THE WAY SOME PEOPLE DIE
A Lull in the Action In Hollywood
Archer slips into the studio where Jane Hammond, Dalling’s ex-lover, works. She is a bright and highly successful executive. Archer asks her about Dalling without revealing that he is dead. When she was dating Dalling, Hammond had met Joe and Galley Tarantine and knew them as neighbors. She is distressed when she hears that Dalling may have taken up with Galley. Archer realizes Hammond still has feelings for the man.
Dalling had told Archer he had received some of his information about Tarantine from someone at the studio who did a true crime show, and Hammond directs him to Joshua Severn.
Macdonald is seldom self-referential in the Archer books, but he makes an exception here, and for a good reason. Severn trusts Archer because one of his neighbors in Santa Teresa is Miranda Sampson, whom Archer helped in The Moving Target.
Severn gives Archer the background on Dalling. Some of what he tells Archer is new, some is old, and all of it is sad.
- Dalling was a good actor, but he was also a confirmed alcoholic. He lost his job on Severn’s show the day after Christmas because of his drinking.
- Dalling couldn’t handle being a failure when Jane Hammond was so successful, and broke up with her following his termination.
- Dalling took up with Galley almost immediately after that. (It was not unexpected, given Galley’s appetite, the fact that they knew each other already, and that she was just across the hall.)
- Most important, Dalling had called Severn the previous Sunday night, asking Severn for the name of a good private eye. Because Miranda Sampson had been very satisfied with the outcome of The Moving Target case, Severn gave him Archer’s name .
- Severn knows nothing about a mobster named Dowser, but he confirms that Tarantine is a dangerous criminal.
Things Pick up in Santa Monica
Archer heads to the home of Mrs. Lawrence, thinking he has new information for her, but to his surprise Tarantine’s bronze Packard is in the driveway.
Mrs. Lawrence, very grateful that Archer produced results, relates the following:
- Galley came home in the early hours of the morning, apparently right after Archer’s visit to Dalling’s house in Oasis.
- She arrived alone, said she was too tired to talk, and went to bed almost immediately.
- At ten that morning, a very thin man showed up. They spoke briefly and Galley left with him without saying more to her mother than good-bye.
- The thin man drove her away in a big black car.
- Lawrence had been contacted by the police the Saturday night before she hired Archer. The policeman’s name was Lieutenant Dahl and he said he was a detective with the vice squad.
- Lieutenant Dahl advised her to hire Archer to look for Galley but not to tell anyone, including Archer, that he had told her.
- When she describes the man, Archer knows that it was Dalling.
Lifestyles of Rich and Infamous Criminals
Based on Mrs. Lawrence’s description of a black car driven by a thin man, Archer is certain that it was Blaney, one of Dowser’s thugs, although why Galley would go willingly is a puzzlement. The only certainty is that she is in danger if she is with Dowser, so Dowser’s house is his next stop.
The action at Dowser’s house is long, complex, and soaked in atmosphere. It contains some of his best writing about the psychology of a crime boss. To summarize the action:
- Archer appears, claims credit for flushing Galley, and demands his reward. After haggling he and Dowser settle on five hundred dollars. As Archer observes, “Taking his money was the only way to make Dowser trust me.”
- Dowser says that he had received a tip from a woman that Galley was at her mother’s house, which was why Blaney was dispatched.
- Dowser says that Galley is there, but isn’t talking. Archer offers to be placed in the locked bedroom with her where she is being held, on the pretext that he is also a prisoner, to see if he can get any information on where Tarantine is. The room is set up with a microphone so Dowser can eavesdrop.
- Galley says she tried to stop Joe Tarantine from hitting Archer but that Joe was too fast.
- She says that Tarantine has not only Archer’s gun but hers as well.
- She thought Tarantine was a wrestling promoter when they met. She confirms what we suspected, that she met him while taking care of Herman Speed.
- She suspects that Tarantine stole something of Dowser’s but doesn’t know what. She also thinks that Tarantine will never be found. He may have fled to Mexico.
- She says that Tarantine went after Dalling’s car after Archer was sapped, but that Dalling got away. Tarantine told her they had to leave on short notice and fled the house while Archer was still unconscious.
- She drove Tarantine to the LA apartment building but she stayed in the car while Tarantine went up alone. When he came back to the car he said Dalling wasn’t there.
- The last time she saw Tarantine was when she dropped him off at the Pacific Point yacht basin.
The chapter ends with Archer dozing off (after all, he did not sleep the previous night) to the sound of a car engine as Dowser and his men drive off, based on what they overheard.
My factual summary omits the flavor of the conversation between Galley and Archer—indeed, “conversation” is misleading. Archer gets to see Galley in action firsthand. Their interchange, with Galley lying on the bed the whole time, is fraught with sexuality even though nothing happens.