THINGS CAN HAPPEN FAST IN A CLOSED MEDICAL CLINIC
It was an unspecified time in the middle of the night after most people had gone to bed, but Archer’s pursuit of Dr. Grantland doesn’t take him to the man’s home—he goes to the clinic instead, which is of course closed at that hour.
Archer gets lucky. Just outside the clinic is an injured man, bleeding heavily. It’s Tom Rica, and Rica explains how he cut his hand breaking out of the doctor’s wire-reinforced windows. And he has a lot more to say.
- Rica says Grantland gave him an injection of heroin in his office and then left, saying he would be right back.
- When he didn’t return Rice realized Grantland had locked him in.
- Rica was a witness to Grantland’s murder of Alicia Hallman and has been blackmailing Grantland for heroin ever since.
- Rica says Grantland beat Alicia to death and then threw her off the pier into the ocean, which is contradicted by the coroner’s evidence that she died of drowning (sort of reminds you of the various stories about how her husband died, but that’s just a coincidence.)
- Rica is in no condition to be a good witness but he mentions that there was a shot inside the clinic, and then a woman came out dripping blood. Unfortunately, Archer is unable to get any details.
- Archer makes a run for the nearest help, a gas station. He learns that Dr. Grantland was just there, and that he’d bought a gallon of highly inflammable cleaning gas. The doctor’s story was that he needed to clean up a stain on his carpet. Thinking of Zinnie’s bloody corpse, Archer concluded that Grantland is right.
Doctors May not Make House Calls but Private Eyes Do
Leaving Rica in the hands of Parish, Archer runs the remaining distance to Dr. Grantland’s house. He sees Grantland on his hands and knees attempting to clean a huge red stain out of the hall carpet.
- Grantland denies killing Zinnie and says he wasn’t here when it must have happened.
- He says that Zinnie had come over earlier, after their visit with her daughter; he claims she was tired so she went to lie down in his bed. The murder evidently happened there; the sheets, which he has stripped, are soaked in blood, as well as Zinnie’s clothes and an electric blanket. Remember the blanket.
- Archer accuses Grantland of listening in on the police bands and tried to arrange it so Zinnie and Carl would cross paths so he could be blamed for her death.
- Grantland admits giving Rica a dose of heroin and then leaving him alone but insists it was a simple medical error. (How an experienced doctor can flub a lethal dose is hard to accept—but the plot needs Rica alive, so there you are.)
Dr. Grantland’s Version of Alicia Hallman’s Death
- It was an accident.
- Her son Jerry made a special night appointment for her and drove her himself.
- She demanded drugs to calm her nerves and when she became upset she drew her gun and fired a shot at Grantland, which missed.
- Jerry, attracted from the other room by the shot, grappled with her for the gun—she fell and hit her head on the radiator. The blow was fatal.
- Grantland told the same story to Carl when Carl visited yesterday.
Archer doesn’t believe it, but he doesn’t start with the most obvious reasons–that Jerry was in Berkeley and that Sam Yogan did the driving. Archer is suspicious for a more subtle reason—that it would be exactly the kind of tale to spin to an unbalanced young man who might be inclined to seek vengeance for his mother’s death. Archer’s suspicions are only deepened when Grantland admitted that he showed the gun to Carl, who then ran off with it. (At least that clears up the implausibility of Carl simply stumbling into the gun in the doctor’s office.)
Archer throws out the theory that the blood-spattered woman Rica saw leaving the clinic was Zinnie, wounded by Alicia’s shot, but this fails to shake Grantland.
Turning to Zinnie, they have a conversation that doesn’t add up.
- The doctor thinks Carl killed Zinnie, both for personal motives and because it would increase his share of the ranch.
- Archer asks how long Zinnie has been dead, based on the last time the doctor saw her, and he says she has been dead about four hours, which meant she died shortly after eight.
Archer calls him a liar—when he found the body it was still warm and it’s now midnight.
- The doctor says he found Zinnie in bed and after a while dragged her out and that the blood got in the hall when he was carrying her out. He denies killing her and even Archer can’t see a clear motive for it.
When Archer tells Grantland to telephone the police, he overpowers Archer and knocks him out with the telephone. Then Grantland kicks over the can of cleaning gasoline and starts the house on fire, leaving Archer behind.