The next morning, Tom, hungover, searches the papers for anything about Freddie’s death, but there is nothing. He prepares to leave on his trip to Spain, but before he can depart for the train, the phone rings. It is the police, asking if “Dickie” is friends with an American named “Fred-derick Meelays.” The police explain that Freddie’s corpse has been found, and they want to make sure that Freddie had indeed been at Dickie’s apartment the day before. Tom confirms this, telling the police that Freddie left at “five or six” in the evening. The police ask “Dickie” if he will answer some questions if they send an interrogator, and Tom agrees, though he will now miss his train and boat.
Tom knew that Freddie’s body would be discovered, and he has engineered the situation to be a kind of controlled detonation. He was hoping to be able to leave for Spain, but he knows now that perhaps he had overestimated the innocence Dickie would be presumed to have. Tom is adjusting to the privileges of wealth and status, and that combined with his own sense of entitlement and superiority has led him to misjudge the impact of Freddie’s murder.
Fausto calls for Dickie, telling him that he’s in town and wants to have lunch. Tom, as Dickie, tells Fausto to meet him at the train station, explaining that he is leaving soon for Naples, but he doesn’t intend to actually meet Fausto.
Fausto’s appearance serves as a reminder to Tom that he may or may not be in over his head, having underestimated the difficulty of removing “Dickie” from his former life.
The police arrive to interrogate “Dickie.” Tom answers their questions and offers to comply with anything the officers need, but he explains that he was planning to leave for Spain. The police tell him he must remain in Rome. Tom decides to stay at a hotel, and he goes to one called the Inghilterra. At noon, Freddie’s murder is in all the papers. Tom remains in the hotel until dinnertime, when he buys the evening papers and goes to a restaurant. On the very last page of the last newspaper he finds a small headline describing the discovery of a possibly-bloodstained boat near San Remo.
Tom brazenly meets with the police as Dickie, still confident in his charm and protected status. However, the news of the discovery of the boat shakes Tom—his worst-case scenario is beginning to come true, and he knows that soon there will be much more for him to reckon with than previously imagined.
Tom realizes that if an investigation is opened and a body is discovered in the water, it will have decomposed beyond recognition. Thus, it will be assumed to be Tom Ripley’s body, since Tom has been living as Dickie and has all but abandoned his identity as Tom. Dickie will then be a suspect in not one but two murders—Freddie’s and Tom’s. Tom returns to his room, after finding out that he’s missed a call from Marge while out. Tom sits in a chair, smoking and chastising himself for choosing Rome as his place of residence.
Tom’s wheels spin and the intricacies of his deceptions begin to unravel. He must come up with an alternative plan, as he has not accounted for error or for the possibility that it would become unsustainable to live out his days as Dickie. Moreover, he has effectively placed himself on grand display by choosing to live in Rome, an enormous city and center of social and cultural life.
Tom lies down on the bed and begins to fall asleep. As he does, he experiences a vision of Dickie “soaking wet, bent over him” and screaming, joyfully and maniacally, “’I swam! I’m alive!’” Tom shakes himself awake and attempts to calm himself down and expunge the vision by trying “to think about what Dickie would be thinking about.” He sits down to compose a letter to Dickie’s parents, in order to try to “set their minds at rest about the Freddie affair,” but he is unable to concentrate, and gives up.
Tom is haunted not by an emotional kind of guilt but rather a practical one. He is afraid that his secrets and crimes will resurface and disrupt the calm appearance of his new life. Tom, truly rattled by his vision, finds himself unable to be calmed even by the ritual of abandoning his own thoughts and habits for Dickie’s—he cannot escape into the safety of Dickie’s identity any longer.