Chapter XV. At the Brokers' Office
 

Sam and Tom gazed at their brother in amazement.

"Josiah Crabtree!" exclaimed the youngest Rover.

"How did you find that out?" questioned Tom.

"I suspected Crabtree as soon as I saw the man jump into the taxicab," answered Dick. "There was something about his form, and in the way he ran, that looked familiar. Then the taxi driver told me he had two front teeth filled with gold. That put me on the trail, and from what the man told me I am sure the fellow was old Crabtree."

"But if it was Crabtree, what has he to do with dad's visit to New York?" asked Sam.

"That remains to be found out. But one thing is sure. Crabtree knows that father is missing,-- and he had that extra key made to get into the room during father's absence."

"But where is dad? Do you imagine Crabtree had anything to do with his disappearance?" came from Tom.

"I certainly do. Maybe Crabtree is holding him a prisoner."

"Then Pelter, Japson & Company haven't anything to do with it?"

"I wouldn't say that, Tom. The whole crowd may be working together."

"You think Crabtree knows those other men?"

"It may be so-- I am not sure. But I am sure of one thing," went on Dick, decidedly. "Dad didn't meet with any accident. His disappearance is due to Crabtree, and, likely, to some of his other enemies."

"Well, that clears up one corner of the mystery," said Sam. "But it doesn't get us any nearer to finding dad."

"I think it does, Sam. If we can locate Crabtree, I think we can locate father."

"But how are we going to locate Crabtree?"

"I don't know. But if we keep our eyes and ears open we may learn something. In the morning some of us can call on those brokers and see what they have to say," continued the big brother.

"Some of us? I thought we were all going?" remarked Tom.

"I've got a new plan, Tom; I'll tell you about it in the morning. Now, as there is no use of watching that room any longer, let us try to get a little sleep."

"It will be very little," murmured Sam, consulting his watch. "It is nearly five o'clock already!"

"We'll sleep until eight o'clock. Those brokers don't get to business until nearly ten."

Once more the boys retired, and, after much turning, all dropped into slumber. Dick had made up his mind to awaken at eight o'clock and promptly at that hour he opened his eyes. His brothers were still asleep and he allowed them half an hour longer, for he knew they needed it.

"Now then, Dick, what's your programme?" asked Tom, while he was dressing.

"My programme is this," answered the big brother. "Instead of the three of us calling on Pelter, Japson & Company I think one is enough-- and that ought to be me, for I have already met Mr. Pelter, once, when I came to New York with dad."

"But what do you want to leave us out for?" grumbled Sam.

"I don't want to leave you out-- I want you to be doing something else, for we have no time to lose in this matter. I want you, Sam, to come with me, and when I go into the offices, I want you to hang around outside and watch for old Crabtree. If he is in league with the brokers he may be looking for a chance to interview them, but he will be on his guard, knowing that we are here."

"What am I to do?" asked Tom.

"I think you had better go up to Central Park, Tom, and see if you can find out anything there about Crabtree. Maybe some of the night prowlers around there saw him last night. Anyway, I don't want you to be seen at the offices with me-- for I've got another plan in my head-- if this one fails," went on Dick.

"All right, Dick, we'll do what you say," was Tom's reply.

The boys went below and obtained breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Then they went to the desk, to ask for letters, and then to the telegraph office, to send a brief message to the farm.

"Have you discovered anything?" questioned the hotel manager, as he came up to them.

"Not a great deal," answered Dick. "But we hope to get on the track of something to-day."

"Hope you do. What about those two rooms?"

"We'll keep them for the present, Mr. Garley."

"All right."

"And I want you to watch out, so that no outsider gets into them," went on Dick.

"Leave that to me, Mr. Rover. My men have their instructions. We can't afford to leave our guests go unprotected."

"Good! If anybody tries to get into our rooms I want you to have him arrested and held."

"He'll be held, don't worry about that," answered the hotel manager, grimly.

A little later the three Rover boys separated, Tom walking over to Fifth Avenue, to take an auto bus going uptown, as that would land him close to the Park entrance.

"We might as well take a Broadway car down to Wall street," said Dick, to Sam. "We have plenty of time, and I don't like the air in the subway."

"I like the street cars better anyway," responded the younger brother. "A fellow can see more."

As was to be expected, the car was crowded, and the boys had to take "strap seats," as Sam called them-- standing up in the aisle, holding on to a strap to keep from falling or sitting down suddenly into somebody's lap when the car made a turn. They swept down past Union Square and block after block of tall business buildings.

