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- The Exploits of Elaine - 20/58 -
electric wires along. At last he discovered a place where they had been tampered with and tapped by other wires.
"The work of the Clutching Hand!" he muttered.
Eagerly he followed the wires to the furnace and around to the back. There they led right into a little water tank. Kennedy yanked them out. As he did so he pulled something with them.
"Two electrodes--the villain placed there," he exclaimed, holding them up triumphantly for me to see.
"Y-yes," I replied dubiously, "but what does it all mean?"
"Why, don't you see? Under the influence of the electric current the water was decomposed and gave off oxygen and hydrogen. The free hydrogen passed up the furnace pipe and combining with the arsenic in the wall paper formed the deadly arseniuretted hydrogen."
He cast the whole improvised electrolysis apparatus on the floor and dashed up the cellar steps.
"I've found it!" he cried, hurrying into Elaine's room. "It's in this room--a deadly gas--arseniuretted hydrogen."
He tore open the windows and threw them all open. "Have her moved," he cried to Aunt Josephine. "Then have a vacuum cleaner go over every inch of wall, carpet and upholstery."
Standing beside her, he breathlessly explained his discovery. "That wall paper has been loaded down with arsenic, probably Paris green or Schweinfurth green, which is aceto-arsenite of copper. Every minute you are here, you are breathing arseniuretted hydrogen. The Clutching Hand has cleverly contrived to introduce the nascent gas into the room. That acts on the arsenic compounds in the wall paper and hangings and sets free the gas. I thought I knew the smell the moment I got a whiff of it. You are slowly being poisoned by minute quantities of the deadly gas. This Clutching Hand is a diabolical genius. Think of it--poisoned wall paper!"
No one said a word. Kennedy reached down and took the two Clutching Hand messages Elaine had received. "I shall want to study these notes, more, too," he said, holding them up to the wall at the head of the bed as he flashed his pocket lens at them. "You see, Elaine, I may be able to get something from studying the ink, the paper, the handwriting--"
Suddenly both leaped back, with a cry.
Their faces had been several inches apart. Something had whizzed between them and literally impaled the two notes on the wall.
Down the street, on the roof of a carriage house, back of a neighbor's, might have been seen the uncouth figure of the dilapidated South American Indian crouching behind a chimney and gazing intently at the Dodge house.
As Craig had thrown open Elaine's window and turned to Elaine, the figure had crouched closer to his chimney.
Then with an uncanny determination he slowly raised the blow-gun to his lips.
I jumped forward, followed by Dr. Hayward, Aunt Josephine, and Marie. Kennedy had a peculiar look as he pulled out from the wall a blow-gun dart similar in every way to that which had killed Michael.
"Craig!" gasped Elaine, reaching up and laying her soft white hand on his arm in undisguised fear for him, "you--you must give up this chase for the Clutching Hand!"
"Give up the chase for the Clutching Hand?" he repeated in surprise. "Never! Not until either he or I is dead!"
There was both fear and admiration mingled in her look, as he reached down and patted her dainty shoulder encouragingly.
Kennedy went the next day to the Dodge house, and, as usual, Perry Bennett was there in the library with Elaine, still going over the Clutching Hand case, in their endeavor to track down the mysterious master criminal.
Bennett seemed as deeply as ever in love with Elaine. Still, as Jennings admitted Craig, it was sufficiently evident by the manner in which Elaine left Bennett and ran to meet Craig that she had the highest regard for him.
"I've brought you a little document that may interest you," remarked Kennedy, reaching into his pocket and pulling out an envelope.
Elaine tore it open and looked at the paper within.
"Oh, how thoughtful of you!" she exclaimed in surprise.
It was a permit from the police made out in her name allowing her to carry a revolver.
A moment later, Kennedy reached into his coat pocket and produced a little automatic which he handed to her.
"Thank you," she cried eagerly.
Elaine examined the gun with interest, then, raising it, pointed it playfully at Bennett.
"Oh--no--no!" exclaimed Kennedy, taking her arm quickly, and gently deflecting the weapon away. "You mustn't think it is a toy. It explodes at a mere touch of the trigger--when that safety ratchet is turned."
Bennett had realized the danger and had jumped back, almost mechanically. As he did so, he bumped into a suit of medieval armor standing by the wall, knocking it over with a resounding crash.
"I beg pardon," he ejaculated, "I'm very sorry. That was very awkward of me."
Jennings, who had been busy about the portieres at the doorway, started to pick up the fallen knight. Some of the pieces were broken, and the three gathered about as the butler tried to fit them together again as best he could.
"Too bad, too bad," apologized Bennett profusely. "I really forgot how close I was to the thing."
"Oh, never mind," returned Elaine, a little crestfallen, "It is smashed all right--but it was my fault. Jennings, send for someone to repair it."
She turned to Kennedy. "But I do wish you would teach me how to use this thing," she added, touching the automatic gingerly.
"Gladly," he returned.
"Won't you join us, Mr. Bennett?" asked Elaine.
"No," the young lawyer smiled, "I'm afraid I can't. You see, I had an engagement with another client and I'm already late."
He took his hat and coat and, with a reluctant farewell, moved toward the hallway.
A moment later Elaine and Craig followed, while Jennings finished restoring the armor as nearly as possible as it had been.
. . . . . . . .
It was late that night that a masked figure succeeded in raising itself to the narrow ornamental ledge under Elaine's bedroom window.
Elaine was a light sleeper and, besides, Rusty, her faithful collie, now fully recovered from the poison, was in her room.
Rusty growled and the sudden noise wakened her.
Startled, Elaine instantly thought of the automatic. She reached under her pillow, keeping very quiet, and drew forth the gun that Craig had given her. Stealthily concealing her actions under the covers, she levelled the automatic at the figure silhouetted in her window and fired three times.
The figure fell back.
Down in the street, below, the assistant of the Clutching Hand who had waited while Taylor Dodge was electrocuted, was waiting now as his confederate, "Pitts Slim"--which indicated that he was both wiry in stature and libellous in delegating his nativity--made the attempt.
As Slim came tumbling down, having fallen back from the window above, mortally wounded, the confederate lifted him up and carried him out of sight hurriedly.
Elaine, by this time, had turned on the lights and had run to the window to look out. Rusty was barking loudly.
In a side street, nearby, stood a waiting automobile, at the wheel of which sat another of the emissaries of the Clutching Hand. The driver looked up, startled, as he saw his fellow hurry around the corner carrying the wounded Pitts Slim. It was the work of just a moment to drop the wounded man, as comfortably as possible under the circumstances, in the rear seat, while his pals started the car off with a jerk in the hurry of escape.
Jennings, having hastily slipped his trousers on over his pajamas came running down the hall, while Marie, frightened, came in the
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