Chapter XVI. More Discoveries
 

"You settled up with him in full?" gasped Rick.

"Yes-- some time ago."

"Not for that stock in the Sunset Irrigation Company."

"I was not talking about the Irrigation Company. That is another affair. Your father was to see us about that on the morning when he-- er-- when he failed to come here. I-- er-- I thought he had gone back home to get certain documents which he stated he did not have with him."

"And you haven't seen or heard of him since?"

"Not a word, Mr. Rover-- I give you my word."

"Did he leave any of his papers with you when he was here last?"

"No." Jesse Pelter took up the telephone on his desk. "Give me 2345 River!" he said to Central. He turned to Dick. "You will have to excuse me, Mr. Rover, I have some important business to transact."

"It isn't as important as finding my father,". answered Dick, bluntly.

"I do not know how I can aid you."

"Perhaps you don't care to try," returned Dick, pointedly, as he arose.

"What do you mean?" demanded the broker, and hanging up the telephone receiver, he, too, arose.

"Never mind what I mean, Mr. Pelter. If you will give me no aid, I'll find my father alone," and having thus spoken, Dick marched from the offices, leaving the broker staring after him curiously.

"Hum! Looks like a smart young man!" murmured Jesse Pelter, to himself. "And I thought Anderson Rover's boys were all school kids! This lad has grown up fast. I wonder what he'll do next? I guess I had better keep my eye on him."

When Dick reached the street he saw nothing of Sam. He looked up and down, and then walked slowly in the direction of Broadway. On the corner he came to a halt.

"He must be somewhere around," he mused. "Perhaps I'd better go back and wait for him."

"Dick!" The cry came from Sam, as he arrived on a run. "Did you learn anything?"

"Not much. But you look excited, Sam. What's up?"

"I think I saw Crabtree!"

"You did! Where? Why didn't you collar him?"

"I didn't get the chance," returned the youngest Rover, answering the last question first. "It was on the corner below here. I was standing in a doorway, watching up and down, when I saw a tall man come along slowly. He halted at the corner and presently another man came out of the side street and touched him on the arm. The second man wore a heavy beard and a slouch hat and colored eyeglasses, but I am almost sure it was Josiah Crabtree."

"Why didn't you go up and make sure? You could have pulled the beard from his face-- if it was false."

"Just what I thought. But I decided that first I would listen to what the two men had to say. When I got closer to the pair I made another discovery.

"What was that."

"The first man had a pointed chin and the heaviest pair of eyebrows I ever saw."

"What!" ejaculated Dick, and his mind ran back to the jail at Plankville, and to what had been said about the man who had visited Josiah Crabtree. And then he thought of the mysterious automobile and its driver.

"Yes, I know what you think, Dick-- and I think the same-- that that man was the one who aided Crabtree to escape from jail," said Sam.

"What did the men say, Sam?"

"I didn't get a chance to listen. As I was coming up I saw the first man give the second man some money. Then the second man looked up and saw me, and shoving the money into his pocket, he dove across the street and into the crowd. That made me feel sure it was Crabtree, and I ran after him pell-mell. I followed him for about half a block. But the crowd was too much for me, and he got away. I was going to tell a policeman, but then I thought he couldn't do any more than I could, and I made up my mind I'd wait for you."

"What became of the other fellow-- the man with the pointed chin?"

"I don't know. He went off somewhere while I was after Crabtree-- if it was Crabtree," answered Sam.

"Show me which way Crabtree went," said Dick, and the brothers walked in the direction the fugitive had taken. But, though they spent over an hour in looking for the man, not a trace of him could be found.

"Well, this proves one thing anyway," said Dick, as he and Sam started on the return to the hotel. "Crabtree is in league with Pelter, Japson & Company. If he wasn't, he wouldn't show himself so close to their offices."

"Just what I think," returned his brother. "And another thing, Dick; I think that man with the pointed chin is in with the brokers, too."

"More than likely. For all we know he may be one of the firm!" went on Dick suddenly. "Wait, I've got an idea. I think I'll go back to those offices."

"And see if the man with the pointed chin is there?"

"Yes."

"All right. Want me to go back, too?"

"You might hang around as you did before. I don't know of anything else to do."

The boys walked back, and while Sam stationed himself in the street Dick walked into the office building which he had before visited. He was just in time to see a boy come from the elevator, some letters in his hand.

"Their office boy," he thought. "Maybe I can get something out of him."

He walked up to the youth and nodded pleasantly.

"You're the boy from Pelter, Japson & Company, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yep," was the laconic reply.

"I want to find a man connected with your concern-- I don't know his name," continued Dick. "He has a pointed chin and very heavy eyebrows."

