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An Artist In Crime

An Artist In Crime  image
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[Copyright, 1895, by G. P. Putnam's Sons.]



 "Jack Barnes never gets left, you bet."

"That was a close call, though," replied the Pullman porter who had given Mr. Barnes a helping hand in his desperate effort to board the midnight express as it rolled out of Boston. "I wouldn't advise you to jump on moving trains often."

"Thank yon for your good advice and for your assistance. Here's a quarter for you, Show me to my section. I am nearly dead, I am so tired."

"Upper 10. Right this way, sir. It is all ready for you to turn in."

When Mr. Barnes entered the coach, no one was in sight. If there were other passengere, they were abed. A few minutes later he himself was putting two little bags of feathers and placing one atop of the other in a vain attempt to make themi serve as one pillow. He had told the porter that he was tired, and this was so true that he should have fallen asleep quickly. Instead his brain seemed specially active and sleep impossible.

Mr. Barnes - Jack Barnes, as he called himself to the porter - was a detective, and counted one of the shrewdest in New York, where he controlled a private agency established by himself. He had just completed what he considered a most satisfactory piece of work. A large robbery had been committed in New York, and suspicion of the strongest nature had pointed in the direction of a young man who had immediately been arrested. For ten days the press of the country had been trying and convicting the suspect, during which time Mr. Barnes had quietly left the metropolis. Twelve hours before we met him those who read the papers over their toast had been amazed to learn that the suspect was innocent and that the real criminal had been apprehended by the keen witted Jack Barnes. What was better, he had recovered the lost funds, amounting to $30,000.

He had had a long chase after his man, whom he had shadowed from city to city and watched day and night, actuated to this course by a slight clue in which he had placed his faith. Now, his man fast in a Boston prison, he was on his way to New York for requisition papers. As he had said, he was tired, yet despite his need of complete rest his thoughts persisted in rehearsing all the intricate details of the reasoning which had at last led him to the solution of the mystery. As he lay in his upper berth awake these words reached his ears:

"If I knew that man Barnes was after me, I should simply surrender. "

This promised to be the beginning of an entertaining conversation, and as he could not sleep Mr. Barnes prepared to listen. Extensive experience as a detective had made him long ago forget the philosophic arguments for and against eavesdroppiug. The voice which had attracted him was low, but his ears were keen. He located it as coming from the section next ahead of his, No. 8. A second voice replied:

"I have no doubt that you would. But I wouldn't. You overestimate the ability of the modern detective. I should actually enjoy being hounded by one of them. It would be so much pleasure, and, I think so easy, to elude him."

The last speaker possessed a voice which was musical, and he articulated distinctly, though he scarcely ventured above a loud whisper. Mr. Barnes cautiously raised his head, arranging his pillows so that his ear would be near the partition. Fortunately the two men next to him had taken the whole section, and the upper berth had been allowed to remain closed. Mr. Barnes now found that he could readily follow the conversation, which continued thus:

"But see how that Barnes tracked this Pettingill day and night until he had trapped him. Just as the fellow supposed himself safe he was arrested. You must admit that was clever work."

"Oh, yes, clever enough in its way, but there was nothing specially artistic about it. Not that the detective was to blame. It was the fault of the criminal. There was no chance for the artistic." Yet Mr. Barnes had used that very adjective to himself in commenting upon his conduct of this case. The man continued : "The crime itself was inartistic. Pettingill bungled, Barnes was shrewd enough to detect the flaw, and with his experience and skill in such cases the end was inevitable."

"It seems to me either that you have not read the full account of the case or else you do not appreciate the work of the detective. Why, all the clue he had was a button."

"Ah! Only a button, but such a button! That is where I say that the criminal was inartistic. He should not have lost that button."

"It was an accident, I suppose, and one against which he could not have guarded. It was one of the exigencies of his crime."

"Exactly so, and it is these little aocidents, always unforeseen, though always occurring, which hang so many, and jail so many, and give our detectives such an easy road to fame. That is the gist of the whole matter. It is an unequal game this between the criminal and the detective."

"I don't catch what you are driving at."

