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HOME > Biographical > A Book About Myself > CHAPTER XLV
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 Some time before this (when I was still working for the Globe-Democrat), there had occurred on the Missouri Pacific, about one hundred and fifty miles west of St. Louis a hold-up, the story of which interested me, although I had nothing to do with it. According to the reports, seven lusty and daring bandits, all heavily armed and desperate, had held up an eight-car Pullman and baggage express train between one and two of the morning at a lonely spot, and after overawing the passengers, had compelled the engineer and fireman to dismount, uncouple the engine and run it a hundred paces ahead, then return and help break open the door of the express car. This they did, using a stick of or giant powder handed them by one of the bandits. And then both were made to enter the express car, where, under the eye of one of the bandits and despite the presence of the express messenger, who was armed yet overawed, they were compelled to blow open the safe and carry between twenty and thirty thousand dollars in bills and coin, which they deposited on the ground in sacks and packages for the bandits. Then, if you please, they were compelled to re-enter their engine, back it up and couple it to the train and proceed upon their journey, leaving the bandits to gather up their booty and depart.  
Naturally such a story was of great interest to St. Louis, as well as to all the other cities near at hand. It of the lawlessness of the ’forties. All banks, express companies, railroads and financial institutions generally were intensely interested. The whole front page was given to this deed, and it was worth it, although during my short career in in this region no less than a dozen amazing train robberies took place in as many months in the region bounded by the Mississippi and the Rockies, the Canadian line and the . Four or five of them occurred within a hundred miles of St. Louis.
The truth about this particular robbery was that there had not been seven bandits but just one, an ex-railroad hand, turned robber for this occasion only, and armed, as subsequent developments proved, with but a of revolvers, each containing six shots, and a few sticks of fuse-prepared giant powder! Despite the glowing newspaper account which made of this a most desperate and murderous affair, there had been no prowling up and down the of the cars by bandits armed to the teeth, as a number of passengers insisted (among whom was the Governor of the State, his Lieutenant-Governor, several officers of his staff, all returning from a military banquet or feast somewhere). Nor was there any shooting at passengers who ventured to peer out into the darkness. Just this one bandit, who was very busy up in the front attending to the robbing. What made this story all the more ridiculous in the light of later developments was that at the time the train stopped in the darkness and the imaginary bandits began to shout and fire shots, and even to rob the passengers of their watches, pins, purses, these of the State, or so it was claimed in newspaper circles , crawled under their seats or into their and did not emerge until the train was well on its way once more. Long before the true story of the lone bandit came out, the presence of the Governor and his staff was well known and had lent to the deed and strengthened the interest which later attached to the story of the real bandit.
The St. Louis newspaper files for 1893 will show whether or not I am correct. This lone bandit, as it was later indisputably proved, was nothing more than an ex-farm hand turned railroad hand and then “baggage-smasher” at a small station. Owing to love and poverty he had plotted this , which, once all its details were revealed, fascinated the American public from coast to coast. That a lone individual should undertake such an astounding task was uppermost in everybody’s mind, including that of our city editors, and to the task of unraveling it they now their every effort.
When the robbery occurred I was working for the Globe-Democrat; later, when it was discovered by detectives working for the railroad and the express company who the star robber was, I was connected with the Republic. Early one afternoon I was shown a telegram from some backwoods town in Missouri—let us say Bald Knob, just for a name’s sake—that Lem Rollins (that name will do as well as any other), an ex-employee of the Missouri Pacific, had been arrested by detectives for the road and express company for the crime, and that upon searching his room they had found most of the stolen money. Also, because of other facts with which he had been confronted he had confessed that he and he alone had been guilty of the express robbery. The dispatch added that he had shown the detectives where the remainder of the money lay hidden, and that this very afternoon he would be en route to St. Louis, scheduled to arrive over the St. Louis & San Francisco, and that he would be confined in the county jail here. Imagine the excitement. The burglar had not told how he had this great , and here he was now en route to St. Louis, and might be met and interviewed on the train. From a news point of view the story was immense.
When I came in Wandell exclaimed: “I’ll tell you what you do, Dreiser—Lord! I thought you wouldn’t come back in time! Here’s a St. Louis & San Francisco time-table; according to it you can take a local that leaves here at two-fifteen and get as far as this place, Pacific, where the incoming express stops. It’s just possible that the Globe and the other papers haven’t got hold of this yet—maybe they have, but whatever happens, we won’t get licked, and that’s the main thing.”
I hurried down to the union Station, but when I asked for a ticket to Pacific, the ticket agent asked “Which road?”
“Are there two?”
“Sure, Missouri Pacific, and St. Louis & San Francisco.”
“They both go to the same place, do they?”
“Yes; they meet there.”
“Which train leaves first?”
“St. Louis & San Francisco. It’s waiting now.”
I hurried to it, but the thought of this other road in from Pacific troubled me. Suppose the bandit should be on the other train instead of on this! I consulted with the conductor when he came for my ticket and was told that Pacific was the only place at which these two roads met, one going west and the other southwest from there. “Good,” I thought. “Then he is certain to be on this line.”
But now another thought came to me: supposing reporters from other papers were aboard, especially the Globe-Democrat! I rose and walked forward to the , and there, to my great disgust and nervous dissatisfaction, was Galvin, red-headed, , a cigar between his teeth, low in his seat smoking and reading a paper as calmly as though he were bent upon the most unimportant task in the world.
“How now?” I asked myself. “The Globe has sent that swine! Here he is, and these country detectives and railroad men will be sure, on the instant, to make friends with him and do their best to serve him. They like that sort of man. They may even give him details which they will refuse to give me. I shall have to interview my man in front of him, and he will get the benefit of all my questions! At his request they may even refuse to let me interview him!”
I returned to my seat nervous and much troubled, all the more so because I now recalled Galvin’s threat. But I was to give him the of his life. Now we would see whether he could beat me or not—not, if fair play were exercised; of that I felt confident. Why, he could not even write a decent line! Why should I be afraid of him?... But I was, just the same.
As the local drew near ............
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