THE WYCHERLY WOMAN                 Part Fifteen

                                                                                  SPOILER ALERT





                                   A CONVERSATION IN THE ROACH MOTEL


It is a tribute to Macdonald’s careful plotting that we are in Chapter 24, four chapters from the end, before Archer finally starts to get enough information to make sense of the case.

And the information comes from someone who has been withholding it since Chapter 3.  Bobby is lying on the bed, with Archer holding a gun on him.  The lying is about to end.

  • Archer tells him that Mrs. Doncaster admitted that Bobby went to San Francisco with Phoebe.
  • Bobby admits it’s true, but that his mother didn’t know that, at least for sure.
  • Bobby’s story is that Phoebe picked him up on the edge of campus and they drove to San Francisco together, planning to get married in Reno after her father’s ship sailed. He waited at the St. Francis while she went to the ship. He claims that Phoebe must have changed her mind.  When she didn’t come back, he finally gave up and took a bus home.
  • When Archer confronts him that he was seen driving Phoebe’s VW to the edge of the ocean cliff, Bobby lapses into a stubborn silence. Only when Archer threatens to take him to the police for the murder of Catherine Wycherly does the truth even start to come out.
  • Phoebe is alive and Bobby knows where she is.
  • Phoebe killed her mother and he got rid of the body for her.
  • Bobby’s next story, which is much closer to the truth, is that Phoebe wanted to see her mother after the bon voyage party to try to reconcile before she and Bobby got married. Phoebe went into the house while Bobby waited in the car. She came out after twenty minutes holding a bloody poker. In the house was her mother’s body.  Phoebe was hysterical.  Bobby agreed to get rid of the body.
  • Bobby says she is still severely disturbed; she has been at a sanitarium for some time and she walked away from it last night. She didn’t leave at Bobby’s suggestion—he spent half the night at the motel telling her she had to go back, and when the psychiatrist came this morning, they finally convinced her to return.
  • Phoebe had put on a lot of weight since he last saw her and was wearing clothes that were too old for her. Even with the extra weight, they fit loosely.
  • The psychiatrist is a Dr. Sherill, who treated Phoebe for mental health problems before she withdrew from Stanford.
  • Bobby says he had no idea where she was the last two months. It was news to him that she had been in Sacramento. All he knows is that Dr. Sherill told him that she showed up at his clinic in Palo Alto yesterday morning.
  • A slip of the tongue by Bobby leads Archer to uncover that Merriman walked in and agreed to help them dispose of Catherine’s body. Phoebe had told Bobby not to mention that Merriman was involved.


What this case needs is a visit to a mental institution.




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