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- The Exploits of Elaine - 6/58 -
pain, as though something had hurt him.
He read it again--then looked straight ahead, as if in a daze.
"Strange, how much crime there is now," I commented, looking up from the paper I had pretended reading.
"One would think that one master criminal was enough," I went on.
Still no answer.
He continued to gaze straight ahead at blankness.
"By George," I exclaimed finally, banging my fist on the table and raising my voice to catch his attention, "you would think we had nothing but criminals nowadays."
My voice must have startled him. The usually imperturbable old fellow actually jumped. Then, as my question did not evidently accord with what was in his mind, he answered at random, "Perhaps- -I wonder if--" and then he stopped, noncommittally.
Suddenly he jumped up, bringing his tightly clenched fist down with a loud clap into the palm of his hand.
"By heaven!" he exclaimed, "I--I will!"
Startled at his incomprehensible and unusual conduct I did not attempt to pursue the conversation but let him alone as he strode hastily to the telephone. Almost angrily he seized the receiver and asked for a number. It was not like Craig and I could not conceal my concern.
"Wh-what's the matter, Craig?" I blurted out eagerly.
As he waited for the number, he threw the letter over to me. I took it and read:
"Professor Craig Kennedy, "The University, The Heights, City.
"I have come to the conclusion that your work is a hindrance rather than an assistance in clearing up my father's death and I hereby beg to state that your services are no longer required. This is a final decision and I beg that you will not try to see me again regarding the matter.
"Very truly yours, ELAINE DODGE."
If it had been a bomb I could not have been more surprised. A moment before I think I had just a sneaking suspicion of jealousy that a woman--even Elaine--should interest my old chums. But now all that was swept away. How could any woman scorn him?
I could not make it out.
Kennedy impatiently worked the receiver up and down, repeating the number. "Hello--hello," he repeated, "Yes--hello. Is Miss--oh-- good morning, Miss Dodge."
He was hurrying along as if to give her no chance to cut him off. "I have just received a letter, Miss Dodge, telling me that you don't want me to continue investigating your father's death, and not to try to see you again about--"
He stopped. I could hear the reply, as sometimes one can when the telephone wire conditions are a certain way and the quality of the voice of the speaker a certain kind.
"Why--no--Mr. Kennedy, I have written you no letter."
The look of mingled relief and surprise that crossed Craig's face spoke volumes.
"Miss Dodge," he almost shouted, "this is a new trick of the Clutching Hand. I--I'll be right over."
Craig hung up the receiver and turned from the telephone. Evidently he was thinking deeply. Suddenly his face seemed to light up. He made up his mind to something and a moment later he opened the cabinet--that inexhaustible storehouse from which he seemed to draw weird and curious instruments that met the ever new problems which his strange profession brought to him.
I watched curiously. He took out a bottle and what looked like a little hypodermic syringe, thrust them into his pocket and, for once, oblivious to my very existence, deliberately walked out of the laboratory.
I did not propose to be thus cavalierly dismissed. I suppose it would have looked ridiculous to a third party but I followed him as hastily as if he had tried to shut the door on his own shadow.
We arrived at the corner above the Dodge house just in time to see another visitor--Bennett--enter. Craig quickened his pace. Jennings had by this time become quite reconciled to our presence and a moment later we were entering the drawing room, too.
Elaine was there, looking lovelier than ever in the plain black dress, which set off the rosy freshness of her face.
"And, Perry," we heard her say, as we were ushered in, "someone has even forged my name--the handwriting and everything--telling Mr. Kennedy to drop the case--and I never knew."
She stopped as we entered. We bowed and shook hands with Bennett. Elaine's Aunt Josephine was in the room, a perfect duenna.
"That's the limit!" exclaimed Bennett. "Miss Dodge has just been telling me,--"
"Yes," interrupted Craig. "Look, Miss Dodge, this is it."
He handed her the letter. She almost seized it, examining it carefully, her large eyes opening wider in wonder.
"This is certainly my writing and my notepaper," she murmured, "but I never wrote the letter!"
Craig looked from the letter to her keenly. No one said a word. For a moment Kennedy hesitated, thinking.
"Might I--er--see your room, Miss Dodge?" he asked at length.
Aunt Josephine frowned. Bennett and I could not conceal our surprise.
"Why, certainly," nodded Elaine, as she led the way upstairs.
It was a dainty little room, breathing the spirit of its mistress. In fact it seemed a sort of profanation as we all followed in after her. For a moment Kennedy stood still, then he carefully looked about. At the side of the bed, near the head, he stooped and picked up something which he held in the palm of his hand. I bent over. Something gleamed in the morning sunshine--some little thin pieces of glass. As he tried deftly to fit the tiny little bits together, he seemed absorbed in thought. Quickly he raised it to his nose, as if to smell it.
"Ethyl chloride!" he muttered, wrapping the pieces carefully in a paper and putting them into his pocket.
An instant later he crossed the room to the window and examined it.
"Look!" he exclaimed.
There, plainly, were marks of a jimmy which had been inserted near the lock to pry it open.
"Miss Dodge," he asked, "might I--might I trouble you to let me see your arm?"
Wonderingly she did so and Kennedy bent almost reverently over her plump arm examining it.
On it was a small dark discoloration, around which was a slight redness and tenderness.
"That," he said slowly, "is the mark of a hypodermic needle."
As he finished examining Elaine's arm he drew the letter from his pocket. Still facing her he said in a low tone, "Miss Dodge--you did write this letter--but under the influence of the new 'twilight sleep.'"
We looked at one another amazed.
Outside, if we had been at the door in the hallway, we might have seen the sinister-faced Michael listening. He turned and slipped quietly away.
"Why, Craig," I exclaimed excitedly, "what do you mean?"
"Exactly what I say. With Miss Dodge's permission I shall show you. By a small administration of the drug which will injure you in no way, Miss Dodge, I think I can bring back the memory of all that occurred to you last night. Will you allow me?"
"Mercy, no!" protested Aunt Josephine.
Craig and Elaine faced each other as they had the day before when she had asked him whether the sudden warning of the Clutching Hand would intimidate him. She advanced a step nearer. Elaine trusted him.
"Elaine!" protested Aunt Josephine again.
"I want the experiment to be tried," she said quietly.
A moment later Kennedy had placed her in a wing chair in the corner of the room.
"Now, Mrs. Dodge," he said, "please bring me a basin and a towel."
Aunt Josephine, reconciled, brought them. Kennedy dropped an antiseptic tablet into the water and carefully sterilized Elaine's
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