Roy and Beatrice have finally arrived at the emergency room, so Beatrice has accepted Roy’s advice. Roy has protected her brother by giving his own name and address in place of Mullet Fingers’. When Dr. Gonzalez questions the two of them about “Roy’s” dog bite, it’s obvious she suspects them of lying, but backs off eventually. Then, Beatrice decides to leave Mullet Fingers in Roy’s hands so she can go home and feed her father. When he insists she tell him Mullet Fingers real name before she goes, she refuses, because she has made her brother a blood promise not to reveal it. So, Roy reads an Outdoor Life magazine and then gets up to wander around the hospital rather than watch patients brought in by ambulance. When he returns to the ER, he hears the voices of his parents arguing with medical officials to be allowed to see their son, so he opens the double doors and reveals himself. Just before he does so, however, Dr. Gonzalez appears and agrees to allow them to see “Roy.” They are all totally surprised when she pulls back the curtain to see that the bed where Mullet Fingers had been laying is now empty with the IV dripping on the floor. Roy then walks a fine line trying to explain who the boy in the bed is and why he gave his name instead. In the end, Roy can only say, “I don’t know the boy’s name, and I don’t know where he is.”
It’s obvious from this chapter that Roy is now committed even more to protecting Mullet Fingers, but he is also more mature in his concern than the average teenager. He has insisted on taking the running boy to the hospital and in this decision may have saved his life. Ironically, he is strong enough to force the running boy to the ER, but his stomach is too weak to watch patients brought in by ambulance.
When the Eberhardts arrive home, Roy knows he has to face the “den.” This is a code word for Roy’s father sitting down with him whenever there’s some serious explaining to be done. When he enters the den, he is carrying a book his parents had gotten him for Christmas: The Sibley Guide to Birds. Roy explains that he’s reading about the Burrowing Owl, and then he tells his father everything except about the snakes. He insists that Mullet Fingers is not a bad kid at all. He’s just trying to save the owls. However, Mr. Eberhardt tells his son that there’s not much they can do, since the Pancake House owns the property. They then take a walk together, and Mr. Eberhardt voices his concern for the family situation in the Leep home. But he does tell Roy that he will spend some time thinking very seriously about the situation.
Later that night, when she comes to tuck him in, Roy’s mother reminds him that what he did at the hospital, even though he did it for the right reasons, was still a lie. However, Roy says he would do it the same way if he had to do it all over again. She reinforces then that what he did was go with his best judgment, and that’s the proper way to go. She is further appalled by Lonna Leep who doesn’t want Mullet Fingers back. She can’t imagine a mother who doesn’t want her son. She tells him she loves him and that both she and his father are very proud of him. Now all Roy has to do is continue to find a way to settle the argument between his heart and his brain.
The den in the Eberhardt home is a metaphor for the environment a parent must create in order to teach his child the right way to live. By talking out the problems there, Roy learns from his father and his father learns from him how to be a man of integrity. Also, Roy’s parents are symbols of what true parents should be. They are an antithesis to Lonna Leep who doesn’t even want her own child and treats her family irresponsibly.