The Exploits of Elaine HTML version

5. The Poisoned Room
Elaine and Craig were much together during the next few days.
Somehow or other, it seemed that the chase of the Clutching Hand involved long
conferences in the Dodge library and even, in fact, extended to excursions into that
notoriously crime-infested neighborhood of Riverside Drive with its fashionable
processions of automobiles and go-carts--as far north, indeed, as that desperate haunt
known as Grant's Tomb.
More than that, these delvings into the underworld involved Kennedy in the necessity of
wearing a frock coat and silk hat in the afternoon, and I found that he was selecting his
neckwear with a care that had been utterly foreign to him during all the years previous
that I had known him.
It all looked very suspicious to me.
But, to return to the more serious side of the affair.
Kennedy and Elaine had scarcely come out of the house and descended the steps, one
afternoon, when a sinister face appeared in a basement areaway nearby.
The figure was crouched over, with his back humped up almost as if deformed, and his
left hand had an unmistakable twist.
It was the Clutching Hand.
He wore a telephone inspector's hat and coat and carried a bag slung by a strap over his
shoulder. For once he had left off his mask, but, in place of it, his face was covered by a
scraggly black beard. In fact, he seemed to avoid turning his face full, three-quarters or
even profile to anyone, unless he had to do so. As much as possible he averted it, but he
did so in a clever way that made it seem quite natural. The disguise was effective.
He saw Kennedy and Miss Dodge and slunk unobtrusively against a railing, with his head
turned away. Laughing and chatting, they passed. As they walked down the street,
Clutching Hand turned and gazed after them. Involuntarily the menacing hand clutched in
open hatred.
Then he turned in the other direction and, going up the steps of the Dodge house, rang the
"Telephone inspector," he said in a loud tone as Michael, in Jennings' place for the
afternoon, opened the door.