Author Notes:

A little something to keep you busy; I'm enmeshed in "The SF Vampire", but Frank, Joe & Kris just would not shut up about THIS tale.

Frank & Joe Hardy, their dad Fenton and Aunt Gertrude belong to the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Those characters as portrayed here are from the 1970s TV show, "The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries", created by Glen A. Larson. This tale is based on the episode "House On Possessed Hill" by Michael Sloan; the characters of Stacy & Mrs. Blaine, Grant, Sheriff Hollister, Allen, and Dr. Mann belong to the show…though my re-interpretation of them is strictly my own.

Please note: the show sets Bayport in MA, and that's what I run with; Fenton's a widower, with Aunt Gertrude living with the family to help raise the boys. I try to reconcile blue-spine canon with the show when I can, but the show trumps all. This tale is a prequel to my AU series, set roughly three years before "Blood Circles: Voodoo Doll"; Frank & Joe are 17 & 16, here.

Young'uns, take note: this tale is set mid-'70s. That means no cellphones. No computers. No iPods. No CDs or MP3s. They barely had cassette players in cars, but I couldn't stand the thought of the brothers ruining their van with an 8-track player.

With that in mind, all the OTHER characters & situations not mentioned or referenced above are © 2012 RabbitHorseRunning Studios.


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Circle Hills, MA

It was late, around 11 PM by the time Joe Hardy had hit Circle Hills, and he'd been driving through rough weather the whole way — maybe this particular storm was technically a nor'easter, but manhandling the van through these winds felt more like attempting a hurricane. He leaned partway out of the van, struggled to hold the door still as the wind nearly blew it from his hands. "Sorry I'm late."

"It's okay." Kris Mountainhawk shook herself, blinked; she sat on the front porch of the neat ranch-style house, staring at the sky. She was in her usual gray sweatshirt and faded jeans, a plain, small, serious blonde, about a year younger than Joe, as opposed to Joe's loose bohemian casual. "I was enjoying the show. Pretty neat."

Joe grinned, shaking his head. Calling the lightning displays 'neat' was a distinct understatement tonight. "You and storms, tagalong, I swear. If I got struck by lightning, you'd only go 'wow'."

"Only if it left a fulgurite. Then I'd add you to my collection." Not even a hint of a smile, as usual; Joe wasn't entirely certain she was joking. Kris pushed herself up from the porch swing, grabbed her duffle bag, poked her head in through the front door and called something into the house. Then she dodged through the winds and sheets of rain to the van, climbing in to stretch out on the back seat. "I was starting to worry — the Walkers had the scanner on. Main road south has tree falls all over. State patrol closed it down for the night."

"Don't remind me." Joe was certain he'd seen some of those trees falling in his rear-view. He'd just gotten his driver's license and grabbed any opportunity to drive, but tonight had been flat-out scary. He'd volunteered to deliver papers to one of his dad's clients in Wareham earlier this evening, before the storm had roared up to nor'easter status, surprising everyone, including the weather forecasters.

Kris's adoptive mother, Mar, had been over at the time, chatting with Aunt Gertrude over coffee; Mar and Kris were the Hardys' next door neighbors. Mar had asked if Joe would mind going a little out of his way to pick up Kris from Circle Hills. Given the state of the roads and the storm, Joe was glad he'd agreed. It gave him company on the way home and someone to help him stay awake.

"Y'know," Kris said hesitantly, as Joe started the van back up, "the Walkers would put us up for the night. Might be better to wait the storm out and head back in the morning."

The Walkers were Mar's business colleagues; Mar was a consultant for some R&D company in Boston. They'd offered Kris a temp job doing research on a special project in Circle Hills, and Kris had jumped at the chance. Joe, though, didn't feel right about asking total strangers if he could stay in their home. "It's only about an hour. I'll be fine."

There were sounds of rummaging, then Kris leaned into the front, handed him a cassette. "Okay, be that way, big brother. Happy belated birthday, then."

David Bowie's "Station to Station". It'd been out for a while, but Joe hadn't had been able to find it. Bayport's one record store wasn't exactly cutting edge, its owner distinctly uncooperative in obtaining anything he deemed 'inappropriate'. "Tag…wow…"

"It'll help keep you awake." She was actually smiling a little, shy, embarrassed.

He grinned his thanks, spared a moment to shove the tape into the van's deck, then turned his attention back to the road as jangly guitar and synthesizers filled the van. He wasn't her real brother, but by now, that distinction didn't matter. He and Frank had unofficially adopted Kris as their 'kid sister' years ago, after they'd found out about the little runaway's abused past from their dad — so Frank and Joe had decided that she needed a pair of big brothers to help her…

Joe bit back a curse, wrestled with the steering as a gust of wind caught the van broadside. The winds had picked up even more, and debris, branches, and trash cans were blowing all over the road, already slick and flooded with water.

It seemed to take forever to get to the outskirts of town, and no sooner had Joe turned onto route 28 — pitch-black with the storm and covered in debris — than something white jumped into the road, directly in front of the van. He yanked the steering wheel to the left, barely avoided whatever-it-was as the van slewed to a stop. Kris yelped, fell hard against the back of the driver's seat.

"You okay?" Joe started — but then the passenger door yanked open, and a girl in a loose white dress and wind-tangled wet blonde hair scrambled in, her eyes wide.

"Help me — they're chasing me — I don't know what they'll do to me this time!"

She looked about eighteen, but her voice was childish, high-pitched with fear. Joe still hesitated, then heard voices — angry yells, curses, and he spotted a group of men in the trees, pointing towards the van. That decided him; he floored the gas.

