Joe Hardy pulled out his phone and glanced at the time. He, his older brother Frank, and their best friend Chet Morton had arrived at the train station and were just sitting down in the terminal.
"Wow, we're here rather early," he said before pocketing his phone.
Chet shrugged. "Hey, Iola wanted to get to Callie's as early as possible." His eyes narrowed. "I know those girls are planning something. Iola's been pretty secretive lately."
"Want Joe to find out why?" asked Frank, shooting his brother a sly grin.
"Hey, a girl likes keeping her secrets to herself," said Joe with a dismissive wave of his hand. He glanced at his brother with a sly grin and a twinkle in his blue eyes. "Besides, I wouldn't want to ruin their fun, especially if it's a surprise party for moi."
Frank burst out laughing. "What ever in the world makes you think that?"
Joe blinked and gasped, feigning hurt feelings. "How dare you? My birthday is coming up, so why shouldn't my girlfriend plan something special for me?"
Chet playfully pushed him. "You are so full of yourself."
Joe pushed back. "That's the beauty of being the baby in the family."
Chet scoffed. "Iola's nowhere near as bad as you." He turned to Frank. "I don't know how you put up with it."
Frank shrugged. "I kinda have no choice in the matter."
"Touche." Chet glanced between them. "So, any ideas on what kind of a case you're dad is working on now?"
Joe huffed. "No, he left for Detroit without telling us anything, and now he's only coming back to pick up Mom. Something about them needing to go undercover."
Chet's mouth opened slightly in shock. "You're kidding? You two helped him catch that gang of thieves! Well, you and your Mom, and we all helped. So why wouldn't he ask you for help now?"
"Probably because he really has to go undercover and since it's supposed to be a honeymoon, he can only have Mom along," said Frank matter-of-factly.
Joe sighed. "Yeah, it makes the most sense. But I really wanted to help!"
"Maybe we can find out if there is a way we can help from here. Maybe Dad needs someone to look up things for him without drawing attention to him and Mom."
Joe tilted head and nodded slowly. "That is an idea."
"Plus, you two can work on clues and codes which should give your dad the means to concentrate on other things," said Chet.
Frank nodded. "There is that too. And, Chief Collig might need our help."
Joe laughed. "Alright, alright, I get it. We're still needed, just not entirely in the way I wanted."
"Exactly," said Chet. "Besides, if you two are off constantly solving mysteries, we wouldn't get to spend much of the summer with you! What kind of fun is that?"
"Alright! I already gave in, OK?"
"I know, I just wanted to give you another reason for staying here."
"Well, here's one reason to want to go, dear old Aunt Trudy."
Chet scoffed. "She's only, what, thirty-eight? She's no old maid just yet."
"Well she certainly acts like it."
Frank laughed. "That is so true, though."
"But didn't you guys say you suspected there was something going on between your aunt and Jack Wayne?"
"Oh there's definitely an attraction between them, no doubt about that," said Joe. "But neither one has really acted upon it, maybe Jack thinks it's best to wait until things calm down. But with Dad, that might never happen."
"Maybe you guys should help hurry it along," said Chet with a twinkle in his eye.
"Us? Matchmakers?" Joe paused before glancing at Frank out of the corner of his eye. "Well, maybe I could give it a try, Frank's just as bad as they are."
Frank blinked. "What in the world does that mean?" Before Joe could answer, someone's phone began ringing. All three reached into their pockets and pulled out their phones.
"Not me," said Joe.
"Not me either," said Chet. They glanced over Frank's shoulder as he glanced curiously at the number showing up. "Hey, isn't that an Illinois number?"
Joe gasped. "You're right! Frank, answer it!"
"But . . ."
Joe began shaking him by the shoulders. "It's got to be Nancy, you idiot, who else in Illinois has our numbers?"
"OK, OK! I'll answer it! Just stop shaking me!" Joe stopped, and Frank answered the phone. "Um, hello, who is this?" His eyes widened and a slight blush came to his cheeks. Joe did a silent cheer. "Nancy! Hi! Wow, you're, you're calling my cell! This is, this is . . . wow!"
Joe rolled his eyes. He tapped Frank's shoulder. "How's the mystery? coming?" he whispered. Frank held up a finger.
"What? Didn't Joe tell you? I don't freak out, I geek out!" Joe nodded, grinning, yup, he said that a lot. He and Chet were surprised when Frank stood up. "Oh, Deirdre again?" Joe and Chet glanced at each other worriedly as Frank walked away, his words becoming muffled by the noises in the station. He walked towards the hall leading to the bathrooms.
Chet glanced at Joe. "She's really got quite a few problems with Deirdre, huh?"
Joe nodded and sighed. "Yeah, worse than what we've got with the Masons, way worse." He winced as he said, "She's constantly bringing up how her mom is still alive."
Chet winced and let out a hiss of a breath. "Ouch, that's not right."
