Hellow I'm back with another chapter sorry for the long wait. Thank you to those who have left me wonderful reviews, favorites, following or just reading. And once again a BIG thank you to my beta reader for your help with my story. :)
Here's the new chapter hope you like it :)
A Brother's Revenge Chapter 27
Frank just stared at Fenton, blinking as he processed what his father had just said. He couldn't believe what they had planned. Surprising his parents he exploded, directing his angry glare at his father. "After everything that happened to us there? He'll go there over my dead body!"
"Frank..." Laura gasped, shocked by Frank's response.
"No, no. I'm sorry, Mom, but no." He said vehemently shaking his head. He knew that he had to get away from the conversation before he said something that he would regret. He abruptly got up from the bench and began to walk away from his parents. I must be going out of my mind, he thought. It's this damn depression...It is making me paranoid…like that old man I thought I saw looked a hell of a lot like Linsky. And now I am hearing the words 'Joe' and 'Bellevue' coming out of my father's mouth.
"Frank, wait listen please." Laura called, quickly getting to her feet, she reached out and grab her eldest son's shoulder to stop him from leaving. "Your brother is in serious trouble. Something has to be done fast." She sniffed back tears. "I can't lose my baby. I won't."
Frank took in a deep breath and slowly let it out. Once he got himself calmed, he turned around to reply to his mother. He shook his head, "I know Joe is in deep trouble and that he needs help, but not Bellevue, Mom, not Bellevue."
Fenton got to his feet instantly to address Frank. "Son, we don't like the idea of sending Joe there either. But we..."
"And what does that tell you?!" Frank shouted, cutting off his father's sentence. His chest ached when he did that, but he didn't care he had to get his point across, "Dad, if you knew Joe at all you'd know that being trapped in a room with no way out, is one of his biggest fears." He threw a pleading look to Fenton, "Don't you remember the state Joe was in after you rescued him from that rat-infested closet? You know, the one that SOB Hayden locked him in! He was suffering akinetic catatonia and it took too long to get him back!" Frank shuddered at the thought. "If you send him to Bellevue; he'll just feel like a caged animal with no way out. He'll die in there!" He flinched slightly when he heard his mother let out a gasp after his last statement flew out of his mouth.
"Need I remind you once again, Frank," Fenton said, biting his tongue. He took a calming breath and started counting to ten. "You need to calm down and watch your tone. If you want to be angry that's fine, you have a right to be. However, you will not be disrespectful towards me or your mother. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, sir." Frank said softly, rubbing his chest before he ran a hand through his hair. "I'm sorry Mom, Dad, I don't mean to be disrespectful to the both of you," He apologized, letting out a heavy sigh. "It's just a lot to take in. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that Joe tried to take his life."
"Thank you, Frank, I know we're all still trying to wrap our heads around it as well. Now back to what I was saying." Fenton knew this debate was coming but had to happen. Frank's response and cooperation were going to be key in getting Joe help. He calmly took a breath and began again, "I'll admit I made an irrational decision. Son, when I saw Joe up on that railing ready to jump, it scared me out of my mind. I was desperate to get your brother help. When I told Dr. Reese what had happened with your brother. She brought up Bellevue and I agreed to it at once because I couldn't let Joe share the same fate as your grandfather."
"This is so surreal." Frank said shaking his head. The ache in his chest began to go away once he started to calm down. He went and sat back down at the bench. "My little brother tried to take his life." He looked at his parents as they sat down on either side of him and then over to Biff. "So, this is the big secret everyone's been keeping from me today. The secret Joe doesn't want me to know."
"Yes, again we're so sorry you had to find out like this." Laura said sniffing back tears. She patted his knee. "You are under so much stress already. We were afraid that this news would be too much for your heart and I can't have you back in the hospital again."
Biff nodded in agreement. He had remained quiet, letting Frank and his parents talk, and he had been surprised at Frank's exchange with his father, but he understood that Frank was extremely upset about Joe and rightfully so. But wow he had never heard Frank talk that way.
"I get it." Frank replied with a heavy sigh. He placed his hand over his mother's hand giving it a light squeeze. "I understand that the health scare with my heart had everyone worried and I'm sorry for that. But my heart is fine now. I am fine. Withholding this information has stressed me out more than knowing what happened has."
"Frank, it doesn't matter how old you boys are, your mother and I will never stop being your parents... " Fenton began his voice cracked with emotion as he spoke. "We love you both so much, if we could take all that pain away from you both, we would. Even with our disagreements...and the resentments. We just want you boys to be happy, safe, and healthy... " His voice trailed off he turned away batting away the tears that were threatening to run down his face.
Frank felt bad for blowing up at his father like he had. It was unsettling to see him so upset; he'd always been so strong and fearless as 'the famous Detective Fenton Hardy' in every situation. However, the constant fighting with Joe was taking its toll on his father and Frank could see the fear, hurt, and worry in his eyes. What was causing this resentment Joe has with Dad? It couldn't all have to do with him not being allowed to investigate to help to clear my name. There had to be more to it than Hayden's murder case and the destroyed evidence. Suddenly a thought dawned on him, "This is really going to cause more friction between you and Joe, isn't it?"
Fenton cleared his throat, he turned back to Frank and said, with a calm and steady voice. "Your Aunt asked me that same question. And like I told her; I am sure that it will. Especially, when we tell him about Bellevue. Joe is going to be angry at us for doing this no matter what and I would rather have most of that anger aimed at me. By doing so he can then turn to your mother if he needs to."
