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- Jim Cummings - 4/26 -
his buggy drive up to the hotel accompanied by a young man, whom Mr. Pinkerton recognized from the description given him, as the unfortunate Fotheringham, who had evidently, as yet, not been arrested.
It took but a few moments for Mr. Damsel to reach Room 84, and after introducing Fotheringham to the detective, left him there.
Fotheringham wore a worried and hunted look. The black rings under his eyes told of loss of sleep, and his whole demeanor was that of a discouraged person. Still he bore the keen scrutiny of the detective without flinching, and looking him squarely in the eye, said:
"Mr. Pinkerton, don't ask me to repeat my story again. I have told it time after time. I have been cross-questioned, and turned and twisted until I almost believe I committed the robbery myself, tied my own hands and feet, put the gag in my own mouth, and hid the money some place."
Mr. Pinkerton did not answer him, but gazing at him with those sharp, far-seeing eyes, which had ferreted out so many crimes, and had made so many criminals tremble, took in every detail of Fotheringham's features, as if reading his very soul. Fotheringham leaned back, closed his eyes wearily, as if it were a matter of the smallest consequence what might occur, and remained in that position until Mr. Pinkerton spoke.
"Mr. Fotheringham, I don't believe you had anything to do with the robbery, except being robbed."
"Thank God for those words, Mr. Pinkerton," exclaimed the messenger in broken tones, the tears welling to his eyes. "That's the first bit of comfort I've had since the dastardly villain first knocked me down."
"Can you not give me some peculiarity which you noticed about this Cummings? How did he talk?"
"Slowly, with a very pleasant voice."
"Did he have any marks about him--any scars?"
Fotheringham sat in deep thought for a while.
"He had a triangular gold filling on one of his front teeth, and he had a way of hanging his head a little to one side, as if he were deaf, but I did not see any scars, excepting a bit of court-plaster on one of the fingers of his right hand."
"Was he disguised at all?"
"Not a bit, at least I could see no disguise on him."
"How did he walk?"
"Very erect, and, yes, I noticed he limped a little, as if he had a sore foot."
"I see by this report," taking up the papers Mr. Damsel had left, "that you have given a very close and full description of his appearance, but that amounts to little. Disguises are easy, and the mere changing of clothing will effect a great difference."
"I am positive, from his features, that he was a hard drinker. He had been drinking before he came to the car, as I smelled it on his breath."
"Well, Mr. Fotheringham, I will not detain you any longer. If you are innocent, you know you have nothing to fear."
"Except the disgrace of being arrested."
"Possibly," said Mr. Pinkerton, shortly, and bowing his visitor out, he pondered long and deeply over the case; but he felt he was groping in the dark, for the robber had apparently left no trace behind him. He had appeared on the scene, done his work, and the dark shadows of the night had swallowed him up, and Mr. Pinkerton, for the time, was completely baffled.
"If he would only write that letter," he muttered, "and I believe he will--"
A tap at the door followed these words, and two men entered--both Pinkerton detectives.
One of them carried a bundle in his arms.
As Mr. Pinkerton caught sight of it, his face lightened up.
"Ah! You did get it?"
"Yes; found them in a ditch the other side of Kirkwood."
Mr. Pinkerton laughed, and taking the bundle, said:
"Mr. Damsel said they could not be found; but I knew you, Chip. It was a good move on your part to go after these clothes without waiting for orders. You are starting in well, my boy, and if you have the making of a detective in you, this case will bring it out."
Chip blushed. Such words of praise from his superior were worth working for. The youngest man on the force, he had his spurs to win, and the approbation of his chief was reward enough.
The bundle was untied, and disclosed a shirt, a pair of drawers, socks and a dirty handkerchief. As the clothing fell on the floor, the odor of some sort of liniment filled the room, and on the leg of the drawers, below the knee, a stain was seen. Examining it more closely, a little clotted blood was seen. The stain extended half way around the leg, and showed that the cut or bruise was quite an extensive one.
