17. What Dick Had To Tell
 

"Here we are, Sam!"

"And I'm glad of it, Tom. I don't care much about riding in the cars after it is too dark to look out of the windows," returned the youngest Rover.

The train was nearing the Grand Central Terminal, in New York City. The passengers were gathering their belongings, and the porter was moving from one to another, brushing them and gathering in his tips. Then the train rushed into the long station, and soon came to a halt.

"I wonder if Dick will be on hand to meet us?" said Sam, as he and his brother left the car and made their way towards the waiting-room.

"Maybe, although it's pretty late."

There was a large crowd coming and going, and, for the moment, the lads had all they could do to get through. Then, as they emerged into the middle of the big waiting-room, they saw two familiar figures close at hand.

"Hello, Dick! How do you do, Dora!"

"So here you are, Tom and Sam!" cried their big brother, and shook hands heartily. Then Dora came up to greet the newcomers.

"Did you have a nice trip?" asked Dick's wife, as she smiled at them.

"Oh, yes, it was all right," answered Sam. "And what do you think? We got in a moving picture!"

"You did!" exclaimed Dora. "That certainly is a new experience."

"We received your telegram, Dick," said Tom, and looked at his big brother, anxiously. "I hope nothing very serious has happened."

"Well, Tom, I-- I----" Twice Dick tried to go on and failed. He looked at both of his brothers, and his face showed something that they had never seen in it before.

"Oh, Dick! Don't say anything here!" interposed Dora, hastily. "Wait till we get to the hotel." She turned to Sam and Tom. "Don't ask him any questions now. It won't do to have a scene here."

"All right, Dora, just as you say," answered Tom, quickly. Yet, both he and Sam wondered greatly what had occurred to so upset Dick.

The oldest Rover boy had a taxicab handy, and into this the whole party got and were quickly driven across Forty-second Street to Fifth Avenue, and then, for a number of blocks, down that well-known thoroughfare. Soon they turned towards Broadway, and a moment later came to a stop before the main entrance of the Outlook Hotel.

"As you know, we have a suite of rooms here," said Dick to his brothers. "I have hired an extra room next door, so we can all be together."

A bellboy had already secured the newcomers' baggage, and, after signing the register, Sam and Tom followed Dick and his wife to the elevator and to the third floor.

"It's a fine layout, all right," declared Sam, when they were settled and the bellboy had been dismissed.

Dick did not make any answer to this remark. He walked over to the door, to see that it was closed, then he suddenly wheeled to confront his brothers.

"You've got to know it sooner or later, so you might as well know it now," he said in as steady a voice as he could command. "Do you remember that I wrote to you about sixty-four thousand dollars' worth of bonds that I had bought for dad in place of some securities that he possessed?"

"Yes," answered both brothers.

"Well, those bonds have been stolen."

"Stolen!" gasped Sam.

"You don't mean it, Dick!" came from Tom.

"I do mean it. The bonds have been stolen, and, try my best, I can't get a single clew as to where they went or who took them."

"Sixty-four thousand dollars! Phew!" ejaculated Sam. "That's some loss!"

"But please don't blame Dick," broke in Dora. "I am sure it isn't his fault."

"How did it happen?" questioned Tom.

"They were taken out of the safe at the offices."

"Stolen from the safe, you mean?"

"Yes."

"When was this?"

"Day before yesterday."

"Of course the safe was locked?" put in Sam.

"Certainly."

"But Pelter and Japson knew that combination, didn't they, Dick?" questioned Tom, eagerly.

"No, Tom, they did not. When they turned the offices over to me, Pelter made some sarcastic remark, stating I had better have the combination changed. I told him I certainly would have it changed; and the very next day I had the safe makers up to inspect the lock, and change the combination."

"Humph! Then that lets Pelter and Japson out, doesn't it?"

"But somebody must have taken those bonds," came from Sam. "Did anybody else have the combination, Dick?"

"Nobody but Dora. I gave her the figures, so she could get the safe open in case anything happened to me, or I was away."

"I've got the figures on a card in my pocket-book," explained Dora, "but I don't believe anybody saw them. In fact, the card has nothing but the bare figures on it, so it isn't likely that any one would understand what those figures meant. Oh, but isn't it perfectly dreadful! I-- I hope you-- you boys won't blame Dick," she faltered.

