All that orphaned Browning knows about his father, a stranger in town just long enough to marry and impregnate Browning's mother before signing on the lake boat Neptune II and going down with it in Lake Michigan, is that the newspaper reporting the disaster listed his home as Seagull's Point, Mich. Now Mrs. Hudson, the woman for whom Browning baby-sits, is taking her child Gavin on a Michigan vacation, and Browning, who will go along, suggests Seagull's Point. (Coincidentally, the town is also near where the ship went down.) Browning has daydreamed about his father for years and now he'll have the chance to do some spadework Oddly, though, no one in the small town has heard of James Edward Carrington, and neither the local museum's shipping material nor the cove where wreckage washes up yields a clue. But Browning goes on, imagining that his father was a hero, was lost through ""a crack in the lake,"" was saved but afflicted with amnesia, or still circles in an underwater whirlpool waiting for his son to find him. All this is luridly projected and revved up with such cheap thrills as a tapping on Browning's bedroom window (it turns out to be a branch in the wind) and a fierce electrical storm that terrifies him: ""A bolt of lightning. . .a scorching stench. . .a gigantic crash. The earth shook . . .He caught his breath, paralyzed with fear. Had a tree fallen--or was the whole earth rising up to fight to powers of the water? Would he and the road be flung into Lake Michigan and disappear like all those phantom ships?"" Eventually, Mrs. Hudson does some research and discovers that a man named James C. Edwards had been in Seagull's Point only long enough to marry and impregnate another young woman before going off, changing his name, and dying at 22. Well, that's a blow, but after a walk on the beach the emotional agitation that has driven Browning turns into an accepting recognition that Gram, Mrs. Hudson, and Gavin are his true loving family. Sleazy turmoil.