THE CRAIG KENNEDY SERIES
THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE
ARTHUR B. REEVE
I THE CLUTCHING HAND
II THE TWILIGHT SLEEP
III THE VANISHING JEWELS
IV "THE FROZEN SAFE"
V THE POISONED ROOM
VI THE VAMPIRE
VII THE DOUBLE TRAP
VIII THE HIDDEN VOICE
IX THE DEATH RAY
X THE LIFE CURRENT
XI THE HOUR OF THREE
XII THE BLOOD CRYSTALS
XIII THE DEVIL WORSHIPPERS
XIV THE RECKONING
THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE
THE CLUTCHING HAND
"Jameson, here's a story I wish you'd follow up," remarked the managing editor of the Star to me one evening after I had turned in an assignment of the late afternoon.
He handed me a clipping from the evening edition of the Star and I quickly ran my eye over the headline:
"THE CLUTCHING HAND" WINS AGAIN
NEW YORK'S MYSTERIOUS MASTER CRIMINAL PERFECTS ANOTHER COUP
CITY POLICE COMPLETELY BAFFLED
"Here's this murder of Fletcher, the retired banker and trustee of the University," he explained. "Not a clue—except a warning letter signed with this mysterious clutching fist. Last week it was the robbery of the Haxworth jewels and the killing of old Haxworth. Again that curious sign of the hand. Then there was the dastardly attempt on Sherburne, the steel magnate. Not a trace of the assailant except this same clutching fist. So it has gone, Jameson—the most alarming and most inexplicable series of murders that has ever happened in this country. And nothing but this uncanny hand to trace them by."
The editor paused a moment, then exclaimed, "Why, this fellow seems to take a diabolical—I might almost say pathological— pleasure in crimes of violence, revenge, avarice and self- protection. Sometimes it seems as if he delights in the pure deviltry of the thing. It is weird."
He leaned over and spoke in a low, tense tone. "Strangest of all, the tip has just come to us that Fletcher, Haxworth, Sherburne and all the rest of those wealthy men were insured in the Consolidated Mutual Life. Now, Jameson, I want you to find Taylor Dodge, the president, and interview him. Get what you can, at any cost."
I had naturally thought first of Kennedy, but there was no time now to call him up and, besides, I must see Dodge immediately.
Dodge, I discovered over the telephone, was not at home, nor at any of the clubs to which he belonged. Late though it was I concluded that he was at his office. No amount of persuasion could get me past the door, and, though I found out later and shall tell soon what was going on there, I determined, about nine o'clock, that the best way to get at Dodge was to go to his house on Fifth Avenue, if I had to camp on his front doorstep until morning. The harder I found the story to get, the more I wanted it.
With some misgivings about being admitted, I rang the bell of the splendid, though not very modern, Dodge residence. An English butler, with a nose that must have been his fortune, opened the door and gravely informed me that Mr. Dodge was not at home, but was expected at any moment.
Once in, I was not going lightly to give up that advantage. I bethought myself of his daughter, Elaine, one of the most popular debutantes of the season, and sent in my card to her, on a chance of interesting her and seeing her father, writing on the bottom of the card: "Would like to interview Mr. Dodge regarding Clutching Hand."
Summoning up what assurance I had, which is sometimes considerable, I followed the butler down the hall as he bore my card. As he opened the door of the drawing room I caught a vision of a slip of a girl, in an evening gown.
Elaine Dodge was both the ingenue and the athlete—the thoroughly modern type of girl—equally at home with tennis and tango, table talk and tea. Vivacious eyes that hinted at a stunning amber brown sparkled beneath masses of the most wonderful auburn hair. Her pearly teeth, when she smiled, were marvellous. And she smiled often, for life to her seemed a continuous film of enjoyment.
Near her I recognized from his pictures, Perry Bennett, the rising young corporation lawyer, a mighty good looking fellow, with an affable, pleasing way about him, perhaps thirty-five years old or so, but already prominent and quite friendly with Dodge.
On a table I saw a book, as though Elaine had cast it down when the lawyer arrived to call on the daughter under pretense of waiting for her father. Crumpled on the table was the Star. They had read the story.
"Who is it, Jennings?" she asked.
"A reporter, Miss Dodge," answered the butler glancing superciliously back at me, "and you know how your father dislikes to see anyone here at the house," he added deferentially to her.
I took in the situation at a glance. Bennett was trying not to look discourteous, but this was a call on Elaine and it had been interrupted. I could expect no help from that quarter. Still, I fancied that Elaine was not averse to trying to pique her visitor and determined at least to try it.
"Miss Dodge," I pleaded, bowing as if I had known them all my life, "I've been trying to find your father all the evening. It's very important."
She looked up at me surprised and in doubt whether to laugh or stamp her pretty little foot in indignation at my stupendous nerve.
She laughed. "You are a very brave young man," she replied with a roguish look at Bennett's discomfiture over the interruption of the tete-a-tete.
There was a note of seriousness in it, too, that made me ask quickly, "Why?"
The smile flitted from her face and in its place came a frank earnest expression which I later learned to like and respect very much. "My father has declared he will eat the very next reporter who tries to interview him here," she answered.
I was about to prolong the waiting time by some jolly about such a stunning girl not having by any possibility such a cannibal of a parent, when the rattle of the changing gears of a car outside told of the approach of a limousine.
The big front door opened and Elaine flung herself in the arms of an elderly, stern-faced, gray-haired man. "Why, Dad," she cried, "where have you been? I missed you so much at dinner. I'll be so glad when this terrible business gets cleared up. Tell—me. What is on your mind? What is it that worries you now?"
I noticed then that Dodge seemed wrought-up and a bit unnerved, for he sank rather heavily into a chair, brushed his face with his handkerchief and breathed heavily. Elaine hovered over him solicitously, repeating her question.
With a mighty effort he seemed to get himself together. He rose and turned to Bennett.
"Perry," he exclaimed, "I've got the Clutching Hand!"
The two men stared at each other.
"Yes," continued Dodge, "I've just found out how to trace it, and tomorrow I am going to set the alarms of the city at rest by exposing—"
Just then Dodge caught sight of me. For the moment I thought perhaps he was going to fulfill his threat.
"Who the devil—why didn't you tell me a reporter was here, Jennings?" he sputtered indignantly, pointing toward the door.
Argument, entreaty were of no avail. He stamped crustily into the library, taking Bennett with him and leaving me with Elaine. Inside I could hear them talking, and managed to catch enough to piece together the story. I wanted to stay, but Elaine, smiling at my enthusiasm, shook her head and held out her hand in one of her frank, straight-arm hand shakes. There was nothing to do but go.
At least, I reflected, I had the greater part of the story—all except the one big thing, however,—the name of the criminal. But Dodge would know him tomorrow!
I hurried back to the Star to write my story in time to catch the last morning edition.
. . . . . . . .
Meanwhile, if I may anticipate my story, I must tell of what we later learned had happened to Dodge so completely to upset him.
Ever since the Consolidated Mutual had been hit by the murders, he had had many lines out in the hope of enmeshing the perpetrator. That night, as I found out the next day, he had at last heard of a clue. One of the company's detectives had brought in a red-headed, lame, partly paralyzed crook who enjoyed the expressive monniker of "Limpy Red." "Limpy Red" was a gunman of some renown, evil faced and having nothing much to lose, desperate. Whoever the master criminal of the Clutching Hand might have been he had seen fit to employ Limpy but had not taken the precaution of getting rid of him soon enough when he was through.
Wherefore Limpy had a grievance and now descended under pressure to the low level of snitching to Dodge in his office.
"No, Governor," the trembling wretch had said as he handed over a grimy envelope, "I ain't never seen his face—but here is directions how to find his hang-out."
As Limpy ambled out, he turned to Dodge, quivering at the enormity of his unpardonable sin in gang-land, "For God's sake, Governor," he implored, "don't let on how you found out!"
And yet Limpy Red had scarcely left with his promise not to tell, when Dodge, happening to turn over some papers came upon an envelope left on his own desk, bearing that mysterious Clutching Hand!
He tore it open, and read in amazement:
"Destroy Limpy Red's instructions within the next hour."
Dodge gazed about in wonder. This thing was getting on his nerves. He determined to go home and rest.
Outside the house, as he left his car, pasted over the monogram on the door, he had found another note, with the same weird mark and the single word:
Much of this I had already gathered from what I overheard Dodge telling Bennett as they entered the library. Some, also, I have pieced together from the story of a servant who overheard.
At any rate, in spite of the pleadings of young Bennett, Dodge refused to take warning. In the safe in his beautifully fitted library he deposited Limpy's document in an envelope containing all the correspondence that had lead up to the final step in the discovery.
. . . . . . . .
It was late in the evening when I returned to our apartment and, not finding Kennedy there, knew that I would discover him at the laboratory.
"Craig," I cried as I burst in on him, "I've got a case for you— greater than any ever before!"
Kennedy looked up calmly from the rack of scientific instruments that surrounded him, test tubes, beakers, carefully labelled bottles.
He had been examining a piece of cloth and had laid it aside in disappointment near his magnifying glass. Just now he was watching a reaction in a series of test tubes standing on his table. He was looking dejectedly at the floor as I came in.
"Indeed?" he remarked coolly going back to the reaction.
"Yes," I cried. "It is a scientific criminal who seems to leave no clues."
Kennedy looked up gravely. "Every criminal leaves a trace," he said quietly. "If it hasn't been found, then it must be because no one has ever looked for it in the right way."
Still gazing at me keenly, he added, "Yes, I already knew there was such a man at large. I have been called in on that Fletcher case—he was a trustee of the University, you know."
"All right," I exclaimed, a little nettled that he should have anticipated me even so much in the case. "But you haven't heard the latest."
"What is it?" he asked with provoking calmness,
"Taylor Dodge," I blurted out, "has the clue. To-morrow he will track down the man!"
Kennedy fairly jumped as I repeated the news.
"How long has he known?" he demanded eagerly.
"Perhaps three or four hours," I hazarded.
Kennedy gazed at me fixedly.
"Then Taylor Dodge is dead!" he exclaimed, throwing off his acid- stained laboratory smock and hurrying into his street clothes.
"Impossible!" I ejaculated.
Kennedy paid no attention to the objection. "Come, Walter," he urged. "We must hurry, before the trail gets cold."
