Infomotions, Inc.The Apartment Next Door / Johnston, William Andrew



Author: Johnston, William Andrew
Title: The Apartment Next Door
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): hoff; jane; fleck; carter; frederic; dean; old hoff; old otto; chief fleck; young hoff; lieutenant kramer
Contributor(s): Browning, William Ernst [Editor]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 56,255 words (really short) Grade range: 7-10 (grade school) Readability score: 68 (easy)
Identifier: etext11240
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Title: The Apartment Next Door

Author: William Andrew Johnston

Release Date: February 23, 2004 [EBook #11240]
[Date last updated: February 5, 2005]

Language: English

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The Apartment Next Door

BY

WILLIAM JOHNSTON

AUTHOR OF
THE HOUSE OF WHISPERS, LIMPY, ETC.

ILUSTRATIONS BY
ARTHUR WILLIAM BROWN


_1919_




TO THAT MARVELLOUS SCHEHERAZADE

CAROLYN WELLS HOUGHTON

THE AUTHOR, IN ENVIOUS ADMIRATION,
DEDICATES THIS VOLUME




CONTENTS


CHAPTER

I. THE FACE OF HATE

II. THE ADDRESS ON THE CARD

III. "MR. FLECK"

IV. THE CLUE IN THE BOOK

V. ON THE TRAIL

VI. THE MISSING MESSAGE

VII. THE WOMAN ON THE ROOF

VIII. THE LISTENING EAR

IX. THE PURSUIT

X. CARTER'S DISCOVERY

XI. JANE'S ADVENTURE

XII. PUZZLES AND PLANS

XIII. THE SEALED PACKET

XIV. THE MOUNTAIN'S SECRET

XV. THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS

XVI. THE ATTACK ON THE HOUSE

XVII. SOMETHING UNEXPECTED

XVIII. WHAT THE PACKET CONTAINED




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

      *      *       *       *       *

She could not bring herself to tell him, the
man she loved, the thing she knew he
was.

More than likely, she alone in all the world--knew
who the murderer was.

Had he been standing there listening? How
much had he heard?

"Thank God," he cried. "Jane, dear,
tell me you are not hurt!"




THE APARTMENT
NEXT DOOR




CHAPTER I


THE FACE OF HATE

It was three o'clock in the morning. Along a deserted pavement of
Riverside Drive strode briskly a young man whose square-set shoulders
and erect poise suggested a military training. His coat, thrown
carelessly open to the cold night wind, displayed an expanse of white
indicative of evening dress. As he walked his heels clicked sharply on
the concrete with the forceful firm tread of the type which does things
quickly and decisively. The intense stillness of the early morning hours
carried the sound in little staccato beats that could be heard blocks
away. A few yards behind him, moving furtively and noiselessly, almost
as if he had been shod with rubber, crept another figure, that of a
stocky, broad-shouldered man, who despite his bulk and weight moved
silently and swiftly through the night, a soft brown hat drawn low over
his eyes as if he desired to avoid recognition.

All at once the man ahead paused suddenly and stood looking out over the
river. Between the Drive and the distance-dimmed lights of the Jersey
shore there rose like great silhouettes the grim figures of several huge
steel-clad battleships, their fighting-tops lost in the shadows of the
opposite hills. Beside them, obscure, with no lights visible, lay the
great transports that in a few hours, or in a few days--who knew--they
would be convoying with their precious cargo of fighting men across the
war-perilled Atlantic.

It was on the forward deck of one of these great battleships that the
eyes of the man ahead were riveted. His shadower, evidently much
concerned in his actions, crept slowly and stealthily forward,
approaching nearer and still nearer without being observed.

A dim light became visible on the warship's deck and then vanished.
Still the man stood there watching, a puzzled, anxious look coming into
his face. Quickly the light reappeared--two flashes, a pause, two
flashes, a pause, and then a single flash. It was such a light as might
have been made by a pocket torch, a feeble ray barely strong enough to
carry to the adjacent shore, a light that if it had been flashed from
some sheltered nook by the boat davits might not even have attracted the
attention of the officer on the bridge nor of the ship's watchmen.
Manifestly it was a signal intended for the eyes of some one on shore.

A muttered imprecation escaped the lips of the watcher on the Drive. He
stood there, straining his eyes toward the ship as if expecting a
following signal, then he turned and gazed aloft at the windows of the
apartment houses lining the driveway to see if some answering signal
flashed back.

And in the shadow of the buildings, hardly ten feet away but half
sheltered by a doorway, stood his sinister pursuer, motionless
but alert.

For perhaps a quarter of an hour they held their positions. At last the
man who was being followed shrugged his shoulders impatiently and set
off again down the Drive, from time to time turning his head to watch
the spot from which the signal had been flashed. Behind him, as
doggedly as ever and now a little closer, crept the man with the hat
over his eyes.

Regardless of the lateness of the hour, at a third-floor window of one
of the great apartment houses lining the Drive sat a young girl in her
nightrobe, with her two great black braids flung forward over her
shoulders, about which she had placed for warmth's sake a quilted
negligee. Jane Strong was far too excited to sleep. An hour before she
had come in from a wonderful party. The music still was playing mad
tunes in her ears. The excitement, the coffee, the spirited tilts at
arms with her many dancing partners had set her brain on fire. Sleep
seemed impossible as yet.

Looking out at the river--a favorite occupation of hers--the sight of
the warships looming up through the darkness reminded her once more that
nearly all of the men with whom she had been dancing had been in
uniform, bringing into prominence in the jumble of ideas in her
over-stimulated brain, almost as a new discovery, the fact that her
country was really engaged in war, that the men, the very men whom she
knew best, were most of them fighting, or soon going to fight in a
foreign land. Suddenly she found herself vaguely wishing that there was
something she might do, something for the war, something to help. Would
it not be splendid, she thought, to go to France as a Red Cross nurse,
to be over there in the middle of things, where something exciting was
forever going on. Life--the only life she knew about, existence as the
petted daughter of well-to-do parents in a big city--had, ever since the
war had begun, seemed strangely flat and uninteresting. Parties, to be
sure, were fun but hardly any one was giving parties this year. The
Stantons had entertained only because their lieutenant son was going
abroad soon, and they wished him to have a pleasant memory to carry with
him. Most of the interesting men she knew already were gone, and now
Jack Stanton was going. How she wished she could find some way of
getting into the war herself.

The sound of approaching footsteps caught her ear. Wondering who was
abroad at that hour of the night she pushed up the window softly and
looked out. In the distance she saw a man approaching, striding briskly
toward her. As she stood idly watching him and wondering about him,
suddenly she caught her breath. She had sighted the other figure behind,
the man creeping stealthily after him. Nearer and nearer they came. In
tense expectation she waited, sensing some unusual development. They had
reached her block now. Almost directly under her window the man in
advance paused to light a cigarette. His shadow paused, too, but some
incautious movement on his part must have betrayed him.

Match in hand, the man in advance stood stock-still, his whole figure
taut, poised, alert, in an attitude of listening. All at once he wheeled
about, discovering the man close behind him. He sprang at once for his
pursuer. The latter took to his heels, dashing around the corner, the
man whom he had been following now hot at his heels.

All trembling with nervous excitement Jane leaned out the window to
listen and watch. She could hear the running feet of both men just
around the corner. What was happening? The running feet came to an
abrupt stop. There was a half-smothered cry, a sharp thud, like a body
striking the pavement, and then came silence. Puzzled, vaguely alarmed,
a hundred questions came pouring into her brain and lingered there
disturbingly. Why had one of these men been shadowing the other? Why had
the pursuer suddenly become the pursued? Why had the running footsteps
come to such an abrupt stop? What was the noise she had heard? What was
happening around the corner? Her fears rapidly growing, she was on the
point of arousing her family. But what excuse should she give? What
could she tell them? After all she had merely seen two men run up the
side street. More than likely they would only laugh at her, and she did
not like being laughed at. Besides, Dad was always cross when suddenly
awakened. Undecided what to do she stood at the window, peering into
the night.

Five minutes, ten minutes she stood there in tremulous perplexity. A
sense of impending tragedy seemed to have laid hold of her. A black
horror seized her and held her at the window. Something terrible,
something tragic, she was sure must have happened. Mustering up her
strength and trying to calm her fears she was about to put down the
window when she heard footsteps once more approaching. Straining her
ears to listen she discovered the sound was that of the steps of a
man--one man--approaching from around the corner. As she watched he
turned into the Drive and came on toward her. She shrank back a little,
fearful of being seen even though her room was in darkness. It was the
first man. She recognized him at once by his top-hat and his evening
clothes. He was walking even more briskly than before, almost running.
There was no sign anywhere of the shorter thick-set man who had been
following him. Something in the appearance of the figure in the street
below struck her all at once as vaguely familiar. She wondered if it
could be any one she knew.

Presently he came directly opposite the light on the other side of the
Drive so that it shone for an instant full on his face. Jane looked and
shuddered. Never in all her life had she seen any man's countenance so
convulsed, not with pain, but with a soul-terrifying expression of hate,
of virulent, murderous hate.

Distorted though the man's face was with such bitter frightfulness, she
recognized him, not as any one she knew, but merely as one of the
tenants in the same apartment building.

"It's one of the people next door," she said to herself and in
verification of her identification, as he approached the building, the
young man cast a swift glance over his shoulder, and then, as if
satisfied that he was unobserved, dashed hurriedly in at the entrance.

Jane, more than ever wrought up with fear and dread of she knew not
what, sprang hastily into bed and drew the covers about her shoulders.
As yet she did not lie down but shiveringly waited. Presently she heard
the elevator stop. She heard the key opening the door of the next
apartment. In a few minutes she heard the man moving about his bedroom,
separated from her own room by a mere six inches of plaster and paper,
or whatever it is that apartment-house walls are made of.

What could have happened? She was certain that something terrible had
occurred in which the young man next door had played a tragic, perhaps
even a criminal part. She tried in vain to conjecture what circumstance
could have been responsible for the look of hatred she had seen on his
face. She wondered what had been the fate of the man who had been
following him. Had they quarrelled and fought? What could have been the
subject of their quarrel?

She tried to summarize what she knew about the people next door, and was
amazed to discover how little she had to draw upon. As in most New York
apartment houses so in Jane's home all the tenants were utter strangers
to each other, one family not even knowing the names of any of the
others. Occasionally, to be sure, one rather resentfully rode up or down
in the elevator with some of the other tenants but always without
noticing or speaking to them. Jane's family had been living in the
building for five years, and of the twenty other families they knew the
names of only two, having learned them by accident rather than
intention. About the people next door Jane now discovered that she
really knew nothing at all. There was a man with a gray beard who never
took off his hat in the elevator, and there was the handsome young chap
whom she had just seen entering. But what their names were, or their
business, or how long they had lived there, or whether they were father
and son, what servants they kept, or whether either or both of them was
married--these were questions she could have answered as readily as if
they had been living in Dallas, Texas, or Seattle, Washington, as in the
next apartment. Quickly she found that she really knew nothing at all
about them except--she could not recall that any one had told her or how
she had got the impression--she was almost certain they were some sort
of foreigners.

Just when it was that her troubled thoughts were succeeded by even more
troubled dreams she was not aware, but it was noon the next day when she
was awakened by the maid bringing in her breakfast tray.

"Terrible, Miss Jane, wasn't it," said the servant, "about that suicide
last night, almost under our noses, you might say."

"Suicide!" cried the girl, at once wide-awake and interested "What
suicide?"

"A man was found dead in the side street right by our building with a
revolver in his hand."

"What sort of a looking man was he?"

"I didn't see him," said the maid, almost regretfully. "He was taken
away before I was up. Cook tells me it was the milkman found him and
notified the police."

"Who was he?"

"Nobody round here knows a thing about him. He shot himself through the
heart and us sleeping here an' not knowing anything at all about it."

"But didn't any one know who he was?"

"Never a soul. The superintendents from all the buildings round took a
look at the body, but none of them knew him. It wasn't anybody that
lived around here. There's a piece in the afternoon papers about it."

"Get me a paper at once," directed the girl.

Eagerly she read the paragraph the maid pointed out. It really told very
little. The body of a plainly dressed man had been found on the
sidewalk. There was a revolver in his hand with one cartridge
discharged, and the bullet had penetrated his heart. He had been a short
stalky man and had worn a brown soft hat. There was nothing about his
clothing to identify him, even the marks where his suit had been
purchased having been removed. He had not been identified. The police
and the coroner were satisfied that it was a case of suicide.

Suicide!

Jane, reading and rereading the paragraph, recalled the unusual
occurrence she had witnessed the night before. Vividly there stood out
before her the strange panorama she had seen, the tall young man in
evening clothes, and the short stalky man with the soft hat who had
followed him. The two of them had run around the corner. Only one of
them had come back. Unforgettably there was imprinted in her memory the
satanic expression on the young man's face as he had hastened into the
house. No wonder he had cast such an anxious glance behind him as
he entered.

Suicide!

Jane was certain that it was no suicide. She remembered the curious thud
she had heard from around the corner, like a body falling to the
pavement. She recalled that it must have been at least ten minutes
before the other man reappeared, time enough to have placed the revolver
in the dead man's hand, time enough even to have removed all possible
means of identification from the man's clothing.

It was not suicide, Jane felt certain. It was murder! Slowly but
oppressingly, overwhelmingly, it dawned on her not only that in all
probability a murder had been committed, but also that she--more than
likely, she alone in all the world--knew who the murderer was, who it
must have been--the young man next door.



CHAPTER II

THE ADDRESS ON THE CARD

Impatiently Jane looked at her wrist watch. It lacked an hour of the
time when she was to meet her mother at the Ritz for tea. Her nerves
still all ajangle from excitement and worry over the morning's tragedy,
and her own accidental secret knowledge of certain aspects of the case
had made it wholly impossible for her to do anything that day with even
simulated interest.

She had been debating with herself whether or not to confide to her
mother the story of the tragic tableau of which she had been an
accidental witness, when Mrs. Strong had dashed into her bedroom to give
her a hurried peck on the cheek and to say that she was off to luncheon
and the matinee with Mrs. Starrett.

"You're not looking well to-day, dear," her mother had said. "Stay in
bed and rest and join us for tea if you like."

Before she had opportunity to tell what she had seen, her mother was
gone, but Jane had found it impossible to obey her well-meant
injunction. She rose and dressed, her mind busy all the while with the
problem of what her duty was. As she donned her clothing she paused from
time to time to listen for sounds from the next apartment.

What was her neighbor doing now? Had he read of the discovery of the
man's body in the street? Perhaps he had fled already? Not a sound was
to be heard there. He did not look in the least like what Jane imagined
a murderer would, yet certainly the circumstances pointed all too
plainly to his guilt. She had seen two men dash around the corner, one
in pursuit of the other. One of them had come back alone. Not long
afterward a body--the body of the other man--had been found with a
bullet in his heart. It must have been a murder.

What ought she to do about it? Was it her duty to tell her mother and
Dad about what she had seen? Mother, she knew, would be horrified and
would caution her to say nothing to any one, but Dad was different. He
had strict ideas about right and justice. He would insist on hearing
every word she had to tell. More than likely he would decide that it was
her duty to give the information to the authorities. Her face blanched
at the thought. She could not do that. She pictured to herself the
notoriety that would necessarily ensue. She saw herself being hounded by
reporters, she imagined her picture in the papers, she heard herself
branded as "the witness in that murder case," she depicted herself being
questioned by detectives and badgered by lawyers.

No, she decided, it would be best for her never to tell a soul, not even
her parents. In persistent silence lay her safest course. After all she
had not witnessed the commission of the crime. She was not even sure
that the man found dead had been one of the two she had watched from her
window. If she saw the body she would not be able to identify it. She
was not even certain in her own mind that the man next door had done the
shooting, however suspicious his actions may have appeared to her.
Besides, he did not look in the least like a murderer. He was too
well-dressed.

In an effort to put the whole thing out of her mind she tried to read,
but was unable to keep her thoughts from wandering. She sat down at the
piano, but music failed to interest or soothe her. She mussed over some
unanswered notes in her desk but could not summon up enough
concentration of mind to answer them. Restless and fidgety, unable to
keep her thoughts from the unusual occurrences that had disturbed her
ordinarily too peaceful life, she decided to take a walk until it was
time to keep her appointment. Something--force of habit probably--led
her to the shopping district. With still half an hour to kill, she went
into a little specialty shop to examine some knitting bags displayed in
the window.

"Why don't you knit as all the other girls are doing?" was her father's
constant suggestion every time she asserted her desire to be doing
something in the war.

"There's no thrill in knitting," she would answer. "Fix it, Dad, so that
I can go to France as a Red Cross nurse or as an ambulance driver, won't
you? I want some excitement."

Always he had refused to consent to her going, insisting that France in
wartime was no place for an untrained girl.

"If I can't go myself, I certainly am not going to send any knitting,"
she would spiritedly answer, but several times recently the sight of
such charming looking knitting bags had tempted her into almost breaking
her resolution.

Inside the shop she found nothing that appealed to her, and contented
herself with buying some toilet articles. As she made her purchases she
noticed, almost subconsciously, a man standing near, talking with one of
the shopgirls--a middle-aged man with a dark mustache.

"The address, please," said the girl, who had been waiting on her.

"Miss Strong," she answered, giving the number of the apartment house on
Riverside Drive.

She recalled afterward that as she mentioned the number the man standing
there had turned and looked sharply at her, but she thought nothing of
it. Her father's name was well known and he had many acquaintances in
the city. More than likely, she supposed, this man was some friend of
her father who had recognized the name.

She lingered a few moments at some of the other counters, aimlessly
inspecting their offerings, and at last, with ten minutes left to reach
the Ritz, emerged from the store. She was amazed to see the man who had
been inside now standing near the entrance, and something within warned
her that he had been waiting to speak to her. As she attempted to pass
him quickly, he stepped in front of her, blocking her path, but raising
his hat deferentially.

"I beg your pardon, Miss Strong," he said, "may I have a word with you?"

Compelled to halt, she looked at him both appraisingly and resentfully.
There was nothing offensive nor flirtatious in his manner, and he seemed
far too respectably dressed to be a beggar. He was almost old enough to
be her father, and besides there was about him an indefinable air of
authority that commanded her attention. She decided that, unusual as his
request appeared, she would hear what he had to say.

"What is it?" she asked, trying to assume an air of hauteur but without
being able wholly to mask her curiosity.

"You are an American, aren't you?" he asked abruptly.

"Of course."

"A good American?"

"I hope so." She decided now that he must be one of the members of some
Red Cross fund "drive," or perhaps an overenthusiastic salesman for
government bonds. "But I don't quite understand what it is that
you wish."

"I can't explain," said her questioner, "but if you really are a good
American and you'd like to do your country a great service--an important
service--go at once to the address on this card."

She took the slip of white pasteboard handed her. On it was written in
pencil "Room 708." The building was a skyscraper down-town.

"What is it?" she asked half indignantly, "a new scheme to sell bonds?"

"No, no, Miss Strong," he cried, "it is nothing like that. It is a great
opportunity to do an important service for America."

"How did you know my name?"

"I heard you give it to the clerk just now."

"And why," she inquired with what she intended to be withering sarcasm,
"have I been selected so suddenly for this important work?"

"I heard the address you gave, that's why," he answered. "That's what
makes it so important that you should go to that number at once. Ask for
Mr. Fleck."

"I can't go," she temporized. "I am on my way now to meet my mother at
the Ritz."

"Go to-morrow, then," he insisted. "I'll see Mr. Fleck meanwhile and
tell him about you."

Puzzled at the man's unusual and wholly preposterous request, yet in
spite of herself impressed by his evident sincerity, Jane turned the
card nervously in her hand and discovered some small characters on the
back; "K-15" they read.

"What do those figures mean?" she asked.

"I can't tell you that. Mr. Fleck will explain everything. Promise me
you will go to see him."

"Who are you?"

"I can't tell you that, yet."

"Who, then, is Mr. Fleck?"

"He will explain that to you."

"What has my address to do with it? I can't understand yet why you make
this preposterous request of me."

"I tell you I can't explain it to you, not yet," the man replied, "but
it's because you live where you do you must go to see Mr. Fleck. It's
about a matter of the highest importance to your government. It is more
important than life and death."

His last words startled her. They brought to her mind afresh the
mysterious occurrence she had witnessed the night before and the equally
mysterious death near her home. Had this man's odd request any
connection, she wondered, with what had happened there? The lure of the
unknown, the opportunity for adventure, called to her, though prudence
bade her be cautious.

"I'll ask my mother," she temporized.

"Don't," cried the man. "You must keep your visit to Mr. Fleck a secret
from everybody. You mustn't breathe a word about it even to your father
and mother. Take my word for it, Miss Strong, that what I am asking you
to do is right. I've two daughters of my own. The thing I'm urging you
to do I'd be proud and honored to have either of them do if they could.
There is no one else in the world but you that can do this particular
thing. A word to a single living soul and you'll end your usefulness.
You must not even tell any one you have talked with me. See Mr. Fleck.
He'll explain everything to you. Promise me you'll see him."

"I promise," Jane found herself saying, even against her better
judgment, won over by the man's insistence.

"Good. I knew you would," said her mysterious questioner, turning on his
heel and vanishing speedily as if afraid to give her an opportunity of
reconsidering.

Puzzled beyond measure not only at the man's strange conduct but even
more at her own compliance with his request, Jane made her way slowly
and thoughtfully to the Ritz, where she found her mother and Mrs.
Starrett had already arrived.

As they sipped their tea the two elder women chatted complacently about
the matinee, about their acquaintances, about other women in the
tea-room and the gowns they had on, about bridge hands--the usual small
talk of afternoon tea.

To Jane, oppressed with her two secrets, all at once their conversation
seemed the dreariest piffle. Great things were happening everywhere in
the world, nations at war, men fighting and dying in the trenches of
horror for the sake of an ideal, kings were being overthrown, dynasties
tottering, boundaries of nations vanishing. Women, she realized, too,
more than ever in history, were taking an active and important part in
world affairs. In the lands of battle they were nursing the wounded,
driving ambulances, helping to rehabilitate wrecked villages. In the
lands where peace still reigned they were voting, speech-making, holding
jobs, running offices, many of them were uniting to aid in movements for
civic improvement, for better children, for the improvement of the whole
human race.

And here they were--here _she_ was, idling uselessly at the Ritz as she
had done yesterday, last week, last month--forever, it seemed to her.
The vague protest that for some time had been growing within her against
the senselessness and futility of her manner of existence crystallized
itself now into a determination no longer to submit to it. Courageously
she was resolving that she would take the first opportunity to escape
from this boresome routine of pleasure-seeking. She was wondering if the
request that had been so unexpectedly made of her would prove to be her
way out from her prison of desuetude.

The talk of the two women with her drifted aimlessly on. Seldom was she
included in it, save when her mother, nodding to some one she knew,
would turn to say:

"Daughter, there is Mrs. Jones-Lloyd."

What did she care about Mrs. Jones-Lloyd? What did she care about any of
the people about them, aimless, pleasure-hunting drifters like
themselves. Left to her own devices for mental activity her thoughts
kept recurring to the surprising adventure she had had a few minutes
before. Thoughtfully she pondered over the mysterious message that had
been given to her. The man had said that it was a wonderful opportunity
for her to do her country a great service. She wondered why he had been
so secretive about it. She decided that she would investigate further
and made up her mind to carry out his instructions. What harm could
befall her in visiting an office building in the business district? At
least it would be something to do, something new, something different,
something surely exciting and, perhaps, something useful.

It would be better, she decided, for the present at least, to keep her
intentions entirely to herself. Any hint of her plans to her mother
would surely result in permission being refused. The man certainly had
seemed sincere, honest, and perfectly respectable, even if he was not of
the sort one would ask to dinner. She made up her mind to go down-town
to the address given the very first thing to-morrow morning. If anything
should happen to her, she felt that she could always reach her father.
His office was in the next block.

The problem of making the mysterious journey without her mother's
knowledge bothered her not at all. As in the case of most
apartment-house families, she and her mother really saw very little of
each other, especially since she had become a "young lady." Mrs. Strong
went constantly to lectures, to luncheons, to bridge parties, to
matinees with her own particular friends. Jane's engagements were with
another set entirely, school friends most of them, whose parents and
hers hardly knew each other. Both she and her mother habitually
breakfasted in bed, generally at different hours, and seldom lunched
together. At dinner, when Mr. Strong was present, there were no
intimacies between mother and daughter. The only times they really saw
each other for protracted periods were when they happened to go
shopping, or go to the dressmaker's together, and then the subject
always uppermost in the minds of both of them was the all-important and
absorbing topic of clothes. Occasionally, Jane poured at one of her
mother's more formal functions, but for the most part the time of each
was taken up in a mad, senseless hunt for amusement.

Suddenly every thought was driven from Jane's head. Her face went white,
and with difficulty she managed to suppress an alarmed cry.

"What is it, daughter?" asked her mother, noting her perturbation. "Are
you feeling ill?"

"A touch of neuralgia," she managed to answer.

"Too many late hours," warned Mrs. Starrett reprovingly.

"I'm afraid so," said Mrs. Strong. "As soon as I've paid my check we'll
go."

"I'm perfectly all right now," said Jane, controlling herself with
effort, though her face was still white.

The danger that she had feared had passed for the present at least.
Glancing toward the entrance a moment before she had been terrified to
see entering the black-mustached man who had accosted her a few moments
before. Her one thought now had been that he had followed her here, and
in a panic she was wondering how she should make explanations if he came
up to their table and spoke. To her great relief he gave no intimation
of having seen her, but settled himself into a chair near the door where
he was half hidden from her by a great palm. Furtively she watched him,
trying to divine his intention in having followed her there. Respectable
enough though he was in appearance and garb, he did not seem in the
least like the sort of man likely to be found at tea-time in an
exclusive hotel. As she studied him she soon saw that his attention
seemed to be riveted on some one sitting at the other side of the room.
Wonderingly she let her eyes follow his, and once more it was with
difficulty that she suppressed an excited gasp.

There, across the room, calmly sipping some coffee, was the handsome
young man from the next apartment--the man whom she had felt sure, or at
least almost sure, was a murderer, about whom she had been wondering all
day long, picturing him as a hunted criminal fleeing from the law.
Chatting interestedly with him was another man, a young man in the
uniform of a lieutenant in the navy.

What did it all mean? Why was the black-mustached man watching them so
intently? Her eyes turned back to him. He was still sitting there,
leaning forward a little, his brows in a pucker of concentration, his
eyes still fixed on the pair opposite. It looked almost as if he was
trying to read their lips and tell what they were talking about.

Jane thrilled with excitement. The black-mustached man, she decided,
must be a detective. She recalled that he had said to her it was because
she lived at the address she did that she was available for the mission
for which he wanted her. Did he, she wondered, know about the mysterious
death in the street outside their apartment house? Was that the reason
he was spying on her neighbor? But what could be his motive in seeking
to involve her in the matter?

Unable to find satisfactory answers to her questions she gave herself up
interestedly to studying the faces of the two young men across the room.
Neither of them, she decided, could be much more than thirty. The face
that only a few hours before she had seen utterly convulsed with bitter
hate, now placid and smiling, was really an attractive one, not in the
least like a murderer's. Frank, alert blue eyes looked out from under an
intellectual forehead. A small military mustache lent emphasis to a
clean-shaven, forceful jaw. His flaxen hair was neatly trimmed. His
linen and clothing were immaculate, and the hand that curved around his
cup had long, tapering, well-manicured fingers. The cut of his clothing,
his manners, everything about him seemed American, yet there was an
indefinable something in his appearance that suggested foreign birth or
parentage, probably either Swedish or German. The man with him was
smaller and slighter. Despite the air of importance his uniform gave
him, it was palpable that he was the less forceful of the two, his
handsome face, it seemed to Jane, betraying weakness of character and a
fondness for the good things of life.

"Come, daughter," said Mrs. Strong, rising, "we must be going."

So intent was Jane on her study of the two men that her mother had to
speak twice to her.

"Yes, mother," she answered obediently, rising hastily as the hint of
annoyance in her mother's repeated remark brought her to a realization
of having been addressed.

Letting her mother and Mrs. Starrett precede her in the doorway she
paused to look back at the scene that had interested her so strongly.
What _could_ it mean? What was going on? How was she involved in it?

Her glance moved quickly from the watcher to the watched. The blond
young man caught her eye. Amazedly, it seemed to her, he stopped right
in the middle of what he was saying and sat there, his gaze fixed full
on her. She let her eyes fall, abashed, and turned to hasten after her
mother, but not so quickly did she turn but that she observed he had
hastily seized his cup and appeared to be drinking to her, not so much
impudently as admiringly.



CHAPTER III

"MR. FLECK"

Twice after the elevator had deposited her on the floor Jane had
approached the door of Room 708, and twice she had walked timorously
past it to the end of the hall, trying to muster up courage to enter. A
visit to a man's office in the business district was a novelty for her.
On the few previous excursions of the sort she had made she always had
been accompanied by one of her parents. She found herself wishing now
that she had taken her father into her confidence and had asked him to
go with her. Making shopping her excuse she had come down-town with Mr.
Strong but had gotten off at Astor Place, and waited over for
another train.

In her hand she held the card given to her by the black-mustached man
the afternoon before. As she studied it now her curiosity came to the
rescue of her fast-oozing courage. She must find out what it all meant,
whatever the risk or peril that might confront her. Boldly she returned
to Room 708 and opened the door. An office boy seated at a desk looked
up inquiringly.

"Is Mr. Fleck in?" she inquired timidly.

"Who wishes to see him?"

"Just say there's a lady wishes to speak to him," she faltered,
hesitating to give her name.

"Are you Miss Strong?" asked the boy abruptly, "because if you are, he's
expecting you."

She nodded, and the boy, jumping up, escorted her into an inner room. As
she entered nervously an alert-looking man, with graying hair and
mustache, rose courteously to greet her. In the quick glance she gave at
her surroundings she was conscious only of the great mahogany desk at
which he sat and behind it some filing cabinets and a huge safe, the
outer doors of which stood open.

"Sit down, won't you, Miss Strong," he said, placing a chair for her.

His manner and his cultured tone, everything about him, reassured her at
once. They conveyed to her that he was what she would have termed "a
gentleman," and with a little sigh of relief she seated herself.

"I'm afraid," said Mr. Fleck, smiling, "that Carter's method of
approaching you must have alarmed you."

"Carter--Oh, the black-mustached man."

"Yes, that describes him. You see, he did not wish to act definitely
without consulting his chief, yet the unexpected opportunity seemed far
too vital not to be utilized. He did not explain, did he, what it was we
wanted of you?"

"Indeed he didn't," said Jane, now wholly herself. "He was most
mysterious about it."

Mr. Fleck smiled amusedly.

"Carter has been an agent so long that being mysterious is second nature
to him."

"An agent--I don't understand."

"A Department agent," explained Mr. Fleck, adding, "engaged in secret
service work for the government."

