On The Road Again
Although Archer could have gone directly to Anton’s Ballet, he decides to follow up on his most recent lead first, trying to find the identity of the gangster who took Hester away from the Malibu cottage.
it’s time for a coincidence to keep the plot from stalling. Macdonald contrives Archer’s next break with an interview with the Club security guard, Tony Torres, someone he has no reason to think has any useful current information. But Archer is one of those people who makes his own luck. A few pages with Torrez goes a long way towards focusing the investigation.
It’s a Good Narrative Move
A less experienced writer would have sent Archer directly to Anton’s, but what would be the suspense in that? We already know that Hester made the call from Anton’s phone at a particular time, and we know what she said. There is only so much more to cut along the dotted line. Macdonald is confident enough to do it differently.
Tony might well be suspicious of both Archer and his client, but like almost every minority character we meet, he has a generous spirit:
- Tony admits to having a nephew who calls himself Lance, although his birth name was Manuel Torres. (Manuel is the diver in the middle in the photo Archer saw in Bassett’ office.)
- Tony was training Lance as a boxer and coached him to winning in a few small bouts; but Lance was impatient with his uncle and moves to Los Angeles, where he becomes involved with a crooked fight promoter named Carl Stern.
- Lance won some fights—and threw some fights—under Stern but then was arrested for drugs and served time in jail. When he was released his boxing license was revoked, leaving him with no job skills.
- Tony saw Lance driving a luxury sports car just a week before—and Hester was in the car with him.
Anton’s Ballet School
The chapter is nicely written, and Anton himself is a well-drawn minor character, but the information can be summarized quickly:
- Anton confirms that Hester was a student until recently, and that at the Christmas party she appeared to be very prosperous, wearing a new mink stole.
- She said she was under contract to a major studio (even though she has no acting experience.)
- Anton confirms that she was there with Tony’s nephew, who now goes by the name of Lance Leonard.
- Lance claims to be under contract with Helio-Graff Studio, the studio owned by Simon Graff.
- When Hester slipped away to call her husband, Lance became furious and told her that “she wouldn’t last a week” if she didn’t “play along with the operation” and that Carl Stern was going to “fix her wagon.”
- Carl Stern was once heavily into racketeering but has been trying to move out of traditional crime and into gambling in Las Vegas.
- Because Carl Stern couldn’t get a Nevada license, the official holder of the casino license is Simon Graff.
I Was This Close . . .
Archer makes a telephone call to a friend at the Helio-Graff Studio, confirms that Lance Leonard is indeed signed up for a minor role in an upcoming movie, and even gets Lance’s home address. He and Wall drive to the house. Archer makes Wall promise to stay in the car while he goes to the front door. That’s the last thing that goes right.
- Lance Leonard answers the door. He denies knowing Hester, but Archer catches a glimpse of her in the rear of the house. Leonard uses his boxing skills to deck Archer.
- The commotion gets Hester’s attention and she comes running to the door.
- At that point George comes running up the driveway, calling for her. Leonard shoves her back inside and slams the door behind him. He makes short work of George. Archer eventually gets the better of Leonard, but by the time he gets into the house, Hester has fled in Leonard’s Jaguar. The only clue left behind is a sun hat with the label of the Taos Shop.
Archer takes George to a doctor for his injuries and agrees that George can stay with him till he is well enough to travel. While George is sleeping, Bassett calls and lets him know that he has just learned that Hester is the mistress of Simon Graff—which explains her sudden prosperity.
Things Get Better
Archer’s luck begins to change—probably because he left George asleep back at his house. He goes to the Taos Shop and learns that Hester’s mother, Teeny Campbell, used to work in the shop, and only quit two weeks before; the story is that Hester has just come into a large inheritance due to the death of her wealthy husband in Canada, and that Hester was going to have her mother move in with her.
He leaves the shop with the address of Hester’s mother.