There was a throbbing of the motor, a grinding and shrieking as the clutch was thrown in, a trembling to the car as Fritsch advanced the spark and opened the gasolene throttle still wider and the automobile, bearing the German reporter, Larry and Grace, was off.
"Here are some goggles!" said Fritsch, handing back two pairs to his passengers. "You vill need dem when ve goes like de wind. If I had known I was to haff a lady I would get a dust coat."
"It doesn't matter," replied Grace, her eyes shining with the excitement. "I want to find my father."
Then Larry explained. He could safely do so since the German paper did not come out until the morning of the next day, and Fritsch could not "beat" him.
Faster speeded the auto. They went over the Hudson River on a ferry boat, and, as soon as Jersey City was reached, the car was sent along as fast as the law allowed.
"I wonder if I can get on their trail?" thought Larry, as he watched the houses skim by, and held himself in his seat, beside Grace, to avoid the jouncing and swaying caused by the uneven streets.
"Do you think ve vill haff a race?" asked the German, as they neared the house where Mr. Potter had been hiding.
"Maybe. I hope so, anyhow."
"Why? Don't you want to help find Mr. Potter?"
"Yes, but I am of nervousness yet in my new car. I haff never raced, und I might do some damage."
"Let me run her," suggested Larry. "I've had some experience with autos, and I guess I can manage yours. I ran one like this several times when I was out with Mr. Emberg."
"Den take der vheel," went on Fritsch. "I comes back wid Miss Potter und you can race."
"Oh, Larry! Can you do it?" and Grace looked a little alarmed.
"Of course I can," and the young reporter spoke confidently.
The car was stopped and the change made. Larry soon found he could manage the various levers all right, and that the car responded readily to his guiding hand.
"This must be the place," he said, after they had ridden for half an hour at as high speed as they dared, considering the fact that there were policemen on every other block.
He stopped the car in front of a house that seemed to be uninhabited. It answered the description Retto had given, and Larry knocked on the door. After several minutes the portal opened a crack, showing that it was held by a chain.
"Is Mr. Potter here?" asked Larry, though he knew the missing millionaire was not. The man who had opened the door looked suspiciously at the inquirer. "It's all right," the young reporter went on. "I come from Mr. Retto. I want to aid Mr. Potter."
"You're too late," was the answer. "They've got him into their clutches. They'll work their game before he knows that everything is all right, and that it is safe for him to show himself. If they had only waited half an hour all would have been well. I just got another telephone message from Retto, saying that all matters were satisfactorily adjusted, and that there was no further need for Mr. Potter to hide. But he doesn't know this. I have no way of telling him, and he'll sign the papers before those men will let him go."
"Tell me in which direction they went and I'll go after them!" cried Larry. "They can't have gone far, and we can overtake them in the auto!"
"They have a car, too," replied the man. "A fast one. They managed, by a trick, to get Mr. Potter into it. If I could only get word to him he could laugh at their efforts! If I could only send him a message!"
"What is the message?" asked Larry.
"It is this. 'The money is safe!'"
"Is that all?"
"That's all, but how can you get it to him?"
"Didn't you hear anything that might give you a clue to where the men were going?"
"Somewhere out toward the Orange Mountains. That's all I know. They are going to the home of some lawyer or judge, I believe. There is some legal matter involved."
"Then that's where we'll go!" decided the young reporter, as he hurried back to the auto and told Grace and Fritsch what he had heard.
"On to de mountains!" cried the German reporter. "My car is yours! It will climb de biggest hills on der high gear, und ve will catch de scoundrels!"
Once more they were off. They took the Plank Road to Newark, and, on inquiring in the latter city, learned that a car, answering the description of the one Mr. Potter had been taken off in, had passed about half an hour before.
"That's not so bad!" exclaimed Larry. "We can catch 'em, I guess!"
"I hope so!" murmured Grace.
"If my car doesn't beat de oder one I gives up riding," remarked Fritsch, with proper pride in his machine.
