Author's Notes: I've always like the idea of exploring a family for Con. I hope you like the start of this. I'd love to hear what you think. This story fits probably more in the case file universe.
Disclaimer: Anything you recognize from the Hardy universe doesn't belong to me. I am only borrowing them for the entertainment of the story and I promise to return them more or less intact.
She doubled checked the address that she'd scrawled on the napkin in the internet café. Elm Street in Bayport, New York wasn't much different where she'd grown up on Stanton Avenue in Cloverton, New York. Her heart ached a little at the memory it stirred of her former house, the only place she truly counted as being a home instead of a place to live. She'd been happy there, carefree and innocent, but that had been two years ago and she couldn't remember feeling happy, carefree or innocent since then. A wave of pain that had nothing to do with emotion rolled over her and she pressed her left arm against her sore ribs, hoping the pressure would help both the pain in her ribs and the arm she wasn't sure was broken or just badly sprained. She had seen the odd looks other patrons at the internet café had given her with her bruised cheek and black eye; it was a wonder someone there hadn't called the cops on her right then and there. That would have ruined all of her plans. If the Bayport police had gotten involved, there was no way she would have been able to keep him from finding out she was there and all her searching would have been in vain.
Biting back a groan, she took a faltering step toward the house. There were no cars in the driveway to tell her if someone was home. Each step up to the house only served to aggravate her pain and she was forced to breathe through her mouth to ride out the pain as she rang the doorbell and waited for someone to answer. She could hear footsteps coming closer to the door and then the door opened. A tall teenage boy, just a couple of years older than she was, stood on the other side, his dark eyes furrowing in concern when they took in her appearance. She recognized him from information she'd pulled up on the Internet. This was Frank Hardy, older son of Fenton and Laura Hardy. She forced a smile that belied the pain she was in. She'd had plenty of practice hiding her real emotions behind careful facades.
"I'm looking for Fenton Hardy."
"He's out of town right now. You're injured. How about you come inside? I can get you some ice for that eye." His tone was deliberately soft, like he was talking to a frightened animal or child. She bristled.
"No, I'm fine. I just really need to see Fenton Hardy. When will he be back?" Her eyes darted to the side, trying to gauge whether she could make a hasty retreat before he could catch her. Logically she knew the answer was a resounding no. Even if she hadn't been injured, she wouldn't stand a chance of beating him in a foot race.
"I'm not going to hurt you." He tried to assure her. It was as if he could tell she was thinking of bolting and didn't want that to happen. She realized he had seen through her attempt to appear much calmer than she actually was as he continued in an overly calm voice. "My name is Frank; Fenton Hardy is my father. Perhaps if you tell me what you need him for, I can help you. What's your name?"
She wasn't ready to reveal that information yet. Couldn't take the chance that he'd slip away and call the police and give them her name. But maybe if she played along a little he could help her get in touch with Fenton. "Jessica Spears." The lie rolled easily off her tongue, providing the first name she could think of. He led her inside and to the couch. He disappeared, promising to get her some ice for her eye.
The couch was soft and comfortable and almost begged her to lie down and give in to the exhaustion she had been trying to hold off. How long had it been since she'd actually gotten a good night's sleep? Certainly not since the night she'd sneaked out of the house that had supposedly been her home for the last two years. That had been four days ago. But she couldn't afford to sleep now, not til she had the information she needed.
The dark haired teenage boy returned and sat beside her on the couch, gingerly pressing the cloth covered ice pack to her face. She winced as the coldness stung the wound and he apologized softly. "Sorry, I know it's cold but it'll help reduce the swelling. Any other injuries we should be concerned about?"
The memory of the sudden attack two days before was ever present and clear in her mind. Her assailant had caught her by surprise as she walked down the dimly lit street to the no-tell motel she'd found that had actually turned a blind eye to the fact that a sixteen year old was renting a room without a guardian. He'd grabbed her left arm that was tightly gripping a can of pepper spray, twisting the appendage savagely making sure she dropped her main means of protection. Disarmed, she'd felt herself being slammed against a brick wall where he then held both arms above her head in one of his own. She'd been powerless to prevent the many blows to her abdomen and face. She'd faked unconsciousness in an attempt to lessen the attack. He let her fall to the ground delivering a verbal warning to accompany the physical one. Only x-rays would be able to tell if anything was broken but she was positive she'd never convince a hospital to treat her without adult consent.
"No, I'm fine. Did you mean what you said about helping me if you could?"
- FH JH - FH JH - FH JH -
Eighteen year old Frank Hardy carefully studied the teenage girl sitting beside him. She wasn't from Bayport; he would have recognized her otherwise. Her short brown hair was limp as if it had been a day or so since it had been washed and her clothes looked like they had been worn and slept in for about the same time. Despite her protests to the contrary, he could tell by the way she was favoring her ribs that she was injured beyond the beating her face had taken. Her green eyes couldn't hide the pain that appeared to be both physical and emotional. She was skittish, ready to bolt at a moment's notice. In fact the only reason he thought she hadn't bolted already was some sort of desperate need to find his father.
