"Nancy! Open your eyes. Please!"
Nancy heard the frantic voice hovering above her. The voice wavered as it was in a distant tunnel, echoing through her mind.
Nancy flinched as she slowly opened her eyes. The sight of a Frank's handsome face stood before her. His hands were on either side of her face, tenderly stroking her cheeks.
Nancy propped herself up on her elbows, wincing in pain. Frank quickly came to her aid.
"Ouch." Nancy crinkled her face at the enormous headache she now had.
"I was walking back to the room when I saw you sprawled out on the floor. I was so worried! What happened?"
"I was coming back to the room when I suddenly heard someone warning me about getting involved in this case. Before I could turn around, he knocked me out. That's all I remember."
"Shoot. So our cover has been compromised?"
"Yes. Whoever this guy is, he definitely knows about the three of us and our reason for being here."
"So it was definitely a male suspect then?"
"I'm certain by the voice. But we need to hurry up and find Collins. He has to have surveillance of this hallway."
"Absolutely. Let's go."
Nancy struggled to stand up on her own, until Frank gently swooped down to bring her to her feet. He steadied her with his hands resting firmly on her waist. Being in pain certainly didn't stop her cheeks from beaming red. The proximity to Frank was suddenly making her nervous.
"Um, thanks for the help."
Frank answered her with a gentle sweep of her hair, moving it carefully behind her ear. He remained standing in front of her, making sure she was strong enough to balance on her own.
Nancy could no longer feel her intense headache. The pain converted itself into extreme adrenaline coursing through her body. She hoped her erratic breathing would go unnoticed by Frank. She stared up into his brown eyes, noticing an intensity there that she hadn't seen a moment ago.
"Are you sure you're okay to walk?" Frank's voice was much huskier now.
"Y-Yeah. I'm fine." Even though she had taken a hit to the head, her knees were feeling weak.
"Here, put your weight against me." Frank quickly joined her side and brought her arm around his neck. He then brought his hand down to her waist, bringing her closer towards him.
Even though Frank was merely being a gentleman, Nancy was unable to contain her nerves as they slowly walked through the hallway. Frank's hands were firmly wrapped around her waist. If he were to bring her any closer to his body, she would have little resistance to wrapping herself in his arms. Stop it, Drew.
As they continued walking, Joe and Lucy were spotted walking towards them.
"Woah, what happened? Are you alright?" Joe immediately ran to Nancy's other side, lending Frank a helping hand.
"Oh my god, Lydia! What happened? Did you faint, dear?"
"Yeah…I fainted. I've been a bit dehydrated all day and ended up passing out. I bumped my head on the way down." Nancy lied in order to keep her cover. She knew Collins did not want Lucy to find out.
"Here, I'll go grab you some water."
Nancy interrupted. "That won't be necessary. I already had some, thanks. I was just walking to regain my composure."
"Please, let me accommodate you. I'll be right back." Before Nancy could say another word, Lucy had run off to fetch a glass of water. Nancy quickly turned to Joe.
"We are being watched. A guy came behind me and warned us about being on this case. Before I could get a good look at him, he knocked me out. Luckily Frank found me lying there. We need to get to Collins and let him know the suspect has access to the hotel rooms."
"Shoot! How does he know? We've only talked about the case in the safety of Collins' office."
"We don't know, Joe. The important thing is that we hurry off and tell him before Lucy comes back. We can't let her know!"
Nancy was feeling strong enough to walk on her own. They made quick timing and breezed through the hallways, heading straight for his office. They knocked once before being greeted at the door.
"Well hello, again. Please, come in. Are you enjoying your stay?"
They quickly entered and closed the door behind them. "Collins, the suspect is somewhere in this hotel. I was off walking to my suite when someone warned us about the case and hit me across the head. I was passed out until David found me."
Collins' expression turned grave. "What?! That's impossible. Have you told anyone else about your covers?"
"Not at all. Even your daughter still thinks we are writers. She thinks that I've just fainted and is off to get me some water."
"Then someone must be watching us. This cannot be happening. Not at this hotel, not on my watch!"
Frank tried to calm Collins down. "Please, the more you panic, the harder it is for us to do our job. We need to see the surveillance cameras of the hallway of our suite."
"Right away." Collins hustled towards his desk, pulling up the security cameras on his computer. The trio watched as his face turned sour.
