THE WYCHERLY WOMAN Part Thirteen
“It Was a Rough Night, and it Got No Smoother”
Nothing summarizes the action as well as this first line of Chapter 22. The preceding chapter ended with Archer telephoning Mrs. Trevor to let her know about her husband’s heart attack and that, because the Terranova hospital is a subpar medical facility, she should call his cardiologist.
There was silence on the line, which seemed to need filling. I said:
“I’m sorry about this, Mrs. Trevor.”
“You have reason to be, Mr. Archer.”
She hung up on me.
It’s three in the morning but Archer never lets a case rest if he can help it. He goes to the Doncaster house. His primary errand is to see Dolly, Phoebe’s roommate, but he starts with Mrs. Doncaster.
The confident, domineering woman Archer last saw is gone. She is exhausted and despondent, and Archer knows why.
- She had lied that Bobby was home ill the first weekend in November. Archer tells her that Bobby was seen by multiple people driving Phoebe’s VW the night of November 2. She admits he went away all weekend by himself. He telephoned her from the local bus station the next morning. She asked him what he had been doing but he refused to tell her.
- She refuses to tell Archer where Bobby is now, but Archer gets her to admit that Bobby left suddenly after he received a phone call on Dolly Lang’s phone.
- Archer confronts Dolly, who admits that she was called by a long-distance operator placing a person to person call to Bobby from Palo Alto. Whoever it was, Bobby said it was not Phoebe. But whoever it was, both Dolly and Mrs. Doncaster agree that he was very excited about the call and left in a hurry.
- Archer inspects the typewriter—sure enough, the e key is out of alignment. (It would be a cruel joke on the reader if it wasn’t.)
- The typewriter belongs to Phoebe, but just in case you are getting your hopes up, it’s twenty years old and Phoebe never bought anything secondhand.
- Archer obtains the Palo Alto number that was used to call Bobby, but when he tries it, no one answers. As he observed, it’s a rough night that’s not getting smoother.
A Visit with Homer Wycherly
Archer drives to the Boulder Beach Inn where Wycherly is staying, but it does him no good. The desk clerk has instructions not to disturb him before eight and Archer can’t change his mind. F. Scott Fitzgerald was right about the rich being different.
- At eight, Archer shows Wycherly the typewriter he took from Dolly’s. Wycherly recognizes it as Catherine’s.
- Catherine kept it in her sitting room at the house and left it behind in the divorce. Phoebe took it with her when she went back to college in the fall.
- Lest the reader think we are getting anywhere, anyone in the house could have had access to the machine and Catherine was seldom in her rooms except to sleep.
- Wycherly refuses to accept the idea that Catherine could have written the letters, since they accused her of infidelity. But Archer works on him, suggesting that she may have wanted to break up the marriage. Wycherly finally admits that he suspected that she had been having an affair for months before the letters appeared. When he had questioned her about her absences she said she was at a studio painting.
- Wycherly also admits that he asked Catherine, rather than one of his secretaries, to type the engagement letter with Mackey, the private eye. He wanted to see how she would react, but she was completely calm. Then, a few weeks later, she went to Reno and hired a divorce lawyer.
- Archer puts off telling him about Phoebe for the moment. He asks Wycherly why he didn’t mention that the ship was delayed by engine trouble and didn’t leave until November 3, a detail he learned from questioning the ship’s officers.
- Wycherly says it slipped his mind and that he never left the ship. Archer doesn’t press the matter because he needs to tell him that it is very possible that his daughter is dead. Archer is careful; he tells him that Trevor made the identification, but that the body had been in the sea for two months, and that there were several sightings of Phoebe after the car went into the ocean.
- Wycherly is crushed by the news but like any parent, he is reluctant to surrender all hope. He agrees to go to the Terranova morgue and see for himself.
- Archer is on his way to Palo Alto to track down the phone call to Bobby Doncaster.