FILLING IT IN
I Talk, You Listen
Archer’s next move is not to go to San Francisco, as we might expect, but to visit Una Durano. Mrs. Benning is the key, as Archer has observed to the police, but without a lead the best he can do is to visit his former not-so-beloved client.
It is a peculiar interview, because Archer spends a great deal of it telling Una what he already knows. But since Archer does not explain his mental processes to the reader, we need to have them explained in dialogue.
- Una admits that her brother Leo is seriously mentally ill with end stage syphilis.
- She allows him to see Leo, who is indeed completely demented.
- Until two weeks ago, Lucy Champion was a nurse to Leo, having accompanied Una and Leo from Detroit.
- Leo’s insanity became manifest at the start of the year when he attempted to shoot a night club singer for no reason.
- Una hustled him out of Detroit before the other members of the mob realized that he was disabled.
- She wants to keep him alive and in hiding if she can because income is rolling in from the rackets in Detroit.
- Bess and Leo, despite the difference in their ages, were lovers and Bess had been the one to suggest moving to California when Leo broke down. She had even suggested Arroyo Canyon (to be close to her old boyfriend Charles Singleton.)
- Una claims that although she tried to keep Leo from finding out about Singleton, he did anyway. When he did, he escaped, went to Singleton’s cabin and shot him.
- Singleton was not dead the last time Una saw him, although he had been shot in the stomach and needed medical attention.
- Lucy and Bess, along with Una, were all witnesses to the shooting.
- Una says Bess killed Lucy because Bess has a long criminal record and would get a lengthy sentence for any involvement with the shooting.
- Archer believes only a part of Una’s story. He suggests that Una herself told Leo about Singleton and Bess, gave Leo the gun, and drove him to Singleton’s cabin.
Archer Finds a More Pleasant Conversational Partner
His next stop is Arroyo Beach where he meets with Sylva Treen. He tells her that although the body in Singleton’s car is not him, Singleton is probably dead. He also tells her that Bess Benning, Singleton’s girlfriend, was involved in covering up the shooting and probably took Singleton to her husband for treatment.
Sylvia has some news of her own. Bess Benning just called; although she didn’t identify herself, Sylvia is certain it was her. Benning wanted five thousand dollars to provide information on Singleton’s whereabouts. She said she would phone again later that evening to arrange a meeting place. Mrs. Singleton has the money on hand; she has had it in readiness ever since she first posted the reward.
This Clue So Dates the Story
If you are under forty this conversation may not make sense
“The operator asked her to deposit more money, and she hung up.” [Sylvia said.]
“It was a long distance call?”
“I had the impression it came from Los Angeles.”
“How much did the operator ask for?”
“Probably Los Angeles.”
Setting The Scene
Archer says that since Bess knows his voice, he can’t take the call. Sylvia should arrange the meeting place in front of Archer’s office in Los Angeles for ten that evening. Besides his general desire to control the situation, Archer has recording equipment set up in his office. He tells Sylvia that he wants her to come along. (This is the most minor of cavils, but I’m not sure that bringing Sylvia along makes sense, but it does allow them to have a conversation in Archer’s office while they wait.)
Shortly after, Bess calls back. The game is on.