One Came Home Summary
While a funeral generally comes at the tail end of a life, our story begins with the protagonist, Georgie Burkhardt, staring down into an open grave everyone says belongs to her sister, Agatha. But Georgie's not buying it. She knows the body in that grave is badly decomposed, and the only things identifying it as her sister are Agatha's dress and a few locks of red hair.
Because this is Placid, Wisconsin in 1871, the forensic scientists from CSI aren't around to help out. The opinions of Sheriff McCabe, who found the body, and Georgie's Ma and Grandfather Bolte aren't enough to convince her, either, so Georgie decides to set out on her own to find out what really happened to her sister.
Georgie grudgingly allows Agatha's ex-boyfriend, Billy, to accompany her on her road trip to Dog Hollow, Wisconsin, where Agatha traveled with a bunch of pigeoners and then disappeared. Because pigeons are happening right now, too—1871 is the year of the biggest passenger pigeon nesting Wisconsin has ever seen, and there's loads of cash to made from this. Apparently, there's money in pigeons. Who knew?
As they travel, Georgie recalls everything that went down between her and Agatha, between Agatha and Billy, and between Agatha and her new squeeze, Mr. Benjamin Olmstead, from the time the pigeons arrived in February.
Following up on a lead they find in Dog Hollow, Billy and Georgie go to the Garrow family's farm outside of town. There, they discover that Darlene Garrow, a young woman about Agatha's age who has the same color hair, is also missing. Coincidence? No one thinks so.
They also stumble onto Mr. Garrow's counterfeiting operation. They run, but Mr. Garrow and one of his henchmen come after them, so they get into a shootout with Georgie and beat Billy so badly that he's close to death. Believing he's dying, Billy confesses that he wanted Georgie to see him kiss Agatha so she would tell and break up Agatha and Mr. Olmstead—which is exactly what Georgie's been feeling guilty about this whole time.
In a stroke of luck, Mr. Olmstead himself finds the two of them by the side of the road. He gets Billy to a doctor in Dog Hollow and takes Georgie home to Placid, where her Grandfather Bolte has died.
Georgie gets to be pretty tabloid famous for her shootout with the Garrow Gang, and a letter arrives from Agatha, who has no clue her disappearance has caused this much hubbub. She's studying natural sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is what she's always wanted to do. Later, Mrs. Garrow arrives. She has discovered that Darlene died in an accident and her husband dumped the body—wearing Agatha's dress, which Agatha sold to her.
Georgie decides to stop shooting pigeons and people, to stop killing anything in fact, because she's seen enough death.
- Chapter 1 occurs on Wednesday, June 7, 1871, the day of Agatha Burkhardt's funeral.
- Except Agatha's little sister, Georgie, doesn't believe the body in the coffin is Agatha's.
- As she stands by the open grave with Ma and Grandfather Bolte, Georgie recalls what brought them to this point.
- A couple of weeks before, Agatha ran off with some pigeoners, who are apparently people that chase pigeons for a living. Hey, a job's a job.
- Georgie flashes back to yesterday, when she went with Ma and Grandfather Bolte to identify the body Sheriff McCabe brought back when he went looking for Agatha.
- Georgie's glad she looked, even though the body was in bad shape, because now she knows that the only evidence the body is Agatha is that it's wearing Agatha's dress and has auburn hair.
- Georgie thinks everyone's jumping to conclusions, but Ma and Grandfather Bolte confirm that the body is Agatha's and don't want to hear any more lip about it.
- On the way home from identifying the body, Georgie tells Grandfather Bolte he needs to go look for Agatha because he's a better tracker than Sheriff McCabe.
- We find out that Agatha isn't the first Burkhardt to disappear—Georgie and Agatha's father left to search for gold in Colorado ten years ago, and they never heard from him again.
- Ma and Grandfather Bolte feel blessed to have a body this time, but Georgie jumps from the moving wagon and runs out her feelings.
- There's a large number of mourners at Agatha's funeral, including her two suitors, Billy McCabe and Mr. Benjamin Olmstead.
- Georgie recalls that she saw Billy kiss Agatha after she'd turned him down and while she was seeing Mr. Olmstead; Georgie still disapproves of Agatha's two-timing.
