Sam, the narrator of the story, seems to be the brains of the pair. He's the one who arranges to be the person who goes into town to determine the reaction to the kidnapping of the boy and who develops the plan for collecting the ransom. Bill suffers the larger amount of abuse from Johnny as he is hit by a thrown brick, nearly scalped, struck by a rock propelled by Johnny's slingshot, and ridden like a horse.
The partners are habitual criminals in need of funds in order to pull off their next major project.
Bill and me had a joint capital of about six hundred dollars, and we needed just two thousand dollars more to pull off a fraudulent town-lot scheme in Western Illinois with.
Their inspiration was to raise that additional money by kidnapping and collecting ransom money for "the only child of a prominent citizen named Ebenezer Dorset." After the scheme went completely awry and the pair had paid Ebenezer to take back Johnny, Bill proved to be the faster runner.
as dark as it was, and as fat as Bill was, and as good a runner as I am, he was a good mile and a half out of Summit before I could catch up with him.