“Get busy, Larry,” advised Mr. Emberg, and Larry did his best to follow the advice.
Three weeks passed, and Sullivan was not found. His family professed not to know where he was, and the best newspaper men in New York could not find him. Larry was working on the case with all the energy he had thrown into the Potter disappearance.
Meanwhile the young reporter kept a close watch on the hospital where Retto was. The operation had been a success, but the patient was in a fever, during which he was out of his mind. He could not recognize anyone, much less talk intelligibly. Larry made several calls at the institution, but it was of no use.
“You can’t see him,” said the nurse, when he had paid his usual visit one day, “but he is much better. I think by the day after to-morrow you can talk to him. His fever is going down and he has spells when he talks rationally. There was another man in to see him to-day.”
“I thought you said no one could visit him.”
“Well, we made an exception in this case. The man was a private detective, searching for a missing man, and he wanted to see all the patients. He looked at your friend last, and went off, seemingly quite excited.”
“What missing man was he looking for?” asked Larry.
“A Mr. Potter. Seems to me I’ve read something about him in the papers. He’s very rich.”
“Mr. Potter!” exclaimed Larry. “The detective must be from the private agency,” he added to himself. Then aloud: “Did he recognize Mr. Ret—er I mean the man with the fractured skull?” and he waited anxiously for the nurse’s answer.
“He seemed to, but I was called away just then.”
“I know how Mr. Potter looks,” Larry went on. “He has a moustache, and the man here is smooth-shaven.”
“No, the patient has a moustache and a beard now,” the nurse replied with a smile. “They grew since he has been in the hospital.”
A sudden idea came to Larry. An idea so strange that it startled him. He dared not speak of it. He believed the detective held the same theory.
“I’ll call again,” he said, thanking the nurse for the information she had given him. “I must see Grace at once,” he murmured, as he left the hospital. “Strange I never thought of that. A beard and a moustache! The private detective! I wonder if he recognized Retto? I must hurry. Oh, if this should prove true!”
He hurried to an elevated station and was soon on his way to Grace’s house.
THE DETECTIVE’S THEORY
Bounding up the steps three at a time Larry rang the bell of the Potter residence. He thought the door would never be opened, and, when the stately butler did swing back the portal the young reporter, not waiting to ask for anyone, stepped into the hall.
“No one at home,” the servant remarked with a smile, for he had gotten to be on quite friendly terms with Larry.