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Chapter XLV


from Memoirs of a great detective:
incidents in the life of John Wilson Murray

compiled by Victor Speer

JOHN KLIPPERT was the Pooh Bah of the county of Waterloo. He filled many offices, and filled them ably too. He was chief constable and crier of the court and bailiff and issuer of marriage licences and deputy sheriff, and several other officials, all in one. He was a keen, shrewd fellow, abrupt in his manner and picturesque in his speech. He had sandy hair and a sandy mustache, and he used to toddle along with his head well forward, conversing amiably with himself. The county of Waterloo was known to him from end to end, every nook and corner. It is a rich county, and among its settlers was a colony of sturdy German loyalists who moved from Pennsylvania to Ontario in the early days of the history of the United States. Klippert was of German ancestry, and he reminded his hearers constantly of the fact by his entertaining English.

   "The farms of the county of Waterloo were well stocked," says Murray, "and in 1888 horses began to disappear. The stealing increased, until Mr. Snyder, the member of Parliament from Waterloo, spoke to me about the matter. Klippert also had written to me about it and described some of the horses. I knew where old Chisholm was, and settled first of all that he could not have been mixed up in it. Klippert worried me as time passed, and he pestered me with letters. At length I telegraphed him to get a warrant and come to Toronto. Old John arrived on the early train next day. It was Fair-time in Toronto. Detective Burrows had seen James Little, a notorious horse thief and head of a bad family, at the fair grounds the day before. Little had a son Tom, who was a highwayman.

   "I sent Old John out to the fair grounds. Little had been trying to sell a couple of horses. Burrows spied him and pointed him out to old John. Klippert drew back about one hundred feet and carefully took out his handcuffs and carried them under his coat tails.

   "Then he advanced stealthily, as if about to sprinkle salt on a bird's tail. Old Little was gazing at the crowd, when suddenly a hand was thrust into his face and a hoarse voice said:


   "Old John compelled old Little to hold out his wrists and be handcuffed. Then he led him over in triumph, and I met them.

   "'I got him!' he exclaimed.

   "Even old Little laughed.

   "'What is the case against me?' he asked.

   "That puzzled old John. He called me aside, keeping a watchful eye on old Little.

   "'What case do I haf on him, Shon?' he asked.

   "'You'll have to work it up,' I said, to have some fun. 'I'm sure he's your man, but you'll have to prove it.'

   "I intended to send the witnesses to Berlin, the county seat of Waterloo, the next day. So I told Klippert to take old Little to Berlin and work out the case. The old constable was perplexed, but he took it seriously and bade me good-bye.

   "'Come on,' he said to Little.

   "What happened then I learned afterwards from both Klippert and Little. On the train old John began to talk of Little's hard luck.

   "'Too bad, too bad,' said old John. 'I'm sorry to haf to take you back. T'at Vaterloo is a bad county for horse stealers. T'e shuries t'ey is yust death on horse thieves. T'ey socks it to a man, und t'ey always asks t'e shudge to sock it to him. T'at is part of t'e verdict, a plea from t'e shury to t'e shudge to sock it to t'e stealers and t'e thievers.'

   "Old Little listened while honest old John told him of how the farmers hated a horse thief, and how they tried to get them sent down for twenty years, and how they were stirred up by recent thefts so that they were ready, almost, to take the thief out of gaol and string him up to the limb of a tree. The more old John, in his simple, broken way, talked of the tense state of affairs in the county, the more impressed was old Little over the dangers of his predicament.

   "'Ven ve get to Berlin I yust will see you safe in gaol, and tell no one but t'e shudge who you are und vat I got you for,' said old John.

   "Little asked old John if it was necessary to tell the judge about his record. Klippert said it depended. If Little desired to take a jury trial, all the facts of his career would have to come out. If Little wished to make no trouble and take a speedy trial before the judge, without a jury, his past would not necessarily have to come out.

   "'Of course,' said old John, 't'e case I haf on you is so plain t'at t'ere vill be no use to fight it. I yust show t'e shudge t'e evidence, und he say "guilty."'

   "Old Little told John he would take a speedy trial if old John would not rake up his record, and if he would put in a good word with the judge to get him off.

   "'Yah, yah,' said John. 'I will fix t'e shudge. You vas a vise man.'

   "So old John took old Little before County Judge Da Costa and charged him with horse stealing.

   "'I plead guilty,' said old Little.

   "The judge withdrew to a side room. Old John went in to see him a moment, and then returned to old Little.

   "'T'e shudge he vant to know if you vas honest,' said old John. 'I say yah, you vas. T'e shudge he ask me vere you sold t'e horse. Vat shall I tell him? Shall I tell him t'e right place or some wrong place?'

   "'Tell him the right place,' said old Little. 'You know — Burns's coal yard in Toronto.'

   "Old John went back, and later old Little was brought up for sentence. Klippert meanwhile had telegraphed to Toronto and located the horse, and its owner identified it. Then old John, when Little was to be sentenced, said to the judge:

   "'Shudge, t'is man iss an old villain. His whole family t'ey is stealers und thievers. He ought to go to prison for life.'

