Chapter VI. Two Black Bears in Trouble.
 

Left alone in his room by the departure of Nestor, Fremont busied himself for a time with the newspapers which his friend had brought in. On the first page of the evening newspaper he found the source of Nestor's information concerning the movements of the police.

The story, under a New York date line, was highly colored, the reporter taking advantage of every strange happening to bring in paragraphs of what he doubtless termed "local color." From first to last, every clue was bent and twisted so as to point to the guilt of the boy. It seemed that some cunning enemy was directing the reporters.

It was stated that Fremont had been seen in the building earlier in the evening, and that the night watchman had "reluctantly" admitted that he had heard high words passing between Mr. Cameron and his employe. The interview with the watchman had taken place on the very night of the crime. Since that time, the newspaper said, no one had seen him in New York, at least no one who would admit knowledge of his movements to the police.

On the whole, the newspaper made out a pretty good case against the boy, and Fremont was pleased to think that he had taken the advice of his friend and left the city. If he had not done so, he would now be in the Tombs, he had no doubt.

After a time he tossed the paper aside and began walking up and down his room, anxious for Nestor's return, anxious for a breath of mountain air--for the freedom of the high places, for the sniff of a camp-fire. It was then that he heard a footstep at his door.

He turned the lights down and waited, his hand on a weapon which had been given him by Nestor. Then the door was opened softly and an arm clad in khaki was thrust through the narrow opening. Fremont waited, but no face followed the arm into view. Then, approaching nearer, he saw something on the sleeve which sent the hopeful blood surging through his veins. It was the badge of the Black Bear Patrol, and beneath it was the Indian arrow-head badge of the Boy Scouts. With a shout he caught at the door and threw it open. There, with a delightful smile on his broad face, stood Frank Shaw.

Fremont seized his chum about the neck and dragged him into the room, where the hugging and pulling about rivaled the efforts of real black bears. Then Fremont closed and locked the door and dropped into a chair, eyeing his friend as if he would like to devour him, black bear fashion.

"You didn't expect to see me here, did you?" asked Frank.

"I should say not. How did you know where to find me? When did you leave New York? How is Mr. Cameron? Tell me all about everything."

"When you get done asking questions," cried Frank. "First, Ned Nestor told me where to look for you. He told some of the others, too, but I reckon they got lost on the way down. I've been waiting for you half a year--it seems to me--a whole day, any way. And that reminds me that you've got to beat it."

"And how is Mr. Cameron? Is he conscious yet?"

"Not yet, and they say he can't live. Say, I came down here to enlist as drummer, so I could get a stand-in with the army fellows, and, what do you think, they wouldn't enlist me! Said I was too short and fat. Me short and fat! I'm going to write up that recruiting officer and have Dad publish him to the world."

"There is a lot of talk about the case?" asked Fremont.

"Of course there is," was the reply. "But what do you think about that recruiting officer? He ought to be pinched. Me too short and fat! Ever hear me drum?"

"Only once," was the reply. "Then the boys held me while you drummed."

"Never you mind that," Frank replied. "I'm going to tell you now that you've got to beat it. Understand? You've got to get out right away--not to-morrow, but now."

"Yes, I know the police are after me," said Fremont, gravely. "There is some one who is keeping them posted as to our movements. It appears to me that this crime was directed against me as well as against Mr. Cameron. What are you going to do now?"

"Do?" demanded the other. "Do? I'm going to stay here and fight for you. What else could I do? And I'm going to write to father and tell him all about the case, and say you are innocent, and he'll show the other newspapers where to head in at."

"We've got to get the proof first," said Fremont. "The case looks dark for me," Fremont added with a sigh. "Nestor will soon be here, and he'll be glad to see you."

"I hope he'll come before the police, do," said Frank. "I'll tell you, old man, that they're hot after that reward. They know you're in this hotel. I don't doubt that they know the room you're in. You've got to beat it, I tell you."

"I've got to wait for Ned Nestor," said Fremont.

"Say," said Shaw, "do you know who it is that brought you here?"

"Ned Nestor, of course."

"But do you know who he is? He's the best amateur detective in the world. He's always looking for a chance to help those accused of crime. Even the high police officers of New York ask him to look into cases for them. Some day he'll be at the head of the United States secret service department. You see. He'll get you through if any one can. Leave it to him. Here's some one coming now. Perhaps it is Ned."

But it was not Ned, for there were noises in the hall, just beyond the door, which indicated a struggle, and then a sharp voice called out:

"Cut it out, youse feller! Cut it out, or I'll bring out me educated left. Let me alone, I say. I ain't no tramp."

Both boys recognized the voice, and Fremont hastened to unlock the door. When it was opened the second surprise of the evening confronted the fugitive. Jimmie McGraw stood in the hall threatening an angry waiter with his clenched fists. Although the boy was small, and no match for the waiter, he was exceedingly nimble, and the waiter was unable to lay hands on him.

