A/N: This story is based on the 70s TV show, and is what I would consider a "summer beach read". Very definitely a mystery with danger, but hopefully with some fun, too. Kinda like the show. LOL It follows my previous three. You can catch onto what is happening without reading them, but if you're interested in any backstory, that's where you'll find it. Some of the canon from the TV show (in case you've been busy since 1979, or...gulp...you weren't born): Fenton Hardy lost his wife when Frank and Joe were very young and Aunt Gertrude moved in to help raise them. Callie Shaw is Fenton's office assistant, but was never romantically involved with Frank. Chet Morton was a character in the series, but Iola was not. Vanessa Bender does not exist since the show pre-dates the "Casefiles" incarnation of the Hardy Boys. Frank had a thing for Nancy Drew during the entire series and Joe was unattached (except for the guest star of the week romance the writers always included. In short, the boy got around. LOL).

My self-indulgent series of stories begins with Season 3 of the show, since I could never swallow the Justice Department hiring two teenagers as special agents. I have also aged Frank and Joe to 23 and 22, respectively. As per my other stories, this one is also completely written and I will post a new chapter every other day. Thanks to my betas, Kenna and JD for all their help! Oh, and my sincere apologies to Glen Larson Productions and Universal Studios. The TV show belongs to them. Thanks for reading!

The Cradle Will Fall

Chapter 1

"Emily needs to be pregnant."

Joe Hardy paused behind the kitchen counter, where he'd been making a turkey sandwich for lunch. "Excuse me?"

"Pregnant. We need Emily to be pregnant," Fenton Hardy repeated, pouring himself a glass of lemonade.

Joe shook his head. How on earth was that a response to the question, 'How can we help on this case?' But if that's what his father wanted…

A sly smile crossed Joe's face. "Well, I'll do my best, Dad, but I can't promise anything."

His brother Frank, seated at the kitchen table, choked on his drink.

Fenton gave Joe a look. "Let me clarify. We need for Emily to pretend to be pregnant."

Joe grinned as Frank called out from the table, "Dad, exactly what kind of case is this?"

Fenton reached for a file on the counter and handed it to Frank. "Mr. and Mrs. Baxter came to see me earlier today. Apparently they just learned from a third party that their fifteen-year-old daughter, Amy, is pregnant."

Joe whistled low, as he grabbed a tomato and sliced it. "Fifteen? Wow, that's rough."

"Yes, and apparently when Amy found out and told her boyfriend, he wanted nothing more to do with her." Fenton took another sip of his lemonade.

Frank shook his head. "Upstanding young man, huh?"

Fenton continued, "So, from what the Baxters can piece together, Amy answered an ad she found on a local bulletin board for an adoption agency two weeks ago."

"And?" Joe prompted, as he added lettuce and turkey to his sandwich, then turned to the refrigerator to get some cheese.

"And nobody has seen or heard from Amy since then," Fenton concluded, stealing the top two slices of turkey off Joe's sandwich.

"So, you want Emily to pretend to be pregnant and answer this same ad?" Frank guessed.

"Yes and no." Fenton popped the turkey into his mouth and swallowed. "The Baxters aren't the only ones with questions about this adoption agency. The Feds have some concerns as well."

"So, what exactly do you want from us, Dad?" Joe asked. He looked down at his sandwich. Hadn't he just put turkey on that?

"I want you and Emily to pretend to be a young couple in trouble, who are investigating the possibility of putting your baby up for adoption," Fenton said, then turned to Frank as he refilled his glass. "And I want you and Nancy to pose as a married couple looking to adopt a baby. We also need to check out whether or not this agency is selling babies, which is what the Feds suspect. And doing it all against the wishes of the birth mothers."

Joe exchanged glances with his brother. This was not going to be just another average case. The fact that young pregnant girls and newborn babies were involved ratcheted up the potential complication level by one hundred percent. Not to mention, Emily was not going to be hanging out behind the scenes…she'd be very involved. That made Joe nervous.

