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HOME > Biographical > A Book About Myself > CHAPTER XLVI
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 Following Galvin forward through the train, I soon discovered the detectives and their prisoner in one of the forward cars. The prisoner was a most unpromising for so unique a deed, short, broad-shouldered, heavy-limbed, with a squarish, unexpressive, dull face, blue-gray eyes, dark brown hair, big, lumpy, rough hands—just the hands one would expect to find on a railroad or baggage smasher—and a tanned and seamed skin. He had on the cheap nondescript clothes of a ; a blue hickory shirt, blackish-gray trousers, brown coat and a red handkerchief tied about his neck. On his head was a small round brown hat, pulled down over his eyes. He had the still, indifferent expression of a captive bird, and when I came up after Galvin and sat down he scarcely looked at me or at Galvin.  
Between him and the car window, to foil any attempt at escape in that direction, and fastened to him by a pair of handcuffs, was the sheriff of the county in which he had been taken, a big, , inexperienced creature whose sense of his own importance was plainly enhanced by his task. Facing him was one of the detectives of the road or express company, a short, , vulture-like person, and opposite them, across the , sat still another “detective.” There may have been still others, but I failed to inquire. I was so at the presence of Galvin and his cheap and coarse methods of ingratiating himself into any company, and especially one like this, that I could scarcely speak. “What!” I thought. “When the utmost would be required to get the true inwardness of all this, to send a cheap pig like this to thrust himself forward and what might otherwise prove a fine story! Why, if it hadn’t been for me and my luck and my money, he wouldn’t be here at all. And he was posing as a reporter—the best man of the Globe!”
He had the detective-politician-gambler’s habit of simulating an intense interest and enthusiasm which he did not feel, his face wreathing itself into a cheery smile the while his eyes followed one like those of a basilisk, attempting all the while to discover whether his assumed friendship was being accepted at the value he wished.
, sport,” he began familiarly in my presence, patting the burglar on the knee and fixing him with that basilisk gaze, “that was a great trick you pulled off. The papers’ll be crazy to find out how you did it. My paper, the Globe-Democrat, wants a whole page of it. It wants your picture too. Did you really do it all alone? Gee! Well, that’s what I call work, eh, Cap?” and now he turned his ingratiating leer on the county sheriff and the other detectives. In a moment or two more he was telling the latter what an intimate friend he was of “Billy” Desmond, the chief of detectives of St. Louis, and Mr. So-and-So, the chief of police, as well as various other detectives and policemen.
“The dull stuff!” I thought. “And this is what he considers place in this world! And he wants a whole page for the Globe! He’d do well if he wrote a paragraph alone!”
Still, to my intense , I could see that he was making headway, not only with the sheriff and the detectives but with the burglar himself. The latter smiled a raw, smile and looked at him as if he might possibly understand such a person. Galvin’s good clothes, always looking like new, his bright yellow shoes, sparkling rings and pins and tie, seemed to impress them all. So this was the sort of thing these people liked—and they took him for a real newspaper man from a great newspaper!
Indeed the only time that I seemed to obtain the least grip on this situation or to impress myself on the minds of the prisoner and his captors, was when it came to those finer shades of questioning which concerned just why, for what ulterior reasons, he had attempted this deed alone; and then I noticed that my confrère was all ears and making notes. He knew enough to take from others what he could not work out for himself. In regard to the principal or general points, I found that my Irish-Jewish friend was as swift at ferreting out facts as any one, and as eager to know how and why. And always, to my and chagrin, the prisoner as well as the detectives paid more attention to him than to me. They turned to him as to a lamp and seemed to be immensely more impressed with him than with me, although the main lines of questioning fell to me. All at once I found him whispering to one or other of the detectives while I was developing some thought, but when I turned up anything new, or asked a question he had not thought of, he was all ears again and back to resume the questioning on his own account. In truth, he irritated me frightfully, and appeared to be intensely happy in doing so. My contemptuous looks and remarks did not disturb him in the least. By now I was so and that I could think of but one thing that would have really satisfied me, and that was to attack him and give him a good beating—although I seriously questioned whether I could do that, he was so , and .
However the story was finally extracted, and a fine tale it made. It appeared that up to seven or eight months preceding the robbery, this robber had been first a freight brakeman or yard hand on this road, later being promoted to the position of superior switchman and assistant freight handler. Previous to this he had been a livery stable helper in the town in which he was eventually taken, and before that a farm hand in that neighborhood. About a year before the crime this road, along with many others, had laid off a large number of men, including himself, and reduced the wages of all others by as much as ten per cent. Naturally a great deal of discontent ensued. A number of train robberies, charged and traced to dismissed and dissatisfied ex-employees, now followed. The methods of successful train robbing were so clearly set by the newspapers that nearly any one so inclined could follow them. Among other things, while working as a freight handler, Lem Rollins had heard of the many money shipments made by the express companies and the manner in which they were guarded. The Missouri Pacific, for which he worked, was a very popular route for money shipments, both West and East, and bills being in all the while between St. Louis and the East, and Kansas City and the West, and although express messengers even at this time, owing to numerous train robberies which had been occurring in the West lately were always well armed, still these assaults had not been without success. The death of firemen, engineers, messengers, conductors and even passengers who ventured to protest, as well as the fact that much money had recently been stolen and never recovered, had not only encouraged the growth of banditry everywhere but had put such an unreasoning fear into most employees of the road as well as its passengers, who had no occasion for risking their lives in of the roads, that but few even of those especially picked guards ventured to give the marauders battle. I myself during the short time I had been in St. Louis had helped report three such robberies in its vicinity, in all of which cases the bandits had escaped unharmed.
