A Piece of String
Another true detective story drawn from the files which record notable murder cases solved by the North West Mounted Police
T. MORRIS LONGSTRETH
IT WAS not yet ten o’clock of a Sunday night, but the small settlement of Wetaskiwin had taken off its boots and gone to bed, for the Sabbath was still a day of rest in 1901, particularly in June, when the gamble of fine weather demanded early rising for the many chores. One glimmer of light remained in the windows of the North West Mounted Police detachment, where Corporal H. A. Hetherington was about to follow the example of his neighbors.
The stocky, fair-haired non-com, still in his early thirties, had already served in the Force for sixteen years, less four that represented a civilian interval, after which he had re-engaged to stay. Nearly everybody likes to gamble, and it was the uncertainty of life in the Force that fascinated the corporal. He was willing to wager his time that something of enthralling interest would turn up. For weeks monotony might corrode his days, and then would come the case to test the limit of ability. One was due now, thought Hotherington, as he unlaced his boots.
A knock on the door interrupted the corporal’s musings. The visitor was a rancher named Phillips who had been sufficiently disturbed, he said, by a gruesome discovery on his land to make the twenty-eight mile trip to the detachment. Fred Bullock, a new settler next door, had been hunting turkey nests that day in the clump of aspens between the houses. He had found places where the birds had been scratching, and in one copse with a sunken centre they had dislodged turf from a human head. There it was, baldly exposed and staring, twenty-five feet from the trail and only a stone’s-throw from the cluster of houses rejoicing in the name of Asker, Alberta.
“No,” said Phillips in response to Hetherington’s question, “nobody knows him. There’s nobody missing even. But it don’t look right to me. It didn’t to Bullock either.”
“Bullock didn’t move the body, 1 hope.”
“No. Them Yanks have a hearty respect for you fellows. He didn’t touch it but come straight to me.” “And there was no identification mark? Nothing else found?”
"Funny thing, now,” said Phillips; “come to think of it, Ray—that’s Fred’s kid brother did find a cap, a black cap, not far from there. That was a while ago. He’s still got it.”
In Wetaskiwin there was no coroner, so Hetherington, requesting division headquarters at Edmonton to send one, rode with Constable Firth to the Phillips ranch. Firth set about arranging for a coroner’s jury, and Hetherington devoted himself to a study of the grave and its surroundings.
A space about six feet long by three wide had been dug up to receive the body. The digging had been carefully done, and the surface turf replaced with equal care. Hetherington, who was to be known as one of the brilliant detectives of the Force, was not sure whether the gravedigger’s neatness was the mark of a man w ith a regard for the decencies or a desire to escape detection. But down in the notebook went the facts. The spade used had had a square sharp blade seven inches wide; scratches of an animal were visible at each end of the grave; a few fair hairs were discovered mingled with the soil.
The inquest, following the removal of the body, fortified the detective with much information. To Hetherington’s chagrin, the face resisted the most tender efforts to wash away the disguising soil with which it was encrusted, without removing the skin. It was a square strong face, the lower jaw heavy, the nose slightly flattened, and a perceptible gap showed between the stout incisors and eyeteeth. These were in excellent condition, showing no dental work. From the right side of the head the hair had disappeared, and there, skin was broken. The hair on top was sandy.
