After her meeting with Cal, Kate calms herself by touching a small vial she keeps hanging on a chain around her neck. Inside the vial is a lethal dose of morphine; it brings her comfort. She thinks back to the time shortly after she had collected Charles’ inheritance. An old employee of Faye’s, named Ethyl, had come to see her. She told Kate she’d found bottles buried in the yard after Faye passed away. Kate gave her 100 dollars and sent her away.
Kate’s crimes threaten to catch up with her. Recall that her plot against Faye was so strong and elaborate she seemed to be an unstoppable force. Well now, as the novel draws to a close, we begin to see evil being defeated—her defenses are not impenetrable after all.
Later that day Ethyl is arrested—a man has complained that she stole about 100 dollars from him. She is found guilty, but she insists to the judge that she has been framed. She asks to speak to him alone, but the judge sends her away, and sentences her to be driven out of town.
Kate, though, is nothing less than a formidable opponent—she sends away the witness to her crime without much difficulty; but the point still stands: she is not capable of fooling everyone.
For a long time Kate doesn’t think of Ethyl, but slowly the idea that she is out there begins to make Kate nervous. She sends her henchman Joe out to find Ethyl at all costs. He agrees, and secretly wonders why an old whore is so important to Kate. When Cal begins to follow Kate she is wracked with fear, but now that she knows who he is, she sleeps easily.
Kate feels her own weaknesses and is terrified by them. Her paranoia and her desperation become clear: the metaphorical decline of evil is at hand. She is shaken, which suggests that she will soon be defeated.