"Oh!"

Jane's exclamation was not so much of surprise as of delighted
realization, and the satisfaction expressed in her face was by no means
lost on Mr. Fleck.

"Would you object," he asked, moving his chair a little closer to hers,
"if, before I explain why you are here, I ask you a few questions--very
personal questions?"

"Certainly not," said Jane.

"You are American-born, of course?"

"Oh, yes."

"And your parents?"

"American for ten or twelve generations."

"How long have you lived in that apartment house on Riverside Drive?"

"For about five years."

"Do you know any of the other tenants in the house?"

"No--that is, none personally."

"Is your time fully occupied?"

"No, indeed it isn't, I've nothing to do at all, nothing except to try
to amuse myself."

"Good," said Mr. Fleck. "Now would you be willing to help in some secret
work for the United States Government, some work of the very highest
importance?"

"Would I?" cried Jane, her eyes shining. "Gladly! Just try me."

"Don't answer too quickly," warned Mr. Fleck. "Remember, it will be real
work, serious work, not always pleasant, sometimes possibly a little
perilous. Remember, too, it must be done with absolute secrecy. You must
not let even your parents know that you are working with us. You must
pledge yourself to breathe no word of what you are doing or are asked to
do to a living soul. Everything that we may tell you is to be buried
forever from everybody. No one is to be trusted. The minute one other
person knows your secret it will no longer be a secret. Can we depend
upon you?"

"You may absolutely depend on me," said Jane slowly and soberly. "I give
you my word. I have been eager for ever so long to do something to help,
to really help. My father is doing all he can to aid the government.
He's on the Shipping Board."

Mr. Fleck nodded. Evidently he was aware of it already.

"My brother, my only brother," Jane continued, with a little catch in
her throat, "is Over There--somewhere Over There--fighting for his
government. If there is anything I can do to help the country he is
fighting for, the country he may die for, I pledge you I will do it
gladly with my heart, my soul, my body--everything."

"Thank you," said Mr. Fleck softly, taking her hand. "I felt sure you
were that sort of a girl. Now listen." He moved his chair still closer
to hers, and his voice became almost a whisper. "In the apartment next
to you there live two men,--Otto Hoff and his nephew, Fred. They have an
old German servant, but we can leave her out of it for the present. The
old man is a lace importer. Apparently they are both above
suspicion, yet--"

He stopped abruptly.

"You think they are spies--spies for Germany," questioned Jane
excitedly. "They're Germans, of course?"

"Otto Hoff is German-born, but he has been here for twenty years.
Several years ago he took out papers and became an American citizen."

"And the young man?"

Jane's tone was vibrant with interest. It must be the man she had seen
from her window whom they suspected most.

"He professes to be American-born."

"Oh," said the girl, rather disappointedly.

"But," continued Mr. Fleck, "there's something queer about it all. He
arrived in this country only three days before we went into the war. He
had a certificate, properly endorsed, giving his birthplace as
Cincinnati. He arrived on a Scandinavian ship. He speaks German as well
and as fluently as he speaks English, both without accent."

"Perhaps he was educated abroad," suggested Jane, rather amazed at
finding herself seeking to defend him.

"He must have been," said Fleck, "yet I find it hard to believe that
Germany at this time is letting any young German-American come home if
he's soldier material--and young Hoff's appearance certainly suggests
military training."

"It surely does."

"Unless," continued Fleck, "there was some special object in sending him
here."

"You think," said Jane slowly, "they sent him here--to this country--as
a spy."

"In our business we dare not think. We cannot merely conjecture. We must
prove," said Mr. Fleck. "Maybe the Hoffs are O.K. I do not know. Nobody
knows yet. Let me tell you some of the circumstances. This much we do
know. Von Bernstorff is gone. Von Papen is gone. Scores of active German
sympathizers and propagandists have been rounded up and interned or
imprisoned, yet, in spite of all we have done, their work goes on. A
vast secret organization, well supplied with funds, is constantly at
work in this country, trying to cripple our armies, trying to destroy
our munition plants, trying to corrupt our citizens, trying to disrupt
our Congress. Every move the United States makes is watched. As you
probably know, every day now large numbers of American troops are
embarking in transports in the Hudson."

"Yes," said Jane, "you can see them from our windows."

"Now then," said Mr. Fleck, lowering his voice impressively, "here is
the fact. Some one somewhere on Riverside Drive is keeping close and
constant tab on the warships and transports there in the river. We have
managed recently to intercept and decipher some code messages. These
messages told not only when the transports sailed but how many troops
were on each and how strong their convoy was. Where these messages
originate we have not yet learned. We are practically certain that some
one in our own navy, some black-hearted traitor wearing an officer's
uniform--perhaps several of them--is in communication with some one on
shore, betraying our government's most vital secrets."

"I can't believe it," cried Jane, "our own American officers traitors!"

"Undoubtedly some of them are," said Mr. Fleck regretfully. "The German
efficiency, for years looking forward to this war, carefully built up a
far-reaching spy system. Years ago, long before the war was thought
of--or at least before we in this country thought of it--many secret
agents of Wilhelmstrasse were deliberately planted here. Many of them
have been residents here for years, masking their real occupation by
engaging in business, utilizing their time as they waited for the war to
come by gathering for Germany all of our trade and commercial secrets.
Some of these spies have even become naturalized, and they and their
sons pass for good American citizens. In some cases they have even
Americanized their names. Insidiously and persistently they have worked
their way into places, sometimes into high places in our chemical
plants, our steel factories, yes, even into high places in our army and
navy and into governmental positions where they can gather information
first-hand. In no other country has it been so easy for them, because of
this one fact: so large a proportion of Uncle Sam's population is of
German birth or parentage. Why here in New York City alone there are
more than three-quarters of a million persons, either German-born
themselves or born of German parents. Many of them, the vast majority of
them, probably, are loyal to America, but think how the plenitude of
German names makes it easy for spies to get into our army and navy.
Besides that, they employ evil men of other nationalities as spies, the
criminal riffraff,--Danes, Swedes, Spaniards, Italians, Swiss and even
South Americans,--all of whom are free to go and come as they choose in
this country."

"I never realized before," said Jane, "how many Germans there were all
about us."

"In an effort to locate this particular band of naval spies," continued
Mr. Fleck, "we have combed the apartment houses and residences along
the Drive. Three places in particular are under suspicion. The apartment
of the Hoffs is one of these places. They moved in there thirty days
after this country went to war. Ordinarily, where the occupants of an
apartment are under suspicion, we take the superintendent of the
building partly into our confidence and plant operatives in the house,
or else we hire an apartment in the same building. In this case neither
course is practicable. The superintendent of your building is a
German-American and we dare not trust him, and there is no vacant
apartment that we can rent. We have been watching the Hoffs from the
outside as best we could. Carter, who has had charge of the shadowing,
accidentally happened to overhear you give your address. He had procured
a list of the tenants and remembered the location of your apartment. It
struck him at once that you would be a valuable ally if you would
consent to work with us."

"What is it that you wish me to do?" asked Jane wonderingly. "You'll
have to tell me how to go about it."

"All a good detective needs," said Mr. Fleck, "is, let us say, three
things--observation, addition and common sense. You must observe
everything closely, be able to put two and two together and use your
common sense. Do you know the Hoffs by sight?"

"Only by sight."

"They live in the next apartment on your floor, do they not?"

"Yes. Young Mr. Hoff's bedroom is the room next to mine."

"Good," cried Mr. Fleck. "Can you hear anything from the next apartment,
any conversations?"

"No, only muffled sounds."

"The windows overlook the river and the transports, do they not?"

"Yes, the windows of Mr. Hoff's bedroom and the room next. Their
apartment is a duplicate of ours."

Mr. Fleck sprang up and crossed to the big safe. Opening an inner drawer
he took out a small metal disk and handed it to her. Jane looked at it
curiously. It bore no wording save the inscription "K-19."

"That," said Mr. Fleck, "is the only thing I can give you in the way of
credentials. Keep it somewhere safely concealed about your clothing and
never exhibit it except in case of extreme necessity. If ever you are in
peril any police officer will recognize it at once and will promptly
give you all the assistance possible."

"But," protested the girl, "I don't know yet what I am to do."

"For the present I am trusting to your resourcefulness to make
opportunities to help us. We are watching the house closely from the
outside. Carter will identify you to the other operatives. Once a day I
will expect you to call me up, not from your home but from a public
'phone. Here is my number. Say 'this is Miss Jones speaking,' and I will
know who it is. I can communicate with you by note without arousing
suspicion?"

"Oh, yes, certainly."

"If at any time I have to call you on the 'phone, or if any of the other
operatives want to communicate with you the password will be 'I am
speaking for Miss Jones.'"

"Isn't that exciting--a secret password," cried Jane enthusiastically.

"If you can manage it without compromising yourself too seriously, I
wish you would make the young man's acquaintance."

"That will be simple," said Jane, remembering the admiring way in which
he had raised his cup in her direction as she left the hotel.

"If possible find out who their visitors are in the apartment and keep
your eyes open for any sort of signalling to the transports. If ever
there is an opportunity to get hold of notes or mail delivered to either
of them, don't hesitate to steam it open and copy it."

"Must I?" said Jane. "That hardly seems right or fair."

"Of course it's right," cried Mr. Fleck warmly. "Think of the lives of
our soldiers that are at stake. The devilish ingenuity of these German
spies must be thwarted at all costs. They seem to be able to discover
every detail of our plans. Only two days ago one of our transports was
thoroughly inspected from stem to stern. Two hours later twenty-six
hundred soldiers were put aboard her on their way to France. Just by
accident, as they were about to sail, a time-bomb was discovered in the
coal bunkers, a bomb that would have sent them all to kingdom come."

"How terrible!"

"Somebody aboard is a traitor. Somebody knew when that inspection was
made. Somebody put that bomb in place afterward. That shows you the kind
of enemies we are fighting."

Jane shuddered. She was thinking of the sailing of another transport,
the one that had carried her brother to France.

"Anything seems right after that," she said simply.

"Yes," said Mr. Fleck, "there is only one effective way to fight those
spying devils. We must stop at nothing. They stop at nothing--not even
murder--to gain their ends."

"I know that," said Jane hastily. "I saw something myself you ought to
know about."

As briefly as she could she described the scene she had witnessed in the
early morning hours from her bedroom window, the man following the
younger Hoff, Hoff's discovery and pursuit of him around the corner and
of his return alone.

"And in the morning," she concluded, "they found a man's body in the
side street. He had a bullet through his heart. There was a revolver in
his hand. The newspapers said that the police and the coroner were
satisfied that it was a suicide. I caught a glimpse of Mr. Hoff's face
when he came back from around that corner. It was all convulsed with
hate, the most terrible expression I ever saw. I'm almost certain he
murdered that man. I'm sure it wasn't a suicide."

"I'm sure, too, that it was no suicide," said Mr. Fleck gravely. "The
man who was found there was one of my men, K-19, the man whose badge I
have just given you. He had been detailed to shadow the Hoffs."



CHAPTER IV

THE CLUE IN THE BOOK

Subway passengers sitting opposite Jane Strong as she rode up-town from
Mr. Fleck's office, if they observed her at all--and most of them
did--saw only a slim, good-looking young girl, dressed in a chic
tailormade suit, crowned with a dashing Paris hat tilted at the proper
angle to display best the sheen of her black, black hair, which after
the prevailing fashion was pulled forward becomingly over her ears.
Outwardly Jane was unchanged, but within her nerves were all atingle at
the thought of the tremendous and fascinating responsibility so
unexpectedly thrust upon her. Her mind, too, was aflame with patriotic
ardor, but coupled with these new sensations was a persisting sense of
dread, an intangible, unforgettable feeling of horror that kept cropping
up every time her fingers touched the little metal disk in her purse.

The man who had carried it yesterday, the other "K-19" who had
undertaken to shadow those people next door, now lay dead with a bullet
through his heart. Was there, she wondered, a similar peril confronting
her? Would her life be in danger, too? Was that the reason Mr. Fleck had
told her of her predecessor's fate--to warn her how desperate were the
men against whom she was to match her wits? Yet no sense of fear that
projected itself into her busy brain as she cogitated over the task
before her held her back. If anything she was rather thrilled at the
prospect of meeting actual danger. What bothered her most was how she
could best go about aiding Mr. Fleck and his men in their work.

Her opportunity came far more quickly than she had anticipated. She had
gotten off the train at the 96th Street station, purposing to walk the
twenty odd blocks to her home as she pondered over the work that lay
ahead of her. Busy with a horde of struggling new thoughts she proceeded
along Broadway, for once in her life unheeding the rich gowns and
feminine dainties so alluringly displayed in the shop windows. Suddenly
she pulled herself together with a start. Directly ahead of her,
plodding along in the same direction, was a figure that from behind
seemed strangely familiar. She quickened her step until she caught up
sufficiently with the man ahead to get a good glimpse of his side face.
Nervously she caught her breath. Without any doubt it was the gray Van
Dyke beard of old Otto Hoff.

Where was he going? What was he doing? She paused and looked behind her,
scanning the pavement on both sides of the street. She was half-hoping
that she would discover Carter or some of his men shadowing their
quarry, but her hope was vain. There was no one in the block at the
moment but herself and Mr. Hoff. If Fleck's men had been watching his
movements, the old man certainly seemed to have eluded them.

What should she do? Vividly there flashed into her mind her chief's
parting words.

"Watch everything," he had charged her. "Remember everything, report
everything. No detail is too unimportant. If you see one of the Hoffs
leave the house, don't merely report to me that the old man or the young
man left the house about three o'clock. That won't do at all. I want to
know the exact time. Was it six minutes after three or eleven minutes
after three? I must know what direction he went, if he was alone, how
long he was absent, where he went, what he did, to whom he talked. Here
in my office I take your reports, Carter's reports, a dozen other
reports, and study them together. Things that in themselves seem
trifling, unimportant, of no value, coupled with other seemingly
unimportant trifles sometimes develop most important evidence."

To prove his point he had told her of the seemingly innocent wireless
message that an operator, listening in, had picked up, at a time when
Germans were still permitted to use the wireless station on Long Island
for commercial messages to the Fatherland. On the face of it, it was the
mere announcement of the death of a relative with a few details. But a
little later the same operator caught the same message coming from
another part of the country, with the details slightly different, and
still later another message of the same purport. Evidently, by comparing
the messages, the United States authorities had been able to work out
a code.

Remembering this, Jane decided that it was her particular duty just now
to follow the old German and note everything he did. For several blocks
she trailed along behind him, without arousing any suspicion on his part
that he was being followed. He stopped once to light a cigarette, the
girl behind him diverting suspicion by hastily turning to a shop window.
Again he stopped, this time before the display of viands in the window
of a delicatessen store. Thoughtfully Jane noted the number, observing,
too, that the name of the proprietor above the door was obviously
Teutonic. She was half-expecting to see her quarry turn in here, but he
walked on to the middle of the next block, where he entered a
stationery store.

Hesitating but a second, to decide on a course of action, she followed
him boldly into the store. She felt that she must ascertain just what he
was doing in there. As she entered she saw that in the back part of the
store was a lending library. Mr. Hoff had gone back to it and was
inspecting the books displayed there. Unhesitatingly she, too,
approached the book counter.

"Have you 'Limehouse Nights'?" she asked the attendant, naming the
first book that came into her head. She had a copy of the book at home,
but that seemed to be the only title she could think of.

"We have several copies," the girl in charge answered, "but I think they
are all out. I'll look."

As the clerk examined the shelves, Jane kept up a desultory talk with
her, questioning her about various books on the shelves, all the while
watching the old German out of the corner of her eye. His back was
toward her, and he seemed to be examining various books on the shelves,
turning over the pages as if unable to decide what he wanted. Curious as
to what his taste in reading was, Jane endeavored to locate each book
that he removed from its place, her idea being that she would later try
to discover their titles. To her amazement she found that it was
invariably the third book in each shelf that he removed and
examined--the third from the end. It did not appear to her that he was
examining the contents of the pages so much as searching them as if he
expected to find something there.

All at once, as she furtively watched from behind him, she heard him
give a little pleased grunt and she saw him picking out from between the
leaves of the book a fragment of paper, which he held concealed in his
hand. Watching closely, Jane saw him thrust this same hand into his
trousers pocket, and when he brought it out she was certain that the
hand was empty. What did this curious performance mean? What was the
little slip of paper he had found in the book? Why had he concealed it
in his pocket?

Still keeping her attention riveted on him, she picked up a book to mask
her occupation and pretended to be turning its pages. She was glad she
had done so, for a minute later old Hoff wheeled suddenly and looked
sharply about him. Apparently having his suspicions disarmed by seeing
only herself and the clerk there, he turned again to the bookshelves.
Jane this time saw him thrust his fingers into his waistcoat pocket and
withdraw therefrom,--she was almost certain of it,--a little slip of
paper. She saw him remove from the second row of books the fifth from
the end, open it quickly and close it again and then restore it to its
place. As he did so he turned to leave the store.

"Didn't you find anything to read to-day, Mr. Hoff?" the clerk asked.

"Nodding," he answered. "You keep novels, trash, nodding worth while."

Her nerves aquiver, Jane waited until he was out of the store and then
stepped briskly to the place where he had stood. Hastily she pulled
forth the fifth book from the end in the second row. Turning its pages
she came upon what she had anticipated,--a strip of yellow manila
paper,--the paper she was sure she had seen him take from his pocket.
Hastily she examined it, expecting to find some message written there.
To her chagrin it was just a meaningless jumble of figures in
three columns.

     534   5     2
     331  54     6
     644  76     3
     49   12     9
     540  30    12
     390   3     2
     519   3     6
     327  20     2

                97

Her first thought was to thrust the little scrap of paper in her purse
and start again in pursuit of old Hoff, but a sudden light began to dawn
on her. This was a cipher message, of course. The old man had left it
here for some one to come and get. If she followed Hoff, how was she to
discover who the message was for? Puzzled as to what she should do, she
borrowed a pencil from the clerk on the pretense of writing a postal and
hastily copied the figures, after which she restored the slip to the
book in which she had found it.

Glancing about undecidedly, wondering if it would do to take the clerk
into her confidence, wishing she had some means of reaching Mr. Fleck
and asking his advice, she spied in a drug-store just across the street
a telephone booth. She could telephone from there and at the same time
keep her eye on the store. Quickly she did so, twisting her head around
all the time she was 'phoning to make sure that no one entered opposite.

"Is this Mr. Fleck?" she asked. "This is Miss Jones."

"So soon?" came back his voice. "What has happened? What is the matter?
Have you changed your mind?"

"Not at all," she answered indignantly. "I've discovered something
already--a cipher message."

"What's that?"

Even over the wire she could sense the eagerness in Mr. Fleck's tone,
and a sense of achievement brought a radiant glow to her cheek.

"I ran into that man--you know whom--"

"The young one?" he interrupted.

"No, the uncle."

"Yes, yes, go on," cried Mr. Fleck impatiently.

"I followed him along Broadway after I got off at 96th Street and into a
library and stationery store. I watched him fuss over the books there,
and I think he got a slip of paper with a message out of one of them."

"Good," cried Mr. Fleck, "that is something new. Go on."

"And then he slipped a paper into a book--"

"Did you notice what book?"

"I don't know the title. It was the fifth book from the end on the
second shelf, and I got the paper and copied it."

"Splendid. What did the message say?"

"It's just a lot of figures. I put it back after copying it, and I am in
a drug-store across the street where I can watch to see if any one comes
to get the message. What shall I do now?"

"Can you remain there fifteen minutes without arousing suspicion?"

"Certainly. I'll say I am waiting for some one."

"Good. I'll get in touch with Carter at once. He'll tell you what to do
when he arrives."

Impatiently Jane sat there, keeping vigilant watch on the entrance
across the street, determined to be able to describe minutely each
person that entered. From time to time she surreptitiously studied the
postcard on which she had jotted down the mysterious numbers. How
utterly meaningless they looked. Surely it would be impossible for any
one, even Mr. Fleck, to decipher any message that these figures might
convey. It would be impossible unless one had the key. Figures could be
made to mean anything at all. She doubted if her discovery could be of
much importance after all, yet certainly Mr. Fleck had seemed quite
excited about it.

She spied Carter passing in a taxi. Two other men were with him. Her
first impulse was to run out in the street and signal to him, but she
waited, wondering what she should do. She was glad she had not acted
impulsively, for a moment later Carter entered alone, evidently having
left the car somewhere around the corner. She expected that he would
address her at once, but that was not Carter's way. He went to the soda
counter and ordered something to drink, his eyes all the while studying
his surroundings. Presently he pretended to discover her sitting there.
To all appearances it might have been an entirely casual meeting of
acquaintances.

"Good-morning, Miss Jones," he said quite cordially, extending his hand.
"I'm lucky to have met you, for my daughter gave me a message for you."

He put just a little stress on the words "my daughter" and Jane
understood that he was referring to "Mr. Fleck."

"Indeed," she replied, "what is it?"

"She wants you to go down-town at once and meet her at Room 708--you
know the building."

"Aren't you coming, too?"

"Not right away. I have some errands to do in the neighborhood. I've got
to buy a book for a birthday present. There's a library around here
somewhere, isn't there?"

"Just across the street," said Jane, entering into the spirit of the
masked conversation with interest. "I was looking at a fine book over
there a few minutes ago. You'll find it on the second shelf--the fifth
book from the end, on the north side of the store."

"I'll remember that," said Carter, repeating, "the fifth book on the
second shelf."

"That's right," said Jane, as they left the drug-store together.

"Which way did the old man go?" asked Carter.

"Down Broadway--toward home," she replied. "I wanted to follow him, but
it seemed more important to stay here and watch to see if any one came
for the message he left there in the book."

"You did just right, and the Chief is tickled to death. He wants to see
you right away. You have a copy of the message, haven't you?"

"Yes, do you wish to see it?"

"No, but he does. Has anybody entered the store since you were there?"

"Nobody, that is no one but a couple of girls."

"What did they look like? Describe them."

"Why," Jane faltered, "I did not really notice. I was not looking for
girls. I was watching to see that no other men entered the store."

Carter shook his head.

"You ought to have spotted them, too. You never can tell who the Germans
will employ. They have women spies, too,--clever ones."

"I never thought of their using girls," protested Jane.

"Humph," snapped Carter, "ain't we using you? Ain't one of our best
little operatives right this minute working in a nursegirl's garb
pulling a baby carriage with a baby in it up and down Riverside Drive?
Well, it can't be helped. You'd better beat it down-town to the Chief
right away."

"I'll take a subway express," said Jane, feeling somewhat crestfallen
at his implied suggestion of failure.

Twenty-five minutes later found her once more in Mr. Fleck's office.
Thrilling with the excitement of it all she told him in detail how she
had followed old Hoff and of his peculiar actions in the bookstore.

"And here," she said, presenting the postcard, "is an exact copy of the
cipher message he left there. I copied every figure, in the columns,
just as they were set down. I don't suppose though you'll be able to
make head or tail out of it. I know I can't."

"Don't be too sure of that," smiled Chief Fleck, as he took the card.
"When you get used to codes, most of them identify themselves at the
first glance--at least they tell what kind of a code it is. That's one
thing about the Germans that makes their spy work clumsy at times. They
are so methodical that they commit everything to writing. Now the most
important things I know are right in here"--he tapped his head. "Every
once in a while they ransack my rooms, but they never find anything
worth while. Now this code"--he was studying the card intently--"seems
to be one of a sort that our friends from Wilhelmstrasse are
ridiculously fond of using. It is manifestly a book code."

"A book code," Jane repeated perplexedly. "I don't understand."

"It is very simple when two persons who wish to communicate with each
other secretly both have a copy of some book they have agreed to use.
They write their message out and then go through the book locating the
words of the message by page, line and word. That's what the three
columns mean. Our only problem is to discover which is the book they
both have. They often employ the Bible or a dictionary or--"

He stopped abruptly and studied the columns of figures.

"This code," he went on, "on its face is from a book that has at least
544 pages. One of the pages has at least 76 lines--that's the middle
column--so the book must be set in small type."

"What book do you suppose it is?" asked Jane interestedly. She was glad
now that she had listened to Carter. She was sure she was going to like
being in the service. It was all so interesting, and she was learning so
many fascinating things.

"If my theory is right those letters indicate that the book used was an
almanac. That's the book that Wilhelmstrasse made use of when a wireless
message was sent in cipher to the German ambassador directing him to
warn Americans not to sail on the Lusitania. They betrayed themselves at
the Embassy by sending out to buy a copy of this almanac. Let's see how
our theory works out."

Taking up an almanac that lay on his desk he began turning to the pages
indicated in the first column of figures, checking off the lines
indicated in the second column and putting a ring around the words
marked by the third column of figures.

"Let's see--page 534--fifth line--second word--that's (eight). Now
then--page 331--that's the chronology of the war in the almanac, so I
guess we are on the right track--fifty-fourth line--sixth
word--(transport)."

"Isn't it wonderful!" cried Jane.

"Damn them," he exploded. "I know we are on the right track. Some
transports with our troops sailed this morning, and already the German
spies are spreading the news, hoping to get it to one of their
unspeakable U-boats."

Quickly he ran through the rest of the cipher, writing it out as he went
along:

EIGHT--TRANSPORT--SAILED--THURSDAY--15,000--INFANTRY--FIVE DESTROYERS.

As Fleck finished the message his face became almost black with rage.

"Damn them," he cried again, "in spite of everything we do they get
track of all our troop movements. Their information, whenever we succeed
in intercepting it, is always accurate. If I had my way I'd lock up
every German in the country until the war was over, and I'd shoot a lot
of those I locked up. Until the whole country realizes that we are
living in a nest of spies--that there are German spies all around us, in
every city, in every factory, in every regiment, on every ship,
everywhere right next door to us--this country never can win the war."

"What does the '97' at the end mean?" questioned Jane timidly, a little
bit frightened at his outburst, yet more than ever realizing the vast
importance of his work--and hers.

"Oh, that's nothing. Probably old Hoff's number. Most spies are known
just by numbers."

"Yes, of course," said Jane, flushing as she recalled that she herself
was now "K-19." Was she a spy? Was Mr. Fleck a chief of spies? She
always had looked on a spy as a despicable sort of person, yet surely
the work in which they both were engaged was vital to American success
at arms--a patriotic and important service for one's country.

"I suppose," she said thoughtfully, unwilling to pursue the chain of her
own thought any further, "that there is evidence enough now to arrest
old Mr. Hoff right away."

"You bet there is," said Mr. Fleck emphatically, "but that is the last
thing I am thinking of doing yet. He is only one link in a great chain
that extends from our battleships and transports there in the North
River clear into the heart of Berlin. We've got to locate both ends of
the chain before we start smashing the links. We've got to find who it
is in this country that is supplying the money for all their nefarious
work, from whom they get their orders, how they smuggle their news out.
Most of all we have got to find where the end of the chain is fastened
in our own navy. The traitors there are the black-hearted rascals I
would most like to get. They are the ones we've got to get."

"Yes, indeed," assented Jane, suddenly recalling the navy lieutenant she
had seen in the Ritz chatting so confidentially with old Otto Hoff's
nephew. Was he, she wondered, one of the links in the terrible chain?
Was he the end--the American end of the chain?

"We're certain about the old man now," said Fleck, rising as if to
indicate that the interview was at an end. "We've got to get the young
fellow next. There is nothing in this to implicate him. That's your job.
Find out all you can about him. Get acquainted with him, if possible.
That's one of the weakest spots about all German spies. They can't help
boasting to women. Try to get to know this Fred Hoff. It's most
important."

"I'll do more than try," said Jane spiritedly. "I'll get acquainted
right away. I'll make him talk to me."



CHAPTER V

ON THE TRAIL

Few men, even fathers, realize how utterly inexperienced is the average
well-brought-up girl, just emerged from her teens, in the affairs of the
great mysterious world that lies about her. A boy, in his youth living
over again the history of his progenitors, escapes his nurse to become
an adventurer. At ten he is a pirate, at twelve a train robber, at
fourteen an aviator, actually living in all his thoughts and experiences
the life of his hero of the moment, learning all the while that the
world about him is full of adventurers like himself, ready to dispute
his claims at the slightest pretext, or to carry off his booty by
prevailing physical force.

Well-brought-up girls seldom are fortunate enough to have such educative
experiences. Their friends are selected for them, gentle untaught
creatures like themselves. Few of them learn much of the practical side
of life. A boy is delighted at knowing the toughest boy in the
neighborhood. A girl's ambitions always are to know girls "nicer" than
she is. The average girl emerges into womanhood with her eyes blinded,
uninformed on the affairs of life, business, politics, untrained in
anything useful or practical, knowing more of romance and history than
she does of present-day facts.

If Chief Fleck had understood how really inexperienced Jane Strong
actually was, it is a question whether he would have ventured to entrust
so important a mission to her as he had done. Jane herself, as she left
his office, aroused by his revelations of the treacherous work of
Germany's spies, and uplifted by his appeal to her patriotism, felt
enthusiastically capable of obeying his instructions. It seemed very
simple, as he had talked about it. All she had to do was to get
acquainted with the young man next door. Yet the further the subway
carried her from Mr. Fleck's office after her second visit there that
morning, the more her heart sank within her, and the fuller her mind
became of misgivings.

In a big city next door in an apartment house is almost the same thing
as miles away. She ransacked her brain, trying to remember some
acquaintance who might be likely to know the Hoffs, but failed utterly
to recall any one. She reviewed all possible means of getting acquainted
but could find none that seemed practical. Never in her life had she
spoken to a man without having been introduced to him--except of course
to Carter and Mr. Fleck, and these men, she told herself, were
government officials, something like policemen, only nicer. At any rate,
she knew them only in a business way, not socially. If she was to be
successful in learning much about the Hoffs--about young Mr. Hoff--she
felt that it was necessary to make them social acquaintances.

She must manage to meet Frederic Hoff in some proper way, but how? She
thought of such flimsy tricks as dropping a handkerchief or a purse in
the elevator some time when he happened to be in it, but rejected the
plan as disadvantageous. "Nice" girls did not do that sort of thing, and
even though she was seeking to entrap her neighbor she did not for a
moment wish him to consider her as belonging to the other sort. It
rather annoyed her to find that she cared what kind of an impression she
made on him. What difference did it make what a German spy thought of
her, especially a murderer? Yet, she argued with herself, the better the
impression she made at first the more likely she would be to gain his
confidence, and that she knew would delight Mr. Fleck. Was Frederic
Hoff, too, really, she wondered, a spy? Her face colored as she recalled
the mental picture she last had had of him, gallantly and admiringly
raising his cup to her as she left the Ritz, not obtrusively or
impudently, but so subtly that she was sure that no one had observed it
but herself. It seemed preposterous to associate the thought of murder
with a man like him.

