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"Coming, coming."  The loud rapping of knuckles against a door woke Frank.  Blinking rapidly to clear his head of the disturbing images of his dream, the yellow sunflowers came into focus reminding him of where he was.  He crawled off the bed, giving his brother a rough shake as he went by on his way to the door.   

"Mr. Hardy?"  The muffled voice from the hallway was laced with impatience.  "Are you there?"  

Frank cracked the door open slightly to find the pinched features of Ike Wellwood glaring back at him.   "Good morning.  Is there a problem?"  

Wellwood's look of annoyance changed to one of surprise.  "Morning?  It stopped being morning hours ago.  It's nearly 4:30 .  You and your brother have slept the day away."  He tapped his foot and raised a bucket that held rags and cleaners high enough for Frank to see.  "I hate to rush you," he said, his sneer saying he was anything but sorry, "but if I'm going to have enough time to clean that room for our 6:00 guests I'm going to have to get in there soon."  

"II'm sorry," Frank stammered, checking his watch and noticing for the first time the twilight coloured sky outside the hotel window.  "I didn't realize it was so late.  I promise, after a quick shower and change we'll be downstairs and ready to check out."  He started to close the door, but stopped. "Oh, Mr. Wellwood, is there somewhere close-by where we could get some dinner?"  He was starving, having slept through breakfast and lunch, and knew that his brother would be the same.  

"Just next door.  The Castle Rock Kitchen.  Food's good and not too expensive."  The hotel owner gave Frank a stern look.  "Try to be out of that room by 5:30 , boy."  

"Hey, Joe!"  Frank bounced down onto his brother's bed after he had closed the door on Wellwood's muttering about "kids having no respect".  "We've gotta get moving." Getting no response, he gave Joe a light tap on the cheek.  "C'mon, Joe," he said in exasperation,  "we don't have time for this. We've got to leave."  Joe's breathing remained deep and even and Frank's stomach sank to his knees as he rolled his brother onto his back. "Joe?"  He gave him another slap on the cheek. This time harder.  "Wake up!"  

"You don't have to yell, Frank." Joe dragged his eyes open and grabbed Frank's wrist before he could slap him again.  "I'm awake." Seeing his brother's concerned look, he frowned.  "What's wrong?" he asked groggily.   

Letting out a loud breath, Frank smiled.  "I was having a hard time waking you up. I got a little worried.  You feeling okay?  Headache gone?" He ruffled his brother's hair when Joe just nodded and rolled his eyes at him. "I don't know how it happened but we slept right through the day. Wellwood was here telling us we have to hurry and get out."  

"We slept all day?"  Joe threw back the duvet and sat up quickly.  "Whoo, that wasn't smart."  He pressed his palm to his forehead.  "I don't know what that doctor gave me, but I feel like my head's full of cotton."  He arched an eyebrow at his brother.  "Don't even think about saying out loud the smart remark I see coming." He gave Frank a cheeky grin.  "It won't be worth the payback." The smile fell away when he saw his brother's face.  "I'm fine, honest.  No headache.  All I need is a shower and some food." He got up and gave Frank a quick hug.  "I love you, bro, but you worry way too much.  Now," he said, his eyes glinting, "have a seat.  The shower's mine!"  With that he pushed Frank backward onto the bed and disappeared into the bathroom.  


"Okay, so let me see if I've got this straight. You," the waitress sighed disinterestedly, pointing at Frank, "want a burger, fries, side salad, dressing on the side and a milk. Large. And you, "she said to Joe, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear, "are gonna have the bacon cheeseburger, fries and rings, and a large milk. Right?"  Not waiting for a confirmation, she turned on her heel and disappeared into the kitchen.  

"Charming," Frank remarked sardonically.  "Except that I wanted the burger and salad, no fries and water. And you wanted the cheeseburger, milk and rings instead of fries."  He let out a short sigh.  "What is it you're always telling me?"  

"You mean about restaurants?" He looked at his brother questioningly and then grinned. "Oh, yeah.  Tips talk.  I guess ours'll be saying something," he chuckled.  "I just wanna eat and get out of here.  I can't believe we both slept through the day. Well, I can believe I might, but not you."  

Frank just shrugged.  "I didn't get to bed until early this morning.  The Wellwoods brought up some sandwiches and water after midnight so I ended up having a couple.  I tried to wake you up to see if you wanted one, but you were in a deep sleep. So I gave up."  Pulling his jacket onto his lap, he dug into a pocket for a map.  "Before we leave let's plan a route. I dont want to get turned around and spend another night here."  He unfolded the map and laid it out on the table, causing his napkin to flutter to the floor.  

"I'll get it," Joe told his brother before he made a grab for it.  Bending down to pick it up, he felt the room start to spin. Squeezing his eyes tight, he clutched the side of the table to stop himself from landing on the floor, but he knew it wasn't going to be enough.  He felt himself start to tilt out of the booth.  Suddenly two strong hands on his shoulders stopped his crazy lean and he opened his eyes.  Frank was kneeling on the floor in front of him, his worried face just inches from his.  

"I've got you," Frank reassured his brother as he helped him to sit up.  "What happened?"  He gently nudged Joe over and slid into the booth beside him.   

Joe leaned his elbows on the table and scrubbed at his face.  "I can't seem to shake whatever it is Weaver gave me. The shower didn't help at all.  How about you?" He had noticed that his brother's eyes were a little bloodshot.  "Do you feel okay?"  

"I think so," Frank answered, nodding slowly. "A little groggy, but I always feel that way when I've overslept."  

"Yeah, and that happens maybe twice a year.  I wouldn't be surprised if there was something in that food."  Joe looked at his brother, hard.  "You can tell me that I'm paranoid and letting my imagination run away with me, but nothing about this town seems right. Just look at everyone sitting in this diner.  I can feel them staring at meus--but when I try to make eye contact they turn away.  Not because they got caught staring, it's something else. It's like they know something and they're feeling guilty."  He saw his brother scan the other diners, watching their reactions.  "It's not my imagination, is it? It is guilt, that look, isn't it?"  He grabbed his brother's wrist, making him turn to him again.  "Devil's Night in Castle Rock, Frank. It's like the title to a bad splatter movie.  Let's just take the map, find the quickest way out of here, and go."  

Frank pulled the map to their side of the table, spinning it around to face them.  "You know there's a rational explanation for all of this and we're going to feel like idiots tomorrow."  He started to trace the route from Boothbay Harbour to Castle Rock.  "It'll explain the odd townsfolk, both of us losing a day sleeping, my cell phone not working, an old woman disappearing into the fog, and" He turned to stare at his brother.  

"And? You're not making me feel any better, Frank.  And what?"  

"And it'll explain why there's no Castle Rock on this map.  Look."  He pointed to a spot just off of the main highway that they had been travelling.  "There's nothing, no access road, nothing.  No town or city close to it. It's just a blank--part of some nature reserve."  

Joe pulled the map from his brother's hands and started to fold it.  "That's it. Let's go. We'll just follow the same road back to the highway."  He pushed Frank out of the booth.  "C'mon, I'll race you to the car."  

Frank saw the waitress approaching their table with the order.  With a lift of his shoulders he made his apologies and followed his brother, but not before leaving just enough money to cover the meal.


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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.