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

CHAPTER VI.
NICK CARTER'S NARROW ESCAPE FROM A KNIFE.

They turned through the gateway in front of the house almost together, for Nick forced the senator a little in advance of him as they arrived at it, and then pushed him forward, for already he had heard the patter of running feet on the pavement behind him, and knew because of the sound that some person was running on his toes, in order to approach as silently as possible.

As the detective pushed the senator forward he turned himself to face the approaching foe; and just as he did so, saw the man raise his arm as if to throw something.

Nick dodged, for he suspected what it was, and at that instant the gleam of a knife-blade, as it whizzed past him, told him that a knife had been thrown.

But the detective had prepared himself for an emergency of this sort, for he knew-or, rather, had known that he would not wish to shoot, and that, nevertheless, he would be likely to need some weapon that he could throw.

And now, as the man raised his arm again, to cast the second knife-knife-throwers always carry a pair of them -the detective drew back his own hand quickly and let fly a small stone which was one of several he had put into his pockets for the purpose.

And the pebble-it was scarcely more than that-went true to its aim ; it struck the man fairly in the middle of his forehead, so that he fell like a stricken bullock, and the knife he had been about to hurl clattered to the brick pavement noisily.

Instantly the detective turned, and , seizing the senator by the arm, hurried him up the steps of the house.Neither of them ran, but they almost did so ; and even as they reached the top of the steps the spiteful crack of a pistol told them that their enemies were determined.

But the door was opened for them when they reached it, and they sprang inside, whereupon it was instantly closed again, and in the light of the hall Chick stood facing them smilingly.

"Rather a close call, wasn't it?" he asked calmly.

"It's all right," replied Nick instantly. "Neither of us were touched, although if I had not turned at the right moment one of use would have had a knife in our flesh, somewhere."

"How many are out there?" asked Chick.

"Six, at least; probably more, Chick," was the reply.

"Where is Patsy?"

"Oh, he is chasing our own trailers along, somewhere, keeping tabs. He will show up at the right moment. Who was that in the back, when the spy was captured? You, or Danny?"

"Danny. I was waiting here. He said that Patsy gave him a nice one, and I reckon he did, for the fellow only came around to his senses after we got him here, in the house."

"You took him away again, didn't you?"

"Certainly. According to orders. He is over in the southwest section by this time."

"That is as it should be. Who is with him?"

"I told Danny to stay there. I did not think we would need him here."

"Quite right. Have the spies attempted to get into this house, since the man was brought here?"

"Have they? They have made all sorts of excuses, and at last they threatened. And just now, a moment before you appeared, I think they were contemplating rushing the door," replied Chick, with a grin.

"Good!" ejaculated the detective. "We will make ready for them, and then they can rush it as soon as they please-that is, if you have perfected all the arrangements I told you to fix," he added.

"Everything is ready," said the assistant.

"Did you call upon Major Sylvester, at police headquarters, as well?"

"Sure."

"And he agreed?"

"Yes. He was a trifle slow about it at first. Said it wasn't exactly right to leave the street unguarded even for a little while, when there would be such a row going on, but I assured him that nobody would be in any danger but ourselves, and that we could take care of that part of it. I finally succeeded in assuring him that it was really for the good of the nation that you should have your way for to-night, and he consented at last that there should not be a cop within blocks of here after ten o'clock. I assumed all the responsibility."

"Good!" said the detective. Then he turned to the senator and explained.

"You see, senator," he said, "I wanted things arranged so that Mustushimi would have a free hand for to-night. I wanted this part of the street left unguarded, so that finding it so, they would not hesitate to resort to extreme measures; and that is what they will do. By the way, Chick, let me introduce you. This is 'The senator from the West.' That is the only name we know him by, for the present."

"That is enough for me," said Chick, grasping his hand. "I have heard all about you, sir, from my chief, who has told me about that other affair."

"Let me understand things," said the senator, turning to Nick again. "Do you mean that the chief of police has withdrawn the regular police guard from this part of the street, for to-night?"

"For the first part of the night-yes."

"But why?"

