A/N: Thank you for continuing to read! In particular, thank you to beachgirlsrule, max2013, Cherylann Rivers, and ErinJordan for your reviews on chapter 19! So, here it is: the final chapter. Enjoy!
Nancy and Artemis hit the ground at the same instant as they both dove for the gun that the latter had dropped. Artemis tried to tear it from Nancy's grip, but the girl didn't let it go. Artemis then tried to choke Nancy with her free hand. Desperately, Nancy rolled over, trying to shake the woman off, and all the time being careful to keep the barrel of the gun pointed away from her.
For a moment, Cole and Mason stood dumbfounded as they watched the scene. Then they both stepped in. Between the two of them, it was the work of a moment to overpower Artemis and pull her away from Nancy. Nancy stood up panting, leaving the gun to lie where it had fallen.
"Are you all right?" Mason asked as he and Cole struggled to hold onto Artemis, who was writhing and struggling to escape.
"Yeah. I think so." Nancy brushed a hand against her lips and flinched as she touched a cut. "That wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but I guess it worked."
"What did you have in mind?" Cole asked.
"She was going to take us past the light switch at the bottom of this tunnel," Nancy explained. "If you two could have gotten her attention as we went past, I was going to turn the lights out and in the confusion, we could have gotten away."
"Well, however it happened, we've got her now," Mason said. "Let's get up to the clubhouse and call for help. We've still got the people trapped in that cave-in to deal with."
With a protesting Artemis in tow, they hurried along the tunnel to the entrance where Nancy had been brought in what seemed like so long ago now. The place was deserted. They tied Artemis securely to a chair while Mason handed his cell phone to Nancy so that she could call Agent Harris.
"Ms. Drew!" Agent Harris exclaimed when Nancy identified herself. "We were afraid you had been trapped in the cave-in."
"Then you know about it?" Nancy asked in some confusion.
"Yes." Agent Harris went on to explain what had happened to them, including George finding Bess and Jason in the cave-in. "We're digging them out now."
"Okay," Nancy said, relieved that Bess, at least, was all right. "We need a rescue team at our location, too. Joe Hardy was trapped in one of the cave-ins, and we don't know where Serena Warner is. I don't know how many other victims there might be. We also captured one of the ringleaders of this operation and have a witness whose testimony will make the case, I think."
"Good work on that," Agent Harris congratulated her. "We'll send people to you right away."
As Nancy hung up the phone, she turned to Mason. "If you cooperate with us, I'm sure things will go much easier for you."
Mason shrugged. "I'll do whatever you say. We've got her; there's nothing more to be afraid of."
"Good," Nancy said. "I need you to stay here with her and make sure she doesn't escape. Cole and I will go tell Frank that help is on the way and start looking for Serena."
Joe was sitting partway up the pile of debris from the cave-in. With the supplies he and Serena had found, they would be fine until help could find them, but only so long as help was on the way. No one would know that they were even down there if Frank and Nancy hadn't...He shook his head. There was no use thinking things like that. He had to just keep hoping and praying that they had gotten out and would bring help soon.
Suddenly, he put his head up. Was it his imagination, or could he hear rocks and dirt being moved on the other side of the blockage?
"Hello!" he shouted. "Hello? Is someone there?"
"Joe?" Frank's muffled voice came to him. "Is that you?"
Joe let out a whoop of joy and then shouted back, "Yes! It's me!"
Serena stirred and looked up at him. "What's going on?"
"They're digging us out," Joe told her. "I can hear my brother on the other side."
Serena scrambled up next to him. "Can we help?"
Together, they began pulling away the rocks that they could move. After about fifteen minutes of hard work, they could hear Frank plainly and talk to him. They were almost to freedom.
Then a rock they hadn't intended to move rolled down, evidently loosened from the digging. Serena screamed as she felt the dirt and rocks she was kneeling on give way. Joe realized what was happening and snatched her away from the miniature landslide just in time.
"You guys okay?" Frank called through the hole in concern.
"Yeah, we're fine." Joe looked up and in the glow of his flashlight, he could see that the landslide had finished opening up a hole big enough for them to crawl through. "We're better than fine. I think we can get through now."
First Serena and then Joe crawled through the opening. A moment later, they were on the other side with Frank. Joe put his arm over his brother's shoulders.
"You are a sight for sore eyes. Wait. Where's Nancy?"
"She went for help," Frank explained. "Is there anyone else back there?"
"I don't think so," Joe said. "Come on. Let's get out of here."
They started down the tunnel. When they had nearly reached its entrance into the main chamber, they met Nancy and Cole coming toward them.
"Daddy!" Serena shouted and ran forward.
Cole caught her in a hug and kissed her head several times, tears of joy in his eyes. "Serena! You're okay! I was so worried."
Nancy breathed a sigh of relief. "You okay, Joe?"
"Sure," Joe replied. "I don't think I want to go through something like this again any time soon, though. Are those weirdos still running around?"
"We caught their goddess," Nancy told him, "so any that are left should be rounded up soon."
