Epilogue – Four Months Later…
Frank stood in the ballroom of the hotel, looking around at the vendors in the room. He was in Beijing, China for an international investigator conference as an attendee, his father having sent him there alone since Joe and Vanessa were on vacation. People bumped into him as they walked by though Frank didn't care. He was too preoccupied, still was thinking about Nancy and where she could be after the months she'd been gone. Frank figured that she would go to Colorado to see how Treyford got out of prison, which he found out that she did. But the trail went cold from there and he hadn't been able to look for her since all the cases were backed up at home.
"Frank?" replied a voice, interrupting his thoughts. Frank looked over to see a man standing next to him with a smile. "I thought that was you!"
"Richard!" Frank said cheerfully. The two men shook hands. "How have you been?"
"I've been great," Richard replied with a smile. Richard Cheng was a former client and good friend of Frank and Joe. Several years before, the brothers helped him and the community he was in, get out of a sticky situation. "You looked a little lost there or did I interrupt your thoughts?"
"Oh, no," Frank shook his head with a laugh. "Just thinking about something."
"Something or someone?"
"You always get me, Richard," he shook his finger at him. "What are you doing here anyway?"
"Well, I was just in town for the weekend," replied Richard. "Had to get away even if it was just to come here and see the sights. You here for the conference? Where's Joe?"
"Yeah, I'm here for the conference but Joe is on vacation with his wife," Frank explained.
"Wife?" Richard looked confused. "I would have pegged you to be the marrying type, not him."
"Funny thing is that they're also expecting a baby here in a few months," Frank laughed at the thought. "Never thought I'd see that day."
Richard laughed. "That is something I wouldn't mind seeing, Joe changing a diaper! Hey, you want to catch a bite to eat or do you have somewhere to be?"
Frank looked around and sighed. He wasn't really interested in attending the conference. His father practically forced him to do it in order to get him out of the office, even if it was only for a few days. "Sure. Something to eat sounds good."
Twenty minutes later, the two men were sitting at a local restaurant after just ordering. "So, what has Frank Hardy been up to?" Richard asked. "Any women I should know about?"
"No, no new women," Frank shook his head. Richard always liked to ask questions about people's lives. His phone buzzed and he turned it on to see a message from his dad. Once he responded, Frank put the phone back down but forgot to turn it off. A picture was face up on his phone. One that he looked at every day. Richard suddenly became interested and pointed to the photo.
"I thought you said you didn't have a woman in your life?"
"I didn't say that," Frank replied, grabbing the phone. "I said I had no new women in my life. She's just an old friend."
"An old friend who you seem to be infatuated with," Richard raised an eyebrow.
"I'm not…" Frank paused and thought for a moment.
"Mm hmm," Richard said. "Can I see the picture?"
Frank handed him his phone and the man looked it over. "I've seen her before."
"What do you mean?" Frank suddenly got interested.
"Like two days ago," Richard shrugged his shoulders. "She comes to the village where I teach English to the kids."
"You're sure it's her? Joe didn't call you to tell you I was here and try to play a joke on me, did he?" Frank growled, getting angry. "Because if he did, you're not going to be happy when we leave here."
"Woah, hold on, Frank," Richard put his hands up defensively. "I haven't spoken to Joe since the last time I saw you two in New York. You know I would never pull a prank on you especially when it comes to women. I take it that this one is special?"
"More than you know," Frank muttered. He took a swig of his beer and looked out the window of the restaurant. If Richard was telling the truth then… "Where is this village?"
"A few hours from here, up in the mountains," he answered. "Why?"
"Will you take me there?"
"Sure, we can leave in the morning, if you like. This must be a very special person for you to trek all the way up the mountains to just see her. I haven't had the chance to meet her yet but she does seem to be nice," Richard explained. Their food arrived and the two men stopped their conversation to eat.
"You say that she visits the village," Frank replied after he finished his plate. "If she doesn't stay with them, where is she staying at?"
"There's a monastery up on the mountain above the village," Richard explained. "Sometimes she comes down with a monk or two and sometimes she's alone. The kids really like her because she'll bring them sweets even though I have no clue as to how she gets them. Plus she teaches them to play American games like Tag. That's how I knew she was from the States. What time do you want to leave in the morning?"