As she entered the apartment house she was arguing still with herself
about him. Her intuition told her that Frederic Hoff was a gentleman,
and how could a gentleman be what Mr. Fleck seemed to think he was? As
the door swung to behind her she gave a little quick breath of delight,
for she had caught sight of a uniformed figure standing by the
switchboard. She had recognized him at once. It was the naval
lieutenant who had been at the Ritz. She heard him saying to the girl at
the switchboard:

"Tell Mr. Hoff, young Mr. Hoff, that Lieutenant Kramer is here. I'll
wait for him down-stairs."

Quick as a flash a course of action came into her mind. She saw an
opportunity too good to be neglected. She hurried forward to where the
lieutenant was standing, her hand outstretched, with a smile of
recognition--feigned, but well-feigned--on her lips.

"Why, Lieutenant Kramer," she cried, "how delightful. Have you really
kept your promise at last and come to see the Strongs?"

She could hardly restrain her amusement as she watched the embarrassed
young officer strive in vain to recall where it was that he had met her.
She had relied on the fact that the men in the navy meet so many girls
at social functions that it is impossible for any of them to remember
all they had met.

"Really, Miss--" he stammered, struggling for some fitting explanation.

"Don't tell me," she warned reprovingly, "that it isn't Jane Strong
that you are here to see, after all those nice things you said to me
that day we had tea aboard your ship."

She was hoping he would not insist on going into particulars as to which
ship it was. Fortunately she had been to functions on several of the war
vessels, so that she might find a loop-hole if he was too insistent
on details.

"Indeed, Miss Strong," said Kramer, gallantly pretending to recall her,
"I'm delighted to see you again. I've been intending to come to see you
for ever so long, but you understand how busy we are now. In fact, it
was business that brought me here to-day. I'm calling on Mr. Hoff, who
lives here, to take him to lunch to discuss some important matters."

At his last phrase Jane's heart thrilled. What important matters could
there be that a navy lieutenant could fittingly discuss with a German,
with the nephew of the man whose secret code message they had just
succeeded in reading? Determining within herself to keep fast hold on
the beginning she had made, she masked her real thoughts and let her
face express frank disappointment.

"How horrid of you," she continued, "when I was just going to insist
that you stay and have luncheon with us."

He was protesting that it was quite out of the question when the
elevator brought down her mother, whom Jane at once summoned as an ally,
feeling sure that considering how many men of her daughter's
acquaintance she had met, it would be perfectly safe to keep up the
deception.

"Oh, mother," she cried, "you remember Lieutenant Kramer, don't you?
I've just been urging him to stay and have luncheon with us. Do help me
persuade him."

"Of course I remember Mr. Kramer," fibbed the matron cordially, all
unaware of her daughter's duplicity. "Do stay, Mr. Kramer, and have
luncheon with Jane. I ordered luncheon for four, expecting to be home,
and now I've been called away, but your aunt is there to chaperone you.
It spoils the servants so to prepare meals and have no one to eat them,
to say nothing of displeasing Mr. Hoover. It's really your duty--your
duty as a patriot--to stay and prevent a food-waste."

"I've just been trying to explain to your daughter that I was taking
Mr. Hoff to luncheon with me. Here he is now."

Mrs. Strong's eyes swept the tall figure approaching appraisingly and
apparently was pleased with his aspect. As Mr. Hoff was presented she
hastened to include him in the invitation to luncheon.

"Have pity on a poor girl doomed to eat a lonely luncheon by her
parent's neglect," urged Jane. "Really, you must come, both of you. Nice
men to talk to are so scarce in these war times that I have no intention
of letting you escape."

"I'm in Kramer's hands," said Frederic Hoff gallantly, "but if he takes
me to some wretched hotel instead of accepting such a charming
invitation as this, my opinion of him as a host will be shattered."

"But," struggled Kramer, realizing that it must be a case of mistaken
identity and sure now that he never had met either Jane or her mother
before, "we have some business to talk over."

"Business always can wait a fair lady's pleasure," said Hoff. "Is this
ruthless war making you navy men ungallant?"

With a mock gesture of surrender, and as a matter of fact, not at all
averse to pursuing the adventure further, Lieutenant Kramer permitted
Jane to lead the way to the Strong apartment.

Soon, with the familiarity of youth and high spirits, the three of them
were merrily chatting on the weather, the war, the theater and all
manner of things. Jane, in the midst of the conversation, could not help
noting that Hoff had seated himself in a chair by the window where he
seemed to be keeping a vigilant eye on the ships that could be seen from
there. Even at the luncheon table he got up once and walked to the
window to look out, making some clumsy excuse about the beautiful view.

Determined to press the opportunity, Jane endeavored to turn the
conversation into personal channels.

"You are an American," she said turning to Hoff, "are you not? I'm
surprised that you are not in uniform, too."

"A man does not necessarily need to be in uniform to be serving his
government," he replied. "Perhaps I am doing something more important."

"But you are an American, aren't you?" she persisted almost impudently,
driven on by her eagerness to learn all she possibly could about him.

"I was born in Cincinnati," he replied hesitantly.

She could not help observing how diplomatically he had parried both her
questions. Mentally she recorded his exact words with the idea in her
mind of repeating what he had said verbatim to her chief.

"Then you _are_ doing work for the government?"

Intensely she waited for his answer. Surely he could find no way of
evading such a direct inquiry as this.

"Every man who believes in his own country," he answered, modestly
enough, yet with a curious reservation that puzzled her, "in times like
these is doing his bit."

She felt far from satisfied. If he was born in America, if he really was
an American at heart, his replies would have been reassuring, but his
name was Hoff. His uncle was a German-American, a proved spy or at least
a messenger for spies. If her guest still considered Prussia his
fatherland the answers he had made would fit equally well.

"You're just as provokingly secretive as these navy men," she taunted
him. "When I try to find out now where any of my friends in the navy are
stationed they won't tell me a thing, will they, Mr. Kramer?"

"I'll tell you where they all are," said Lieutenant Kramer. "Every
letter I've had from abroad recently from chaps in the service has had
the same address--'A deleted port.'"

"I really think the government is far too strict about it," she
continued. "My only brother is over there now fighting. All we know is
that he is 'Somewhere in France.' War makes it hard on all of us."

"Yet after all," said Hoff soberly, "what are our hardships here
compared to what people are suffering over there, in France, in Belgium,
in Germany, even in the neutral countries. They know over there, they
have known for three years, greater horrors than we can imagine."

The longer she chatted with him, the more puzzled Jane became. He
seemed to speak with sincerity and feeling. Her intuition told her that
he was a man of honor and high ideals, and yet in everything he said
there was always reserve, hesitation, caution, as if he weighed every
word before uttering it. Intently she listened, hoping to catch some
intonation, some awkward arrangement of words that might betray his
tongue for German, but the English he spoke was perfect--not the English
of the United States nor yet of England, but rather the manner of speech
that one hears from the world-traveler. Question after question she put,
hoping to trap him into some admission, but skilfully he eluded her
efforts. She decided at last to try more direct tactics.

"Your name has a German sound. It is German, isn't it?" she asked.

"I told you I was born in Cincinnati," he answered laughingly. "Some
people insist that that is a German province."

"But you have been in Germany, haven't you?"

"Why do you ask?"

"I was wondering if you had not lived in that country?"

"I could not well have been there without having lived there, could I?"

Kramer came to her rescue.

"Of course he has lived there. Mr. Hoff and I both attended German
universities. That was what brought us together at the start--our
common bond."

"Did you attend the same university?" asked Jane. She felt that at last
she was on the point of finding out something worth while.

"No," said Kramer, "unfortunately it was not the same university."

She caught her breath and blushed guiltily. If Mr. Kramer had attended a
German university he could not be an Annapolis graduate. He must be a
recent comer in the American navy. She knew that since the war began
some civilians had been admitted. It had just dawned on her that if this
was the case, since visiting on board ships was no longer permitted, it
clearly was impossible for her to have met him at any function on a
warship. He must have known all along that she knew she never had met
him. He must have been aware, too, that her mother did not know him.
She felt that she was getting into perilous waters and fearful of making
more blunders refrained from further questions. A vague alarm began to
agitate her. If he had detected her ruse when she first had spoken to
him, why had he not admitted it? What had been his purpose in accepting
her invitation and in bringing into it his German friend, Mr. Hoff?

The ringing of the telephone bell came as a welcome interruption. A maid
summoned her to answer a call, and excusing herself from the table she
went to the 'phone desk in the foyer.

"Hello, is this you, Miss Strong?"

It was Carter's voice, but from the anxious stress in it she judged that
he was in a state of great perturbation.

"Yes, it is Jane Strong speaking," she answered.

"You know who this is?"

"Of course. I recognize your voice. It's Mr. C--"

A warning "sst" over the 'phone checked her before she pronounced the
name and starting guiltily she turned to look over her shoulder,
feeling relieved to see the two men still chatting at the table,
apparently paying no attention to her.

"I understand," she answered quickly. "What is it?"

"You know that book I told you I was going to buy?"

"Yes, yes!"

"It's not there."

"What's that? The book is gone!"

"The book is there all right, but it's not the book I want."

"Are you sure," she questioned, "that you looked at the right book?"

"I looked at the one you told me to."

"Are you certain--the fifth book on the second shelf."

She heard a movement behind her and turning quickly saw Frederic Hoff
standing behind her, his hat and stick in hand. Panic-stricken, she hung
up the receiver abruptly. Had he been standing there listening? How much
had he heard? He would know, of course, what "the fifth book on the
second shelf" signified. Had her carelessness betrayed to him the fact
that he and his uncle were being closely watched? Anxiously she studied
his face for some intimation of his thoughts. He was standing there
smiling at her, and to her agitated brain it seemed that in his smile
there was something sardonic, defying, challenging.

"I cannot tell you, Miss Strong, how much I have enjoyed your
hospitality. You made the time so interesting that I had no idea it was
so late. You will excuse me if I tear myself away at once. I have some
important business that demands my immediate attention."

"I hope you'll come again," she managed to stammer, "and you, too, Mr.
Kramer."

White-faced and terrified she escorted them out, leaving the telephone
bell jangling angrily. As the door closed behind them, she sank weak and
faint into a chair, not daring yet to go again to the 'phone until she
was sure they were out of hearing.

What was the "immediate business" that was calling them away so
suddenly? She was more than afraid that her incautious use of the phrase
"the fifth book on the second shelf" had betrayed her. What else could
it mean? Why else would they have departed so abruptly?

Mustering up her strength and courage she went once more to the 'phone.

"Hello, hello, is that you, Miss Strong? Some one cut us off," Carter's
voice was impatiently saying.

"Hello, Mr. Carter," she called, "this is Jane Strong speaking. Where
can I see you at once? It's most important."

"I'll be sitting on a bench along the Drive two blocks north of your
house inside of ten minutes."

"I'll meet you there," she answered quickly, with a feeling of relief.

The situation was becoming far too complicated, she felt, for her to
handle alone. Carter would know what to do. If Hoff and Kramer had
learned from her about the trailing of old Hoff, the sooner it was
reported to more experienced operatives than she was the better.

"Don't speak to me when you see me sitting on the bench," warned Carter.
"Just sit down there beside me and wait till I make sure no one is
watching us. I'll speak to you when it's safe."

"I understand," she answered. "Good-by."

As she hastened to don her hat and coat she was almost overwhelmed by a
revulsion of feeling. Two days ago the world about her had seemed a
carefree, pleasant, even if sometimes boresome place. Now she
shudderingly saw it stripped of its mask and revealed for the first time
in all its hideousness, a place of murders and spying and secret
machinations. People about her were no longer more or less interesting
puppets in a play-world. They were vivid actualities, scheming and
planning to thwart and overcome each other. Almost she wished that her
dream had been undisturbed and that she had not been waked up to the
realities. Almost she was tempted to abandon her new-found occupation.

Then, once more, a feeling of patriotic fervor swept over her. She
thought of her brother fighting somewhere in the trenches. She pictured
to herself the other brave soldiers in the great ships in the Hudson.
She remembered the evil plotters with their death-dealing bombs,
striving to bring about a ghastly end for them all before they might
strengthen the lines of the Allies. She thought, too, of those
humanity-defying U-boats, forever at their devilish work, guided to
their prey by crafty, spying creatures right here in New York, more than
likely by the very people next door.

With her pretty lips set in a resolute line she left the house and
walked rapidly north. Come what may she would go on with it. Her country
needed her, and that was all-sufficient.



CHAPTER VI

THE MISSING MESSAGE

After Jane left Carter at the drug-store, he did not cross immediately
to the bookshop opposite. His detective work was not of that sort. He
strolled leisurely around the corner long enough to give some directions
to his two aides waiting there and then, moving across the street,
paused in front of the window of books as if something there had
attracted his attention. All the while he was keeping a sharp eye for
any person who looked as if they might be connected in any way with old
Hoff. Satisfied that his entrance was unobserved he strolled casually in
and began looking over the volumes in the lending library. The lone
clerk in the store--a young woman--at first volunteered some
suggestions, but as they went unheeded she returned to her work of
posting up the accounts.

As soon as her attention was occupied Carter moved at once to the end
of the shelf that Miss Strong had indicated and removed the fifth book.
To his amazement he found nothing whatever concealed between the leaves.
The books on either side on the same shelf failed to yield up anything.
He tried the shelf above and the shelf below. Perhaps Miss Strong had
been mistaken in the directions. He examined the books at the other end.
There was nothing there. He recalled that the girl had said that no one
except two girls had entered the store between the time she had
discovered and copied the cipher and the time of his arrival. If these
girls had not taken the message away there could be only one other
explanation--the clerk in the bookstore must have removed it and
concealed it somewhere.

"Which of the war books do you think the best?" he asked for the purpose
of starting a conversation.

"There's that many it is hard to say, sir," the young woman answered.

Something in her inflection made him look sharply at her. Her accent
surely was English, or possibly Canadian. A few judicious questions
quickly brought out the information that she came from Liverpool and
that she had three brothers in the British army. Carter decided that it
was preposterous to suspect her of being in league with German agents.
There was only one other thing that could have happened. Some one
else--some one who had eluded Miss Strong's notice--had removed the
cipher message.

Promptly he had telephoned to her to meet him. He was glad that he had
done so, for her evident perturbation as she answered the 'phone both
interested and puzzled him. Pausing just long enough to report to Chief
Fleck, he hastened to the rendezvous, arriving there first. He selected
a bench apart from the others, where the wall jutted out from the walk,
and seating himself, idled there as if merely watching the river. In
obedience with his instructions Jane, when she arrived, planted herself
nonchalantly on the same bench, and paying no attention to him,
pretended to be reading a letter.

Presently Carter rose and stretching himself lazily, as if about to
leave, turned to face the Drive, his keen eyes taking in all the
passers-by. Apparently satisfied, he sat down abruptly and turned to
speak to the girl beside him.

"All right, K-19," he said, "it's safe. Now we can talk."

"I've got such a lot to tell," cried Jane.

"First," said Carter, "just where did you put that cipher message when
you put it back?"

"What!" cried the girl, her face blanching, "wasn't it there? Didn't you
find it?"

Carter shook his head.

"It must be there," she insisted. "Are you sure you looked in the right
book--the fifth book from the end on the second shelf on the up-town
side of the store."

"It's not there. I examined every book there, on the shelves above and
below and at the other end, too."

"The clerk in the store, that girl--must have hidden it," cried Jane
with conviction.

"That's not likely. She's an English girl--from Liverpool. She has three
brothers fighting on the Allies' side. We can leave her out of it."

"Who else could have taken it?"

"There's only one answer," said Carter slowly and impressively. "Some
one went into that store between the time you copied the message and
the time I met you at the drug-store. You told me no one but a couple of
girls had entered. Was there any one else? Think--think!"

"There was no one," said Jane thoughtfully, "no one except the two girls
together. I never thought of suspecting them."

"What did they look like? Could you identify them?"

"I did not notice them particularly," Jane confessed. "I was expecting
Mr. Hoff's confederate to be a man."

"They're using a lot of women spies," asserted Carter. "Don't you
remember what the girls looked like?"

"One of them," said Jane thoughtfully, "wore an odd-shaped hat, a sort
of a tam with a red feather."

"Would you know the hat again if you saw it?"

"I think--I'm sure I would."

"Well, that's something. Watch for that hat, and if you ever see it
again trail the girl till you find out where she lives. If you locate
her telephone Mr. Fleck at once. And now, what has happened to you?"

"I've so much to tell, important, very important, I think."

She hesitated, wondering how much Carter was in the chief's confidence.
Did he know the import of the cipher message she had discovered? Ought
she to talk freely to him?

"Do you know what those numbers meant?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied, "about the eight transports sailing. The Chief told
me about it."

"Well," she said, with a sigh of relief, "I have become acquainted with
young Mr. Hoff already. I've just had luncheon with him."

"That's fine," he cried enthusiastically. "A lucky day it was I ran
across you."

"When you 'phoned me he was there in our apartment, he and a navy
lieutenant, Mr. Kramer."

Attentively he listened as she told of the ruse by which she had
inveigled them into coming to luncheon, reminding him that it was the
same naval officer that he himself had seen in close conversation with
Hoff at the Ritz the day before. He nodded his head in a satisfied way.

"They are together too much to be up to any good," he commented. "Tell
me the rest. What made you so rattled when I 'phoned you?"

He listened intently as she told of finding young Hoff standing right
behind her as she had inadvertently mentioned aloud "the fifth book."

"Do you suppose," she questioned anxiously, "that he overheard me and
understood what we were talking about? He left right away after that. I
do hope I didn't betray the fact that they are being watched."

"We can't tell yet," said Carter. "The precautions they take and the
roundabout methods they have of communicating with each other show that
all Germany's spies constantly act as if they knew they were under
surveillance. In fact, I suppose every German in this country, whether
he is a spy or not, can't help but notice that his neighbors are
watching him--and well they might."

"I don't see why," cried Jane, "Mr. Fleck did not have old Mr. Hoff
locked up right away. He could not do any more damage then, or be
sending any more messages about our transports."

"That wouldn't have done the least bit of good," said Carter decisively.
"Watching our transports sail and spreading the news is only one of many
of their activities. Somewhere in this country there is a master-council
of German plotters, directing the secret movements of many hundreds,
perhaps many thousands of spies and secret agents. They have their work
well mapped out. They have men fomenting strikes in the government
shipyards and stirring up all kinds of labor troubles. Others are busy
making bombs and contriving diabolical methods of crippling the
machinery in munition plants. A flourishing trade in false passports is
being carried on, enabling their spies to travel back and forth across
the Atlantic in the guise of American business men, ambulance drivers,
Red Cross workers and what not. Still others of their agents are
detailed to arrange for the shipping of the supplies Germany needs to
neutral countries. By watching shipping closely they gather information,
too, that is of value to the U-boat commanders. Every time there is any
sort of activity against the draft, or peace meetings, or Irish
agitation, we find traces of German handiwork. We have dismantled and
sealed up every wireless plant we could find in America except those
under direct government control, yet we are positive that every day
wireless messages go from this country somewhere--perhaps to Mexico or
South America, and from there are relayed to Germany, probably by way of
Spain. Think of the enormous amount of money required to finance these
operations and keep all these spies under pay. While we try to thwart
their plans as we find them, all our efforts are constantly directed
toward discovering who controls and finances their damnable system. We
seldom if ever arrest any of the spies we track down, but keep watching,
watching, watching, hoping that sooner or later the master-spy will be
betrayed into our hands."

"You don't think then," said Jane disappointedly, "that old Mr. Hoff is
one of the important spies."

"We can't tell yet. He may be just one of the cogs--perhaps what they
call a control-agent. We don't know yet. Germany has been building up
her spy system forty years, and it is ingenious beyond imagination. Her
codes are the most difficult in the world. It took the French three
years and a half to decipher a code despatch from Von Bethmann Hollweg
to Baron von Schoen. By the time they had it deciphered in Paris the
Germans had discovered what they were doing and had changed the code. It
is seldom any one of the German spies knows much about the work that
other spies are doing. The rank and file merely get orders to go and do
such a thing, or find out about such a thing. Often they are not told
what they are doing it for. They obey their orders implicitly in detail
and make their reports, get new orders and go on to do something else.
Only their master spy-council here knows what the summary of their
efforts amounts to. Arresting old Hoff, or a dozen more like him, would
not cripple them much. Other men would be assigned in their places, and
the nefarious work would go on."

"I don't know," insisted Jane thoughtfully. "I believe that old Mr. Hoff
is a far bigger spoke in the wheel than you think. I watched his face as
I followed him this morning. He is a man of great intelligence, and I
should judge a man of education."

"They'd hardly be using a man of that sort to carry messages," objected
Carter. "Maybe you're right. We have not watched him long enough to find
out. We've got nothing yet on the young fellow. Maybe he's the real boss
of the outfit. At any rate he is the one the Chief is anxious to have
you keep tabs on. Are you to see him again?"

"Oh, yes," the girl answered quickly, a touch of color coming to her
face, "I think so. I asked him to come to see me. I think--in fact I'm
sure--he will. Do you want me to watch the bookshop to see if they leave
any more messages there?"

"No," said Carter. "I've got one of my men assigned to that. You keep
after the young fellow. Say, does your father keep an automobile?"

"Yes, but it's been put up for the winter. We're going to bring it out
as soon as Dad can find a chauffeur. Our man--the one we had last
year--has been drafted, and good chauffeurs are scarce now. Why did
you ask?"

"I'll find you a chauffeur," said Carter decisively.

"You mean"--Jane hesitated--"a detective?"

Carter grinned.

"An agent like you and me. K-27 is an expert chauffeur and mechanic with
fine references. His last job was with the British High Commission, and
they gave him good testimonials."

"What do you want him to do?"

"Driving the Strong car makes a good excuse for him to be around without
exciting suspicion. He might even come up-stairs once in a while to get
orders or do little repair jobs around the apartment. Some day,
supposing the people next door were all out, he might even succeed in
planting a dictograph so that you could sit there in your room and hear
all that was going on and what the Hoffs talked about. That would help a
lot. If ever he was caught prowling about the hall, the fact that he was
your chauffeur would provide him with an alibi. Do you think you can fix
it up with your father?"

"I'm sure of it. When can he come?"

"The sooner the better--to-night--to-morrow."

"I'll tell Dad at dinner to-night that I've learned of a good chauffeur
and have asked him to come in at eight this evening."

"Fine," said Carter. "He'll be there. And don't forget to report once a
day to the Chief."

"I won't."

"And if anything unexpected turns up," said Carter, "and you need help,
take a good look at that nurse that is passing."

Jane turned curiously to inspect a buxom girl in a drab nurse's costume
who was wheeling a baby carriage along the sidewalk near-by. Seeing
herself observed the girl stopped, and at a sign from Carter wheeled her
charge up to where they were standing.

"K-22," said Carter, "I want to introduce you to K-19."

Gravely the two girls, nodding, inspected each other.

"She always wears a blue bow at her neck," Carter added, "so you can
recognize her by that."

The girl smilingly nodded again and wheeled the carriage on up the
Drive.

"Who is she?" Jane asked eagerly, turning to Carter.

"Just K-22," said the agent, "and all she knows about you is that you
are K-19. That's the way we work in the service mostly. The less one
operative knows about another the better, for what you don't know you
can't talk about."

"Doesn't she even know my name?" persisted Jane.

"She may have found it out for herself while she has been watching the
Hoffs, but we didn't tell her. Nobody in the service knows who you are
except the Chief and myself--and of course K-27 will have to know if he
takes the chauffeur's job."

"What is his name?"

"I don't know yet," said Carter gravely. "I haven't seen his references,
so I don't know what name they are made out in. You can find out what to
call him when he reports to-night. You'll see that he gets the job?"

"Indeed I will," answered Jane, experiencing a sense of relief at the
prospect of having some one at hand in the household with whom she could
discuss her activities.

And as she had anticipated she had little difficulty in interesting her
father in the subject of a new chauffeur. Mr. Strong for several days
had been trying to find one without success.

"You say this man's last place was with the British High Commission."

"Some one of the girls was telling me," she prevaricated. "I asked her
to tell him to come here to-night at eight. He ought to be here
any minute."

Presently the candidate for the place was announced.

"Mr. Thomas Dean to see about a chauffeur's position," the maid said as
she brought him in, and while her father questioned him, Jane studied
him carefully.

He could not be more than thirty, she decided, and the voice in which he
answered her father's questions was surely a cultivated one. It would
not have surprised her in the least to have learned that he was a
college man. Even in his neat chauffeur's uniform he seemed every inch
a gentleman. He had been driving a car for twelve years, he explained.
No, he did not drink and had never been arrested for speeding.

"Are you a married man?"

Jane listened curiously for his answer to this question of her father's.
Surely it would be far more interesting if he wasn't. Of course, he was
a chauffeur and a detective, but somehow she could not help feeling,
perhaps because of his easy manner, that more than likely most of the
cars he had driven were cars that he himself had owned. K-27 she decided
was going to be quite a satisfactory partner to work with.

"There's just one thing," said her father. "You say you are not married.
I can't understand why it is that you are not in the army."

"I am not eligible," said Thomas Dean calmly, though Jane thought she
could detect a twinkle in his eye. "One of my legs has been broken in
three places."

"But there are things a young fellow can do for his country besides
marching," insisted Mr. Strong. "The government needs mechanics, too."

"I know," said Thomas Dean, almost humbly, "but I have a mother, and my
father is dead."

Jane smiled a little to herself at his answer. She noted how carefully
he had avoided saying anything about having a mother to support. It
would not have surprised her in the least to have learned that he was a
millionaire, yet her father, ordinarily shrewd in judging men,
apparently was satisfied.

"Supporting a mother, I suppose, comes first," he said. "Well, Dean,
when can you come?"

"To-morrow morning if you like," the new chauffeur answered, nodding
gravely to Jane as he withdrew.

Mr. Strong, as soon as they were alone, spoke enthusiastically about the
young man, complimenting Jane on having discovered him, and as he did so
a revulsion of feeling swept over her. For the first time she realized
into what duplicity her work for the government was leading her. She had
pledged her word to Chief Fleck that she would keep her activities an
absolute secret even from her parents. Already she was deceiving them,
bringing into the household an employee who really was a detective, a
spy. She was tempted to tell her father, at least, what she was doing.
He, she knew, was filled with a high spirit of patriotism. While he
might not wholly approve of what she herself was doing she might be able
to convince him of the necessity of it. If she could only tell him, her
conscience would not trouble her, but there was her promise--her sacred
promise; she couldn't break that.

While with troubled mind she debated with herself between her duty to
her parents and her duty to her country, one of the maids came in with a
box of flowers for her.

Eagerly she cut the string and opened the box. Chief Fleck especially
wanted her to cultivate young Hoff's acquaintance. If her suspicion as
to the sender were correct, she could feel that she had made an
auspicious beginning.

In a tremor of excitement she snatched off the lid of the box and tore
out the accompanying card from its envelope.

"Mr. Frederic Johann Hoff," it read, "in appreciation of a most
profitable afternoon."

Wondering at the peculiar sentiment of the card she tore off the
enclosing tissue paper from the flowers. Orchids, wonderful, delicately
tinted orchids, nestled in a sheaf of feathery green fern--five of them.

"Five orchids--the fifth book--a profitable afternoon."

Jane felt sure now she had betrayed the government's watchers to at
least one of the watched.



CHAPTER VII

THE WOMAN ON THE ROOF

It is amazing how much information on any given subject any one--even a
wholly inexperienced person like Jane Strong--can acquire within a few
days when one's mind is set resolutely to the task. It is much more
amazing how much one can learn when aided and abetted by an experienced
chauffeur, or more properly speaking a mysterious and cultured secret
service operative, masquerading as an automobile driver.

Who Thomas Dean was, why he was in the secret service, and what his real
name was, were questions that kept perpetually puzzling Jane. In the
presence of her father and mother, so skilful an actor was he that it
was hard to believe him anything but what he appeared to be, a
respectful, intelligent and prompt young man who knew the traffic
regulations and the anatomy of automobiles. When he and Jane were by
themselves he invariably threw off his mask to some extent. He became
the director instead of the directed, though never letting anything of
the personal relation creep in. That he was college-bred, Jane felt
certain. He spoke both German and French much better than she did. He
occasionally used words that no ordinary chauffeur would be likely to
know the meaning of. Sharing the secret of such a mission as theirs,
they quickly found themselves on a friendly basis, yet the girl
hesitated whenever her curiosity prompted her to try to find out
anything that would reveal his identity. There was always present the
feeling that any exhibition of undue curiosity on her part would be a
disappointment to her employer. The chief disapproved of curiosity
except on one subject--what the Germans were doing.

Many things Jane and her aide learned about the Hoffs in the days
following Thomas Dean's coming, reporting them all as directed. Of how
much or of how little value her discoveries were Jane had no means of
knowing. Chief Fleck seemed satisfied but was always urging her to
acquire more information and more details, always details. Dean, too,
had seconded the warning about observing even what seemed to be
insignificant trifles.

"Most of the Germans," he said to her, "you will find are very
methodical. They like to do things according to schedule. For instance,
I learned yesterday that old Hoff and his nephew frequently go off on
all-day automobile trips. They always go on Wednesday."

"Are they going to-morrow?"

"The presumption is that they will. They have done so every Wednesday
for six weeks."

"Can't we follow them in our car?" cried the girl, "and see what they
are up to?"

Dean shook his head.

"The Chief is looking out for that. There is more important work for us
to do right here. I want to try to install a dictograph in their
apartment."

"How exciting."

"You must find some excuse for me to come up into your apartment and see
to it that none of your people are about."

"That will be easy. Mother and Aunt will be out all day, and it is
cook's afternoon off. I can easily send the maids out."

"But that's not all. There is the Hoffs' servant to be disposed of."

"I don't see how I can manage that," said Jane. She could think of no
possible way of overcoming that difficulty.

"She's an old German woman--Lena Kraus," continued Dean. "I've found out
that she always washes on Wednesdays. When she goes up on the roof in
the afternoon to get the clothes will be our time. It will be your job
to see that she stays there until I am through. It will not take me more
than half an hour."

"But what will I do if she starts to come down? How will I stop her?"

"You'll have to use your wits. Keep her talking as long as you can. When
she starts down come with her. Press the elevator button four times.
I'll leave the door of the Hoff apartment open and very likely will hear
it in time to get away."

"But how'll you get their door open?"

Dean smilingly drew forth a key.

"I borrowed the superintendent's bunch last night, pretending I had lost
the key to my locker in the basement. I knew he had a master-key that
unlocks all the apartment doors, and there was no trouble in picking it
out. I had some wax in my hand and made an impression of it right under
his nose."

"How clever," cried Jane, "but suppose the Hoffs do not go off
to-morrow. What will we do then?"

"You are taking tea with young Hoff this afternoon, aren't you?"

"Yes," said Jane, "that is, he asked me to. I am to meet him at the
Biltmore at five."

"When you're with him propose doing something together to-morrow
afternoon. See what he says."