There was something positively uncanny about Kennedy's assurance. I doubted—yet I feared.
It was well past the middle of the night when we pulled up in a night-hawk taxicab before the Dodge house, mounted the steps and rang the bell.
Jennings answered sleepily, but not so much so that he did not recognize me. He was about to bang the door shut when Kennedy interposed his foot.
"Where is Mr. Dodge?" asked Kennedy. "Is he all right?"
"Of course he is—in bed," replied the butler.
Just then we heard a faint cry, like nothing exactly human. Or was it our heightened imaginations, under the spell of the darkness?
"Listen!" cautioned Kennedy.
We did, standing there now in the hall. Kennedy was the only one of us who was cool. Jennings' face blanched, then he turned tremblingly and went down to the library door whence the sounds had seemed to come.
He called but there was no answer. He turned the knob and opened the door. The Dodge library was a large room. In the center stood a big flat-topped desk of heavy mahogany. It was brilliantly lighted.
At one end of the desk was a telephone. Taylor Dodge was lying on the floor at that end of the desk—perfectly rigid—his face distorted—a ghastly figure. A pet dog ran over, sniffed frantically at his master's legs and suddenly began to howl dismally.
Dodge was dead!
"Help!" shouted Jennings.
Others of the servants came rushing in. There was for the moment the greatest excitement and confusion.
Suddenly a wild figure in flying garments flitted down the stairs and into the library, dropping beside the dead man, without seeming to notice us at all.
"Father!" shrieked a woman's voice, heart broken. "Father! Oh—my God—he—he is dead!"
It was Elaine Dodge.
With a mighty effort, the heroic girl seemed to pull herself together.
"Jennings," she cried, "Call Mr. Bennett—immediately!"
From the one-sided, excited conversation of the butler over the telephone, I gathered that Bennett had been in the process of disrobing in his own apartment uptown and would be right down.
Together, Kennedy, Elaine and myself lifted Dodge to a sofa and Elaine's aunt, Josephine, with whom she lived, appeared on the scene, trying to quiet the sobbing girl.
Kennedy and I withdrew a little way and he looked about curiously.
"What was it?" I whispered. "Was it natural, an accident, or—or murder?"
The word seemed to stick in my throat. If it was a murder, what was the motive? Could it have been to get the evidence which Dodge had that would incriminate the master criminal?
Kennedy moved over quietly and examined the body of Dodge. When he rose, his face had a peculiar look.
"Terrible!" he whispered to me. "Apparently he had been working at his accustomed place at the desk when the telephone rang. He rose and crossed over to it. See! That brought his feet on this register let into the floor. As he took the telephone receiver down a flash of light must have shot from it to his ear. It shows the characteristic electric burn."
"The motive?" I queried.
"Evidently his pockets had been gone through, though none of the valuables were missing. Things on his desk show that a hasty search has been made."
Just then the door opened and Bennett burst in.
As he stood over the body, gazing down at it, repressing the emotions of a strong man, he turned to Elaine and in a low voice, exclaimed, "The Clutching Hand did this! I shall consecrate my life to bring this man to justice!"
He spoke tensely and Elaine, looking up into his face, as if imploring his help in her hour of need, unable to speak, merely grasped his hand.
Kennedy, who in the meantime had stood apart from the rest of us, was examining the telephone carefully.
"A clever crook," I heard him mutter between his teeth. "He must have worn gloves. Not a finger print—at least here."
. . . . . . . .
Perhaps I can do no better than to reconstruct the crime as Kennedy later pieced these startling events together.
Long after I had left and even after Bennett left, Dodge continued working in his library, for he was known as a prodigious worker.
Had he taken the trouble, however, to pause and peer out into the moonlight that flooded the back of his house, he might have seen the figures of two stealthy crooks crouching in the half shadows of one of the cellar windows.
One crook was masked by a handkerchief drawn tightly about his lower face, leaving only his eyes visible beneath the cap with visor pulled down over his forehead. He had a peculiar stoop of the shoulders and wore his coat collar turned up. One hand, the right, seemed almost deformed. It was that which gave him his name in the underworld—the Clutching Hand.
The masked crook held carefully the ends of two wires attached to an electric feed, and sending his pal to keep watch outside, he entered the cellar of the Dodge house through a window whose pane they had carefully removed. As he came through the window he dragged the wires with him, and, alter a moment's reconnoitering attached them to the furnace pipe of the old-fashioned hot-air heater where the pipe ran up through the floor to the library above. The other wire was quickly attached to the telephone where its wires entered.
Upstairs, Dodge, evidently uneasy in his mind about the precious "Limpy Red" letter, took it from the safe along with most of the other correspondence and, pressing a hidden spring in the wall, opened a secret panel, placed most of the important documents in this hiding place. Then he put some blank sheets of paper in an envelope and returned it to the safe.
Downstairs the masked master criminal had already attached a voltmeter to the wires he had installed, waiting.
Just then could be heard the tinkle of Dodge's telephone and the old man rose to answer it. As he did so he placed his foot on the iron register, his hand taking the telephone and the receiver. At that instant came a powerful electric flash. Dodge sank on the floor grasping the instrument, electrocuted. Below, the master criminal could scarcely refrain from exclaiming with satisfaction as his voltmeter registered the powerful current that was passing.
A moment later the criminal slid silently into Dodge's room. Carefully putting on rubber gloves and avoiding touching the register, he wrenched the telephone from the grasp of the dead man, replacing it in its normal position. Only for a second did he pause to look at his victim as he destroyed the evidence of his work.
Minutes were precious. First Dodge's pockets, then his desk engaged his attention. There was left the safe.
As he approached the strong box, the master criminal took two vials from his pockets. Removing a bust of Shakespeare that stood on the safe, he poured the contents of the vials in two mixed masses of powder forming a heap on the safe, into which he inserted two magnesium wires.
He lighted them, sprang back, hiding his eyes from the light, and a blinding gush of flame, lasting perhaps ten seconds, poured out from the top of the safe.
It was not an explosion, but just a dazzling, intense flame that sizzled and crackled. It seemed impossible, but the glowing mass was literally sinking, sinking down into the cold steel. At last it burned through—as if the safe had been of tinder!
Without waiting a moment longer than necessary, the masked criminal advanced again and actually put his hand down through the top of the safe, pulling out a bunch of papers. Quickly he thrust them all, with just a glance, into his pocket.
Still working quickly, he took the bust of the great dramatist which he had removed and placed it under the light. Next from his pocket he drew two curious stencils, as it were, which he had apparently carefully prepared. With his hands, still carefully gloved, he rubbed the stencils on his hair, as if to cover them with a film of natural oils. Then he deliberately pressed them over the statue in several places. It was a peculiar action and he seemed to fairly gloat over it when it was done, and the bust returned to its place, covering the hole.
As noiselessly as he had come, he made his exit after one last malignant look at Dodge. It was now but the work of a moment to remove the wires he had placed, and climb out of the window, taking them and destroying the evidence down in the cellar.
A low whistle from the masked crook, now again in the shadow, brought his pal stealthily to his side.
"It's all right," he whispered hoarsely to the man. "Now, you attend to Limpy Red."
The villainous looking pal nodded and without another word the two made their getaway, safely, in opposite directions.
. . . . . . . .
When Limpy Red, still trembling, left the office of Dodge earlier in the evening, he had repaired as fast as his shambling feet would take him to his favorite dive upon Park Row. There he might have been seen drinking with any one who came along, for Limpy had money—blood money,—and the recollection of his treachery and revenge must both be forgotten and celebrated.
Had the Bowery "sinkers" not got into his eyes, he might have noticed among the late revellers, a man who spoke to no one but took his place nearby at the bar.
Limpy had long since reached the point of saturation and, lurching forth from his new found cronies, he sought other fields of excitement. Likewise did the newcomer, who bore a strange resemblance to the look-out who had been stationed outside at the Dodge house a scant half hour before.
What happened later was only a matter of seconds. It came when the hated snitch—for gangdom hates the informer worse than anything else dead or alive—had turned a sufficiently dark and deserted corner.
A muffled thud, a stifled groan followed as a heavy section of lead pipe wrapped in a newspaper descended on the crass skull of Limpy. The wielder of the improvised but fatal weapon permitted himself the luxury of an instant's cruel smile—then vanished into the darkness leaving another complete job for the coroner and the morgue.
It was the vengeance of the Clutching Hand—swift, sure, remorseless.
And yet it had not been a night of complete success for the master criminal, as anyone might have seen who could have followed his sinuous route to a place of greater safety.
Unable to wait longer he pulled the papers he had taken from the safe from his pocket. His chagrin at finding them to be blank paper found only one expression of foiled fury—that menacing clutching hand!
. . . . . . . .
Kennedy had turned from his futile examination for marks on the telephone. There stood the safe, a moderate sized strong box but of a modern type. He tried the door. It was locked. There was not a mark on it. The combination had not been tampered with. Nor had there been any attempt to "soup" the safe.
With a quick motion he felt in his pocket as if looking for gloves. Finding none, he glanced about, and seized a pair of tongs from beside the grate. With them, in order not to confuse any possible finger prints on the bust, he lifted it off. I gave a gasp of surprise.
There, in the top of the safe, yawned a gaping hole through which one could have thrust his arm!
"What is it?" we asked, crowding about him.
"Thermit," he replied laconically.
"Thermit?" I repeated.
"Yes—a compound of iron oxide and powdered aluminum invented by a chemist at Essen, Germany. It gives a temperature of over five thousand degrees. It will eat its way through the strongest steel."
Jennings, his mouth wide open with wonder, advanced to take the bust from Kennedy.
"No—don't touch it," he waved him off, laying the bust on the desk. "I want no one to touch it—don't you see how careful I was to use the tongs that there might be no question about any clue this fellow may have left on the marble?"
As he spoke, Craig was dusting over the surface of the bust with some black powder.
"Look!" exclaimed Craig suddenly.
We bent over. The black powder had in fact brought out strongly some peculiar, more or less regular, black smudges.
"Finger prints!" I cried excitedly.
"Yes," nodded Kennedy, studying them closely. "A clue—perhaps."
"What—those little marks—a clue?" asked a voice behind us.
I turned and saw Elaine, looking over our shoulders, fascinated. It was evidently the first time she had realized that Kennedy was in the room.
