Author's Note: (Read with tongue firmly planted in cheek.) In reading the stories here, I have noticed a disturbing trend centering on the kidnapping and merciless beating of ME! Just once, I thought, couldn't I be kidnapped by some GOOD bad guys?? And so the following story was born. If I absolutely have to be kidnapped, this is the way I would like it to happen…
The Debt By Joe Hardy (transcribed by Red Hardy)
By Joe Hardy
(transcribed by Red Hardy)
"Bye, Mom!" seventeen-year-old, blonde-haired, blue-eyed Joe Hardy called out as walked out the front door of his Bayport home.
Slipping his sunglasses on, he stepped off the porch and headed for the park several blocks away where he was going to meet his seventeen-year-old girlfriend, Vanessa Bender. It was a beautiful early summer day, the sun was shining brightly and there wasn't a cloud marring the clear blue sky. Vanessa had made a picnic lunch and the two planned to spend the afternoon together in the park, before meeting up with their friends to catch a movie later that evening.
Preoccupied with thoughts of his tall, slim girlfriend with ash-blonde hair and blue-grey eyes, Joe didn't hear the footsteps behind him. Suddenly something that felt suspiciously like a gun was pressing into his back.
"Don't turn around," a male voice said as car pulled up beside them. "Get in," Joe was ordered as he was prodded with the gun to obey.
'Not again,' Joe thought as he glanced in the car and saw two more men. Obviously outnumbered, Joe obeyed and was quickly blindfolded and bound hand and foot.
'This is really getting old,' Joe thought with disgust. 'Why doesn't anyone ever kidnap Frank,' he wondered, thinking of his older, dark-haired, brown-eyed brother who was out with his girlfriend, Callie Shaw.
"Just be quiet and do exactly as we say and you won't be hurt," one of the men told Joe.
'Yeah, that's what they all say right before they beat me unconscious.' Joe settled back against the seat, waiting to arrive at the as yet unknown destination where he knew the inevitable would happen – again.
As they drove in silence, Joe could smell the salt air coming in on the breeze through the open windows and knew they were headed for the beach. Soon he heard the waves crashing against the shore and noticed there didn't seem to be any other traffic on the road. He hadn't heard another vehicle in quite a while.
'Oh, great,' he thought, with disgust. 'Somewhere nice and isolated so after they beat me half to death they can leave me here where no one will find me for days.'
After another fifteen minutes, the car came to a smooth stop. Joe heard the doors opening and he was helped from the car. The ropes around his ankles were removed so he could walk, but the blindfold was left in place as were the ropes binding his wrists. Joe walked a few feet and was guided up several steps before being pulled to a gentle stop. He waited while a door was unlocked and opened and he was escorted inside.
Joe and his captors walked down a very long corridor to the opposite end of the house where Joe was led into a room and seated in a chair. He felt his ankles being handcuffed to the chair and then the ropes that bound his wrists were removed. His hands were also loosely handcuffed to the arms of the chair and finally the blindfold was removed.
Blinking several times as his eyes readjusted to the light, Joe took in his new surroundings. He was seated in a large room that appeared to be a den. It had a large flat-screen TV that almost took up one whole wall, a pool table, several pinball machines and a Wii station with stacks of game cartridges next to it. Looking out the window to his right Joe inhaled sharply at the sight before him.
The huge floor to ceiling glass windows overlooked the Atlantic Ocean in a breathtaking view. The bright sunshine gleamed off the blue waters, as the waves gently rolled onto the pristine sandy beach.
Tearing his eyes away from the gorgeous ocean view, Joe looked to his left and noticed an entertainment center stocked with CD's and DVD's. Squinting slightly, he was shocked to find they were all favorites of his.
He finally looked at his three captors, who were smiling at him happily.
"Okay, why am I here?" Joe asked in an almost bored tone of voice, waiting for the reply he knew by heart.
The three men looked at each other and then one of them, presumably the ringleader, began to speak.
"Five years ago, the three of us met for the first time – in prison," the young man began.
"Don't tell me," Joe interrupted. "My father sent you there, right?"
"Well…yes, actually." The man smiled at Joe again. "To be blunt, we were all young and stupid and wanted to make a quick buck one way or another. Your father caught each of us and we were sent to prison."
"We met in the dining hall one day," another of the men took up the story. "We talked about what had led to us being there and all came to the same conclusion. Once we did our time and got out, we never wanted to go back."
"We all wanted to be legit," the third man continued. "But none of us had anything more than a high school education. We knew we would need more than that to make it on the outside. Especially with a prison record."
"So we all decided to take advantage of everything the system had to offer us," the first man explained. "We looked at the college classes they offered to the inmates and decided to make our time their worthwhile by earning a degree."
"We were all interested in computers," the second man began speaking again. "So we each took classes in a different aspect of computer science. To make a long story short, by the time we got out, we had all earned a Bachelors degree in some kind of computer science. We decided to go into business for ourselves and started our own computer technology company."
