The next morning, after hours of search parties at many locations around town, authorities have turned up no clues or leads. There is an air of defeat hanging over the volunteer center, and as Nick picks listlessly at a Danish, he overhears two men discussing how Amy could have been chopped into pieces and thrown in the river—if so, her body would be “all the way to the Gulf” by now. Nick feels his disposable phone vibrate in his pocket, but he silences the call.
Nick is disheartened by the way the investigation is going—but he’s clearly hiding a lot from the people who are in charge of finding Amy. This tension propels the narrative forward and suggests that Nick is not the “good guy” he seems to be.
Marybeth and Rand are frustrated by the police’s refusal to look into one of Amy’s old stalkers, Hilary Handy, who lives five hours away in Tennessee. Marybeth pleads with Nick to drive there himself and check things out. He agrees, and even volunteers to stop at Desi Collings’s place in St. Louis on the way back. When Stucks approaches Nick and tells him that the police having searched the mall in broad daylight was the wrong move—the place is only active at night—Nick suggests the two of them go down there themselves later. Rand gets word of their plan, and asks to come along—Nick tells him that he’d be a welcome help.
Nick is more than willing to look into individuals the cops are overlooking—he seems to desperately want to take the heat and focus off of himself. Nick’s desperation, though, reads as concern for his wife, and a self-sacrificing desire to do anything it takes to get her back.
The police return Nick’s car to him. A volunteer takes him to the police station to pick it up, and he is privately grateful to have “a good ten unscheduled hours to work with.” Nick gets into his car, where he removes Amy’s second clue from his pocket and reads it. It makes reference to his “boyhood adventures” in Hannibal, where he dressed up like Huck Finn for tourists. The two of them took a trip there a couple years ago, and Nick now drives the twenty minutes to get there to hunt for the next of Amy’s clues.
Nick wants to be free of the police so that he can start an investigation of his own. He needs to finish Amy’s treasure hunt—he’s unsure what the clues will hold, and doesn’t want to risk discovering anything that makes him look bad in full view of the authorities.
As Nick arrives in Hannibal and looks around the depressing Main Street, full of closed storefronts and depressing tourist traps, he laments that he has “brought Amy to the end of everything.” The end of their jobs and print journalism in general, the end of Carthage’s way of life as well, even the end of their marriage.
Nick realizes that he has, perhaps, truly ruined his wife’s life. When he and Amy met, they were young and in control, and their lives were full of possibility—now it seems their lives are crumbling around them.
Nick arrives at one of the spots referenced in Amy’s clue and goes inside—it is an old courthouse where Mark Twain’s father once worked. Nick gets down on his hands and knees and looks beneath the benches—he eventually finds the clue, in a blue envelope. There is a long note inside, in which Amy writes about how this year, she has chosen not to make the treasure hunt a “test”—but rather a celebration of their marriage. She thanks Nick for always being so funny and full of wit. Nick feels his soul deflate over his and Amy’s poor timing.
Nick keeps discovering these little love letters from Amy—letters which make him rethink how he was feeling about their marriage at the time of her disappearance and lament their inability to ever get on the same page.
The next clue attached to the note tells Nick exactly where to go, but he’s not ready to go there yet. Instead, he drives back to Go’s, where the two of them watch television and commiserate. Go asks Nick if he’s okay—she thinks he’s being “weird” about everything concerning Amy’s disappearance. He admits that he knows hasn’t been acting or even feeling upset enough—Go says she understands, but warns Nick to be careful how he expresses himself around other people.
Nick has said that Go is the only person he can be his true self with—but even she is put off by his strangely unemotional response to Amy’s disappearance. She wants the best for her brother, and though she doesn’t take his flat affect as an admission of guilt, she warns him that others could interpret it that way.
At 11:00 p.m., Nick goes back to the Days Inn to meet up with Stucks and Rand. As Stucks tells Rand how sorry he is about Amy, and tells nice stories about her, Nick realizes that everything his friend is saying is false. He’s angry—“facts [are] facts,” he feels, and is mad that everyone is turning Amy into someone she wasn’t. The Hillsam brothers, Joe and Mikey, also join the expedition to the mall, and on the way warn Stucks, Nick, and Rand that the mall is truly a dangerous place.
Nick is infuriated by the ways in which his wife’s disappearance has made her into an angelic, revered figure in the community. Nick knows the real Amy, warts and all, and is frustrated that she gets to take on an angelic quality while his every move and motivation is questioned.
The group walks through the mall looking for vagrants, and eventually, they come across a man and a woman huddled on blankets, looking sweaty and emaciated. They points the group in the direction of “the Hole,” an old department store at the far end of the mall. Nick and the others make their way to the Hole, where junkies are sprawled out all over the floor. Nick and the Hillsam brothers begin asking questions about Amy, insisting that it’s not her drug use they’re worried about, but rather the idea that a junkie kidnapped her. When Nick shows one man, Lonnie, a picture of Amy, he recognizes her—and says that she came in not too long ago, wanting to purchase a gun.
Nick was hoping that the trip to the mall would expose someone—or something—that pointed to Amy having been taken by a vagrant or an outcast member of society. Instead, what Lonnie tells them reveals that Amy was scared—and desperate to secure protection for herself. The narrative is not unfolding the way Nick wants it to.