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- Jim Cummings - 6/26 -
into the labyrinth of gullies and underbrush, leaving his companions each to pursue his own way, Moriarity going west, while Haight, going east, sprang the fence, and entering a thick patch of bushes, brought out a horse, saddled and bridled. Mounting this he struck into a quick canter across the country toward St. Louis.
THE FIRST CLEW FOUND.
Mr. Pinkerton had passed an anxious week, Never before had he been so completely baffled. The finding of the letter-heads with Bartlett's name written on them in Fotheringham's trunk had quite upset his theories. Yet the most searching examination could find nothing in the suspected messenger's previous movements, upon which to fasten any connection with the robbery.
The vast machinery of Pinkerton's Detective Agency was at work all over the country. His brightest and keenest operatives had been brought together in St. Louis, Kansas City, Leavenworth and Chicago. False clews were sprung every day, and run down to a disappointed termination. But all to no purpose. Outwitted and baffled, Mr. Pinkerton was treading his apartment at the Southern Hotel with impatient steps; his brow was wrinkled with thought and his eyes heavy with loss of sleep. In his vast and varied experience with criminals he had never yet met one who had so completely covered his tracks as this same Jim Cummings. Of one thing he was satisfied, however, and that was, that no professional criminal had committed the robbery, and again that two or more men were concerned in it.
In Fotheringham's description of the robbery, he had mentioned hearing an unusual noise in the fore part of the car, as if some one were tapping on the partition, and on examining the car, the bell-cord was found to be plugged. This showed an accomplice, or perhaps more than one.
That it was not done by a professional was clear, because Mr. Pinkerton, having the entire directory and encyclopedia of crime and criminals at his fingers' end, knew of no one that would have gone about the affair as this man Cummings had done.
As everything else has its system, and each system has its followers, so robbery has its method, and each method its advocates and practitioners. This is so assuredly the fact that the detective almost instantly recognizes the hand which did the work by the manner in which the work was done.
This particular robbery was unique. An express car had never been looted in this manner before. "Therefore," said Mr. Pinkerton, "it was done by a new man, and although this new man had the nerve, brains and shrewdness necessary to successfully terminate his plans, yet he will lack the cunning and experience of an old hand in keeping clear of the detectives and the law, and will do some one thing which will put us upon his track."
He had just arrived at this comforting conclusion, when an impatient rap was heard on the door, followed almost instantly by Mr. Damsel opening it and entering the room.
In his hand he held a letter, and, full of excitement, he waved it over his head, as he said:
"He has written a letter."
A gleam of satisfaction was in Mr. Pinkerton's eye as he took the paper from Mr. Damsel, but his manner was entirely void of excitement, and his voice was calm and even, as he replied:
"I expected he would do something of that sort."
Mr. Damsel--his excitement somewhat allayed by the nonchalant manner with which the detective had received the news--seated himself on the sofa.
Mr. Pinkerton read the letter carefully.
It was headed "St. Joe, Missouri," and addressed to the editor of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and a large number of sheets, closely written in a backhand, was signed "Yours truly, Jim Cummings." It stated, in substance, that the robbery had been carefully planned some time before the occurrence. That entrance had been gained to the express car by the presentation of a forged order from Route Agent Bartlett, and that Fotheringham was entirely innocent of the entire affair.
The letter related, minutely, all that occurred from the time the train left St. Louis until it reached Pacific.
It told how the messenger was attacked, gagged and bound, and, in fact, was such a complete expose of the robbery that Mr. Pinkerton laid it down with an incredulous smile, saying:
"Nothing to that, Mr. Damsel. That letter was not written by the robber, but is a practical joke, played by some one who gleaned all his information from the newspapers."
"Indeed," responded Mr. Damsel, "then what do you say to this?" and he handed Mr. Pinkerton two pieces of calendered white wrapping paper, showing the seals of the Adams Express Company upon it, the strings cut, but the paper still retaining the form of an oblong package.
