Running Down the Clues
Using the card from the detective agency as well as a label from the dead man’s clothes, Cross moves the investigation along. Although he has no investigative training, he could give Archer a run for his money:
- The dead man was Art Lemp, who had briefly worked for the detective agency whose card was the one he’d given to Steifle months before.
- The agency had fired him because he was running a badger game, enticing the husbands he was investigating into compromising situations and taking photographs. If the husband refused to pay the blackmail, the photos went to the wife who had hired the agency in the first place.
- The woman helping Lemp in the racket was named Molly Fawn.
- Although the name of the registered owner of the car, “Kerry Smith,” isn’t familiar to the owner of the agency, the owner acknowledges that someone named Kerry and Lemp lived in the same hotel and probably knew each other.
- The big surprise is that Abel Johnson, the much older husband of Helen, had hired the agency to spy on his wife. The agency had sent Lemp to the Johnson property in February—just when a man with no identification turned up dead in the road, supposedly run over by Fred Miner.
Cross next tried to locate Molly Fawn. She has vacated her apartment but her former landlady is happy to spread gossip as well as fact:
- Molly is a very attractive young woman and often had male company.
- The landlady remembers her arguing with a man named Kerry at times and identifies the corpse from the February hit and run as the man she understood to be Kerry.
- The landlady gives Cross a camera that Fawn left behind, an expensive camera, stamped Property of the US Navy, and the name of the ship, Eureka Bay.
- She has never heard of Fred Miner.
Cross is on a roll.
His next stop is a luxurious home that was the source of the suit that Lemp was wearing when he was killed.
- The suit was taken as part of a burglary in January, and that the criminal obtained access pretending to be a photographer taking pictures for a magazine.
- The wife identifies the photographer as the man in the pictures from the February hit and run.
- The police had traced the proceeds of the burglary to a down-at-the-heels photographic studio in Pacific Palisades; but when the couple had gone there, the man they saw was much older and was not the burglar-photographer.
- Because they have been there, they are able to give Cross directions.
And He’s Not Done Yet
Cross goes to the studio and finds Molly Fawn there, living in a room in the rear.
- She claims to be married to Kerry, whose real last name is Snow. You will not be surprised to learn that she has not seen him since February.
- She knows Art Lemp, describes him as a “business partner” (in his badger game) but says she hasn’t seen him in several weeks.
- She says that Art Lemp was with Kerry Snow in February and that Lemp returned alone, driving Snow’s car.
- She claims not to have heard of Fred Miner.
- She says Kerry had done six years in Portsmouth naval prison for desertion plus theft of Navy property and that he was looking for the woman who’d disclosed his whereabouts.
- Kerry never told her the name of the woman who turned him in, describing her only as the red-haired woman. (Helen Johnson has red hair.)
Molly Fawn is persuaded to take Cross to the low rent hotel where Lemp was staying the last time she heard from him. Lemp, of course, is in the morgue, but a search of his luggage leads to documents linking Lemp to the kidnapping. In a Ross Macdonald novel, every suitcase has critical information. Even without Archer, the rule holds.
He Has to Stop For Coffee Sometime
In Chapter Twenty, Cross takes Molly Fawn back to the Pacific Point courthouse and leaves her with the police for questioning. He confronts Amy Miner, Fred’s wife, who is being held as a material witness. She is deeply upset but Cross establishes some important facts—not so much about the kidnapping as the reasons behind it.
- Amy recognizes Kerry Snow as one of Fred’s old shipmates and says Kerry came around to see Fred right after the end of the war.
- She claims not to know Art Lemp.
- Helen Lemp was the nurse in charge of Fred’s ward while Fred was recovering from his war injuries and knew him well.
Shortly afterwards, when Cross is talking to the detectives on the kidnapping, we learn that the person who turned in Snow years before was Lawrence Steifel when Steifel was doing courts martial work for the Navy.
And just to make it more interesting, we learn that Abel Johnson just died at his home of a heart attack brought on by stress.