Chapter IV. The Wolf Talks in Code.
 

"I can't tell you much about it at this time," replied Nestor. "I can only say that you ought to get out of the country immediately, and that Mexico is as good a place to go to as any other. I may be able to tell you something more after we are on our way."

"Me, too!" cried Jimmie. "Me for Mexico. You can't lose me."

"I'm sorry to say that you'll have to remain here," said Nestor, noting with regret the keen disappointment in the boy's face. "After we leave the building you must call a surgeon and see that Mr. Cameron is cared for. The surgeon will call the police if he thinks it advisable."

"The cops will geezle me," wailed Jimmie.

"I think not," was the reply; "not if you tell them the truth. Make it as easy for Fremont as you can by saying that he had been here only a minute when you came in, and that he had just entered the building. You may say, too, that we have gone out to look up a clue we found here, in the hope of discovering the assassin. Tell the truth, and they can't tangle you up."

"They can lock me up," said the boy. "I'll call a surgeon an' duck. You see if I don't. It is Mexico for mine."

"I suppose you have the price?" laughed Nestor.

"I haven't got carfare to Brooklyn," was the laughing reply, "but that don't count with me. I guess I know something about traveling without money."

Having thus arranged for the care of the unconscious man, and tried to console Jimmie for his great disappointment, Nestor and Fremont left the big building, seeing, as the latter supposed, no one on their way out. As they turned out of the Great White Way, still blazing with lights, directing their steps toward the East River, Fremont turned about and glanced with varying emotions at the brilliant scene he was leaving. He was parting, under a cloud, from the Great White Way and all that the fanciful title implied. He loved the rush and hum of the big city, and experienced, standing there in the night, a dread of the silent places he was soon to visit under such adverse conditions.

He loved the forest, too, and the plains and the mountains, but knew that the burden he was carrying away from the Cameron building would hang upon him like the Old-man-of-the-Sea until he was back in the big city again with a name free from suspicion. Nestor stood waiting while the boy took his sorrowful look about the familiar scenes.

"I know what you're thinking about," he said, as they started on again. "You're sorry to go not entirely because you love the city, but because you feel as if you were turning coward in going at all. You'll get over that as the case develops."

"I'm afraid it will be lonesome down there where we are going," said Fremont. "I had planned something very different. The Black Bears were to go along, you know, and there was to be no fugitive-from-justice business."

"Fugitive from injustice, you should say," said Nestor. "The Black Bears may come along after a time, too. Anyway, you'll find plenty of Boy Scouts on the border. I have an idea that Uncle Sam will have his hands full keeping them out of trouble."

"He'll have a nest on his hands if they take a notion to flock over the Rio Grande," replied Fremont. "It is hard to keep a boy away from the front when there are campfires on the mountains."

The two boys passed east to Second avenue, south to Twenty-third street, and there crossed the East River on the old Greenpoint ferry. Still walking east, an hour before daylight they came to a cottage in the vicinity of Newtown Creek, and here Nestor paused and knocked gently on a door which seemed half hidden by creeping vines, which, leafless at that time of the year, rattled noisily in the wind.

The door was opened, presently, by a middle-aged lady of pleasant face and courteous manner. She held a night-lamp high above her night-capped head while she inspected the boys standing on the little porch. Nestor broke into a merry laugh.

"Are you thinking of burglars, Aunty Jane?" he asked. Then he added, "Burglars don't knock at doors, Aunty. They knock people on the head."

"Well, of all things, Ned Nestor!" exclaimed the lady, in a tone which well matched her engaging face. "What are you doing here at this time of night?"

"I want to leave a friend here for the day," was the reply. "Come, Aunty, don't stand there with the lamp so high. You look like the Statue of Liberty. Let us in and get us something to eat. I'm hungry."

"I suspected it" smiled the lady. "You always come to Aunty Jane when you are hungry, or when you've got some one you are hiding. Well, come in. I'm getting used to your manners, Ned."

The boys needed no second invitation to step inside out of the cold wind. After Fremont had been presented to Aunty Jane, they were shown to the sitting-room--an apartment warmed by a grate fire and looking as neat as wax--where they waited for the promised breakfast.

"She is a treasure, Aunty Jane White," explained Nestor, as the boys watched the cold March dawn creep up the sky. "She really is my aunt, you know, mother's sister. She knows all about my love for secret service work, and lets me bring my friends here when they want to keep out of sight."

"You said something about leaving me here to-day," Fremont observed. "Why are you thinking of doing that? Why not keep together, and both get out of the city?"

"I can't tell you now," Nestor replied, a serious look on his face. "I've got something to do to-day that is so important, so vital, that I dare not mention it even to you. It does not concern your case, except that it, too, points to Mexico, but is an outgrowth from it."

