Devil in a Blue Dress

Devil in a Blue Dress Summary and Analysis of Chapters 17-18


Chapter 17

In the morning, Easy dresses in his best suit and goes to the address on the business card Mr. Albright gave him. It is the office of Lion Investments, and the name of his reference is the vice president, Maxim Baxter. Mr. Baxter's secretary tries to dismiss Easy until she sees the business card and goes to speak with Mr. Baxter. While he waits, Easy surveys the room. He notices a placard with the names of the company's important members. Interestingly, Mr. Carter, the president's name is at the bottom, "as if he were a shy man who didn't want his name spread around." The secretary returns and tries to dismiss him. Easy tells her that he is hired to find Mr. Carter's missing girlfriend. This convinces Mr. Baxter to come out. He is tall and thin with shadowy eyes and a smile "so white that it would have looked at home on DeWitt Albright." Easy scares Mr. Baxter into getting him an audience with Mr. Carter by saying that the president might go to jail because of recent events.

Mr. Baxter leads Easy to an elevator that takes him up to Mr. Carter's opulent office. Mr. Carter is so small, weak-looking, and simply dressed that Easy initially thinks him to be a servant. They sit and drink brandy while Easy explains to Mr. Carter that he has found himself in a great deal of danger since he started looking for Daphne Monet. Mr. Carter says he loves Daphne and wants to marry her. He confesses that before she left him, she took thirty thousand dollars, which he does not seem to consider a large sum. Mr. Carter claims that Daphne left to save him, because someone was trying to blackmail her in order to "get to" him. Easy tells him about Richard, whom Mr. Carter identifies as Richard McGee. He says he is glad Richard is dead because he was a "blackmailer and a homosexual pimp" who provided young boys to "rich men with sick appetites."

Mr. Carter asks Easy fondly about Daphne's appearance when he last saw her. Easy tells him she was wearing a blue dress, blue high heels, blue stockings, and a small red ceramic pin with green dots over her breast. Mr. Carter in turn tells Easy about how Daphne would comfort and stand up for him. Easy calls Mr. Carter's familiarity and intimacy with him "the worst kind of racism" because Mr. Carter cares so little about him that he pays no heed to race. Mr. Carter offers Easy a thousand dollars to find Daphne for him and says he will fire Mr. Albright. Easy takes a hundred and fifty dollars in advance. Even though he has an intimation that he will be killed like Coretta and Dupree, Easy takes the rich man's money with pleasure.

Chapter 18

With Mr. Carter's money in his pocket, Easy sets out to find Frank "Knifehand" Green. He visits several haunts, starting with Ricardo's Pool Room. He describes the place as "peopled with jaundice-eyed bad men who smoked and drank heavily while they waited for a crime they could commit." There one "could almost feel the violence pulsing in the dark." Easy had been there with Joppy before, so he was familiar with Ricardo's wife, Rosetta. She had run Ricardo's Pool Room ever since her husband lost both his legs to diabetes. Rosetta is suspicious of Easy, but she entertains him briefly. Easy asks her where he can get cases of whiskey, and she tells him to consult Frank Green. When Easy presses her further, she says she has not seen him in a few days.

Easy next visits a lounge and brothel called Vernie's. Vernie is an enormous light-skinned black woman who dyes her hair gold. Her daughter, Darcel, also enormous, helps her run the business. The only other employee besides the prostitutes is Huey Barnes, a large bouncer who sits up on the second floor where the girls' rooms are. Vernie and Darcel give Easy a warm welcome, as does his friend, a plumber named Ronald White. Ronald is only thirty-four but already has nine children because his wife is religious and does not believe in using birth control. So many children make his life extremely stressful. Easy yells for Darcel to bring some whiskey so that he, Ronald, and their friend Curtis Cross can drink their sorrows away. Easy plays dumb and asks Darcel how she can sell liquor so cheaply -- three dollars a bottle -- and still make money. She says that she and her mother let Huey buy bulk. Easy drops the issue, knowing that Huey is not someone to question about Frank Green. After a few hours, he drives Ronald home to his wife, Mary, and his nine children. Ronald cries as Easy sends him off, miserably returning to his family.