"How can you tell anything by that?'" she asked.
"Why, easily," he answered picking up a brass blotting-pad which lay on the desk. "You see, I place my finger on this weight—so. I dust the powder over the mark—so. You could see it even without the powder on this glass. Do you see those lines? There are various types of markings—four general types—and each person's markings are different, even if of the same general type—loop, whorl, arch, or composite."
He continued working as he talked.
"Your thumb marks, for example, Miss Dodge, are different from mine. Mr. Jameson's are different from both of us. And this fellow's finger prints are still different. It is mathematically impossible to find two alike in every respect."
Kennedy was holding the brass blotter near the bust as he talked.
I shall never forget the look of blank amazement on his face as he bent over closer.
"My God!" he exclaimed excitedly, "this fellow is a master criminal! He has actually made stencils or something of the sort on which by some mechanical process he has actually forged the hitherto infallible finger prints!"
I, too, bent over and studied the marks on the bust and those Kennedy had made on the blotter to show Elaine.
THE FINGER PRINTS ON THE BUST WERE KENNEDY'S OWN.
THE TWILIGHT SLEEP
Kennedy had thrown himself wholeheartedly into the solution of the mysterious Dodge case.
Far into the night, after the challenge of the forged finger print, he continued at work, endeavoring to extract a clue from the meagre evidence—the bit of cloth and trace of poison already obtained from other cases, and now added the strange succession of events that surrounded the tragedy we had just witnessed.
We dropped around at the Dodge house the next morning. Early though it was, we found Elaine, a trifle paler but more lovely than ever, and Perry Bennett themselves vainly endeavoring to solve the mystery of the Clutching Hand.
They were at Dodge's desk, she in the big desk chair, he standing beside her, looking over some papers.
"There's nothing there," Bennett was saying as we entered.
I could not help feeling that he was gazing down at Elaine a bit more tenderly than mere business warranted.
"Have you—found anything?" queried Elaine anxiously, turning eagerly to Kennedy.
"Nothing—yet," he answered shaking his head, but conveying a quiet idea of confidence in his tone.
Just then Jennings, the butler, entered, bringing the morning papers. Elaine seized the Star and hastily opened it. On the first page was the story I had telephone down very late in the hope of catching a last city edition.
We all bent over and Craig read aloud:
"CLUTCHING HAND" STILL AT LARGE
NEW YORK'S MASTER CRIMINAL REMAINS UNDETECTED—PERPETRATES NEW DARING MURDER AND ROBBERY OF MILLIONAIRE DODGE
He had scarcely finished reading the brief but alarming news story that followed and laid the paper on the desk, when a stone came smashing through the window from the street.
Startled, we all jumped to our feet. Craig hurried to the window. Not a soul was in sight!
He stooped and picked up the stone. To it was attached a piece of paper. Quickly he unfolded it and read:
"Craig Kennedy will give up his search for the "Clutching Hand"— or die!"
Later I recalled that there seemed to be a slight noise downstairs, as if at the cellar window through which the masked man had entered the night before.
In point of fact, one who had been outside at the time might actually have seen a sinister face at that cellar window, but to us upstairs it was invisible. The face was that of the servant, Michael.
Without another word Kennedy passed into the drawing room and took his hat and coat. Both Elaine and Bennett followed.
"I'm afraid I must ask you to excuse me—for the present," Craig apologized.
Elaine looked at him anxiously.
"You—you will not let that letter intimidate you?" she pleaded, laying her soft white hand on his arm. "Oh, Mr. Kennedy," she added, bravely keeping back the tears, "avenge him! All the money in the world would be too little to pay—if only—"
At the mere mention of money Kennedy's face seemed to cloud, but only for a moment. He must have felt the confiding pressure of her hand, for as she paused, appealingly, he took her hand in his, bowing slightly over it to look closer into her upturned face.
"I'll try," he said simply.
Elaine did not withdraw her hand as she continued to look up at him. Craig looked at her, as I had never seen him look at a woman before in all our long acquaintance.
"Miss Dodge," he went on, his voice steady as though he were repressing something, "I will never take another case until the 'Clutching Hand' is captured."
The look of gratitude she gave him would have been a princely reward in itself.
I did not marvel that all the rest of that day and far into the night Kennedy was at work furiously in his laboratory, studying the notes, the texture of the paper, the character of the ink, everything that might perhaps suggest a new lead. It was all, apparently, however, without result.
. . . . . . . .
It was some time after these events that Kennedy, reconstructing what had happened, ran across, in a strange way which I need not tire the reader by telling, a Dr. Haynes, head of the Hillside Sanitarium for Women, whose story I shall relate substantially as we received it from his own lips:
It must have been that same night that a distinguished visitor drove up in a cab to our Hillside Sanitarium, rang the bell and was admitted to my office. I might describe him as a moderately tall, well-built man with a pleasing way about him. Chiefly noticeable, it seems to me, were his mustache and bushy beard, quite medical and foreign.
I am, by the way, the superintending physician, and that night I was sitting with Dr. Thompson, my assistant, in the office discussing a rather interesting case, when an attendant came in with a card and handed it to me. It read simply, "Dr. Ludwig Reinstrom, Coblenz."
"Here's that Dr. Reinstrom, Thompson, about whom my friend in Germany wrote the other day," I remarked, nodding to the attendant to admit Dr. Reinstrom.
I might explain that while I was abroad some time ago, I made a particular study of the "Daemmerschlaf"—otherwise, the "twilight sleep," at Freiburg where it was developed and at other places in Germany where the subject had attracted great attention. I was much impressed and had imported the treatment to Hillside.
While we waited I reached into my desk and drew out the letter to which I referred, which ended, I recall:
"As Dr. Reinstrom is in America, he will probably call on you. I am sure you will be glad to know him.
"With kindest regards, I am,
"EMIL SCHWARZ, M. D.,
"Director, Leipsic Institute of Medicine."
"Most happy to meet you, Dr. Reinstrom," I greeted the new arrival, as he entered our office.
For several minutes we sat and chatted of things medical here and abroad.
"What is it, Doctor," I asked finally, "that interests you most in America?"
"Oh," he replied quickly with an expressive gesture, "it is the broadmindedness with which you adopt the best from all over the world, regardless of prejudice. For instance, I am very much interested in the new twilight sleep. Of course you have borrowed it largely from us, but it interests me to see whether you have modified it with practice. In fact I have come to the Hillside Sanitarium particularly to see it used. Perhaps we may learn something from you."
It was most gracious and both Dr. Thompson and myself were charmed by our visitor. I reached over and touched a call-button and our head nurse entered from a rear room.
"Are there any operations going on now?" I asked.
She looked mechanically at her watch. "Yes, there are two cases, now, I think," she answered.
"Would you like to follow our technique, Doctor?" I asked, turning to Dr. Reinstorm.
"I should be delighted," he acquiesced.
A moment later we passed down the corridor of the Sanitarium, still chatting. At the door of a ward I spoke to the attendant who indicated that a patient was about to be anesthetized, and Reinstrom and I entered the room.
There, in perfect quiet, which is an essential part of the treatment, were several women patients lying in bed in the ward. Before us two nurses and a doctor were in attendance on one.
I spoke to the Doctor, Dr. Holmes, by the way, who bowed politely to the distinguished Dr. Reinstrom, then turned quickly to his work.
"Miss Sears," he asked of one of the nurses, "will you bring me that hypodermic needle? How are you getting on, Miss Stern?" to the other who was scrubbing the patient's arm with antiseptic soap and water, thoroughly sterilizing the skin.
"You will see, Dr. Reinstrom." I interposed in a low tone, "that we follow in the main your Freiburg treatment. We use scopolamin and narkophin."
I held up the bottle, as I said it, a rather peculiar shaped bottle, too.
"And the pain?" he asked.
"Practically the same as in your experience abroad. We do not render the patient unconscious, but prevent her from remembering anything that goes on."
Dr. Holmes, the attending physician, was just starting the treatment. Filling his hypodermic, he selected a spot on the patient's arm, where it had been scrubbed and sterilized, and injected the narcotic.
"How simply you do it all, here!" exclaimed Reinstrom in surprise and undisguised admiration. "You Americans are wonderful!"
"Come—see a patient who is just recovering," I added, much flattered by the praise, which, from a German physician, meant much.
Reinstrom followed me out of the door and we entered a private room of the hospital where another woman patient lay in bed carefully watched by a nurse.
"How do you do?" I nodded to the nurse in a modulated tone. "Everything progressing favorably?"
"Perfectly," she returned, as Reinstrom, Haynes and myself formed a little group about the bedside of the unconscious woman.
"And you say they have no recollection of anything that happens?" asked Reinstrom.
"Absolutely none—if the treatment is given properly," I replied confidently.
I picked up a piece of bandage which was the handiest thing about me and tied it quite tightly about the patient's arm.
As we waited, the patient, who was gradually coming from under the drug, roused herself.
"What is that—it hurts!" she said putting her hand on the bandage I had tied tightly.
"That is all right. Just a moment. I'll take it off. Don't you remember it?" I asked.
She shook her head. I smiled at Reinstrom.
"You see, she has no recollection of my tying the bandage on her arm," I pointed out.
"Wonderful!" ejaculated Reinstrom as we left the room.
All the way back to the office he was loud in his praises and thanked us most heartily, as he put on his hat and coat and shook hands a cordial good-bye.
Now comes the strange part of my story. After Reinstrom had gone, Dr. Holmes, the attending physician of the woman whom we had seen anesthetized, missed his syringe and the bottle of scopolamine.
"Miss Sears," he asked rather testily, "what have you done with the hypodermic and the scopolamine?"
"Nothing," she protested.
"You must have done something."
She repeated that she had not.
"Well, it is very strange then," he said, "I am positive I laid the syringe and the bottle right here on this tray on the table."
Holmes, Miss Sears and Miss Stern all hunted, but it could not be found. Others had to be procured.
I thought little of it at the time, but since then it has occurred to me that it might interest you, Professor Kennedy, and I give it to you for what it may be worth.
It was early the next morning that I awoke to find Kennedy already up and gone from our apartment. I knew he must be at the laboratory, and, gathering the mail, which the postman had just slipped through the letter slot, I went over to the University to see him. As I looked over the letters to cull out my own, one in a woman's handwriting on attractive notepaper addressed to him caught my eye.
