It’s race day and tourists flood into Brighton like travelers during a bank holiday, only now people are intent on hoarding their money rather than spending it. A band plays, and children frolic near a cigar-smoking negro who tries to join in the fun but is snubbed. Lines of buses and cars wind up the hill toward the raceway. Among the procession is a little red sports car, in which sits a woman singing of brides and bouquets, a song that somehow goes with oysters and Guinness. The tune drifts down the slope to an Old Morris with a flapping hood, a bent fender, and a discolored windshield.
Ida is in the sports car, having, as usual, a very good time. Hale’s death and the grave responsibility of finding his killers is not stopping her from enjoying herself. Pinkie and Spicer are in the Morris with the flapping hood. No music comes from their car. Rather, Ida’s song invades the ugly, beat-up car, where Pinkie is bound to be annoyed by such an intrusion.
In the car are Pinkie and Spicer. Pinkie is again preoccupied with thoughts of sex and family life, the prison he hopes never to enter. Spicer asks after Cubitt and Dallow. Pinkie tells him they have something to do that he’d rather do with Spicer alone. He confesses to Spicer that he’s planning on negotiating peace with Colleoni, and Spicer says he’s all for peace. Then Pinkie reminds Spicer that he’s taking his holiday tonight, and Spicer grows sentimental, talking of the fun he hopes to have in Nottingham.
Pinkie, driving Spicer to his death, mulls over a state of being he thinks is analogous to death: marriage. He lies to Spicer without remorse or hesitation, and Spicer seems convinced, falling back on his dreams of owning a pub in Nottingham. In Pinkie’s world, though, “holiday” means a one-way trip to the afterlife.
Pinkie and Spicer park the car and join the crowd heading for the horse park. Pinkie feels an immense sense of well-being. He is ready for the races. He is ready for violence. He buys Spicer a beer and watches the action on the causeway and the activity of the bookies. Spicer says he’d like to place a few bets and Pinkie agrees to go with him. He won’t be putting any money down. He doesn’t bet. He encourages Spicer to have a good time while he can, though.
Pinkie is in his element. The horse park is his home turf, and nothing makes him feel more at peace than the prospect of violence. Blissfully unaware that he is about to be killed, Spicer enjoys himself. Pinkie’s words are a warning that goes unheeded. Spicer is living on borrowed time.
Spicer takes his money to Jim Tate, betting on a horse named Memento Mori. He asks Pinkie what “memento mori” means and Pinkie says he isn’t sure. It’s foreign. Spicer mentions wishing he’d backed Black Boy when he still could. A woman in the crowd told him he was the best bet, but Pinkie doesn’t believe it. He says Black Boy was always Fred’s pick. Pinkie is sure he’ll come to nothing. The race begins, and Pinkie is still convinced that Black Boy will lose. He is less sure about his mission, though. He wishes he had Dallow and Cubitt with him. He feels as if he started something on Whit Monday that will never end.
“Memento mori” translates to “remember your mortality” or “remember that you will die.” Given that Spicer is about to be killed by Colleoni’s men, the name of the horse is fraught with double meaning. Pinkie’s sense of well-being slips for a moment when he thinks of what’s to come. The pressure is too great to shoulder alone, but that is what this mission required. Dallow and Cubitt would only be inconvenient witnesses.
The race ends, and Black Boy comes in first. Memento Mori is second, and General Burgoyne is third. Spicer is ecstatic that his horse placed. Pinkie doesn’t like the fact that Fred’s horse won. It’s almost too coincidental. He grabs Spicer’s arm and the two of them head to Tate’s booth so Spicer can collect his money from Tate’s assistant, Samuel. Pinkie says goodbye to Spicer there. Spicer doesn’t understand. He thought he and Pinkie were going to meet with Colleoni. Pinkie says he’s decided to meet with Colleoni at his hotel instead. Spicer grows concerned that there might be something amiss.
Hale’s murder haunts Pinkie, who is anticipating Spicer’s death as well. The horse park is suddenly a menacing place, full of bad omens. Spicer is beginning to notice that Pinkie is behaving oddly. Too friendly at first, his new standoffishness is equally confusing. Spicer is worried that he might have been right when he thought Pinkie intended to kill him.
Pinkie pats Spicer on the back and wishes him luck. Soon, a crowd of men descends upon Spicer and Pinkie. Pinkie can’t believe it. He tells the men that Spicer’s the one they want, but they continue to attack him, slashing his cheek and slicing his knuckles. One man kicks him hard in the leg. Spicer calls out for him, but Pinkie is too busy fending off Colleoni’s men to do anything. Eventually, someone calls out that the cops have arrived, and Pinkie takes off running away from the horse park and toward the downs, two of Colleoni’s stooges on his trail. He weeps as he runs. He even prays, but he knows that salvation only comes to those who repent and he has no time to do it.