He wished his mother had been home. She would be able to comfort the scared girl beside him. But Laura had taken Aunt Gertrude to a doctor's appointment and wouldn't be back for a couple more hours. His brother Joe could have laid on his trademark charm and gotten her to open up but he had taken the van for a date with his girlfriend Vanessa. That left Frank alone to handle the situation. He was a confident person but knew that in this situation, others would be much more effective. He had contemplated calling Con Riley, their friend in the police department but he'd refrained, hoping to get the girl, whose name he was quite certain wasn't Jessica Spears, to trust him.
"I promised I would. You want to start with why you are looking for my father or do you want to start with who gave you that shiner?"
"Your father helped with a murder investigation a couple of years ago. He stopped working the case when the prime suspect in the case confessed. I need to know what information he found before he stopped looking." Her eyes, or at least the eye that wasn't hidden behind the ice pack begged him to help her. "If you have access to his files…"
Frank frowned. "I can't go through his files without his permission. I'm sorry." He caught just a flash of disappointment before she carefully pasted a smile on her face and handed him back the ice pack.
"I understand. I shouldn't have asked. Thank you for your time." She stood and he could tell it took great restraint for her not to groan with pain at the movement. She was definitely hurt more than she wanted him to know. He couldn't let her leave.
"Dad always calls and checks in when he's out of town. If you tell me a little more about the murder investigation, I can ask him about it when he calls. If he says it's okay for me to go through his files then I can get the information you are looking for." And in the meantime, Frank could do his own investigating to find out who she really was.
He could see she was struggling with indecision. She was probably torn between a need to protect her identity and her need to find the information she was seeking. When her stomach made a gurgling noise, he hoped he had a way to further convince her. "Just before you rang the bell, I was about to fix a sandwich for lunch. Would you like one?"
She nodded reluctantly, unable to deny the hunger her stomach was revealing, sitting back down on the couch. Frank smiled and promised to be back in just a moment. He made quick work putting two roast beef sandwiches together and then returned to the living room with two plates in his hands. "Here we go."
She accepted the plate awkwardly with her right hand and set the plate in her lap. Frank was glad he had thought to cut the sandwich into quarters as his suspicion that she was hiding an injury to her left arm grew. The longer he could keep her at the house, the more likely it was that he could find out who she really was and who had hurt her. He pulled out his cell phone before eating his own sandwich. "I'm going to send Dad a text message to call me as soon as he gets the opportunity. I can't guarantee he'll call right away; if he's undercover, he won't check his phone until it's safe to do so but if he's free he might call while you are here and I can let you talk to him directly." He sent the message and then started to eat. In no time, her own sandwich was completely gone. He offered her a smile. "Would you like another one?"
She shook her head, looking a little drowsy. Frank wondered when she'd last gotten a good night's sleep. He didn't say anything, hoping that she'd fall asleep on her own if he didn't call attention to it. Sure enough, by the time he had finished his own sandwich, her eyes were almost completely closed. He set his plate on the coffee table and took hers as well. Then he shifted her body so that she was lying on the couch, being careful not jar the injuries he suspected she had. The fact that she didn't protest or awaken told him just how tired she really was. He covered her with a light throw they kept on the back of the couch.
Though Fenton often talked about his cases, Frank couldn't remember him talking about any particular murder investigation two years ago. She hadn't given him any information he could use to narrow down the possibilities. At this point there wasn't much he could to but wait for his father to call and hope he could keep the girl from bolting in the meantime.
He heard the garage door open and realized his mother was home. Making sure his visitor was still sound asleep, he went into the kitchen to meet his mom and aunt as they entered the kitchen. However, Laura entered through the garage entrance alone. Laura smiled at her older son. "Gertrude decided to visit some friends while she was out." She paused as she recognized his worried expression. "Frank, sweetheart, what's wrong?"
"Dad had a visitor while you were out. A girl looking for information about a murder investigation he worked a couple of years ago. Ring any bells with you?"
Laura frowned. "Your dad has worked many murder cases. Did you tell her that Fenton's out of town?"
"Yeah, but Mom, I'm worried about her. I think she might be a runaway or something like that. She wouldn't tell me her real name and she's real skittish. Someone beat her up pretty good, more than she'd would even admit to."
Laura sat at the kitchen counter and eyed him carefully. He knew that she trusted his judgment; if he was worried, that would be good enough for her. "Sounds like she needs help. Did you get an idea of where she was going when she left here?"
Frank smiled. "She's asleep on the couch. I was afraid if I let her leave, we wouldn't be able to find her again. I wasn't sure how I was going to convince her to stay but fortunately her exhaustion kicked in after she ate a sandwich. I was kind of hoping you could maybe do a little mothering when she wakes up; get her to open up to you. After all, you are the best mother in the whole world."
Laura laughed. "You don't have to flatter me to get me to help, Frank. I'll do what I can. What are you going to do in the meantime?"
Frank shrugged. "If you don't mind me borrowing your car, I'll head down to the police station. If she is a runaway, maybe Con has a report on her. Someone has to be worried about her."
