Written for glasheen25 for nancy drew yuletide 2010. Enjoy!
One more hour. One more hour until the meeting was to take place.
For weeks, Nancy had been working alongside Frank and Joe Hardy to track down a mob boss – one who had taken five lives and wasn't hesitant to take more. Joe had gone deep undercover – even more so than Nancy – as he joined the mob to gain the mob leader's trust.
Now, nearly three weeks later, Nancy was meeting Joseph Barns, mob boss extraordinaire, in the most risky under-cover operation she had ever done.
"Are you sure you're okay with this?"
"Because if you aren't…"
Nancy looked straight into Frank's dark brown eyes. "I want to do this," she said firmly.
Ned, of course, had been against it. "It's a death sentence, Nancy, if he recognizes you. He's already seen you once; I don't think a wig will do much good."
"But if I don't do this, we'll never catch him. He'll be out of the country before anyone else can get as close as we are now."
"We'll be there, too – just not in sight, of course," Frank said.
"Yeah. That makes me feel better," Ned said. "Nancy…"
"I'll be fine."
Ned had taken her in his arms, then, and held her close. He gave her one last kiss. "Promise me you'll come back in one piece. Promise me you'll come back at all."
Nancy kissed him gently. "Don't be crazy. Of course I'm coming back. I promise."
Now, Nancy examined her outfit in her bedroom mirror. A curly black wig replaced her blonde hair and her dress was short to the point of being almost slutty, but that was exactly the point. The only thing she lacked was makeup. "No one incorporated in a mob would wear makeup," Bess had said matter-of-factly. She said it so calmly.
As if this wasn't dangerous.
As if this wasn't an absolutely terrible idea.
Nancy walked over to her desk and picked up her engagement ring. She hated to take it off, especially with Ned's anger at the situation, but it had to be done, and they all knew it.
Suddenly, the doorbell rang. She went downstairs, where Frank and Joe were waiting. When they saw her, Joe's eyebrows went up and Frank's mouth opened slightly. She grinned.
"Close your mouth, Hardy, I'm engaged."
Frank shook his head. "Believe me, I know," he said. "Ready?"
She nodded. "Let's go."
The restaurant they met at was nice – the type of place that required days advance notice to guarantee a table. When she arrived, she was greeted by a hostess. "Name, please?"
"Elizabeth Straus," Nancy replied.
"Right this way, please."
She was led to a table in one of the far corners of the restaurant. A man was waiting for her. As she approached, he stood. "Ms. Straus. What a pleasure to finally meet you." Nancy extended her hand, and he kissed it. "Go on, have a seat."
"It isn't often I agree to meet with any lone stranger off the street, but I've heard a lot about you from my employees. From what I hear, you're good at what you do, no?"
"So they say," she replied.
"Ah, you're modest. So. Let's get down to business."
"Absolutely. Tell me a little about how you work."
They spoke in code – a code Nancy had studied long ago when she had researched this particular assignment. As he went into details on their business, Nancy pushed the record button on the tiny recorder she was wearing, which had been disguised cleverly in her dress. She hung on to his every word. Finally, he asked, "So what is your desired pay?"
"Two hundred per job," she replied.
Joseph sat back in his chair and raised his eyebrows. "That's a bit pricey, my dear."
"If you want the best, you've got to pay for it," she replied coolly. "And I am the best."
He hesitated a moment, staring at her long and hard. He then smiled. "Your modest behavior is gone, I see. Well, why don't we take this conversation elsewhere? Somewhere more private, perhaps?"
Instinct told her to run. Ditch him, ditch the assignment all together. The detective in her, however, told her otherwise. She agreed with the latter.
She hooked her arm through his and allowed him to lead her out the double doors.
The night was quiet and peaceful. The wind had died down, leaving nothing but a slow breeze and the smell of approaching rain in the air.
She was led to a waiting limousine. A chauffeur opened her door, and Joseph helped her in before getting in on the other side.
"So where are we going now?" she asked.
The mob boss slid closer to her. "I thought we'd have a little chat," he said. "Back at our little set-up. If that's alright with you, love."
"Of course. It's the perfect place to talk business."
"You've been working in this business for quite some time now, haven't you, Ms. Straus?" Joseph asked.
Nancy nodded. "I was practically born into this type of work."
"Then I'm sure you know that in this business, you can't trust anyone. You don't believe anything anyone says." He was uncomfortably close to her now. He leaned in as if to kiss her, but last minute moved toward her ear and whispered, "Not even the best. Isn't that right, Ms. Drew?"
Nancy tried to show no emotion, no recognition of the name, but she knew that her face instantly went white. "I—don't know what you're talking about, I assure you."
"Really." He reached beneath the seat and produced a gun. "Let's refresh your memory."