But the which eventually resulted in the amazing singlehanded attempt of this particular robber were not so much that he was a discharged and poor railroad hand unable to find any other form of employment as that in his idleness, having wandered back to his native region, he had fallen in love with a young girl. Here, being hard pressed for cash and unable to make her such presents as he desired, he had first begun to think seriously of some method of raising money, and later, another ex—railroad hand showing up and proposing to rob a train, he had at first rejected it as not feasible, not wishing to tie himself up in a crime, especially with others; still later, his condition becoming more pressing, he had begun to think of robbing a train on his own account.
Why alone—that was the point we were all most anxious to find out—singlehanded, and with all the against him? Neither Galvin nor myself could induce him to make this point clear, although, once I raised it, we were both most eager to solve it. “Didn’t he know that he could not expect to overcome engineer and fireman, baggage-man and mail-man, to say nothing of the express messenger, the conductor and the passengers?”
Yes, he knew, only he had thought he could do it. Other bandits (so few as three in one case of which he had read) had held up large trains; why not one? Revolver shots fired about a train easily overawed all passengers, as well as the trainmen . It was a life and death job either way, and it would be better for him if he worked it out alone instead of with others. Often, he said, other men “squealed” or they had girls who told on them. I looked at him, intensely interested and moved to by the sheer animal courage of it all, the “gall,” the , or what you will, imbedded somewhere in this stocky frame.
And how came he to fix on this particular train? I asked. Well, it was this way: Every Thursday and Friday a limited running west at midnight carried larger shipments of money than on other days. This was due to exchanges being made between Eastern and Western banks; but he did not know that. Having on one of these trains, he proceeded by degrees to secure first a small handbag, from which he had scraped all evidence of the maker’s name, then later, from other distant places, so as to avoid all chance of detection, six or seven fused sticks of giant powder such as farmers use to blow up , and still later, two revolvers holding six each, some cartridges, and cord and cloth out of which he proposed to make bundles of the money. Placing all this in his bag, he eventually visited a small town nearest the spot which, because of its loneliness, he had on as the ideal place for his crime, and then, reconnoitering it and its possibilities, finally arranged all his plans to a nicety.
Here, as he now told us, just at the of this hamlet, stood a large water-tank at which this express as well as nearly all other trains stopped for water. Beyond it, about five miles, was a wood with a somewhere in its depths, an ideal place to bury his booty quickly. The express was due at this tank at about one in the morning. The nearest town beyond the wood was all of five miles away, a mere hamlet like this one. His plan was to himself near this tank and when the train stopped, and just before it started again, to slip in between the engine tender and the front baggage car, which was “blind” at both ends. Another arrangement, carefully executed beforehand, was to take his handbag (without the revolvers and sticks of giant powder, which he would carry), and place it along the track just opposite that point in the wood where he wished the train to stop. Here, once he had himself between the engine and the baggage car, and the train having resumed its journey, he would keep watch until the headlight of the engine revealed this bag lying beside the track, when he would rise up and compel the engineer to stop the train. So far, so good.
However, as it turned out, two slight errors, one of forgetfulness and one of eyesight, caused him finally to lose the fruit of his plan. On the night in question, between eight and nine, he arrived on the scene of action and did as he had planned. He put the bag in place and boarded the train. However, on reaching the spot where he felt sure the bag should be, he could not see it. Realizing that he was where he wished to work he rose up, covered the two men in the cab, drove them before him to the rear of the engine, where under they were made to uncouple it, then conducted them to the express car door, where he presented them with a stick of giant powder and, ordered them to blow it open. This they did, the messenger within having first refused so to do. They were driven into the car and made to ‘blow open the safe, throwing out the packages of bills and coin as he commanded. But during this time, realizing the danger of either trainmen or passengers climbing down from the cars in the rear and coming forward, he had fired a few shots toward the passenger coaches, calling to imaginary companions to keep watch there. At the same time, to throw the fear of death into the minds of both engineer and fireman, he pretended to be calling to imaginary confrères on the other side of the train to “keep watch over there.”
“Don’t kill anybody unless you have to, boys,” he had said, or “That’ll be all right, Frank. Stay ove............
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