THE WYCHERLY WOMAN                Part Four



                        A CLIENT IS SOMEONE WHO HOLDS OUT ON YOU

                                    –Dave Garrett. Garrett Investigations, Philadelphia


After a frustrating series of lies and evasions from Bobby and his mother, Archer hopes for a change of pace with his client.  He is disappointed.

  • Wycherly is desperately concerned about the safety of his daughter, especially when Archer makes it clear that she intended to return to college but something interfered with her plans. Wycherly reveals his essential weakness. He despairs so much of finding her alive that Archer asks him repeatedly if he should continue with the case.
  • In an interview reminiscent of nothing so much as a difficult molar extraction, Archer confirms what he learned through Phoebe’s roommate, that a series of poison pen letters arrived at the marital home and Phoebe saw at least one of them.
  • The letters contained accusations that Catherine Wycherly had been unfaithful. Homer is tightly guarded about whether he gave the letters any credence, but he admitted that he hired a private detective, William Mackey of San Francisco; soon after that, the divorce took place. Actions speak a lot louder than words sometimes.
  • Homer repeats at least three more times that he’s sure the letters and the divorce had absolutely nothing to do with Phoebe’s disappearance. When Archer asks him why Phoebe told Dolly that she felt responsible for the divorce, Wycherly claims to have no idea what Phoebe meant.
  • Homer says the letters were all typewritten but adds that he destroyed them. For good measure, he warns Archer for what must be the tenth time about contacting his ex-wife.


Archer realizes he’s not going to get anything further from his client and heads down to the docks in San Francisco where he interviews one of the ship’s officers.

  • The officer confirms that Catherine Wycherly was drunk and disruptive at the bon voyage party and had to be escorted off the ship. But he adds that Phoebe calmed her mother down and that the two of them left the ship arm in arm. Phoebe never came back on board, as far as he knew.
  • Another crewman add the detail that both women got into a waiting cab and drove away. Phoebe told the driver to take them to her hotel, the St. Francis.
  • One more interesting detail—the ship had engine trouble on the day of sailing and didn’t leave at the scheduled time of four o’clock. The ship didn’t leave until the following morning.
  • No one knows if Homer Wycherly stayed aboard all night.


After a fruitless search for the cab driver and Wycherly’s former private detective, Archer locates the address of Catherine Wycherly in a San Francisco suburb.  Apparently Mr. Wycherly’s instructions were unclear. The number is disconnected but Archer is not discouraged.  His trip to Mrs. Wycherly’s house is interesting.

  • The house, a large estate with a stone gatepost and an eight-foot wall, is padlocked. It bears a For Sale sign listing Ben Merriman as the agent. Remember that name. Better yet, remember everything—this book is so intricately plotted that almost everything is essential.
  • Archer finds at least a dozen newspapers in the driveway; Archer checks one and finds that it’s from three days after Phoebe disappeared. (This kind of thing will happen over and over; you just know it’s a clue but you can’t begin to figure out what it means.)
  • The papers whet Archer’s appetite for more, but while he is in the process of scaling the wall he is interrupted by a man who says he’s responsible for security. Archer is not impressed with the man, but his gun gives him a new appreciation of the situation.
  • After a fruitless visit to the home of one of the crewmen who witnessed the bon voyage party, Archer decides it’s time to meet the rest of Phoebe’s family—her uncle and aunt, Carl and Helen Trevor.


                                                     A Change of Pace


            The Trevor house is imposing, but not in the intimidating manner of Homer’s bunker. They can afford maids and horses, which in the world of Ross Macdonald is ominous. Money nearly always comes at a high cost.

Helen Trevor is “a thin woman about fifty with a face like a silver hatchet.”  Trevor himself, looking ill, went upstairs and left the conversation to his wife.

  • Helen has little to add in term of facts but her hostility towards Catherine speaks volumes. She has not been in touch with her former sister-in-law and did not visit her in the home Catherine purchased after the divorce.
  • When Phoebe didn’t acknowledge the Trevors’ traditional Christmas invitation Carl wanted to drive down to Boulder Beach to see if she was all right, but Helen discouraged him, a decision she now regrets.
  • Trevor comes downstairs after a rest; Helen discourages him from participating but he insists.
  • Trevor has some background information. Although Homer is well into middle age, his ex-wife Catherine is only 40, having married Homer when she was 18 and had Phoebe shortly thereafter.
  • Like everyone else, Trevor is surprised to learn that Phoebe and her mother left the ship together.
  • Although Trevor has no information on Catherine or her house, he volunteers to cover the hospitals and morgues in San Francisco to see if Phoebe’s body has been recovered.
  • Trevor has a number of pictures of Phoebe and gives several to Archer. He explains that he and Helen had no children so they love Phoebe as if she was their own daughter.
  • Trevor is vaguely aware of Phoebe’s relationship with Bobby Doncaster but has no specific information.


With that, Archer is off to see a man about a house.







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