Summary: While keeping a suspect under surveillance, Joe's wish to avoid 'death by boredom' seems to have come true – at Frank's expense. A little Hardy humor because sometimes you just need to laugh! :D
Big thanks to Phx for the beta and making sure the characters stayed in character! Frank thanks you! ;-)
Disclaimer: Still don't own them!
Until We Meet Again
Twenty-four-year old Joe Hardy drained the last remaining liquid in his coffee cup, put it back on the saucer a little harder than necessary and sighed dramatically as he stared out the window of the diner. "I really hate these assignments," he griped to his older brother. "Have I mentioned that?"
"Not in the last fifteen minutes," Frank said dryly as he signaled the waitress for another refill.
"Well I do." Joe shifted in the booth, trying to get comfortable. "I mean I really hate them. We've been sitting here for over an hour already! I think my butt fell asleep." He sighed again and drummed his fingers on the table annoyingly. "I really think we should try my idea. I'm telling you it would work. It's brilliant!"
Hardy and Sons Investigations newest client, an insurance company, had suspected one of their workers compensation cases had turned into insurance fraud. The man in question had gotten a legitimate injury while on the job. According to all the doctors involved, he should have been more than recovered enough to return to full duty weeks earlier, yet the man insisted he was still in excruciating pain and unable to return to even the lightest duty job available. The insurance company was continuing to pay for therapy and lost wages, however when neither the man's own personal physician nor the insurance company's doctor could find any concrete reason for the man's supposed symptoms, they decided it would be more cost effective to prove he was milking the system than continue to pay out on his claim indefinitely.
With their parents on a well-deserved month-long cruise and the firm's fourth partner, Sam Radley, working another case, Frank and Joe were left to handle this one. They had been shadowing the man in question for the past two days with little to show for their efforts. Faced with the prospect of yet another day of 'mind-numbingly boring' surveillance, Joe had come up with what he thought was the perfect way to prove whether or not the man was truly faking his injury.
Currently waiting for their suspect to finish a physical therapy appointment, Joe had suggested that when the man exited the building and made his way to the somewhat secluded parking lot, Joe could approach him and 'pretend' to rob the man. Going on the assumption the man would run, Joe concluded Frank could get all the evidence they needed with his digital camera and they could be home by lunchtime.
"It's original, I'll give you that," Frank smiled. "But there's no guarantee the guy would run. What if he just hands over his wallet?"
"Then I take it and run and he chases me. Either way you get the pictures, we prove he's faking it, the case is closed and we don't have to worry about dying of boredom."
"And you get arrested for petty theft," Frank pointed out taking a sip of his coffee. "That's if he even chases you. He could be a wuss, just hand over his wallet and wait for you to take off. Yeah… it's brilliant."
Joe mumbled something less than complimentary in reply and they fell into silence once more. Joe was staring out the window and Frank was staring into his coffee cup when an attractive woman approached the table. Immediately Joe swung his gaze towards her. Taking in her long auburn hair, almost gold colored eyes and curvy figure, his mouth automatically quirked up into an appreciative smile – but he may as well have been invisible.
The woman had stopped next to the table, her eyes firmly fixed on Frank. For a minute she simply stared at him, causing the elder Hardy to squirm. Joe's smile grew as he watched the strange interaction with amusement, but his jaw dropped when the woman reached out and lovingly placed her hand over Frank's.
"It's been so long," she murmured breathlessly, curling her fingers around his.
Joe felt his eyebrows shoot up in stunned surprise and his jaw dropped slightly. Frank yanked his hand away as if he'd been electrocuted, looking as surprised as Joe felt.
"I'm sorry," Frank said, politely but firmly, "I think you've mistaken me for someone else."
She smiled and looked at him as if he were a confused child. "No, I'm not mistaken. But it has been a long time."
Mesmerized by the conversation, Joe absently reached for his water glass almost knocking it over.
"I'm sorry," Frank said more forcefully this time, "but I've never seen you before in my life."
The woman nodded in agreement. "Well yes, that's true. At least not in this lifetime." As Joe lifted the glass and took a drink she added, "But we were lovers in a previous life."
Joe inhaled sharply, choked on the water and slapped a hand over his mouth, unable to swallow between the choking and suppressed laughter. Finally giving in, he turned his head to the right, spewing what was left of the water on the table, trying not to snort as he laughed. Grabbing a handful of napkins, he wiped the table, his shirt and hands, and then swiped at his eyes, trying to stop the flow of laughter-induced tears. Lifting his head, he swung a blurred gaze at his brother and thought he'd never seen a brighter shade of red than the hue that currently colored Frank's face.
