The Case BooSi of a
Tra Narratives of Interesting Cases by a Former
Operative of the William J. Burns Detective Agency
(Copy right by the International Press Bureau J
WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS
Nipping a New York Blackhand Con
' eplrau In the Bud
Pasqualo Leoni came near to being
ne of the smoothest blackhand chief
tains in this country. But not quite.
He failed at the very outset of what
.would have been, had it succeeded In
getting started, one of the most suc
cessful blackmailing and robbing con
spiracies that ever emanated from the
evil minds of the Italian Black Hand
inen who lire by terrorizing their fel
low countrymen in American cities.
Leonl ran a little private bank for
tte accommodation of his own coun
trymen in Elizabeth street, In the low
er Italian quarter of New York City.
He made Ito pretense of doing a big
business, cor of securing his deposi
tors and patrons against loss by any
great capital of his own. He had
started In as a Bteamship agent, sell
ing tickets for a couple of the lines
that make a specialty of carrying the
cheaper class of passenger trade be
tween New York and the Mediterra
nean ports. That was ten years before
the events here to be related ever
From a seller of steamship tickets
Leonl began to branch out, and soon
he was running a little Italian em
ployment agency In conjunction with
his original business. He satisfied ev-
In this, and soon the Italian emigrants
who had found work through his of
fice began to entrust to hira the task
of conveying safely to the loved ones
back fn Italy part of the funds earned
by the newcomers in America.
j a . . i l
iiifl private uanit was me next siep.
IV 1 .. I J Ti I ( 1 xl
uq uewij arriveu iia.ua. us were ioame
"to trust their hard-earned money with
any of the strange bankers in this
strange land. Leonl was one of them,
a son of their own beloved Italy. He
had welcomed them upon their arrival
at Ellis Island, he had brought them
tip the bay and found them rooms in
the crowded quarters of the east side.
Work they had secured through him,
and their steps In the new land had
been generally guided by his advice.
What more natural than that they
Should turn to him when thev beean
to accumulate little sums of money
which they wished to save?
Leonl took care of their money with
great satisfaction to them and con
siderable profit to himself. His power
and influence, and the prosperity of
his little private bank so private
that the state bank examiners had
nothing to do with it grew until in
March, 1911, he had on deposit in his
Elizabeth street office over $150,000
placed in his care by hi3 trusting
I had never heard of Leoni until he
tectlve Agency and asked for protec
tion. "It is the Black Hand the Mano
Nera that is after me," he said.
"They have threaten me. Me, Pas
quale Leonl, whom all good Italians
trust these bad men have threatened
that they shall take my life or I am
to give them $25,000."
He dove into his pocket as he spoke
and showed us a letter written in Ital
ian and addressed to him. Translated
"Dear Prosperous Brother:
"Many of the countrymen are out of
work. Times are not as rich with all
as they are , with you. Those who
have much should help those who
have little or nothing. Brother, you
have much; we have nothing. You
should be glad to help. There are
many of us. That we all should get a
little you must give much. But it is
not much to you, who has so much.
Brother, you must have $2000 to
give us in two weeks when we ask for
it, or we will remove you as a traitor
to your poor countrymen.
"The Beautiful Society."
It was a typical Black Hand letter,
except that the amount was away be
yond the usual demand.
"How did you have the nerve to
come here about this?" asked the of
fice manager. You know Italians usu
ally are afraid to speak even to their
wives about communications of this
"To the police I would not go," said
Leoni. "But you I think I can trust.
Anyhow, I will die before I give up
this money. I want you to protect me
by finding the writer of this letter
and putting him in jail. I have heard
that you do such things very well."
The office manager tarned to me.
"Want to take the case, Cornell?"
he asked. "We don't usually touch
anything of this sort."
"Certainly," I said. "It's all part
of the game to me."
Leoni and I got together then. I
took the letter and examined it care
fully. It was in a fairly good hand
writing and carefully punctuated and
phrased. Apparently it was the work
of an educated man.
I reasoned that this letter probably
wbs the work of one of the men whom
Leonl had hadt dealings with in one
way or anothqx. Probably somebody
who had deposited money with him
and who know how prosperous the
private banker was becoming.