As I came up the path to the Chemistry Building I saw through the window that, in spite of his getting there early, he was finding it difficult to keep his mind on his work. It was the first time I had ever known anything to interfere with science in his life.
I thought of the letter again.
Craig had lighted a Bunsen burner under a large glass retort. But he had no sooner done so than he sat down on a chair and, picking up a book which I surmised might be some work on toxicology, started to read.
He seemed not to be able, for the moment, to concentrate his mind and after a little while closed the book and gazed straight ahead of him. Again I thought of the letter, and the vision that, no doubt, he saw of Elaine making her pathetic appeal for his help.
As he heard my footstep in the hall, it must have recalled him for he snapped the book shut and moved over quickly to the retort.
"Well," I exclaimed as I entered, "you are the early bird. Did you have any breakfast?"
I tossed down the letters. He did not reply. So I became absorbed in the morning paper. Still, I did not neglect to watch him covertly out of the corner of my eye. Quickly he ran over the letters, instead of taking them, one by one, in his usual methodical way. I quite complimented my own superior acumen. He selected the dainty note.
A moment Craig looked at it in anticipation, then tore it open eagerly. I was still watching his face over the top of the paper and was surprised to see that it showed, first, amazement, then pain, as though something had hurt him.
He read it again—then looked straight ahead, as if in a daze.
"Strange, how much crime there is now," I commented, looking up from the paper I had pretended reading.
"One would think that one master criminal was enough," I went on.
Still no answer.
He continued to gaze straight ahead at blankness.
"By George," I exclaimed finally, banging my fist on the table and raising my voice to catch his attention, "you would think we had nothing but criminals nowadays."
My voice must have startled him. The usually imperturbable old fellow actually jumped. Then, as my question did not evidently accord with what was in his mind, he answered at random, "Perhaps- -I wonder if—" and then he stopped, noncommittally.
Suddenly he jumped up, bringing his tightly clenched fist down with a loud clap into the palm of his hand.
"By heaven!" he exclaimed, "I—I will!"
Startled at his incomprehensible and unusual conduct I did not attempt to pursue the conversation but let him alone as he strode hastily to the telephone. Almost angrily he seized the receiver and asked for a number. It was not like Craig and I could not conceal my concern.
"Wh-what's the matter, Craig?" I blurted out eagerly.
As he waited for the number, he threw the letter over to me. I took it and read:
"Professor Craig Kennedy, "The University, The Heights, City.
"I have come to the conclusion that your work is a hindrance rather than an assistance in clearing up my father's death and I hereby beg to state that your services are no longer required. This is a final decision and I beg that you will not try to see me again regarding the matter.
"Very truly yours, ELAINE DODGE."
If it had been a bomb I could not have been more surprised. A moment before I think I had just a sneaking suspicion of jealousy that a woman—even Elaine—should interest my old chums. But now all that was swept away. How could any woman scorn him?
I could not make it out.
Kennedy impatiently worked the receiver up and down, repeating the number. "Hello—hello," he repeated, "Yes—hello. Is Miss—oh— good morning, Miss Dodge."
He was hurrying along as if to give her no chance to cut him off. "I have just received a letter, Miss Dodge, telling me that you don't want me to continue investigating your father's death, and not to try to see you again about—"
He stopped. I could hear the reply, as sometimes one can when the telephone wire conditions are a certain way and the quality of the voice of the speaker a certain kind.
"Why—no—Mr. Kennedy, I have written you no letter."
The look of mingled relief and surprise that crossed Craig's face spoke volumes.
"Miss Dodge," he almost shouted, "this is a new trick of the Clutching Hand. I—I'll be right over."
Craig hung up the receiver and turned from the telephone. Evidently he was thinking deeply. Suddenly his face seemed to light up. He made up his mind to something and a moment later he opened the cabinet—that inexhaustible storehouse from which he seemed to draw weird and curious instruments that met the ever new problems which his strange profession brought to him.
I watched curiously. He took out a bottle and what looked like a little hypodermic syringe, thrust them into his pocket and, for once, oblivious to my very existence, deliberately walked out of the laboratory.
I did not propose to be thus cavalierly dismissed. I suppose it would have looked ridiculous to a third party but I followed him as hastily as if he had tried to shut the door on his own shadow.
We arrived at the corner above the Dodge house just in time to see another visitor—Bennett—enter. Craig quickened his pace. Jennings had by this time become quite reconciled to our presence and a moment later we were entering the drawing room, too.
Elaine was there, looking lovelier than ever in the plain black dress, which set off the rosy freshness of her face.
"And, Perry," we heard her say, as we were ushered in, "someone has even forged my name—the handwriting and everything—telling Mr. Kennedy to drop the case—and I never knew."
She stopped as we entered. We bowed and shook hands with Bennett. Elaine's Aunt Josephine was in the room, a perfect duenna.
"That's the limit!" exclaimed Bennett. "Miss Dodge has just been telling me,—"
"Yes," interrupted Craig. "Look, Miss Dodge, this is it."
He handed her the letter. She almost seized it, examining it carefully, her large eyes opening wider in wonder.
"This is certainly my writing and my notepaper," she murmured, "but I never wrote the letter!"
Craig looked from the letter to her keenly. No one said a word. For a moment Kennedy hesitated, thinking.
"Might I—er—see your room, Miss Dodge?" he asked at length.
Aunt Josephine frowned. Bennett and I could not conceal our surprise.
"Why, certainly," nodded Elaine, as she led the way upstairs.
It was a dainty little room, breathing the spirit of its mistress. In fact it seemed a sort of profanation as we all followed in after her. For a moment Kennedy stood still, then he carefully looked about. At the side of the bed, near the head, he stooped and picked up something which he held in the palm of his hand. I bent over. Something gleamed in the morning sunshine—some little thin pieces of glass. As he tried deftly to fit the tiny little bits together, he seemed absorbed in thought. Quickly he raised it to his nose, as if to smell it.
"Ethyl chloride!" he muttered, wrapping the pieces carefully in a paper and putting them into his pocket.
An instant later he crossed the room to the window and examined it.
"Look!" he exclaimed.
There, plainly, were marks of a jimmy which had been inserted near the lock to pry it open.
"Miss Dodge," he asked, "might I—might I trouble you to let me see your arm?"
Wonderingly she did so and Kennedy bent almost reverently over her plump arm examining it.
On it was a small dark discoloration, around which was a slight redness and tenderness.
"That," he said slowly, "is the mark of a hypodermic needle."
As he finished examining Elaine's arm he drew the letter from his pocket. Still facing her he said in a low tone, "Miss Dodge—you did write this letter—but under the influence of the new 'twilight sleep.'"
We looked at one another amazed.
Outside, if we had been at the door in the hallway, we might have seen the sinister-faced Michael listening. He turned and slipped quietly away.
"Why, Craig," I exclaimed excitedly, "what do you mean?"
"Exactly what I say. With Miss Dodge's permission I shall show you. By a small administration of the drug which will injure you in no way, Miss Dodge, I think I can bring back the memory of all that occurred to you last night. Will you allow me?"
"Mercy, no!" protested Aunt Josephine.
Craig and Elaine faced each other as they had the day before when she had asked him whether the sudden warning of the Clutching Hand would intimidate him. She advanced a step nearer. Elaine trusted him.
"Elaine!" protested Aunt Josephine again.
"I want the experiment to be tried," she said quietly.
A moment later Kennedy had placed her in a wing chair in the corner of the room.
"Now, Mrs. Dodge," he said, "please bring me a basin and a towel."
Aunt Josephine, reconciled, brought them. Kennedy dropped an antiseptic tablet into the water and carefully sterilized Elaine's arm just above the spot where the red mark showed. Then he drew the hypodermic from his pocket—carefully sterilizing it, also, and filling it with scopolamine from the bottle.
"Just a moment, Miss Dodge," he encouraged as he jabbed the needle into her arm.
She did not wince.
"Please lie back on the couch," he directed. Then turning to us he added, "It takes some time for this to work. Our criminal got over that fact and prevented an outcry by using ethyl chloride first. Let me reconstruct the scene."
As we watched Elaine going under slowly, Craig talked.
"That night," he said, "warily, the masked criminal of the Clutching Hand might have been seen down below us in the alley. Up here, Miss Dodge, worn out by the strain of her father's death, let us say, was nervously trying to read, to do anything that would take her mind off the tragedy. Perhaps she fell asleep.
"Just then the Clutching Hand appeared. He came stealthily through that window which he had opened. A moment he hesitated, seeing Elaine asleep. Then he tiptoed over to the bed, let us say, and for a moment looked at her, sleeping.
"A second later he had thrust his hand into his pocket and had taken out a small glass bulb with a long thin neck. That was ethyl chloride, a drug which produces a quick anesthesia. But it lasts only a minute or two. That was enough, As he broke the glass neck of the bulb—letting the pieces fall on the floor near the bed—he shoved the thing under Elaine's face, turning his own head away and holding a handkerchief over his own nose. The mere heat of his hand was enough to cause the ethyl chloride to spray out and overcome her instantly. He stepped away from her a moment and replaced the now empty vial in his pocket.
"Then he took a box from his pocket, opened it. There must have been a syringe and a bottle of scopolamine. Where they came from I do not know, but perhaps from some hospital. I shall have to find that out later. He went to Elaine, quickly jabbing the needle, with no resistance from her now. Slowly he replaced the bottle and the needle in his pocket. He could not have been in any hurry now, for it takes time for the drug to work."
Kennedy paused. Had we known at the time, Michael—he of the sinister face—must have been in the hallway, careful that no one saw him. A tap at the door and the Clutching Hand, that night, must have beckoned him. A moment's parley and they separated— Clutching Hand going back to Elaine, who was now under the influence of the second drug.
"Our criminal," resumed Kennedy thoughtfully, "may have shaken Elaine. She did not answer. Then he may have partly revived her. She must have been startled. Clutching Hand, perhaps, was half crouching, with a big ugly blue steel revolver leveled full in her face.
"'One word and I shoot!' he probably cried. "Get up!'
"Trembling, she must have done so. 'Your slippers and a kimono,' he would naturally have ordered. She put them on mechanically. Then he must have ordered her to go out of the door and down the stairs. Clutching Hand must have followed and as he did so he would have cautiously put out the lights."
