This story was printed in Beadle & Adam's The Banner Weekly on November 16, 1889. It is part of a series of purportedly true detective stories recounted by "Late U.S. Secret-Service Chief of the Border" Captain Ben "Holy Terror" Holley.
Wild West Detective Sketches.
By Captain Ben Holley,
(“Holy Terror Ben,”)
Late U.S. Secret-Service Chief of the Border.
Texas Jack as a Man-Hunter.
I received one day letters from headquarters telling me that a paymaster had been killed and robbed, and it was supposed to be the work of a sergeant of cavalry, as he had deserted the night of the murder
He had been tracked to his home in the East, but got away before he could be arrested, and the detectives dogged him to the Texas prairies, where it was said that he had run upon a band of Comanches and been killed.
Certainly a white man had been killed by Comanches. and the two detectives and their party came upon the mutilated body; but though the clothes and appearance of the dead man indicated that it was the one they pursued, one of the Secret Service pursuers persistently declared that it was not the one he was after, and he had stuck to it until the chief wrote me asking me to find out just what I could regarding the affair.
I at once thought of Texas Jack, who was then on his ranch in Texas, and wrote him fully, sending him all the facts in the case that I was in possession of, and hinting that Government would pay a handsome reward for the sergeant, if yet alive.
Texas Jack acted promptly and sought out those whom the two detectives had hired to accompany them, and who had seen the body of the dead man and buried it.
He got them to guide him to the grave and dug up the body and at once measured the height as well as he could, and guessed at the weight.
He found the body fully three inches shorter than the height I had sent him as that of the sergeant, and to be that of a man who must weigh at least twenty pounds less.
With this he made inquiries at all the ranches within sixty miles of the spot and learned that cowboy had been missing since the date of the man’s death whom the detectives had followed, and it was supposed that he had been captured, or killed by the Comanches, who had raided down into that neighborhood about that time.
Then Texas Jack went on the trail alone.
Some fifty miles from his ranch lived a Mexican ranchero who had once saved a Comanche village from death and destruction at the hands of the Apaches, by boldly warning them of an intended attack.
The Mexican had acted from selfish motives, hoping the Comanches would not molest him and his cattle after his good service done them, and he was right, for, though the most advanced ranchero toward their lines, he was never disturbed, and in fact the red-skins often gave him presents of cattle they had stolen from other ranchmen.
This brought his own race down upon him, and but for Texas Jack he would have been hanged by the Rangers.
But Jack begged him off, said that he was sure the man was no ally to the Comanches, and only acted to save his own cattle.
It was to this man that the Scout Detective went, and he was warmly welcomed by the Mexican.
“Alfarez, I wish you to do me a favor.”
“Yes, Señor Jack.”
“Go on a hunt up near the Comanche country, until you meet some of their braves, and find out from them if a white man was murdered six months ago over near the Burton Ranch.”
“Yes, Señor Jack."
“Also find out if there is any white man in the tribe who has gone there in the last half-year.
"Do not arouse their suspicions, and if there is such a man, go back to the village with them and find out all you can about him.”
“But the Rangers, señor?"
“They shall not harm you, for I will tell them that which will make them your friends, and more, it will be worth something to you besides to do as I tell you, while I will await your return here and look after your ranch and cattle.”
Of course the reader will understand that I do not give the exact words that were said, but I write them from what Texas Jack gave me in his report of his detective work in this affair of man-hunting.
Thus urged by the scout, Alfarez departed upon his errand, and some ten days passed before his return, and his face showed that he had made some discovery.
He had met a hunting-party of Comanches, who, the bitter foes of pale-faces, to him were most friendly, and he had returned with them to their village.
He had there learned that a cowboy, on the ranch from which the man had been missing, had come upon a Comanche chief whose pony had fallen with him and stunned him.
The cowboy had at once bound him, before he returned to consciousness, knowing him to be
the great chief Knife Eyes, the cruelest foe of the whites.
Delighted at his capture he was on his way back to the ranch when he met a horseman, a stranger, to whom he told his adventure, and mentioned the name of the chief, and that his band of braves must be near.
To his surprise the stranger spoke to the chief in his own language, and then quick as a flash drew a revolver and shot the cowboy dead.
Then he changed clothes with him. and releasing the chief the latter mutilated the face until it was unrecognizable, after which, leading the cowboy’s horse, the two rode away and joined the warriors, who were then searching for Knife Eyes.
The chief told what his white friend had done, and took him on to his village, where he was at once adopted into the tribe and made a sub-chief.
When Texas Jack heard the Mexican’s story, he said:
“Alfarez, I want that man, and you must lead him into a trap for me.”
“How can I, Señor Jack?”
“Go and tell the Comanches that the Rangers are preparing to make a dash upon their village, so to lay close at home, and secretly tell this white renegade that the Indians will surely be destroyed, and you advise him to leave quietly and get across the Rio Grande, and that you will guide him.
“I will see to it that the Rangers do threaten the village, though of course they can do no harm, and that will keep you still solid with the reds, and I will let the Texans know that you are in my service, so that will protect you.
“Now, get this renegade out of the Comanche village, and guide him toward the Rio Grande, halting by night at the Blue Water Canyon, andI will be there and do my share, and you shall have five hundred pesos.”
The Mexican agreed with alacrity, and started again upon his mission.
His story alarmed the Comanches, and they prepared to fight to the bitter end, and what he told the renegade gave him a fright that made him only too anxious to accept the services of the Mexican to guide him to safety beyond the Rio Grande.
So he pretended to go with the Mexican and bring back news of the Rangers, and, once well
away from the village, the two headed for the Rio Grande.
The Blue Water Canyon was reached without adventure, and the Mexican stood watch the latter part of the night.
When the renegade awoke in the gray of dawn he beheld a man in buckskin standing over him and a revolver covering him.
He at once attempted to seize a weapon, but found none, and heard the words:
“ Sergeant Hurst, you are my man, and I want you for the murder of Paymaster Vanderwert and the killing of Cowboy Scott six months ago.”
The man’s head drooped, and he groaned forth:
“ At last! at last! I feared it would come.”
Then he made a clean breast of it, and handed over the money he had robbed the paymaster of, all excepting a few hundred which he had spent.
Alone did Texas Jack escort his prisoner through trackless prairies and mountains to my ranch in Nebraska and deliver him into my keeping.
But the murderer was never brought to trial, for while one of my detectives was taking him East he leaped from the train while crossing the Missouri, and with his hands and feet manacled at once sunk to the bottom.
But Texas Jack had done his work, and done it well.