When Jack returns from building the tent at Harvey’s that day, Abigail is not home. Jack goes up to his den and begins making notes, strategizing about how to get Harvey to open up and admit his guilt. He also writes that he thinks Susie is watching him, which makes Susie deeply excited.
Abigail is not home for Jack to share his new theory with—and even if she were, it doesn’t seem like he would. Instead, he isolates himself in his room, trying to work out what he has just felt and witnessed. Meanwhile, Susie is overjoyed that she does have some measure of influence on and contact with her loved ones back on Earth.
Lindsey returns home, and Jack is relieved to have some noise and company in the house. Susie momentarily resents her younger sister taking the attention away from her, but concedes that Lindsey needs their father, too. Though Susie begrudges Lindsey Jack’s attention, she does respect her way of handling Susie’s death—completely stoically, allowing herself to think of Susie only in private moments when she is totally alone in her room.
The complicated mechanics of Susie’s love and desire are explored in this passage. She wants those she is paying attention to to pay the same amount of attention to her, and she is especially peeved when her parents’ attention is drawn away, even when it’s her own younger sister who they turn their focus to.
Jack knocks on Lindsey’s door, and Lindsey shouts for him to go away. Jack begs Lindsey to let him in, and, after a moment, she does. Jack asks Lindsey how she’s doing, and thinks, sickened, of how she walks past Mr. Harvey’s house on the way to school every single day. Lindsey tells Jack that she wants to be alone, insisting that she is handling Susie’s death in her own way. Jack tells Lindsey that he understands, although he doesn’t, and goes downstairs to place a call to Len Fenerman.
The Salmon family is having trouble connecting with one another. As Lindsey hides away in her room, she isolates herself from those around her, while Jack, by keeping his knowledge about Harvey a secret from his loved ones, isolates himself in turn. In choosing to share the information he has obtained with Len Fenerman, Jack expresses his desire for justice and his confidence in his intuition—which Susie helped him, in part, to access and understand.
Jack knows that the window of time during which physical evidence connecting a killer to a murder is usually found is growing smaller each day, and so he calls Len to tell him that he believes Mr. Harvey knows something about Susie’s death. He explains the bizarre, ritualistic building the tent, and contextualizes Mr. Harvey’s loneliness, as well as the fact that everyone in the neighborhood thinks him odd. Len assures Jack he will check things out, and warns Jack not to mention his theory to anyone, or to approach Harvey again.
Len listens to Jack, but seems dubious at best about the things Jack is telling him. As much as Len wants answers, he also knows, given how difficult it has been to obtain the few scraps of evidence the investigation has been able to gather, that one man’s hunch is not a cause for action—especially when that man is a grieving father searching for any scrap of truth and justice.
Abigail is downstairs, having arrived home while Jack was on the phone. She is hiding in the bathroom, eating macaroons. Buckley knocks on the door over and over, shouting “Momma.” Abigail “despise[s]” the word. When she finally emerges from the bathroom, Buckley asks her where Susie is. Jack, overhearing this, distracts Buckley by asking him if he wants to go to the zoo that week. Jack hates to deceive and bribe his young son, but does not know how to tell him that his older sister is dead.
Abigail resents her role as a mother now. Susie glimpsed her detachment from her role as wife, mother, and homemaker in the photograph she took of her—now, in the wake of Susie’s death, simple aspects of motherhood have become unbearable to Abigail. Buckley is a casualty of his parents’ grief many times over—no one is honest with him, and Abigail can barely even stand to look at him, mired as she is in her own grief and uncertainty.
On his first trip to George Harvey’s house in the days after Susie’s murder, Len Fenerman finds nothing remarkable or suspicious about the man. He finds him a to be lonely person, whose wife had died shortly before he moved into the house they were supposed to share together, and who spends his days and makes his living building dollhouses for specialty toy stores. On his second visit to Harvey’s home, in the wake of Jack’s phone call, Fenerman asks Harvey about his recent conversation with Jack Salmon. Mr. Harvey replies that Jack recently helped him build a bridal tent—he tells Fenerman that he builds one each year for his deceased wife, Leah; normally, he builds them inside, but this year wanted to construct it outside. He explains that during the construction, he tried to express his condolences to Jack, but Jack must have taken things the wrong way.
