Here it is the conclusion of Pressure. And as promise the Frank and Callie moment everyone has been waiting for hopefully you'll forgive me when you get to the ending...I should mention in my defense that I promise i do like animals. Trust me when I say you're going to hate Hayden even more. Hopefully a new story for you soon, right now it's a work in process.
A very special Thank you to Tinee Dancer, nancy drew 11 , John Quest, Highflyer, nicolelylewis, Cherylann Rivers for reviewing my last chapter and for those who are reading and Following and Favorites. Also, want to give a big thank you to elven buddy for helping me beta read my story. You are awesome!
Pressure chapter 32
"Frank, is everything alright?" Callie asked her boyfriend.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Frank plastered a smile on his face as he took her hand in his.
They were sitting under the huge oak tree overlooking the pond on the Morton farm. In the distance, they could hear Millie neighing in the stable. This was Frank's favorite spot, it was quiet, and relaxing; the perfect place to think. He looked up at the blue sky and felt a gentle breeze on his face and warmth of the sun. Summer would soon be here. That meant changes were coming, starting with graduation, which was only a week away.
His parents had been ecstatic when he'd finally told them about Princeton. His mother of course, started to cry tears of both joy and sadness, hugging him all the while. Fenton had shed a few tears himself, he hugged and congratulated him; saying how proud of him, he was. Just hearing his father say he was proud of him meant the world to him.
Frank called his Aunt Gertrude and told her the good news. She was coming home for his graduation, wanting to make her eldest nephew's favorite food in order to celebrate this latest milestone.
He was looking forward to spending time this summer with each of his loved ones before leaving for Princeton in August. He hoped that when that time came he would have the courage to find the words to tell them all how much he loved them. Each one of them had played a big role in his life, loving him and encouraging him to be the person he was today. He'd carry them all in his heart once he'd left.
The hardest part would be saying goodbye to them, especially Joe and Callie. Just thinking about it brought tears to his eyes.
"No you're not. It's just; you've barely said two words on our way out here. You said a brief hello to my parents before telling me about Princeton, that's about it." Callie looked deep into her boyfriend's eyes, he couldn't hide the worry in them. "I can tell something is bothering you."
"I'm sorry; I just have a lot on my mind right now." He apologized.
"I know Hayden did some horrible things to you and Joe. If you need to talk about it," she offered, "I'm here. Please let me help you."
Frank looked out across the farm as he thought about this; everyone would be arriving for the party soon. He wished he could be anywhere else but here, he wanted to be happy though he just couldn't be right now.
He had so much going on inside of him, he felt as though he were going to explode. He thought back to the conversation he'd had with Joe, focusing mainly on him learning to share his feelings. He'd managed to open up to his brother and father so that was a step forward at least.
"It's different with Callie, though. Crying just seems so...personal. I don't know if I can do that." He shrugged. "I don't know if I could talk to her about what happened last night. I'm not sure where Callie and I are in our relationship. How is this new, upcoming chapter going to affect us? Will the fact that we're going to be at different colleges change us?"
Joe had tried to reassure his brother. "Isn't it better you find that out now, before things change? At least that way you'll know where you guys stand."
Opening up to Callie like this would be a huge step in their relationship. It was now or never, Frank decided, he had to tell Callie how he felt about her. He turned back to Callie kissed her hand. He needed only her right now. "Okay, I do need to get some things off my chest."
Callie smiled inwardly. She was just happy that her boyfriend felt comfortable enough to open up to her in regards to his feelings. She knew that was something that was very difficult for him to do and the fact that he was putting his trust in her meant a lot to her. She'd never pushed him to talk to her, that was his decision to make and it had to be on his terms, nobody else's. She wanted to be whatever he needed, whether that was a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, or a person who'd just hold him, giving him a sense of security.
Callie gave his hand a light squeeze. "Go ahead."
"I hope for Hayden's sake he is found… dead, because if I ever come face to face with the guy…I'll kill him." Callie's eyes widened at Frank's words though she said nothing, only sitting beside him and letting him vent.
