The Haunted Detective

san francisco 1947

San Francisco Chronicle Archives – From the back of the photo: “F Car goes through – The two months long blockade of the Fourth and Market intersection ended completely yesterday morning as F cars moved from Fourth Street across Market into Stockton. While police officers experimented with the new traffic pattern at the complex five-way intersection, workmen rolled down the last of the fill in the project. City officials hope the revised schedule will end one or more downtown bottlenecks.” September 9, 1947.

“I keep telling you this, Marguerite, but you never listen. You are just as breakable as the next person, maybe more so given your line of work.”

Private Investigator Margurite Carter was getting sick and tired of Cohen’s lectures. “Do I tell you how to stitch a cut, Sawbones? Just do your job. I haven’t got all night for you to fix up my broken wing. And what’s that crack about me being more breakable? I’m as tough as any guy in the business.”

“Tell that to your broken arm. It’s a good thing you’re left-handed. From the way you described the thug who jumped you, he must have had a hundred pounds on you. By the way, the name’s Dr. Cohen or Joel, not Sawbones.” The fatherly doctor tightened the binding a little too much on his thirty-year-old mouthy patient just to make his point.

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Moshe Visits the Met

the met

© Roger Bultot

Moshe Katz was in New York visiting his Tante and Feter, and they made the San Francisco Private Detective play tourist, including a visit to the Met’s Diamond Jubilee. Then things got ridiculous. He’d heard of Marian Anderson, but who the hell were Judy Collins, Yo-Yo Ma, and Itzhak Perlman?

“Alright, Mr. Watson, I’m going to give you a hand. The local cops don’t know how to handle this sort of thing, but my cases are more unusual.”

“We’d appreciate anything you can do. If word ever got out…”

“Relax. I’ll find out who here has a broken time machine.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 100.

I became dismayed when I realized that the photo was of a recognizable place, but I didn’t recognize it. Then Google image search came to the rescue. It’s the Metropolitan Museum of Art, otherwise known at the Met.

According to Wikipedia:

The museum celebrated its 75th anniversary (which it termed Diamond Jubilee) with a variety of events in 1946, culminating in the anniversary of the opening of its first exhibition on February 22, 1947.

What is coincidence. I created a San Francisco private detective named Moshe Katz who operates in 1947. He’s featured in the stories Death Visits Mexico and Son of Kristallnacht. So I decided to create a New York mystery for him to solve. Normally, his cases are rather mundane, but for this tale, I decided to change his history a bit.

Again, according to Wikipedia:

In 1954, to celebrate the opening of its Grace Rainey Rogers concert hall, the museum inaugurated a series of concerts, adding art lectures in 1956. This “Concerts & Lectures program” grew over the years into 200 events each season. The program presented such performers as Marian Anderson, Cecilia Bartoli, Judy Collins, Marilyn Horne, Burl Ives, Juilliard String Quartet, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Artur Rubinstein, András Schiff, Nina Simone, Joan Sutherland and André Watts, as well as lectures on art history, music, dance, theater and social history.

I didn’t read the paragraph carefully and was wondering how all of those performers could have been at the Met at the same time. Then I read more carefully, but the damage was done. What if there were a time machine accident and they really did appear at the Met simultaneously, and specifically on February 22, 1947?

Oh, Thomas J. Watson was the Met’s Vice President in 1947 and Tante and Feter are Aunt and Uncle in Yiddish.

You can read about the Met’s history to find out more. To read other stories based on the prompt, visit

A Son of Kristallnacht


Found at the Yad Vashem website.

Moshe Katz was trudging home late from his clock repair shop. It was so hard to believe this could happen in Dortmund. Just weeks ago, all the Jews who the Germans believed came from Poland were expelled in a single night. His good friend and neighbor Gersz Blass, his wife Else and their three little ones were just…gone. There was talk that the synagogue might be dismantled soon.

Katz thought of himself as a German first and a Jew second, and yet it was as if the pogroms and inquisitions of the past had returned. His Papa tried to warm him before he died. Zeyde used to speak of the horrors of being a Jew in Russia. How…

A hand grabbed him from behind by the collar and pulled him into an alley, almost making him drop his lunch box. The meager receipts from today’s lackluster business were in there, pathetic, but it was all he had to feed his family.

“Please, please, don’t rob me. I’m poor. My family…”

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