Nick wakes up on the pullout couch in the Elliotts’ suite. Though Nick is usually a heavy sleeper, last night he felt an insomniac energy take over his brain—he has hardly slept at all, and is exhausted. He goes downstairs with Marybeth and Rand to an underused ballroom the inn has donated as a Find Amy Dunne headquarters and the three of them begin spiffing it up. At ten, Boney arrives, along with several volunteers—mostly women—and when one strange “loner guy” shows up, Boney kindly reassures Nick that the police are monitoring everyone who comes in and out of the headquarters in case someone suspicious comes around. Boney also warns Nick not to get too close to any of the women helping with the investigation—she says that many can get “a little too interested in consoling the worried husband.”
There is a careful protocol which must be followed as Nick navigates his wife’s disappearance. He is trying to moderate his suspicion, his likability, and his friendliness—all of which are needed to keep the focus off of himself.
Boney asks Nick why he never mentioned Noelle Hawthorne—Amy’s best friend. Nick assures Boney that Amy isn’t friends with anyone named Noelle, but does attract people who tend to “latch on” to her. He explains that readers of the Amazing Amy books especially often feel like they know Amy without really being close to her. Boney nods, replying that “people want to believe they know other people.”
Many of Nick’s old high school friends and girlfriends come by throughout the day—often with their own children in tow. Nick thinks back to his mother’s illness—Maureen always wanted grandchildren, but never knew that Amy, who’d been 37 when they moved back to Carthage, did not want children. One of Nick’s high school friends, Stucks, approaches him and suggests that a disgruntled homeless person laid off either from the blue book paper factory at the edge of town or the mall might be responsible for Amy’s abduction. He tells Nick that the “Blue Book Boys,” as they’re called, have essentially colonized the mall—last month, some of them assaulted a woman.
Nick’s past collides with his present as the search for Amy goes on. Everyone wants to help—and Nick, who has no clue what is going on but is desperate to take the focus off of himself, appears ready to follow any possible lead.
Nick drives over to the afternoon search area and calls Boney to ask if cops are searching the mall—she assures him that they’re on it. Nick arrives at Wolky Park, a local nature spot with hiking trails, to join the search party. There are TV crews present, and several reporters bother Nick, peppering him with “pointless questions.” Nick wants to join the search party, but a cop on the scene suggests he stay by the trail entrance with flyers and posters of Amy to be “friendly and encouraging” to anyone who arrives to help join the search. He wonders if the cops are perhaps trying to keep him away from a crime scene they think they might uncover.
With every development, Nick becomes increasingly frightened that the police are moving him around like a piece on a chess board. He is allowed to participate in “Find Amy” activities—but kept at arm’s length. He senses that the cops don’t fully trust him, and this makes him very anxious.
A local woman named Shawna Kelly arrives to help with the search, and begins chatting with Nick, who is worried that Shawna’s repeated touching of his arm and overt friendliness looks “inappropriate.” Nick silently wishes Shawna would go away, but instead she pulls out her cell phone and takes a selfie with Nick. He is angry, but smiles automatically in an attempt to staunch his rage. As he catches a glimpse of the photo Shawna takes, he resents his own “smarmy” smile.
Nick is now something of a local celebrity—but he has to be careful not to draw any more attention, and certainly not negative attention, to himself. Boney warned him about women like Shawna Kelly—but Nick’s hands are tied when she approaches him, as he can’t be rude or dismissive, either.