New Kindle Book from HCD: ’15 Detective Stories by the Police Captains of New York, 1888′ with Preview ChapterHome | New Books, Short Feature Story | New Kindle Book from HCD: ’15 Detective Stories by the Police Captains of New York, 1888′ with Preview Chapter
Today, May 28, 2020, I am happy to announce that Historical Crime Detective Publishing has released a new Kindle book, 15 Detective Stories by the Police Captains of New York, 1888. A description of the book and link to purchase are available via the link above, and links further below, along with a preview chapter of the book, “A Still Hunt in New York’s Rotten Row.”
The kindle book is available via Amazon-com or through your Kindle Reader for only $1.99. That will go up in price in a month or two. The first 20 fans of the HistoricalCrimeDetective blog who write an unbiased review on Amazon will have their choice of receiving one of the following:
1. A CD with 35 pdf vintage true magazines.
2. A CD with 175 pdf vintage true crime books.
3. A $10 Amazon Gift Card.
Instructions: Read the book, write a review, contact me through the blog (contact page) and let me know which of the three items above you would like to receive. In the review, you can be completely honest with how you felt about the book after reading it. Write whatever you want and give it however as many stars as you feel it deserved.
Partial Description: “In this treasured and forgotten book, the imaginative reader will travel back in time and place to New York City during the 1880s. Your guides will be 15 Police Captains, who reveal the least understood part of American history, social history. What was it like? How did people speak? How did they interact with each other?
“All fifteen detective stories presented are the memorable and unmemorable crimes of everyday life as it was 132 years ago. This includes gas-pipe toting jewelry store robbers; a degenerate son who rose from river thief to pirate captain aboard a stolen yacht renamed Satan; the bloody aftermath of a Chinese sailor returning home to his Irish wife, his prized parrots, and their younger tenant; the story of how three men were executed for the murder of an old peddler who shared his food with them. Saving the best for last is the extraordinary story of a young girl with an earnest heart, who was tossed around and discarded by her caretakers, but triumphs in the end.
“This is not just a true crime book, it is fifteen lessons on what life was like in a city known worldwide, during an era as mysterious to us as human nature.”
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Purchase 15 Detective Stories by the Police Captains of New York, 1888 on Amazon for only $1.99.
Chapter 13: A Still Hunt–In New York’s Rotten Row
by New York Police Captain Thomas R. Reilly
NEW YORK IS NOT ALTOGETHER the city it was. Plenty of the municipal police who have served for twenty years or more on the force can remember dives and ugly spots, which used to be centers of evil doings and the haunts of rogues, that have now been wiped out. Five Points was once a name which was terrifying throughout the country. That has been whitewashed into quite a respectable neighborhood. “Paradise Park” has a better sound than the Five Points, and the locality is as greatly altered as the name.
There were several places that were rivals of the Five Points. I had some experience of one of them in an arrest which I had to make when I was in a precinct further downtown than the one in which I am at present. It was between Canal and Spring streets.
Such a wreck of buildings it would not be easy to find! They are gone now, and a good riddance to them. Old tumble-down houses they used to be. Dark, narrow passageways, small rooms, with twice the number of occupants they could conveniently hold, wooden stairs that were crumbling with age and with break-neck holes in them, and dark corners everywhere. It was called, by a happy choice of name for such a woebegone tumbling lot of buildings, “Rotten Row.”
It was rotten to the core. Rotten in the hive itself with moldy woodwork, tumbling brick walls, and crazy stairs, and rotten in the tenants, who were cutthroats, thieves, sharps of every kind, and a scattering of the “gentler sex,” not so much gentler after all.
A stranger who got into this labyrinth and had to find his way round would sooner have had a guide than trust to his own skill. But for somebody who knew the place, it was still more of a labyrinthine winding. There were big breaks in the walls, so that a person could make his way through a dozen houses and stray around undercover for quite a district. A man could work through with a little stooping and squeezing from Canal to Spring streets.
As the whole lot of tenants were in league, it furnished a good lurking-place for a criminal. A man could stay successfully hidden in this honeycombed raft of houses for days, and a criminal who got in here could escape detection for weeks.
