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

CHAPTER III.
NICK CARTER CONVEYS AN IMPORTANT SIGNAL.

The interview, as recorded, took place in the early evening, for the detective had arrived in Washington at six o'clock, and had repaired at once to the Arlington Hotel, where he registered and took a room under his own name, and where he made no effort at all to conceal his identity.

After that, he had taken dinner, and then, a little before eight, repaired to the White House, where the President was awaiting him.

It was half-past nine when he came out again, and walked slowly across Lafayette Square toward the hotel; and he was not surprised-in fact, he smiled rather broadly-when he noticed at once that he was followed.

As he issued from the White House grounds, he noticed that a man was loitering near the cast end of the square, and another near the western end of it. Still another had been on the White House side of the avenue and had started to walk rapidly in his direction, the instant he appeared; and through the trees in the square, he could see that there was still another, while he had not a doubt that there was one or two more around him somewhere, ready to take up the trail if they should be called upon to do so.

"Mustushimi does me too much honor," he murmured to himself. "He has probably put his best men onto me already. Good!"

He continued on his way across the square, as if he was entirely unobservant of these things, but he was keenly on the alert all the time lest one of the spies should approach too close to him and that he did not desire; for it would be an easy matter, in such a case, for one of them to stick a knife into him, or fire a bullet into his body, or attack him in some manner, before he could have an opportunity to defend himself.

But the paths across Lafayette Square are wide, and well lighted, and he could see in all directions almost as plainly as if he had been on the avenue itself; and the men who were keeping him in view remained at a respectful distance-and so, presently, he passed into the entrance of the hotel and seated himself in the office of it, having lighted a cigar.

And then, across the floor from toward the desk, there approached a certain senator from the West* who had been active in that other case to which reference was made in his talk with the President-the senator whose identity Nick had assumed for a time in order the better to work out his case at that time.

"Hello, Carter," he said, dropping into a chair near the detective, after shaking hands. "I happened to see your name on the register, and asked if it was indeed you. Finding that I was not mistaken, I have waited to see you."

"That is kind of you, senator," replied the detective.

"Fact is, I really wished to see you, Carter."

"Yes? That is kinder still."

"I wonder if I would be trespassing on private grounds if I asked why you are here, Mr. Carter? I don't want to be impertinent, but if it happens to be anything about that other affair in which we were actually interested-"

"I am assured, senator, that I may rely upon your discretion, so I will admit that it is."

"I guessed it, Carter."

"Did you? Why?"

"Because I happen to know that Mustushimi is still in the city of Washington."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Yes."

"What makes you so sure?"

"I have seen him."

"When?"

"Not an hour ago; in fact, only a few minutes before I discovered your name on the register of this hotel."

"That was rather an odd coincidence, senator," said the detective dryly.

"Yes; if it was a coincidence-which I am inclined to doubt."

"Why?"

"Because it struck me that my seeing him and hearing of your presence at the same time would argue that he was around this neighborhood because he had been told of your arrival."

"I think there is no doubt of that. Where did you see him?"

"I almost ran into him directly in front of the Lafayette Square opera house."

"At what time, if you can tell me exactly?"

"An hour and a quarter ago."

The detective nodded. He knew that it was at the time when he was with the President.

"The fact is, Carter," continued the senator, "the sight of him brought you to my mind, and I came over here at once, purposely to ascertain if you were in town, if I could do so. I saw your name on the register, and then I remained here until your return to warn you."

"To warn me of what, senator?"

"I think that fellow would put you out of business if he had half a chance, and you may be sure that he will seek the chance."

"I haven't any doubt of that."

"I hope you'll be on your guard, Carter."

"I shall try to be so."

"And, of course, if there is anything that I can do to assist you, you can command me at any time. You know that."

"Yes. Senator?"

"Well?"

"Don't you think that you stand in some danger from Mustushimi, yourself?"

"I have never thought much about it, to tell the truth."

"If you saw and recognized him in front of the operahouse, it is safe to say that he also saw and recognized you."

"Without doubt."

"And realized that you had recognized him."

