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- The Exploits of Elaine - 1/58 -


THE CRAIG KENNEDY SERIES

THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE

BY

ARTHUR B. REEVE

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

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

CHAPTER I

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--"


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