"My, what a big place New York is!" remarked Sam. "It's a regular bee hive and no mistake."

"We are coming down to the Post Office," said Dick, a little later.

"Gracious! See the building opposite!" gasped Sam. "It's higher than a church steeple! Wonder how many stories it is?"

"Fifty stories," answered a young man standing beside him.

Soon the car was in lower Broadway, and the boys watched out for Wall street, that narrow but famous thoroughfare opposite Trinity church. It was soon reached, and, in company with several men and boys, they left the car.

Dick had the address of the brokers in his pocket and the place was easily found. The offices were located in an old building-- one of the oldest on the street, and also one of the shabbiest. But it was five stories in height and boasted of two elevators, and was, from appearances, filled with prosperous tenants. In Wall street rents are so high that many a person doing business there is willing to take whatever quarters he can get.

"Now you hang around in the street here until I come back," said Dick to Sam. "Keep out of sight all you can, so that if Crabtree comes along he won't see you. I'll go up and see what Pelter, Japson & Company have to say."

"How long will you be gone, Dick?"

"Not more than half an hour at the most-- and maybe not half that," responded the big brother.

Sam dropped behind and Dick entered the dingy office building. From the directory on the wall the oldest Rover boy learned that the brokers were located on the fourth floor, rooms 408 to 412,-- the numerals really meaning offices 8 to 12 on floor 4. He got into one of the narrow elevators and soon reached the fourth floor.

The offices of Pelter, Japson & Company were located in the rear, overlooking the roof of a restaurant on the street beyond. Dick entered a tiny waiting room and an office boy came to ask what he wanted.

"I wish to see Mr. Pelter," said Dick.

"Not in yet."

"When do you expect him?."

"Ought to be here now."

"Then I'll wait," and Dick dropped on a chair. He had hardly done so when the door opened and a burly individual hurried in. He gave Dick an inquiring look.

"Wants to see you, Mr. Pelter," said the office boy. "Just came in."

"Want to see me? What is it?" and the head of the brokerage firm stepped up to Dick.

"You are Mr. Pelter?"

"Yes."

"I am Richard Rover-- Anderson Rover's son."

"Ah! indeed!" cried Jesse Pelter, and gave a slight start. "Glad to meet you, Mr. Rover," and he held out his hand. "Will you-- er-- step into my office?"

He led the way through two offices to one in the extreme rear. This was well furnished, with a desk, a table, several chairs and a bookcase filled with legal-looking volumes. In one corner was a telephone booth, and a telephone connection also rested on the desk.

"I came to see about my father," said Dick, as he sat down in a chair to which the broker motioned.

"You mean, about your father's business, I suppose."

"No, about my father. Do you know where he is, Mr. Pelter ?"

"Know where he is? What do you mean? Isn't he in New York?" The broker pretended to arrange some papers on his desk as he spoke and did not look at Dick.

"He has disappeared and I thought you might know something about it."

Dick looked the man full in the face. He saw the broker start and then try to control himself.

"Well that-- er-- accounts for it," said Jesse Pelter, slowly, as if trying to make up his mind what to say.

"Accounts for what?"

"Why, he didn't come back here as he said he would."

"He has been here then?"

"Yes, a number of days ago. We had quite some important business to transact. He said he would come back the next day and sign some papers, and fix up some other matters. But he didn't come."

"Did he say he would be here sure?"

"He did. So he has disappeared? That is strange. Perhaps some accident happened to him."

"I hope not. I knew he came to New York to see you and your partners. I thought you could tell me something about him."

"I don't know any more than that he called here one day and said he would come in again the next, Mr. Rover. If he is-- er-- missing you had better notify the police,-- unless you have some idea where he went to," continued the broker.

"I have no idea further than that he came to New York to see you-- and that he came here from his hotel."

"See here! Do you mean to insinuate that we-- er-- may know where he is-- why he is missing?" demanded Jesse Pelter, sharply.

"I insinuate nothing, Mr. Pelter. But if you expected him the next day after he was here, and he didn't come, why didn't you telephone to him?"

"I-- er-- I didn't know where he was stopping. If I had known, I might have telephoned to him. Although he had a right to stay away from here if he wanted to."

"He is transacting quite some business with you, isn't he?"

"We have done quite some business together in the past, yes," answered the broker, coldly.

"And matters were not going very well, were they?" questioned Dick, sharply.

"They were going as well as could be expected."

"You owed my father a great deal of money, didn't you? "

"We did owe him something. But we don't owe him anything now. We settled up with him in full," was the reply, which filled Dick with new astonishment.