"Frank, this is a difficult decision that we had to make, and we did not make it lightly. After discussing the situation with Dr. Reese, your father did what he thought was best for Joe, and I fully support his decision." Frank heard his mother's gentle voice and felt her squeeze his hand. He turned to look into her blue eyes, ones that matched Joe's as she continued, "For some reason Joe is resistant about going to family counseling and seeing Dr. Reese. She wants to meet with you first to see how you're going to handle things and then she is going to talk to Joe. We really need your help with this Frank because Joe will look to your response. What you say or don't say to him could make all the difference in the world."
Frank sighed as he began thinking aloud, "I think we can all agree that we want what is best for Joe, right?" Fenton and Laura both nodded in agreement. He put his other hand on top of his father's hand. Fenton nodded lightly squeezing Frank's hand. "I'm all for getting Joe the help he needs. However, I'm sorry, Mom, Dad, but I can't agree with Bellevue. There has got to be a better place that you could send him for treatment. We all want Joe to have the best care possible. So why can't we talk to Dr. Reese and see if there are other options. Please, can't we at least do that?"
Fenton exchanged a look with Laura as they began to process Frank's request. Why were they set on sending their youngest son to that place? Sam had even questioned him on Bellevue. Fenton knew that it was choice made from desperation and fear. As he sat beside Frank he thought calmly and rationally of Frank's statement, 'If you send him to Bellevue; he'll feel like a caged animal. He'll die in there!' Fenton felt a shiver run down his spine as the image of finding Joe in that akinetic catatonic state in that rat-infested closet...after the horrific abuse he suffered at the hands of Jack Hayden. Frank was right. Sending Joe to that place would be a big mistake.
"Alright Frank, we can do that. We will talk to Dr. Reese about finding other options. There has to be a better place to send Joe for treatment." Fenton smiled and gave his son a light slap on the back.
"I agree. Bellevue is not the place for Joe." Laura said feeling relieved that Joe would not be going to that horrible place. With that all three Hardy's stood up and exchanged hugs with each other feeling better about this decision. It was what was best for Joe.
Biff smiled watching the happy exchange with the Hardy's...finally they were on the right track to save Joe's life.
After a moment, Fenton felt the need to change topics was in order. "There is something else I need to tell you, Frank."
"Please no more bad news." Frank groaned; he didn't think he could take anymore.
"That depends on your viewpoint. You did in fact spot Bruce Linsky."
"I did?" Frank asked in astonishment.
Relief washed over Frank as a small grin stretched across his lips when he heard that. His father went on to explain, "Chief Collig, Sam and I met with the Pier's administrative director, Mark Johnson. He gave us a list with three employees with the name Jim. One of the names just happened to be a James Bruce Linsky. And, as I'm sure you know, Jim is a nickname for James."
"Oh, Fenton, that's wonderful news." Laura expressed clapping her hands together overjoyed with this news. "That proves Frank is not paranoid and that he really did see that old man. But wait, I thought you were going to let Sam and Chief Collig oversee it? In fact," she added concern filling her voice as she spoke, "the judge ordered you to stay off this case or Frank would go back to jail."
"Sam and the Chief are overseeing the case with my help. As soon as we discovered that it was Linksy I made sure that they took the lead on the case." Laura gave him a hard stare as he went on to explain, "Laura, I am aware of the risk, but I can't sit on the sidelines of this investigation any longer. Not when we're so close to finding Linsky and clearing Frank of the murder. Not to mention that there's also the threat against our boys that is here at the pier ready to strike at any moment."
"Well, thank God. It's about time." Laura's hard stare softened as her eyes smiled with delight. "No offence to Chief Collig. I know he and his officers are doing their best, but, in the words of Gertrude, they are moving at a snail's pace. Now with your help we can get this case solved and Frank's name cleared finally. That way we have one less headache to deal with."
A wide grin spread across Frank's face. Finally, his father was part of the case. He asked. "So, it's what we suspected, Linsky is an employee here?"
"Correct." Fenton said, nodding. "Along with his wife, Margarite Sue Linsky. She also goes by Marge. They both fit the description of the elderly couple we've been looking for. Everything has been pre-meditated because Bruce Linsky or 'Jim,' signed up about three months ago to work in the maintenance department, and his wife signed up to work one of the game booths. They were both scheduled to work tonight, and they have disappeared from where they were assigned to work along with three other employees. The other three who are currently missing are college students, Stacy Coleman, Nate Weaks, and Jarrod Parker. They are all supposed to be in their late teens or early twenties and they went missing from their assigned stations about two hours ago. Chief Collig has Officers Baker and Riley looking into finding them and has notified the rest of the officers on patrol to be on the lookout for them. That being said, something is definitely wrong. This is all too coincidental. Sam is currently out there helping the chief and his officers with the search for Linsky and his wife. I just came back here to inform you boys of what's going on and to check in with Joe."
"Mr. Hardy, I'm pretty sure I saw Jim."
They all turned to find Biff standing two feet from them. "Oh, Biff, I'm sorry, I forgot you were here." Fenton apologized.
"That's okay, Mr. Hardy. I didn't want to interrupt you and I didn't mean to eavesdrop either, but I heard you mention that Jim guy."
"You saw Jim?" Frank asked focusing back on Biff's first comment.
"I did." Biff said nodding.
"When and where?"
"I ran into him when I was looking for Joe. He was sweeping up the trash along the boardwalk. I remember he had the workers uniform, the one with the Bayport pier logo in red print on the front." Biff said as he continued to describe what the man was wearing, "I saw the name Jim on the badge that was clipped on his shirt. I just thought that he must have been part of the crew that was working for the pier department. I told him I was looking for my friend and I described Joe. He said he saw a boy fitting Joe's description run past him and then he pointed me in the direction Joe had gone, then I thanked him for his help. But there was something strange about him that kind of bugged me." Biff's voice trailed off as he focused on the memory.