- So Georgie told Mr. Olmstead about it. Apparently, her sense of justice outdoes her sense of loyalty to her sister.
- Georgie describes Mr. Olmstead as the well-to-do owner of Olmstead Hotel, Billy as the local heartbreaker every girl falls for, and Polly Barfod (Billy's new fiancée) as nowhere near as cool as her sister.
- Georgie thinks it's ridiculous that in the two weeks since Agatha ran away, Sheriff McCabe found a body, and now they're having a funeral.
- As the mourners pile dirt on the coffin, Georgie flashes back to another memory of Agatha.
- Georgie's still at the funeral, trying to tune out Reverend Leland and focus on the Wisconsin River instead.
- She recalls that, earlier in the year, giant flocks of pigeons nested everywhere around, but their nesting ended right before Agatha ran away.
- Georgie thinks of a day at the end of March when the pigeons came to Placid, Wisconsin, the flocks blocking the sun and dropping, well, pigeon droppings, everywhere.
- That day, Agatha took a parasol and ran into the middle of the street, toward the approaching flocks. She held the parasol up and spun under the pigeons as the flock broke around her shape.
- She called to Georgie, but Georgie was too scared to come.
- Georgie finally cries when she remembers how she was too afraid to spin with Agatha, and she runs away from Mount Zion Cemetery when Grandfather Bolte tries to comfort her.
- After she runs away from the funeral, Georgie takes her Springfield single-shot to the river to shoot gin bottles. Good times.
- She has a list beside her, titled "For Journey."
- Georgie is still remembering everything that led up to Agatha's disappearance.
- She remembers a fight Agatha had with Grandfather Bolte in November: Agatha wanted her Christmas present to be money for tuition for the University of Wisconsin at Madison—she'd already saved enough for the first year.
- Grandfather Bolte thought it was a waste because she'd be spending all that money just to get a husband. Sexist much, Grandpa B?
- Georgie recalls agreeing with Grandfather Bolte that a degree wouldn't lead to a job and thinking that she really didn't want Agatha to leave her.
- Georgie's memory skips to Christmas Day, when she received all the ammunition she could shoot from the store, while Agatha got a lovely blue-green ball gown, which she wore to the New Year's ball at the Olmstead Hotel. Agatha danced with Billy all night, and everyone said they'd soon be engaged.
- Georgie didn't like that idea either because Billy would take Agatha away to homestead in Minnesota.
- Between memories, Georgie returns to firing at bottles.
- She thinks back to May, by which time she knew Agatha must have turned Billy down but had also seen her kiss him recently. We'll give Georgie this: It is a confusing situation.
- By mid-May, Agatha hadn't been speaking to Georgie for a while because Georgie told Mr. Olmstead about the kiss.
- Ten days before Agatha left, she told Georgie a Seneca story about an old man and some pigeons, in which the old man uses pigeon feathers to choose a path to follow.
- That same night, Georgie and Agatha had another fight about Georgie's tattle-telling ways and about whether Agatha was going to stay in Placid and inherit Grandfather Bolte's store with Georgie.
- Georgie remembers that the date Agatha left was Thursday, May 25. No one thought it was odd for a couple of days, but by Sunday, they were worried.
- The following Monday, Georgie discovered that Agatha's savings was gone and Grandfather Bolte heard from a field hand that Agatha had been seen leaving town with pigeoners.
- On Tuesday, May 30, Sheriff McCabe left to track Agatha, and on Tuesday, June 6, he returned with a body.
- Georgie shoots one final bottle and considers her list, "For Journey." She needs a horse.
- The night of Agatha's funeral, Georgie lets herself back into her room by way of the oak tree outside her window, in classic middle grade tomboy fashion.
- She pretends to be asleep when Ma comes in because she doesn't want to talk about Agatha being dead. Can't say we blame her.
- In the middle of the night, Georgie gets up to work on her "For Journey" list. She adds food—always helpful—and The Prairie Traveler: A Hand-Book for Overland Expeditions by Randolph B. Marcy. Because it's always nice to take a good book on a road trip.
