When Susie first goes missing, her parents go door to door and make phone calls looking for her. In the meantime, Mr. Harvey puts Susie’s body parts in a sack and closes up the hole. He carries her back to the house and leaves her in the garage, where her blood leaves a stain on the floor. Inside, Mr. Harvey washes up and is very calm, thinking about Susie’s scream and her death moan. In the bag with Susie are the razors, shaving cream, knife and a book of sonnets. Mr. Harvey keeps the knife and the sonnets. Susie compares her desire to know more about Mr. Harvey, about her death, and about the other girls he killed, to the desire dogs have to go after a smell even when it is a bad smell.
Mr. Harvey takes Susie’s remains to a sinkhole. Susie remembers going to the sinkhole with her father and Buckley to put an old refrigerator in it. Her father tells Buckley that the sinkhole is the earth’s mouth and that it will swallow the refrigerator. Mr. Harvey puts the bag with Susie’s remains in a metal safe so that it will weigh it down. The sinkhole is on the Flanagan’s property, so he gives them money to sink the safe. On his way home, Mr. Harvey realizes he has Susie’s charm bracelet in his pocket. He stops his car and wanders a construction lot in the dark. He decides to keep the Pennsylvania keystone charm, with Susie’s initials, and throws the rest of the charm bracelet in a hole that will become a man-made lake.
Mr. Harvey reads about the tents built by a tribe in Mali and decides to replicate them. Susie’s father comes upon Mr. Harvey while he is doing this, and he helps him with the tent. After the basic structure is done, Mr. Harvey goes inside and checks on the knife that he used to kill Susie, which is still in his nightstand.
Outside, Susie’s father thinks he hears her. She tries to make the dead geranium near him bloom, but it does not. But her father does begin to suspect that Mr. Harvey knows something about Susie’s death. He asks Mr. Harvey about it but Mr. Harvey gives no answers.
Sometimes Susie wishes her father would avenge her death by going after Mr. Harvey, but she knows he is not like that. Instead he feels guilty that he was not able to be there for her. When Susie’s father returns from Mr. Harvey’s, he looks for Abigail but he cannot find her. Lindsey comes in the house slamming doors and other things; Jack goes to check on her but she says she wants to be alone. Jack calls Len Fenerman to tell him that he suspects Mr. Harvey. Abigail is in the downstairs bathroom sneaking bites from macaroons. Buckley knocks at the door and screams Momma. Abigail realizes she hates the word. While Jack makes fluffernutter sandwiches for them, Buckley asks where Susie is. Jack distracts him by asking him if he wants to go to the zoo.
Len Fenerman goes to George Harvey’s house. He had been there before when the police went door-to-door questioning the neighbors and found nothing remarkable there. While there, Mr. Harvey tells Len that he built the tent for his dead wife Leah and that he does it every year, but this is the first year he did it outside. Mr. Harvey suggests that perhaps the Ellis boy was involved in the murder, because he likes to hurt animals. Len has already checked it out and the boy has an alibi. Len calls Jack to report what Mr. Harvey said. Jack says he thought that Mr. Harvey’s wife’s name was Sophie, as he heard that from Abigail. Jack writes Sophie and Leah in a book—Susie notes that he is unknowingly listing the dead.
On Christmas Samuel Heckler comes to the Salmons’ to visit Lindsey. He is thirteen and he is dressed in black leather with his hair slicked back. He tells her he is also one of the gifted students. Buckley is curious about Samuel’s suitcase, which is actually an alto saxophone. Buckley then asks where Susie is. Jack takes Buckley to play monopoly. He says the board is the world and the pieces are the people they know. Susie is the shoe because that is what she used to use. Jack tells him when he rolls the dice, one of the pieces can’t play anymore. Buckley asks why. Jack tells him Susie is dead and that he won’t see her again. Buckley keeps the monopoly shoe in his dresser until it one day goes missing.
Abigail leaves Samuel and Lindsey alone in the kitchen. Lindsey opens the gift that Samuel got her—it is a half of a heart on a necklace. Samuel has the other half. Lindsey kisses him, and Susie watches and feels very alive.