"That's an excellent idea. I'll ask him to go to the matinee with me."

"That will do splendidly. Has he been with that navy officer lately?"

"Not since Sunday, to my knowledge. I wonder if old Mr. Hoff has left
any more cipher messages at the bookshop?"

"No," said Dean, "he hasn't. The place has been constantly watched, but
he hasn't been near it since that first day."

"I'm afraid," sighed Jane despondently, "I betrayed the fact that we
were watching them to the nephew. He overheard me talking to Carter
about the 'fifth book,' and of course he knew what it meant. I'm certain
the old man is still reporting about our transports. Every day I can
hear some one telephoning to him. He waits for the message, and then he
goes out."

"He certainly is expert in eluding shadowers," admitted Dean. "Every day
he has been followed, but always he manages to give the operatives the
slip. He must know he is being watched."

"I'm anxious to know what the nephew will say to me to-day," said Jane.
"I know he knows what I am doing. He looks at me in such an amusedly
superior way every time he sees me."

"Be careful about trying to pump him," cautioned Dean. "He strikes me as
by far the more intelligent of the two. It would not surprise me in the
least if he were not old Hoff's nephew at all, but really his superior,
sent over especially by Wilhelmstrasse to take charge of the plotters.
He doesn't in the least resemble old Hoff."

"No indeed, he doesn't," admitted Jane. "He certainly is clever, too.
We haven't learned a single thing that incriminates him, have we?"

"Nothing definite, yet everything taken together looks damaging enough.
Here is a young German of military age and appearance, who arrived from
Sweden just before we went into the war. He has plenty of money and
spends his time idling about New York, in frequent communication with at
least one navy officer. He selects a home overlooking the river from
which our soldiers are departing for France. You yourself saw him
pursuing K-19--the other K-19--who a few hours afterward was found
murdered."

"Things don't look right," Jane agreed, yet a few hours later as she sat
opposite the young man at tea, she found herself doubting. It seemed
incredible, impossible, that Frederic Hoff could be a murderer. Her
instinctive sense of justice forced her to admit that it was hard for
her to believe him even a spy. He seemed so cultured, so clean, so
straightforward, so nice. If she had not seen that unforgettable look of
hate on his face that night as she watched him from the window she
could not, she would not have believed evil of him.

The tremor of nervous excitement in which she met him quickly passed,
and she found herself once more chatting intimately with him and
enjoying it. He talked well on practically all subjects, showing
reserve only when she tried to draw him out about himself. Her previous
experiences with the opposite sex had taught her that most men's
favorite topic of conversation is themselves, but Mr. Hoff appeared to
be the exception. Adroitly he baffled all her efforts to get him to
discuss his family, his achievements, or his past, even when she sought
to encourage intimacy by telling about her brother who was abroad in
Pershing's army.

"You must let me be your big brother while he is away," her escort had
suggested gallantly.

"All right, brother," she had challenged him. "I'll take you on at once.
I have seats for a matinee to-morrow. I'd much rather go with a brother
than with one of the girls."

"I would be delighted," he answered unsuspectingly, "but unfortunately I
have an engagement that takes me out of town."

"We'll go next week, then--Wednesday."

"A week is too long to wait. Let me take you to a matinee on Saturday."

Jane hesitated. At times her conscience troubled her not a little. While
satisfied that the importance of her trust wholly justified her actions,
she disliked any deception of her family.

"Wouldn't it be better," she parried, "if you came to call on me some
evening first? You've only just met my mother, and I would like you to
know Dad, too."

"May I?" he cried with manifest pleasure. "How about to-morrow evening?"

"That's Wednesday," she answered slowly. That was the day she and Dean
were planning to put in a dictograph. She wondered at herself calmly
carrying on this casual conversation with the man she was planning to
betray. Coloring a little from the very shame of it, she continued, "How
about making it Thursday evening?"

"Delighted," cried Hoff, "and about Saturday's matinee--what haven't you
seen?"

Glad for the respite of at least twenty-four hours, Jane, as they
talked, watched his face, his expression, his eyes. Regardless of the
things she believed about him, he impressed her as honest and sincere.
Certainly there was no mistaking the fact that his liking for her and
his delight in her society were wholly genuine. Her heart warned her
that it was his intention to press their new-formed acquaintance into
close intimacy. Was he, she wondered, like herself, pretending
friendship merely to unmask secrets for his government? No, she could
not, she would not believe it. She felt sure that his admiration was
unfeigned. Something told her that quickly his ardor and determination
might lead her into embarrassing circumstances. He might even ask her to
marry him. For a moment she was overcome with timidity and tempted to
stop short on her new career, but there came to her the thought of the
brave Americans in the trenches, of the soldiers at sea, of the brutal,
lurking U-boats, and sternly she put aside all personal considerations.

"You spoke of going out of town," she said when the subject of the
matinee had been disposed of. "Don't you find train travel rather
disagreeable these days?"

"Fortunately I'm motoring."

"That will be nice, if you don't have to travel too far."

"It is quite a distance for one day, but I am used to it. I make the
trip often."

Feeling that at least she had learned something, Jane rose to go. She
knew that both the Hoffs would be out of the way to-morrow. The
inference from his last remark was that they were going to the same
place they had gone on previous Wednesdays. That was something to report
to Mr. Fleck.

"My car is outside," she said as they rose. "Can't I take you home?"

"Sorry," said her host, "but I am dining here to-night. Lieutenant
Kramer is to join me."

"Remember me to him," she said as he escorted her to the automobile,
driven by Dean.

A block away from the hotel she tapped on the glass, and as Dean brought
the car to a stop she climbed into the seat beside him. Only a week ago
she would have criticized any girl who rode beside the chauffeur. In
fact she had spoken disapprovingly of a girl in her own set who made a
habit of doing it, but now she never gave it a thought. Many things in
her life seemed to have assumed new aspects and values since she had
entered on a career of useful activity. In her was rapidly developing
something of her father's ability and directness. As she wanted to talk
confidentially with Dean, she went the easiest way about it, entirely
regardless of appearances.

"Apparently you carried it off well," he commented.

"I hope so," she answered, coloring a little. "They're making their
usual Wednesday motor trip."

"He did not tell you their destination?"

"No, but Lieutenant Kramer is dining with him to-night at the Biltmore."

"Fine. Those things the Chief can take care of. That leaves the way
clear for us to-morrow afternoon."

"What excuse will I make for having you come up to the apartment?"

"You want me to change some pictures. That will account for the wire if
I'm caught."

"I hope no one sees you."

"Nobody'll see me but the elevator man, and he'll think nothing of it."

Apparently, too, Dean was right, for the next afternoon he entered the
Strong apartment carrying a suitcase in which was concealed his
apparatus and the necessary wire.

"Hurry," cried Jane, who was waiting for him. "The Hoffs' maid has just
gone up on the roof."

"We can safely give her at least a few minutes," said Dean setting to
work to make a hole through the wall into the apartment adjoining. Just
as he had finished making it and had pushed one end of the wire through,
the telephone bell rang, and Jane in dismay sprang to answer it.

"Disguise your voice," warned Dean. "If it is a caller say there is no
one home."

"It was Lieutenant Kramer calling," said Jane as she returned.

"Did he recognize your voice?"

"I don't think so."

"What did he say?"

"He said to tell Miss Strong that he had called."

"Then he didn't suspect you."

"Isn't there danger, though, that he may come up to the Hoff
apartment?"

Dean sprang to the window and looked out at the street below.

"No, there he goes up the street. He evidently did not try to see if the
Hoffs were at home. That's funny."

"Why funny?"

"It means of course that he, too, knows about those Wednesday trips the
Hoffs make."

Cautiously he opened the door into the public hall. There was no one
about. Catlike in swiftness and silence he moved to the Hoff door and
inserted his new-made key. It worked perfectly.

"Now," he whispered to Jane, "to the roof--quick. I must not be taken by
surprise. Give me at least ten minutes more--fifteen if you can."

Quickly he passed inside, closing the door behind him all but a barely
noticeable crack, as Jane rang for the elevator and bade the operator
take her to the roof. As she emerged there and stood waiting for the
elevator to descend again, an ornamental lattice screened her from the
rest of the roof. Cautiously and curiously she peered between the
slats, trying to see what the Hoff servant was doing at the moment. She
decided that she would not reveal her presence until the woman made
ready to go down-stairs.

As from behind her screen she scanned the roof she espied old Lena over
on the side next the river bending over a half-filled basket of clothes,
apparently putting into the basket some of the freshly dried laundry
from the lines extending all over the roof. As Jane watched her the old
woman straightened herself up and cast a cautious glance about.
Apparently satisfied that she was alone she whipped out something from a
pocket in her apron and turned in the direction of the river.

Jane gasped in amazement, a thrill of excitement sweeping over her at
this new discovery. It was plain that the old servant was studying the
transports in the river below through a pair of powerful field glasses.
Curiously Jane observed her, wondering what she was trying to ascertain,
wondering if through the glasses she was able to identify the
battleships and other boats. Old Lena's next move was still more
puzzling. Hastily dropping her glasses into the basket she began to
hang again on the line some of the clothes. They were handkerchiefs,
Jane noted interestedly, one large red one, and the rest white, some
large, some small, a whole long row of nothing but handkerchiefs.

All at once it came to Jane what it must mean. The arrangement of the
handkerchiefs must be some sort of a code. She studied the way they were
placed, committing the order to memory. "Red--two large--one small--one
large--one small." Of course it was a code, a signal to some one aboard
one of the ships.

The line of handkerchiefs completed old Lena once more took up her
glasses, first looking around as before to see if any one were on the
roof. How Jane wished that she, too, could see the ships from where she
stood. Was some traitor in the navy wigwagging to the old woman? She was
tempted to spring forward and seize her and stop this dastardly
signalling, but she remembered her duty. She was there to see that Dean
was not surprised by old Lena's return. So long as the woman kept
signalling he was safe.

Once more the laundress dropped her glasses and began frantically
rearranging the handkerchiefs. Again Jane noted their order--red--two
small--one large--three small--two large. Again the laundress resorted
to the glasses, and at last, apparently satisfied, began taking down the
rest of the laundry and making ready to leave the roof. Trying to act as
if she had just arrived, Jane stepped boldly forward.

"I wonder," she said approaching the woman, "if you can tell me where I
can find a good laundress."

"_Nicht versteh_" said old Lena, eyeing her suspiciously and hostilely,
and at the same time attempting to pass her with the basket of clothes.

Deliberately blocking the way, Jane repeated her question, this time in
German, feeling thankful that her language studies at school were not
wholly forgotten and that they had included such practical phrases as
those required to hire and discharge maids and complain about the
quality of their work.

"I know no one," the old woman answered her, this time in English.

Jane breathed fast with excitement. The laundress' slip of the tongue,
after denying that she understood, was evidence in itself of her
deliberate duplicity. Realizing her mistake, the old woman now sullenly
refused to answer any questions, merely shaking her head and trying to
dodge past and escape.

To prolong the questioning, Jane felt, would be only to arouse
suspicion, and reluctantly she allowed old Lena to precede her to the
elevator, anticipating her, however, in ringing the bell, pressing the
button four times as Dean had directed. As they descended together she
was almost in a panic. How long had she kept the laundress on the roof?
She really had no idea. She had been so absorbed in her new discovery
she had given no thought to the time. For all she knew she might have
been there only five minutes. Had Dean had time to finish his work?

Almost frenzied with anxiety, wondering if it were too soon, she moved
forward in the car so as to obstruct old Lena's view through the door as
it opened. One glance showed her the Hoff door now tightly closed, and
she thought she heard the door of her own apartment just closing.
Suddenly she remembered that she had gone up on the roof without a key.
It would be a pretty pass if Dean were still in the Hoff apartment and
she couldn't get into her own.

All in a tremble she pressed the button of her own door, waiting,
however, to see that the laundress was out of the hall. It was Dean who
opened the door, and she all but fainted in his arms as she saw that he
was back in safety.

"It's done," he cried gleefully, as he caught her and drew her within,
closing the door carefully behind her. "I just finished my work as you
came down."

Great drops of perspiration still stood on his forehead and he was
breathing rapidly.

"Why, what's the matter?" he cried, noticing for the first time Jane's
perturbation. "Was it too much for you? What happened?"

"Put this down quick, quick," gasped Jane, "Red--two large--one
small--one large--one small--and then--red--two small--one large--three
small--two large."

Wonderingly he complied, jotting down what she told him in his notebook,
and turning to ask her what it meant, discovered that she had fainted.



CHAPTER VIII

THE LISTENING EAR

"I don't know what is the matter with Jane," sighed Mrs. Strong a few
days after the employment of the new chauffeur.

"She's not ill, is she?" responded her husband. "I never saw her looking
more fit."

"She looks all right," said her mother. "It is the peculiar way she is
acting that bothers me. She spends hours and hours moping in her room,
and then there are times when she takes notions of going out and is
positively insistent that she must have the car."

"Maybe she's in love," suggested Mr. Strong, resorting to the common
masculine suspicion.

"With whom?" retorted his wife indignantly. "I don't believe there is an
eligible man under forty in all New York. None of the men are thinking
about marriage these days. They all want to go to France, even the
married ones. I believe you'd go yourself if you were a few
years younger."

"I certainly would," announced her husband enthusiastically.

"Jane tells me she is writing a novel," Mrs. Strong continued, "and
that's why she stays in her room so much. I hope she won't turn out to
be literary."

"Don't worry," advised Mr. Strong. "With all the men off to war you'll
find young women doing all kinds of funny things to work off their
energy. If a girl can't be husband-hunting, she's got to be doing
something to keep busy. There are worse things than trying to write
novels. Jane is all right. Let her alone."

So, even though her mother's suspicions had been aroused, the girl in
the next few days managed to spend many hours with her ears glued to the
receiver of the dictograph without being discovered. In the Hoffs'
apartment Dean had succeeded in locating it over the dining-room table,
concealed in the chandelier, and in Jane's room the other end rested in
the back of a dresser drawer that she always carefully locked
when absent.

The novelty of listening for bits of her neighbors' conversation
quickly wore off. To sit almost motionless for hours listening,
listening intently for every sound, hearing occasional words spoken
either in too low tones or too far distant to make them understandable,
to record bits of conversation that sounded harmless, yet might have
some sinister meaning, became a most laborious task. Yet persistently
Jane stuck at it. The greater knowledge she gained of the plottings of
the German agents, the more important and vital she realized it was for
every clue to be diligently followed in the hope that the trail might at
last reach the master-spy, whose manifold activities were
menacing America.

In general she was disappointed with the results of her listening. To be
sure they had furnished indisputable evidence of something they already
had ascertained--that old Hoff, despite being a naturalized American,
still was a devoted adherent of the ruler of Germany. Nightly as he and
his nephew sat down to dinner she could hear his gruff, unpleasant voice
ceremoniously proposing always the same toast:

"Der Kaiser!"

Even when the younger Hoff was dining out, as he sometimes did, Jane
could hear the old man giving the toast, presumably with only the old
servant for an auditor. That the woman, too, was a spy, as well as
servant, Jane had known since the day on the roof, but so far neither
she nor Dean had been able to make anything out of her handkerchief
code, though both were sure the messages related to the sailings of
transports.

Only once had she heard anything that she deemed really important. One
evening, as uncle and nephew dined, there had been an acrimonious
dispute.

"Have you it yet?" the uncle had asked in German.

"Not yet," Frederic had answered.

His seemingly simple reply for some reason appeared to have stirred the
elder man's wrath. He broke into a volley of curses and epithets,
reproaching his nephew for his delay. In the rapid medley of
oaths and expostulations Jane could distinguish only occasional
words--"afraid"--"haste"--"all-highest importance"--"American swine."
The younger Hoff had appeared to exercise marvelous self-control.

"There is yet time," he answered calmly.

"Donnerwetter," the old man had exclaimed. "There is yet time, you
say--and Emil the wonder-worker almost ready has. It must be done
at once."

The outburst over, old Hoff had subsided into inarticulate mutterings,
evidently busy with his food, leaving Jane to wonder futilely who Emil
might be, what he meant by the "wonder-worker," and what particular task
had been assigned to the nephew that must be performed immediately. She
had hastened to report this conversation in detail to Chief Fleck, but
if he understood what it was about he had taken neither Jane nor Thomas
Dean into his confidence.

Other things, too, Jane had learned and reported, which she knew the
chief appreciated even though he was sparing in his thanks and
compliments. She had learned through her almost constant listening that
Lieutenant Kramer was a regular visitor, coming to the Hoff apartment or
seeing Frederic Hoff somewhere every other day. Unfortunately he was
always conducted into one of the inner rooms, so that no more of the
conversation than the ordinary greetings and farewells ever reached
Jane's ears. The mere fact of his coming so regularly to the Hoffs
convicted him of treachery, in Jane's mind. What proper business could
an American naval officer have in the home of two German agents? The
excuse that Frederic Hoff was a delightful and entertaining friend was
entirely too flimsy and unsatisfactory.

Nothing that she had overheard--and within her heart she felt glad that
it was so--in any way as yet incriminated young Hoff. When she dared to
think about it, she found herself almost believing, certainly at least
wishing, that the nephew was not involved in his uncle's activities.
Most of his time, in fact, was spent out of the apartment. He frequently
went out early in the morning, not returning until the early hours of
the next morning. The old man, on the contrary, always stayed at home
until eleven o'clock. At that hour his telephone would ring. The
telephone was located near the dining room, so Jane could easily hear
his conversations. Invariably some brief message was given to him, a
name, which he repeated aloud as if for verification.

As Jane overheard them she had set them down:

     Thursday--"Jones."
     Friday--"Simpson."
     Saturday--"Marks."
     Sunday--"Heilwitz."
     Monday--"Lilienthal."
     Tuesday--"Wheeler."

As she sat by the hour listening Jane kept pondering over these names.
What could they mean? Were they, too, a code of some sort? Always, as
soon as this word had come to him, old Hoff went out. Could they be, she
wondered, passwords by which he gained access somewhere to government
buildings or places where munitions were being made or shipped?

Meanwhile her acquaintance with Frederic Hoff had been progressing
rapidly. As she had suggested he had called on her and had been
presented to her father, and on the next Saturday they had gone to a
matinee together. She had been eager to see what her father thought of
him, for Mr. Strong, she knew, was regarded as a shrewd judge of men.

"What does that young Hoff do who was here last night?" her father had
asked at the breakfast table.

"He's in the importing business with his uncle, I think," she had
answered.

"Where'd you meet him?"

"He lives in the apartment next door. Lieutenant Kramer introduced him."

"He's German, isn't he?"

"Oh, no," said Jane, almost unconsciously rallying to defend him, "he
was born in this country."

"Well, it's a German name."

"Don't you like him?"

"He talks well," her father said, "and seems to be well-bred."

It was with reluctance, too, that Jane admitted to herself that the
better acquainted she became with Frederic Hoff the more fascinating she
found his society. She was always expecting that by some word or action
he would reveal to her his true character. At the matinee she had waited
anxiously to see what he would do when the orchestra played the
national anthem. To her amazement he was on his feet almost among the
first and remained standing in an attitude of the utmost respect until
the last bar was completed. If he were only pretending the role of a
good American, he certainly was a wonderful actor. As her admiration for
him increased and her interest in him grew she found that almost her
only antidote was to try to keep thinking of his face as she had seen it
the night that K-19--the other K-19--had been so mysteriously murdered.
She kept wondering if Chief Fleck had made any further discoveries about
the murder and resolved to ask him about it at the first opportunity.
She therefore was delighted when on Tuesday, as she made her regular
report by telephone, he asked if she could come to his office that
afternoon with Dean to discuss some matters of importance. They found
Carter already with the chief when they arrived.

"Thanks to your work, Miss Strong, and to Dean's dictograph," said the
chief, "we have made considerable progress. We have learned a lot more
about the cipher messages."

"You have learned it through me," cried Jane in amazement.

"Yes," said the chief, smiling, "from that list of names you reported."

"What were they, a cipher, a code?" questioned the girl breathlessly.

"No, nothing like that. They are merely the names of various innocent
and unsuspecting booksellers in various parts of the city."

"How did you discover that?"

"In the simplest and easiest way possible. I listed all the names you
reported and studied them carefully, trying to find their common
denominator. They were not in the same neighborhood, so it was not
locality. They were not all German, so it was not racial. I looked them
up in the telephone directory, checking up the numbers of the telephones
of the Jones, the Simpsons, but that gave no clue. Then, as I looked
through the telephone lists, I discovered that there was a bookstore
kept by a man of each name. Then I understood. It is a simple plan for
throwing off shadowers."

"You mean that Mr. Hoff goes to a different bookstore each day to leave
a code message?"

"That's it. The spy who gets the messages each morning calls him up by
'phone, mentioning just the one word. From that Mr. Hoff knows just
where to go, concealing the message in a book before agreed upon."

"The fifth book," interrupted Dean.

"Not always," explained Fleck. "It depends on whether there are five
letters in the name telephoned. I have located and copied several more
of the messages."

"But who gets the messages he leaves? Who takes them away from the
bookshops?" asked Jane, mindful of her own failure in that respect.

"It's a girl, or rather two girls together, though possibly only one of
them is in the plot. Very likely the other may not know what her
companion is doing."

"To whom does this girl take them?"

"That is still a mystery," said the chief. "We have ascertained who the
girl is, where she lives. Her actions have been watched and recorded for
every hour in the twenty-four for the last three days, and yet we don't
know what she does with these messages. Carter has a theory--tell us
about it, Carter."

"In accordance with instructions," began Carter, as if he was making
out a report, "I had operatives K-24 and K-11 shadow the party
suspected. On two different occasions they followed her to a bookstore
and back home again. She was accompanied on one occasion by her younger
sister. Each time she went directly home and stopped there, neither she
nor her sister coming out again, and no person visiting the
apartment, but--"

"Here's the interesting part," interrupted Fleck.

"On both occasions within a couple of blocks of the bookstore she passed
a man with a dachshund. She did not speak to the man, but each time she
stopped to pet the dog."

"Was it the same man both times?" asked Dean.

"Apparently not," replied Carter, "but it may have been the same dog.
Dachshunds all look alike."

"Go on," said the chief.

"Now my theory is that that girl was instructed to walk north until she
met the man with the dog. I'll bet anything that code message went
under the dog's collar. The next time she gets a message I'm going to
get that dog."

"It seems preposterous," scoffed Dean.

"Rather it shows," said Fleck, "that these spies all suspect they are
being watched, and that they resort to the most extraordinary methods of
communication to throw off shadowers. They have used dachshunds before.
There's a New England munition plant to which they used to send a
messenger each week to learn how their plans for strikes and destruction
were progressing. They put a different man on the job each time to avoid
stirring up suspicion. At the station there would always be two children
playing with a dachshund. The spy would simply follow them as if
casually, and they would lead him to a rendezvous with the local
plotters. Now, Miss Strong," he said, turning to Jane, "I brought you
down here for two reasons. First, to give you an inkling of how
important your task is, and second, to ask you to undertake still
another task for us. Are you still willing to help?"

"More than ever," said the girl firmly.

"The one disappointment is that we are getting no evidence whatever to
involve or incriminate young Hoff. To-morrow, while he and his uncle are
away on their usual auto trip, I am going to have the apartment
thoroughly searched."

Jane's face blanched. She recalled what a strain it had been on her
nerves the day she watched on the roof while Dean installed the
dictograph. She felt hardly equal to the task of ransacking desks
and drawers.

"There will be no one at home but the old servant. She can be easily
disposed of. It is imperative that the search be made at once. There is
evidence that what they are planning--evidently some big coup--is
nearing the time for its execution. We must find it out in order to
thwart them. I have got to know what old Hoff meant by the
'wonder-worker!' He said that it was nearly ready. I suspect that it is
some new engine of destruction. We must prevent any disaster to
transports or munition factories, if that's what they have in mind."

"You think it's a bomb plot?" asked Jane.

"I don't know what it is. These empire-mad fools stop at nothing.
Nothing is sacred to them, women, children, property. With fanatical
energy and ability they commit murders, resort to arson, use poisons,
foment strikes, wreck buildings, blow up ships, do anything, attempt
anything to serve the Kaiser. Karl Boy-ed spent three millions here in
America in two months, and Von Papen a million more. What for? Ten
thousand dollars to one man to start a bomb factory, twenty-five
thousand dollars to another to blow up a tunnel. Millions on millions
for German propaganda was raised right here, and it is far from all
spent yet. We've got to find out what the wonder-worker is and destroy
it before it destroys--God knows what."

"Very well," said Jane with quiet determination, "I'll search their
apartment."

"No, not that," said the chief, "I'll send some fake inspectors to test
the electric wiring, and they'll do the searching. I do not know for
sure that the Hoffs suspect you of watching them, but I'm taking no
chances. It will be just as well for you and Dean to be out of the way
to-morrow all day, so that you will have an alibi. Germany's secret
agents are suspicious of everybody. They do not even trust their own
people. What I want you and Dean to do is to try to follow the Hoffs and
see where they go. I don't want to use the same persons twice to trail
them as they may get suspicious."

"I can easily do that," said Jane, feeling relieved. "I'll tell Mother I
want our car for all day."

"No, don't use your own car. They might recognize it. I'll provide
another one. They gave two of my men the slip last week somewhere the
other side of Tarrytown. Let's hope they are not so successful
this time."

"But won't they recognize me?"

"Not if you disguise yourself with goggles and a dust coat. Dean can
make up, too. He had practice enough at college, eh, Dean?"

Jane turned to look interestedly at Dean, who had the grace to color up.
She was right then. He was a college man, working in the secret service
not for the sake of the job but for the sake of his country.

"Of course I can disguise myself too," she said enthusiastically, a new
zest in her work asserting itself, now that she knew her principal
co-operator was probably in the same social stratum as herself.

"You can rely on us, Chief," said Dean, as they left the office
together. "We'll run them down."

As they emerged into Broadway and turned north to reach the subway at
Fulton Street, Dean, with a warning "sst," suddenly caught Jane's arm
and drew her to a shop window, where he appeared to be pointing out some
goods displayed there. As he did so he whispered:

"Don't say a word and don't turn around, but watch the people passing,
in this mirror here--quick, now, look."

Jane, as she was bidden, glanced, at first curiously and then in
recognition and amazement, at a tall figure reflected in the mirror, as
he passed close behind her. It was a man in uniform. Regardless of
Dean's warning she turned abruptly to stare uncertainly at the military
back now a few paces away.

"Did you recognize him?" cried Dean.

"It--it looked like Frederic Hoff," faltered the girl.

"It was Frederic Hoff," corrected her companion, "Frederic Hoff in the
uniform of a British officer, a British cavalry captain!"



CHAPTER IX

THE PURSUIT

Masked by an enormous pair of motor goggles and further shielded from
recognition by a cap drawn down almost over his nose, Thomas Dean in a
basket-rigged motorcycle impatiently sat awaiting the arrival of Jane
Strong at a corner they had agreed upon the evening before. He had been
particularly insistent that Jane should be on hand at a quarter before
eight. He had learned by judicious inquiries that always on
Wednesdays--at least on the Wednesdays previous--the Hoffs had started
off on their mysterious trips at eight sharp. His intention was to get
away ahead of them and pick them up somewhere outside the city limits.

Jane had promised that she would be on hand promptly. Once more he
looked impatiently at his watch. It lacked just half a minute of the
quarter, but there was no sign of his fellow operative. The only person
visible in the block was a boy strolling carelessly in his direction.
With a muttered exclamation of annoyance Dean restored his watch to his
pocket, debating with himself how long he ought to wait and whether or
not he had better wait if she did not appear soon. Very possibly, he
realized, something entirely unforeseen might have detained her or have
prevented her coming. Perhaps her family had doubted her story that she
was going off on an all-day motor trip with a friend? Maybe their
suspicions had been aroused by his having reported sick? He had almost
decided to go on alone when he observed that the boy he had seen
approaching was standing beside the motorcycle.

"Good morning, Thomas," said the boy, a little doubtfully, as if not
quite sure that it was he.

Dean gasped in astonishment. The boy's voice was the voice of Jane.
Laughing merrily at his amazement and discomfiture, she climbed into the
seat beside him, asking:

"How do you like my disguise?"

"It's great," he cried. "You fooled me completely, and I was expecting
you."

"When Chief Fleck said I ought to disguise myself for fear that the
Hoffs already suspected me, I happened to remember these clothes. I had
them once for a play we gave in school."

"But you don't even walk like a girl."

Jane laughed again.

"I practised that walk for days and days. When I first put on this suit
my brother hooted at the way I walked. He said no girl ever could learn
to walk like a boy. I made up my mind I'd show him."

"But your hair," protested Dean, almost anxiously. Even if he was just
now assuming the humble role of chauffeur he still was an ardent admirer
of such hair as Jane's, long, black and luxurious.

"Tucked up under my cap," laughed the girl, "and for fear it might
tumble down, I brought this along. It's what the sailor boys call a
'beanie,' isn't it?"

As she spoke she adjusted over her head a visorlike woolen cap that left
only her face showing.

"But your mother--didn't she wonder about your wearing those clothes?"

"She was in bed when I left. All she caught was just a glimpse of me in
Dad's dust coat, and that came to my ankles. I wore it until I was a
block away from the house. Will I do?"

"You can't change your eyes," said Dean boldly, that is boldly for a
chauffeur, but he knew that Jane knew he wasn't a chauffeur except by
choice, so that made it all right.

"I couldn't well leave them behind. I understood that I was to have a
lot of use for my eyes to-day."

"Yes, indeed, you very likely will."

"Do you know I hardly recognized you at first and was almost afraid to
speak? I had expected to find you in a car. What was the idea of the
motorcycle?"

"It was Chief Fleck's suggestion. The Hoffs will be motoring. People in
a car seldom pay any attention to motorcyclists. If we were to follow
them in a motor they'd surely notice it. Last week they managed to dodge
the people the Chief assigned to trail them. Maybe as two dusty
motorcyclists we'll have better luck."

"I hope so. Where do you intend waiting to pick them up?"

"Getty Square in Yonkers is the best place. Everybody going north goes
that way. I can be tinkering with the machine while you keep watch for
them. They will not be apt to suspect a pair of Yonkers motorcyclists.
There's no danger of missing them."

"Did you tell the Chief about seeing Mr. Hoff in that uniform?"

"Of course. He did not seem even surprised. Some one had reported to him
already that there was a German going about in British uniform."

"What had he heard? What was the man doing?" questioned Jane anxiously.
Even though she believed Frederic Hoff an alien enemy, even though she
was all but sure that he was a murderer, she kept finding herself always
hoping for something in his favor. He seemed far too nice and
entertaining to be engaged in any nefarious, underhanded, despicable
machinations. Yet she had seen him masquerading as a British officer.
She could not doubt the evidence of her own eyes.