"He's tryin' to throw me out," exclaimed Jimmie, grinning at sight of the boys. "Tell him it is all right."

"We are expecting the boy," Fremont said. "Kindly let him alone."

"I'm ordered to throw him out of the hotel," roared the waiter. "He's a tramp."

Fremont pacified the fellow with a silver offering and, drawing Jimmie inside of the room, closed the door. Then the three boys, looking from one to the other, broke out in uproarious laughter. For Jimmie was a sight to behold. His clothing was torn, and his hands and face looked as if they had never seen water.

"How did you get down here?" asked Fremont, after a moment. "I left you in New York, to look after that end of the Cameron case."

"Huh!" exclaimed the boy. "You didn't take the railroad iron up with you when you came down, did you? Nor yet you didn't lock up the side-door Pullmans. I got fired as second assistant to the private secretary to the scrubwoman, 'cause she got pinched, so I came on down here to help Uncle Sam keep the border quiet."

"They won't let you drum," interrupted Fatty. "You're too short."

"I don't want to drum," was the indignant reply. "I want to get over into Mexico an' live in the mountains. Say, if you boys have any mazuma, just pass it out. I'm hungry enough to eat the Statue of Liberty in the harbor."

"I'm hungry, too," said Frank Shaw.

"I knew it," observed Jimmie. "Come on. Let's go out and eat."

"Wait," said Frank, "there's something doing here. Fremont's got to get out of this room right away and I'll go with him. There is a window we can climb out of. When we get out I'll plant Fremont somewhere and circle back here with some provisions for you. Understand?"

"Me for the hike out of the window, too," said Jimmie. "I see myself waitin' here for you to come back with grub after you get your share. You'll come back--not."

"Sure I'll come back," replied Frank. "Besides, some one's got to stay here. You for the bed, Jimmie," he added, with a sudden smile on his face, brought out, doubtless, by the arrival of a brilliant idea, "you for the bed, and if the cops come here you're the boy that has the room --see?" And there ain't no other boy that you know of. That will keep them guessing. They'll think they've been following the wrong kid, and we'll all get across the Rio Grande before they wake up. You for the bed, Jimmie."

But Jimmie held back, saying that he did not feel in need of a bed, but did feel in need of a square meal. But the boys, laughing at the wry faces and savage speeches he made, helped him off with his clothes, turned out the lights, and dropped out of the window into an alley which ran, one story below, at the rear of the hotel.

They were none too soon in concluding their arrangements, for as they lit on the ground below a heavy knock came on the door of the room they had just left. As they slipped off in the darkness they heard Jimmie doing a pretty good imitation of a snore.

"Say," Fremont said, as they drew up on a street corner after a short run, "they'll arrest Jimmie. If the cops ask the waiters, they'll soon know that there were others in that room, and they'll arrest him for obstructing an officer. I wish we had brought him with us. Poor Jimmie!"

"He'll get out of it in some way," laughed Frank. "They won't hold him long if they do pinch him. Anyway, we want him around there to meet Nestor when he comes back. He'll tell some cock-and-bull story that will put him to the good with the cops."

But Fremont was not so sure of the resourcefulness of Jimmie, and worried over the matter not a little as they walked the streets, quieting down now, for the soldiers had been called back to camp and the citizens of the town were seeking their homes and beds. As for Frank, he was talking most of the time of the supper he was hoping to get before long. The boys did not care to enter a conspicuous restaurant, and so they chose an obscure eating house on a side street.

At first glance the place seemed without customers as they entered, and the boys were glad to have the room to themselves, but as soon as they were seated two men came in and took seats at a table not far away from their own. The men were dusky fellows, with long hair and sharp black eyes. They ordered sparingly, as if they cared little for food, and, after glancing furtively around the room, spent their time in whispered conversation.

Fremont thought he saw something familiar in one of the men, and kept his eyes on his face until the coarse features, the sullen grin, became associated in his mind with the Cameron building in New York. It did not seem possible that this could be true, yet there was a face he had seen in the corridors of the great building, and every moment the identification was becoming more definite.

"Ever see that man before?" he asked of Frank, nudging the boy and pointing with his fork, held so low down that it could not be seen by the others.

"I'm sure I have," was the reply. "He was at the hotel when I went upstairs to your room," Frank went on. "I remember now."

Before anything more could be said the two men arose and approached the table where the boys sat. Railing at the adverse fate which had brought him in contact with this man after a successful flight from the New York police, Fremont arose and darted toward the door. He gained the doorway before the other could seize him, and there turned to look back.

Shaw had not been so fortunate in escaping the grasp of the Mexican, for such he appeared to be. When Fremont looked back the fellow was trying his best to throw the boy to the floor, while his companion stood by with clenched fists. The boy was about to turn back to the assistance of him chum when he saw with joy that this would not be necessary.