He stopped abruptly.
"You think they are spies--spies for Germany," questioned Jane excitedly. "They're Germans, of course?"
"Otto Hoff is German-born, but he has been here for twenty years.
Several years ago he took out papers and became an American citizen."
"And the young man?"
Jane's tone was vibrant with interest. It must be the man she had seen from her window whom they suspected most.
"He professes to be American-born."
"Oh," said the girl, rather disappointedly.
"But," continued Mr. Fleck, "there's something queer about it all. He arrived in this country only three days before we went into the war. He had a certificate, properly endorsed, giving his birthplace as Cincinnati. He arrived on a Scandinavian ship. He speaks German as well and as fluently as he speaks English, both without accent."
"Perhaps he was educated abroad," suggested Jane, rather amazed at finding herself seeking to defend him.
"He must have been," said Fleck, "yet I find it hard to believe that Germany at this time is letting any young German-American come home if he's soldier material--and young Hoff's appearance certainly suggests military training."
"It surely does."
"Unless," continued Fleck, "there was some special object in sending him here."
"You think," said Jane slowly, "they sent him here--to this country--as a spy."
"In our business we dare not think. We cannot merely conjecture. We must prove," said Mr. Fleck. "Maybe the Hoffs are O.K. I do not know. Nobody knows yet. Let me tell you some of the circumstances. This much we do know. Von Bernstorff is gone. Von Papen is gone. Scores of active German sympathizers and propagandists have been rounded up and interned or imprisoned, yet, in spite of all we have done, their work goes on. A vast secret organization, well supplied with funds, is constantly at work in this country, trying to cripple our armies, trying to destroy our munition plants, trying to corrupt our citizens, trying to disrupt our Congress. Every move the United States makes is watched. As you probably know, every day now large numbers of American troops are embarking in transports in the Hudson."
"Yes," said Jane, "you can see them from our windows."
"Now then," said Mr. Fleck, lowering his voice impressively, "here is the fact. Some one somewhere on Riverside Drive is keeping close and constant tab on the warships and transports there in the river. We have managed recently to intercept and decipher some code messages. These messages told not only when the transports sailed but how many troops were on each and how strong their convoy was. Where these messages originate we have not yet learned. We are practically certain that some one in our own navy, some black-hearted traitor wearing an officer's uniform--perhaps several of them--is in communication with some one on shore, betraying our government's most vital secrets."