Home » Historical Narrative: Beacon In A Sea Of Darkness

Historical Narrative: Beacon In A Sea Of Darkness

The day started as usual. I got out of bed. My eyes sore from lack of sleep. My feet hit the cold floor, sending a shudder through my spine. It’s a shame. In the winter, the weatherman will tell you that tomorrow will be a warm one, but warm for winter in New York is still blisteringly cold (Weather 53).

I looked at the clock. 7:50 AM. No time for breakfast. I had to get to work. In this business, either you were there on time to take someone’s case or he went to another detective. I grabbed my coat and started running down the apartment stairs, trying to wave down a taxi. My landlord tried to nab me and complain about my late rent, but I had not time to trifle with him. I jumped into the first taxi I saw and told the driver to take me to the corner of 7th and Elm.

Whin I got to the office, Rose, my secretary, was on the phone talking to her fiance (“Miss” 30). Her husband to be was a real sweet talker, but he was a Communist, which made my blood hot. Such a shame, a fine broad going to waste like that. She whispered goodbye to him and hung up the phone.

“Any calls for me while I was out, Rose?”

“No, Sam, the morning’s been pretty quiet so far,” she replied. “Here’s the morning paper as you requested. The coffee should be hot and ready in just a few minutes.”

“You’re a doll, you know that, Rose? I swear my morning would be a nightmare if it weren’t for you. I’ve got a couple of tickets to the next Yankees game if you’d like to go out. I hear Mantle and Rizzuto are hitting pretty well” (Effrat 34).

“Mr. Brock! Thank you very much, but I’m engaged. I can’t go off on a weekend dating spree right before I get married. What would others think? They’d call me a floozy for sure!”

“Well, I thought it was worth a try. Give me a holler if you change your mind. I’ll be in my office if anything comes up.” I walked into my office, about to shut the door, when I stopped myself. “Rose, what do you see in that guy anyway? Did he trick you into marriage or was he just the only guy left in the store?”

“Despite what you may think of him, I find him very attractive. I believe that our wedding day will be a very gay occasion.”

“As long as you’re happy, Toots, I guess that’s all that matters.”

I sat down, propped my feet up on the desk, and let my mind roam. Baseball – a couple of guys get paid to play a game while I work my butt off to solve cases. I don’t even get credit for my work. The police always claim the recognition. I get paid too little to work for their glory.

I began to read the newspaper. Hmm. A set of clubs for only $35.94? I might have to stop by Davega’s later (Davega 35).


I picked ut the phone. “Hello?”

“Sam, this is Johnny down at the Chase Manhattan Bank in Queens. There was a major heist here. Apparently the robbers had calculated the robbery well in advance. They started the whole operation this morning when they kidnapped the chief clerk outside his home” (Kihss 1). “We want you to do whatever you can to help us find our guy. So what do you say?”

“I don’t know. Normally, when I do work for you guys, I don’t even get an honorable mention. If I do this, it’s gonna be pricey. No dough, no go.”

“Sam, name your price. This is the biggest amount that’s ever been stolen from and American bank. The job was accomplished by just three guys” (Kihss 1). “I tell ya, for them, this was the heist of a lifetime. We really want to wrap this one up nicely. I promise you, if you help us on this one, you’ll be paid handsomely and your name will be in all the papers.”

“if that’s your tune, I guess I can’t say no. What was the clerk’s name?”

“I believe it was Bardenhagen. Yes, That’s it, a Mr. Henry Bardenhagen” (Kihss 20).

“I’ll see what I can do. Don’t worry, if Bardenhagen is still in New York, I’ll find him.”

I started this investigation as I did every investigation I undertook by visiting a good friend of mine, Jake, the bartender in the One Eyed Parrot. We go way back, ever since I saved his life in Korea. He had a way of coming across valuable information. If something big was going on, he would know the details. I decided to have a drink.

The One Eyed Parrot was a seedy little bar, a favorite hangout of some of the city’s most notorious criminals. Jake would give them a drink and talk to them to ease their minds. For a little dough, he was willing to divulge what he gathered from his bar-side chats. Around noontime, the bar had little business aside from the curious unfortunate passerby who needed some spirits. This was the time of day I normally chose to meet with Jake. I walked in casually, sat down at the bar, and put my overcoat on the stool next to me.

“A penny for what ails ya,” Jake said, his back to me, pouring a drink.

“I gather my spirits will come to more than that,” I replied. I slid some twenties across the bar top. Without turning around, Jake reached back , picked up the bills and slid them into his shirt pocket.

“You want to know about the Chase Manhattan heist, don’t you? I tell you, that’s some heavy stuff, Sam. You’ll stay away if you know what’s good for you.”

“I know, Jake. I’m getting too old for this kind of stuff, but I’ve got to make a living somehow. If I crack this case, I may be set for retirement. If I drop it, who knows how much longer I’ll have to work this dirty job?”

Jake looked at me, a questioning expression upon his face. “This isn’t just a big bank robbery. This heist was a minor operation of a major crime network that is starting to establish a base of operations in this town. It’ll take more than one detective to bring these guys down. We’re talking major infiltration.”

“Jake, I need this case. I don’t know how else to explain it.”

