Pinkie returns to his room in the boarding house to find Spicer passed out on the bed. The room smells like whiskey and an insect drifts around in the stale air. Pinkie captures the bug and pulls its limbs off one by one, saying “she loves me, she loves me not.” Spicer wakes up and tells him he heard from Crab that he was at the police station. Pinkie says it was a friendly conversation about Brewer, nothing to worry about, but that they need to talk about Spicer going on a holiday. He’s too old to be in the mob, Pinkie says. He can tell by the mistakes he’s made recently, first by letting Rose see him at Snow’s and then by allowing himself to be photographed on the pier.
The whiskey smell and swirling insects hint at Spicer’s future: it is one of dissipation and rot. Pinkie’s sick treatment of the bug makes a mockery of a game usually played by infatuated young girls with flower petals instead of insect legs. It also makes a mockery of love. Pinkie is not being honest with Spicer. He clearly wants him more permanently removed from his gang but is not about to show his hand.
Pinkie tells Spicer he needs to disappear, meaning get out of town. Spicer is worried Pinkie intends to kill him. He shows Pinkie a silver watch given to him by friends at the track. Its inscription thanks him for being a pal for ten years. That was fifteen years ago, Spicer says. He is trustworthy and knowledgeable. In fact, Spicer says, he’s been doing this since before Pinkie was born. Pinkie says he would just like Spicer to take a break for a while, but not before the races start soon. He’ll need him there.
The watch symbolizes Spicer’s limited lease on life. The inscription means nothing to Pinkie, who is threatened by Spicer’s age and experience. Because he is a veteran member of the mob, Spicer understands that Pinkie’s talk of a holiday is code for a cold-blooded killing.
Pinkie looks down at Spicer, musing about the fact that, for the second time in a few weeks, he was looking at a dying man. He wonders if Spicer will go to Hell or Heaven. Then he asks Spicer where he’ll take his holiday, and Spicer says Nottingham, where a friend of his runs a pub. He admits that, if it weren’t for Pinkie and the others, he’d get out of the business for good.
Pinkie is calmly planning Spicer’s death even as he is inquiring about his possible vacation plans. He is a born killer, and he doesn’t care if Spicer goes to Heaven or Hell. All that matters is that he be out of Pinkie’s way.
Pinkie leaves and calls the Cosmopolitan on the boarding house telephone. He asks for Mr. Colleoni. Then he suggests in a coded manner that Mr. Colleoni’s men kill Spicer. He says he’ll wish him good luck and pat him on the back. Pinkie is upset for a moment when he thinks he hears Mr. Colleoni laugh. Then the line goes dead. Pinkie vacillates between excitement at the prospect of Colleoni killing Spicer and a holy sort of dread. The dread is a result of a hymn that comes to his mind as he climbs back up the stairs. By the time he’s back in his room, he’s feeling just fine again.
In a surprising move, Pinkie is electing not to kill Spicer himself but to enlist the help of his rival, perhaps to make it a “cleaner” operation. Pinkie cannot suppress his feelings of insecurity and inferiority when dealing with Colleoni. He worries that Colleoni is mocking him. Pinkie’s past as a poor kid and altar boy haunt him, too, but it doesn’t take him long to reconcile himself to Spicer’s death.