Pinkie makes his way through the Palace of Pleasure, stopping to play a shooting game. Dolls line the walls of the stall. They wait, glassy eyed and innocent as virgins, to be claimed. The Boy asks the man working the stall for the time. The man tells the Boy to check the clock. It’s a quarter to two. The Boy lands six bullets in a bull and, declining a prize of chocolates and cigarettes, takes one of the dolls instead. He strides off to a café with the doll in hand, musing that holding the doll is like having the Mother of God by the hair. He asks for the time again and the waitress tells him it’s now ten to two. Then he gives her the doll, telling her to take it home with her and pray.
If all went according to plan, Hale’s murder should have taken place a short time ago. Pinkie is not doing the dirty work; that is reserved for his men. The carnival game allows him to play at killing. The doll Pinkie wins symbolizes his limited and superficial understanding of women. As will become clear later in the novel, in Pinkie’s mind, women are either toys or blessed virgins. Either way, he is more than happy to have them by the hair.
Pinkie is waiting for his compatriots and soon they arrive: Cubitt and Dallow. Dallow is a muscular man whose blank face betrays a simple brutality. The Boy asks after Spicer’s whereabouts. Cubitt tells him he’s in the bathroom washing up but that he’ll join them in a moment. When Spicer appears, he is pale and sick-looking. He refuses the fish and chips that the Boy, whose name is Pinkie, has ordered for the table. Pinkie, angry to have been left waiting, even for five minutes, asks if the killing of Hale went as planned. The three men tell him it was a perfectly executed crime. Pinkie is particularly concerned about the cards that Hale was to leave around town as part of the Messenger contest. The cards will serve as an alibi and, Pinkie says, will convince the authorities that Hale died after 2 P.M.
Pinkie’s anxiety and intense attention to detail in this scene suggest that Hale’s murder was not a perfectly-executed crime. So does Spicer’s inability to eat. Of the three men, Spicer seems to be the only one who is bothered by Hale’s death. Pinkie doesn’t care about the bloodshed. He is concerned with any missteps that might leave them vulnerable to prosecution. Time is a critical consideration. It is necessary that the authorities think Hale died after 2 P.M. and that Pinkie and his gang are seen by witnesses at the café; that way they will be found guiltless.
There is talk about the woman Hale was with before he was killed. Pinkie says there’s nothing to worry about. He calls Ida a “buer,” or demon, and insinuates that she was nothing but a prostitute. He saw Hale give her money. Pinkie then orders Spicer to go back to the café, Snow’s, where he placed Hale’s last card, but Spicer refuses. So does Dallow. Pinkie says he’ll go himself then, and he wonders aloud if he might not be better off working for himself. He asks Spicer about the table where he stowed the card. Spicer tells him the table had flowers on it. Pinkie leaves the men and heads to Snow’s.
Pinkie’s views of women again come into sharp relief. His likening Ida both to a demon and a whore reveal not just his misunderstanding of Ida and Hale’s interaction but his own inability or unwillingness to see women as full-fledged humans. Spicer’s mention of the table’s flowery centerpiece foreshadows Pinkie’s fateful meeting with Rose.
In the café, depressing music is playing. Pinkie goes to the appointed table. Feeling around for the card, he finds nothing and, in his anger, smashes a salt shaker. A pale, thin waitress comes over and apologizes for keeping him waiting. It’s her first day and the lunch rush just ended. She clears the table, and, noticing Pinkie’s hand under the tablecloth, asks if he’s lost something. He says no, despising her timid looks and servile attitude. She seems to warm to him instantly, however, and tells him that she’s had an exciting day. She found a Kolley Kibber card under the cloth. She didn’t say anything to the man who left it, though, because he didn’t look anything like his photograph in the newspaper.
Pinkie, who prefers to live his life as if other people do not exist, despises music’s ability to pierce his armor. It seems that wherever he goes, he is surrounded by sentimental songs that alternately torture and annoy him. Rose, the young, naïve waitress, does not yet understand that her finding of the Kolley Kibber card is not a stroke of good luck but rather a cruel twist of fate. The man who placed the card under the table cloth looked nothing like his photograph because he was Spicer, not Hale.
Pinkie interrogates the waitress a bit, trying to discern if she got a good look at Spicer. She tells him she always looks closely at the customers because she wants to make sure she’s giving them what they want. Pinkie tells the waitress she’s the kind of girl he likes and then, seeing that his words might be taken as too forward, says he can see that she is sensitive like he is. He suggests they get together some evening soon and asks her name. She tells him her name is Rose. He gets up to leave, saying that he has an appointment at 2 p.m. sharp but that he’ll be seeing her soon. They have things in common, he says.
Pinkie aspires to woo Rose not because he has any romantic interest in her but because he thinks she might be useful to him. His suggestion that she is sensitive like him is both ironic and oddly prescient. Pinkie is largely callous and brutal; at the same time, he and Rose will, indeed, turn out to have much in common. Pinkie’s emphasis on the time of day is another attempt on his part to secure an alibi.