It required no special divination to understand why
this man had been buried in a trench almost revoltingly shallow, less than ten inches deep. He had been buried in the frosty half of the year. That the spade was sharp was shown by the cut turf and the tree roots severed, but the labor of digging deep had been apparently too great. This mute evidence fixed the period of burial at early spring, and rancher Phillips in a way confirmed it by recalling that he had tried to sink fence posts late in April and had been stopped by frost at the ten-inch depth. Murder! r"PHE body was fully clothed in the country’s custom —overalls, boots, and a fair-fitting coat. Hetherington noted that the overalls had been made in Kansas City, the coat in Kalamazoo. No other addresses could be found with the exception of a Wyoming advertisement, some complimentary matches from a Wyoming maker, and a street-fair badge marked Kalamazoo and dated October 12-14, 1897. Some pieces of quartz, a .38 Smith and Wesson cartridge, buttons, a spool of thread, a peculiarly shaped metal instrument, and a pipestem completed Hetherington’s list of findings in the pockets, These items seemed singularly valueless at first glance, but collectively they suggested to the detective that the unknown was probably a recent arrival from the United States, that he had resided, if only temporarily, in Kalamazoo, and that his occupation had something in common with the piece of quartz and the metal instrument. Not much to work from, but at least a starting point. The body stripped to its footwear revealed a wellnourished, powerful frame of perhaps 175 pounds weight, curiously rigid, and without trace of decomposition although visible outlines where the belt had been showed that swelling had taken place and decay was not far off. The limbs and fingers were sound and whole. The juryman, culled from the uneventful neighborhood, were intensely interested and keen on helping with the measurements and gradual accumulation of data. No tape measure being available, Hetherington improvised one from a piece of string and took down the necessary measurements. The body showed a length of five feet ten and a half inches, the overalls had a thirty-six inch waist and a thirty-two inch leg, the belt size was thirty-two inches, but the distance from buckle to used belt hole was thirty and three-quarter inches. As the back of the head was brought into view, the jury pressed forward at sight of a bruise behind the right ear with a blood clot under the left. Looking more closely, a hole was defined, and as the blood clot was washed away a second hole appeared. Since suicides do not bury themselves, foul play was established, and with the examination finished, the witnesses were now called on. They had very little to contribute. The people from the house nearest to the grave, the Bullocks, were the only ones able to produce any matter of interest. Fred, the married son, told of discovering the grave while on his turkey-nest hunt, and he produced a bundle of paper-covered reading matter which he had previously found beside the trail not far from the body. His younger brother told of the cap he had found, a greasy black cloth affair, lying thirty yards from the copse. He had been wearing it ever since. Neither the rest of the Bullocks nor the Phillips nor their neighbors had any further light to throw on this clueless, motiveless, unidentified killing. The body seemed to have fallen like a meteor from nowhere and for no reason upon Asker. One thing seemed certain; the crude but goodnatured neighborhood settlers were not implicated. They were too naively surprised and puzzled to be acting.
Hetherington, balked by the victim’s personal effects, examined the reading matter, a series of light moral literature issued by “The Leisure Hour Library.” Peculiarly, there were several sets of three issues stitched together as if by a sewing machine. While turning the pages the policeman remarked an almost obliterated pencil inscription on the top margin. With a glass he made out what seemed to be the name “L. C. Stamer” or “L. C. Stainer,” but if the latter, the “i” was not dotted. The cap had no distinguishing mark unless it was the grease. The value of both books and cap was problematical, but they were tucked away with the other exhibits for future reference, The verdict of the jury was easily reached: “Death, resulting from two bullet wounds, either of which would have been fatal, at the hand of a person or persons unknown.” Their job was done, thought Hetherington rather enviously, while his was only beginning, The country was huge. Settlement was rapidly growing. To find someone you knew would not be the lightest task, But to locate someone you knew nothing about except that the faceless body was nearly six feet tall, fair haired, of any age up to thirty-five, and read the “Leisure Hour Library” for diversion— this was groping in a darkness truly Egyptian. The man’s identity must be learned. Thence might follow his associations. With the associations could be linked a motive. And from motives clues, or at least suspicions, as to murderers might arise.
It promised to be a long job, but Hetherington had a kind of patience amounting to genius. Equipped with the dead man’s clothing, a list of the exhibits, the Leisure Hour books, he started to pick up the scent in ever widening circles. He visited the stores, banks, boarding-houses, land offices, and other likely but less mentionable resorts, in Wetaskiwin, then in Ponoka, the nearest
railway town to Asker, and finally in Edmonton. Hotel registers were searched and all postmasters asked to be alert for mail from Kalamazoo or Wyoming bearing the name of L. C. Stamer or Stainer. To have bought a suit and visited a street fair in Kalamazoo four years before was a very slender thread on which to depend. But Hetherington had detective instincts. Those were the days in the Mounted Police before crime reports, before C.I.B. training. The detective minds in the Force were few and little encouraged to scientific ends. Indian sullenness and the cattle thief, with here and there a brutal but straightforward murderer, had chiefly occupied the men in scarlet.
