THE WYCHERLY WOMAN Part Nine
Letters, We Get Letters, We Get Stacks and Stacks of Letters . . .
My apologies to any of my followers who are too young to remember The Perry Como Show, but blogging a book from that era made it seem appropriate. But these letters are not song requests. They sprang from the pen of a Jeremiah in an especially grumpy mood.
- The first letter warns that the family’s sins will be punished; and by the second line it’s clear that the sin is adultery. Sodom gets a mention. There is a reference to sin being punished to the third and fourth generation, and a reminder that the recipient has a child. The letter closes with a threat that the writer will strike at a time and place of the writer’s choosing.
- The second letter is just as unhinged but more specific. “The wife and mother is a whore. The husband and father is a complaisant cuckold.” The writer, along with “a jealous and angry God,” are watching, presumably for some sign of repentance, but that is never made clear.
- Both letters are signed “?A Friend of the Family.”
- There is also a letter from Wycherly to Markely, engaging his services as an investigator.
- Although the business letter from Wycherly is professionally typed and proportionally spaced, the three letters were all typed on the same machine. In particular, the “e” is slightly out of alignment. For those of you who have dozed off, in post three I mentioned that a typewriter with a similar “e” was the one Phoebe took to college, and the one that Archer saw Phoebe’s roommate using to prepare a term paper.
- Archer and Mackey trade theories. The fact that all three were done on the same typewriter is only important if we can be sure who had access to the typewriter last summer when the poison pen letters were written. They agree that the threatening letters sound faked in their quasi-religious intensity. They also agree that Homer Wycherly isn’t smart enough to pull off a deception like that.
Mackey and Archer part; and then, as Archer admits, “I got my break, if you could call it that.”
Follow That Cab Driver
Throughout his investigation, Archer has been checking in with the hotel staff at the St. Francis, dropping some cash here and there, trying to contact the cab driver who drove Phoebe and her mother away from the ship. Now his work pays off. The driver is in the cab rack waiting for a fare.
Archer is right to call it a sort of a break. Like everything else in the case, the cabbie’s story is important—it’s just that Archer and the reader can’t see how it fits in.
- The cabbie said the mother and daughter had an argument when the daughter said she was inviting a man to stay the night with her at the St. Francis—so far, so good; the man would be Bobby Doncaster.
- The cabbie dropped Phoebe off at the St. Francis—but not before her mother made her promise to visit her at her home that afternoon. Take note; Catherine’s request is not a casual one. She has something to tell Phoebe and the appointment will have huge consequences.
- The cabbie dropped the mother at the train station. Again, it all makes sense—Phoebe had her own car and could spend the afternoon with her mother and still keep her date with Bobby that evening.
- Then it gets weird. The cabbie says that about ten days later, he saw Phoebe by the side of the road in a rainstorm. She appeared ready to jump off an overpass. He got her into his cab but she was too upset to make sense. She also said she had no money and offered him her gold watch, which he declined. He asked her where she wanted to go; at first she said she had an aunt and then said the aunt would hate her. Eventually she directed the cabbie to a dingy two-story apartment building called The Conquistador. He took her inside but then a big blond man with a scraggly beard barged in and threw him out.
- Archer has him drive to The Conquistador and points out which apartment. He tells the cabbie to wait for him.
Like everyone else in California, Archer is interested in real estate.