"Is seven too early for you?"
The next morning, Frank was nervously sitting on one of the sofas in the lobby, his overnight bag next to his feet. He barely slept the night before, thinking about what he was going to say if it was actually her. There was so much he wanted to say to her, to tell her how much he loved her. If it really was Nancy, should he tell his family that he found her? Frank was still worried about the reason why she left Colorado so quickly. Was someone after her again and would they continue to pursue her if they were to find out where she was? Everything was reeling through his head so quickly that Frank was getting a headache from his thoughts along with not having any sleep. Richard called his name from across the lobby, stopping all thought and they left the hotel. The two men were soon driving out of the city in Richard's Jeep.
"How is it that you came across this village anyway?" Frank asked, trying to keep his mind off of Nancy. "I thought you were living in California or something."
"I was," Richard replied. "But I heard a calling and I've actually found peace by teaching these kids. I teach some of the elders as well. I'm sure that's why your friend went up there too. The monastery is known for helping people in time of need. I take it that she needed some space for some reason. I hope that it didn't involve you."
"I don't really want to talk about it," Frank replied, soon falling into silence. He stared out the window at the scenery going by, thinking. He didn't want to say anything about why Nancy was in China because he didn't want it to get out that she was there. One small slip-up and she would be gone again.
As the journey continued, Frank's eyes started to droop and he was soon sleeping even though the Jeep bounced through unpaved roads, heading toward an unknown destination. He woke up a few hours later to Richard shaking him. Frank looked around him, seeing nothing but trees and the sound of birds chirping. "Where are we?" he asked, rubbing his eyes and stretching.
"Did you sleep at all last night, Frank?" Richard asked concerned.
"Not sure," he said, yawning. He noticed small huts nearby and realized they had arrived at their destination. Frank jumped out of the Jeep, all thoughts of fatigue gone. He looked around nervously, wondering if she was there. "Where do we go from here?"
"To get to the monastery you have to go through the village," Richard explained, pointing into the village. Frank could see the mountain towering over it but couldn't see where the monastery would be. "There's a walking path up but it can be treacherous if you don't have a guide. I normally don't go up there but I'm sure someone would be willing to take the trek with you."
The pair strolled down the dirt lane, going past the tiny huts made of bamboo and straw. Children rushed by them, yelling in Chinese, excited about their visitors. Some of the boys stopped in front of Frank and waved before following the others. Richard took him to his own hut to drop off their bags and walked the rest of the way toward the end of the village. Women sat in front of their homes, doing laundry and yelling at their children, ignoring Richard and Frank as they passed.
"Mr. Rich," replied a child in a thick accent. "We have class today?"
"No, it's Sunday," he laughed. "I'll see you tomorrow, Ping."
"They must really like you, Richard," Frank smiled, watching as the child ran off.
"I think they do," Richard laughed. "I haven't had any complaints yet."
They came up to what looked like the village center where the children had gathered around a small well. Frank could tell that someone was kneeling in the middle, each child excited about receiving something. His mouth dropped open when the person stood up, her braided strawberry-blond hair glistening in the sun. Her smile was infectious, each child grinning, their prizes cupped in their hands as they ran off. She laughed but stopped when she noticed the two men standing in front of her. Staring at Frank, her hands dropped slowly, the basket she held falling to the ground. Her eyes suddenly welled up with tears as she took a step toward him. By the time she reached him, she was inches away, looking like she couldn't believe he was standing before her.
"Nancy…" was all he could say before she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him passionately.
"I missed you," he replied when it was over.
"I missed you too," she smiled, gazing into his eyes. She looked over at Richard. "Thanks, Richard."
"Anytime," he smirked.
"What?" Frank asked confused, looking at the two of them.
"Richard and I saw that you were attending a conference in Beijing," Nancy smiled. "Just because we're up here in the mountains doesn't mean we can't get internet. I thought about going to it myself but I didn't want to leave here just yet. I wanted to see you so I asked Richard to go to the city and bring you back."
"You tricked me though," Frank looked at Richard.
"What did you do?" Nancy put her hands on her hips.