"What happened was this," continued Dean. "A woman--one of the society
lot--was driving down Park Avenue day before yesterday morning in her
motor. It had been raining, and the streets were muddy. At one of the
crossings a British officer stopped to let the car pass. One of the
wheels hit a rut, and his uniform was all splashed with mud. He burst
into a string of curses--_German_ curses."

"He cursed in German?" cried Jane.

"Sure," said Dean. "On the impulse of the moment he forgot his role and
revealed his true self--an arrogant Prussian officer."

"What did the woman do?"

"Reported him to the first policeman she met, but by that time he had
vanished, of course."

"What did Chief Fleck think about it?"

"He didn't seem to take the story seriously."

"Do you suppose it could have been Mr. Hoff?"

"It must have been he, or one of his gang, at any rate. I don't see why
the Chief does not order his arrest at once. He is far too dangerous to
be at large."

"There's no real evidence against him yet," protested Jane, "not against
the young man, at least."

"Didn't we both see him in British uniform?"

"Yes," admitted the girl.

"Well, that's proof, isn't it? A man with a German name in British
uniform in wartime can't be up to any good."

"Still we have no actual evidence against him. We don't know what he was
doing."

"I'd arrest him then for murder and get the evidence that he is a spy
afterward. It would be easy to fasten the murder of K-19 on him. There's
no doubt that he did that."

"Has a witness been found?" asked Jane with a quick catch of the breath.
Somehow she never had been able to persuade herself that the man next
door, whatever else he might be, had really committed that
brutal murder.

"No, there's no actual witness, but it could be proved by circumstantial
evidence. K-19, the man whose work you took up, had instructions to
shadow young Hoff to his home. At two in the morning he relieved another
operative. At three you yourself saw him shadowing Hoff."

"I saw two men on the sidewalk," corrected Jane. "One of them was
Frederic Hoff. I did not see the other distinctly enough to identify
him. I saw no murder. I merely saw the two of them run around
the corner."

"Look here," said Dean sharply, not wholly succeeding in suppressing a
note of jealousy in his tones, "I believe you are trying to shield
Frederic Hoff. What is he to you? Has he won you over to his side?"

"You've no right to say such things to me," cried Jane, nevertheless
coloring furiously. "I've seen the man only three or four times. I am
working just as hard as you are to prove that he is a German spy, if he
is one. I am only trying to be fair. I know nothing that convicts him of
murder. Any testimony I could give would not prove a single thing."

"Certainly not, if that's the way you feel about it," snapped Dean.

After that they rode along together in silence, each busy with thoughts
of their own. Dean was cursing himself for having let his enthusiasm to
be of service to his government lead him into such circumstances. He
felt that his chauffeur's position handicapped him in his relations with
Jane, to whom he had been strongly attracted from the beginning. The son
of a distinguished American diplomat, he had been educated for the most
part in Europe. Friends of his father, when he had offered his services
to the government, had convinced him that his knowledge of German and
French would make him most useful in the secret service. Reluctantly he
had consented to take up the work, and as he had gone further and
further into it and had realized the vast machinery for surreptitious
observation and dangerous activity that the German agents had secretly
planted in the United States, he had become fascinated with his
occupation--that is, until he met Jane Strong.

His association with her under present circumstances was fast becoming
unbearable. Even though he was aware that she knew he was no ordinary
chauffeur, he loathed the necessity of having to wear his mask in the
presence of her family. He wanted to be free to come to see her, to send
her flowers and to go about with her. For him to take any advantage of
their present intimate relations to court her seemed to him little short
of a betrayal of his government, yet at times it was all he could do to
keep from telling her that he adored her. Love's sharp instincts, too,
had made him realize that Jane was already beginning to be attracted by
the handsome young German whom they were seeking to entrap, and the
knowledge of this fact filled him with helpless rage and jealousy.

Jane, too, angered and insulted at first by Dean's outburst, had been
endeavoring to analyze her own conduct. Candor reluctantly compelled her
to admit that each time she met Frederic Hoff she had found herself
coming more and more under his spell. He had a wonderful personality,
talked entertainingly and ever exhibited an innate gallantry toward
women in general, and herself in particular, which Jane had found
delightfully interesting. Though she had undertaken wholeheartedly to
try to get evidence against him, she was forced to admit to herself now
that she was secretly delighted that there had been nothing damaging
found as yet, so far as he was concerned, beyond the one fact that he
had been in British uniform.

In vain she marshalled the circumstances about him, trying to make
herself hate him. He was a German, she told herself. He was an enemy of
her country. He lived with a man who had been proved to be a spy. He
surreptitiously associated with American naval officers. The dictograph
told her that nightly his uncle and he in the seclusion of their home
toasted America's arch enemy, the German Kaiser. More than likely, too,
her reason told her, he was a murderer. She ought to hate, to loathe, to
despise him, and yet she didn't. She liked him. Whenever he approached
she could feel her heart beating faster. She looked forward after each
meeting with him to the time when she would see him again. What, she
wondered, could be the matter with her? Assuredly she was a good
patriotic American girl. Why couldn't she hate Frederic Hoff as she knew
he ought to be hated?

She was still puzzling over her unruly heart when they reached Getty
Square, and Dean brought the motorcycle to a stop in one of the side
streets overlooking Broadway. Dismounting, he looked at his watch and
made a pretense of tinkering with the engine, while Jane kept a sharp
lookout on the main thoroughfare, by which they expected the Hoffs to
approach. Ten minutes, twenty minutes, more than half an hour they
waited, anxiously scanning each car as it passed.

"I can't understand it," said Dean. "They should have been here at least
twenty minutes ago. I am going to 'phone Carter. He will know what time
they started."

He had hardly entered an adjacent shop before Jane, still keeping watch,
saw the Hoffs' car flash by, going rapidly north. Quickly she sprang out
and ran into the store. Dean saw her coming and left the telephone
booth, his finger on his lips in a warning gesture.

"Don't bother to 'phone," cried the girl, misunderstanding his
meaning--and thinking only that he was trying to prevent her naming the
Hoffs. "Come, let's get started."

Without speaking he hurried from the store and got the motorcycle under
way.

"Have they passed?" he whispered then.

"Just a moment ago."

Silently he gathered up speed, racing in the direction the Hoffs' car
had gone, not addressing her again until perhaps two miles from Getty
Square they caught up with it close enough to identify the occupants,
whereupon he slowed down and followed at a more discreet interval.

"Be careful about speaking to me when there's any one about," he warned
Jane, almost crossly. "Those clothes make you look like a boy, and your
walk is all right, but your voice gives you away. Did you see that clerk
in the store look at you when you spoke to me? I tried to warn you to
say nothing."

"I'll be careful hereafter," said Jane humbly, still depressed by her
recent estimate of herself. "I forgot about my voice."

Mile after mile they kept up the pursuit without further exchange of
conversation. As they passed through various towns along the road Dean
purposely lagged behind for fear of attracting attention, but always on
the outskirts he raced until he caught up close enough again to the car
to identify it, then let his motorcycle lag back again. Thus far the
Hoffs had given no indication of any intention to leave the main road.

As the cyclists, far behind, came down a long winding hill on which they
had managed to catch occasional glimpses of their quarry, Dean, with a
muttered exclamation, put on a sudden burst of speed. At a rise in the
road he had seen the Hoffs' car swing sharply to the left. Furiously he
negotiated the rest of the hill, arriving at the base just in time to
see them boarding a little ferry the other side of the railroad tracks.
While he and Jane were still five hundred yards away the ferryboat, with
a warning toot, slipped slowly out into the Hudson.

In blank despair they turned to face each other. The situation seemed
hopeless. They dared not shout or try to detain the boat. That surely
would betray to the Hoffs that they were being followed. Despondently
Dean clambered off the motorcycle and crossed to read a placard on the
ferryhouse.

"There's not another boat for half an hour," he said when he returned.
"They have gained that much on us."

"Perhaps we can pick up their trail on the other side of the river,"
suggested Jane. "There are not nearly so many cars passing as there
would be in the city."

"We can only try," said Dean gloomily.

"At least we know where to pick up their trail the next time."

"Damn them," cried Dean, "I believe they suspect that they may be
followed and time their arrival here so as to be the last aboard the
ferryboat. That shuts off pursuit effectually. They make this trip every
week. I wouldn't be surprised if they have not fixed it with the ferry
people to pull out as soon as they arrive. A two-dollar bill might do
the trick. I'd give five thousand right now if we were on the other side
of the river. It's the first time--the only time I've ever failed
the Chief."

"Never mind," said Jane consolingly, "why can't we be waiting for them
at the other side next week when they come up here? They're not apt to
suspect motorcyclists they meet up here with having followed them."

"Perhaps next week will be too late."

"I wonder where they are headed for," said the girl, looking across at
the rapidly receding boat. "Why, look! What are those buildings
over there?"

"That's West Point," Dean exclaimed, noting for the first time where
they were.

"West Point!" she echoed in amazement.

What mission could the Hoffs have that would take them to the United
States Government military school was the question that perplexed them
both. Could it be that the web of treachery and destruction the Kaiser's
busy agents were weaving had its deadly strands fastened even here--at
West Point?



CHAPTER X

CARTER'S DISCOVERY

"It's the young man I'm after," said Chief Fleck. "We have the goods on
old Hoff, but we have nothing incriminating against Frederic yet. The
very fact that he holds aloof from his uncle's activities makes me think
he is engaged in more important work. He's just the type the Germans
would select as a director."

"That's right," said Carter despondently. "There's nothing except the
fact that Dean and the girl think they saw him in British uniform. Why
didn't they follow and make sure?"

"They tried to," said the chief, "but he gave them the slip. I'm
inclined to believe they were mistaken. More than likely it was a chance
resemblance. Lots of Britishers of the Anglo-Saxon strain look much like
Germans, and a uniform makes a big difference in a man's appearance. I'm
afraid there's nothing in that."

"But both saw the man--Dean and Miss Strong," protested Carter.

"The trouble is," observed Fleck, "that Dean is getting infatuated with
the girl. A young man in love is not a keen observer. Anything she
thinks she has seen he'll be ready to swear to. I hope the girl keeps
her head. Lovers don't make good detectives."

"I have watched them together," said Carter. "I'll admit he's struck on
her, but I don't think she cares a rap for him. She's too keenly
interested in Frederic Hoff."

"What do you mean by that?" asked the chief sharply.

"You can depend on her all right. She's patriotic through and through.
She's the kind that would do her duty, no matter what it cost her. All I
meant is that Hoff's the type that interests women. He's got a way about
him. The fact that he's a spy, in peril most of the time, gives him a
sort of halo. I never knew a daring young criminal yet that didn't have
some woman, and often several of them, ready to go the limit for him.
All the same, I'm sure we can trust Miss Strong."

"We've got to," growled Fleck, "for the present at any rate. Is
everything fixed for the search this afternoon? What have you done to
get the superintendent out of the way? He's not to be trusted. His name
is Hauser."

"I've got him fixed. Jimmy Golden, my nephew, who has helped us in a
couple of cases, is a lawyer. He has telephoned to Hauser to come to his
office this afternoon."

"Suppose he doesn't go?"

"He'll go all right. Jimmy 'phoned him that it was about a legacy.
That's sure bait. Jimmy will make Hauser wait an hour, then keep him
talking half an hour longer. That will give us plenty of time."

"Then there's the woman--the servant, Lena Kraus."

"She goes to the roof every Wednesday while the Hoffs are away to
signal. Other days they apparently do the signalling themselves in some
way we haven't caught on to yet. She always goes up about three
o'clock and--"

"Suppose she comes down unexpectedly and catches you? We can't have that
happen. That would put them on their guard."

"She won't surprise us. I've got a trick up my sleeve for preventing
that."

"Go to it, then," said the chief, and Carter went on his way rejoicing.

Ever since he had been informed that the search of the Hoffs' apartment
was to be intrusted to him Carter had been in a state of exuberant
delight. He fairly revelled in jobs that required a disguise and he
welcomed the opportunity it gave him and his assistants to don the
uniform of employees of the electric light company. He even made a point
of arriving that afternoon at the apartment house in the company's
repair wagon, the vehicle having been procured through Fleck's
assistance.

"There's a dangerous short circuit somewhere in the house," he announced
to the superintendent's wife.

"My husband isn't here," she answered unsuspectingly. "Do you know where
the switch-boards are?"

"We can find them," said Carter. "We'll start at the top floor and work
down."

Always thorough in his methods of camouflage he actually did go through
several apartments, making a pretense of inspecting switch-boards and
wiring, all the while keeping watch for the time when old Lena went to
the roof. The moment she had entered the elevator to ascend with her
basket of linen, Carter and his aides were at the Hoff door. Equipped
with the key Dean had manufactured they had no difficulty in entering.

"Bob," said Carter to one of his men, "we haven't much time, and there's
a lot to be done. You take the servant's room and the kitchen, and you,
Williams, take the old man's quarters. I'll take care of the young man's
bedroom, and we'll tackle the living room and dining room later."

Thoroughly experienced in this sort of work all three of them set at
once to their tasks. Carter, standing for a moment in the doorway,
surveyed Frederic Hoff's quarters, taking in all the details of the
furnishings. Both the sitting room and the bedroom adjoining were
equipped in military simplicity, with hardly an extra article of
furniture or adornment, chairs, tables, everything of the plainest sort.
Moving first into the bedroom, Carter quickly investigated pillows and
mattress, but in neither place did he find what he sought, evidence of a
secret hiding place. He rummaged for a while through the drawers of two
tables, carefully restoring the contents, but discovering nothing that
aroused his suspicions. The books lying about on the tables and on
shelves he examined one by one, noting their titles, examining their
bindings for hidden pockets, holding them up by their backs and shaking
the leaves. There was nothing there. Lifting the rugs and moving the
furniture about he made a careful survey of the flooring, seeking to
find some panel that might conceal a hiding place. Once or twice in
corners he went so far as to make soundings but apparently the whole
floor was intact. His search in the bath room was equally profitless,
and at last he turned to the clothes press. As he opened the door an
exclamation of amazement burst from his lips.

There, concealed behind some other suits, was the complete outfit of a
British cavalry captain.

"That's one on the Chief," he said to himself. "It must have been Hoff
that Dean and Miss Strong saw. I wonder where he got it?"

With a grim smile of satisfaction he devoted himself to going carefully
through all the pockets and over all the seams of the clothing in the
closet. He even felt into the toe of the shoes and examined the soles.
There was nothing to be found anywhere, but he felt satisfied. The
uniform in itself was to his mind damning proof of the young man's
occupation.

No explanation that could be given by a young man of German name, even
though he was American-born, or had an American birth certificate, could
possibly account for his having a British uniform. It was prima facie
evidence that Frederic Hoff was a spy. What puzzled Carter most was how
Hoff managed to smuggle the uniform in and out of the apartment without
being observed. For more than two weeks now every parcel that had
arrived at the house of the Hoffs had been searched before it was
delivered. The house had been constantly under the strictest
surveillance. It was out of the question for him to have worn the
uniform in or out as it could not be easily concealed under
other clothing.

"There's somebody else in this place in league with the Hoffs," he
muttered to himself. "I wonder who it can be."

He looked at his watch. The old servant had been out now nearly half an
hour. She was likely to return at any moment. He must work quickly.
Swiftly he went through the dresser drawers but without satisfactory
result. There was no time for him to do more. He hastened into the
living room and summoned his aides.

"Find anything, Bob?" he asked.

"Not a thing."

"Beat it up to the roof," he directed. "Have you those field glasses
with you?"

"Sure," replied the operative, "and the handkerchiefs, too."

"All right. Get up there before she starts down. Begin putting up
handkerchiefs and appear to be watching the river. That will mix her up
so she will not know what to do. She will not dare to leave the roof
while you are there. When we're through I'll send the elevator man up
for you with the message that we have found the short circuit."

He turned to the other operative.

"Find anything, Williams?"

"Only this."

Carter's face brightened as his assistant held out to him two copies of
an afternoon newspaper. In each of them a square was missing where
something had been cut out.

"I found them in the waste-paper basket by the old man's desk," the man
explained, "and there was some ashes there--ashes of paper--as if he had
burned up something. Maybe it was what he cut out of those papers. I
could not tell."

"We've got to get copies of those papers at once and see what it was.
Come on, I'm going to take them to the Chief. We can get the papers on
the way down."

Calling the other operative from the roof, before he even had had time
to attract the attention of Lena Kraus by his activities, they hastened
back to the office, where Fleck and Carter together scanned the two
papers from which the clippings had been taken.

"Why," said Carter disappointedly, "it is just a couple of
advertisements he cut out--advertisements for a tooth paste. There's
nothing in that."

"Don't be too sure," warned Fleck. "If a man cuts out one tooth-paste
advertisement, the natural presumption would be that he wished to
remind himself to buy some. When he cuts out two, he must have some
special interest in that particular tooth paste. We'll have to find out
what his interest is."

"Maybe he owns it," suggested Carter.

"Perhaps," said Fleck, as he began studying the advertisements, "but it
would not surprise me if these advertisements contained some sort of
code messages."

"Messages in advertisements," exclaimed Carter incredulously.

"Why not? The Germans have hundreds of spies at work here in this city
and all over the country. What would be an easier method of
communicating orders to them than by code messages concealed in
advertising. They have done it before. When the German armies got into
France they found their way placarded in advance with much useful
information in harmless looking posters advertising a certain brand of
chocolate. I'd be willing to bet that every one of these advertisements
carries a code message. I've noticed that these advertisements, all
peculiarly worded, have been running for some time. I never thought of
hooking them up with German propaganda, but, see, it is a German firm
that inserts them."

Carefully he cut out the two advertisements and laid them side by side
on his desk. Turning to Carter he said:

"Go at once to see Mr. Sprague, the publisher of this paper. Get him to
give you a copy of each paper that has contained an advertisement of
this sort in the last six months. Find out what agency places the
advertising. Tell him I want to know. He'll understand. We have worked
together before."

Alone in his office, Fleck bent with wrinkled brow over the first of the
two advertisements, which read:

     REMEMBER

     Please, that our new paste, DENTO,
     will stop decay of your teeth. Sound
     teeth are passports to good health and
     comfort. Now, no business man can
     risk ill health. It is closely allied with
     failure. The teeth if not watched are
     quickly gone.

     USE DENTO

     A genuine, safe, pleasing paste for the
     teeth, prepared and sold only by the
     Auer Dental Company, New York.

He tried all the methods of solving cipher letters that he thought of.
He drew diagonals this way and that across the advertisement. He tried
reading it backward. He tried reading every other word, every third
word, both backward and forward. Nothing that he did revealed any
combination of words that made sense.

"Passports," he muttered to himself, "that's it. If there is a message
there it must be something about passports."

In despair he turned to the other advertisement. It read:

     DON'T

     Forget it is imperative for one and all to
     use cleansing agents on teeth that leave
     no bad results.

     "Ship more of that wonder-working
     paste immediately. Workers, employers,
     wives, all ready to commend it. Friday's
     supply gone," writes a druggist to whom
     a big shipment was made last week.

     USE DENTO

     A genuine, safe, pleasing paste for the
     teeth, prepared and sold only by the
     Auer Dental Company, New York.

Fleck's eyes gleamed with satisfaction as he read this advertisement
and caught the phrase "wonder-working." He felt sure now that he was on
the right track. He recalled that Jane Strong over the dictograph had
heard old Hoff speak of something that he called the "wonder-worker." As
soon as Carter returned with the other advertisements that had been
appearing he felt positive that he would be able to unravel the cipher.
Two words he was sure of--"passports" and "wonder-working." One
footprint does not lead anywhere, but two do, and given three
footprints, a pathway is indicated.

His telephone rang sharply. He turned to answer it, suspecting it must
be Carter with some message about the papers he had sent for.

"Hello," he called.

"Hello," came a faint voice, as if the speaker were using long distance,
and had a bad connection, "is this Fleck?"

"Yes, Fleck," he answered, "who is this?"

"Dean speaking," came the voice faintly.

"Dean," cried Fleck, excitedly, "yes, yes. What is it, Dean?"

He had not expected to hear any results from the expedition that Dean
and Jane Strong had undertaken until late in the afternoon after the
Hoffs returned. The fact that Dean was calling him up now would seem to
indicate that something of importance had happened.

"I'm telephoning from a doctor's house near Nyack," said Dean.

"What's that? Speak louder."

"I'm here in Doctor Spencer's office near Nyack with a broken arm," Dean
continued. "We've had an accident. Somebody's auto smashed into us,
I guess."

"Miss Strong? Where is she? Is she hurt?" asked the chief anxiously.

"I don't know. She has vanished."

Jane Strong vanished! The chief's figure became suddenly tensed. That it
was more than a mere automobile accident he felt certain now. Shadowing
the Hoffs was an occupation that seemed unusually perilous. There
flashed into his mind the fate of K-19--murdered almost at the Hoffs'
door. And now two more of his operatives, one disabled and the other
mysteriously missing.

"Quick," he said over the 'phone. "Tell me briefly just what happened.
Speak as loudly as you can."

"We got half an hour behind at the West Point Ferry," Dean's voice went
on, still weak and low as if he were speaking with difficulty. "We had
some trouble getting started on the trail again but finally succeeded.
We were dashing along about ten or twelve miles south of West Point when
an automobile coming out of a cross road crashed right into us. It must
have knocked me unconscious. I didn't remember anything more till I
found myself here. I came to as the doctor was setting my arm. I 'phoned
as soon as they would let me."

"Who brought you there?"

"I don't know. All they know here was that some couple in an automobile
left me here. They said they passed just after an auto hit my
motorcycle. They said the auto didn't stop."

"And Miss Strong--did they say anything about her?"

"Not a word. The people here were under the impression I was riding
alone."

"All right," said the chief. "I'll get some one up there at once to
look after you and pick up any clues."

As he hung up the 'phone, his forehead wrinkled into little lines of
absorbed concentration. He sat at his desk for fully five minutes almost
motionless, trying to figure it out. What did the accident to Dean
signify? How was the sudden disappearance of Jane Strong to be accounted
for? Had she fled from the scene after Dean was disabled, fearing that
her name might be coupled with his in an account of the accident? It did
not seem like the sort of thing she would do. The impression she had
made on him was that of a girl of high resolve who would be apt to carry
through anything she undertook, cost what it may. Yet what could have
happened to her? If she, too, had been injured, why was she not with
Dean? If she was not injured, why had she not communicated with the
office? Who were the couple that had brought Dean to the doctor's
office? Why had not the doctor taken their names and addresses?

What part had the Hoffs played in the accident? Had they purposely run
down the motorcycle? If they had found out they were being shadowed
they would not have hesitated, he felt sure, to resort to such murderous
tactics. Had they not already one dastardly murder to their record? He
must find out when the Hoffs arrived home. They would not be due for an
hour or two, but he would caution the operatives watching the house to
keep more vigilant watch. Reaching for his 'phone he called up the
head-quarters of the operatives.

"Report to me at once," he said to the operative who answered his call,
"the minute the Hoffs have arrived home."

"The old man is home now," the operative answered.

"What's that?" cried Fleck.

"He came in alone five minutes ago on foot. The young man is not home
yet with the automobile."

"Let me know as soon as he arrives," said Fleck curtly, turning away
from the 'phone.

He was more perplexed than ever. What could have happened? Where was
young Hoff with the motor? Where was Jane Strong? Why had she
disappeared after Dean had been hurt? How had she vanished? The Hoffs'
affairs had assuredly taken a new and bothersome turn, over which Fleck
sat puzzling many minutes.

Where was Jane Strong? In the answer to that question, he decided at
length, lay the crux of the whole situation.



CHAPTER XI

JANE'S ADVENTURE

For more than two hours Thomas Dean and Jane had been vainly circling
about West Point on their motorcycle, striving to pick up some clue that
would put them once more on the trail of the Hoffs' car. They had not
dared to ask too many questions of any one near the ferry, fearful lest
the people they were pursuing might have a guard posted there to warn
them in case of a possible pursuit, yet cautious inquiries seemed to
indicate that all the automobiles on the ferryboat which had preceded
had been headed to the north.

"There's only one thing we can do," Dean had said despondently. "We have
got to run out each road we come to until we reach some shop or garage
where the people would be likely to have noticed the Hoffs. They may
have stopped somewhere, or we may meet some one coming toward us who
will remember having passed them."

"It seems like a wild-goose chase," said Jane, "but I suppose there is
nothing else to do."

The strain of their bitter disappointment was telling on both of them.
Each felt inclined to blame the other for their having fallen so far
behind. They rode along in silence, their nerves becoming more and more
keyed up as their hopes grew less. At garage after garage they paused to
question the employees.

"Did a big gray car with two men, an old man with a beard and a young
man driving, pass this way about an hour ago?"

"I don't remember any such car," was the invariable answer.

Time and time again they repeated their query, wording it always the
same, except for lengthening the interval of time in which the car might
have passed, for the afternoon was rapidly passing. In their circuit
they had now reached the roads pointing to the southward.

"We'll try this one more garage," said Dean, as they approached a
wayside shed bearing a large sign "Gasoline."

"I fear it is only wasting time," said Jane wearily.

"Don't you want the Hoffs caught?" snapped her companion.

"Of course I do," she retorted heatedly, "but I don't see you catching
them."

"I believe you are half glad of it," snarled her escort as he brought
the machine to a stop and repeated his usual question.

"Sure there was a car with two men in it like you describe passed here,"
the man replied to their amazement and delight. "They stopped here for
gas, as they generally do. About three hours ago, I guess it
musta been."

Dean shot a triumphant glance at Jane.

"An old man with a gray beard and a smooth-shaven young man
driving--does that describe them?" he repeated.

"That's them," said the garage proprietor. "They come through here every
few days, always about the same time."

"Where do they go?" questioned Dean eagerly, feeling at last that the
scent was growing hot.

The man shook his head in a puzzled way.

"I've often wondered about that. They're always heading south and
appear to be in a powerful hurry, but the funny part of it is I ain't
never seen them coming back."

"Do you know their names?"

"No, I can't say I do, though it seems as if I'd heard one of them
called Fred. I can't say which it was."

"Do they always come by on the same day--on Wednesday?" asked Jane,
forgetful once more of Dean's warning to let him do the talking lest her
voice should betray her sex.

"Come to think of it," said the man, apparently noticing nothing
unusual, "I guess it always is on a Wednesday they come by."

"Is the number of their car anything like this?" asked Dean, exhibiting
an entry in his notebook.

"I couldn't say," said the man, studying the figures. "I know it is a
New York license, and the number ends with two nines like this one does.
What might you be wanting them for?"

He spoke to a cloud of dust, for Dean had started up the motorcycle
before he finished speaking and already was speeding away.

"Where now?" asked Jane.

"I don't know," he answered frankly, "I only know we are going the
direction the Hoffs went, and I want to gain on them before they get too
far ahead. The chap back there had told us all he knew and was beginning
to get curious, so I thought it better to vamoose."

"It's funny about his never seeing them coming back."

"Probably there is nothing mysterious about that. I have a notion they
always come up one side the river and down the other, taking the 125th
Street ferry home. That would not be a bad plan to help them in eluding
too curious observers. All these German spies are trained to leave as
blind a trail behind them as possible. The thing we have got to discover
is what brought them up here. We've just got to find out their
destination."

"I am afraid there is little chance of our doing that," insisted Jane.
"We've nothing to go on."

"We've learned something. We know that their destination is somewhere
between here and Fort Lee on this side of the river. That narrows down
the search considerably. That's more, too, than anybody else that the
Chief has had on their trail has learned. Something tells me that we are
getting warm right now. Obviously the place they come to must be nearer
West Point than it is New York. They would hardly take too roundabout a
course, even for the sake of hiding their tracks. Keep a sharp lookout
for tire tracks leaving the main road."

The route they were following quickly led them into a sparsely inhabited
mountainous district and instead of the concreted state highway they
found themselves on a hilly dirt road, full of ruts and loose stones
that made travel difficult. At times it was all Dean could do to manage
the machine, so that he had to leave most of the task of observing the
by-ways to Jane. For more than two miles they had seen neither house nor
barn. Once or twice they came upon little used lanes leading off through
the woods, but none of them showed any traces of the recent passing of
an automobile.

As they came dashing around a curve on a steep down-grade, where hardly
more than the semblance of a road had been cut into the hillside, Jane
caught her breath sharply. Above the roar of their own motor she thought
she heard some other noise, something that sounded like another car
near-by; yet neither behind nor ahead was there another automobile
in sight.

"Listen," she cried sharply.

Dean started to slow down, but it was too late. Out of a cut in the
hillside, half screened by a clump of bushes at the side on which Jane
was riding, a great gray motor shot out just as they were passing. Jane
caught just one glimpse of the man on the driver's seat. It was Frederic
Hoff, frantically twisting at the wheel in an effort to avert the
threatened collision. There came a thud and a crash as the forward part
of the Hoff car struck the motorcycle a glancing blow, overturning it
completely. Too terrified even to shriek, Jane felt herself being
catapulted out of her seat and flung high in air. Then came a blank.

Her companion did not escape so easily. The heavy machine crashed over
on him and dragged him several yards. His head, as he landed in the
roadway, struck a stone, and the motorcycle itself pinned him to the
earth by its weight, one of his arms doubled up in an alarming fashion,
as he lay there completely senseless.

Jane fortunately had landed on some soft grass, though with sufficient
force to leave her badly stunned. As she lay there, a boyish figure in
her disguise, her senses began gradually to revive, although it was some
time before she opened her eyes.

Vaguely, as from a great distance, she began to hear voices, and it
seemed to her that they were German voices, arguing about something. The
voices seemed angry and excited. At first she did not bother about them.
She was wondering how badly she was hurt. Her arms and limbs had a
curious sort of deadness about them, a detached sensation, as if they
belonged to some one else. She wondered if she was paralyzed and dared
not try to move them, fearful lest she might find that it was the
terrible truth.

The voices--the German voices--came nearer, became louder and more
strident. She struggled to collect her thoughts. Where was she? What had
happened? Where was Thomas Dean? Gradually some memory of the accident
came to her. They had been run down by the Hoffs' car. The voices she
kept hearing were those of the two Hoffs, angrily wrangling about
something. As she revived further she became acutely conscious that her
head seemed to be splitting. What was it the Hoffs were arguing about?
Still lying there motionless, with her eyes closed, endeavoring to
collect herself, she tried to listen to what they were saying.

"I tell you there is not time. I must hurry. Every minute is precious. I
cannot delay my work for these swine, no matter if they both are dying
or dead," old Otto was angrily shouting with many German oaths.

"I tell you," Frederic was saying,--his voice was calmer but
determined,--"we've got to get these people to a doctor. It's too
heartless. I will not leave them here."

"And betray us at the last moment, when our plans are all ready,"
snarled old Otto.

"There is less danger if we bundle them into the car and take them with
us than if we leave them here," protested Frederic. "Two bodies right
here at the entrance would be fine, _nicht wahr?_"

His last remark appealed to old Otto.