We were following, spell-bound, Kennedy's graphic reconstruction of what must have happened. Evidently he had struck close to the truth. Elaine's eyes were closed. Gently Kennedy led her along. "Now, Miss Dodge," he encouraged, "try—try hard to recollect just what it was that happened last night—everything."
As Kennedy paused after his quick recital, she seemed to tremble all over. Slowly she began to speak. We stood awestruck. Kennedy had been right!
The girl was now living over again those minutes that had been forgotten—blotted out by the drug.
And it was all real to her, too,—terribly real. She was speaking, plainly in terror.
"I see a man—oh, such a figure—with a mask. He holds a gun in my face—he threatens me. I put on my kimono and slippers, as he tells me. I am in a daze. I know what I am doing—and I don't know. I go out with him, downstairs, into the library."
Elaine shuddered again at the recollection. "Ugh! The room is dark, the room where he killed my father. Moonlight outside streams in. This masked man and I come in. He switches on the lights.
"'Go to the safe,' he says, and I do it, the new safe, you know. 'Do you know the combination?' he asks me. 'Yes,' I reply, too frightened to say no.
"'Open it then,' he says, waving that awful revolver closer. I do so. Hastily he rummages through it, throwing papers here and there. But he seems not to find what he is after and turns away, swearing fearfully.
"'Hang it!' he cries to me. 'Where else did your father keep papers?' I point in desperation at the desk. He takes one last look at the safe, shoves all the papers he has strewn on the floor back again and slams the safe shut.
"'Now, come on!' he says, indicating with the gun that he wants me to follow him away from the safe. At the desk he repeats the search. But he finds nothing. Almost I think he is about to kill me. 'Where else did your father keep papers?' he hisses fiercely, still threatening me with the gun.
"I am too frightened to speak. But at last I am able to say, 'I—I don't know!' Again he threatens me. 'As God is my judge,' I cry, 'I don't know.' It is fearful. Will he shoot me?
"Thank heaven! At last he believes me. But such a look of foiled fury I have never seen on any human face before.
"'Sit down!' he growls, adding, 'at the desk.' I do.
"'Take some of your notepaper—the best.' I do that, too.
"'And a pen,' he goes on. My fingers can hardly hold it.
"'Now—write!' he says, and as he dictates, I write—"
"This?" interjected Kennedy, eagerly holding up the letter that he had received from her.
Elaine looked it over with her drug-laden eyes. "Yes," she nodded, then lapsed again to the scene itself. "He reads it over and as he does so says, 'Now, address an envelope.' Himself he folds the letter, seals the envelope, stamps it, and drops it into his pocket, hastily straightening the desk.
"'Now, go ahead of me—again. Leave the room—no, by the hall door. We are going back upstairs.' I obey him, and at the door he switches off the lights. How I stand it, I don't know. I go upstairs, mechanically, into my own room—I and this masked man.
"'Take off the kimono and slippers!' he orders. I do that. 'Get into bed!' he growls. I crawl in fearfully. For a moment he looks about,—then goes out—with a look back as he goes. Oh! Oh! That hand—which he raises at me—THAT HAND!"
The poor girl was sitting bolt upright, staring straight at the hall door, as we watched and listened, fascinated.
Kennedy was bending over, soothing her. She gave evidences of coming out from the effect of the drug.
I noticed that Bennett had suddenly moved a step in the direction of the door at which she stared.
"My God!" he muttered, staring, too. "Look!"
We did look. A letter was slowly being inserted under the door.
I took a quick step forward. That moment I felt a rough tug at my arm, and a voice whispered, "Wait—you chump!"
It was Kennedy. He had whipped out his automatic and had carefully leveled it at the door. Before he could fire, however, Bennett had rushed ahead.
I followed. We looked down the hall. Sure enough, the figure of a man could be seen disappearing around an angle. I followed Bennett out of the door and down the hall.
Words cannot keep pace with what followed. Together we rushed to the backstairs.
"Down there, while I go down the front!" cried Bennett.
I went down and he turned and went down the other flight. As he did so, Craig followed him.
Suddenly, in the drawing room, I bumped into a figure on the other side of the portieres. I seized him. We struggled. Rip! The portieres came down, covering me entirely. Over and over we went, smashing a lamp. It was vicious. Another man attacked me, too.
"I—I've got him—Kennedy!" I heard a voice pant over me.
A scream followed from Aunt Josephine. Suddenly the portieres were pulled off me.
"The deuce!" puffed Kennedy. "It's Jameson!"
Bennett had rushed plump into me, coming the other way, hidden by the portieres.
If we had known at the time, our Michael of the sinister face had gained the library and was standing in the center of the room. He had heard me coming and had fled to the drawing room. As we finished our struggle in the library, he rose hastily from behind the divan in the other room where he had dropped and had quietly and hastily disappeared through another door.
Laughing and breathing hard, they helped me to my feet. It was no joke to me. I was sore in every bone.
"Well, where DID he go?" insisted Bennett.
"I don't know—perhaps back there," I cried.
Bennett and I argued a moment, then started and stopped short. Aunt Josephine had run downstairs and now was shoving the letter into Craig's hands.
We gathered about him, curiously. He opened it. On it was that awesome Clutching Hand again.
Kennedy read it. For a moment he stood and studied it, then slowly crushed it in his hand.
Just then Elaine, pale and shaken from the ordeal she had voluntarily gone through, burst in upon us from upstairs. Without a word she advanced to Craig and took the letter from him.
Inside, as on the envelope, was that same signature of the Clutching Hand.
Elaine gazed at it wild-eyed, then at Craig. Craig smilingly reached for the note, took it, folded it and unconcernedly thrust it into his pocket.
"My God!" she cried, clasping her hands convulsively and repeating the words of the letter. "YOUR LAST WARNING!"
THE VANISHING JEWELS
Banging away at my typewriter, the next day, in Kennedy's laboratory, I was startled by the sudden, insistent ringing of the telephone near me.
"Hello," I answered, for Craig was at work at his table, trying still to extract some clue from the slender evidence thus far elicited in the Dodge mystery.
"Oh, Mr. Kennedy," I heard an excited voice over the wire reply, "my friend, Susie Martin is here. Her father has just received a message from that Clutching Hand and—"
"Just a moment, Miss Dodge," I interrupted. "This is Mr. Jameson."
"Oh!" came back the voice, breathless and disappointed. "Let me have Mr. Kennedy—quick."
I had already passed the telephone to Craig and was watching him keenly as he listened over it. The anticipation of a message from Elaine did not fade, yet his face grew grave as he listened.
He motioned to me for a pad and pencil that lay near me.
"Please read the letter again, slower, Miss Dodge," he asked, adding, "There isn't time for me to see it—just yet. But I want it exactly. You say it is made up of separate words and type cut from newspapers and pasted on note paper?"
I handed him paper and pencil.
"All right now, Miss Dodge, go ahead."
As he wrote, he indicated to me by his eyes that he wanted me to read. I did so:
"Sturtevant Martin, Jeweler, "739 1/2 Fifth Ave., "New York City.
"As you have failed to deliver the $10,000, I shall rob your main diamond case at exactly noon today."
"Thank you, Miss Dodge," continued Kennedy, laying down the pencil. "Yes, I understand perfectly—signed by that same Clutching Hand. Let me see," he pondered, looking at his watch. "It is now just about half past eleven. Very well. I shall meet you and Miss Martin at Mr. Martin's store directly."
It lacked five minutes of noon when Kennedy and I dashed up before Martin's and dismissed our taxi-cab.
A remarkable scene greeted us as we entered the famous jewelry shop. Involuntarily I drew back. Squarely in front of us a man had suddenly raised a revolver and leveled it at us.
"Don't!" cried a familiar voice. "That is Mr. Kennedy!"
Just then, from a little knot of people, Elaine Dodge sprang forward with a cry and seized the gun.
Kennedy turned to her, apparently not half so much concerned about the automatic that yawned at him as about the anxiety of the pretty girl who had intervened. The too eager plainclothesman lowered the gun sheepishly.
Sturtevant Martin was a typical society business man, quietly but richly dressed. He was inclined to be pompous and affected a pair of rather distinguished looking side whiskers.
In the excitement I glanced about hurriedly. There were two or three policemen in the shop and several plainclothesmen, some armed with formidable looking sawed-off shot guns.
Directly in front of me was a sign, tacked up on a pillar, which read, "This store will be closed at noon today. Martin & Co."
All the customers were gone. In fact the clerks had had some trouble in clearing the shop, as many of them expressed not only surprise but exasperation at the proceeding. Nevertheless the clerks had politely but insistently ushered them out.
Martin himself was evidently very nervous and very much alarmed. Indeed no one could blame him for that. Merely to have been singled out by this amazing master criminal was enough to cause panic. Already he had engaged detectives, prepared for whatever might happen, and they had advised him to leave the diamonds in the counter, clear the store, and let the crooks try anything, if they dared.
I fancied that he was somewhat exasperated at his daughter's presence, too, but could see that her explanation of Elaine's and Perry Bennett's interest in the Clutching Hand had considerably mollified him. He had been talking with Bennett as we came in and evidently had a high respect for the young lawyer.
Just back of us, and around the corner, as we came in, we had noticed a limousine which had driven up. Three faultlessly attired dandies had entered a doorway down the street, as we learned afterwards, apparently going to a fashionable tailor's which occupied the second floor of the old-fashioned building, the first floor having been renovated and made ready for renting. Had we been there a moment sooner we might have seen, I suppose, that one of them nodded to a taxicab driver who was standing at a public hack stand a few feet up the block. The driver nodded unostentatiously back to the men.
In spite of the excitement, Kennedy quietly examined the show case, which was, indeed, a veritable treasure store of brilliants. Then with a keen scrutinizing glance he looked over the police and detectives gathered around. There was nothing to do now but wait, as the detectives had advised.
I looked at a large antique grandfather's clock which was standing nearby. It now lacked scarcely a minute of twelve.
Slowly the hands of the clock came nearer together at noon.
We all gathered about the show case with its glittering hoard of wealth, forming a circle at a respectful distance.
Martin pointed nervously at the clock.
In deep-lunged tones the clock played the chords written, I believe, by Handel. Then it began striking.
