This set of chapters opens with meetings. Parker meets with Lee Cole, who tells him that her daughter Ellen, who visited Parker at the start of the book, has not called in several days. Walter went to search for her and was rebuffed by the police in the last town she visited; Dark Hollow. Parker and Louis then travel to Boston to meet with a mid-level mafia intermediary, and superior of Tony Celli, Al Z, who operates out of an office over a comic book shop. Parker wants Z to persuade Celli to give Ellen Cole back to her parents if he has her, but Z makes it clear that Celli is being hunted by the mob because of the Billy Purdue business and broadly warns Parker to stay away. Parker attempts a third meeting, with Rachel at Harvard, but has to settle for leaving her a message with his new phone number.
When Parker and Louis return they find that Angel visited Billy’s trailer and found a letter from Meade Payne addressed to Billy. The trio return to Dark Hollow with the search for Ellen Cole providing an explicit justification that keeps them, from the perspective of both the law and the mob, out of the Billy Purdue search. Parker learns that Ellen and her boyfriend did come through Dark Hollow, on the advice of an “old man” that they gave a lift to. They stayed one night, and then none of the three were seen in town again. Parker wants to connect this “old man” to the one who harassed Rita and was seen watching Billy Purdue, but while the coincidence is suggestive he has no proof. Parker then meets with Rand Jennings, who flatly refuses to take the search for Ellen seriously, especially now that he knows that the man his wife had an affair with is searching for her.
Parker is left to voice his frustrations with Jennings apathy with Angel, prompting a long discussion with the short burglar about the nature of compassion and how men like Jennings would rather be angry at the world. Their conversation is interrupted by police sirens. The body of the missing surveyor has been found at the end of a private road into the deep part of the Maine woods. Jennings immediately decides that the man must have fallen and twisted his neck, but Parker notes that there is evidence of rope burns around the man’s wrists, and ponders the likelihood that, given the location of the body and circumstances of its discovery, he was more likely assaulted by someone coming out of the woods than following him in. That night, Parker has another vision of the dead, and Louis, in an odd moment of acting as comforter, tells Parker of the night in his childhood when Errol Rich was lynched and his Grandma Lucy “saw” the death in a psychic vision, suggesting that Parker has the same connection to, and responsibility to, the dead that she had.
These chapters are very talky, and what little forward momentum there is is focused on the side-stories and clues that the reader and Parker see add up to the bigger picture. In this case, that every act and moment of violence that has occurred brings Parker back to Billy Purdue, with the sole and notable exception of the disappearance of Ellen Cole. It’s the one aberration from the pattern that is developing. More importantly, we get a look at the flip side of the series. Instead of focusing on evil and the nature of evil, Parker and Angel have a long conversation about compassion. The conversation reiterates one of the main elements of characterization, that despite the violence of his life and his connection to the dead, Parker is defined by his compassion. The way the concept of “compassion” is spelled out here is interesting as well. Compassion is not recognizing your own pain and realizing that others can feel pain too. Compassion here is recognizing that others feel pain, regardless of whether or not you do, and that their pain continues unless you do something about it. To act otherwise is to act selfishly, which approaches evil.