Marge insists that Tom accompany her to an afternoon cocktail party, though he feels that they will only be there as a spectacle—as friends of the famous, missing Dickie Greenleaf. Tom is preoccupied at the party, worried by the impending arrival of Herbert’s private investigator and unpleasantly reminded by the people at the party of “the people he had said good-bye to in New York.” He loses himself in reverie, daydreaming about a trip to Greece. Soon Marge proposes leaving the party.
Despite wanting to have been picked out as Dickie’s favorite, Tom is now wearied by the attention he receives as just a “friend” of Dickie’s. He either wanted to be Dickie’s favorite while Dickie lived or to possess Dickie’s identity with Dickie dead, and so existing in a strange middle ground exhausts and frustrates him.
At dinner with Marge and Herbert, Tom tries to make up for his distant behavior at the party by being “pleasant and talkative.” Herbert pays for the meal and tells Tom that he will return to Rome in the morning. Marge plans to go with him. Tom and Marge walk home from dinner together. Marge, giddy, laughs about having broken her bra strap, while Tom thinks about a letter he received earlier that afternoon from Bob Delancey. The police arrived at Tom’s old brownstone to “question everybody in the house about an income tax fraud of a few months ago.” At the end of the letter, Bob asked how much longer Tom planned to stay in Europe. Back in his siting room at home, rereading the letter, Tom thinks that he will stay in Europe “forever.” He treasures evenings spent looking over his and Dickie’s possessions, and poring over maps and guidebooks. Attached to his life of leisure abroad, he never wants to return to the States.
Tom exists in a strange limbo these days: exhausted and on edge, but nonetheless privately obsessed with his own cunning and the relative success of his intricate plot. He thinks fondly of his little con back in New York, impressed with how much grander his schemes have become and how much more material wealth and personal pleasure they have yielded. It seems that Marge and Herbert are soon to depart, allowing Tom to return fully to his magpie-like existence, alone with the relics of Dickie’s luxurious life.
Marge enters the room holding a brown leather box containing Dickie’s rings, which she discovered when looking for thread to sew her bra up. When Tom tells her that Dickie gave her the rings “to take care of,” Marge becomes despondent, finally admitting that she believes Dickie did kill himself. She asks Tom why he never mentioned it before, and she insists they tell Herbert—“this,” she says, “practically settles it.” Tom fantasizes about bludgeoning Marge with his shoe and inventing a story in which she fell in a canal and died. He “terrifies” himself, afraid that he will soon “betray himself as a maniac.” Knowing he will have to “face Herbert with the rings tomorrow,” he begins to “invent” the memory of Dickie handing his rings over.
Marge’s discovery of the rings enrages Tom and causes him great despair, so much so that he briefly considers turning her into his third victim. His obsession with the rings and all they represent is more valuable to him than a human life—Marge’s life—and the realization of that fact, combined with the ease with which he was prepared to believe his own hastily-invented story as to how she died, causes him to retreat even further into himself.