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Lennie is alone in the barn, petting a puppy that he has obviously petted a little too long and hard, and he can't make up his mind about it.
First, he covers the dead puppy up with hay. Next, he flings the dead puppy across the barn.
We're not sure he's all that concerned about the dead puppy, actually. Instead, he's worried that George might not let him tend to the rabbits of the dream farm.
Curley's wife, who sashays in, has some advice: don't feel bad because the pup was just a mutt, and mutts are aplenty in the world.
She confides in Lennie, telling him that she could have been a famous movie star, but the world conspired against her and that's why she's ended in a barn with a dum-dum and a dead dog.
Lennie does a little confiding of his own: he got into this trouble because he likes to pet soft things.
Hm, says Curley's wife. Her hair is soft.
So, Lennie pets Curley's wife's hair.
Can you guess where this is going?
He pets a little too long and hard, and breaks her neck.
Now Lennie has something new to cover with hay.
This is bad. So bad, that now George really might not let him tend the rabbits.
He remembers George's instruction about where to go in case things get bad. So he goes, taking the dead puppy with him.
When Candy comes in to the barn and sees Curley's wife, he runs to find George. What to do?
They both know that they should turn Lennie in, but he'll be locked up and treated miserably if they do.
On the other hand, Curley will torture and kill Lennie if he finds him.
Um, says Candy does this mean they can't have their farm?
Pretty much. George says that he thinks he knew all along that they'd never really get a farm, but he tried to believe because Lennie liked to hear about it.
Now that there's no dream to believe in, George figures that he'll be just like the other ranch hands, spending all his time and money on booze and bad women.
Candy is surprised by all this, since Lennie really didn't seem like a bad guy.
No, says George. Lennie didn't kill her out of "meanness." he never did anything from meanness.
Time for a plan. If he tells the guys what happened to Curley's wife, they might suspect he was in on it.
Instead, he'll run off to the bunkhouse, and Candy can come running in a minute later with news of Curley's dead wife. When Candy comes in, George will be surprised that the woman is dead.
Candy, left alone with Curley's dead wife, takes a minute to yell at her for being the source of all their troubles.
As Candy leaves for the bunkhouse to tell the guys what he's found, he's teary. Not for the dead girl. For the lost dream.
All the men come in to look at the dead woman, scuffing their boots in the straw. Curley says "the big son-of-a-bitch" has done this and he intends to shoot him right in the guts.
Curley and Carlson run out of the barn to round up guns and men and go in search of the guts.
Meanwhile, Slim says quietly to George that, given the way Curley's wife's neck is broken, Lennie could well have done it.
George is quiet, and Slim reminds him vaguely about "the time in Weed" George had described earlier. With his hat pulled down low over his eyes, George says nothing.
Slim sighs and says he guesses they've got to go get Lennie now. (He seems sorry things have to shake out this way.)
George trickily tells the men that Lennie probably went south. Yup, definitely south.
Maybe, he says to Slim, they could just bring Lennie back, so he can be locked up rather than murdered by a two-bit-no-good-son-of-a-ranch-owner. George promises Lennie was "nuts" and didn't do the murder out of meanness.
Maybe, if only they could keep Curley off the warpath. But locked up is no way for a man to live, either.
Carlson breaks up the powwow by announcing that his Luger has been stolen and that Lennie must have taken it. Luckily, Curley has a gun, and Carlson can take Crooks's gun.
Whew, the manhunt is still on!
Curley tells Carlson to shoot Lennie in the guts as soon as he sees him, tells Whit to go to Soledad and get the deputy sheriff, and tells George to join the search party for Lennie.
He's not interested in hearing about how Lennie is nuts and didn't mean to do it.
Slim, looking down at the dead body, suggests perhaps Curley should stay with his dead wife and cool off.
Nope. He's hell-bent on shooting Lennie himself, even if he's only got one good hand.
And George had better join the hunting party, or everyone might start thinking that he had something to do with it.