Cole was with Kirby when he met Rose at the restaurant.
“We’ll go in an’ get somethin’ to eat,” Lane said. “We’ll talk while we’re waitin’. That way we’ll not lose any time.”
They found a booth and Kirby ordered the dinner. As soon as the waiter had gone he talked business.
“Find out anything, Rose?”
“Yes. A girl at the house who works for the telephone company saw Esther get into an automobile a block and a half from the house. A man helped her in. I pretended to laugh and asked her what sort of a lookin’ man he was. She said he was a live one, well-dressed and handsome. The car was a limousine.”
“Good. Fits in with what I found out,” Kirby said. “The bank was closed, but I got in the back door by pounding at it. The teller at the K-R window was still there, working at his accounts. Esther did not draw any money to-day or yesterday.”
“Why do you say good?” Cole wanted to know. “Is it good for our li’l’ friend to be in the power of this good-lookin’ guy with the big car, an’ her without a bean of her own? I don’t get it. Who is the man? Howcome she to go with him? She sure had no notion of goin’ when we was eatin’ together an hour before.”
“I don’t see who he could be. She never spoke of such a man to me,” Rose murmured, greatly troubled.
“I don’t reckon she was very well acquainted with him,” Lane said, shaking out his napkin.
The talk was suspended while he ladled the soup into the plates and the waiter served them. Not till the man’s back was turned did Rose fling out her hot challenge to Kirby.
“Why would she go with a man she didn’t know very well? Where would she be going with him?” The flame in her cheeks, the stab of her eyes, dared him to think lightly of her sister. It was in her temperament to face all slights with high spirit.
His smile reassured. “Mebbe she didn’t know where she was goin’. That was his business. Let’s work this out from the beginnin’.”
Kirby passed Rose the crackers. She rejected them with a little gesture of impatience.
“I don’t want to eat. I’m not hungry.”
Lane’s kind eyes met hers steadily. “But you must eat. You’ll be of no help if you don’t keep up your strength.”
Rather than fight it out, she gave up.
“We know right off the reel Esther didn’t plan this,” he continued. “Before we knew the man was in it you felt it wasn’t like her to run away alone, Rose. Didn’t you?”
“She hadn’t drawn any money from her account, So she wasn’t makin’ any plans to go. The man worked it out an’ then persuaded Esther. It’s no surprise to me to find a Mr. Man in this thing. I’d begun to guess it before you told me. The question is, what man.”
The girl’s eyes jumped to his. She began to see what he was working toward. Cole, entirely in the dark, stirred uneasily. His mind was still busy with a possible love tangle.