All the sympathies of this beautiful neighborhood were with a criminal. The hands of its habitués were against every one, and the hands of the police were pretty often against them.
A case came up in which “Rotten Row” played a conspicuous part. It was a shelter and, for several days, a safe refuge for a man whom the law wanted to have a brief interview with. The task of capturing the man, who for reasons of his own, was not anxious to have this interview with the law, fell on me. He was a criminal who had fled to “Rotten Row” for sanctuary.
One night, a respectable-looking man was carted off in an ambulance from one of the downtown streets to the hospital. He was a respectable middle-aged man who had been kept out late by some business and was making his way through the street, a pretty quiet one at that time of the night, for it was nearly one o’clock, when he heard someone behind him quickening his steps as if to overtake him.
There was no one in sight before him. He glanced around to see who the person was. The only other wayfarer was a stoutly built young fellow with broad shoulders and a bristling mustache. He had a soft felt hat slouched over his face, doubtless for the purpose of concealing his features.
Altogether, this young man was not a very attractive specimen of humanity. He didn’t look like a Sunday school superintendent, nor even like an honest laborer who drew his wages regularly Saturday night and took them home to his wife, to have her use them as she saw good in getting clothes for the children or in paying the grocer’s bill for the family provisions.
No. He didn’t look like that kind of a man. He walked too much with his shoulders. There was a roll in his gait and his hands were in his pockets. He was, in fact, the style of fellow who have their photographs taken (mugshot), not to give around among their friends, nor to send to their relatives in the country. When this kind of a young man has his taken, he is corralled in a room and a camera is pointed at him, a good deal to his disgust. He doesn’t try to look natural.
Frequently, he casts his eyes down and works the muscles of his mouth into an expression that he doesn’t carry around with him as a general thing. He is not anxious to have a “perfect likeness.” It is going to adorn the photograph album, which is hung in a police station, and is meant for the benefit of a class for which the man entertains anything but a hearty liking.
So our respectable friend, who had on a gold watch and heavy gold chain, and had a wad of $200 in his waistcoat pocket, thought he would enjoy the view of this man’s back a good deal better than having him in the rear, where his movements couldn’t be so well observed.
He lagged a little to allow the fellow to pass. The young fellow swaggered up, and as he was opposite to the gentleman, whipped his hands out of his pockets and made a grab for the gold watch and chain. He was so quick that he would have wrenched the chain from the buttonhole if it had not been unusually strong. As it was, the gentleman had time to clutch hold of it, and in a state of great alarm, he yelled for the police.
The thief, in running his hand into the gentleman’s pocket, may have felt the roll of bills. He had probably meant to get away with the watch and let the gentleman go. But when he felt the roll of bills and saw what a respectable-looking man he was, he thought it would pay to make a bigger job of it.
There was not much time to be lost. The cries of his victim might reach the ears of a policeman, though there did not happen to be any in sight.
As if to favor the thief, or possibly because he had tried to grab his man at this point, a load of brick was lying near the sidewalk. The young fellow snatched up a brick from the heap and ran after the man, who had broken away from him. He had not much of a start, because grabbing the brick took only a moment, and the young fellow soon overtook him.
He caught hold of the gentleman’s vest as he came up and gave such a wrench to it that he fairly tore it halfway off. His victim redoubled his cries, and the thief, seeing he had not got what he wanted, and losing patience, brought down his right hand, with the brick in it, with crushing force on the other one’s head.
It broke into his skull and he dropped to the pavement, his legs twitching as if he were in a fit. The young man went through him, relieved him of his watch, the roll of bills, and a pocketbook with several valuable papers in it, and made off.
The gentleman was found by a patrolman lying senseless on the sidewalk. An ambulance was summoned, and he was conveyed to the hospital. His brain was injured, and for some time he lay unconscious between life and death, and then had a violent fever.
When he recovered sufficiently, he gave such a description of his assailant as he could. A young, strongly built fellow, not more than twenty, with a bristling mustache. His eyes had been too shaded by the hat to tell what color they were, and the gentleman confessed to having been so excited that he did not get a very clear idea of the rascal’s appearance.
