Authors: Jude Willhoff
He led them into a back room
. The walls were covered with newspaper clippings about aliens, flying saucers and every other space creature Elle could imagine. He had bought out the tabloids at the grocery store and covered the walls with them. Numerous canvas paintings were stacked throughout the place, picture side facing the walls.
I painted them,” Herman said, reaching for one of the pictures. “Here’s the space ship I saw last year.” He turned the painting toward them. It was a huge black mass with pulsating lights. “I was able to get away that time, but two days later they came back and got me.”
Elle and Sara glanced at each other
. Sara must have recognized the familiar sight, too, but neither reacted. The paintings wouldn’t be proof to anybody else, but they were proof to her and Sara.
And this one is on the ship.” He flipped another picture around for them to see. “Them doing tests on me.” He shivered and turned another painting toward them. In this one he was strapped to a metal table with two gray aliens with large heads and blank black eyes standing over him, just like Elle had seen in her mind.
Ya know those aliens didn’t show up until after they built them dish-shaped antennas up at the Array.” His eyes seemed to grow misty as he thought about what he had said.
Elle remembered only too well when the aliens showed up
. She had turned thirteen the day before they had taken her. It was her turn to be chilled. A shiver erupted in her heart, making her skin crawl. Understanding his pain and fear she pulled her energy together to comfort the distraught man. She laid a hand on Herman's shoulder and willed the healing vibrations into him. “It's going to be okay,” she said. The tension in his face immediately began to relax and he breathed easier.
Where were you when they took you?” Sara asked, true concern shining in her eyes.
Like I said, it was a few days after I saw it the first time. I was painting a landscape out in Red Rock Canyon over by the Array. It was about dusk and I was packing up to head home.” He shook his head as if trying to shake off the bad memory. He clenched his fists against his sides and continued in a low shaky voice. “My hound dog Shortie chased a rabbit through a hole in the fence. I went after him, and that's where it happened.”
He took a deep breath
. “This bright light came at me from out of nowhere. The next thing I knew, I woke up on a metal table with these ugly gray men staring at me. Scared the bejesus out of me.” After a long pause, he lifted his chin. “For sure, I thought I was a goner.”
Sara patted his gnarled hand
. “It’s okay, Herman. You can tell us.”
When they got done experimenting on me, they must've put me to sleep or something,” he said in a voice that seemed to come from a long way off. “I woke up the next morning, flat on my back in Red Rock Canyon with Shortie licking my face.” Herman shivered. “I don't know what else they did to me, but they kept me all night.”
I'm so sorry that happened to you.” Elle soothed him, holding his hand. It was as she had always suspected. Somehow they shared a connection to the UFOs.
Everyone thinks I'm nuts, but it really happened.” Herman whimpered softly. “You believe me, don't you Elle?”
Yes, I do,” Elle replied in a low calm voice. “And I believe we belong to something greater than ourselves.” She knew he had been abducted. Although her captors hadn’t been gray men, she and Herman shared similar experiences.
She squeezed his hand
. “I believe we are not alone,” she sighed. “The universe is a mighty big place with five-hundred billion planetary systems and a hundred-billion galaxies. Just us being the only intelligent life form seems like an awful waste of space.”
Sara moved closer to Herman and put her hand on his shoulder offering him her understanding
. “I believe you, too.”
Girls, you just don't know how much your belief means to me.” Herman visibly relaxed. He had tears glistening in his eyes as he turned to put the paintings away.
I think I do.” Elle smiled. “You've heard the stories about me. You see, we're both kind of in the same fix. Talk of the town and all that.”
Oh, that.” A muscle quivered in his jaw. “I. . . I guess, I see what you mean, but I know you’re no alien.”
People can be so cruel when they don't understand something or are afraid. I try to keep that in mind when they're giving me a hard time.” She hesitated for a heartbeat. “It's usually their own fear that makes them so mean.”
I'm only trying to warn people of the danger.” Herman grew more agitated. “Who knows what they want to do with us?” He wiped his nose with the sleeve of his worn blue plaid flannel shirt. His lower lip trembled. “I know they'll be coming for me.”
You can call if you need me.” Elle started to hand him her business card then took it back and wrote her cell number on the back. “If I'm not at work, you can always reach me at this number. Call me anytime, day or night. If you need to talk or whatever, don’t hesitate. Phone me.”
He took the card and clutched it to his chest as if it were a lifeline
. Then he glanced out the window. “You girls better get on home. It's getting dark. That's when they come out.” He took charge of the situation with a quiet assurance. “Or you can stay here and sleep in the back room. You both know it's safer to be inside at night.”
Elle peeked between the curtains of the side window as the sun slipped lower behind the mountain range and she saw a huge wolf run across the backyard
. Why was she seeing this wolf everywhere? She shook it off and turned back to Herman. “We appreciate the offer, but we can get back to town before dark.” She gave him a hug. “Thanks for being so courageous and showing us your proof. I’ll have my dad come out to see you.”
He grinned and escorted them to the door
. He stood in the open doorway still waving to her as they got into the car.
Looking back at him she had the strangest sensation that Herman was in danger . . . and not just from aliens.
Elle watched Sara slide behind the wheel and start the engine. “It's probably best we don't tell anyone about what Herman showed us except Dad,” she said as she closed the car door and fastened her seat belt.