As it did so, Martin involuntarily counted off the strokes, while one of the plainclothesmen waved his shotgun in unison.
Martin finished counting.
Nothing had happened.
We all breathed a sigh of relief.
"Well, it is still there!" exclaimed Martin, pointing at the show- case, with a forced laugh.
Suddenly came a rending and crashing sound. It seemed as if the very floor on which we stood was giving way.
The show-case, with all its priceless contents, went smashing down into the cellar below.
The flooring beneath the case had been cut through!
All crowded forward, gazing at the black yawning cavern. A moment we hesitated, then gingerly craned our necks over the edge.
Down below, three men, covered with linen dusters and their faces hidden by masks, had knocked the props away from the ceiling of the cellar, which they had sawed almost through at their leisure, and the show case had landed eight or ten feet below, shivered into a thousand bits.
A volley of shots whizzed past us, and another. While one crook was hastily stuffing the untold wealth of jewels into a burlap bag, the others had drawn revolvers and were firing up through the hole in the floor, desperately.
Martin, his detectives, and the rest of us fell back from the edge of the chasm hastily, to keep out of range of the hail of bullets.
"Look out!" cried someone behind us, before we could recover from our first surprise and return the fire.
One of the desperadoes had taken a bomb from under his duster, lighted it, and thrown it up through the hole in the floor.
It sailed up over our heads and landed near our little group on the floor, the fuse sputtering ominously.
Quickly we divided and backed away even further.
I heard an exclamation of fear from Elaine.
Kennedy had pushed his way past us and picked up the deadly infernal machine in his bare hands.
I watched him, fascinated. As near as he dared, he approached the hole in the floor, still holding the thing off at arm's length. Would he never throw it?
He was coolly holding it, allowing the fuse to burn down closer to the explosion point.
It was now within less than an inch sure death.
Suddenly he raised it and hurled the deadly thing down through the hole.
We could hear the imprecations of the crooks as it struck the cellar floor, near them. They had evidently been still cramming jewelry into the capacious maw of the bag. One of them, discovering the bomb, must have advanced toward it, then retreated when he saw how imminent was the explosion.
"Leave the store—quick!" rang out Kennedy's voice.
We backed away as fast as those behind us would permit. Kennedy and Bennett were the last to leave, in fact paused at the door.
Down below the crooks were beating a hasty retreat through a secret entrance which they had effected.
"The bag! The bag!" we could hear one of them bellow.
"The bomb—run!" cried another voice gruffly.
A second later came an ominous silence. The last of the three must have fled.
The explosion that followed lifted us fairly off our feet. A great puff of smoke came belching up through the hole, followed by the crashing of hundreds of dollars' worth of glass ware in the jewelry shop as fragments of stone, brick and mortar and huge splinters of wood were flung with tremendous force in every direction from the miniature volcano.
As the smoke from the explosion cleared away, Kennedy could be seen, the first to run forward.
Meanwhile Martin's detectives had rushed down a flight of back stairs that led into a coal cellar. With coal shovels and bars, anything they could lay hands on, they attacked the door that opened forward from the coal cellar into the front basement where the robbers had been.
A moment Kennedy and Bennett paused on the brink of the abyss which the bomb had made, waiting for the smoke to decrease. Then they began to climb down cautiously over the piled up wreckage.
The explosion had set the basement afire, but the fire had not gained much headway, by the time they reached the basement. Quickly Kennedy ran to the door into the coal cellar and opened it.
From the other side, Martin, followed by the police and the detectives, burst in.
"Fire!" cried one of the policemen, leaping back to turn in an alarm from the special apparatus upstairs.
All except Martin began beating out the flames, using such weapons as they already held in their hands to batter down the door.
To Martin there was one thing paramount—the jewels.
In the midst of the confusion, Elaine, closely followed by her friend Susie, made her way fearlessly into the stifle of smoke down the stairs.
"There are your jewels, Mr. Martin," cried Kennedy, kicking the precious burlap bag with his foot as if it had been so much ordinary merchandise, and turning toward what was in his mind the most important thing at stake—the direction taken by the agents of the Clutching Hand.
"Thank heaven!" ejaculated Martin, fairly pouncing on the bag and tearing it open. "They didn't get away with them—after all!" he exclaimed, examining the contents with satisfaction. "See—you must have frightened them off at just the right moment when you sent the bomb back at them."
Elaine and Susie pressed forward eagerly as he poured forth the sparkling stream of gems, intact.
"Wasn't he just simply wonderful!" I heard Susie whisper to Elaine.
Elaine did not answer. She had eyes or ears for nothing now in the melee but Kennedy.
. . . . . . . .
Events were moving rapidly.
The limousine had been standing innocently enough at the curb near the corner, with the taxicab close behind it.
Less than ten minutes after they had entered, three well-dressed men came out of the vacant shop, apparently from the tailor's above, and climbed leisurely into their car.
As the last one entered, he half turned to the taxicab driver, hiding from passers-by the sign of the Clutching Hand which the taxicab driver returned, in the same manner. Then the big car whirled up the avenue.
All this we learned later from a street sweeper who was at work nearby.
Down below, while the police and detectives were putting out the fire, Kennedy was examining the wall of the cellar, looking for the spot where the crooks had escaped.
"A secret door!" he exclaimed, as he paused after tapping along the wall to determine its character. "You can see how the force of the explosion has loosened it."
Sure enough, when he pointed it out to us, it was plainly visible. One of the detectives picked up a crowbar and others, still with the hastily selected implements they had seized to fight the fire, started in to pry it open.
As it yielded, Kennedy pushed his way through. Elaine, always utterly fearless, followed. Then the rest of us went through.
There seemed to be nothing, however, that would help us in the cellar next door, and Kennedy mounted the steps of a stairway in the rear.
The stairway led to a sort of storeroom, full of barrels and boxes, but otherwise characterless. When I arrived Kennedy was gingerly holding up the dusters which the crooks had worn.
"We're on the right trail," commented Elaine as he showed them to her, "but where do you suppose the owners are?"
Craig shrugged his shoulders and gave a quick look about. "Evidently they came in from and went away by the street," he observed, hurrying to the door, followed by Elaine.
On the sidewalk, he gazed up the avenue, then catching sight of the street cleaner, called to him.
"Yes, sir," replied the man, stolidly looking up from his work. "I see three gentlemen come out and get into an automobile."
"Which way did they go?" asked Kennedy.
For answer the man jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the general direction uptown.
"Did you notice the number of the car?" asked Craig eagerly.
The man shrugged his shoulders blankly.
With keen glance, Kennedy strained his eyes. Far up the avenue, he could descry the car threading its way in and out among the others, just about disappearing.
A moment later Craig caught sight of the vacant taxicab and crooked his finger at the driver, who answered promptly by cranking his engine.
"You saw that limousine standing there?" asked Craig.
"Yes," nodded the chauffeur with a show of alertness.
"Well, follow it," ordered Kennedy, jumping into the cab.
Craig was just about to close the door when a slight figure flashed past us and a dainty foot was placed on the step.
"Please, Mr. Kennedy," pleaded Elaine, "let me go. They may lead to my father's slayer."
She said it so earnestly that Craig could scarcely have resisted if he had wanted to do so.
Just as Elaine and Kennedy were moving off, I came out of the vacant store, with Bennett and the detectives.
"Craig!" I called. "Where are you going?"
Kennedy stuck his head out of the window and I am quite sure that he was not altogether displeased that I was not with him.
"Chasing that limousine," he shouted back. "Follow us in another car."
A moment later he and Elaine were gone.
Bennett and I looked about.
"There are a couple of cabs—down there," I pointed out at the other end of the block. "I'll take one you take the other."
Followed by a couple of the detectives, I jumped into the first one I came to, excitedly telling the driver to follow Kennedy's taxi, directing him with my head out of the window.
"Mr. Jameson, please—can't I go with you?"
I turned. It was Susie Martin. "One of you fellows, go in the other car," I asked the detectives.
Before the man could move, Mr. Martin himself appeared.
"No, Susan, I—I won't allow it," he ordered.
"But Elaine went," she pouted.
"Well, Elaine is—ah—I won't have it," stormed Martin.
There was no time to waste. With a hasty apology, I drove off.
Who, besides Bennett, went in the other car, I don't know, but it made no difference, for we soon lost them. Our driver, however, was a really clever fellow. Far ahead now we could see the limousine drive around a corner, making a dangerous swerve. Kennedy's cab followed, skidding dangerously near a pole.
But the taxicab was no match for the powerful limousine. On uptown they went, the only thing preventing the limousine from escaping being the fear of pursuit by traffic police if the driver let out speed. They were content to manage to keep just far enough ahead to be out of danger of having Kennedy overhaul them. As for us, we followed as best we could, on uptown, past the city line, and out into the country.
There Kennedy lost sight altogether of the car he was trailing. Worse than that, we lost sight of Kennedy. Still we kept on blindly, trusting to luck and common sense in picking the road.
I was peering ahead over the driver's shoulder, the window down, trying to direct him, when we approached a fork in the road. Here was a dilemma which must be decided at once rightly or wrongly.
As we neared the crossroad, I gave an involuntary exclamation. Beside the road, almost on it, lay the figure of a man. Our driver pulled up with a jerk and I was out of the car in an instant.
There lay Kennedy! Someone had blackjacked him. He was groaning and just beginning to show signs of consciousness as I bent over.
"What's the matter, old man?" I asked, helping him to his feet.
He looked about dazed a moment, then seeing me and comprehending, he pointed excitedly, but vaguely.
"Elaine!" he cried. "They've kidnapped Elaine!"
What had really happened, as we learned later from Elaine and others, was that when the cross roads was reached, the three crooks in the limousine had stopped long enough to speak to an accomplice stationed there, according to their plan for a getaway. He was a tough looking individual who might have been hoboing it to the city.
When, a few minutes later, Kennedy and Elaine had approached the fork, their driver had slowed up, as if in doubt which way to go. Craig had stuck his head out of the window, as I had done, and, seeing the crossroads, had told the chauffeur to stop. There stood the hobo.
"Did a car pass here, just now—a big car?" called Craig.
The man put his hand to his ear, as if only half comprehending.
"Which way did the big car go?" repeated Kennedy.
The hobo approached the taxicab sullenly, as if he had a grudge against cars in general.