"I just told a little white lie," Richard shrugged. "I was going to tell him outright but then I noticed your picture and formed a little plan instead. It was fun too. I wouldn't mind doing it again." He waved to them as he walked back to his hut with a smile.
"I can't believe he lied to me," Frank shook his head. Nancy laughed at him and turned his head back to her.
"You're here and that's what matters most," she smiled. Nancy guided him down the lane toward the end of the village where he could see a path leading up the mountain. She stopped next to a stone bench and sat down.
"There's so much I want to say," he whispered, taking her hand.
"And you've already said it," she smiled, cupping his face with her hand. Frank looked confused again. "That night when you sat next to my bed, I listened to everything you said. I didn't say anything because I wanted to hear it from your heart before you put your foot in your mouth."
"I do that, don't I?" Frank laughed.
"Yeah, it must run in the Hardy family."
"Why didn't you tell me this the night you left?"
"Because if I did," Nancy sighed, "I would have stayed and you would be in danger."
"No more than you would have been," Frank said. "Screw Ned and screw Jack Treyford."
Nancy smiled at him. "So, you found the photo I left you?"
"You did that on purpose?"
"Yes," she nodded. "I was hoping you would find me in Colorado by using the information in there. I was going to stay near Mount Mirage but I didn't know that the warden was in on the whole thing."
"Apparently, the warden is an old acquaintance of Treyford's from high school," Nancy explained. "That's why no one knew he was gone. His friend got him out. If I hadn't figured out that I had a tail from the prison, I wouldn't have gotten away. It's why I left the country and came here. Dad knew of this place. He came here for a few months after Mom died. The monks helped him cope with the loss and with dealing with a precocious three year old. It's why I'm here."
"When your trail went cold in Colorado," Frank said, "I thought the worst. I thought you were taken. Please don't do that to me again. I don't want to lose you."
"I'll make sure that I tell you everything," she smiled. "What did you tell your dad when you said you were coming here anyway?"
"Oh, crap!" he cried, rising from the bench. "I forgot to tell him!"
Nancy laughed and stood up, placing her hands on his chest. "You must have had a lot on your mind."
"With you there, yeah," he smiled down at her. Leaning over, Frank kissed her gently. "I never want to forget this moment."
"Me either," Nancy said breathlessly. "Are you going to tell anybody where I'm at?"
"I wasn't planning on it," he shrugged. "The less people know the more time we have together without interference. I just want you all to myself…for now."
"Well, then," Nancy smirked, "what are we going to do now?"
"I think we can think of something."
Two and a half months later…
Nancy walked the halls of the monastery. It was quiet, the weather turning colder. The monks had been gracious enough to allow her to stay longer even though she knew she no longer needed their guidance. Nancy fingered the charm on her necklace, thinking about the week she spent with Frank. They had spent every waking moment together, never once being apart for longer than a few minutes. They talked about everything from what needed to be said to what they wanted to say. Frank told her about his family and how they were doing. She had gotten a little upset when he told her that Joe was mad at her for leaving. Nancy knew that she would have to make it up to him once she returned home.
She smiled at the thought of Frank's tender touch, wanting him to be with her again. But they knew the danger. They decided together that the safest place for her to be was in the monastery. Still, Nancy felt alone again, missing the man she loved.
As far as she knew, no one besides Frank knew where she was. Not even Hannah knew though Nancy still kept in touch with her at least three times a week. The satellite phone she took from home was still good to use with only Hannah and Frank knowing the actual number just in case. As she went toward her room, she heard the tell-tale ringing of the satellite phone and she rushed into the room to answer it.
"Hello?" she said, nearly out of breath.
"Hello, Nancy," replied a voice that made her heart drop and her blood curdle. "Miss me?"
Well, this is it! I hope that you all enjoyed the story and thank you so much for the amazing support and reviews! Keep your eyes peeled for the final installment of this trilogy though I'm still not sure on the title. As of right now, it's Twisted Revelations but it may change (I've changed it three times already!). I don't expect the next one to be published until next week or so (busy weekend ahead of me!). I have the ideas in place, just need to do the writing. Anyway, have a great week and until next time! God bless!