"How did the letter come to you?"
"It was shoved under the door at
night," he said. "I found It when I
open store in the morning."
I put the letter under a microscope
and esamined it carefully.
"Did It come Just the way it was?"
"No, nothing but what you have
That didn't Bound good to me. Un
der the microscope the letter failed
to 6how any of the dust or dirt
that would have adhered to it if it
had been carried uninclosed and, with
out a cover, pushed under the door of
an Elizabeth street store. The letter
was crisp and clean, as If it had been
taken from an envelope that had shel
tered it in its travels until very re
cently. "Is this the only letter of this sort
you have?" I asked.
"No, no," he laughed. "There were
others. I tore them up. I paid no
attention to them until this one came.
It names a time when I must have
the money ready. That is why I came
"Were the letters all in this hand
writing?" I asked.
He was a little slow in answering.
"Yes," he said, finally. "Yes, all the
"All right," I said; "let's go down
to your office."
He grumbled at this.
"It would not do for me to be seen
with you," he protested. "The so
ciety has eyes everywhere. If you
come to Elizabeth street with me its
spies will see and they will get suspi
cious. Then they will kill me as a
warning for others to be careful."
"All right," said I. "When can I
come to see you?"
"You want to see me in the office?"
"Yes, in your office."
"That is absolutely necessary?"
"Yes," I said, "it's necessary."
"All right, all right," he said. "Come
tonight then, at ten. The street will
be crowded so that you can slip in
without being noticed."
I put on some old clothes that night
and slouched through the crowds in
Elizabeth street until I reached Leoni's
store. I went in, pretending to have
some business at the banking window,
and when no one was looking I slipped
back into the office.
"I want to take a look at your books
first of all," I said. .
He was puzzled, but he turned over
to me his books. He had kept the
signatures of his depositors in a sin
gle big book, and this was what I
looked over most carefully.
I found what I had hoped to find.
About a year before one "Ignacio Mar
tina" had written his name and his
address, "Whiteflsh, Wis.," in Leoni's
signature book in the same fine Ital
ian hand that had written the threat
ening letter. There was no mistak
ing it. The writing was too distinc
tive to be confused.
I was on the point of telling Leonl
what I had found, but on second flash
I reasoned: "Here Is an excitable
Italian, half crazed with fear, and if
I tell him what I think I have found
he'll go up in the air, and if he doesn't
plot to take his private vengeance
he's almost sure to let someone know
what he's been told." So I said noth
ing, but looked through the book
without comment. After a short time
I left Leonl, telling him I'd call him
up in a day or two.
"Do you think you can catch them?"
"I don't know," I said. "It's pretty
hard for an American to get onto the
crooked ways of these fellows, but
we've never failed on a case yet."
"Ah," he said. "But you never had
a case like this?"
"No," said I; "that's true, too."
When I got back to the office the
manager said: "Well, how do you
like Black Handing as far as you've
"That's a funny looking case to
me," I said. "It looks too easy to be
I told him what I had found, and
what my theory shaped up like.
"Oh, drop it if you want to," he said.
"I don't think we care to be mixed
up in that sort of a mess. Do just as
you please about it."
I had already made a start on the
case and had discovered what I was
inclined to believe was a striking
clue. The attraction of the man-hunt
had me, and I said:
"I'll go on with it for a while at
least, if you don't mind."
Next day I went down to the Fed
eral building and looked over the
names of Italians who had applied for
citizenship in this country. There I
found "Ignacio Martina's" name again,
and in the same hand-writing as the
Black Hand letter that Leoni had re
ceived. I called up Leoni's bank on
the phone. Leoni didn't happen to be
In. If he had been this story proba
bly would never have been told. His
clerk was in and in answer to my
question he looked up his books and
found that Ignacio Martina still was
living in Whiteflsh, Wis., that he got
his mail at the general delivery, and
that ha was a tall thin man with a
I left for Whiteflsh that day. .Thirty
hours later I was asking the postmis
tress of that little town if she had
any mail for "Ignacio Martina." She
had. Of course she knew that I wasn't
Martina so she wouldn't hand over
the letter, but I had a glimpse of it
and saw that it was from New York.
