Jed Parry puts Clarissa on the phone, and she tells Joe that he must “come straight back” and can’t “talk to the police.” Before she gives the phone back to Parry, she warns Joe that Parry will be watching him “out the window” as he arrives. Joe assures Parry that he will do “whatever [Parry] want[s].”
Joe’s vague plan of self-defense must now give way to the specific plan of rescuing Clarissa. Because of his loyalty to her, he pledges to do whatever is necessary to prevent her from coming to harm.
Opening the cardboard box, Joe takes a look at the gun he has purchased. It is “lighter” than he expected, and he wonders how difficult it will be to figure out how to use it. After a few moments, he and Johnny B. Well pull over onto the side of the road and walk into the woods. There, Johnny explains to Joe how a gun works, revealing that he was “into” them for a while when he lived in America.
The irony of these paragraphs lies in the fact that dreamy, broken-down Johnny B. Well carries the knowledge that Joe needs to enact his plan. Joe’s own knowledge is incomplete, however logical his ideas, and he requires outside assistance if he is to carry on.
Joe continues to feel uneasy, even ill, especially when Johnny warns him that to point a gun at someone is “basically” to give him “permission to kill you.” Sick to his stomach, Joe relieves himself in the woods before returning to the car and getting back on the road. To calm himself, he considers the dirt in which he dug “a shallow trench” for his waste. In that dirt was evidence that humans are, despite their troubles, merely a part of a “grand cycle” of nature.
Once again, Joe attempts to reassure himself by applying his scientific knowledge to a situation that doesn’t necessarily call for it. He does this because the fact he has been given—about what pointing a gun at someone means—is too difficult for him to accept without an intellectual digression.
Joe races back to London in his car. On the way, Johnny B. Well warns him that he mustn’t connect Johnny to the illegal gun should the police catch him with it. Joe tries calling the apartment but receives no answer. He considers alerting the police despite Clarissa’s warning but realizes that he is likely to be met once more with a “weary bureaucrat” who will be unable to help him. Arriving in London, he drops Johnny off at his street and receives Johnny’s warning to dispose of the gun properly after finishing with it.
Surprisingly, Johnny B. Well is attempting to impose a further degree of rationality on what is essentially a criminal plan. Joe listens to Johnny’s advice, having turned to criminality as the only logical response to the failure of a legal apparatus (the police) to protect him. The police have come, for Joe, to represent irrationality. They can be of no assistance to him.
Returning to his apartment at last, Joe goes around to the back of the building and climbs the fire escape to the roof. Looking into the kitchen through a skylight, he sees Clarissa’s bag but nothing else. Yet a second skylight gives him a view of Clarissa sitting on a couch, with Jed Parry sitting “directly in front of her on a wooden kitchen chair.” Parry’s back is to Joe, but he doesn’t dare shoot, as he isn’t sure how the glass he would be firing through would affect the trajectory of the bullet. Instead, he goes back to his car, drives to the front of the building, and honks so that Parry will know that he has arrived.
These paragraphs underscore once again the incompleteness of Joe’s knowledge and the difficulty of any human being to understand the world completely. Joe struggles to see clearly where each character is and what each is doing, and he is forced to follow Jed Parry’s instructions only because he doesn’t understand how firing through glass would affect a bullet. Joe wishes to rely on science and reason, but he cannot fully do so.
Parry has come to the window and is partly concealed by the curtains, and Joe realizes that their usual positions have been “invert[ed].” Joe climbs the stairs, rings the doorbell, then lets himself in, releasing the safety on the gun as he does so. Stepping into the apartment, Joe calls Clarissa’s name then finds her and Parry in the sitting room, where he observed them moments earlier.
The reversal of the window-curtain tableaux created in an earlier chapter indicates that the incompleteness of human knowledge, which the curtains symbolize, is a factor not only for an irrational character like Jed Parry, but also for a rational one like Joe. No one is immune to it.
Parry, who is clearly nervous and distraught, warns Joe not to come any closer. Joe sees no obvious “bulge” in Parry’s clothes that might be a gun of Parry’s own, but he does see “an edge of something black” protruding from Parry’s pocket. When Joe urges Parry to release Clarissa now that Joe has arrived, Parry responds that he “needs” both of them and that loving Joe has “wrecked [his] life.” He reiterates his claim that Joe has led him on and has fought God’s “will” by rejecting him. Determining not to “contradict” Parry, Joe continues his attempt to discover whether Clarissa is being held in place by some kind of weapon.
Joe understands that to insist on reason—to argue, for example, that he has not led Parry on—would be to put Clarissa’s life in danger. Parry may be irrational, but the physical circumstances of this encounter have conferred more power upon Parry’s irrationality than upon Joe’s reason. Joe’s ability to counteract those physical circumstances, meanwhile, is a result, in part, of his incomplete knowledge regarding whether Parry is armed.
When Clarissa assures Parry that Joe never meant to do him any harm, Parry grows increasingly nervous and states that neither Joe nor Clarissa knows what he has been through. Surprisingly, he then asks Joe to “forgive” him for attempting to have Joe killed the previous day, calling that action “insanity.” Before Joe can respond, Parry produces from his pocket a “short-bladed knife” and brings it to his own ear rather than Clarissa’s throat. He pleads again for forgiveness, telling Joe that he’s going to commit suicide regardless. Seeing that Parry is sincere, Joe tells him to “drop the knife” so that the two of them can “talk.” When Parry refuses, Joe shoots him in the elbow so that Parry is forced to release his weapon.
These paragraphs arguably mark the high point of Jed Parry’s insanity. According to the terms of his delusions, it is in his interest to extort some promise from Joe while Joe and Clarissa are in his power. Yet rather than pursuing that rational end, Parry turns his knife on himself. An irony of this scene, meanwhile, is that Joe himself acts irrationally, at least where pure self-interest is concerned. Were Joe to act here with undiluted logic rather than human emotion, he would simply let Parry die.
Joe reflects on the fact that he and Clarissa should, in a perfect world, have reunited at that very moment, even as the police and ambulances came to take Parry away. Yet such behavior, Joe concludes, would have been “inhuman.” He and Clarissa had witnessed “a bungled murder and an attempted suicide” in the last “twenty-four hours,” Joe reminds the reader, and so the two of them were unable to move immediately into the kind of “happy ending” that might, Joe speculates, have occurred in the “movies.”
Even Joe is aware that perfect rationality must sometimes give way to the vaguer realm of human emotion—hence his lack of surprise that he and Clarissa do not fall immediately into one another’s arms. Real life, Joe recognizes, is messier than the artificial reality of cinema; humans are not so easily able to master their feelings.
So, too, is any immediate reconciliation prevented by the fact that the police lead Joe away for “possession of an illicit firearm and malicious wounding with intent.” Though the police’s arrest of Joe seems apologetic, he must nevertheless accompany them to the police station. He is made to spend the night in jail, but he is released the next morning. In part because of a letter of support from Duty Inspector Linley, Joe is never charged with any crime.
In these paragraphs, Joe is made to re-enter the realm of the State, with all its logical imperfections. Joe has behaved in a way that is both morally correct and reasonable, yet official authority is too absurd to recognize this fact immediately. Reason will eventually defeat unreason, but Joe will first have to wait.
Reflecting on the moments before the police took him away, Joe recalls the look of “repulsion and surprise” with which Clarissa responded to the sight of him with a gun. Thinking about her reaction, he finally comes to suspect that the two of them are “finished.”
Clarissa is bound here by her emotions. This is true despite the fact that, by any reasonable definition, Joe’s gun is at least partly responsible for Clarissa’s present safety.