The Romance of Elaine HTML version

2. The Cryptic Ring
Kennedy had been engaged for some time in the only work outside of the Dodge case
which he had consented to take for weeks.
Our old friend, Dr. Leslie, the Coroner, had appealed to him to solve a very ticklish point
in a Tong murder case which had set all Chinatown agog. It was, indeed, a very
bewildering case. A Chinaman named Li Chang, leader of the Chang Wah Tong, had
been poisoned, but so far no one had been able to determine what poison it was or even to
prove that there had been a poison, except for the fact that the man was dead, and
Kennedy had taken the thing up in a great measure because of the sudden turn in the
Dodge case which had brought us into such close contact with the Chinese.
I had been watching Kennedy with interest, for the Tong wars always make picturesque
newspaper stories, when a knock at the door announced the arrival of Dr. Leslie, anxious
for some result.
"Have you been able to find out anything yet?" he greeted Kennedy eagerly as Craig
looked up from his microscope.
Kennedy turned and nodded. "Your dead man was murdered by means of aconite, of
which, you know, the active principle is the deadly alkaloid aconitine."
Craig pulled down from the shelf above him one of his well-thumbed standard works on
toxicology. He turned the pages and read:
"Pure aconite is probably the most actively poisonous substance with which we are
acquainted. It does not produce any decidedly characteristic post-mortem appearances,
and, in fact, there is no reliable chemical test to prove its presence. The chances of its
detection in the body after death are very slight."
Dr. Leslie looked up. "Then there is no test, none?" he asked.
"There is one that is brand new," replied Kennedy slowly. "It is the new starch-grain test
just discovered by Professor Reichert, of the University of Pennsylvania. The
peculiarities of the starch grains of various plants are quite as great as those of the blood
crystals, which, you will recall, Walter, we used once.
"The starch grains of the poison have remained in the wound. I have recovered them from
the dead man's blood and have studied them microscopically. They can be definitely
recognized. This is plainly a case of aconite poisoning--probably suggested to the
Oriental mind by the poison arrows of the Ainus of Northern Japan."