Elefante heads to the Bronx, where he meets the Governor. To Elefante’s surprise, the Governor owns a bagel shop, which his daughter Melissa runs. Elefante is struck by Melissa’s beauty and wonders if something could happen between the two them. He thinks Melissa looks like a country girl and imagines a future together where they are running a country store. The Governor notices Elefante’s interest in Melissa and appears to be pleased.
The Governor seems to hold the answers to all of Elefante’s problems. Not only does he tip Elefante off to the Venus’s existence, but he also has a daughter whom Elefante is romantically interested in. With some luck, Elefante could get the wife and retirement he always dreamed of.
Elefante and the Governor head to the Governor’s apartment to discuss their business in private. Once there, the Governor tells Elefante that no one knows about the artifact except the two of them. Even Melissa doesn’t know, and, for now, the Governor means to keep it that way. Elefante asks the Governor about how he came to own a bagel shop. The Governor tells him that his wife, who has since died, bought the store while he was in prison. Through hard work, his wife turned the shop into a successful business so that the family could survive while the Governor was incarcerated. Although her plan works, she dies only a few years after the Governor is released from prison.
Unlike many characters in the novel, the Governor’s wife built her business from the ground up, fair and square. Seeing his wife’s resolve seems to have convinced the Governor to turn away from a life of crime.
The Governor tells Elefante the story of the Venus of Willendorf. Apparently, the Governor’s brother, Macy, served in Vienna during the World War II. While there, he found a variety of rare items hidden away from the Nazis. Macy gathered these items up and shipped them back to America, where he could collect them after the war. For the most part, Macy held on to these items for the majority of his life, though he did sell a few here and there. It was only toward the end of his life that he showed the Governor his collection. The Governor urged him to do the right thing and return to the objects to Vienna and Macy complied. This was easy for Macy to do—he worked at the post office and knew how to make sure the packages wouldn’t be traced back to him.
In World War II, the Nazis often either destroyed valuable artifacts or took them for themselves. As such, treasure troves like the one Macy finds were not uncommon. That said, like several other characters in the novel, Macy is unbelievably lucky. Additionally, like Elefante, Macy and the Governor have a strong moral sense. Rather than keep all of the items for themselves to get rich, they return almost all of them to where they belong.
Although Macy returned most of the artifacts to Vienna, there was one he could not let go of: the Venus of Willendorf. This artifact is a small statue of a voluptuous woman that is only the size of a bar of soap. Nonetheless, it is the most valuable item of everything Macy owned. Macy gave the Governor the statue, which the Governor in turn gave to Elefante’s father for safekeeping. The Governor planned to sell the Venus and split the profits with Elefante’s father, but Elefante’s father died before he could do so. However, recently, the Governor found a new buyer for the Venus who promises to pay him three million dollars to purchase it. The Governor went back and forth with the potential buyer for some time and knows that he is a serious person who will pay when the time is right.
The novel almost seems to draw a parallel between the Venus and Melissa, describing both as voluptuous and incredibly valuable to the Governor and Elefante.
However, because the Governor promised this mysterious person the Venus, he worries about what will happen if he cannot produce it. He fears for his own life as well as Melissa’s and urges Elefante to think hard about where the Venus could possibly be. Elefante tells the Governor that he’s searched all of his storage units, but to no avail. The Governor gives Elefante a postcard that Elefante’s father previously sent him with a traditional Irish blessing on the back. The Governor is convinced that the blessing is a code that will lead them to the Venus. Elefante thinks he’s probably right but does not know what the code means. Nonetheless, he is sure the statue is hiding right under their noses because his father rarely went any further than a few blocks from his home.
Here, the Venus becomes not only an object of desire, but one of necessity as well—for both the Governor and Elefante. Both of them love Melissa, and not finding the Venus could mean putting her life in danger.