Pinkie should have known better than to trust Colleoni. He suffers the consequences of his own bad decision as he becomes the target of his own hit job. The razor attack echoes Kite’s death and Pinkie’s assault on Brewer. Violence takes on new meaning when one is the victim and not the perpetrator. Pinkie is now vulnerable and weak. He cries and tries to pray, but he is desperate, on the run, and out of favor with God.
Pinkie ends up in someone’s open garage. It doesn’t seem like a place that has ever housed a car, though. It’s more like a potting shed, full of dirt, ragged dolls, a rocking horse, an old lawnmower and some even older albums. Now that he is out of immediate danger, Pinkie is embarrassed. He wishes he hadn’t run and cried and prayed. He supposes he should repent now, but he doesn’t have the energy for it. He is reminded of Kite’s attack and of accompanying him to the hospital. He thinks of making peace, of going home, of the confessional box he used to frequent as a child. Hell hadn’t meant much to him before he felt real pain; now he worries about being cut by razors for all eternity.
Pinkie’s pride is as wounded as his face. He is not one to show weakness, and, even though the only witnesses to his shame were Colleoni’s men, Pinkie regrets his behavior because it is not in line with the tough guy he aspires to be at all times. Now that he has felt real terror and real pain, he worries about Hell. Its torments have become tangible to him, and that is why he thinks of the confessional and of giving up the life of a gangster for good.
Pinkie limps out of the garage and heads to the pier, where he hears music drifting over the sand. An injured moth hobbles by. Pinkie crushes it under his shoe. He tells himself this is just a setback. He is still the head of Kite’s gang. He will make one confession and be done with it. He walks to Snow’s and looks in the window. Rose is there, waiting a table. She sees him and tells him to go to the back. A luxurious car drifts by and Pinkie thinks he sees Mr. Colleoni inside, smiling at an old lady in a purple dress. Then again, it might be another millionaire entirely.
Pinkie hasn’t learned anything from the razor attack at the horse park. His cruel treatment of the moth, reminiscent of his tearing off the legs of an insect back in his room at Frank’s, demonstrates this. Whether or not the man in the luxury car is Colleoni is immaterial. Pinkie is of the class that gets his face slashed. Millionaires, meanwhile, glide through life with ease.
Rose lets Pinkie in, angry not with him but with the people who left him in such a state. Pinkie reassures her he’s fine. He wasn’t afraid; he felt no pain. He asks if there’s somewhere he can wash. She shows him to a small closet and brings water and a few cloths. She begins to wipe his face clear, and he asks if anyone has been around, asking questions. She tells him the man has, the one who accompanied the brash woman from before. Pinkie assumes he’s a cop, but Rose doesn’t think so. His name is Phil.
Rose is so devoted to Pinkie she doesn’t ask him what might have prompted someone to attack him in such a way. Pinkie, though, is still focused on making sure that Rose doesn’t talk to the wrong people, including Phil Corkery. It would seem that Phil is now an active participant in Ida’s investigation.
Pinkie thinks about his next move, but he grows weary considering that life is all one tactical move after another. He wants to be alone for a while. Rose wonders if the people who did this to him might be waiting for him, but Pinkie says no, that they have poor Spicer so they should be satisfied. He tells Rose that Spicer’s dead. Then they hear a brash laugh coming from up the passage. They both know it’s the same woman who’s been asking questions. Pinkie, again weighing his tactical options, pulls Rose in for a kiss. He bungles it again, and she says she supposes he hasn’t had many girls. She admits that he’s her first and she’s glad. This infuriates Pinkie. He’d hoped at least to steal someone else’s prize.
Pinkie’s life is, indeed, a series of increasingly complicated schemes, and his decision to kiss Rose in this moment is one more move in the clumsy game he is playing to keep her from going to the cops. Pinkie, who writes off all women as “polonys” and “buers,” is not a naturally gifted lover, and when Rose suggests that their inexperience is another thing they have in common, his pride is stung. No catch himself, Pinkie had hoped that his first girl would be desirable to other men.
Pinkie asks Rose not to give him away to the brash woman. Rose doesn’t understand. Then she tells Pinkie that she doesn’t care what he did. She loves him. The depth of her devotion takes him by surprise. The brash woman calls for Rose, but Rose stays with Pinkie. She tells him that she did something very wrong in her past as well. She committed a mortal sin when she was 12. The brash woman can talk all she wants about right and wrong, Rose says, but she knows nothing about it. She says she’d rather burn with Pinkie than be like that ignorant woman. Rose’s boss from the café opens the door and interrupts them and Pinkie leaves, headed back to his boardinghouse.
