The Whitey Steele Story - Recap

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New York City. July 23, 1934. The underworld is out to get their hands on a new invention--the racewire. The racewire speeds results of horse races to bookmakers all across the nation. Mike Barrigan, Frederick Withers, and Douglas Barrows own and operate the Trans-Pacific News Service. That night, Barrigan and Withers receive an urgent call from Barrows. Barrigan finds him dead in a bookie joint. Joker, a hood who works for New York mobster Joe Kulak, is responsible for the death.

Joker takes Barrigan to see Kulak and they all go for a little ride. Kulak wants Barrigan's racewire and gives him until midnight the following day to make a decision. When Barrigan returns to his office the name of Barrows has been crossed off the door and someone is inside waiting for him. That someone is Eliot Ness who already knows about the death of Barrows.

Barrigan informs Ness that Kulak wants his racewire and that Kulak's operation is coast-to-coast with headquarters in San Francisco. Ness informs Barrigan that if he goes along with Kulak he's a dead man when Kulak doesn't need him anymore. Barrigan replies that if he doesn't cooperate he'll be dead sooner than that.

Out in San Francisco, a man named Gregory Pindar arrives in town. He's spent the past seven years living in Singapore overseeing a narcotics operation. Back in New York, Barrigan has rebuffed the syndicate's offer but then his other partner, Frederick Withers, turns up murdered. Barrigan phones Ness but by the time he arrives Barrigan is missing and his office is in a shambles. Ness assumes that Barrigan has been taken on an infamous one-way ride.

Back in Chicago, U.S. Attorney Beecher Asbury makes an executive decision. He decides to send a reluctant Ness out to San Francisco to infiltrate Pindar's operation. But there's a twist to the assignment. Ness will be going to the city by the bay as one Frederick "Whitey" Steele, a deceased hood. Asbury feels Ness can pull it off because Pindar and most of his known hoods have been abroad for many years and won't recognize him.

And so "Whitey Steele" shows up in San Francisco. SFPD Captain John Stanwood, who's in on the ruse, arranges for Steele to be in a police line-up with Griff Darden, one of Pindar's boys. Ness, who really gets into character, smart mouths the cops at the line-up and gets Darden's attention. Darden figures that Steele is a sharp operator who can be useful to the operation. Pindar hires Ness/Steele but Frankie Brandon, another hood, is suspicious. That night, Brandon trails Ness/Steele to a pier where he's meeting with Captain Stanwood. Brandon shoots but misses. Ness doesn't miss. He wounds Brandon, who's taken into custody.

The following day, Ness/Steele informs Pindar that he killed Frankie. He doesn't like being tailed by cheap punks. That's okay with Pindar. He gives Ness/Steele Frankie's old job. Then, out of nowhere, Mike Barrigan shows up. Ness swallows hard but Barrigan doesn't blow his cover. He's assigned to show Ness/Steele the entire operation. Things seem routine for a few days untill Ness discovers a racing sheet that's been wrapped around heroin. He also discovers a special edition of the racing sheet that contains secret codes for heroin deliveries. This is why the syndicate wanted control of Barrigan's racewire so bad. Ness then informs Captain Stanwood about his discovery.

Pindar calls a big meeting of some major narcotics dealers around the country. Lo and behold, none other than Joker arrives at the meeting. Joker, of course, recognizes Ness and tries to cut in on Pindar's action. Pindar, who's old and tired and facing a possible long prison sentence, tries to cut a deal. Joker shoots him down. Meanwhile, the SFPD has surrounded the place and arrest everybody.

Joker isn't ready to surrender. He takes Ness hostage and points a gun at his head using him as a shield. Barrigan, who's already been taken into custody, pleads with Captain Stanwood to give him a chance to end the stand-off. Stanwood gives Barrigan a gun. He walks forward and points the gun at Joker. Joker tries to point his gun at Barrigan but Ness grabs it. A cop blasts with a Tommy gun. Joker gets killed and Ness (for the only time in the series) gets wounded, though not seriously. It turns out that Barrigan's gun was empty. He was running a bluff.

Barrigan was tried and convicted for his role in the narcotics distribution scheme but upon the recommendation of Eliot Ness, he received a lesser sentence and was paroled after serving only 18 months in prison. Ness wrote Barrigan down as a curious character whose true nature would remain an unsolved mystery.