"Of course we don't blame Dick," returned Tom, promptly.

"Why should we blame him?" added Sam. "If he put the bonds in the safe and locked them up, I can't see how this robbery is his fault. It might have happened to any of us."

"I'm glad to hear you say that," returned Dick; and his face showed his relief. "Just the same, boys, we have got to find those bonds. Our family can't afford to lose sixty-four thousand dollars-- or rather sixty thousand dollars."

"What do you mean, Dick?" asked Tom. "You said sixty-four thousand dollars."

"So I did, but four thousand of the bonds were registered in dad's name, principal and interest, so it's likely the thief won't be able to use them."

"And all the other bonds were unregistered?" queried Sam.

"Yes, every one of them."

"So they can be used by any one?"

"Exactly-- although, of course, the thief would have to be very careful how he disposed of them."

"Have you notified the police?" asked Tom.

"Not yet. I wanted to consult you first. Besides, I thought it might be possible that the thief would put an advertisement in the newspapers, offering to return the bonds for a reward. But so far, I haven't seen any such advertisement."

"It isn't likely they'll offer to return them if sixty thousand dollars' worth are negotiable," returned Tom. "But give us the particulars of the affair;" and the youth dropped into a seat, and the others did the same.

"Well, to start with, as I said before, as soon as Pelter and Japson and their hired help left, I had the lock of the safe investigated, and then had the combination changed," began Dick. "The fellow from the safe company showed me how the combination was worked, so I fixed the new numbers to suit myself, in order that no outsider would know how to open the safe. I put the numbers down on two cards, and placed one of the cards in my notebook, and gave the other to Dora. As she said, the cards had nothing on them but the bare numbers, so that a person getting one of the cards would not know that the numbers referred to the safe combination.

"It took me several days to get rid of the old stocks, and while I was doing that I, from time to time, purchased the bonds, buying them, on the advice of Mr. Powell, from several bond houses in Wall Street. I also bought a brand new japanned box with a little lock, and placed the bonds in that box, and then put the box in the safe. The last I saw of the bonds was about half-past four in the afternoon, when I placed the last of the bonds in the box. I came down to the office at a little before ten o'clock the next morning, and opened the safe about half an hour later. Then the box was gone."

"Wait a minute, Dick," interrupted Tom. "You just said you opened the safe. Wasn't the door already open?"

"No, the door was shut and locked, just as I had left it the night before."

"Humph! Then somebody must have worked the combination," ventured Sam.

"So it would seem, Sam, and yet when I had the lock inspected, the safe company man told me that that was a first-class combination, and practically burglar proof."

"Is it an old safe?"

"I don't think so-- in fact, the safe man led me to believe it was one of the newer kinds. It is about five feet square, and the walls are almost a foot thick. Oh, it is some safe, I can tell you that!"

"But it was not safe in this instance," retorted Tom, who, no matter how serious the situation, was bound to have his little joke.

"You said Pelter and Japson had gone for good," continued Sam. "Is there nobody else around attached to the old firm?"

"I took on their old office boy, a lad named Bob Marsh. You'll remember him," returned the oldest Rover. "He said he wanted work the worst way, so I thought I would give him a chance."

"Maybe he got the combination, and gave it to Pelter or Japson."

"I don't think so, Sam. The boy is rather forward in his manner, but I think he is perfectly honest."

"Yes, but somebody opened that safe and took the box of bonds," put in Tom.

"I know that, Tom, and we've got to get those bonds back, or it will be a very serious piece of business for us," answered the oldest Rover boy, soberly.

"Was anything else taken, Dick?" questioned Sam.

"Not a thing. And that's queer, too, because I had a number of private papers in the safe, and also our new set of books."

"Then that would go to show that all the thief was after were the bonds," came from Tom. "You say they were in a new japanned box that was locked?"

"Yes, but the lock didn't amount to much. I think it could easily be opened."

"Sixty thousand dollars is a lot of money to lose," mused Sam. "Dick, that will put us in something of a hole, won't it?"

"It may. But don't let us think about that, Sam. Let us try to get the bonds back," returned his oldest brother, earnestly.