“There’s your patient,” said a nurse who was with him, as she led Larry to the bed where Retto reclined under the white coverings that matched the hue of his face. “Now don’t excite him. You newspaper men don’t care what you do as long as you get a story, and sometimes all the work we nurses do goes for nothing.”
“I’ll be careful,” promised Larry.
The nurse, who had other duties to keep her busy, left Larry at the bedside of the mysterious man. He was lying with his eyes shut as Larry approached.
“Mr. Retto,” called the reporter.
There was no response.
“Mr. Retto,” spoke Larry, a little louder.
At that the man opened his eyes.
“Were you calling me?” he asked. Then he caught sight of Larry, and a smile came on his face.
“Well, you’ve found me, I see,” was his greeting. “Only for that team I’d been far away.”
“I suppose so. But now you’re here, for which I’m sorry; I hope you will answer me a few questions.”
“What are they?” asked the man, and a spasm of pain replaced his smile.
“I believe you know the secret of Mr. Potter’s disappearance,” said Larry, speaking in a low tone so none of the other patients would hear him. “I want you to tell me where he is.”
At the mention of Mr. Potter’s name Retto raised himself in bed. His face that had been pale became flushed.
“He—he—is——” then he stopped. He seemed unable to speak.
“Yes—yes!” exclaimed Larry, eagerly. “Where is he?”
Then Retto fell back on the bed.
“He has fainted!” cried the nurse, running to the cot. “The strain has been too much for him,” and she pressed an electric button which summoned the doctor.
A NEW CLUE
Larry moved to one side. The unexpected outcome of his interview had startled him. He did not quite know what to do.
The doctor came up on the run and made a hasty examination of the patient. Then he sent for another surgeon. Larry heard them talking.
“What is it?” he asked of his friend the nurse.
“His skull is fractured,” she said in a low voice. “They did not think so at first, but now the symptoms show it. They are going to operate at once. It is the only chance of saving his life.”
“There goes my story,” thought Larry, regretfully.
It was not that he was hard-hearted or indifferent to Retto’s sufferings. Simply that his newspaper instinct got ahead of everything else, as it does in all true reporters, who, if they have a “nose for news,” will make “copy” out of even their closest friend, though they may dislike the operation very much.
“You had better go,” the nurse advised Larry. “You will not be able to see him again for some time—no one will be allowed to talk to him until he is on the road to recovery—if we can save him. He has a bad fracture.”