Somebody was at the hallway door, trying to insert a key in the lock. But the key would not go in, because of the key already there.
“Maybe it’s father coming back!” thought the youth, and leaped from the bed to the floor. Three steps took him to the door and he quickly turned the key and caught hold of the handle.
As Dick started to fling the door open he heard a muttered exclamation of dismay in the hall outside. Then came the sound of retreating footsteps, and a slight tinkle, as of metal striking metal.
“Hi, stop! Who are you?” called the youth, and the cry aroused Tom and Sam. He flung open the door and leaped into the semi-dark hallway. The figure of a man was just disappearing around a corner. Dick saw that he wore a heavy beard and that was all.
The oldest Rover boy was thoroughly aroused now, and calling to Sam and Tom to follow, he darted after the flying individual. But by the time he reached the corner of the corridor the man was out of sight. He heard a distant door shut and then all became quiet.
“Who was it?” asked Tom, as he joined Dick.
“Was the fellow in your room?” asked Sam.
“No, but he was trying to get in,” answered Dick. “When I woke up he was trying to put a key in the lock. When I started to open the door, thinking it might be dad, the fellow ran away.”
“Was it a hallman?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Where did he go to?”
“Somewhere in this part of the hotel. I just heard a door shut.”
“Then he must be on this floor,” said Tom. “Say, we ought to investigate this. Did you get a look at him, Dick?”
“Not much of a look. I saw he had a heavy beard.”
By this time one of the hallmen was coming up, and to him the boys explained what had happened. He was much interested, for he knew about the disappearance of Mr. Rover, and said he would report to the office.
“I think I heard something drop,” said Dick, as the boys returned to the rooms, to put on some clothing. “Hello, here they are! A bunch of keys!” And he held them up.
“One of ’em is new,” said Sam, examining the bunch.
“Maybe it was made for the lock of the door to the room father occupied,” suggested Tom.
“It’s like the old key,” returned Dick, comparing the two. “That rascal, whoever he is, must have had the key made for the sole purpose of getting into this room!”
“But for what reason?” questioned Sam.
“To get at dad’s private papers,” answered his big brother. “Boys, if we catch that man maybe we’ll be able to find out what has become of father!”
Dick makes A discovery
While the boys were discussing the situation one of the night clerks of the hotel arrived, having been summoned by the hallman. He listened with interest to what the lads had to tell.