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Photo courtesy of Australian Women’s History Network.

The newspaper ad that appeared in publications throughout the city of Chicago in 1861 highlighted the talents of a fortune teller named L. L. Lucille.  The remarkable soothsayer whose descendants were from Egypt was making her first appearance in the Midwest and invited residents to visit her at the Temple of Magic anytime between the hours of ten A.M. and one P. M.  “She will cast the horoscope of all callers,” the advertisement boasted.  “She will tell them the events of their past life and reveal what the future has in store.  The Great Asiatic Sibyl proudly announced that she had cast the horoscope of all the crowned heads of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania and specialized in helping the sorrowful and affiliated.  “She will tell who loves you; who hates you; and who is trying to injure you.  She will show you your future husband or wife.”  The fee for such services was $10.00.

According to Allan Pinkerton, who had written the notice about Lucille, the trade of fortune telling was unique at the time and many people were attracted to the idea.  Pinkerton described the mystic’s place of business on Clark Street as nearly square with a large mirror the shape of the doorway on one end.  “The wall and windows were draped with dark colored material that blocked any sunlight from getting through.  There was a swinging lamp in all four corners of the room and one in the center.  They were bronze and silver, with Oriental patterns, and they swung slowly around in a circle.  Several charts, mystic symbols, and small gloves filled low shelves and a variety of tables.  Near one of the tables was a small table upon which stood a peculiarly shaped retort, and from this, issued pungent, aromatic incense.”  

It was into this mystic, perfumed setting that L. L. Lucille would greet enthusiastic patrons anxious to receive predictions about important aspects of their lives.  Customers waited in a lounge area in large, easy chairs for the fortune teller.  At just the right time the medium would slip into the room through the folds of a curtain at one side of a gigantic mirror.  Kate Warne played the part of L. L. Lucille and Pinkerton wrote in his case files that “he hardly knew her, so great was her disguise.”  Kate’s face and hands were stained a clear olive, and instead of wearing her hair up as she usually did it hung down in heavy masses to her waist.  She wore a long dress made from rich fabric and trimmed with Oriental accents.  She carried a small wand around which had two serpents twined at the top.  Her whole appearance was dignified and imposing.  Pinkerton was confident Kate would deliver a convincing performance and help apprehend the woman attempting to kill one of the agency’s clients, Captain J. N. Sumner.

Captain J. N. Sumner visited Pinkerton at his Chicago office seeking help in late 1859.  The fifty year old man owned a farm in Connecticut where he resided when he wasn’t at sea.  Pinkerton described him as a distinguished looking gentleman with dark, curly hair.  Captain Sumner had recently announced his intention to retire from his freight running enterprise and was looking forward to relaxing on his land.  He’d come to see Pinkerton because he believed someone close to him wanted him dead.  He began by describing his upbringing and family.  His parents were loving people who always encouraged his love for the sea.  He left home when he was fifteen years old to be a sailor.  His parents purchased a farm while he was away on his first sea voyage.  The captain had one brother, who had died at an early age, and two sisters, Lucy and Annie.  When the Sumner’s mother and father passed away the sisters cared for the farm.  Lucy was twenty-two years old and married, and Annie was eighteen, rambunctious and wild.  Captain Sumner loved each of his sisters, but favored Annie.  He told Pinkerton that the fact that Annie was the youngest and so beautiful made it easy to shower her with attention.  

One year when the Captain returned home from his travels he brought with him a shipmate named Henry Thayer.  He introduced Annie to Henry and the two were instantly smitten.  Henry would return to the farm with Captain Sumner as often as he could.  The couple eventually became engaged.  While Henry was away on a voyage, Annie attended parties and dinners and basked in the attention several stylish gentlemen paid her.  Captain Sumner explained that her behavior was worrisome and advised her to curtail her flirtatious actions.  Annie promised she would but did the opposite.  She’d accepted a beautiful amethyst ring from an admirer and refused to return it Captain Sumner confronted her.  “If Henry knew of this,” the Captain warned Annie, “it would make trouble.”  Annie flew into a rage.  “Oh!  So you are left here to watch me, are you?” she snapped.  “Well, then just report to him (Henry) that I can get a better husband than he any day.  I am going to shut myself up like a nun in a convent for any man.”  The relationship between brother and sister was strained after the incident.  Captain Sumner was scheduled to take command of a new ship and hoped the time apart would improve things between him and Annie.  