"He hurt my brother, Callie…" His voice was heavy with emotion. "You should see him. Joe's dealing with so much crap, it's causing him to have anxiety issues. It's gotten so bad that he's started to have nightmares! He had a freaking panic attack this morning when Dad told us Hayden was missing! I hate seeing Joe like that! I want my brother back!" He turned away from her, taking a second to look out over the pond, in order to recollect his thoughts.
"As for Henry, I don't trust him and I don't want him around my brother. I cannot believe Mrs. Morton is actually thinking of making Henry a part of her family. She has no idea what she's getting into. I know Chet doesn't like it."
"Yeah, you told me about the superhero thing…It does sound creepy." Callie had to agree.
He shook his head adamantly. "I can't do it Cal, not now. I can't leave Bayport."
"You can't be serious." Callie voiced her concern. "You're going to give up Princeton?"
Frank took a breath to help himself calm down. "I've been thinking long and hard about this. Bayport University is a good school and it's closer to home."
"It's closer to Joe." Callie added. "That's what you're really saying."
"And you." He admitted, "We can go to college together like we planned." He turned back to look at her, the worry in his eyes clear for Callie to see.
"I think that maybe Joe isn't the only one dealing with some anxiety issues. Frank, what about you? What about what Hayden almost did to you with...that belt." Callie brought up tentatively.
"I know you have a very strong connection with Joe and I respect your relationship with him. Please, don't get me wrong, I like Joe I really do. He can be funny, he likes to be independent, and adventurous those are the qualities I like in a person. I'm proud of him for taking a stand in order to protect Henry, both from the bullies at school and Hayden."
"I'm just going to list a few things that I really don't like about Joe." She spoke bluntly, because Frank needed to hear this. "One thing is when he tries to downplay just how intelligent he is. Joe is a very smart person and would have a lot of potential if only he used the right way. He could get into a college like Princeton without any problem; but I don't think that Joe thinks of himself as smart."
"And another thing I don't like is his disregard of your feelings like when he's rushing into a situation without thinking of his own safety and yours. I think he takes advantage of you, Frank; because he knows you're always going to be there to clean up his mess." She knew she was being forward but she was trying to make her point, "The worst part is that you let him."
"I think you need to get away. Take some time for yourself."
Frank shrugged. "What can I say, you're right." Frank agreed. "Joe is smart. His problem is that he lets his insecurities get in the way. Maybe once I'm away, it will give him a chance to shine."
"The only reason I'm here is to support Chet and his parents and of course for Joe." He sighed heavily. "I'm scared, Callie. I'm scared that the issues with Princeton and Henry will break my bond with Joe. I don't know how to fix this; if I leave with the way things are now, they're only going to get worse." He balled his hands into fists as he felt hot tears start to trickle down his face. He bit his lip to try and ease their flow.
"How did Joe take the news, when you told him about Princeton?"
"He says he's happy for me and is being, or trying to be, supportive of it all." Frank answered simply. "But I know him. I know he's hurting, Callie...because I can feel it." He rubbed a hand over his chest, where his heart was as he felt an ache. "It's got to be tearing him up inside."
"The hard part for me, I know, will be separating myself from Joe; I've never known my life without him in it, I've never taken the time to figure out who I am; the kind of man I want to be. My biggest challenge will be learning to let go and trusting that Joe'll be okay on his own."
"What's going to happen when I leave? I can't stop thinking that something bad will happen to my brother and I won't be here to put a stop to whatever it is." He continued, anger coloring his voice. "Hayden is still out there somewhere; I've been through this enough times to know that, it's never a good thing when the bad guys go missing."