"It was a real struggle at first," the third man took up the story again. "But we stuck with it and little by little we built up a loyal customer base. Then about a year and a half ago, we landed a huge contract with a major corporation. That's when our business really took off."
"Within a year we were one of the top Fortune 500 companies in the world. And our company has continued to grow. We now employ close to 50,000 people all over the world," the first man said proudly. "If not for your father, we'd be dead, back in prison or stuck in some minimum wage job, just trying to make ends meet. Instead, we are billionaires. We owe him. And we are going to use you to pay him back."
Joe listened to the story, fascinated. Never before had anyone ever been glad that Fenton Hardy had sent them to prison.
'Ah, they're just messing with my mind. Having a little fun before the beating starts,' Joe realized. "You expect me to believe that you're grateful my father sent you all to prison?" he asked, a touch of sarcasm in his voice.
"Yes. Everything we have we owe to him," the first man said sincerely. He was a little shorter than Joe, with sandy blonde hair and green eyes. "My name's Bill, by the way. This is Brett." He pointed to the tall hazel-eyed, redheaded man next to him. "And that's Bobby," he finished indicating a dark-haired man with blue eyes.
Joe looked at each of the men individually, searching for the telltale look in their eyes – the one that said they were really out for revenge. Surprisingly, they all seemed genuinely sincere.
Bill finally pulled up a chair and sat down opposite Joe, grinning excitedly. "We did a lot of research on you. We know all your favorite foods, sports, bands, video games - everything. We're going to make sure you have the time of your life for the next twenty-four hours. Then we'll take you home and our debt to your father will repaid."
Brett came up beside Joe, holding a small key. "I'm going to take the handcuffs off your wrists now, but I'm afraid we'll have to leave the ones on your ankles in place for now. Once you realize we are sincere, and have nothing to fear from us, you'll have free run of the house and grounds."
Joe stared at the men in total disbelief and then began to laugh. "Okay, who put you up to this? Frank? Phil? Biff? All the guys?" Joe asked. "I mean it's a practical joke, right?"
The three men looked at each other, slightly hurt. "Well, it is kind of a far fetched story," Brett said. "We can't expect him to believe us with no proof," he told his companions.
Reaching into his pocket, Brett produced four tickets and held them up so Joe could clearly see them and his eyes widened in shock. "Those are for tonight's Yankee's game," Joe said in awe as he peered at the tickets a little more closely. "And they're for a private club box!"
"That's right. Our company owns it," Bobby said proudly. "And tonight you will be our guest."
As Brett unlocked the handcuffs that held Joe's arms to the chair, Bill appeared in front of Joe with a stack of game cartridges. "Which one would you like to play first?" he asked Joe excitedly. "We have all your favorites here."
Joe scanned the names on the cartridges and realized Bill was right. "You…you guys are really serious?" Joe asked, wide-eyed.
"Yes," Bill replied solemnly.
"You're not going to beat me unconscious and dump my body out in the woods somewhere?"
The three men looked at each other in confusion.
"Why would we do that?" Bobby asked. "We owe your father a huge debt of gratitude. That would be a pretty lousy way to pay him back, wouldn't it?"
"Yeah, I guess it would," Joe replied, starting to relax a little. His gut instinct told him these men were exactly what they said they were.
"Okay, then," Bill said, taking command. "You and I are going to play a few of these while Brett and Bobby get started on dinner."
"Dinner?" Joe repeated, suddenly realizing Vanessa would have told his family he was missing by now. He knew they must be worried sick.
"Caesar salad. Filet mignon and lobster tail. Baked potatoes. And crème brulee for dessert," Bobby said proudly.
"He fancies himself something of a fine diner," Bill whispered conspiratorially to Joe. "Don't worry, after this meal, you'll get to choose the menu. We've stocked up on pizza, burgers, fries…all your favorites."
Bill popped in the first game cartridge and then sat back in the chair next to Joe's. As they played, Bill told Joe about the elaborate plans they had made for him over the next twenty-four hours. By the time Joe had beaten Bill at several different games, he found he was eagerly looking forward to what was in store for him.
An early dinner was served on the deck over looking the ocean, with Joe's favorite CD's playing in the background. Conversation revolved around baseball, football, auto racing and girls. During a lull in the conversation, Brett turned Joe's attention to a brand new Jet Ski and surfboard on the sand near the water.
"You'll be putting those to good use tomorrow," he told Joe.
"Really?" Joe replied excitedly. "I can't wait!"
"That's not all," Bobby said, winking at Bill. "When you go home, everything here will go home with you."
"What?" Joe asked, certain he had misunderstood.
"It's all yours. The jet-ski, the surfboard, the entertainment center, flat-screen TV, all the games, CD's, DVD's… everything," Bill said, as the three men smiled, thoroughly pleased with themselves.
"But…" Joe began.
"Wow, look at the time!" Brett exclaimed. "We better get going or we'll miss the first pitch."
Getting up, Brett went back into the house and Joe watched as he spoke into some kind of intercom then returned to the deck.
