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Chapter 8

AN INTERVIEW WITH SULLIVAN


For a moment the man who had questioned Larry stood gazing at him. Suspicion was in the look, but the reporter never quailed. He was playing a bold game and he was running a risk, but he was not going to give up so soon.

"What's your name?" the man asked him.

"Larry Dexter."

That conveyed nothing to his questioner, for Larry had not been long enough on the Leader to become known in the field of politics. There were some men in the newspaper business with whom the politicians were so familiar that they sent for them whenever they had any news they were desirous of making public. But Larry was not yet one of these.

"Sam, tell Mr. Sullivan a young man wants to see him personally," went on the man who had interrogated Larry. "You can take a seat over there," he added, pointing to some chairs farthest removed from the group of which he was a member.

As Larry moved away he heard one of the men remark:

"Wonder if he's a newspaper man?"

"I don't believe so," replied another. "I've never seen him before and I know most of the reporters in New York. None of the editors would send a new man to interview Sullivan. He's too tough a bird for a greenhorn to tackle. I guess he's a messenger from some broker's office. Maybe Potter sent him."

"I wonder who this Potter is, and what all that talk meant?" Larry thought to himself as he took a chair, and watched the messenger enter a small room at the end of the big apartment.

In a little while Sam, who appeared to be a sort of janitor around the place, came back to inform Larry that Sullivan would see him.

"Now for my game of bluff," said the young reporter to himself as he entered.

The political leader was sitting behind a desk, littered with papers. He was a small man, wearing glasses, and looking like anything but the chief factor of an important Assembly district. Mr. Sullivan was bald-headed, and had rather a pleasant face, but there was a look about him that indicated force of character, of a certain kind, and a determination to succeed in what he undertook, which is what makes a good politician.

"You wanted to see me?" and the question came in a low voice, totally unlike the loud tones Larry had, somehow, associated with an important politician.

Larry felt the eyes of Sullivan gazing sharply at him, as though they were sizing him up, labeling him, and placing him on a certain shelf to be kept there until wanted. Sullivan was a good reader of character, as he showed by his next question.

"What paper are you from?"

Larry started. He wondered how the man knew he was from a paper, for Larry had said nothing about it. Seeing his confusion Sullivan laughed.

"Wondering how I took your measure, aren't you?" he asked, and when Larry nodded he went on: "You have the air of a newspaper man, which you may consider flattering, as you have acquired it after having been in the game only a short time. I assume that because it's my business to know most of the reporters in this city, and I never saw you before. If you didn't look like a newspaper man I'd size you up for one, because only a reporter, or some of my political friends, would come here to see me. You're not the one, so you must be the other. Now what do you want?" and the politician's voice became rather sharp.

"I came here to find out if it's true that you're going to support Reilly because he can deliver the goods from Mr. Potter," Larry explained, resolving to chance all at once.

Sullivan started, and half arose from his chair. Then he seemed to recover himself.

"Some one's been talking!" he murmured, and, glancing quickly at Larry, he asked:

"Who is Mr. Potter? I'm afraid I don't understand you."

"He's the financier interested in the new line," went on Larry, boldly. "It's going to be a good thing for the district, I understand. Come now, Mr. Sullivan," he went on, assuming a familiar air he did not feel, "you might as well own up and give me an interview about deciding to support Reilly."

For several seconds the leader gazed at Larry, as if seeking to read his inmost thoughts. Then he spoke:

"You either know too much or too little, Dexter. I guess you're an older hand at this business than I took you for. Tell me what you know."

"You tell me what I want to know," Larry said with a smile. "You probably know all that I do and more, too. But I don't know half as much as you do about this, though I know enough to print something in the Leader. You might as well come out with it."

Sullivan hesitated. He was wondering how this new young reporter had discovered information supposed to be a secret among the politician's closest advisers. Clearly there was a leak somewhere, and he must play the game warily until he discovered it. Meanwhile, since part of the truth was known he decided to tell more of it. He could manage matters to suit his ends if necessary, even after he gave out the interview for which all the papers in New York were anxiously waiting.

"Did Mr. Emberg send you to see me?" asked Sullivan.

"He did," Larry answered, wondering how intimate was the politician's acquaintance with the city editor of the Leader.

"Emberg's foxy," went on Sullivan.

"Do I get the interview?" asked Larry.

"You do. I like your nerve, and I'd like to find out where you heard that about Potter."

Larry did not think it well to say he had merely overheard, in the politician's own headquarters, a reference to the man, who was a well-known millionaire and promoter of New York. The truth of the matter was Larry only used the information that had so unexpectedly come to him, but he used it in such a way that Sullivan thought he knew a great deal more than he did.

"I'm going to support Reilly," went on Sullivan. "I don't know that I have such great influence as the papers credit me with, but what I have is for my friend, William Reilly. You can say for me that I think he served well in the Legislature and is entitled to another term. As for Mr. Kilburn, who I hear would like the nomination, he is an excellent young man. I know little about him, but I believe he would do well. But I believe in rewarding good work, and so I am for Mr. Reilly."

"Do you want to say anything about Potter and the new line?" asked Larry, though if Sullivan had said anything about them the reporter would have been decidedly in the dark as to what the politician was driving at.

"I guess you've got enough out of me for one day," replied Sullivan with a smile. "It's more talking than I've done in a long while—to reporters," he added. "Lots of 'em would give a good bit to have what you've got, and I wouldn't have given it to you, only I think you're smarter than I gave you credit for. Now you tell me where you heard about Potter."

"I can't," answered Larry, truthfully enough, for he did not feel that he could betray one of Sullivan's own men, because of the talk he had inadvertently overheard. "Sometime I may."

"I'll have to cultivate your acquaintance," the district politician remarked as Larry went out.

The young reporter hurried to the Leader office, having hastily jotted down what Sullivan had said. He felt he had secured a piece of news that would prove a big item that day.

"What luck?" asked Mr. Emberg, rather indifferently, as Larry came up to the city editor's desk to report.

"I've got the interview."

"I s'pose he gave you a lot of hot air that doesn't mean anything. See if you can dress it up a bit. We haven't many displays to-day."

"Sullivan is going to support Reilly," announced Larry, quietly.

"What?" almost shouted Mr. Emberg. "Did he tell you that?"

"He did," answered Larry, wondering why Mr. Emberg was so excited.

Victor Appleton

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