The Lock and Key Library; The Most Interesting Stories of All Nations; Real Life – Various Authors

The flight and extradition of Charles F. Dodge unquestionably involved one of the most extraordinary battles with justice in the history of the criminal law. The funds at the disposal of those who were interested in procuring the prisoner’s escape were unlimited in extent, and the arch conspirator for whose safety Dodge was spirited away was so influential in political and criminal circles that he was all but successful in defying the prosecutor of New York County, even supported as the latter was by the military and judicial arm of the United States Government. For, at the time that Dodge made his escape, a whisper from Hummel was enough to make the dry bones of many a powerful and ostensibly respectable official rattle and the tongue cleave to the roof of his mouth in terror. (The District Attorney’s office in New York City is undoubtedly one of the best watch-towers known from which to observe “Real Life Detective Stories.” Arthur Train, sometime member of this prosecuting staff, has opportunity to record several of these curious and exciting “True Stories of Crime” (copyright, 1908, by Charles Scribners Sons). None yields less to fiction save in the fact that it is true, and not at all in quality of dramatic interest, than “A Flight into Texas,” here given. Readers of the newspapers a few years ago will remember the names of Abraham Hummel and Charles F. Dodge. The latter, a railroad conductor, was alleged to have committed perjury at the dictate of the former, known as one of the brightest, least scrupulous lawyers in this city. It was one of District Attorney Jerome’s great ambitions to bring Hummel to justice. Here was an opportunity. If Dodge could only be forced to testify to this perjury before a court, Hummel could undoubtedly be convicted of a crime that would not only disbar him from the legal profession, but would put him in jail. Dodge had run away and disappeared as the storm seemed about to burst. Where was he? Who could find and bring him back—against Abe Hummel’s wish?—EDITOR.

) Who could accomplish that in which the law was powerless?—Hummel. Who could drive to the uttermost ends of the earth persons against whom not a shadow of suspicion had previously rested?— Hummel. Who dictated to the chiefs of police of foreign cities what they should or should not do in certain cases; and who could, at the beckoning of his little finger, summon to his dungeon-like offices in the New York Life Building, whither his firm had removed from Centre Street, the most prominent of lawyers, the most eminent of citizens?—Surely none but Hummel. And now Hummel was fighting for his own life. The only man that stood between him and the iron bars of Blackwell’s Island was Charles F. Dodge—the man whom he had patted on the knee in his office and called a “Mascot,” when quite in the nature of business he needed a little perjury to assist a wealthy client. Hummel in terror called into play every resource upon which, during forty years of practice, his tiny tentacles had fastened. Who shall say that while he made a show of enjoying himself nightly with his accustomed lightheartedness in the Tenderloin, he did not feel confident that in the end this peril would disappear like the others which had from time to time threatened him during his criminal career? But Hummel was fully aware of the tenacity of the man who had resolved to rid New York of his malign influence. His Nemesis was following him. In his dreams, if he ever dreamed, it probably took the shape of the square-shouldered District Attorney in the shadow of whose office building the little shyster practiced his profession.

Had he been told that this Nemesis was in reality a jovial little man with a round, ruddy face and twinkling blue eyes he would have laughed as heartily as it was in his power to laugh. Yet such was the fact. A little man who looked less like a detective than a commercial traveler selling St. Peter’s Oil or some other cheerful concoction, with manners as gentle and a voice as soft as a spring zephyr, who always took off his hat when he came into a business office, seemingly bashful to the point of self-effacement, was the one who snatched Charles F. Dodge from the borders of Mexico and held him in an iron grip when every influence upon which Hummel could call for aid, from crooked police officials, corrupt judges, and a gang of cutthroats under the guise of a sheriff’s posse, were fighting for his release. Jesse Blocher is not employed in New York County, and for business reasons he does not wish his present address known. When he comes to New York he occasionally drops into the writer’s office for a cigar and a friendly chat about old times. And as he sits there and talks so modestly and with such quiet humor about his adventures with the Texas Rangers among the cactus-studded plains of the Lone Star State, it is hard, even for one who knows the truth, to realize that this man is one of the greatest of detectives, or rather one of the most capable, resourceful, adroit, and quick-witted knights of adventure who ever set forth upon a seemingly impossible errand. It is unnecessary to state just how the District Attorney discovered the existence of “Jesse,” as we knew him. It is enough to say that on Saturday morning, July 23, 1904, he was furnished with the proper credentials and given instructions to proceed at once to New Orleans, Louisiana, and “locate,” if it were humanly possible to do so, Charles F.

Dodge, under indictment for perjury, and potentially the chief witness against Abraham H. Hummel, on a charge of conspiracy. He was told briefly and to the point that, in spite of the official reports from the police headquarters of both New York City and New Orleans to the contrary, there was reason to believe that Dodge was living, although not registered, as a guest at the St. Charles Hotel in the latter city. A partial and inaccurate description of Dodge was given him and he was warned to use extreme caution to prevent any knowledge of his mission from being made known. Once Dodge had been discovered, he was to keep him under surveillance and wire New York immediately. Accordingly, Jesse left the city upon the same day at 4.45 P. M. and arrived two days later, at 9.