When Captain Sumner returned home once again Annie and Henry were married and living in New York.  The family farm had been sold and the funds from the sale divided equally between the three children.  Henry and Annie appeared to be devoted to one another.  Henry’s career was doing well too.  He had been given command of a ship and was in high spirits.  Captain Sumner believed that Annie was finally content with a life of domesticity and wanted nothing more than to make her husband happy.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Annie began teaching music in Brooklyn and was earning a substantial amount of money.  While Henry was out to sea she had moved into a fashionable boarding house, was wearing stylish clothes, and frequented popular cafes and theatres with men who were anxious to escort her to any and every event.  Again, Captain Sumner approached his sister to discuss the idea of leading a more “quiet life.”  Annie insisted that Henry approved of the way she was living and to stay out of her affairs.  Captain Sumner then turned to his sister, Lucy in hopes that she would intervene.  

Several years past before Captain Sumner saw either of his siblings.  A series of voyages kept him away.  Annie was thirty-two when he came home on leave in New York.  “She was still teaching music,” Captain Sumner informed Pinkerton.  “She dressed as elegantly as ever and seemed very complacent and contented…  We strolled through the park for a time and then seated ourselves in a quiet spot.”  During their conversation Annie broke the news to her brother that she and Henry had separated.  She explained that Henry had become overly strict with her and demanded that she change.  Heated words were exchanged and he walked out.  Annie did not know where Henry was nor had she heard from him since their argument.  

When Captain Sumner pointed out to Annie that her careless actions were to blame for her marital troubles she broke into tears.  She confessed that the disagreement she and Henry had was over the fact that she was keeping company with a particular gentleman.  Henry was jealous and flew into a violent rage.  Annie wanted her husband back but didn’t know how to reach him and didn’t know if he would ever return.  

“My next voyage was to the East Indies,” Captain Sumner told Pinkerton.  “I made inquiries about Henry at every port, and asked the crew aboard every vessel I met at sea, but no one could tell me anything about Henry.  It became evident that he had not only left the service of the company he worked for, but that he had disappeared from all localities where he was known.”

Annie was happy to see her brother when he returned to her home after months of searching, but she wasn’t alone.  She was entertaining a man named Alonzo Pattmore.  The two had been spending a great deal of time together.  He was a politician and the owner of a hotel in Greenville, Ohio.  He made frequent trips to the New York area where he had met Annie.  He often accompanied her to the opera and various soirees.  She had even traveled to see him in Ohio a time or two.  Captain Sumner reported to Pinkerton that Pattmore was roughly forty-five years of age, well-mannered, and well-dressed.  “His eyes were large and black but rather snaky,” he added.  Annie declined to listen to anything about Captain Sumner’s quest to acquire information about Henry’s whereabouts.  She excused herself and went to the theatre with Pattmore.  

Appalled at her behavior, the Captain determined he could not let his sister fall any further into what he perceived was a dangerous situation.  He was now fifty years old and set his sights on buying a farm and living out the rest of his life in the country.  He believed if he had a grand home he could persuade Annie to relocate with him.  She would be away from the city and temptation and could possibly abandon her impetuous ways.  A letter from Lucy assured the Captain that Annie needed to be saved.  Lucy had learned that Pattmore was married and had three children.  Further involvement with Pattmore would only lead to scandal and ruin.  By the time Captain Sumner settled his affairs, purchased the farm, and moved, Annie had accepted a teaching position at a school in Greenville and was reasonably certain she would never leave.

Captain Sumner wrote his sister to invite her to live with him.  He promised he would provide for her every need and want, and that even when he was gone from the world he would provide generously for her care.  Annie didn’t want to leave in the middle of a school year and she pleaded with him to visit with her in Ohio.  The captain happily obliged.  During his brief stay with his sister, Captain Sumner learned she was pregnant.  He chastised her for her behavior but promised the sorted affair would be forgotten if she left Pattmore.  Annie became defensive and declared her undying love for the father of her child.  She told her brother that she and Pattmore planned to marry as soon as his wife died.  The fact that Mrs. Pattmore’s wife wasn’t ill or hadn’t been diagnosed with any terminal disease hadn’t stop them from talking about the woman as though she was soon to expire, or from making wedding arrangements.  

