Pinkie and Spicer are together on the pier. Pinkie warns Spicer against going back to the scene of the murder. Music drifts from Sam’s, a bar where the other men are drinking. Pinkie wishes the music would stop. Spicer asks him if they’re home free, given that the inquest found that no foul play was involved in Hale’s death. He seems worried that Pinkie might do something rash, maybe hurt someone else and arouse suspicion. Pinkie says he’s only out late because he has a date. Spicer thinks Pinkie has a gun or a knife in his pocket, but Pinkie assures him it’s only a bottle of vitriol, or sulfuric acid. Pinkie tells Spicer to go; Rose is here. He fingers the bottle as she arrives, experiencing something akin to sexual pleasure.
Pinkie’s warning to Spicer not to return to the scene of Hale’s murder foreshadows Spicer’s own demise. As the most experienced member of the gang, Spicer seems to sense Pinkie’s trigger-happy state. He can tell that Pinkie is hell-bent on doing more damage. The bottle of vitriol might not be as lethal as a gun or knife, but it suggests that more violence is yet to come, because Pinkie is aroused by violence, not by love.
Rose apologizes for being late. Pinkie asks her if she ever got her Kolley Kibber money and if anyone has come around to question her about it. Rose says she has the money but no one has visited her. She can’t believe that the man ended up dead. Pinkie pulls her down the pier, away from the music still drifting from Sam’s. He asks her if she saw the photograph of the Kolley Kibber man and she tells him yes, but what’s strange is the photograph was not of the man who left the card under the table cloth. Pinkie tells her that people often look different in photographs. He says that she has her money now and that’s what’s important. She doesn’t want to get mixed up with anything having to do with Hale or the mob, Pinkie says. Rose promises to do whatever he tells her to.
Music continues to plague Pinkie, reminding him of the presence and needs of others and of his own essentially sinful nature. He leads Rose away from it so as not to be shaken from his purpose, which is to pump Rose for information and gain her loyalty. His advice to Rose—that she not get mixed up with the mob—shows just how naïve Pinkie thinks Rose is. He assumes she knows nothing about his identity and that someone as sweet and timid as Rose would never suspect that he is part of the very crowd he is warning her to avoid.
Pinkie shows Rose his bottle of vitriol, saying that people who get mixed up with bad actors like Hale end up getting acid in their face. Rose is horrified, but Pinkie assures her the bottle is only spirits. He just wants her to be careful. Rose is impressed with Pinkie’s knowledge of the world. A romantic song begins to play nearby and Pinkie angrily drags Rose to Sherry’s, a popular nightclub. There’s a line out the door to get into the gallery level, but Pinkie pulls Rose right in, saying they’ll stick to the ground floor where it’s less crowded.
Pinkie isn’t completely wrong in thinking Rose a naïve young woman. That she would be impressed by his talk of acid and alcohol is proof that she is not as worldly as he. Pinkie’s reaction to the sentimental song shows that he is not beyond entertaining romantic feelings for a woman; he is, however, totally resistant to letting his guard down in any way.
Rose chatters about what the songs and colored lights of the club remind her of. The narrator notes that she has an endless supply of trivial memories she can access at any given moment. Pinkie asks her what she would like to drink. Rose is at a loss. She comes from a poor and sheltered background. No man has ever offered to buy her a drink before. She orders a vanilla ice cream. She and Pinkie both discover they’re the same age: seventeen. They agree not to dance; Rose has no experience and Pinkie no desire. A man in a white jacket begins to croon a love song about everyday noises providing the soundtrack to a passionate affair.
Rose’s character is beginning to be revealed. Her naivete is courtesy of an impoverished background and also a function of her youth. Like the child she is, she orders vanilla ice cream instead of a cocktail. Her litany of silly memories likewise suggests an unformed mind, as does her lack of experience on the dance floor. Pinkie, meanwhile, continues to hold himself apart, doing his best not to be influenced by song.
While the man sings, Pinkie again fingers the bottle of vitriol and he senses the bottle telling him that it will get him someday, it will spoil his looks. Pinkie doesn’t believe it. He’s above being a victim. Pinkie asks Rose if she’s ever been in love and she says she has. Pinkie teases her some about being naïve, but she insists she knows quite a lot. Then he says she’d probably like it if he were her guy, and she says yes and tears come to her eyes. Her sentimentality infuriates Pinkie, who insists they leave. While Rose gathers her bag, Pinkie sees that it contains a rosary.
The acid all but talks to Pinkie in this scene, and its short speech foreshadows Pinkie’s sad fate on the cliff near Peacehaven. He is in denial, however, and even though he has created his fair share of victims, he insists that he will never be one. Rose’s eagerness to be Pinkie’s girl suggests that she is lying when she insists she knows a great deal about romantic matters.
Pinkie asks Rose if she’s a Catholic. She is. They both agree that it is the only faith that makes any sense, although Pinkie’s devotion is different from Rose’s. He believes in Hell and damnation, in torments, whereas Rose believes in Heaven. Pinkie concedes that Heaven might exist, but he isn’t sure.
