The Great Spy System, or, Nick Carter's Promise to the President

CHAPTER II
NICK CARTER INVITES ASSASSINATION.

"Will you need any help from Mr. Wilkie, or from the secret service, Mr. Carter?" asked the President.

"I cannot answer that question now, sir; I do not know."

"Shall I give Mr. Wilkie my instructions about it?"

"No, sir; if you please, no. If I find that I require their assistance, I will not hesitate to ask for it, and it will be accorded me personally without a moment of hesitation."

"I have no doubt of it."

"I am on very pleasant relations with the men there, and I think it is better if you keep your own personality out of the matter, entirely."

"So do I."

"I do not think you care to have me even report to you, do you, sir?"

"No; not unless you deem it necessary."

"That is not likely to be the case. However------"

"Well?"

"I should like to know that if I do wish to see you in private for a moment, that I can get to you at any time."

"Good. I will arrange it. Let me see. Oh, I have it."

"Well, Mr. President?"

"We will use the word, 'gemis,' for a countersign. It is not a word that is likely to be made use of by another. Do you understand?"

"Yes."

"You have only to send one of the attendants, or in any way you choose. I will see you at once, no matter how I am engaged."

"Thank you."

"And when you have made use of it once we will change the word to another."

"Very good, sir. Now, a few questions, if you please."

"Any that you care to ask, Mr. Carter."

"You have reason to believe that Mustushimi is now in Washington?

"Yes."

"Why do you think so?"

"I believe that I have seen him."

"And I suppose you are still spied upon?"

"Undoubtedly; all the time."

"For any specific reason?"

"No. That other one -- the one that existed when you caught Mustushimi, and I permitted him to go, has been abandoned, for the present at least. But there are other irons in their fire, although I have no definite knowledge of what they are."

"Still, from your remarks, I take it that you have made a shrewd guess."

"I have made a guess. I don't know whether it is shrewd or not."

"Will you tell me what it is?"

"I had not intended to do so."

"I am sorry for that, Mr. President."

"You see, Mr. Carter, I may be entirely in the air about it. I may be all wrong. It is a pure and simple guess; but all the same I have thought of it as a possibility."

"I wish you would tell me exactly what you mean, sir."

"Do you remember that in that other case, the spies often picked up information which was of no direct value to them, or to their employers, and that when they did so, the news was given out so that it would be made public?"

"Yes."

"That was done, in that case, for the purpose of mystifying us, and, if possible, to frighten us."

"Yes."

"Well, it has occurred to me that they have thought of another outlet for their superfluous information; one that is possibly remunerative."

"I don't think I understand you, quite."

"Just now the railroad legislation is creating considerable agitation, as you know."

"Yes."

"And the big operators are more or less frightened by what may be done to curb them. You understand all that, do you not?"

"Yes."

"Well, let us suppose a case, then."

"Yes, sir."

"Suppose that Mustushimi is working this affair, as I think he is; suppose he has decided to shield his activities behind some local employment-or the appearance of one."

"Great, Mr. President!"

"What is more natural than that he should apply to one of the big railroad men and should say to him something like this: 'I am in a position to get you all the information you require. I am in a position to tell you, beforehand, all that the government intends to try to do in regard to railroad legislation. I will give you that information for a price, and you need not pay me until the goods are delivered. Do you think that there is one of the railroads that would not jump at the opportunity?"

"No."

"Well, Mr. Carter, that is the guess I have made which I hesitated to confide in you, only because it is nothing more than a guess. But my own opinion is that the activities of Japan, through Baron Mustushimi, are as great now as they were when you took that other case, but that now the crafty fellow is biding himself and his men behind a local employment of some kind, and is prepared to make it appear, in case he is discovered, that the other information he gets-that which is of real use to him is only the side issue, and that he is really employed by the railroads, the coal barons, the packers, the oil interests, or by some local industry which might be interested in spying upon the government."

