Tom enjoys his life in Rome, and he continues to study Italian. He is careful, though, to keep himself from learning some of its proper usages, as Dickie often misused tenses here and there. Tom decorates his apartment with the help of Signora Buffi, his landlady. He makes a few acquaintances, but he only introduces himself as Dickie to a couple of people, and he avoids making close friends. He feels “alone yet not at all lonely, himself and yet not himself.” He is Dickie “from the moment he gets out of bed.”
As he settles into his bustling new life in Rome, Tom proves himself to be a master of deception by constantly staying ahead of the pitfalls that could get him discovered—or so he thinks. As he is more and more absorbed in Dickie’s identity, he distances himself from the people around him and retreats further and further into polishing and perfecting his own charade.
While packing for a trip to Spain and Sicily, there comes a knock at Tom’s door. He answers it to find Freddie Miles in the hall. Tom quickly slips off Dickie’s rings, greeting Freddie and telling him that Dickie is out of the apartment and should be back soon. Freddie is surprised and intrigued to find Tom “staying with” Dickie, but Tom assures him that it’s “just for a few hours” while Dickie is at lunch. Freddie found “Dickie’s” address “by the damnedest luck.” Tom tells Freddie that Dickie is leaving on a trip “to be alone.” Freddie presses Tom for an answer as to whether he lives with Dickie, noting that Dickie has “loaded him up with all his jewelry” and implying that there is more going on between Tom and Dickie than meets the eye. Tom insists that it’s a loan, and urges Freddie to go looking for Dickie at a restaurant nearby. Freddie leaves.
The reappearance of Freddie Miles threatens Tom’s idyllic life—he is able to slip back into his own persona, but he must do a lot of footwork to keep up with Freddie’s inquisitive and suspicious mind. Freddie’s implications that Tom and Dickie are living together as more than friends, and that Dickie has “loaded” Tom up are almost more than Tom can stand, and he desperately does all he can to get Freddie to leave. Freddie represents a part of Dickie’s old life, and Tom, already threatened by Freddie’s presence when Dickie was still alive, wants no part of Freddie now.
Tom listens as Freddie descends the stairs, and he hears Freddie run into Signora Buffi, who insists that only “Signor Greenleaf” is upstairs and has not yet gone out today. Tom hears Freddie’ footsteps coming back up the stairs; when he reaches the door, Tom grabs a “heavy glass ashtray” and bludgeons Freddie with it until he’s dead.
Tom’s second murder is perpetrated out of a combination of hatred and necessity—he knows that, as far as Freddie is concerned, his jig is up, and rather than twisting his way out of suspicion as he always does, Tom opts to dispatch Freddie, since he loathes Freddie already.
After using a towel to soak up the blood and searching Freddie’s pockets to find car keys and a wallet, Tom concocts a plan to make the room look as if Dickie and Freddie enjoyed an afternoon of heavy drinking. As Tom stares at Freddie’s lifeless corpse, he thinks that Freddie is a “selfish, stupid bastard who had sneered at Dickie because he suspected him of sexual deviation.” Tom laughs, thinking: “Where was the sex? Where was the deviation?” Tom tells Freddie out loud that he is “a victim of his own dirty mind.”
Tom’s ingenuity when it comes to covering his own tracks comes into play again, as he develops a plan to make himself appear totally innocent. Tom’s deep insecurity regarding accusations about his sexuality is revealed to have been part of the reason for his having murdered Freddie. Tom insists that Freddie is a victim of himself, removing blame from Tom and justifying the crime.