"No wonder he limped," said Mr. Pinkerton, as he dropped the drawers and picked up the handkerchief.
The handkerchief, a common linen one, had evidently been used as a bandage, for it was stained with the liniment, and covered with blood clots. In one corner had been written a name, but the only letters now readable were "W--r--k."
This was placed on the table and the shirt carefully examined.
Nothing, not even the maker's name, could be seen. It was a cheap shirt, such as could be bought at any store which labels everything belonging to a man as "Gents' Furnishing." The socks were common, and like thousands of similar socks.
"Not much of a find, Chip--the letters on the handkerchief can be found in a hundred different names--a sore knee is covered by a pair of trousers, and one out of every ten men you meet, limps."
The other detective, who had all this time been silent, now laid some Adams Express letter-heads on the table. On these were written "J. B. Barrett," in all forms of chirography--several sheets were covered with the name.
"Where did you get these?"
"Out of Fotheringham's trunk, in his room."
"By Jove, what a consummate actor that man is. Do you know, boys, up to this minute, I firmly believed that messenger was innocent--I have been sold like an ordinary fool," and Mr. Pinkerton looked at the tell-tale papers admiringly, for, although he felt a trifle chagrined at being taken in so nicely, he could not but pay tribute to the man who did it, for the man that could get the better of "Billy" Pinkerton, must be one of extraordinary ability.
"If you please," said Chip, "I do not see that the mere finding of this paper in Fotheringham's trunk should fasten suspicion on him. If he was shrewd enough to capture the money, he would certainly not leave such damaging evidence as this paper would be. It seems to me that it would be a very plausible theory to advance, that the real robbers placed this in his trunk to direct suspicion against him. In fact, it was the first thing to be seen when the lid was lifted, for I was with Barney when he searched the room."
Barney said nothing to his companion's remarks, but nodded his head to show that he acquiesced.
Mr. Pinkerton listened carefully, and merely saying, "we'll look at this later," gave a very careful and complete description of Cummings, which he directed Chip and Barney to take to the St. Louis branch of this firm, and from there send it through all the divisions and sub-divisions of this vast detective cob-web.
After issuing further and more orders relating to the case in hand, he put on his hat, and descended to the hotel office, followed by his two subordinates.
After the exciting episode in the express car had been brought to a close by Jim Cummings leaping from the car, the train moved on, and left him alone, the possessor of nearly $100,000. The game had been a desperate one, and well played, and nervy and cool as he was, the desperado was forced to seat himself on a pile of railroad ties, until he could regain possession of himself, for he trembled in every limb, and shook as with a chill. He pulled himself together, however, and picking up his valise, with its valuable contents, turned toward the river.
He stepped from tie to tie, feeling his way in the darkness, every sense on the alert, and straining his eyes to catch a glimpse of some landmark. He had walked nearly a mile when, from behind a pile of brush heaped up near the track, a man stepped forth. The double click of a revolver was heard, and in an imperative tone, the unknown man called out:
"Halt! Put your hands above your head. I've got the drop on you!"
Startled as he was by the sudden appearance of the man, and hardly recovered from his hard fight with the messenger, Cummings was too brave and too daring to yield so tamely. Dropping his valise, he sprang upon the audacious stranger so suddenly that he was taken completely by surprise. The sharp report of the revolver rang out upon the quiet night, and the two men, Cummings uppermost, fell upon the grading of the road. The men were very evenly matched, and the fortunes of war wavered from one to the other. The hoarse breathing, the muttered curses, and savage blows told that a desperate conflict was taking place. Clasped in each other's embrace, the men lay, side by side, neither able to gain the mastery. Far around the curve the rumbling of an approaching freight train was heard. Nearer and nearer it came, and still the men fought on. With a grip of iron Cummings held the stranger's throat to the rail, and with arms of steel clasped around Cummings, his assailant pressed him to the ground.
It was an even thing, a fair field and no favor, when the sudden flash
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