"My guess is that Hayden's making his way back to Bayport to kill Henry and Joe. When we were both in Hayden's clutches...I would've let him beat the hell out of me if it meant that Joe wouldn't be touched." His voice cracked. "I...I'd do anything for Joe." He looked down at Callie as tears rolled down his face. "I should've protected him from the beginning. However, I didn't do my job. I failed… to protect my little brother. I failed... "
Then he suddenly realized what he was doing and felt the heat of embarrassment spreading across his cheeks. "I'm sorry, I feel like an idiot, crying like this." Frank started the tears from his eyes. "It's not very manly, is it?"
"Don't you ever apologize for crying in front of me; you can't help how you feel." Callie stopped him, framing his face with her hands, she wiped the tears away.
"You know, you're not the only one going through changes." Callie continued. "I'm going through the same thing you are; figuring out who I am and what kind of woman I want to be. I want to be a strong independent person; to do that I need to stand on my own two feet without my parents' help. It's both scary and exciting at the same time, but it's still a good thing."
"So you're okay with me going to Princeton?"
"I'll admit I was stunned when you told me." Callie said. "It'll be hard being away from each other. But, we'll keep in touch, it'll be another reason for you to come home and I'll have a reason to visit you. I would love for us to go to college together, but it's not going to happen. I'm going to Bayport University. Princeton is an opportunity of a lifetime, Frank. If you pass that up, you'll regret it for the rest of your life."
"I'm confident that we can make our relationship work, Frank, regardless of the distance. That is, if that's what you want as well. Maybe it'll be good for us to be separated for a bit; after all we're both going to be experiencing new things. We can share those experiences with each other and use them to strengthen our relationship."
"Yes of course, I want our relationship to work. Callie, you've been so supportive throughout this Hayden nightmare. Your show of concern for Joe has really meant a lot to me. I've made a pretty good decision already in my life, Callie, and that's you. You make me happy. I can't see myself with anyone else. In fact, I'm done dating and looking around at other people; you're the only one I want." he continued, "You're so beautiful, smart, and funny." Frank smiled, "I want to spend the rest of my life with you…someday."
Frank felt his heart flip at his words. "I love you."
"I love you, too." Callie had tears in her eyes as she smiled up at her boyfriend, sighing with happiness as he wrapped her in his arms. It felt like a dream, but no it was real; she was in the arms of the man she loved.
She loved everything about him. He was her best friend and she was his. He was tall, dark, and handsome and there was a protectiveness about him that made her feel safe. She could already tell he was going to make a great father… someday.
Frank had this old-fashioned quality about him that she found quite attractive. He was the kind of man who treated women with respect by being chivalrous but also held them to a standard. He wasn't the kind of man who threw himself at women or treated them like they were possessions. He thought of her as his equal, someone who was smart and kind to a fault. He was her voice of reason.
They might have been two high school seniors, young and in love, but soon they'd be entering a new phase of their lives. Callie knew however, that she was done searching; she'd found the man she loved and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. Frank Hardy was the man she wanted to marry...someday. "Do you want to know a secret?" she whispered to him.
Releasing his hold on Callie, Frank framed her face with his hands. Gently wiping her tears away with his thumbs, he traced the shape of her cheek, making his way down to her soft lips. "What is it?"
"Most women like their men to be open and confident about whom they are. Their men don't need to look and act tough all the time." She continued, adding a seductive note to her voice. "In fact, I think it's kind of sexy when a guy expresses his feelings."
"Really?" He answered softly, gazing into her eyes. "That's good to know." His mind, full of troubled thoughts just moments ago, was now buzzing with happiness and anticipation.
She gazed up at him, losing herself in his brown eyes. He watched her eyelids flutter, then close. Her heart was beating so fast she couldn't get a decent breath. She felt his breath on her cheek. Then their lips met.
When his warm lips met hers, she returned his kiss passionately, and smiled at him when he pulled his head back. "Wow, I'm kissing a Princeton man."
Frank held her close for a moment and then planted a kiss on her forehead. Resting his chin on top of her head, Frank looked out across the field and smiled. He'd never felt so free, he'd taken a big step forward when he'd decided to share his feelings with Callie. At least one part of his life finally seemed to be going in the right direction, now if only he could fix everything else. That would be the icing on top of the metaphorical cake.