Pinkie and Rose have very different conceptions of God. Pinkie’s God is bent on punishment, Rose’s on mercy. Their separate faiths align with their characters. Pinkie is a killer whereas Rose prefers to love and forgive.
Pinkie returns home to Frank’s, his boarding house, to find the gang in his room. He’s wet and irritated, convinced that they’d been having a secret meeting without him. They’ve been talking about how, ever since Kite’s death, several men, including Tate and Brewer, haven’t been paying their protection subscriptions. Dallow is anxious to cut them. Pinkie defers sarcastically to Spicer, whom Pinkie says has become a philosopher. Spicer is against further bloodshed, and he says he was against Hale’s murder from the start. Pinkie says Spicer is “sour and milky,” i.e. a coward. Cubitt agrees that they should lay low for a while. Talk turns to Rose. Spicer has told the others about Pinkie’s efforts to woo her, and Cubitt teases him about their eventual marriage. Pinkie is furious and says he will never marry a cheap “polony,” or sausage, like Rose.
Pinkie is determined to see the worst in Spicer, who has made it clear he found Hale’s murder unnecessary and risky. There is no place in Pinkie’s gang for a “philosopher.” Pinkie demands loyalty and a willingness to commit violence at the slightest provocation. This is why he favors the blood-thirsty Dallow over the more thoughtful Spicer. Pinkie thinks of women as nothing more than pieces of meat, and Rose is no exception. In Pinkie’s eyes, all women are vaguely disgusting inconveniences.
Pinkie grabs a razorblade from the bathroom and tapes it under one of his fingernails. Then he slips a glove over that hand, and he and Dallow head out to confront Tate and Brewer. It’s low tide. The clock strikes midnight. They pass Snow’s and a single light goes out. A tram rolls by, empty except for its driver. Brewer lives next to the tram, nearly under a viaduct. Pinkie rings the bell and Brewer sticks his head out the window, asking him to come back at another time. His wife is ill.
The clock striking midnight is yet another reminder that Pinkie is always working against time. The light going off inside Snow’s café is symbolic of Pinkie’s loveless heart. It also suggests the darkening of Rose’s prospects, now that she has met, and become infatuated with, Pinkie.
Pinkie threatens to ring the bell a second time if Brewer doesn’t let them in. Brewer opens the front door and invites them to have some scotch. Pinkie doesn’t drink, but Dallow is happy to. Pinkie is surprised by Brewer’s poverty. He thinks to himself that Kite must have been skimming some off of Brewer’s earnings. Pinkie asks Brewer why he hasn’t paid his subscription. Brewer admits to having been worried ever since Kite was killed. He is anxious to tend to his wife, whose coughing echoes down the stairs like the pathetic croaks of a machine that won’t start.
This is the first indication that Kite’s death has left the gang in a place of diminished power. Kite’s leadership, while imperfect, inspired confidence. Pinkie’s, by contrast, does not. Brewer’s wife’s illness is clearly very serious, but Pinkie cannot bring himself to care. All he wants is proof of Brewer’s allegiance and the money he is owed.
Brewer eventually admits that he could not afford to pay both Pinkie and Colleoni. Colleoni would have killed him if he didn’t pay him. Colleoni is, apparently, stopping in the Cosmopolitan hotel and, according to Brewer, “running the business in a big way.” Tate, it turns out, has also paid Colleoni. Brewer suggests Pinkie work for Colleoni, combining his gang with that of the older man. Pinkie is offended by such a suggestion. He takes his glove off and slices Brewer across the cheek, saying he and Dallow won’t leave without the twenty pounds they’re owed. Dallow then takes Brewer upstairs to get the money. Pinkie remains where he is, stewing and eyeing a cat outside.
Pinkie might aspire to power and fame and fortune, but his accomplishments are nothing compared to Colleoni’s, whose dominance intimidates Brewer and Tate into paying him even as they’re stiffing Pinkie. Angry, Pinkie resorts to violence, as is often his first instinct. Pinkie’s staring contest with the cat suggests that they are of the same ilk; like the cat, Pinkie is feral, and although he has three men working for him, he would much rather be alone.
Dallow returns with the money and he and Pinkie walk back between the tram lines. Pinkie asks Dallow if he, like Brewer, thinks he’s finished, but Dallow says Pinkie is just beginning. Pinkie feels a rush of almost affection for Dallow. They arrive back at Frank’s, where Spicer informs them that Rose has called for Pinkie. Apparently, someone came to question Rose while she was out at Sherry’s with Pinkie. Pinkie isn’t worried. He tells Spicer to take a holiday; he obviously needs a rest. Then Pinkie orders both men to leave. He gets in bed. Outside, the moonlight illuminates the Whitehawk Bottom racecourse where the empty stands look for the moment like the monoliths of Stonehenge.
Pinkie only feels real affection for someone when he is assured of their blind loyalty. Dallow is the most unquestioning member of the gang and, therefore, the one Pinkie trusts the most. Spicer is the one he trusts the least. When Pinkie suggests to Spicer that he take a holiday, he is giving Spicer false hope. The moonlit horse park hints at the races and drama still to come. The reference to Stonehenge again signifies the importance of time in the lives and deaths of the characters.