One question after another elicited little that could be construed as intelligence. If Craig had only been able to see, he would have found out that, with his back toward the taxicab driver, the hobo held one hand behind him and made the sign of the Clutching Hand, glancing surreptitiously at the driver to catch the answering sign, while Craig gazed earnestly up the two roads.
At last Craig gave him up as hopeless. "Well—go ahead—that way," he indicated, picking the most likely road.
As the chauffeur was about to start, he stalled his engine.
"Hurry!" urged Craig, exasperated at the delays.
The driver got out and tried to crank the engine. Again and again he turned it over, but, somehow, it refused to start. Then he lifted the hood and began to tinker.
"What's the matter?" asked Craig, impatiently jumping out and bending over the engine, too.
The driver shrugged his shoulders. "Must be something wrong with the ignition, I guess," he replied.
Kennedy looked the car over hastily. "I can't see anything wrong," he frowned.
"Well, there is," growled the driver.
Precious minutes were speeding away, as they argued. Finally with his characteristic energy, Kennedy put the taxicab driver aside.
"Let me try it," he said. "Miss Dodge, will you arrange that spark and throttle?"
Elaine, equal to anything, did so, and Craig bent down and cranked the engine. It started on the first spin.
"See!" he exclaimed. "There wasn't anything, after all."
He took a step toward the taxicab.
"Say," objected the driver, nastily, interposing himself between Craig and the wheel which he seemed disposed to take now, "who's running this boat, anyhow?"
Surprised, Kennedy tried to shoulder the fellow out of the way. The driver resisted sullenly.
"Mr. Kennedy—look out!" cried Elaine.
Craig turned. But it was too late. The rough looking fellow had wakened to life. Suddenly he stepped up behind Kennedy with a blackjack. As the heavy weight descended, Craig crumpled up on the ground, unconscious.
With a scream, Elaine turned and started to run. But the chauffeur seized her arm.
"Say, bo," he asked of the rough fellow, "what does Clutching Hand want with her? Quick! There's another cab likely to be along in a moment with that fellow Jameson in it."
The rough fellow, with an oath, seized her and dragged her into the taxicab. "Go ahead!" he growled, indicating the road.
And away they sped, leaving Kennedy unconscious on the side of the road where we found him.
. . . . . . . .
"What are we to do?" I asked helplessly of Kennedy, when we had at last got him on his feet.
His head still ringing from the force of the blow of the blackjack, Craig stooped down, then knelt in the dust of the road, then ran ahead a bit where it was somewhat muddy.
"Which way—which way?" he muttered to himself.
I thought perhaps the blow had affected him and leaned over to see what he was doing. Instead, he was studying the marks made by the tire of the Clutching Hand cab. Very decidedly, there in the road, the little anti-skid marks on the tread of the tire showed—some worn, some cut—but with each revolution the same marks reappearing unmistakably. More than that, it was an unusual make of tire. Craig was actually studying the finger prints, so to speak, of an automobile!
More slowly now and carefully, we proceeded, for a mistake meant losing the trail of Elaine. Kennedy absolutely refused to get inside our cab, but clung tightly to a metal rod outside while he stood on the running board—now straining his eyes along the road to catch any faint glimpse of either taxi or limousine, or the dust from them, now gazing intently at the ground following the finger prints of the taxicab that was carrying off Elaine. All pain was forgotten by him now in the intensity of his anxiety for her.
We came to another crossroads and the driver glanced at Craig. "Stop!" he ordered.
In another instant he was down in the dirt, examining the road for marks.
"That way!" he indicated, leaping back to the running board.
We piled back into the car and proceeded under Kennedy's direction, as fast as he would permit. So it continued, perhaps for a couple of hours.
At last Kennedy stopped the cab and slowly directed the driver to veer into an open space that looked peculiarly lonesome. Near it stood a one story brick factory building, closed, but not abandoned.
As I looked about at the unattractive scene, Kennedy already was down on his knees in the dirt again, studying the tire tracks. They were all confused, showing that the taxicab we were following had evidently backed in and turned several times before going on.
"Crossed by another set of tire tracks!" he exclaimed excitedly, studying closer. "That must have been the limousine, waiting."
Laboriously he was following the course of the cars in the open space, when the one word escaped him, "Footprints!"
He was up and off in a moment, before we could imagine what he was after. We had got out of the cab, and followed him as, down to the very shore of a sort of cove or bay, he went. There lay a rusty, discarded boiler on the beach, half submerged in the rising tide. At this tank the footprints seemed to go right down the sand and into the waves which were slowly obliterating them. Kennedy gazed out as if to make out a possible boat on the horizon, where the cove widened out.
"Look!" he cried.
Farther down the shore, a few feet, I had discovered the same prints, going in the opposite direction, back toward the place from which we had just come. I started to follow them, but soon found myself alone. Kennedy had paused beside the old boiler.
"What is it?" I asked, retracing my steps.
He did not answer, but seemed to be listening. We listened also. There certainly was a most peculiar noise inside that tank.
Was it a muffled scream?
Kennedy reached down and picked up a rock, hitting the tank a resounding blow. As the echo died down, he listened again.
Yes, there was a sound—a scream perhaps—a woman's voice, faint, but unmistakable.
I looked at his face inquiringly. Without a word I read in it the confirmation of the thought that had flashed into my mind.
Elaine Dodge was inside!
. . . . . . . .
First had come the limousine, with its three bandits, to the spot fixed on as a rendezvous. Later had come the taxicab. As it hove into sight, the three well-dressed crooks had drawn revolvers, thinking perhaps the plan for getting rid of Kennedy might possibly have miscarried. But the taxicab driver and the rough- faced fellow had reassured them with the sign of the Clutching Hand, and the revolvers were lowered.
As they parleyed hastily, the rough-neck and the fake chauffeur lifted Elaine out of the taxi. She was bound and gagged.
"Well, now we've got her, what shall we do with her?" asked one.
"It's got to be quick. There's another cab," put in the driver.
"The deuce with that."
"The deuce with nothing," he returned. "That fellow Kennedy's a clever one. He may come to. If he does, he won't miss us. Quick, now!"
"I wish I'd broken his skull," muttered the roughneck.
"We'd better leave her somewhere here," remarked one of the better-dressed three. "I don't think the chief wants us to kill her—yet," he added, with an ominous glance at Elaine, who in spite of threats was not cowed, but was vainly struggling at her bonds.
"Well, where shall it be?" asked another.
They looked about.
"See," cried the third. "See that old boiler down there at the edge of the water? Why not put her in there? No one'll ever think to look in such a place."
Down by the water's edge, where he pointed, lay a big boiler such as is used on stationary engines, with its end lapped by the waves. With a hasty expression of approval, the rough-neck picked Elaine up bodily, still struggling vainly, and together they carried her, bound and gagged, to the tank. The opening, which was toward the water, was small, but they managed, roughly, to thrust her in.
A moment later and they had rolled up a huge boulder against the small entrance, bracing it so that it would be impossible for her to get out from the inside. Then they drove off hastily.
Inside the old boiler lay Elaine, still bound and gagged. If she could only scream! Someone might hear. She must get help. There was water in the tank. She managed to lean up inside it, standing as high as the walls would allow her, trying to keep her head above the water.
Frantically, she managed to loosen the gag. She screamed. Her voice seemed to be bound around by the iron walls as was she herself. She shuddered, The water was rising—had reached her chest, and was still rising, slowly, inexorably.
What should she do? Would no one hear her? The water was up to her neck now. She held her head as high as she could and screamed again.
What was that? Silence? Or was someone outside?
. . . . . . . .
Coolly, in spite of the emergency, Kennedy took in the perilous situation.
The lower end of the boiler, which was on a slant on the rapidly shelving beach, was now completely under water and impossible to get at. Besides, the opening was small, too small.
We pulled away the stone, but that did no good. No one could hope to get in and then out again that way alive—much less with a helpless girl. Yet something must be done. The tank was practically submerged inside, as I estimated quickly. Blows had no effect on the huge iron trap which had been built to resist many pounds of pressure.
Kennedy gazed about frantically and his eye caught the sign on the factory:
OXYACETYLENE WELDING CO.
"Come, Walter," he cried, running up the shore.
A moment later, breathless, we reached the doorway. It was, of course, locked. Kennedy whipped out his revolver and several well- directed shots through the keyhole smashed the lock. We put our shoulders to it and swung the door open, entering the factory.
There was not a soul about, not even a watchman. Hastily we took in the place, a forge and a number of odds and ends of metal sheets, rods, pipes and angles.
Beside a workbench stood two long cylinders, studded with bolts.
"That's what I'm looking for," exclaimed Craig. "Here, Walter, take one. I'll take the other—and the tubes—and—"
He did not pause to finish, but seized up a peculiar shaped instrument, like a huge hook, with a curved neck and sharp beak. Really it was composed of two metal tubes which ran into a cylinder or mixing chamber above the nozzle, while parallel to them ran another tube with a nozzle of its own.
We ran, for there was no time to lose. As nearly as I could estimate it, the water must now be slowly closing over Elaine.
"What is it?" I asked as he joined up the tubes from the tanks to the peculiar hook-like apparatus he carried.
"An oxyacetylene blowpipe," he muttered back feverishly working. "Used for welding and cutting, too," he added.
With a light he touched the nozzle. Instantly a hissing, blinding flame-needle made the steel under it incandescent. The terrific heat from one nozzle made the steel glow. The stream of oxygen from the second completely consumed the hot metal. And the force of the blast carried a fine spray of disintegrated metal before it. It was a brilliant sight. But it was more than that. Through the very steel itself, the flame, thousands of degrees hot, seemed to eat its way in a fine line, as if it were a sharp knife cutting through ordinary cardboard.
With tense muscles Kennedy skillfully guided the terrible instrument that ate cold steel, wielding the torch as deftly as if it had been, as indeed it was, a magic wand of modern science.
He was actually cutting out a huge hole in the still exposed surface of the tank—all around, except for a few inches, to prevent the heavy piece from falling inward.
As Kennedy carefully bent outward the section of the tank which he had cut, he quickly reached down and lifted Elaine, unconscious, out of the water.
Gently he laid her on the sand. It was the work of only a moment to cut the cords that bound her hands.
There she lay, pale and still. Was she dead?