"What was that?" Fenton asked.
"Well, Mr. Hardy, he gave me kind of a half-smile, and I could've sworn that he flinched when he did, like it hurt." Biff shrugged his shoulders. "But I was in a hurry to find Joe. I didn't think about it until you brought up Linsky."
"A kind of a half-smile, like it hurt." Frank repeated thinking aloud. "That's the same thing Tony mentioned to me about the guy he had waited on at his family's restaurant. I noticed it too when I saw him. Tony thought the guy may have had a stroke or something, because there was something strange about the man's face. Maybe Joe is right about the possibility that our 'Jim' could be here using fake names and disguises, and the wife as well."
"I'm leaning towards that idea as well." Fenton nodded slowly.
"Why are these people using fake names and wearing disguises? If they're not the real Linsky couple, then who are they and what are they up to?" Laura asked, concerned.
Frank and Fenton turned to look at her then they exchanged looks with each other, "That is a very good question, Laura." Fenton replied. "We also have to ask if they have a connection with Hayden?"
"Dad, what if it is Ryan Hayden? What if he is here? It's not really a farfetched idea either, I know we've all been thinking it." Frank asked urgently as his stomach began churning at the disturbing thought. "If Linsky is Hayden, then his "wife" could be Carolyn Matthews, not to mention that we still don't know where Daniel Bartend and Henry are. What if they are all behind the fake names and disguises? What if they're the reason that those other three employees are missing? You said yourself that it is too much of a coincidence that they and the Linsky couple all went missing around the same time." Good, he thought, if Henry is here, I can catch the little lunatic and get him behind bars and get justice for him taking the lives of Phil and Seth and for trying to kill me. I am going to make damn sure to keep him as far away as possible from Joe.
Frank continued, reiterating the points Tony had made earlier, "Bruce Linsky's fingerprints were on the black spray can. What if Linsky and his wife crossed paths with Ryan at some point, and he paid them to vandalize Callie's car and spray paint that threatening message against Joe and I on her windshield? Obviously, the old couple are hard up for money. One of them could have also put that flyer with the message on Vanessa's Jeep. Did Chief Collig ever find out anything on that flyer?"
"No, I'm afraid not. It came back clean." Fenton replied grimaced. "The Chief suspects that whoever left the flyer for Joe and Vanessa must have been wearing gloves."
"Okay, well," Frank frowned, the disappointment clear in his voice as he spoke. "Let's say for argument's sake that it is Ryan and his minions. He could've helped the Linsky's disappear in exchange for them doing a few favors for him. Any one of them could be the person who has been stalking me."
"It would make sense." Fenton noted, growing more concerned. "Jack Hayden's murder was all over the news and on the front page of the paper. Not to mention your arrest as the prime suspect. Even though he is a wanted man for multiple counts of murder, as well as the top suspect in the hospital fire. Revenge would give Ryan a good enough reason to come out of hiding." Suddenly, the threatening message against his sons flashed in Fenton's head, Eye for an eye... A brother for a brother...soon a Hardy boy will die! Quickly shaking the vision of the threat away, he turned his attention to his wife. "Laura, I really wish you hadn't let Joe and Vanessa go off by themselves to watch the fireworks. Besides the threat, Dr. Reese gave us several specific instructions, one of them being that someone had to be always with him."
"I know Fenton. I was ready to take Joe home once the kids got back from the game area, especially after the latest outburst he'd had, fireworks or not. But now that I think about it," Laura looked at her hands as she thought. "It would've been a mistake," she cast her eyes back up at her husband and added, "especially for you."
"Why do you say that?" Fenton asked raising an eyebrow at this in confusion.
Fenton, Frank, and Biff listened intently to her explanation.
"Despite the fact that we put Joe on restriction for the window and breaking into the safe in your office. We did agree to let Joe have his date with Vanessa and to have fun and watch the fireworks. If I had told him he couldn't go. It would be a big letdown for him, and then he would think that we would be going back on our word. I thought that because of that he might spiral. I was afraid that he'd blame you for it and then the fighting would start up again."
"Laura, we both agreed to let Joe go on a group date, with Vanessa, Frank, and their friends." Fenton argued. "The whole idea of the group date was so that they could watch out for each other and to stay safe because of the threat. If Joe wants to be mad at me as the reason for not letting him go off alone with Vanessa, then so be it. I'll gladly take the blame for that if it means keeping him safe. That goes for Frank too."
"I know that." Laura countered back tearfully. "But Fenton, that all changed tonight when Joe tried to jump off the pier." She put and hand on her chest feeling the beat of her heart. It ached so much for her child. "I'm scared to death I'm going to lose my baby." She was doing everything she could to keep it together. She sniffed back tears and managed to say, "You should've seen the look on Joe's face when I told him he and Vanessa could find a spot to be alone to go watch the fireworks. I swear, I saw those beautiful vibrant blue eyes of his start to sparkle, and he had a huge smile on his face. I haven't seen that smile, you know the one that lights up a room, in a long time and I saw it tonight. It was a real, genuine smile. He was so happy, Joe was happy, Fenton." She wiped a tear from her eyes. "It gave me hope. I just couldn't say no. I couldn't say no." She broke down crying unable to hold it in.
"Okay. It's okay, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you." Fenton wrapped his arms around her letting her bury her face into his chest, grateful she didn't turn away. He felt like a heel for arguing with his wife and making her cry. He just wanted this nightmare to end and for life to return to normal for his family. "I'm on edge with everything going on, and my emotions are all over the place. My biggest concern right now though is keeping everyone safe from danger." Once Laura got herself together, he released her and wiped away her tears with his thumbs, before kissing her forehead. "Everything's going to be okay. We will get through this. I promise you; I will do everything in my power to keep everyone safe." Fenton vowed; his face tight with determination.
