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A Fatal Message: Nick Carter's Slender Clew

Nicholas Carter

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
Nick Carter leaned nearer to the wall and listened to what the two men were discussing. The wall was that of a booth in the café of the Shelby House. It was a partition of matched sheathing only, through which ordinary conversation in the adjoining booth could be easily overheard, and both men in this case spoke above an ordinary tone. Obviously, therefore, they were discussing nothing of a private nature, or anything thought to be of much importance, or serious significance. It meant no more to them, in fact, than it would have meant to most men, to all save one in a million. That one in a million was seated alone in the next booth—Nick Carter. The two men were strangers to the detective. They had entered when he was near the end of his lunch, and while waiting for their orders to be served they engaged in the conversation which, though heard only by chance, soon seriously impressed the detective. “You were a little later than usual this noon, Belden,” said one. “Yes, a few minutes, Joe, but I thought you would wait for me. My ticker got busy just as I was about to leave. I remained to take the dispatch, Gordon, and it proved to be quite a long one.” “Something important?” “Not very. Only political news for the local paper.” “Belden evidently is a telegraph operator,” thought Nick. “Anything warm by wire this morning?” questioned Gordon. “No, nothing,” said Belden; and then he abruptly added: “There was a singular message, however, and an unusual circumstance in connection with it.” “How so, Arthur?” “The dispatch was addressed to John Dalton, and we were instructed to hold it till called for,” Belden explained. “I looked in the local directory, but it contained no John Dalton. I inferred that he was a traveling man, or a visitor in town, whose address was not known by the sender.”