The main cast:
Aranha, gang leader
Jose Costa, fisherman (arrives later)
Meredith Cane, grifter
Rosa Victoria Rocha Santos, slumming aristocrat
(Each new paragraph was a new scene.)
At the campaign office for Councillor Santos’s national election run, the loyal retainer Erineu da Silva quizzes Meredith about some money missing from the accounts. He suspects – correctly – that Meredith used it to pay gambling debts. Cane doesn’t take responsibility, and the old man leaves more suspicious than ever.
Cane meets Aranha at the marketplace near Santo Antonio church. She agrees to have one of her men follow da Silva around for a day to dig up some dirt.
Rosa is at the well-heeled Artemis Club downtown. She meets the wealthy but thick Pedro, eldest son of a Minas Gerais dairy tycoon, and successfully angles for an invitation to the fashionable Duchess’s ball next week.
Aranha finds her lieutenant Bacalhau at a run-down boteco just off Santo Antonio Square. He’s initially reluctant – it sounds like a lot of boring effort – but eventually agrees to trail around after da Silva and report back.
At home, Rosa’s father insists she attend the decidedly unfashionable Governor’s ball instead of the Duchess’s. It’s important for his campaign that she be charming to influential people. They come to a compromise – she’ll attend, as long as she can bring Pedro.
Cane spends the afternoon at a cafe frequented by the staff of rival candidate Senator Cruz, eavesdropping on their conversations. Cruz has secured powerful backing by promising valuable land which he’ll acquire by demolishing Santo Antonio market and the slums around it.
At the same time, Rosa is out dress shopping for the ball, accompanied by several of her posh friends and Aranha, who – by day – is Rosa’s maid and chaperone. After discussing the prospects for the ball and Pedro’s eligibility, she decides she’ll go to the Governor’s ball but leave as soon as possible.
As the group leaves the dress shop, they’re accosted by a number of uncouth young men. To Rosa’s surprise but not dismay, Aranha handily beats one of them up. She gives Aranha the rest of the day off, and some spending money.
Just as Aranha is counting the cash, her teenage neighbour Tico-Tico comes running up calling her name. His Uncle Ze’s cafe is being smashed up by the Nagoa gang from Sao Francisco parish. They say he owes them protection money, but he lives on Aranha’s turf.
Aranha finds Bacalhau and sends him and Tico-Tico to gather the troops. They arrive at the smashed cafe too late to catch the Nagoas.
Meredith and Rosa meet outside Santo Antonio church to discuss the progress of their plan to swindle Rosa’s brother out of his inheritance. Disagreements break out over who is supposed to be doing what, threats are made, and the alliance seems like it’s starting to fray at the edges.
Bright and early the next morning, Cane meets Councillor Santos at his quayside warehouse and watch a cargo of coffee being loaded onto a ship bound for Europe. Santos is concerned that his honesty will be no match for Cruz’s dirty tricks. Cane proposes a little underhanded work on their side, to which Santos reluctantly agrees, and gives him some discretionary spending money. “This is just between us,” says Cane, ” so if anyone mentions cash being missing, we know where it went but we won’t say anything, right?” Right, says the Councillor. Cane uses the money to patch the gambling-debt hole in the accounts.
At the Santos house, Rosa goes to da Silva with the news that Cane has threatened to blackmail her, saying he’d expose her plan to steal her brother’s inheritance. Which is preposterous, of course. Da Silva grimly replies that he will look into Cane’s activities – he’s been sure the man is a rascal all along.
At the pier, Jose talks with his niece Aranha while he prepares his boat for sea. Frederico’s warehouse was demolished a week ago and he only got a pittance in compensation. What’s next? Aranha promises to find out what’s going on.
Bacalhau makes his surveillance report to Aranha and Cane. Da Silva looks clean, even dull in his habits. The only possible item of interest is that he visited a young woman on Flower Street, at the house with the blue door.
Later, posing as a possible backer, Cane gets a tour of the marketplace from Senator Cruz’s banker, who describes in glowing terms how wonderful all the new buildings and plazas will be once the poor people have been kicked out. Cane gets a signed quotation for a parcel of land.
Aranha waits till the banker has gone and asks Cane what’s up. He explains what’s going down.
It’s a week later, at the stuffy Governor’s ball. Rosa feigns a dancefloor ankle injury, not very convincingly. Unwilling to make a scene, her father allows her and Pedro to leave early, on the proviso she goes straight home. She doesn’t, of course.