Jack starts carrying the handgun with him to school. He puts it in his jacket pocket and in the top drawer of his desk. He feels entirely renewed—giddy, even. The gun gives him “a reality [he] could control [and] secretly dominate.”
Once more, Jack’s need to feel in control of his life is plainly evident. Though he was hesitant to accept the gun when Vernon gave it to him, it’s clear his conversation with Murray has allowed him to rid himself of all reservations as he tests out their idea that a dier can become a killer.
Stopping by Heinrich’s room, Jack asks if Orest has entered the snake cage yet. Heinrich tells him that “he had to go underground” because nobody would let him officially perform the stunt. Instead, he tried to do it in a hotel, and rather than hundreds of venomous snakes, there were only three, one of which bit him within four minutes. Apparently the snakes weren’t even venomous. Heinrich insists that Orest is a “jerk” for failing so miserably. Orest himself is deeply ashamed and has retreated out of sight, unwilling to be seen by anyone.
Heinrich’s disdain for Orest’s failed attempt is reminiscent of the disappointment Jack felt when investigators were unable to find more bodies in a backyard that had yielded two corpses. Both cases prove anticlimactic and reveal a sadistic side of human nature—the same trait that draws Jack and the rest of the family to disaster footage on TV.
On campus that evening, Jack hears fast footsteps. Skittish, he starts to run. He dashes behind a tree, whipping himself around and pulling out the gun before seeing that his pursuer is only Winnie Richards. Pocketing the pistol, he steps out from behind the tree and greets her. She tells him that she found a scholarly article in a scientific journal that outlines the details of Dylar’s production. The brain behind the entire operation, she tells him, is named Willie Mink. The article goes into detail about every aspect of Mink’s story, including when he went off the rails, losing the support of his research company but continuing to work with a test subject who visited him in secret, wearing a ski mask to protect her identity. Jack asks what Mink is doing now and Winnie tells him that a reporter tracked the man down, finding him in a motel in the German section of Iron City, behind a foundry.
Babette was the woman in the ski mask. Now that Jack has this information, her assertion that all men harbor a homicidal rage will be put to the test, for there is nothing she can do to protect Willie Mink.
Jack goes home and steals his neighbors’ car, which, since the airborne toxic event, they started leaving in the driveway with the keys in the ignition. While driving, he passes through a toll booth without paying. Doing so makes him feel wonderful and powerful; “This must be how people escape the pull of the earth, the gravitational leaf-flutter that brings us hourly closer to dying,” he thinks to himself.
In this moment, Jack associates death with following the rules, equating law-breaking to the feeling of escaping the most fundamental fact of existence: gravity. Drunk on power, he sees himself as unbound by earthly realities—one of which is death.