Frank was staring at the woman now, open-mouthed and obviously lost for words.
"Oh, I can see you don't remember." She sighed, disappointment coloring her words.
"No, I can't say that I do," Frank finally replied.
"Well it was almost two hundred years ago."
Joe snickered, downing another gulp of water when Frank glared at him.
"But we were very close," the woman continued, leaning closer to Frank. She reached for his hand again, caressing it lovingly. "Are you sure you don't remember anything?" By now her face was only inches from Frank's.
Joe made sputtering noises, barely able to keep the laughter from exploding.
Frank spared him one murderous glare before removing the woman's hand from his own and firmly placing it on the table. "Yes, I'm sure."
The woman stared at him for a long moment, then reached out her hand hovering close to Frank's cheek as he instinctively leaned back away from her. "That's alright, darling. Our time together is etched in my memory." She winked and headed for the door. Stopping in the doorway, she turned and gave Frank one last, lust-filled look before slipping on her sunglasses and continuing out the door.
Joe grinned as he leaned across the table and smacked Frank's arm. "Dude! You been holdin' out on me!"
Very slowly Frank turned towards him, spearing him with a withering look. "Joe…" he said warningly.
Nonplussed, Joe continued. "Lovers, huh? In a previous life, no less… And people give me a hard time just because I like to look. You dog, you."
Frank closed his eyes and took a long, slow breath. "Joe, if you say one word about this to anybody…"
"Say something?" Joe said innocently. "Nope, not a word. I wouldn't do that to my big bro," he promised. He waited until Frank visibly relaxed and then added gleefully. "I'm gonna take out a billboard!"
'I'm gonna kill him…'
Frank was staring out the window, fantasizing about the various ways he could inflict a slow and painful death on his younger brother when the door to the physical therapy office across the street opened and their suspect, leaning heavily on a walker, shuffled out into the bright sunshine.
Frank threw some money on the table and, cursing the distraction of the beautiful woman, quickly followed Joe who was already out the door. By the time Frank made it outside, Joe was across the street a discreet distance behind the man.
Frank caught up and pulled his brother to a stop. "He's not heading for the parking lot," Frank murmured. They continued to follow the man at an excruciatingly slow pace until he finally went into a pharmacy a few doors down from the therapy office.
The brothers followed him in, splitting up once inside the store. Frank meandered behind the man keeping him in sight, while Joe broke off to the left and walked up the aisle, stopping at the opposite end. He pretended to be examining the items on the end cap while watching the suspect slowly walk towards him.
Picking up one of the boxes from the display, Joe held it up as if reading the label, allowing him to watch the man's progress as he tottered up the aisle and passed Joe, finally stopping at the pharmacy counter.
"He's getting a prescription filled," Joe murmured as Frank came to a stop beside him.
They waited until the man had given the pharmacy technician his prescription and was making his way towards the chairs in the waiting area when his phone rang.
"Hello? Yeah, done with my appointment; I'm getting my prescription refilled."
Joe glanced at his brother and lifted a shoulder, wondering whom the man was talking to.
"Well, how long will you be? Twenty minutes?"
"Must be whoever drove him," Frank said quietly.
"Okay… when I'm done here I'll just go wait in the car. Right… bye."
Frank watched the man make his way to the chairs and gently lower himself into one. "I have an idea."
"What was wrong with my idea?" Joe demanded.
"You mean aside from the fact that it would get you thrown in jail? Though at the moment that might not be a bad idea…"
"Just wait here," Frank said. "Keep an eye on him and if he's ready to leave before I get back, stall him." He started to leave, hesitated and then turned back to Joe, grinning. "And Joe… that's a lousy cover." He tilted his head towards the box still clutched in Joe's hand, chuckled and walked away.
Frowning in confusion, Joe finally looked at the box he was holding. His eyes widened for a second and he felt his cheeks grow warm. Tossing the box of tampons back on the shelf and hurrying over to the magazine rack, he pulled out the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. Leaning back against the wall, Joe opened the magazine and watched their suspect, hoping the embarrassed flush in his cheeks would hurry and fade away.
Ten minutes later, Frank tapped him on the shoulder. "Let's go."
Joe tossed the magazine back on the rack and followed his brother towards the front of the store. "Where are we going? And what about him?"
They walked back outside and turned down the street. Frank opened his mouth to explain his plan when Joe grabbed his arm, yanking him to a stop and grinned excitedly. "Don't look now but your lover is headed our way."
