Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 752
Joe Valery works for Kate in the capacity of both bouncer and security guard. He is big and strong but not very bright. He has a few simple rules by which he lives, most involving staying out of trouble and seizing on the slip-ups of others, always with the goal of profiting financially from their mistakes.
Of Kate, Joe is afraid. Early on, he discovered she was above being manipulated or tricked, so he gave up trying to con her altogether. Kate knows she has broken him and treats him more like a slave than an employee. Joe has come to believe that Kate is incapable of failure because she is smart and always gets "the breaks." The combination of the two gifts makes her invincible in Joe's estimation.
Alone in her room and suffering from worsening arthritis, Kate reminisces about Faye. She wonders how she felt about the woman: love, hate, pity? Was she sorry she had murdered her? Kate concludes that she feels none of these things; in fact, she has no emotion at all regarding her former "friend."
Kate's thoughts turn to Ethel. The thought of the "lousy old bag" always brings a tinge of fear. She expects the old whore will tell people but also thinks that no one will believe her seemingly addled ramblings. Still, the thought of Ethel out there and the possibility that someone might believe her is unsettling. Kate resolves to have Joe find Ethel.
Joe becomes more important in Kate's life as her arthritis become more and more crippling. She trusts Joe more than the girls in the house not only because he is not prone to the same sorts of emotions that women are but also because Kate has the ability to blackmail him. She knows that years ago Joe, then known as Joe Venuta, walked off a chain gang. She could have him back behind bars at any time. Joe does not know this; Kate never shows all her cards.
Kate tells Joe that she needs him to locate Ethel. Joe asks why but Kate refuses to tell him. She offers him five hundred dollars to find out where she is: not to bring her back, just to provide a legitimate address. Although he promises to be quick and quiet, Kate shows him a bit of the card of knowledge she has hidden: she asks him if the name "Venuta" means anything to him.
In Castroville, where he has gone to seek Ethel, Joe lays on his bed and ponders. He does not know how Kate knows he is wanted. He wonders if he should run away, find a new town to hide in. Then he thinks about Ethel and how much Kate is willing to pay him to find her. He decides that it is not something Ethel has stolen that has prompted the search but something Ethel knows that Kate wants silenced.
Joe decides that life has finally given him "the breaks." He will find out what Ethel has on his boss and blackmail her. A friend directs Joe to Hal Mahler, someone who knew Ethel. Over dinner, Hal tells Joe that Ethel is dead; she drowned and her body washed up on shore. Joe wonders if it was a suicide, but Hal says it was not.
Back in his room, Joe ruminates over what to do with this information. The more rational part of him says just to collect his five hundred dollars from Kate and keep his mouth shut. But another part of him wonders if he will ever get a break like this again. Although he does not know what Ethel had over Kate, he resolves to let Kate do the talking while he pretends that he too has the scoop.
Alone in her room, Kate thinks about Aron. She considers his angelic good looks and thinks how she has fooled so many people with her own delicate appearance.
As Kate is thinking about him, Joe arrives at her door. After a good deal of avoidance, Joe finally tells Kate what he "knows": that he has heard that Ethel is planning to return to Salinas and "lay low." That, Joe claims, is all he knows.
Kate momentarily looks completely startled and Joe takes note of her reaction. Joe is almost afraid to believe how well his plan is working. Closing Kate's bedroom door behind him, Joe thinks about how to continue to draw out her fear and collect as much as possible from his big break.