THE PAST IS NOT DEAD OR EVEN PAST:
IT’S AT FOURTEEN CHESTNUT STREET
Archer and Parish drive to the home of Mrs. Hutchinson, leaving Mildred alone with her unconscious mother.
There is a literary tradition, especially in British fiction, of long-time family retainers being discreet and uncommunicative about the foibles of their employers. That tradition didn’t travel as far as Southern California. Interviewing Mrs. Hutchinson, at least on some subjects, is like drinking from a fire hose.
- Alicia Hallman, Carl’s mother, was mentally unstable for years and was addicted to any pills she could get hers hands on. She went through every doctor in town; she wound up with Dr. Grantland because he was new.
- Hutchinson recalled her former employer with affection, referring to her as “a sad, spoiled woman, spoiled rotten all her life. . . the saddest person you would ever see, especially towards the end.”
- Although Senator Hallman didn’t like her having a gun he allowed her to keep it as long as it stayed in her room. Hutchinson doesn’t specifically remember seeing it for a few weeks before Alicia’s death.
When Archer questions her more closely about the gun, the floodgates close and he has to wring several more important facts out of her.
- Grantland got her the job with the Hallman family.
- Archer asks her why Grantland didn’t ask her if she could identify the gun after Jerry was shot, since he would have expected her to recognize it.
- Although she admits that she and Grantland have talked since the shooting, and even that Grantland had been at her house earlier that evening, she refuses to say anything more.
We Interrupt this Investigation for a Manhunt
Carl has been seen nearby and an armed posse of deputies and civilians is roaming the area, prepared to shoot on sight. Outside, Archer runs into the newspaper reporter who confirms that Ostervelt has been taking protection from many houses of prostitution, presumably including the Buenavista Inn.
The reporter tells Archer that shortly before the Senator’s death, the reporter showed his proof to the Senator, hoping that the Senator would withdraw his support at the next election. The Senator told him he would think it over and to come back in a week for his comments.
Before the week was over, the Senator was dead. The Hallman family threw all its weight behind Ostervelt’s re-election. Which gives Archer yet another suspect.
We Interrupt the Manhunt for Another Murder
Archer and the reporter briefly discuss what role Ostervelt might have played in the Senator’s death and then Archer heads back towards Mrs. Hutchinson’s house. As he approaches he sees Zinnie’s station wagon parked out front. He assumes that she stopped by to say good-night to her daughter.
Passing by the car, he notices that the driver’s side window is down and the keys are in the ignition. Looking more closely, he sees a blanket-wrapped form on the floor in the rear.
When he open the blanket he finds the corpse of Zinnie Hallman, with several visible knife wounds, clearly dead but still warm.
Archer knocks on the door. Mrs. Hutchison is evasive but Archer forces her to admit that Dr. Grandland arrived in the car, with Zinnie, several hours ago to see the child. As far as she could tell, the two of them had a routine visit with the little girl.
Archer does not reveal that Zinnie is dead, and simply asks about her background more generally. He gets an earful.
- Jerry Hallman picked Zinnie up at a nightclub in Los Angeles. She comes from a dubious background. “She was a driven, hungry woman, always hungry for things she didn’t have . . . An unsatisfied woman is a terrible thing in this life.”
- She confirms that a few months before, Zinnie came to her and asked her to testify against her husband if there was a divorce, but the housekeeper refused.
- She admits to losing her respect for Grantland. His parents had lost everything in the Depression and he had worked hard, at first, to provide excellent care even if the patients could not pay. Three years ago, a change in his manner. He seemed to lose interest in medicine and was only interested in making money.
- After some reluctance, she admits that she lied about the gun,. Grantland had told her twice to lie if anybody asked her if she recognized it.
- She had lied when she said that Alicia Hallman didn’t have the gun the night she died.
- Grantland had told her to tell that story the same night Alicia Hallman died. He also took the box of shells that night.
- She kept quiet because she was afraid she would lose her job for not looking after Alicia more closely. (Not an unreasonable fear, considering how it turned out.)