BAD NEWS CONFIRMED

Nattie took the telegram with a sinking heart. He had already read
disquieting news in Mori’s face, and for a moment he fumbled at the
paper as if almost afraid to open it. Finally mustering up courage, he
scanned the following words:

“Message received. Grant cannot be found. He left office at usual
time last night, but did not appear at his home. Have done nothing
in the matter yet. Wire instructions. Sorry to hear of accident.”

It was signed by the chief bookkeeper, a Scotchman, named Burr. He was a
typical representative of his race, canny, hard-headed, and thoroughly
reliable. Sentiment had no place in his nature, but he was as
impregnable in honesty as the crags of his own country.

Poor Nattie read the telegram a second, then a third time. The words
seemed burned into his brain. There could be only one meaning: Grant
Manning had met with disaster. But where, and how? And through whom? The
last question was easily answered.

“Mori,” he said, with a trembling voice, “this is the work of the
Blacks and that scoundrel, Willis Round.”

“Something may have happened, but we are not yet certain,” gravely
replied the Japanese youth. “Surely Grant could take a day off without
our thinking the worse.”

“You do not know my brother,” answered the lad, steadfastly. “He hasn’t
a bad habit in the world, and the sun is not more regular than he. No,
something has happened, and we must leave for Yokohama by the first
train.”

“It is simply impossible for you to go,” expostulated Mori. “The doctor
said you must not stir from bed for three days at the very least. I will
run down at once, but you must remain here.”

“If the affair was reversed, Grant would break the bounds of his tomb to
come to me,” Nattie replied, simply. “Send for a surgeon and ask him to
fix this shoulder for traveling. I want to leave within an hour.”

The young Japanese threw up both hands in despair, but he left without
further words. In due time the man of medicine appeared and bandaged the
dislocated member. A few moments later Nattie and Mori boarded the train
for the north.

As the string of coaches whirled through valley and dell, past paddy
fields with their queer network of ridges and irrigating ditches; past
groups of open-eyed natives dressed in the quaint blue costumes of the
lower classes; through small clusters of thatched bamboo houses, each
with its quota of cheerful, laughing babies, tumbling about in the
patches of gardens much as the babies of other climes do, Nattie fell to
thinking of the great misfortune which had overtaken the firm.

“If something has happened to Grant–which may God forbid–it will be
greatly to the interest of Jesse Black,” he said, turning to his
companion. “Everything points in their direction. The first question in
such a case is, who will it benefit?”

“You refer to the army contracts?”

“Yes. It means to the person securing them a profit of over one hundred
thousand dollars, and that is a prize valuable enough to tempt a more
scrupulous man than the English merchant.”

“I think you are right. If Grant has been waylaid, or spirited away,
which is yet to be proven, we have something to work on. We will know
where to start the search.”

Yokohama was reached by nightfall. Mori had telegraphed ahead, and they
found Mr. Burr, a tall, grave man with a sandy beard, awaiting them. He
expressed much sympathy for Nattie’s condition, and then led the way to
the _jinrikishas_.

“I can explain matters better in the office,” he said, in answer to an
eager question. “‘Tis an uncou’ night eenyway, and we’ll do better under
shelter.”

Compelled to restrain their impatience perforce, his companions sank
back in silence and watched the nimble feet of the _karumayas_ as they
trotted along the streets on the way to the Bund.

Turning suddenly into the broad, well-lighted main street, they overtook
a man pacing moodily toward the bay. As they dashed past, Nattie glanced
at him; then, with an imprecation, the lad stood up in his vehicle. A
twinge of pain in the disabled shoulder sent him back again.

Noting the action, Mori looked behind him, and just in time to see the
man slip into a convenient doorway. It was Mr. Black.

“Keep cool, Nattie,” he called out. “Confronting him without proof won’t
help us.”

“But did you see how he acted when he caught sight of us?”

“Yes, and it meant guilt. He tried to dodge out of our sight.”

On reaching the office, Mr. Burr led the way inside. Lighting the gas,
he placed chairs for his companions, and seated himself at his desk.

“Noo I will explain everything,” he said, gravely. “But first tell me if
ye anticipate anything serious? Has Mr. Grant absented himself before?”

“Never,” Nattie replied to the last question.

“Weel, then, the situation is thus: Last night he left here at the usual
hour and took a _’rikisha_ in front of the door. I was looking through
the window at the time, and I saw him disappear around the corner of
Main Street. I opened the office this morning at eight by the clock, and
prepared several papers and checks for his signature. Time passed and he
did na’ show oop.

“At eleven I sent a messenger to the house on the ‘bluff.’ The boy
returned with the information from the servants that Mr. Grant had not
been home. Somewhat alarmed, I sent coolies through the town to all the
places where he might have called, but without results. I received your
telegram and answered it at once. And that’s all I know.”

The information was meager enough. Nattie and Mori exchanged glances of
apprehension. Their worst fears were realized. That some disaster had
happened to Grant was now evident. The former sprang to his feet and
started toward the door without a word.

“Where are you going?” asked the Japanese youth, hastily.

“To see Mr. Black,” was the determined reply. “The villain is
responsible for this.”

“But what proof can you present? Don’t do anything rash, Nattie. We must
talk it over and consider the best plan to be followed. We must search
for a clew.”

“And in the meantime they will kill him. Oh, Mori, I can’t sit here and
parley words while my brother is in danger. I know Ralph Black and his
father. They would not hesitate at anything to make money. Even human
life would not stop them.”

“That may be. Still, you surely can see that we must go slow in the
matter. Believe me, Grant’s disappearance affects me even more than if
he was a near relative. I intend to enter heart and soul into the search
for him. Everything I possess, my fortune, all, is at his disposal. But
I must counsel patience.”

The tears welled in Nattie’s eyes. He tried to mutter his thanks, but
his emotion was too great. He extended his hand, and it was grasped by
the young native with fraternal will. The Scot had been eying them with
his habitual placidity. The opening of a crater under the office floor
would not have altered his calm demeanor.

“Weel, now,” he said, slowly, “can you no explain matters to me? I am
groping about in the dark.”




“You shall be told everything,” replied Mori.

He speedily placed him in possession of all the facts. Mr. Burr listened
to the story without comment. At the conclusion he said, in his quiet
way:

“I am no great hand at detective work, but I can see as far thro’ a
millstone as any mon with twa gude eyes. Mister Grant has been kidnaped,
and ye don’t need to look farther than the Black’s for a clew.”

“That is my opinion exactly,” exclaimed Nattie.

“I am with you both,” said Mori, “but I still insist that we go slow in
accusing them. It stands to reason that to make a demand now would warn
the conspirators–for such they are–that we suspect them. We must work
on the quiet.”

“You are right, sir,” agreed Mr. Burr.

“What is your plan?” asked Nattie, with natural impatience.

“It is to place Mr. Burr in charge of the business at once, and for us
to start forth in search of possible clews. I will try to put a man in
the Black residence, and another in his office. We must hire a number of
private detectives–I know a dozen–and set them to work scouring the
city. The station master, the keeper of every road, the railway guards,
all must be closely questioned. And in the meantime, while I am posting
Mr. Burr, you must go home and keep as quiet as you can. Remember,
excitement will produce inflammation in that shoulder, and inflammation
means many days in bed.”

The authoritative tone of the young Japanese had its effect. Grumbling
at his enforced idleness, Nattie left the office and proceeded to the
“bluff.” Mori remained at the counting-room, and carefully drilled the
Scotchman in the business on hand.