Frank grunted as the once inert form leapt from the ground and tackled him. He felt a wisp of hair touch his face, but it was gone just as quickly as it had come. He was so taken aback by the sudden attack that he allowed his assailant to freely slip away. Smart, he thought, as he quickly rose from the ground and joined Joe in his pursuit of the runaway.
The figure was limping slightly, but it was still fast. Frank looked around for his brother, but he didn't see him anywhere. Suddenly, Joe leapt from a tree and landed square on the fleeing person's back.
"Let me go!" a girl's voice gasped under Joe.
"No!" Joe hollered, "Why did you attack us?"
"You cornered me!" she grunted, "How else was I supposed to get away? Why did you bring me here?"
Joe looked to Frank and then back at the struggling form beneath him, "We didn't bring anyone here." He slowly let the girl go, crouching beside her, "We don't want to hurt you."
Gasping in air, the girl sat up. She squinted in the dark at the two boys before her, "Can you help me find my way out of these woods?"
"You're lost?" Frank asked, softly, "Of course, we'll help. What's you're name?" The girl stood.
"Nancy," she extended her hand toward the boy that was standing, "Nancy Drew."
"Nancy?" Joe stood.
At the same time, Frank exclaimed, "Nancy!"
"Do we know each other?" she asked confused.
"It's us!" Frank smiled, "Frank and Joe!"
Nancy laughed, leaning in to the warmth of the fire that the group had made, "I can't believe you guys are here."
"And that, of all people, we happened upon you," Frank kissed her forehead.
"How did you get here in the forest? Why are you in Tennessee?" Joe asked after swallowing the last bite of his hotdog before making another.
"Well," Nancy started, "George came out to visit a friend and then Bess and I came out to solve a mystery. I was exploring a little, looking for someone, when this glowing man riding a horse swept me up off my feet and brought me here. Well, not here here, but behind this barn out in the middle of nowhere here."
Joe shook his head, "This is terrible. Frank, you've got to do something about this."
Frank looked confused, "What are you talking about?"
"Are you just going to allow random guys to sweep your lady off her feet?" Joe's mock serious tone and facial expression amused Nancy. Frank rolled his eyes and smiled. He pulled Nancy closer to him.
"I'm just glad that you're okay," Frank looked down at her.
"I was a little worse for the wear, but I'm fine now," she leaned up and toward the fire, "Joe, can you hand me another hotdog."
"How long have you been out here, Nancy?" Joe stared at her as he handed one over, "This is your fourth hotdog."
Nancy blushed in the firelight, "I haven't had much to eat."
"Well, eat to your heart's content," Frank said, "Tomorrow, we'll lead you home."
"Yeah," Joe added, "So rest easy tonight. You can sleep in the tent; Frank and I will sleep out here."
"Thanks, guys," Nancy smiled. The group stayed up for a little while before deciding to go to bed. Nancy rested more than she had since she had come to Tennessee, knowing that the Hardys were just outside her tent.
"We can call the police," Erin proposed to her friends. Erin, Bess, and George were discussing possible options to find Nancy. They sat in the living room, poking at snacks on the coffee table; none of them really had much of an appetite, especially considering the current topic.
"We've tried everything else," George sighed, "I think we have to call them."
"But, Erin," Bess cut in, "You said they just laughed at you the last time you called them. Why would they help us now?"
"Bess, they laughed because she called about the phantom man," George turned to her cousin, who stood at a window overlooking the back of the farm, "We're talking about a missing person. Isn't that like a federal thing?"
"I still think that we should keep searching," Bess folded her arms.
"I think George is right," Erin sat in a chair across from George, who sat on the couch, "I don't think we have a choice. We have to report a missing person."
"But," George added, "that doesn't mean that we can't keep looking on our own too. We just need to alert the authorities as well."
"I guess it couldn't hurt," Bess looked at her friends, "But if they even think about telling me not to look for Nancy, I'm going to walk off. I'm looking for her no matter what anyone says."
"Agreed," Erin smiled, "We all will. I can even have the farm helpers look for a day. We can—"
"Bess! George!" the three girls in the living room snapped their attention to the font door as it burst open. It was Nancy!
"Nancy!" they shouted in unison. The girls all jumped up, rushing to meet her.
"Where were you?" Bess wiped tears from her face as she released her friend.
"We looked everywhere," George smiled.
"I'll explain later, but first…" Nancy stepped out of the doorway to reveal her surprise.
"Joe? Frank?" Bess and George marveled as the Hardy brothers stepped into the front room.
"Erin," Nancy said, "these are our very good friends, Frank and Joe Hardy. Boys, this is Erin Dawson, the woman who owns this place."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Erin smiled as she shook each of their hands, "Please, make yourselves at home. Any friend of Nancy's is a friend of mine."
"Oh, thankyou," Frank said, "but we can't stay long."
"Why not?" asked Bess, "You just got here!"
"Yeah, we know," Joe hugged Bess and then George.
"Nancy," George asked, after giving Frank a quick hug just before Bess did, "how in the world did you find these two?"
"Actually," Nancy smiled, looking at the boys, "they found me. I'll tell you the whole story later. Right now, we'd better let them get on their way."
"You'll come by for dinner won't you?" invited Erin, "We're having potato soup."
Joe looked at Frank with a pleading stare. Frank rolled his eyes and said, "We'll have to ask our employer, but I doubt it would be a problem. What time should we be here?"
Employer? Nancy wondered, but she dared not bring attention to it, not yet anyway.
"Yes!" Joe whispered, pulling his arm back in a gesture of triumph.
"Come on, Joe," Frank laughed. He turned to Erin, "It was nice to meet you."
"Come by anytime," Erin replied.
Frank turned to his friends from River Heights, letting his gaze linger on Nancy, "Bye girls." Joe chorused in his goodbyes as well, and the boys left.
"Alright, Nancy," Bess fixed the red-head with a glare, "How did this happen?"
"We want to know everything," Erin added.
"We almost called the police!" George exclaimed, "We should have done it sooner, but knowing you, there's no telling what you were up to. You've got a story to tell, little missy."
"Well, I don't think the story's as exciting as you expect it to be," Nancy walked over to the sofa with her friends following close behind. After they had all arranged themselves, Nancy began. She told them how she had been abducted and where she had found herself upon awakening. She told them about the barn and her snooping. She went on until she came to her meeting with the Hardys, and concluded by saying, "This morning they led me out of the woods, and I told them how to get here. That's it." She shrugged and looked to the faces of her friends.
"Well, where were you?" asked George, "I mean, where did the guys find you and bring you out?"
"When we came out of the woods we were on a back road, much like this one. Joe said it was called Friendship Hollow, I think," Nancy answered.
"That's not too far from here," Erin said, "But it seems odd that there was a barn in the middle of the woods."
"Is it?" asked Bess.
"What would it be used for in the woods?" asked George.
"Exactly," Erin said.
"Hmm," Nancy stood and began to pace the floor.
"Have you got something?" asked George, knowing that look all too well.
Nancy snapped her fingers together and spun to face the others, "Erin! Tell me more about the glowing man that the farmhands have seen at night."