Outside the dingy second-floor windows of the Maxwell Special Investigations office, Bayside City drums dully about its business. Cars rattle by. Newsboys call out the headlines. Pedestrians busy themselves among the sidewalks and stores. Since the base opened, it seems like more servicemen show up on the streets every day. Good for business—if you’re selling what they’re buying.
Faintly ominous, if you have a head for international affairs.
It’s June, 1940.
No callers, no telephone calls, not even mail, and no pending cases. Looks like another day of re-reading the paper, throwing cards into your hat and wondering where the rent is coming from.
“Hey, Mark.” From the outer office, Stacy knocks and pokes her head in the door. “It’s dead around here. I’m going to the ball game. Oh, that’s right, the Hawks are on the road, playing the Dodgers. Well, I’m just gonna go to that new Tyrone Power movie instead. See ya.” She starts closing the door. “You wanna come? Earl’s out of town today, training or something up in D.C.”
Mark visualizes how his brother-in-law would react if he let her precious daughter loose on the streets of the city alone at night. Not that he gives two cents about that rich twit’s feelings; it’s just fun to visualize his reaction.
Mark doesn’t, in fact, remember anyone in particular named Earl. Must be a new one.
“What? Johnny Apollo? You and your gangster movies. Haven’t you seen that five times already?” Still, there’s nothing better to do here. And Dorothy Lamour isn’t exactly hard on the eyes. “Sure. Why not?”
“Aw, geez, Mark. It’s only been three times. Come on. We’ll miss the newsreel.”
Thet head out on the busy street, walking the five blocks or so to the Bijou.
“Yextry! Yextry! Breakout at the Bayside City Pen! Read all about it!” shouts the paperboy across the street as they reach the theater.
“Go on in, Stacy; I’ll catch up.” After Stacy’s inevitable comeback, Mark heads across the street to look at the newspaper. If he has enough money for the movies and the newspaper, he’ll actually buy one. He’s specifically looking for who broke out, and if they’re ‘evil’ enough for him to go after, or if the cops can handle it.
“You’d better.” Stacy leaves in a huff.
The article says about half a dozen men broke out. It mentions Tommy Vinnelli, Seamus “Knuckles” Houlihan, Joe “Wheels” Hoffman and Leroy “Doofus” McGee, all of whom Mark recognizes as mob muscle. Also Marty “Ace” Kiser, a mob lieutenant, and another odd name: Anchises Kenneth Aeneas Tennyson III, a ex-archeology professor from Bayside State University. Mark remembers, from before, tracking him down for stealing artifacts from his own museum. Little round guy with glasses, always going on about his “destiny”.
It says the police are hot on their trail, and expect to have them back in custody in a couple days.
Bayside Penitentiary is just outside town. Mark tangled with Tennyson in his earlier days, before the Event, but at the time the professor seemed more deluded and out of touch with reality than evil.
Mark walks in as the newsreel depicts the stunningly rapid fall of Belgium and the Netherlands under the Nazi boot and the imminent defeat of France. The movie is otherwise enjoyable, despite the technical inaccuracies.
“Johnny, you never got a break,” Stacey laments as she and Mark leave the theater. “Hey, Mark, let’s get ice cream. My treat; Daddy sent me my allowance today. There’s a place I know…” She looks around… “just a block down. Come on!” She heads around the corner toward the alley behind the theater.
Stacey keeps up a stream of commentary and review on Johnny Apollo. As they approach the far end of the alley Mark starts thinking your anxiety is groundless. But then he notices a deep, thick voice unsuccessfully trying to whisper.
“An’ we got this here guy to get us in and knows what the good stuff is.”
“Doofus, zip it—we got company.”
From behind a dumpster two men suddenly emerge. One is built like a linebacker, wearing a fedora pulled down over his ears and a big overcoat over striped prison wear. The other is wearing a nondescript suit and looks lean, dangerous, and cynical.
“Well, lookie here, Doofus. It’s payday.”
“I don’t got a job.”
“Skip it. You, lady, hand over the handbag. Mister, your wallet. No funny stuff, and nobody gets hurt.”
“Aww. I like hurting people. Can I hurt just one?”
“First we’ll see what they got. Now hand it over.”
Stacey seems frozen with fear.
Mark don’t notice anything that suggests they have guns. A couple hoodlums. Great. The smart thing would be to play along, and get mugged. But I don’t always get accused of being smart.
Mark steps forward, and puts himself between the two fine, upstanding gentlemen and Stacy.
“Now, who would imagine a couple of young men like yourselves would be hanging out in this alley, here? And would you please not scare the young lady? It’s not very polite.”
“Oh, a wise guy, eh? Somebody wants to be a hero, don’t he? What do we do to heroes, Doofus?”
“Teach ‘em a lesson, Doofus. Can’t have people disrespecting the Family, can we?”
“Cripes, Doofus. We hurt them. So they’re afraid.”
“Oh. Oh!! Okay.” Doofus gets a big, toothy smile on his face.
They rush him!
Mark waits a moment, and as the big guy runs up he socks him right in the gut! Doofus lets out a whoosh of air and stops in his tracks, gasping for breath. Mark strikes a threatening pose, glaring at the thugs.