   "Old John painted old Little so black that the notorious old horse thief did not even recognise his own record.

   "The judge sent Little to Kingston for seven years. Klippert was delighted.

   "'I worked out my case; eh, Shon?' he said to me, and chuckled.

   "Old Little was sore as a bear with the toothache. He blamed himself for being caught by old John's honest, blunt manner.

   "'There's no fool like an old fool,' said Little, 'and I am the old one in this case.'

   "From Klippert's view-point it was all right. He worked up his case after he got his man. As to the change of front towards old Little, every man must be his own arbiter in such matters. The man who would achieve the greatest success in the detective business must keep his word absolutely when he gives it. Oftentimes confidence of others in his word will bring success where otherwise there would be failure. The detective who breaks his word is marked among crooks just as among other men — in fact, he is marked more clearly and more disastrously. If he does not wish to keep his word, he should not give it.

   "John Klippert, however, viewed the case from his standpoint, and his course appeared all right. He never saw Little before and he never expected to see him again; and his business was to protect his county and show no favour to those who showed no favour to it. He used to chuckle over the case, and often spoke of it. Klippert was a faithful, efficient man. Old Little finally forgave him, and wrote him a letter, saying:

   "'If I had a horse I would drive to Berlin and see you.'

   "Old John sent word to him that if he ever set foot in the county of Waterloo the farmers would string him up by his heels and pitchfork him into eternity upside down. Old Little must have believed him, for he never poked his nose into Waterloo thereafter.

   "Klippert was with me on an occasion when I bade as dapper a little crook, as ever did wrong, to keep out of Canada. The affair began in the old days back in Erie. A suave, polished little fellow stepped off a train one day in Erie and registered at the Reed House as J.O. Flanders. He was as pleasant as could be, and made friends quickly. I met him and played billiards with him, and we became well acquainted. He said he was connected with the Claflins in New York, and he soon knew the leading merchants of Erie. He made friends particularly with Church, the merchant, producing a forged letter of introduction, and one day he went to Currie's bank, with Church to identify him, and deposited a draft for $30,000. The next day he went to the bank alone and drew $25,000, and skipped with the money. The draft turned out to be worthless. We set out to find him. Not a trace of him could we get. If he had kept out of women troubles, we never would have landed him. But he stole another crook's woman, and that made the other crook angry; and we were tipped that J.O. Flanders was living in grand style at the Spencer House at Indianapolis, in Indiana. Crowley and I went out there to take Flanders back to Erie.

   "Never had I seen such a complete change of appearance as there was in J.O. Flanders. His own mother would not have known him for the man who was in Erie. Hair, complexion, walk, manner, all were changed. He had plenty of money, and over $22,000 was found on him. He was taken before Judge Morris, who, to our great surprise, released him. We appealed, but Flanders had taken his $22,000 and was gone, and we returned to Erie. Nine months later he was caught in Fort Wayne. His $22,000 had vanished and he had $200 when arrested. Crowley and I went after him a second time and he was safe in gaol. The night before I was to take him away he thumped a gaoler on the head, stunning him, and escaped. I thought at the time the gaoler was in on the game. Then I returned to Erie in disgust, and said I was through monkeying with Flanders.

   "Several years later, when I was with the Canada Southern Railroad, F.N. Finney and I walked into Strong's Hotel at London, Ontario, and who should be back of the desk as clerk but my old friend J.O. Flanders.

   "'Great God!' he whispered to me. 'Are you after me again?'

   "'Not on your life!' I answered. 'I quit chasing you in Indiana when they let you go.'

   "'Don't give me away, Murray,' he pleaded. 'I blew all the money in six months.'

   "'I'm not going to give you away,' I said, 'but I am vexed still at that gaoler.'

   "Mr. Finney had gone to bed, but I sat up until three o'clock in the morning with Flanders, while he told me of himself and of crooks he had known.

   "'You did wrong to accuse the gaoler,' he said. 'He did not let me go.'

   "I went away the next day, and I lost track of Flanders. Along towards 1888 I was with old John Klippert at Berlin, when none other than J.O. Flanders stepped off the train.

   "'John,' said I to Klippert, 'tell that polite, fine gentleman over there that his presence is desired in the United States.'

   "Old John walked over and thumped Flanders on the shoulder.

   "'You're vanted in t'e States, und vanted quick,' said old John.

   "'Thank you, my deah fellah, I know it well,' said Flanders.

   "Old John gasped. He hastened back to me and exclaimed:

   "'He admits it, Shon; he admits it! Vill I jigger him? Say t'e vord, Shon, und I got him.'

   "Flanders spied me and promptly came over and bowed. I explained to him that I had changed positions since seeing him in London, and perhaps, if he still contemplated the easy, anxious life, it would be better for him to sojourn in the States. He understood, bowed politely, thanked me for past courtesies, and took the waiting train out of Berlin again. Old John gazed after him.

   "'He looked a shentleman, but I could tell he vas a horse thiever,' said old John, and he chuckled, then looked at me and said, 'I can tell 'em efery time, t'e horse thievers, Shon, and he shook his old head wisely.

   "I never saw Flanders again."

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