"Strange you can't confide in me," said Fremont, almost petulantly.

Nestor noted the impatience in his friend's tone, but made no reply to it. He had taken a packet of letters from his pocket, and was running them thoughtfully through his hands, stopping now and then to read the postmark on an envelope.

"Do you remember," he asked, in a moment, "of seeing a tall shadow in front of the door to the Cameron suite just before we left there?"

"I did not see any shadow there," was the astonished reply. "How could a shadow come on the glass door?"

"Because some tall man, with one shoulder a trifle lower than the other, stood between the light in the corridor and the glass panel," was the reply," and his shadow was plainly to be seen. I thought you noticed it."

"Was that when you opened the door and looked out?"

"Yes; I opened the door and look out into the corridor and listened. I could hear footsteps on the staircase, but they died out while I stood there. The man was hiding in the building, for the street door was not opened, and we did not see him on the way down. I suspect that the watchman knew he was there."

"The watchman, Jim Scoby, is a rascal," replied Fremont. "I don't like him. What am I to do if you leave me alone here all day?" he added, with a sigh.

"Read, eat, sleep, and keep out of sight," was the reply. "I'll return early in the evening and we'll leave for the South at midnight."

"I wish I could communicate with the Black Bears," said Fremont.

Nestor smiled but said nothing. In a short time breakfast was served and Nestor went away. That was a long day for Fremont, although Aunty Jane endeavored to help him pass the time pleasantly. He dropped off into sleep late in the afternoon, and did not wake until after dark.

Instead of its being a long day for Nestor, it seemed a very short one. From the Brooklyn cottage he went directly to a telegraph office in the lower section of the city and asked for the manager, who had not yet arrived, the hour being early. The clerk was inquisitive and tried to find out what the boy wanted of the manager, but Nestor kept his own counsel and the manager was finally reluctantly sent for.

When the manager arrived Nestor asked that an expert code operator be procured, and this was reluctantly done, but only after the boy had written and sent off a message to a man the manager knew to be high in the secret service department of the government. In an hour, much to the surprise of the manager, this important gentleman walked into the office and asked for the boy.

After a short talk there, the two went to a hotel and secured a private room, and two clerks familiar with code work were sent for. When a waiter, in answer to a call, looked into the room he was astonished at seeing the four very busy over a packet of letters.

Then, in a short time, code messages began to rain in on the manager. They were from Washington, from the Pacific coast, and from various forts scattered about the country. The manager confided to his wife when he went home to luncheon that it seemed to him as if another war was beginning. All the military offices in the country seemed talking in code, he said.

"What has this boy you speak of got to do with military operations?" asked the wife, wondering at a lad of Nestor's age being mixed up in a state affair.

"That is what I don't know," was the reply. "He came to the office this morning and sent for me, as you know. When I met him he asked for a code expert and wired to the biggest man in this military division. Then the code work began."

It was late in the evening when Nestor returned to the cottage and announced himself ready for the southern trip. Fremont, who had been impatiently awaiting his arrival, was eager to know the status of the Cameron case.

"Mr. Cameron is alive, but unconscious," was the unsatisfactory reply. "The police ordered him taken to a hospital and his people summoned. It is said that Mrs. Cameron is very bitter against you."

"That's because I ran away," Fremont said, gravely. "What about Jim Scoby?"

"The watchman has disappeared," was the reply. "He left with a Mexican called Felix who occupied a room in the building. The police are after them."

"And of course they are looking for me--egged on by Mrs. Cameron?"

"There is a reward of $10,000 offered for the arrest of the guilty party," was the unsatisfactory reply, "and the police officers are raking the city to find any one who was in the building last night."

"Did they arrest Jimmie McGraw?" asked Fremont, hoping that the bright little fellow had not been placed in prison.

"Jimmie ran away, just as he said he would, called a surgeon and left the building before he arrived. The police followed him to a room where members of the Wolf Patrol meet occasionally, but he was not there. The boys who were there, night messengers and the like, who had dropped in before going home, said that he had gone South. I met a boy named Frank Shaw, and he said the Black Bears were getting ready to do something for you, though he would not say what it was."

"Good old Frank!" exclaimed Fremont.

"The Black Bears are loyal," Nestor went on, "and so are the Wolves. We may hear from both patrols after we cross the Rio Grande."

"I wish some of them were going with us," said Fremont, with a sigh.

"If I am not mistaken," Nestor said, with a frown, "we'll have plenty of company on the way down. We may not see our traveling companions, but they will be close at hand."

"Do you mean that the police will trail us to Mexico?" asked Fremont.

"I don't know," was the reply. "I give it up. There are others beside the police to reckon with. Well, we'll see what Boy Scouts can do to protect a friend who is in trouble."