Why do Sam and Bill need two thousand dollars?  

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In "The Ransom of Red Chief ," Sam, the narrator, and his sidekick, Bill Driscoll, are petty criminals. They seem to make their living by moving from place to place, choosing areas where the law enforcement is not particularly strong. At the time the story opens, the two are...

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In "The Ransom of Red Chief," Sam, the narrator, and his sidekick, Bill Driscoll, are petty criminals. They seem to make their living by moving from place to place, choosing areas where the law enforcement is not particularly strong. At the time the story opens, the two are in in Southern Alabama near a town called Summit. Their next major crime they want to pull off is a "fraudulent town-lot scheme in Western Illinois." This plan is not explained in any more detail than this. However, to pull off the crime requires a $2,600 investment. They currently have $600, so they need to "raise" $2000 more.

What might the "fraudulent town-lot scheme" entail? Presumably a new town was being laid out in Western Illinois. If the lots cost, say, $260 each, they could purchase ten lots. Then they could sell each lot to several different people, so they could potentially triple or quadruple their money over a period of a few weeks. The idea is that by the time the buyers realize that multiple people have purchased the same lot, Sam and Bill would have moved on to their next scheme. Whether this land scheme would have worked as they envisioned it is unknown, but given the unexpected way their kidnapping venture played out, perhaps Sam and Bill should consider going straight.

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