Harvey is an expert at explaining away the moments in which his darker self has come through. Just as he carefully constructed the bridal tent and the underground structure in the cornfield, so he has also built a public image of himself that relays sensitivity, loneliness, and empathy to all those around him. This allows Harvey to control and manipulate otherwise fraught situations, molding everything around him to fit his desire to move through the world unseen for who he truly is.
Fenerman asks where Harvey usually builds the tent. Harvey answers the basement, and volunteers to show the detective the space. Fenerman insists that he has intruded enough. Harvey asks how the investigation is coming along, and Fenerman cryptically answers that the clues will be found when they want to be found. Mr. Harvey suggests that a neighborhood kid, Joe Ellis, who has harmed some animals in the neighborhood, might have been involved, but Fenerman tells Harvey that Jack Ellis had an alibi. Harvey tells Fenerman that he wishes there were more he could do to help with the case.
Harvey continues to demonstrate to Len his façade of remorse, empathy, and good-naturedness. Harvey is hiding in plain sight, just as he always has, and just as he plans to continue doing by offering other solutions to Susie’s murder and expressing his regret that he cannot do more to secure justice for poor Susie.
Later, Len calls Jack Salmon to tell him that though Harvey is odd, there is nothing incriminating or suspicious about him. When Jack asks what Harvey said about the tent, Len relays that Harvey built it in honor of his late wife, Leah. Jack counters that a neighbor had once told Abigail that Mr. Harvey’s wife’s name had been Sophie, but quickly begins to second-guess himself. Once he gets off the phone with Len, Jack opens his notebook to write some things down. He writes “Leah? Sophie?” and Susie, observing from above, says that though Jack was unaware of it, “he had begun a list of the dead.”
Though Mr. Harvey is a master puppeteer of those around him and a brilliant constructor of façades both physical and psychological, he has made a crucial error—he has misremembered his own cover story (or else has a habit of referring to his victims as his late wives, which would be an example of his monstrous commingling of desire, love, and family) and thus provided Jack with a small nugget of hope that he can still expose Harvey going forward. Susie’s omniscience allows her to see what her family cannot. Jack is alone in his lack of knowledge, though here he has begun to find a glimmer of light, while Susie is alone in her completed knowledge.
On Christmas Day, Buckley plays happily with his toys, but the atmosphere in the rest of the house is somber. Buckley soon announces that there is a man outside—it is Samuel Heckler, one of Lindsey’s school friends, who has come to visit her. She gets up to greet him, leaving the game of Monopoly she and Jack are playing together. While Samuel and Lindsey converse in the kitchen, Buckley asks Jack where Susie is. Jack knows he has to explain Susie’s death to Buckley, and uses one of the Monopoly pieces—the shoe, which was always Susie’s chosen piece—to explain that Susie is gone, and is never coming back. Buckley, Susie says, will keep the shoe on his dresser for years, until the day it disappears seemingly into thin air.
The Salmon family has been keeping up a number of illusions for Buckley’s sake. On Christmas day, however, the contrast between their youngest child’s joy and their own grief becomes too much to bear, and they reveal to Buckley that his sister has died and is never coming back. Meanwhile, Lindsey finally allows someone in—she has been keeping herself removed from everything around her for so long, but on Christmas Day several boundaries are breached within the Salmon family.
In the kitchen, Samuel gives Lindsey a present. She opens it and finds a necklace inside—it is half of a heart. Samuel reveals that he is wearing a necklace which bears the other half. Susie watches excitedly as her sister kisses Samuel, and feels “almost alive again.”
As Susie watches this exchange between Samuel and her sister, she is excited and rejuvenated. Nevertheless, Susie realizes on some level that Lindsey, in embarking on a relationship with Samuel, is both distancing herself from Susie’s memory and surpassing her, slowly but surely.