Although Tony Torres had been looking for Wall to escort him to Basset’s office, Wall had taken matters into his own hands and scaled the wall, cutting himself and his clothing in the process. It’s a small point but it’ a good introduction to his impulsive character. Wall can be relied on to ignore any instruction to stay out of the way no matter what the circumstance.
Basset is reluctant to allow Wall inside and displays a gun briefly before Archer takes it away. But when Basset sees two of the most influential club members approaching, he decides it’s better to have Wall in his office, out of sight.
The members are Simon Graff, a major studio producer, trailed by his wife, Isobel, a dazed, pale woman dressed all in black. Although the only conversation at that point is about a party Graff is hosting that night, the two of them will also figure large in the story.
We Need to Talk about Hester
At last Wall has his chance to question Bassett:
- Bassett admits that he was paying for Hester’s ballet lessons. Hester had called Wall in Toronto from a ballet studio saying she was in trouble and needed Wall’s help. She said someone was trying to kill her.
- Basset says she was planning to divorce Wall and try for a career in LA in the movies. He continues to deny that he has seen her since September.
- Basset gives him her last known address, a rented cottage in Malibu.
And then, in a surprise move, Basset hires Archer to help Wall find Hester. He is desperate to get him off the Club grounds before more members start arriving. Wall, understandably suspicious, refuses to accept his money. The problem is resolved by a toss of the coin and Wall will be paying for Archer.
George Wall, New Client and Loose Cannon
On the way out, Archer manages to steer Wall away from several confrontations. Once they get in Archer’s car, more of Wall’s story comes out:
- He is a very junior newspaperman in Toronto, writing sports stories. He was covering an aquatic event when Hester sustained a serious concussion in a dive that went badly. She was depressed and had lost her self-confidence.
- They married in haste with predictable results. She decided that her bad dive was to punish her for her sins and went deeply into religion. Then a few months later she announced she had been purified. She confessed “her sins,” which Wall refuses to detail. Her behavior became more bizarre. She cuts her hair short, dresses like a man, stays out dancing all night, and pretends to speak French.
- A confrontation led to her leaving six months ago without a word. Then Christmas night, two nights before, she called from the ballet studio and said she was in danger. Because it was a long distance call he was able to trace it to Anton’s School of Ballet in LA.
- Archer, very sensibly, asks him why he didn’t contact the Los Angeles police. Wall says he didn’t think he had enough to go on. It’s a weak point in the plot, but a necessary one.
Next Stop, Malibu (But Not the Nice Part)
The address Bassett gave them is a rundown cottage with an air of vacancy. The landlady lives next door. She is reluctant to say much in front of Wall but once Archer shoos him outside, Archer gets a better picture of Hester. The landlady is a fund of information:
- The landlady knew not only Hester, but her sister and her mother. The mother drove both girls to succeed in the entertainment industry.
- The landlady evicted Heather because of the men she was bringing home; in particular, one who appeared to be a gangster. Hester wouldn’t give his name but described him as “her boyfriend’s manager.”
- Her boyfriend is Lance Torres, Tony’s nephew, who was a lifeguard at the club pool. Lance was a small-time boxer but went to jail briefly and after that was unable to fight professionally. (Lance was the middle figure in the photo of the three divers doing the swan dive, just to keep things straight.)
- When the landlady told Hester she had to get out, she drove off with the gangster.
- She is very much aware of Gabrielle’s death two years before but refuses to speculate on who was responsible.
Sensing that the information Wall already has had made him volatile enough, Archer relays as little as possible and simply suggests that they visit Anton’s Ballet, where the call originated.