A/N: Thank you so much for continuing to read this story! In particular, thank you to BMSH, max2013, Candylou, Highflyer, EvergreenDreamweaver, Barb, and Cherylann Rivers for your reviews since I posted the last chapter!
The Wind of Change
Six weeks later
"Are you sure this is a good idea? I've never done this before." Joe held out his arms nervously.
"What are you talking about?" Callie asked. "You've never held a baby before?"
"It's not really something that's ever come up before."
"Oh, come on," Frank told him. "We have to at least have a picture of you with your namesake."
Callie placed her small son in Joe's arms, and Frank snapped a picture with his phone as Joe went on, "Seriously, you guys, you didn't have to name him after me."
"None of the three of us would be here now if it wasn't for you several times over," Callie said. "So, yes, we did have to name him after you."
Frank and Callie had just brought Roman Joseph Hardy home two days earlier. The first day home, they had had to themselves, and then the next day, their families had come to visit the newest addition for the first time outside the hospital. Today, Joe had come by to help Frank fix up a few things around the house and get it ready for Frank and Callie to leave again once school started. The house was a rental, and Frank and Callie had made the decision to let it go when school began, so that they wouldn't have to keep paying the rent when the house was standing empty. That meant that for school breaks, they would have to stay with either Frank's or Callie's parents, which wasn't completely appealing to the independent couple. Even so, they were determined to make the best of it.
"So, I noticed yesterday that Aunt Gertrude wasn't giving you quite so much the cold shoulder treatment," Frank commented to Joe.
"She's warming up to the idea," Joe said. "She's going to take quite a bit more warming up, though, before we can have a normal conversation about it. Honestly, though, the whole thing with the O'Rourke case is kind of helping."
"Then that's the only good thing that's come out of that whole mess," Callie replied.
"I wouldn't say that," Joe said. "O'Rourke's been put out of business, and Olaf is getting the promotion to chief instead of him, so those are definitely good things."
"You've got to admit that that's about it that has turned out well," Frank told him.
The fallout from the O'Rourke case had been ugly, especially in the first couple of weeks. The story had hit the national news, and for several weeks, new revelations of the extent and nature of O'Rourke's crimes had been made practically every day, keeping the story in the news for that length of time. Accusations against the Bayport Police Department, as well as police in general, had run rampant, with Chief Collig and the other high-ranking officers being accused of covering up for O'Rourke and the other officers in general falling under suspicion that they might be up to the same thing. Chief Collig had immediately begun an investigation into every man and woman on the Bayport Police Department, which every officer was cooperating with, and was working with Olaf to put into place even more efficient screening and training for incoming officers. Those efforts were, of course, largely ignored by the press, who were more interested in decrying the police for their failures in the matter than in reporting on the efforts that were being made to make sure nothing of the kind every happened again.
Naturally, the Hardy family had found themselves in the middle of it. Between Frank and Joe being responsible for solving the case and their and Fenton's status as private investigators, as well as Fenton being an ex-cop, journalists and reporters had descended on them to get their opinion of the case. However, when it turned out that these journalists were less interested in the Hardys' actual opinion than they were in getting a statement that could be twisted into a denunciation of the police or some other juicy tidbit that would raise their ratings, the Hardys had decided it would be for the best to refuse to give any more statements. Frank had written a letter explaining the Hardys' exact position on the case (including denying the rumors that he and Joe were leaving professional detective work because of this case), which Fenton and Joe had also signed and was then sent as a letter to the editor of all the local and national newspapers that had been reporting on the story, and that was the last official comment any of them were going to make on the case.
"So, how is it helping with Aunt Gertrude?" Callie asked.
"She was saying it wasn't right for all these reporters and such to basically be saying that every cop in America and especially the ones on the Bayport PD were corrupt all because of one dirty cop," Joe explained. "Then I sort of pointed out that maybe her attitude toward Catholics wasn't all that different. You've got to admit that Aunt Gertrude's nothing if not honest, so she couldn't really refute that. I think maybe she's been rethinking things since then."
"That's good," Frank said. "You and Aunt Gertrude sparring all the time is starting to get kind of old."
"It's way past starting to get old for me," Joe replied. "But I think it's going to get better now."
Just then, Roman started to cry, and Callie took him back, trying to cheer him up. She and Frank were sitting next to each other on the couch. Callie sat back, and Frank put an arm around her shoulders, pulling his family closer into him.
