Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- The War Terror - 50/65 -

bath. But they were not. I know it."

"Still," pursued Kennedy, watching him keenly, "it is not all a question of current. To kill, the shock must pass through a vital organ--the brain, the heart, the upper spinal cord. So, a small shock may kill and a large one may not. If it passes in one foot and out by the other, the current isn't likely to be as dangerous as if it passes in by a hand or foot and then out by a foot or hand. In one case it passes through no vital organ; in the other it is very likely to do so. You see, the current can flow through the body only when it has a place of entrance and a place of exit. In all cases of accident from electric light wires, the victim is touching some conductor--damp earth, salty earth, water, something that gives the current an outlet and--"

"But even if the lights had been short-circuited," interrupted Josephson, "Mr. Minturn would have escaped injury unless he had touched the taps of the bath. Oh, no, sir, accidents in the medical use of electricity are rare. They don't happen here in my establishment," he maintained stoutly. "The trouble was that the coroner, without any knowledge of the physiological effects of electricity on the body, simply jumped at once to the conclusion that it was the electric bath that did it."

"Then it was for medical treatment that Mr. Minturn was taking the bath?" asked Kennedy, quickly taking up the point.

"Yes, of course," answered the masseur, eager to explain. "You are acquainted with the latest treatment for lead poisoning by means of the electric bath?"

Kennedy nodded. "I know that Sir Thomas Oliver, the English authority who has written much on dangerous trades, has tried it with marked success."

"Well, sir, that was why Mr. Minturn was here. He came here introduced by a Dr. Gunther of Stratfield."

"Indeed?" remarked Kennedy colorlessly, though I could see that it interested him, for evidently Minturn had said nothing of being himself a sufferer from the poison. "May I see the bath?"

"Surely," said Josephson, leading the way upstairs.

It was an oaken tub with metal rods on the two long sides, from which depended prismatic carbon rods. Kennedy examined it closely.

"This is what we call a hydro-electric bath," Josephson explained. "Those rods on the sides are the electrodes. You see there are no metal parts in the tub itself. The rods are attached by wiring to a wall switch out here."

He pointed to the next room. Kennedy examined the switch with care.

"From it," went on Josephson, "wires lead to an accumulator battery of perhaps thirty volts. It uses very little current. Dr. Gunther tested it and found it all right."

Craig leaned over the bath, and from the carbon electrodes scraped off a white powder in minute crystals.

"Ordinarily," Josephson pursued, "lead is eliminated by the skin and kidneys. But now, as you know, it is being helped along by electrolysis. I talked to Dr. Gunther about it. It is his opinion that it is probably eliminated as a chloride from the tissues of the body to the electrodes in the bath in which the patient is wholly or partly immersed. On the positive electrodes we get the peroxide. On the negative there is a spongy metallic form of lead. But it is only a small amount."

"The body has been removed?" asked Craig.

"Not yet," the masseur replied. "The coroner has ordered it kept here under guard until he makes up his mind what disposition to have made of it."

We were next ushered into a little room on the same floor, at the door of which was posted an official from the coroner.

"First of all," remarked Craig, as he drew back the sheet and began, a minute examination of the earthly remains of the great lawyer, "there are to be considered the safeguards of the human body against the passage through it of a fatal electric current-- the high electric resistance of the body itself. It is particularly high when the current must pass through joints such as wrists, knees, elbows, and quite high when the bones of the head are concerned. Still, there might have been an incautious application of the current to the head, especially when the subject is a person of advanced age or latent cerebral disease, though I don't know that that fits Mr. Minturn. That's strange," he muttered, looking up, puzzled. "I can find no mark of a burn on the body--absolutely no mark of anything."

"That's what I say," put in Josephson, much pleased by what Kennedy said, for he had been waiting anxiously to see what Craig discovered on his own examination. "It's impossible."

"It's all the more remarkable," went on Craig, half to himself and ignoring Josephson, "because burns due to electric currents are totally unlike those produced in other ways. They occur at the point of contact, usually about the arms and hands, or the head. Electricity is much to be feared when it involves the cranial cavity." He completed his examination of the head which once had carried secrets which themselves must have been incandescent.

"Then, too, such burns are most often something more than superficial, for considerable heat is developed which leads to massive destruction and carbonization of the tissues to a considerable depth. I have seen actual losses of substance--a lump of killed flesh surrounded by healthy tissues. Besides, such burns show an unexpected indolence when compared to the violent pains of ordinary burns. Perhaps that is due to the destruction of the nerve endings. How did Minturn die? Was he alone? Was he dead when he was discovered?"

"He was alone," replied Josephson, slowly endeavoring to tell it exactly as he had seen it, "but that's the strange part of it. He seemed to be suffering from a convulsion. I think he complained at first of a feeling of tightness of his throat and a twitching of the muscles of his hands and feet. Anyhow, he called for help. I was up here and we rushed in. Dr. Gunther had just brought him and then had gone away, after introducing him, and showing him the bath."

Josephson proceeded slowly, evidently having been warned that anything he said might be used against him. "We carried him, when he was this way, into this very room. But it was only for a short time. Then came a violent convulsion. It seemed to extend rapidly all over his body. His legs were rigid, his feet bent, his head back. Why, he was resting only on his heels and the back of his head. You see, Mr. Kennedy, that simply could not be the electric shock."

"Hardly," commented Kennedy, looking again at the body. "It looks more like a tetanus convulsion. Yet there does not seem to be any trace of a recent wound that might have caused lockjaw. How did he look?"

"Oh, his face finally became livid," replied Josephson. "He had a ghastly, grinning expression, his eyes were wide, there was foam on his mouth, and his breathing was difficult."

"Not like tetanus, either," revised Craig. "There the convulsion usually begins with the face and progresses to the other muscles. Here it seems to have gone the other way."

"That lasted a minute or so," resumed the masseur. "Then he sank back--perfectly limp. I thought he was dead. But he was not. A cold sweat broke out all over him and he was as if in a deep sleep."

"What did you do?" prompted Kennedy.

"I didn't know what to do. I called an ambulance. But the moment the door opened, his body seemed to stiffen again. He had one other convulsion--and when he grew limp he was dead."



It was a gruesome recital and I was glad to leave the baths finally with Kennedy. Josephson was quite evidently relieved at the attitude Craig had taken toward the coroner's conclusion that Minturn had been shocked to death. As far as I could see, however, it added to rather than cleared up the mystery.

Craig went directly uptown to his laboratory, in contrast with our journey down, in abstracted silence, which was his manner when he was trying to reason out some particularly knotty problem.

As Kennedy placed the white crystals which he had scraped off the electrodes of the tub on a piece of dark paper in the laboratory, he wet the tip of his finger and touched just the minutest grain to his tongue.

The look on his face told me that something unexpected had happened. He held a similar minute speck of the powder out to me.

It was an intensely bitter taste and very persistent, for even after we had rinsed out our mouths it seemed to remain, clinging persistently to the tongue.

He placed some of the grains in some pure water. They dissolved only slightly, if at all. But in a tube in which he mixed a little ether and chloroform they dissolved fairly readily.

Next, without a word, he poured just a drop of strong sulphuric acid on the crystals. There was not a change in them.

Quickly he reached up into the rack and took down a bottle labeled "Potassium Bichromate."

"Let us see what an oxidizing agent will do," he remarked.

The War Terror - 50/65

Previous Page     Next Page

  1   10   20   30   40   45   46   47   48   49   50   51   52   53   54   55   60   65 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything