Mr. Edwards is a whoremaster who lives in Boston in a nice house in a nice neighborhood with a nice family.
The prostitution circuit he runs is rigid, and he's pretty strict whoremaster as far as whoremasters go: he whips the girls who misbehave.
Lately, though, he lost some of his prostitutes to train wrecks and preachers, so he's in the market for some new whores.
When Cathy shows up at Mr. Edwards's office, he hasn't had the best morning. Usually he doesn't want to hire someone as pretty as Cathy, but this morning he realizes that he wants Cathy for himself.
Cathy tells him some lie about why she wants a job as a whore—some sugared-up spiel about her father being dead and paying off the interest on the farm. Usually Mr. Edwards is a shrewd whoremaster who doesn't believe anything his girls say, but he eats up everything Cathy says.
Mrs. Edwards is a religious woman, and lately she has noticed a moody change in her husband—she even catches him one night sitting on the toilet and crying.
That's because Mr. Edwards is hopelessly in love with Cathy. He sets her up in a nice house with all the modern amenities, but he is miserable because he doesn't trust her.
See, even though Cathy is faithful to Mr. Edwards, she makes it seem like she's not, to keep him insecure.
And once Cathy has Mr. Edwards wrapped around her finger, she starts stealing money from him; he doesn't say anything for fear that she will leave him.
But she makes one mistake: One night Mr. Edwards insists that Cathy drink champagne with him, and he gets her drunk. Cathy calls Mr. Edwards a fat slug, tells him that she has been a prostitute in places he's never even heard of, and jabs the broken rim of her champagne glass against his face. She laughs as she sends him running from the house.
Mr. Edwards is seriously messed up—he desperately wants to believe that Cathy is innocent but he can't.
So he uses a detective agency to find out where Cathy keeps her money in the cellar, and learns about a certain small-town fire. It freaks him out.
Mr. Edwards packs his bags and shows up at Cathy's place. Despite her protests, he goes into the cellar and gets the box with her money.
They are going on a trip to a town in Connecticut, he says, and she is going to work.
Cathy doesn't know what else she can do but go along with him and bide her time.
Mr. Edwards's original plan is to beat Cathy and make her work as a prostitute until he can kick her out, but he loses control. Once he gets to the town, he takes her to a secluded place and beats her savagely with the intention of killing her.
Mr. Edwards abandons his suitcase with Cathy's money and bolts.
Back at home, things return to normal with him.
But Cathy, though she is in and out of consciousness and has a broken arm, somehow manages to drag herself to the porch steps of a house before she faints.