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

CHAPTER V.
NICK CARTER'S STRATEGIC PREPARATIONS.

As they stepped down from the entrance to the hotel upon the pavement, the detective said to the senator:

"You must have your nerve with you now."

"That is all right, Carter. I've got it. I always take it with me," was the quiet reply.

"I am purposely seeking to be followed. That is part of my present object, senator."

"I understand that."

"And at any moment we may be attacked from behind. Do you realize that?"

"Yes."

"Or be shot at from behind, which is worse."

"It isn't pleasant to contemplate, but all the same it is not the first time in my life when I have been in that predicament."

"I have no doubt of that."

"How far do we walk?"

"Approximately, two miles. In other words, to A Street northeast."

"Near the Capitol?"

"Not very far from it."

"Do we go to a house there?"

"Yes; there is a house there which I am making use of for this occasion. There is another one behind it which fronts upon the avenue. The two come almost together at the rear. I shall make use of both houses before we finish."

"I begin to guess at your plans a little."

"Possibly."

They turned east through H Street, but at Fourteenth they turned south to the avenue.

"This will be rather nearer," said the detective, "and, besides, you will be in less danger, senator."

"Are you considering me only, in this?" asked the statesman.

"I am certainly considering you. I don't want a dead or a wounded senator on my hands, to-night."

"It would make you a lot of bother, wouldn't it, Carter?" chuckled the senator.

"Yes. And annoy me as well. Now, have you noticed that we are followed?"

"No; and although I haven't exactly looked backward, I have been trying to discover if we were followed. I haven't done so yet."

"Did you notice those two men walking ahead of us, who continued on down H Street, when we turned into 14th?"

"Yes."

"They were part of the system. They will turn down 13th or 12th to the avenue. There are others behind us, to follow."

"May I look back?"

"Certainly."

"You don't care, then, if they know that you are onto them?"

"Not in the least. This is a case where I am playing in the open, and where my men are doing the secret work."

"I see four men following us," said the senator, after a moment. "Two are on this side of the street, and two are on the opposite side."

"And two more have gone around another way, while it is safe to say that there are at least two other somewhere else, ready to take up the trail or to lend a hand at any moment."

"They certainly do the thing up brown, Carter; placing eight men on our trail."

"Mustushimi realizes that he has got to get me to-night, or never."

They turned into Pennsylvania Avenue.

"They will hardly attempt it here," said the senator. "There are too many men along the avenue."

"Oh, I don't think they will attempt it at all until later in the night. They would infinitely prefer to trail us to some house, and then break into it. They are aware that one of their spies has mysteriously disappeared, and they suspect that I have somehow captured him, even if they do not know it. If they saw the fellow that Patsy hit, when he was knocked down and saw him taken away in the carriage, they have had difficulty in locating the place to which he was taken, and now they are relying upon us to take them there."

"I see. And that is precisely what you are doing."

"It is what I appear to be doing."

"Then you are not going there?"

"Yes."

"You are too complicated for me, Carter. I don't understand what you mean."

"I have already said that there are two houses there, haven't I?'

"Yes."

"One fronting on the street, and the other on the avenue."

"Yes; with the rear end of them almost together."

"Well, when Patsy hit the spy, Danny-who was probably the one who was in the carriage-grabbed him, pulled him inside, closed the door, and the carriage drove away. It went straight to the house in A Street. Understand that?"

"Perfectly."

"Chick would be waiting there for it to arrive, for it was previously arranged that we were to capture one of the spies, no matter which one, and that the man was to be taken there. See that?"

"Yes."

"Well, the carriage would drive up directly to the house in question, in A Street, and without a single attempt to avoid being followed. Chick, watching for its arrival, would rush out and help Danny carry the man inside-and the driver would go on about his business."

"Well?"

"When Chick and Danny got the man inside the house, if he was unconscious, they let him remain so, and if he was not, they made him so."

"With chloroform; eh?"

"Probably."

"And then-"

"Then they carried him through to the house in the avenue-"

"Oh! I see!"

"No, you do not. Wait a minute."

"Well."

"They would carry him through to the house on the avenue, and out of it again-"

"By the front door! I see, I see!"

"Where the carriage they had left in front of the other house would already be in waiting."

"Jingo! What a plan!"

"And then Mr. Spy would be taken by one of the lads straight to another place, where I intend to interview him presently."

"Then you are not going to the house in A Street now?"

"Yes, I am. I want to convince those who are following us that that house is our headquarters for this affair."

"While all the time the man they seek, the man you took prisoner, is somewhere else, where they cannot find him."

"Exactly."

"Then of what further use to you is the house in A Street, and the one behind it, as well?"

"That is where I propose to make my final capture."

"Carter, this is better than a play at a theater. You have arranged it all so splendidly that it is precisely of that sort, you know. But the thing that puzzles me most, is how you could have arranged those houses for your purposes, at such short notice-and still have another house to which you, could take your prisoner."

"All that is merely accidental," replied the detective.

"Accidental? How so?"

"I have been making some investments in real estate lately," replied the detective, "and I happened to purchase those two houses some time ago. They were in frightful repair, so that I was obliged to rip them practically to pieces, before I could hope to get tenants to take them."

"I see. And now they are in process of repair; eh?"

"No. They are finished, but have not been let, as yet. I remembered that fact when I saw the necessity of having some such place to go to on this trip here, and wired ahead to the agent that I did not want them shown any more until after I had inspected them. Then I instructed one of my assistants to obtain the keys, and to make the other arrangements that I wished attended to. It will help you to understand how all this has been possible when I tell you that Chick has been in the city since six o'clock this morning."

"I am beginning to understand you now."

"The house that backs up against the one in A Street is a mansion. It is a very fine residence, and I have made it an elegant one. Among other things, I have installed a complete wiring of electricity. I may make some use of that before morning. I don't know."

"But I say, Carter?"

"Well?"

"If your prisoner is not here-at the house in A Street-why are you going there now?"

"Because one of my assistants is there, awaiting me, and I want to hear his report. Also because he was followed there, and those who followed him doubtless believe that their captured friend is a prisoner inside. Because the house may have been approached already, by some of Mustushimi's spies. Because it is necessary that I should go there before I attempt to interview the captured spy-and, finally, because it is there, in one of those houses, where I expect to bring all this affair to a climax, and I wish to be assured, by personal examination, that everything is in readiness."

They were well down the avenue now, toward the Capitol, and when they arrived at the Capitol grounds, instead of crossing them, they swung around the corner and walked up B Street.

All the while they were trailed by the men who had followed them from the hotel; and the detective noticed that the "shadows" seemed to take very little pains to conceal the fact that they were on the track.

This pleased him, for it told of overconfidence on the part of Mustushimi, who could not be far off himself, since this affair was of the utmost importance to him.

The capture of his spy had assured him that Nick Carter had come there prepared to meet him on his own grounds, and made him think that Nick was taking the initiative at once, as he really was, although in reality he was forcing Mustushimi to do the same.

It was a battle in the open, this one, and Nick Carter, at least, was enjoying it hugely.

As they swung around the corner toward A Street, at the east side of the Capitol grounds, the detective said to his companion:

"Now, senator, when we approach the house, be ready."

"For what?"

"For anything that may happen."

"What do you think is likely to happen, Carter?"

"That is impossible to tell, but it is not unlikely that they will try to rush us at the moment when we attempt to enter the house. The street will be practically deserted at this hour, and there is no telling what they will seek to do. Be ready."

"I'll be ready. Don't fear about me, Carter."

And then they approached the house together.

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