A Retrieved Reformation Questions and Answers
by O. Henry

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How does Ben Price know Jimmy?

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Madeleine Wells eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Ben Price knows Jimmy as a wily thief with well-honed skills in safe-breaking.

It was Ben Price who arrested Jimmy years before. Jimmy had been sentenced to four years in prison. However, he only stayed for ten months. Jimmy himself expected to be in prison for only three months. The text hints that Jimmy got out early because of his impeccable connections to influential people.

After Jimmy got out of prison, he briefly returned to his life of crime. He reportedly broke open a safe in Richmond, Indiana and absconded with eight hundred dollars. Next, he broke open a safe in Logansport and took fifteen hundred dollars. Finally, after he took five thousand dollars from a safe in Jefferson City, Ben Price was called in to investigate.

Of course, Ben Price recognized the hallmark's of Jimmy's work immediately. Price maintained that Jimmy was the only man who had the tools and the knowledge to break open seemingly impenetrable vaults. Essentially, Ben Price recognized Jimmy's work from experience.

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Ben Price is a highly experienced detective. He's known about Jimmy Valentine for years. Jimmy's an infamous safe-cracker, and he has a very specific modus operandi, or way of working, that's become his trade-mark. Years before, Ben had arrested Jimmy in a room above Mike's restaurant, the room where Jimmy returns after his release from prison. Ben's certain that since his release, Jimmy's been up to his old tricks again. At the scene of his latest crime, all the old signs of Jimmy's handiwork are there: it was a clean, easy job, and only Jimmy Valentine could have used the tools necessary to crack open this safe.

Ben Price clearly has a good reputation as a detective. We know this because the narrator tells us that people with safes full of money were glad to hear that Ben Price was at work trying to catch Jimmy. Although Jimmy refers to Ben as "my old friend" in the letter he sends him, the relationship between the two men appears to be strictly professional.

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