THE ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE Part Six
By Whatever Name, Bruce Campion is a Jerk
Chapter Nineteen starts with Archer’s request that the police check out the registration records for the Saline City motel. The police point out that the motel is only thirty miles from where Dolly was found; even if he spent part of the night there, it’s hardly an alibi. But even the possibility that Campion has a real alibi is enough to interest Archer.
The object of his curiosity does nothing to help himself. Campion is under arrest but is in the hospital being treated for an encounter with a ball peen hammer. Campion manages to be nasty, arrogant, sarcastic and evasive, but winnowed from his nonsense are a precious few facts:
- He denies killing Harriet Blackwell, Dolly, or anyone else.
- He says the scratches on his face, the same ones that the real Damis noted at Lake Tahoe, were from wandering through the woods after he last saw Harriett. Nothing suspicious about that, is there?
- He admits that he and Ralph Simpson were friends and that Simpson lent him his birth certificate so Campion could go to Mexico.
Archer is a professional. After a morning of abuse by Campion, as well as being blown off by his sister, that night he dreams that Campion is innocent.
Archer Returns to Luna Bay
Readers of The Galton Case will recall that Luna Bay was where John Brown, Jr. met his end and where Archer first encountered Anthony Galton. It’s also where Dolly Campion was murdered. Archer talks to the investigating officer.
- The officer has trouble believing that Campion killed Simpson; it was Simpson who’d found Campion and his wife Dolly a place to live when they moved there, and the two men had been friends for years.
- Campion and Dolly were desperate for money; she was pregnant and he refused to find a regular job, preferring to paint.
- Simpson paid for Dolly’s medical expenses when the baby was born.
- Archer and the police are both puzzled by the chronology; Simpson was killed in Dolly’s hometown, Citrus Junction, two weeks after she was killed, and Simpson had apparently used those two weeks to look for her killer.
- The police officer confides in Archer that they didn’t have enough to charge Campion with Dolly’s death. They were working off the general rule that when a woman is killed, her domestic partner is the most likely suspect. They only decided to file charges after he fled.
- Campion said he was driving around the night of the murder, drinking at bars he can’t remember. Campion and Dolly had argued about money and he’d stormed out. I’ve heard of worse alibis but none that come to mind right now.
- Dolly was found on her bed in her nightgown, strangled with one of her own stockings.
- The police have a large brown button covered in woven leather with a few brown threads attached. It was found in the fist of Dolly’s baby. Whoever killed Dolly placed the baby in the seat of a neighbor’s car. “I’d seen a button like that in the last few days,” Archer reflects. “I couldn’t remember where.”
Luna Bay to LA and then Back to Citrus Junction
The baby is being raised by Dolly’s mother. Archer has a long but not very productive conversation. She had no use for Campion, which is the reaction of most people. And she is convinced he killed her daughter.
The houses across the street are being demolished for a road widening project, including the house where Simpson’s body was found. The houses have been vacant for months. It was a bulldozer from the demolition project that uncovered Simpson’s body.
Archer is at the point of leaving when he happens to mention Ralph Simpson. She never knew him, but Archer thinks it was no coincidence that Simpson was buried, and presumably killed, at the house across the street. She observes that it was a shame that the old Jaimet house had been torn down. The Jaimet house, Archer asks.
After Mr. Jaimet died, his widow sold it and moved away.
It’s a clue.