THE WYCHERLY WOMAN Part Eleven
These Walls Don’t Talk but the People Sure Do
Archer makes great progress on his second visit to Mrs. Wycherly’s apartment building; unfortunately, the direction is more circular than linear.
“Money Doesn’t Talk, it Swears”— Bob Dylan
Archer starts with the caretaker. When he claims not to recognize Phoebe’s photograph Archer senses that he is holding out. Archer suggests she is from a wealthy family and invents the prospect of a substantial reward.
- He now recalls helping Phoebe move out November 10. The girl looked bloated and ill. She was taking some of her mother’s suitcases and the caretaker helped her get them down the stairs to a car.
- She left with Merriman, the realtor. The caretaker didn’t know what kind of relationship they had, but Merriman had brought her to her mother’s apartment in early November and visited her every day.
- The caretaker refuses to speculate if they were having an affair, but he says that Merriman was there late every night, always bringing groceries. The girl never left the apartment, as far as he knew.
- It was Merriman who said they were going to her mother’s in Sacramento. Phoebe didn’t seem to be looking forward to the trip, or anything else.
- The caretaker has less to say about Mrs. Wycherly. Although she rented the apartment for eight months she was seldom there. He admits that a man could have visited her in the evenings, but he doesn’t know if it was Merriman or someone else.
- The caretaker knew Merriman slightly and didn’t approve of his business practices.
- In December, Merriman told him that Mrs. Wycherly was not going to renew her lease and that the furniture didn’t fit into her plans, so the apartment could be rented as a furnished unit.
- The caretaker has no idea why she moved out, except that not long after she moved in, she complained that she thought that the tenant next door, Stanley Quillan was spying on her. The next day she apologized and said it had been a misunderstanding.
“I was puzzled. Apparently, Mrs. Wycherly had moved into the Champion Hotel at a time when she had a perfectly good apartment . . . as well as a house . . .”
Well, God love you, Lew, because after eighteen chapters of nonstop investigation, we’re puzzled, too.
A Few But Important Words with Jessie Drake
- Archer heads upstairs hoping to find Stanley but finds only Jessie. He tells her he knows about Merriman showing her the money and she confirms it. She says it was in a black satchel and that it was filled with hundred-dollar bills. Merriman’s story is an odd echo of Stanley’s version, that it was the proceeds of the sale of a house and the owner just gave him the money.
- Jessie has known Sally, Merriman’s wife, for years, but after they married Sally stopped having her around. Jessie admits that “I have that effect on certain types.” The two of them got to know each other as “actresses,” to use her word. Jessie’s acting career took her to Nevada for several years. Uh-huh.
- Stanley calls and she is silent for a long time, listening. When she hangs up she says she needs to “do some things for Stanley.” Specificity is not her strong suit and Archer doesn’t waste time trying to get the truth out of her. He has a better idea.
- Archer parks out of sight of the building and waits till he sees Jessie get into a cab. Archer follows it to the airport. He keeps his distance, watching her while she waits. And waits. After an hour she gives up and walks to the cab rack.
Archer intercepts her and searches her bags, which reveal nothing except a few clothes and the first few pages of her memoir, which begin with her sexual initiation from her mother’s boyfriend when she was twelve.
Jessie admits that she and Stanley were supposed to take a plane, but she won’t say where. She admits that he might have been calling from his store because she heard music in the background.
They drive to the store and Jessie goes in first. When Archer enters he sees Stanley, sprawled in his chair with a bullet hole in his forehead and an open black satchel at his feet with hundred-dollar bills scattered on the floor.
Jessie is frantically trying to pick up as many as she can when the police arrive.