with the women, Fenton's mind could rest easy knowing that his eldest son would keep an eye on things.

"And Joe?" She asked in concern. She'd just about dropped everything to race home when Fenton had called her telling her about Joe's panic attack after being told had Hayden was missing. He'd reassured that Joe was fine and that Frank would stay with him until Chet and Charles got there to take him to the hospital in order to pick up Henry. Once they'd done that Con Riley as well as another police officer would bring them out to the farm.

"Joe's fine. In fact, he was in a very good mood when Chet and his dad picked him up. So hopefully he'll still be like that when they get here. I'm sure he will be once Biff gets here; I'm mean, there's a party going on today and the whole gang'll be here, it's right up their alley. The two of them will probably be competing with each other to be the center of attention."

"I just hope they don't get too carried away with Henry…" Frank stopped himself, just saying the kid's name left a bitter taste in his mouth.

Laura also knew her boys were still dealing with the aftermath of Hayden's abuse. The fact that her baby was having anxiety issues bothered Laura and the tension between her two boys definitely didn't go unnoticed. Especially, every time Henry's name came up. She wasn't sure what that was all about, but she was damn sure she was going to find out.

"Wow, everything smells wonderful in here," Callie broke into Laura's thoughts. "Is there anything we can help you with?

""Thank you Callie, but everything's just about ready." Mrs. Morton was at the sink filling the dogs' bowls with water. She placed them on the floor before standing back up. "Let's all go out to the barn, everything's set up there." She gestured at the bowls now at her feet. "This'll keep the dogs busy for a while."

The barn's sliding doors were open, leading out to a patio, and outdoor grill. There were two 10 foot tables pushed together in order to accommodate a large dinner party. Red and white checkered napkins were set at each table setting.

"It looks so beautiful." Callie gushed before asking her boyfriend's opinion. "Frank, what do you think?"

"Hum, yes everything looks great." Frank answered hoping to sound upbeat.

"I just want everything to be perfect for Henry." Donna said, wiping her hands on her apron.

"You have done an amazing job already." Laura smiled. "Henry is a lucky young man to be getting all of this attention."

"I hope Fenton and the police find Hayden soon."

"We all do, Donna, believe me, we all do."

"That man doesn't deserve to be a father. He lost the right when he hurt that poor boy." Donna said plainly. "From what I gather, his mother isn't any better. How could she allow her son to be treated that way?"

"I've only known Henry for a short time, he seems like such a sweet boy under all that hurt, all he needs is a little bit of TLC. We can give that to him. She wiped the few leaking tears from her eyes with the corner of her apron. "Iola will always be my daughter as well as my guardian angel. Chet is my world. I can't help but feel like Henry is the missing piece of my family."

Frank exchanged looks with his mother. "Donna, I pray that everything works out for you and your family." Laura began gently. She was hoping that the woman would listen to her advice, and jump the gun a bit. Laura was trying hard to be supportive of her friend; after all, fostering a child was an incredible thing. However, with the particular child they were talking about she had to admit to herself that she was having reservations about this whole thing.

"If Henry is meant to be a part of your family, then it'll happen." Laura added treading carefully on the topic. "You've been through a terrible loss with Iola; losing a child is the worse kind of pain a mother can experience. I just don't want you to get your hopes up."

She squeezed her friend's hand gently. "Henry may seem like a sweet boy, but please keep in mind that he's a very troubled young man. It all depends on what he wants. Keep in mind, also that we don't know what's going on with his mother either. Mrs. Hayden may not give up her son willingly."

"I promise you, Laura, I am not being naïve about this. I'm aware that the boy is dealing with many issues. Dr. Reese is going to be coming out here to continue Henry's therapy." Donna said. "If making Henry a part of our family is a long process, then Charles, Chet and I are willing to do it. We want Henry to be a part of our family."

Frank was stunned; he really didn't know what to think anymore. "Frank and I would like to take a walk before everyone gets here." Callie slipped her hand into Frank's. She could sense that he needed to get away for a bit.

"That's perfectly fine. You kids go ahead. Once Mr. Morton gets here I'll have him start grilling the burgers." Donna Morton said looking at her watch. "I need to go get the rest of the food."

"I'll help you." Laura offered. She prayed that the authorities would find Hayden soon. She prayed that with Fenton adding himself to the search that the nightmare would be over soon. On that thought she followed Donna back into the house.