A/N: I wrote most of this story back when you were still allowed to meet arriving passengers at the gate and I'm too lazy to rewrite the first chapter, so let's just pretend, okay? ;-)

Yup, those pesky multiple POV's are still here.

This was written back in 2001, for a good friend, with verycareful consideration given to her specific likes and dislikes in a story! It is rated T for violence in the first half of the story and is probably a little more graphic than I normally get, but that's what my friend liked. And yes, it's another Joe kidnap story, again in accordance with my friend's favorite type of story. So if that doesn't float your boat, don't bother telling me how boring it is, how you've seen it all before, how unoriginal it is, blah, blah, blah because I really don't care. If you don't like it, don't read it. Also, I've disabled the anonymous comments for this story. I can't stand the cowards and bullies (and that IS what they are) who like to hide behind that button to flame or criticize what doesn't cater to their own personal likes and dislikes or that they don't 'approve' of. Have the guts to stand behind your opinions or don't say anything at all. Okay? Okay. ;-)

Disclaimer: Still don't own them. Will put them back in reasonably good shape when I'm done.

Vanished

Chapter 1

Vanessa Bender watched anxiously as the last few passengers disembarked from the plane. The 23-year-old with ash blonde hair and blue-grey eyes had come to the airport to pick up her fiancé, Joe Hardy. She was absolutely sure she hadn't missed him in the early crush of people who had initially gotten off the plane. At five-feet-eleven-inches tall, she could easily see over the heads of the people who had been crowded into the lounge area, waiting for friends and loved ones.

As she watched the pilots and flight attendants finally make their way off the aircraft, her anxiety turned to concern and she approached the counter.

"Excuse me, I'm sorry to bother you," Vanessa interrupted the gate agent.

The dark haired woman with matching brown eyes smiled at Vanessa. "Yes, how can I help you?"

"My fiancé was supposed to be on this flight, but he never got off the plane. I was here before the plane arrived so I know I didn't miss him," she said, growing increasingly worried.

"Maybe he just got stuck in traffic on his way to the airport and missed the flight," the agent tried to reassure Vanessa. "Let me see if he got rolled over to the next flight. What's his name?"

"Joe Hardy. But he called me from the airport. He had already checked in and had a boarding pass for this flight," Vanessa replied, worry now clouding her pretty face.

"Hmmm. Let's see." The agent's fingers worked the keyboard as she kept a close eye on the monitor. Frowning, she picked up the phone and dialed a number. After a few moments she began to speak.

"Hi, Melissa. This is Sherri, in Bayport. I'm trying to locate a passenger who seems to have gone AWOL," she said, winking at Vanessa, who managed a tight smile in return.

"Joe Hardy," Sherri continued. "Flight 1011. It shows he checked in and got a boarding pass but for some reason he never boarded the plane. Sure, I'll hold."

Sherri looked at Vanessa. "She didn't work that flight but she's going to find someone who did." Noting the look of worry on Vanessa's face, Sherri reached out and patted her hand comfortingly.

Tensing slightly, Vanessa resisted the urge to pull her hand away. She had always been outgoing and affectionate but ever since the rape, she hated being touched by anyone other than Joe and even then it was sometimes "iffy".

"Don't worry," Sherri continued. "O'Hare is one of the largest airports in the world. He probably just lost track of time in the bookstore or the food court and missed the flight. Believe it or not, that happens every day," she said reassuringly. "What? Really?" Sherri resumed her conversation with the person on the other end of the line. "How odd. Okay, thanks for checking." Sherri hung up the phone and looked at Vanessa again, this time with sympathy.

"He did check in for the flight and was issued a boarding pass but never got on. He was paged several times and they even held the flight, waiting for him. Some of the gate agents remembered seeing him talking on a cell phone in the lounge area."

Vanessa's eyes started to water.

"He was talking to you?" Sherri asked quietly.

Vanessa simply nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

"Just before they began boarding, one of the flight attendants saw him leave the lounge area. She said he was heading towards the rest room. She got busy when they started boarding and never saw him again after that." Sherri paused, watching the obviously distraught young woman in front of her and wondered if she should tell her the rest of what her colleague in Chicago had conveyed.

"Did they say anything else?" Vanessa asked in a small voice.

"Well, there are only two more flights coming in tonight from Chicago and he hasn't checked in for either one. They even paged him again while I was holding just now, but he never answered the page." Sherri felt bad for Vanessa, seeing she was on the verge of tears. "I'm sorry. I wish I could be more helpful. Is there someone I can call for you?"

Vanessa shook her head no. "I'll call his brother. Joe may have called him."

"Okay. Please let me know if I can do anything else for you."

"Thanks for checking," Vanessa replied and turned away from the counter.

She made her way to an empty section of the lounge area and pulled out her cell phone. It just wasn't like Joe not to check in with her if he had a change of plans. They had just spoken a few hours ago. They made plans to go to Prito's Italian Restaurant for dinner after she picked him up.

Joe had flown to Chicago that morning with some papers that needed a client's signature immediately. He was to get the papers signed and notarized and return home early that evening. Vanessa remembered how tightly he had held her before boarding the plane that morning, as if they were going to be apart for months instead of just a few hours. He may have only been gone since that morning, but Vanessa now realized how terribly she missed him.

She dialed Joe's cell phone, hoping he did indeed just get distracted by something and simply missed the flight, although she knew deep inside he would have called to tell her. When she got his voice mail, she knew without a doubt something was very wrong. With shaking hands, Vanessa dialed Frank Hardy's number.

'Please be there, Frank,' she thought as a few tears finally escaped and slid down her cheeks.

"Hello?"

"Frank?"

"Hey, Van. Did Joe get home safe and sound?" he asked cheerfully.

"No," she choked out. "He never got on the plane. Frank, he's disappeared."