Just then, the sound of Duke barking grabbed their attention. They looked up in time to see several cars pulling into the Morton's driveway and up to the house. "And so, the party begins. God, please help me get through this."
Laura and Donna came out of the house to greet the crowd. Both dogs were at their heels barking and wagging their tails with excitement. Chet and his father climbed out of the SUV, along with Joe, Henry, Con, and Officer Baker. Climbing out of the second vehicle were Tony, Biff, and Phil, along with a tall sandy-blond haired guy who resembled Phil.
Henry hung back, staying quiet, unsure of the whole situation. "What is all this?" He whispered to Joe.
"It's a welcome home party for you." Joe replied.
"Why? I don't deserve it, especially after the way I treated them."
"Everyone deserves a second chance, including you, Henry. My friends are willing to give you that, and by the way, they're you're friends too." Joe put an arm around the younger teen. "Chet and his parents are good people and will treat you right. They're like my second family; Frank and I had some awesome summers here during our childhood."
"Just give them a chance okay?"
"Okay, I'll try." Henry said shyly while giving the group a small wave hello. He was still unsure but for Joe he would try.
"What did he do?" Biff's eyes widened as he got his first glimpse of Henry; Tony and Phil weren't sure what to make of the blond hair either.
Phil made a quick decision that a distraction was needed and quick as he sensed the mounting tension. "This is my cousin, Seth." Phil said, making the introductions all around.
"It's nice to meet everyone." Seth made the rounds, shaking hands with everyone, pausing when he reached Henry. "You must be Henry; Phil's told me so much about you. I look forward to getting to know you better."
Henry glanced down at the outstretched hand with hesitation; glancing over at Joe, Henry tilted his head, a question in his eyes. Joe nodded back at him before looking back at Seth, who was waiting patiently. "It's nice to meet you too," he replied to Seth, trusting Joe wholeheartedly.
Suddenly Duke started barking, reminding everyone about his presence as he took a leap and jumped onto Henry, startling the teen.
"Duke, get down!" Mr. Morton reprimanded the dog.
"Get down boy." Chet pulled the dog off of the younger boy and kept a tight hold on the dog's collar. "I'm so sorry Henry. Duke is just very excited. "
"It's okay." Henry answered softly as he brushed the dirt off of his t-shirt.
"Chet, take Duke into the house." Mrs. Morton instructed her son. "As for everyone else, let's head over to the barn. We have plenty of food, so let's go eat!" Chet did as his mom had asked, heading one way with the dog as the rest of the group trooped down to the barn.
It was at that point that Frank and Callie joined their friends. Frank's jaw dropped off when he got his first glimpse of Henry's new haircut. "What the hell?"
Callie saw the color drain out of his face. "Frank?"
"Callie, would you go down to the barn with everyone else?" Frank asked simply. He was doing all he could not to lose it. He took a deep breath and held it, before releasing it, striving to stay calm. "I need to have a word with my brother."
Callie just nodded okay.
"Frank, Henry wanted to get his hair cut...I had no idea that's what he had in mind," Con told the elder brother before he and Officer Baker left him alone. "Don't be too long."
"Joe, wait up." Joe heard his brother call him.
"Here it comes." Joe huffed. He'd known the minute he saw Henry's hair that Frank would have a cow when he saw it. And unfortunately for Joe, he had no explanation to give his brother. "I'd better get this over with." He could see the hesitation written all over Henry's face. "Go on Henry, I'll be right there. I need to talk to my brother for a second."
Henry hesitated again. Chet came back out and joined the brothers, sensing Frank's need to speak privately to his younger brother. "Come on Henry, let's go eat." Finally, Henry gave in and let Chet guide him towards the barn. Biff wanted to stay and find out what Henry's new hair was about but in the end, decided to get the scoop from Chet and let the brothers be.
As soon as they were alone Frank stabbed a finger in Henry's direction, "What the hell was that?" Frank demanded.