"What do you mean she's missing?" Ned practically yelled.
Frank and Joe took several steps back. "I don't know," Frank said. "She was supposed to check in with us at the one hour mark, or as soon as she got enough information. But she never checked in."
"And Joseph never took her back to his main place of business," Joe added. "I would have seen her."
Ned sank into the nearest chair. "Whatever happened to you protecting her? That backup you promised? What happened to it all?"
"I don't know," Frank said softly.
For a long moment, the three young men sat in complete silence in the Hardy's living room. Finally, Ned stood. "I'm going to the police station to see if they've come up with anything. As for you—" Ned glared at Frank. "If they hurt her, I swear you'll regret it the rest of your life." And with that, he left.
Nancy did not return home that night. They stayed optimistic, but the next night came and went. The police soon became discouraged.
"It's been over forty-eight hours. We'll continue looking, of course, but if she hasn't shown up by now…"
The detective didn't have to finish. They weren't looking for a missing person anymore; they were looking for a body.
The police searched day and night. Volunteers got together and searched abandoned and little-used areas. Almost the entire town was involved in the search for the missing detective. Finally, four days after her disappearance, she was found.
A frantic woman called the police station to report that she had found a woman's body two miles south of a local lake. Police arrived minutes later.
She was covered with cuts and bruises, unconscious and barely breathing. She was taken by Life Flight to the nearest hospital, where she was immediately taken in for surgery for internal injuries.
Everyone gathered in the hospital waiting room – Carson Drew, Hannah Gruen, Ned, Bess, George, and the Hardys. Ned and Carson paced the floor anxiously, passing one another as they went from wall to wall. Joe was on the telephone with his parents to update them on what very little they knew. The three women remained seated, their heads bowed in silent prayer.
Frank had remained in one of the cold, hard backed chairs also. However, he did not prayer, but instead stared at the piece of paper in his hand.
A note had been found in Nancy's jacket pocket, addressed to 'Frank and Joe Hardy.'
'You know we don't play games. If our first meeting wasn't enough for you, maybe this is. Keep it up and the next time she'll be dead.'
Someone touched his shoulder suddenly, and he jumped. Joe gave him a crooked grin. "Sorry, bro. Didn't mean to scare you."
Frank sighed. "They know who we are," he said.
"I know." Joe sat back in his chair.
"Joe, she could have been killed because of us."
"But she wasn't."
Frank shook his head. "It came too close this time."
A doctor pushed through the double door to the emergency room then. "Carson Drew?"
"That's me." The lawyer turned to the doctor. "How is she? Is she alright?"
The doctor said, "She has a concussion, a few cracked ribs, and a broken wrist, but I'm expecting a full recovery."
"Thank God," Ned whispered.
"She's in the ICU now. She's allowed visitors, but only one person at a time, and ten minutes total."
"Thank you. Thank you for everything."
Ned was the second person to see her.
From what Carson had reported, Nancy was still unconscious. Ned didn't care. He just had to see her – he needed hear her breathe, see her alive, just to assure himself that she really would be alright.
When he pushed open the door, he was greeted by the smell of sterilizer and the soft, rhythmic sound of a heart monitor. The sight of his fiancé's bruised body pained him. He walked toward her bed and gently took her hand. He was surprised when she moved her hand slightly.
"Nancy? Nan, baby, are you awake?"
Her eyes fluttered open slowly.
Her eyes had a faraway look to them. She was obviously drugged up for the pain. Nonetheless, she was conscious and aware enough to talk.
"Ned. You're here."
He nodded and took a seat next to her bed. "How do you feel?"
"Like an angry mob beat the you-know-what out of me," she replied. "Could be worse, though." She tried to push herself up in the bed but couldn't. Ned helped her. "That's the last time I mess with a mob boss."
"I should hope so," Ned replied. "I told you it was dangerous –"
"Please don't do 'I told you so.' Not until I get out of here, at least."
Ned sighed and took her gently in his arms instead. She wrapped her arms around his neck.
"I didn't think I'd ever see you again," she said.
Ned kissed the top of her head. "I know," he said softly. "You have no idea of how much hell I've been through the past few days. I thought they'd killed you."
"I'm sorry," she whispered. She sighed. "Did they at least catch him?" she asked.
Ned couldn't help but grin as he reluctantly released her. "That's typical."
"You came so close to being murdered by a crazy mobster, and the only thing you care about is whether he was caught."
Nancy returned his grin. "Excuse me for wanting to know if my sacrifice paid off," she retorted.
Ned rested his hand on her cheek gently. "Promise me you will never do that to me again," he said. He took her left hand in his and put her engagement ring on her finger, then brought her hand up to kiss it. "At least until the wedding."
Nancy laughed then kissed him. "I promise."