Plainclothes investigation was as obnoxious to the average constable as to the evil-doer. A few great “cases” had been a portent of the coming activity, but the patient sleuth was a newcomer to the ranks and he worked out his theories largely alone. Hence the spectacle of Hetherington combing the countryside for information, packing his exhibits tirelessly from bank to brothel, single-handed and as he deemed best.
In a boarding-house at Ponoka the mounted policeman spread his effects before the inmates and a Swede exclaimed: “Ya, sure. I know dat fellow. We eat at same place one time.” He turned to his wife for confirmation and she nodded emphatic agreement.
By patient questioning Hetherington learned that the Swede and his family had had dinner at the house of a fellow-countryman at Red Deer Lake six weeks previously. While there they had talked with a man wearing clothing similar to that in Hetherington’s pack and closely answering the description of the dead man.
With quickened spirits the detective took up the new trail. The Red Deer Lakers remembered the incident and helpfully added that the man had been riding a horse with one blind eye. This was luck, and for three days the exulting Hetherington pursued the route taken by the blind horse and its rider. Everyone remembered the steed and confirmed the description of the man. At the end of the third day Hetherington ran both to earth, not in a grave but on a homestead near Ponoka. The man bore an undeniable resemblance
to the murdered one, just enough, together with the similar clothing, to have wasted much valuable time.
This delay and frustration exasperated Hetherington. The countryside must be incredibly unobservant for a stranger to be able to appear in a community away from the railroad, even for a day, without being remembered by someone. Unless, of course, this man had been killed elsewhere and driven secretly to the Phillips’s ranch. But that was fantastic. Why should anyone have singled out a copse within sight of two farmhouses for the burial? The locality was filled with such shelters. Could the murderer have a spite against the Phillips and laid the body in that shallow grave hoping it would be found? The carelessness of the cap, the paper books, and the thin covering of turf, if these exhibits had any relation to the corpse, gave a semblance of reason to such a deduction. But these families had no enemy. If only the dead man’s face had remained photographable, the task would have been much easier; as it was, only the nearest relatives or closest friends would hazard an identification.
Well, he had been hoping for an unusual case, Hetherington admitted to himself, somewhat ruefully, and now here was one considerably more baffling than he had bargained for. In an impulse of despair he felt like beginning enquiries at the other end, in Wyoming, or, better, at Kalamazoo. He had, indeed, drafted an enquiry to the police at Kalamazoo. But he did not send it, fearing, with data so vague and fragmentary, that a groping enquiry might reach the murderer and frighten him into hiding. As foi going to these places, he knew that he dare not suggest spending so much money until he had tried every avenue at hand. And so he went back to Ponoka.
Too Much For One Man
HETHERINGTON’S interview had become stereotyped from repetition, his exhibits monotonously familiar as he spread them to illustrate his questions: “Had a stranger been seen at any time during the past winter or spring?” “Was he strongly built, tall, fair, and between twentyfive or forty?” “Can you recall if he wore a coat of this pattern?” —showing a piece cut from the murdered man's coat— “overalls like these, perhaps wearing a black cap such as this, and carrying a package of books?” The rural vacant stare or the equally irritating desire to please without reference to fact was the detective’s sole reward until his trail crossed the mail-driver’s. “Have you seen a stranger or strangers within the last few months?” “Why, yes, come to think of it,” said the driver. “About the end of April it was, two of them. They was talking about Wyoming.” “Wyoming,” repeated Hetherington. “So they talked about Wyoming.” “Yes, and Calgary, too. They’d come in that way. They was going to take up land. They asked where the Bullocks was living in Asker. The big one asked that, and the kid, he said, ‘Here's another Bullock, Bud Bullock.’ It was him that was going to take up land.” Hetherington drew out the descriptions. Bud Bullock was nearer twenty than twenty-five, was dressed in black if the driver remembered correctly, wore a black slouch hat and no overcoat. The kid, as Bud called his companion, had on a cap all right; his hair was light, his teeth were big, and he was strong. “And tall?” asked Hetherington with some satisfaction. "No, I shouldn’t say tall. I’d say short. Yes, short. He wouldn’t have come up to Bud’s shoulder.” "Stupid,” thought Hetherington, wondering how anyone could mistake a five foot ten and a half inch man for short. Then a swift apprehension came over the detective. “How old was this short man?” “About twenty, maybe a bit less, maybe more, but not much. A nice round-faced boy, that’s all he was. But good and strong.” The mail-driver could furnish nothing further, but the detective reasoned that if the two men had beeh walking when the driver met them they must have beeh seen by others along the trail. So he began a house-tohouse canvass from the outskirts of Ponoka toward Asker. A farmer recollected such a pair. It was about the end of April. One was dark, about thirty, of slim build, with a peculiar gait. The other was fair and stout, weighing, the farmer calculated, about 175 pounds. A fifteen-year-old girl had seen the two men in a store at Ponoka. One, a tall dark man, had had a zither. He had told one of the customers that he could not play it, and he had left it with the storekeeper. Later, the two men had appeared at the girl’s house and asked if they were on the trail to Asker. The tall dark man was six feet at least, and slim; the other was about twenty-four, she thought, and came up to the other’s shoulder, six or eight inches shorter.
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A Piece of String
Continued from page 11
Hetherington felt that he was goosechasing. The man in the grave was clearly not the slim dark one, nor yet the short one. He persevered and found a farmer who had seen the two just before the mail-driver appeared. He described the tall man as dark and about thirty-five years old; his companion was at least six inches shorter and several years younger. He was positive about the day because of something that had happened that day.
Hetherington compared the descriptions and gritted his teeth with frustration. All had agreed that the one man, Bud Bullock, was tall, dark and slim. Four of the five had his companion short, stout, and of powerful build; two said he was fair, while one was just as certain he was dark. The others didn’t remember. And there was as great a disparity in the estimates of the short man’s age. One placed him at twenty-four, another at thirty-five, but the mail-driver had him nearer twenty. As the mail-man had the longest opportunity of forming an impression, Hetherington reluctantly felt compelled to accept his description. It could not matter greatly, since the difference in height alone destroyed the possibility of his being the man in the grave. People did not suddenly lengthen out after being shot. The irritating thing was the paucity of strangers. Bullock’s companion was the only stranger in weeks, and he escaped being the dead man by six inches!
In his visits to Asker, the detective had met several Bullocks but no Bud. A stubborn streak in Hetherington induced him to return and see if Bud had taken up land in the vicinity, and, if so, to learn more about the mysterious companion. After all, in his exhibits were those matches from Wyoming and the advertisement.
The Bullocks gladly answered the detective’s questions. Bud had paid them a visit at the end of April. They hadn’t known he was coming. In fact they had all gone to bed—it must have been nearly ten o’clock—when the dogs began barking. One of the boys went out, and there was Bud. He was alone, but the family remembered his having mentioned a companion who had gone on to visit some relatives at Red Deer Lake.
Hetherington started. Red Deer Lake! The man with the blind horse! Yet he had denied all knowledge of Asker, nor did he fit in with the description.
Bud, the family said, had only dropped in for a visit. He remained only over Sunday, leaving for British Columbia. He’d been boss in a tunnelling outfit with some railway construction business and intended to find similar work in British Columbia.
The deductive mind of Hetherington was busy while he listened. That black cap with grease on it! That had argued the hands of a machinist, as did the tool, identified as a machinist’s scraper, in the dead man’s pocket. He, too, might have been working in machine shops with Bud. Wyoming, and now British Columbia. Clearly the investigation had outrun the ability of any one man to cope with. Hetherington asked his division headquarters to have enquiries made at Lethbridge and Calgary, the most likely route from the Western States for his travellers.
