I don’t know that I can think of anything that would have surprised me more than that announcement. The last time Harriet and I had seen Boyle was back on Green Island, where he had flung us into Lake Erie with all the concern of a careless candy-eater tossing a wrapper out of a car window. I’d caught a glimpse of him, lumbering back into the dense woods on the island. And then … nothing else. No news of him or of Vickie’s father, Dr. Eastbrook, who’d been using the abandoned lighthouse there for … well, for more of his experiments with blending life forms, of bringing to life creatures assembled from various … parts. And I’m not even sure any of the authorities—except Father—even believed me when I told the story of what I’d seen in that lighthouse.
I stared at Vickie. She still looked as chirpy and happy as a kid who just got a bunny for her birthday. “But, Vickie,” I said, “why is it good news that Boyle is back? I can’t think of anything worse!”
“I know,” she said, digging in the box for another package of graham crackers. “When my mother told me, I almost freaked.” She looked at me: “Like you just did.”
“But how did your mother know he was back?”
“She saw him and his dad out at the mall.”
“Yeah”—she was now tearing into a new package—“they were going into one of those Big and Tall shops out there.”
“Let me guess who needs Big and Tall.”
“My mom sort of slipped into the store and listened to them,” Vickie went on. “And that’s when she heard that Boyle is back—but also not back.”
“What does that mean?”
“Boyle is not going to our school. He’s going to S.O.P.”
S.O.P. was short for Southern Ohio Prep, a private school for grades 7-12 not far from Franconia.[i] It had a reputation for hard classes and championship football teams.
“S.O.P.?” I snorted with disgust. “He’ll flunk out in a week. Maybe less.”
“Oh no, he won’t,” said Harriet. “He’s going to play football.”
Later, thinking about this news, I was, of course, relieved that he wasn’t going to be living in Franconia, attending our school. But still … why was he back in circulation? And how could he be? The Boyle I had seen back on Green Island was barely humanoid—could not have walked down a street anywhere without attracting S.W.A.T. units from every surrounding county. And what about Vickie’s father? Surely this was part of some other move on his part to keep doing what he was doing. But how was it going to affect Vickie? And her mom? And my dad and me?