We had to tell the story over and over again. To the Coast Guard. To the local authorities on Put-in-Bay. And, as we hurriedly returned home with Father, we told the story again and again to him on the ferry, on the highway, at the restaurant where we stopped for lunch. Again and again. What we did. What we saw. What happened to us …
On the shore back at Green Island, someone on the Coast Guard vessel had bellowed through a bullhorn: Sir! Put those girls down! Put them down now!
Blue Boyle had just stared at them.
I’m warning you! The voice again. Put those girls down right now!
And Blue Boyd did—sort of. He hurled us out into the lake—so far that we flew nearly all the way to the boat. Impossible, I thought as I was whirling through the air.
But actual, I realized as I splashed for the second time that day into the cold waters of Lake Erie. We were quickly picked up by a smaller boat, our hands freed, then covered with blankets and questions.
And how had the Coast Guard showed up so quickly? Well, the partiers aboard the Don Juan had quickly discovered we weren’t on board. The young man acting as captain—Harriet’s no-longer-future groom—had wanted to just sail on, forget about us. Apparently he’d said something like, “Hey, no one knows they were with us.”
But all the others had shouted him down, so he headed right for the western shore of Put-in-Bay, just a straight mile from Green Island, site of South Bass Island State Park.[i] They docked, ran up to the ranger headquarters, told him what had happened, and he promptly called the Coast Guard about two girls who had gone overboard near Green’s eastern shore.
Back on Put-in-Bay, talking with the Coast Guard, we told them what we’d experienced at the old lighthouse. The laboratory. The giant version of Blue Boyle. The smells. The pieces of once-living creatures. I left out the quick reflection I’d seen of Aunt Claire. Harriet had not seen her … so maybe I was just imagining things?
The officer who interviewed me—Commander Godwin[ii]—listened to our story with a familiar look on his face, the one that says You gotta be kidding me. I’m sure he thought we were just imaginative kids who’d made up a stupid story to shift the blame and the attention onto Green Island and Dr. Eastbrook and away from us.
He asked us only a few questions:
“Did Dr. Eastbrook tell you what his plans were?”
“How can you be certain that the ‘large man’ you saw was a former classmate?”
He shook his head. “You should know, girls, that our officers reported seeing only a large man, not a boy.”
I tried to explain again. But he wasn’t listening—he already knew what he thought.
“What do you think we’re going to find if we go out there, girls? Do you know what it will mean if we find … nothing?” He looked darkly at us, then mumbled something about the “nonsense” of “body parts.”
We both answered honestly. Then he said, “You girls wait out in the hall. I want to talk with Mr. Stone a little bit.”
Father was in the office for quite a while, and when he came out, I could tell he was not happy. But I wasn’t sure of the source of his displeasure.
It didn’t take long to find out. In the car, as we headed back to our hotel to pick up our things, we found out that his unhappiness had more than one source.
“How could you girls do that?” he asked. “Sneak aboard a boat with people you didn’t know, then head off to places you weren’t sure of?” These weren’t really questions. More like accusations.
But Harriet, who had recovered her strength while standing up to her father, tried to take all the blame. “It was all my fault, Mr. Stone,” she said. “I made Vickie do it.”
He glanced at Harriet.
“I mean, I knew she wouldn’t let me go by myself—she’s too nice for that. And so I did something horrible. I know that she loves me, and I used that love to get what I wanted. It was a rotten thing to do, and I hope someday that she—and you—will forgive me.”
Well, that silenced Father for a minute. Me, too.