"You're telling me." The two went silent for a few minutes, Joe sending up a quick prayer for Nancy. He glanced at his brother after a few minutes, he seemed a little perplexed. Was she talking to him about the mystery now? Was she close to solving it? He could tell Frank had put on his detective hat now. Joe longed to get involved, but he also really wanted his brother to interact one-on-one with Nancy some more. He was glad she called him instead of that Don guy. Joe was sure he was a great guy, but he was just as annoyed as Nancy that he hadn't stopped pestering her about getting a date. Some guys just couldn't take a hint.
"Excuse me?" The two glanced up, a gentleman of about forty smiled at them. Joe noted the jacket draped over one arm, his grey at the temples of an otherwise dark head, amber eyes, and the fingers fiddling with a bill. "Sorry to disturb you, you both seemed so lost in thought."
Joe waved his hand. "Oh no, you're fine. We're just thinking to pass the time. Did you need help?"
The guy nodded. "I do, in fact." He showed them a crisp twenty-dollar bill. "I was wondering if you had any change? I forgot my card at home, and I wanted to get something from the vending machine, but the guy before me didn't get his change, and I need the money for when I get off at my next stop."
"Oh man, that sucks," said Joe.
"Really?" said Chet, glancing at the nearest vending machine.
"Yeah, I know, weird, right?"
Joe shrugged. "It's a machine, bound to run out of change at some point." Both boys took out their wallets. "Well, I only have seven dollars in change . . ."
"I have fifteen," said Chet. He took out the fifteen dollars and pocketed his wallet. "Here, give him your five, I'll break the twenty and give it back to you later."
Joe waved his hand. "Nah, it's fine."
"Oh thank you so much!" said the man as they exchanged bills. "You're a lifesaver!"
"Anything we can do to help," said Joe with a smile.
"Well, I'll leave you to the rest of your deep thinking while you wait. Thanks again!" The man walked away with a wave.
"No problem!" chorused the boys as they waved back. A ringtone began going off. Joe quickly pulled out his phone.
Joe huffed. "Dad missed his connection. He'll be here on the next train. Apparently he fell asleep and forgot to text until now." He groaned and rolled his eyes. "Maybe we can go take care of the errands our moms wanted us to get done while we wait."
Chet nodded. "That's a good idea. Better than waiting around here all day."
"I'll get Frank." Joe got up and walked to where he hoped Frank would see him and began waving his arms. Frank looked at him quizzically but shifted his weight, indicating he was going to say goodbye to Nancy. Joe watched him talk for a few more seconds, the look on his face meant he was being serious. Did that mean Nancy was going to be laying a trap for the villains? If so, Joe knew Frank would remind her to be extra careful. Not that she really needed the reminder, she knew the risks. But then he got sidetracked. A pretty brunette walked into his line of vision. Joe walked up to her with his signature grin. "Hey there, fancy meeting a lovely young lady like yourself here."
She smiled as she looked at him curiously. "Well, I do have to catch my train . . . to get to work."
Joe coughed. "Say what?"
"You're what, sixteen?"
"Fifteen," he said with a slight squeak to his voice.
"Well I'm twenty-five, a little old for you, don't you think?"
"You look fifteen!"
She laughed. "I'll take that as a compliment. Thanks for brightening my day, but I really have to go! Bye!" She waved and walked off. Joe huffed and crossed his arms. He glanced back at his brother, who was still talking on the phone. Joe hoped he hadn't seen that fail. But was it really a fail if he brightened her day?
Frank hung up the phone and walked to Joe. "What's going on?"
"Dad's apparently really tired. He missed his connection and just now texted me to tell me about it." Joe glanced at Frank's phone. "Though I wonder if he tried you first. Didn't say if he did."
"Oh, you mean that pretty girl didn't make you forget that?" Joe rolled his eyes while Frank checked his phone. "Yeah, he did."
"Probably figured you were talking to Nancy," Joe said with a huge grin.
Frank's face got a little redder. "Joe!"
Joe laughed. "Hey, you got me about that girl, it's only fair. Come on, Chet and I figured it would be best to get those errands done real quick and then come back to pick up Dad."
Frank nodded. "That's a good idea. Besides, I'm sure Dad would prefer getting picked up in our car."
Joe chuckled. "Just don't tell Chet that." They rejoined Chet and the three made their way to the Queen.
"So where to first?" asked Frank as he got in the front seat.
"Well," said Chet as he put the key in the ignition, "I'm thinking the bank first. Don't want to sit around with this check in my wallet for too long."
Joe had a sudden thought. "Check to see if it's still there."
Chet chuckled. "I see what you did there."
"No, really, check it."
"Oh alright." Chet pulled out his wallet and showed Joe the check. "See? Still there."
Frank glanced quizzically at his brother. "What's wrong?"
"I . . . I don't know . . . I just got this funny feeling . . . I think I should have paid better attention to that guy."
Chet blanched. "You think he was up to no good?"