"What… you knew about the shirt…." Joe started to say.
"I'm not talking about the shirt!" Frank swallowed back the anger. "What's with Henry's blonde hair?"
Joe could feel his temper rising; Frank was really starting to push his buttons, Joe thought. Sighing deeply Joe answered," Can't we talk about this later? There's a party going on; let's just forget about this for now and have fun."
"No we're talking about this now." Frank shot back. "This can't be normal...he's obsessed with you Joe. It's almost like-he's trying to be you?"
"Now that's crazy!" Joe argued. "And as usual you're blowing this way out of proportion. It's just a haircut! Just like the drawing is just that- a drawing!" He couldn't hold back anymore. "Don't you get it Frank?"
"He's just trying to fit in, he wants to be friends with everyone. Maybe he's going at it a little too much with the blonde hair...but he's trying. You know what? I can't do this right now. I love you and all but I'm going to leave before I say something I'll regret." Joe turned and started to walk away.
"Maybe, you should do the same….try to be friends with him."
"I can't. The blonde hair was the last straw. I'm done with him." Frank said firmly, folding his arms to his chest.
"You can't go off by yourself." Frank reminded him.
"Can't you leave me alone?" Joe whirled around, his anger clear on his face. "I need some time to cool off, I'll be fine." He whirled back around, heading in the opposite direction, kicking a small pebble out of his path.
I love you too, little brother, Frank thought sadly. Suddenly, he was not in the mood for a party. He didn't think he could sit around a table, having a good time, with Henry sitting not so far away. So instead, he headed back to the oak tree planning to do nothing but sit, cool off and think.
After taking a breath to calm himself down, Joe slowed his pace while stuffing his hands into his jean pockets. "God, everything is in such a mess." He thought sadly. Glancing up at where he was going, Joe found himself heading in the direction of the stable. Millie must've been restless if she was making so much noise he could hear her from where he currently was.
Millie had been Iola's horse, how she'd loved the animal! Most sixteen year olds wanted a car for their birthday, but Iola had wanted Millie, Joe remembered the moment his girlfriend had showed her horse off with fondness. As Joe stepped into the stable, Millie poked her head out of her stall briefly as if to greet him.
"Hey, girl, what's wrong?" He asked as he stroked her nose. Jerking away suddenly, Millie began to seem agitated.
"What's wrong, Millie?" Something was obviously wrong; Joe slowly opened her stall door, stepping inside. "OH MY GOD!" His heart stopped as his face paled; there, lying in the hay, covered in blood, was Duke. And crouching beside the obviously dead dog, was Hayden, a bloody knife in his clenched fist.
"Hello Joseph." The teacher greeted coldly, giving the younger Hardy an icy stare.
"Hayden." Joe said breathlessly. His heart was beating so fast he thought it would burst from his chest at any moment. "Oh my God…Henry…I have to…" Feeling a sharp prick on the side of his neck, Joe fell to the ground as everything faded to darkness.
After taking an hour or so to cool off, Frank made his way back to the barn, finding everyone sitting around the table eating and talking and generally having a good time.
Laura saw him and immediately got up and hurried over. "Frank, where's Joe?" she asked anxiously.
"Isn't he here?"
"We got into a bit of an argument," Frank glanced over at Henry before turning back to his mother. "He must still be angry with me."
"You know he can't go off by himself."
"He was heading towards the stable, he's probably still there if that's where he went."
"Hey, I can't find Duke." Chet announced as he hurried into the barn. "I went up to the house to check on him and the back door was wide open."
Alarm bells started to go off in Frank's head. Frank glanced over at Con as the police officer rose from where he'd been sitting at the table. "Everyone stay here. Baker, call the Chief."
"I'm calling Fenton." Laura reached for her phone, doing her best not to panic, wanting to stay in control for everyone else's sake. "Frank, go find Joe!"
Without a second thought, Frank took off running towards the stable, with Con not far behind him. Horrible thoughts ran through his mind, not knowing what was happening to his brother. "Oh God let him be okay." Each step they ran seemed like an eternity.
