Later that night, Tom calls Herbert from a friend’s house—Herbert believes that Dickie is dead, and, because he has “never thought much of Dickie’s stability,” he agrees with Tom that it’s vaguely possible that Dickie has killed himself. Tom invites Herbert to Venice, but he declines. Marge and two of Tom’s friends, in order to amuse themselves, bat about the idea that Dickie traded passports with a fisherman or cigarette peddler in order to live a “quiet life,” and thus Dickie is hiding out somewhere, dodging the investigation of his whereabouts. Tom plays along, laughing loudly. Later, over dinner, Tom urges Marge to spin theories and “fantasies” as to where Dickie has gone, though it makes him feel “ill.” The two take a gondola home, but find that when they get to the front door, they’ve forgotten the keys. They take another boat through the canals to the back entrance, and then take a short walk from where they’re dropped to the rear of Tom’s apartment. Tom feels “more frightened that night walking with Marge than if he had been alone.”
Tom is not sure whose reality he wants to believe in: Herbert’s reality, in which Dickie, an unstable and troubled man, is dead and gone, or Marge’s reality, in which Dickie is a trickster and a loner, playing manipulative games in order to hide himself away in pursuit of a life of solace. Tom leans obsessively in to the game of guessing at Dickie’s whereabouts, sickened by his own role in creating this bizarre reality. With Marge at his side he feels seen, frightened, and vulnerable, as he is witness to her desperate games and she is witness, in some capacity, to his.