Shortly after the explosion on the rue Catinat, Fowler walks to Mr. Chou’s warehouse. There, he finds Mr. Chou and Mr. Heng. He tells Heng, who understands more English, about the explosion, and insists that Pyle was to blame for killing the people who died. Heng nods calmly, and explains that Pyle is “his own master,” even though he seems loyal to General Thé. Heng suggests that Fowler go to the police and tell them what he knows, but Fowler insists that the police will never touch Pyle—he’s an American agent, and a popular, likable man, besides.
It’s not immediately clear why Fowler goes to Chou and Heng after the explosion—we don’t know what he wants them to do, even though he clearly feels that they will do something when they hear the news. We sense that Fowler wants Pyle dead, but even so, it’s not clear why: is it because he is trying to protect people from Pyle’s misguided, deadly idealism, or does he just want Phuong to himself? Most likely it is a combination of the two.
In response to Fowler’s protests, Heng nods, and makes another suggestion: Fowler should invite Pyle to dinner at the Vieux Moulin, between 8:30 and 9:30 PM. When Fowler suggests that Pyle will be busy, Heng suggests that he invite Pyle to his home around 6:30, and then suggest that they go to dinner afterwards. Heng tells Fowler that he should hang back while Pyle walks to dinner, making the excuse that he wants to read a little before dining. Fowler is suspicious—he asks what will happen to Pyle at dinner. Heng replies that he’s not allowed to tell Fowler, but that “they” will be as gentle with Pyle as possible.
In this scene, Fowler essentially kills Pyle, even if he doesn’t commit the murder in person. He’s not entirely sure what he’s doing, and this is how he excuses his actions to himself—because Fowler doesn’t know exactly how Pyle is going to die, he can delude himself into believing that he didn’t want to kill Pyle in the first place. Fowler’s belief that he’s not engagé has been based on these kinds of lies all along—of course Fowler is engagé—he’s just obscured his guilt and complicity by depending on other people to send his messages and carry out his demands.
Fowler seems to accept Heng’s advice. As he prepares to leave the warehouse, Heng tells him, “One has to take sides. If one is to remain human.”
Heng’s philosophy is a direct rebuttal to Fowler’s efforts to be disinterested, and it couldn’t come at a better time. In essence, Heng is saying, “You may think you’re ridding yourself of all guilt in Pyle’s death, but you’re not.” It is then up to Fowler, and us as readers, to decide if Fowler’s decision was a moral one or not.