Chronicle 2, Part 10: Eliminating the Impossible, 11: The Third Man, and 12: A Wilderness of Mirrors 

10. Eliminating the Impossible

The undercover agents establish themselves in Osage County. Disguised as cattlemen, two agents get to know Hale, while another sells insurance. Meanwhile, Wren attends tribal gatherings. But there are immediate hurdles, too. White discovers evidence for Anna’s inquest was missing. It’s odd that no bullet was found. White begins by corroborating alibis, which weeds out many previous suspects (like Oda Brown and Rose Osage). White and Burger also recruit bootlegger Kelsie Morrison as an informant, believing he will be an excellent source of information. Through this work, White realizes that the conspirators are both destroying and manufacturing evidence. 

11. The Third Man 

Hoover becomes increasingly anxious for the case to be resolved and becomes convinced that Necia Kenny is important, going so far as to interview the mentally unstable woman in Washington, D.C. twice. She claims Comstock is involved, a detail White cannot verify. By the end of July 1925, White turns his full attention to Bryan Burkart. Agents go to Texas to verify the story of Bryan’s whereabouts after he drove Anna home. White also focuses on a report that Anna was seen in Ralston the evening she disappeared and sends agents to the town. They find an older couple who say they saw Anna and Bryan in a car together. Figuring out where they went after Ralston proves more difficult, but various witnesses say that there was a third man with them. They discover that Bryan paid his neighbor to keep quiet about the fact that he had returned home around dawn. 

12. A Wilderness of Mirrors 

White begins to suspect that the investigation has a mole. This was a problem with the previous effort and was also a problem for the U.S. attorney and other federal prosecutors. Two of Burns’s private detectives also try to expose the informant, Kelsie Morrison. An intermediary for Pike, another private detective, approaches White’s team, indicating that Pike knows the third man’s identity. Pike tries to elude them but is eventually caught. He says the third man was a local gambler, but this proves to be a lie. With further pressure, Pike admits he was hired to conceal Bryan’s actions on the night of Anna’s murder, not solve the case. Pike cannot confirm, though, if Hale was merely protecting his nephew or if he had more nefarious plans. Pike does inform the team that Ernest was at the meetings he had with Hale and Bryan, and that Ernest concealed all this from Mollie. 


Across these chapters, White’s work is in some ways a process of simplification, as well as elimination. The seemingly endless theories offered for who has committed the crimes—outsiders or insiders, family members or strangers—creates chaotic conditions in Osage County and also for readers. He returns to the evidence, or searches for evidence that has been lost, in order to remove suspects from consideration. The agents thus confirm alibis and recheck witness statements. Not all police work is glamorous but, as Grann’s account makes clear, it is important to differentiate between what could not have happened and what could in order to ascertain what did happen.  

This process increasingly reveals the most probable explanation for Anna Brown’s murder—Bryan Burkhart was involved. Although Hoover’s impatience complicates the investigation, introducing conflicting priorities and additional chaos, the concentration of a primary investigative focus slowly yields results. Yet, ironically, such focus is only possible through expansive, seemingly unfocused, contact with potential witnesses. This is a standard feature of detective narratives, which traditionally oscillate between clarity and obfuscation as they seek to recreate the sense of time that violence fractures. Indeed, a defining feature of all detective narratives, including Killers of the Flower Moon, is that they start after the action has ended. The job of the detective is to narrate the concluded action clearly. Grann uses the conventions of this established and familiar literary genre to help make these historical events vivid for readers. Had the events not been forgotten, this wouldn’t be a detective story. The fact that it is for the vast majority of readers shows the importance of an inclusive approach to U.S. history. 

The sense of danger and uncertainty is enhanced in this section by the revelation by White’s conviction that someone is sharing information with the criminal conspiracy. Grann describes White’s world as being more like espionage than criminal investigation as he feels as if he is wandering in a wilderness. There is no small irony here to the use of “wilderness,” both in the text and as a chapter title, given the frequent use of frontier rhetoric to describe Osage County. But, in this instance, the wilderness is not a reference to natural surroundings but instead to the uncertain and dangerous terrain created by the criminals, eager to avoid discovery. The perversion of the detective’s function, revealed when Pike, a private eye hired by William Hale to investigate Anna’s death, explains that his job was to create false evidence and protect Bryan Burkhart. Pike is thus the mirror image of a detective, inverted to do the opposite of what he should. Pike also exposes to White his main antagonist, William Hale. By the end of these three chapters, White shifts from wandering to stalking one man.