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Chapter 29

IN HIS ENEMIES' POWER


"Quick! Catch her!" cried the hospital superintendent, springing forward, but it was Larry who put out his arms and kept Grace from falling to the floor.

"Here, nurse," called one of several physicians who had gathered in the corridor when the news spread that the missing patient had returned. "Look after her, please. Carry her into the receiving room."

"Who is she?" asked the patient, who had caused such a stir, and to whom no one seemed to be paying any attention in the excitement caused by Grace's swoon. The man had not caught a good look at the girl.

"She is Grace Potter," replied Larry, glancing curiously at Mah Retto.

"Grace Potter? Hamden Potter's daughter?" The man seemed greatly excited.

"Yes. She came here expecting, as I did, to meet her father. I thought you were Mr. Potter. She says you are not."

"No, I am not," replied the man.

"Then who are you? Where is her father? You know! I am sure of it!" Larry was upset over the mistake he and the detective had made.

"I did know where Mr. Potter was," and as he made that answer Retto gave every evidence of being under a great strain. His hands shook with more than the weakness of his illness. He was paler than the white hue caused by his confinement in the hospital.

"Why? Have you lost track of him?"

"I am afraid so. Listen, young man, perhaps you can help me. Let us get to some place where we can talk. I have strange news for you."

"Then you know me?" and the young reporter looked somewhat surprised.

"I couldn't very well help it, with the way you have kept after me lately. But we have no time to lose. Something most unexpected has happened. Mr. Potter is in the hands of his enemies!"

"Then he is found?"

"Yes, in a way, but he might better be lost!"

"What do you mean?"

"Come in here and I will tell you."

Retto led the way to a small room off the main corridor.

"What does this mean?" asked the hospital superintendent.

"I will explain later," replied Retto. "Just now it is very necessary that I have a talk with this young man."

The superintendent turned away and Retto closed the door. He sat down in a chair, and Larry could see that he was trembling from weakness.

"I must talk quickly," he said, "for I am still very ill. I made a desperate effort to go out in order to get in communication with Mr. Potter. I mailed him a letter and then called him up on the telephone——"

"Then you know where he was!" burst out Larry.

"I did, but I do not now. Listen, and don't ask too many questions yet. All will soon be explained, if it is not too late. I am Mr. Potter's friend. He took me into his confidence when he found it necessary, for very strong reasons, to disappear. I agreed to help him and do exactly as he wanted me to. He has been hiding across the Hudson River, outside of the legal jurisdiction of New York State. I was in touch with him by telephone and otherwise up to the time of my accident on the pier. Since then, of course, I have not been able to hold any communication with him. As soon as I had the chance, which came for the first time to-day, I got out and called him on the telephone. I was told by the man, with whom he had been staying, that, about an hour ago, some men came and took him away."

"Some men took him away?"

"Yes. Men whom I recognized, by the description, as his enemies—as men who have an interest in getting Mr. Potter into their power. He has been trying all this while to keep out of their way. Now they have him!"

"But what's to be done?" asked the young reporter.

"I don't know," replied Retto, hopelessly. "Everything was going on all right until those horses knocked me down."

Larry was conscious of a strange sensation. It was partly due to his impetuosity he felt that Retto had been injured. Larry partly blamed himself for Mr. Potter's present plight, since through the reporter's instrumentality the millionaire's friend had not been able to keep in touch with him.

"I'll find him!" exclaimed Larry. "Tell me what to do! I'll trace him!"

"If I was only stronger!" said Retto. "I'm so weak that I couldn't walk another block. I'd like to get after those scoundrels who have Mr. Potter!"

"I'll get after them!" cried the youthful newspaper man, thinking more of Grace just then than he did of his assignment. "Tell me where to go!"

"I can only tell you where Mr. Potter was hiding," went on Retto. "That was in a little house just outside of Jersey City. The men must have gone there after him. Possibly you can trace them from the house."

"Tell me how to get to the place!"

Retto gave the necessary instructions.

"I'm going over there!" exclaimed the young reporter.

"What are you going to do with Grace?"

"That's so! I forgot about her. I'll take her along!" and Larry sprang to his feet in his enthusiasm and started for the door.

"Can she stand the trip?"

"She's a brave girl! She'll be glad to go!"

"Then you'd better hurry. Every minute is precious. Great things hang on this. If Mr. Potter's enemies force him to do certain things, which he has been trying to avoid doing, the consequences will be very bad for many persons. Hurry, Dexter!"

"I'll start at once. I wonder if Grace is better?"

The young reporter and Retto left the small room. Larry soon found that Grace had recovered from her swoon. Rapidly he told her of what he proposed doing. With her he would go to Jersey City and try to trace the missing millionaire.

"And we'll find him!" he added, with vigor.

He went downstairs to telephone to Mr. Emberg of the new and unexpected turn the case had taken.

"Keep right after it, Larry!" said the city editor. "Find Mr. Potter and get the story!"

As the Leader reporter turned to go upstairs he saw, entering the hospital, a young man whom he recognized as Hans Fritsch, the German newspaper man he had met at the lonely tenement.

"What are you doing here?" asked Larry, noting that his friend was attired in an automobile suit.

"I comes to see how gets along a friend of mine. He is here sick. I have a day off from mine work and I comes in my new automobile. After dot I goes me for a nice ride. Come along!"

"Where are you going?" asked Larry, a sudden idea coming into his head.

"Ofer by New Jersey. Dere is goot automobiling roads."

"Are you going to Jersey City?"

"Sure. I goes by dot on der ferry. Den I skips out by der Plank Roat, und maybe I goes me out to der Oranges Mountains. I am just learning to run my car goot!"

"I'll go with you!" cried Larry. "Have you room in your car for two?"

"Surely! For four, if you likes to bring 'em. My mother, who is in Germany, und quite vell off, send me der car for a birthday present, odervise I should not haff him. Reporters here do not get monies enough to buy automobiles!"

"I'll be with you in five minutes!" exclaimed Larry, hurrying off to tell Grace.

"I am ready as soon as I see how my sick friend is," declared the German reporter. "Den we go quick like de wind, und haff a goot time!"

"Yes, and maybe a hot pursuit!" said Larry under his breath, for he had determined on a bold plan. He would, in Fritsch's auto, give chase to the captors of Mr. Potter.

Victor Appleton

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