Two weeks before Susie died, she was late to school. She had never been late, but she knew about how the janitor left the back door to the stage open for the stoners. Susie goes in that door. She sneaks in slowly, then she hears a voice tell her she is beautiful. It is Ray Singh. He is from India and he moved to her town a year ago from England. Susie thinks he is cool and she knows he has a crush on her. Ray is sitting up on the scaffolding. She asks him what he is doing up there, and he invites her to come up. Ray tells her he is skipping English class because he already knows all of Shakespeare. After the bell for first period rings, Ray leans towards her and they are about to kiss when they hear something. Below them Mr. Peterford and Miss Ryan walk in and begin to scold Ruth Connors for a drawing she had done of a naked woman. The drawing was copied and passed around school. The teachers leave and Ruth cries. Ray tells Susie to go to her. Susie notes that later that week Ray kisses her by her locker.
Susie stands in front of Ruth, holding her jungle bell hat in her hand. Ruth tells her it’s a stupid hat and Susie agrees. Susie asks to see the drawing, and Ruth shows her that drawing and many more that she has in her notebooks. Susie comments that they are really good; she no longer thinks of Ruth as weird.
Ruth walks in the cornfield after it is roped off, and often skips class to do so. She has her father drive her to school daily to avoid going on the bus. Before she gets out of the car he gives her a sip of bourbon from his thermos, but she usually does not drink any unless he is watching. Susie watches her on those mornings, and grows to love her and felt that they kept each other company from opposites sides of the Inbetween.
Ray notices that Ruth walks in the cornfield a lot, so one day he makes a point of meeting her there and waits for her in the shot-put circle. Ray offers her tea but she refuses. Ruth offers him lip balm because his lips are chapped, and she tells him he can keep it. He asks her to sit with him while the buses come. This becomes a ritual for them, meeting there on the days that Ray’s father, a professor, has to teach. They read poetry and talk about the other oddball kids in the class. Sometimes they talk about Susie; Ruth thinks she is lucky to be out of there, Ray thinks where they are is only temporary hell. He suggests Susie is in heaven.
Jack Salmon goes to Ray Singh’s house to talk with him. Ray is not home so Jack sits with Ray’s mother, Ruana Singh for a while. Jack tells Ruana he knows who killed Susie. Ruana believes that Jack is doing what he knows is right for him, but she hopes it will not harm her son. Ruana goes out to meet Ray and to tell him of his visitor.
While Jack is at the Singhs’, Len Fenerman visits. Abigail is left to entertain him alone. She draws stick figures in crayon on butcher paper. Buckley and his friend Nate are asleep on the couch. Len tells Abigail that she reminds him of his wife, who died soon after they were married. Susie’s father comes home and Nate and Buckley greet him with high energy. Len has Susie’s picture in his wallet along with the pictures of victims from all of the other cases he has worked on; the cases that have been solved have the date written on the back, and the ones that haven’t are blank. Both Susie’s picture and Len’s wife’s picture are blank. Jack tells the boys to go upstairs because he wants to talk with Len.
Buckley and Nate race upstairs. Buckley tells Nate that he sees Susie. Susie says she tries not to yearn for Buckley because she does not want him to see her because she thinks he is too young. Buckley and Nate sit underneath a framed graverubbing by their parents’ bedroom. This is one of many, but it is the only one still up. Lindsey and Susie used to play that they were in the rubbing, which pictures a knight and his dog. Lindsey would be his distressed widow. Buckley takes Nate into Susie’s room and they go under her bed to her secret hiding place in a hole in her boxspring. There, she kept things she didn’t want anyone else to see. After she died, Holiday came and scratched it open, and the things came out. Buckley shows Nate a small bloody twig that Susie kept wrapped in a handkerchief. The summer before, when Buckley was three, Susie was watching him one day when he was playing with Nate. Buckley swallowed the twig and choked. Susie drove him to the hospital because there were no adults around, and she saved his life. Buckley remembers this, and he also remembers how serious and worried the adults looked then; now his parents’ eyes looked flat. In heaven Susie sees a row of crows holding crooked twigs. She wonders if Buckley really sees her.