Frank looked between them. "What guy?" Joe told him about the guy who asked for change as Chet pulled out of the driveway and into the street. "So, you didn't bother checking if his story about the vending machine was true?"
"You'd normally think that he was telling the truth!" said Chet.
Frank nodded. "Yeah, you would. A story like that is pretty plausible." He glanced at Joe. "Besides, it was just a twenty, right?"
Joe nodded slowly. "Yeah."
Frank shrugged. "Doesn't sound too suspicious. If it was a larger bill, definitely be concerned, but he wouldn't ask you then, he'd go to a store."
"Yeah, you're right. But, I don't know . . . I just have this feeling, and there was something about him that didn't seem right. I didn't notice it at first, but now that I think about it . . ."
"Well we are going to the bank now, we can ask while we're there," suggested Frank.
Joe nodded. "Good idea." Joe racked his brain for any reason that he would think like that. He replayed the scene over and over in his mind, wondering what exactly his subconscious picked up that concerned him. And why only now did he think of it? Was it because Chet mentioned the check? Had to have been, it involved money. Joe would not have wanted anyone to steal that check, the Mortons needed that money.
They pulled into the bank parking lot, and all three practically leaped out of the car. The curiosity about Joe's concerns made them rush in. They had to wait in line for a bit, but finally it was Chet's turn. The clerk took care of the check and asked him if there was anything else.
"Uh, yeah, actually, could you break this twenty please?"
"Sure!" She took the bill with a smile, that smile fell as she fingered the bill, looking at it closely. She glanced at the boys. "Give me a moment." She walked into the back of the bank.
"Joe, I think you were right," said Chet worriedly. Frank gave him a reassuring pat on his shoulder. They had to wait a few minutes before the clerk came back with the bank manager.
"Where did you boys get this?" Joe and Chet took turns telling him about the guy at the train station. He nodded slowly. "Always a twenty, but . . ." He gave a low whistle.
"Wh-what's wrong with it?"
The manager motioned them closer. "Notice anything off?"
"Um, I-I don't see anything," said Chet.
"Of course you wouldn't notice right away, this is a fairly well-made counterfeit."
The manager nodded. "Yup, and we've been seeing an influx of counterfeit bills lately, handed to us by our own customers! People we know for a fact who are trustworthy." Frank and Joe glanced at each other in shock. Counterfeit money in Bayport? It looked like they just found their next mystery.
(The Hardys are back! Hope you like this next installment in the series! Nancy will return in two weeks. But the show has returned, it was almost really good. It was almost devoid of any supernatural stuff . . . and then they had to bring in a little dose just to keep the "tension". I was happy . . . until they brought it in. It's so overdone at this point. It's not even scary, so, I mean, what's the point? I was more scared when someone was on the verge of death or that the criminal was alone with someone and nearly got away with it than the supernatural. I might just finish this season because a part of me still wants to know what happened to Tiffany Hudson, I guess I would just prefer it like my fanfiction, a whole lot less complicated than it has to be. Trying to make it more complicated than it has to be to make it seem more "adult" actually really dumbs it down beyond belief, because it's trying to sound smart when it's really not. I didn't hate this episode, I did like most of it because there wasn't much supernatural junk until the very end. The supernatural stuff and jump scares just really bogs it down. Yes, there are a series of six stories that Nancy solved that are called Ghost Stories, heck the Hardys did too, and this series seems like those sets, only a couple are actually worth it. Do I wish it could be a lot better? Oh heck yeah, but there are a few really good ones, and this episode, surprisingly, thankfully, did a lot better than most. That, and it's more of a stand-alone mystery, which shows that single episode mysteries works so much better than dragging it out for a whole twenty episodes. It keeps the watcher's attention and we don't forget all the clues. Sure, we can get character growth throughout the series no problem, but a mystery does not work over twenty episodes, two might be the most you can drag it out to. Do I think they'll actually get better at this? I highly doubt it. They seem set on having Nancy dealing with the supernatural when this episode showed that wasn't necessary at all. And yeah, I had said in the Stratemeyer Shorts that this will be my last episode, but it was a rather well-done episode that it gives me an inkling of hope. I just hope the showrunners come to understand that, no, the supernatural does not add scare or spice to a story, unless it's done really well, which in this case, it's not. It's literally another box they have to check off, like, yeah, ghosts, check. So, yeah, I might just stick around for the next episode, which could end up being the worst one of the lot and make me back out. We'll see. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to enjoy my fanfiction. I have two more upcoming books, the first for two different series. Expect the first one in mid-March, The Clue of the Broken Blade, and the second one in late March, Valley of Diamonds. I figured it would be easier to focus on two at a time, even though I want to write out all four ASAP, sleep, and play Sims 4 at the same time, lol. At the moment, I have two favorite movies I had on stand-by just in case this episode was so bad I needed something to cheer me up. But I'm going to watch them anyway because they're such favorites of mine, One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing and In Search of the Castaways, both from Disney. XD Anyway, welcome back, hope you like this first chapter, and I hope you continue reading!)