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The Man Under The Bed

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[Copyright, 1893, by Charles B. Lewis.] At a quarter to 3 o'clock on the afternoon of Sept. 8, 1884, tlie paying teller of the Sixth National bank in the city of C cashed a check for $8,000 drawn by the firm of Burke & Burke in their own favor. It was presented by the cashier of the firm. There were a dozen men in line, and the transaction did not occupy two minutes. Burke & Burke could have had $00,000 as well as $8,000. At 3 minutes to 3 the cashier of Burke & Burke handed in his book and checks and money amounting to f6,000. Bank tellers always remind me of the dealers in the big games of chance. They are automatic. They are sphynxlike. They are imperturbable. Even when they receive a check and stamp it "No funds" and shove it back through the window it is done in a machinelike way, the same as clothespins are inade. You want Bmall bilis for a fifty. The teller picks up your bill, reaches around for his stamp, stamps it "counterfeit," and away you go while he is cashing a check for the next man in line. On this particular occasion, however, as I have several witnesses to prove, the paying teller was startled. He changed color. He looked frightened. He didn't ask Burke & Burke's cashier if he was there 12 minutes previously. He called Borne one to take his place, disappeared from view, and within 10 minutes the pólice were at work on the case. The check presented at a quarter to 3 was a forgery. The man who presented it was a counterfeit- that is, he had been "made up" to pass for James Long, cashier for Burke & Burke. This was not a diffieult matter. Both men were about the ame height, weight and complexion. Long hadn't spoken 10 words to the teller in a year. He always wore Scotch tweed, no matter what the season. He always wore a stiff hat. No one at the bank ever sawhim without eyeglasses. Long had a nod for other patrons whom he knew, but seldom opened his mouth. The paying teller had been done up with bis eyes wid open, but he moved so rapidly that it seemed as if the sharper must be nabbed. Officers were sent to the railroad depots; others made the tour of hotels; others yet made the rounds of gambling houses and saloons. If the fellow hadn't a secure hiding place selected in advance, the chances were more than even that he would be caught. In room No. 17 of the ínter Ocean hotel, which I will admit waa only a third class hostelry, but rich enough for a man earning only $25 per week, I read most of the particulars given you above in an evening paper. The bank officials had made every effort to suppress the facts, and the detectives were ss mum as clams, but "our reporter" had caught on after all. A sharp, shrewd class of men, these reporters. . Give them a lead, and they never let up until they have the case in hand. I had come in from the store tired out, and on going to rny room after supper I pulled off rnv boots, ligh ëcTmy pipe, s;ïï flüwn 'TO'j Eiy'íSétnm the bed. and this bank business was the first thing I struck in the evening paper. I had just finished the article when the uight clerk carne up. "Heard about the bank swindle over at the Sixth National?" he asked as he entered my room. 'Just read it." "Cool chap, that, but what do you tliink? There are two detectives down stairs who claini to have shadowed him here and want to search the house. They are on the floor below and will soon look in on you." "All right. I wish I had the boodle." Ten minutes later the officers carne in. I was a head shorter than Burke & Burke's cashier. I hadn't his complexion, his build, his facial expression or hair of his color. Indeed there wasn't a point of resemblance. The clerk had vouched for me, as I had boarded there a year or more, but those ''oíd sleuths" carne in on tiptoe, looked at ine from the corners of their ferret eyes and sat down to question me. It was a quarter of an hour before they let up, and then they appeared to feel injured because I hadn't beaten a bank or coniinitted a murder. Queer fellows, these detectives. Sometimes I have feit a bit conscience stricken over not doing something for which I could be arrested and sent to prison for their glory. Before ïny visitors left one of them contended that I might as well be taken along anyhow on general principies, as there was no telHng what I wouldn't own up to af ter being locked up for