I know. I'm late but I think I finally got this right. It took several tries but I know what I have is the perfect ending to this story. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for Waiting in the Wings. I'm really excited for it because I've been planning it for months now! It will be written a little differently as will the story that follows it (which ironically, I have already been writing down ideas for). I don't normally write with outlines but I want the next few stories to flow a little bit better, I think. Anyway, I am so grateful to everyone who has stuck it out with this story since it turned into a much longer story than I originally planned. And the reviews! So far, it's the most reviews I've ever received for a story I've written and that is just awesome! Thanks to everyone! So, enjoy the chapter, leave a review if you want, and I will see you in the coming days. Happy Halloween and God bless!
Janice Blake stepped out of jail, a smile stretching across her face. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the winter morning air. Although she was only in jail for a few days, it felt good to be free again.
"Mrs. Blake?" replied a voice. Janice opened her eyes to see a man in a dark suit standing before her. A dark limo waited beyond him, idling in the street. "Are you ready?"
Janice was a little surprised at the sight of the limo and driver but she thought maybe one of her lawyers ordered it for her. The driver gestured politely towards the vehicle with a smile and she strolled over to it. When she sat down into the car, Janice knew her mistake and tried to scramble out but the door slammed in her face, the lock immediately shifting into place.
"Hello, Janice," replied a male voice. She stopped trying to get out and turned around to face the man who spoke. He was handsome for his 50-some-odd years, aging like a fine wine, almost reminiscent of Patrick Dempsey. His dark wavy hair was peppered with grey and white giving away his true age. His suit as perfect as his complexion. There were two other men flanking him but it was he who concerned her the most. The man gestured toward the mini-bar. "Would you care for a drink?"
"Look, I…I didn't say anything to the FBI," she stammered, ignoring the drinks that she desperately wanted. Her voice cracked slightly, speaking loudly of how much she feared being in the car at that moment. Sweat poured down her face as she nervously fiddled with her hands. "I wasn't going to, honest."
"I know, Janice," the man said kindly. He moved, sitting down beside her as the car lurched away. The man gently took her hand, caressing it and calming her nerves only slightly. Janice knew what was coming for she had seen it before. She had even done it herself a few times. Calm the person down then strike before they knew what hit them.
"I know you would never intentionally give any information to the FBI unless you knew certain people were care of," he said calmly. "Tell me, Janice. Why did you jeopardize our existence by dealing with petty things that you knew nothing about?"
"I…I wanted to go up in the ranks," she stammered. "That's all. I needed to get out of River Heights and on to better things so I…I thought…"
"You thought poorly, Janice," The man said sternly, his demeanor changing instantly. The hand he holding he suddenly gripped hard causing Janice to cry out in pain. "You brought attention to yourself and this organization. The FBI now knows that we exist and they will hunt us down all because you wanted to go on an ego trip. Was it worth it?"
"What did I do wrong?" she cried. "I was just thinking in the best interest of the organization! Yes, I wanted a better position but I thought that by bringing in several police officers and a new drug ring, I could help us! Please! You have to believe me!"
"That was not your biggest mistake though, Janice!" the man replied through gritted teeth. Her eyes went wide with fear at the pure anger registering in his eyes. "You went after the daughter of a close personal friend of mine! I did not order you to take her out nor interfere with her life in any way! She was to be kept out of the loop. That's what her father wanted!"
"I…I didn't know!" Janice cried. "My mother is close friends with her because she always finds her damn cat when he escapes! My mother was the one who went to her and her partner! I didn't want to go to them but I went along with her just to make sure they didn't find out!"
"But they did! And you eventually almost destroyed the rest of their family!" he roared. She shrunk away from him, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I made a deal with Carson Drew. We were to leave his daughter alone or he would expose us all!"
"But he's dead!"
"Yes, but he collected information that would bring the whole syndicate down!" he cried. "More than what was in that house of his! Carson Drew was no boy scout but he was still a good man. He knew what he was doing when he confronted me years ago. Not even the FBI knew of his involvement and it was only once that he joined us. Now you've jeopardized that because of your stupidity!"
"But…but what are you going to do with her and the Hardys?" Janice asked, hopefully.
"Nothing, Janice," he said calmly, still gripping her wrist. "I am going to do nothing to them. They know about the same amount as the FBI does and will continue to know just about nothing. I made a promise."
"But I want them dead!" she cried. She wrenched her arm out of his grip, her confidence slowly rising once more. "Or I will tell the FBI everything."
The man smirked, looking at the scared woman. "I don't think so, Janice," he replied. "Take a look around you. There's no way you can get away from us now. But I want you to take a look over at the store there."
Janice nervously turned her head, trying to keep tabs on the man out of the corner of her eye but she stopped when she saw Nancy in the shop, her smile infectious. She was with friends and laughing as she swirled around in a wedding gown.
"See Janice?" he asked in her ear. "Nancy is happy and that's all that matters to me. Her parents entrusted me with her safety from the moment she was born and I intend to keep that promise. Carson didn't want her to find out anything about my organization or his involvement. She's getting married, you know. He's a good man, someone you already know and I will not tolerate anyone stepping in the way of her happiness with him. They want to live a normal life and we will let them as long as I am in charge. Now, I want you to watch and notice her reaction."
The man got out of the car and walked over to the boutique. Janice watched him as he entered the shop and Nancy's eyes lit up when she saw him. The woman glared at the girl, her hatred of her rising. She never noticed one of the other men in the car moving in behind her. The last thing she saw as she was strangled to death was the smile that stretched across Nancy's face.
