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 are days thirty two (April 21) and thirty three (April 23). It helps if you read the series in order, so I’ve included links to the earlier entries.
DAY THIRTY TWO – 2020 Stay At Home
I saw the death totals today. New York is number one, hands down. We’ve had more deaths than the next fourteen states combined. Seven out of every hundred people confirmed to have the virus, die from it. So I won’t be taking any taxi rides just yet. Or hopping on the subway.
While I admit I miss my twice-a-week session at the barbershop – preferably on days without a cop murder on site – I don’t see the need to increase somebody else’s risk of dying because I’m not happy with my sideburns. I do look forward to getting shoe shines again, though I am more than capable of doing my own.
And by the way: don’t think that Lily and I are drifting apart. We call every other day. I just don’t see the need to jot that down regularly.
It took a couple days, and some help from Fred, who was all too happy to get out of the house, but I found the missing medical masks for Bascom. Turns out there wasn’t some local gangster behind it. Though I initially thought that it was one named Chip Gurney; I don’t think we’ll ever be friends now.
Thanks to my efforts, one of the local hospitals needs a new second-in-command. He boosted the shipment from the docks to sell to a connection in the black market. Those N-95 masks are gold. Some of the masks were for doctors and nurses in his own hospital. It takes all kinds.
Fred and I got involved in a little rough and tumble when we went to recover some of the missing supplies. Over half of it had already been unloaded, but we still recovered quite a bit. Those are just the high points. I may write that one up some day, including a conversation I had with Wolfe. He won’t admit it, but he was curious, not having worked on a case in months now.
The Heron was running a little clunky when I took it out to the docks. Probably from sitting unused for nearly a month. Not surprisingly, the place where I got it repaired wasn’t overly busy and I ran it over. They tuned the engine and it was back to normal. I kept more than six feet away, but it was nice to converse in person with somebody other than the usual suspects.
At dinner, Wolfe talked about the agreements some states are forming with each other to work on reopening together. He pointed out that they can certainly be viewed as violating Article 1, Section 10, of the Constitution, which says, ‘No state shall, without the consent of Congress…enter into any agreement, or compact, with another state..’ Seems like he’s got a point there.
We had another online poker game tonight. We skipped the player windows altogether and the game ran more smoothly. No lag. Lon and I ran about even, a little ahead of Saul. We let the game run a fourth hand. Even at the highest setting, it was over matched. Might have been suitable for Orrie. And it was one less person to talk with. I’ll rustle up a fourth next time.
Saul was doing some reading and studying up on some ancient history he’d been meaning to get around to. He told me that Bascom was happy with my job with the masks and he had more work for me when I wanted it.
I said, “Del was glad to have a professional working for him. Finally.” I was disappointed that Saul couldn’t see my grin. Which turned into a grimace after he called and took the pot over my three kings.
Lon was glad to hear that the Rusterman’s piece earned him another meal from Fritz. He was also looking forward to bringing Pat. She was an assertive woman with definite views. Perfect dinner company for Wolfe.
DAY THIRTY THREE – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)
Cramer called with some news on the Spaulding murder. It turns out that his sister was a nurse at the hospital that Keibel, the mask thief, worked at. She had complained to her brother about the shortage of safety supplies, and that odd rumors were floating around about them. Spaulding had done a little asking around and he heard a few bits of info at the docks. Remember, he was a merchant marine.
He didn’t like what he was learning and he was on his way to ask Wolfe to investigate. Kiebel had apparently found out that Spaulding was about to upset the apple cart. I don’t know how – maybe I’ll ask Cramer about that later. But he followed Spaulding right to our place. He stabbed him on the sidewalk and fled. Stealing those masks isn’t going to be Keibel’s biggest problem.
“You will need to drive to Mister Hewitt’s after lunch. He has cultivated a new strain of Cymbidium. There are four pots; be careful with them.”
Wolfe dropped that unexpected surprise on me this morning as he was counting bottle caps in his desk drawer. A drive upstate to Hewitt’s place, with almost no traffic, was actually a bit appealing. But as with the laundry incident, this cavalier attitude of sending me out into the virus-plagued world on a whim, needed checked. I swiveled to face him.
“No sir, I will not need to do that.”
He looked up from his beer tally. “And why not?”
“Since you won’t, and usually don’t, go outside, you discount the dangers of this pandemic.”
I had his attention. “I acknowledge that there are things which need doing. And various reasons for me to go out.”
“But we’re in a lockdown for a reason. That’s why we can’t just go eat at Rusterman’s. Staying at home is more important than a lot of things we would otherwise do.”
“You drive to Mister Hewitt’s, get the orchids, and return. It is a simple affair.”
“To you, sure. You’ll be here. Hewitt’s gardener could cough on me. The car could break down and I might need to hang out in a dirty garage. They might have infected the outside of the pots.”
“We must all endure the vagaries of life. We cannot simply cease living based on minor potentialities.”
His self-absorption really could be epic. “Yeah. A lot of ‘vagaries’ happen to you sitting in that chair? And ‘we’ aren’t going upstate, are ‘we’?”
I frowned at him. “I will acknowledge everything doesn’t have to come to a standstill these days. But you do not need those flowers today. The virus isn’t declining yet. They can stay at Hewitt’s for another few weeks.”
Wolfe had never managed to stare me down. I was immune to that weapon in his arsenal. I looked right back at him with a ‘Now what?’ expression.
“Very well. If this order is lifted in a few weeks, w shall both travel there and dine with him.”
I agreed and thanked him. He could have started a fight, had he wanted to. And I would have given him one.
Movie night with Fritz. He’s not tired of Bogie yet, and I never am, so I treated him to The Big Sleep. The script is a mess, but that doesn’t really matter. Bogart is perfect tough guy Philip Marlowe. I’ll secretly admit I prefer Dick Powell and Powers Boothe, but it’s still a great performance. And having Lauren Bacall and Martha Vickers doesn’t hurt, either. Fritz gets points for recognizing Elisha Cook, Jr. from The Maltese Falcon. Cook was a fine actor. He didn’t like the Hollywood scene at all. So, he lived way out in the hills and when they wanted him for a part, they sent him a letter and he came down to town. With over 200 hundred credits, they sent him a lot of letters.
And if you want to see him in a role you will never forget, watch Phantom Lady. He’s the drummer.
I think that The Maltese Falcon is a much better movie than The Big Sleep, but they’re both top flight private eye films. The extremely talented Leigh Brackett got a call from director Howard Hawks to help William Faulkner wrestle the script into shape. Hawks, who liked one of Brackett’s novels, thought she was a man.
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: Stay at Home – Day 31
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.