Captain Sumner was livid.  He argued with Annie and was finally able to persuade her that she had made a horrible mistake.  She didn’t want the humiliation of having a child outside of wedlock and decided it would be best to end the relationship with Pattmore.  The captain agreed and took his sister to his home near Chicago.  She had an abortion in the city and spent time recovering at his house.  She cried all the time and pleaded with her brother to find Pattmore and bring him to her.  Against his better judgement the captain did as his sister asked.  While at Annie’s bedside, Pattmore shared with her news of his political aspirations and of his wife’s sudden declining health.  Pattmore predicted she would die soon.  Annie made a speedy recovery and informed her brother that it was her deepest desire to marry Pattmore, and “enjoy the gay life in the nation’s capital.”  

Captain Sumner reminded Annie about her husband Henry, but she refused to discuss him.  She wanted only to discuss wills.  She told her brother that everyone who owns property should have a will and pressed him into having one drawn.  Captain Sumner had promised all he had to Annie, but she believed that promise needed to be in writing.  As he was hopelessly dedicated to making certain Annie could maintain a quality life after he was gone, the captain complied with her wishes.  

A few short days after having received the signed and notarized document, Annie asked if she could read it.  Captain Sumner didn’t refuse her request.  “She seemed very much pleased at this,” the Captain shared with Pinkerton.  “She said I was a dear, good brother, but she hoped it might be a long time before she should become heir to my property.”

To reward her brother for his decision, Annie retrieved a bottle of ale from the cabinet and poured a glass for both of them.  Thirty minutes after Captain Sumner drank the glass of ale he became violently ill.  The following morning he was feeling better physically, but couldn’t shake the idea that his life was in danger.  The hue in the opal ring he was wearing had changed slightly.  The captain, who was a superstitious person, took the discoloration as an omen that he would soon die.  Pinkerton could see nothing strange about the ring, but there was no mistaking that Captain Sumner was shaken.  

“Mr. Pinkerton, I have positive knowledge that Annie has attempted to poison me three times,” Captain Sumner confessed to the detective.  “After putting poison in the ale; she afterwards gave me some in a cup of coffee and, the third time, it was administered so secretly, that I do not know when I took it.  The third time, I nearly died, and it was only by the prompt attendance of a physician that I was saved.  He said it was a metal poison which probably came off a copper kettle.”

The captain bravely confronted his sister about his suspicions.  She denied the charge at first, but after her brother told her about the change in his ring she confessed.  She too was incredibly superstitious.  Annie begged her brother to forgive her.  She was so remorseful and upset over what she’d done she collapsed and had to be taken to her bed.  Before Annie fainted she told the captain that Pattmore had convinced her to try and kill him.  “He reiterated to Annie that he would marry her when his wife was dead,” Captain Sumner explained to Pinkerton.  She wouldn’t say if Pattmore was poisoning his wife.  Captain Sumner needed Pinkerton’s help to catch Pattmore and save his sister.  Pinkerton agreed to take the unusual case.  It seemed unlikely to Pinkerton that Annie would say anything that might incriminate Pattmore and Captain Sumner would object to any attempt to force her to do so.  Although Annie had admitted to being weak, vain, and thoughtless, and that she’d had been unfaithful to her husband, the captain would not allow her to be arrested for infidelity.  Pinkerton’s first order of business was to prevent any harm from coming to Mrs. Pattmore.  Before Pinkerton could send an agent to protect Pattmore’s wife he received word came that the woman had died.

Pinkerton was sure Annie knew more than she had told her brother about the attempts made on the captain’s life and what caused Mrs. Pattmore’s death.  “She could tell all of Pattmore’s secrets,” Pinkerton wrote in the case file.  “It would be easier to get the truth out of Annie than Pattmore,” he surmised.  Calling upon the information the Captain gave him about Annie’s superstitious streak, Pinkerton decided to take advantage of that trait to get her to confess.  “I should entrust the case to one of my female detectives,” he noted in his report.  “She would be posted upon all points of Annie’s history; she would be required to learn enough of astrology, clairvoyance, and mesmerism to pass for one of the genuine tribe.”  

The plan was for Annie to visit Kate who would portray a fortune teller.  Kate would gain the woman’s complete trust by revealing what she knew of her background.  Annie would then tell all she knew about Pattmore as a means of helping Kate to read her future.

