Station to Station. Begbie, Rent Boy, Second Prize, and Spud wait for a bus, with Begbie holding an Adidas bag. They have big plans, and Rent Boy took his first shot of heroin in months to calm his nerves. Begbie complains that Sick Boy hasn’t shown up yet. In fact, Sick Boy is standing nearby watching them, waiting until the last minute to join in case any police officers arrive. He’s talking with Molly, an HIV-positive sex worker who likes Sick Boy. One night at a pub, Sick Boy kissed her to prove HIV doesn’t spread through kissing, but he later regretted it.
Although Rent Boy took heroin specifically for this job, it’s likely that his recent encounters with Johnny Swan and Tommy also shook him and motivated him to shoot up. But unlike Rent Boy, Spud seems to be the same as he ever was, still talking to women and still living as if he’s invincible.
Sick Boy finally leaves Molly and joins the others. He notices that Begbie seems tense and worries about the attention that Begbie might draw if he gets violent. Even more worrying is how high Spud and Rent Boy seem to be. Spud in particular can be clumsy and might mess up their scheme. Sick Boy turns to Second Prize, who used to be a fairly talented soccer player before he slipped into alcoholism. All of them enter the bus.
Begbie demonstrated during an earlier scheme (when he threw the tipless dart at the young man’s head), that he gets tense and paranoid under pressure. As with the section that depicted Matty’s funeral, this section jumps between the perspectives of different characters in order to tie everything together as the novel comes to a close.
Molly comes up to the bus, calling for Sick Boy. Sick Boy tells the others he’ll just be a moment and goes to see her. Begbie fantasizes about what he’d to do Molly. At last, Sick Boy gets back on the bus. Rent Boy thinks he knows Molly’s father. Sick Boy also knows him and says Molly’s father often threatens Sick Boy, not knowing that Sick Boy is already setting his daughter up with sex work.
For Sick Boy, his relationships with women are often a way of asserting his control. Rent Boy thinks of Molly’s family, however, showing greater recognition of her as a person and demonstrating how he’s gotten further and further away from Sick Boy’s way of thinking.
Sick Boy complains privately to Begbie that Rent Boy and Spud broke their promise to stay clean for the job. Begbie senses that Sick Boy is trying to win favor with him and just tells Sick Boy to stop complaining. Spud and Rent Boy, meanwhile, are having withdrawal symptoms. Eventually Rent Boy says he has to use the bus bathroom. Spud asks if he’s shooting up heroin. Rent Boy angrily tells him no, but actually he is.
The alliance of Sick Boy with Begbie suggests that Sick Boy too senses an impending rift with Rent Boy. Although Sick Boy led the charge of making fun of Begbie, in many ways, their personalities are more similar than Sick Boy would probably like to admit.
In the bathroom, Rent Boy hesitates just a moment before shooting up. When he gets back, everyone seems more unified, perhaps feeling better that the police haven’t come yet. Rent Boy picks an argument with Sick Boy about whether Lou Reed made better music solo or with the Velvet Underground. Sick Boy has an unusually hard time putting together an argument.
Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground came up in the very first section of the book, and so the reference to them again here brings everything full circle. It’s unclear whether Sick Boy actually has trouble putting together an argument or whether Rent Boy just feels invincible after shooting up.
Rent Boy looks around the bus and sees some men in tracksuits and a blonde woman who seems to be a backpacker. As a prank, Rent Boy starts burning some of Sick Boy’s ponytail, causing Sick Boy to get angry and leave them all to join the backpacker. Rent Boy is shocked at how quickly and easily Sick Boy seems to change his whole personality to appeal to the woman.
Although Rent Boy isn’t as violent as Begbie, his decision to burn Sick Boy’s hair just to see what happens shows that he has similar destructive impulses, particularly when he’s with his friends.
