Frank Hardy quickly closed his locker door. He was eager to get home. His father, Fenton Hardy, the world-renowned detective, was expected back from his latest case, and Frank and his brother Joe were itching to hear the details. The two had always wanted to follow in their father's footsteps. As such, they would listen to their father's cases with rapt attention, eager to pick up on his techniques. He quickly turned around, and paused.
"Hey Hardknock, finished with that girl book yet?" said Adam Mason with a sly smirk. His posse oohed.
"Would you tell your mother that?" said Frank, doing his best to keep his cool. Richard Mason had been a rival of Fenton Hardy's since their years in the police academy, and he passed it on to his boys. The older, dirty blond Adam naturally began to pick on Frank, while the younger, fiery-haired, and fiery-tempered, Greg would lock horns with Joe on almost a daily basis.
Adam raised his eyebrow. "What?"
"Really, Adam, you're making it sound like anything made by girls is worthless. Funny thing is, we have mothers. We wouldn't be here without them. Guess we're worthless too," said Frank with a shrug.
"That, that … that wasn't what I meant!"
A loud snort interrupted them. They glanced down the hall. There stood Joe with the Hardy's friends. Joe had his right hand clamped on his mouth, but his eyes were laughing. He used his left hand to give Frank a thumbs up.
"Trying to cause trouble again, Mr. Mason?" came Principal Stevenson's stern voice as he stepped between Frank and Adam. He placed his hands on his hips and glared at the Mason crew.
"N-no sir," stammered Adam, "we were, we were just having a little discussion before the weekend."
"I see. Well, the weekend has begun, ladies and gentlemen, I suggest you leave now and enjoy it." Principal Stevenson gave them a withering look. They all left the scene, each heading home. "Mr. Hardy, a word."
Frank winced, but he turned to Mr. Stevenson with a pleasant smile. "Yes sir?"
"I understand that it's hard for you to avoid the biting tongue of Mr. Mason, just like your brother finds it hard to avoid his brother's fists, but do you have any ideas how we can keep the four of you apart?"
Frank shrugged. "Avoiding them like the plague doesn't work, they seek us out." He paused and thought a moment. "But maybe a competition might help a bit."
"I said keep you apart, Mr. Hardy, not get you even closer together. Beesides, we've done that dozens of times already!"
"But it's helped keep us apart for a while, right?"
Principal Stevenson sighed. "That is true. Alright, I'll see if I can't come up with something that will keep the four of you apart till the end of the school year. I hope. Good day, Mr. Hardy."
"Good day, Mr. Stevenson. Have a good weekend!"
Principal Stevenson scoffed as he walked away. Frank heaved a sigh of relief as he walked towards the front of the school. He quickly joined his brother by their motorbikes.
"So, what did Mr. Stevenson have to say?" said Joe. Frank looked past Joe. Joe looked at what Frank was looking at. The Masons were nearby, watching intently. Joe glanced back at Frank and nodded.
"Well," said Chet Morton, the boys' closest friend, "I'm going to drop Tony, Phil, and Biff off at their homes." He pointed at his prize car, the yellow jalopy he lovingly called Queen, where their three friends were waiting. "Want me to drop by later?"
"And have you miss one of Aunt Trudy's homemade pies? Never," said Joe with a grin.
"Har har," said Chet with a roll of his eyes.
Frank chuckled. "How does supper sound?"
Chet grinned. "That sounds great! Mom and dad are going out tonight, and Iola's going to be at a slumber party at Callie's, so . . ."
"So, saves you some work, huh?" said Joe.
"Hey, don't make fun of cooking, it's fun," said Chet defiantly.
"Yeah, Joe, don't make fun of Chet's cooking abilities, he's miles ahead of you in that department."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," mumbled Joe as he mounted his bike.
"Want to spend the night too, Chet?" said Frank hopefully.
Chet shrugged. "I'd like too. I'll have to check with my folks and see. Farm won't keep up itself, you know."
Frank chuckled slightly. "Right. You'll let us know when you come over, right?"
"Well, yeah, I'll definitely know by then."
"Hey Chet, come on, we've got to go!" Chet glanced over, Biff was waving his dark hand at him.
"Coming!" He turned back to the Hardys. "Want me to ask if the guys want to come over?"