"I'll give you a dissertation on crime. Attend! In ordinary business it is brains versus brains. The professional man contends with his fellows, and if he would win the race toward fortune he must show more brains. The commercial man competes with other tradesmen all as clever as himself. So it goes from the lawyer to the locksmith, from the preacher to the sign painter. It is brains rubbing against brains, aud we get the most polished thought as the result. Thus the science of honest living progresses."

"What has this to do with the criminal class?"

"One moment. Let the philosopher teach you in his own way. With the criminal it is different. He is matched against his superior. Those in his own class do not contend with him. They are rather his partners, his 'pals,' as they term it. His only contention, therefore, is with the detectives who represent society and the law. No man, I suppose, is a criminal from choice, and it is the criminal's necessity which leads to his detection."

"Then all criminals should be caught?"

"All criminals should be caught. That they are not is a strong argument against your detective, for every criminal, we may say, is actuated by necessity, and therein lies the possibility of his defeat. For example, yon may claim that the expert burglar lays his plans in advance, and that, the crime being premeditated, he should be able to make such careful prearrangements that he could avoid leaving telltale marks behind him. This, however, is rarely the case, for this reason - the unexpected often if not always happens, and for that he has not prepared. In a moment he sees prison ahead of him, and his fear steals away his caution, so that, as we have seen, he does leave a clue behind him."

"But when you say the unexpected happens you admit the possibility for that to occur which could not have been premised, and therefore could not have been guarded against."

 "That is true is the case stands. But remove the neccessity which actuates our criminal and make of him simply a scientific man pursuing crimes an art! In the first place, we get an individual who will prepare for more accidents, and, secondly, would know how best to meet emergencies which occur during the commission of his crime. For example, if you will pardon the conceit, were I to attempt a crime I should be able to avoid detection."

"I should think that from your inexperience as a criminal you would be run to earth - well, about as quíckly as this man Pettingill. This was his first crime, you know. "

"Would you be willing to make a wager to that effect?" This last remark fairly startled Mr. Barnes, who instantly understood the meaning, which, however, at first escaped the other listener. He waited eagerly for the reply.

"I don't grasp the idea. Make a wager about what?"

"You said that were I to commit a crime I should be captured about as quickly as Pettingill. If you wish, I will wager that I can commit a crime which will be as much talked of as his, and that I will not be captured, or rather I should say convicted. I would not bet against arrest, for, as we have seen in this very case, the innocent are sometimes incarcerated. Therefore I stipulate for conviction."

"Do I understand you to seriously offer to commit a crime merely to decide a wager? You astound me!"

"No more perhaps than Pettingill has surprised his frieuds. But don't be alarmed. I shall assume all responsibility. Besides, remember it is not crime that is scowled upon in this century, but detection. I wager with you against that. Come, what do you say? Shall it be $1,000? I want a little excitement."

"Well, you shall have it. At least you shall have the excitement of paying the thousand dollars to me, for, though I think you are not really intending to become a criminal in either event, I may as well profit by your offer."

"What do you mean, by 'in either event?'"

"Why, if you do not commit a crime, you pay, and if you do I am sure that you would be caught. Then, however much I should regret your disgrace, I warn you that I should cut you dead and take your money."

"Then you accept the wager?"

 "I do!"

"Done. Now for the conditions. I am to have one month in which to plan and commit my crime, and one year for avoiding the detectives. That is, if l am free at the end of one year and can prove to you that I committed a crime within the stipulated period, I win the wager. If I am in jail awaitiug trial, the bet cannot be settled until the law has had its way and I am either proved innocent or guilty. Is that satisfactory?"

"Perfectly. But what class of crime will you commit?"

"My friend, you are inquisitive. The wager is on, and my boasted caution must begin. Therefore I must not tell you anything of the nature of my intended crime."

"Why, do you suppose for an instant that I would betray you?"

"Well, yes, that idea does occur to me. Listen. As I said before, the necessities of the criminal prove his Nemesis. The necessities involve the object of the crime. That is always a good starting point in following up a mysterious case. The more unusual the object the better, since it will fit fewer people. Plunder is the commonest and therefore the least promising to trace from. Revenge is common also, but better, because the special revenge connected with the deed must lead to the special individual most likely to execute such revenge. In this instance - I mean my own case - the object of the crime is so unique that the detective who discovers it should be able to convict me. A crime committed to decide a wager is perhaps new."