A Serious Setback
AND now Hetherington’s energetic Lx, rnoiling around began to unearth results. He had scarcely arrived at his
Wetaskiwin detachment when he was told that a letter bearing a Kalamazoo postmark had just been delivered to the Bullocks. Hetherington hastened to arrange for special scrutiny of the Asker mail in the hope of intercepting a reply to the Kalamazoo letter. The Ponoka post-office seemed to remember a letter having gone through to a B. K. Bullock at a small British Columbia town. Hetherington dashed off a request to Calgary to check up. Almost at once the postmaster at Asker had a fresh surprise for the policeman—a letter from Kalamazoo addressed to the sheriff of Asker. No one having a better claim to the title, Hetherington opened it to find a communication from a firm of Michigan attorneys at Pontiac, who wished to serve a “Chancery subpoena” on one Charles B. Bullock.
Kalamazoo had certainly linked itself with the case, and Hetherington, putting aside his fears that enquiries there might reach the murderer before the law did, determined to establish the identity of the man in the grave. Already the detective’s sixth sense had involved Bud Bullock in the murder, but the grounds for arrest were psychological instead of real, and as matters stood, the witnesses along the trail would not help the case. Indeed, they would destroy it with their unanimous testimony as to Bud’s short companion. A skilful defense counsel could make him a laughingstock, should the case get to court, unless identities were established beyond the ability of careless observers to upset. The witnesses must be wrong, said Hetherington’s instinct, for he had seen the man’s length measured. That night he addressed a letter, secret and confidential, giving all the facts, to the chief of police at Kalamazoo.
The reply came in paralyzing fashion, for on July 24, the press of North America flaunted the following despatch:
Kalamazoo, Mich., July 24; Leon Stainton of this city, son of Mrs. Mary Smith, was found dead near Wetaskiwin, Alberta district, Canada. All indications point to murder, one “Bud” Bullock being suspected. Stainton, who was eighteen years old, left Ashton, Wyoming, in April for Alberta, with Bullock, Stainton having considerable money. Bullock is said to have a bad reputation in Ashton. His whereabouts are not known.
Nor were they likely to be after that widespread warning. Hetherington was furious. A reply from the Kalamazoo police, if less spectacular than the newspaper item, contained an accurate description of the coat, belt, suspenders, brass street-fair token, and zither furnished by Stainton’s relatives. Furthermore it was thought likely that Mr. Smith, Leon Stainton’s stepfather, would come on to identify the remains if possible.
More news from the Mounted Police followed this report. B. K. Bullock of British Columbia had no connection with the case, but a C. B. Bullock and S. W. Stainton had registered at Calgary on April 25, Bullock from Detroit and Stainton from Kalamazoo. At Lethbridge the police reported, C. B. Bullock and S. W. Stainton had registered from Aspen, W'yoming. The Calgary report added that C. B. Bullock alone had registered on April 30, this time from Ogden, Utah, leaving the next morning. A search was being made for him in both districts.
Three words in the press item “eighteen years old” had burned themselves upon Hetherington’s consciousness. How reconcile that age with the physical development of the faceless man in the grave? But whatever the explanation of these contradictions, Hetherington knew that the evidence was growing like a wall about Bud Bullock. Of course, two murders might have been committed, with Stainton’s body still to be found. There was no doubt, however, as to the urgency of the next step. So, with two constables and a search warrant, Hetherington returned to the Bullock home.
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Continued from, page 44
The family were plainly surprised, although even yet they did not guess how well warranted was the search. They helped in every way, producing an aluminum comb described by the Michigan police, some ore, and the zither. On the coroner’s order, the three policemen removed the body of the murdered man from its resting-place to reinter it in the Wetaskiwin cemetery.
The new grave did not remain undis' turbed very long, for the arrival of Leon Stainton’s stepfather coincided with Hetherington’s urgent request that another autopsy be made. Mr. Smith, the stepfather, unhesitatingly identified the remains as those of his stepson on account i of the general shape of his features, the color of the remaining hair, but particularly by the teeth and the coat. He produced a sample of the cloth from the ! Kalamazoo tailor. The comb, the fair ! token and the belt were equally known to 1 him. The identity was established. Two doctors conducted the autopsy and i extracted a bullet from one of the holes below and behind the left ear. With Hetherington assisting, they took careful measurements of the body with a tape.
rPHE scene was now to widen. Bullock, sojourning somewhere in the vastness of the Northwest, must be located. Because of the press publicity this would be a tedious matter. But the detective, now certain of the end, set out confidently on the suspect’s trail with instructions to arrest and arrange, if he should be located in the United States, for extradition.