Pinkerton asked Captain Sumner to help him set the trap.  With his assistance they could show Annie how vile a person Pattmore was and the hold he had on her might loosen forever.  The captain was to have a quarrel with Annie and during the argument burn the will he had drafted while she watched.  He was to tell her that he had made a new will leaving everything to Lucy.  Pinkerton reasoned that Annie would be so furious with the captain’s decision she would try to harm him again.

In addition to assigning Kate to the case, Pinkerton used an operative Kate had trained named Miss Seaton to assist.  Miss Seaton’s job was to meet and befriend Annie and ultimately persuade her to visit fortune teller L. L. Lucille.  Miss Seaton made Annie’s acquaintance at the post office after noticing Annie retrieving a letter from the postmaster.  Annie was crumpling the letter in her hand when Miss Seaton introduced herself.  She seemed upset by what she’d read.  Word was sent to an operative named Miller shadowing Pattmore to pay attention to the mail Pattmore received and from where it was sent.  In a week’s time Pattmore received four letters from Chicago.

While Miss Seaton and Annie were becoming friends and the operative was keeping tabs on Pattmore, Pinkerton traveled to Greenville, Ohio, to speak with the coroner and persuade him to exhume Mrs. Pattmore’s body to determine if she had been poisoned.  With the help of two additional agents, Pinkerton was able to get Mrs. Pattmore’s remains disinterred and arrange for an inquest.  

Pattmore was nervous and annoyed when he heard the news about what was to be done to his deceased wife’s remains.  Miller followed the widower to the hotel he owned and witnessed him write out a quick note, place it in an envelope, and deliver it to the post office.  Once Pattmore was out of sight, the agent pulled the letter from the drop-box.  The letter was addressed to Mrs. Annie Thayer in Chicago, Illinois.  The agent opened and read the letter.  Pattmore warned Annie that a rumor had been started by his political enemies he had poisoned his wife.  He wanted to let her know there was to be an inquest and not to worry by what she might read in the newspapers.  Pattmore signed the correspondence, “Ever Your Loving and Devoted Husband.”  The way Pattmore closed the letter made Pinkerton curious as to whether or not Pattmore and Annie had committed bigamy.  Pinkerton decided to investigate that particular matter further.  

Pattmore was uneasy and agitated the day the results of the examination of his late wife were revealed at the courthouse.  According to the Pinkerton operative, Pattmore frequently tugged at his collar and fidgeted in his chair while waiting.  He seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when the coroner and physician announced that Mrs. Pattmore’s death was the result of dysentery.  Pinkerton and his team were not satisfied that those conducting the autopsy were not bribed by Pattmore.  Unbeknownst to Pattmore, Pinkerton operatives hired a doctor of their own to extract contents from Mrs. Pattmore’s stomach and test it for poison.

Meanwhile, back in Chicago, Miss Seaton and Annie had become fast friends, but Annie still had not taken Miss Seaton into her confidence.  Miss Seaton reported to Kate Warne that apart from two trips a day to the post office Annie rarely went anywhere.  Miss Seaton had been able to examine the contents of Annie’s trunks and found numerous letters from Pattmore dating back several years.  Kate made a mental note of everything Miss Seaton learned about Annie, from the woman’s visits to the drug store to her trouble sleeping.  The information proved to be useful at the right time.  

One afternoon Miss Seaton met Annie to go on a walk and found her looking over Tarot cards spread out in front of her.  She asked Annie what her fortune looked like and Annie shared that she didn’t really know how to read the cards, but did so want to know what the future held for her.  Miss Seaton told her about L. L. Lucille and suggested they plan to stop at the soothsayer’s studio.  

When Miss Seaton and Annie arrived at the mystic’s place of business they found her standing beside a table under a peculiar light.  Annie was taken aback at first, but when Lucille stretched out her hand and bid the woman to step forward she became more at ease.  Lucille directed Annie to a massive cushioned chair and invited her to have a seat.  

According to Pinkerton’s notes on the case, Lucille took a seat opposite Annie.  “What would you like to know, my child?” Lucille asked.  “State your errand quickly as my time is short to unfold the mysteries of the future.  Like the wandering Jew, I must forever advance upon my mission.  What do you seek to know?”  Annie told her, “I’ve come to learn my future.”

