The Irene Chronicles. Part II. The Girl Bandit Confesses

Read part 1 of this tale: The Girl in the Blackbird Hat

Detectives with the Oakland police force were interviewing Irene Johnson, a 23-year-old woman who had just confessed to armed robbery to prove she was brave.

The detectives pressed Irene to say more.

“Bert saved me from a gang of opium slavers when I fell under the influence of a rich drug fiend,” the young woman told them.

The police blinked, seemingly stunned into silence.

Miss Johnson was enjoying herself enormously. She backed up to tell the police the whole story. “I was in Oakland with the Jack Bollnippart Players, which is a road show, two years ago. In an Oakland hotel I fell into the hands of a drug addict.” She leaned forward. “Finally I consented to use—just a little bit—and one night while I was under the influence of drugs, my wealthy friend was about to sell me to a Chinese who conducts an opium den in Oakland.”

Poor Irene! It was the sort of situation anyone could find themselves in.

“It was Bert who was the man called to take me to the opium den. Instead, he fell in love with me and took me to Sacramento. We were going to get married, but this puts an end to our plans for the present.”

Irene Johnson


One of the policemen asked Miss Johnson about her family. “My parents are in Oregon, and I have failed to advise them of my whereabouts.”

Irene returned to her story. “Several days ago Bert said that he wanted me to take part in a holdup in Richmond,” she said. It was a real shock to her. “I pleaded with him not to lead a life of crime. At that time, I did not realize that he was ever in jail before.” She smiled innocently at the police, and admitted she had initially refused Bert’s offer to participate in the robbery.  Then her face darkened. “My refusal caused him to be indifferent and he did not show me as much affection. Finally I asked him the trouble and he told me that I was yellow.’’

Bert’s accusation of cowardice deeply wounded Irene. “I resolved to make a desperate attempt to win his love back. I wanted to prove to him that I was not yellow. Saturday afternoon I took a revolver and went to the place that Bert had planned a robbing. He didn’t believe that I was going to pull the trick.” Miss Johnson’s eyes lit up as she recalled the incident. “He followed me in and I pulled the job lone-handed. Just as I was leaving the place Bert stepped in and patted me on the back and said: ‘Irene, you’re a wonder.’”

“This is the first time that I ever committed a job. I did not know that Bert ever committed one.”

headline from the San Francisco Examiner


The police exchanged glances. “You committed armed robbery to prove you were brave?”

Miss Johnson nodded. Apparently, she decided more context was necessary. “I have traveled to Mexico with my father, where I learned that this world is no place for yellow people,” she explained. “I learned to use a gun and rope horses, and since that time I’ve always wanted excitement.”

In response to hints that both she and Bert were likely to face jail time, Irene brushed aside this detail. “After we are freed Bert and I will marry,” she said rapturously. “I was married once before, but I think this marriage will be more successful.”

The police had been forming an opinion that Irene Johnson was a flighty girl under the spell of Bert Garrett, but the information that she was married put a different light on things. They questioned her closely about her marriage. Irene refused to give the name of her husband and only declared he was “prominent in Oregon.”

Irene said she planned to contact her father to ask for his help in getting her out of trouble. But he would have to assure her that she could marry Garrett when he is released.

What are the odds that Irene quietly served her prison sentence and was released to lead a useful life in the community? Not too good? I’ll tell you a little more of her story soon.

In the meantime, make sure you enter the drawing to win a signed copy of my new book, Grievous Deeds! The winner will be chosen at midnight on St. Patrick’s Day!

And here’s the latest installment: An Eventful Stay at the County Jail