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- The Exploits of Elaine - 4/58 -
"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
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