"What do you think, boys?"

"Yeah, it sounds really interesting," Frank admitted, tracing the rim of his glass with his index finger. "If Nan's not busy, I'm sure she'll want in."

Fenton turned to his younger son. "Joe? What about Emily? I realize we'll be asking a lot of her."

Joe exhaled slowly, adding three more slices of turkey to his sandwich. "I don't know, Dad. Why don't you ask her yourself? She should be here in a minute or two."

"I will," Fenton said. "But I want to know if you have any problems with her doing this."

"I'll be honest...I'm not sure." Joe placed some lettuce and cheese on the turkey and topped it with another slice of bread. "I'm going to need a lot more information."

"And I'll get that for you," Fenton assured him. "But I have your permission to ask her about it?"

Joe nodded, taking a bite of his sandwich. "Yeah." His father could ask her, but that was as far as Joe was willing to go at the moment.

"Anybody home?" Emily's voice echoed from the foyer in the front of the house.

"In here," Joe said, setting his sandwich down on a plate as he walked around the counter to meet her.

Emily Clark, Joe's beautiful, dark haired girlfriend, stepped into the kitchen of the Hardy home, and tossed two shopping bags onto a nearby chair. "Hey, guys."

Joe greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. "How was the mall?"

"Packed. It must be the gorgeous weather. Everybody's out running errands today," she said with a smile. "What have you three been up to?"

"Talking about a case, actually," Frank said.

"Yeah. In fact, Dad has something he wants to ask you, honey." Joe turned to reach for his sandwich.

"Oh?" Emily looked at Fenton expectantly.

"Um, yeah." Fenton cleared his throat. "This case we're thinking of taking involves an adoption agency, and, uh..." Fenton ran his hand across the back of his neck.

"And?" she prompted with a smile.

"Well, I was just wondering if you could help us out by being pregnant."

Emily's mouth opened and closed without a sound coming out.

Joe knew that statement had thrown her for a loop. And he couldn't let it go without first having some fun. He slipped his arm around Emily's waist. "I told him we'd be happy to work on it."

Her head snapped around to stare at him.

"No," Fenton spoke up hurriedly, reaching for Emily's hand. "No, no, that came out wrong. What I meant to say was would you consider posing with Joe as a young couple in trouble?"

"Wow." Emily looked from Joe to Fenton. "Maybe you'd better tell me a little more about this."

Fenton explained what he knew, as Emily helped herself to a glass of lemonade and sat on a barstool at the kitchen counter.

"Gosh, I feel so sorry for this girl." She sipped her drink. "She's really only fifteen years old?"

"I'm afraid so," Fenton said. "And her parents are worried sick."

"Well, I want to help if I can, and if Joe wants to." She gave him an uncertain look. "What exactly would this involve?"

Joe smiled. She knew him well enough to know that letting her work on a case was not something he'd be in favor of. Too many close calls where she'd been put in danger had made him very wary of involving her in his work at any level.

Fenton smiled at her. "I'll put in a call to the Feds. They're going to be handling most of the behind the scenes work. Why don't I tell them we want to meet with an agent and see what you think after that?"

Emily nodded. "Okay."

Frank stood. "I'll call Nan."

Joe walked over to Emily's side. "I don't want you to think you have to do this. In fact, I'm not sure I want you anywhere near it."

"Well, we don't know exactly what they want me to do yet. But Joe, this girl is only fifteen years old, pregnant, and alone. She needs someone to help her." Emily gave him a pleading look he found hard to resist.

Joe ran his hand over his face. He didn't know if he could handle this. It was one thing for her to help behind the scenes on a case, but to have her be an active part of an investigation? That would put her right in the line of fire, so to speak. The problem was, Emily now liked detective work. Joe hadn't counted on that. He could see in her eyes how much she wanted to be a part of this. But could he quell his fears enough to let her? That he would have to think about.