- FH JH - FH JH - FH JH -
Pain, her constant companion since the attack in the alley, greeted her when she woke up. She blinked heavily trying to remember where she was and how she got there. Waking up hadn't been easy since she'd left Coverton which was probably one of the reasons she avoided sleeping as much as she could. She groaned, unable to stop the expression of pain even before she fully awoke.
"It's okay, Sweetheart. You're safe."
The female voice was so warm and comforting that she was immediately taken back two years when everything was still wonderful. Tears filled her eyes. "Mom?"
She opened her eyes all the way and focused on the attractive woman sitting in a chair beside the couch watching her sleep. It wasn't her mother; she'd known that was an impossible wish as soon as the words left her mouth. A pipe dream that would make all the other nightmares go away. She sat up, careful to hold in any more gasps of pain. She made sure her carefully constructed mask of toughness was in place. "Who are you?"
The woman smiled at her. "I'm Laura Hardy, Frank's mother. My son tells me that you are looking for information from my husband. Maybe I can help. Fenton usually tells me about the cases he works. I might remember the case you are talking about."
The teenage girl regarded the older woman carefully. Laura Hardy sounded sincere but she was an adult and lately it seemed like all adults were just out to keep her in the dark about everything that had happened. They claimed to have her best interests at heart but in the end they didn't care what she really needed or wanted. They just wanted her to accept the party line without question, no matter how wrong the party line might be. She gave a one arm shrug. "I'd rather wait until I could talk to Mr. Hardy myself, if you don't mind."
Laura nodded. "You have me at a disadvantage; You know my name but I don't know yours."
What name had she given Frank earlier? She remembered it had something to do with female pop singers. "Brittney Simpson." Crap, that wasn't right. She remembered as soon as she said it that it was the opposite combination of names. Oh well, she didn't believe they had bought her lie anyway. "Where is Frank?" Then she lowered her head. "He went to the police station, didn't he?"
Laura reached out and gave the younger girl's knee a reassuring pat. "He's pretty worried about you. From the way you are holding your stomach, I'd say he had a good reason. You're ribs are hurt, aren't they? Maybe even your arm? I'm not a nurse but I do volunteer work with the Red Cross and I have a husband and sons who are forever getting injured so I do have some medical training. Would you let me take a look at your injuries, make sure you are okay?"
If Frank had gone to the police it was only a matter of time before they arrived. She had to be gone before that happened. She stood. "I'm sorry I fell asleep on your couch. I'll stop by tomorrow to see if Frank heard back from your husband."
She made her way to the door, knowing that Laura was right behind her encouraging her to stay. She opened the door and stepped out of the house. A car was just pulling into the driveway with a police cruiser right behind it. She recognized the officer in the driver's seat and knew it was over if he saw her. There was no time to run, they would catch her for sure. She closed the door and looked back at Laura. "Can I use your restroom before I leave?"
Laura looked surprised but gave the young girl directions. Fortunately, the older woman didn't follow her down the hallway. She found a room with windows that opened to the side of the house and ducked inside. She could hear the front door open as she opened the window. Climbing out hurt but not as much as it would hurt to be caught. She lowered herself to the ground and made her way to the corner. She peeked around and saw that the front door was closed. Now was her chance as she took off away from the house. She wouldn't have long before they realized she wasn't in the bathroom and came looking for her. She'd have to get as far away as she could before that happened.
She hadn't gotten even as far as the next street when strong arms grabbed her from behind. Memories of being attacked ran through her mind and she screamed, struggling to get away from her assailant despite the pain it caused her. He was too strong for her and refused to let go.
"Relax. I just want to ask you a few questions." The unfamiliar young voice told her. He whirled her around, still holding on to her arms. She recognized the blonde hair and blue eyes immediately. This was Joe Hardy, Fenton's other son and Frank's younger brother. He didn't look happy as he began to question her. "Why were you sneaking around my house back there? Who are you?"
"I wasn't sneaking around. Let go of me before I call the cops." She tried to bluff her way out. But Joe Hardy shook his head.
"Cops huh? Okay, I saw a patrol car at my house. Let's go back there and talk to them then. Come on." He started to drag her back towards the house but the pain in her injured arm became too unbearable. The sandwich she'd eaten earlier came back up as she threw up on the ground next to him. Joe released his hold on her in surprise but she was unable to capitalize on the release. The act of regurgitating aggravated her injured ribs and she sank to her knees and curled up on the ground holding her stomach. She didn't care that Joe was looking at her in shock or that footsteps were running up to meet them.
Uncharacteristic tears ran down her face as she had to accept the fact that she'd been caught, that her dream of finding out the truth was down the drain. Someone knelt beside her tilting her head up. The shock in those familiar green eyes that were so like her own surprised her as she realized he hadn't expected to see her. Hadn't he been called when she disappeared? A large thumb reached up and tenderly wiped away a tear.
"Riley, what are you doing here? Tell me who hurt you and I'll make sure he pays, Darling. I promise you that." At that point she was more than willing to let him wrap her in a comforting hug.
"Con, you know her?" Frank found his voice first, his surprise just as evident.
She felt the bigger man shift so that he could look up at the two teenage detectives, his expession both confused and concerned. "Yeah, I know her. Boys, this is my niece, Riley Davis."