"I know you will Fenton and I love you too." Laura said smiling up at him once she got herself together. She understood that her husband would work himself to the ground to fulfill his promise.
Frank smiled feeling grateful seeing his parents had worked things out like he knew they would. He huffed and thought, now if only his father and brother would do the same and work things out, that would take a miracle.
"You know, Fenton. Joe is not exactly alone." Laura said keeping her voice strong. "Vanessa is with him. That girl is a blessing. I believe she's the main reason for that smile on Joe's face."
"How is that?" Fenton asked.
"Joe was on the verge of having another panic attack right there in front of Andrea Bender. He was so nervous about meeting her and it would have been just awful for him. Vanessa noticed it and started rubbing his shoulders and she distracted him by starting a conversation with her mother about the various sports that Joe plays at school. He immediately started to calm down and that got the ball rolling. The subject of football came up and that led into a full conversation with Vanessa and her mother. I did have a small talk with Andrea before to explain some of what's going on with Joe and the ordeals our family is going through, just so she was aware. She doesn't know about the pier, only about his panic attacks. Andrea was very understanding about it. The next thing I knew he was cracking jokes about sports and had everyone at the table laughing. He was acting like Joe. This girl brought our Joe back for a moment. I think that Vanessa is going to be very good for him. I have a really good feeling about her." Laura had finished with a teary-eyed smile.
"I think so too." Frank agreed. "Vanessa has already shown that she is good for him."
"Well, I commend Vanessa that she was able to help Joe like that. However, it's not fair of us to put all of that on her shoulders." Fenton said. "They've only known each other for a short time. Joe should not be her responsibility. We don't know if she can manage his unpredictable behavior and she shouldn't have to. She doesn't know about the pier because we've been keeping it quiet, the only ones who know besides your mother, Gertrude, and myself are Sam, Biff, Chet, Tony, and now you."
"She might not know about that." Frank shook his head. "However, she's been around him several times tonight when he's either had a panic attack or been on the verge of one. Dad, she told us when they arrived of why they were late to the picnic, she even put him put in his place at the agency when he acted like a jerk with her." Frank said thinking about his conversation with Vanessa. "Vanessa and I had a talk and she told me of how much she cares for Joe. I saw the proof of that when she was able to calm him down just by rubbing his shoulders. I believe that she can handle him. Not too many people can…" Frank stopped in mid-sentence when he saw the hurt in his father's eyes. He felt bad for him, and he knew that his father wanted to be the one Joe sought out for care and comfort, who could handle his behavior and to have a strong connection with.
"Not only that," Laura said seeing the pain in Fenton's eyes. "I made them both promise me to be extra careful, and to always keep their cell phones on and with them at all times and to let us know where they are."
As if on cue, Laura's cellphone chimed that a text had arrived. She took it out of her back pocket and looked at the screen to see Joe's name come up, "it's Joe. They made it to their spot."
"Does he say where?" Frank asked just as his cellphone announced the arrival of a text. "it's Vanessa." He said while reading her text, "she says, all is fine. they're sitting at a bench against the railing by the boardwalk looking over the water, adjacent to the sandy area where they will be setting off the fireworks."
"Okay, text them that they are not to leave that spot and again to stay alert," Fenton instructed Frank and Laura, "and that they need to come straight back here once the fireworks are over."
Mother and son quickly sent their messages, after a few minutes they received responses back. "Vanessa says, We will. Promise." Frank said reading her text.
"I got a thumbs up emoji smiley face, and a, No worries, Mom. Love ya." Laura said amused after reading her son's text. Frank and Fenton both huffed and rolled their eyes at their youngest family member's antics. Biff couldn't help but smirk at the text message that Joe had sent his mother. That was so a Joe thing to do.
"Well at least he hasn't lost his sense of humor," Laura said putting her phone back in the pocket of her jeans, "I'm going to take Joe's message as a good sign that he's going to be okay." She looked from Frank to Fenton and added, "We need to show Joe that we trust him. He promised to come back here once the fireworks are over. " She took her phone out of her pocket again to check the time, "It's five minutes to eight, the fireworks are about to start. Let's go back to the picnic area to watch the show while we wait here for Joe and Vanessa to return, like they promised."
"Alright." Fenton sighed; he was going to have to trust Joe. "Why don't the three of you go on ahead. I'll join you momentarily, I just need to check in with Sam and the Chief first." He took his phone out of the pocket of his shirt.
"Sure, Dad, we can trust Joe's word. I even told Mom that I was sure it would be okay to let them continue their date; Joe needs to have fun and relax. With Vanessa at his side, I have every confidence in the world they will return as promised." Frank said, at least I hope, he thought. However once again, his big brother instincts wanted to make sure Joe was all right. No, Mom's right I've got to trust Joe. Please keep your promise, little brother.
Frank, Laura, and Biff made their way back to the picnic area to join the group to get ready for the firework show, while Fenton stayed back to make his phone calls.
Unbeknownst to them Ryan Hayden stood behind a booth a few feet away listening to their conversation. An evil grin spread across his face. He had witnessed all the drama and had heard everything that had taken place. He watched as Frank, Laura, and Biff headed towards the picnic area. He shifted his gaze back to Fenton who quickly hung up his phone and hurried away concern evident on his face. He knew exactly where the detective was going. He lowered the blue cap on his head to help hide his face and flattened himself against the wall to make sure he was out of the detective's view as he watched him disappear towards the parking lot.
