Archie Goodwin works for Nero Wolfe. His job is to keep Wolfe working as well as to do anything required to further the cases they work on. One of the things Archie does is take care of the checkbook. He becomes quite nervous when the accounts fall below a certain point. Then his salary is in danger as well as the needed money to maintain the house.
Follow The Money
At a particular time Archie has been worrying for 6 weeks. He has a desired outcome; increase the bank account by getting a large fee for a case. But there is nothing that occurs that lets him force Wolfe into action. He needs a murder that will provide a large fee and be interesting enough to galvanize Wolfe.
Finally, a trigger event occurs. Wolfe and Archie interview someone for a friend; a doctor who they respect. This doctor has a psychiatrist friend who needs to know something about a client because he has a very difficult problem and the client refuses to give him his name or his background. Wolfe obtains the name and goes back to his non working ways.
Archie is galvanized though. The psychiatrist’s client is part of the suspect list of a spectacular murder that has been in the paper for several weeks. Archie realizes it is hopeless to try to get Wolfe to solicit a client. He thinks about it and writes a letter to the widow of the murdered man. He gets an interview. He convinces the lady to come to talk with Wolfe. At the conversation with Wolfe she engages Wolfe to get the murderer.
Wolfe is quite angry that Archie has gotten him involved with work again. In this story Archie manages not only the clients but Wolfe as well. He helps keep the convoluted case on track and the fee they receive is quite large.
The Power of Desire
So what can we glean from this story?
- Archie knows he needs a job for the firm. The only way he can get the fee they need is a murder that is difficult. This is Wolfe’s specialty where his particular genius flourishes. He has a targeted amount, a minimum he needs. The case has to be not only lucrative but interesting enough or irritating enough to engage Wolfe’s attention.
- Archie waits (albeit with impatience and worry) until the conditions occur that meet his criteria.
- When an opening happens he acts immediately. He writes a letter that attracts the potential client’s interest and gains an interview.
- At the interview Archie piques the client’s interest and gets her to do something she’d rather not do.
- He sells the interview to Wolfe on the basis of need and interest; this is critical as Wolfe is likely to refuse to talk to a well healed client.
- Archie moves the interview along and keeps Wolfe and the client engaged. Notice that I didn’t say happy. Neither of them is happy. But they are sufficiently engaged to keep talking.
- After an initial fee Archie keeps the client from too many irrational actions and helps keep the project moving forward. He does anything Wolfe needs to obtain data and clarity.
The Benefit of Clarity
Clarity of Archie’s desired outcome lead him to:
- careful observation of conditions looking for the right parameters
- acting when those parameters occur
- closing the sale and
- keeping the project moving to a lucrative conclusion.
If you want to know the story title to read it yourself let me know. It is one of Rex Stout’s best books in my opinion.