The key problem in this novella is Alec, Violet’s brother.
Annie happens to be with Violet when the latter becomes sick. Naturally, Annie guesses that Violet is pregnant, but the woman hasn’t told Billy yet because she doesn’t want to add to his worries. Then she tells Annie everything. Among his things Alec had the deed to some mining stocks that Annie knows now are worth nothing. She sees in the documents that Alec paid $1,000 for the deeds, and she wonders where an eighteen-year-old boy got the money from. She fears something seedy, but when she tells Nate, he tries to calm her suspicions.
Then through an old friend of Nate’s, who is an attorney, they know that the pub where Violet told Annie Alec has been seen drinking and gambling is under suspicion. His friend Geoffrey Bickers, who is also a cashier in the bank where Alec works, seems to have been involved in some dirty business with illegal gambling dens in Sacramento, and this friend thinks that Bickers could be the bait to attract naive poor souls.
Confirmation comes when Violet wakes Annie and Nate one night. Alec turned up, and Violet was quick to intercept him before he could ingest laudanum he wanted to use to kill himself. Nate and Annie help Violet with Alec. Drunk and groggy, Alec tells them that the money Bickers lent him for the mining stocks was embezzled from the bank, which Alec didn’t know about, and the big problem is that Bickers faked Alec’s signature, so Alec is deep waters. He could go to prison, and he has no money because he has spent all his savings on gambling. I feel sorry for the young man, but he has been quite stupid to trust someone as Bickers. I imagine that Bickers is the villain that the title mentions, so I’m curious to know what Violet will do to help her brother and defeat this creepy man.