A/N: Hello! Thanks for reading this story. It's going to be a short one, only a few chapters. It is part of the Chapters Series, which there are six other stories in. If you haven't read the others, that's okay. Everything pertinent to this story will get explained again. Of course, that means major spoilers for the other stories in this series. This one is meant to tie up a few loose ends that I left in the last story, All Roads Lead to Rome. I'm posting it all at once because why not? I hope you enjoy, and I'd love to hear what you think about it.
Broken Hearts Do Heal
The clouds were covering the bright face of the moon so that it was invisible, and the snow blew so hard that it would have been difficult to see very many yards ahead even in daylight. As it was, the headlights of Fenton Hardy's car barely pierced the darkness for a few feet. Then, too, the blowing snow made the road treacherous and difficult to determine where the pavement ended, forcing Fenton to drive at a snail's pace.
His older son, Frank, was sitting in the front passenger seat, leaning forward and trying to make out the road ahead. Frank was twenty-five, dark-haired, and very smart. Of course, intelligence ran strong in the detective family, but Frank seemed to have received extra on that score. He had been married for a year exactly to his high school sweetheart, Callie Shaw Hardy, and they were expecting their first child in July, six months away. They had spent their first year of marriage in Rome, while Callie finished her degree in art, but they had just returned about a month ago, in time for Christmas, and now they were home in Bayport to stay.
Joe, the younger of Fenton's two sons, had claimed the back seat. He was still recovering from a knife wound in his right calf from about seven weeks earlier, and he found it more comfortable to be able to sit with his leg stretched out along the seat. He was blond, twenty-four, and generally a jokester. However, he had come close to drowning shortly after receiving the knife wound, and he hadn't quite been the same since. He could still crack a joke at a moment's notice, but he had become quieter, humbler, and more introspective since then.
Frank and Joe had been working with their dad in his detective work since they were in high school – unofficially back then, of course. They had gotten their private investigators license as soon as each one finished the bachelor's degrees in college, and then they had officially joined Fenton and his partner, Sam Radley, at their detective agency. However, things were soon to change.
Callie worried about the danger of Frank's work, especially now that she was expecting. Frank himself had been forced to kill a man to save Joe's life, and it wasn't sitting well with him. He wanted something different, something to distance himself from that horrible day and that would cause Callie less concern. Following a suggestion from Joe and after talking it over thoroughly with Callie and his parents, Frank decided that he would begin a graduate program in the fall to study forensics, a degree with which he could still do detective work, but of a much safer nature, and also fulfill a need in the community.
However, at the moment, all three of them were thinking more about their current predicament than any of that. They were on their way back from New York where Fenton had been asked to speak at a police conference. Frank and Joe had accompanied him, since it had been well over a year since they had spent a fun weekend together. The weekend had been very fun and relaxing and a good chance for the three of them to get reacquainted, but the drive home was proving to be much less so.
"Maybe we should have waited until tomorrow morning," Frank commented.
"That's when the storm was supposed to hit," Fenton reminded him. "We thought we'd be able to beat it home."
"We almost did," Frank acknowledged. "We can't be more than twenty miles from Bayport."
"Might as well be a hundred miles in this storm," Fenton went on.
They drove on in silence for a few miles more, the car crawling along at barely ten miles an hour. Even at that speed, it began to slide several times, giving the three men in it a few moments of worry.
When they got to a tree-lined portion of the highway, visibility got a little better, since the trees blocked the wind, but the road was no less slick, and so they could make no faster progress.
Frank's phone began to ring, and he answered it promptly. "Hi, honey."
"Are you all right, Frank?" Callie asked from the other end of the phone. "With the storm and everything and you being on the road…"
"Don't worry," Frank reassured her. "We're fine. We're getting close to home, but we have to drive slow." He paused, waiting for her to reply, but there was nothing. "Callie? Callie, are you still there?" He took the phone from his ear and saw that there was no reception. "I hope she heard most of that," he commented. "Getting cut off might make her worry more."
"She's got a point," Fenton conceded. "We'll have to take the long way. There's no way we'll get down Shore Road in this storm."
Shore Road, which was the quickest way back to Bayport, climbed up on the cliffs over Barmet Bay, the horseshoe-shaped inlet where the town lay. It wound and twisted along the edge of the cliffs, and at some points had drops of about a thousand feet on one side.
"No kidding," Joe spoke up from the back, "but what if we can't get across Willow River either?"
Their other possible route included a bridge across the Willow River. A storm like this would make it treacherous to cross.
"We'll just have to see when we get there," Fenton replied philosophically. "If we can't get across, we'll just have to park and wait for the storm to let up. There are some blankets in the trunk, and we've all got extra clothes along. We'll be fine."
"There's a light up ahead." Frank pointed out a dim, red light that was just barely visible through the storm. "Do you think it could be a house?"
"I think it's another car," Fenton said after looking at it carefully for a couple of minutes. "It looks like a taillight."
As they approached, the light didn't move. Finally, they were close enough to see the outline of the car clearly. It was mostly off the road with the front end crunched against the trunk of a tree. Fenton instinctively started braking.
"They must have slid off the road," Joe observed, leaning forward as much as he could so that he could see better.
Once Fenton had the car stopped, all three Hardys jumped out to see if they could help anyone who might be inside the wrecked vehicle. Frank reached the car first, tapping on the driver window. Fenton arrived a moment later, having taken a minute to grab a flashlight which he now shone through the window. There was a man slumped over the steering wheel and the remains of the airbag, but there didn't appear to be anyone else in the car. Joe reached the car last, limping on his injured leg.
"The doors are locked," Frank announced after going all the way around the car and trying all of them.
"Are we still out of cell reception?" Fenton asked.
Both Frank and Joe checked their phones, but both showed that the area was completely dead.
"If we have to go for help, it could take hours," Frank said, "if we can even get to any help."
"We'll just have to break in, then," Joe replied. He shone his phone's light through the window and saw that the locks were the type that pushed down. Then he crouched down, wincing at the pressure to his wounded leg. He quickly pulled one of the laces out of his shoes and tied a loop with a slipknot in the middle. Then he went around to the passenger side, where he was less likely to do any damage, and worked the shoelace down from the corner of the door. It took a few tries before he was able to get the loop around the lock, but he finally managed it and pulled it tight. Then he pulled the lock up and opened the door.
He pressed the unlock button so that his dad and Frank could get through the driver door, and then he climbed into the passenger seat. Frank checked for the man's carotid pulse and was relieved to find that it was strong. Then Fenton shone the flashlight over him, looking for any injuries.
Just then, the man groaned and stirred. He reached one hand up to his hand, mumbling, "What?"
"Hey," Frank said, reaching out to him. "Just sit still. What hurts?"
Ignoring Frank's instructions, the man sat up and leaned back against the seat. Fenton's light shone full in his face, and all three Hardys started as they recognized him.
Joe was the first to speak. "It's Tyler."