In 2002, Cohle investigates on his own a series of old missing persons cases, linking the victims to the Tuttle schools. He seeks out Theriot, who has since quit the ministry and become a drunk, to ask about Wellspring, a defunct foundation that financed the rural schools while Theriot was a seminarian at the college Tuttle established. Theriot claims that Wellspring covered up child molestation scandals and implies that he was intimidated into silence after being questioned in 1995. Cohle tries to interview Kelly, Ledoux's surviving victim in 1995 and institutionalized with regressive catatonia, to ask her if a third man was involved with her abduction. She describes a giant man with scars, and begins screaming when Cohle asks about the man's face. Despite being ordered to stop his investigations, Cohle meets with Tuttle, ostensibly seeking the names of former Wellspring employees but actually fishing for reactions from him. Tuttle complains to the department, misrepresenting the nature of the meeting. Cohle cites this as proof of Tuttle's culpability, but is suspended from duty anyway. Hart runs into Beth (Lili Simmons), a former underage prostitute he interviewed during the Dora Lange investigation, and starts an affair with her. A suspicious Maggie checks Hart's cell and finds a picture of Beth. She goes to Cohle's apartment and seduces him; Cohle, disgusted and infuriated when Maggie tells him she had sex to get rid of Hart, kicks her out. Maggie tells Hart anyway, who attacks Cohle in the department parking lot. Cohle quits immediately after.
In 2012, Papania and Gilbough interview Maggie, now remarried. She is scornful of their motives and denies that the divorce from Hart had anything to do with Cohle. Asked to characterize Cohle, she describes him as a good man with integrity. Hart abruptly walks out on his interview when Papania and Gilbrough again suggest that Cohle may have killed Tuttle in 2010 and been responsible for all the other murders. Cohle follows Hart and initiates their first contact since the fight. Cohle asks Hart to buy him a beer, saying they should talk, to which Hart agrees, but after Cohle turns away, arms himself with a revolver.