The narrator introduces us to a man named Joe Valery, an ex-convict who escaped from San Quentin and who now works as a pimp and bouncer for Cathy. He has looked for weaknesses in her but can find none. As a result, Joe has developed an admiration for Cathy that stems from fear.
The arthritis pain in Cathy’s hands has become so severe that she begins to rely heavily on Joe to run the brothel. Because she knows the secret about his convict past, she believes that she be able to control him. Nonetheless, he continues to constantly search for a way to manipulate and outwit her. Cathy sends Joe to find Ethel in the hopes that he will bring the prostitute back to Salinas and kill her before she can tell anyone about the bottles of poison Cathy used to murder Faye. Joe asks around about Ethel in the surrounding towns and counties and discovers that she is dead already. He tells Cathy, however, that he heard a rumor that Ethel is returning to Salinas in secret. The news terrifies Cathy.
The people of Salinas are in a patriotic fever over the war. One day, a crowd, including the narrator and his sister, torments the local tailor because he has a German accent; they even set fire to the man’s shop.
Adam is appointed to the local draft board, but he experiences intense guilt for sending young men away, possibly to their deaths. Lee reminds Adam of the concept of timshel: it is Adam’s choice, Lee implies, whether or not to work for the draft board. Adam is excited for Aron to come home from Stanford for Thanksgiving; he has decided that Aron is smarter and better than Cal, unaware of the fact that Aron is miserable at Stanford.
Joe Valery continues to scheme to manipulate Cathy with the specter of Ethel and her blackmail. Cathy, meanwhile, schemes to uncover Joe’s attempt to betray her. The pain in Cathy’s hands has become so severe that she wears a vial of morphine capsules around her neck in case she ever wants to commit suicide.
When Aron arrives in Salinas, he is depressed and unhappy about his father’s doting expectations for him. Cal, meanwhile, wraps up the $15,000 he plans to give to his father. He is nervous about Adam’s response to the gift and wants desperately for his father to like it. When Adam opens the gift at Thanksgiving and sees the money, he is shocked and asks Cal how he earned it. When Adam learns about the bean-reselling operation, he becomes angry and tells Cal to return the money to the farmers he robbed in his war profiteering.