three or four days, but the other was more conservative. He assurned a f atherly interest in me, called me "my son" and tried [o make me realize how rmich better it would be to restore that money and take a clerkship in a bank at $1,200 a year than wear a zebra snit for 20 years in state prisou. I refused to disgorge,.and he went out saying that I had missed a golden opportrmity. The hotel was thoroughly searched. everybody qtiestioned and cross questioned, and the detectives ÊnaUy withdrew. At 10 o"clock I was smoking my third jipa and had long before exclianged iny paper for a book, when a queer thing happened. My bed stood in the middle of the room. I sat in a chair on the left hand side, ith my feet across the middle. I had my book up on a line with my eyes, and all had been quiet for 10 minutes, when a voice suddenly observed: "Well, old man, that must be an interesting y ara!" As I dropped my book my eyes rested on a man standing on his feet on the opposite side of the bed. To say that I was astonished is drawing it mild. I sat there with my nioiith open and my eyes buiging out until he Iaugh9d heartily and said: "If you could see a photograph of yrmrself with that expression on your l'ace, you'd latigh yourself into a fit." ■W-who are you?" I finally gasped Olit. "Well, that's a fair question," he replied as he sat down on the edge of the bed. "For the last three hours, up to a minute ago, I was the man under the bed. Owing to a change of position I am now the man on the bed." He was a cool hand. I could read human nature well enough to know that he had lots of nerve back of that assurance. As he sat down I noticed a revolver in his hand. The thing had been sprung upon me in such a waythat I was not rattled. The evening paper had given a description of the swindler, and as I looked the man over it dawned upon me that he was the identical chap. "You were hiding under the bed when I carne in here three hours ago?" I queried as we sat looking at each other. "Exactly," he replied. "You heard what the clerk and the detectives said?" "Every word." "And, to come right down to business, you are the man who got the 8,000 of the Sixth National bank this af ternoon?" "I am." "How did you get here?" "I had other plans, but they miscarried. In fact, a pal of mine lost his nerve at a critical moment and left me in the lurch. I dodged into this hotel in search of a temporary asylum and was lucky enough to find your door unlocked. Carelessness of the chambermaid probably. Did you ever see $8,000 in one pile? Good for sore e)Tes! See here." He bent over and picked up the money from the floor. There were three separate" packages- $5,000, $2,000 and $1,000 - but he had tied them all together and made one large package. Most of the bilis were new, and the bundie was worth a second look. "This means store clothes, quail on toast, a trip to London, Paris and Berlin," he said as he fondly patted the money. "So the affair is already out, eh? Please hand me the paper." I passed it over, and he read the account with a smile on his face and said: "Pretty close shave that, but a miss is aa good as a mile. Sorry for the paying teller, but I suppose his bondsmen are good for it and that he will wriggle along some way. Excuse my impertinence, but what do you do for a living?" "Head of a department with Gill & White, retail dry goods. "Married?" "No." "Ever been abroad?" "No." "Look here, old chappie," he continued as he coolly stretched at full length on the bed. "i'm willing to diwy with you. Hand in your resignation and make a European tour with me. It'll help your health and broaden your mind. This boodle will enable us to travel first class for a year." His impudence aggravated me. I had now recovered from my surprise, and as he looked at me for an answer I said: 'Til see you hanged first. I'm not making European tours with bank sneaks and forgers. Your trip will end at the front door of the state prison!" "Too peppery- altogether too peppery for thjs head of a retail department' he qüïèfly öbservêd". rrAhd7"cIó 'yóü fhink I'U.