The Perfect Patsy
Rina wakes up, still groggy from her sleeping pill, and she and Archer start to talk. She is still suspicious but she realizes that what he has told her must be at least partly true.
- She admits trying to call Archer the evening before but says she lost her nerve.
- Her connection with Stern, the gambler, is slight. Hester had talked her into a double date with Hester, Stern and Lance; it was immediately clear to her that Stern was more interested in Lance than her. (But it planted in Lance the idea that one sister could pass for the other, under the right circumstances.)
- Hester had told Rina the same story she’d told her mother about coming into money from a wealthy husband who has just died; Rina had no reason not to believe it.
- Lance and Carl Stern came to Rina and told her that Hester was in trouble and needed to disappear. They asked Rina to impersonate Hester, fly to Las Vegas under Hester’s name, and register in a hotel. Then she was to take a cab to the edge of the desert where Carl Stern would pick her up. Of course, she lost her nerve and didn’t keep the meeting.
- Archer connects the dots for her; if Hester was killed in LA, it would confuse the trail if she was “sighted” two days later in Las Vegas and then disappears from there. The police would look in Las Vegas, not LA. Assuming that Rina isn’t around to tell the true story, of course.
Even More Gunplay
Just as Rina is digesting all this, Frost, Marfeld and another studio thug burst in, presumably tipped off by the cabbie who’d driven Archer to the motel. A good deal of wrestling and pistol-whipping ensue. Carol Busch, God love her, even tries to help. It is not clear to me why the thugs just don’t mow everyone down, but their goal is to take them prisoner. Archer dukes it out with the three and of course emerges triumphant. Carol Busch shows up with a .45 and ends the fracas. She is a useful woman to have around. Unfortunately, we have seen the last of her.
With Rina at the wheel of Frost’s Cadillac, Archer forces Frost to guide him to a disused ammunition dump near the airport where they find Hester’s body, which had been doused with gasoline and burned. After his usual preliminary lies, Frost confesses:
- Isobel Graff killed Hester with the fireplace poker in the Campbell mansion. Marfeld saw it.
- Isobel’s motive to kill Hester was that Isobel thought Hester was having an affair with her husband Graff.
- Graff refused to allow the body to be dumped in the sea because he had a house in Malibu—Graff came up with the idea of dumping the body in Las Vegas, where attention might be drawn to Carl Stern.
- Lance Leonard stumbled in on the body and came up with the added touch of having Rina substitute for Hester so the police would start looking in Las Vegas.
- Frost insists he doesn’t know what Carl Stern was planning to do with Rina afterwards.
- Hester was killed because she had “something” on Simon Graff and was blackmailing him. Frost admits that it was a target pistol that was used to kill Gabrielle Torres; the gun was kept in a safe deposit box.
- On the disastrous double date between Lance, Graff, and the two sisters, apparently Rina had been indiscreet enough to not only mention Graff’s homosexuality but also implied that Hester was blackmailing him—giving Graff a reason to want to get rid of her when Hester died.
Back to LA
On the flight back, Archer and Rina talk. In a novel written by anyone but Ross Macdonald this would be the beginning of an affair. Instead, after some generalizations about the human condition, we are left with simply a clue—that Rina worked at Dr. Frey’s private psychiatric clinic and Isobel Graff was one of the patients. Rina mentions that in the middle of March, Dr. Frey had given her the freedom of the grounds and Isobel disappeared overnight. She returned in the morning, distraught and disheveled. Rina says she will never forget the date, March 21, because it was the same night that Gabrielle Torres, whom she knew, was murdered. “I didn’t connect the two events at the time.”
Sounds like her psychiatric nursing school owes her a partial refund.
Hester, despite her own lack of education, made the connection immediately and once she got her hands on the gun, she used it to blackmail Graff into giving her a mansion and a movie contract.