Earlier in the day, the local police force was given, as Jim called it, a “special telephone thingy which gets a bloody signal where there isn’t a bloody signal” to send into the apartment for the robber. Now, Jack asks Jim if Jim actually turned the phone’s ringtone on, or if he left it on vibrate. Jim might have left it on vibrate. Jack touches the table that the phone was on, which is rickety. He then looks at the wall—and finds the bullet. Jack says the robber didn’t shoot himself, and he realizes the robber wasn’t in the apartment when the pistol fired. Jim doesn’t get it, so Jack explains that the vibrating phone caused the pistol to fall and fire; the stage blood has likely been here since long before then.
The language Jim uses to describe the special telephone highlights how out of touch he is with the modern era. Just as with computers, he thinks of the phone as magic. However, the phone isn’t impervious to user error: Jim was still easily able to make a mistake and not turn the phone’s ringtone on before it went to the robber. As Jack pieces together how the pistol went off, he and readers can infer that the robber is probably totally fine. But this, of course, doesn’t answer where the robber is.
Jack and Jim sink onto the couch and Jack calls himself an idiot. He asks Jim to tell him how many people were in the apartment, and with Jack’s help, Jim counts nine people, including the real estate agent. Jack waits for his dad to get it, but Jim never gets it. Jack’s mom used to laugh at this sort of thing. They both miss her, and it’s because of her that they both keep trying to improve their relationship. When she died, Jack was already firm in his beliefs—he didn’t believe in God, even though his mom was a priest—but he still prayed to God to spare her before she died. And when she died anyway, he promised his mom he’d take care of Jim. He called his sister, a heroin addict, to tell her about the funeral and send her money. She still didn’t come.
Jack starts to talk as though it’s totally obvious what happened, but either Jim doesn’t get it or he’s being purposefully obtuse. Bringing up Jack’s mom lets readers in on one of the people that kept Jack and Jim together. They were both motivated by their love for this woman, and Jim even considered practicing Christianity for her sake. Now, her memory motivates Jim and Jack to keep working on their relationship, as frustrating as this can be sometimes for both of them.
Jack and Jim have been on their own since then. They still send Jack’s sister money when she asks. They both wonder what kind of police officer can’t help their own family members, and what kind of god makes a priest sick. Now, Jack remembers asking his mom how she could stand to sit with dying people. She told him that it’s the same way you eat an elephant: one bite at a time. She said you can only do so much to help, and that has to be enough.
Jack’s mom tried to teach Jack the value of setting boundaries: there’s only so much you can do in a difficult situation, and she insinuated that it won’t end well if Jack stretches himself so thin that he can’t take care of himself. Interestingly, Jack seems to be actively going against his mother’s advice in the novel’s present, as he throws himself so fully into trying to solve this case.
Back in the present, Jim asks Jack to explain. Jack notes that there were supposedly nine people in the apartment, but the pizza order only asked for eight pizzas. The real estate agent must be the robber posing as a real estate agent—she walked out onto the street with everyone else and pretended to be a victim.
The theory Jack comes up with seems probable, given that readers have seen no evidence of a real estate agent at the apartment viewing thus far. However, it’s also worth noting that Jack is assuming he's right, something the novel has subtly suggested in varying ways isn’t a good way to find the right answer.