Author's note: Thank you to max2013, Candylou, ErinJordan, and Bkworm4life4 for your reviews on chapter 10!
The Beginning of a New Era
"There was no need to buy such a big house, and with this whole private detective thing you're starting on that's risky financially as well as every other possible way, I don't think it was very advisable." Gertrude clicked her tongue as she looked up at the house on the corner of High and Elm in Bayport, the same one that Laura had fallen in love with nearly two months earlier.
"We've been saving for a house long enough that we were able to put a nice, big payment down on it already," Fenton assured her, handing her a box of household items from the back of the U-Haul truck. "Trust me, Gertrude, buying the house was the least risky part of this whole endeavor."
"You can say that again," Gertrude replied. "You ran into enough danger as a police officer, now you want to face twice as much every day."
Fenton looked around at the quiet, peaceful street. It was the middle of the afternoon, and there weren't even any cars driving past. "I think being a private detective here in Bayport is less dangerous than even being a regular citizen in New York. This place looks pretty sleepy."
Gertrude sniffed. "Looks can be deceiving. Besides, you'll probably have people from all over the world calling you for help."
Fenton chuckled. "I hope so, but I doubt that will ever happen."
"With your skills as a detective and the reputation you already have? People would have to be downright stupid not to want you working on their cases."
Fenton shook his head. Some days, it was hard to say whether Gertrude was more upset that he wasn't entirely retiring from law enforcement or that he would possibly fade into obscurity from it.
Laura parked the Hardy sedan next to the U-Haul in the driveway. She had driven behind Fenton while he and Gertrude, who had offered to help the family move into their new home, rode in the truck and had somehow gotten a little ways behind them. She went around to the back seat to unbuckle Joe from his booster seat.
"Why don't we take a look around inside before we start carrying everything in?" she suggested. "The realtor isn't even here with the key yet."
"Why didn't you tell me that, Fenton?" Gertrude asked in annoyance as she slid the box back onto the back of the truck.
"Guess it slipped my mind," Fenton admitted sheepishly as he jumped down from the truck and went to help Frank out of the car.
The first thing both Frank and Joe wanted to do upon being released was run around the large front lawn of the house, but Laura held them back.
"We'd better make sure there's nothing dangerous in the yard before we let them play out here," she explained to Fenton.
"Right." Fenton glanced at his watch. "I hope the realtor gets here soon. It's not much of a homecoming to just be stuck standing outside."
It was only a minute or two later that another car pulled into the driveway. Fenton and Laura recognized the driver as Chester Morton, the realtor who had handled the purchase of their house. He was also accompanied by a woman and two young children, a boy and a girl, who were about Frank and Joe's ages.
"Hello, everybody," he greeted them with a jovial smile. "Sorry we're a little later. This is my wife, Molly. She insisted on bringing a seven-course dinner for all of you."
Molly Morton laughed. "Don't listen to him. It's just a roast and some cookies and some fresh vegetables from the garden. Making new neighbors cook dinner their first night here is no way to welcome folks to town."
"Fenton Hardy." Fenton held out his hand to shake hers. "This is my wife, Laura, and my sister, Gertrude. She's helping us move in. I didn't realize you lived in this neighborhood."
"Oh, no," Chester said. "We live out on a farm a couple miles out of town. More of a hobby than anything, really. By the way, these are our kids, Chester Jr. and Iola. We thought they'd like to meet your boys."
So far, the children had done little more than stare at one another, but little by little, Joe was edging toward the new arrivals.
"Well, let's get this food in the house where it's a little cooler and then start getting you unpacked," Molly said.
"Oh, there's no need…" Laura began to protest, but Chester and Molly didn't take no for an answer.
They set in with a will, carrying things into the house and into whatever room they were directed. While the adults were working, Joe retrieved his toy T-Rex from the box where it had been put and showed it to Chester Jr. and Iola. Chester Jr., who pronounced his name "Chetter Juner", was very interested in that.
"I got a dinosaur," he announced before he ran to his mother and tugged at her knee. "I want my dinosaur!"
Fortunately, he had brought it along and it was in the car, so it only took Molly a few minutes to retrieve it for him. It was a stegosaurus, but Chester Jr. didn't seem to realize that that meant that it wasn't a meat-eating dinosaur. He walked it across the floor of the mostly empty living room, making roaring and growling noises as he did.
Joe laughed in wicked delight as he brought his T-Rex in for an epic battle and the two dinosaurs clashed against one another. Frank didn't want to be left out of the fun, so he went to grab a couple of his toys – an airplane and a bear, to be exact – and joined in with no care for historical discrepancies.
Iola, who was younger than any of the boys and was just barely walking, watched in wide-eyed fascination. At one point, when Frank left his bear unattended, she grabbed it and threw it across the room, squealing in delight as if she had just scored the winning points in a football game.
"Hey!" Frank shouted in dismay as he went to retrieve the bear.
In the end, though, they must have all made friends, because they all eventually fell asleep in something like a heap on the floor.
In the middle of carrying everything in, Tom and Sam Radley and Captain Ezra Collig, who was in street clothes, as well as Sam's fiancée, Ethel, arrived and offered to help.
"We heard through the grapevine that you were moving in today," Tom explained. "We figured we might as well be good neighbors and lend a hand."
"I'm afraid being good neighbors isn't their only motive," Ethel admitted in an undertone to Laura and Molly. "They're pretty ridiculously excited about a famous detective like Fenton Hardy moving to little, ol' Bayport."
"I don't like putting you all to so much trouble," Laura replied.
"Don't worry about it," Ethel assured her. "We all want to help. We wouldn't be here otherwise."
Scarcely an hour had passed since the Hardys' arrival in Bayport before everything was in the house and most of the furniture was even approximately in place. After that, the new neighbors stayed and chatted until dinnertime. The Hardys invited them to stay, and so they all sat down to Molly's roast, which she had fortunately brought in a slow cooker to keep it warm all that time. She had also brought enough roast and vegetables and cookies for three times as many people, so there was plenty to go around.
By the time all the neighbors had left, Fenton and Laura were having a hard time believing that they had really only just met them. Moreover, they were all touched by how friendly and helpful they had all been.
"You know," Laura said, as she and Fenton were standing on the porch after saying good-bye to the last of them, "I think I'm going to like it here."
"Me, too," Fenton agreed.
Author's note: Thank you so much for reading this story in its entirety. I hope you've enjoyed reading it even half as much I enjoyed writing it. I would be really sad about wrapping it up, but now I get to go on to the next book in this series, which will be titled School of Thought. The first chapter will be going up next Friday, right on schedule. I know some of you have been asking for more little Frank and Joe, but I don't have any immediate plans to write more stories with them at this age, although you never know what inspiration may strike in the future. There's a fourteen-year time jump in between this story and the next one, which means Frank and Joe will be teenagers next time around and will take their rightful place as the main characters. Also, looking back at the author's note at the beginning of this story, I see that I said there would be possibly six books in this series. I've done more planning since then, and I can say now that there will be between eight and twelve, ideally. I know, this project will take several years, but I care about it probably more than any other writing project I've ever taken on, so I feel fairly confident that it will actually happen.
Finally, I want to give a huge, special thank you to everyone who left reviews at any point in this story: Bkworm4life4, BMSH, Candylou, Cherylann Rivers, drogorath, ErinJordan, FanHB08, MargaretA66, max2013, and t4swp, as well as anyone who leaves reviews in the future. Reviews are such a huge help and encouragement in the writing process and I'm so grateful to all of you for them. I hope to be seeing you soon in School of Thought.