THE MOVING TARGET
Part Seven Spoiler Alert
THE END OF THE BEGINNING
Two out of three ain’t bad
We have reached the point where two of the three crimes will be revealed; the last and most important one will wait till the very end.
Although Felix is a very minor character, he has an important role. First, he serves to remind us that the disadvantaged people of the book, the Sampson household staff as well as the Mexican field workers on Sampson’s ranch, are human beings with dignity and deserving of respect. Second, he provides Archer with information Archer could not obtain plausibly in any other way.
Once Felix tells Archer what he knows, things happen fast.
- Armed with the information about the Betty Fraley records, Archer searches Taggert’s room and finds many records and a phonograph, but nothing by Betty Fraley. Recalling that he saw small dark discs spinning into the ocean yesterday, he obtains a face mask and goes diving in the surf.
- When he emerges from the water carrying a record with the label scratched off, Taggert is waiting for him on the beach. There is an interesting scene where Archer keeps Taggert at arm’s length while setting up the record to play. When it does, it’s jazz piano.
- Archer gets Taggert to admit that it’s a Betty Fraley recording, which begs the question why Taggert would think that such a recording incriminates him in the kidnapping.
- Taggert confesses that Betty Fraley is his girlfriend and that he helped stage the kidnapping. He was the one who called the Valerio to cancel the hotel limousine and who alerted Eddie to bring the rental limousine in its place.
- Taggert is about to shoot Archer when Graves appears and shoots Taggert through the head, killing him.
- Archer is grateful but upset that Graves (an expert shot) didn’t shoot to disable Taggert instead; now they have no lead to where Sampson is.
A brief detour to Sillyville
Archer informs Miranda that although her father is probably still alive, Taggert is dead. This results in the following plot developments:
- Miranda admits that she knew all about the other woman in Taggert’s life, Betty Fraley (although presumably not about the kidnapping).
- She denies that she ever loved Taggert and says she was just using him for a while and says, “He served his purpose,” although this goes unexplained.
- She makes another physical pass at Archer and thanks him for killing Taggert.
- When Archer says that Graves killed Taggert, not him, she giggles and grins and announces that she “always was a schizoid type.”
- She admits driving around the previous evening but will not say where.
- When Archer takes her to the room where Taggert’s body is lying, she steps over the corpse without ever looking down, kisses Graves and says, “I’ll marry you now.” It does not appear that Archer is invited to the ceremony.
A return to reality
The Sheriff shows up. Archer and the police have what seems to be another melodramatic exchange of threats; but like the one at The Corner, this one has a purpose, too. With the threat of arrest hanging over his head, Archer has a plausible motivation to explain to the Sheriff that Sampson and Troy were engaged in bringing in illegal immigrants through the Temple in the Clouds to serve as strikebreakers on Sampson’s ranch. Now the Sheriff can make some arrests. (BTW, this is the source of the crumpled bills and the arithmetical notes that Archer found in Fay Estabrook’s drawer. The immigrants pay to be smuggled in.)
What this case needs is more eavesdropping
Archer visits Marcie, Eddie’s girlfriend. She tells him nothing and thinks that Archer killed Eddie, but she turns out to be useful anyway, without knowing it. After Archer leaves she takes off in her car and Archer follows her to a remote cabin occupied by Marcie, Troy, Betty Fraley, Faye Estabrook, and Luis, a thug who is Puddler’s replacement. While Archer eavesdrops, hey torture Betty Fraley by burning the soles of her feet until she confesses that the money is in a bus locker.
Archer rescues Fraley. Predictably in a Ross Macdonald novel, she tries to sexually ingratiate herself with him and just as predictably he refuses.
Archer telephones the police to arrest Troy and the others.
Fraley tells him where Sampson is being held and Archer calls Graves, telling him to get the Sheriff and medical attention to the site as quickly as possible.
The “Who’s on first?” explanation of events so far
- Fraley and Taggert were in love. Fraley is a cocaine addict.
- Taggert had thought of exploiting Miranda’s interest in him for money but Sampson knew about Taggert and Fraley and told Taggert that if he married Miranda he would cut her off.
- Fraley and Taggert came up with the kidnapping scheme, with Eddie acting as the phony limousine driver.
- Fraley hated her brother for reasons going back to her childhood and when she had a chance to kill him and split the money with just herself and Taggert, she took the opportunity. She was the woman leaving the scene of Eddie’s murder in the cream- colored convertible.
- Fraley confirms Archer’s suspicions that Troy and Sampson were importing illegal immigrants as strikebreakers through the Temple in the Clouds.