At nine in the morning New York time, Nick picks up the phone and finally calls a lawyer. He phones a man named Tanner Bolt—a somewhat cheesy but effective criminal lawyer whose nickname is the “Hubby Hawk.” He’s known for “swooping down in high-profile cases to represent men accused of murdering their wives.” After a brief call, Nick secures a 2:00 p.m. appointment for that same day. As he hops in his car and speeds to the airport to catch a plane to New York, he tries calling Marybeth, but she won’t pick up his calls.
Though Nick hasn’t wanted to hire a lawyer to keep from seeming guilty, he knows that the circumstantial evidence is mounting, and it’s time to act. His choice of Tanner Bolt—a hypermasculine guy who has a reputation for acquitting guilty men—shows that Nick doesn’t really care how he looks anymore. He just wants to be free.
Nick arrives on the twenty-sixth floor of a large midtown high-rise—Tanner Bolt’s office. Nick “pre-hate[s]” Tanner Bolt due to his sleazy reputation, but is surprised to find that the law firm is both professional and dignified. As Nick sits on the sofa waiting for his appointment, he pulls Amy’s clue from his pocket and rereads it, trying to figure out what the “end prize” could be. Go calls to apologize for not believing Nick—she says she was feeling “insane” the night before, and is on his side no matter what. Nick tells Go that he’s in New York to see Tanner Bolt, and she assures him he’s doing “the smart thing.”
Nick and Go’s relationship has been put to the test over the last several days. Though Go has never felt any particular love for Amy, she’s been off-put by Nick’s stoic and callous reaction to his wife’s disappearance. Now, though, she declares that she’s firmly on his side no matter what happens.
Tanner Bolt finally calls Nick into his stately office for a meeting. He gets down to business right away, stating that his retainer is one hundred thousand dollars, but worth every penny. Nick will, he predicts, soon be up against an “unwinnable” case. Tanner’s game plan is to confront the public’s woeful opinion of Nick before they even start on the legal portion of the case. Tanner says they need to find an alternative suspect, keep the support of Amy’s parents, and fix Nick’s image. Tanner asks when the last time Nick spoke to Amy’s parents was, and he says he hasn’t heard from them since the cops confirmed “that Amy was pregnant.” Tanner reprimands Nick for speaking about his wife in the past tense, and tells him he needs to start being more careful about how he speaks.
Tanner is slick and savvy ,and knows from experience exactly what Nick needs to do to salvage his reputation and his narrative. Tanner charges a high price and demands a lot—but his track record speaks for itself, and Nick has faith that with Tanner’s help he can get to the bottom of what’s going on and protect himself from further scrutiny.
Tanner asks Nick to make a list of “all the nice things” he’s done for Amy over the years. Nick is troubled to find that he can’t think of a single “decent” thing he’s done for Amy in the last two years. Tanner also reveals that he’s looked into Tommy O’Hara, the man who kept calling Amy’s tip line—O’Hara was accused of raping Amy in 2005. Nick is shocked to hear this—Amy has never said anything to him about the incident. Lastly, Tanner demands Nick be completely honest with him about everything. Nick divulges the truth about his affair with Andie to Tanner. Tanner tells Nick to cut off all contact, immediately, or go to “fucking prison.” Tanner says he’s ready to fly to Missouri and “set up camp.” Nick says he’s ready for Tanner’s help.
Go has tried to get Nick to face some hard truths, but Nick has clung to his affair with Andie as a balm against all the madness unfolding around him. Now, Tanner tells Nick point blank that he must choose between short-term gratification and securing his freedom.
On the flight home to Missouri, Nick convinces himself to fall out of love with Andie—and is surprised by how easy it is. He also ruminates on the history of his relationship with Amy. Though she’s gone, she’s “more present than anyone else.” Looking back on why he fell in love with his wife, he admits that she made him the version of himself he most wanted to be. Amy made Nick believe he was “exceptional”—but he couldn’t keep up with her, and his slow-burning resentment of this slowly became their “undoing.”
Nick seems deeply detached from his feelings, and is able to easily sever the kind and longing feelings he has for Andie. Even when thinking about the last time he felt true love, Nick admits that the roots of that love were narcissism and as desire to prove himself as the man he always wanted to be.
As Nick arrives home, he finally believes he has solved Amy’s final clue—he thinks she’s gotten them a wooden cradle and hidden it away somewhere. He tries desperately to figure out the location—somewhere one would “store goodies for anniversary five” would have to be made out of wood. A line in the clue that says Amy has been a bad girl and needs to be “punished” makes Nick think of woodshed—there is a woodshed behind Go’s house which she hardly ever uses. Go and Nick have often joked that the woodshed would be a good place to bury a body. Horrified, Nick drives across town as fast as he can and approaches the woodshed. He slinks towards it, opens the door, and immediately thinks: “Nonononono.”
As Nick finally solves Amy’s treasure hunt, it becomes clear that the narrative is about to collapse. Whatever is hiding in Go’s woodshed—a remote and slightly sinister place—makes Nick’s head spin with horror. Flynn purposefully manipulates this chapter into a cliffhanger which threatens to upend the entire story so far—playing into her themes of secrets, lies, and the grab for narrative control.