"Is this Miss Strong?"
Jane, her face blanching, held the receiver in wavering hands for a moment before she could muster courage to answer. She had recognized Frederic Hoff's voice speaking. What could he want with her now?
"It is Miss Strong," she managed to answer.
"This is Frederic Hoff. May I come in for a moment? It is most important."
Again Jane hesitated. Frederic was the last person in the world she felt like seeing just at this moment. Only five minutes before she had arrived home from Chief Fleck's office. She was under orders to hold herself in readiness to start immediately for the scene of yesterday's accident. That this trip, unless their plans miscarried, would inevitably result in the exposure and disgrace of both the Hoffs she felt morally certain. To face on friendly terms the man whose downfall she was plotting, the man who only a few hours before had told her that he loved her, seemed a task far beyond her endurance, a situation too tragic for her to cope with.
Duty, her duty to her country, her honor, her patriotism, her affection for her soldier brother, all bade her mask her feelings and seek one more opportunity of leading Hoff to betray himself in conversation if that were possible. Yet, to her own amazement and horror, her heart protested vigorously against such action. Harassed as she was by conflicting emotions, worn out by the trying experiences that had been hers the last few days, she realized at last that she was really in love with Hoff. The throb of joy that she had experienced at the sound of his voice, the thrill that came to her each time she saw him, the delight she found in his presence, the fact that despite all the circumstances, she wanted to be near him, to be with him, convinced her against her will and judgment that her heart was his. In vain she marshalled the damning facts against him. She tried to remember only the expression of murderous hate she had seen on his face the night that her predecessor, the other K-19, had been murdered. She tried to think of him only as a treacherous spy, an enemy of her country forever plotting to destroy Americans, yet she could not. However base and treacherous and low her reason told her Frederic Hoff must be, her refractory heart persisted in beating faster at the prospect of his coming.
Hitherto not much given to self-analysis, she now found herself wondering at herself. What could be the matter with her? Why must she love this rascal? Why could she not fall in love with some decent, clean, patriotic young American, with some man like Thomas Dean?