"Good, the plan is in motion. The issue in the parking lot should keep you and the police distracted for a while, Detective." Ryan muttered, "So little Joey tried to take his life, huh? This is going to be so much fun. In fact, I'm going to use it as a punishment for your eldest son for taking Jack's life. And how am I going to do that, you say? Why by torturing your baby boy right in front of him before I blow them both up." He took the disposable phone from the pocket of his shirt and hit a number on the speed dial. "Picasso, get in place." He ordered and unhung up the phone and put it back in his pocket. Then he took out a second phone that Picasso gave him he would use to set off the bomb. He smiled with glee at the device, "It's time for fireworks."
Fenton left after an urgent call from Chief Collig to meet with him and Sam in the parking lot. An anonymous caller had phoned into the police station about an hour ago to report that there were three individuals passed out in a car at the end of the pier's parking lot. Officers Baker and Riley had gone to check it out. They reported back that they were the three missing college kids that they had been looking for. All three of the students were found dead of what looked like an apparent drug overdose. There were empty beer bottles lay broken in pieces on the ground, syringes laying in and outside of the car. The young woman Stacy was lying in the backseat with a band wrapped around her left arm and a syringe in her other hand. Now they were waiting for the coroner to come and take the bodies and then the autopsy results to come back to determine the official cause of death.
Biff, Chet and Tony and their dates had picked a grassy area not too far from the picnic area to watch the fireworks. Laura, Gertrude, and Andrea stayed at the picnic area to wait for everyone to return safely, especially for Joe and Vanessa.
Frank decided that he needed to take a walk to think and get his head clear, Callie, who insisted on going with him, was by his side. Of course, they had to promise Laura for the umpteenth time that they'd be extra, extra careful and would meet back at the picnic area once the firework show was over.
As Frank and Callie walked hand and hand along the boardwalk there were people all around them laughing and talking, kids were running around having fun, while they were waiting for the fireworks show to start. However, Frank wasn't in the mood for fireworks. He was too worried about Joe. He finally spotted an empty bench behind a vender's booth selling souvenirs about two feet away from the bathrooms. It was the perfect place to sit and watch the fireworks and to talk without interruptions or people overhearing. As the young couple sat down with their hands still locked in together each lost and quiet in their own thoughts. Frank smiled at his beautiful lady, his future wife, God, he loved her. He was happy to have Callie at his side, especially now when he needed her comfort and to talk to her.
Callie smiled right back at him getting in lost his chocolate brown eyes. Then her smile dropped into a frown when she saw tears forming in his eyes. "Frank, what's wrong?"
"Joe tried to take his life tonight." Frank's voice cracked, letting the tears roll down his face. "My parents…Biff just told me. That's the big secret Joe doesn't want me to know."
"What?" Callie gasped, her face paling as Frank told her everything that his parents, Vanessa and Biff told him ending with Joe's suicide attempt on the pier and the possibility of sending him to Bellevue.
Callie sat stunned. "I can't believe Joe almost did that." She said finally finding her voice, her shock evident.
"I know," Frank said, quickly wiping the tears from his face. He stood up and began pacing back and forth, running his fingers through his hair. "And now that I know, I can't stop thinking about it. I've told him many times that Iola's, Phil's, and Seth's deaths were not his fault, not to mention that he did not cause my depression and heart problems. Now getting that through Joe's thick skull is going to take a lot of work. It's going to be hard with his anxiety issues and with the PTSD because of everything that he has gone through in the past, not to mention adding in the family history of depression. It's not going to be easy."
"I can't believe your parents were even considering sending him to Bellevue." Callie responded, still absorbing everything Frank had said.
"I think that they were just scared…and desperate to get Joe help." Frank explained, turning around to face Callie. He sat back down next to her sniffing back tears. "I don't really blame them. My Dad especially. He was the one who found my grandfather and he wasn't able to save him."
"I didn't know that." Callie said shocked. "I know you told me your grandfather committed suicide, but I don't think you've mentioned that your dad saw it happening."
"Yeah, it's not an easy thing to talk about. My grandmother, Aunt Gertrude and Dad all lied about him dying in a car accident because they didn't want people to know that he was mentally ill. Dad was about my age when it happened. Granddad was a police officer; Dad said they all just thought the job was getting to him. Things began to progress quickly though once his partner was killed in the line of duty. Granddad took his partners death hard; he blamed himself for the whole thing. They had been more than just partners; they were best friends and brothers; just like Sam and my dad are best friends, partners, and brothers. Just like Joe and I are..."He trailed off for a second as more tears ran down his face.
Frank took a deep breath and continued, "One day Dad came home from school and heard a commotion coming from Granddad's study. Dad went to check it out and that's when... when he saw Granddad standing behind his desk, all decked out in his formal uniform; he had his gun pressed against his left temple; his finger on the trigger. Granddad didn't see Dad because his back was turned to him...he pulled the trigger…. and then he was dead on the floor blood everywhere. Dad said it was like he was watching it in slow motion."
"Oh my God," Callie said sniffing back tears. "Your poor dad. I can't imagine witnessing something like that as a teenager."
"Sadly, I can," Frank replied, sniffing back tears and leaning his head against Callie's shoulder, as they locked their hands together, "Because that's exactly what Joe's going through now with Iola's, Phil's, and Seth's deaths. Dad fell into a deep depression after what Granddad did. My mom is the one who deserves the credit for helping my dad through that dark time the whole time they were dating. She never gave up on him when others did. She saved Dad from stepping over the edge, by showing him the love, affection, and support that he never got from Granddad. I pray Vanessa can be that for Joe. God…. the thought of Joe…" He trailed off again as tears continued to pour down his face. He felt Callie squeeze his hand adding comfort as he tried to collect himself, "it's all my fault. Just like with Phil and Seth, Henry killed them, and I couldn't stop it! I should've been there, but I was to busy and caught up with my own problems."