"That is so," he muttered. "It is not safe. We must hide the bodies,
both of them, yes?"

The bodies! Jane decided that Dean must have been killed and that they
thought that she, too, was dead. As she strove to open her eyes she
could hear Frederic protesting.

"It's inhuman," he cried. "They both are hurt, but perhaps still alive.
We must take them to a hospital."

"And endanger all our plans," stormed old Otto. "Throw them into the
woods."

"We'll do nothing of the sort," Frederic insisted, his voice becoming
unusually stern and severe. "I'm going to get both of these people to a
doctor at once, I tell you."

With effort Jane opened her eyes and looked cautiously about. Where was
Thomas Dean? How badly had he been hurt? The Hoffs' automobile was
slowly backing up. As she looked old Otto sprang out of it and righted
the motorcycle. As he did so Jane saw the body of Dean lying senseless
beneath it, but to him the old German paid no attention. He was
examining the motorcycle and still sputtering that the swine should be
left to rot.

"We are going to take them with us in the car," directed Frederic in a
voice of authority. "I command it."

At the word old Otto's mutterings ceased, though he shot a black look at
the younger man.

"This machine," he suggested, "it is not hurt. I will take it and do our
work. There is haste. You remain with the car. Do what you will with
these people."

"Go then," said his nephew curtly. "You can take the train at the first
station and make time."

As the old man mounted the motorcycle and sped away Frederic sprang from
the car, and approaching the spot where Dean's body lay, began making an
examination of his injuries.

"Scalp wound, perhaps fractured skull, broken arm," Jane heard him
saying aloud to himself. She noted curiously that as soon as he was left
to himself he began speaking in English.

He left Dean and approached her. As he came nearer she closed her eyes
again, trying to plan some course of action. Her head was throbbing so
that she found it impossible to think. She felt toward young Hoff a
warmth of gratitude for not having gone off and left them helpless as
his uncle had insisted. Even though he was an enemy of her country, a
man to be hated, a spy, she could not help being glad for his presence
there. What would she have done without him, with Dean lying there
injured and helpless on this lonely mountain road?

"This chap seems only stunned," she heard him say as he bent over her,
then as he looked closer, she heard him exclaim:

"My God, it's Jane!"

In an instant he was down at her side on his knees. Tenderly one of his
arms went about her and lifted her head.

"Miss Strong, Jane, Jane," he implored, "Jane dear, speak to me."

Stunned though she still was a flush crept into Jane's cheeks at the
unexpected term of endearment, though she still kept her eyes closed.
Gently he laid her back on the turf and hastened to the automobile,
returning with a flask which he held to her lips. Slowly Jane opened
her eyes.

"Thank God," he cried. "Jane dear, tell me you are not hurt."

For a moment she lay there, staring wonderingly at him as he bent over
her imploringly, the tenderest of anxiety showing in every line of his
face. Unprotestingly she let him slip his strong arm once more under her
head. In her dazed brain there was a strange conflict of peculiar
emotions. He was a German, a spy,--she hated him, and yet it was
wonderfully comforting to her to have him there. Under other
circumstances she could have loved him. He was so handsome, so masterful
and so kind, too. He cared for her. Had he not called her "Jane, dear"
in his amazement at finding her lying there? But she must not let
herself think of him in that way. It was her duty, her sacred duty to
trap him, to thwart his nefarious plans against her country. She must do
her duty just as her soldier brother was doing his in far away France.

Still supported by Hoff's arms she sat up, trying to collect her
thoughts and gingerly testing the movement of her arms and limbs.

"Tell me," he cried again, "Jane, dear, are you hurt?"

"I don't think so," she managed to say.

With his assistance she got up on her feet and walked uncertainly to
the car, shuddering as she looked at Dean's crumpled senseless body.

"Your friend," said Hoff, as he placed her in the forward seat and
wrapped a rug about her, "I am afraid, is badly hurt."

"It's our chauffeur, Thomas Dean," she explained confusedly.

She had been wondering what she could say to Frederic to account for her
presence there. It was unconventional at least for a girl to be
motorcycling about the country dressed in man's clothes with a
chauffeur. Hoff must surely realize now that she had been shadowing him.
She felt almost certain that he had known it from the very first, since
that afternoon when he had overheard her telephoning about the "fifth
book." Yet never by word or manner had he betrayed the fact that he
suspected her. Beyond his customary reserve in speaking about himself or
his activities, there was nothing to indicate that he knew anything yet.
Whatever she told him now she must be careful not to betray her mission.
Perhaps even in spite of all that had happened she still might be able
to aid Chief Fleck in trapping them.

But did she really want to trap Frederic Hoff? Had Thomas Dean's bitter
charge that she was trying to protect him been true? Frederic Hoff loved
her. She, yes--she had to admit it to herself--she was beginning to love
him. Could she go on with it?

Hoff had been busy lifting the unconscious Dean into the tonneau. As she
watched him as he lifted up the body unaided she was conscious of
admiration of his great strength.

"Will he die?" she whispered.

"I don't know," he answered. "He is badly hurt. We must get him to a
doctor at once."

He stopped a moment longer to examine the car. Fortunately the glancing
blow that it had struck the motorcycle had done no more damage than
shatter one of the lamps and bend the mud guard. Soon they were moving
rapidly in the direction of New York.

"I think," said Hoff, "we had better leave him in the care of the first
doctor we come to. We can say that he is an injured motorcyclist we
found lying in the road."

"And me?" asked Jane, almost fearfully.

"I'll take you back to the city with me."

"No," she replied, "that won't do. I ought to stay by him. Besides, if
I return with you, it will be hard to explain."

He turned to look inquiringly at her and for a moment drove on in
silence.

"There's nothing more you can do for the man once he is in competent
medical hands, except to notify his people. Is he married?"

"No," said Jane, "he's not married. I can tell his friends."

"Did your parents know about"--he hesitated--"about this trip with the
chauffeur?"

Jane blushed guiltily, wondering what he suspected of her. She hoped
that he did not think she had a habit of going off on such journeys with
the chauffeur. Even though the man at her side was officially her enemy
she resented being put into a position that would cheapen her in
his eyes.

"No," she replied, "they knew nothing about it."

Hoff drove on in silence. She had feared that he might ask her more
embarrassing questions, might insist on knowing where she had been going
when the accident occurred. A panic seized her. What if he should ask
her? What could she tell him? He had a masterful way about him. If he
took it into his head to make her confess she realized that she would
have a struggle to keep from telling him everything. She made up her
mind that she would not, she dare not answer any more questions.

When he spoke again she was relieved to hear a suggestion instead of a
query.

"When we have crossed the ferry," he said, "you can put on a dust coat
to hide your costume, and I will send you home in a taxi. Will that be
all right?"

"That will do nicely," she replied, gratefully conscious that he was
endeavoring to plan so that her part in the afternoon's adventures need
not become public.

Nevertheless she waited nervously while Hoff and the doctor carried Dean
into the doctor's home. What if the doctor's suspicions should be
aroused, and he should insist on knowing all the details of the
accident? To her astonishment the doctor seemed to accept Hoff's brief
recital of finding an injured motorcyclist on the road without question.
Perhaps if she had seen the amount of the bills Hoff left to care for
the chauffeur's treatment she might have understood better.

Yet unconscious though Dean had lain all the way, as they resumed their
journey without him, she felt a sudden sense of dread at being alone in
the car with Frederic Hoff. It was not that she longer feared he would
endeavor to make her tell her reasons for the expedition. She was afraid
that with just the two of them alone in the car he might seize the
opportunity to declare his affection for her.

But, to her amazement, he hardly spoke a word to her on all the rest of
the journey homeward. Once in a while as she ventured a glance in his
direction, annoyed a little perhaps by this neglect of her, she saw only
a strong face set in lines of thought, his brow wrinkled in deep
perplexity, and his blue eyes looking steadily at the road ahead--and at
something far, far beyond.

Save for an occasional solicitous question about her comfort he did not
speak again until just after he had put her in a taxi at the ferry. As
Jane was trying to say her thanks he leaned forward unexpectedly, his
tall frame blocking the whole doorway.

"Jane," he said, his voice vibrant with emotion, "Jane, you must trust
me. Everything must come out all right. Some day--some day soon when we
have won--I am coming to find you and tell you that I love you."

"When we have won!" Jane shuddered and drew back in the car, aflame with
sudden wrath.

She had read and had heard often of the unspeakable conceit of the
Prussians. She knew that they regarded themselves as supermen who could
not be defeated. Her challenged American pride rose to battle. As she
rode home she was sure now that more than she hated anything else in the
world she hated Frederic Hoff, the spy, the German, who had dared to
boast to her that they expected to win.



CHAPTER XII

PUZZLES AND PLANS

Chief Fleck had spent a sleepless night trying to put two and two
together. Instead of the answer being "four" as it should have been each
time he completed his figuring the result was "zero." Time and again he
mustered the facts into columns, only to succeed in puzzling himself
the more.

Two German spies, the Hoffs, had set out together in their motor on
their usual mysterious Wednesday mission. Two other persons, two of his
most intelligent operatives, Thomas Dean and Jane Strong, had set out on
a motorcycle to shadow them.

What had happened?

Otto Hoff had returned to his apartment on foot, hours before his usual
time, seemingly much perturbed about something.

Frederic Hoff had arrived back at the apartment, also on foot, some
hours later than usual, and the motor had not been returned to its
usual garage. Frederic Hoff had appeared to be unusually elated about
something.

Thomas Dean was in a doctor's home somewhere up the Hudson with a broken
arm and a bad scalp wound and was unable to tell what had become of
either Miss Strong or the motorcycle.

Jane Strong had arrived home in a taxicab half an hour before Frederick
Hoff, apparently unhurt but in a most peculiar condition of mind. When
Chief Fleck had called her on the 'phone she had refused to answer any
questions. The best he could get out of her was a promise that she would
come to his office in the morning.

From this situation Fleck's shrewd and experienced mind had been wholly
unable to make any satisfactory deductions. That something unforeseen
and unusual had happened to the Hoffs he was certain. It was the first
time on a Wednesday that they had not returned together. Whatever it was
that had happened it had depressed old Otto and had been a cause of
elation to Frederic. What could it have been? That was the poser.

Coupled with this was the annoying fact of Jane Strong's sudden
reticence. Hitherto he had found her at all times ready and eager
whenever he called on her--ready to do anything he asked her, or to tell
him everything. Why had she suddenly balked? He recalled that Dean had
hinted, and Carter, too, that the girl was becoming interested in the
younger of the Germans, yet he scouted the possibility of Jane having
gone over to the enemy's side. A girl of her stock, living with her
parents, with a brother fighting in France, never could be guilty of
disloyalty, even if she were in love. Yet how was her disinclination to
talk to be accounted for? After he had received a report that she was at
home he had waited, expecting her to call him up. When she had not done
so, he had called her. She had been positively curt and decisive. She
had nothing to say to him, she had replied, at present. Dean was safe.
She would come to his office in the morning. There was nothing for him
to do but to await her arrival.

He was expecting Carter, too. He had sent him to Nyack the evening
before as soon as he had learned of Dean's whereabouts. Carter was to
find out everything that Dean had learned and report as soon as he
could. It was Carter who arrived first.

"Dean doesn't know what happened to him, nor where the girl went," said
Carter. "They had lost the Hoffs' trail at the Garrison ferry, as he
told you over the 'phone. They had to wait there half an hour for
another boat. They scouted around West Point, and nearly three hours
afterward they picked up the trail heading toward New York. About ten
miles south of West Point they were clipping along a mountain road when
something happened. Dean is not sure whether he hit a stone in the road
or whether an automobile struck them. He was knocked unconscious and
didn't remember anything more until he came to and found the doctor
setting his arm."

"Who took him to the doctor's?"

"It was a couple, the doctor said, who explained that they had found
Dean lying in the road under his wrecked motorcycle. The doctor could
not remember what the couple looked like. Said he had been too busy
looking after the injured man. I did worm out of him, though, that the
man had left two hundred dollars with him to take care of Dean."

"That's funny," said the chief.

"It sure is," said Carter. "Looks like hush money to me. What does the
girl say?"

"Nothing yet," said Fleck. "She wouldn't talk at all last night, but
she's coming here at ten."

"That's funny," said Carter. "Why wouldn't she talk?"

"I don't know yet," said Fleck decisively, "but I am going to find out.
Do you really suppose that she has fallen in love with young Hoff?"

Carter shook his head.

"Dean thought so, and I know that Dean was in love with her himself, but
I don't know. I'd bank on that girl somehow, even if she is in love."

"There she comes now," said the chief as he heard the door of the outer
office open.

As Jane entered she faced the two men almost defiantly. She too had had
a sleepless night. Although she herself had been physically uninjured in
the accident the shock to her nerves had left her unstrung, and besides
she had been bothering all through the dark hours as to how much of what
had happened in the last few hours it was her duty to tell to
Chief Fleck.

As her personal relations with Frederic Hoff and her feelings toward him
had in no way affected her sense of duty she felt that it was
unnecessary for her to report the declaration of love he had made to
her. Surely an affair that involved only the heart was her own property
so long as she faithfully reported anything and everything that might
lead to the exposure of the Hoffs' plots. She could not see that it was
any of Chief Fleck's business, nor her country's either, if Frederic
Hoff had fallen in love with her. At any rate it would be utterly
impossible for her to make any statement about her own feelings toward
him. Even in her own heart and mind she was not quite sure what they
were. From the first his forceful personality had had great charm for
her. His obvious interest in her she had found delightful and
flattering. When she recalled how gallantly he had insisted on remaining
to rescue Dean and herself, even before he knew her identity, she was
filled with admiration for him. Yet always matched against all that she
found lovable in him was the knowledge that he was a German, a traitor,
a spy, perhaps a murderer, and at times she felt that she hated him with
a hatred that never could be overcome.

"Well," said Fleck, studying her countenance, "what have you to tell
us?"

"How is Dean?" she asked. "Will he live?"

Fleck and Carter exchanged glances. Was she, they wondered, really
concerned in the handsome young chauffeur's welfare, or had she merely
put the question to gain time in framing what she was going to say?

"I just left him," said Carter, in response to an almost imperceptible
nod from the chief; "he's all right except for a scalp wound and a
broken arm."

"I'm glad," said the girl impulsively.

"What happened to him?" asked Carter.

"Don't you know? The Hoffs' automobile hit us and overturned the
motorcycle."

"The Hoffs' car!" cried Fleck and Carter together.

"Yes, I thought you knew."

"Tell us everything," demanded Fleck. "Where did it happen? Did they
run you down purposely?"

"I don't think so; in fact I am sure they didn't. It was entirely
accidental."

"Where did it happen? All Dean could remember was that you had picked up
their trail about ten miles south of West Point. He could not tell how
the accident occurred. He didn't even mention the Hoffs or seem to
suspect that they were anywhere near at the time."

"I don't think he saw their car at all," Jane explained. "I caught just
a glimpse of it before we were crashed into. We were on a mountain road
going down a steep hill when their motor shot out of a deep cut just as
we were passing."

"What happened then?"

"I must have been stunned for a moment or two. When I regained my senses
the Hoffs' car had stopped, and Frederic was backing the car to where
the accident had happened. His uncle was storming at him for stopping.
He wanted Frederic to go on and leave us there, but Frederic wouldn't do
it, and they quarrelled. Frederic won out by pointing out that two
bodies lying at the entrance would arouse suspicion."

"At the entrance to what?"

"I don't know. He didn't say. I think I could find the place again."

"We've got to find it," said Carter.

"Indeed we have," Jane agreed, "and quickly, too. I fear we are going to
be too late. Old Mr. Hoff seemed to be in terrible haste and spoke of
their plans being nearly completed."

"Go on," said Fleck quietly, "tell us the rest."

"Frederic Hoff stayed behind to pick us up, and the old man went off on
the motorcycle. I heard them talking about his taking a train at the
nearest station."

"What did young Hoff do when he found it was you lying there?"

"He seemed surprised and startled."

"What did he say?"

Jane colored and hesitated. There rose in her mind the picture of his
tall figure bending over her, with anguish in his eyes, with expressions
of endearment on his lips. She could not, she would not tell them what
he had said.

"He asked if I was hurt."

"Is that all?"

Again she blushed and hesitated.

"That's all."

"Did he not seem amazed at finding you there? Did he not ask you to
account for your presence there?"

"No," said the girl, firmly, "he didn't."

"Didn't he question you at all?"

"No," she insisted, "he was busy getting Dean into the car. He was
unconscious, and it looked as if he was badly hurt."

"Queer, mighty queer," muttered Carter to himself.

"Didn't he ask you who Dean was?" questioned Fleck.

"I explained that he was our chauffeur. He may have known him by sight
at any rate."

"Go on."

"We stopped at the house of the first doctor we came to and left Dean
there, and then Mr. Hoff brought me on home in the car. At the ferry he
put me into a taxi."

"What did you talk about on the trip home?" asked Fleck suspiciously.
"Didn't he try to pump you?"

"We hardly talked at all. He seemed concerned only in getting me home
without its becoming known that I had been in an accident."

"Is that all?" asked the chief. She could see by his manner that he
mistrusted her, that he felt that she was keeping something back.

"We hardly exchanged a dozen words," she insisted.

Fleck shook his head in a puzzled way.

"I can't understand it at all," he said. "Old Otto is a common enough
type of German, painstaking, methodical, stupid, stubborn, ready to
commit any crime for Prussia, but the young fellow is of far different
material. He has brains and daring and initiative. He is far more alert
and more dangerous. I cannot understand his finding you there and not
trying to discover what you were doing."

"I can't understand that either," Jane admitted.

"There's no doubt in my mind," the chief continued, "that Frederic Hoff
is the real conspirator, the head of the plotters."

"Why do you say that?" asked Jane quickly. "What did you find out when
you searched the apartment yesterday?"

She felt certain from the manner in which he spoke that he must now have
some damning evidence of Frederic Hoff's guilt. He was not in the habit
of making decisions without proof.

"We found," said Fleck, his keen eyes fixed on her face as if trying to
read her innermost thoughts, "a British officer's uniform hanging in
Frederic Hoff's closet, proof positive that he is a dangerous spy."

"And," said Carter, pointing to the two clippings lying on Fleck's desk,
"in the old man's waste-paper basket we found those."

Jane picked up the clippings and examined them curiously.

"What are they?" she asked, looking from one to the other; "cipher
messages of some sort?"

"We think so," said Carter. "We don't know yet."

"I've noticed these peculiar advertisements often," said Jane, studying
the clippings, "but I never thought of connecting them with the Hoffs. I
wonder--" Fleck and Carter had their heads together and were talking in
low tones.

"I wonder," said the chief, "what young Hoff is up to. He must have
known the girl was there to spy on him. I can't understand his not
quizzing her."

"He's a cagey bird," Carter replied. "They are both of them expert at
throwing off shadowers. Both of them know, I think, they are
being watched."

"Oh, listen," interrupted Jane, all excitement. "I believe I can read
this cipher. The number of letters in the word in big type at the
beginning of the advertisement is the key. See, this word here is
'remember'--that has eight letters. Read every eighth word in this
advertisement. I've underlined them."

Fleck took the paper quickly from her hand and he and Carter bent
eagerly over it to see if her theory was correct.

     REMEMBER

     Please, that our new paste, Dento, will
     _stop_ decay of your teeth. Sound teeth
     are _passports_ to good health and comfort.
     No good _business_ man can risk ill health.
     It is _closely_ allied with failure. The
     teeth if not _watched_ are quickly gone.

     USE DENTO

     A genuine, safe, pleasing paste for the
     teeth, prepared and sold only by the
     Auer Dental Company, New York.

"Stop passports business, closely watched," repeated Fleck aloud. "That
certainly makes sense and fits the facts, too. In the last few days we
have drawn the net closely around a gang of supposed Scandinavians who
have been busy supplying passports to suspicious-looking travelers.
Let's see the other advertisement."

Excitedly the three of them read it together as Fleck underscored every
fourth word.

     DON'T

     Forget it is _imperative_ for one and _all_
     to use cleansing _agents_ on teeth that
     _leave_ no bad results. "_Ship_ more of
     that _wonder_-working paste immediately.
     _Workers_, employers, wives, all _ready_ to
     commend it. _Friday's_ supply gone,"
     writes a druggist, to whom a big shipment
     was made last week.

     USE DENTO

     A genuine, safe, pleasing paste for the
     teeth, prepared and sold only by the
     Auer Dental Company, New York.

"Imperative all agents leave ship. Wonder-workers ready Friday," read
Fleck. "That's surely a message, a warning to Germany's agents to get
off some ship or ships before they are destroyed. You, Miss Strong, have
heard old Otto talk about the wonder-workers, whatever they are, being
nearly ready. I guess he means bombs--bombs to blow up American
transports. This message says they will be ready Friday."

"And to-morrow's Friday," said Jane.



CHAPTER XIII

THE SEALED PACKET

"Is this Miss Strong?"

Jane, her face blanching, held the receiver in wavering hands for a
moment before she could muster courage to answer. She had recognized
Frederic Hoff's voice speaking. What could he want with her now?

"It is Miss Strong," she managed to answer.

"This is Frederic Hoff. May I come in for a moment? It is most
important."

Again Jane hesitated. Frederic was the last person in the world she felt
like seeing just at this moment. Only five minutes before she had
arrived home from Chief Fleck's office. She was under orders to hold
herself in readiness to start immediately for the scene of yesterday's
accident. That this trip, unless their plans miscarried, would
inevitably result in the exposure and disgrace of both the Hoffs she
felt morally certain. To face on friendly terms the man whose downfall
she was plotting, the man who only a few hours before had told her that
he loved her, seemed a task far beyond her endurance, a situation too
tragic for her to cope with.

Duty, her duty to her country, her honor, her patriotism, her affection
for her soldier brother, all bade her mask her feelings and seek one
more opportunity of leading Hoff to betray himself in conversation if
that were possible. Yet, to her own amazement and horror, her heart
protested vigorously against such action. Harassed as she was by
conflicting emotions, worn out by the trying experiences that had been
hers the last few days, she realized at last that she was really in love
with Hoff. The throb of joy that she had experienced at the sound of his
voice, the thrill that came to her each time she saw him, the delight
she found in his presence, the fact that despite all the circumstances,
she wanted to be near him, to be with him, convinced her against her
will and judgment that her heart was his. In vain she marshalled the
damning facts against him. She tried to remember only the expression of
murderous hate she had seen on his face the night that her predecessor,
the other K-19, had been murdered. She tried to think of him only as a
treacherous spy, an enemy of her country forever plotting to destroy
Americans, yet she could not. However base and treacherous and low her
reason told her Frederic Hoff must be, her refractory heart persisted in
beating faster at the prospect of his coming.

Hitherto not much given to self-analysis, she now found herself
wondering at herself. What could be the matter with her? Why must she
love this rascal? Why could she not fall in love with some decent,
clean, patriotic young American, with some man like Thomas Dean?
Chauffeur though he was now pretending to be, she knew that he was a
college man, well-bred, and traveled. She knew, too, that Dean was in
love with her. For him she had a sincere liking, great admiration even,
and toward him now she was experiencing that feeling of sympathy a woman
always has for the man she cannot love. But her feeling toward Dean, she
classified as only that of friendship, nothing at all like the
passionate affection that was rapidly drawing her closer and closer
to Hoff.

Dared she see him now? Might not her love for him overcome her high
desire to be of service to her country? Might she not be led by her
unruly heart into betraying to him the fact that he was in the most
imminent peril?

Yet she must see him, she told herself. Perhaps this very day he might
be arrested and imprisoned. She might never again have the opportunity
of seeing him alone and of talking with him. Into her troubled brain
came a daring thought. Perhaps it was not too late, even yet, to turn
him from his evil course. Was there, she wishfully wondered, any
possibility of her leading him, through his love for her, to forsake his
comrades, even to betray them? No, she admitted to herself, that was a
preposterous idea. He was too dominating, too forceful, too determined,
to be influenced to anything against his will.

"May I come in, please?" he kept insisting over the 'phone.

"Only for a minute," she answered tremulously. "I'm going out soon. I
have an engagement."

"I'll come right over. I will not keep you long."

As she awaited his arrival, subconsciously desirous of looking her best
in his presence, she stopped almost mechanically before her mirror to
adjust her hair, letting him wait for her for a few minutes.

He sprang forward to meet her as she entered the room where he was, his
face beaming with delight at the sight of her.

"Jane," he cried, with a volume of meaning in the monosyllable, as
seizing her hand, he held it tightly and gazed earnestly into her face.

Bravely she tried to meet his gaze, to read in his face if she could the
object of his unexpected visit, but her eyes fell before his, and the
hot blood surged into her cheeks. Within her raged a desperate battle
between her head and heart. Mingled with her unwelcome quickening of the
pulse at his approach and admiration for his audacity in coming to her
when he must know that she knew what he was, there was also an
overwhelming sense of futile rage that he, a scheming German plotter,
dared intrude his presence into an American home.

"I'm glad to see you appear no worse for your accident," he said,
releasing her hand at last. "You got home all right, without attracting
any one's notice?"

"Oh, yes," she answered, trying to make her reply seem wholly
indifferent and disinterested.

"Your chauffeur is all right, too," he went on. "I telephoned this
morning. He had already left the doctor's. There's nothing more the
matter with him than a broken arm and a scalp wound. That's fortunate,
isn't it?"

"Very fortunate," she admitted.

All at once as they stood there there seemed to have arisen between them
an invisible, impenetrable barrier. They faced each other wordlessly,
each embarrassed by the knowledge of the secret gulf that was between
them. Hoff was the first to recover from it.

"Come," he said, "sit down. There is something I wish to say to
you,--something of the utmost importance, Jane."

Still struggling with her emotions, Jane allowed him to place a chair
for her and seated herself, striving all the while to crush back into
her heart the warmth of feeling toward him that always overwhelmed her
in his presence, endeavoring to present to him a mask of cold
indifference. Yet her curiosity, as well as her affections, had been
greatly stirred by his remark. What was it that he was about to say to
her? Did he intend, in spite of the insurmountable obstacles between
them, dared he, ask her to marry him? Tremblingly she waited for what he
had to say.

"Jane," he said, "you know that I love you. I am confident, too, that
you love me."

"I don't love you," she forced her unwilling lips to say. "I can't. When
our country is at war, when she needs men, brave men, how could any true
American girl love any man who stayed at home, who idled about the
hotels, who--"

"Girl," his voice grew suddenly stern and commanding, softening a little
as he repeated her name, "Jane, dear, let me finish. I love you. There
are grave reasons--all-important reasons--why I may not now ask you to
be my wife."

"I never could be your wife," she cried desperately, "the wife of a--"

The word died in her throat. She could not bring herself to tell him,
the man she loved, the thing she knew he was.

"My Jane," he said, wholly unheeding her impassioned protest, "you know
little yet of what life means in this great world of ours. You, here in
your parents' home, sheltered, protected, inexperienced, have not the
knowledge nor the means of judging me. You must take me on faith, on the
faith of your love for me. For a woman, life holds but two great
treasures, two loves--her husband's and her children's. With a man it is
different. Love is his, too, but there is something more, something
bigger--duty. Here in your country--"

Even in her distress she caught his phrase "here in _your_ country" and
turned ghastly white. Always before in talking with her he had spoken of
himself as an American. Did he realize, she wondered, that he had at
last betrayed himself to her? Was he about to strip the mask from
himself and his activities at last, and in the face of it all expect
her, Jane Strong, to admit that she loved him?

"Here in your country," he went on placidly, "women forced by economic
conditions have been driven from home into business, into politics, into
office-holding, even into war activities. Longing for the clinging arms
of little children they are striving to forget in assuming some part in
the affairs that belong properly to men. But to the true woman love must
ever mean more than duty, more than country. Those are words for men. A
woman, if she would find happiness, must follow her heart, must forsake
all for the man she loves. A woman's duty is only to the man she loves,
just as a man's duty is to be true to himself, to his country."

"But," she cried, "you told me you were American, that you were born
here?"

"Jane," he persisted, with an impatient gesture, "we will not discuss
that now. I love you. You must trust me in spite of everything. I know
you will. You must. I can answer no questions. I can make no
explanations. I can only say I love you. That must suffice."

"No, no," she protested, almost sobbing.

"I came here to-day," he went on calmly, "to ask a favor of you."

"A favor," she cried.

Calming herself she forced herself to look into his face. There was
something so monstrously unbelievable about his audacity that she could
hardly believe her ears. What sort of a credulous stupid creature was
he, she angrily asked herself, that in one breath he could all but
confess to her that he was a spy and in the next beseech her to do him a
favor. Yet there came to her now a remembrance of her duty to her
country. She felt that she must mask her feelings toward him, that if
she was to be of service she must endeavor bravely to lead him on. She
must try to induce him to confide in her. Hard as her task might be,
what was it compared to the work her brother and those other brave
American boys had undertaken facing the fire of death-dealing guns,
facing the terrible gas attacks, living for days and weeks in those
terrible trenches? Reinforced by a sense of duty, she made a pitiable
effort at cordiality as she asked:

"What is it you wish of me?"

From one of his pockets he had brought forth a small packet which he
held out to her. In spite of her agitation she forced herself to study
it observingly, making note that it was tied with strong cord and sealed
in several places with red wax. Curiously, too, she noted that on it was
written her own name.

"Jane," said Hoff, "to-night I am going away. I may be absent for only a
day or two if all goes well, but it is possible I may never come
back,--may never be able to see you again."

She caught her breath sharply. There was the solemnity of finality in
his tones. Where was he going? What might happen to him? She realized
that the journey he was about to make was in connection with the plot
that she and Chief Fleck were seeking to uncover. Evidently he
anticipated peril in what he was about to undertake. Suppose he should
be trapped in the commission of some act inimical to America's welfare?
What would happen to him? He would be arrested, of course. More than
likely he would be sent to prison. He might even be shot as a spy. What
if she were the one responsible for his meeting a disgraceful death?
How could she go on with it? She must warn him. She must try to persuade
him to give up his plans. She tried hard to steady herself, to think
calmly. She must listen to every word he was saying and try to
remember it.

"This little packet is for you," he went on. "I want you to keep it
safely. In case anything happens, in the event that within one month I
have not returned and you have heard nothing of me, I wish you to open
it and keep what it contains. Promise me that you will do what I ask."

In a panic of indecision she got up from her chair, trying to frame a
score of questions, but none of them succeeded in passing the barrier of
her trembling lips.

"Promise me," he said softly yet impellingly, as he placed the little
packet in her hand and closed her fingers over it.

"I promise," she whispered, hardly knowing what she said.

Quickly he caught her in his powerful arms. For just a second he held
her there, his face close to hers, his blue eyes burning into hers with
a steady inscrutable gaze as if he was trying to read in them the love
her lips had refused to speak.

Then, so quickly that it was all over before she quite realized what had
happened, he had kissed her passionately full on the lips and was gone.