A couple of hours later, Nancy, Frank, and Joe walked through the doors of the emergency section of St. Luke's Hospital in Calliope. Bess and George were sitting in the waiting room, but when they saw their friends, they jumped up and hurried toward them. The girls had had time to wash up and change their clothes, although scrapes and bruises on their hands and faces gave evidence of the ordeal that they had gone through. Bess and even George hugged each of them in turn.
"Thank goodness you guys are all okay!" Bess said.
George smirked. "You look like you were caught in a cave-in or something.
Nancy and the Hardys chuckled. Unlike Bess and George, they were still covered from head to toe in dirt.
"I wonder why," Joe replied sarcastically.
"How's Captain Ellis?" Nancy asked, becoming serious at once.
"We haven't heard yet," George said. "They took him into surgery as soon as we got him here. Agent Sokolawski and few other FBI people are standing guard to make sure nobody gets into the hospital and tries to finish him off. Agent Harris is down at the police station with a bunch of State Troopers, trying to get the prisoners booked and everything there sorted out. It sure is a mess when half the local police is mixed up in something like this."
"No kidding," Frank replied.
Once he, Nancy, and Joe had gotten themselves cleaned up and been looked over by a doctor, they went to speak with Agent Sokolawski.
"I just got the word," she said as they approached. "It looks like Ellis is going to live. He's got a long road of recovery, of course, and shoulder wounds nearly always have permanent repercussions, but he'll live, and that's the main thing, I suppose."
"That's good," Bess said. "I'm glad. You know, I feel kind of bad for thinking he was a creepy stalker at first."
"I doubt he'll hold it against you since you saved his life," George pointed out.
"What about Artemis and the rest of them?" Frank asked. "Any news there?"
"Mason Velazquez and few others offered to tell everything they know," Agent Sokolawski said. "In fact, they haven't stopped talking yet, from the sounds of it. It'll take some time, but between the FBI and the State Police, we'll get this whole thing sorted out eventually."
"And Penelope Spiros?" Joe asked.
"Some of our agents picked her and her husband up in Denver about half an hour ago," Agent Sokolawski told him. "They were trying to get on a plane to come here. Apparently they hadn't heard the news about what had gone down here yet. We'll conduct a thorough investigation into them and whatever other activities they have going."
"What's going to happen to Cole Warner and Mason Velazquez and everyone else they forced to join their cult?" Bess inquired. "You know, they weren't really to blame for what happened."
"The courts will decide just how much each of them are to blame," Agent Sokolawski said matter-of-factly. "It will probably go better for the ones who are cooperating, though, and any of them who can prove that they were coerced."
"Well, then," Nancy said, "it sounds like our part of the case is all wrapped up."
Joe smirked. "I would suggest that we spend the rest of our vacation skiing, but the mountain's closed."
Frank rolled his eyes. "We need to be getting back to Bayport anyway. Say, Agent Sokolawski, there's still the matter of our phones and my laptop that you guys confiscated."
"Oh, right," Agent Sokolawski replied. "Those are down at police headquarters. Harris can take a few minutes to get those back to you if you stop off there."
"Speaking of phones," George said abruptly, "we found your phone next to Agent Harris's car earlier, Nancy." She took the phone from her pocket and handed it to her friend.
"Thanks." As they were leaving the hospital, Nancy turned her phone on to check if she had any messages. It buzzed for nearly thirty seconds straight as message after message came in.
"Wow, someone's been trying to get your attention, Nance," Joe commented.
"It's Ned," Nancy said, grinning a little. "Give me a minute, guys, okay?"
She stepped off to the side and pressed the number she had set for speed-dial to Ned's phone. He answered almost immediately.
"Nancy! I've been trying to call you all day. I guess you've been busy with your detective work, huh?"
"It's been a pretty full day," Nancy agreed.
"Well, have you made any progress?" Ned asked.
"We sure did. It's case closed. We'll be back home day after tomorrow at the latest. I'll tell you all about it then. It was certainly quite the case, though."
Ned chuckled. "You wouldn't expect me to find anything but the best for you."
"I'd be happy to solve any case you find for me."
"Then I'll keep my eyes open for one. But next time, you've got to let me come along. Deal?"
A/N: Once again, thank you so much for reading. Thank you especially if you have left reviews, followed, or favorited this story! I so appreciate your support and feedback! I hope you've enjoyed this story.
Usually, at the end of a story, I try to give some idea of what I'm going to be doing next. As usual, though, I don't really know what's going to be next for me as far as fanfiction goes. I have quite a few ideas for stories swirling around my head, mostly focusing on Nancy (I love the Hardys, too, but has anyone else noticed that for the past couple years we have had a serious drought of Nancy stories? That needs rectified). I haven't really started writing any of them. Part of this is because writing a full-length story is a pretty big time commitment, and I've got some other writing projects that I really should be devoting most of my time to. For the present, then, I'll be taking a break from writing fanfiction (I might write a few one-shots or three- or four-chapter stories in the meantime, but nothing big). If, by some chance, you miss my writing during that time, then you might be interested to know that I have an original work or two available for purchase on Amazon. You can check the bottom paragraph of my profile for more information or PM me.
One more time, thank you very much. I love writing for this fandom, and I will be back when time and inspiration allow me.