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Summary There is reportedly a sex offender prowling the streets of Williamsburg, and the neighborhood is abuzz with talk about it. The mothers have grown cautious about letting their daughters go out alone, and the children have all become more curious about sex. When Francie and Neeley ask their mother questions about sex, she usually handles the situation masterfully. When the questions get too difficult, she evades answering them
Because he is concerned about the sex offender, Johnny borrows a gun from his friend Burt and keeps it under his pillow. It is Katie who winds up using it. One day when Francie returns home from school and begins climbing the stairs to her house, the sex offender approaches her. His pants are opened to expose his private parts, and Francie is shocked and upset at the sight. Fortunately, Katie comes down the stairs and sees what is happening. Quietly, she goes and gets Johnny's borrowed gun. When she comes back to the stairs, the man is attempting to hold Francie with his pants still undone. Katie points the gun and shoots the man in his private parts. Although Francie is relieved to have been saved from the sex offender, the whole incident has terrorized her.
Upon hearing the gunshot, the neighbors all come out to see what has happened. The police also arrive and take charge of the pandemonium. Johnny soon arrives on the scene, for Neeley has gone to summon him. He listens carefully to his daughter's explanation of what has happened and tries to calm and comfort her. He also pours carbolic acid on her leg, intending to clean the spot where the sex offender has touched it; instead, he burns his daughter's leg. Francie is then taken to the doctor, who examines her and gives her a clean bill of health. Still she is terribly shaken by the incident.
For a good while, Katie is celebrated as a hero and congratulated by everyone for her bravery. After recovering from the gunshot, the sex offender is jailed. Williamsburg is safe again, and the horrible incident soon fades from memory.
Francie's encounter with the sex offender is a terrifying experience for her. Fortunately, she was rescued in the nick of time by her mother, who acted calmly and bravely to protect her daughter. She grabs Johnny's borrowed gun and fires a shot at the sex offender, who is attempting to hold Francie. Katie later admits that she "meant to kill him;" instead, he is ironically and appropriately injured in his private parts. Mother and daughter are both horribly and understandably shaken by the incident. Everyone sympathizes with Francie over the traumatic experience, and everyone congratulates Katie for her bravery.
Sergeant McShane arrives on the scene to investigate what has happened. It is obvious that he still appreciates Katie as a lovely and beautiful woman. Since his own wife is in a sanatorium, he silently wonders whether he could ever have Katie for himself since both of their spouses are troubled. He muses to himself, "I've wanted a long time without hope of happiness. . . I can wait a bit longer now."
When Neeley brings Johnny home, his reactions, as a deeply concerned father, are genuine and touching. When he pours the carbolic acid on her leg, he is truly trying to help; instead he injures Francie more. The doctor caustically tells Johnny, "You did more damage than the criminal."