William Andrew Johnston.

The Apartment Next Door online

. (page 12 of 13)
Online LibraryWilliam Andrew JohnstonThe Apartment Next Door → online text (page 12 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


overpower the trio before the four who had fled returned to aid them.
Jane, amazed at her own coolness, stood beside Dean, her revolver out,
helping him guard the prisoners.

Frederic all the while had been standing by his uncle's side, strangely
enough appearing to take little interest or part in the battle. Old
Otto, though, despite his years, was fighting with vigor enough to
require both the work of Fleck and Carter to subdue him. Vainly he
struggled to wrench himself free from their grasp and use his revolver
again. Fleck's strength pulling loose his fingers from the weapon was
too much for him. As he felt himself being disarmed, in a frenzy he tore
himself loose from both of them and seizing a chair, swung it with all
his strength against the hanging lamp above the table that supplied the
only light in the room.

In an instant the room was in darkness. The four from the front, rushing
back to aid their comrades in answer to old Otto's cries, found
themselves unable to distinguish friend from foe. Fleck's men dared not
use their weapons in the darkness. Back and forth through the room the
opposing forces struggled, the air thick with cries and muttered oaths,
the sound of blows making strange medley with the rapid shuffling
of feet.

Jane, remembering the electric torch that had been carried by the man
Carter had struck down, felt her way to the door and retrieved it from
his senseless fingers. Returning, she flashed it about the room,
endeavoring to assist Fleck by its light. As she let the beam fall on
Frederic she heard a muttered curse at her side and turned to see Thomas
Dean aiming his revolver directly at the younger Hoff. With a quick
movement she thrust up his arm, and the bullet buried itself in the wall
above his head.

"What are you trying to do," snapped Dean; "help that damned spy to
escape?"

"He wasn't trying to escape," she angrily retorted. "Look - quick - mind
your prisoners."

He turned just in time to see the Germans behind him lowering their
arms. In another second they would have been on his back. At the sight
of his brandished revolver, their arms were quickly raised again.

Meanwhile Fleck's men, guided by Jane's light, were laying about them
with their rifles clubbed. The plotters were at a disadvantage in not
realizing how few there were in the attacking party. Fleck's
announcement that the house was surrounded had both deceived and
disheartened them. When three of their number had been knocked senseless
to the floor the others surrendered and joined the group that stood
with hands up.

To Fleck's amazement it was Frederic Hoff who led in the surrender.

"Watch that young Hoff," he whispered to Carter. "I can't understand his
giving up so easily. It may be only a ruse on his part."

"Perhaps he's afraid the girl will be hurt," whispered Carter, but Fleck
was not there to hear him, having dashed forward to where old Otto was
still fighting desperately.

Somehow in the melee the old man had again got hold of a revolver, and
just as Fleck seized him he fired again. The bullet, aimed at Fleck,
left him unharmed, but found a mark in Thomas Dean, who with a little
gurgling cry, fell forward at Jane's feet. Carter turned at once to
guard the prisoners, as Fleck, with a cry of rage, felled old Hoff to
the floor, harmless for the present at least.

Sending one of his men to the other rooms in search of lamps Fleck soon
had all the prisoners safely shackled, both hand and foot, none of them
offering any resistance. Investigation showed that old Hoff in falling
had struck his head in such a way that his neck was broken, killing him
instantly. The three who had been clubbed were not seriously injured,
and as soon as they revived were shackled as the others had been.

Jane, seeing Dean collapse, had turned to aid him and for some time had
been bending over him, trying to revive him. He had opened his eyes,
looked up into her face and had tried to say something, and then had
collapsed, dying right before her eyes.

"Take the Hoffs' car outside," Fleck directed some of his men, "and
bring up our two cars at once. Carter and I'll guard the prisoners until
you get back. There's a county jail only a few miles away. The sooner we
get them there the better it will be. It won't take any court long to
settle their fate. They got Dean, didn't they?"

"Yes," said Jane, getting up unsteadily from the floor, "I think he's
dead."

Fleck bent to examine the body of his aide, feeling for the pulse.

"Too bad," he murmured. "That last bullet of old Hoff's got him, but he
died in a good cause."

Jane, brushing away the tears that came welling unbidden into her eyes,
turned now for the first time since his surrender to look at Frederic.