I spotted Martina next day. He
was a villainous, though intelligent
looking fellow who lived in the Ital
ian settlement of the town without
any visible means of support. Now see
how pure luck often makes a case for
a detective with scarcely any effort of
There was In Whiteflsh a private
Italian banker operating much after
the manner of Leonl in New York.
The Italians who lived in the town
were mostly men who worked on the
railroad, and their families. They had
begun to settle in the town a few
years before, and one Frank Cantlno,
a white-headed old Calabrian,,had ta
ken upon himself the burdens of king
of this Little Italy. He made himself
political boss of his countrymen first;
then he became their banker. He was
much respected and liked by his
countrymen and by Americans as
well. I found this out on the third
day of my visit to Whiteflsh because
on the night of that day Cantlno was
murdered in the room in the rear of
his little private bank.
The murder was a terrible shock to
the peaceful little town. Nothing of
the sort had ever happened in its his
tory. The tragedy had occurred on
Main street, no later than ten o'clock,
and was a crime of the boldest and
bloodiest sort. Cantlno had been
stabbed seven times, and any one of
the cuts would have been fatal.
I reached Cantino's office a few
minutes after the alarm had been
spread. There were no signs of a
struggle and no disorder of any kind.
Cantino apparently had been stabbed
first in the neck as he was turning
away from his assailant stabbed by
someone whom he did not fear and
after that the assassin had wreaked
terrible vengeance on his victim. In
vestigation proved that the bank had
not been robbed. The safe was locked
and Cantino's papers and property
were all in order.
The local authorities began to seek
for the motive for such a strange
crime, but I put it down as Elack
Hand work at once. I reasoned that
Cantino had been threatened even as
my friend Leonl In New York, that he
had refused to yield to the blackmail
ers, and that he had been slain as
promised in the threats.
With the permission of the sheriff I
began to go through the old man's pa
pers. I had not searched long before
I found what I was looking for. He
had received threatening letters just
as I deduced. There were three of
them. The last one had threatened
him with death in two weeks if he did
not turn over a certain sum of money
to "the man who comes and asks you
for it." Apparently he had not done
this, and he was killed as a conse
quence. I was disappointed in those letters.
I had expected to see them in the
hand-writing of Martina. But they
weren't. They were in another and
quite different hand, an educated Ital
ian band, but not Martina's.
However, I went at once down to
the house where Martina had boarded.;
He was not In. He had gone back to
the old country the night before. ' He
had purchased his railroad and steam
ship ticket of old Cantino several days
earlier, and last night he had gone,
leaving the house at nine o'clock.
I went from there down to the sta
tion and found that Martina had taken
the midnight train for Milwaukee. He
would have had plenty of time to com
mit the murder.
At once I wired the New York of
fice of the Burns Agency what had
happened and to have them watch the
boats of the Italian line on which Mar
tina had bought tickets. After this
I caught a train back to New York,
taking with me the threatening letters
received by Cantino. To while away
the tedium of the lotfg Journey I took
these Jetters out to re-read. Studying
them more carefully now I as struck
with the impression that I had seen
that hand-writing somewhere before.
I was sure of it. I had a piece of
Leoni's writing in my possession. It
was an address he had written for me
in his office. I dug it up and careless
ly compared it with the Cantlno let
ters. Then I got a shock. The letters
were positively In Leoni's hand-writing!
It took some time for the signifi
cance of this to sink in.
Martina had written Leoni in New
York a practical duplicate of what
Leoni had written Cantino in White
fish, Wis. Leoni, the banker, who had
come to us with a threatening letter,
had written the same kind of a let
ter himself to a banker in Wisconsin.
And Martina had left Whiteflsh the
night that Cantlno wds murdered.
Meanwhile the New York office of
our agency was watching the boats
that sailed for Mediterranean ports.
Every 200 miles or so I would get a
wire advising me that such and such
a boat had sailed and nobody answer
ing the description of my man had
come aboard. Every time I opened a
wire I hoped to see the news that
Martina had been arrested while try
ing to get out of the country, but
nothing of the sort occurred.
