Thank you to penguincrazy, MissMe113, josie, Miss Fenway, Helen, TraSan, violetsunshine, and everyone who reviewed this story! Hope you enjoy the conclusion. :-)
Frank made his way back to the party and discreetly rounded up Callie and their friends, leading the small group outside. As Biff, Karen, Chet, Liz, Tony and Phil gathered around, he quickly explained what had happened after Biff and Chet left the attic, reassuring Callie he was fine.
"So you think an old enemy might be out for revenge?" Tony asked.
"I don't know what else it could be."
"It could be the curse," Joe said, walking up behind Frank.
Frank closed his eyes, silently counted to ten and reminded himself Joe had just saved his life and it was against the law to murder your own brother.
"Remember, she said the unthinkable would occur on all Hallow's Eve," Joe continued. "I'd say falling through the floor and taking a tumble out the attic window is pretty unthinkable."
Everyone remained silent, waiting for Frank's response. Taking a deep breath, he pulled out his cell phone and began dialing, pointedly ignoring Joe. "I'm calling Dad. Someone we put in prison several years ago, Harold Kruziak, was recently paroled. He had threatened to kill us as soon as he got out."
When his father answered, Frank explained what had happened and then listened, responding with an "uh-huh", "yes" or "no" when appropriate. "Yes, okay. We will. Bye."
Frank ended the call and handed the phone to Chet. "Dad said to call the realtor and let them know what happened. He's on his way. He's going to call Con and ask him to come, too. "
Chet looked at the phone as if it would bite, making no move to take it from Frank.
"Do I have to?" he asked uncomfortably. "No one was supposed to be up in the attic to begin with."
"That didn't seem to bother you when you wanted us to check out the noise," Frank reminded him, forcing the cell phone on him. "Now call."
Reluctantly, Chet took the phone and made the call to the number he'd been given to use for emergencies.
Turning, Frank looked at Joe warningly. "When Con gets here, I'll do the talking."
As Frank looked away, Joe stuck his tongue out at Frank's back, causing Vanessa to erupt in giggles. Slowly, Frank gazed back over his shoulder at Joe and looked at him accusingly.
"What?" Joe asked, wide-eyed and innocent.
"You really think it's that Kruziak guy?" Phil asked Frank, returning to the previous topic of conversation.
Frank glared at his younger brother. "Well, I certainly don't think it's the curse."
"But how did he know we'd be here tonight?" Joe asked. "And how did he get into the attic, carrying whatever he needed to cut the floor, and get up on the roof, without being noticed?"
"I don't know," Frank admitted, "but it's the only logical explanation," he finished, putting an emphasis on the word logical.
Silence descended on the group as they waited, broken by the occasional murmur between couples.
Finally, a pair of headlights appeared and slowly made their way up the long driveway, immediately followed by a second pair. The first car came to a stop and Fenton Hardy emerged. He waited as the second car pulled to a stop and Con Riley got out. The two men walked over to the group of young people.
"Are you both all right?" Fenton asked his sons.
"Yes, we're fine, Dad," Frank replied.
"Oh, really?" Fenton glanced at Joe's bandaged hands and arched an eyebrow.
"I've been well taken care of," Joe assured him, giving Vanessa a peck on the cheek.
Con pulled a small notebook and a pen from his pocket, then looked from Frank to Joe. "Okay, who wants to start?"
"I'll start," Frank answered. "And finish."
Before he could get started, however, Sarah Glades from the realty company that owned the house arrived. Getting out of her car, she rushed over to the small group.
"I understand someone was hurt! What happened?" she asked concerned.
"Ah, just a flesh wound." Joe smiled, holding up his bandaged hands.
"How did it happen?" Sarah asked, peering at Joe's hands.
"An old enemy of ours apparently got into the house sometime before we arrived and cut a hole into the attic floor," Frank explained to the woman, still convinced Harold Kruziak was the culprit. "Liz and Callie kept hearing a creaking sound, like someone was walking around up there, so we went up to investigate. A rocking chair had been placed in front of an open window. The breeze coming in through the window caused the rocker to move and the floor to creak. When Joe started to walk across the room towards the window, he fell through a deliberately cut hole in the floor."
