The Somnambulist and the Detective (Mystery Fiction Collection)by Allan Pinkerton
About nineteen years ago, I was enjoying a short relaxation from the usual press of business in Chicago. I had only one or two really important cases on hand, and I was therefore preparing to take a much needed rest. At this time, my business was not nearly so extensive as it has since become, nor was my Agency so well known as it now is; hence, I was somewhat surprised and gratified to receive a letter from Atkinson, Mississippi, asking me to go to that town at once, to investigate a great crime recently perpetrated there. I had intended to visit my former home in Dundee, for a week or ten days, but, on receiving this letter, I postponed my vacation indefinitely.
The letter was written by Mr. Thomas McGregor, cashier of the City Bank, of Atkinson, and my services were called for by all the officers of the bank. The [Pg 10]circumstances of the case were, in brief, that the paying-teller had been brutally murdered in the bank about three or four months before, and over one hundred and thirty thousand dollars had been stolen. Mr. McGregor said that no expense should be spared to detect the criminals, even though the money was not recovered; that would be an important consideration, of course, but the first object sought was the capture of the murderers of poor George Gordon, the late paying-teller.
Having already arranged my business for a brief absence, I was all ready for the journey, and by the next train, I was speeding southward, toward Atkinson.
I arrived there early in the morning, of one of the most delightful days of early spring. I had exchanged the brown fields and bare trees of the raw and frosty North, for the balmy airs, blooming flowers, and waving foliage of the sunny South. The contrast was most agreeable to me in my then tired and overworked condition, and I felt that a few days in that climate would restore my strength more effectually than a stay of several weeks in the changeable and inclement weather of northern Illinois. For sanitary, as well as business reasons, therefore, I had no occasion to regret my Southern trip.
My assumed character was that of a cotton speculator, and I was thus able to make many inquiries relative to the town and its inhabitants, without exciting suspicion. Of course, I should have considerable business at the bank, and thus, I could have frequent conferences with the bank officials, without betraying my real object in visiting them. I sent a note to Mr. McGregor, on my arrival, simply announcing myself under a fictitious name,[Pg 11] and I soon received a reply requesting me to come to the bank at eight o'clock that evening. I then spent the day in walking about the town and gathering a general idea of the surroundings of the place.
Atkinson was then a town of medium size, pleasantly situated near the northern boundary of the State. The surrounding country was well watered and wooded, consisting of alternate arable land and rolling hills. The inhabitants of the town were divided into two general classes: the shop-keepers, mechanics, and laborers, formed the bulk of the population; while the capitalists, planters and professional men were the most influential. Most of these latter owned country residences, or plantations outside of the town, though they kept up their town establishments also. A small water-course, called Rocky Creek, skirted one side of the place, and many of the most handsome houses, were situated on, or near this beautiful rivulet. The whole appearance of Atkinson, and the surrounding country, indicated a thrifty, well-to-do population.
Having roamed about to my satisfaction, I spent the latter part of the afternoon at the hotel, where I met a number of the professional men of the county.
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