- Georgie plans to get the items Marcy recommends from the store, leaving an IOU; she'll wear her split skirt for riding and take a photo of Agatha.
- She admits she's planning to go to Dog Hollow, where Sheriff McCabe found the body.
- The one thing she can't get on her own is a horse, so she plans to ask Billy McCabe for help because the McCabes raise horses.
- The next day, she tells Billy her plan and asks for the loan of a horse. They argue about horse quality and price, and Billy, like everyone else, tries to convince her that Agatha is dead.
- Georgie challenges him to tell her what really happened the day he and Agatha kissed, but he won't. He's all none of your business about it.
- Finally, Billy agrees to take Georgie's five Bechtler gold coins in exchange for delivering a horse to Mount Zion Cemetery on Saturday night.
- It begins to storm, and Georgie tells us it wouldn't rain again until October. Huh.
- Georgie tries to avoid Ma and Grandfather Bolte during the two days before her departure.
- At 11:00PM on Saturday, she gets up, dresses, leaves a note on her desk, then she gets her trusty Springfield single-shot, which Grandfather Bolte has freshly cleaned.
- Billy is slightly late, but he finally arrives, riding a horse named Storm and leading… a mule named Frederick.
- Billy tells her he's loaning her the mule and equipment and returns her gold Bechtler dollars.
- Also, he's going with her.
- Georgie is not pleased, and she's even less pleased that he sees how hard it is for her to mount the mule and how little respect the mule gives her.
- She reluctantly admits to herself that Billy is quite a looker, but he's still a wannabe cowboy with a cheap hat and a repeating rifle that says he's not as good a shot as she is.
- They ride about a mile and stop for the night in an abandoned pigeoners' camp.
- Billy shares Georgie's lean-to, which annoys her, however she does sneak a peek at him in his long underwear.
- She recalls how Billy has always taken care of his younger brothers since his mother died in childbirth when he was eight.
- She and Billy sleep back to back for warmth, but Georgie can't sleep because she's thinking of a day in February. Guess we'd better get ready for another flashback.
- Georgie describes some of the habits of wild pigeons and lists the times she's seen them that year: in February, in March, and in April, when they finally nested five miles west of Placid.
- Georgie remembers that on February 28, winter finally seemed to be ending, so everyone was excited, including Agatha and Georgie.
- Because they were too hyper to be any help in the store, Ma agreed to let them off work.
- They decided to track the pigeons, so Agatha took a sketchbook and Georgie got her rifle, which Agatha was not happy about.
- As they walked, Georgie realized they were heading for the McCabes'. Georgie recalls how Agatha and Billy have been an off-and-on item for about four years.
- Georgie got mad at Agatha for wanting to see Billy and ran off, upset to think how Billy would take Agatha away to Minnesota.
- She shot a large male pigeon, getting blood all over her coat.
- She returned to find Agatha alone, waiting for her. Agatha gave her a hard time about the coat, and they tried to clean it.
- Georgie asked Agatha what was up with her and Billy, but Agatha wouldn't answer and they got in a fight.
- At home, Georgie got more grief from Ma about her messy clothes and coat, but Grandfather Bolte was impressed that she got the pigeon with one shot.
- On a totally unrelated note, Grandfather Bolte decided to go order some barrels and other supplies for pigeoners.
- It seemed like a gamble at the time, but he ended up making a ton of cash because there were so many pigeons that year.
- Georgie wakes up in the lean-to, having slept well despite herself.
- She tries to think of ways to get rid of Billy.
- When she walks outside, she sees the world covered in feathers and marvels at how many pigeons must have been killed (that, or there was a massive pillow fight). She remembers there were a lot of pigeoners.
- Georgie recalls that back in March, everyone in Placid hoped the pigeons would return to nest because it would mean a lot of money for the town.
- While they were all waiting to see what the pigeons would do, Mr. Benjamin Olmstead asked Grandfather Bolte if he could court Agatha.
- Mr. Benjamin Olmstead is the richest dude in town, so that was fine by everyone but Georgie, especially when she discovered Mr. Olmstead trying to buy her sister's love with books about birds. We guess flowers work for some girls, and feathers work for others.
