I found somehow the energy to sit up, relieved to see the fog lifting, all throughout the woods. Sunlight swayed down through the trees like bright sheets of cloth. I heard the voices of children, behind me in the woods, calling my name. I cried, “I’m here! Over here!”
And then they were around me, helping me to my feet, their voices chirping at me like birds. And Mrs. Falkner held me tight, hugging me to her and saying, “Oh, Vickie, we were so worried, so awfully worried!”
And then someone saw the sack.
Or maybe smelled it.
The sack that Blue Boyle had dropped over by the grave marker. We all moved slowly over toward it, the stench strengthening with every step. We stood in a silent circle around it, breathing through our mouths.
Mrs. Falkner reached out for it, pulled it to her, lifted it a little, opened it.
And then did something I’d never before seen an adult do. She screamed.
The sack fell from her hand, and before she could turn us away we saw. We saw.
Tumbling out into the grass near the grave were the broken bodies of animals. Our lost dogs and cats—or pieces of them—the ones we’d thought had run away, the ones we’d grieved for, now lay at our feet, crawling with vermin, their eyes staring blankly toward the sky, the woods. Toward us.
And then we were all screaming and running down the road. A race that slowed only when Mrs. Falkner’s piercing voice called for us to stop.
We went back to the bus in a silent cluster, no one drifting far from the group. Hopping along with us, from tree to tree, as we advanced … a sparrow. Now, I know: Sparrows look alike to people who don’t study them. But I was certain—as certain as I was of what I had just experienced back in the woods—that this was the same sparrow I’d seen in her nest, back at the Refuge Headquarters.
The driver took us back into St. Mary’s, straight to the police station only a couple of blocks away. Where we told our horrifying story to some very worried officers.
It took some months before I was able to find out much more about what had happened that day. Father was not eager to tell me much about it—parents always keep from their children information that they think will upset or harm them. The sort of information, in other words, that we most want to know.
It seems that Dr. Eastbrook had constructed some kind of laboratory, concealed there below ground in the woods of Middle Island. There, he was doing experiments that involved the bodies of dead animals—including human beings.
I had read about what used to be called “Resurrection Men.” These were people in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth century who supplied surgeons with dead bodies to study and to learn from. It was illegal to do this. (The only legal bodies were those of executed criminals—but there just weren’t enough of them to supply the doctors’ needs.) But how can you learn about the workings of a human body, the surgeons reasoned, if you can’t ever study the inside of one?
So the Resurrection Men visited cemeteries at night, stealing bodies, delivering them to physicians, who would pay a lot to acquire them. This went on until the law changed.
But what was Dr. Eastbrook doing with the bodies? No one would tell me—if anyone knew.
And what was Blue Boyle doing there? The answer to this question was an odd one. No one believed me. They thought I was mistaken, or frightened, or deluded by something I’d only partially seen in the fog. Blue Boyle? What would a third-grade boy be doing on Middle Island with Dr. Eastbrook? A third-grade boy who was six feet tall? Impossible. I was just wrong, that’s all. Just plain wrong.
But I knew what I’d seen. And I had seen him. He had spoken to me. Maybe even saved me. So I had no question whatsoever.