Chapter XIII. At the Outlook Hotel
 

The news had not been totally unexpected, yet the three lads felt very much depressed. They had hoped that some sort of word might have been received concerning their father while they were speeding towards New York on the train.

"I wish you would give me all the particulars," went on Dick.

"Here comes the manager,-- he can tell you more than I can," replied the clerk, and he nodded in the direction of a tall, heavy-set individual who was approaching.

"So you are Mr. Rover's sons, eh?" said Mr. Garley, as he shook hands. "I am sorry for you, indeed I am. This is certainly a puzzle. Come in here and I will tell you all I know," and he led the way to a small reception parlor that was, just then, unoccupied. He drew two chairs up to a small sofa, so that all might sit close together.

"I don't suppose any word came from the farm for us?" suggested Sam, as he was about to sit down.

"If anything came in the name of Rover I'd know about it," returned the hotel manager. "I am very much interested in this case."

"Have you spoken to the police about it?" asked Tom.

"Not yet. I thought that perhaps you would not like it. Sometimes, you know, men go away and leave no word, and, later on, they come back, and they don't want anything said about it. So we have to be careful."

"What have you got to tell us?" asked Dick.

"It isn't very much. In the first place, though, I don't think your father was in the best of health. I noticed that, and so did one of my clerks and one of the elevator men."

"Did he have an attack while he was here?" cried Sam.

"I don't know about that. But we all noticed that he was feeble at times-- and that he seemed to be very much worried over something. He was continually getting his notebook out and doing some writing or figuring, and then he would shake his head, as if it didn't please him at all."

"Yes, he was worried over some business matters," answered Dick. "But that wasn't bad enough to make him go off like this and leave no word. When was he last seen?"

"In the morning, about ten o'clock. He came down in one of the elevators with a small package in his hand-- a package, so the elevator man said, that looked like some legal documents. He seemed to be very much disturbed, and the man said he talked to himself. He hurried out of the side door of the hotel, but one of the doormen saw him go to the corner and turn down Broadway-- and that was the last seen of him, so far as we knew."

"And what of the things in his room?" questioned Dick.

"Outside of the usual cleaning up, I have had everything left as it was," answered the hotel manager. "You may go up there, if you wish."

"We will,-- and we'll most likely want rooms, too."

"The room next to his is vacant, you can have that if you wish."

"All right, we'll take it," returned Tom. "Do they connect?"

"Yes. I'll have the hallman unlock the connecting door for you."

They were soon in an elevator, a boy bringing up their baggage. They passed to the fourth floor of the hotel and to the rear.

"Your father wanted a quiet room, so we put him on the court," explained the manager of the Outlook Hotel, as he unlocked the door and turned on the electric lights.

It was a typical hotel room of the better class, with a brass bed, a bureau, a desk, and several chairs. At one side was a small bathroom.

On a chair rested Mr. Rover's suitcase, locked but unstrapped. On the bureau were his comb and brush, a whisk broom, and some other toilet articles. On some hooks hung a coat and a cap. They glanced into the bathroom, and in a cup on the marble washstand saw his toothbrush.

"He certainly meant to come back," murmured Tom.

"Yes, and that very soon-- or else he wouldn't have left these things lying around," added his younger brother.

Dick passed over to the coat that hung on a hook and felt in the pockets. They contained nothing but some railroad timetables.

"Can't you call up some of your father's business friends or acquaintances?" suggested the hotel manager.

"He had very few acquaintances in the city," answered Dick. "He used to have some close friends, but they are either dead or have moved away. As for the business men he had dealings with-- I guess I had better see them in the morning."

"Then, if there isn't anything more I can do, I'll leave you," returned the hotel manager.

"Nothing more at present," answered Dick.

With the hotel manager gone, the boys closed the door leading to the hallway and sat down to discuss the situation. The door between the two bedrooms had already been opened by a hallman, so that they would have ample sleeping accommodations when they wished to retire. But just now they were too excited and worried to think of sleeping.

"Maybe we had better put the police at work," suggested Sam.

"We surely ought to do something," added Tom.

"What can the police do-- with no clews to work on?" asked their big brother.

"They might look around in the hospitals for him."

"I don't think we'll find him in any hospital."

"Why not, if he met with an accident?"

"I don't believe there was any accident," continued Dick, earnestly.

"Do you think he met with foul play at the hands of those men he came to see?" demanded Sam.

"It looks that way to me, Sam."

"Then we ought to have them locked up at once!"

"How can we-- when we have no evidence against them?"

"Let us look into dad's suitcase," suggested Tom.

"I'll see if I can unlock it."

Dick had a bunch of keys in his pocket, as did Tom and Sam, and the boys tried the keys one after another. At last they found one which fitted, and the suitcase came open.

