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- Army Boys on German Soil - 20/29 -
to his command. "Everything seems quiet in the street below, and there's not a soul in sight. Now let's take stock of damages, and then we'll hike back to the rendezvous."
As the soldiers were taking stock of each other, a sudden fear gripped at Frank's heart, and he exclaimed:
"Tom! Where's Tom?"
Billy and Bart gazed at him and at each other in dismay.
"He was with us when we attacked this house," said Billy. "I remember he was right alongside of me when we bumped that door, and we landed on the floor together when it gave way. But that's the last I remember of seeing him."
Neither of the others had any later recollection of their friend's presence.
"He may be downstairs wounded," said Frank. "Come on, fellows, we've got to find him," and forgetful of military discipline in their anxiety over their friend, the three comrades dashed through the door leading into the building.
"We'll all go down," said the sergeant. "Some of our fellows have taken the last count, but others are only wounded, and we want to get them to a hospital just as soon as we can."
Frank, Bart, and Billy made a frantic search of the building, but found no trace of their missing friend.
"He may have been badly wounded but have been able to make his way to the street where he would be picked up and taken to a hospital," speculated Frank. "Or it's possible that he has been captured," he added. "As soon as we have reported back to headquarters with our detachment, we'll try to get permission to make a search of the hospitals and see if we can't find him there."
There was little else they could do, so with heavy hearts they rejoined their companions who had rigged rude stretchers for two of their wounded comrades and were making ready to march back to headquarters.
The sergeant knew of the attachment existing between the four friends, and sympathized with the grief of the three remaining over the loss of their comrade.
"The chances are," he said, "that Bradford has been captured by the rioters, and the military police will find out where he is and get hold of him. Remember that an American soldier takes a lot of killing before he's actually dead."
But the boys marched in gloomy silence, and their hearts were sad for their friend.
The rioting had been effectually quelled, and the streets were once more quiet. The little party soon reached their headquarters, where the sergeant made his report. The boys could hardly control their impatience until the time came when they were off duty. They immediately secured permission to make inquiries at the hospitals which were taking care of the casualties sustained during the rioting. There were three of these, and each of the boys went to a different one, agreeing to meet in a designated place as soon as they had completed their inquiries. An hour later they assembled as they had agreed, only to learn that so far their search had been fruitless.
"The only thing left for us to do," said Frank, "is to go back to the barracks, where maybe by this time they will have posted a list of the casualties. If Tom's name is not there well be pretty sure that he's been captured, and it will be up to us to try to find him."
Returning to the barracks as Frank had proposed, they found that a list was posted on the company bulletin board, and carefully scanned it for Tom's name, while fear tugged at their hearts.
Great was their relief when they failed to find it, for if he were only a prisoner the chances were that the authorities would get him back, or that the boys themselves might ferret out the place where he was being held and rescue him.
"Well," said Bart, as the boys turned away from the bulletin board, "there's not much we can do for poor Tom to-night, but if he's a prisoner we'll get word from him sooner or later."
"If he's a prisoner, I'd hate to be the man who has him in charge," remarked Billy grimly. "Something pretty terrible is apt to happen to that bird most any time."
"Yes, chances are he'll come marching into camp with a few prisoners on his own account." said Frank. "That is, if he doesn't catch this new disease they're talking about,"
"What disease?" asked Billy. "I hadn't heard anything about it."
"Nobody seems to know very much about it," replied Frank. "It has appeared at various places in Germany, especially in the occupied zones. It seems to have attacked Germans as well as Americans, and nobody knows what to make of it. Of course, remember I'm only telling you what another fellow told me recently, and I give it to you for what it's worth. It may be just rumor, but he seemed to be so certain of his facts that I felt inclined to believe him."
As it happened, what Frank had heard as a rumor was indeed a fact-- and a fact, moreover, that was proving most puzzling and unpleasant for the American medical authorities. The disease that Frank had spoken of had indeed made its appearance in various parts of the country, and while the doctors had many theories concerning it, they were all only theories as yet, and nothing really definite was known regarding it. The symptoms were much like those of virulent typhus. Men sickened and died within forty- eight hours, and once stricken, the unfortunate victim did not recover in one case out of a hundred.
Some of the doctors were inclined to think it one of the plagues that usually follow in the track of war, due to privation and depression. This theory, however, did not explain why American troops, well fed and victorious, should be affected. Most believed it to be caused by some deadly germ, hitherto unknown, and every effort was being made by the medical corps to isolate the germ and find a remedy for the disease. But the Army Boys were to know more of the source of this strange scourge and make a most amazing discovery regarding it.
ON THE TRAIL
On the day following that of Tom Bradford's disappearance, Bart and Billy were assigned to special duty as part of an officers' escort on a mission to a neighboring town.
After they had left Frank found himself very lonely, especially as he had an afternoon off duty. Mingled with his thoughts of the missing Tom was the thought that had constantly haunted his mind of late--the unsolved mystery of the alley up which hostile Germans could flit and apparently disappear into thin air. He knew there must be some explanation of the mystery, but what was it? He racked his brains to find a plausible solution. But the more he thought about it, the more uncertain he became, until at last he came to a resolution.
"Here I am," he thought, "racking my wits over this matter, and about all I do is just guess work, after all. The best thing I can do is get permission to go to the town, find that alley and see if I can't run across some clue that was lacking the last time I was there."
Having reached this resolve, he lost no time in acting on it, and readily securing the desired permission, he set off for the town. This he soon reached, and walked at a smart pace through the quaint, well-kept streets.
Going along one broad avenue he came suddenly face to face with the man from whom he had taken away the cane, whom he had since learned was a famous German physician, a well known character throughout the war. The latter, however, was so preoccupied that he took no notice of Frank. His thoughts, whatever they were, appeared to be pleasant, for as he walked he smiled to himself and softly rubbed his hands together, as one well pleased with the course of events.
"The old codger seems mightily pleased over something," mused Frank, "and I'm willing to bet a reasonable amount it isn't over any schemes for the betterment of mankind. I may do him an injustice, but I don't think his genial Hun nature is inclined exactly in that direction."
He gave little further thought to the chance meeting, his mind being busied with speculations as to what he might find in the mysterious alley. The weather was very mild, and he knew the sheet of ice and snow that had covered the ground on his previous visit would not now exist to baffle him. But he did not want to enter the alley until darkness had fallen to offer him concealment, so abated his usual brisk pace to a mere saunter, and took careful note of the attitude of the people he passed. The streets were quiet enough, but the faces of the inhabitants were sullen and hostile, and Frank could read enmity in the glances cast at him.
"They love the Americans about as much as they love sunstroke," he meditated. "But it doesn't matter much what they like, because they'll take just what's handed to them. But it's the lower elements and the revolutionists who are making most of the trouble, and I'm a lot mistaken if their headquarters aren't in the neighborhood of that blind alley. Well, anyway, I'll know more about it when I get through my privately conducted explorations this evening."
He stopped in a small restaurant and ordered a light meal. By the time he had finished this it was nearly dark, and he set out for his objective without further delay.
He shortly reached the entrance to the alley, and, after casting a searching glance about him to make sure that he was unobserved, he
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