The Assistant Commissioner leaves his office and goes to visit Sir Ethelred to give a report on the Greenwich Bomb Outrage and to speak against the use of secret agents. He also expresses his suspicion of Inspector Heat, who he believes is much more amenable to maintaining close connections to shady agents such as Mr. Verloc, even where those agents would cause more damage than provide assistance.
Leaving from his interview with Sir Ethelred, the Assistant Commissioner: chats with Toodles, the friendly young secretary; checks in at his department; grabs a meal at an Italian restaurant; and then sneaks over to Mr. Verloc’s house to investigate.
In Conrad’s London, every political player is like a double agent, caught up in a tangle of oppositions and power relations; a claustrophobic atmosphere oppresses characters wherever they go. Radicals are crammed together on the streets with policemen, and policemen jockey with their superiors and underlings alike in the pursuit of power. These complications are most manifest in the character of the Assistant Commissioner, who finds himself trapped between his underling, Inspector Heat, and his superior, Sir Ethelred; he is also tied uncomfortably to Michaelis due to his wife’s participation in the social circle headed by Michaelis’ patroness. Thus, in this chapter, we see a character literally step out from one milieu into another and act a different person – the Assistant Commissioner, having dismissed Inspector Heat, has to, in turn, wait to speak with Sir Ethelred. All are conscious of their positions as cogs within the greater political system, an awareness which explains the unusual camaraderie between the Assistant Commissioner and Toodles the secretary, who, despite their different positions, are united in their direct subservience to Sir Ethelred.