Begbie’s speed kicks in, and he needs someone to talk to now that Sick Boy has left. Rent Boy pretends to sleep and wakes Spud up so that he’ll be stuck with Begbie. Begbie keeps talking until the bus reaches a service station. In the cafeteria of the service station, Begbie pulls Sick Boy aside and warns him not to steal anything from the backpacker or do anything else that might draw attention. Sick Boy says he isn’t stupid, although he is secretly grateful for the reminder from Begbie because otherwise, he would’ve scammed the woman. Sick Boy loses interest in the backpacker.
Despite Begbie’s feelings of superiority over the other characters, his speed habit makes him not so different from the heroin users on the bus. In general, this chapter emphasizes how the characters are more similar than different, even as they try to differentiate themselves from one another. This section further shows how characters are more alike than different when the typically reckless Begbie warns the typically calculating Sick Boy not to scam the backpacker.
The bus starts back up again and makes it to Victoria Station in London. The group takes the taxi, telling the driver they plan to go to a Pogues concert. At last, they make it to the hotel of Andreas, the man they’re going to see. Sick Boy met Andreas through a woman they both went out with, pulling off several small-time scams together. When Andreas started the hotel, he tried to distance himself from Sick Boy, but then Sick Boy approached him with an offer about some quality heroin.
Andreas seems to be someone with a better sense of long-term planning than Sick Boy or any of the others from Leith. Andreas understands that a well-run scam is similar enough to a legitimate business transaction that he can try to make the transition, whereas Sick Boy seems to actually prefer the more dangerous lifestyle of living off schemes.
In the present, Andreas sets Sick Boy and the others up with Peter Gilbert, a successful drug-dealing middleman. They haggle over the price of the heroin, with Gilbert feeling disdainful toward all of them, secretly wishing he could work directly with whoever sold them their supply. After completing the deal, all of them go out to celebrate, except Rent Boy who stays back to watch their new money.
Peter Gilbert represents the opposite of all the heroin-using characters from Leith. While many of them claimed to want to be more businesslike, Peter seems to be a rare example of someone in the heroin business who operates pragmatically instead of impulsively. Despite Sick Boy’s distrust of Rent Boy, even he believes that Rent Boy will honor their unspoken code of conduct as mates and protect the money.
Back at the hotel, Rent Boy looks in the Adidas bag, which holds more money than he’s ever seen before. Out the window, Rent Boy can see Andreas caressing his girlfriend in the back garden. Suddenly, Rent Boy takes the Adidas bag and starts leaving the hotel. He feels nervous with so much money on him, so he deposits a little over half of it into his bank account. He goes and buys a round-trip ticket to Amsterdam but only plans to go one way.
Rent Boy’s decision to run off with the money is shocking in one sense, but it’s also a logical outcome of his becoming more distant from his friends. Going to London temporarily helped Rent Boy kick his addiction, and so his logic seems to be that maybe he can make even more progress by moving someplace farther from home.
In Holland, Rent Boy feels relief but also some guilt about what he’s doing. He and Sick Boy went through some good times, even if they were growing apart. The only one Rent Boy really feels bad about hurting is Spud, who never hurts anyone (other than occasionally robbing them to support his heroin addiction). On the other hand, Rent Boy feels good—righteous even—about ripping off Begbie. In fact, Begbie may have motivated everything. Leaving Begbie behind makes Rent Boy feel like a new person. Rent Boy feels like he can never go back to Scotland, and he’s both excited and scared as he considers a new life in Amsterdam.
Rent Boy feels justified betraying almost all of his former friends. And though he regrets hurting Spud, who almost all of the main characters agree is a good person, this passage suggests that at least part of Spud’s goodness might be relative (since he does steal from people he knows to support his addiction). Ultimately, the final passage draws attention to Begbie, confirming why that scene in the abandoned train station with Begbie’s father is so crucial to the story. Begbie (and others) helped Rent Boy see the dark side of his old life, and so Rent Boy goes to make a new one, although the question remains whether he will truly change or fall back into new patterns of addiction.