This is meant to be a piece of historical fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of history and the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely historic and a work of fiction to guide the reader through history in an engaging way.
The following may contain mild language and references to historical traumatic events. Reader discretion is advised.
“Robert, let’s get your shoes tied,” I said looking down at him
“No! I don’t wanna go and I don’t want buttons! Grrrrahhhhhhhhhh!” Robert began flailing his arms and screaming at the top of his lungs.
“Robert!” I paused briefly “Enough!” I said in an assertive voice giving him the look.
“Fine, I’ll wear buttons but I’m not tying my shoes!” he said.
“Alright Robert, you’re a bargaining man and I’ll make a deal with you, but don’t tell your grandmother.” He nodded and I continued “If you wear your buttons and tie your shoes I will, in fact, give you a quarter for the gumball machine next time you go to the grocery with grandma and it will be our secret.”
With a big smile, he said “Okay!” He wiped the tears from his eyes and tied his shoes.
“Alright everyone, the car is here to take us to dinner and then to the Smooth Theater for Lilly’s show. She’s been practicing for five years for this night,” I exclaimed through the house.
All four of us filed out of the house and got into the car.
“For dinner, we are going to go down to Jimmie Colombo’s Restaurant,” I said to the driver.
“Hey Grandpa, could you tell your story to calm my nerves before I have to play?” Lilly asked.
“Yeah, I’ll tell you over dinner and on the way to the theater, it’s going to be okay Lilly you’re the best little piano player I’ve heard,” I said as the car rolled on down the road.
Walking into the lobby I was greeted by Mr. Berdane, he walked up to me and grabbed me by the hand, and shook it.
“Mr. Monroe, it seems you will be working for me for a while,” he said.
“I thought that I was working for Mr. Chancellor?” I inquired bluntly.
“For now, he thinks it’s best” he responded.
“I think you should check your anger before you go head first into stopping injustices, not everyone in the bar needed a beating, one would’ve sufficed Mr. Monroe, but you are used to being a ruffian!” he said with a sullen look on his face.
That was that, and I did in fact work under Mr. Berdane for several weeks, from sweeping hair to shining shoes. Within that time, I saw very little of Mr. Chancellor and I was beginning to get perturbed by this. Eventually, after three months I approached Mr. Berdane and decided I was fed up with it and I couldn’t take it any longer.
“Mr. Berdane, why have I been working for you?” I asked.
“Cas, it’s simple you must learn discipline, we cannot have that anger unchecked.”
“I was hired by Chancellor, why will he not assign me other duties? I’ve had enough!” I yelled.
“That right there is why you cannot, what he has in store for you is more important than your opinion, work harder, gain discipline, and when you are a well-oiled machine, he will call upon you when you are ready. When you know every guest and politician and are willing to pledge yourself to the Blennerhassett instead of your delinquent friends. You can see but you must see past your own feelings, and you must be able to forget your prejudices and your anger, then and only then will he ever use you for more than what you are now. If you want to work for him act like it, because right now you are acting like a shoe shine boy!” After he said this to me, he walked away shaking his head.
Round and round it went month after month and once again it was August, I was one year in. I was sweeping, mopping, and shining shoes. It had become rhythm and it was becoming second nature. I was owning what I was doing and I was pretty damn good at it too, I kept my mouth shut and went on. I no longer had to bite my tongue when the guests were unsatisfied. I had learned to deal with it and atone for my mistakes and make them feel better than they did before. I started to see that game of luxury that Mr. Berdane had told me about a year ago in his shop. Had it been a year, or longer? It was all blurring together these days, and I was so busy I lost count a while ago.
Long hours had become my specialty. I stayed later in the barber shop and polished the floors, wiped down the mirrors, and cleaned Mr. Berdane’s tools for an extra two hours in the evening after he had left for his coffee. I was becoming everything I knew I could be in my capacity here under Mr. Berdane, but I no longer had anywhere to grow, but this is where they wanted me and this is where I stayed.
One day in August I was sweeping the floor and happened to look up and noticed three men in overcoats walking into the lobby, which was unusual because of the heat this time of year. The interesting thing which I had seen before was that the man in the front had a matchstick in his hat just below the feather. To some groups of people, it meant that he was a lieutenant. The three men started towards the First National Bank. Mr. Berdane was once again reading the newspaper sitting in his barber chair, we have been a little slow today.
I leaned my head in the archway room and whispered “Mr. Berdane, I think you should go get security.”
“I think I shall, you have that look in your eye that you had when you saw the man in checkered vest last year.” With that, he proceeded to leave his shop and go into the lower level of the hotel.
I discreetly balled my fist and walked toward the men. Keeping my one hand behind my back “Excuse me” I said to the man with the matchstick in his hat “How can we assist you today?” I asked
“Scram!” he said forcefully and from his coat, he slowly pulled a gun.
“Sir, I don’t think you’re going to need that here. It’s me Cas, I work under O’ Murphy,” I whispered to him – slowly biding my time.
“What do you mean? I know O’Murphy but I ain’t seen you around,” he whispered back to me.
“Do you think they would be stupid enough to keep that much cash in the registers at the bank here? I’ve watched and it’s no more than one hundred, perhaps two, you could get that at the dock enforcing protection,” I said hastily trying to de-escalate them.