- In mid-April, the pigeons came back and nested in a huge L shape five miles out of town. Feathered gold.
- Georgie resents the fact that she had to stay busy seeing to pigeoners' needs at the store while Agatha got to go "bird watching" with Mr. Olmstead any hour of the day.
- She remembers how she kept thinking of ways to get between Agatha and Mr. Olmstead. Jealous much, Georgie?
- Finally, at the beginning of May, she saw Billy kiss Agatha and went and tattled to Mr. Olmstead. Mission accomplished—or so she thought.
- Back in the present, Billy's cooking up a delicious breakfast.
- Now Georgie really wants to know why Billy kissed Agatha, so she decides she'd better keep him around.
- Georgie is still having trouble riding and controlling Frederick the Mule, but she knows she needs to hurry because Ma and Grandfather Bolte will find her note and send someone after her this morning.
- Georgie discovers that the mule, whom she has rechristened "Long Ears," is in love with Storm and will follow her anywhere, forsaking both his own dignity and Georgie's.
- They ride through the remains of the pigeon nesting, which is mostly covered in a nice thick layer of pigeon poop that gets all over everything. Lovely.
- Long Ears falls behind Storm, and Georgie completely loses sight of Billy.
- As they ride through a clearing of felled trees, Georgie sees all sorts of creepy-crawly things and small predators.
- Then a cougar jumps out of the woods.
- Georgie has no choice but to confront the cougar because Long Ears definitely can't run fast enough to get her away from it.
- She pulls out her Springfield single-shot and promptly drops it in a pile of pigeon poop. So that's unfortunate.
- She starts throwing everything she can find at the cougar, but the cougar doesn't much care.
- Finally, it occurs to her to yell for Billy.
- Before Billy arrives, the cougar decides to calmly walk off. Billy sees it and fires at it, but it's already out of range.
- All Georgie's stuff is now covered in pigeon poop. She walks around trying to retrieve it, but has a little breakdown (understandable) so Billy gives her a nice, brotherly hug.
- Since all four of them are now covered in pigeon poop, Billy and Georgie ride their mounts into the Wisconsin River for an overdue bath.
- Georgie goes upstream to bathe in private, but she gets super nervous again when she's on her own. She feels the same way when Billy leaves her later to take his own bath—cougars could be anywhere.
- That night around the campfire, Georgie thinks about what a cutie Billy McCabe actually is: She understands now what all the girls see in him, and she feels kind of nervous.
- She tries to make some canned biscuits, which end up hard as a rock. (It's news to us that canned biscuits existed in 1871, but we guess everyone loves a quick and easy meal.)
- Georgie pumps Billy for information about his relationship with Agatha, but he's not talking, and instead he just says he loves Polly Barfod now, and he's going to marry her.
- He says Agatha turned him down for good that day in February when the pigeons came.
- Georgie thinks he's hiding something, though.
- Georgie remembers that she knew she shouldn't tell Mr. Olmstead about that kiss in May, but she really felt he had a right to know—and of course, she wanted to break them up and have Agatha all to herself.
- She recalls that Mr. Olmstead's office reflected his love of books and birds and maybe he and Agatha were totally a legit couple, after all.
- She recaps their conversation and remembers that a couple of days later Agatha stopped speaking to her and said she couldn't marry a man (Mr. O) who didn't trust her.
- Georgie kind of blames herself for telling Mr. Olmstead, thus setting in motion a series of events that led to her sister's death. Yep, she probably should have minded her own business.
- Billy and Georgie get into a tiff over whom Billy loves/loved: Agatha or Polly, and whether or not Georgie is too young to understand anything.
- Georgie cleans her rifle, and Billy says he likes her when they're not fighting, so they shouldn't fight.
- She's still too scared of cougars to sleep, so Billy puts the tent up around her and promises to sleep at the opening with his repeater.
- Georgie dreams about Agatha, and when she does, she's trying to hold Agatha's hand, but she can't hold on.
- Billy and Georgie make it into Dog Hollow, the nearest town to where Agatha's body was found.