Most of the prominent crooks of a neighborhood are known to the police. I had some idea of who it might be that had done the thing. I put on citizen’s clothes and began to work on the case.
The attack had been made in the neighborhood of Canal Street. From the use of the brick, I did not believe the thief had meant to inflict any injury on the gentleman, but at first intended, as I said, to snatch his watch and get off with it. At the utmost, he had probably thought of nothing more than knocking the man down. But finding that he seemed to be a good subject with plenty of money about him, and seeing the pile of bricks at hand, he had adopted the idea of knocking him in the head with the brick in order to paralyze him, and if it killed him, that was not a thing that worried the thief very much.
So I concluded that my man came from somewhere in that neighborhood, and if so, there was no place as likely to be either his residence or his refuge as “Rotten Row.”
I hung around there trying to get some clue. I would drop into the beer-saloons and barrooms and listen to the men talk while I pretended to read the papers. Sometimes I would get into conversation with the men that would lounge in for drinks.
There was a cheap eating-house along there, and fellows would often bring in some girl and have supper there. One evening, I was in this place, sitting at one of the small tables, near two men who were taking something to eat. While we were there, a girl came in alone and walked along with a sort of swaggering air to a table in the corner.
The two men followed her with their eyes. Then one of them said in an undertone to the other, “Isn’t that Jim’s girl?”
“Used to be,” said the other, shortly. “He’s got another one now. I hain’t seen him with her for a month.”
“Where is Jim? I haven’t seen him for some time.”
“I guess you won’t see him for a while. He’s layin’ low,” returned the second fellow.
“Why, what’s he been up to, now?” inquired the first.
“Don’t know,” was the answer. “But I think he knows something . . .”
Here the speaker lowered his voice so that I could not catch what he said, although I was listening very attentively. The first man leaned his head over so as to catch what the other said.
“The feller ain’t dead, is he?” he inquired audibly enough for me to hear, after the remark was finished.
“Dunno. He was taken to the hospital,” said the informant.
The name of one of the fellows whom I suspected of cracking the gentleman on the head with the brick was Jim, and I thought they might be referring to him.
They went out pretty soon, after giving a glance at me as they rose to leave. I went over to the table where the girl sat and engaged her in conversation.
She was ready enough to talk. She said her name was Jennie. I tried not to say anything to excite her suspicions. I found out she lived in “Rotten Row” and that sometimes she came into this little restaurant to get her supper. I got her to promise to come around the next evening and take supper there, and said I would be there and pay for it.
“I’ll come around any time you want to pay the bill,” she said with a grin. “It’s so much in.”
The next night, I had waited about half an hour before Jennie showed up. When she did come, she seemed a little bit excited, and answered pretty short to any remarks I had to make to her.
“What’s the matter, Jennie?” I said at last.
“Oh, nothin’!” she said sulkily.
“What’s upset you?” I repeated, sympathetically.
“Why, it’s pretty mean in a fellow to go back on a woman without any reason for it,” she said.
“Yes, that’s true enough. Who’s the fellow that’s been treating you so?”
“Oh, he’s a fellow that if he knew what was good for him would keep on my right side,” she said viciously.
“You’ve got him where you can pinch him, have you?” I said, laughing.
“Yes, I have. And I’ll do it, too,” she retorted, and in a low tone, but with a good deal of emphasis.
“Who is it? Perhaps I can help you. There’s no harm in telling me about it,” I said to her. “It’s all between ourselves.”
“You see that?” She rolled up her sleeve and showed me a black-and-blue mark on her arm. “That’s what I got last night, for nuthin’.”
The girl was laboring under a sense of indignation, and would evidently be glad to get even with the fellow who had hurt her.
“That isn’t much. If that’s the worst he ever did to you, you got off easily enough.”
“It’s just too much from him,” she said sulkily, “and I’ll make him sorry for it.”
“Jennie, are you talking about Jim? If you are, why, I’ll help you to square accounts with him. Is he the man?”
