CHAPTER I. THE FACE OF HATE
CHAPTER II. THE ADDRESS ON THE CARD
CHAPTER III. “MR. FLECK”
CHAPTER IV. THE CLUE IN THE BOOK
CHAPTER V. ON THE TRAIL
CHAPTER VI. THE MISSING MESSAGE
CHAPTER VII. THE WOMAN ON THE ROOF
CHAPTER VIII. THE LISTENING EAR
CHAPTER IX. THE PURSUIT
CHAPTER X. CARTER'S DISCOVERY
CHAPTER XI. JANE'S ADVENTURE
CHAPTER XII. PUZZLES AND PLANS
CHAPTER XIII. THE SEALED PACKET
CHAPTER XIV. THE MOUNTAIN'S SECRET
CHAPTER XV. THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS
CHAPTER XVI. THE ATTACK ON THE HOUSE
CHAPTER XVII. SOMETHING UNEXPECTED
CHAPTER XVIII. WHAT THE PACKET CONTAINED
The Apartment Next Door
AUTHOR OF THE HOUSE OF WHISPERS, LIMPY, ETC.
ILUSTRATIONS BY ARTHUR WILLIAM
TO THAT MARVELLOUS SCHEHERAZADE
CAROLYN WELLS HOUGHTON
THE AUTHOR, IN ENVIOUS ADMIRATION, DEDICATES THIS VOLUME
THE APARTMENT NEXT DOOR
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
And in the shadow of the buildings, hardly ten feet away but half
sheltered by a doorway, stood his sinister pursuer, motionless but
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
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
“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
“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.
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
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.
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
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
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
“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
“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
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
“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.
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
“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
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.
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
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
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
“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.”
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?”
“And your parents?”
“American for ten or twelve generations.”
“How long have you lived in that apartment house on Riverside
“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
“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 Scandanavian 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
“It surely does.”
“Unless,” continued Fleck, “there was some special object in sending
“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
“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. Hoffs 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
“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
“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
“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.”
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
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 chiefs
“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
“Didn't you find anything to read to-day, Mr. Hoff?” the clerk
“Nodding,” he answered. “You keep novels, trash, nodding worth
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
534 5 2
331 54 6
644 76 3
49 12 9
540 30 12
390 3 2
519 3 6
327 20 2
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
“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.”
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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
Quickly he ran through the rest of the cipher, writing it out as he
As Fleck finished the message his face became almost black with
“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
“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
“I'll do more than try,” said Jane spiritedly. “I'll get acquainted
right away. I'll make him talk to me.”
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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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
“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?”
“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,
“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,
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
“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
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.
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“I'll find you a chauffeur,” said Carter decisively.
“You mean”—Jane hesitated—“a detective?”
“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.”
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
“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
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
“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.
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“That will do splendidly. Has he been with that navy officer
“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
“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
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
“That's Wednesday,” she answered slowly. That was the day she and
Dean were planning to put in a dictagraph. 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
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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
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.”
“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
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
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
“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
Wonderingly he complied, jotting down what she told him in his
notebook, and turning to ask her what it meant, discovered that she had
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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:
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
Only once had she heard anything that she deemed really important.
One evening, as uncle and nephew dined, there had been an acrimonious
“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
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:
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
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
“Where'd you meet him?”
“He lives in the apartment next door. Lieutenant Kramer introduced
“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
“What were they, a cipher, a code?” questioned the girl
“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,
“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
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
“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
“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
“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!”
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“That's West Point,” Dean exclaimed, noting for the first time where
“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?
“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
“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
“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
“Go to it, then,” said the chief, and Carter went on his way
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
“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
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
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
“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
“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?”
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
“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
Alone in his office, Fleck bent with wrinkled brow over the first of
the two advertisements, which read:
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
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:
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.
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
“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
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.
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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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.
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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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.
“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.”
“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
“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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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
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
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
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
“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,
“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
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
“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
“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
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
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
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.”
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
“I think you are wrong about that,” protested Jane. “Whenever I was
listening over the dictagraph 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
As they talked the chief's car had crossed the ferry, and turning
north through Englewood, was heading rapidly in the direction of West
“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
“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
“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
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
“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
Almost before he was in the car he had given orders to start,
leaving no opportunity for Dean to make his threatened protest against
“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 of? the road, over toward the river from the place where you two
had that accident yesterday. Away of? 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
“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. Prom 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.
“And there are four of us here.”
“Three and a half,” said the chief, motioning to Dean's bandaged
“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.”
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
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
“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
“Absurd,” cried Fleck indignantly, “what do you mean? It's
“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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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
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.”
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
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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
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
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.
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
“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
“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
“Sure,” said Carter, “Sills does. He used to be the radio man on a
“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
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 chiefs car, his eyes still sought
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
“Chief Fleck,” he announced, by way of identification. “Who are
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
“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
“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.
“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
“Oh, I say,” he replied, “that was a ripping joke on the bally
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
“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
“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
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 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
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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
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.