Susie delves into Mr. Harvey’s childhood. He and his mother would often sneak away from home—and Harvey’s father—and his mother would shoplift. His mother was often caught, and in those moments, he would experience the sickening feeling of fear. She soon began using George to hide the things she stole, calling him her “little accomplice,” and a successful steal would always put his mother back in a wonderful mood. Once, driving down a highway in Texas, George’s mother pointed out a white wooden cross on the side of the road and told him that he needed to learn to look past the dead—sometimes there were good trinkets to be taken away from them. As his mother pulled over the car and picked over the cross, stealing two charms and a bunch of roses, George felt ashamed but also excited.
In revealing some of the details of her murderer’s past, Susie is perhaps attempting to understand or explain where his dark impulses come from. The young George Harvey had a large role in helping his mother to commit crimes, and learned that there was a thrill in getting away with bad or illegal deeds. His mother’s kleptomania—as well as her theft from and disrespect for the dead— is also reflected in the older Harvey’s need to keep a trinket from each of his victims, and squirrel them away to obsess over privately.
That night, the two of them slept in the truck. In the middle of the night, they were awakened by three men peering through the truck windows. George’s mother told him to remain quiet, and explained that she was going to pretend to open the truck door—she needed George to reach forward and turn the keys in the ignition. They pulled the maneuver off, and as George’s mother drove away, she hit one of the men and pitched his body up on the roof. George realized in that moment that being a “child or a woman” were the two worst things to be in the world.
George’s adventures with his mother, though thrilling, are also dangerous. He realizes that it is terrible to be defenseless, as women and children so often are in the world. This is perhaps another piece of the puzzle, though it is unclear whether Harvey’s desire to prey upon women and children comes out of a cunning, calculating plan to pick on the weak, or a compulsion to kill women and children and thus, in some twisted way, reclaim a sense of power, his own childhood, and his relationship with his mother.
Now, as Mr. Harvey watches Lindsey race through his yard, his heart beats wildly before calming. He sees that his notebook has been disturbed, and is missing a page. He takes the knife which he used to kill Susie and drops it into a hole in the basement, before retrieving his “charms”—tokens from the women he has killed—from the metal shelving down there. He places all of this, too, into the hole, and then calls the police—he tells them that his home has been broken into, calculating how he will tell “his version” of the story while also trying to figure out how quickly he can leave, and how much he can carry with him.
Mr. Harvey is already planning to flee, knowing that even if he passes a police questioning with flying colors he will soon be under a microscope. Harvey still wants to cover his tracks, though, and he plans to buy himself time by painting himself as the victim of a burglary and a witch hunt at the hands of the obsessive, grief-stricken Salmon family.
Jack calls the station and asks for Len Fenerman, but Fenerman cannot be located—the police tell Jack that two officers have already been sent to investigate. When the officers arrive at Harvey’s door, they find “a man who [i]s tearfully upset.” Though the officers, over the radio, obtain information about the nature of the stolen drawing, they are “impressed” by Harvey’s willingness to have his home searched—as well as his sympathy for the Salmon family. He explains that he does not wish to press any charges against the “poor” Salmon girl.
Jack knows what Lindsey has found, and also knows that time is of the essence in terms of getting this new, groundbreaking evidence into the right hands. Len is missing in action, though, and so the police get to Harvey—and are able to hear his side of the story—first.
When the officers confront Harvey about the nature of the drawing taken from his sketchbook, he cunningly explains that he has been “trying to figure out” how Susie was killed—the murder upset him so much, that he wanted to try to get to the bottom of how her killer had committed the crime. The officers believe him, and let him know—apologetically—that Fenerman will probably be coming by tomorrow to go over the same line of questioning. Mr. Harvey stresses again that he does not want to press any charges against the Salmon girl and possibly exacerbate her “overwhelming grief.” Susie watches helplessly as the chances of Harvey’s capture diminish.
Harvey is a master of painting himself as a loner, a victim, and a caring member of the community who is simply unsure of how to connect with those around him. The story Harvey tells the police is convincing, and he really lays it on thick by expressing his sadness for poor Lindsey Salmon.
After picking Buckley up from Nate’s house, Abigail stops at a pay phone, calls Len, and instructs him to meet her in a store at the mall. He does not hear his house phone ringing once more as he pulls out of the driveway to go meet her. Abigail leads Buckley to a play-place at the mall, leaves her name with the monitor there, and goes off to meet Len. While she and Len rendezvous at the mall, the officers descend upon Mr. Harvey’s house and hear his tearful testimony.
Sebold uses this passage to reveal that Len is unable to take Jack’s call—and thus catch Harvey—because he is rendezvousing with the distraught, needful Abigail. This painful coincidence underscores Susie’s futile position in heaven—she is unable to keep events like this from happening, and unable to steer those who could still help her away from distraction and temptation.
Len leads Abigail down a hallway in the mall, and through a white door set flush into the wall. She knows Len is bringing her into the inner workings of the mall, and follows him through the tunnel. They begin to kiss. As their tryst unfolds, Mr. Harvey begins packing up his belongings. Abigail and Len make love as Mr. Harvey leaves his house for the final time.
Len and Abigail make love as Harvey gets away—a cruel coincidence that speaks to the disruptive and even destructive role that desire plays in the world of this novel.