Summarized from the Apple TV+ Series "Home Before Dark"
The day we arrived in Erie Harbor, we passed a lady having a garage sale two blocks from our new house, except it was 3:00 on a weekday and, of course, no one was there.
So I decided to investigate because that’s what I do. I’m Hildi Lysko and I’m a 9 year old reporter. Please don’t laugh, many do.
The lady hosting the sale was a Ms. Penny Gillis. I asked her why she was having a yard sale when everyone’s busy. She cleverly responded, “Well, you’re here”. I shopped around for myself, keeping a tight catalog of everything on the tables. She asked about my dad, Matthew, like anyone would if you haven’t seen each other in 25 years, but she asked as if she knew there was something wrong.
She walked me home and asked me to give my dad his old green bike (which apparently he’d left when he moved 25 years ago). I wonder why he left it?
Later that night, sirens filled the street, so I followed, pushing fast on my scooter. They led me to Gillis’ house. Police claimed she’d died by falling down her basement stairs trying to change a light bulb. But I knew there was more to the story. I’d just met the woman this afternoon. She seemed right in the mind, not like someone who would miss a step and not even catch herself. I scanned the area before a condescending policeman, Sheriff Briggs, sent me away. I saw a shoe print in the front garden shrubbery soil and clipped padlocks on the garage door.
When I got home, I sprinted to my laptop. Back home in Brooklyn, I had my own neighborhood newspaper, but now I had to start from scratch. My first headline: “Murder in Erie Harbor?”. Backlash and scrutiny followed the next day from those who doubted my 9 year old intuition (or “imagination” as they put it), but I persisted, nonetheless. I went to the police dept. and kindly requested the Penny Gillis police file (as the public is allowed to view). After more condescension from beer belly policemen, Lt. Trip took me aside. She, however, allowed me to see the file. Probably because she hated when the male policemen looked down on her, too.
I sifted through forensic pictures, but noticed something was missing in a picture of her yard sale items. From memory, I drew the missing object on my trusty notepad; Trip recognized it as a VCR. She asked if my dad lived back here in ‘88. That winter, the Mayor’s son, Richie Fife, was abducted one night while riding his bike with my dad and the Sheriff's son, Frank. She said they caught the guy who did it, but no one knew what happened to Richie: his body never found.
I asked if they arrested the right guy. That’s when she connected that the guy they arrested was Penny Gillis’ brother, Sam Gillis.
The next day, I printed out all the hateful comments from my Murder expose, stood on the lunch table at school, and read them aloud. Despite the heartfelt moment, a kid through jello at me and the whole cafeteria broke out in a food fight. I headed for shelter under a table where I met two boys from my grade that supported everything I’d said: Spoon and Charles were their names. The Principal, Ms. Cullins, came to break up the hysteria, but when she stepped in a pile of mashed potatoes, her shoe print matched the one from Penny’s house.
She took me to her office, and asked me to wait while she grabbed a change of clothes from her car. She had to be the one who stole the “VCR” thing. I searched her office. I noticed she wore a whale tail pendant, so I checked behind her Moby Dick book on the shelf: sure enough, a key. I used it to unlock a tall cabinet. And there it was, along with other various confiscated toys.
I took it home and, with the help of my sister, Izzy, we set up the VCR to a really old, thick TV in the basement. There was already a VHS in it. We played it: from a security camera point of view, we saw three little boys trek up a dirt hill from a construction sight to the main road. Then a van swerved in front of them, a man jumped out, and took the boy in the middle, only him. The video quality was too pixelated to make out any faces, but I think the boy on the left was my dad. What did all this mean? I had to get to the bottom of all this. Somehow, Penny’s murder and Richie’s abduction were connected.