They passed through Newark, and were soon on the road leading to Orange, at the foot of the mountains. The highway was conducive to speed, and Larry "let her out several notches," as he expressed it, at the same time keeping watch for policemen on motorcycles, who were alert to nab the unwary auto speeders.
Every time they saw a car in front of them they were anxious until they saw it was not the one they wanted. They passed a number of machines, and when Orange was reached they had not been successful.
"Now for a mountain climb!" exclaimed Larry, as he slowed down the engine to give the water a chance to cool off before attempting the ascent. "Will it do Eagle Rock hill, Fritsch?"
"I think so," replied the German. "I never tried it, but de circular says it vill do it."
Eagle Rock hill is known far and wide as one of the steepest ascents up which an automobile can be sent. Many cars have to take it on the low gear, or go as slowly as possible. Even then it is a strain.
"Suppose we should overtake them there?" suggested Grace.
"Ve'd catch 'em!" exclaimed the German, with a confidence born of admiration for his car.
On and on they chugged. At the foot of the long, steep slope Larry set the levers on second gear, as he did not want to take any chances with the auto. Up and up they went, their eyes strained through the dust for the sight of a green car, for that was the color of the machine in which rode the men who had taken Mr. Potter away.
"Hark!" exclaimed Grace, suddenly. "It sounds like an auto just ahead of us!"
"It is," declared Larry, whose quick ear had caught the chug-chug of a motor.
An instant later they had rounded a turn. There, in front of them, climbing the steep hill, was a green car. In it could be seen four men.
"That's them!" cried Larry.
"Open her up! Throw in the high gear!" yelled Fritsch, who was now as enthusiastic and as interested in the chase as were either of his companions. "Let her rip!"
"Will she stand it?" asked Larry, shouting the words over his shoulder to Grace and Fritsch in the tonneau.
There was a grinding noise as Larry threw in the high-speed gear. The auto hung back for an instant because of the sudden change. The motor seemed to groan at the unexpected load thrown on it. Then, like a gallant horse responding to the call of its rider, the car leaped ahead.
"Hurrah!" cried Larry. "She'll do it! We'll catch 'em!"
The distance between the two cars was lessening. Those in the green machine seemed unaware of the approach of their pursuers.
"Can you see your father?" asked the German of Grace.
"I'm not sure. It looks like him!"
She stood up in the tonneau, holding to the back of the seat in front of her to steady herself against the swaying of the car.
Just then Larry blew a blast on the horn. As the deep tone responded to his pressure on the big rubber bulb the men in the green machine looked back. At the sight of one of the faces Grace cried.
"It's father! It's father!"
Above the noise made by the two autos the millionaire heard his daughter's voice. He stood up and, leaning over the back of the seat, waved his hand to her. Then one of the men sitting beside him forcibly drew the millionaire down.
"Oh! We must get to him!" cried Grace. "They may do him some harm! Hurry, Larry!"
"Shove her over a few more notches!" cried Fritsch. "She'll take more gasolene!"
Larry obeyed the instructions of the German reporter. The car seemed to feel new life and leaped ahead. The distance from the other car was steadily growing less. Fritsch's confidence in his machine was not misplaced. But the men in the green car were making efforts to escape. The chauffeur had advanced his spark, and the car was taking the steep grade almost as well as was that of the pursuers.
"Can't we catch them?" cried Grace, in an agony of doubt and fear.
Larry narrowly watched the green car. He saw that in spite of the efforts of the driver it was losing speed.
"We'll do it," he said, quietly.
Then Larry tried a trick which had come into his mind almost at the last moment. Keeping his car going as fast as possible he steered it so as to pass the other auto. He knew he had speed enough to do it, and realized that he must act quickly, as they were almost at the summit of the hill.
Closer and closer the two cars came together, that driven by the young reporter gaining. Now the front wheels overlapped the rear ones of the green machine—now they were at the side door of the tonneau—now the two tonneaus were even! This was what Larry wanted.
