After Zero runs away, it's business as usual, and the boys go back to digging their holes. Stanley is angry with himself, thinking that he should just go after Zero and help the guy out. He keeps looking for his friend in the distance, but Zero is nowhere in sight.
Then Stanley gets to thinking: if he goes after Zero, he thinks, maybe they can climb up the mountain to the big thumb. That might be where Stanley's great-grandfather found refuge – if so, there might be water there, too. Hmmm.
The next day, Zero still hasn't come back to camp, and the counselors continue to guard the water sources.
While he's digging, Stanley thinks – nay, dreams – about the possibility that Zero could make his way to God's thumb and find water there from the recent storm. (This kid sure does a lot of thinking.)
When Stanley gets back to the tent, Mr. Pendanski (looking pretty bad from his recent encounter with a shovel), Mr. Sir, and the Warden are all waiting for him. Dun dun dun. They ask if he's seen Zero or if he knows where he might have gone.
The Warden tells Mr. Pendanski to erase all traces of Zero from the camp's records, and to hack into the state files so no one in the Attorney General's office will know that he was at the camp.
Well, it turns out Zero was a ward of the state: he was living on the street when he was arrested.
In super threatening action-movie style, Mr. Pendanski says that he can make it very difficult for anyone to find any record of Zero. Besides, he says, "no one will ever look. No one cares about Hector Zeroni" (31.42).