- Billy gives Georgie money to buy food, and she goes into the general store.
- Georgie gets into some serious bargaining with the store owner, whom she nicknames Pin Eyes. Pin Eyes is not very nice at all until Georgie pulls out her photo of Agatha and asks if she's seen a girl like that.
- Thinking of her two brothers who were killed in the Civil War, Pin Eyes softens up a little bit. It's clear she thinks Agatha is dead, but she holds out hope.
- Georgie leaves the store and asks three men sitting on a porch if they've seen Agatha. They might have, but they're not very forthcoming with their information.
- Some people won't talk at all, and others will just say they saw a girl who looked like Agatha, but they don't know anything else.
- Pin Eyes calls Georgie back inside the store and shows her a medicine bottle. She says Agatha was traveling with a man who gave his name as "Metcalf" and sold medicines—there were two men and two women together in all, but Pin Eyes doesn't know where they went.
- Pin Eyes says Agatha was definitely traveling with some unsavory characters, and she wouldn't be surprised if harm came to her.
- As Georgie leaves the store, she sees Billy coming out of the telegraph office. She runs into the telegraph office and tries to get the operator to tell her about the message Billy sent—Georgie thinks nothing of committing felonies with the mail if it will get her information about Agatha.
- Georgie confronts Billy about the telegram and he confesses that he was sending a message back to Placid to let their families know what's up.
- Turns out Grandfather Bolte knows all about Georgie's plan to search for Agatha: that's why he cleaned her Springfield. They all thought a little road trip would help Georgie accept Agatha's death.
- Grandfather Bolte is paying Billy to go with Georgie and look out for her, which does not sit well with Georgie at all.
- Over dinner, Billy shows Georgie a map his dad, Sheriff McCabe, drew to show where the body was found.
- She questions him again about the kiss, and he says it was just a goodbye kiss because Agatha told him she was going to marry Mr. Olmstead.
- Georgie is still suspicious: She doesn't think anybody whistles over a goodbye kiss. Good point, Georgie.
- Georgie sleeps in the open, not caring if a cougar gets her anymore.
- She's afraid Agatha really is dead.
- Billy and Georgie ride out of Dog Hollow to the site where Sheriff McCabe found the body.
- Georgie is upset because there's nothing remarkable about the spot—it's just somewhere on the side of the road.
- Georgie has a total breakdown when Billy removes his hat out of respect; she runs away from him, up the side of a hill.
- She sees a pile of rocks and thinks Agatha must have left a clue there, so she pulls the rock pile apart, getting covered with bugs in the process, but there's nothing there.
- Georgie rests on the bluff, thinking about everything that has happened, considering all the evidence for and against Agatha's death.
- She concludes that Agatha probably is dead and has herself a good wrenching, screaming fit.
- When she returns to Billy, he's still standing in the road where she left him, acting like everything's cool.
- They decide to thoroughly investigate the crime scene, just to make sure they haven't missed anything.
- Billy and Georgie are back in Dog Hollow. They've turned around and are heading home.
- Georgie questions her motives for the trip: Why can't she just face the fact that Agatha is dead?
- She's also annoyed at Billy and Grandfather Bolte and Sheriff McCabe for using her own plan to get her to accept Agatha's death.
- She's mad at herself for telling Mr. Olmstead about the kiss, and she blames herself for Agatha's death.
- When she looks in a mirror, Georgie realizes she messed up her face pretty badly by falling on a bunch of rocks in her temper tantrum.
- She realizes she needs to know one more thing, so she returns to the general store, where she asks Pin Eyes where the pigeoners went after they left Dog Hollow.
- Pin Eyes doesn't know for sure, but she thinks they seemed like possible associates of the Garrows, who are also unsavory characters.
- Georgie convinces Billy to follow one more lead by visiting the Garrows to see if they know anything.
- Reluctantly, Billy agrees and telegraphs this information back to Placid.
- The Garrows live eight miles outside of Dog Hollow on the bluffs overlooking the Wisconsin River.
- Billy and Georgie take the Old Line Road, which is not so much a road as a path in need of maintenance; along the way, they get devoured by mosquitoes.
