THE ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE Part Four
Mexico, The Land of Unfailing Virtue
Archer follows some leads from various Air Mexicana employees, all of whom are unbelievably attractive, cheerful and helpful even though these traits have nothing to do with the story. Macdonald was inclined to paint minorities in a favorable light even before his daughter killed one Hispanic boy and injured several others. Afterwards, he used every bit of his influence to get her off with a slap on the wrist. He spend the rest of his life expiating his guilt by depicting Hispanic characters in ridiculously flattering terms. Get used to it because there will be plenty more.
Archer determines that Simpson disappeared two days before Damis entered Mexico using Simpson’s birth certificate.
Archer goes to the home of Pauline Hatchen, Blackwell’s ex-wife, and her new husband Keith. Pauline had seen Damis around town before her daughter arrived but didn’t know him. But just a few days later, Isobel moved out of the Hatchen house and went to live with Damis.
Archer’s next stop is the home/studio of Anne Castle, a local artist who was involved with Damis before Isobel came to town. She has little new information but she allows him to take a small self-portrait Damis sketched. It’s as close as Archer can get to figuring out who Damis is.
Back in the USA
Archer’s hard work pays off. At the beach house he had taken some photos of the painting Damis had been working on, and now the film has been developed. (My younger readers may need to Google this concept.) He takes the pictures to an art critic and collector who immediately identifies it as the work of Bruce Campion, who had been living in the San Francisco area but was now a fugitive from charges of murdering his wife.
Say that again?
Archer drives to the Blackwell residence; when he gives Colonel Blackwell the news about Campion, the man promptly faints. While Archer waits for him to recover and for Mrs. Blackwell to return home, Archer contacts the San Mateo police, the jurisdiction where Campion’s wife was killed.
- The woman was named Dolly Campion, age 20.
- Campion had met her in Lake Tahoe the previous summer and married her in Reno in September. She was three months pregnant at the time.
- The child was born two months before Dolly was murdered and is safe with Dolly’s mother.
Blackwell had been listening on an extension and doesn’t like the way Archer was describing the family to the police. Belligerent as ever, Blackwell says he is firing Archer. To buy time, Archer insists on cash. While Blackwell is away, his wife Harriet shows up and agrees to hire Archer herself.
Another Plane Fight, This One to Reno
Archer had already hired Arnie Walters, his regular Reno contact, to work the Nevada end of the case, and Walters meets him at the airport.
- Isobel had contacted the handyman who watched the Blackwell’s lodge in Lake Tahoe, picked up the keys, and asked her not to tell her father she was there.
- No one is home when Archer and Walters visit the lodge, but from the dirty dishes it seems that the two of them were there the previous night.
- Isobel’s suitcase is missing.
- Oh—I almost forgot. Isobel’s hat is floating just offshore. When Archer retrieves it, there is blood and a length of her hair inside, pulled out by the roots.
- The handyman recognizes Campion from his self-portrait Archer brought back from Mexico.
- And the handyman knew Quincy Ralph Simpson, the man who was found icepicked in a shallow grave in Citrus City. Simpson worked for the Blackwells at the Lake Tahoe lodge but was fired after a week. (Blackwell’s story was that he fired Simpson for stealing but it’s not clear what. But like everything else, it’s a clue).
- If that wasn’t enough, the handyman knew that Simpson had a girlfriend, named Fawn who worked at a club called the Solitaire.