"Ow," Kris said from the back, picking herself up, and the newcomer startled, stared. "One of these days, I'll be with you and not have trouble drop in out of nowhere, and I'm gonna die of shock."

"You and me both," Joe said dryly, but turned a glare on the newcomer. Despite his irritation, he couldn't help noticing she was beautiful, bright green eyes, long white-blonde hair, round dimpled face. Suddenly he was glad he'd ditched the dorky argyle sweater in the back, the moment he'd gotten outside Bayport — Aunt Gertrude kept insisting on it, but Joe hated it. "Mind telling us what this is all about?"

She only stared out the window.

Great. One of those. "At least tell us who you are, before I dump you back in the middle of the road."

The wide-eyed gaze turned on him, as if looking right through him; Joe swallowed, hard. "I'm Stacy. Stacy Blaine."

Joe heard Kris make a noise. He glanced in the rear-view mirror, but it was too dark to see Kris's expression in the backseat. He let a little of his irritation go. "Okay, fine. My name's —"

"— Joe. I know."

"You know?"

Stacy shrugged. "I know things. I can feel things."

"Not hard to know things," Kris said, "when it's right in front of you." She leaned forward, tapped Joe's cassette box, his name in permanent marker scrawled on top of it.

Joe gave her a look. Kris blushed, looked away, retreated back to the backseat, and Joe sighed — he hadn't meant it like that. If Stacy wanted to play mysterious, it was fine with him. However… "Y'know, in most cases, I don't mind being an accessory," he said to Stacy, who was glaring towards the back. "But I'd like to know what I'm being an accessory to."

Again, that wide green-eyed innocence stared at him. "I didn't do anything!"

"Right," Kris said, and Joe startled; he'd never heard her sound like that before. Normally she was gun-shy and quiet around strangers, period. "Those people were chasing you for absolutely nothing."

Stacy huffed and slumped in the passenger seat, returned to staring out the window. Joe stared briefly into the rear-view. "Kris…"

Kris didn't back down. "You said it. She's just made us accessories to something. Unless you wanna explain everything to Mar and your dad."

Or worse, Aunt Gertrude. And from their angle, those men would've easily seen his license plates. Joe drove on in silence for a bit, waiting for an answer from Stacy. Then, when the silence continued, he started to pull over.

"No, wait," Stacy said, pleading, looking at him again. "Please…you wouldn't understand!"

Those brilliant green eyes made it hard for Joe to breathe. But he stopped at the side of the road, waited, though he glanced quickly in the rear-view — no one on the road behind them, yet. "Why don't you try me?" When she still said nothing, Joe jerked the van fully into park, settled back as if he was willing to wait forever. He hoped it looked as adult and mature as it did when Frank did it. "Try me. You can't tell a story worse than the tagalong back there does."

"Thanks a lot," Kris muttered.

Stacy stared straight ahead. "A little girl was hurt. In a car accident."

Wonderful. Just what he needed to hear. Joe gave her a steady stare. "Were you involved?"

"I saw it."

Oookay. "But if all you did was see it —"

"I saw it before it happened," Stacy said defiantly, staring him down. "In every detail." Each syllable was careful, relished. "And I told her father exactly how and when it would happen. And it did." She sounded proud. "They say I'm a witch."

Joe just looked at her. Great. Stacy was obviously not playing with a full deck. A mysterious, beautiful girl jumped into his van on a stormy night, and she had to be crazy; that wasn't how his fantasies were supposed to go. Frank would never let him live it down.

More disquieting, though, there was total silence in the backseat. Joe glanced again in the rear-view. Given how much Kris loved this kind of thing, how often she chattered about all the spooky psychic nonsense, Joe expected some reaction from her. But…nothing.

Well, being delusional wasn't a crime. It definitely didn't deserve being chased down by a mob. Especially not a beautiful girl. Delusional or not, fantasy or no fantasy, Joe didn't have the heart to shove her out into the rain. He sighed and started up the van again, continued down the road. He was about to ask Stacy where she lived, to just take her home; maybe she'd be grateful enough to show some appreciation —

"You're not a witch." Quiet, from the backseat. "Real witches wouldn't be so happy about a kid getting hurt."

Stacy swiveled in the seat, but then gave Joe a quick glance, subsided, said nothing. Joe checked the rear-view again; there were headlights back there, a ways behind them. At this time of night, on a back county road. Great.

"So you said you saw things," Kris went on, still quiet, "like this's happened before."

Something about her voice…Joe glanced back. "Shouldn't you be arguing her side, tag?"

"There —" Stacy broke in suddenly, pointing. "Turn there."

Joe barely caught the turnoff, swung the van onto it just in time and up the dirt road. "Your house is up here?"

Stacy didn't answer. She was sitting upright in the seat, peering out the windows, as if searching. They passed a squat, boarded-up building on the right, but Stacy gestured him on.

"Helloooo, Bates Motel," Kris muttered, and Joe grinned. They'd just seen 'Psycho' last week, one of the midnight shows at the Bayport Cinema, a group outing with friends; it'd been hysterical, watching Chet hiding his face through almost the whole movie.

"Yeah, well, if the violins start up, I'm out of here," Joe said, but then the van rounded the last turn of the dirt road, and an old, dilapidated Victorian house loomed into view, perched on top of the hill. Gray, weather-worn wood, arched windows, a falling-apart porch with shabby paint. For a moment, there was dead silence. Joe pulled up to the black iron gates, stopped, staring — talk about 'Psycho'… "You live there?"

"They won't follow us here." Stacy started to open the passenger door.

"I wouldn't follow us here." Beautiful or not, she had to be insane. Joe grabbed her arm. "Who lives here?"

Stacy only smiled, enigmatic, challenging. "The dead."