"He's bringing the car around," Brett told the other two men, who stood and indicated Joe should do the same.
"But what about this stuff?" Joe waved his hand over the food and dishes on the table. "We can't just leave it here."
"Don't worry," Bobby laughed. "The maid will take care of it."
And so Joe's adventure continued. The foursome took a limousine into the city and watched a hard fought, nail biter of a baseball game, with the Yankees eking out a win. Joe had taken advantage of every luxury the private box offered and was stunned when, at the end of the game, Bill, Bobby and Brett presented him with an authentic leather Yankees baseball jacket, which Joe proudly wore on the ride back to the beach.
That night Joe spent some time in the Jacuzzi in the master bedroom, which had a stunning view of the moonlight shining off the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Afterwards, he beat Bobby and Brett several more times on the Wii before ending the evening by watching a few of his favorite movies on DVD, while munching contentedly on his favorite snacks.
The next morning Joe was awakened early to begin his day. The foursome took a ride up the coast on the limited edition Harley Davidson motorcycles that were parked in the garage. Upon returning, they had a leisurely breakfast, after which Joe beat each of his hosts at a game of pool.
After changing into swim trunks, Joe followed Bill, Bobby and Brett down to the beach barely able to contain his excitement. It took Joe several minutes to decide what he wanted to do first, but finally Joe settled on a short round of surfing the waves before his much anticipated first ride on the state of the art Jet Ski.
Bill, Brett and Bobby watched from the shore where they sat soaking up the sun and sipping on cool drinks. One by one, Joe convinced each of them to take a wild ride as his passenger, before concluding his afternoon of fun in the sun with one final solo ride.
As the four walked back towards the mansion, Bill glanced at his watch. "Well, Joe, it's time to go home," he announced, a trace of sadness in his voice. He suddenly realized he had enjoyed the past twenty-four hours as much as Joe obviously had.
"Do I have to?" Joe asked, crestfallen.
The three men laughed at Joe's request to be held hostage a little bit longer. "Sorry, Joe. We've had a blast too and would love to have you stay longer, but in the note we sent to your family, we promised you'd be returned unharmed in twenty-four hours."
"And we always keep our word," Bobby said, seriously.
"I understand," Joe said, sadly, but quickly recovered, remembering to thank his hosts. "But I want you guys to know, this was the best twenty-four hours of my entire life! I wish all my kidnappings were like this! I'll never forget it! Thanks, guys!"
"And don't forget, everything you used here is yours to keep. It'll be delivered to your house tomorrow," Bill reminded him.
After changing their clothes the four had a farewell lunch of burgers and fries, with Joe continuing to thank his new found friends for their generosity. As they stood to leave, Joe took one final look at the ocean, with the sun glimmering off the waves and said a silent goodbye.
Over an hour later, a long black limousine pulled up in front of the Hardy home on the corner of High and Elm Streets. Joe got out and thanked Bill, Brett and Bobby one more time, waving as the limo disappeared down the street. A moment later, the front door of the house opened and Frank, Laura and Fenton came running out quickly surrounding Joe.
Frank was the first to reach him and he immediately enveloped Joe in bone crushing hug.
"Joe!! Thank God, you're back!! I thought I'd never see you again!" Frank cried out.
"Frank, I'm fine," Joe assured him, trying desperately to escape his brother's loving, yet somewhat painful embrace.
Finally, Frank released his younger brother, but stood staring at him intently, studying his younger brother until he was satisfied that Joe was indeed fine. He then stepped aside as Laura and Fenton hugged their younger son, with Laura adding a kiss on his cheek.
Fenton put his hands on Joe's shoulders and looked at him seriously. "What happened Joe? Who kidnapped you? Did they say why? Would you be able to identify them?" He fired off the questions in quick succession.
"Well…uh…" Joe stammered.
He didn't want to lie, but he knew his father would want his kidnappers arrested for what they had done, no matter how well they had treated him.
As Joe stood trying to come up with a way to answer his father's question, without identifying his kidnappers, a brand new, bright red Ferrari pulled into the driveway beside them.
A young man with light brown hair stepped out. Sunglasses and a baseball cap obscured his face somewhat, giving him a very ordinary look. He looked over the Hardy family, his gaze finally resting on Joe.
"Joe Hardy?" he asked simply.
"Yes," Joe replied.
Wordlessly, the young man handed Joe an envelope. Before Joe could even look inside, a black car pulled up to the curb, the young man got in and the car vanished down the street.
Joe opened the envelope and looked inside. He pulled out a folded note and a set of car keys attached to a black leather Ferrari key chain. Fingering the keys in one hand, Joe read the note to himself.
"Joe, Here's a little something extra to remember us by. Enjoy! The Three B's."
Looking up, Joe stared at his new car, mesmerized. Taking a few steps forward, he lovingly ran his hand over the shiny red paint.
'Now that's my kind of kidnapping!' Joe thought to himself with a smile, wondering why they all couldn't turn out like that…