Traced and Tracked Memoirs of a City Detective
Traced and Tracked
Memoirs of a City Detective.
by James McGovan
Memoirs of a City Detective.
AUTHOR OF “BROUGHT TO BAY,” “HUNTED DOWN,” AND“STRANGE CLUES.”
JOHN MENZIES & COMPANY
LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, & CO.
EXPERIENCES OF A CITY DETECTIVE.
RECOLLECTIONS OF A CITY DETECTIVE.
CHRONICLES OF A CITY DETECTIVE.
The above are uniform in size andprice with “TRACEDAND
KINBRAE, NEWPORT, FIFE
IS INSCRIBED, IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF HISLOVING-KINDNESS DURING A CRITICALILLNESS OF THE AUTHOR.
The gratifying success of my former experiences—25,000copies having already been sold, and the demand steadilycontinuing—has induced me to put forth another volume. Indoing so, I have again to thank numerous correspondents, aswell as the reviewers of the public press, for their warmexpressions of appreciation and approval. I have also tonotice a graceful compliment from Berlin, in the translation ofmy works into German, by H. Ernst Duby; and anotherfrom Geneva, in the translation of a selection of my sketchesinto French, by the Countess Agènor de Gasparin.
A severe and unexpected attack of hæmorrhage of the lungshas prevented me revising about a third of the present volume.I trust, therefore, that any trifling slips or errors will beexcused on that account.
In conclusion, I would remind readers and reviewers of thewords of Handel, when he was complimented by an Irishnobleman on having amused the citizens of Dublin with hisMessiah. “Amuse dem?” he warmly replied; “I do not vantto amuse dem only; I vant to make dem petter.”
EDINBURGH, October 1884.
- A PEDESTRIAN’S PLOT,• 1
- BILLY’S BITE,• 13
- THE MURDERED TAILOR’S WATCH,• 24
- THE STREET PORTER’S SON,• 44
- A BIT OF TOBACCO PIPE,• 57
- THE BROKEN CAIRNGORM,• 68
- THE ROMANCE OF A REAL CREMONA,• 79
- THE SPIDER AND THE SPIDER-KILLER,• 104
- THE SPOILT PHOTOGRAPH,• 115
- THE STOLEN DOWRY,• 127
- McSWEENY AND THE MAGIC JEWELS,• 139
- BENJIE BLUNT’S CLEVER ALIBI,• 150
- JIM HUTSON’S KNIFE,• 161
- THE HERRING SCALES,• 174
- ONE LESS TO EAT,• 185
- THE CAPTAIN’S CHRONOMETER,• 196
- THE TORN TARTAN SHAWL,• 207
- A LIFT ON THE ROAD,• 218
- THE ORGAN-GRINDER’S MONEY-BAG,• 229
- THE BERWICK BURR,• 240
- THE WRONG UMBRELLA,• 252
- A WHITE SAVAGE,• 263
- THE BROKEN MISSIONARY,• 274
- A MURDERER’S MISTAKE,• 285
- A HOUSE-BREAKER’S WIFE,• 297
- McSWEENY AND THE CHIMNEY-SWEEP,• 308
- THE FAMILY BIBLE,• 320
- CONSCIENCE MONEY,• 332
- A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING,• 343
A PEDESTRIAN’S PLOT.
I have alluded to the fact that manycriminals affect a particular line of business, and show acertain style in their work which often points unerringlyto the doer when all other clues are wanting. A glance overany record of convictions will convey a good idea of howmuch reliance we are led to place upon this curious fact.One man’s list will show a string of pocket-picking cases,or attempts in that line, and it will be rare, indeed,to find in that record a case of robbery with violence,housebreaking, or any crime necessitating great daringor strength. Another shows nothing but deeds of brutestrength or bull-dog ferocity, and to find in his recordof prev. con. a case of delicate pocket-picking wouldmake any one of experience open his eyes wide indeed. Thestyle of the work is even a surer guide than the particularline, as the variety there is unlimited as it is marked.This is all very well; and often I have been complimentedon my astuteness in thus making very simple and naturaldeductions leading to convictions. But the pleasure ceasesto be unmixed when the criminal is as cunning as thedetective, and works upon that knowledge. To show how adetective may be deceived in working on this—one of hissurest modes of tracing a criminal—I give the presentcase.
Dave Larkins was a Yorkshire thief, who had drifted northwardsby some chance and landed in Edinburgh. Streetrobbery was his line, and, as he was a professional pedestrian,or racing man, he was not caught, I should say, once in twentycases. The list of his previous convictions in Manchester,Liverpool, Preston, and other places showed with unvaryingmonotony the same crime and the same style of working. Hewould go up to some gentleman on the street and make anexcuse for addressing him, snatch at his watch, and run for it.More often the victim was a lady with a reticule or purse in herhand, and then no preliminary speaking was indulged in. Hemade the snatch, and ran like the wind, and the whole wasdone so quickly that the astounded victim seldom retained theslightest recollection of his appearance.