As Frank started to explain the rope leading up to the roof, Sarah interrupted his rundown with a shocking surprise. "That hole in the floor of the attic was deliberately cut," she said, obviously annoyed. "By our construction crew! We're renovating the attic and the basement, and building a large spiral staircase to connect the two. The foreman likes to sit in the rocker and enjoy the view out the window when he eats lunch." She turned her icy gaze on Chet. "You were specifically told the attic and the basement were off limits when you booked this party. It's in the agreement you signed. The door to the attic is padlocked from the outside. How did they get in?"
"Oops," Joe mumbled as he heard his father groan in understanding. Joe slunk down, attempting to hide behind Vanessa.
"Joe…" he heard his father's stern voice.
"Well, Frank told me to do it!" Joe replied sounding for all the world like a six year old who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
"Joe!" Frank yelled.
"Well, you did!"
"Can somebody please explain to me what's going on?!" Sarah finally asked in exasperation.
"I believe my son picked the lock to get into the attic." Fenton's eyes never wavered from Joe. "Is that right, Joe?"
"Yes," Joe said dejectedly, quickly adding. "But Frank told me to!" Fenton continued staring at his son with a look Joe knew all too well. Sighing, he turned to Sarah. "I'm sorry about picking the lock." He apologized and flashed his most charming smile.
She studied Joe for a moment trying to decide if the apology was sincere. "Apology accepted," she finally replied. "But the fact that you got hurt is your own fault. They weren't supposed to be up there," she reminded Fenton.
"Agreed," Fenton responded.
"Well, the renovations explain the hole in the floor," Frank admitted, grudgingly.
"That part of the house is directly over the basement. There are no floors in between," Sarah explained further.
"I can vouch for that," Joe cracked.
"We thought a spiral staircase spanning several levels would be a nice addition to the house. And it would open up the use of the attic and basement once the renovations are complete."
Fenton sighed, gazing at his two sons. "Well, it looks like that mystery has been cleared up."
"But it doesn't explain the rope," Frank said, refusing to give up on his theory. "After we pulled Joe up out of the hole in the floor, we checked out the open window. There was a rope hanging down from the roof, just above the window. I climbed up the rope…"
"WHAT?!" Sarah cried out in disbelief, then whirled on Fenton. "Are your sons always this much trouble?"
"If she only knew," Con commented under his breath. He had put away his pen and notebook several minutes earlier and was now watching in amusement as Frank and Joe tried to talk their way out of the situation.
"That rope was put there by the construction crew!" Sarah explained, her patience wearing thin. "Some of the equipment they needed to cut the floor was too heavy to carry up all those stairs. They used a crane and the rope to get the heavy equipment in through the window."
"Oh," Frank replied, meekly. "So there was no mystery? No hidden meaning? No plot to kill us?" he asked his father, now feeling thoroughly embarrassed.
"I wouldn't say that," Fenton replied, as amused as Con was but trying not to let it show. "I do think there is a hidden meaning here."
"Really?" Frank perked up, hoping to salvage a little bit of pride.
"The hidden meaning is… you two need to learn how to relax and have some fun." He smiled. "Stop seeing something sinister around every corner."
Frank and Joe exchanged embarrassed grins as the small gathering broke out into laughter followed by some good-natured teasing.
After Frank and Joe apologized to Sarah once again, she agreed not to shut down their party as long as they agreed to stay out of the attic and basement. Satisfied, she got into her car and returned home. The rest of the young people returned to the party, while Frank and Joe walked their father and Con to their cars.
Con looked at the brothers, shaking his head and muttering something about trouble and magnets, before getting into his car and driving away.
Climbing into his car, Fenton Hardy rolled down the window, looked at his sons and sighed. "Now do you two think you can manage to stay out of trouble for the rest of the evening?"
Frank opened his mouth to answer and was drowned out by the sound of the massive grandfather clock in the entranceway of the house as it chimed twelve times announcing the arrival of midnight.
"I can guarantee it," Joe said confidently.
Frank and Fenton both looked at him, confused.
"It's midnight." He grinned mischievously. "No more curse."
"That's it, Joe!" Frank advanced on his younger brother. "I told you NOT to mention that word again!"
"But…but…" Joe stammered, quickly backing away from Frank, realizing nothing he could come up with would pacify Frank this time.
As Joe took off running towards the house with his brother in hot pursuit, Fenton erupted in laughter wondering if Joe would be the final victim of the curse, having met his untimely demise at the hands of an older brother who had been pushed too far…
Happy Halloween! :D