Frank glanced in the direction Joe indicated and saw the exotic, dark-haired beauty heading straight for them. A moment later, she stopped in front of Frank, removed her sunglasses and gazed up at him adoringly.
"We meet again." Her voice was low and seductive. "I think it's fate, no?"
"No!" Frank blurted out, unnerved at the intensity of her stare.
She laughed, low and deep, amused at his nervousness. "It's alright my darling." She leaned closer, her voice a husky whisper, her eyes filled with desire. "I remember well enough for the both of us."
Frank blushed to the very top of his head.
"Excuse me," Joe said politely.
The woman tore her gaze away from Frank and looked at Joe as if just noticing him for the first time. "Yes?"
"Uh, by any chance did he have a brother in this previous life?"
The sultry eyes immediately returned to Frank's face and she reached out, tenderly laying a hand on his arm. "Yes and no," she answered cryptically, smiling when Frank took a step back, out of her reach. "Our parents forbade us to see each other. Our siblings did not approve, but we knew our love was meant to be. We shunned them all and ran away to a place where no one knew us, so we could be together and freely express our love for each other without fear of recrimination."
Frank shook his head in disbelief. "Yes, well… it was nice meeting you… again. But we really need to be going."
"Of course, darling…" The woman stared at him a moment longer making no attempt to mask her desire, before slowly walking away.
Exhaling loudly, Frank started walking purposefully down the street again.
Joe quickly caught up, clearly tickled at running into the woman again and slapped him on the arm. "Dude! You shunned me! For a chick! Granted she's a really hot chick… smokin' hot, but still… you shunned me!"
Frank kept walking towards the parking lot. "And if you don't drop this now I'm going to shun you in this life too."
Joe jumped in front of him and poked him in the chest triumphantly "HA! So you admit it!! You did have a past life and you do remember her!"
Frank looked at him as if he were crazy. "What?!"
"You just said if I didn't shut up you were going to shun me in this life, too." He poked at Frank again. "TOO! That means you had to remember shunning me in your previous life because you can't shun me again if you don't remember doing it the first time!" Joe stopped and beamed triumphantly.
Frank stared at him for a moment in utter disbelief and then scrubbed a hand over his face in clear frustration, muttering to himself. "God, we cannot possibly be related. One of us had to be switched at birth." He turned on his heel and started walking again, Joe hurrying to keep up. "It's the only logical explanation."
"So now that you remember, are you gonna tell Callie? And can I watch? Hey," Joe elbowed Frank who sped up a little more. "Was she this hot in your past life too? Your lover, I mean, not Callie." Suddenly he grabbed Frank's arm, yanking him to a stop and spinning him around. "Dude – was Callie in your past life, too?" Joe didn't wait for a response as he rubbed his hands together gleefully. "Oh man – a cat fight! Over you!! Who woulda guessed, huh?"
Frank grabbed his shoulders and shook him roughly. "Joe! Focus. On. The. Case!"
Joe wriggled free and took a step back. "Right. Focus." He gave Frank a mock salute. "Focusing, sir. Totally focused."
"No, really, I'm serious," Joe promised as he fell in step next to Frank. "So let's hear this plan of yours.
Reaching the physical therapy office, they turned right and walked to the parking lot behind the building. "Okay, we're working on the assumption this guy is completely recovered and he's just faking his injury to milk as much money out of the system as possible, right?"
"So he's basically greedy."
Now in the deserted parking lot Frank stopped and pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket, unfolding the bills. "While you were keeping an eye on our guy, I went to the bank and got these." He fanned out the stack of 50 and 100-dollar bills.
Joe whistled as his eyes widened. "That's what – a thousand bucks?"
"Yup. Now while you stand watch out there," Frank tilted his head back towards the street. "I'm going to place these around the parking lot in a few strategic locations. Places where they are easily seen but whoever finds them has to bend, reach, stretch or lift something to actually get to the money."
"Ahhh," Joe's eyes lit up. "We plant the money, wait for our greedy friend to show up and snag it! We get it all with your digital camera and viola – another case solved!"
"Hopefully it'll be that easy," Frank grinned. "Okay, go keep watch. If anyone other than our guy tries to come back here, use that Joe Hardy charm and stall them."
Joe headed back out to the street and leaned against the building. Keeping a watch on the entrance to the pharmacy several doors down, he appeared to be doing nothing more than people watching and killing time. It was less than ten minutes later when he saw the man they'd been tailing come out of the pharmacy and start the slow shuffle down the street towards the parking lot. He waited until the man was close enough that no one could precede him into the parking lot and then Joe hurried back to his brother. Frank was just placing the last bill on the ground and then anchoring it place with a heavy cinderblock. "He's on his way."