Frank shook his head. "Not tonight. Dad's coming home tonight, and we need to ask permission. You can ask them if they want to spend tomorrow together, and we can ask if we can have a slumber party of our own tomorrow night."
Chet nodded. "Will do. See you tonight!" He walked away with a wave.
"Bye Chet!" Joe called with a wave.
"See you tonight!" said Frank, finally climbing on his motorbike. The two started their bikes and sped off towards their home.
About halfway home, Joe shot Frank a mischievous grin and gunned his motorbike. Frank sighed, though he wasn't much of the racing type, he obliged his brother and at least attempted to race him back home. He let Joe win, of course. Frank had always been way more cautious than his fire-blooded brother. Frank smirked as he parked his bike behind Joe's, one thing's for sure, Joe was a lot easier to handle than Greg Mason. Though, that might have something to do with their rivalry, but from what some of the rumors circulating the school had said, and if they could be trusted, Greg was liable to get in a lot of trouble.
"Mom, we're home!" Joe announced as they entered the house. The two dropped their backpacks by the sofa.
"Oh hello, Frank, Joe, how was school?" asked their mother, looking up from the book she was reading. Laura Hardy was a pleasant woman with sandy blonde hair and the blue eyes that Joe had inherited. Frank noticed with a start that the book she was reading was the latest Murder, She Wrote book.
"OK, he had the usual run-ins with the Masons, but Mr. Stevenson was able to keep it down to a minimum . . . mom, is that the latest Murder, She Wrote book?" Joe nearly flew onto the sofa and scooted up close to Laura to read over her shoulder.
"It is Joe, but I would like to finish it before your detective minds solve it halfway through the book and spoil it for me," said their mother as she closed the book and winked.
"Aw, Mom, we won't spoil it, promise!"
"Mm-hmm," said Laura as she picked up the book. "But, as I recall you two still have some reading to do for a book report, is that right?"
Joe moaned as he slid off the sofa. "But Mom . . ."
"Don't you start, Joseph Hardy. You have homework to do, now get to it."
Joe sighed. "Yes ma'am."
Laura glanced at Frank.
Frank grinned at her as he picked up his backpack. "I'm on my way."
"Good. And please get your Aunt Trudy, she promised me she would bake a pie for tonight."
"Oh, speaking of pies, we invited Chet over," said Joe as he shouldered his backpack.
Laura nodded. "Alright."
"And we were wondering if we could have a sleepover tomorrow," said Frank.
"Get your homework done and we'll talk it over with your father when he returns."
"Yes ma'am!" chorused the two as they rushed up the stairs. Frank fetched Aunt Trudy before joining Joe in their room. They set their backpacks by the long table that served as their desk before sitting down and getting to work. Thankfully, they didn't have much, so they managed to finish within an hour. They knew their father hadn't returned yet, so they retreated into his study, which doubled as the library. Frank went and pulled out the book he had been reading for the book report, Northanger Abbey, before heading downstairs and settling into his favorite armchair. He quickly found where he had left off and reemerged himself in the world of Catherine Morland.
It hadn't even been a minute before he could feel Joe breathing down his neck as he tried to read over his shoulder.
Frank groaned. "Joe, will you please stop reading over my shoulder."
"What? You're not going to let me read it until you're done."
"Of course not, you're such a slow reader."
"But I want to find out what happens!"
Frank sighed. "Oh, alright, I'll read it out loud."
"Yes!" Joe plopped on the sofa, grinning from ear to ear.
Their mother came into the living room and dropped a basket of towels at Joe's feet. "Well then, you can put those hands to work and fold these towels."
"Aw, but mom!"
"Don't 'but mom' me, young man. You live in this house, you're going to do chores."
"But what about Frank?"
"What about him? He's reading a book and doing the dishes after supper."
"Oh," said Joe, drawing out the syllable.
"Be quiet, or you can do them," said Frank.
"You both be quiet, or I have a mind to call the Mortons and tell Chet he shouldn't come tonight."
"Yes ma'am," they mumbled.
"Good, now get reading, Frank. And Joe, those towels better be folded neatly. Frank, make sure he does them neatly."
