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Chapter 16

SULLIVAN'S QUEER ACCUSATION


"Whom did you say it was?" asked Grace.

"Mr. Jack Sullivan," repeated the butler. "I asked him for his card, miss, but he said he hadn't got none. Told me to mention his name, an' said you'd know him."

"But I don't know him," protested Grace. "I never heard of him in my life. There must be some mistake. Are you sure he wants, me, Peterson?"

"He said so, miss, but I'll ask again."

Whereupon the butler, as stiff as a ramrod, went back to the door where he had left Mr. Sullivan standing.

"He means you, miss," the functionary remarked, as he came back to the library.

"I wonder what he can want," Grace said, half to herself. "I don't know any such person. I think there's a mistake. I will see him, and tell him so."

"Wait a minute," exclaimed Larry. "Perhaps I can explain this. I think I know Mr. Sullivan."

"Who is he?"

"A political leader of the eighth assembly district."

"What does that mean; I'm dreadfully ignorant of politics," Grace remarked with a smile. "Poor papa was much interested in them, but I never could make head or tail out of political matters."

"I have an idea that Sullivan has called here in reference to the disappearance of your father."

"Why do you think that?" and Grace turned pale. "Do you think he brings bad news?"

"On the contrary, I think he has come in search of information."

"But how can he be interested?"

Thereupon Larry told of his interview with the politician, based on what he had overheard in reference to Mr. Potter and the extension of the subway.

"Wasn't your father interested in building a new line of street railroad?" he asked of Grace.

"I'm sure I don't know. I never kept track of papa's business matters."

"I see."

"What ought I to do about this Mr. Sullivan?" Grace asked.

"I think you had better see him," replied Larry.

"I'd be afraid to, alone, and mother has such a headache that she can't come downstairs. Will you stay in the room with me?" and she looked appealingly at Larry.

"I'm afraid if I did Sullivan wouldn't talk. He knows me, and imagines I have done him a wrong, which I have not. I believe he considers me his enemy. He would probably go away without saying anything if you met him in my presence."

"But you don't need to be actually present," said Grace, with sudden inspiration. "Look here, this is a little alcove," and she pulled aside a hanging curtain and showed a recess in the library wall. "You can stand in there, and hear whatever he has to say. I'd feel safer if you were near. Of course there's Peterson, but he's so queer, and I don't like the servants to hear too much about poor father's disappearance. Will you stay here and be at hand in case I want you?"

"Of course I will," replied Larry after a moment's hesitation. "I have no idea that Sullivan will annoy you. He's too much of a politician for that. And I may be able to get a clue from what he says, though I don't imagine he knows where Mr. Potter is."

"Then I'll see him," decided Grace. "Peterson," she called.

"Yes, miss."

"You may show Mr. Sullivan in here."

"In here, miss?" and the butler looked at Larry.

"I said in here."

"Very well, miss."

"Now hide," commanded the girl in a whisper, as soon as Peterson had gone to the front door, where Mr. Sullivan had been kept waiting, as the butler evidently thought the caller did not look like a person to be admitted to the hallway until he had showed his credentials, or until he had been authorized to come in by some member of the family.

Larry got behind the curtain. No sooner had the folds ceased shaking than Mr. Sullivan entered the library. Larry could see him, though the young reporter himself was hidden from view. Grace remained standing.

"You wished to see me?" she asked in formal tones.

"Yes, Miss Potter," and Larry noted that Sullivan was ill at ease. "I called about your father."

"Do you know where he is?"

"No, Miss Potter. How should I?" and Sullivan looked quite surprised.

"Then why did you come?"

"I came for some information, miss."

"We have none to give you. We have told the police and the reporters all we know."

"Are you sure?" and at this question Sullivan's bearing became different. He seemed bolder.

"What do you mean?" demanded Grace.

"I mean just this," went on the politician. "I've got a right to know where Mr. Potter is. A great deal depends on it. I've got to find him. Reilly wants to find him. He and Reilly had some deal on, and it's time it was put through. It's going to make trouble if it isn't. I want to know where Mr. Potter is?"

"So do we," answered Grace. "If this is all that you came for you had better leave."

"It isn't all I came for!" Sullivan's voice had an angry ring. "I don't believe you have told the police or the newspapers all you know about this thing. I believe——"

"Leave this room!" commanded Grace. "Leave it at once, or I shall ring for the servants to show you the door! What do you mean?"

"I mean just what I say!" and the politician's voice was angry now. "I mean that you know where your father is, and that you're only pretending you don't. It's some game to fool Reilly and me. We'll not stand for it. I want you to tell me where your father is!"

He took a step toward Grace. She seemed dazed.

"Tell me! Do you hear!" and, probably because he was so excited, the politician made a movement as if he meant to grasp the frightened girl by the arm.

"Oh!" she screamed. "Don't touch me! Larry!"

"Quit that!" cried the young reporter, stepping suddenly from behind the curtain. "That will do, Mr. Sullivan!"

Larry spoke more calmly than he had any idea he could under the circumstances. He seemed master of the situation.

The very suddenness of Larry's appearance caused Sullivan to recoil a step. He fairly glared at the young reporter and then looked at Grace, who was trembling from the words and actions of her rude visitor.

"You here!" exclaimed the politician, in a whisper. "So that's the game, eh? I thought the Leader was in on it."

"There's no game at all!" cried Larry, indignantly. "I am here in the interests of the paper to learn all I can about Mr. Potter's disappearance."

"Then ask her to tell you the truth!" cried Sullivan, pointing his finger at Grace. "She knows where he is!"

"I don't! I wish I did!" and Grace faced her accuser with flashing eyes.

"Don't repeat that remark," said Larry, calmly, though there was a determined air about him. "You know better than that, Mr. Sullivan," and Larry stood fearlessly before the politician. In the unlikely event of a physical encounter Larry had no fears, for he was tall and strong for his age.

"It's true!" Sullivan repeated, in a sort of a growl, for he was a little afraid of the tempest he had stirred up.

"I say it isn't," Larry replied. "I have worked on this case from the start, and I know as much about it as any one. What's more, I think you know more than you are willing to admit. I haven't forgotten the interview you gave me, and which you denied later. I think there's something under all this that will make interesting reading when it comes out."

"You—you don't suspect me, do you?" and Larry noted that Sullivan's hands were trembling.

"I don't know what to suspect," the young reporter answered, determined to take all the advantage he could of the situation. "It looks very queer. It will read queerer still when it comes out in the Leader—how you came here to threaten Miss Potter."

"You—you're not going to put that in, are you?" asked the politician.

"I certainly am."

"If you do I'll——"

"Look here!" exclaimed Larry. "You've made threats enough for one day. It's time for you to go. There's the door! Peterson!" he called. "Show this man out!"

Larry was rather surprised at his own assumption of authority, but Grace looked pleased.

"Yes, sir, right away, sir," replied the butler with such promptness as to indicate that he had not been far away.

He pulled back the portieres that separated the library from the hall, and stood waiting the exit of Mr. Sullivan.

"This way," he said, and a look at his portly form in comparison with the rather diminutive one of the politician would at once have prejudiced an impartial observer in favor of Peterson. "This way, if you please."

"You'll hear from me again," growled Sullivan, as he sneaked out. "I'm not done with you, Larry Dexter!"

Victor Appleton

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