Rose’s life in Nelson Place was not a carefree one. She never tells Pinkie what mortal sin she committed as an adolescent, but that sin, along with the years she spent in poverty, gave her a thick skin and a loyal nature. Her religious beliefs have also prepared her for life with a man like Pinkie. She is convinced that everyone can be saved, but, if Pinkie is to be damned, loving him means accepting that she, too, might burn.
Cubitt is there, eating an apple. The phone is ringing. Cubitt answers and tells the person on the other line that Spicer isn’t there. Pinkie asks who wanted Spicer, and Cubitt says it was a woman, probably a girl Spicer was sweet on at the Queen of Hearts nightclub. Pinkie tells Cubitt that Spicer is dead and that it was Colleoni’s men who killed him. Cubitt is shocked and asks what their next move should be.
Pinkie informs Cubitt of Spicer’s death like it is a trivial matter. He also did not witness Spicer dying, so there’s the possibility that Spicer, like Pinkie, escaped the razor attack and is alive somewhere. Cubitt is appropriately shocked, but he is more concerned about his own future than Spicer’s life.
Pinkie says they’re better off without Spicer, who was a coward. Then he asks Cubitt to call Mr. Prewitt, a lawyer and a fixer. Pinkie tells Cubitt he might have to get married after all. Cubitt laughs, saying he’s a little young to be playing such a dangerous game. Pinkie thinks about how he knows everything in theory but has no idea how the world actually works. He knows the moves, but the essence of the game has always eluded him. He’s pinning his hopes on Mr. Prewitt now.
This is the first and only time that Pinkie admits that he might not be acting from a knowledgeable and smart place. In matters of love, he is particularly ignorant. He has always looked down on women or done his best to ignore their presence all together. As such, marriage is intimidating, an alien territory.
Mr. Prewitt has a charlatan’s appearance but is a shrewd and experienced lawyer. He’s also sympathetic to Pinkie’s plight. Pinkie wants to get married but he’s underage and so is Rose. His best bet, Mr. Prewitt says, is to pretend to be 18. The rub is that Pinkie will have to get his parents’ or guardian’s permission. Pinkie tells him his parents are dead and he has no guardian. Prewitt tells him he might be able to produce a guardian if it comes to that, and that anything can be managed—just leave it to him. Pinkie is intent that the wedding not take place in a church. It’s not a real marriage to him. It’s only to keep Rose from being compelled to testify against him.
Marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic church. That is why Pinkie insists that his wedding with Rose not take place in a church; it would be a sin because his reasons for marrying her are impure and he wouldn’t consider the union binding in any way. Prewitt is not bothered by Pinkie’s motives or the possibility that Pinkie’s intended bride might get hurt. Prewitt is, in fact, happy to help.
Prewitt jovially asks for a guinea for his trouble and Pinkie tells him he’ll find some change on the washstand. Pinkie is busy thinking about how, once he’s married to Rose, he can get out of it. He’d hoped, if he had to tie himself to someone for life, it would be to a woman much more desirable than Rose. Dallow peaks his head in and asks what happened to Spicer. Pinkie tells him Colleoni’s men killed him on the course. Dallow says Spicer’s alive and in his room.
Pinkie is still taking Rose for granted. He gives her no credit for being kind or devoted or even smart. He wants her to be more attractive. Pinkie finds out the hard way that he shouldn’t have announced Spicer's death prematurely. Like one of Ida’s spirits, Spicer has seemingly come back from the dead.
Pinkie goes to Spicer’s room to investigate. Standing in the doorway, he thinks of a Latin saying he used to hear in church: dona nobis pacem, or “grant us peace.” He feels a pang for his youth and things he’s either lost or rejected. Spicer is in his room, packing a suitcase. When he sees Pinkie, he nervously admits he thought Colleoni’s men got him. He seems to feel guilty for being alive. Pinkie wants to tear the plaster from Spicer’s cheek. He stands silently watching Spicer pack. Spicer’s guilt is replaced with a knowledge of what really happened on the racecourse: Pinkie tried to have him killed. Meanwhile, back in Pinkie’s room, Prewitt is still fumbling around, trying to find some change.
This is not the last time Pinkie will think of this saying. It comes to him in moments when he is most disturbed, and, even though he often whispers it aloud like one would a prayer, it doesn’t work. Pinkie will never be at peace. He finds Spicer’s surprise appearance particularly unsettling. Spicer is likewise ruffled. A veteran gangster, he quickly realizes that Pinkie tried to have him killed. Prewitt’s fruitless search suggests that he might not be that competent after all.