"Fenton!" Officer Collig burst through the front door of the Hardy house.
"What is it?" Laura asked fearful of the worst.
"Marcus Danton purchased a cabin just outside of the Bayport Forest Park less than a week ago!" Collig slammed the realtor papers on the table.
"Well what are we waiting for? That must be where Frank and Joe are!" Fenton started for his car.
"The Chief has already sent officers ahead. I came to get you," Collig ushered both of the boys' parents to his patrol car. Within seconds, the vehicle was screeching out of the lane, sirens wailing.
Suddenly, a call for help came over the scanner. "Dispatch, smoke is coming from the woods beyond Danton's home. Fire rescue requested." Then shots were heard. The frightened officer called the dispatcher again. "Suspect is armed and dangerous! Shots fired! Shots fired! Back up needed NOW!"
Collig pushed the accelerator down as far as it would go, while Laura and Fenton prayed that their boys were safe.
Meanwhile, Frank and Joe were trying to pull the plywood off the windows.
"It's no use Joe. We aren't strong enough," Frank pulled Joe down to the floor where the air wasn't so smoky.
"But we have to get out! The fire's getting worse!" Joe was wide-eyed.
"At what Joe?" Frank asked.
"I didn't say anything. I thought you wanted me to look," Joe answered.
"Look." The voice commanded again. Frank glanced around but no one was there. Suddenly he spied the fireplace and an idea struck him.
"Joe! We need to get further away from the fire. Let's get in the fire place."
Quickly the boys crawled into the small opening. Smoke was starting to cover the floor and it was getting harder to breath.
"I wish we could go up the chimney like Santa does," Joe stated looking up. Frank sighed; at least Joe was back to his old self.
Sitting shoulder to shoulder they put their faces between their knees. Joe looked scared so Frank put an arm around him. Suddenly he felt a thump on his back, causing him to look up. A bright red rope was dangling down the chimney.
"Joe!" Frank jumped up, Joe following him. Joe reached out and touched the rope.
"Hold on tight!" a voice commanded them. They didn't argue. Slowly they were pulled up away from the searing heat and deadly flames. When they reached the top, Frank saw an old man leaning against the chimney. Suddenly, a crack startled both boys. They watched in horror as the one side of the house fell. Frank turned to face the man again and looked around in shock. No one was there! There was no time, however, to think more about it - the flames were getting worse.
Frank threw the red rope over the side of the rock chimney. "Stay close to the rocks on the way down so the flames don't get you," he told Joe.
Seconds later Joe's head disappeared over the edge. Frank gave him a few seconds then followed. Another crash shocked them as the walls all fell in on each other. Joe let go of the rope and fell the last 5 feet to the ground. Frank started to go down but the chimney started to lean into the remnants of the burning house. He took a deep breath and let go falling the last 8 feet. Lights flashed through his brain as he landed and he went unconscious.
Immediately before the Hardy's arrived with Collig, Danton had been taken into custody. As Danton was placed in a car, Fenton ran up to him, "Where are my sons?"
"Burning alive," the man answered coldly. A smug smile spread across his face. Fenton wanted to kill the man but his children were more important. He took off running in the direction of the smoke that could be seen above the trees. Laura ran after him. They heard a crash and the crackling of the flames and ran faster. Just as they entered the clearing they watched as the entire structure fell into one big burning mass.
"Nooooo!" Laura screeched running forward. Fenton held her back, tears running down his face.
"It's too late," he whispered. Collig watched the scene with an aching heart. Suddenly a small cry echoed though the inferno. Could it be?
Amazed, the threesome watched as a blonde-haired little boy appeared from behind the house. His back was turned toward them because he was dragging something. Someone gasped as they realized it was another child!
"Joe?" Laura called hesitantly; the child turned to face her. His tear-filled eyes lit up and he ran to her.
"Joe!" Mother and child embraced. Joe pulled away.
"Frank fell. He won't wake up!" he told her, crying.
"Shhh! It will be all right." Laura comforted.
Several hours later, the Hardy's and officers Collig and Riley waited in the waiting room of the Bayport Emergency Hospital. A doctor entered. "Hardy?" he asked.
"Here," Fenton stood up. "How's Frank?"
"Awake and asking to see you all," smiling the doctor led the way to Frank's room. The brown-headed boy looked up and grinned.
"Hi Frank! How are you feeling buddy?" Fenton leaded over patted the boy's head.
"Great! Did you find the rope? Did Joe tell you?"
"Yes, Joe told us what happened so we looked and looked. There was no rope, not even tiny threads of one." Con Riley told him.
"But there was one!" Frank insisted.
"We couldn't find it, but we do know that if you hadn't gone into the fireplace you would have been killed.
"What about the man?"
"The one that took you? He's in ..." Collig began, but Frank cut him off.
"No not him. The one that pulled us up the chimney."
"What man?" Joe asked.
"I saw him on the roof." Frank said. "Then the wall fell and he was just gone."
"There was no one else there, Frank." Fenton told him. Frank started to say more when the doctor reentered the room.
"Mr. and Mrs. Hardy when were the scans of Frank's brain done?" he asked.
"Last week," Laura answered.
Watching as the doctor frowned, Laura's heart dropped to her feet.
The tumor must be bigger.
"We'd like to redo some tests," the doctor looked up at them then went back to, flipping through notes and shaking his head.
"Certainly," Fenton replied tightly. This isn't happening, he thought and turned away.
The results hadn't come back when Frank was released the next day.
"Some Christmas Eve," Fenton thought as he watch Laura struggling not to break down while the boys made cookies for Santa as they listened to "All I Want For Christmas is You" on the radio.
It amazed Fenton that during the past few hours Frank had renewed his interest in Santa. He insisted that Santa was real and had saved them from the fire. For the first time in two years Frank was the one making sure that everything was perfect for Santa when he came.
Fenton heard the phone ring. Laura answered it, went upstairs, and shut the door to their room. Fenton got up and went into the kitchen. The boys were cleaning up by the sink. He heard the door to his room open and the phone drop. He started go up the stairs but Laura was running down them, her face tear-stained. "Oh no," he thought, thinking the worst.
But Laura wasn't crying, she was laughing.
"Gone!" she exclaimed. "The tumor is gone! Not even the slightest trace that it was ever there. Frank doesn't have cancer!" She picked up Frank and spun him in a circle. Suddenly smiles spread around the room. Fenton started laughing and Joe jumped up and down clapping and yelling.
"Merry Christmas, Fenty!" a voice said. Fenton looked around. No one had called him that since, well since he'd stopped believing in Santa Clause. Then, out the back door he saw a bright red sleigh streak across the sky.
Maybe he does exist, Fenton thought as Frank tugged at his sleeve.
"Come on Dad, read us 'The Christmas Story' before we go to bed so Santa can come." He and Joe raced out of the kitchen and Laura followed.
"Some Christmas indeed," he whispered with a smile and followed his family.
Somewhere above an old man looked on. That's what Christmas is about, he thought. Family, the best gift of all.
He shook his head. It had taken the faith of a little child. The sleigh moved forward and the man smiled as he tucked a small note in his pocket. "No Joe, this wasn't too big of a present."