Boney and Gilpin move their interview with Nick to the small Carthage police station. They ask him if he wants to call Amy’s parents, but Nick insists waiting just a couple more hours to see if she turns up. The officers tell Nick that they want him to be comfortable—but at the same time, are relying on him for information and need to “rule [him] out” first. Nick agrees to answer all their questions and submit to a cheek swab—in his head, he knows the officers are thinking “it’s always the husband,” and wishes they’d just be transparent with him about his status as a suspect. Nevertheless, Nick complies—he was raised to be a people-pleaser, and still “crave[s] a constant stream of approval” and longs to prove he’s a “good guy.”
Nick doesn’t seem too wary of the police, suggesting that he doesn’t have anything that grave or serious to hide. Still, he admits that he can’t turn off his need for approval—he wants to prove to them that he’s the “good guy” he wants to be, and this suggests that there’s another side of Nick he’s anxious to keep hidden.
After swabbing Nick’s cheeks and hands, Boney sets up a tape recorder and starts it rolling. Nick wonders if he should call a lawyer, but convinces himself that “only guilty people need lawyers,” and agrees to answer her questions on tape. Nick answers Boney’s questions about his and Amy’s old lives in New York and their new ones here—he divulges that Amy excelled as a quiz-writer because of her master’s degree in psychology, but struggled once they moved to Missouri. With no friends and no job, Amy became obsessed with mastering French cooking and learning Spanish in just a few months, desperate to remain “Amazing Amy” even in a midwestern town where no one is interested in being competitive or exceptional.
Nick’s perception of his wife—as a woman who was always trying her best to put on an “Amazing” front and dazzle everyone around her—gels with his own compulsion to prove that he’s a “good guy” through and through to everyone he meets.
Boney asks Nick if Amy could have gotten involved with drugs—layoffs and stagnancy in the wake of the recession has led to a serious drug trade in Carthage, Gilpin says—but Nick insists Amy would never get into drugs. The detectives ask about Amy’s friends—Nick says she doesn’t really have any in North Carthage, and all her friends are back East. Boney asks if Nick has called any of Amy’s New York friends to tell them what’s going on, but he insists he’s been too busy answering questions and cooperating with the investigation to make any calls.
Boney’s questions to Nick make it clear that while he believes he knows his wife very well, he may not know her at all. This constant undermining of what one person truly knows about another forms the bedrock of the narrative, and calls into question the nature of what it means to be married to someone.
As the detectives ask Nick to go through his morning with them, he tells them that he’d been at a beachhead on the river this morning before arriving at The Bar to read the newspaper, drink his coffee, and “just sit.” No one saw him at the beach, he says, and no one can confirm his whereabouts. What Nick doesn’t tell the police is that Amy had suggested he go to the beach this morning—over breakfast, she said she knew that they were in a rough place in their marriage, and wanted Nick to have some alone time to think about their relationship.
The first tip-off that Nick has perhaps been positioned to look guilty comes from Amy’s suggestion that he spend some time alone. Nick chose a secluded beach where no one would see him—making it so that he does not have any semblance of an alibi.
Boney, satisfied with the questions she’s asked Nick, begins listing the things the police are doing to help track down Amy: they are monitoring her cell phone and credit cards, interviewing known sex offenders in the area, canvassing the neighborhood, and tapping the Dunne’s home phone in case a ransom call comes in. Nick asks if Amy’s disappearance is being treated as an abduction or a missing persons case. Nick begins getting worked up, and for the first time out loud, says with anger and panic, “My wife is gone!”
Nick has, so far, been behaving very stoically and detachedly—just as he describes feeling disconnected on his wedding day, which is for many people the most momentous and emotional day of their lives. Nick’s sudden burst of emotion perhaps come from the knowledge that he hasn’t shown the police enough feeling—or from the first shock of genuine realization that Amy might not be coming back.
Boney assures Nick that the police are taking the investigation seriously—but the most Nick can do right now is tell them more about Amy. As Nick describes his wife to the police, he tells more and more lies—he is now up to eleven. The Amy he’s describing is the Amy he fell in love with, but the Amy he knows now is abrasive, unlikable, and aggrieved. Boney suggests Nick go call Amy’s parents. Though it’s past midnight, and Nick knows Rand and Marybeth go to bed early, he goes out to the hall and makes the call. He tearfully tells Marybeth that Amy has been missing since earlier that morning, and Marybeth demands to talk to “whoever’s in charge.” As Nick hands the phone over, he feels that making the call to Amy’s parents has made things official—"Amy is gone.”
Nick’s lies mount as he begins describing his wife. He’s forced to admit to himself—but not to the police—that he doesn’t actually like his wife very much, and perhaps doesn’t even love her anymore. Nick has a role to play—worried, loving husband—but knows that he may not be able to muster up the emotion to play it very well at all.
On the way back to the interview room, Nick sees his father, Bill, standing in the police station, repeating the word “bitch” over and over again to himself. A female officer sits beside him, and when Nick asks what his father is doing here, she tells him that he escaped from his nursing home earlier in the day and has been wandering around for hours. Nick stares at his father in disbelief, who continues to repeat the word “bitch.” Boney arranges for an officer to drive Nick’s father back to the nursing home—as Nick helps the officer get his dad into the car and settled, his father never once acknowledges Nick’s presence.
Nick’s father’s verbal tic—in which he can utter little other than the word “bitch”—is an obvious manifestation of the man’s misogyny and cruelty. As the novel expands, Nick will reflect on his father’s cruel treatment of his mother—and admit that he worries that Bill’s militant misogyny has somehow seeped into his own DNA.
At two in the morning, Boney and Gilpin tell Nick he can go home, and offer to have an officer drive him back to his house. Instead, he asks to be taken to Go’s. All he wants is for “a woman to fix [him] a sandwich and not ask [him] any questions.” Boney and Gilpin tell Nick to return to the police station in the morning for a press conference.
The way Nick sees women is strange indeed. He is a former New Yorker and progressive magazine writer—and yet at the end of a hard day, wants to watch a woman submit to him, shut up, and make him some food. Though Nick fears becoming a misogynist like his father, it’s clear he already is one.
At Go’s house, Go suggests they go out and drive around looking for Amy, but Nick says doing so would be utterly pointless. Go seems more worked up about Amy’s disappearance than Nick. Nick gets angry with Go for trying to insinuate that there’s more he could be doing, and tells her he’s “scared shitless.” Go pours Nick a drink, sits down beside him, and says, “Poor Amy.”
Nick still shows very little emotion at the end of Amy’s first day gone—but even her adversary Go has enough empathy to worry for Amy’s well-being. This shows that there is much more to Nick and Amy’s story than meets the eye.