ÍS.jiriest.ed?'l. . .... ■ "Certaïnly. Tui goi'iig lo take' you down stairs and turn you over to the police." "That's all -wool and a yard wide, but it will shrink whén you come to tryif on," ho said as he flung his feet oS tho bed and stood np, "I don't know that I blame you for refusing the trip to Europe, but please don't be an idiot in other directions." "How do you mean?" I asked, alsogettingup. "Just figure for a minute. I'm no chicken. Having played for a big stake and won it, I'm not going to prison as you would lead a calf. Your own common sense should teil you that. I'm ing to put iny liberty and this boodle against your life if it comes to that, though I hope it won't. Tin armed, as yon see, whüe yon are not. Even withont the revolver, being the larger man, I conld do you up." "You cold blooded sconndrel!" I ïnattered aa I realized the situation. "Don't cali ñames." he pleasantly remarked. "Lefs ask what your duty is in 1io eire. I've beaten a bank. Banks are sonlless corporations. They have no 'iTicrcy. Last year 93 banks in the United IjTfitPs closeel their doors and beat thousraris of depositors. Every failure was brcraght about by fraud of ome sort. Rielii hrrs in this city the president of the Tliird National stole 90,000 of the deposits. And don't natter yourself that you owe a duty to the public. The public would let you starve or f reeze. The public denies that it owes you anything. The public would rob you of your last dollar. You owe a duty to yourself. It is to preserve your present state of health." "You mean that you will shoot me if I give an alarm?" I queried. "Certainly. I rnay kill you or only inflict a wound which will lay you up f or weeks. It may result in iny arrest, but where is your.gain? The firm might bury you or the bank might pay youi doctor's bill, but where will the proñt come in for you in either case?" His arguments silenced me, and coming around the f oot of the bed he continued: "I thought I was right when I first sized you up. We have now come to an nnderstanding. I've got to ask a favor or two, but won't bother you long. Ah, here are your scissors! I must sacriflee this mustache. Please sit over by the window." He laid his revolver on the dresser and used the scissors to clip off as fine a mnstache as you would see in a week's travel. I sat watching him and wondering, over my own placidity of mind. "You shave yourself, don't you?" he finally asked as he tnrned to me. "Yes, it's in the right hand tapdrawer." "Ah, thanks. Good razor, goodbrush, good soap. That make3 sh.vlnf a luxnry." He handled the razor with the deftness of a barber, and in seven or eight minutes he was clean shaved. He had sandy hair, while his eyebrows were almost red. There was a bottle of black ink on the dresser. He used his handkerchief for a sponge and colored his eyebrows. With the same fluid he made up as neat a black eye as one rowdy ever gave another, and he was chuekling as he turned to me to say: "Just one thing more, old man - a suit of clothes - your oldest suit. Hl pay cash for it." I had a much worn snit in the wardrobe, which I hauded out. "Eather a tight fit, but Til make it do," hesaid as he beganto peel off. ''My object is not to pass myself off for you, but to get rid of the Scotch tweed. You can sell that suit for at least $10, and here's $25 for yours." ' "I don't want your money." "Don't be finicky. That'3 no part of this boodle, but was honestly earned. Hl leave it on the dresser. Now, then, to wrap up the money in this newspaper and take my departure. Look herê, my boy, take this thousand and put it where it will give you a start." "I'd starve first!" "Too goody good to ever get ahead of the game! What course are you going to pursue when I leave the room?" "Kick myself for a fooi and then go to bed!" "Go to bed without doing the kicking act. You are the most sensible young man I've met in a year. If I'm arrested, I shall say nothing about what has happened here. If I get away, I shall always feel hurt that you wouldn't take some of the money. Tra-la, old man!" When he had closed the door, I locked it and sat down. After a quarter of an hour had slippcd away I tumbled into bed. I feil asleep after a bit, and it was 7 o'clock bef ore I opened my eyes. While I was dressing I had to go to the bureau for a collar button, and the ink stained handkerchief caught my eye. As I picked it up, lo! there was the $1,000 package of green backs in plain view. Did the man get away? Yes. He walked down staáía and out of doors unquestioned, and the detectives never got a clew on him after that night. He probably went rigkt to one of the depots and took a train. About the money. I returned it to tho bank by mail, and my action is still a puzzle to t ank officials and detectives. I co niighten thein, but I sJ:all not.


Ann Arbor Argus
Old News