The gig was up. I told them everything. The military police can be very intimidating, and being as new as I was to the Air Force I had no experience with these matters. For all I knew, I could end up in Leavenworth for my actions. (A note here: Leavenworth is reserved for personnel who have committed much worse acts than destroying stuffed animals.) I was wholly unfamiliar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Nor was I prepared to throw Lana and Belinda under the bus. I told the officer that they had nothing to do with my actions. I was taken into a room with my friends. The rosy Bitburger-induced flush of just an hour ago was replaced by a ghostly pallor. They were, as I was, filled with dread. I was seated at a long conference table facing them. Each of them looked at me, their eyes searching mine for some kind of assurance that this was all going to go away. The officer told me to go over the details again, of the night I mangled the deer and the following night when the girls and I placed the eyes on the message board. The girls listened to my every word as a child watches a jack-in-the box, knowing it will pop open and surprise them any moment. There was no surprise. I took the fall. I told the officer that it was my idea to tape the eyes onto the board, that I had enlisted Lana and Belinda’s help. I asked that they not be reprimanded in any way, although I knew that I had no authority to decide their fates. The officer left the room in authoritative silence. Belinda’s head fell to the table. Lana looked at me in shock, mouth dropped in chagrin. She began to laugh. This was Lana’s way, I would come to find, to find humor in tragedy so that it would not overcome her. It was a valuable lesson that I would learn from her and a quality that made her one of the wisest women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Belinda was overwhelmed, bemoaning the fact that she ever got involved. Lana put her arm around her friend, rocking her a bit and assuring her that it would all work out. I apologized to the girls and told them that I would not let them take any blame for my actions if there was a shred of control to be had on my part. The officer came back into the room, resigned. He told Lana and Belinda that they were free to go, they would not be charged with anything in relation to this matter. Belinda was audibly grateful in comparison to Lana’s stoic silence. She looked at me as if to signal her support before both girls got up and exited the room, after which the officer ordered me to stand and follow him. I was arrested and paperwork was filed for destruction of personal property. My section commander, Lieutenant Harkins, was called from slumber to pick me up from Security Police and take me back to the dorms. I don’t think he was very impressed with his new Airman.