It has been some weeks since I put pen to paper, and while that very fact is proof enough that I was not executed on September 30, I did not want to begin again prematurely. Though I was spared on the scheduled date, my life has been in the hands of the State of New York until this very day, and now, once again master of my fate, I feel able and obligated to relate the true ending of my story.
I was taken from my cell, the morning of September 30, and led to the gallows in a procession headed by Monroe County Sheriff Hart. Behind him was my attorney Mr. Abrams. I was next, unrestrained but flanked by two of the sheriff’s men should the need arise. Behind me, against my express wishes, followed a Christian minister—Methodist Episcopal, I believe—who prayed for my immortal soul, something I had long since given up for lost. I was determined to die game and walked to the gallows with head high and countenance steeled. I had prepared a brief sentence proclaiming my innocence but would give them no more. Those who had come to witness my cruel death would get no further show of emotion.
But show it was; make no mistake. If I said that ten thousand people came out to watch me die you would think me a liar and begin to doubt the rest of my story. Suffice to say, from my vantage on the platform, I have never seen so many human heads gathered in one place, or would have even believed such as gathering was possible for any event short of Our Savior’s return. I must say, the sight of that mass of craven and bloodthirsty humans almost made me anxious to leave this world.
And I very nearly did. The sheriff put the hempen necktie over me and, as the minister led the multitudes in prayer, I mentally rehearsed what I thought would be my last words on earth. All those in the crowd bowed their heads and the silence in that field was broken only by the solemn and dolorous words of the minister’s prayer.
Then a voice arose from the fringe of the crowd like a distant shout. The words were incomprehensible, but the voice was unmistakable—it was Jack, dressed as a woman and bellowing like a man, trying to drive a wagon through a crowd unable to part fast enough for her.
“Stop the hanging! Stop the hanging!” shouted Mr. Abrams, who, no doubt, had stood at the ready, waiting for the slightest irregularity to interrupt the proceedings.
The sheriff, none too happy, sent his men out to see about the commotion. They facilitated the parting of the crowd and grabbed the reins to lead the horse forward at a more reasonable pace. The wagon was led to the front and when it stopped before the platform Jack stood up and pointed to the back of the wagon.
“There’s yer murderer.” She said.
There in the wagon, gagged and tied at the hands and feet, was Mirabile Travis.
“It’s the missing woman,” said Mr. Abrams, “We will surely get a new trial now.”
The sheriff took me back to my cell and went to contact the judge to determine what should transpire next. I had no idea what was going on until late that afternoon when Jack came to the cell to see me. She was still dressed as a woman but somewhat ragged and worse for wear.
“Jack! I never thought I would see you again,” I said.
“It would serve ya right if ya didn’t,” she said.
“I never thought you would help me after seeing me with Mirabile.”
“I know you pretty well by now, Pratt. I knew if you didn’t get that girl out of yer dreams she’d be there forever. But I also knew she meant you no good, so I followed when the two a’ya went to the church to stop the trouble I knew was coming. The gun went off before I could do anything. “
“How did you catch Mirabile?”
I will relate what Jack told me about the capture of Mirabile, but briefly; because it is, after all, her story and not mine. For my part, I think it might be years before I fully understand it.
Jack had gone the church carrying her rucksack and all of her possessions, thinking that, whatever transpired, she would not be staying in Rochester. When she saw Mirabile open the front door of the church, she went around back looking for another way in. She broke in the back door and went into the room behind the curtain, waiting to see what would happen. Of course, Jack saw us making love and why she didn’t burst in then or just leave the place, I still do not know. Instead, she stayed hidden and watched Reverend Travis arrive and then saw Mirabile shoot him.
By then it was too late to come out without starting a bloody battle, so she waited for Mirabile to leave then ran after her. But Mirabile had enough of a head start that she was out of sight when Jack hit the street. Jack assumed Mirabile would take the fasted way out of town so she hurried to the train station. She found Mirabile there, buying a ticket to Buffalo, so Jack did the same. On the train she changed into a dress, knowing that Mirabile might recognize her as a boy but had never seen her as a girl.
In Buffalo, Jack followed Mirabile to a hotel. Jack checked in too, making sure she kept an eye on Mirabile while she pondered what to do next. She knew that she would somehow need to get Mirabile and the black bag of evidence back to Rochester if she were to save my life.
Through a series of “chance” encounters, Jack befriended Mirabile but gaining her confidence was a long, slow process. Jack learned that Mirabile had a weakness for alcohol and used this knowledge to her advantage. One night in the hotel bar, after too many drinks, Mirabile revealed that she was in trouble and would soon need to leave Buffalo. Jack told her that the only way to guarantee safety was to flee to Canada. Jack told her she could arrange this. They discussed the matter again several times after that night before Mirabile finally agreed that Canada was her safest destination.
Jack obtained a wagon and waited outside the hotel. When Mirabile came out carrying the black bag, jack was ready to put the plan in motion. Mirabile sat in the box with Jack, trusting her to drive the rig to Canada. Jack told her they were heading for the Niagara River ferry at Black Rock, but instead, she drove east. Once they were out of the city, Jack asked Mirabile to climb into the back of the wagon to adjust their luggage. When Mirabile did so, Jack stopped the horse and climbed in back herself. Jack wrestled Mirabile into submission and, using pre-knotted ropes she had planted in the wagon she secured Mirabile’s arms and legs and gagged her mouth. Then she drove her captive back to Rochester.
There was much confusion after Jack arrived and interrupted the hanging. Jack claimed that Mirabile murdered Reverend Travis and stole his money. At Mr. Abrams’s instance, Mirabile was held in custody and a second inquest was held to determine whether she and not I, should be indicted for the Reverend’s murder.
The inquest was somewhat confusing as well, with Jack’s assertion that she was both the man who witnessed the murder and the woman who captured the prisoner. She came to court one day dressed as a man, and one dressed as a woman and her point was successfully made. With so much testimony and evidence against her Mirabile began to weaken until finally, under intense questioning, she admitted to murdering her husband, the Reverend Isaiah Travis.
With this revelation, all charges against me were dropped, and I was freed from jail. By rights, we should have stayed to testify again at Mirabile’s trial, but I was anxious to leave New York State before they changed their minds again. Though there was no spoken agreement, it was clear that Jack and I would be traveling companions once more. I suggested that we venture to Ohio and see about that cheap land everyone was after.
“Haven’t you heard, Pratt?” Jack replied, “They’ve discovered gold in California. They’re pulling big hunks of it right out of the stream. “Why in hell would we go anywhere else?”