- At 6:00PM, they arrive at the Garrow Farm.
- Billy has to clean Georgie up with spit and a hairbrush because what with her face-plant into a pile of rocks and the mosquitoes, she looks too rough to go visiting.
- The farm is in a really inconvenient, out-of-the-way place, and the first person they see is a young girl with red hair, who promptly runs into the house calling for her mother.
- Mrs. Garrow comes out of the house, and they introduce themselves, but Mrs. G. is none too friendly.
- Billy asks about a girl of Agatha's description, but Mrs. Garrow assumes he means her daughter Darlene, who has eloped with a guy named Morgy Harrison.
- She also jumps to conclusions about Billy and Georgie's relationship, assuming they are a couple (gross) and that Billy has beaten Georgie in the face. Lovely.
- Georgie interrupts, explaining that Billy was asking about Agatha, not Darlene. She's wondering if somehow Agatha might have given Darlene the dress.
- Mrs. Garrow says there's no chance Darlene and Agatha ever would have met (though if you ask us, that's like mystery novel code for, "Yes, absolutely").
- Now Mr. Garrow comes out of the house. He seems slightly friendlier than his wife, but he clearly wants them gone.
- Georgie thinks he looks confused when he sees the picture of Agatha, but he sends them on their way.
- Mr. Garrow tells them they'll have to take Old Line Road back out because Miller Road on the other side isn't really passable.
- As they prepare to leave, the little girl comes over to admire Long Ears, and Georgie notices that her hair ribbon is made of the same blue-green fabric as Agatha's dress.
- She distracts the little girl with a licorice stick and steals the hair ribbon. And just like that, Georgie has stooped to stealing hair ribbons from little girls.
- To avoid the mosquitoes, Georgie and Billy ignore Mr. Garrow's instructions and keep going in the same direction, planning to loop back around to Dog Hollow.
- The hair ribbon gives Georgie new hope that Agatha is alive, but she's so tired that all she wants to do is find a place to camp for the night.
- As they sit around the campfire, Georgie and Billy agree that they should go back to the Garrows' because two young women with auburn hair missing plus the hair ribbon add up to something not quite making sense.
- Billy admits he's actually starting to think Agatha might be alive.
- Billy decides it's not a good idea for him and Georgie to return to the Garrows' farm alone, though, since he's thinking the Garrows may be up to no good. Instead they should bring a posse.
- Billy clearly has a serious case of the feels here: Now he's thinking they shouldn't go back to the Garrows' at all because Agatha must be dead and they might have something to do with it.
- Georgie establishes in her own mind that Billy must still be in love with Agatha; she also decides to ditch him and return to the Garrows' place on her own. Sounds like another smart move for Georgie.
- To trick Billy, she pretends to agree that they should go home and tell Sheriff McCabe what they've learned.
- Billy, who is now feeling a bit weepy, tells Georgie she's figured out more than his pa did.
- In turn, Georgie tells him he can't marry Polly if he's still in love with Agatha—he should wait until someone like her comes along.
- Billy says he's in love with Polly for sure, but Georgie is the best part of the trip.
- Georgie's feeling a bit embarrassed by that whole sort-of-proposing-marriage-to-Billy thing, so she's happy to let him read The Prairie Traveler while she goes off to climb a hill.
- When she reaches the top, she sees that Billy is still reading.
- Then she sees a cave, steps on pine boards, and discovers some stairs.
- She returns to Billy carrying a five-dollar note she found in the cave.
- Georgie and Billy explore the cave together and discover a whole lot of counterfeit bank notes.
- Georgie also discovers she doesn't like being in caves and is perhaps a bit claustrophobic. She sits down to recover and thinks about how much has happened in the last four months. Again.
- Then Billy finds the printing press with plates.
- They put two and two together and realize Mr. Garrow is a counterfeiter, and he's probably already after them, so they need to get out of Dodge pronto.
- They break camp, trying to make it look like they were never even there.
- Georgie still hasn't had any sleep, and now they're riding at night. They ride all night, trying to cover their tracks and confuse anyone following them.
- Georgie thinks they make it off the trail and onto Old Miller Road.