The performance Kate Warne delivered as L. L. Lucille was inspired. She asked leading questions that Annie would answer politely.  Lucille then responded with lengthy soliloquys that included pertinent information about Annie’s past, family, and close friends.  The details, times, places, and circumstances were so exact that Annie was at a loss as to what to say.  She sincerely believed Lucille acquired all the specifics telepathically.  

Lucille spoke of Annie’s upbringing, parents, siblings, lover, and husband.  She told Annie that the husband she thought was gone forever would soon return.  If that prediction wasn’t enough she shared with the shaken woman what she knew about her troubles with an older woman.  The woman she was referring to was Mrs. Pattmore.  “She constantly crosses paths with you,” Lucille said, slipping in and out of a trance.  “Why does she act so?  What is the matter with her?  She is often interfering with you, but is always followed by that man; he must be her enemy.  See!  A shadow falls over her!  What does it mean?!  She fades away and vanishes.  It must be death!”

“Death!” shrieked Annie, as she fell backward and fainted.  

Miss Seaton helped revive Annie and escorted her out of the business and home.  Annie was alarmed and frazzled.  She was convinced Lucille was the genuine article and once she regained her composure admitted to Miss Seaton how desperately she needed to return to the fortune teller.  

A few days prior to Annie’s initial visit to Lucille’s, Pinkerton’s operatives in the Far East tracked Henry Thayer to a shipping line he commanded in the South Seas.  Henry hoped traveling would make him forget Annie, but it had not.  Lucille would use the news to her advantage.

Miss Seaton and Annie’s next visit with Lucille was just as emotional for the young woman as the first.  Annie was seated across from Lucille and the fortune teller stared her straight in the eye for several moments.  “There is some peculiar influence about you which prevents a clear reading of your future,” Lucille explained to Annie.  

“Even your past, though much of it easily determined, seems obscured by strange inconsistencies – not to say impossibilities.  Some of the results were so startling as to make it necessary for me to refuse to reveal them until by a second test I can decide whether there was no mistake in the solution of certain calculations.  Tonight, therefore, I shall do what rarely is necessary in reading the horoscope of ordinary humans – I must invoke the aide of my progenitor and master, Hermes.”

According to Lucille, Hermes was an ancient King who could help her see Annie’s future clearly.  Annie was spellbound by Lucille and hung on every word she said.  Lucille suddenly began to speak in a weird earnestness, and had a faraway look in her eyes, as if she actually realized the presence of ghouls and goblins.  Annie was terrified, but said nothing, and Lucille continued.  

“There has been with you frequently, during your past years, a man some years older than yourself.  He appears to have been a sailor; and, though often away from you, he has always sought you out on his return.  He loves you, and is undoubtedly your true friend; his is unmarried, yet he does not wish to make you his wife.  He wears a peculiar ring which he obtained in the East Indies.  He often consults this ring, and it informs him whether he is in danger or the reverse.  You do not love this sailor as well as he loves you, and he wishes to remove you from the other man.  He does this to protect you.

“I cannot understand the actions of the woman whom I mentioned yesterday; I cannot tell whether she is living or dead.  The man you love has been with her; he gave her something in a spoon, which she was forced to take.  Ah!  I see!  It was a medicine, a white powder – and now begins the obscurity.  Further on, I see that he visited you; you ran to meet him and plied him with caresses.  If he were your husband it would partly clear away the cloud.  Is it so?”

“Yes,” Annie replied, “he is my husband.”

As the session continued Annie wanted to know more.  Lucille conveyed to her that she couldn’t go on unless Annie was completely forth coming about everything.  Any unconfessed deeds prevented the seer from seeing.  Annie agreed to hold nothing back.  Lucille let the whereabouts of Henry be known and questioned her about the other man she married in his absence.  Annie was frightened and confessed to marrying Alonzo Pattmore in a private ceremony shortly after she became convinced that Henry was dead.  Annie broke down and sobbed.  “I have been very wicked, I know,” she lamented.

According to Pinkerton, Annie returned a third time to see Lucille to learn what she needed to do to make amends for what she had done.  She also wanted to know what she could do to ensure she could be happy moving ahead.  Lucille explained that the only way to make things right and ensure a future filled with peace was to reunite with her “sailor husband” and abandon the notion of poisoning her brother.  Annie burst into tears.  She admitted to having the poison, but said now she was going to use the poison to kill herself and not her brother.