“What do you mean?” He said looking confused.
“I’ll show you where we hide the vault. We can all rob it and then scoot together,” I said coaxing the three away from the lobby “Fine! You better not be playing me!” he said in a rough voice.
Slowly, they came following behind me. “I’m one of you I’m on the inside, I’m a Green Vest, you should have planned this with me.”
We slowly descended into the lower level and we rounded the corner into the staff area. Quickly, I leaped out of the way and grabbed the switch for the lights, and turned them off as I hit the floor. Guns flashed in the darkness, and all of sudden I came up with my knuckles and slammed the first guy in the face, he crumpled and fell to the floor breathless and unconscious he slumped over and groaned slightly. In the darkness, I could hear the sound of Billy clubs striking and people hitting the floor.
“Cas, turn the lights on, it’s me, Berdane,” a voice called from the darkness.
I felt around and then found the switch and flipped them back on. The three men were sprawled out on the floor banged up pretty good, Mr. Berdane broke the silence.
“Cas, I think you should go back to work, we will discuss this later.”
“Yes sir,” I said blandly, shaking a bit from the shock of the fight. It had been a while since I’d been in a fight, just like riding a horse though.
As I was turning to go Mr. Campbell arrived on the scene to see what all the commotion was about. He didn’t even look at me sneering a bit as he passed me; directing all of his attention to Mr. Berdane.
“Mr. Berdane?” Mr. Campbell questioned his eyes bugging out of his head, he was turning a bright pink from anger as he did so I had to stifle my laughter. He glanced over at me glaring, he then returned to his question “Mr. Berdane! What has happened here?”
“Well, sir as far as I can tell a robbery was just prevented,” Berdane said.
“Well, good job Mr. Berdane, we greatly appreciate that,” Mr. Campbell said
“No credit of my own, it was all Mr. Monroe here. His brain and ingenuity prevented it, if it wasn’t for him there would have been a shooting in the lobby.” Berdane said turning to me and asked “How did you do this and how did you know they were going to rob the bank?”
“Well, you see that matchstick?” I asked, rolling over the one body with my foot, and pointing with my finger “That is a sign in the Green Vests that you got the short end of the stick. If you understand that dark humor of it. Matchstick, short stick – oh it doesn’t matter. But I knew that he was going to rob the bank because: one the matchstick; two that it’s too hot for overcoats and I saw their hands inside the coat going for something. I just put two and two together and saw what was happening.” I then went quiet as Mr. Campbell cut me off.
“Why did you bring them down here?” he asked.
“There are no guests here and I thought I could convince them that the safe was elsewhere, because I bluffed that I was an informant for the Green Vests. They bought the idea and followed,” I responded.
“Very good Mr. Monroe, you may return to your station,” Mr. Campbell said waving his hand and motioning towards the upstairs.
Three days passed since the encounter with the gentleman with the matchstick and his men, and I was back to work in my own rhythm as though nothing had changed. It was midday when I was sweeping up after one of Mr. Berdane’s clients when Mr. Chancellor came around the corner and just stood there smoking his cigar and simply just watching me for a few minutes.
“Mr. Chancellor, how may I assist you today, will it be a shine or a haircut today sir?” I asked.
He stood there in silence, and I simply said “Okay sir” and went back to my sweeping none of this really bothering me in the slightest.
After a good while, Mr. Chancellor raised his hand motioning for me to stop. “Mr. Monroe, I’ve been watching you,” he paused to puff on his cigar, “it is time Mr. Monroe, I have a job for you.”
–“Alright everyone we are here” I said “Lilly, they will need you backstage, we will be in the third row back, break a leg, Lilly!”
Lilly got out first and went to the side door and we ushered ourselves into the front of the Smooth Theater. Posters lined the walls of all the shows coming up, bright lights were all around, and people were coming in from all areas to catch any show, it was just something to do on a Friday night. Eventually, we took our seats and waited just a few minutes, and then the house lights went down, and all went quiet.
The curtains sprung forth in a great majestic dance, not a sound was heard, and the stage lights went up, and there she was my little granddaughter. She was growing up. The lights focused on her as a light amber color and slight white hues were noticeable. The piano sprang to life and from Lilly Monroe sprang forth as a great cacophony of bold, robust, and rich music. It was through Lilly’s fingers moved with a fire that I’d never seen from a child and springing forth from them was Haydn’s No. 45 “Farewell.”
Tears creased the edges of my face and I wept like a child, an eternity played out in front of me and then the last note sounded and the crowd went wild. The crowd leapt to their feet and gave her a standing ovation, roses and flowers flew to her feet, and she was only five years into her lesson and what would hopefully be a lifetime.
About the author:
My name is Logan M. Saho I am the Concierge at The Blennerhassett Hotel. I have been in the tourism industry since my thirteenth year of life, I started out as a tour guide at the Beauchamp-Newman Museum in Elizabeth WV. I also since that time have become an early American period reenactor (1730s-1890s.) Beyond that I have a dual-degree in History and Political Science with a minor in communications concentrating on theatre. After my college years I worked as a living historian at Blennerhassett Island Historical State park for 2 years which geared my path to be working where I am today.