"Mr. President, you have hit the nail squarely on the head, there."

"I have thought it, likely."

"It is the gist of the whole thing, sir."

"I am glad that you agree with me, although of course I am sorry to think that my own countrymen should deem it necessary to undertake such a thing as spying upon the government."

"Men will do strange things where their pockets are concerned."

"Or their ambitions--yes."

"I don't suppose, Mr. President, that private conversations of yours have been reported, of late, have they?"

"Not in the manner they were before, Mr. Carter ; but some of them have been reported. Of course, now that I am wise as to what was done before, I am careful not to talk where my face can be seen through a window-of course I am careful to refrain from conversations with others when I am where the motion of my lips may be observed; but you must understand that such occasions do arise, in spite of me."

"Yes."

"And so I am convinced, as I have said before, that it is Mustushimi who is behind it."

"And you have seen him?"

"I think so."

"Are there as many Japs hanging around the city as formerly?"

"I don't think so; not nearly."

"Mustushmii confessed to me, that other time, that he had two thousand of them in the country; and that there were two hundred or more in this city alone."

"Is it not possible that he has found the employment of men of other nationalities to be advisable, now?" asked the President.

"I was just thinking of that; yes, sir, it is."

"I think that you will find that to be the explanation. Mr. Carter."

"Are there any final instructions that you would like to give me, sir?"

"I can think of nothing more now."

"Does anybody know that you sent for me?"

"No. I wrote the letter myself, and dropped it into a box with my own hand."

"But of course I was seen to come here. If Mustushimi's system is anything like as perfect as it was before, he already knows that I am here."

"That, Mr. Carter, is why I showed some surprise when you came here so openly."

"I did it purposely, Mr. President."

"Why?"

"Because I guessed at once why you wished to see me, although you did not mention it in your letter--and because, now that I see I was right, I want Mustushimi to know that I am on his trail."

"That strikes me as being a new method of pursuing a secret investigation."

"It is, in one sense. But this case is different from any other."

"How so?"

"If Mustushimi has remained here, and we are practically certain that he has done so, he has hedged himself around with safeguards so perfectly that it would be difficult, if not next to impossible, to get a trace of him by ordinary methods. If he did not suspect that I was hereafter him, he would simply remain under cover as he is doing now, taking no extra precautions. But if he believes that I am after him, he will undertake some extra precautions at once, for he holds me in wholesome respect, and it is by those very precautions that I will be able to get first trace of him."

"That is an original way to look at it. Perhaps you are right. Put what do you suppose he will do, in the way of taking extra precautions?"

"I think he will try to put me out of the way," said the detective, smiling.

"Do you mean that he will attempt to assassinate you?"

"Exactly that."

"And that you purposely invite such a thing?"

"Certainly."

"But, Mr. Carter, isn't that rather foolhardy?"

"No; I don't think so. My object is to get him to show his hand. If his system is as perfect as we think it is, he knows already that I am here, and that I am holding an interview with you. He fears me, as he fears nobody else. He has had a taste of what I can do to him, I hope this does not sound like egotism. I don't mean it so."

"Not at all."

"And therefore, since I am here again, he will guess at once that you have suspected his presence and have sent for me, and he will figure it out that the only way to be safe is to get rid of me."

"But will he dare to attempt to assassinate you in the streets, or-"

"No. He will figure out to have me killed, so that my death will appear to be accidental."

"You speak of it as coolly as if you were referring to a third party."

"I am-in a sense; for he will not succeed. Forewarned is forearmed, you see. And it will be through just such an attempt as I have outlined to you, that I will be most likely to get directly upon Mustushimi's track."

"You are a strange fellow, Mr. Carter."

"Not so strange, perhaps, as you suppose. I only try to put myself in the place of the other fellow when I can, and look at what is happening from his point of view."

"All right, Mr. Carter. Conduct the matter as you please. I know that you will be successful; and that is all we desire."

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