To trace the man back through Ponoka, Calgary, and Lethbridge to Macleod was simple, and from Macleod the indications pointed to Great Falls, Montana. Here the first false trail caused days of delay before it was run down and exposed. Thanks, however, to a photograph of Bud made from a group picture, Hetherington ] traced the man’s steps to Aspen, where fellow employees of the Northern Pacific identified the picture as that of their late acquaintance. The records showed that Bullock had been employed during 1900 ! and 1901 as a boiler washer and brakeman j on a train of small dirt cars used in tunneli ling work. Stainton had been the machin; ist, not Bud, as the latter had been careful j to inform his family. Nothing can be so 1 damning as a little lie.
The men remembered Bud as six feet : tall, aged about twenty-seven, with a dark complexion and dark eyes, curly black : hair, high rounded shoulders, and long neck with prominent Adam’s apple. Stainton, “the kid,” was just a welldeveloped youngster. The master mechanic was positive that he was five foot seven inches at the most, and recalled seeing Stainton wrapping up his tools. The boy had also taken some matches from Cheyenne out of the mechanic’s room. He had paid off both men, giving Bullock about sixty-five dollars and the kid two hundred.
Hetherington now entered upon one of those extensive searches which gave him his great reputation in the Mounted Police. His account slips reveal innumerable interview’s and “general expenses around public resorts good and bad.” “Expenses very heavy for horse hire, five dollars per diem.” “Entertaining public officers and private persons from whom I had to seek information and extract the same from suspected parties,” which often meant seeing them overcome by liquor. When he met a suspicious character he “entertained” him.
September passed into October, and Hetherington combed Wyoming, Mon-
tana, Washington, still confident but not quite so confident, for three false trails had bitten large pieces out of his original hope. Railway yards, mines, machine shops, pay-rolls, saloons, construction shops, construction camps, steamboat crews, lumber mills—he inspected them all, and the more slowly because casually making friends with sheriffs, gambling dive keepers and shop superintendents. And at length the reward came in the shape of a telegram, in November, that Bullock had been seen in Great Falls on October 18. So Hetherington returned there and recommenced his entertainment of suspicious characters. During this search he impressed those he interviewed with the necessity of communicating with him, should they learn anything as to Bullock’s whereabouts.
Murderers will never learn not to write letters. Bud Bullock was injudicious in this manner, writing to a former employer named Tirrell and signing himself C. B. Sterling, foolishly asking if anything had been heard of “the kid,” and adding, “I left him in Calgary in Canada.” By those coincidences that looked superficially like good luck and in reality were the direct fruit of Hetherington’s earnest efforts, these letters furnished the clues without which the detective could never have found his man. For at last he heard that from the Mint Saloon, a rendezvous of the tough, came reports of a man whose description tallied with Sterling.
One day Hetherington stopped a tall slim man with black and somewhat curly hair wheeling a barrow.
“Hello, Sterling,” he greeted him, as if hailing an old acquaintance.
The man put down the barrow and stared at Hetherington. The detective pretended to have mistaken him.
“Your name is Sterling, isn’t it?”
“That’s the name I go by here,” he said.
“W'asn’t Bud Bullock a good enough name for you?” asked Hetherington, a shade of firmness appearing in his voice.
A moment’s silence.
“Not after my wife started raising the devil.”
“You have a wife, then?”
“Say, what’s that to you?” asked Bullock threateningly.
“Nothing,” said Hetherington, “I’m only interested in a man you knew, a young fellow by the name of Stainton.”
There was that indefinable start, the subsurface effort toward self-control.
“You mean Kid Stainton?” replied Bullock doggedly. “I left him in Canada; he’s my best friend.”
“Mr. Bullock, you are wanted in Canada for the murder of Leon Stainton,” and Hetherington told him who he was.