"Why, it's true, Callie. Joe's my little brother. As his older brother it's my job to protect him, and I didn't. I have failed to protect him so many times."
"Frank, what do you mean by, it's your job?"
"I didn't protect Joe from Hayden's minions when they kidnapped him from the Morton farm. We got into a stupid fight over Henry. He stormed off to cool off his temper when he wasn't supposed to go off by himself. For three days we thought that he was dead…. thankfully, he was found alive only for us to find out he'd been shot in the leg…and nearly bled to death from the wound and then wound up with a severe infection as well. And before that I failed to protect him from Hayden's abuse when he had us in the basement." Frank all at once his mind flashed back to that day, his wrists tied to that bedpost as he laid on a dirty old bed. There was Hayden standing over him, with a belt ready to beat him in his hand.
"Frank, please don't go there. Hayden abused you too." Callie pleaded.
"If Dad and the police hadn't showed up when they did, I would've taken the beating. I'm supposed to. It's my job. There's no way in hell I would've allowed Hayden to beat Joe with that belt." He sniffed back angry tears. "But Joe got hurt anyway when Hayden abused him with…a knife…the rats… that closet... the fear in his eyes, I couldn't stop it. My hands were tied, and all I could do was watch. Then two weeks ago, I failed to do my job yet again, at the hospital when I left Joe alone to go after Ryan Hayden and when I came face to face with him on Henry's floor. But I had to. The only reason that he came out of hiding was to kill Joe. Only I lost Ryan during the chase."
Callie said nothing and began rubbing his back trying her best to comfort him while letting him vent. Willing his voice to be strong, Frank added, "I understand now what Dad meant when he said that fighting depression was not easy. And it's not. Depression isn't something you can just get over, like the flu, and depending on the person it can be a short term or long-term battle. For me I think its short term…I'm learning how to cope with it better. I mean, I have my ups and downs; but it's not hitting me as hard as I think it's hitting Joe. Hopefully once tonight is done, my parents and I can talk with Dr. Reese, explain our, well my, reservations about Bellevue and then she can help us to find a better place to send Joe for treatment. He's afraid he's going to lose me, well, he's not, I'm going to be by his side helping him fight this thing, whether he likes it or not. I'm not going to lose my little brother."
After a moment the two fell silent lost in their own thoughts. Callie started thinking about Joe and everything that had happened, and she suddenly felt sick to her stomach thinking of the horrible things that she had said to him. "Frank, I have to tell you something. You're not going to like it and I won't blame you if you get angry with me."
"What?" Frank asked as he turned to look at her and saw her tearing up. "Hey, whatever it is you know you can tell me." He said gently squeezing her hand.
"I'm just as much to blame for what's going on with Joe."
"What do you mean?
"I said some pretty mean things to him." She said, teary-eyed and choking up on her words, "I never imagined Joe would try to take his life. I've been taking my worry and anger out on him. I've been dealing jealousy issues of him taking your time from me, Vanessa pointed that out to me earlier, all because of what had happened to Iola. I've been so scared of losing you that I blamed him for stressing you out with his actions…and I told him that he's the reason you were in the hospital." She paused for a moment to wipe away her tears and calmed down," I'm so sorry Frank…I'm so sorry."
"Honey, I'm not angry at you, I think we've all said things to Joe that we probably shouldn't have." Frank said putting his arm around her and holding her close to him.
She wiped her tears and sniffed back a sob, "I'm pretty sure Joe will go ballistic on me when he finds out what I told Vanessa about Iola's death."
"You did what? Why?" He pulled her back slightly to look at her.
"Frank, please don't be angry although you do have a right to be." She told him what she had said to Vanessa about Iola and what she and Joe were like when they were dating.
"Oh, Callie, I wish you hadn't said anything to Vanessa. You know how Joe is about Iola…. even the mention of her name gets him upset."
"I know Frank, but Vanessa's a smart girl. She found out about Iola's death on her own."
"She did?" Frank asked as his eyes widened in surprise.
"Yeah, she heard her name mentioned a few times at school." Callie said. "And that she used to date Joe, but no one would really talk about her. So, it got her curious and she did some research online and found out who Iola was and that she died in a car explosion. She felt so bad Iola had died like that. But I did warn her that Iola was a very difficult subject to talk about with many people. In fact, I told her it was a sensitive topic with Joe, and she would be treading on thin ice if she brought it up." Callie said quickly. "I explained that the explosion was meant for you and Joe, and that Iola just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I also recommended that she not bring it up around Joe or the Morton's because of that. I told her Chet seems to be dealing okay with her death and that Joe will only talk about her when he's ready and everybody knows that when he does, it'll be with you. She agreed not to bring it up out of respect for Joe and Chet."
"You know the more I hear about all the good things with Vanessa and after talking with Vanessa." Frank said. "I'm feeling more comfortable with Joe dating her and I think she will be really good for him."
"I want to make amends with Joe, and I want to tell him how sorry I am for the mean things that I've said to him," Callie did feel relieved talking to Frank about it and that he wasn't to upset with her, she added, "however I'm afraid Joe will just be angry with me, and I don't want to set him off, especially now with him having suicidal thoughts. How do you think I should I talk to him?"
"I don't know." Frank said slowly. "The subject with Iola is a touchy one with him. And now that Vanessa knows about it…it might be easier if I told him."
