The Plague of Doves

by Louise Erdrich

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Last Updated on February 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 536

Joe Wildstrand had opened his door to Billy Peace, his girlfriend Maggie’s brother, holding a gun. Neve was reading in the house. Billy whispered that John should say it was only “kids selling Easter Seals” at the door and that he was going for a walk, despite the snow.

Billy walked John out to a car, still holding the gun, and drove it out of the light. Billy then demanded ten thousand dollars. John surprised him by saying that this wasn't enough for Maggie to keep the baby. It would need to be over fifty thousand, but there would need to be a reason, because Neve saw the accounts.

Billy asked why John wouldn’t leave his wife for Maggie. John said he didn’t think Maggie would love him without his money; he is older than her and balding and if he divorced Neve, he would be poor. Furthermore, Neve had never done anything wrong.

John suggested that Billy kidnap Neve, demand Wildstrand tie her up and demand $50,000 to keep her alive. Billy should then take her to a secure location and keep her comfortable until John dropped off the money.

The next day, Billy turned up to do this. After Neve was tied, they realized Billy would have to tie up Wildstrand too. After Billy had taken Neve away, Wildstrand worked himself loose.

After the kidnapping, Neve was left in a ditch and had to be pulled out of it. She lost weight, described her kidnapper incorrectly, and demanded to know whether Wildstrand loved her. Wildstrand took her to the doctor, afraid for her mental state.

Wildstrand went to see his father-in-law, Murdo, in the nursing home and lied that Neve had a cold. When he left, he was thinking of Maggie and mindlessly kissed the old man's forehead, which filled Murdo with suspicion.

One day Neve suddenly said that she knew her kidnapper: he had been in a Shakespeare play, playing a twin. This was true: Billy had played one of the Dromios in a local production of The Comedy of Errors. When Billy heard this, he bolted, running away to join the army, which left Maggie heartbroken. Wildstrand decided to leave his wife, told her to keep everything, and hitchhiked back to Maggie’s. He was living with her when the baby was born. It looked like Billy and filled him with guilt, especially as he now realized Maggie knew about the kidnapping. 

Soon, Maggie began to demand he go to the police about the kidnapping. Wildstrand argued that Maggie would lose everything, but Billy was now claiming he was being contacted by spirits, and Maggie was filled with grief. Wildstrand had lost Maggie’s love and was relegated to the basement or garage, not allowed to touch either her or the baby.

One day, Neve sent a claim for everything Wildstrand had taken from the house. She said she wanted money, not the stuff back. She accused him of having been seeing another woman all along, and Wildstrand confessed; then he and Neve made love and he told her everything, including that he had saved her from the ditch. Neve then went and called the police. Wildstrand went to prison.

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