The Apartment Next Door (Chapter 3, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 3

Twice after the elevator had deposited her on the floor Jane had approached the door of Room 708, and twice she had walked timorously past it to the end of the hall, trying to muster up courage to enter. A visit to a man's office in the business district was a novelty for her.

On the few previous excursions of the sort she had made she always had been accompanied by one of her parents. She found herself wishing now that she had taken her father into her confidence and had asked him to go with her. Making shopping her excuse she had come down-town with Mr.

Strong but had gotten off at Astor Place, and waited over for another train.

In her hand she held the card given to her by the black-mustached man the afternoon before. As she studied it now her curiosity came to the rescue of her fast-oozing courage. She must find out what it all meant, whatever the risk or peril that might confront her. Boldly she returned to Room 708 and opened the door. An office boy seated at a desk looked up inquiringly.

"Is Mr. Fleck in?" she inquired timidly.

"Who wishes to see him?"

"Just say there's a lady wishes to speak to him," she faltered, hesitating to give her name.

"Are you Miss Strong?" asked the boy abruptly, "because if you are, he's expecting you."

She nodded, and the boy, jumping up, escorted her into an inner room. As she entered nervously an alert-looking man, with graying hair and mustache, rose courteously to greet her. In the quick glance she gave at her surroundings she was conscious only of the great mahogany desk at which he sat and behind it some filing cabinets and a huge safe, the outer doors of which stood open.

"Sit down, won't you, Miss Strong," he said, placing a chair for her.

His manner and his cultured tone, everything about him, reassured her at once. They conveyed to her that he was what she would have termed "a gentleman," and with a little sigh of relief she seated herself.

"I'm afraid," said Mr. Fleck, smiling, "that Carter's method of approaching you must have alarmed you."

"Carter--Oh, the black-mustached man."

"Yes, that describes him. You see, he did not wish to act definitely without consulting his chief, yet the unexpected opportunity seemed far too vital not to be utilized. He did not explain, did he, what it was we wanted of you?"

"Indeed he didn't," said Jane, now wholly herself. "He was most mysterious about it."

Mr. Fleck smiled amusedly.

"Carter has been an agent so long that being mysterious is second nature to him."

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