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Maddie Wellwood looked up at the sound of footsteps coming from the hall.  She held a finger to her lips, silencing her husband and the sheriff.  "Someone's coming."  She smiled and relaxed when Weaver turned the corner into the small kitchen.  "Well?"  

"The kid's going to be fine," Jerry Weaver assured them.  "I gave him some stuff that'll knock him out for about eight hours.   That oughta put him and his brother on the road just in time."  A look of distaste crossed his face.  

"What's wrong, Doc?"  Brad Meyers stood leaning against an old Formica covered counter, tossing an apple from one hand to another.  

"It's just that…" Weaver threw his hands in the air in frustration. "They're just a couple of innocent kids."  

Meyers' eyes narrowed and he crossed the kitchen in three long strides.  Grabbing the smaller man by the shoulder, he gave him a rough shake.  "And what about your boys? Or mine?"  

"I know, I know," Weaver almost shouted, pulling himself out of the sheriff's grip. "I know," he repeated softly, "for them."  He looked up into the sheriff's eyes.  "For them."  


Frank tossed his cell phone down next to him on the twin bed, looking at it with disgust. Every time he had tried to call home, he heard the annoying tones warning him that he was out of range.  He'd been able to call home from the Rocky Mountains, why he was having so much trouble getting through from Maine he couldn't guess.  What made the situation even more frustrating was that there wasn't a phone in the room that he could use.  Going down to ask the Wellwoods if he could use their phone didn't seem appealing.  Deciding that he might have better luck outside, he thought it would be best to let Joe know that he'd been gone for a minute or two.  

"Joe?" He got up and went over to his brother's bed.  "Joe," he said a little louder, leaning down closer to his sibling's ear and giving his shoulder a shake. He's really out, Frank thought worriedly. But Weaver said the pills wouldn't knock him out. Stop it, Frank, he chided himself.  Joe's exhausted, that's all. You're letting your imagination run away with you. Nothing's happened. Nothing's going to happen.  Scooping up the cell phone from the other bed, he slipped quietly out the door.  

Reaching the base of the stairs, he could hear the quiet murmurs of conversation coming from the area behind the front desk.  Part of him was tempted to eavesdrop, but he wondered how he could explain what he was doing there if he was caught.  Part of him just wanted to call home and talk to his parents.  They weren't really expecting them home for another day or so, but he wanted to touch base with them, nevertheless.  He couldn't put his finger on why the town or the people he had met made him nervous, they just did.  And Joe had made no secret of the fact that he was just as spooked by it all.  Maybe they were feeding off one another?  He didn't think so. One thing that both he and Joe had learned to trust over the years was their instincts. And his instincts said leave.  

Resolving, once again, to leave in a few hours, Frank dialed his home and hit send.  The same tones sounded and the 'out of range' message appeared.  Growling in frustration, he hit the power button and stuffed the phone into his jacket.  There was no reason for the phone not to work.  Nothing about this town seemed to be as it should. He angrily kicked at a stone and watched it roll off the porch and down the front steps.  This drew his attention to a figure that he was sure hadn't been there a minute ago. An older woman stood on the far side of the street at the corner of an empty lot, unabashedly watching him. The dim glow of the streetlight bounced off her silver hair and barely illuminated her features. There was something familiar about her, though—the grey hair, the tall frame, even the way she stood.  Frank was certain that he'd seen her before, as remote a possibility as that was.  Up until that day, he had never even realized that Castle Rock existed outside of a book.   As he debated whether or not to go to her, she gave him a small wave.  That was all the invitation he needed.  Looking up at the second floor window that was their room, he silently promised Joe that he'd only be a few minutes. But when he turned back to the street he was surprised to see that the woman had disappeared.  He'd only looked away for a few moments.  There was no building or car that she could have gone into, not in the brief time that he had looked away.  Another mystery to add to his night in Castle Rock.  

"Something the matter, son?"  Brad Meyers was just exiting the inn as Frank had started down the steps to his car.   

"No, nothing's wrong," Frank answered with forced ease.  Joe had mentioned to him the peculiar looks they had been getting from Meyers and Wellwood.  It wasn't anything that he had noticed at first, but now he was sure he was seeing what his brother had seen.  "I thought that I'd get our bags and double check that the car was locked."  He dug his keys from his pocket and opened the trunk to pull out two duffel bags.  "So are you heading out, Sheriff?"  Climbing the steps to the porch, Frank put one of the bags down and extended his hand.  "I just wanted to say thank you for your help."  

"Well, you're welcome." Taking the offered hand, Meyers gave it a firm shake.  "I probably won't see you and your brother tomorrow before you leave so let me wish you a safe trip back home."  He reached behind to open the door to the hotel for Frank to enter.  "Have a good night, Frank."  

"Goodnight, Sheriff, and thanks again."  The teen picked up the second bag and stepped back into the hotel, trying not to bristle at the feeling that he was being herded in by the sheriff.   

Watching the exchange unnoticed, a silver-haired woman moved from the shadows of a building to stand underneath the light of the lamppost, her features set in a definite scowl.  


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The Hardy Boys belong to Simon and Schuster and the Stratemeyer Foundation. The Hardy Boys Fan Fiction author(s) of the Hardy Detective Agency have just borrowed them for an adventure or two. The author(s) promise to give the boys back when they are done with them. The authors do claim copyright to any original characters in their stories. Please do not borrow original characters without express permission of the author(s) in question.