"Isn't it wonderful!" cried Jane.
"Damn them," he exploded. "I know we are on the right track. Some transports with our troops sailed this morning, and already the German spies are spreading the news, hoping to get it to one of their unspeakable U-boats."
Quickly he ran through the rest of the cipher, writing it out as he went along: EIGHT--TRANSPORT--SAILED--THURSDAY--15,000--INFANTRY--FIVE DESTROYERS.
As Fleck finished the message his face became almost black with rage.
"Damn them," he cried again, "in spite of everything we do they get track of all our troop movements. Their information, whenever we succeed in intercepting it, is always accurate. If I had my way I'd lock up every German in the country until the war was over, and I'd shoot a lot of those I locked up. Until the whole country realizes that we are living in a nest of spies--that there are German spies all around us, in every city, in every factory, in every regiment, on every ship, everywhere right next door to us--this country never can win the war."
"What does the '97' at the end mean?" questioned Jane timidly, a little bit frightened at his outburst, yet more than ever realizing the vast importance of his work--and hers.
"Oh, that's nothing. Probably old Hoff's number. Most spies are known just by numbers."
"Yes, of course," said Jane, flushing as she recalled that she herself was now "K-19." Was she a spy? Was Mr. Fleck a chief of spies? She always had looked on a spy as a despicable sort of person, yet surely the work in which they both were engaged was vital to American success at arms--a patriotic and important service for one's country.
"I suppose," she said thoughtfully, unwilling to pursue the chain of her own thought any further, "that there is evidence enough now to arrest old Mr. Hoff right away."
"You bet there is," said Mr. Fleck emphatically, "but that is the last thing I am thinking of doing yet. He is only one link in a great chain that extends from our battleships and transports there in the North River clear into the heart of Berlin. We've got to locate both ends of the chain before we start smashing the links. We've got to find who it is in this country that is supplying the money for all their nefarious work, from whom they get their orders, how they smuggle their news out.
Most of all we have got to find where the end of the chain is fastened in our own navy. The traitors there are the black-hearted rascals I would most like to get. They are the ones we've got to get."