Slowing down his engine the least bit, so as to keep in pace with the other machine and not pass it, he called across to Mr. Potter, as the two autos raced side by side:
"Mr. Potter, I bring you a message from your friends!"
"What is it?"
"It is this! 'The money is safe!'"
"Good!" cried the millionaire. "Now I don't care what these scoundrels do!"
"Father! Father!" cried Grace.
"Stop that machine!" yelled Larry to the chauffeur of the green car.
"You can't make me!" retorted the man.
"Jump into our car!" cried Fritsch to Mr. Potter. "You can do it!"
The two machines were close together, and so evenly were they running that they seemed to be standing still, side by side. The millionaire arose and endeavored to get out of the tonneau, and into that of the auto in which sat his daughter.
"No, you don't!" exclaimed one of the men beside him, and he took hold of Mr. Potter.
"Let me go!" called the rich man. "I'm not afraid of you now. There's no longer any reason for me to remain in hiding!"
"You can't go until you sign those papers!" cried another of the men.
"Stop that car!" shouted Larry again.
"Let's see you make me!" was the impudent retort of the man at the wheel.
"I'll make you!" declared the young reporter.
He gave a quick motion to the steering wheel. Then he shoved the levers over, and pressed down the pedal that cut out the muffler and slightly relieved the strain on the motor. Fritsch's car shot ahead. Larry steered it directly in front of the green machine, and kept just far enough in advance to avoid a collision.
"Get out of the way!" shouted the driver of the emerald car.
"Now I guess you'll stop!" retorted the young reporter.
The road suddenly narrowed. Larry gradually slowed up his car. There was no room to pass, and the other machine had to slacken up also.
Larry suddenly shut off his power and put on the brakes. His machine came to a gradual stop. There was a bump behind and the other had collided with it, but not enough to cause any damage.
"There! I guess you'll stop now!" exclaimed Larry, as he leaped from his seat and hurried back to the green car.
But the men did not await his coming. With a shout to his companions the chauffeur of the rear auto leaped out. The others followed his example, leaving Mr. Potter alone in the automobile.
"Father! Father!" cried Grace.
"Is this really you, Mr. Potter?" asked the reporter, hardly able to believe that he had found the missing millionaire.
"That's who I am!" exclaimed the man whom Larry had sought so long. Mr. Potter entered the other machine and clasped Grace into his arms. "I'm back from my enforced exile," he went on. "Now you can send the story to your paper."
"I must get to a telephone!" cried Larry, his newspaper instincts to the fore again, now that he had successfully covered his special assignment.
"Get back into my car," suggested Fritsch. "Dere is a telephone at de top of der hill. I'll drive you now so long as de race is ofer!"
"And we won!" cried Grace. "Oh, father! How glad I am to have you back!"
"How glad I am to get back!" replied Mr. Potter.
Larry sat beside the German reporter, who took his place at the steering wheel. The other car was left where the men had abandoned it. They had disappeared into the woods on either side of the road, and never troubled Mr. Potter again.
"Why did you disappear, Mr. Potter?" asked Larry, who had to have some facts to telephone in, as it was near first edition-time.
"It's a long story to tell, young man," replied the millionaire, "and quite complicated. Briefly, I had to disappear in order to save a number of widows and orphans from losing what little money they depended on for a living. As you have probably guessed, I am interested in many financial matters. One was the building of an extension of the subway. Hundreds of widows, and guardians of orphans, had bought stock in this enterprise, as it was sold by popular subscription.
"While abroad I learned there was a scheme on foot to involve me in certain legal difficulties, and it might even cause my arrest in order to get me to do certain things that would force the price of the subway stock down, and so bankrupt many innocent persons. To prevent this I determined to disappear, without even the knowledge of my family. How I managed it I will tell you later. Matters were going along all right until Retto, whose real name, you might as well know, is Simonson, suddenly disappeared. I did not know what to do, nor how matters, with which I had entrusted him, were progressing. But it wasn't his fault. I wonder what happened to him?"
Larry explained about Mr. Simonson's accident, of which Mr. Potter was ignorant.
