Chapter 1: The call to action
Having settled our mobile team of four agents of the New England Bureau of Investigation into quarters at our new base in Carlinville, Illinois, we found that we had little to do. We explored the property and I discovered that the wards guarding our perimeter were not up to scratch. They were a standard police version which would give an intruder a slight painful feeling, like a pin-prick.
I had my own ideas on what constituted effective wards for our quarters. With Sarah's help, I installed a new version. Now an intruder would not notice anything to start with! The intruder would slow down rapidly as though wading through molasses, eventually coming to a full stop. An intruder would notice nothing until it would seem that the sun went into an insane gallop across the sky and then into a rapid flicker. These wards would enable us to pick up an intruder: literally!
With the property secure, we took advantage of the situation by getting to know the locality. Macoupin County is largely agricultural, with a supporting industry of coal mining.
St. Louis is our nearest big city, being only two stations down the line. So we took a couple of days off to explore the main shopping areas. The girls in our team were delighted to be able to buy more clothes; as if they didn't have enough clothes already.
Oh yes! I've told you about the prospective marriage between myself and Sarah. As for the two other members of the team, Karen Stiles and John Buck; when they met, her reaction was, "My word! He's cute" Yes, she hails from New Holland!
The final and non-operational member of our team is Becky Lieberman. She is widowed and we inherited her along with the house from the Deputy Marshals' Service. Becky is some fifteen or so years older than the rest of us. She is a cross between den mother, housekeeper and guardian. When the Marshals' Service used this as a safe house, Becky guarded the 'to be relocated' inhabitants.
Returning from St. Louis, the others sought their own rooms to put away the results of our shopping expedition. I went to see Becky.
She greeted me with "There was a message for you from the Director on the teleson. There's been a bank robbery in Dodge City. He suggests that two Investigators would be sufficient to look into it. There are no resident NEBI Investigators based there, so it makes a good test for the mobile team concept."
"Right! Was there any other information?"
"Only the Sheriff's name. It's Earp! Peter Earp."
"What about traveling. Do you have the train timetables here?
"All taken care of! Here are your two tickets. And here are the train times. You catch the 1:25 PM train tomorrow to St Louis. There's an hour wait. then you take the three o'clock train to Kansas City. Another hour's wait and you board the train from Chicago at a quarter to eleven. You finally get in at 5:25 AM to Dodge City. I've told Sheriff Earp to expect you."
"Becky! You're a gem."
"I know!" She grinned. "You're lucky to have me! Go and tell whoever you're taking with you. Dinner will be ready in twenty minutes."
"Right! By the way, how did you know that I'd be going?"
"I knew! Men! Now away with you."
I left, to tell Sarah that we had a mission. Thinking about whom to take with me, I decided that I needed to see how Karen operated in the field.
On the way to her room, I called to Sarah. "I'm off on a case tomorrow. I'll tell you about it over dinner in twenty minutes."
I knocked on Karen's door, "Hi, anyone in?"
"Hullo!" said Karen. "I was just putting some of the shopping away. "What's up?
"Dinner, in twenty minutes. By now, it's about fifteen minutes. We've got a case and I'd like you in on it."
"Fine! Where and when do we leave?" said Karen
"The case is in Dodge City and we leave immediately after lunch tomorrow. I'll tell you the rest of what little I know over dinner."
I ambled off to pick up Sarah to go downstairs for dinner.
We followed Becky's timetable and two days later the train conductor woke us at five o'clock. The only person on the station at that time of the morning was the Sheriff waiting to greet us.
"I'm sure glad you're here! This here robbery has me beat."
"Do you know who carried it out?" I asked.
"Well did you get a good description of the robbers?"
"Why on earth not?"
"Because nobody saw them! Both the staff and the customers were unconscious the whole time. No one outside saw anything untoward. No crowd of robbers rushed out of the bank.
It was only when the teller opened her cash drawer to pay a customer that she discovered she'd been robbed."
"Do we know how everybody became unconscious?"
"Do we know how much was taken?"
"Nope! Well, not 'xactly! Elwin Jones, that's the manager reckons it's about three quarters of a million dollars!"
"Anything other than money taken?"
"Nope! Except for the gold!"
His answers, though reasonable were getting me down. We needed to question the others involved in the actual robbery. I decided that we had enough time to book in at a local inn and have breakfast, which is what we did.
Over breakfast, we discussed strategy for tackling the case.
"When you interview someone, they may let slip something that's important to the case. If possible, I don't want you to alert the interviewee until you've had a chance to have a quiet word with me. It's not that I want to stifle initiative; rather I want you to keep me in the loop."
Karen replied, "What if I don't have the time to tell you before taking action?"
"You'll know and if you're honest with yourself you'll do the right thing. We'll work individually."
Karen asked. "When do we split up?"
"I think we should both hear what the manager has to say before we split up, okay?"
"Okay!" After breakfast we went up to our rooms and settled in, before returning to the lobby. At nine o'clock, Sheriff Earp escorted us to the Bank. He introduced us to the manager. The Sheriff then said he had other work and left us, promising to contact us later.