"Possibly."

"And therefore set one of his men upon you to follow you and ascertain where you went. Consequently, he knew that you came here, looked at the register, found my name, and then composed yourself to await my arrival, in order that you might tell me what you knew."

"Well?"

"Also, that at this very moment, somewhere around here, he or one of his men is watching us, and one of his lip-reading experts is probably at this moment studying everything that I say."

"And what I say, as well, eh?" laughed the senator.

"Doubtless."

"Pardon me, Carter, but you are seated facing that window, exactly as if you wished the spies of that man to know what you are talking about."

"I do."

"Eh?"

"I am taking this method of warning Mustushimi that I am here after him, and that I am going to get him, too. I am taking this opportunity to send word to him, through his spy who is now reading from the motion of my lips all that I am saying, that I have no doubt that he will attempt to assassinate me in some manner so that it will appear to be an accident, but he must remember that I was not brought into the world to be put to death by such as he."

"Upon my word, Carter, you are strange tonight!"

"No. I am sending a message to Mustushimi. Out yonder, at the opposite side of Connecticut Avenue, there stands a man who looks like a Frenchman, who is one of Mustushimi's spies. He reads what I am saying now and he is getting nervous. He is only a common scoundrel, and coward at that-"

Nick broke off into a hearty laugh, and the senator stared.

"What are you laughing at?" he demanded.

"I was laughing at the fellow over there-the one I referred to."

"What did he do?"

"When he found that I was talking to him instead of to you-for that is what I was doing-he got madder and madder, and when I told him he was a coward, he shook his fist at me."

"At least, Carter, you will know him the next time you see him."

"Oh, I am not so sure of that. He is a chameleon who can change his appearance as well as his colors. A scoundrel like that, who will serve under any flag, isn't fit to live. But as you say, I think I will know him again -in fact, senator, now that I think of it, I believe that I will have an opportunity to see him close by, and to talk with him, too, presently."

"You do? How?"

"I will tell you that a little later, senator."

"Is he there yet?"

"Yes."

"I should think he would go away now that he knows he has been discovered."

"Oh, no; he knows that he would have ample time to escape, if I should leave my chair to go over there after him. He is bound to stay there as long as he can read, from the movement of my lips, what I am saying."

"But how are you going to catch him so that you can talk with him, as you suggested?"

"As I said before, I will tell you that later on. Now, let us return to yourself. We were discussing yourself a moment ago, weren't we?"

"Yes."

"I was referring to the fact that you stand in some danger, senator. I think I am correct about it too. It would be well for you to be constantly on your guard, sir."

"Oh. I am always more or less on my guard. I am not afraid."

"I know that. I merely wished to warn you."

"I was brought up in the West when it was a wild place, Carter. I have been used to danger all my life. I have faced death a great many times, and I am not going torun away from a parcel of little brown men, now."

"No; I don't think you are one of that kind."

"Besides, it is a long- a lifetime habit of mine to go around prepared."

"That is a good idea, especially under the present circumstances."

All that time Nick was looking out of the window, watching closely everything that was occurring on the opposite side of the street where he had discovered the spy standing, and watching him.

For the reader knows that Nick Carter went everywhere, prepared for all things that might happen.

The letter he had received from the President, while it had explained nothing, had nevertheless informed the detective at once what he was called to Washington for; and he had gone there prepared to take up the case in his own way.

And just at that moment, when he seemed to become somewhat abstracted, and did not pay the strict attention to the senator that he had been doing, it was because he saw one of his assistants come around the corner near the drug store and slowly approach the spot where the spy was standing.

It was Patsy, and Patsy was ready to obey any signal that his chief might choose to convey to him- for Patsy was one of three who had accompanied Nick Carter to Washington that day, coming, however, secretly, so that no one save themselves might understand that Nick had brought any one with him.

And now when Patsy appeared around the corner and approached the spot where the spy was standing, the detective leaned back in his chair and raised his arms three times over his head.

It was his signal to Patsy.


[Back]*See NICK CARTER WEEKLY, No 562.
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