15 on Monday morning, at New Orleans, where he went directly to the St. Charles Hotel, registered, and was assigned to room Number 547 on the fifth floor. Somewhere in the hotel Dodge was secreted. The question was how to find him. For an hour Jesse sat in the hotel foyer and meditatively watched the visitors come and go, but saw no sign of his quarry. Then he arose, put on his hat, and hunted out a stationery store where for two cents he bought a bright-red envelope. He then visited a ticketscalper’s office, secured the owner’s business card, and wrote a note on its back to Dodge, offering him cheap transportation to any point that he might desire. Armed with this he returned to the hotel, walked to the desk, glanced casually over a number of telegrams exposed in a rack and, when the clerk turned his back, placed the note, addressed to Charles F. Dodge, unobserved, upon the counter. The office was a busy one, guests were constantly depositing their keys and receiving their mail, and, even as Jesse stood there watching developments, the clerk turned round, found the note, and promptly placed it in box Number 420.

The very simple scheme had worked, and quite unconsciously the clerk had indicated the number of the room occupied by Dodge. Jesse lost no time in ascending to the fourth floor, viewed room Number 420, returned to the desk, told the clerk that he was dissatisfied with the room assigned him, and requested that he be given either room Number 421, 423, or 425, one of which he stated that he had occupied on a previous visit. After some discussion the clerk allotted him room Number 423, which was almost directly opposite that occupied by Dodge, and the detective at once took up his task of watching for the fugitive to appear. Within the hour the door opened and Dodge and a companion, who subsequently proved to be E. M. Bracken, alias “Bradley,” an agent employed by Howe and Hummel, left the room, went to the elevator, and descended to the dining-room upon the second floor. Jesse watched until they were safely ensconced at breakfast and then returned to the fourth floor where he tipped the chambermaid, told her that he had left his key at the office, and induced her to unlock the door of room Number 420, which she did under the supposition that Jesse was the person who had left the chamber in Dodge’s company. The contents of the room convinced Jesse that he had found Dodge, for he discovered there two grips bearing Dodge’s name as well as several letters on the table addressed to him. The detective returned to the hall and had a little talk with the maid. “The old gentleman with you has been quite sick,” she said.

“How is he to-day?” “He is some better,” answered Jesse. “Yes, he does look better to-day,” she added, “but he sho’ly was powerful sick yesterday. Why, he hasn’t been out of his room befo’ fo’ five or six days.” This statement was corroborated by Dodge’s physical appearance, for he looked haggard and worn. Jesse was now confident that he had found Dodge, in spite of the reports of the New Orleans police to the contrary, and he was also reasonably sure that the fugitive was too sick to leave the hotel immediately. He therefore telegraphed his superiors that he had discovered Dodge and that the latter was ill at the St. Charles Hotel. At three o’clock in the afternoon Jesse received a wire from New York as follows: “New Orleans police department claims party not there. Left for Mexico three weeks ago. Ascertain correct destination and wire at once.

” Jesse at once replied: “No question as to identity and presence here at this time.” He now took up the task of keeping his quarry under absolute surveillance day and night, which duty from that moment he continued for a period of nearly ten months. During the remainder of the afternoon and throughout the night Dodge and Bracken remained in room Number 420, and during the evening were visited by several strangers, including a plain- clothes officer from the New Orleans Police Headquarters. Little Hummel, dining in Long Acre Square in the glare of Broadway, was pressing some invisible button that transmitted the power of his influence even to the police government of a city two thousand miles away. The following day, January 26th, at about 8.40 in the morning, Dodge and Bracken descended to the lobby. Bracken departed from the hotel, leaving Dodge to pay the bill at the cashier’s window and Jesse heard him order a cab for the 11.30 A. M. Sunset Limited on the Southern Pacific Railroad and direct that his baggage be removed from his room.

Jesse did the same. In the meantime Bracken returned and promptly at 11 A. M. left for the railroad station in a cab with Dodge. Jesse followed in another. As the two passed through the gates the detective caught a glimpse of Dodge’s ticket and saw that it had been issued by the Mexican National Railway. Retiring to the telegraph office in the station he wired New York as follows: “Bird flying.—Sunset Limited. Destination not known. I am with him.

” He then hastily purchased a ticket to Houston, Texas, and boarded the train. Dodge’s companion had bidden him good-by as the engine started, and Jesse’s task now became that of ferreting out Dodge’s destination. After some difficulty he managed to get a glimpse of the whole of the fugitive’s ticket and thus discovered that he was on his way to the City of Mexico, via Eagle Pass, Texas, while from the Pullman conductor he learned that Dodge had secured sleeping- car accommodation as far as San Antonio, Texas, only. So far all was well. He knew Dodge but Dodge did not know him, and later on in the afternoon he had the satisfaction of a long talk with his quarry in the observation car where they amiably discussed together current events and argued politics with the same vehemence as if they had been commercial travellers thrown fortuitously into each other’s company. Dodge, however, cleverly evaded any reference to his destination. When the train reached Morgan City, Louisiana, at 3 P. M., which was the first stop, Jesse wired New York as follows: “On Sunset Limited with friend. He has transportation to the City of Mexico, via Eagle Pass, where I am now journeying with him.

Answer to Beaumont, Texas.” Later in the afternoon he sent an additional message from Lafayette, Louisiana: “Have seen transportation of friend and am positive of destination.” Dodge was occupying Section 3 of the sleeping car “Capitola,” and, as became an invalid, retired early.

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