Larry decided that the disappearance of the fisherman's guest was not a part of the story of the wreck, though the fact that the passenger was missing was an item of much interest, and he used it. He made up his mind to tell Mr. Emberg all about the strange happening when he got back.
Arriving at the telegraph office for the third time, he found a message from the city editor, instructing him to come back to New York, as the best of the story was now in, and the Associated Press would attend to the remainder. Some of the representatives of that news-gathering organization were already at the scene of the disaster.
"Your friend got a calling down," volunteered the operator to Larry, as the young reporter began looking up trains to see when he could get back.
"He got a message from his city editor a while ago, wanting to know why he hadn't secured a list of passengers and the crew. The message said the Leader had it, and had beaten all the other papers."
"That's good," spoke Larry. "I worked hard enough for it."
"The Scorcher man wanted me to give him your list, but I wouldn't do it," the operator went on. "So he's gone out to get one of his own. But he's too late, I reckon. I'll have my hands full pretty soon, for there'll be a lot of reporters here. But you're the first to send off the complete story."
Larry felt much elated. Of course he knew it was due, in part, to the forethought of his city editor in seeing a possible situation, and rushing a man to the scene ahead of the other papers. That counts for almost as much in journalism as does getting a good story or a "scoop."
Larry received hearty congratulations from Mr. Emberg when he got back to the Leader office the next day, for, not only had the young reporter secured a fine "scoop," but he had sent in an exceptionally good story of the wreck.
"Larry, you did better than I thought you would. You've got the right stuff in you!" exclaimed the city editor, while the other reporters, crowding around the hero of the occasion, expressed, their pleasure at his success. Not one of them but would have given much to have been in Larry's place.
"Have much trouble?" asked Mr. Newton.
"Well, I had to hustle. Struck something rather queer down there, too."
"What was it? Some of the men from other papers try to get the best of you?"
"Only my old enemy, Peter Manton, but I put a crimp in him all right. No, this was something else." And Larry told of the disappearance of the man at the hut.
"That is rather odd," agreed the older reporter. "If I were you I'd tell Mr. Emberg about it, and then you'll be in a position to act on what information you have, in case anything turns up."
Larry followed this advice. The city editor puzzled over the matter a few minutes, and then decided nothing could be done at present.
"We'll watch developments in regard to the Olivia wreck," said Mr. Emberg, "and it may be this mystery will fit in somewhere. If it does we may get a good story."
But neither Larry nor the city editor realized in what a strange manner the mystery was to develop.
It was the beginning of the newspaper day in the Leader office. Reporters were busy writing accounts of meetings they had covered the previous night, and others were going out on assignments to police courts, to look up robberies, murders, suicides, and the hundred and one things that go to make up the news of the day.
"How would you like to try your hand at politics?" asked Mr. Emberg of Larry, when they had finished their talk about the man at the hut. "I haven't given you much chance at anything in that line, but if you're going to be an all-'round newspaper man you'll have a lot to do with politics."
"I think I'd like it," replied Larry.
Certainly this life was one of variety, one day at the wild scene of a rescue from a wreck, and the next peacefully sent to talk to some political leader.
"I want you to go up and have a talk with Jack Sullivan, the leader of one of the Assembly districts," went on Mr. Emberg. "You've probably read of the trouble in that district. Thomas Kilburn is a new aspirant for the Assembly and he's fighting against the re-nomination of William Reilly. Now Jack Sullivan is the leader of that district, and whoever he decides to support will be elected. That's the way politics are run in New York.
"It would be quite an item of news if we could find out whom Sullivan is going to support. So far he has played foxy and no one knows, not even the candidates themselves, I believe, though I have an idea that Sullivan will swing to Reilly."
"How did Kilburn come to be in the race?" asked Larry.
"That's what we newspaper editors would like to know, and it's what you reporters have to find out for us. There's something back of it all. Sullivan wants something he thinks either Kilburn or Reilly can give him, and that's why he's holding back. He'll give his support to the man who, after he's elected, can give him what he wants. Now if you could discover whom Sullivan is going to support, and why, it would make a corking story."
"I'll try," said Larry, a little doubtful of his ability.
"It isn't at all like going down to a wreck and seeing persons rescued," went on Mr. Emberg. "You've got to nose out your news this time. A number of reporters have tried to pump Sullivan, but he won't give up. Go and try your luck. You'll find him in the district headquarters," and he gave Larry the address.
"Where you going?" asked Mr. Newton, as he passed Larry in the corridor.
"To interview Sullivan."
Mr. Newton whistled.
"I don't envy you," he said. "I'm afraid you'll fall down this time, Larry" ("falling-down" being a newspaper man's term for failure). "We've all tried him, but he's as cute as an old fox. He'll be nice and polite, but he'll not give you a decided answer, one way or the other."
"I've got to try," was Larry's reply.
Larry had one advantage on his side. He was a new reporter in the political field. That was one reason why Mr. Emberg sent him. Nearly all the other available men on the Leader were well known to the politicians, they were familiar with them, and, as soon as they saw these reporters, the politicians were on their guard.
Larry, never before having talked with Sullivan and his friends, might take them off their guard, and they might let fall something that would make news, the city editor thought. It was a slim chance, but newspaper editors are accustomed to taking such.
When Larry entered the headquarters of Sullivan, which were located in the rear of a large dance hall, he found the place well filled with men, though it was the middle of the forenoon, when most persons would have been at work. But the men were politicians of more or less power, and had plenty of spare time. Besides this was really their work, though it did not look like very strenuous labor, for most of them were standing in little groups, talking and smoking, or sitting in chairs tilted back against the wall.
Here was where Larry's newness gave him an advantage. No one in the room knew him to be a reporter, or he would have been greeted by some of the men as soon as he entered, called by name, and thus all the others would have been put on their guard.
Larry sauntered into the big room as though he belonged there. He hardly knew what to do, but he decided to look about for a few minutes and size up the situation. No one paid any attention to him, and he felt it would be a good plan to see if he could pick Sullivan out from among the throng.
With this end in view Larry walked from one end of the room to the other. He did not know that the man he sought was in his private office, closeted with some of his henchmen. As Larry passed one group he heard one man in it say:
"Well, Sullivan's made up his mind at last."
"He has, eh?" asked another. "Who is it?"
Larry was all attention at once. This seemed to be the very thing he had been sent to find out.
"Don't let it get out," went on the man who had first spoken, "but I understand Tommy has got to wait a while yet."
"Then Billy can probably deliver the goods," the second man added. "I thought he could. Well, it means a good thing for the district when they build the new line. If only Potter doesn't go back on his promise. He's so rich you can't touch him with money, and he's as foxy as they make 'em. If Billy can work him I don't blame Sullivan for swinging his way. Now——"
But at that moment one of the men turned and saw Larry. He at once knew him for a stranger, and quickly inquired:
"What do you want, young man?"
"I want to see Mr. Sullivan."
Larry didn't announce himself as a reporter, for that, he felt, would have brought him only a polite refusal, on Sullivan's part, to receive him.
"What for?" went on the man.
"I have a message for him," Larry said.
"You can tell me, I'll see that he gets it."
"It is for him personally," Larry said, for a bold plan had come into his mind and he determined to try it.
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