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?”