"I don't know. She has vanished."
Jane Strong vanished! The chief's figure became suddenly tensed. That it was more than a mere automobile accident he felt certain now. Shadowing the Hoffs was an occupation that seemed unusually perilous. There flashed into his mind the fate of K-19--murdered almost at the Hoffs' door. And now two more of his operatives, one disabled and the other mysteriously missing.
"Quick," he said over the 'phone. "Tell me briefly just what happened.
Speak as loudly as you can."
"We got half an hour behind at the West Point Ferry," Dean's voice went on, still weak and low as if he were speaking with difficulty. "We had some trouble getting started on the trail again but finally succeeded.
We were dashing along about ten or twelve miles south of West Point when an automobile coming out of a cross road crashed right into us. It must have knocked me unconscious. I didn't remember anything more till I found myself here. I came to as the doctor was setting my arm. I 'phoned as soon as they would let me."
"Who brought you there?"
"I don't know. All they know here was that some couple in an automobile left me here. They said they passed just after an auto hit my motorcycle. They said the auto didn't stop."
"And Miss Strong--did they say anything about her?"
"Not a word. The people here were under the impression I was riding alone."
"All right," said the chief. "I'll get some one up there at once to look after you and pick up any clues."
As he hung up the 'phone, his forehead wrinkled into little lines of absorbed concentration. He sat at his desk for fully five minutes almost motionless, trying to figure it out. What did the accident to Dean signify? How was the sudden disappearance of Jane Strong to be accounted for? Had she fled from the scene after Dean was disabled, fearing that her name might be coupled with his in an account of the accident? It did not seem like the sort of thing she would do. The impression she had made on him was that of a girl of high resolve who would be apt to carry through anything she undertook, cost what it may. Yet what could have happened to her? If she, too, had been injured, why was she not with Dean? If she was not injured, why had she not communicated with the office? Who were the couple that had brought Dean to the doctor's office? Why had not the doctor taken their names and addresses?
What part had the Hoffs played in the accident? Had they purposely run down the motorcycle? If they had found out they were being shadowed they would not have hesitated, he felt sure, to resort to such murderous tactics. Had they not already one dastardly murder to their record? He must find out when the Hoffs arrived home. They would not be due for an hour or two, but he would caution the operatives watching the house to keep more vigilant watch. Reaching for his 'phone he called up the head-quarters of the operatives.