Finally they reached the stable where they could hear Millie causing a ruckus in her stall. Bursting through the door Frank exclaimed, "OH MY GOD!" He stopped in shock, Con practically bumping into him; there at their feet lay Duke, covered in blood. It was obvious to them both that the dog was dead.
And there was Hayden, standing next to the dog, gripping a knife, dripping blood. "Put the knife down, now!" Con ordered, aiming his gun that he'd pulled out of its holster at Hayden's head.
Dropping the knife, Hayden made a dash for it, trying to escape. He was quickly brought to the floor though, having been tackled by Frank who'd anticipated the move.
"Where's my brother?" Frank hissed at the man.
"I don't know." Hayden panted as he stared up at Frank, a grin on his face.
"You son of a bitch! What have you done to my brother?"
"I don't know."
"You're lying. Tell me where he is...or I'll crush your windpipe." Frank snarled, giving the man an icy stare as his hands gripped Hayden's throaty tightly. "Where's my brother!?"
"Frank! Stop!" Con pulled the elder Hardy boy off the teacher. "You don't want to do this."
"Go ahead, kill me." Hayden taunted him. "It's what I would do. You're just like me."
It was at that point that reinforcements in the form of Chief Collig, Sam, and Fenton arrived with numerous other officers. "Frank!" Fenton exclaimed in surprise, prying his son off of Hayden.
Finally Frank let go, keeping his gaze locked on Hayden. Together, Con Riley and Officer Baker hauled the teacher to his feet, pinning him against the stable wall.
This time Hayden stood face to face with Fenton. "Where's my son?!" Fenton demanded, narrowing his eyes and giving the man a death-glare. It was taking every last bit of the strength he had to stay in control and not kill the man himself; finding Joe was his main priority, every second counted.
"I don't know." Hayden said firmly.
"Riley! Take him to the station! Maybe he'll feel like talking there." Chief Collig ordered. "Then I want a full scale search for Joe started."
"Yes sir!" Con slapped a pair of handcuffs on Hayden's wrists before walking Hayden out to the waiting police car, trailed by Fenton and Frank. The crowd watched as Hayden was deposited into the back of the car, all wondering the same thing: where was Joe?
Sam and Charles Morton as well as all Frank and Joe's friends eagerly volunteered to help in the search for Joe. The more people looking, the faster they hoped he'd be found, after all. Callie stayed with the other women, helping them to clean up; she wanted to stay nearby in case they needed her, they were both upset, understandably so.
Feeling guilty, Henry hung back, unsure of what to do now. All he knew was that Joe was missing and it was his fault, everyone must hate him now.
Tire tracks were found on the far side of the stable. The road at the back of the property, not too far from the stable led to the highway. The Mortons discovered that the lock on their back door had been hacked off, and inside the kitchen a large knife had been taken, presumably used to kill Duke. Hamburger meat was missing from the fridge; they suspected it had been used to lure the dog from the house.
Frank and his father were in the stable searching for clues. "We have to find him Dad, before it's too late. Joe and I had an argument, I have to apologize...I have to make things right..." The elder brother's voice cracked as he confessed to his father, letting the tears fall as he gave into his emotions.
Fenton Hardy put his arms around his son, who practically fell into his arms crying. When Frank mastered himself, he released him and instead laid a hand on his shoulder. "We'll find him Frank."
Frank nodded, not replying as his eyes continued to scan the room. Suddenly, Frank spotted something on the ground. Picking it up, his heart skipped a beat; it was Joe's leather wallet.
"It's Joe," he showed his father.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Frank answered as he scanned the wallet's contents. "His credit cards and cash are still inside. Which means..."
"Which means Joe left it behind to indicate he was here," Fenton finished for his son. Anxiously, they finished searching the room, not finding anything else.
"I will find you, Joe." Frank vowed. "I promise I will find you."
to be continue...Aftermath