"What is it?" Joe looked over in frustration.
"Unbelievable. Someone switched off the cameras in that particular hallway."
"Who has access to the cameras?"
"My assistant, Patty. She monitors everything from the front desk."
"Well let's bring her in."
Collins promptly picked up the phone. He dialed the front desk and waited for a response.
"Hello, Charles? Can you please inform Patty that I need her in my office right away? Thank you." Before he could hang up, Charles began to mumble something on the other line. "Oh, is that correct? And how long? I see. That will be all, Charles." Collins stared up at the detectives with grave concern.
"Patty has not been at the front desk since this afternoon."
Nancy gasped. It had appeared that the phantom man had taken hold of Patty!
"Is that unlike her, Collins?" Frank assumed she was on a very long lunch break.
"Yes. Very. Patty is the eyes and ears of this building. I trust very few people, and Patty is one of those few. She knows more about this hotel than anyone."
"Okay. It's time we step this up. In order to figure this whole thing out, it is imperative that you tell your daughter the truth about us. Her safety is now in jeopardy."
Collins sighed. "I understand."
As if she could read their mind, Lucy walked into the office with a glass of water.
"Lydia! There you are. I have that glass of water for you." Nancy stared back at her, unsure of how to tell her.
"Lucy, sweetheart. Please sit down." Collins ushered his daughter to take a seat. "I need you to do whatever these fine detectives tell you to do."
Lucy looked up in confusion at the three of them. Nancy then went into explaining the entire situation, including her most recent incident with the suspect. She mentioned they were using cover names for safety, and quickly reintroduced herself and the Hardy boys.
Lucy stared wide-eyed at her father. "Why didn't you tell me? If I knew those notes I received were tied to you, I would have taken it much more seriously!" She began to cry.
"Lucy, dear. You have to be strong. I just didn't want you to worry. But now that this situation is escalating, you need to stay strong and keep the guests under control. We can't let anyone know."
"But what about Patty? She's now been kidnapped or something?" Lucy was now hysterical.
Joe brought his hand to her shoulder. "We don't know anything yet. The most important thing is that you now stay close to us. We will keep you safe. I promise."
Lucy mustered a question between sobs. "S-so…you guys aren't writers?"
Joe smiled back at her. "Not quite."
The rest of the evening was spent searching for Patty. The last time anyone had seen her, she was helping a family to their rooms. They were all certain she was kidnapped during that time. In order to keep things under control, Collins had amped up security. There were now hundreds of guards scattered throughout the hotel. They were all disguised as hotel guests, in order to keep the public concern low. Joe had escorted Lucy back to their suite. He figured it was essential that she stay with them until they figured the situation out.
Nancy was physically drained. It had only been two days at the estate, but so much had already happened. She made her way to the balcony of the suite, making sure to leave Lucy and Joe alone, who had quickly become flirtatious pals.
Nancy looked out at the ocean before her. It was simply beautiful. Under any other circumstance she would love nothing more than to enjoy the beautiful estate. But now, it was just too soon for her to be engulfed in such beauty. Someone was already missing, Lucy had learned of their real identity, and Nancy was attacked by some unknown villain. To top it off, she had just broken up with her boyfriend of seven years over the phone. Even though Ned royally deserved it, Nancy couldn't help but feel overwhelmed over the breakup. She had a headache from replaying their previous conversation back in her mind. If only she could get her mind off of things for a while…
"Nan? Do you mind if I join you?" Frank peered through the screen, looking clearly exhausted from the day.
"Please do." Nancy moved over, inviting Frank to sit next to her.
They both remained silent for a while, taking in the sight before them while listening to the cool breeze. Nancy shivered slightly.
"Are you cold?"
"No, I'm quite alright. Than-"
Before Nancy could even finish, Frank had handed her his green zip-up jacket. She smiled graciously before putting it on.
"How's your head feeling?"
"From the hit, it feels fine. From the whirlwind of events the past two days, it is killing me."
"I know what you mean. I'm pretty stressed out myself. It also doesn't help that I left home on a bad note."
Nancy looked at him curiously. "How so?"
Frank let out a sigh. "I didn't mention it earlier in the car, but Callie left me after she found out about this case."
Nancy was in shock. "Frank! I'm so sorry. You two have been together forever."