Yet Dave’s appearance was striking enough. He was awiry man of medium height, with strongly-marked features, redhair, and a stumpy little turned up nose, the round point ofwhich was always red as a cherry with bad whisky, except atthose rare intervals when he was “in training” for some footrace which it was to his advantage to win.
Then his dress had notable points. He generally wore aknitted jersey in place of a waistcoat, and he had a grey felthat covered with grease spots, for which he had such a peculiaraffection that he never changed it for a new one. Underthese circumstances it may be thought that a conviction wouldhave been easily got against Dave. But Dave was “Yorkshire,”as I have indicated, and about as smart and cunning in arrangingan alibi as any I ever met. No doubt his racingpowers helped him in that, but his native cunning did more.
There is a popular impression that a Yorkshire man willhold his own in cunning against all the world, but I have hereto record that Dave met his match in a Scotchman who hadnothing like Dave’s reputation for smartness, and who was sostupid-looking that few could have conceived him capable ofthe task. This man was known in racing circles—for he wasa pedestrian too—as Jake Mackay, but more generally receivedthe nickname of “The Gander.”
Why he had been so named I cannot tell—perhaps becausesome one had discovered that there was nothing of the gooseabout him. Your stupid-looking man, who is not stupid butsupremely sharp-witted, has an infinite advantage over thosewho carry a needle eye like Dave Larkins, and have cunningprinted on every line about their lips and eyes.
The Gander was not a professional thief, though he wasoften in the company of thieves. He had been in the army, andhad a pension, which he eked out by odd jobs, such as bill-postingand acting as “super.” in the theatres. He was athorough rascal at heart, and would have cheated his owngrandfather had opportunity served, and had there been ashilling or two to gain by it.
These two men became acquainted at a pedestrian meetingat Glasgow, and when Dave Larkins came to Edinburgh theybecame rather close companions. The Gander had the advantageof local knowledge, and could get at all the men whobacked pedestrians, and then told them to win or lose accordingto the way the money was staked. A racing tournament wasarranged about that time in which both of them were enteredfor one of the shorter races, in which great speed, rather thanendurance, was called for. In that particular race they hadthe result entirely in their own hands, though, if fairly put toit, Dave Larkins, or “Yorky” as he was named, could easilyhave come in first. The other men entered having no chance,these two proceeded to arrange matters to their mutualadvantage—that is, had they been honest men, the advantagewould have been mutual, for they agreed to divide the stakeswhatever the result. But in these matters there is always agreat deal more at stake than the money prize offered to thewinner. The art of betting and counterbetting would taskthe brain of a mathematician to reduce its subtleties toa form intelligible to the ordinary mind; and the supremethought of each of the rogues, after closing hands on the aboveagreement, was how he could best benefit himself at the expenseof the other. What the private arrangements of TheGander were does not appear, except that he had arranged tocome in first, though the betting was all in favour of Yorky;but just before they entered the dressing tent, a patron of thesports—I will not call him a gentleman—took Yorky aside andsaid—
“How is this race to go? Have you any money on it toforce you to win?”
Yorky, having already arranged to lose, modestly hintedthat, for a substantial consideration, he would be willing tocome in second.
“Second? whew! then who’d be first?” said the patron,not looking greatly pleased with the proposal. “The Ganderwould walk off with the stakes. He’d be sure to come infirst. Could you not let Birrel get to the front?”
“It might be managed,” said Yorky, with a significantwink.
“Then manage it;” and the price of the “management” wasthrust into his hand in bank notes, and the matter settled.
Yorky counted the money, and ran up in his mind all thatThe Gander had on the race, and decided that the old soldierwould promptly refuse to lose the race in favour of Birrel.The money was not enough to stand halving, so Yorky decidedto keep it all, and also to “pot” a little more by the new turnthings had taken. He therefore passed the word to a booncompanion to put all his spare money on Birrel, and then tookhis place among the competitors dressing for the race. Thestart was made, and, as all had expected, Yorky and TheGander gradually drew together, and then moved out to thefront. Birrel at the last round was a very bad third, while theother runners were nowhere, and evidently only remaining onthe track in the faint hope of some unforeseen accident takingplace to give one of them the chance of a place. They hadnot long to wait. Yorky, running at his swiftest, and apparentlyin splendid form, about three yards in front of The Gander, insteadof slackening his speed as he had arranged, suddenlyreeled and fell to the ground right in front of his companion.The result may be guessed. The Gander was on the obstructionbefore he knew, and sprawling in a half-stunned conditiona yard in front of Yorky’s body, while Birrel, amid a yell fromthe spectators, drew up and shot ahead. The yell roused TheGander, and he feebly scrambled to his feet, and made a desperateeffort for the first place, but all in vain, for Birrel touchedthe tape before him, and he was second in everything butswearing. To the surprise of all, Yorky did not rise to his feet,and remained to all appearance insensible for five minutesafter he had been tenderly carried to the dressing tent. Ofcourse there was a protest of the most vigorous description tothe referee by The Gander, who not only found that he had laidhis money the wrong way, and disappointed numerous friendswho had followed his advice, but was not even to have themeagre satisfaction of sharing the first