"Nodding," he answered. "You keep novels, trash, nodding worth while."
Her nerves aquiver, Jane waited until he was out of the store and then stepped briskly to the place where he had stood. Hastily she pulled forth the fifth book from the end in the second row. Turning its pages she came upon what she had anticipated,--a strip of yellow manila paper,--the paper she was sure she had seen him take from his pocket.
Hastily she examined it, expecting to find some message written there.
To her chagrin it was just a meaningless jumble of figures in three columns.
Her first thought was to thrust the little scrap of paper in her purse and start again in pursuit of old Hoff, but a sudden light began to dawn on her. This was a cipher message, of course. The old man had left it here for some one to come and get. If she followed Hoff, how was she to discover who the message was for? Puzzled as to what she should do, she borrowed a pencil from the clerk on the pretense of writing a postal and hastily copied the figures, after which she restored the slip to the book in which she had found it.
Glancing about undecidedly, wondering if it would do to take the clerk into her confidence, wishing she had some means of reaching Mr. Fleck and asking his advice, she spied in a drug-store just across the street a telephone booth. She could telephone from there and at the same time keep her eye on the store. Quickly she did so, twisting her head around all the time she was 'phoning to make sure that no one entered opposite.
"Is this Mr. Fleck?" she asked. "This is Miss Jones."
"So soon?" came back his voice. "What has happened? What is the matter?
Have you changed your mind?"
"Not at all," she answered indignantly. "I've discovered something already--a cipher message."
Even over the wire she could sense the eagerness in Mr. Fleck's tone, and a sense of achievement brought a radiant glow to her cheek.
"I ran into that man--you know whom--"
"The young one?" he interrupted.
"No, the uncle."
"Yes, yes, go on," cried Mr. Fleck impatiently.
"I followed him along Broadway after I got off at 96th Street and into a library and stationery store. I watched him fuss over the books there, and I think he got a slip of paper with a message out of one of them."