"Oh, you mean Mr. Japson," said the boy, quickly.

"Is that Mr. Japson?" repeated Dick, scarcely able to suppress his astonishment.

"Sure it is. He's got a very long chin, and his eyebrows is so heavy they come right down over his eyes. I don't see why he don't cut 'em off some-- I would quick enough," went on the office boy.

"Is Mr. Japson in the offices now?"

"No."

"Are you sure of that? He was coming down."

"I know it. But he just telephoned to Mr. Pelter that he couldn't come-- something important,"

"How long ago was this?"

"Oh, just a couple of minutes ago."

"Is Mr. Pelter there yet?"

"No, he went out as soon as he got the message. Nobody there but a clerk."

"When will Mr. Pelter be back?"

"I dunno-- maybe not till late-- or maybe not till to-morrow," answered the office boy, and hurried away.

In a thoughtful mood Dick rejoined Sam, and the pair this time hurried to the subway, to get a train uptown.

"I've found out who the second man was," said the oldest Rover boy. "It was Japson, of Pelter, Japson & Company. Sam, I begin to think this is some deep game. This fellow Japson aided Crabtree to escape from the Plankville jail and in return Crabtree is aiding these brokers in their efforts to get the best of father!"

"If we can prove that, we ought to have the brokers arrested."

"But we can't prove it, absolutely. But I am convinced that I am right. The office boy told me that Japson telephoned to Pelter that he could not come in. More than likely Japson was afraid you would be on guard and spot him. As soon as Japson telephoned in Pelter went out-- most likely to meet his partner."

"And maybe to hunt up Crabtree, Dick."

"Perhaps."

"But what of father?" went on the youngest Rover, anxiously.

"I can't answer that question, Sam. But it is going to be answered sooner or later-- if I have to have all those men arrested. I am certain in my own mind that they are responsible for dad's disappearance. They got him out of the way so that they could get the best of him in that Sunset Irrigation Company scheme."

"I think we ought to watch the men and see where they go."

"So do I. But, now they know we are on guard, they will be very careful."

"Do you think they had father abducted?"

"That is just what I do think. If you'll remember, that is one of Crabtree's favorite tricks. He would not dare to put father out of the way-- take his life, I mean-- and that would be the only other thing he could do."

"Where could they take him to, in such a city as this?"

"Oh, there are a dozen places-- empty stores and basements, vacant flats and apartments. And then they may have taken him away from New York, in an automobile, or on some vessel in one of the rivers."

"I'd give a good deal to know where he is now!" cried Sam, bitterly.

"So would I, Sam. Well, we'll do what we can," added Dick, with determination.

It did not take the boys long to return to the Outlook Hotel. They looked around for Tom, but he was not in sight. However, he arrived a few minutes later. His face showed that his quest had been an unsuccessful one.

"I talked to everybody around that end of Central Park," he said. "One man saw Crabtree, but he couldn't tell where the rascal went to. Did you learn anything?"

"We did," answered Dick. "Come on to dinner and we'll tell you."

While the three ate a hasty midday meal, Dick and Sam told of their discoveries. Tom listened with interest.

"I think you are right!" he cried. "Crabtree is in with the brokers, and the whole bunch is a bad one. I think they are holding dad a prisoner somewhere. The question is, Where? And how can we get to him and rescue him?"

"We might watch those offices," suggested Sam. "But those fellows will be on guard, and we may not learn anything for days and days."

"We could have them arrested," suggested Tom. "But it won't do any good without positive evidence."

"There is something about this whole affair that I can't understand," said Dick. "That man Pelter claims that he settled up with father for everything excepting this Irrigation Company project. Father never told me that he settled up-- and I think he would have said something if it was so."

The three boys talked the affair over from every possible standpoint, but could arrive at no satisfactory conclusion. All were sorry that they had not captured Josiah Crabtree.

"Let me get my hands on him and I'll make him tell what has become of dad," said Dick.

The meal concluded, they went up to their rooms, to talk the matter over further.

"I suppose Aunt Martha and Uncle Randolph are as anxious, almost, as we are," said Sam. "Hang the luck! I wish old Crabtree was back in jail, and Pelter, Japson & Company were with him!"

There was a knock on the door and a boy appeared with a telegram. It was addressed to Dick.

"Maybe it's from dad!" cried Sam and Tom, in a breath.

Dick tore open the envelope and read the message rapidly. His brow darkened and he shook his head slowly.

"What does it say?" asked Sam.

"Who it is from?" added Tom.

"It is from Uncle Randolph," answered Dick. Listen!" And he read as follows:

"Important news. Your father's signature demanded on important documents inside of three days, or great financial loss and dishonor to all of us.

"Randolph Rover."