After she had gotten Roman quieted down, Callie asked Joe, "Have you heard about Iola and Tyler?"
Joe nodded. "Iola told me right away. She didn't want me to hear from somebody else."
"And you're sure you're okay with it?" Callie asked.
"Of course I'm okay with it. Tyler's a great guy, and he and Iola are crazy about each other. They should be happy together, and that's all I want for Iola."
There was no catch in Joe's voice nor regret, which was what Callie had been watching for. She had never quite understood how Joe and Iola had reached a point where they could be friends and not want to ever get back together again, and when Iola had told Callie that she and Tyler were engaged, Callie had been afraid that Joe might take it harder than he was letting on. He gave no appearance of it, though, and Callie decided she would just have to resign herself to the fact that Joe and Iola weren't in love anymore and yet could still get along.
"We're not getting much work done, huh, Frank?" Joe said, by way of changing the subject. "Once we make sure your place is in tip-top shape, we're going to have to work on mine. We'll have to get a trailer or something to move all my stuff out. It's a good thing Mom and Dad are letting me store it in their basement."
Because Joe was going to be a diocesan priest, he wouldn't have to take a vow of poverty, as he would have if he had joined a particular order, and so he could keep all of his personal belongings. However, like Frank and Callie, he was letting his apartment go when he left to study in the seminary, where he would only have a small dorm room. Because of that, he needed a place to store his belongings.
"Right," Frank agreed. "I guess we need to get to work. I have to admit, I'm not really looking forward to moving again."
"At least this time we're not going to be across the Atlantic from each other," Joe said. "We'll all be in Boston, and in fact, I looked it up, and your university and my seminary aren't too far away from each other. We'll be able to see a lot of each other, at least on weekends."
"That will be nice for a change," Frank replied.
Joe made a face. "Change. I know I've caused some of the biggest changes around here, but I'm so tired of changes."
"There have been some good changes, though." Callie looked down at Roman, the most recent change in her life.
"I don't think there have been any bad changes, really," Frank said. "Everything's turned out pretty well, even if it didn't seem like it would at the time."
He had barely finished speaking when a fresh breeze blew through the open window. It wasn't a hot, dry wind like July usually brought, but rather it was fresh and cool and must have just come off the ocean, for it smelled of salt and adventure.
Joe smiled a little as he breathed it in. Yes, Frank was right. There had been no changes yet that could tear them apart, even if in the last eight years it had often felt like it might. From now on, Joe thought, he could be confident that there was nothing to fear from change.
A/N: Once again, thank you so very much for reading this story through to the end! I know that I took some risks in it and did some unexpected things that I wasn't sure whether they would go over very well. Almost all of you have been willing to let me take the story where I felt it needed to go, and for that I thank you. Many of you have also given some wonderful feedback throughout the story, which I also really appreciate. I always love to read what you think and whether everything is making sense or not.
I have been writing in the Chapters series for over a year now. As those of you who have read the first few stories know, originally it was only meant to be a trilogy. I never expected to write so many stories all in the same arc, and at the beginning, I definitely never saw the twists and turns coming that it would take. I have enjoyed writing this series, but I think it's time for it to end. After all, the loose ends are all tied up and the arcs are all complete. There are also a few other reasons. For one, as Frank, Joe, and Nancy get older and have more responsibilities and their own lives that are separate from one another, it will get harder and harder to bring them back together for stories, and after all, even though there have only been two stories in this series where Frank and Joe have actually worked together, I like it best when they're a team. Also, it will get harder to include their friends, which I enjoy exploring their characters as well. Most of all, though, to me, Nancy, Frank, and Joe will always be the teenage amateur detectives, and that's how I like them best, so I want to go back to writing them that way. That being said, it doesn't mean that I won't ever revisit this timeline. I do have some pretty unique things going on here that it would be a shame to just ignore. I have been thinking about what I could do with it in the future, and I have a few ideas, but for now, I think it's best to let it rest for a while.
I do have another story that I'm working on. It focuses on Nancy, although a couple of other detectives you may be interested in make a small but important appearance. I know many of you are more Hardy Boys fans than Nancy Drew, but for those of you who are interested in reading it, it will start going up soon.
Finally, thank you one more time. You are all truly a joy to write for!