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Chapter 23


"Grace! What is the matter?" exclaimed a woman's voice, and looking up Larry saw Mrs. Potter.

"Nothing, mother," replied the girl. "This is Mr. Larry Dexter. He just brought me some news. Oh, mother, that wasn't papa we saw out in the street!"

"I knew it, dear, as soon as I saw his face."

Larry felt rather uncomfortable, for Mrs. Potter and Grace showed signs of emotion.

"I was telling your daughter," he said to Mrs. Potter, "that I think I have located the man who knows where your husband is."

"Oh, I hope you have," exclaimed Mrs. Potter. "This suspense is awful. Who is he? Where is he?"

Larry related the circumstances of his chase after Retto, telling how he had located the man at the hotel.

"I'll go and see him to-morrow," he said, "before he has a chance to get away. He does not suspect that I know where he is."

"Why not go now?" asked Mrs. Potter.

"I'm afraid he would see no one to-night. It is very late, and he would suspect something if any one sent up word they wanted to see him. He would at once connect it with the chase I had after him. But I think I fooled him. I am sure he can clear up this matter in a short time, once I get into conversation with him."

"I'll go with you," said Grace, with sudden energy. "I will make him tell where my father is."

Larry thought he could best deal with Retto alone, but he did not want to tell Grace so. However, her mother got him out of what might have been an embarrassing position.

"I'd rather you wouldn't go, Grace," she said. "There is no telling what sort of a person this Retto is. His name sounds foreign."

They talked for some time about the curious circumstances connected with the disappearance of the millionaire, and when a clock struck the hour of one, Larry arose with a start.

"I had no idea it was so late!" he exclaimed. "I must hurry home, or mother will be worried. I will call to-morrow and let you know what success I have."

"Do, please," said Mrs. Potter.

"And come early," added Grace, as she accompanied Larry to the door. "Don't let that horrid man stab you with an East Indian poisoned dagger," she went on with a little laugh, as she got out of hearing of her mother.

Larry promised, and then hurried off down the street to the nearest elevated railway station. He was up early the next morning, and wrote out the story of the day's events, including the encounter with Sullivan, and the chase after Retto. He touched as lightly as possible on his own and Grace's parts in the affair, but there was enough to make interesting reading, and he knew no other paper would have it.

"This is good stuff, Larry," complimented Mr. Emberg, when the reporter had turned his story in at the desk. "What next?"

"I'm going to see Retto," was the answer. "I'll make him tell where Mr. Potter is."

"You were right about your East Indian friend," admitted the city editor. "I had no idea there was a story like this connected with him; least of all that it concerned the missing millionaire. Keep right after him. Let us hear from you in time for the first edition. Whatever you learn from Retto will make the leading part of to-day's account."

"I'll telephone in," said Larry, as he hurried from the city room.

Larry anticipated meeting with some difficulty in getting Retto to talk. He knew the man must have a strong motive for aiding Mr. Potter. Probably the millionaire was paying him well to serve him, to mail letters occasionally, and keep him informed as to how the search for him was progressing.

"There are lots of ends to this that I don't understand," said Larry to himself as he was on his way to the hotel where the mysterious man was stopping. "This mystery seemed to start with the wrecking of the Olivia, yet I don't see how I can connect Mr. Potter with that. He must have met Retto in New York after the rescued men came here. Maybe I'm wrong in thinking Mr. Potter is in New York now. He may be some distance off, and depending on Retto to look after his interests. If that's so it would explain why the East Indian was hanging around the house. He wanted to see that Grace and her mother were well, so he could report to the millionaire.

"Yet if that was so, I can't see how Mr. Potter could write in the letter, as he did, that I was getting too close to him? Yes, there's something very strange in all this, but maybe it will soon be cleared up."

Thus Larry hoped, but he was doomed to disappointment. For, when he inquired at the hotel desk for Mr. Retto, and said he would like to see him, the clerk replied:

"Mr. Retto left early this morning. He gave up his room. I don't know where he went."

"I've got it all to do over again," the young reporter thought as he strolled out into the street. "I'll never have such luck again. If he watches the house after this he'll do it in a way that won't give me a chance to catch him. Well, I've got to go back and tell Grace I made a fizzle of it. Too bad, when they're hoping so much on the result of this visit!"

Larry purchased a morning paper from a newsboy on the street, and glanced at it idly, as he strolled along. His eye lighted on the column devoted to shipping news, and, almost unconsciously, he saw among the "arrivals," the Turtle, of an Italian line. At once a train of thought was started in his mind.

"The Turtle," he mused. "That's the freight ship that Captain Tantrella, formerly of the Olivia, commands. That's the captain Retto was inquiring about the day Grace and I made the tour of the steamer offices. He wanted to meet him. Well, Captain Tantrella is in now. I wonder if Retto could have left the hotel to go and see him?"

Larry puzzled over it for a few minutes. Several ideas came to him, but they were confused, and he did not know which line to follow.

"Why should Retto want to see Captain Tantrella?" he asked himself. "Is it possible that Retto is a criminal and had to escape from the sinking ship? It looks so. But if he has done something that would necessitate him keeping out of the way, how can he aid Mr. Potter? It's too deep for me. But I know what I'll do. I'll go and see Captain Tantrella. He'll remember me, for I interviewed him about the wreck.

"I'll ask him who Retto is. He'll know him, for he was probably one of the first-cabin passengers. That's what I'll do. I think I'm on the right track now."

Victor Appleton

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