Kennedy worked frantically to revive her.
At last, slowly, the color seemed to return to her pale lips. Her eyelids fluttered. Then her great, deep eyes opened.
As she looked up and caught sight of Craig bending anxiously over her, she seemed to comprehend. For a moment both were silent. Then Elaine reached up and took his hand.
There was much in the look she gave him—admiration, confidence,— love itself.
Heroics, however, were never part of Kennedy's frank make-up. The fact was that her admiration, even though not spoken, plainly embarrassed him. Yet he forgot that as he looked at her lying there, frail and helpless.
He stroked her forehead gently, laying back the wet ringlets of her hair.
"Craig," she murmured, "you—you've saved my life!"
Her tone was eloquent.
"Elaine," he whispered, still gazing into her wonderful eyes, "the Clutching Hand shall pay for this! It is a fight to the finish between us!"
"THE FROZEN SAFE"
Kennedy swung open the door of our taxicab as we pulled up, safe at last, before the Dodge mansion, after the rescue of Elaine from the brutal machinations of the Clutching Hand.
Bennett was on the step of the cab in a moment and, together, one on each side of Elaine, they assisted her out of the car and up the steps to the house.
As they mounted the steps, Kennedy called back to me, "Pay the driver, Walter, please."
It was the first time I had thought of that. As it happened, I had quite a bankroll with me and, in my hurry, I peeled off a ten dollar bill and tossed it to the fellow, intending to be generous and tell him to keep the change.
"Say," he exclaimed, pointing to the clock, "come across—twenty- three, sixty."
Protesting, I peeled off some more bills.
Having satisfied this veritable anaconda and gorged his dilating appetite for banknotes, I turned to follow the others. Jennings had opened the door immediately. Whether it was that he retained a grudge against me or whether he did not see me, he would have closed it before I could get up there. I called and took the steps two at a time.
Elaine's Aunt Josephine was waiting for us in the drawing room, very much worried. The dear old lady was quite scandalized as Elaine excitedly told of the thrilling events that had just taken place.
"And to think they—actually—carried you!" she exclaimed, horrified, adding, "And I not—"
"But Mr. Kennedy came along and saved me just in time," interrupted Elaine with a smile. "I was well chaperoned!"
Aunt Josephine turned to Craig gratefully. "How can I ever thank you enough, Mr. Kennedy," she said fervently.
Kennedy was quite embarrassed. With a smile, Elaine perceived his discomfiture, not at all displeased by it.
"Come into the library," she cried gaily, taking his arm. "I've something to show you."
Where the old safe which had been burnt through had stood was now a brand new safe of the very latest construction and design—one of those that look and are so formidable.
"Here is the new safe," she pointed out brightly. "It is not only proof against explosives, but between the plates is a lining that is proof against thermit and even that oxy-acetylene blowpipe by which you rescued me from the old boiler. It has a time lock, too, that will prevent its being opened at night, even if anyone should learn the combination."
They stood before the safe a moment and Kennedy examined it closely with much interest.
"Wonderful!" he admired.
"I knew you'd approve of it," cried Elaine, much pleased. "Now I have something else to show you."
She paused at the desk and from a drawer took out a portfolio of large photographs. They were very handsome photographs of herself.
"Much more wonderful than the safe," remarked Craig earnestly. Then, hesitating and a trifle embarrassed, he added, "May I—may I have one?"
"If you care for it," she said, dropping her eyes, then glancing up at him quickly.
"Care for it?" he repeated. "It will be one of the greatest treasures."
She slipped the picture quickly into an envelope. "Come," she interrupted. "Aunt Josephine will be wondering where we are. She— she's a demon chaperone."
Bennett, Aunt Josephine and myself were talking earnestly as Elaine and Craig returned.
"Well," said Bennett, glancing at his watch and rising as he turned to Elaine, "I'm afraid I must go, now."
He crossed over to where she stood and shook hands. There was no doubt that Bennett was very much smitten by his fair client.
"Good-bye, Mr. Bennett," she murmured, "and thank you so much for what you have done for me today."
But there was something lifeless about the words. She turned quickly to Craig, who had remained standing.
"Must you go, too, Mr. Kennedy?" she asked, noticing his position.
"I'm afraid Mr. Jameson and I must be back on the job before this Clutching Hand gets busy again," he replied reluctantly.
"Oh, I hope you—we get him soon!" she exclaimed, and there was nothing lifeless about the way she gave Craig her hand, as Bennett, he and I left a moment later.
. . . . . . . .
That morning I had noticed Kennedy fussing some time at the door of our apartment before we went over to the laboratory. As nearly as I could make out he had placed something under the rug at the door out into the hallway.
When we approached our door, now, Craig paused. By pressing a little concealed button he caused a panel in the wall outside to loosen, disclosing a small, boxlike plate in the wall underneath.
It was about a foot long and perhaps four inches wide. Through it ran a piece of paper which unrolled from one coil and wound up on another, actuated by clockwork. Across the blank white paper ran an ink line traced by a stylographic pen, such as I had seen in mechanical pencils used in offices, hotels, banks and such places.
Kennedy examined the thing with interest.
"What is it?" I asked.
"A new seismograph," he replied, still gazing carefully at the rolled up part of the paper. "I have installed it because it registers every footstep on the floor of our apartment. We can't be too careful with this Clutching Hand. I want to know whether we have any visitors or not in our absence. This straight line indicates that we have not. Wait a moment."
Craig hastily unlocked the door and entered. Inside, I could see him pacing up and down our modest quarters.
"Do you see anything, Walter?" he called.
I looked at the seismograph. The pen had started to trace its line, no longer even and straight, but zigzag, at different heights across the paper.
He came to the door. "What do you think of it?" he inquired.
"Splendid idea," I answered enthusiastically.
Our apartment was, as I have said, modest, consisting of a large living room, two bedrooms, and bath—an attractive but not ornate place, which we found very cosy and comfortable. On one side of the room was a big fire place, before which stood a fire screen. We had collected easy chairs and capacious tables and desks. Books were scattered about, literally overflowing from the crowded shelves. On the walls were our favorite pictures, while for ornament, I suppose I might mention my typewriter and now and then some of Craig's wonderful scientific apparatus as satisfying our limited desire for the purely aesthetic.
We entered and fell to work at the aforementioned typewriter, on a special Sunday story that I had been forced to neglect. I was not so busy, however, that I did not notice out of the corner of my eye that Kennedy had taken from its cover Elaine Dodge's picture and was gazing at it ravenously.
I put my hand surreptitiously over my mouth and coughed. Kennedy wheeled on me and I hastily banged a sentence out on the machine, making at least half a dozen mistakes.
I had finished as much of the article as I could do then and was smoking and reading it over. Kennedy was still gazing at the picture Miss Dodge had given him, then moving from place to place about the room, evidently wondering where it would look best. I doubt whether he had done another blessed thing since we returned.
He tried it on the mantel. That wouldn't do. At last he held it up beside a picture of Galton, I think, of finger print and eugenics fame, who hung on the wall directly opposite the fireplace. Hastily he compared the two. Elaine's picture was of precisely the same size.
Next he tore out the picture of the scientist and threw it carelessly into the fireplace. Then he placed Elaine's picture in its place and hung it up again, standing off to admire it.
I watched him gleefully. Was this Craig? Purposely I moved my elbow suddenly and pushed a book with a bang on the floor. Kennedy actually jumped. I picked up the book with a muttered apology. No, this was not the same old Craig.
Perhaps half an hour later, I was still reading. Kennedy was now pacing up and down the room, apparently unable to concentrate his mind on any but one subject.
He stopped a moment before the photograph, looked at it fixedly. Then he started his methodical walk again, hesitated, and went over to the telephone, calling a number which I recognized.
"She must have been pretty well done up by her experience," he said apologetically, catching my eye. "I was wondering if—Hello— oh, Miss Dodge—I—er—I—er—just called up to see if you were all right."
Craig was very much embarrassed, but also very much in earnest.
A musical laugh rippled over the telephone. "Yes, I'm all right, thank you, Mr. Kennedy—and I put the package you sent me into the safe, but—"
"Package?" frowned Craig. "Why, I sent you no package, Miss Dodge. In the safe?"
"Why, yes, and the safe is all covered with moisture—and so cold."
"Moisture—cold?" he repeated quickly.
"Yes, I have been wondering if it is all right. In fact, I was going to call you up, only I was afraid you'd think I was foolish."
"I shall be right over," he answered hastily, clapping the receiver back on its hook. "Walter," he added, seizing his hat and coat, "come on—hurry!"
A few minutes later we drove up in a taxi before the Dodge house and rang the bell.
Jennings admitted us sleepily.
. . . . . . . .
It could not have been long after we left Miss Dodge late in the afternoon that Susie Martin, who had been quite worried over our long absence after the attempt to rob her father, dropped in on Elaine. Wide-eyed, she had listened to Elaine's story of what had happened.
"And you think this Clutching Hand has never recovered the incriminating papers that caused him to murder your father?" asked Susie.
Elaine shook her head. "No. Let me show you the new safe I've bought. Mr. Kennedy thinks it wonderful."
"I should think you'd be proud of it," admired Susie. "I must tell father to get one, too."
At that very moment, if they had known it, the Clutching Hand with his sinister, masked face, was peering at the two girls from the other side of the portieres.
Susie rose to go and Elaine followed her to the door. No sooner had she gone than the Clutching Hand came out from behind the curtains. He gazed about a moment, then moving over to the safe about which the two girls had been talking, stealthily examined it.
He must have heard someone coming, for, with a gesture of hate at the safe itself, as though he personified it, he slipped back of the curtains again.
Elaine had returned and as she sat down at the desk to go over some papers which Bennett had left relative to settling up the estate, the masked intruder stealthily and silently withdrew.
"A package for you, Miss Dodge," announced Michael later in the evening as Elaine, in her dainty evening gown, was still engaged in going over the papers. He carried it in his hands rather gingerly.
"Mr. Kennedy sent it, ma'am. He says it contains clues and will you please put it in the new safe for him."
Elaine took the package eagerly and examined it. Then she pulled open the heavy door of the safe.
"It must be getting cold out, Michael," she remarked. "This package is as cold as ice."
"It is, ma'am," answered Michael, deferentially with a sidelong glance that did not prevent his watching her intently.