"Great. We're all set." Frank pointed to a spot at the far end of the lot where they could remain hidden yet still have a perfect view of the entire area. "Let's go."
A moment later, the man finally appeared, shuffling slowly towards his car. The boys watched as one of the 100-dollar bills Frank had stuck in the very top of the chain link fence caught his attention. Stopping the man peered at the bill a little closer, his eyes widening considerably. He shuffled closer still and then looked around the parking lot furtively.
"Sucker," Joe murmured, grinning. "He's gonna go for it."
Sure enough the man dropped all pretense of injury and strode over to the fence. Reaching up, he found the bill was just out of his reach. Glancing around he saw the cinder blocks scattered around the ground and grabbed one dragging it closer to the fence.
As Frank clicked away with the powerful camera, the man stepped up onto the cement block and stretched upwards, grabbing the bill off the fence. Pulling it off the top of the fence he examined it more closely and then smiled widely. Folding the bill he tucked it into his shirt pocket and jumped off the block.
Now ensnared in Frank's trap, the man began to scrutinize the area surrounding him. Finding more and more of the bills he became more animated, climbing, lifting, jumping and doing whatever was necessary to retrieve them.
"What an idiot!" Joe said in a harsh whisper. "I mean he's faking an injury and it's not like all that cash is just sitting there! He's getting a workout picking it all up. He doesn't think there's something just a little bit odd about that??"
Frank laughed softly. "I guess Dad's right – criminals are inherently stupid!"
"Well this one is, that's for sure!"
The brothers watched as the man eventually tracked down all the money and then, much to their amazement, picked up his walker, tossed it in the back of the car and settled in the passenger seat to count out his newfound fortune.
Frank held up the camera and grinned. "I think our work here is done."
"So where'd that money come from anyway?" Joe asked as the brothers started back to the side street where Frank had originally parked his car.
"I took it out of the business account. I wrote down all the serial numbers of the bills. We have enough proof now so that the cops can get a search warrant." Frank nodded towards the camera in his hands as he clicked through the pictures. "If they get over to his house this afternoon he'll probably still have all the money on him. That'll pretty much tie this case up with a big red bow."
Joe slapped him on the back. "I gotta hand it to you, bro. That was a great plan! Now if we can-" He stopped mid-sentence and stared for a moment at the approaching figure. "I don't believe it…"
"Don't believe what?" Frank finally looked up. "Oh crap!"
The now familiar sultry woman had just finished a cell phone call and turned towards the brothers. Glancing up as she walked down the street, she saw Frank, a slow smile spreading across her face.
"Three times in one day," she said, pinning Frank with a longing look. "I think the gods of fate are trying to tell us something." Reaching out she squeezed his hand.
Ignoring Joe's obvious delight at yet another chance meeting with the woman, Frank pulled his hand away and responded politely, but firmly. "No offense, but I prefer to think of it as coincidence. After all, this is a rather small town."
She smiled, clearly amused at Frank's apparent denial of their 'previous relationship'. "If that's what you prefer. Well then… until we meet again in another life…" The woman gazed into his eyes for another moment before she reluctantly walked past them and melted into the crowd.
Frank turned to his brother, who was grinning broadly, and glared.
"What?" Joe said innocently.
Shaking his head resignedly, Frank let out a heavy sigh and began walking again. As they headed back to the car, Frank heard Joe snickering and knew he had to take care of this now, before it went any further. Stopping abruptly he turned on his younger brother and glowered. "Joe, if you ever breathe a word of this to anyone you are dead."
Joe stared at him silently, nodding his head in agreement, even as his eye shone with glee.
"Dead!" Frank repeated, poking Joe in the chest for emphasis.
"Got it," Joe repeated, trying so hard to smother a grin. "Dead."
Frank stared hard, daggers shooting from his eyes. "I mean it, Joe. Not… one… word." Spinning on his heel, Frank strode purposefully towards the car. He could hear Joe behind him, hurrying to keep pace and thought he might be able to relax.
'Maybe just this once…'
His hopes were shattered when he heard Joe's voice. His kid brother was practically cackling.
"Biff! Dude, you're not gonna believe this!"
Frank's shoulders slumped and he trudged the last few steps to the car. Opening the door he threw himself inside and banged his head lightly against the steering wheel as he listened to Joe telling Biff about his 'long lost lover' with unrestrained delight.
'Why couldn't I have been an only child…'