When I reached New York city I
didn't go to the office. I hailed a tax
icab and had myself driven to within
a couple of squares of Leoni's bank in
Elizabeth street. Discharging the taxi
man I walked down to the place, min
gling with the crowd in a way to make
myself Inconspicuous. Leoni was back
of the cashier's cage. I walked in.
"Hello, Mr. Leoni," I said. "Seen
anything of Martina?"
Leoni was, a good actor but not good
"You haven't seen him, have you?"
"Oh, yes," I said. '1 saw him out
in Whiteflsh. He killed a fellow by
the name of Cantlno out there the
day before yesterday."
I never watched anybody closer In
all my life than I did Leonl while I
was telling him this. No Anglo-Saxon
could have hidden what was going on
in his mind the way that little Italian
did. His expression was one of "sur
prise, only surprise, that I should
mention such a thing.
"How horrible!" he said. "How dis
tressing!" He did it so well that he fooled me.
I said to myself: "You big
fool! You guessed wrong, absolutely
I went back to the office and began
to write up my reports, trying to find
a flaw in the theory I had worked out
Since I had been up against Leoni and
had played my big card and hadn't
brought anything out I felt that my
theory must be wrong. His expres
slon absolutely had convinced me
But as I wrote and rewrote the rec
ord of my doings since Leoni had ap
plied at the office for a man, I couldn't
see where in the world I had fallen
down. If I was any good at all then I
had worked up a case that pointed
straight to the end I had worked to
ward. If it didn't point that way .
But I hated to believe that I had
failed so completely.
Cantino had sold Martina tickets
over the old Italia-Mediterraneaa line.
Our men had been watching the
docks and boats of that company clos
er than any other. Nobody approach
ing Martina's description had sailed
on It. The second day that I was in
New York the report came that the
line wouldn't have another boat for
two weeks, and that no reservations
on that boat had been made from
Whiteflsh, Wisconsin. There had been
no reservation from Whiteflsh for
"Stung!" said the agency superin
tendent. "Your man got away on
some other line. I told you that you'd
better let that Black Hand ' stuff
But I had my own private hunch, in
spite of the innocent expression on
Leoni's face. I made myself a mental
bet that Martina hadn't left this
country, and that I knew just where
to find him in time.
It took some time. To make a long
story short, I went to the tenement
directly opposite Leoni's office in
Elizabeth street and rented the two
front rooms on the third floor. I was
dressed in the clothes of the average
Italian laborer, and whilo I was a lit
tle too tall for a fair specimen, a pair
to a cp irzBis band.
of gold rings in my ears helped out
the deception. I explained to the
woman who rented the rooms that I
was out of work and that I probably
would be at home a lot during the
I was. Both daytime and night
There wasn't an hour in the twenty
four that I, or Cluffer, who came over
to help me, didn't have an eye glued
to the window that covered Leoni's
front door. He had no back door or
somebody would have covered- that
It took just ten days to clear the
thing up. It was about 3 in the morn
ing. I was watching, and the street
was empty. Along came a man in a
mackintosh and knocked at Leoni's
door. The door opened instantly and
the man went inside. In about half
an hour he came out, looked up and
down the street, and hurried in the
direction of Broadway, 'toward the
subway. He thought he had hidden
his tracks, but I rode up to Harlem in
the subway with him just the same.
He got ff at 125th street. I fol
lowed him, Vnd under the light of the
ticket Beller window I saw his face.
"Martina," said, and he turned
with a gun inhis hand.
I hadn't takdn any chances, and I
had. him covered. I called an officer
and turned Martina over to him. Then
as fast as a taxi could carry me I
went downtown to detective headquar
ters, and from there to Leoni's in
We broke in the door, and Leoni
jumped up with a gun in his hand.
One of the plain clothes men twisted
it away from him and dragged him
out to .where 'I was waiting.
"Good morning, Leoni," 1 said. ."I
Just pinched your pal, Martina, and
We had hard work keeping Mm
from killing himself.