Overcome with the lassitude which follows emotional crises, trembling in
every limb, weak as from a long illness, the girl sank back into a
chair, still clutching in her hand the sealed packet Hoff had entrusted
to her. Minute after minute she sat there with staring eyes, with heart
beating madly, with her whole body racked with the torment of
her thoughts.

Slowly she lifted the packet and turned it over and over, wondering what
it could possibly contain, questioning herself as to what could have
been Frederic Hoff's motive in entrusting it to her. Was there, she
wondered, under those seals, some evidence of his guilt and treachery
that he had not dared to leave behind him? He must have known that she
suspected him and was seeking to entrap him. Had he, knowing all this,
but sensing the love for him that he had kindled in her, taken advantage
of it and extorted from her her promise to keep it safe?

Wherein lay her duty now? More than ever she was certain that Frederic
Hoff was on some hazardous mission for the enemy. He had all but
admitted his nationality to her. Her own country's welfare demanded that
the Hoffs' plans should be discovered and thwarted. Should she, or
should she not open the package? Possibly it contained some secret code,
some clue to the dastardly activities in which he and his uncle
were engaged.

But her heart rebelled. She recalled what he had said, that she must
take him on trust. The memory of his burning kiss, of that last earnest
look he had given her, refused to be forgotten. Whatever he was, however
base the work in which he was engaged, she knew down deep in her heart
that Frederic Hoff had been earnestly sincere when he had said that he
loved her.

As she debated with herself what she ought to do, the telephone rang
again. It was Chief Fleck.

"Can you meet me at the 110th Street subway station in half an hour?" he
asked. "I'll be waiting in my car. Arrange it, if you can without
arousing your family's suspicion, to be away all night."

"I will be there," she answered.

As she turned away from the telephone with sudden resolve she thrust the
sealed packet, still unopened, into the bosom of her gown.

"I promised him," she said almost fiercely. "I'll keep my promise. That
much at least I owe our love."



CHAPTER XIV

THE MOUNTAIN'S SECRET

In a turmoil of mental anxiety Jane waited the arrival of Chief Fleck at
the place he had designated. She was still badly wrought up by the scene
through which she had just passed with Frederic. There were moments when
her heart insisted that, regardless of the despicable crimes that were
laid at his door, she should forsake everything for him, for the man she
loved. Had there been in her mind the slightest possible doubt as to his
guilt she might indeed have wavered, but the evidence of his treachery
seemed too manifest! She loathed herself for caring for him and felt it
her sacred duty to go on with her work of aiding the government in
trying to entrap both of them; yet how could she ever do it?

As she waited she debated with herself whether or not to tell Chief
Fleck what had passed between herself and Frederic. After all, why
should she? That was her own secret, not the country's. If she stifled
her love, and gave her best efforts to aiding the other operatives in
running down the conspirators, what more could be expected of her?
Certainly she was not going to tell any one of the sealed packet
Frederic had entrusted to her. She had promised him she would keep it
safe. Surely there could be no harm in that, yet the little parcel,
still in the bosom of her gown where she had thrust it, seemed to be
burning her flesh and searing itself into her very soul.

In strong contrast with her own spirit of martyrdom was Fleck's manner.
Never before had she seen him in such high spirits as he was when he
drew up before the subway station in a low car built for speed. On the
seat beside the chauffeur was a young man whom she recognized as another
of the operatives. As Fleck swung the door of the tonneau open for her
she noticed lying on the floor under a rug several rifles and drew back
questioningly.

"Come on, Miss Strong," he cried gaily. "Don't be afraid of them. We
may be glad we have them before we return from our hunting expedition."

"But," she asked hesitatingly as she took her seat beside him, "you
don't expect to shoot these men--without a trial."

Her heart seemed torn in anguish as she sensed anew the peril that lay
ahead for Frederic. Misgivings that she might be unable to fulfil her
task seized her, and she was smitten with reproach for her own conduct
toward him. Why, an hour ago, when there was still opportunity, had she
not warned Frederic? If he were really sincere in the affection he
professed for her maybe she might have persuaded him, if not to betray
his comrades, at least to abandon them and escape from the country. Yet
even now her reason told her that any plea she might have made would
have been worse than futile. Above and beyond his love for her she
understood that he held sacred what he conceived to be his duty, his
misguided duty to his erring country. It was too late now for regrets,
for repentance, too late for her to do anything but to try to serve her
country, cost her what it might, yet anxiously she awaited Chief
Fleck's reply to her question.

"Wouldn't I shoot them all on sight, gladly, the damned spies," he
responded. "That's the great trouble with this country, Miss Strong.
We're too soft-hearted and chivalrous. The Germans realize that war and
sentiment have no place together. If killing babies and destroying
churches will in their opinion help them win the war they do it without
compunction. The civilized world decided that poison gas was too brutal
and dastardly for use, even against an enemy, but that didn't stop the
Huns from using it. They put duty to Germany above all else, and if
their country expects it are ready to rob, murder, use bombs, betray
friends, do anything and everything, comforted by the knowledge that
even if we do catch them at it here in this country all we will do to
them will be put them in jail for a year or two. If I had my way I'd
shoot them all on sight."

"Without any evidence--without trying them?" questioned Jane.

"Without trial, yes--without evidence, no; but in the case of these
Hoffs we have evidence enough to stand them both up and shoot them."

"Have you learned more?" she asked quickly. "Is Frederic, too, involved
with his uncle?"

He shot an appraising glance at her. He had been inclined to regard
Dean's suspicion that she was in love with the younger Hoff as the mere
figment of jealousy, but where two young persons of the opposite sex are
thrown together, there is always the possibility of romance. Jane
colored a little under his searching glance, yet what he read in her
face seemed to satisfy his doubts, and he made up his mind to take her
fully into his confidence.

"Thanks to your quick wit in reading those advertisements," he said, "we
have now a fairly complete index of the Hoffs' activities in the last
six months. I have been spending the last two hours in going over all
the Dento advertisements that have appeared. For weeks they have been
sending out a regular series of bulletins."

"Bulletins about what?" asked Jane.

"About everything of interest to the secret enemies of our country:
explanations of where and how to get false passports, detailed
statements of the sailings of our transports, directions for obtaining
materials for making bombs, instructions for blowing up munition plants,
suggestions for smuggling rubber, orders for fomenting strikes. They
even had the nerve to use the name of William Foxley, signed to a
testimonial for Dento."

"Who is William Foxley?" asked Jane curiously.

"In the Wilhelmstrasse code that was in use when Von Bernstorff was
still in this country; in sending their wireless messages they made
frequent use of proper names which had a code meaning. Boy-ed was
'Richard Houston,' Von Papen was 'Thomas Hoggson' and Bolo Pascha was
always mentioned as 'St. Regis,' In this same code 'William Foxley'
always meant the German Foreign Office."

"But surely you did not learn this from the advertisements?"

"Not at all. Hugo Schmidt, who was reputed to be the paymaster of the
gang, was caught trying to burn a copy of this code at the German Club.
With the records of their wireless messages our government managed to
reconstruct the whole code. The use of a word or two from this code in
these advertisements is most significant. It shows that whoever prepared
these advertisements was high in the confidence of the German
government. Only the very topnotch spies are likely to be permitted to
know the diplomatic code."

"And you think, then, that Otto Hoff may be the head of the conspirators
in this country?" said Jane.

"Not Otto--Frederic," said Fleck quickly. "The young man, I am certain,
was the director, probably sent out from Berlin after the country became
too hot for Von Papen and Boy-ed. The old man, I believe, merely carried
out his orders. I doubt even if they are uncle and nephew."

"I think you are wrong about that," protested Jane. "Whenever I was
listening over the dictograph it was always the old man who was so
bitter against America. It was he who talked about the wonder-workers
and the necessity for haste. I never heard Frederic say
anything--anything disloyal, that is."

"The fact that he knew enough to keep his mouth closed shows that he is
the more intelligent of the two. Don't forget, too, that at times he
even dared to don the uniform of a British officer. You saw him
yourself. Undoubtedly he is the more dangerous of the pair."

"But who read these advertisements?" asked Jane, seeking to change the
subject. "For whom were the bulletins intended?"

"It was one of their ways of keeping in communication with their
thousands of secret agents all over this country. I wouldn't be
surprised if occasionally these advertisements were printed in Texas
papers and shipped over the border into Mexico. We have been watching
the mails and the telephone and telegraph lines for months, yet all the
while Mexico has been sending messages across, telling the U-boats
everything they needed to know. We never thought of checking up the
advertising in papers in the Mexican mail."

"But what about the messages old Mr. Hoff left in the bookstores? Was
that part of the plan, too?"

"It may have been simply a duplicate method of communication in case
the other failed. The Germans here know that they are constantly watched
and take every precaution. We'll land that girl as soon as we have the
Hoffs safe behind the bars, and then we'll soon see if Carter's
dachshund theory was right."

"But who," asked Jane, "is the spy in our navy? Who signalled the Hoffs'
apartment and supplied them with the news about our transports? Was it
Lieutenant Kramer?"

"Probably," said Chief Fleck carelessly, "that is not my end of the
work. It is up to the Naval Intelligence Bureau to clean out the spies
in the navy. I'm after the boss-spy. After we land him it will be easier
to get the small fry. A defiant German prisoner once boasted to me that
Germany had a man on every American ship, in every American regiment,
and in every department in Washington. I suspect it comes pretty near
being true. A country that has so many citizens with German names and
such an enormous population of German descent has its hands full."

As they talked the chief's car had crossed the ferry, and turning north
through Englewood, was heading rapidly in the direction of West Point.

"Where are we going now?" Jane ventured to ask. "To the place where I
was yesterday--where we had the accident?"

"Not directly," the chief replied. "I sent Carter and some men up there
ahead of us to do some reconnoitering. I'll get in touch with Carter at
the restaurant at the State Park. He was to call me up. We are nearly
there now."

As the car swung into the park and stopped before the entrance of the
two-story restaurant building, Fleck sprang hastily out and started for
the telephone but stopped abruptly at the sight of a young man with
bandaged head and with one arm in a sling who rose from the concrete
steps of the building to greet him.

"Why, Dean," he exclaimed in amazement, "what are you doing here? How
did you get here?"

"You don't think I was going to be left out at the finish," laughed the
chauffeur.

"But your injuries, your arm--"

"Both all right, as right as they'll be for several weeks."

"But how did you know we were coming here? How did you manage to get
here?"

"Carter stopped on his way out to make sure about the road. I wanted to
come with him, but there was no room in his car. He refused to bring me,
anyhow. I managed to worm out of him what your plans were, and the
doctor's jitney did the rest."

"Well," growled the chief, with simulated indignation, though secretly
delighted with Dean's show of spirit, "I suppose there's nothing else to
do but to take you along. Climb in there beside Miss Strong."

As Dean approached the car Jane rose in amazement.

"Oh, Thomas, Mr. Dean," she cried, "I'm so glad to see you. I was afraid
yesterday that you had been badly hurt."

"It was a close shave for both of us," he admitted, flushing with
delight at the warmth of her greeting, "but what are you doing here? The
Chief had no business to bring you on a trip like this."

All his affection for the girl had revived at this unexpected sight of
her, and with a lover's righteous anxiety he resented Fleck's having
exposed her to the probable perils of this expedition to the enemy's
secret lair.

"They needed me," she said simply, "to show them the way."

"That need exists no longer," he protested, "since I am here. The Chief
must send you back."

"Don't be absurd," she objected warmly.

"But it is no place for a woman," he insisted doggedly, kicking
meaningly at the rifles on the floor of the car. "There may be a fight.
These men are desperate and dangerous and more than likely will resist
any attempt to arrest them."

"I want to be there to see it if they do," said Jane calmly.

"Please, won't you, for my sake," he begged, "go back home or at least
wait here for us?"

"I won't," said the girl doggedly.

"I'll ask the Chief to send you back."

"Don't you dare," she retorted hotly, resenting his air of protection
toward her.

She was glad for the presence of the two other men in the car. She
sensed that it was only their being there that kept Dean from making a
scene. There was nothing in his manner toward her now of the obsequious
chauffeur. While she admitted to herself that there was no longer the
necessity for his continuing in his fictitious character she strongly
resented his loverlike jealousy for her welfare and welcomed the chief's
return, for she saw from his face, as he came running up to the car,
that he had received some sort of news that had highly delighted him.

Almost before he was in the car he had given orders to start, leaving no
opportunity for Dean to make his threatened protest against
Jane's presence.

"I got Carter on the 'phone," Fleck explained hurriedly as they swung
out of the park and turned northward. "He has succeeded in locating the
place the Hoffs go every week. It is about three miles back off the
road, over toward the river from the place where you two had that
accident yesterday. Away off there in the woods in a deserted locality
is a sort of club, the members of which are Austrians or Germans. They
have given it out that they are health enthusiasts and mountain
climbers, 'Friends of the Air,' they call themselves."

"Who are they really? What are they doing there?" asked Jane
interestedly.

"Carter has not had time yet to learn much about them. The place was
some sort of a health resort or sanitarium that failed several years
ago. Last summer it seems to have been taken over by this bunch of
Germans. At times there are only two or three of them there, but
recently the number has increased. Carter thinks there must be a dozen
men there now."

"How did he locate the place?" asked Dean.

"Carter is a real detective," said the chief enthusiastically. "He
reasoned it out that where there were Germans there must be beer. He
scouted along the main road until he found a wayside saloon where, as he
had shrewdly suspected, they got their liquid supplies. From the
proprietor of the place and the hangers-on he had no trouble in getting
the information he wanted without arousing their suspicions."

"Where is Mr. Carter now?" asked Jane.

"He's waiting for us a few miles up the road."

"He has only four men with him, hasn't he?" questioned Dean.

"That's all."

"And there are four of us here."

"Three and a half," said the chief, motioning to Dean's bandaged arm.

"It's my left arm," he retorted. "I can handle a revolver, at least,
with my good arm."

"And I can shoot, too," boasted Jane; "that makes nine of us."

"Nine of us against twelve of the enemy," said the chief thoughtfully.
"It looks like a busy evening."

"And don't forget," warned Jane, "that the Hoffs are coming up this
evening. At least young Mr. Hoff told me this morning that he was going
away this evening. That makes two more on the other side."

"And one of them," muttered Fleck, "a mighty dangerous man."



CHAPTER XV

THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS

At last they had reached their goal, the place which the two spy
suspects undoubtedly had been in the habit of visiting regularly every
week for months past.

Sheltered by a great rock and the underbrush about it, Jane, with Fleck
and Thomas Dean, peered eagerly out at a dingy, weather-beaten frame
structure which neighborhood gossip had told them was the sheltering
place of the "Friends of the Air." In its outward appearance at least,
Jane decided, it was disappointingly unmysterious. It looked to her
merely like a cheap summer boarding-house that had gone long untenanted.
There was a two-story main building, cheaply constructed and almost
without ornament, sadly crying for new paint, and the usual outbuildings
found about such places in the more remote country districts.

Still from Chief Fleck's manner she was certain that he regarded their
achievement in locating the place as of the highest importance. They had
run their two automobiles noiselessly up the lane leading from the main
road until they were perhaps half a mile distant from the house and then
had concealed them in the woods near-by, being careful to obliterate all
traces of the wheel tracks where they had left the lane. Making a detour
among the trees they had reached their present position not more than
three hundred yards away from the buildings. They had carried the rifles
with them, and these now were close at hand, hidden under the log on
which the three of them were sitting. Carter, with the other men, under
Fleck's orders, had divided themselves into scouting parties and had
crept away through the woods to study their surroundings at still closer
range while the waning afternoon light permitted.

At first glance one might have been inclined to believe the buildings
untenanted. There seemed to be no one stirring about the place, and some
of the unshuttered windows on the second floor were broken. The only
indications of recent occupation were a pile of kegs at the rear of the
house and near-by a heap of freshly opened tin cans. Near one of the
larger outbuildings, too, was a pile of chips and sawdust.

"There does not seem to be any one about," whispered Jane. "What do you
suppose they do here?"

"I can't imagine yet," said Fleck with an impatient shake of his head.
"The fact that this house is important enough for the Hoffs to visit
once a week makes it important for us to cautiously and carefully
investigate everything about it. It may be a secret wireless plant away
off here in the woods where no one would think of looking for it. It
might be a bomb factory where their chemists manufacture the bombs and
explosives with which they are constantly trying to wreck our munition
plants and communication lines. Perhaps it is just a rendezvous where
their various agents, the important ones engaged in their damnable work
of destruction, come secretly to get their orders from the Hoffs and to
receive payment for their hellishness accomplished."

"It's all so funny, so perfectly absurd," said Jane with a nervous
little laugh.

"Absurd," cried Fleck indignantly, "what do you mean? It's frightfully
serious."

"Of course, I understand," Jane hastened to say. "I was just thinking,
though, how funny we are here in America, especially in the big cities.
We know nothing whatever about our neighbors, about the people right
next door to us. In one apartment we'll be doing all we can to help win
the war, and in the apartment next door the people will be plotting and
scheming to help Germany win, and it is only by accident we find out
about it. Take my own father and mother. They haven't the slightest
suspicion of the people next door. They would hardly believe me if I
told them the Hoffs were German spies. They see them every day in the
elevator. Young Mr. Hoff has been in our apartment several times. My
mother has met him and talked with him. I was just thinking how amazed
and horrified she will be when she hears about it and learns what I have
been doing."

"You are perfectly right," said Fleck soberly. "We are entirely too
careless here in America about our acquaintances and neighbors. We know
that we are decent and respectable, and we're apt to take it for
granted that everybody else is. We don't mind our neighbors' business
enough. Nobody in a New York apartment house ever bothers to know who
his neighbors are or what their business is, so long as they present a
respectable appearance. I know New York people who live on the same
floor with two ex-convicts and have lived there for three years without
suspecting it. We should have here in America some system of
registration as they have in Germany. Tenants and travelers ought to be
required to file reports with the police, giving their occupation and
other details. If that plan were in use here enemy spies would lack most
of the opportunities we have been giving them."

"Yes," said Dean, "you are right. I've lived in Germany. Over there a
crook of any sort can hardly move without the police knowing it. Their
system certainly has its good points."

"It surely has," Fleck agreed. "If the Prussians' character were only
equal to their intelligence they would be the most wonderful people in
the world, but they are rotten clear through. They have no conception
of honor as we understand it. Only the other day I read of a Prussian
officer who led his men in an attack on a chateau, guiding them by plans
of the place he had made himself while being entertained in the chateau
as a guest before the war."

"Don't you think any of them have a sense of honor?" asked Jane in a
troubled tone.

Her mind had reverted, as she found it frequently doing, to Frederic
Hoff and the sealed packet he had entrusted to her. He had professed to
love her and had demanded that she trust him. Was it, she wondered, all
a base pretense on his part? Was he--for Germany's sake--taking
advantage of her affection for him to make her the unwitting custodian
of some secret too perilous for him to carry about with him? Perhaps
that little parcel she was carrying in the bosom of her gown contained
the code he and his uncle used? Had it not been for Dean's presence she
might have been tempted to take Fleck into her confidence and tell him
of the peculiar incident, though in spite of all she knew about him she
felt that Frederic Hoff's feeling for her was real, and that toward her
he always would show only respect and honor, as he always had done
hitherto; and yet--

Before the chief had time to answer her question Dean with a whispered
"hist" pointed to a path in the rear of the buildings they were
watching. Behind the house two rugged hills, their sides of precipitous
rock so steep that they hardly afforded a foothold, came down close
together, making a V-shaped cleft through which a narrow path ran in the
direction of the river. Looking toward this cleft to which Dean was
pointing they now saw a group of workmen approaching the house.

All of them were in the garb of mechanics, yet as they approached in
single file down the path, the quick eye of the chief noted that they
were keeping step.

"They've all of them seen service," he muttered to himself, "either in
prison or in the German army."

Some of them carried kits of tools, and they walked with the air of
fatigue that results from a day of hard physical work. They seemed to
have no suspicion as yet that they were under observation, for as they
walked they chatted among themselves, the sound of their German
gutturals reaching the watchers, but unfortunately not distinctly enough
to be audible. Dean was busy counting them.

"There are fourteen," he announced, "two more than we were expecting to
find here."

"At what do you suppose they are working?" asked Jane curiously.

"Here comes Carter," replied Fleck. "Perhaps he can tell us. His face
shows that he has learned something."

Carter, crawling rapidly but silently through the underbrush, approached
breathlessly, his sweaty, begrimed countenance ablaze with excitement.

"What's up?" asked Fleck, as soon as he was within hearing.

"My God, Chief," he gasped, "they've got three big aeroplanes out there
on a plateau overlooking the river--three of them all keyed up and ready
to start."

"Friends of the Air," muttered Fleck; "so that's what it means."

"They've evidently smuggled all the material up and built the three
planes right here," Carter went on. "I watched them putting on the
finishing touches and testing the guy-wires. There is a machine shop,
too, rigged up in one of those outbuildings. The thing that gets me is
how they got the engines here. All the planes are equipped with powerful
new engines."

"If there are traitors in the army and navy, why not in the aeroplane
factories, too?" suggested Fleck. "A spy in the shipping department
could easily change the label on even a Liberty motor intended for one
of Uncle Sam's flying fields. Even when it didn't turn up where and when
it was expected, it would take government red tape three months to find
out what had become of the missing motors."

"These machines"--said Jane suddenly, "they must be the 'wonder-workers'
old Mr. Hoff was always talking about."

"And that last advertisement we read," Dean reminded them, "announced
that the wonder-workers would be ready Friday. It looks as if we got
here not a minute too soon."

"You bet we didn't," said Carter. "Every one of those three planes is
fairly loaded down with big bombs, scores of them."

"To bomb New York," said Fleck soberly; "that's their plan. Zeppelins
for England, big guns to shell Paris, bombs from the air for New York.
It's part of their campaign to spread frightfulness, to terrorize the
world. Undoubtedly that is the reason Berlin sent Frederic Hoff over
here, to superintend the destruction of the metropolis. There have been
whispers for months and months that the city some day was to be bombed,
but we never were able to discover their origin."

"And not a single anti-aircraft gun or anything in the whole city to
stop them, is there?" cried Jane. "Wouldn't it be terrible?"

Fleck smiled grimly.

"Any foolhardy German who tries to bomb New York from the air has a big
surprise coming to him--a lot of big surprises. The war department may
not have been doing much advertising, but it has not been idle."

"Then we have some anti-aircraft guns!" cried Jane delightedly. "I never
heard anything about them."

"That would be telling government secrets," said Fleck, smiling
mysteriously, "but I'd just like to see them try it. I have sort of a
notion to let them start their bombing."

"Oh, no, we mustn't," Jane insisted. "We mustn't let those aeroplanes
ever start. Can't we do something right away to cripple them?"

"There's plenty of time," the chief assured her. "It is best for us to
wait until after dark. The early morning would be ideal time for an
aerial attack on the city, when everybody is helpless and asleep.
There's generally a fog over the river and harbor, too, before sunrise
at this season of the year, and that might help them to mask their
movements. It would take an aeroplane less than an hour to reach the
city from here, so that there is no likelihood of their starting until
long after midnight. That gives us plenty of time, and besides we must
wait until the Hoffs arrive."

"That will make two more--sixteen of them against our nine," warned
Dean.

"We cannot help it how many of them there are," said Fleck. "It is of
vital importance for us to know just what their plans are. It is
unlikely that they will post guards to-night in this secluded spot,
where they have been at work in safety for months. As soon as it is
dark we can smash the aeroplanes."

"That will be easy," said Carter. "I know something about aeroplanes.
Cut a couple of wires, and they are out of business. Sills, one of my
men, is posted on bombs, and he'll know just how to fix the fuses to
render them useless."

"What's more," said Fleck, "if I understand German thoroughness, they
will go over their final plans in detail to make sure that everything is
understood. The darkness will let us slip up closer to the house, and we
may be able to overhear what they say. Don't forget, too, that our main
job is to catch the Hoffs red-handed."

"That's right," said Dean. "They are the brains of the plot. These other
fellows are just workmen taking orders."

"I'm puzzled," said Fleck, "to know what they plan to do with the
aeroplanes after the bombing has taken place. There is not one chance in
a thousand of their being able to return here in safety without
discovery. It will be sure death for the aviators that take up those
machines."

"Sure death!"

With a shudder Jane recalled what Frederic had said to her only a few
hours ago as they parted--that he was going away and might never return.
Was this what he had meant? Was he, Frederic, to be one of the foolhardy
three who proposed to forfeit their lives in this desperate attempt to
deal destruction from the air on a sleeping city, to wreck innocent
homes, to cripple and maim and destroy helpless babies and women? She
could not, would not believe it of him. That he had the courage and
daring to undertake such a perilous task she did not doubt. She
realized, too, that the controlling motive of all his actions was his
high sense of duty toward his country, and yet in spite of all that she
had learned about the plots in which she was enmeshed, her heart refused
to believe that he ever could bring himself to participate in such
wanton frightfulness. She recalled the spirit of mercy that he had shown
toward herself and Thomas Dean after the accident as contrasted with the
brutal indifference of his uncle. She kept hoping against hope that
something might happen to prevent his arriving here. Devoutly she wished
that she might awake and find that it was all a terrible mistake, a
hideous unreality, and that the "Friends of the Air" were not in any way
associated with the Hoffs.

Yet her reason told her it must all be true, terribly, infamously true,
and that he was one of them, perhaps the leader of them.

One by one the members of the various scouting parties had come creeping
in through the forest. All of them verified what Carter had already
reported. One man, more venturesome than the others, had even dared to
creep close up to the rear of the house and had seen through the window
the workmen, gathered about their supper of beer and sausages, toasting
the Kaiser with the unanimity of a set formality.

As the light waned, secured from observation by the undergrowth between
their position and the house, they sat there discussing plans of action,
selecting while the light still permitted the most advantageous posts
from which they could make a concerted rush on the plotters. Fleck was
insistent that they should do nothing to betray their presence until
after the Hoffs had arrived, and Dean once more voiced his protest
against Jane taking part in the attack. "I will be of far more use than
you with your crippled arm," she resentfully insisted. "I can handle a
revolver as well as any man, and a rifle, too, if necessary."

"Dean is right," Fleck decided. "It is no work for a woman. Here is an
automatic, Miss Strong. You will stay here until after we have rounded
them up. If we get the worst of it, which is not likely to happen, make
your way to the automobile and telephone the commandant at West Point."

Reluctantly Jane assented. She realized that further protest was
useless. Fleck was in command, and his orders must be obeyed
unquestioningly if their plans for the capture of the plotters were to
be successfully carried out.

Presently they heard in the distance the sound of an automobile
approaching, and soon they could distinguish its lights as it negotiated
the rough, winding woodland road that led to the house. A toot from the
horn as it arrived brought the men within the house tumbling out the
front door with huzzas of greeting for their leaders, and Fleck observed
that all the men as they came out automatically raised their hands
in salute.

"Ex-German soldiers, every one of them," he muttered.

As the Hoffs got out of the car a shaft of light from the opened front
door threw the figures of the new arrivals into sharp relief, and Jane
saw, with a shudder of terror, that Frederic was dressed in an aviator's
costume. There was no longer any doubt left in her mind that he was one
of those going to certain death, and a dry sob choked her.

The Hoffs passed within the house, and the door was closed.

"Now," cried Fleck, "to your stations, men. Each of you take a rifle.
You stay here, Miss Strong. Come on, Carter."



CHAPTER XVI

THE ATTACK ON THE HOUSE

In accordance with instructions already issued two of Fleck's men rushed
for the front of the house, where with rifles ready they stood guard,
while the others took cover in the shadow of one of the outbuildings a
few feet distant from the rear entrance.

Apparently the plotters had been so long undisturbed in their mountain
fastness that they had ceased to take even the most ordinary precautions
against surprise. So far as could be discovered they had posted no
guards over the aeroplanes and their deadly cargo, nor at either of the
two doors to the main building. Nevertheless Fleck, as he crept
stealthily up to the building with Carter at his side, took out his
automatic and held it in readiness, and Carter followed his example.

There was no moon to reveal their movements as they approached the rear
of the house. The evening was warm, and one of the windows had been left
open. Noiselessly they crept up to it and looked within. It opened into
a large room used as a dining hall, where they could see all of the men
clustered about one of the tables, at the head of which sat old Otto
Hoff with Frederic at his side. On the table before him was what
appeared to be a rough map or blueprint. Frederic and five of the other
men, Fleck observed, now wore aviation costumes.

"Comrades," old Otto was saying in German, "here is the course. You will
have no difficulty in following it. Down the river straight till you see
the lights of New York. You each understand what you are then to
do, yes?"

"Certainly," three of the men, the pilots evidently, responded.

"Let us, to make sure," old Otto insisted, "once more rehearse it. Much
there is at stake for the Fatherland. You, Anton and Fritz, will blow up
the transports and the warships that guard them. Six great transports
are lying there, ready to sail at daylight The troops went aboard
to-night. We waited until it was signalled that it was so. You must not
fail. The biggest of those transports once belonged to Germany. You must
teach these boastful Americans their lesson. That one boat you must
destroy for certain. Beside the transports to-night lie five vessels of
war, two battleships, three cruisers. Them you must destroy also, if
there is time. To each transport, two bombs, to each warship, two
bombs--twenty you carry. If all goes well, two you will have left. With
these do what you will, a house, a church, it matters not--anything to
spread the terror of Germany in the hearts of these money-grabbing
Americans."

"It will be done," said Anton solemnly.

"I have thrown bombs before. You can trust me," said Fritz.

"You, Hans and Albert," old Otto went on, "will fly over the city at
good height. When you reach the end of the island you turn to the left,
so, and come down close that your aim may not miss. Here will be the
Brooklyn Navy Yard,"--he indicated a place on the map. "If there is fog
the bridges will locate it for you. Smash the ship lying there, the
shops, the dry docks; if it is possible blow up the munitions
stored there."

"I know the place well," Hans replied. "I worked there many months. I
can find my way in the dark. It will be done."

"And to you, Herr Captain," said Otto, turning to Frederic and saluting,
"to you, whom the War Office itself sent here to oversee this
all-wonderful plan of mine which it has seen fit to approve, to you and
your mate falls the greatest honor and glory. You--"

A suppressed sob at his side caused Fleck to turn quickly and lay his
finger on the trigger of his revolver. There, close beside him,
listening to all that had been said, was Jane. Left alone in the
darkness she had found it impossible to obey the chief's orders and
remain where she was. Every little sound about her had carried new
terrors to her heart. Hitherto she had not felt afraid, but the solitude
filled her mind with wild imaginings. She was seized, too, by an
irresistible desire to know what part Frederic was playing in this drama
of the dark. Was his life in peril? Were Fleck and Carter now gathering
evidence that would bring about his conviction, perhaps his shameful
death? She must know what was happening. Quietly she had stolen up to
peer through the window.

Fleck, as he recognized her, with an angry gesture of warning to be
silent, turned back to hear what Otto was saying.