She had expected as she looked at him lying there shackled on the floor
to read in his expression humiliation at his plight, grief at the
failure of his effort to aid Germany, possibly reproach for her in
having aided in entrapping him. To her amazement there was nothing of
this in his face.

As he lay there on the floor he was observing her with a tender look of
love, and in his eyes what was still more puzzling was an unmistakable
expression of triumph and happiness.



CHAPTER XVII

SOMETHING UNEXPECTED

Bewildered by the rapidity with which such a succession of terrifying
events had taken place, Jane sank dazedly into a chair, trying her best
to collect her thoughts, as she looked about on the recent scene of
battle. All of the German plotters had been overcome and captured.
There, dead on the floor, lay the arch conspirator, old Otto Hoff, his
clammy face still twisted into a savage expression of malignant,
defiant hate.

And there, too, a martyr to the country's cause, lay Thomas Dean. A sob
of pity rose in Jane's throat as she thought of him, and the great tears
rolled unchecked down her cheeks. He was so young, so brave, so fine.
Why must Death have come to him when there was yet so much he might have
done? With his talent and education, with his wonderful spirit of
self-sacrifice, he might have gone far and high. Regretfully, she
recalled that he had loved her, and with kind pity in her heart she
reproached herself for not having been able to return to this fine,
clean, American youth the affection she had inspired in him.

Thomas Dean, she told herself, was the type of man she should have
loved, a man of her own people, with her own ideals, a man of her
country, her flag, and yet -

There on the floor, not a dozen feet away from her, shameful circlets of
steel girdling both his wrists and his ankles, lay the one man for whom
she knew now she cared the most in all the world, the man she had just
betrayed into Chief Fleck's hands.

Bitterly she reproached herself for not having tried to induce Frederic
to escape. In mental anguish she pictured him - the man she
loved - standing in the prisoner's dock in some courtroom, branded as a
spy, as a leader of spies, charged with an attempt to slaughter the
inhabitants - the women and children - of a sleeping, unprotected city.
With growing horror it came to her that in all probability she herself
would be called on to testify against him. It might even be her
evidence that would result in his being led out before a firing squad
and put to an ignominious death.

She dared not even look in his direction now. What must he be thinking
about her? He had known that she loved him. In despair and doubt she
wondered whether he could understand that she, too, had been influenced
to perform her soul-wracking task by a sense of honor, of duty to her
country equally as potent as that which had impelled him to participate
in this terrible plan to destroy New York. Why had she not informed him
that his plans were known to the United States Government's agents?
Surely she could have convinced him that his was a hopeless mission. The
plot would have been successfully thwarted, and he would not be lying
there in shackles, but, even though forced to flee, who knew, perhaps
some day after peace had come, he might have been able to return for
her. A great sob rose from her heart, but she stifled it back. She would
be brave and true. She must be glad for those of her people that had
been saved.

But her parents! What would they say? Her father and mother soon now
must learn that she had been deceiving them day after day. How horrified
and amazed they would be to learn that the chauffeur she had brought
into the household was in reality a government detective, and that she,
their daughter, had been a witness of his tragic death. What would they
think when they learned about her part in this gruesome drama that had
just been enacted? They, serene in their trust in her, supposing she was
at the home of one of her girl friends, were peacefully asleep in their
quiet apartment. How horror-stricken her mother would be if she could
have seen her daughter at this moment, alone at midnight in a mountain
shack, one girl among a band of strange men - and two men stretched dead
on the floor.

And Frederic! Always her perturbed imaginings led back to Frederic, to
the terrible fate that lay in store for him, to the awfulness of war
that had put between them an impassable gulf of blood and guilt and
treachery that, in spite of their love for each other, kept them at
cross purposes and made them enemies. Why, she vaguely wondered, must
governments disagree and start wars and make men hate and kill each
other? What was it all for?

In the midst of her mental wanderings she became conscious that Fleck
was speaking to Carter.

"I'll stay here with Miss Strong and the prisoners," he was saying.
"While we are waiting for the men to return with the cars, you'd better
make a search of the house."

"Why not wait until daylight for that?" suggested Carter.