"No, Frank, I have to do it." Callie replied firmly. "I'm a grown woman, I need to own up to my mistakes. I need to make things right with Joe. He's going to be my brother-in-law and I don't want there to be any animosity between us." She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She knew this was the right thing to do. "When you were in the hospital going through your tests for your heart. Joe and I had a moment alone. We started bickering like we always do. I knew he was just upset about what was happening with you and he was worried that you weren't going to come back. We both were. Well, eventually we calmed down and the two of us talked. We both came to an agreement that we would try to work things out, so that way you wouldn't be stressed out and it would make you happy. Although I think it's going to take a lot of work for both Joe and I to reach that point of friendship, but it's something that we need to do especially because we are going to be family. That's why I have to do this." She said looking into his brown eyes, and she asked him again, "So what do you think is the best way to approach Joe? How should I talk to him?"
He was impressed that Callie wanted to make things right with Joe, Seeing the seriousness in her eyes, Frank said with a sigh, "Well, if you do talk to Joe. You must be straight with him. I can't guarantee what his reaction will be because he can go either way as his emotions are currently bouncing all over the place. He can be a Dr. Jekyll or a Mr. Hyde." He said running a hand through his hair, thinking of what was in store for his little brother, "I don't know, Callie, I think it might be best for you to wait to talk to him because Dr. Reese is supposed to meet with us at the house tonight after the fireworks show. That's when Joe will find out that he's going to be going to a treatment center. It's not going to be pretty." Again, he told himself it's what was best for Joe. He was not going to lose his little brother.
"Okay, if you think that's what is best, then I guess it can wait. I don't want my guilty conscience to cause more problems for him." Callie said wiping the tears off her face. "You know what, I need to go freshen up; I probably look like a mess with my mascara running down my face."
Frank looked at her the glow of the lights against the night reflecting off her face, he could tell her eyes were all puffy and her mascara was smeared from her tears. He smiled at her and said, "it doesn't matter, you're beautiful."
She smiled back at him as he leaned forward to kiss her lips, "Thank you, but I'd still like to go and freshen up. Will you walk me over to the bathrooms?"
"It would be my pleasure." He said, extending an arm out to her.
"Oh my, you're such a gentleman." She teased as she took his arm, and they made their way over to the bathrooms.
Moments later, Frank stood outside of the lady's bathroom waiting for Callie to come out, he found himself lost in his thoughts thinking about Joe. "I should've protected you better, little brother. Damn it! It's my job!" He exclaimed, whirling around kicking over a large metal garbage can which landed with a crash. Startled by the commotion people nearby hurried away to get away from him.
"Frank, what's going on?" Callie said rushing out of the bathroom after hearing the crash. She saw a metal garbage can on the ground and trash all over the ground.
"What happened? Are you alright?" She asked seeing that he was breathing heavily and had a scowl on his face.
Frank took a couple of deep breaths to calm himself down. Once he was calm, he looked down at the trash laying all over the ground and regretted his outburst. "I'm fine…" Frank's voice trailed off when he caught sight of something glint on the ground. It was barely noticeable, being that it was practically buried between the garbage, but the glow of the streetlight caused it to shine.
"Callie, do you have a tissue or something?"
"Um, yeah I think so." Callie reached into her purse, "yep here's one." She said pulling out a small pack of tissue and handing it to Frank.
She watched him as he knelt to the ground and sifted through some of the trash until he uncovered the item that had caught his eye. He let out a gasp when he saw it. It was an employee badge with the name Jim on it. He couldn't believe it especially when his luck came through again as he spotted the remains of a crumbled-up latex mask lying next to it.
"Jim?" Frank heard his fiancé said reading the name on the badge as she leaned over his shoulder. "Could that be the same Jim you've been looking for?"
"It very well could be. There could be fingerprints on the badge and hair follicles, dead skin anything with DNA on the latex mask that could prove the identity of Linksy. I need to call Dad and let him know what we've found." Frank said pulling out his phone and dialing. He listened to the phone ring and then go directly to voicemail. "Augh, it's busy! I'll try Sam." He said as he dialed again. "I'm getting his voicemail as well."
"What do we do then? We can't just leave this stuff here; it could be the key to proving your innocence!" Callie exclaimed.
"I can't collect it because I could then be accused of tampering with the evidence and that might set off the judge." Frank said in frustration.
"What about me?" Callie asked. "You could walk me through the process and then you won't get into trouble with the judge. You could film the entire thing on your phone."
"It's not ideal, but it's better than losing the evidence totally. Take your phone and take photos of everything in place and I'll do the same with my phone and send them to my dad. Then you can gather the mask and badge and I will video you doing it so what we have done is documented. You have to be careful though and not to touch them with your hands. We will also need something to put these in. Then we need to get this to Chief Collig so he can get this stuff to the lab. This could be the key to help clear my name in Jack Hayden's murder case."
"I might have something," Callie said rifling through her purse. "Ah yes! Here it is." She pulled out a Ziploc bag and hands it to Frank. "Will this work?"
"Uh, yeah, that'll do fine." He said accepting the plastic bag and opening it for her. "Do you always keep Ziploc bags in your purse?" He grinned down at her while she picked up the items with the inside of the tissue before placing them in the bag.
"Yeah, sort of," She grinned sheepishly back at him. "Hey, you're always telling me to be prepared for anything….and I haven't bothered to clean out my purse lately."
"That's my girl." Frank chuckled as they both got to their feet, and he handed her the Ziploc bag. He leaned over to kiss her lips. "Will you stick this in your purse, please? Keep it safe."
"For you, yes I will." She replied placing the items in her purse, before kissing him right back on the lips.
"Thanks." He said checking phone and seeing that the photos and video had been sent to both his father and Sam.