"When these men, my enemies, unexpectedly appeared to-day at the house where I had been hiding ever since I disappeared, asked me to appear in a New Jersey court, I had to go with them," went on Mr. Potter. "It was in the nature of an arrest, and I did not dare disobey. They wanted to take me before a Supreme Court Justice in his home on the mountain and make me sign certain papers.
"But you came along in the nick of time. When you gave me that message to the effect that the money was all right, I knew that the affairs of the subway had been so arranged that the stock would not go down and the widows and orphans would not suffer. I was willing then to appear in court, as the schemes of the scoundrels, who had practically kidnapped me, could amount to nothing. But it seems they didn't wait to see what the outcome would be. I'm much obliged to you, Larry."
"So am I," added Grace, with a smile.
"I'd do it all over again for the sake of getting such a good story—and—er—of course, finding you and helping your daughter," Larry finished. "Now to telephone this in."
Mr. Emberg could hardly believe the news that Larry fairly shouted over the wire.
"Found him, you say! Good for you, Larry. It'll be a great beat! Wait a minute! I'll let Harvey take the story. Talk fast. Give us enough for the first edition, and then, for the second, get the whole story from Mr. Potter. This is a corker!"
What a scene there was in the Leader office then! Mr. Newton grabbed up paper and pencil and rushed to the telephone booth to which Larry's wire had been switched so that the story could be taken with fewer interruptions. Page after page of notes did Mr. Newton scribble down, as Larry dictated the dramatic finding of the missing millionaire during the automobile chase.
"That'll do, Larry!" cried Mr. Newton, when he had the first half of the story. "I'll get one of the other boys to take the rest while I grind this out on the machine."
So the young reporter dictated the remainder of the account to another person in the Leader office, while Mr. Newton was pounding away on the typewriter at his section.
Thus it went on in relays. The first part of the story was in type before Larry had finished his end of it. Then, as there was no more time to get anything further in for the first edition, Larry went back to where he had left Mr. Potter, Grace and Fritsch in the automobile. Mr. Potter gave the young reporter some additional particulars.
He explained that he had learned, while in Europe, of a mix-up in New York politics that involved his company, which was building the new subway line. Sullivan, Kilburn and Reilly were factors in the game, and the control of the assembly district would go to whoever could bring about the opening of the new subway route through it.
Mr. Potter repeated, more at detail, how there was likely to be a big law-suit over the matter, which would tie up operations for a year, and which would force down the price of the stock so that many small investors would lose all they owned.
"I had promised Sullivan to do as he wanted, in case he supported Reilly," Mr. Potter went on. "Later I found I could not do as I had agreed without getting tangled up in the legal conflict. They wanted to serve certain papers on me, and get me into the jurisdiction of the law courts, so I decided, in order to protect those who were unable to protect themselves, to disappear. I was aware that a wrong construction might be placed on it, that it would subject me to much criticism, that it would be hard and that it would cause distress to my family and friends. But there was no other way in which I could aid the helpless, so I decided to do it."
The millionaire explained how he had sailed from Italy under an assumed name, after arranging there with his friend, Mr. Simonson, to precede him to New York, do certain work, and keep him informed of how matters went. Simonson took the name Mah Retto, which had a foreign sound, and could be depended upon to deceive Mr. Potter's enemies. Mr. Simonson was of dark complexion and looked like an East Indian. The name was formed from some of the letters making up the millionaire's name. Retto's handwriting was very similar to that of Mr. Potter's, and easily passed for it, even under the scrutiny of Grace and her mother. The man himself bore a remarkable resemblance to the millionaire and nearly deceived Grace once.
Most unexpectedly, some of Mr. Potter's enemies got on the trail of Retto, and he learned they would be waiting for him when he landed in New York. He decided to elude them.
