The Apartment Next Door (Chapter 7, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 7

It is amazing how much information on any given subject any one--even a wholly inexperienced person like Jane Strong--can acquire within a few days when one's mind is set resolutely to the task. It is much more amazing how much one can learn when aided and abetted by an experienced chauffeur, or more properly speaking a mysterious and cultured secret service operative, masquerading as an automobile driver.

Who Thomas Dean was, why he was in the secret service, and what his real name was, were questions that kept perpetually puzzling Jane. In the presence of her father and mother, so skilful an actor was he that it was hard to believe him anything but what he appeared to be, a respectful, intelligent and prompt young man who knew the traffic regulations and the anatomy of automobiles. When he and Jane were by themselves he invariably threw off his mask to some extent. He became the director instead of the directed, though never letting anything of the personal relation creep in. That he was college-bred, Jane felt certain. He spoke both German and French much better than she did. He occasionally used words that no ordinary chauffeur would be likely to know the meaning of. Sharing the secret of such a mission as theirs, they quickly found themselves on a friendly basis, yet the girl hesitated whenever her curiosity prompted her to try to find out anything that would reveal his identity. There was always present the feeling that any exhibition of undue curiosity on her part would be a disappointment to her employer. The chief disapproved of curiosity except on one subject--what the Germans were doing.

Many things Jane and her aide learned about the Hoffs in the days following Thomas Dean's coming, reporting them all as directed. Of how much or of how little value her discoveries were Jane had no means of knowing. Chief Fleck seemed satisfied but was always urging her to acquire more information and more details, always details. Dean, too, had seconded the warning about observing even what seemed to be insignificant trifles.

"Most of the Germans," he said to her, "you will find are very methodical. They like to do things according to schedule. For instance, I learned yesterday that old Hoff and his nephew frequently go off on all-day automobile trips. They always go on Wednesday."

"Are they going to-morrow?"

"The presumption is that they will. They have done so every Wednesday for six weeks."

"Can't we follow them in our car?" cried the girl, "and see what they are up to?"

Dean shook his head.

"The Chief is looking out for that. There is more important work for us to do right here. I want to try to install a dictograph in their apartment."

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