"It is not safe," the chief objected. "To-night is the time to do it. A
plot important enough to have the especial attention of the war office
in Berlin must have many important persons involved in it. Somebody with
money in New York, some influential German sympathizer, must have helped
old Hoff set up these aeroplanes here and equip his shop. Some chemical
plant supplied the material for those bombs. It must have taken hundreds
of thousands of dollars to carry the plan to completion. Men rich enough
and powerful enough to have put through this plot are powerful enough to
be still dangerous. The minute word reaches the city that the plan has
miscarried there will be some one up here posthaste to destroy or remove
any damaging evidence we may have overlooked. Now is the time to do our
searching."

"You're right, Chief," Carter admitted. "It would not surprise me if
there is not a wireless plant here. I'll soon find out."

"Let me help," cried Jane.

Her nerves were suffering from a sharp reaction. All through the
excitement of the attack she had remained calm and collected, but now
she felt that if she remained another minute in the same room with the
two bodies, if she stayed near that row of shackled prisoners, if she
should chance to catch Frederic's eye, she either would burst into
hysterical weeping or would collapse entirely. If only there was some
activity in which she could engage it might serve to divert the current
of maddening thoughts that kept overwhelming her. With something to do
she might regain her self-control.

"Please let me help Mr. Carter," she begged.

"Certainly," said Fleck, "go ahead. You have earned the right to do
anything you wish to-night."

Guided by the light of an electric torch Carter and she quickly made
their way to the upper floor. In most of the rooms they found only cheap
cots with blankets, evidently the sleeping quarters of the workmen, but
in one of the rooms was a desk, and from it a ladder led to an
unfinished attic. Boldly climbing the ladder and flashing their torch
about they quickly located a high-powered wireless outfit. It was
mounted on a sliding shelf by which it could be quickly concealed in a
secret cupboard, but evidently the plotters had felt so secure from
intrusion in their retreat that they had been in the habit of leaving
it exposed.

"I thought we'd find it," said Carter exultantly. "It's an ideal
location, up here in the mountains. I'd better smash it at once."

"Wait," warned Jane, thoughtfully, "they spoke of having received a
wireless message from those dreadful X-boats lying there off the coast.
If we could only find their code-book, perhaps - "

"Right," cried Carter, catching her idea at once.

Together they descended to the room below and began ransacking the
desk, Jane holding the light while Carter examined the papers
they found.

"Their system sometimes is bad for them," said Carter. "Here's a ledger
with the names of all the men employed here and the amounts paid to
each. And look," he went on excitedly, "look what the stupid fools have
done with their German methodicalness - here are entries showing all the
supplies they obtained, from whom they got them and what they cost.
There's evidence here for a hundred convictions. We'll just take that
book along."

There was one small drawer in the desk that was locked. Ruthlessly
Carter smashed the woodwork and pried it open. Its only contents was a
small parcel, a folded paper in a parchment envelope. Hastily he drew
forth the paper and studied it intently.

"It's a code," he cried, "a naval code, evidently the very one they used
to communicate with those boats. I'll wager the Washington people even
haven't a copy of it. That's a great find. Come on, we've got enough for
one night."

"Do any of the men in our party understand wireless?" asked Jane as
they descended.

"Sure," said Carter, "Sills does. He used to be the radio man on a
battleship."

"Couldn't he be left on watch here?" suggested Jane, "and try to signal
those X-boats and keep them waiting until to-morrow night? Maybe by that
time our - "

"I get you," cried Carter; "that's a good idea. Explain it to the
Chief."

As Jane unfolded her plan, suggesting the possibility of sending
American cruisers out to search for the X-boats after Sills had lured
them by false messages to the surface, Fleck heartily approved of it.

"I'll leave Sills here with one other man to guard the house," he said.
"We'll have to let poor Dean's body remain here for the present, too.
We'll need all the room in the cars for the prisoners."

There was still much to be done. While some of the men were
unceremoniously carrying out the shackled prisoners and piling them in
the cars, others, under Carter's direction, crippled the three
"wonder-workers" and dismantled them, carrying their dangerous cargo of
bombs into the woods and concealing them.

