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- The Exploits of Elaine - 2/58 -


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:

"Remember!"

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


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