Nearly two weeks passed and life was slowly going back to normal for Frank and Nancy. The rest of the Hardy family had returned to Bayport just days after Janice Blake disappeared leaving Frank and Nancy on their own. They kept busy by putting away a lifetime of memories from Carson's room. By the time Hannah was set to come home from vacation, the room was emptied and the door closed. Nancy felt she wasn't quite ready to take over the room just yet.
Her and Frank waited in the arrivals corridor at Chicago's O'Hare for Hannah to arrive. The moment Nancy caught sight of their friend, she ran to the woman and gave her a huge hug. Frank slowly came up behind them, giving the women time to bond again.
"What was that for?" Hannah asked with a laugh after they separated. She could see a change in Nancy and was happy for it.
"I…I just really missed you," Nancy replied, her eyes glistening with tears. "I'm so happy you're back."
"It's good to be back," the housekeeper said. She eyed Frank coming up to them, his hands in the pockets of his jeans. Hannah brought him close to her in a hug, gently patting his back. She took a step back and took in the couple who seemed to be at ease with the world for the first time in a year. Frank wrapped his arm around Nancy and she leaned into him, giving him a loving stare. Hannah grinned. "My, a lot has changed in a matter of weeks. Is there something I need to know?"
The couple exchanged glances and looked knowingly back at Hannah. Nancy grinned as she showed off the ring on her finger. The housekeeper's face lit up with excitement and she took hold of both of them in a tight embrace. She looked up at Frank then cupped her hand on Nancy's face.
"That is wonderful news!" she cried. "It's about time you took that ring off the necklace!"
"You knew?" Nancy's face went slack in shock.
"Of course I did!" Hannah laughed. She hooked her arms in each one of theirs and started to walk toward the baggage claim. "Do you honestly think I wouldn't have noticed it? What were you trying to do, hide it?"
"Not exactly," Frank laughed. He explained the reasoning behind Nancy wearing the engagement ring around her neck. "We just weren't ready at the time."
"And you put it upon yourself to wear it, Nancy?" the woman asked giving her a stern look. "You should have let him give it to you when you were ready. Oh, who cares! You're finally engaged and about to have a family…"
She stopped when she saw Nancy's head drop. The housekeeper's excitement diminished as she realized what happened in the time she was gone.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, honey," she said apologetically. "I was just hoping for the best and you two seemed so happy that I thought the baby was okay."
"It's fine, Hannah," Nancy said, wiping a tear from her face. "It happened the day you left so you would never have known. We didn't want to ruin your vacation by telling you the news. Besides, a lot happened in the days afterward."
As they waited for Hannah's baggage to arrive, the three sat at a table in a nearby café with a view of the baggage carousel for her flight. The couple told her everything that happened from the moment she left, leaving nothing out. They wanted to be completely honest with her. Hannah was already shocked to hear the story but nothing prepared her for hearing about the day Janice Blake disappeared.
"Wait," she said, shaking her head. "Janice Blake completely disappeared? And they have no idea where she's at?"
"Correct," Nancy nodded grimly.
"Aren't they worried she'll come after you two again?"
"The FBI and police are aware but they feel that if she was going to do anything, she would have done it the moment she was out of jail," Frank explained. "It scared the crap out of Dad and I when Chief McGinnis barged in to tell us the news. Mom and Nancy were out shopping with Bess and George and we couldn't get a hold of them until they got home."
He gave Nancy a look and she looked innocently back at him.
"I told you, Frank," she said soothingly, placing her hand on his arm, "that I had my phone on vibrate and forgot about it. I really forgot when David showed up and surprised us. We had a wonderful lunch with him too."
"David Wainwright?" Hannah asked stunned. "He was in town and I wasn't here? It…it's been so long I thought he dropped off the face of the planet."
"Yeah, he showed up at the boutique we were at," Nancy smiled. "He apologized for missing Dad's funeral but I get it. He's been really busy with his work and hasn't really wanted to be in the public eye since his wife and daughter died. I miss Julia a lot. She was a good friend."
"I know, dear," the housekeeper replied, taking her hand and squeezing it. "I'm glad to see that David came to visit. He was always a good friend of your father's. Is he still in town?"
"No," the young woman said sadly. "He had to go but he said he's definitely coming back. Plus he wants to walk me down the aisle in November."
"November!" cried Hannah. "That's only ten months away! Oh, my gosh! I have to get a dress! We need to get moving on the invitations and decorations and so much! Do you think we can get it done in time?"
"Yes, I think we can," Frank smirked. He laughed at the sight of the usually well-ordered woman get so frazzled by planning a wedding. "We already have the venue for the reception. Savannah is closing down her club and building a brand new building in its place. She offered it to us for the whole wedding but we wanted to get married in church. She's okay with it and not charging us at all because of everything we've done for her. I want to pay her back though somehow. It just doesn't feel right in taking it for free when she's just starting out with it."
"Take the offer, Frank," Hannah replied knowingly. "Savannah will never take your money if she offered her new place free of charge. Besides, you two deserve it. I'm sure that this wedding will be the talk of the town for the next several months. I know I'm excited but all I can say is that it's about time!"
"That's what Bess said!" laughed Nancy.
"You are going to have a beautiful wedding, sweetheart," the housekeeper smiled. "And I'm sure a family will come along afterward. I love you two so much and I am very happy to see you together finally. Your father would be very proud, Nancy."
"I know, Hannah."