"So that Mustushimi may discover that no police are near him. He will send out his men to find out about that. If there was a policeman in the way, he would doubtless attack him. But, finding none, he will assume that the officer has left his post without leave, and will go ahead with his own plans, leaving a guard to watch for the arrival of the officer."

"And what will he attempt to do, do you think?"

"He means to get inside this house, if he can do it; by force, if it cannot be accomplished in any other way."

"But what for? How will it benefit him to get in here?"

"He wants to recapture his spy, before that spy has a chance to make a full confession to me; but more than that, he wants to capture me."

"I see."

"And now he knows that I am here-more than that, he knows that you are with me, and I have no doubt that he has suddenly discovered that you are about as dangerous to him as I am."

"Hardly that."

"He will be likely to think so, at any rate."

"There are no noises outside the house now."

"No."

"What do you suppose they are doing?"

"Reconnoitering."

"Eh? For what?"

"Looking to see if there is danger of interruption by the police. By the way, Chick, have you got anybody in the other house, to keep guard there?"

"Yes. I've got Gordon, of the secret service. I ran across him this morning. He said he had a day off, and I told him something of our plans. He volunteered to assist me, and I took him up. He is over there now, in the other house, keeping watch out of the front windows."

"Good. I think you had better go over there, Chick. it would not be surprising if Mustushimi tumbled to the fact that there are two houses in this affair. He is smart enough to guess that, when he remembers how closely the two streets come together right here."

"I think he has suspected it already."

"Do you? Why?"

"He has posted two men in front of it. He is in doubt, however, and won't attempt any breaking in on that side until he is certain. It wouldn't do for him to disturb peaceable citizens, and you could never tell from the outside that the house is unoccupied."

"I see. Well, go over there and find out what Gordon has to say, and when you have done that, return here."

As soon as Chick departed, the senator, who was insatiable with his questions, turned to the detective again.

"I am worried about that other assistant of yours," he said.

"Who? Patsy?"

"Yes."

"What about him?"

"Well, so far as I was able to determine, the city of Washington is just about swarming with spies in the service of that scoundrel Mustushimi, and if some of them saw your man Patsy strike the spy whom you caught, isn't it just possible that they have taken after him, and captured him?"

"Patsy isn't an easy mark for people of that sort," replied the detective, smiling.

"Granted; but all the same there are so many of them that Patsy might have fallen into their hands, you know."

"I don't think so, senator."

"Where do you suppose he is now?"

"Outside there, somewhere."

"What? Among those fellows who are about to attack us?"

"No; but keeping watch over them. Don't worry about Patsy. He knows how to take care of himself as well as anybody I ever knew. He'll turn up all right, at the moment when he is least expected, and therefore probably will be the most wanted."

"Carter, do you really think that those fellows will have the nerve to attack this house while we are in it?"

"I do."

"What are you going to do to defend it?"

"Nothing at all."

"What?"

"Nothing at all. I am almost inclined to leave the door open for them to enter, only if I did that it would make them suspicious."

"Do you mean that you are going to let them get inside without offering any resistance?"

"Yes."

"Why, for goodness sake?"

"Because they will discover all the resistance they will care to meet after they have entered."

"Oh! You mean to fix yourself to fight them, then, eh?"

"I don't really think we will have to do any fighting at all, senator."

"I suppose you have prepared another puzzle for me to solve, eh?"

"Not necessarily. Do you remember that when I was telling you about these two houses, I told you that I had had the other one wired thoroughly for electricity?"

"Yes. What has that to do with it?"

"I will tell you. When I thought of using these houses, I naturally remember that fact about the wiring, for it has just been done. When I reemerge that, it reminded me of something that I did years ago, in my house in New York."

"What was that?"

"There was a band of thirteen men who had formed together and taken a some oath to do me up; to murder me, in short. well, I got onto their schemes, and I managed to find out what night had been fixed upon when they intended to visit my house in a body, storm it, and either kill me, or take me prisoner to kill me afterward. I and just had that house fitted with electricity at the time, and I went to the power-house and induced them to help me-with the result that I bagged the whole lot of them with electricity. Caught every last one of them"

"By shocking them do you mean?"

"Yes."

"And is that what you have fixed up here?"

"Something very like it-as you shall see."

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