“If you’re so messed up that you want to kill yourself for the glory, then I guess I can’t stop you. I don’t want to lose you, Sam. You’re a good guy, and Lork knows you’re my best customer. I’ll give you your information, but it’ll cost you three times the norm.”

“A hundred and eighty dollars! You know I can’t just shell out that kind of money!”

“Who’s to say you’ll be able to spend it after this case? I need some insurance money. If you die, that’s half my business. Besides if you die with it in your possession, it’d just go to the government anyway. Why not help a fellow out? No cash, no information. If you somehow survive this, I’ll give you one sitting on the house after it’s over.”

“But I . . . . Okay, Jake. But you owe me for this. You owe me.” I reluctantly pulled another $120 out of my wallet and slid the bills forcefully across the bar top. Jake calmly pocketed the cash.

“Apparently there’s a new mob in town. Call themselves the Ruschievs. They’re part of a larger crime ring off Soviet origin. The ring set up operations in the states to finance their Commie activities. The mob owns part of the east docks. It’s in a real bad neighborhood. If the Russians don’t get to you first, the locals will. I’d carry some heat with me at all times if I were you, and never turn your back towards someone. You never know what he’ll do next.”

“All my information is from the mob’s groundlings. The bosses tend to stay pretty well hidden, letting their underlings do all the dirty work. I overheard two of the Ruschievs talkiing about a Mr. Bardenhagen. They’re holding him in warehouse number four. I would expect it to be well protected. The boys I’ve seen come in here were pretty well decked out. Bug guys too.

“How does that suit you?”

“Jake, you’re an angel. I’d say that might even be worth the money I paid for it. Thanks, I’ll see you later.”

“Time will tell, my friend. Time will tell.”

I finished off my scotch, stood up, and left. I felt confident that with my new information I could have the case solved at least within the next day, if not that night. It was one thirty. Time to think of my approach.

The area sounded pretty rough, so I figured my best time of entry would be late at night or early morning. Most of the locals wouldn’t be a threat by then and the mob would have its lightest guard. I decided to find the weakest link in the warehouse security, and sneak in through that entry point.

Night fell, and I entered the general vicinity of warehouse four. It was obvious which warehouse held the chief clerk – the only warehouse with its lights on, a beacon in a sea of darkness. Two blacks from the warehouse, I parked my car. I was a little nervous leaving it on the side of the street in this neighborhood, but I didn’t plan to be gone long.

I ran, hunched over, at a half trot, through the shadows cast by the moon and street lamps. The dilapidated buildings stood with emplty window frames like skulls with empty eye sockets – a true testament to the living conditions of the neighborhood.

I came to the fence surrounding warehouse four and its parking lot. The main gate was well tighted, making an entry there seem uselessly obvious. I knew I would have to climb the fence somewhere. The whole fence was topped by a ring of barbwire. I looked around franticly, hoping I wouldn’t have to shred myself to get past the fence. Then I noticed a gap at the bottom of the fence where the neglected asphalt had crumbled away. I slid through the gap in the fence.

I could see a couple of guards at the front entrance of the warehouse, sitting comfortably, but alert nonetheless. I stealthily ran around back, hoping to find a less obvious point of entry. There was a door at the back corner of the warehouse, but it was locked. I contemplated what I should do.

Just then the door swung open. I darted to hide around the corner. I could hear two men talking.

“Don’t be too long,” said the first.

“I’m just stepping out to have a smoke,” replied the second.

The man struck a match and hunched over, trying to light his cigarette. I quietly slipped in through the door before it closed and hid behind some crates in the shadows.

There was a group of men sitting at a table, drinking and playing cards. I could see the chief clerk tied to a chair off to the side. The warehouse was mostly empty save a few crates around the perimeter. The room was dimly lit by a single yellow light, hanging from the ceiling. Bardenhagen was a few feet in front of some crates on the light’s edge. I figured if I could somehow create a diversion, I would be able to untie him and escape fairly easily.

Suddenly, a man burst in the front door.

“We got trouble boys! A crazy man just ran his car through the front gate and is charging towards the warehouse right now!” The men at the table got up quickly, grabbed their iron and ran outside. What a stroke of luck! I followed to the front door to see what happened.

It wasn’t a crazy man. It was Jake. He had pushed the pedal to the metal, sending his car, wheels spinning, hurtling towards the group of mobsters gathered outside the warehouse. The men pointed their guns towards the speeding car. I wanted to run out and stop them, but I held myself fast. This is what Jake wanted. He was sacrificing himself so that I might save the clerk.

In disbelief, I ran back into the warehouse to the chief clerk. “Keep quiet,” I told him. “I’m going to get you out of here.” I pulled out my knife and cut through the ropes. We slipped out the back door.

We ran out back, but stopped short of the docks. I could hear the men as they cam back into the warehouse and discovered that the clerk was missing.

“We’re gonna have to swim, Mr. Bardenhagen. It’s the only way.”

“I understand.”

We jumped and swam to safety.

The next morning I read the newspaper as I usually did. I thought I’d go to the film Long John Silver and see Robert Newton. I read he makes an interesting portrayal of the lead character (Crowther 24). The mayor had invited me to talk at a dinner that was to be held in my honor. I had finally received the recognition that I wanted, but I didn’t want it like this. I dind’t want to lose Jake like that. He was a brave man for what he did, a much braver man than I.

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