"--you, Frederic, have the glory of leading the expedition, of bombing
that damned Wall Street which alone has kept Germany from winning her
well-deserved victory. You will destroy their foolish skyscrapers, their
banks, their business buildings. Your work will end this way. You will
strike terror into the cowardly hearts of these American bankers whose
greed for money has led them to interfere with our great nation's
rightful ambition. You shall show them that their ocean is no
protection, that the iron hand of our Kaiser is far-reaching. Do your
work well, and they will be on their knees begging us for peace."

"God helping me," said Frederic, "I will not fail in my duty to my
country."

There was something magnificent in his manner as he spoke, something
almost regal, and Fleck regarded him with a puzzled air. Who was he,
this man who had been sent out from Germany on this mission--this man to
whom even old Otto paid deference? Despite the assurance with which he
had spoken Fleck had observed in Frederic an uneasiness, a watchfulness,
that none of the others seemed to exhibit. He had the appearance of
alertly listening, listening, for what? Fleck's first thought was that
he might have overheard the little cry that Jane had inadvertently
given, but he quickly dismissed this theory. If Frederic had heard that
sound it would have alarmed him, and the look in his eyes now was one of
expectancy rather than of fear.

Jane, too, was puzzled and distressed. With trembling hands she clutched
at the sill of the window for support as she heard Frederic assent to
old Otto's plans for him. Her estimate of his character made it seem
incredible that he would willingly lend himself to this work of
wholesale murder, yet she could no longer doubt the evidence of her own
ears. With overwhelming force it came to her that this man who so
readily agreed to such bloody, dastardly work as this, must undoubtedly
be also the murderer of that K-19 whose body had been found just around
the corner from her home. Bitterly she reproached herself that she had
allowed herself to care for him. Shamedly she confessed to herself that
she still loved him--even now.

"Your great work accomplished," Otto continued, "remember your orders.
Forty miles due east of Sandy Hook there will be lying two great
submarines, waiting to take you off--not U-boats, but two of our
powerful, wonderful new X-boats, big enough to destroy any of their
little cruisers that are patrolling the coast, fast enough to escape any
of their torpedo boats. How important the war office judges your work
you may realize from this--it is the first mission on which these new
X-boats have been dispatched. They are out there now. We have had a
wireless from them. They are waiting to convey six heroes back to the
Fatherland, where the highest honors will be bestowed on them at the
hands of our Emperor himself. Herr Captain and Comrades--"

He stopped abruptly, and there came into his face a pained look of
surprise, of terror.

_"Was is dass?_" he cried in alarm.

One of Fleck's men in hiding out there in the shadow of the building
had been seized by an irresistible desire to sneeze.

The terrifying suspicion that there had been some uninvited spectator
outside, listening to their plotting, swept over the whole room. The
whole company, hearing the sound that had alarmed old Hoff, arose as one
man and stood tensed, stupefied with fear, gazing white-faced in the
direction from which the sound had come.

Fleck, rudely brushing Jane aside, dropped back from the window and blew
a sharp blast with a whistle. At the sound his men came running up with
their rifles ready.

Inside, the man called Hans, seizing an electric torch, dashed to the
door, and pulling it wide, rushed forth, his torch lighting the way
before him. Before he even had time to see the men gathering there and
cry an alarm, a blow from the butt of Carter's revolver stretched him
senseless on the stoop.

"In the name of the United States I command you to surrender," cried
Fleck, springing boldly into the open doorway, revolver in hand; "the
house is surrounded."

Instantly all within the room was confusion. Some of those nearest the
door, seeing behind Fleck the protruding muzzles of the guns, promptly
threw up their hands in token of surrender. Others bolted madly for the
front door, only to find their egress there blocked by the rifles in the
hands of the guard that Fleck had had the foresight to station there.

Old Otto, the pallor of fear on his face giving away to an expression of
demoniac rage, drew a revolver and aimed it straight at Fleck. Jane, who
unbidden had followed the raiders as they entered and now was standing
wide-eyed in the doorway watching the spectacle, was the only one to see
that just as old Otto pulled the trigger his nephew, whether by accident
or design, she could not tell, jostled his arm, sending the bullet wide
of its mark.

"Come on, men," cried Fleck, advancing boldly into the room.

Eight of the Germans, piteously bleating "Kamerad" stood against the
wall near the door, their hands stretched high above their heads.

"Guard these men, Dean," cried Fleck, as with Carter close at his side
he dashed into the fray.

One man already lay senseless outside, eight had surrendered. Four had
fled to the front of the house. That left only the two Hoffs and one
other man against five of them. It was Fleck's intention to try to
overpower the trio before the four who had fled returned to aid them.
Jane, amazed at her own coolness, stood beside Dean, her revolver out,
helping him guard the prisoners.

Frederic all the while had been standing by his uncle's side, strangely
enough appearing to take little interest or part in the battle. Old
Otto, though, despite his years, was fighting with vigor enough to
require both the work of Fleck and Carter to subdue him. Vainly he
struggled to wrench himself free from their grasp and use his revolver
again. Fleck's strength pulling loose his fingers from the weapon was
too much for him. As he felt himself being disarmed, in a frenzy he tore
himself loose from both of them and seizing a chair, swung it with all
his strength against the hanging lamp above the table that supplied the
only light in the room.

In an instant the room was in darkness. The four from the front, rushing
back to aid their comrades in answer to old Otto's cries, found
themselves unable to distinguish friend from foe. Fleck's men dared not
use their weapons in the darkness. Back and forth through the room the
opposing forces struggled, the air thick with cries and muttered oaths,
the sound of blows making strange medley with the rapid shuffling
of feet.

Jane, remembering the electric torch that had been carried by the man
Carter had struck down, felt her way to the door and retrieved it from
his senseless fingers. Returning, she flashed it about the room,
endeavoring to assist Fleck by its light. As she let the beam fall on
Frederic she heard a muttered curse at her side and turned to see Thomas
Dean aiming his revolver directly at the younger Hoff. With a quick
movement she thrust up his arm, and the bullet buried itself in the wall
above his head.

"What are you trying to do," snapped Dean; "help that damned spy to
escape?"

"He wasn't trying to escape," she angrily retorted. "Look--quick--mind
your prisoners."

He turned just in time to see the Germans behind him lowering their
arms. In another second they would have been on his back. At the sight
of his brandished revolver, their arms were quickly raised again.

Meanwhile Fleck's men, guided by Jane's light, were laying about them
with their rifles clubbed. The plotters were at a disadvantage in not
realizing how few there were in the attacking party. Fleck's
announcement that the house was surrounded had both deceived and
disheartened them. When three of their number had been knocked senseless
to the floor the others surrendered and joined the group that stood
with hands up.

To Fleck's amazement it was Frederic Hoff who led in the surrender.

"Watch that young Hoff," he whispered to Carter. "I can't understand his
giving up so easily. It may be only a ruse on his part."

"Perhaps he's afraid the girl will be hurt," whispered Carter, but Fleck
was not there to hear him, having dashed forward to where old Otto was
still fighting desperately.

Somehow in the melee the old man had again got hold of a revolver, and
just as Fleck seized him he fired again. The bullet, aimed at Fleck,
left him unharmed, but found a mark in Thomas Dean, who with a little
gurgling cry, fell forward at Jane's feet. Carter turned at once to
guard the prisoners, as Fleck, with a cry of rage, felled old Hoff to
the floor, harmless for the present at least.

Sending one of his men to the other rooms in search of lamps Fleck soon
had all the prisoners safely shackled, both hand and foot, none of them
offering any resistance. Investigation showed that old Hoff in falling
had struck his head in such a way that his neck was broken, killing him
instantly. The three who had been clubbed were not seriously injured,
and as soon as they revived were shackled as the others had been.

Jane, seeing Dean collapse, had turned to aid him and for some time had
been bending over him, trying to revive him. He had opened his eyes,
looked up into her face and had tried to say something, and then had
collapsed, dying right before her eyes.

"Take the Hoffs' car outside," Fleck directed some of his men, "and
bring up our two cars at once. Carter and I'll guard the prisoners until
you get back. There's a county jail only a few miles away. The sooner we
get them there the better it will be. It won't take any court long to
settle their fate. They got Dean, didn't they?"

"Yes," said Jane, getting up unsteadily from the floor, "I think he's
dead."

Fleck bent to examine the body of his aide, feeling for the pulse.

"Too bad," he murmured. "That last bullet of old Hoff's got him, but he
died in a good cause."

Jane, brushing away the tears that came welling unbidden into her eyes,
turned now for the first time since his surrender to look at Frederic.

She had expected as she looked at him lying there shackled on the floor
to read in his expression humiliation at his plight, grief at the
failure of his effort to aid Germany, possibly reproach for her in
having aided in entrapping him. To her amazement there was nothing of
this in his face.

As he lay there on the floor he was observing her with a tender look of
love, and in his eyes what was still more puzzling was an unmistakable
expression of triumph and happiness.



CHAPTER XVII

SOMETHING UNEXPECTED

Bewildered by the rapidity with which such a succession of terrifying
events had taken place, Jane sank dazedly into a chair, trying her best
to collect her thoughts, as she looked about on the recent scene of
battle. All of the German plotters had been overcome and captured.
There, dead on the floor, lay the arch conspirator, old Otto Hoff, his
clammy face still twisted into a savage expression of malignant,
defiant hate.

And there, too, a martyr to the country's cause, lay Thomas Dean. A sob
of pity rose in Jane's throat as she thought of him, and the great tears
rolled unchecked down her cheeks. He was so young, so brave, so fine.
Why must Death have come to him when there was yet so much he might have
done? With his talent and education, with his wonderful spirit of
self-sacrifice, he might have gone far and high. Regretfully, she
recalled that he had loved her, and with kind pity in her heart she
reproached herself for not having been able to return to this fine,
clean, American youth the affection she had inspired in him.

Thomas Dean, she told herself, was the type of man she should have
loved, a man of her own people, with her own ideals, a man of her
country, her flag, and yet--

There on the floor, not a dozen feet away from her, shameful circlets of
steel girdling both his wrists and his ankles, lay the one man for whom
she knew now she cared the most in all the world, the man she had just
betrayed into Chief Fleck's hands.

Bitterly she reproached herself for not having tried to induce Frederic
to escape. In mental anguish she pictured him--the man she
loved--standing in the prisoner's dock in some courtroom, branded as a
spy, as a leader of spies, charged with an attempt to slaughter the
inhabitants--the women and children--of a sleeping, unprotected city.
With growing horror it came to her that in all probability she herself
would be called on to testify against him. It might even be her
evidence that would result in his being led out before a firing squad
and put to an ignominious death.

She dared not even look in his direction now. What must he be thinking
about her? He had known that she loved him. In despair and doubt she
wondered whether he could understand that she, too, had been influenced
to perform her soul-wracking task by a sense of honor, of duty to her
country equally as potent as that which had impelled him to participate
in this terrible plan to destroy New York. Why had she not informed him
that his plans were known to the United States Government's agents?
Surely she could have convinced him that his was a hopeless mission. The
plot would have been successfully thwarted, and he would not be lying
there in shackles, but, even though forced to flee, who knew, perhaps
some day after peace had come, he might have been able to return for
her. A great sob rose from her heart, but she stifled it back. She would
be brave and true. She must be glad for those of her people that had
been saved.

But her parents! What would they say? Her father and mother soon now
must learn that she had been deceiving them day after day. How horrified
and amazed they would be to learn that the chauffeur she had brought
into the household was in reality a government detective, and that she,
their daughter, had been a witness of his tragic death. What would they
think when they learned about her part in this gruesome drama that had
just been enacted? They, serene in their trust in her, supposing she was
at the home of one of her girl friends, were peacefully asleep in their
quiet apartment. How horror-stricken her mother would be if she could
have seen her daughter at this moment, alone at midnight in a mountain
shack, one girl among a band of strange men--and two men stretched dead
on the floor.

And Frederic! Always her perturbed imaginings led back to Frederic, to
the terrible fate that lay in store for him, to the awfulness of war
that had put between them an impassable gulf of blood and guilt and
treachery that, in spite of their love for each other, kept them at
cross purposes and made them enemies. Why, she vaguely wondered, must
governments disagree and start wars and make men hate and kill each
other? What was it all for?

In the midst of her mental wanderings she became conscious that Fleck
was speaking to Carter.

"I'll stay here with Miss Strong and the prisoners," he was saying.
"While we are waiting for the men to return with the cars, you'd better
make a search of the house."

"Why not wait until daylight for that?" suggested Carter.

"It is not safe," the chief objected. "To-night is the time to do it. A
plot important enough to have the especial attention of the war office
in Berlin must have many important persons involved in it. Somebody with
money in New York, some influential German sympathizer, must have helped
old Hoff set up these aeroplanes here and equip his shop. Some chemical
plant supplied the material for those bombs. It must have taken hundreds
of thousands of dollars to carry the plan to completion. Men rich enough
and powerful enough to have put through this plot are powerful enough to
be still dangerous. The minute word reaches the city that the plan has
miscarried there will be some one up here posthaste to destroy or remove
any damaging evidence we may have overlooked. Now is the time to do our
searching."

"You're right, Chief," Carter admitted. "It would not surprise me if
there is not a wireless plant here. I'll soon find out."

"Let me help," cried Jane.

Her nerves were suffering from a sharp reaction. All through the
excitement of the attack she had remained calm and collected, but now
she felt that if she remained another minute in the same room with the
two bodies, if she stayed near that row of shackled prisoners, if she
should chance to catch Frederic's eye, she either would burst into
hysterical weeping or would collapse entirely. If only there was some
activity in which she could engage it might serve to divert the current
of maddening thoughts that kept overwhelming her. With something to do
she might regain her self-control.

"Please let me help Mr. Carter," she begged.

"Certainly," said Fleck, "go ahead. You have earned the right to do
anything you wish to-night."

Guided by the light of an electric torch Carter and she quickly made
their way to the upper floor. In most of the rooms they found only cheap
cots with blankets, evidently the sleeping quarters of the workmen, but
in one of the rooms was a desk, and from it a ladder led to an
unfinished attic. Boldly climbing the ladder and flashing their torch
about they quickly located a high-powered wireless outfit. It was
mounted on a sliding shelf by which it could be quickly concealed in a
secret cupboard, but evidently the plotters had felt so secure from
intrusion in their retreat that they had been in the habit of leaving
it exposed.

"I thought we'd find it," said Carter exultantly. "It's an ideal
location, up here in the mountains. I'd better smash it at once."

"Wait," warned Jane, thoughtfully, "they spoke of having received a
wireless message from those dreadful X-boats lying there off the coast.
If we could only find their code-book, perhaps--"

"Right," cried Carter, catching her idea at once.

Together they descended to the room below and began ransacking the
desk, Jane holding the light while Carter examined the papers
they found.

"Their system sometimes is bad for them," said Carter. "Here's a ledger
with the names of all the men employed here and the amounts paid to
each. And look," he went on excitedly, "look what the stupid fools have
done with their German methodicalness--here are entries showing all the
supplies they obtained, from whom they got them and what they cost.
There's evidence here for a hundred convictions. We'll just take that
book along."

There was one small drawer in the desk that was locked. Ruthlessly
Carter smashed the woodwork and pried it open. Its only contents was a
small parcel, a folded paper in a parchment envelope. Hastily he drew
forth the paper and studied it intently.

"It's a code," he cried, "a naval code, evidently the very one they used
to communicate with those boats. I'll wager the Washington people even
haven't a copy of it. That's a great find. Come on, we've got enough for
one night."

"Do any of the men in our party understand wireless?" asked Jane as
they descended.

"Sure," said Carter, "Sills does. He used to be the radio man on a
battleship."

"Couldn't he be left on watch here?" suggested Jane, "and try to signal
those X-boats and keep them waiting until to-morrow night? Maybe by that
time our--"

"I get you," cried Carter; "that's a good idea. Explain it to the
Chief."

As Jane unfolded her plan, suggesting the possibility of sending
American cruisers out to search for the X-boats after Sills had lured
them by false messages to the surface, Fleck heartily approved of it.

"I'll leave Sills here with one other man to guard the house," he said.
"We'll have to let poor Dean's body remain here for the present, too.
We'll need all the room in the cars for the prisoners."

There was still much to be done. While some of the men were
unceremoniously carrying out the shackled prisoners and piling them in
the cars, others, under Carter's direction, crippled the three
"wonder-workers" and dismantled them, carrying their dangerous cargo of
bombs into the woods and concealing them.

None of the prisoners, since the moment the shackles had been put on,
had uttered a word. Sullen silence held all of them unprotestingly in
its grip. Even Frederic kept his peace, though from time to time his
glance roved about, seeking Jane, and always in his eyes was a strange
look, not of defeat, nor of shame, but rather of exultant triumph. Jane
still dared not trust herself to look in his direction, but Fleck and
Carter, too, observed curiously the expression in his eyes. Was he, they
wondered, rejoicing over Dean's untimely end? Did he, with true Prussian
arrogance, in spite of the failure of his plot, still dare to hope that
with Dean out of the way, he might escape punishment and yet win Jane
Strong? Even as they picked him up, the last of the prisoners, and put
him in the rear seat of the chief's car, his eyes still sought for Jane.

It was long after midnight before the strange cavalcade left the
mountain shack. Fleck's car led the way, with the chief himself at the
wheel, and Jane beside him. Crowded on the rear seat were Frederic and
two other prisoners, and standing in the tonneau, facing them with his
revolver drawn in case they should make an attempt to escape in spite of
their shackles, was Fleck's chauffeur. Carter was at the wheel of the
second car with five prisoners and a man on guard, and the arrangement
in the third car was the same. Six men and a girl to transport thirteen
prisoners! Inwardly Fleck was congratulating himself on his forethought
in having provided shackles enough to go around, for otherwise he surely
would have had a perilous job on his hands.

As they rode down the mountain lane, Jane rejoiced at the darkness that
hid her face, both from Fleck and from Frederic on the seat behind. Now
that there was no activity to distract her maddening thoughts once more
paced in turmoil through her brain. She loved this man, and she was
leading him to disgrace and death. She hated and despised him. He was a
treacherous, dangerous enemy of her country whom she had helped to trap,
and she was glad, glad, glad. No, no! She wasn't glad. She loved him. He
had given her that sealed packet and had charged her to keep it for
him. He couldn't be all bad. Why must she love him? Her mind told her he
was a criminal, an enemy, a spy, a murderer, yet her wilful heart
insisted that she loved him. How strange life was! She and Frederic
loved each other. Why could they not marry and be happy? Why was War?
Why must nations fight? Why must people hate each other? Was the whole
world mad? Was she going mad herself?

Slowly and carefully, Fleck, with his lights on full, had steered the
automobile down the narrow roadway through the woods. He had just turned
the car safely into the main road, and stopped to look back to see how
closely the other cars were following. Suddenly from the wayside a dozen
men in uniform sprang up, the glint of their guns made visible by the
automobile lights.

"Halt," cried a voice of authority.

The one glimpse he had caught of the uniform had conveyed to Fleck the
welcome fact that the party surrounding him were Americans--cavalry
troopers.

"Chief Fleck," he announced, by way of identification. "Who are you?"

A tall figure in officer's clothes sprang up on the running board and
peered into Fleck's face.

"Thank God, Chief," he said, "that it's you."

"Colonel Brook-White," cried Fleck in amazement, recognizing the voice
as that of one of the officers in charge of the British Government's
Intelligence Service in America. "What are you doing here?"

"Trying to round up some bally German spies," explained Brook-White.

"I've beaten you to it," cried Fleck, with a note of triumph in his
tone. "I've got them all here in shackles."

"Good," said Brook-White delightedly. "I was fearful I'd be too late.
There was delay in getting a message to me. As soon as I had it, I tried
to reach you and couldn't. I dared not wait but dashed up here in my
car. I knew there were some American troopers camped near here, and I
persuaded the commander to detail some of his men to help me. Did you
really capture the Hoff chap, old Otto?"

"He's better than captured," said Fleck. "He's lying dead back there in
the house."

"Good," cried Brook-White. "He was infernally dangerous according to my
advices--but Captain Seymour--where is he? Wasn't he working with you?"

"Captain Seymour?" cried Fleck in astonishment. "I never heard of him.
Who's Captain Seymour?"

"He's one of my chaps," explained Brook-White. "Wasn't it he who steered
you up here?"

"I should say not," said Fleck emphatically.

"Good Lord," cried the British colonel excitedly. "You don't suppose
those bloody Boches got him at the last--after all he's been through? I
hope he's safe."

"Don't worry, Colonel Brook-White," came the calm voice of Frederic Hoff
from the rear seat. "Chief Fleck has me here safe in shackles with the
other prisoners."

"God," cried Fleck, in astonished perplexity. "Is Frederic Hoff a
Britisher--one of your men?"

"Rather," said Brook-White. "Chief Fleck, may I present Captain Sir
Frederic Seymour, of the Royal Kentish Dragoons."

But Fleck was too busy just then to heed the introduction, or to pay
attention to the muttered "_Donnerwetters_" of indignation that burst
from the lips of his other prisoners.

Jane Strong had fainted dead away against his shoulder.



CHAPTER XVIII

WHAT THE PACKET CONTAINED

"But," said Jane, "I can't understand it yet. How did you, a British
officer, happen to be living with old Otto Hoff? How did you ever get
him to trust you with his terrible secrets?"

Captain Seymour chortled gleefully. Now that he was arrayed in proper
British clothes, once more comfortable in the uniform of his regiment
and had his monocle in place and was with Jane again, everything looked
radiantly different. Even his speech no longer retained its
international quality but now was tinctured with London mannerisms.

"Oh, I say," he replied, "that was a ripping joke on the bally
Dutchmen."

Jane eyed him uncertainly. He seemed almost like a stranger to her in
this unfamiliar guise, though for hours she had been eagerly looking
forward to his coming.

The exciting developments of the night before still were to her very
puzzling. She recalled Frederic's identification of himself, and after
that all was blank. When she had come to she had found herself in a
motor being rapidly driven toward New York in the early dawn, with
Carter as her escort. He had not been inclined to be at all
communicative.

"Let the Captain tell you the story himself," said Carter. "He knows all
the details."

"But when can I see him?" questioned Jane. "When," she hesitated,
remembering the shameful bonds that had held him, "when will he
be free?"

"He's as free this minute as we are," Carter explained. "It didn't take
the Chief long to get the bracelets off, after Colonel Brook-White had
identified him. There's a lot for the Captain to do still, but rest
assured, he'll waste no time getting back to the city to see you."

"I hope not," sighed the girl.

She was too weary, too weak from the revulsion of feeling that had come
on learning that her lover instead of being a dastardly spy was a
wonderful hero, to make even a pretense at maidenly modesty. She wanted
to see Frederic too much to care what any one thought.

Slipping into her home fortunately without arousing any of her family,
she had gone to bed with the intention of getting a rest of an hour or
two. Sleep, she was sure, would be impossible, for she felt far too
excited and upset. Yet she had not realized how utterly exhausted she
was. Hardly had her head touched the pillow before she was lost to
everything, and it was long after noon when a maid aroused her to
announce that Captain Seymour had 'phoned that he would call at three.

As she dressed to receive him, she was wondering how she should greet
him. Blushingly she recalled the impassioned kiss he had pressed on her
lips--why it was only yesterday. It had seemed ages and ages ago, so
much had intervened. Mingled with a shyness that arose from her vivid
memories was also a shade of indignation. Why had he not told her? Did
he not trust her? She resolved to punish him for not taking her into his
confidence by an air of coldness toward him. Certainly he deserved it.

Yet, when he arrived, so full of animation did he appear to be, that
the lofty manner in which she greeted him apparently went unnoticed. He
met her with a warm handclasp and anxious inquiries about how she felt
after all the exciting events. Too filled with eagerness to know all the
details of his adventures she had found it difficult to maintain her
pose, and soon was seated cosily beside him, asking him question after
question, all the while furtively studying him in his proper role. As
Frederic Hoff she had thought him wonderfully handsome and masterful. As
Captain Sir Frederic Seymour, in his regimental finery, he was simply
irresistible.

"A joke?" she repeated. "Do explain, I'm dying to know all about it."

"It wasn't half as difficult a job as one might imagine, you know. Our
censor chaps at home have got to be quite expert at reading letters,
invisible ink and all that sort of thing. Hoff for months had been
sending cipher messages to the war office in Berlin. He kept urging them
to act on his all-wonderful plan for blowing up New York. They decided
finally to try it and notified old Otto they were sending over an
officer to supervise the job."

"What became of him? The officer they sent over?"

"Our people picked him off a Scandinavian boat and locked him up. They
took his papers and turned them over to me. Clever, wasn't it?"

"And you took his name and his papers and came here in his place? Oh,
that was a brave, brave thing to do."

"I wouldn't say that," said Seymour modestly. "I fancy I look a bit like
the chap, and I speak the language perfectly."

"But it was such a terrible risk to take," cried Jane with a shudder.
"Suppose they'd found you out?"

"No danger of that," laughed Frederic. "Old Otto never had seen the chap
who was coming. His real nephew, Frederic Hoff, whose American birth
certificate was used, died years ago. Besides I had the German officer's
papers and knew just what his instructions were. The worst of it was
when old Otto insisted every night on toasting the Kaiser, and when he
kept trying to get me mixed up in his dirty schemes. I had to go
through with the former once in a while, but on the latter, I--how do
you Americans say it--just stalled along. My orders were to land him
only on the big thing--his wonder-workers."

"But how did you explain to him that British uniform?"

"Now that was really an idea. The old fellow was getting a bit cross and
suspicious with me because he thought I wasn't doing enough while they
were getting his 'wonder-workers' ready. At one time he was so
distrustful of me that he had me followed."

"Oh, yes, I know," said Jane quickly. With a thrill she remembered the
scene she had witnessed from her window the night K-19, her predecessor
on Chief Fleck's staff, had been murdered. In her relief at discovering
that Frederic was no German spy, she had forgotten that for weeks and
weeks she had all but believed him guilty of murder. Now, something told
her, surely and confidently, that he could explain it all.

"I saw you from my window one night before I met you," she went on. "A
man was following you, and you chased him around the corner."

"I remember that," he said; "the poor chap was found dead the next
morning. Old Otto killed him. The man had been following me, and I had
imagined that he was one of old Otto's spies and knocked him down. I
couldn't find anything on him to indicate who he was, so just as he was
beginning to revive I left him and came on home. It seems old Otto had
been watching him trail me. He followed along and shot the man. He
gleefully told me about it the next day, the hound. I ought to have
given him over to the police, but that would have upset our plans."

"I see," said Jane; "what about Lieutenant Kramer? Was he working with
old Mr. Hoff?"

"That's the funny part of it. Here in this country you've got so many
kinds of secret agents they're always trampling on each others' toes.
There's your treasury agents, and your Department of Justice agents, and
your army intelligence men and your naval intelligence men--nine
different sets of investigators you've got, counting the volunteers, so
some one told me, and each lot trying to make a record for itself and
not taking the others into its confidence. Rather stupid I call it."

"I should say so," agreed Jane.

"Here was I watching old Hoff for our government, and Kramer watching me
for your navy and Fleck watching both of us. It was a funny jumble."

"But about that uniform?" Jane persisted.

"When the old man got to ragging me a bit, I felt I must do something to
convince him I was all right. I suggested trying to get a British
uniform and maybe learning thereby some secrets. It delighted him
hugely. Of course I just went down to Colonel Brook-White and got my own
uniform, and that was all there was to that."

"It puzzled Mr. Carter, though, how you got it in and out of the house.
He used to open every bundle that came for Mr. Hoff."

Sir Frederic laughed delightedly.

"I had a messenger who used to bring it back and forth in a big lady's
hat-box. It always was addressed to you, my dear, but the boy had
instructions to deliver it to me."

"Humph," snapped Jane with mock indignation. "And when did you first
find out that I was helping Chief Fleck watch you?"

"I suspected it from the start. Kramer told me how you'd become
acquainted with him. Then when I heard you 'phoning Carter about the
bookstore I knew for certain."

"Oh, that's one thing now I wanted to ask about--those messages Hoff
left in the bookstore. Who were they for?"

"Instructions to a German advertising agency on how to word some
advertisements that contained a code."

"Oh, those Dento advertisements?"

"You knew about them?" cried Seymour in astonishment.

"Of course," said Jane proudly. "I was the one who deciphered them; but
what did that girl do with those messages? Carter had a theory that she
slipped them under a dachshund's collar."

"That theory's just like Carter," laughed Frederic--"regular detective
stuff. I never heard of any dachshund's being used. The girl used to
slip them into a letter box in her apartment-house hallway. Two minutes
later a man would get them and carry them to their destination."

"The traitors in our navy--the men who signalled old Otto and Lena Kraus
about the transports--who were they? They are the scoundrels I'd like to
see arrested and shot."

"Never worry. They'll all meet their deserts. I can't tell even you who
they are, but I've given your Chief Fleck a list of them. They will be
quickly rounded up now. What else can I tell you?"

"There's this," said Jane, the color rising to her cheeks as she drew
forth from its hiding place in the bosom of her gown the packet he had
entrusted to her the morning before, its seals still intact.

"What?" he cried in delight. "You kept it safe? You did not open it even
when you saw me arrested, when you must have been convinced that I was a
spy? Girl, dear girl"--his voice became a caress, and the light of love
flamed up in his eyes, "you did trust me then, in spite of everything."

"I had promised you, and I kept my promise," faltered Jane, striving
for words to explain, though she had been unable to explain her actions
even to herself. "I think my heart trusted you all the time, even though
my head and eyes made me believe you were what you pretended to be. Even
when things looked blackest my heart persisted that you were true."

"God bless your heart for that," cried Frederic, as he took the little
packet from her hands and began breaking the seals. "Yesterday morning,
when old Otto's plans were ready, I foresaw the danger of the trip ahead
of me. I realized I might never come back alive. If they discovered who
I was a second too soon it would mean my death. I dared not, for my
country's sake, tell even you what I was doing. My honor was at stake. I
dared not drop the slightest hint nor write a single line. The only
thing I'd kept about me in the apartment that wasn't filthy German stuff
was what's in here."

Slowly he was unwrapping something rolled in tissue paper, as Jane,
eager-eyed, looked wonderingly on.

"But," he went on, "I couldn't go away from you without leaving some
token, some clue. If it happened that I never came back, I wanted you
to know--"

He stopped abruptly.

"To know what?" questioned the girl breathlessly.

"To know that I loved you, darling, better than all else save honor," he
said, taking her into his arms. "See the token I left behind for you.
It's an old, old family ring with the Seymour crest. You'll wear it,
girl of mine, won't you, wear it always."

Unhesitatingly Jane Strong thrust forth the third finger on her left
hand, and instinctively her lips turned upward toward his.

And no matter what might have happened just then in the apartment next
door, neither of them would have known anything about it.



THE END





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