- At daybreak, they camp again, and Georgie falls asleep fast.
- Georgie wakes up feeling heat all around her and in the wounds on her face. That's never a good sign.
- Billy is still asleep, so she borrows his repeating rifle and goes hunting to try to reestablish some sense of normalcy.
- She just wants to go back to the way things were before all of this happened.
- Then she hears a gunshot and a bray from Long Ears.
- As she creeps up on the camp, Georgie sees that two men have Billy tied to a tree, and it sounds like they've been beating him up—he's lying to them, telling them Georgie has run off.
- They don't believe him.
- One of the men, whom she nicknames "Bowler Hat" for his choice in headgear, pretends he's going to shoot Billy with the single-shot.
- The other man is Mr. Garrow.
- Georgie works out that if she shoots once, she and the men will immediately be in a shootout.
- She decides to choose her ground because those men are responsible for Agatha's death, and they're hurting Billy, and they will kill her, too, if they can.
- She crawls to a concealed place between two boulders and uses her filthy skirt to conceal the glint of the rifle.
- She waits for a long time, realizing she needs both men in range before she shoots.
- Bowler Hat is looking for Georgie, but Billy tries to warn him off, telling him she's the best shot in town and she's got a repeating rifle.
- This makes Bowler Hat a bit skittish, which is understandable.
- Meanwhile, Georgie decides she doesn't want to kill the men and starts seriously debating what happens after death.
- She decides to aim at the gun in Bowler Hat's hand, and she manages to shoot both the gun and his thumb off with it.
- She starts shooting, and once the men get what they came for (the plates Billy took), they hightail it out of there.
- Georgie runs to Billy and realizes he's in bad shape. She salvages what she can from the camp, including the blue-green ribbon.
- She wonders why Mr. Garrow didn't take it with him as evidence he had killed Agatha.
- Because Billy can't get onto Storm, she heaves him onto Long Ears, then she goes back to get her skirt and the gold Bechtler dollars inside it.
- There's a bullet hole in the skirt, but fortunately she wasn't wearing it when the hole was made.
- Georgie knows Billy needs a doctor, but she can't decide where to go: Placid is too far away, but the bad guys will expect them to head back to Dog Hollow.
- She decides to postpone the decision until she gets to a literal crossroads and has to go one way or the other. Check out that literal and figurative meaning.
- Billy is in a lot of pain, and he asks for one of Agatha's stories, so Georgie tells him the one about the old dude who followed the pigeon feathers.
- At the crossroads, Georgie asks Billy to tell her which way to go, but he passes out and falls off Long Ears. Really helpful, Billy.
- Georgie isn't sure what to do, and Billy chooses this moment for an awkward confession: He staged the kiss so Georgie would tell and Mr. Olmstead would break up with Agatha.
- Georgie is not happy about this; she stalks off.
- Then she remembers Billy is dying and feels badly, so she comes back, though she makes it clear that they are not friends anymore.
- As they're sitting there, a wagon pulls up, driven by none other than Mr. Olmstead.
- Mr. Olmstead takes Georgie and Billy back to the American House Hotel in Dog Hollow, where a bath, a room, and new clothes are waiting for Georgie.
- When Georgie wakes up from a long summer's nap, Mrs. Tartt, the owner, tells her Mr. Olmstead is waiting for her on the front porch.
- Instead of going straight to Mr. Olmstead, though, Georgie goes to the train station to ask if anyone saw Agatha leave town.
- She doesn't get much of an answer from the stationmaster, who thinks she's there to gossip about Darlene Garrow's elopement.
- When Georgie talks to Mr. Olmstead, he tells her there's a posse after Mr. Garrow and Bowler Hat already, and he also asks her some questions about what happened and tells her Billy told him about the kiss, too. He says he should have listened to Agatha.
- Then he gives her the bad news: Grandfather Bolte has been dead for two days.
- Mr. Olmstead and Georgie return to Placid. Georgie rides Long Ears, whom she has now accepted for who he is—a faithful mule.
- They ride into town on the day of the funeral, just in time to see the mourners leaving the cemetery.