None of the prisoners, since the moment the shackles had been put on,
had uttered a word. Sullen silence held all of them unprotestingly in
its grip. Even Frederic kept his peace, though from time to time his
glance roved about, seeking Jane, and always in his eyes was a strange
look, not of defeat, nor of shame, but rather of exultant triumph. Jane
still dared not trust herself to look in his direction, but Fleck and
Carter, too, observed curiously the expression in his eyes. Was he, they
wondered, rejoicing over Dean's untimely end? Did he, with true Prussian
arrogance, in spite of the failure of his plot, still dare to hope that
with Dean out of the way, he might escape punishment and yet win Jane
Strong? Even as they picked him up, the last of the prisoners, and put
him in the rear seat of the chief's car, his eyes still sought for Jane.

It was long after midnight before the strange cavalcade left the
mountain shack. Fleck's car led the way, with the chief himself at the
wheel, and Jane beside him. Crowded on the rear seat were Frederic and
two other prisoners, and standing in the tonneau, facing them with his
revolver drawn in case they should make an attempt to escape in spite of
their shackles, was Fleck's chauffeur. Carter was at the wheel of the
second car with five prisoners and a man on guard, and the arrangement
in the third car was the same. Six men and a girl to transport thirteen
prisoners! Inwardly Fleck was congratulating himself on his forethought
in having provided shackles enough to go around, for otherwise he surely
would have had a perilous job on his hands.

As they rode down the mountain lane, Jane rejoiced at the darkness that
hid her face, both from Fleck and from Frederic on the seat behind. Now
that there was no activity to distract her maddening thoughts once more
paced in turmoil through her brain. She loved this man, and she was
leading him to disgrace and death. She hated and despised him. He was a
treacherous, dangerous enemy of her country whom she had helped to trap,
and she was glad, glad, glad. No, no! She wasn't glad. She loved him. He
had given her that sealed packet and had charged her to keep it for
him. He couldn't be all bad. Why must she love him? Her mind told her he
was a criminal, an enemy, a spy, a murderer, yet her wilful heart
insisted that she loved him. How strange life was! She and Frederic
loved each other. Why could they not marry and be happy? Why was War?
Why must nations fight? Why must people hate each other? Was the whole
world mad? Was she going mad herself?

Slowly and carefully, Fleck, with his lights on full, had steered the
automobile down the narrow roadway through the woods. He had just turned
the car safely into the main road, and stopped to look back to see how
closely the other cars were following. Suddenly from the wayside a dozen
men in uniform sprang up, the glint of their guns made visible by the
automobile lights.

"Halt," cried a voice of authority.

The one glimpse he had caught of the uniform had conveyed to Fleck the
welcome fact that the party surrounding him were Americans - cavalry
troopers.

"Chief Fleck," he announced, by way of identification. "Who are you?"

A tall figure in officer's clothes sprang up on the running board and
peered into Fleck's face.

"Thank God, Chief," he said, "that it's you."

"Colonel Brook-White," cried Fleck in amazement, recognizing the voice
as that of one of the officers in charge of the British Government's
Intelligence Service in America. "What are you doing here?"

"Trying to round up some bally German spies," explained Brook-White.

"I've beaten you to it," cried Fleck, with a note of triumph in his
tone. "I've got them all here in shackles."

"Good," said Brook-White delightedly. "I was fearful I'd be too late.
There was delay in getting a message to me. As soon as I had it, I tried
to reach you and couldn't. I dared not wait but dashed up here in my
car. I knew there were some American troopers camped near here, and I
persuaded the commander to detail some of his men to help me. Did you
really capture the Hoff chap, old Otto?"

"He's better than captured," said Fleck. "He's lying dead back there in
the house."

"Good," cried Brook-White. "He was infernally dangerous according to my
advices - but Captain Seymour - where is he? Wasn't he working with you?"

"Captain Seymour?" cried Fleck in astonishment. "I never heard of him.
Who's Captain Seymour?"

"He's one of my chaps," explained Brook-White. "Wasn't it he who steered
you up here?"

"I should say not," said Fleck emphatically.

"Good Lord," cried the British colonel excitedly. "You don't suppose
those bloody Boches got him at the last - after all he's been through? I
hope he's safe."

"Don't worry, Colonel Brook-White," came the calm voice of Frederic Hoff
from the rear seat. "Chief Fleck has me here safe in shackles with the
other prisoners."

"God," cried Fleck, in astonished perplexity. "Is Frederic Hoff a
Britisher - one of your men?"

"Rather," said Brook-White. "Chief Fleck, may I present Captain Sir
Frederic Seymour, of the Royal Kentish Dragoons."

