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- The Exploits of Elaine - 10/58 -
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
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