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THE GREAT ADAMS EXPRESS ROBBERY
With a portrait of the notorious Jim Cummings and illustrations of scenes connected with the great robbery
By Frank Pinkerton
Vol. I, March 1887. The Pinkerton Detective Series, issued monthly, by subscription, $3.00 per annum.
THE CONSPIRATORS--THE FORGED LETTER--THE PLAN.
In the rear room of a small frame building, the front of which was occupied as a coal office, located on West Lake street, Chicago, three men were seated around a square pine table. The curtains of the window were not only drawn inside, but the heavy shutters were closed on the outside. A blanket was nailed over the only door of the room, and every thing and every action showed that great secrecy was a most important factor of the assembly.
The large argand burner of a student's lamp filled the small room with its white, strong light, The table was covered with railroad time- tables, maps, bits of paper, on which were written two names a great number of times, and pens of different makes and widths of point were scattered amidst the papers,
One man, a large, powerfully-built fellow, deep-chested, and long- limbed, was occupied in writing, again and again, the name of "J.B. Barrett." He had covered sheet after sheet with the name, looking first at a letter before him, but was still far from satisfied. "Damn a man who will make his 'J's' in such a heathenish way."
"Try it again, Wittrock," said one of his companions.
"Curse you," shouted the man called Wittrock. "How often must I tell you not to call me that name. By God, I'll bore a hole through you yet, d'ye mind, now."
"Oh, no harm been done, Cummings; no need of your flying in such a stew for nothing. We're all in the same box here, eh?"
"Well, you be more careful hereafter," said "Cummings," and again he bent to his laborious task of forging the name of "J.B. Barrett."
Nothing was heard for half an hour but the scratching of the pen, or the muttered curses of Cummings (as he was called).
Suddenly he threw down his pen with a laugh of triumph, and holding a piece of paper before him, exclaimed: "There, lads, there it is; there's the key that will unlock a little mint for us."
Throwing himself back in his chair, he drew a cigar from his pocket, and, lighting it, listened with great satisfaction to the words of praise uttered by his companions as they compared the forged with the genuine signature.
These three men were on the eve of a desperate enterprise. For months they had been planning and working together, and the time for action was rapidly approaching.
The one called "Cummings," the leader, was apparently, the youngest one of the three. There was nothing in his face to denote the criminal. A stranger looking at him, would imagine him to be a good-natured, jovial chap, a little shrewd perhaps, but fond of a good dinner, a good drink, a good cigar, and nothing else.
One of his colleagues, whom he called "Roe," evidently an alias, was smaller in size, but had a determined expression on his face, that showed him to be a man who would take a desperate chance if necessary.
The third man, called sometimes Weaver, and sometimes Williams, was the smallest one of the conspirators, and also the eldest. His frame, though small, was compact and muscular, but his face lacked both the determination of Roe and the frank, open expression of Cummings.
After scrutinizing the forgery for a time, Roe returned it to Cummings and said, "Jim, who has the run out on the Frisco when you make the plant?"
"A fellow named Fotheringham, a big chap, too. I was going to lay for the other messenger, Hart, who is a small man, and could be easily handled, but he has the day run now."
"This Fotheringham will have to be a dandy if he can tell whether Barrett has written this or not, eh, Jim?"
"Aye, that he will. Let me once get in that car, and if the letter don't work, I'll give him a taste of the barker."
"No shooting, Jim, no shooting, I swear to God I'll back out if you spill a drop of blood."
Jim's eyes glittered, and he hissed between his teeth:
"You back out, Roe, and you'll see some shooting."
Roe laughed a nervous laugh, and said, as he pushed some blank letter- heads toward Cummings, "Who's goin' to back out, only I don't like the idea of shooting a man, even to get the plunder. Here's the Adam's Express letter-heads I got to-day. Try your hand on the letter."
Cummings, somewhat pacified, with careful and laborious strokes of the pen, wrote as follows:
"SPRINGFIELD, Mo., October 24th, '86.
MESSENGER, TRAIN No. 3, ST. L & ST. F. RTE:
DR. SIR: You will let the bearer, John Broson, Ride in your car to Peirce, and give him all the Instructions that you can. Yours,
J.B. Barrett, R.A."
"Hit it the first time. Look at that Roe; cast your eye on that elegant bit of literature, Weaver," and Cummings, greatly excited, paced up and down the room, whistling, and indulging in other signs of huge gratification.
"Well done, Jim, well done. Now write the other one, and we'll go and licker up."
Again Cummings picked up his facile pen, and was soon successful in writing the following letter, purporting to be from this same J. B. Barrett.
"SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Oct. 21, '86.
"JOHN BRONSON, Esq., St. Louis, Mo.
"DR. SIR: Come at once to Peirce City by train No. 3, leaving St. Louis 8:25 p.m. Inclosed find note to messenger on the train, which you can use for a pass in case you see Mr. Damsel in time. Agent at Peirce City will instruct you further.
"Respectfully, J. B. BARRETT, R. A."
Jim drew a long, deep sigh of relief as he muttered:
"Half the work is done; half the work is done."
Drawing the railroad map of the Chicago & Alton road toward him, he put the pen point on St. Louis, and slowing following the St. L. & S. F. Division, paused at Kirkwood.
"Roe, here's the place I shall tackle this messenger. It is rather close to St. Louis, but it's down grade and the train will be making fast time. She stops at Pacific--here, and we will jump the train there, strike for the river, and paddle down to the K. & S. W. You must jump on at the crossing near the limits, plug the bell cord so the damned messenger can't pull the rope on me, and I will have him foul."
Roe listened attentively to these instructions, nodding his head slowly several times to express his approval, and said:
"When will we go down?"
Jim Cummings, looking at the time-table, answered:
"This is--what date is this, Weaver?"
"Two weeks from to-day will be the 25th. That is on--let's see, that is Tuesday."
"Two weeks from to-day, Roe, you will have to take the train at St. Louis; get your ticket to Kirkwood. I see by this time-table that No. 3 does stop there. When you get off, run ahead, plug the bell-cord, and I will wait till she gets up speed after leaving Kirkwood before I draw my deposit."
Thus did these three men plan a robbery that was to mulet the Adams Express Company of $100,000, baffle the renowned Pinkertons for weeks and excite universal admiration for its boldness, skill, and completeness.
The papers upon which Cummings had exercised his skill, were torn into little bits, the time-tables and maps were folded and placed in coat pockets, the lamp extinguished, and three men were soon strolling down Lake street as calmly as if they had no other object than to saunter into their favorite bar-room, and toss off a social drink or two.
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