East of Eden Chapter 51
by John Steinbeck

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Chapter 51

Horace Quinn is the sheriff of the Salinas Valley. A friend of Adam, Quinn had been keeping tabs on Kate's activities for many years, ever since she shot Adam. He knows but cannot prove that her story about Faye is fishy. However, since Kate had treated him fairly in the times he dealt with her directly, Quinn developed a sort of respect for the madam. She and her house stayed out of trouble, and he liked anyone who did not cause him undue grief. 

It is Sheriff Quinn who goes through Joe Valery's pockets, removing the bloody envelope from the pocket of the dead man's jacket. Sheriff Quinn lets out a heavy sigh when he views the photographs the envelope concealed; he knows that the evidence will ruin many lives. He also finds Kate's handwritten will. 

Sheriff Quinn takes the will to a lawyer, who verifies that it is valid and that Aron Trask will be her heir. Quinn has another question for the lawyer; he wants to know if Kate has been blackmailing him. The man denies it and seems to be telling the truth. Quinn, however, slips him one of the photographs. He then admits that he knew Kate had the photograph.

In a trembling voice, the lawyer asks the sheriff what he plans to do with the image. Quinn replies that he will destroy it and all of the rest of the photographs as well. He drops the entire thing, including the negatives, into the stove.

Horace gives a list of names to the lawyer and asks him to contact all the men and tell them about the destruction of the evidence. Sadly, even though Quinn has done his friend an enormous favor, he realizes that the knowledge of his friend's private and perverse sexual proclivities will now forever be a barrier between them. Quinn also knows that his days as the sheriff are numbered; there are too many powerful men on that list who will feel the same way as the lawyer. 

At the Trask home, Quinn must wait for Aron to arrive to give him the news about Kate's will. Lee brings him coffee. Adam comes in; Quinn tells him about Kate and that she died by her own hand. He shows Adam the blood-stained will.

Adam confesses that Aron does not know Kate was his mother. Adam asks Quinn to tear up the will, but the sheriff refuses. He tells Adam he has already been to the bank and inspected the contents of Kate's safety-deposit box and the thousands of dollars it contains. The only thing in it was the money—and a marriage certificate. 

Adam asks Sheriff Quinn what he should do about Aron. The sheriff advises him to come clean about the entire story immediately, even the reasons why he withheld the truth in the past.

Adam summons Cal, wanting to know if he knows where Aron is. Cal does not and is irritated by the question, echoing, in similar words, the biblical question in the story of Cain and Abel: "Am I my brother's keeper?" Since Aron's return does not seem likely in the near future, the sheriff takes his leave. Adam and Lee continue to wonder about Aron's whereabouts. 

Cal is recovering from a blackout drunk. However, he remembers Aron's sobbing at the revelation of their mother. He also remembers Aron beating him up and running away; to where, Cal has no idea....

(The entire section is 886 words.)