"I know. It was her decision, and I understand why. Callie wants the same things out of me that Ned wants from you. But I just can't give this life up for her. I wish there were a way to have them both, but Callie was not interested in that option. So she dumped me."
Nancy rubbed Frank's arm. "I'm sorry to hear that. Callie was a sweet girl." She frowned as she stared off at the ocean. Now was a good time to share her story with Frank.
"I'm…I'm in the same boat as you too. I called Ned last night to talk and he basically told me off. He was completely disrespectful, which was shocking to me, and I knew I had to end it. Seven years down the drain." She looked up at him. "I'm sorry this case has mutually ended important relationships in our lives."
Frank stared back at her. "Me too, Nan. Me too." He took a long pause before speaking again. "I do have to say though, it is quite mind boggling how any guy could talk to you disrespectfully. You deserve nothing but the best."
"You're very sweet to say that. Thank you, Frank. So do you." Nancy reached over her chair and hugged Frank. Even though her gesture was meant to be friendly, there was a sudden spark to their touch. Being in his arms was simply electric. You both have lost the love of your lives. Stop thinking like that, Drew. Frank is your good friend!
Nancy quickly pulled away and stared back at the ocean. It was ridiculous to have any sort of feelings, especially with her closest friend who had just shared a breakup story with her! Nancy was sure it was her adrenaline causing her mind to think crazy things. It would be best to start talking about something else.
"So Lucy and Joe seem to be getting along nicely, yes?"
"My brother can get along well with any attractive young lady. It's in his DNA." They both let out a laugh.
"That's definitely true. I don't know how he fits work into his flirtatious schedule!"
"Well he certainly gets to kill two birds with one stone when working with you, Drew." Frank smirked at her.
Nancy blushed slightly. One little compliment and Nancy was already a pile of mush. "It seems like some of Joe's flirtatious ways are rubbing off on his older brother."
Frank chuckled. "I guess so. There's a difference between us though. Joe says it to practically any girl in his sight. I only say it to someone when I mean it."
Nancy thought she heard Frank's voice waver a bit at the end of his comment, but she couldn't be sure. The only thing she was certain about was at that exact moment a new set of chills crept up her spine. Nancy was finding it difficult to concentrate. Was Frank blatantly admitting he was flirting with her? Or was he simply being nice? Nancy beamed with excitement at the thought of the former.
Before she could say another word, an audible shriek could be heard from below the balcony. Nancy and Frank jolted up and ran inside to grab Joe.
The trio had made their way to the outdoor pool, straining to hear another sound.
"Maybe it was someone messing around?" Joe wondered.
"No, it certainly was not that. We heard someone screaming like they needed help."
"Well it's extremely quiet out here. There doesn't seem to be any-"
Another yelp could be heard. It sounded stifled, as if coming from a closed door.
"Quick! Let's check the janitor's closet!" Nancy picked the locked door at lightning speed. Swinging the door open, she stared wide-eyed at the sight before her.
A bound-and-gagged Patty knelt before them. She was tied to a shelving unit, the look of terror pouring from her eyes. "Mmmmmm! Hhhm me!" Nancy knew she was demanding help, and they quickly made ways with her ties. Frank pulled the rope out of her mouth. Patty began to cough abruptly.
"Patty! Are you alright?"
"I…I…trapped in there for hours! Some guy….then the ropes and I was screaming for help. Then he took me here and the ropes were tied and…"
"Come on, Patty. Take a deep breath. We're here for you. You're safe."
Patty could not stop shaking. "The man. The man took me here!"
"What man? Do you remember what he looked like?"
"N-No. He was wearing a black mask. All I saw were his eyes."
"Do you recall the color of them?"
"Brown. Definitely brown."
Frank and Joe carefully brought her to her feet. They needed to get to Collins right away. Frank was sure Patty would be able to open up to them after the initial shock wore down.
"I was leading a family towards their room. As I walked back to the elevator, this man just grabbed me and carried me through the stairwell." Patty stood before Collins and the detectives. Although visibly shaken up, she had been given food and water and was now telling her story. "His hand was around my nose and mouth. He told me if I screamed he'd put a bullet into my head."
"What did he want with you?" Collins looked at his most trusted assistant, horrified that someone could do that to her in the safety of his hotel.
"He demanded the password for the security cameras. I stayed silent for as long as I could, but he was starting to get physical. Once he slapped me hard across the face, I knew he meant business. I had to tell him the code. I am so very sorry, Collins."