Annie was on the verge of telling how Pattmore killed his wife, but great sobs kept her from speaking.  “You are involved with someone who does not return the affections of a true husband,” the sibyl continued as she studied Annie’s palm.  

“This man loves you only for selfish, sensual purposes; he will fondle you as a plaything for a few years, and then he will cast you off for a younger and more handsome rival, even as he has already put away his first wife for your sake.  If you cannot give him up now, some day he will throw you aside or trample you under foot.  When he wearies of you, have you any doubt that he will murder you as he has already murdered his wife?”

According to Pinkerton’s writings, Lucille had spoken in a rapid, sibilant whisper, leaning forward so as to bring her eyes directly before Annie’s face, and the effect was electrical.

“Yes, the heartless villain murdered his wife by poisoning her.  I can see it all as it occurred; it is a dreadful scene, yet I know that it must be true – a woman of middle age is lying in bed; she has evidently been very handsome, but now she shows signs of a long illness; your lover, her husband, enters, and he wishes to give her some medicine; but see, she motions him away, though she is unable to speak; she must know that he is going to poison her; yet she cannot help herself, and the nurse does not suspect his design.  Now he has given her the poison, and she is writhing in an agony of pain.  She is dead, and her husband is her murderer.”

“Oh!  For God’s sake, spare me, spare me!”  Annie exclaimed between her sobs.  

Lucille explained that there was only one sure way to be saved and that was for Annie to confess what she knew to a court of law.  Lucille warned her of the sad fate that awaited her if she ever decided to see the “blackheart” again.  She told Annie that she needed to tell the whole truth about her association with Alonzo Pattmore to a mysterious man who has secretly been following her.  “He has great power, and if you follow his counsel he can save you from harm,” Lucille added.

When the session with the fortune teller had ended Annie left the office still crying over what had transpired.  Allan Pinkerton approached her on the street and introduced himself as the one who had been keeping an eye on her.  Annie recognized him immediately as the one Lucille spoke of and didn’t hesitate to accompany him to his office.  Through broken tears Annie told Pinkerton the whole truth about her difficulties.  Her story began with how happy she was when she and Henry first married.  She was lonely during his long voyages at sea and it was during one of those lonely, vulnerable times that she met Pattmore.  Pattmore was lonely too and despondent over what to do about his wife.  He felt he was wasting his life with a woman he didn’t really love.  Annie and Pattmore had an affair and she became pregnant.  Shortly after the pregnancy was terminated, Pattmore convinced Annie they needed to kill all those who stood in the way of them being happy.  He would kill his wife and Annie was to do away with her brother.

Annie was broken hearted over her actions and begged for forgiveness.  Captain Sumner had no intentions of pressing charges against his sister, but Pattmore was in danger of being charged with murder.  Pinkerton released Annie into Captain Sumner’s custody and promised all would go well for her if she stayed and devoted herself to change.  

Physicians in Ohio found large traces of poison in Mrs. Pattmore’s bowels.  Pattmore was arrest, tried, and found guilty of murder.  He was sentenced to ten year in prison.

Henry Thayer returned home to Annie and they reconciled.  The couple had two children and eventually moved to China where Henry became a partner in a wealthy shipping firm.  Captain Sumner kept Pinkerton apprised of his sister’s remarkable reversal of fortune and sited the skilled operatives at the Pinkerton Detective Agency with the happy ending.  

The case of the murderer and the fortune teller was the last known case Kate Warne worked.  She died on January 28, 1868.  Historians such as Daniel Stashower believed she succumbed to a “lingering illness.”  News of her passing was covered in newspapers from Pennsylvania to France.  According to the March 21, 1868, edition of the Philadelphia Press, Kate was not a member of any church, but she was “buried with all the Christian graces.”  The article praised her strength and devotion to her job.  “She was quick to perceive and prompt to act; she proved that females are useful in a sphere to which the wants of society have long been loath to assign them,” the Philadelphia Press report noted.  “As she lived, so she died, a fearless, pure, and devoted woman.”  

Kate is buried at the Graceland Cemetery in Chicago alongside other Pinkerton operatives.