So, last year, as the Pandemic settled in like an unwanted relative who just came for a week and is still tying up the bathroom, I did a series of posts for the FB Page of the Nero Wolfe fan club, The Wolfe Pack. I speculated on what Stay at Home would be like for Archie, living in the Brownstone with Nero Wolfe, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Horstmann. I have already re-posted days one through thirty. Here is day thirty one (April 20). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.
Day Thirty One – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)
During breakfast, Fritz told me that some items were becoming scarce, or even no longer available. Granted, we didn’t exactly buy off-the-shelf goods from chain supermarkets. But it was inevitable that some things would become harder to find. Especially since Wolfe’s taste ran to imported items. Fritz assured me we were well-stocked with Greek honey.
Milk can still be found, but he did say that once in while he might have to try two or three stores. I thanked him for his efforts to keep calcium supplies up. He said that with more and more meat processing plant workers getting sick, fresh meat was soon going to become more scarce. I told him I knew that he’d do his best, but Wolfe would just have to adapt, like the rest of us. He certainly would complain about it, though.
Wolfe knew it wouldn’t be worth the trouble from me to deny my request to get out and do some detective work, so he agreed, for this one instance.
At 8:30 in the morning, I had a phone call with Del Bascom. He filled me in on the stolen supplies issue, and he gave me the directory and password to look at the case file online. 100,000 N95 masks were part of the goods missing, and that was what he wanted me to look into. I declined his offer of agency operatives, for now, at least. I did get an okay from him to all in Fred Durkin, if I deemed that necessary.
The masks had come in by ship and were unloaded at the docks. In fact, not very far from the docks where I first worked when I came to New York. They were supposed to go to area hospitals, but they disappeared their first night on shore. The high grade masks were in high demand. Desperate hospital heads, nursing home operators, warehouse owners – they were all begging for them.
Bringing a mask and gloves, I drove to the scene. Taking a cab these days was not an option. I’d need a hazmat suit. I parked in front of a small building, suited up, and went inside. A middle-aged brunette in a mask was typing on a computer. There was nobody else in the area, let alone within six feet. I introduced myself and my mission, and asked to see the manager. Which is how I found myself talking to Matthew Bick.
He had called the police after he found the items missing. Of course, the cops are pretty busy these days. And even though masks are high profile, the company felt more urgency was needed. So, they called the Bascom agency. Bick said that of course, things got stolen at the docks. But it looked bad, losing that many masks, with the newspaper headlines these days. And he’d heard about other protective gear disappearing from the docks. He didn’t want to get hit again. He’d tried beefing up security, but the area was a breeding ground for the virus.
He took me to the warehouse the items had been stolen from. He said he was doing the work of three people these days, and left me there. I poked around, but I didn’t find anything useful. Clearly, the items were gone. Not much gets by me.
Normally, I’d nose around the bars in the surrounding neighborhoods and see what I could learn. There’s talk. But in a ‘carry-out only’ time, that’s no good. I decided to try an even seedier source.
“How’s my favorite muckraker?”
“Busy. And I don’t like online poker. I can’t see you cheating.”
I had called Lon Cohen, looking for anything related to crime at the docks. “You haven’t caught me when you were sitting across from me.”
“Your day will come, you con man. Why are you calling me when I’m trying to convince this city that The Times is not God’s voice on the pandemic?”
I laughed. “Yeah, good luck with that!”
“Right? Okay, what do you want? Seriously. I’m busy.”
“Have you heard anything related to medical supplies, or other notable things, going missing down at the docks?”
“What’s the matter over there? Nero Wolfe run out of beer and had to take on a case?” He paused. “Wait a minute…”
“Don’t get your hopes up. There’s no headline here. We’ve still got enough beer to float that navy hospital ship in the harbor. I got tired of knitting, so I took a job for Del Bascom.”
“Frankly, I’m surprised you lasted that long. Cooped up 24/7 with Nero Wolfe? Even with Fritz in the kitchen, no thank you.”
‘You may call me Saint Archibald Goodwinus.”
He laughed. “You? A saint?” He laughed again. Okay, point made…
“You want to help, or you want to crack wise?
“You have to ask?”
“Well, help me anyways.”
“Things are always getting stolen everywhere in this town, as you know.”
The end result of my call was to find out Lon hadn’t heard about a specific group stealing medical supplies, but he’d ask around. I thanked him and asked about our next round of online poker. I told him I’d let him know.
I forgot to mention that Felix called yesterday. He said that the article in the paper provided a big boost. Not just when it ran on Friday, but yesterday as well. I told him it was all part of being the Trustee’s assistant. I hoped it would last a few more days.
Since we watched China Clipper last night, I thought I’d let Fritz see Pat O’Brien in a classic. We watched We’re No Angels, with O’Brien, James Cagney, Bogie, and the Dead End Kids. Now, Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, and the rest are better known as The Bowery Boys. But they didn’t start out funny. They were the rough street youth on Broadway in We’re No Angels. They were kept on board for the movie, and that started them on a successful film career.
Fritz commented on Cagney’s nobility in turning coward at the end of the film, to try and set the Kids on the right path, at O’Brien’s urging. If that was a spoiler, then you really should have squeezed this classic in some time over the past eighty-three years. While I much prefer Bogart, Jimmy Cagney could play a heck of a tough guy. And he could act, as I’ll show Fritz with The Roaring Twenties.
Stay at Home
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 1 and 2
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home- Days 3 and 4
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home- Days 5, 6, and 7
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home- Days 8, 9, and 10
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home- Days 11, 12, and 13
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home Days 14 and 15
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home Days 16 and 17
Nero Wolfe’s Browsnstone: Stay at Home – Days 18 and 19
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 20 and 21
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 22 and 23
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 24 and 25
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 26
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 27
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Days 28 and 29
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: Stay at Home – Day 30
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: No Voting Day
Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone
3 Good Reasons
The Greenstreet Chronicles (Pastiches based on the Radio Show)
Bob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made it’s Black Gate debut in the summer of 2018 and returned in 2019 and 2020. Bet on a 2021 sighting.
His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017. And he irregularly posts on Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective in ‘Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone.’
He organized ‘Hither Came Conan,’ as well as Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series.
He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.
He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI and XXI.
He has written introductions for Steeger Books, and appeared in several magazines, including Black Mask, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, and Sherlock Magazine.