“Go out in this storm!” cried Jack. “You oughtn’t to!”
“Not with a lame ankle,” added Bert.
“I’ve got to,” insisted Tom. “It means more than you think,” and telling his chums not to sit up for him, he hurried out into the storm and darkness.
THE RAGGED MAN
“Well, what do you think of that?” gasped Bert.
“Isn’t he the limit?” demanded Jack. “Running off that way before you have a chance to draw your breath. But that’s just like Tom Fairfield, anyhow.”
“Isn’t it? What do you imagine he’s up to, this time?”
“Give it up. It must be something important, to go out in this storm, after a hard football game.”
“And with an ankle that’s on the blink, speaking poetically.”
They looked at each other, and in the silence that followed their exclamation after Tom left, they heard the dash of rain on the window, and the howl of the wind as it scattered the cold drops about. For it was a cold November storm that had suddenly descended, not cold enough to snow, yet chilling.
“He said it meant more to him than we thought,” spoke Bert, musingly.
“And that’s only one thing,” said Jack.
“You mean the poison business?”
“Maybe we’d better follow him,” suggested Bert. “He may stumble or fall, and get hurt.”
“Tom doesn’t like anyone to follow him. I guess we’d better stay where we are until he gets back.”
Jack got up to walk about the room and quiet his nerves that, all on edge after the football game, had been further excited by Tom’s strange action. Suddenly he came to a halt and exclaimed:
“He dropped his letter, Bert. It’s here on the floor.”
Jack picked up the crumpled sheet. It had been wadded up with the envelope, and the latter showed the blue special delivery stamp.
“Had we better—Oh, of course we can’t read it,” said Jack. “Only I wish I knew what it was that made Tom go out in such a hurry.”
He walked toward his chum’s desk, intending to thrust the letter in it, but, as he did so, his eye caught a few words that he could not help reading. They were:
“Meet me down the lane. I’ll explain everything. Sorry you had the trouble. I’m straight again.
“Ray Blake,” murmured Jack. “Ray Blake. I never heard that name before, and I never knew Tom to mention it. And yet—Oh, hang it all, Bert!” he ejaculated. “You might as well know as much as I know, though I couldn’t help reading this much,” and he told his chum what he had seen.
“What does it mean?” asked Bert.
“Give it up, except I think that this is the beginning of the end. Someone is evidently going to confess.”
“And clear Tom?”
“It looks that way. I wish he’d taken us into his confidence. We might have helped him. Wow, what a night!”