One of the really fun things about Burke Devlin is the way he just goes wherever he pleases, which is to say where he’s not wanted. What a change from how the character was first introduced, a dark but affable Trojan Horse working his hidden agenda by schmoozing his way from person to person aided by a smug, deceptive charm that just below the surface is as patronizing as it is ingratiating. Yet it’s true that a lot has changed in just these few days since his return to Collinsport.
A missing brake valve from a car brought Roger Collins unannounced to his hotel room for a midnight tirade. The following morning, his breakfast was interrupted by another unannounced visitor, this time Bill Malloy, who as Burke finished eating just hovered nearby with the determined gruffness of a drill sergeant pulling a surprise inspection on the barracks. Speaking of surprise inspections, while Burke was away in Bangor meeting with a business associate, the sheriff walked through and made a full search of his wardrobe. That last one was actually courtesy of Collinsport’s parallel constable, Jonas Carter, who besides mustard on ham had other preoccupations to consider apart from missing brake valves: “I had a lot of time to make a pretty thorough search, Burke. You know, you’ve got some nice clothes up there. Where’d you buy ‘em?”
Bill Malloy’s untimely sudden, and for some folks convenient, demise has lately provided Burke with ample justification for making unwelcome cameos in other people’s domains in search of clues; whether inviting himself up to Collinwood, barging into Roger’s office armed with allegations intended to extract an admission of guilt or at the very least some telltale hint of perfidy, or simply storming into the sheriff’s office demanding an explanation, Burke has all the questions that no one wants to answer.
Today it’s to be the Evans cottage that’s added to Burke’s roving itinerary, crashing a dinner party in grand fashion like a grizzly bear wandering into a picnic area and helping itself to any discarded or neglected edibles while the hapless campers keep huddled in their camper vans nearby.
Burke of course had prior knowledge of the dinner party, having chatted with Vicki earlier while fueling his afternoon coffee binge at the Collinsport Inn restaurant. Hot under the collar over Bill Malloy and fresh from a heated exchange with the sheriff, Burke wants to talk manslaughter with Sam Evans. At the back of your mind, though, you have to be wondering whether Burke may be going to such a bother on this evening because he knows Victoria Winters will be there. After all, any host would be on his best behavior with a dinner guest in their midst, regardless of whether someone showed up at the front door uninvited. Burke might not get an honest answer out of Sam, but at least under the guise of civility he could be sure of an opportunity to pose a certain pointed question or ten.
Then again, there is still that underlying question about Burke and Vicki. Art Wallace, being a middle-aged male writer, couldn’t resist adding to the series outline Shadows on the Wall an additional story fragment suggesting the possibility that the two might eventually be linked romantically:
“…The reappearance of Burke relights a flame that once burned between them…and Vicki is trapped in its center” (Shadows on the Wall, p. 89).
Art Wallace envisioned the two enmeshed in a “violent triangle” with none other than Frank Garner, junior partner in the family law firm which looks after the legal and financial interests of the Collinses and who we shall be meeting further along in 1966, by which time the mystery of Victoria Winters will appear to hold an irrefutable link with Collinwood’s past.