Christopher takes a bath, and his father puts the dirty clothes in the washing machine. He tries to talk to Christopher but Christopher says nothing. His father tells him that from now on, he plans always to tell the truth. He confesses that it was he who killed Wellington. He explains that Mrs. Shears had been very helpful after his wife left, and he hoped she might move in with them, but then they quarreled. He thought she cared more about the dog than about him. He got angry, lost his temper, and killed the dog.
At first Christopher thinks his father is joking. When he realizes his father is being serious, he is frightened. When his father reaches out to touch him, Christopher screams. Father leaves the room so that Christopher can get some sleep. He says they will talk again in the morning.
Christopherdecides he must get out of the house. If his father murdered Wellington, that means he might also murder him, Christopher. At about 1:20 a.m., while his father is asleep, Christopher grabs his coat, his scarf, his Swiss army knife, his pet rat Toby in his cage, and his food box, and goes outside, sitting down round the back of the garden shed. He wonders what he should do next.
Christopher looks at the constellation Orion and reflects that although Orion is always referred to as a hunter, the dots that are the stars could actually be joined up in any number of ways to resemble something quite different. It could look like a lady with an umbrella or a dinosaur, for example.
Eventually Christopher falls asleep, awaking at dawn. He hears his father out in the garden, calling for him. He hides himself under a sack. Father leaves the garden and drives off in his van. Christopher decides it is too dangerous to live with his father anymore, so he decides he will live with Mrs. Shears. He knocks on her door but there is no reply. He reviews his options. He can think of no one he can live with except his mother. The problem is that she lives in London and he has never been to London before. But he feels he has no other viable course of action.
Christopher decides to travel the one hundred miles from his home in Swindon to London by train. He has never been on a train before but he thinks he will be able to manage it. He formulates a plan. First he goes to Mrs. Alexander’s house and asks her if she will take care of Toby the rat. He tells her he is going to live with his mother. But Mrs. Alexander declines to take the rat and suggests that Christopher talk to his father about the situation.
Christopher runs home and gets into the locked house by breaking a window. He gathers food and drink, and takes his father’s bank card so he can get money. He already knows the PIN number because his father told him what it was. He takes Toby out of his cage and puts him in one of the pockets of his coat.
He walks to school, feeling afraid. He plans to ask Siobhan where the train station is. But when he gets to school, he sees his father’s van parked there. He is so frightened he vomits. Then he realizes he must ask a stranger the way to the train station. A woman tells him it is not far away and gives him directions. He runs buts gets confused and lost in a busy street. But he stops to think and works out a logical plan for how to find the station, which he knows is nearby, and he is successful.
In a digression, Christopher explains how much more carefully he observes his environment than other people do, because they only glance at it and then get lost in their thoughts, whereas he takes note of every small detail. He also manages to tell a joke in which a mathematician emerges as superior to both a logician and an economist.
Analysis, Chapters 167-181
As per the usual pattern, plot development chapters alternate with chapters that focus on Christopher’s reflections, showing the workings of his unusual mind. The plot is paramount at this stage of the novel, however, and the nature of the book has changed. Before, Christopher was writing a murder mystery. But with his father’s confession, that mystery has been solved. Christopher turned out to be a zealous detective but not a particularly good one, since he was nowhere near solving the mystery. His father’s confession came out of the blue as far as Christopher was concerned.
What the book now becomes is more of a quest narrative, as Christopher goes off in search of his mother. It also has elements of an adventure novel, as Christopher has to find his way around a strange and sometimes scary new environment. It is also something of a coming-of-age novel now too, as Christopher will shortly be observing the dysfunctional family dynamics at close range and he will have to come to terms with the messy situation between his father and mother, not to mention the involvement of Mr. and Mrs. Shears. While Christopher is able to say confidently, regarding his observations of Orion, “And that is the truth” (chapter 173, p. 126), he will soon find out that when it comes to personal and family relationships, “the truth” is much harder to pin down.