“Yes, he is. What can you do?” she asked, feeling her arm.
“I can do this. I am an officer and want to get him for a robbery. He stole some money from a man. If you’ll help me to get on to him, you’ll square things up pretty well, and it’ll be to your credit, too, helping an officer to do his duty in this way.”
I did not say anything about Jim’s smashing the man’s head in with a brick. It was possible that Jennie had not heard of it, and if she thought she would be only getting the fellow a few months in jail, she would cooperate more readily than if she thought she was helping to fit a hemp necktie round his neck.
“Well,” she said with an oath, “he’s done just a little too much this time, and I’ll help to put you on him. He’s been laying round Rotten Row for ten days. I saw him last night, and he gave me this pinch, the dirty beast, and told me to keep to my business. I’ll show him what my business is, and he’ll not be so darned fly in a hurry again.”
“Where is he, over in the Row?” I asked.
“That’s more’n I can tell you. He’s all over it, putting in a night here and a night there. He’s laying low about something or other. Perhaps it’s this thing you’re after him for.”
“Is he there every night?” I asked.
“That’s more’n I can tell you, too. I see him last night, and I’ve seen him two or three times before.
“You see, in that place, you can slip through the walls between the houses and go in and out from a dozen places. The best thing for you is to come to my room and lay for him. He is likely to pass by there again, and then you’ll get him. There’s a girl living in the Row that he goes to see,” Jennie scowled and got a little fierce in her tones, “but if you went to her room and didn’t catch him, she’d put him up to your bein’ after him and he’d light out.”
Her plan seemed the best. I asked her if I could come over then, for she had got through her supper.
She said yes, and I told her to walk ahead and wait in the passageway and I would come over in a few minutes. She pulled her shawl up over her shoulders and went over.
I followed in about five minutes. I found her waiting in the small hall, or rather entryway, and she led me upstairs. After two or three turns, we came to her room. A passageway led in front of it.
“If he comes along from the stairs, he’ll make his way through the wall there. If I were you, I’d go through there and find out something about the turns, for if he gets a start on you, you’ll lose him easy in those twisted-up places.”
I asked her to accompany me and I would go. We went through the wall, on to a landing in another house, then down the stairs into a dark, long passageway. This led into a room from which another stairway went down to the back door, which opened on a small court, with old lumber and barrels in it.
Another house was entered on the other side, and we went up another stairway, then along another passage.
“If you go into that room, you can cross over on the shed to a different house, or you can go into the left-hand back yard and through a house into Spring Street. The other way lets out into Spring Street, too.”
I had noted every turn and winding passageway in my mind. I was very glad I went over the way first, because it gave me a better chance if I had to follow him in a hurry.
If he came from the other direction, he had to go downstairs or else into the upper story, from which there was no outlet to the other houses.
“Now, I’ll stay here and watch,” I said, putting myself behind the door and looking through the crack. This enabled me to see a little of the corridor and conceal myself.
“I know his step,” said Jennie, “and I can tell as soon as I hear it on the stairs, in case he comes.”
I waited there through the night, and Jim didn’t come. Nor did he put in an appearance the next day. Jennie got me something to eat, but it was a little monotonous waiting and watching all the time for the man.
However, I was still at my watch the next night. I had snatched a catnap during the day for a few moments at a time when Jennie said he wasn’t likely to come.
The hours wore away slowly. The girl got sleepy and also a little cross. I was afraid that she might weaken.
“Is this the way he goes when he wants to see the girl?” I asked, as a good way to keep up her interest.
“Yes. I hope he tries it tonight.”
We watched and waited. About ten o’clock, I caught the sound of footfalls on the stairs. “Listen,” I said in a whisper to Jennie. “Is that his step?”
She pricked up her ear and listened. “There are two of them,” she said, in a tone of disgust, “and I can’t tell whether he is one or not.”
I could detect the sound of two men coming. They had reached the top of the stairs.
“Stand in the open doorway, and if Jim is one of them, speak to him. Try to get the other fellow to move on,” I said, hurriedly, to Jennie.