They sighed. "Yes ma'am." Their mother nodded before leaving the room. Frank turned to reading Northanger Abbey while Joe quickly got into a rhythmatic folding of towels. Frank glanced at his progress when he turned the page, and noticed with satisfaction that Joe was indeed folding the towels neatly. He quickly turned back to reading the book, and decided to try at using different voices for the characters, or, at least get as close as he could to how he heard them in his head. That resulted in a towel in his face.
"If you ever have to get a disguise, don't ever try to be a girl. You'll be a disgrace to all womankind, because you suck."
Frank tossed the towel back at Joe, hitting him square in the chest. "Not like you're any better."
"What do you mean? I can do this." Joe started singing in a falsetto voice. Frank just about leaped out of the chair and onto Joe.
"That's the worst attempt at trying to sound like a female that I've ever heard!"
Joe scoffed. "Your attempt was worse than that." Frank grabbed a towel and whacked him with it. Joe's eyes sparkled. "Oh-ho-ho, you know this means war." He grabbed the closest pillow off the sofa and wacked Frank's arm with it.
"Hey!" Frank got off the sofa, but he took a few towels with him and began pelting Joe with them. Joe tossed back in kind.
"Hey you deserved that."
"Like you deserve this?" Joe tossed a towel that hit Frank in the chest.
"You suck." Joe balled up a towel and tossed it at Frank, who ducked. The towel sailed past him.
"Honey, I'm . . . oof!" The towel war stopped as the two slowly turned just in time to see the towel fall off their father's face, his eyebrow raised.
Frank and Joe looked at each other before pointing their fingers. "He started it!"
"You two better have those towels picked up and folded neatly in ten minutes . . ." Fenton Hardy didn't finish the sentence as the boys started rushing around, picking up towels. Fenton passed a hand over his face as he groaned. "You two have way too much energy. Laura!"
Laura came into the living room, a big smile on her face. "Hello darling," she said as she pecked his cheek. "Did those two disgraces to womankind give you a nice, big welcome?" She glanced at the boys who hung their heads, trying to keep from snickering.
Fenton glanced at her and the boys quizzically. "Huh?"
"If you had been here just a few minutes ago, you would know." She gave him a kiss. "I'll tell you later."
"Oh alright, though I can guess it was Joe who said it."
She laughed. "You're right on that." She glanced at their sons. "But, that is two strikes against you. One more, and I will call Chet and tell him not to come tonight."
"Two strikes already?" said Fenton as he raised his eyebrow. "Man, you two are really itching for that world record, aren't you?"
"Fenton, don't encourage them!"
"I'm not! This is one world record they don't want, trust me." He kissed Laura's cheek. "I'm going to unpack my papers. If these two want to know the particulars of this case, they had better not give you any more trouble." The boys gasped as they glanced up at their father. He glanced at them. "Sound fair to you?"
They gulped. "Yes sir."
"Good, now finish up the towels."
"Dinner will be ready in a few minutes."
"Look forward to it." Laura and Fenton kissed before separating, Laura back into the kitchen, and Fenton up to the study.
"You think dad meant it?" whispered Joe.
"It's possible. It's chance I don't want to take," Frank whispered back.
"No kidding." They quickly finished folding the towels and picked them up before returning the laundry basket to the laundry room. Frank grabbed Northanger Abbey and the two dashed up the stairs and into the study.
"Dad! Can we get a few details now? The towels are all picked up!" said Joe when they entered.
Fenton looked at them. "Really?"
"Yes!" they chorused.
"You can go check the bathrooms. They're all folded neatly," said Frank.
Fenton patted a folder as he thought for a moment. "Oh, alright. I might need your help."
Frank and Joe glanced at each other in surprise before glancing at Fenton.
"You haven't solved it yet?" said Joe incredulously.
Frank sat down in a chair facing the desk, becoming serious. "Do they have you stumped, or are they being extra cautious and sly?"
Fenton smiled warmly at his sons. They could be rambunctious, but they were quickly proving that they had the makings of excellent detectives. "Well . . ." The phone interrupted him. Fenton picked it up. "Hardy residence." His eyebrow raised as he listened to the voice on the phone. "Yes, they're here." He handed the phone to Frank. "It's Chet."
Frank took the phone. "Hey Chet, what's up?"
"You guys need to get over here ASAP! Someone just stole Queen!"