THE ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE Part Thirteen
By whatever name, Campion has always been the center of the book. We don’t fully understand the Blackwells until very late in the story, but we recognize their general roles in the family constellation—overprotective father; resentful, smothered daughter; and recent stepmother trying to navigate between the two. Simpson and Dolly are not fully realized characters, but they don’t need to be. They are gears in the machinery of the plot. But Campion is another matter. He is the wellspring of the action. We are 14 pages from the end and he’s still mysterious.
That is about to change.
Archer visits Campion in the San Mateo jail, where he is being held for Dolly’s murder. Campion is as much of a self-centered jerk as ever, but a few days in jail awaiting trial have mellow him enough to be willing to listen to Archer. We will skip Campion’s self-pity that he turns into hostility and cut to the facts:
- The last time Campion saw Harriet was that night at the lake. He told her that he suspected that her father Mark had killed Dolly. She went wild and attacked him, scratching his face. They struggled and she ran down to the lake and either fell or jumped in. He went in after her but couldn’t find her.
- Archer tells Campion that her father killed her.
- Campion is shaken and tells Archer that he regrets not being honest with Archer, but he thought Archer was simply working for Blackwell and would turn anything against him.
- Campion married Dolly for her money—the money she was getting from Blackwell, as it turned out. He enjoyed painting her but never slept with her.
- The only woman he has ever been attracted to was Anne Castle, the artist in Mexico, You may recall that it was Anne who gave Archer Campion’s self-portrait.
- Campion reveals that Archer was wrong about the time line of him and Harriet. The two of them met and became lovers before they ever went to Mexico. They met when Harriet came to see Dolly and meet the baby, her half-brother. Harriet had a strong interest in art and was hungry for male attention.
- Campion went to Mexico first, traveling on Ralph Simpson’s birth certificate. Harriet followed and the two of them arranged to meet. They pretended they had just met.
- Campion was reluctant to become seriously involved but Harriet was rich and needy.
- Dolly was already pregnant when Campion met her. He never pressed her to name the father.
- When Harriet talked about the Lake Tahoe lodge, Campion realized that Dolly had described the same place. He realized that Dolly could only know about it if she had been there with Blackwell and that he was the father.
- Campion came back to the States with Harriet to confront Blackwell about the paternity of the baby.
- This is the least important point but worth mentioning: Campion says he barely knew his father. The man walked out on his mother and him when he was four. The same age when Macdonald’s real father left.
Yet Another Coincidence
After the interview with Campion, Archer arrives at the San Francisco airport, ready to fly back to LA. The case is finally over, right?
This being a Ross Macdonald book, he immediately runs into Anne Castle, who has just arrived from Mexico.
- She just heard of Campion’s arrest and dropped everything to fly up to help.
- She is prepared to forgive Campion for dumping her for Harriet.
- Archer tells her what he had figured out and what Campion told him. His conclusion is that Campion is a material witness but hasn’t committed any crimes. The worst than can be said is that he has had designs on two women for their money. He doesn’t need to connect the dots that Campion’s relationship with Anne was based on a foundational lie. When he was involved with Anne, Campion was killing time waiting for Harriet.
- Anne doesn’t care. In the true tradition of women attracted to damaged men, she is sure she can fix him.
- And then the bombshell, which is so big we don’t even notice that it’s yet another incredible coincidence. Anne saw Harriet Blackwell at the Guadalajara airport last night. Harriet had just arrived from Los Angeles.
- Archer changes his ticket to Mexico.