That dog," he screamed. "That
Had Martina confessed? Oh, at.,'
but before morning we had the whole
story. Martina told on Leoni, aud
Leoni on Martina. They had framed
up a Black Hand conspiracy that wa
a study in cunning. Leoni was to
find out when any Italian banker had
any money, and Martina was to go out
and scare him. Leoni had made Mar
tina write him the Black Hand letter
so that he, Leonl, could appear as a
victim of that society, thus lessening
the possibility of suspicion that he
was a member of it. But for that
they might have been operating yet.
As it was, they hadn't pulled off a
single job. Martina had killed Can
tino as a warning to other bankers
And I had caught the pair of them bo
cause Leoni foolishly had let me see
a sample of Martina's handwriting.
The Federal authorities took Leonl
off our hands. He is doing twenty
years. The Wisconsin people gave
Martina life in prison.
PLANS RELIGION FOR JAPAN
Mr. Izawa Would Have t Center
About the Divine Right of the
Mr. Izawa. ex-vice-minister of edu
cation, is the originator of a plan to
provide Japan with an entirely new
religion. The new religious body, ac
cording to the Japan Advertiser, is to
be called "The State Religious Com
munity of Japan," and Mr. Izawa ex
plains his proposal as follows:
"The Japanese Empire having been
governed by one imperial family sineo
the very beginning, the emperor pos
sesses divine right. Such a policy can
hardly be found in any other country.
In China it has happened that the em
peror abdicates his throne to be suc
ceeded by one of his former subjects.
Then, too, when the German emperor
spoke once of his divine right, he was
strongly criticised. But in Japan the
emperor is the descendant of Aroeno-minakanuchl-no-Kami,
the creator of
the world. Hence the imperial family
being a divine race is entirely differ
ent from the race of Japanese.
Is the only creator of the world, and
he has existed since the beginning and
still exists. He is called emperor of
Heaven In China, Buddha in India,
and God in Western countries. My
plan is to gather a religious commun
ity around our emperor for the pur
pose of cultivating among its members
loyalty toward the emperor and of ele
vating their moral ideas.
"As to the citizens of other coun
tries, they are all living under the gra
cious protection of the Creator of the
world, eo that they can become mem
bers of this religious community if
they become subjects of the Japanese
Mental Processes In the Brain.
We have no facts which at present
will enable us to locate the mental
processes in the brain any better thac
they were located fifty years ago.
That the mental processes may be dur
to cerebral activities we may believe.
but with what anatomical elements
the individual mental processes may
be connected we do not know. Not
withstanding our ignorance, it would
appear best and most scientific that
we should not adhere to any of ths
phrenological systems, however scien
tific they may appear to be on tha
surface. We should be willing to
stand with Brodmann, believing that
mind is a function or an attribute at
the brain as a whole, or is a concomi
tant of cerebral operations, but I a
least am unwilling to stand with tb-s
histological localizationists on th
ground of a special mental process
for special cerebral areas or for spe
cial cerebral cell groups. Shepherd
Ivory Franz, in Science.
Unavailing Hero Worship.
Herman Perlet, the musical directors
and composer, was recruiting a phil
harmonic orchestra and had enlisted
the services of an Italian acquaintance.
Among the instrumentalists he pro
cured was a very old man with sn
antiquated flute from which he wcs
able to get a wheezy tone now and
then. "Take him away!" ordered Per
let after the first rehearsal. "lie can't
play the flute. What! Thata man can't
playa da flute!" gasped the sponsor.
"Not in this orchestra. Take him
away!" "Maledetta!" He rolled hir
eyes heavenward. "Thata man can't
playa da flute!" And he beat hlf
breast in indignation. "Why; that
man he flghta with GaribaldU"
Cucumber 40 Years Old.
A dispatch from Findlay, O., to tb
New York American says: :"Mr.
John F. Moore of Arcadia has a cw
cumber 40 years old. When she wa
Miss Sarah Lefferson, 40 years agvv
she pulled a small cucumber with
portion of vine attached to it and
stuck it in a bottle. When it grew
large the cucumber was placed in
bottle and sealed, and to this day ha
retained its color and freshness.