While Chapters 1 – 3 presented the initial scenes of destruction create the somber tone and the setting for the novel, Chapters 4 – 6 begin to show how the characters are reacting in the face of loss and absence, and how they have begun to build anew, both physically and figuratively.
Mr. Harvey puts Susie’s body is in a safe before he dumps it in the sinkhole. The safe functions as its name prescribes—to keep Susie safe from being found. With Mr. Harvey’s discarding of the body we again encounter the theme of destruction, which goes hand in hand with the emotional collapse of Susie’s family. To counter this destruction, at the end of Chapter 4 Jack helps Mr. Harvey build a tent. Jack simultaneously builds his own theory that Mr. Harvey is Susie’s killer. While Jack looks for Susie’s killer, Susie also is “hunting” for the reasons why Mr. Harvey killed her; she uses a metaphor to compare herself to the dogs at Evensong who hunt for something once they smell it, no matter if it is a bad smell or a good one. Susie also does her best to lead her father to Mr. Harvey by pushing on the Inbetween; she is on a personal hunt but she is also on a mission to help her family find her killer. Jack tells Len of his suspicion but Len does not believe—he passes Mr. Harvey off as a character, paralleling Susie’s thoughts about Mr. Harvey before she realized she was in danger.
Susie’s father’s suspicion about who killed Susie and his desire for revenge stems from his guilt that he was unable to be there for his daughter. In the opening of Chapter 5 the word poison is used as a metaphor for the way the feeling of guilt slowly settles in when Jack wakes up. The poison represents the psychological effects of losing Susie, and alludes to the earlier metaphor of the rabbits that bring home poison and die. Lindsey is feeling a different psychological effect from the loss of Susie; she has what Susie refers to as the “Walking Dead Syndrome” because everyone, including Lindsey, sees Susie when they look at her. The effects of loss start to show in Abigail as she begins to resent hearing the word “mother.”
The symbols presented in these chapters help to further our understanding of the effects of loss on all of the family members. The monopoly shoe represents Susie and her inability to be a part of the game of life. Buckley keeps the shoe hidden because he is aware that his family is each keeping their own memories and feelings about Susie hidden. The other symbolic presence is the grave rubbing that is hanging in the upstairs hallway of the Salmons' house. A grave is one way of remembering the dead, yet Susie does not have a grave. The image in the rubbing is a knight with his faithful dog at his heels, and Lindsey and Susie used to pretend that Susie was the knight and Lindsey was his bereaved widow. In their role-playing Lindsey would tell the knight that she had to move on. Thus the grave rubbing represents both absence and loss and the necessity to move on.
In order to survive grief, the characters begin to build new relationships with each other. On Christmas, Lindsey and Samuel start their relationship, something that becomes a lasting form of support for Lindsey as she copes with her sister’s loss. Buckley also claims to have formed a new relationship with Susie where he is able to talk to her. Buckley’s belief that he can see Susie is later recognized as a desire rather than a truth. The relationship the dead have with the living is not always parallel because they are separated by the Inbetween. Interestingly, Buckley is the one who originally drew the picture depicting the Inbetween, giving a visual image to what Susie imagines as her passageway to be with the living.
In addition, Ruth Connors and Ray Singh begin to form a new relationship as one way of coping with Susie’s absence. When Susie was living, there is one scene where Ruth, Ray and Susie are all in the same room together, and Susie is the one who interacts with both of them but Ruth and Ray do not interact with each other. During this scene, they are all represented doing forbidden things (i.e. Ray and Susie are skipping class, and Ruth drew a naked picture), and are cast as outsiders. This outsider status of these characters continues through the novel, because all of them are isolated in their own way. Ruth and Ray meet again in the cornfield after Susie’s death—there they form a friendship where they can discuss why and how they feel like outsiders, and seek to understand Susie’s death and her potential afterlife.