Suddenly, a deafening bang happened, startling them. Frank looked up in time to catch fireworks exploding, seeing thousands of tiny red sparks scattering across the night sky. All at once his mind was hit with another flashback to the second floor exploding into a fiery inferno of the hospital... his father...his mother...aunt and Sam. The floor to the room he shared with Joe was just above it. Joe! Oh my God!
Callie noted Frank's pale face and heavy breathing. "Frank, baby. Are you okay?" She framed his face with her hands, to force him to look at her.
"Callie...I thought...I lost my family...Joe he was up there...I shouldn't have left him…I failed my job." He said as he clutched at her.
"Frank..." She started to say then it dawned on her the blast from the fireworks must have caused a flashback to the hospital fire and that was the reason he was acting this way. She put her hand on his arm to anchor him. "Frank, listen to me. It's not the same thing as the hospital. It is the fireworks show starting. You are safe here. I am safe here. We are safe. Joe is safe, he's with Vanessa. He's having fun. It's okay."
Blinking his eyes to force his thoughts away, Frank shook his head and tried to focus on Callie's voice. "I'm sorry, Cal," He cleared his throat. "I can't... I should go find him...I need to make sure." Again, he jumped as more fireworks exploded in the sky above them.
"Remember you're going to trust him. Let's go back to the picnic area we'll join our friends while we wait for Joe and Vanessa. They promised they'd be back, let's trust him. Your mom will be wondering about us anyway." She suggested. "While we are there, we can give the badge and mask to your dad. He'll give it to Chief Collig."
"Alright, I'm going to trust Joe." Frank reluctantly sighed, calming down slightly. He had to stop his mind from thinking these paranoid thoughts. They began making their way back to the picnic area hand and hand while Frank was trying to ignore the fireworks that were going off above his head, but it was hard. Every blast made him jump.
Frank suddenly stopped in his tracks and looked around. "Frank, what is it?" He heard Callie ask, but he didn't answer. He had an eerie feeling that he was being watched. "Frank, what is it?" he heard Callie's anxious voice again. Am I being paranoid again? He looked around at the people walking past them and at his surroundings and then back towards the bushes.
Just from then by the glow from the streetlights, he caught a glimpse of shadow of someone lurking behind the tall bushes just a few feet away from them. Then another boom and flash of fireworks lit up the night sky, giving Frank a full view of the person who was standing in the shadows. He gasped and stared in shock; it wasn't just anyone, it was Henry Jacobs! Henry stood frozen, looking directly at him like a deer caught in the headlights. Frank quickly noted that Henry was wearing a Bayport pier employee uniform and on the top of his head was a red ball cap. He thought that the red hair poking out from under Henry's cap looked darker? Had he dyed it temporarily and was it washing out? If so, could he be the mystery dark hair kid in the lobby at Callie's apartment? Could he be Linsky? Or my stalker? Could Henry be the dark- haired figure from the security tape? Although Frank never saw the footage, he knew what it contained from Joe. He replayed Joe's words in his head, "The guy's face was away from the camera, we saw him pick up the gun from the counter and run out of the room. The gun that was later found at the crime scene where Hayden was murdered. The problem is the footage on this disc is kind of crappy and needed to be enhanced to see the dark-haired figure more clearly."
Oh my God, the realization hit Frank as his mind snapped back into the present as he stared right at Henry. Did Henry kill Hayden? The years of abuse that he had suffered at the hands of his father would be the perfect motive for Henry to want to kill Hayden. Is he framing me for the murder? He hates me enough to do it. We already know that he is capable of murder…two to be exact…Phil and Seth Cohen… not to mention the attempt on me. At any rate, Frank had made a vow to catch Henry and get justice for Phil and Seth, and Frank Hardy always keeps his promise. I'm going to make damn sure he stays away from Joe. Joe has enough to deal with as it is, he doesn't need you added into the mix. He started walking slowly towards Henry inch by inch as Henry backed away slowly from the older Hardy brother and then like a flash, he took off running towards the boardwalk, with Frank running after him. He could hear the fireworks going off behind him and heard Callie calling after him…but he was focused on catching Henry. He saw Henry turn to his left and disappear into the dark woods.
Frank slowed down to catch his breath and let his eyes adjust to the darkness. Then using the moonlight to guide his steps he tried his best to watch his footing and not stumble on a fallen branch or step in a hole, all while keeping his eyes peeled and ears open to Henry. He soon found himself on the shortcut of the trail where he would normally take his morning run to the pier and then around to Shore Road. He walked a little further until he came to the main highway. When he turned around, he was facing a ditch with yellow police tape surrounding it and he realized that he was standing at the crime scene where Hayden had been shot and killed not more than two weeks before. Suddenly Frank heard the rustling of leaves and a twig snapping behind him, but before he could react, he was hit on the back of his head, knocking him out cold as he dropped to the ground.
Henry stood over Frank holding a tree branch the size of a baseball bat. His cold, dark eyes were glaring at Frank, and he heard the sound of faint breathing as he saw Frank's chest rise and fall. Damn it, still alive. He tossed the branch aside and sat down straddling Frank's chest.
"I could finish you off now by bashing your brains out with a rock, like I did to Seth Cohen, or shoot you with a gun and let you bleed to death like Phil Cohen did. But I can't…it would spoil my stupid ass uncle's fun…so I must wait…and go along with his plan." Henry rolled his eyes and frowned in disgust. Like he thinks he's in charge. "Oh well, for now I'll just leave you here with a nasty headache. But no worries, Frank Hardy, my plan will be complete very soon. I'll take good care of Joe once you're gone," He patted Frank's cheek, "Got to go, lots to do." A sinister smile ran across Henry's face as he stood up and without a second thought, he stepped over Frank's limp body before disappearing in the dark woods.