“Jeeps!” Spider says, skidding to a halt. Then he recovers himself and takes a swing at Mark. He connects, but Mark hardly notices.
Doofus breathes hard a couple times, then straightens back up with murder in his eye.
Stacey screams and runs, shouting for the police.
“Time for you to fall down, Doofus.” Mark takes on a more defensive posture, and socks Doofus in the jaw! He feels Doofus’ jaw crack. Doofus drops, unconscious.
“Why, you…I’ll knock your brains in!” Spider raises both arms over his head…
…and Mark steps aside as he brings them down hard. Spider stumbles a little bit, overbalanced by his swing.
Mark grabs Spider as he’s stumbling from his swing, spins him around and gets him in a shoulder lock from behind.
“Let go of me, flatfoot!” Spider struggles; he’s wiry, but strong. Mark don’t know how long he’ll be able to hold him.
“Flatfoot? I’m not cop.” Mark slams Spider into a handy nearby wall. “What’s a finely-dressed gentleman like yourself doing in a dark alley like this?”
He grunts when he hits the wall. “I’m waitin’ for a bus. What’re you doin’ here, Mr. I’m Not a Cop?”
Mark: “A bus. In an alley. Right.” Mark spins Spider around and lands a right cross to the jaw. “Look at what happened to your big friend. Why not just tell me what you know?”
He kind of wobbles on his feet. “I don’t…know nothin’. Doofus said to meet him…some kind of museum heist…had an insider…you showed up…I didn’t do nothin’…” Spider’s eyes roll back into his head and he collapses to the pavement.
Mark strolls to the street, in the direction Stacey ran off in, to see if he can find her. He sees Stacey running toward him up the street with two policemen running behind her.
“Mark! You’re okay! What happened?”
They arrive at the alleyway. “What’s the story, mister?” one of the policemen asks.
“A couple of hoodlums jumped us in the alley back there. They should still be there. I think I overheard them saying something about a museum robbery.”
“A museum robbery, eh? We’ll check it out.” One of the police goes down the alley.
Then Mark says to Stacey, “Exactly how often do you go down alleys, young lady?”
“I never go down alleys. At night. Often. Are you okay? They looked pretty tough! Did they hurt you? You don’t look hurt.”
“Hey, Seamus! Look at this!” the policeman down the alley calls. “It’s Doofus McGee! He’s out cold! Still in his prison clothes, too. Better call for the wagon.”
“All right. I will. Hmm…McGee…museum robbery…maybe he heard something from that Tennyson character. You must have some kind of arm there, mister. Say, there’s a reward out for those jailbreakers. Stop down at the station sometime if you want it. What was your name?”
“The name is Mark Maxwell.” He’d tell them he’s a private eye, but cops and us don’t mix well. “And McGee back there tripped over his own feet, even if he won’t admit it.” The noble and honorable things would be to turn down the reward, but Mark has never claimed either of those things. That and business isn’t too good right now.
“Mark…Mark Maxwell, eh?” He seems like he’s trying to remember where he heard that name before.
“Hey, it’s Jerry Robinson, too!”
“Oh, no. Not again.”
“You want I should leave him?”
“No, Ralph, we’d better bring him in, too. I’ll phone for the wagon.”
Mark: “What’s the story with this Robinson fellow?”
The cop sighs. “We’ve run him in a dozen times, and each time he gets sprung some kind of technicality or legal trick. We’ll take him in again, but with no witnesses…McGee will go straight to jail, of course, but I don’t know if we can make anything stick to ol’ Spider. ’Scuse me, gotta make a call.” He walks off to the pay phone. Ralph is busy handcuffing the gangsters.
“Come on, Mark, let’s get out of here,” says Stacey. “I don’t think I’m that hungry for ice cream tonight. Why don’t you walk me home?”
“Sure thing, kid.” As he walks Stacey home, Mark internally sighs as he thinks about what is sure to be a long night.
Usually, crooks who break out of jail lay low, or go on the lam. For one to plan a heist right away, something must be up — something that’s gonna happen soon. Mark racks his brain. Is there anything happening at the museum? Any traveling exhibit leaving, or a new exhibit opening? Reluctantly, he also considers possible mystical events; is there anything coming up now? Does he know someone he might contact about such things?
After Stacey is delivered home, he’ll check out the newspaper archive-of-interesting-events he just might have in his office.
The obvious target is the Treasures of Rameses collection, currently at the Bayside City Museum of Natural History. It’s not Tutankhamun, but there’s gold and antiquities. Mark deduces that the police will be alert for a heist there after his warning. The exhibit has been there awhile, but it came to town after Tennyson went to jail.
There’s the Bayside City Institute of Arts. There’s some valuables there. Security is pretty good, but if someone knows the ins and outs…
There’s the museum Tennyson tried to rob the first time; a couple rooms in the basement of the Archeology department at Bayside University that never gets any visitors. There isn’t really anything valuable there though, and the newspaper archive says the thing Dr Tennyson was going after got moved out of state.
There’s a minor astral conjunction in a few days. Those come along every few weeks. The Gatekeepers are a bit more alert around those days, but Mark hasn’t heard anything from them.
Mark heads down to Mike’s Rusty Nail, which certainly wouldn’t have any unseemly business going on, to see if he can find out anything in the ‘buzz’ about a museum/antiquities heist going down.