The chapter starts with an ode to failing old friendship from Stephen Sondheim’s song “Old Friends.” One Saturday, Marguerite invites Shadow to dinner, making it clear that this is not a romantic occasion. Shadow accepts and goes out grocery shopping, buying wine and a plant for Marguerite and stopping at Mabel’s restaurant for a pasty. The gossip there is that Chad’s cousin has come into town.
Stephen Sondheim’s “Old Friends” speaks to the difficulty of maintaining friendships as times and people change – exactly the challenge that Wednesday is facing as he tries and fails to recruit the gods he once knew. Shadow is still reveling in his normal life, though he knows it’s all a deception to distract him until he returns to his “real” life of serving strange gods.
Shadow gets back to the apartment, where his disconnected phone rings. Wednesday is on the line, sounding exhausted as he grumbles about how hard it is to gather the gods and how much pain the gods have faced being forgotten in this country. He tells Shadow about Thor, a god who committed suicide rather than keep living in Philadelphia. Finally Wednesday explains that he is going to a peace talks meeting with the New Gods in the Kansas City Masonic Hall, but that Shadow should stay out of trouble in Lakeside.
Wednesday seems to be the only person from outside who can locate Shadow when he is in Lakeside, as Shadow is safe there from all the other turmoil. As the war continues, Wednesday cannot convince the Old Gods to make a change and fight for their survival instead of wasting away in their old ways. Wednesday’s reference to Thor makes him seem like a random god—but Thor is actually Odin’s son in Norse mythology, meaning that Wednesday is probably repressing or hiding great pain about his death.
With plenty of time to kill before dinner, Shadow starts reading the Lakeside Council minutes he bought at the library sale. He finds out that a Mr. Hinzelmann was responsible for building the lake that gave Lakeside its name, and he marks the page, imagining Hinzelmann’s pleasure at reading about his ancestor. At 5:30, Shadow gets ready to go to Marguerite’s apartment.
The Hinzelmann family legacy would explain why the current Hinzelmann feels so much ownership over Lakeside and is so concerned with keeping it “good.” Even the town’s name seems specifically chosen to be as generic and nice as possible. It seems more and more likely that something sinister is going on with Hinzelmann and the lake.
Marguerite’s son Leon is watching “The Wizard of Oz” when Shadow comes in. A minute later, Sam comes in with some groceries. With Marguerite busy putting the groceries away, Shadow asks Sam to pretend that she doesn’t know him. Leon excitedly practices coin tricks, as Shadow explains that Leon has to work on his misdirection: the art of making people look in the wrong place so that the illusion seems more surprising.
Misdirection comes up again, significant especially in a chapter that focuses on a mundane dinner party in Lakeside when Wednesday is ostensibly off to go make a deal with the New Gods. The two plots meet as Sam, who knows Shadow’s name and background, agrees to go along with Shadow for now.
At dinner, Marguerite and Sam explain that they are half-sisters, with their Cherokee father in common. Sam asks Shadow to tell them about the Ainsel family, but Shadow just says that they are too boring. After showing Leon a few more coin tricks, Shadow goes with Sam to the local bar. He brings along the Lakeside minutes, on the off chance that Hinzelmann will be there.
Both Marguerite and Sam have Native American blood, tying them to America more than the gods who all have their stories of coming to America. Sam hints at Shadow’s false identity by asking about the “Ainsel” family.
On the way to the bar, Sam asks Shadow to explain his alternate identity, and she tells him that a Mr. Town came to her house looking for him. Shadow is reluctant, saying that Sam would never believe the explanation, but Sam gives a long monologue describing all the many things, both serious and irreverent, that she believes. Shadow decides to tell Sam all about the war between the gods and his wife coming back from the dead. Sam hesitantly accepts his story, with the assurance that Shadow is one of the good guys.
Sam’s monologue on belief cements her status as what Gaiman sees as the future of healthy American belief, which incorporates some of the old traditional gods, some new gods, and some principles all Sam’s own. Gaiman has said that this speech is the closest thing to a statement of his own beliefs in the novel. Shadow finally gets a chance to be honest about what is happening to him, though he has to think for a minute before saying that he is one of the good guys, given that both sides think that they are right.
In the bar, Shadow greets Chad with a wave and starts to walk toward a table before he is stopped by a loud scream. Chad’s cousin, who turns out to be Audrey Burton, recognizes Shadow and says she wants him arrested as an escaped convict and a murderer. Chad asks “Mike” to come down to the station to figure this all out, obviously reluctant to distrust Shadow after months of being his friend. Sam steps up and insults Audrey, then kisses Shadow in a display of support, rather than any sense of romantic feeling. Shadow agrees to go with Chad, denying any charges of murder and hoping that no one blames him for Alison’s disappearance.
It seems especially odd that two people who know about Shadow’s criminal past have distant ties to Lakeside and show up on the same day. Given how the gods have manipulated other events in the novel, it seems likely that someone is working behind the scenes in this instance as well. It’s unclear why Audrey calls Shadow a murderer, though it’s possible that he has been blamed for Laura’s murders of Mr. Wood and Mr. Stone, taking the fall for his wife once again. Sam’s kiss, more than a romantic gesture, is a symbolic act of putting herself on Shadow’s side. Sam shows that she believes that Shadow is trustworthy, hoping that others will be swayed by her belief.
