THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE
THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE
ARTHUR B. REEVE
I THE CLUTCHING HAND
II THE TWILIGHT SLEEP
III THE VANISHING JEWELS
IV "THE FROZEN SAFE"
V THE POISONED ROOM
VI THE VAMPIRE
VII THE DOUBLE TRAP
VIII THE HIDDEN VOICE
IX THE DEATH RAY
X THE LIFE CURRENT
XI THE HOUR OF THREE
XII THE BLOOD CRYSTALS
XIII THE DEVIL WORSHIPPERS
XIV THE RECKONING
THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE
THE CLUTCHING HAND
"Jameson here's a story I wish you'd follow up" remarked the
managing editor of the Star to me one evening after I had turned
in an assignment of the late afternoon.
He handed me a clipping from the evening edition of the Star and I
quickly ran my eye over the headline:
"THE CLUTCHING HAND" WINS AGAIN
NEW YORK'S MYSTERIOUS MASTER CRIMINAL
PERFECTS ANOTHER COUP
CITY POLICE COMPLETELY BAFFLED
"Here's this murder of Fletcher the retired banker and trustee of
the University" he explained. "Not a clue--except a warning
letter signed with this mysterious clutching fist. Last week it
was the robbery of the Haxworth jewels and the killing of old
Haxworth. Again that curious sign of the hand. Then there was the
dastardly attempt on Sherburne the steel magnate. Not a trace of
the assailant except this same clutching fist. So it has gone
Jameson--the most alarming and most inexplicable series of murders
that has ever happened in this country. And nothing but this
uncanny hand to trace them by."
The editor paused a moment then exclaimed "Why this fellow
seems to take a diabolical--I might almost say pathological--
pleasure in crimes of violence revenge avarice and self-
protection. Sometimes it seems as if he delights in the pure
deviltry of the thing. It is weird."
He leaned over and spoke in a low tense tone. "Strangest of all
the tip has just come to us that Fletcher Haxworth Sherburne and
all the rest of those wealthy men were insured in the Consolidated
Mutual Life. Now Jameson I want you to find Taylor Dodge the
president and interview him. Get what you can at any cost."
I had naturally thought first of Kennedy but there was no time
now to call him up and besides I must see Dodge immediately.
Dodge I discovered over the telephone was not at home nor at
any of the clubs to which he belonged. Late though it was I
concluded that he was at his office. No amount of persuasion could
get me past the door and though I found out later and shall tell
soon what was going on there I determined about nine o'clock
that the best way to get at Dodge was to go to his house on Fifth
Avenue if I had to camp on his front doorstep until morning. The
harder I found the story to get the more I wanted it.
With some misgivings about being admitted I rang the bell of the
splendid though not very modern Dodge residence. An English
butler with a nose that must have been his fortune opened the
door and gravely informed me that Mr. Dodge was not at home but
was expected at any moment.
Once in I was not going lightly to give up that advantage. I
bethought myself of his daughter Elaine one of the most popular
debutantes of the season and sent in my card to her on a chance
of interesting her and seeing her father writing on the bottom of
the card: "Would like to interview Mr. Dodge regarding Clutching
Summoning up what assurance I had which is sometimes
considerable I followed the butler down the hall as he bore my
card. As he opened the door of the drawing room I caught a vision
of a slip of a girl in an evening gown.
Elaine Dodge was both the ingenue and the athlete--the thoroughly
modern type of girl--equally at home with tennis and tango table
talk and tea. Vivacious eyes that hinted at a stunning amber brown
sparkled beneath masses of the most wonderful auburn hair. Her
pearly teeth when she smiled were marvellous. And she smiled
often for life to her seemed a continuous film of enjoyment.
Near her I recognized from his pictures Perry Bennett the rising
young corporation lawyer a mighty good looking fellow with an
affable pleasing way about him perhaps thirty-five years old or
so but already prominent and quite friendly with Dodge.
On a table I saw a book as though Elaine had cast it down when
the lawyer arrived to call on the daughter under pretense of
waiting for her father. Crumpled on the table was the Star. They
had read the story.
"Who is it Jennings?" she asked.
"A reporter Miss Dodge" answered the butler glancing
superciliously back at me "and you know how your father dislikes
to see anyone here at the house" he added deferentially to her.
I took in the situation at a glance. Bennett was trying not to
look discourteous but this was a call on Elaine and it had been
interrupted. I could expect no help from that quarter. Still I
fancied that Elaine was not averse to trying to pique her visitor
and determined at least to try it.
"Miss Dodge" I pleaded bowing as if I had known them all my
life "I've been trying to find your father all the evening. It's
She looked up at me surprised and in doubt whether to laugh or
stamp her pretty little foot in indignation at my stupendous
She laughed. "You are a very brave young man" she replied with a
roguish look at Bennett's discomfiture over the interruption of
There was a note of seriousness in it too that made me ask
The smile flitted from her face and in its place came a frank
earnest expression which I later learned to like and respect very
much. "My father has declared he will eat the very next reporter
who tries to interview him here" she answered.
I was about to prolong the waiting time by some jolly about such a
stunning girl not having by any possibility such a cannibal of a
parent when the rattle of the changing gears of a car outside
told of the approach of a limousine.
The big front door opened and Elaine flung herself in the arms of
an elderly stern-faced gray-haired man. "Why Dad" she cried
"where have you been? I missed you so much at dinner. I'll be so
glad when this terrible business gets cleared up. Tell--me. What
is on your mind? What is it that worries you now?"
I noticed then that Dodge seemed wrought-up and a bit unnerved
for he sank rather heavily into a chair brushed his face with his
handkerchief and breathed heavily. Elaine hovered over him
solicitously repeating her question.
With a mighty effort he seemed to get himself together. He rose
and turned to Bennett.
"Perry" he exclaimed "I've got the Clutching Hand!"
The two men stared at each other.
"Yes" continued Dodge "I've just found out how to trace it and
tomorrow I am going to set the alarms of the city at rest by
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
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:
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
. . . . . . . .
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
The word seemed to stick in my throat. If it was a murder what
was the motive? Could it have been to get the evidence which Dodge
had that would incriminate the master criminal?
Kennedy moved over quietly and examined the body of Dodge. When he
rose his face had a peculiar look.
"Terrible!" he whispered to me. "Apparently he had been working at
his accustomed place at the desk when the telephone rang. He rose
and crossed over to it. See! That brought his feet on this
register let into the floor. As he took the telephone receiver
down a flash of light must have shot from it to his ear. It shows
the characteristic electric burn."
"The motive?" I queried.
"Evidently his pockets had been gone through though none of the
valuables were missing. Things on his desk show that a hasty
search has been made."
Just then the door opened and Bennett burst in.
As he stood over the body gazing down at it repressing the
emotions of a strong man he turned to Elaine and in a low voice
exclaimed "The Clutching Hand did this! I shall consecrate my
life to bring this man to justice!"
He spoke tensely and Elaine looking up into his face as if
imploring his help in her hour of need unable to speak merely
grasped his hand.
Kennedy who in the meantime had stood apart from the rest of us
was examining the telephone carefully.
"A clever crook" I heard him mutter between his teeth. "He must
have worn gloves. Not a finger print--at least here."
. . . . . . . .
Perhaps I can do no better than to reconstruct the crime as
Kennedy later pieced these startling events together.
Long after I had left and even after Bennett left Dodge continued
working in his library for he was known as a prodigious worker.
Had he taken the trouble however to pause and peer out into the
moonlight that flooded the back of his house he might have seen
the figures of two stealthy crooks crouching in the half shadows
of one of the cellar windows.