"lts very novelty is your best safeguard."

"Yet there are two ways by which it may be discovered, and that is two too many. Had I undertaken this affair secretly there would really have been but a single way for one to learn my secret - my own confession. As men have been weak enough to do this before now, I should even in that instance have taken precautions. But with my secret in the possession of a second party the position is more complex."

"I assure you on my honor that I will not betray you. I will agree to forfeit five times the wager in such an event."

"I prefer that you should be perfectly at liberty in the matter. I expect it to be thus. In your own mind at present you do not think that I shall carry out my purpose. There-fore your friendship for me is undisturbed. Then you count that, if I do commit a crime, it will be some trivial one that you may bring your conscience to excuse, nader the circumstances. But let us suppose that a really great crime should be reported, and for some reason you should suspect me. You will hurry to my rooms before I get out of bed and ask me flatly whether I am guilty. As flatly I should refuse to enlighten you. You would take this as a confession of guilt. Yon would perhaps argue that if your surmise were correct you would be an acccssory before the fact, and to shield yourself and do your duty you would make a clean breast of it."

"I am beginning to be offended, Bob. I did not think you would trust me so little!"

"Don't get angry, old man. Remember that only a few minutes ago you warned me that you would cut me dead after the crime. We artistic criminals must be prepared against every contingency."

"I did not think when I spoke. I did not mean it."

"Yes, you did, and I am not at all angry. Let it be understood then that you will be at liberty to repeat the facts about this wager should your conscience prick you. It will be best for me to expect and be prepared for such action. But you have not asked what the second danger of discovery is. Can you guess?"

"Not unless you mean as you suggested, your own confession."

"No, though that really makes a third chance. Yet it is so simple. Have you noticed that we can hear a man snoring?"


"Listen a moment! Do you not hear that? It is not exactly a snore, but rather a troubled breathing. Now that man is in the third section from us. Do you see the point?"

"I must confess that I would not make a detective."

"Why, my dear boy, if we can hear that fellow, why may not some one in the next compartment be listening to our tete-a-tete?" Mr. Barnes fairly glowed with admiration for the fellow's careful consideration of every point.

"Oh, I guess not! Everybody is asleep."

"The common criminal from necessity takes chances like that without counting on them. I shall not. There is a possibility, however remote, that some one, in No. 10, say, has overheard us. Again, he may even be a detective, and, worse yet, it might be your Mr. Barnes himself." 

"Well, I must say if you prepare against such long odds as that you deserve to escape detection!"

"That is just what I will do. But the odds are not so great as you imagine. I read in an afternoon paper that Mr. Barnes had remained in Boston in connection with properly securing his prisoner during the day, but that he would leave for New York tonight. Of course the newspaper may have been wrong. Then in saying "tonight" it may have been inaccurate, but supposing the statement were true, then there were three trains upon which he might have started, one at 7 o'clock, one at 11 and this one. One in three is not long odds."

"But even if he is on this train there are ten coaches."

