Susie looks back on the hours after she was murdered, during which Mr. Harvey made moves to cover up the crime. First, he collapsed the hole in the cornfield and returned home with a sack filled with Susie’s body parts. He placed the sack in the garage and went upstairs to wash up. Years later, Susie notes, the new owners of the house will “tsk” over the dark spot on the floor of the garage, believing it to be simply an unsightly oil stain.
Susie’s death will ripple through the lives of her friends, family, and neighbors—past and future—in unimaginable ways. By revealing that the stain where her blood once leaked through a canvas sack onto the garage floor will become an object of ire for the house’s future residence, she reveals that the impact of the dead on the living is often greater and longer-lasting than one might realize.
Susie says it would be some time before she understood what the reader has “undoubtedly already assumed”—that she was not Harvey’s first kill. Though Harvey knew to watch the weather for ideal precipitation conditions that would rob the police of evidence, he was nonetheless fairly sloppy in his removal of Susie’s body from the scene of the crime.
Harvey’s sloppiness with Susie’s body is uncharacteristic—he is a serial killer of women, and an expert in how to cover his tracks, judging by the fact that he has not yet been caught. This sloppiness seems to mark Susie’s murder as different from his other kills, and the effects of this difference will affect Mr. Harvey’s life in ways he can’t yet see or imagine.
At Susie’s Evensong in heaven, she watches all of her dogs lift their heads when they smell something interesting in the air, then decide to track the scent, and decide what to do when they come up against the source of the smell itself. She remarks that dogs don’t shut down their desire to know something just because the smell is bad or dangerous, and sees her own behavior—obsessively watching Mr. Harvey—in this light.
Susie knows that her constant observation will eventually take a toll on her. Watching her family and friends is one thing—it seems harmless, though of course it causes her frustration—but watching Mr. Harvey is a harmful and painful ordeal. Still, Susie can’t look away as she marvels at the injustice of her killer moving through the world as a free man.
Susie remembers watching Mr. Harvey take the sack full of her remains to a sinkhole on the edge of town, which locals use to dump old appliances. Susie herself has been to this sinkhole with her father to dump an old refrigerator, and she remembers Jack describing the sinkhole as the Earth’s mouth. Mr. Harvey knocked on the door of the house belonging to the family who operated the sinkhole and charged people to dump goods. When a woman answered the door and jokingly asked if he had a dead body in the safe, Mr. Harvey quickly covered with a story about how the safe had belonged to his father, and no one could remember the combination. Susie notes that the family who ran the sinkhole would never suspect, even after reading countless newspaper articles about Susie’s death, that she had been what was in that metal safe.
The sinkhole is one of the novel’s most poignant symbols. When Susie’s remains are tossed in the sinkhole, she is swallowed by the Earth, and it seems as if any chance of her murder being solved is swallowed along with it. But by the simple act of continuing to obsessively watch not just life on Earth but specifically the life and actions of her cruel, despicable murderer, Susie is still being “swallowed” by the Earth, dragged and pulled down by her desire to see what is going on in her absence. Susie’s body, now trapped in the sinkhole, will never be free or able to be used as a tool in her own liberation and Mr. Harvey’s comeuppance; likewise, Susie’s mind, trapped in the Inbetween, will never be free if she cannot let go of the Earth’s downward pull.
As Mr. Harvey walked back to his car, he put his hand in his pocket and felt Susie’s silver charm bracelet. As he drove back into town, he stopped at an industrial park that was under construction and tossed her bracelet into what he believed would be a man-made pond. He kept one of the charms—a Pennsylvania keystone, engraved with Susie’s initials.
Mr. Harvey disposes of the last piece of evidence tying him to Susie, but recklessly he keeps one tiny piece of her. Sebold shows how Harvey and Susie are darkly united in their desire to possess pieces of the people who are the objects of their obsession.
Two days before Christmas—the day she appears to her father—Susie watches Mr. Harvey reading a book on the native people of Mali. As he reads about the cloth and ropes they use to build shelters, he decides that he wants to build something again—an experiment, like the hole. Harvey begins to gather materials, and sets to work in his backyard.
Harvey’s desires manifest in bizarre ways. His obsession with creating structures that he can fill—literally or metaphorically or both—with his dark longing marks him as a person who cannot be contained, whose impulses are unpredictable, and whose methodical planning lends him an advantage over his many victims.
Jack, having just smashed all of his glass bottles and seen Susie’s face in the shards, is out for a walk to clear his head. He spots Mr. Harvey, hard at work in his back yard, wearing just a t-shirt despite the cold. Jack approaches Harvey and asks what he’s working on, and Harvey answers that the structure is something called a mat tent. Mr. Harvey expresses his condolences for Jack’s loss, and Jack thanks him. Mr. Harvey wants for Jack to leave, but when he doesn’t go of his own accord, Harvey, wanting to avoid seeming antisocial or suspicious, asks Jack if he wants to help. Susie watches from heaven as her father builds a tent with the man who killed her.
Jack’s curiosity pulls him toward Mr. Harvey—as Susie explained earlier, the Salmons see Mr. Harvey as an odd but harmless fixture in the neighborhood, and even as a pleasant person. As Susie watches her father create something with her killer, she feels a deep sense of rage, injustice, and desire to somehow steer her father toward the answer to the mystery of her murder. Sebold uses dramatic irony to its deepest effect in this passage.
After an hour, the basic structure is done, and Mr. Harvey goes back into the house. Outside, it begins to snow. Jack takes the snow as a sign from Susie, and asks aloud what she’s trying to tell him. In Heaven, Susie tries to make a dead geranium in the yard bloom, but nothing happens. Still, Susie notices that her father is looking at Mr. Harvey’s house suspiciously, having begun to wonder.
Though Jack has been helping Mr. Harvey as if he were just another neighbor, he now begins to sense that something is wrong. Fresh from seeing Susie’s face in the broken bottles, Jack is on the lookout for signs and signals from her.
Mr. Harvey emerges from the house with a stack of sheets in his arms, meant to be draped over the structure. When Jack reaches for the sheets, his hand touches Harvey’s, and Jack experiences an “electric shock.” Jack accuses Harvey of knowing something. The two men hold each other’s eyes, and then turn back to work. As Susie watches the two of them finish up, the snow falls harder, and Susie feels despondent.
Jack’s fatherly intuition comes roaring to life as he physically connects with Mr. Harvey. The importance of seemingly casual physical touch—just as Susie touched Ruth earlier—is once again coded as extremely important. Susie wishes she could signal to her father exactly what is wrong, but instead she grows more and more frustrated as she watches her father continue to work alongside Harvey.
Mr. Harvey stands inside the tent, thinking of how the tribes he has been reading about use the structure as a wedding tent. Mr. Harvey imagines receiving a virgin bride. Jack moves toward Mr. Harvey, but Harvey holds his palm out, and instructs Jack to go home. Mr. Harvey cannot think of anything to say, and instead whispers only “Susie.” Mr. Harvey points out that all of their neighbors have just seen the two of them building something together—they are “friends” now, and no one will believe Jack if he speaks out against Harvey. Jack insists that Harvey knows something, but Harvey says that he cannot help Jack. Harvey retreats further into the tent and pulls one of the sheets down behind him, closing himself off from Jack.
Harvey reveals that his inviting Jack to build the tent has turned into another ploy. Now, the whole neighborhood has seen Jack and Harvey collaborating on something, and Harvey adds another layer of protection to his already carefully safeguarded veneer of normalcy. Harvey then envelops himself in his strange creation, shutting Jack out and leaving him isolated in the knowledge that he has helped a man who, by his own admission, had something to do with his daughter’s murder.