He was aboard the Olivia when the ship struck on the bar, and resolved to take a desperate chance and come ashore on a life-raft. He did, and Larry and Bailey rescued him. Then followed his shaving off of his moustache in the fisherman's hut to make a good disguise, and Larry's subsequent chase after him. Once Larry had been close on Mr. Potter's trail. The millionaire was in Retto's room the night Larry called on the mysterious man in the Jackson tenement, and this explained the reference in the letter to the young reporter being so "close" after Mr. Potter.
Sullivan, it was explained, had an idea that Grace or her mother knew where Mr. Potter was hiding, and was much disappointed because the rich man could not carry out the original plan of political action.
"I think Sullivan will show himself, now that he knows I have been found," said Grace's father. "He has been looking for me on his own responsibility, I understand. I have straightened matters out so that he can support Reilly as he promised to do, Larry, in that interview he gave you. I think that was all he wanted me to come back for.
"Sullivan used to go up and watch my house," Mr. Potter went on. "He thought I was there, I suppose. Retto also watched it, but for a different purpose. I sent him up to catch glimpses of my wife and daughter, to see if they were all right, as I did not dare venture into that neighborhood for fear of being recognized. I had their miniatures, however. The night I reached New York I went to the house and got them. I remained in the suburbs of Jersey City most of the time, as, until to-day, the scoundrels did not have matters so arranged that they could legally serve papers on me in New Jersey. They must have taken a last desperate chance this morning, but, thanks to you, Larry, they were foiled."
In Fritsch's auto, after Larry had finished telephoning in the story, the little party returned to New York. They took Mr. Simonson, or Retto, from the hospital to Mr. Potter's house. There he explained his part in aiding the millionaire. Larry gave him back the papers he had secured from Captain Tantrella, and the curious gold coin Mr. Simonson had lost from his watch chain in the fisherman's hut.
Mr. Simonson told his employer how he had tried to run away from Larry that day on the pier, as matters were then not yet ripe for a disclosure, and how he had fallen under the horses' feet.
"When you came to see me in the hospital," he went on to Larry, "I was about to send for Mr. Potter, for I felt I was in bad shape and that the mystery might now come to an end. Then I became unconscious, was delirious for three weeks, and the next I knew was when the nurse told me this morning that the day after to-morrow you were coming to see me. I decided I must communicate with Mr. Potter. But when I called him up, I was startled when I was told by the man in whose house he was hiding that his enemies had him."
"But Larry got me away from them," went on Mr. Potter, with a happy laugh. "This ends the mystery of my disappearance."
"I must telegraph mother the good news," said Grace. "She is in Lakewood. I had also better notify the private detective that he need no longer work on the case."
"We'll go to Lakewood and surprise your mother," said her father. "I need a rest after my hard work in keeping away from Larry Dexter. I'll telephone the detective agency. I suppose the manager will be disappointed that a newspaper man beat him," which was exactly how the manager felt.
The young reporter, bidding Grace and her father good-bye, returned to the office of the Leader, going down in Fritsch's auto.
"Well, you have given us some news!" exclaimed Mr. Emberg. "Look at that!"
He held up the paper, the front page of which was almost all taken up with the story of the missing millionaire.
"I suppose that ends my special assignment, then."
"This one is finished," spoke the city editor, "but I may have another for you."
"I'll tell you later."
Those of my readers who want to know what Larry's next assignment was may learn by reading the fourth volume of this series, to be called: "Larry Dexter and the Bank Mystery, or, A Young Reporter in Wall Street." In that story we shall follow the young reporter through adventures which were exciting in the extreme.
The Leader beat every other paper in New York on the Potter story, and Larry was the hero of the occasion. The next day he located Sullivan and cleared up that end of the case.
"I suppose you'd like to take a short rest?" said Mr. Emberg to the young reporter a few days later. "You had quite a strenuous time of it in that automobile race."
"I guess I could stand a little vacation."
"Then you shall have it."
Larry wondered where he would spend the vacation, but the matter was settled for him. When he got home that night he found a telegram awaiting him. It was from Grace Potter, and read:
"Can't you come down to Lakewood for a few days? Mother and father would be glad to see you. So would I."
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