He was quite the fellow. Appointed as the first Chicago detective, founder of a famous national investigative agency, bodyguard to President Abraham Lincoln, undercover operative who infiltrated the Confederate Army, pivotal in the formation of the U.S. Secret Service, tracker of Jesse James and other train robbers and responsible for the establishment of a central criminal database system, Allan Pinkerton was quite the fellow. He wrote 15 detective books and novels, during which he popularized the word “lam”, a term used to describe fleeing fugitives who thus “were on the lam.” His detective agency became the “go to” place when seeking serious investigative help, and he was responsible for pursuing and apprehending a slew of famous criminals. Mr. Pinkerton was also known as a devout atheist.
Cops and robbers
As a child of the Greater Antilles, I became aware at a young age of the native Taino Indians who were displaced by the Spanish conquistadores. However, cowboys were nonexistent in this society, so the popular American children’s game involving these two opposing groups was not part of our upbringing. In its place, we enjoyed a Latinized version of “Cops and Robbers” with a hint of “hide and go seek.” We would spend hours in the park across the street from our house playing baseball and taking turns at being a criminal or a policeman, with one exception. I insisted on always being the target and would become upset when forced “to wear the badge”; whenever placed in this predicament, I would tepidly follow the trail to insure the “bad guys” were not caught. Let’s face it, I loved “being on the lam.”
As my childhood waned and real life decisions awaited, I chose baseball, but unfortunately it did not choose me. What did “choose” me was law enforcement, which placed me in a professional conundrum of sorts. The fact of the matter was that despite the passage of time, in some weird way, my preference was to flee, not capture. This clashed with my daily regimen of investigating, infiltrating, identifying and apprehending dangerous criminals. Thus, it was not surprising that my favorite cases were covert ones, where I could “play the bad guy” while still under the umbrella of the “good ones”; I could have my cake and eat it too…..on the lam.
On the lam
Two specific cases intrigued me; one fictional, one real. The first involved a doctor convicted of the murder of his wife who escaped from the train that was transporting him to death row. For four long years he “was on the lam” attempting to prove his innocence while pursued by Lt. Gerard. Every Tuesday night from 1963 to 1967 I would sit and watch ABC as Richard Kimble barely stayed one foot ahead of the law and became famous as “The Fugitive.” Then there was the Olympic Park Bomber, who killed two people and injured almost 100, a well-known terrorist who was one of the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives. Eric Rudolph was a very dangerous individual who defied all odds by hiding in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina for five years surviving on acorns and salamanders and stealing food from containers as hundreds of law enforcement officers unsuccessfully tracked him. He was arrested on a routine patrol as he was digging in a dumpster in May, 2003, five months after my retirement. Although intrigued by his evasion techniques, I was overjoyed they got him off the streets. My “fascination” with escaping capture had come to an end as did my career.
Running from God
Fleeing and hiding from man is quite the task; fleeing and hiding from God is impossible, yet we attempt it daily. It was imprinted in our DNA by the first Adam, who after sinning, hid from God among the trees of the garden. We cannot shed this burden and must be aware of its presence in order to overcome temptation. You may find it odd while reading this short article how a cop would consider being a “robber.” Yet, Christian fugitives permeate our community in larger amounts than criminal ones, with nary a thought. In fact, many of us provide shelter and a hiding place for our fellow fleeing brothers and sisters instead of providing space for their return to a loving Father. Being on the lam never brings good results; instead, we must lean on the Lamb who provides a perfect shelter for our disheveled lives. Pinkerton had a successful career in chasing, but if he remained true to his beliefs, he was chased out of Heaven. Our default mode should instead be, “Here I am Lord; where shall I go from your Spirit or where should I flee from your presence.”
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