The next day, Easy visits the bars and alley crap games where he thinks he might find Frank Green. He says that "it was those two days more than any other time that made me a detective." He recalls that, like a fool, he feels confident and safe snooping around after Frank with hidden intentions and buying drinks with money paid to him to do just that.


Chapters 17 and 18 underscore money as the driving force behind the novel's action. Regarding this topic, we find a foil for Easy in Mr. Carter. For Mr. Carter, an executive of an important financial company, money is disposable. He is not interested in getting his thirty-thousand dollars back, but only Daphne. As Easy explains, money causes Mr. Carter to treat him in a friendly, but extremely racist, manner. He recalls: "I could tell that he didn't have the fear or contempt that most white people showed when they dealt with me. It was the worst kind of racism. Mr. Todd Carter was so rich that he didn't even consider me in human terms. He could tell me anything. I could have been a prized dog that he knelt to and hugged when he felt low." According to Easy, money has a numbing effect to those who are so accustomed to it. Mr. Carter does not care about those who lack money -- including nearly every black person in L.A. -- save Daphne.

Experiencing Mr. Carter's brand of classism and racism fortifies Easy. He has a new sense that he will die trying to find Daphne and Frank Green. So he changes his goal from making money for his mortgage (after all, he will not need his house when he is dead) to "milk[ing] all those white people for all the money they'd let go of." Easy even says directly that money is the driving force behind everything that has happened to him recently. He says: "Money bought everything. Money paid the rent and fed the kitty. Money was why Coretta was dead and why DeWitt Albright was going to kill me. I got the idea, somehow, that if I got enough money then maybe I could buy my own life back." Beyond being a source of security, money motivates everything from love (as Daphne loves Mr. Carter) to murder. He even goes so far as to consider money a savior, saying: "Money isn't a sure bet but it's the closest to God I've ever seen in this world."

Money gives Easy a sense of fearlessness. He begins to put himself in situations of greater danger for its sake, searching the underbelly of the city. With the sense that he will not live long, he propels himself into darkness. Even though Easy is subjecting himself to great danger, he feels more secure then when he balanced between death and success. After all, that was an unsure state; jumping fully into darkness and danger is freeing because it is a definite choice. Unlike the jay, perched precariously above the dog, Easy dives into the enemy's maw.

These chapters mark a change in Easy's character. Before, being safe and knowing he was a homeowner provided Easy with joy and a sense of independence. Now, doing just the opposite produces the same effect. He recounts, "I had a feeling of great joy as I walked away from Ricardo's ... It was as if for the first time in my life I was doing something on my own terms. Nobody was telling me what to do. I was acting on my own." The only commands Easy follows are those from his inner voice. Just as in the war when he was without a commander, Easy is at his bravest. His sense of his own mortality combined with money and the thrill of adventure carry him through the dangers of his journey.

Just as Easy is claiming his independence, Mosley introduces us to the foil of Ronald White. While Easy flirts with darkness, Ronald is the ultimate symbol of light or "whiteness," as his name suggests. Ronald is not "light" in a racial sense; he is black. But he has the ultimate "bright" life to which Easy aspired. He has a home, a wife, and many children. However, because he has so many children, Ronald is indentured to a life of security. Easy has the independence of being a homeowner and listening to his own desires and instincts. But Ronald has such a stable life that he is trapped between his wife's and children's demands. There is no room for Ronald in his own life. Ronald reminds Easy that he does not want to be too secure, even though he still loves his home. As he watches Ronald walk to his house, he cannot help but laugh because he is free unlike his friend. He thinks, "Ronald didn't have any chance to be happy unless he broke his poor family's heart."