"Patty, please. I'm just relieved you are okay. But we now have the answer as to why the security camera didn't show him in the hallway after attacking Nancy. This guy has certainly been watching us from the safety of this hotel. And he's still able to get away with his game, even with the amped up security."
"We are going to find this guy, Collins. He luckily didn't harm Patty severely and I assure you, he will not be harming anyone else, either." Joe wanted to assure the concerned man. He didn't want the situation getting out of hand.
"We're going to keep watch. There will be no other disturbances the rest of the night. We promise." With that, the three detectives split up, scouring the building for any sign of a psychopath.
It was 4 in the morning before Nancy made it back to the suite. She was so tired she could barely think. Throughout the night, no other disturbances had been made. It seemed like he waited to make his move when there were crowds of people present. As she walked towards her room, her cell phone began to ring. At this hour? Nancy was too lightheaded to comprehend much else. She picked up the phone and groggily answered.
"It seems to me like my little friend Patty isn't where I left her."
Nancy's heart began to race. The phantom man was talking with her on the phone!
"What do you want?" Nancy's energy was now alert.
"Relax, honey. I'll make a deal with you. Come with me and I'll stop causing problems here. The longer you wait, the more people will go missing. And they won't be alive when you find them. Understood?"
"What do you want with me then?"
"That's for me to know, sweetheart."
"What about the $20 million?"
"That's just to scare old man Collins. I don't want his filthy money. Just his reputation."
"Well how do you intend on getting it?"
"Enough conversation. Meet me tomorrow evening at 6:30 by the front desk. And come alone. Don't think I won't know if your little partners are around either."
"There's no way you'll be able to snatch me away in a public place."
"I've done it before with Patty, haven't I, sweetheart? Come alone or your little pal Lucy won't live to see her hotel's reputation crumble." He clicked off the phone.
Nancy stood outside of her suite room, stunned. Any notion of getting a good night's rest had been thrown out the window. She had to tell Frank and Joe!
"And he said I have to come alone. If I don't, he's going to harm Lucy." Nancy stood in front of the Hardy boys, explaining her phone conversation. They were groggy-eyed and in their pajamas as she spoke. "I don't know how this guy expects to ruin a hotel's reputation by kidnapping me."
"This is really odd. But you know, there's been something strange about this entire case."
"What's strange?" Frank and Nancy looked up at Joe curiously.
"Well, for one thing, this guy started leaving threatening notes, but wasn't doing anything about it. There was no meeting time, no kidnapping, not anything at all. Then, he takes Patty only to gain access to the security cameras. He hides her in an easily found closet and doesn't even kill her, knowing perfectly well she would tell us everything after being found. Then, he goes from wanting $20 million to simply demanding Nancy. And he claims the reputation of this place will go downhill if she doesn't obey. This guy is all over the map."
"You make a good point, Joe. He doesn't seem to really have a solid plan." Frank looked at his brother, knowing perfectly well how disorganized the case had been.
"It most definitely has to be a guest here, though. There's no other way they'd have access to the entire grounds. We need to see the list of everyone currently staying here." Nancy knew this would be an arduous task.
"Well what are we going to do about tomorrow evening? This guy will know if we follow Nancy to the front desk."
"We need disguises then. There is absolutely no way we are letting Nancy out of our sights. This creep is not laying a finger on her," Frank protectively declared.
"Right. I'll also wear a wire. If I can get this guy alone, we can pounce on him there. Joe, you have got to keep an eye on Lucy. Her life is really on the line now, and we cannot let him get a hold of her."
"I promise, Nancy. If anything we will stay in my suite throughout the day. That way I can go through the list of guests here and also keep her in my presence."
"Good idea, Joe. I'll work on our disguises and getting Nancy wired."
"Okay. I think the most important thing now is getting at least a few hours of sleep. Especially you, Nancy. You're taking on a big risk with this case, so you need to make sure you're alert."
"Right. I'll do just that."
Although Nancy had crawled into bed, her eyes remained open. The reality of what would be happening in a few short hours worried her. How would they be able to pull this off in a public place? And worse, what if the mysterious suspect was armed? Nancy shivered as she drifted into a light sleep, leaving her worries to dwell a few hours longer.
Hope you enjoyed this chapter! Please review! The more feedback, the more I strive for daily updates xx