But Fleck was too busy just then to heed the introduction, or to pay
attention to the muttered "_Donnerwetters_" of indignation that burst
from the lips of his other prisoners.

Jane Strong had fainted dead away against his shoulder.



CHAPTER XVIII

WHAT THE PACKET CONTAINED

"But," said Jane, "I can't understand it yet. How did you, a British
officer, happen to be living with old Otto Hoff? How did you ever get
him to trust you with his terrible secrets?"

Captain Seymour chortled gleefully. Now that he was arrayed in proper
British clothes, once more comfortable in the uniform of his regiment
and had his monocle in place and was with Jane again, everything looked
radiantly different. Even his speech no longer retained its
international quality but now was tinctured with London mannerisms.

"Oh, I say," he replied, "that was a ripping joke on the bally
Dutchmen."

Jane eyed him uncertainly. He seemed almost like a stranger to her in
this unfamiliar guise, though for hours she had been eagerly looking
forward to his coming.

The exciting developments of the night before still were to her very
puzzling. She recalled Frederic's identification of himself, and after
that all was blank. When she had come to she had found herself in a
motor being rapidly driven toward New York in the early dawn, with
Carter as her escort. He had not been inclined to be at all
communicative.

"Let the Captain tell you the story himself," said Carter. "He knows all
the details."

"But when can I see him?" questioned Jane. "When," she hesitated,
remembering the shameful bonds that had held him, "when will he
be free?"

"He's as free this minute as we are," Carter explained. "It didn't take
the Chief long to get the bracelets off, after Colonel Brook-White had
identified him. There's a lot for the Captain to do still, but rest
assured, he'll waste no time getting back to the city to see you."

"I hope not," sighed the girl.

She was too weary, too weak from the revulsion of feeling that had come
on learning that her lover instead of being a dastardly spy was a
wonderful hero, to make even a pretense at maidenly modesty. She wanted
to see Frederic too much to care what any one thought.

Slipping into her home fortunately without arousing any of her family,
she had gone to bed with the intention of getting a rest of an hour or
two. Sleep, she was sure, would be impossible, for she felt far too
excited and upset. Yet she had not realized how utterly exhausted she
was. Hardly had her head touched the pillow before she was lost to
everything, and it was long after noon when a maid aroused her to
announce that Captain Seymour had 'phoned that he would call at three.

As she dressed to receive him, she was wondering how she should greet
him. Blushingly she recalled the impassioned kiss he had pressed on her
lips - why it was only yesterday. It had seemed ages and ages ago, so
much had intervened. Mingled with a shyness that arose from her vivid
memories was also a shade of indignation. Why had he not told her? Did
he not trust her? She resolved to punish him for not taking her into his
confidence by an air of coldness toward him. Certainly he deserved it.

Yet, when he arrived, so full of animation did he appear to be, that
the lofty manner in which she greeted him apparently went unnoticed. He
met her with a warm handclasp and anxious inquiries about how she felt
after all the exciting events. Too filled with eagerness to know all the
details of his adventures she had found it difficult to maintain her
pose, and soon was seated cosily beside him, asking him question after
question, all the while furtively studying him in his proper r√іle. As
Frederic Hoff she had thought him wonderfully handsome and masterful. As
Captain Sir Frederic Seymour, in his regimental finery, he was simply
irresistible.

"A joke?" she repeated. "Do explain, I'm dying to know all about it."

"It wasn't half as difficult a job as one might imagine, you know. Our
censor chaps at home have got to be quite expert at reading letters,
invisible ink and all that sort of thing. Hoff for months had been
sending cipher messages to the war office in Berlin. He kept urging them
to act on his all-wonderful plan for blowing up New York. They decided
finally to try it and notified old Otto they were sending over an
officer to supervise the job."

"What became of him? The officer they sent over?"

"Our people picked him off a Scandinavian boat and locked him up. They
took his papers and turned them over to me. Clever, wasn't it?"

"And you took his name and his papers and came here in his place? Oh,
that was a brave, brave thing to do."

"I wouldn't say that," said Seymour modestly. "I fancy I look a bit like
the chap, and I speak the language perfectly."


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12

Online LibraryWilliam Andrew JohnstonThe Apartment Next Door → online text (page 12 of 13)