The bag contained the usual assortment of wearing apparel which Mr. Rover was in the habit of carrying when on a trip that was to last but a few days or a week. In addition, there were several letters and documents, placed in a thick manila envelope and marked with the owner's name.

The boys read the letters and documents with interest. From them they learned that Mr. Rover had been requested to come to the city immediately, to see about some business connected with the Sunset Irrigation Company. The documents were some transfers of stock which they did not quite understand.

"He came down here to see Pelter, Japson & Company, that's certain," remarked Dick. "It eras evidently the only reason why he came to New York. Now the question is, Did he go and see those men, and did they waylay him, or did they hire somebody to do it?"

"I wish we knew more about those men," said Tom. "You can soon size a fellow up when you talk to him."

"Not always," answered Sam. "Sometimes the smoothest talkers are the greatest rascals. Don't you remember how nicely Josiah Crabtree used to talk to Mrs. Stanhope, and see what a rascal he turned out to be!"

"I wonder if they have captured him yet," mused Tom.

"Never mind Crabtree now," put in Dick. "What we want to do is to find father. I don't know exactly how we are going at it, but I think I'll have some sort of plan by morning."

"We can go down to Pelter, Japson & Company and make them tell what they know," said Sam.

"They'll tell what they feel like telling, Sam,-- and that might not do us any good. Mind you, I don't say they did father any harm. But I know they didn't like the way he was getting after them, for they knew that, sooner or later, he might sue them and possibly put one or more of them in jail for fraud."

For fully an hour the boys talked the situation over, and by that time Sam was so sleepy he could scarcely keep his eyes open. Then they retired, Dick remaining in the apartment his father had occupied, and Sam and Tom taking the next room.

For over half an hour Dick turned and tossed on the bed-- his mind filled with thoughts of his father. What had become of his parent? Had he been hurt, or killed, or was he being held a prisoner by his enemies? What if his father should never be heard of again? The last thought was so horrible it made the youth shiver.

"We've got to find him!" he murmured, as he drew the bedclothes around him. "We've got to do it!"

At last Dick fell into a troubled sleep, following the example of his brothers, who had also found difficulty in settling themselves.

Presently the oldest Rover boy awoke with a start. He sat up in bed, wondering what had thus awakened him.

From the next room came the regular breathing of Sam and Tom, showing that they were still in the land of slumber. Dick listened, but no unusual sound broke the stillness.

"It must have been my nervousness," he thought. "Father's disappearance has been too much for me. Well, it's enough to get on anybody's nerves."

He prepared to lie down again, when a faint scraping sound caught his ear. He listened intently.

Somebody was at the hallway door, trying to insert a key in the lock. But the key would not go in, because of the key already there.

"Maybe it's father coming back!" thought the youth, and leaped from the bed to the floor. Three steps took him to the door and he quickly turned the key and caught hold of the handle.

As Dick started to fling the door open he heard a muttered exclamation of dismay in the hall outside. Then came the sound of retreating footsteps, and a slight tinkle, as of metal striking metal.

"Hi, stop! Who are you?" called the youth, and the cry aroused Tom and Sam. He flung open the door and leaped into the semi-dark hallway. The figure of a man was just disappearing around a corner. Dick saw that he wore a heavy beard and that was all.

The oldest Rover boy was thoroughly aroused now, and calling to Sam and Tom to follow, he darted after the flying individual. But by the time he reached the corner of the corridor the man was out of sight. He heard a distant door shut and then all became quiet.

"Who was it?" asked Tom, as he joined Dick.

"Was the fellow in your room?" asked Sam.

"No, but he was trying to get in," answered Dick. "When I woke up he was trying to put a key in the lock. When I started to open the door, thinking it might be dad, the fellow ran away."

"Was it a hallman?"

"I don't think so."

"Where did he go to?"

"Somewhere in this part of the hotel. I just heard a door shut."

"Then he must be on this floor," said Tom. "Say, we ought to investigate this. Did you get a look at him, Dick?"

"Not much of a look. I saw he had a heavy beard."

By this time one of the hallmen was coming up, and to him the boys explained what had happened. He was much interested, for he knew about the disappearance of Mr. Rover, and said he would report to the office.

"I think I heard something drop," said Dick, as the boys returned to the rooms, to put on some clothing. "Hello, here they are! A bunch of keys!" And he held them up.

"One of 'em is new," said Sam, examining the bunch.

"Maybe it was made for the lock of the door to the room father occupied," suggested Tom.

"It's like the old key," returned Dick, comparing the two. "That rascal, whoever he is, must have had the key made for the sole purpose of getting into this room!"

"But for what reason?" questioned Sam.

"To get at dad's private papers," answered his big brother. "Boys, if we catch that man maybe we'll be able to find out what has become of father!"