Shadow waits at the police station while Chad makes many phone calls trying to straighten out who Shadow is. Shadow asks to make a call and gets in touch with Mr. Ibis down in Cairo. Shadow asks Mr. Ibis to get a message to his “uncle.” Mr. Ibis says that his uncle is busy, but that they managed to get ahold of his “Aunt Nancy.”
Shadow hopes that Mr. Ibis can get in touch with Wednesday, carefully maintaining the lies that he and Wednesday have built in Lakeside. Aunt Nancy is another name for Mr. Nancy—and his tales were told by slaves in the American South using that name as well.
Shadow sits back down to wait, picking up the Lakeside Minutes he still has with him to pass the time. Reading a random page, Shadow notices that a pre-teen girl disappeared in the winter of 1876. Flipping to winter of 1877, Shadow sees that a young “Negro child” disappeared that January. As Shadow scans the minutes for winter of 1878, Chad interrupts and regretfully tells Shadow that he is under arrest for violating his parole.
The Lakeside minutes begin to take on significance as more than just a dry history book, as Shadow begins to see a pattern of a child disappearing every winter. This looks like the work of a god who asks for a sacrifice every winter, but Shadow is interrupted before he can put everything together.
Chad processes Shadow as a prisoner, where Shadow signs the paperwork as Mike Ainsel to say goodbye to that identity. Shadow changes into orange clothes and gives up his wallet, secretly hiding some money and the silver Liberty coin. The woman guard in charge of the holding cells lets Shadow sit out in the lobby with her as long as he wears handcuffs, as the toilet in the holding cell is broken and stinks.
Shadow regretfully sheds the Mike Ainsel name, a role that he liked. Mike gave Shadow good practice at making his own choices, but now Shadow must come into his own under his own identity, without a persona to hide behind. Keeping the liberty coin ensures that Shadow will have protection no matter what comes next.
The woman guard begins to doze as Shadow watches an episode of “Cheers” on the lobby TV. The characters in the show then begin talking to Shadow, telling Shadow that he has the right to believe in the wrong things, but it’s not too late to come to the winning side. The show switches to a documentary style, where Mr. Town explains that they are “freedom fighters” working to make a difference, and then introduces a Live Feed of the Kansas City Masonic Hall.
Media twists the American ideal of religious freedom into a skewed perspective on Shadow’s right to believe the “wrong” thing. Mr. Town’s definition of “freedom fighters” makes it clear that this term depends on one’s perspective, as someone who believes the opposite might call a freedom fighter a terrorist.
Mr. World, with his back to the camera, asks Wednesday to take a peace treaty, which Wednesday refuses on the grounds that he cannot speak for all the individual Old Gods involved in this fight, and since that they have no guarantee that the New Gods will keep their truce. Mr. World assures Wednesday that all the gods can be shown a video tape of this conversation, and that the camera does not lie. As Wednesday keeps talking, Shadow notices an odd red glint on Wednesday’s glass eye. The red blur slips around Wednesday’s face, then focuses on his eye once more. Suddenly, there is a bang and Wednesday’s head explodes—he’s been shot. The live feed repeats his murder again in slow motion.
Mr. World’s assurance that the camera does not lie is both false and a reminder that everything is not as it seems at this meeting. Having the meeting in a Masonic Hall makes sense, as the Freemasons were (and are) a secret society in America that encouraged worship of a Supreme Being without specifying who that god was, making it a kind of neutral ground for both Old and New Gods. Yet the Freemasons (and their European predecessors, the Knights Templar) are also surrounded by mystery and credited with starting a number of wars, making it the perfect spot for Mr. World and Wednesday to start their war instead of signing a peace treaty.
“Cheers” returns on the TV as the phone in the police hall rings and the guard startles awake. After the guard hangs up, she apologizes that she has to put Shadow in the holding cell until the Lafayette sheriff’s department comes to get him. Shadow sits in the cell playing with his Liberty coin to pass the time and to avoid thinking of Wednesday. A door opens in the lobby and Shadow hurries to put the Liberty coin back in his sock. Chad Mulligan comes in to the holding cell and sympathizes with Shadow before delivering him to two officers in brown uniforms. The men escort Shadow to a black car outside.
Though Shadow had a strange relationship with Wednesday, he is still sad to see him killed—and his death is shocking to the reader as well, since Wednesday has been such a major character thus far. Playing with his liberty coin again invokes the protection of the moon, which Shadow will need if the officers in brown uniforms are New Gods in disguise, as seems likely from their sinister black car.
In the car, one of the officers asks if Shadow heard about Wednesday. Shadow recognizes the voice, realizing that the officers are Mr. Nancy and Czernobog. Shadow thanks them for getting him out, and asks if Wednesday is really dead. Mr. Nancy doesn’t answer, but his face looks hopeless enough that he doesn’t need to.
The Old Gods Mr. Nancy and Czernobog rescue Shadow even after Wednesday’s death, suggesting that the Old Gods are still going to band together even if the man who was leading them is gone.