Humbert retraces the tour he and Lolita took across the country, attempting to find some clues as to Lolita’s whereabouts. As he revisits the 342 hotels and motels they stayed at, he learns that Lolita’s abductor had been following them for some time. The abductor has signed into various hotel registers with a series of sophisticated, wittily allusive fake names. Humbert deduces that Lolita and the kidnapper have been in touch since the beginning of their road trip.
Upon returning to Beardsley, Humbert plans to accost an art professor at Beardsley College, who once taught a class at Lolita’s school. As he sits outside the professor’s classroom with the gun in his pocket, Humbert realizes that his suspicions have made him paranoid. Humbert hires a detective, who proves to be useless.
Humbert imagines he sees Lolita everywhere and tries rid himself of her possessions. He writes a missing persons ad in verse. Humbert psychoanalyzes his own poem but does not post it.
In his loneliness, Humbert begins a relationship with Rita, a woman in her late twenties with a checkered history. Humbert finds her ignorant but comforting, and their relationship lasts for two years. During this time, Humbert gives up his search for Lolita’s abductor and spends his time wandering with Rita, drinking heavily. Nonetheless, he finds himself returning to the old hotels to relive memories of Lolita. He cannot, however, bring himself to go to the Enchanted Hunters hotel. Meanwhile, Rita grows increasingly unstable and becomes convinced that Humbert will leave her.
Gradually, Rita and Humbert begin to live apart, though Humbert visits her frequently. During one visit, Humbert discovers that two letters have been forwarded to him. The first is from John Farlow, who remarried after Jean died of cancer. John states that he has handed over the complicated case of the Haze estate to an attorney named Jack Windmuller. The second letter is from Lolita. Addressing Humbert as “Dad,” she writes that she has become Mrs. Richard F. Schiller and is currently pregnant. She writes asking for money but withholds her home address in case Humbert is still angry.
After reading the letter, Humbert goes in search of Lolita and her new husband. Taking the gun along with him, Humbert plans to kill Lolita’s husband, whom he assumes is the same man who abducted Lolita from the hospital. Though Lolita didn’t give her specific address, Humbert manages to find the town she lives in, Coalmont. Nervous and agitated, Humbert bathes and dresses in his finest clothes before inquiring after the Schillers.