Bullock made no resistance, w'aived extradition, and Hetherington escorted him back to Canada. Among his belongings were a machinist’s hammer stencilled L.W.S., a revolver fully loaded, and a box containing eighteen cartridges; also photographs of Stainton and his mother. The carelessness of murderers is infinite.
A murder trial is like a war in which the prosecution is the attacking party. For weeks and months he must store up his ammunition—the logic of the facts and their visible signs, the exhibits; must foresee every ruse of the defense. His chief allies are his witnesses, and his main hope of victory, as in war, lies in some overwhelming surprise. By February 14 Corporal Hetherington was ready, and the case of Rex versus Bullock opened in Edmonton before Mr. Justice Scott. Bit by bit the evidence of the Crown was presented until the impressive story of the entire investigation was laid bare.
The lawyer for the defense made a magnificent fight for his client, contesting every point where there was the slightest possibility of doubt or error. But Hetherington had three concealed batteries which opened fire, one after another.
The first concerned a Mr. Tait, of Wetaskiwin, who owned the house the Bullocks lived in and, as Hetherington discovered, had visited them on that
Sunday when Bud was there. Bud had been out with his married brother when visitor Tait had called, and they had told him what a surprise Bud’s visit was. All were in bed that Friday night, when two shots were heard. One of the boys had got up and gone outdoors and called. Someone answered, and a few moments later Bud had appeared, explaining that he had fired the shots, thinking he was lost. The Bullocks had added, Mr. Tait remembered, that another man had travelled from Ponoka with Bud but had gone on alone to Red Deer Lake. Bud had given his mother a twenty dollar gold piece.
There was a dramatic pause.
“With what,” asked the prosecution, “was Bud Bullock occupied between the hour of dusk, when he and Stainton were set down practically at the Bullock house, and ten o’clock that night?”
These were heavy guns, and rather weakly replied to by the Bullock family swearing they did not hear any shots and that it might have been eight o’clock when they went to bed. But the prosecution said:
“It appears to me reasonable to suppose that a farmer, after working hard all day, would scarcely get up simply because a dog barked. It cannot be supposed that the prisoner knew he was so close to home when the deed was committed.”
The jury was impressed and the counsel for the defense resumed his efforts to disprove the identity of the body. But Hetherington touched off another battery when the age of the murdered man was put at eighteen, rather than from twentyfive to thirty-five, by referring to his teeth. The boy’s wisdom teeth had not yet been cut.
“Teeth,” shouted the defense lawyer, “are like railway trains, only due when they arrive.” But the weight of science downed this witticism, and Stainton’s youth was accepted.
There remained the greatest discrepancy of all.
“They found at the inquest,” said the defense, “that the body was five feet ten and a half inches in length. Later it is learned that a man is missing from Kalamazoo who measured five feet seven inches. How are you going to get over the difference between five feet seven inches and five feet ten and a half inches? Kindly tell the jury that.”
Hetherington delivered the final salvo. The boy’s body had again been measured in August, he explained, and found to be five feet seven inches in length. Nor was this due, as the defense suggested, because this measurement was “wanted.” On the contrary, he explained, the first measurement was taken with a piece of string, a loose and stretchable piece of string. Its elasticity had occasioned all the trouble. Otherwise there were no discrepancies. The thirty-two belt measurement surely did not signify a large man. In addition, the bullets that occasioned Stainton’s death were matched by those discovered with Bullock’s baggage—and the skull was produced in court to explain the blow. Furthermore, the laundry marks on the dead boy’s clothing corresponded to those assigned L. W. Stainton in Aspen, Wyoming. Further, there was the silent evidence of the sharp square spade. Still further, it was proved that Bullock came into Canada with little money, spent more than he had, and left with a surplus. How could that have come about?
No defense could stand against this barrage of evidence, which, although circumstantial, answered every doubt with the greatest nicety. The jury brought in the verdict of guilty. The judge with the comment, “The evidence was so strong against you, I cannot see how the jury could have given any other verdict,” sentenced Bullock to hang.
Hetherington received a promotion to sergeant as well as unofficial congratulation on a job well done and the plaudits of the press.