- Georgie is looking for Ma, who takes her in her arms, whispering, "One came home!" (20.20) in reference to the fact that Agatha and Pa Burkhardt didn't.
- Also at the funeral is Georgie's Aunt Cleo, whom she has never met.
- As Ma, Aunt Cleo, and Georgie leave, Georgie notices that Ma blushes when she looks at Sheriff McCabe.
- Back at home, Aunt Cleo gives Georgie an excuse to stay upstairs while the mourners take over the house.
- Ma comes up some time later, and they talk. Ma tells Georgie that Agatha hasn't written: this was Georgie's last hope.
- Later, Georgie compares the blue-green ribbon to the cloth from which the dress was cut. It's a definite match.
- She's beginning to think it must have been Darlene Garrow, not Agatha, who was killed.
- She goes over all the evidence for and against Agatha's death again, wondering if her trip was a total waste.
- She starts crying when she realizes how glad she is to be home.
- Grandfather Bolte's funeral is Saturday, June 17, 1871. On the same day, a federal marshal arrests the Garrow Gang.
- Mrs. Garrow remains at large.
- Due to her involvement—and also to her shooting a guy's thumb off—Georgie becomes fodder for the newspapers; the paparazzi harass her day and night.
- Georgie tells the whole story to Ma, Aunt Cleo, Sheriff McCabe, and Mr. Olmstead, giving them the evidence she's discovered for and against Agatha's death and leaving them to work it out.
- They all apologize to each other for all the misunderstandings.
- It turns out Ma and Sheriff McCabe are getting married next week.
- Georgie is cool with this except for the whole Billy situation—she's still mad.
- Billy is finally well enough to come home from Dog Hollow at the beginning of July. He apologizes again to Georgie, but it's an awkward conversation. She's mad but also knows they went through some stuff together, so they'll always have a bond.
- Later in the summer, Billy marries Polly and they leave for Minnesota.
- Aunt Cleo decides to stay and help run the store, and Georgie buys Long Ears from Sheriff McCabe.
- To take her mind off things, Georgie keeps busy in the store.
- She also writes letters to Morgy Harrison, Mrs. Garrow, and the University of Wisconsin, all in an attempt to find out what happened to Agatha.
- She goes out to the river to say goodbye to Agatha in her own way, talking to the wind and blowing dandelion seeds, thinking of feathers, and giving Long Ears an apple.
- On July 24, a letter arrives from Agatha, telling them where she is, why she left, and why they haven't heard from her.
- She had no idea they thought she was dead until she saw the hullaballoo about the Garrow Gang in the newspapers.
- She's at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- Georgie is really mad until she realizes she ran off, too, and they're all so happy that Agatha is alive.
- She's also proud of Agatha for figuring out how to get an education.
- More letters are exchanged, and by now 1871 has become the year of a massive drought—it hasn't rained since the beginning of June.
- Ma and Sheriff McCabe decide to honeymoon in Madison in November. Agatha asks them to bring Mr. Olmstead along. Hint, hint.
- In September, Mrs. Garrow shows up at the store asking for a guide to the cemetery.
- Ma and Georgie take her, assuming she wants to see Grandfather Bolte's grave, like many who come to pay their respects.
- Mrs. Garrow wants to see Agatha's grave, though, because it turns out the body is Darlene Garrow's.
- Darlene was shot accidentally when Mr. Garrow and Morgy Harrison were arguing about the elopement.
- Mr. Garrow tried to hide his involvement in Darlene's death from his wife by dumping the body on Miller Road, where Sheriff McCabe found it.
- Mrs. Garrow is really mad, obviously, and can't go near her husband anyway because she would also be arrested.
- She leaves the money for a new tombstone. It's counterfeit, but they use it anyway and put Agatha's in the cellar with its face to the wall.
- On Sunday, October 8, fires start along the shore of Lake Michigan. Now people instead of pigeons pour into Placid, refugees and victims of the fires.
- Georgie pays her respects often to those fire victims who die in Placid, wanting to them to know they're remembered—she has come to really value life.
- She even puts away the Springfield, not wanting to take life anymore, wanting to be like Agatha, spinning under the pigeons and finding her place in the world.