Surprised and puzzled, Mr. Pinkerton saw they were the original wrappings of the $30,000 and $12,000 packages which had been taken from the safe by the robber. The addresses were still on the paper, and Mr. Damsel, in a most emphatic tone, said:
"I'm prepared to swear that they are genuine."
Mr. Pinkerton, still silent, re-read the letter, carefully weighing each word, and this time finishing it.
He came to one paragraph, which read:
"Now to prove these facts * * * * I took my gun, a Smith we had practiced on, and checked the package in the St. Louis Union Depot, under the initials J. M. Now if you want a good little gun and billy, go and get out the packages checked to J. M. in the Union Depot October 25th; there are probably seventy-five or eighty cents charges on it by this time, but the gun alone is worth $10. Also, if you want a double- barreled shot-gun, muzzle-loader, go along the bank of the Missouri River, on the north side, about a mile below St. Charles bridge, and about twenty feet along the bank, just east of that dike that runs out into the river, and you will find in a little gully a shot-gun and a musket. Be careful. I left them both loaded with buckshot and caps on the tubes. They were laying, wrapped up in an oil-cloth, with some weeds thrown over them. Also, down on the river just below the guns, I left my skiff and a lot of stuff, coffee-pot, skillet, and partially concealed, just west of the skiff, you will find a box of grub, coffee, bacon, etc. I came down the river in a skiff Tuesday night, October 26-27, from a point opposite Labodie. It is a run of thirty-five or thirty-six miles. They should all be there unless some one found them before you got there." * * * *
Mr. Pinkerton, in a brown study, tapping the table with his fingers, sat for some moments. Rising abruptly, he placed his hat on his head, and requesting Mr. Damsel to follow, left the room. In a short time he was in the Union Depot, and stepping up to the clerk of the parcel-room, asked for a package which had been left there October 25th, marked "J. M.," stating that he had lost his ticket. After some search, the clerk brought forward a parcel tied in a newspaper.
"This is marked J. M., and was left here October 25th."
"That is the one," said Mr. Pinkerton, and paying the charges, hastened back to the hotel,
In spite of his habitual calmness and sang froid, Mr. Pinkerton's hand trembled as he cut the string. As the paper was unwrapped, both men gave an exclamation of surprise and joy, for disclosed to view was a revolver, a billy, some shirts and papers.
"At last," cried Mr. Pinkerton, and he eagerly scanned the various articles. The revolver was an ordinary, self-cocking Smith & Wesson. The billy was the sort called "life-preservers." The Adams Express letter- heads were covered with the names "J. B. Barrett" and "W. H. Damsel." Mr. Pinkerton passed these to his companions.
"They are pretty fair forgeries. Hang me, if it don't look as though I had written that name myself."
The detective, all this time, was scrutinizing each article, hoping to find something new.
With the papers he took out a printed ballad-sheet of the kind sold on the streets by newsboys and fakirs. Turning it over, he saw something written on it, and looking closely, read, "----, Chestnut street,"
The handwriting was the same as the handwriting of the letter. The first clew had been found.
George Bingham, or as he was familiarly called, "Chip" Bingham, was the youngest operative in Mr. Pinkerton's service. His talents, in the detective line, ranged considerably higher than did the general run of his associates. Possessing an analytical mind, he could take the effect, and, by logical conclusions, retrace its path to the fundamental cause, and following this principle, he had made many valuable discoveries in mystery-shrouded cases, and had, many times, picked the end of a clew from a seemingly hopeless snarl, and raveled the entire mesh of circumstantial evidence, and made from it a strong cord of substantiated facts. Mr. Pinkerton had early recognized this talent, and having, besides, a peculiar attachment to the handsome young fellow, he frequently placed delicate and intricate cases into his hands, always with good results. It was for Chip, then, he sent, when he had finished his examination of the valuable package.
Mr. Damsel, his mind somewhat freed from the trouble and worry it had carried since the robbery, had left Mr. Pinkerton alone and returned to his office.
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