"Agaiu you are wrong. After his bard work un thi.s Pettingill he wonld be sure to take a sleeper. Now, if yon recall the fact, I did not decide to go to New York tonight till the last minute. Then we found that we could uot get a whole section and were about to bunk toge'her in a lower berth wheu, severa] moro people applying, they determined to put on auother coach. Therefore, unless Mr. Barnes secured his ticket dnring the day, he would inevitably bav beenassigned to this coach. " "Had yon any special reason for suggestniüNa H)j?" tamo in, and, I think. took the vipper berth of No. 10." Mr. Barnes begau to think that he would havo exceedingly difficult work to defect this man in crime were he real'? to conmiit one in spite of the fact that hv5 knew so much in advauce. The conversation contiuned : "Tlms, yon see, there are two ways by which my object may become known, a serious matter if unguarded -against. As, however, Irecognize the possibilities in advance, tlicre will be no difficulty whatever, and the kuowledge will be of no valué to any detective, even though he be your Mr. Barnes. ' ' "How will you avoid that dauger?" "My dear boy, do you suppose for an instant that I would reply to that after pointingout that a detective may be listening? However. I will give yon an idea. I will show you what I raeant when I said that Pettingill had bluudered. You said that he had lost only a button and thottght it cJover in Barnes to trace him frota the button. Bat i button nniy be a niost important tbing. If I should lose one of the buttons of my vest while cojnruitting a crime, Mr. Barnes would trace me out in much less than teu days, and for this reason they are the only ones of the kind in the world. " "How does that happen? I supposed that buttons were made by the thonsand." "Not all buttons. For reasons which I need not teil the possibly listening detective, a friend traveling abroad had a eet made specially and brought them back to me as a present. They are haudsomely cut cárneos, half the set having the profile head of Juliet and the others a similar face of R orneo. " "A romance?" "That is immaterial. Snppose that I should plan a robbery in order to decide this wager. As necessity would not urge me either as to time or place, I should choose my opportuuity, let ns say, when but one person guardcd the treasuve. That oue I shonld chloroform and also tie. Nest, I should help rnyself to tbe designated pluuder. ënppose that as I were about to depart a sleeping, uncaleulated for pet dog should jump out and bark furiously? I reach for it, and it snaps at me, bitiug my hand. I grapple it by the throat arul strangle it, but in its de.tth throea it bites ruy vest, and a button falla to the ground and rolls away. The dog is at last silenced. Your ordimiry bnrglar by this time would be so unnerved that he would hasten off, not even realizing that he had been bitteu, that blood had flowed, or that the button was lost. Mr. Barnes is sent to the house the nest day. The lady suspects her coachrnan, and Mr. Barnes consents to his arrest, not because he thinks hiin gnilty, but because, as the mistress thinks so, he niay be, and theu more espeeially, his arrest will lull the fear of the real culprit. Mr. Barnes would observe blood ou the ground, on the dog's immth, and he would flnd the button. Prom the button he would find Mr. Tbief, with his hand bitten, and there jou are. " "But how iihould you avoid all that?" "In the rirst place, were I really wise, I should not have telltale buttons abor.t me at suc-h a time. But let us suppose that the time liad not been of my own choosing; then the buttons might have been vith me. Ássured as I should have been fbat the only person in the house lay chldroforined and tied, I should not have lost my nerve, as did the other individual. Keither should I have allowed myself to bn bitten, though if the accident had ocuirred I shonld have stopped to wash up the stain _ from the carpet while fresh, and also from the dog's mouth. I should have discovered the loss of the button, searched for and recovered it, untied thevictim andopened the windows that the odor of chloroform could pass oiï during the night. In fact, in the morniug the only evidence of crime would have been the strangled dog and the absence of the pelf. " 'It is easy ènougti to explaïn yonr actions under supposititious circumstances. But I doubt if in Pettingill's shoes you would have been able to retain your presence of mind and recover the lost button which led to his final arrest. " "It"ïspossibTèTtliat youüFe rïgEt, for had I been Pettingill I should have been coerced by necessities as he was. Yet I think I shonld not have planned such a robbery, choosing my own time as he did, and then have taken with me such a button. But from Mr. Barues' standpoint, as I said before, very little of the artistic was needed. The button was constructed of a curious old coin. Mr. Barnes went the rounds of the dealers and found the very man who had sold Pettingill the coiu. The rest was routine work. ' ' "Well, yon are conceited, but I don 't mind makiug a thonsand out of your egotism. Now I atn sleepy, however, so good uight. " "Qood uight, old man. Dream of a way to earn au extra thousand, for I shall win. " For Mr. Barnes himself sleep was now more impossible than ever. He was attracted to this new case, for so he counted it, and was determine to trap the individual who wagered against his acumen. It was a long step toward snccess to know as much as he had overheard. He would uot lose sight of his man during the allotted month. He enjoyed the prospect of allowing him to commit his crime and theu quietly taking him in the act. Oarefully and noiselessly he dressed himself and slipped out of his berth. Theu he crept into one opposite, so that he could have his eye on No. S, and settled down for an all uight vigil. "It would not surprise me if that keen devil were to commit his crime this very night. I bope so, for otherwise I shall have uo sleep till he does. " (To becontlnued.)