She stepped quickly to the door and leaned against it, with it half open. I was immediately behind it.
The steps drew nearer. They were opposite the door now, and I could see the men in the passageway, dimly lighted with a dirty kerosene lamp.
“Hello, Jim! How are you tonight?” said Jennie. The men stopped, and I heard a rasping voice say, “I’m all right. What’s the matter?”
“Nothin’. I only wanted to speak to you. Nobody asked you to stay. Why don’t you move on?”
This was said pretty sharply to the other man.
“What’s the matter with him?” said the rasping voice. “He’s my friend, and we’re both goin’ on.”
“Where are you going, Jim?” said Jennie.
“Going to see a girl that can discount you, Jen,” Jim answered. “She’ll pull my hair if I loaf around here talking to you.”
The steps moved on; the two men laughed over Jennie getting a dig in this style.
She shut the door to with a bang and said to me hurriedly, “He’s going to Sally Greene’s. Wait a few minutes till he gets up there, and I’ll show you where it is and you can nab him.”
I heard the footsteps pass along the passage and then stumble up a flight of stairs. They had not gone through the opening in the wall. I listened as well as I could to get some idea of the direction they took. I was not certain enough of Jim’s face to trust to myself getting the right one of the two in the dim light, if I had sprung out on them. I had counted on Jim’s coming along alone, when there would have been some certainty. But if I had burst out on them, they might have broken and run in opposite directions without me knowing which was Jim.
Jen’s plan seemed very good. She was in no danger of failing in her part, after the sharp jab Jim had given to her jealousy. She was down on him for going with the other girl and throwing her over, and she wanted to make him feel that he would have done better by sticking to her.
In five minutes, Jennie said, “Come on! He is there by this time.” She led the way, and I followed, both of us treading on tiptoe to make no noise. We went up a flight of stairs and stole along another narrow passageway.
Jennie pointed to a door at the end of it. “That’s her room,” she said. Even in her whisper, there was an angry tone.
“Well, you go downstairs, and I’ll collar him. It’s just as well for him not to know you’ve been in it,” I whispered back.
She slipped only halfway down the stairs and waited, while I stepped lightly along towards the door, from the crack beneath which I saw a light. I opened quickly and softly and stepped in, shutting it behind me.
A girl stood with her back to me at a black wooden bureau with the upper drawer pulled out. Jim was sitting on a chair with his legs stretched out and his hands in his pockets. He tumbled to the thing at once, and knew I was an officer. He uttered an oath, sprang-up, and went for the window like a cat. He had the sash up and was halfway out when I caught him.
I pulled him back into the room. He struggled fiercely to get away. He knew if he escaped from me, all the chances were in his favor in that big, lumbering old hive.
The girl threw herself on me and pulled and tugged to get me away.
“Hit him with the candlestick. Crack him on the head with it,” Jim shouted, struggling violently.
The girl sprang up and made for the bureau, where a big iron candlestick stood. But Jennie was on hand and proved a good friend. She had waited to learn the issue and, when she heard the struggle, rushed in. She caught her rival, holding her so tightly she could not move. In the meantime, I had got my right hand free and whipped out my pistol. When Jim felt the cool muzzle laid against his head, it had a soothing effect, and I got the handcuffs on him without difficulty.
The stolen pocketbook was in the drawer of the bureau wrapped up in an old pair of stockings.
The gentleman recovered from his head wound and when he got well enough to appear, identified Jim as his assailant, and he was sent to meditate on his evil ways for a time in prison.
The old labyrinth of “Rotten Row” had shielded him long enough, and if he had broken away that night, I dare say it would have helped him to get away from me. It is gone now, and it is no loss to respectable people.
I looked from the window to see how Jim had counted on escaping. I found that it looked out on a roof not three feet away and projecting some distance. He meant to spring on this and clamber over it to some neighboring house and get down. He was as nimble as a cat, and though it was a desperate sort of chance, it held out success to a man of nerve.
Editor’s Note: The names in the story above by Captain Reilly were changed to protect their privacy, as they were still alive when the book was published in 1888.
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