Sara’s forehead wrinkled
. “Of course, I totally agree. It was the same thing we saw and nobody will believe us, either.”
Through the windshield Elle saw the wolf running at full speed up the side of a mountain in the distance
Damn, why am I seeing this wolf everywhere I go? There’s something odd about that wolf.
“Maybe, we should go talk to my Dad.”
Great idea.” Sara nodded. “At least, he won't think we've gone bonkers. Call him.”
Elle pulled out her cell phone and punched in the private number
. Pressure burned in her chest as she waited for him to answer. He always had a hard time with this sort of thing when she was involved and she hated to make things more difficult for him.
Hello. This is Sheriff Thomas, how may I help you?”
She could tell by the tone of his voice that he was up to his ears with the town folk snapping at his heals with all these new sightings.
“Dad, it’s me. If you have time, Sara and I would like to come by and talk to you about what we discussed this morning.” Not wanting to cause him any more problems she held her breath waiting for his reply.
Sure, honey. Are you girls, okay?” He hesitated for the blink of an eye. “I've been worried about you.”
She could feel his unease, but it was okay as she read between the lines
. As always he was there for her. She breathed a sigh of relief. “Yeah, we’re all right. I just need to see you.”
It's crazy around here, but come on down to the office. Of course, I always want to hear what you have to say.”
Thanks, Dad. We're on our way. I’ll see you in a few minutes.” She flipped her phone closed and put it in her purse. “He wants us to come to the office.” Elle pinched the bridge of her nose as Sara pulled away from Herman's house. The beginnings of a tension headache played across her forehead as they drove toward town.
Thirty minutes later, the noise of ringing phones drowned out any possible conversation as they walked into the police department
. The receptionist had left her desk.
Elle walked back to her father's office and stuck her head around the open doorway not knowing quite what to expect
. And there he was—her dad, a good and honorable man. His familiar warm brown eyes and hair falling like short silver wings around his ears made her smile. Her heart pounded with affection. Even with their differences, she knew she could always count on him. Never knowing her biological parents, she had been one of the lucky ones. She loved this man with all her being.
Hi Dad. Sherry wasn't at the desk so we came on back.” She could feel the heart-felt emotion radiating from him when he looked up at her from his paperwork.
He stood and hugged her, whispering in her ear,
“Everything’s going to be all right.” The sound of his voice was like a balm to her worried mind. “Sit down, girls. It's good to see you both. It's been so hectic around here today, I hardly know if I'm coming or going.”
She sat in the chair across from his desk
. “Dad, I appreciate you taking the time to see us.” Now that she was here, where did she start?
Sure, honey, what’s on your mind?”
As if he didn’t know
. She took a deep breath and decided to jump right into it. “Well, it’s like I told you this morning. We saw a UFO.” She swallowed the urge to blast the words out and continued in her normal voice. “We didn't imagine it. And a few minutes ago we saw a picture of it.” She bit her lip watching his reaction. “The very same one.”
A picture of it?” Henry frowned in confusion. “Who has a picture?” He asked in his take-no-nonsense voice.
Herman, the plumber,” Elle said, not backing down. “I know you don’t want to hear this, but he was telling the truth, Dad. He was abducted.”
Now, why doesn't that surprise me?” He shook his head and sat behind his desk. “I've had tons of calls about sightings, but nobody has any proof. Especially not pictures. Where did he get pictures?”
He painted them. He has several paintings of his experience. And we didn't tell him, but he has a picture of the same things we saw. Dad, you’ve got to believe me. And believe Herman, too.”
Deep in thought, he played with a pencil, twirling it between his fingers and pushed back his chair, getting her undivided attention
. “I have to admit there are strange things happening around here.” He chewed the bottom of his lip. “I know Herman has had problems with his so-called experience, but do you really think he's telling the truth?” His gaze nearly had her squirming in her seat.
This must be how criminals feel
when he questions them.
“Yes. Nobody believes him except Sara and me.” Elle looked him straight in the eye, making her peace with the situation.
And now, hopefully you.”
This new information does put a different spin on things,” he said grimly. “But we have to remember these aren't actual photos. After all, he did paint them.” He ran a hand through his short hair and sighed. “However, if it’s the same thing you girls saw, I'll keep it in mind when I talk to him, tomorrow. There might be something else he can tell me.”
Thanks.” A feeling of relief rushed through her. “Dad, he needs our help,” she said, seeing the truth shining in his eyes. He was trying to understand her.
Now, baby girl, I’m sure he does, but you don't need to get mixed up in all this. I want you and Sara to stay away from Herman.” He stood and paced across the room to the window.
He's harmless, but you don't want the whole town painting you girls with the same brush strokes as Herman.”
If he needs help, I intend to give it to him,” Elle said, with determination ringing in her soul. “Herman and I are more alike than you realize.”
Henry flinched, shook his head and turned to Sara
. “Talk some sense into her, Sara. You know what the people of this town have done to her in the past.”
I'll try, Sheriff,” Sara said, and glanced at Elle. “But you know your daughter. She does what she has to in order to survive in this town.”
I know her all right.” He sighed, giving Elle a look of love mingled with the frustration of fatherhood. “At least be careful.”
Her heart softened toward him
. “I will. If I run into anything suspicious, I'll call you.” Elle looked down at her hands then back to meet his eyes. “Have you heard anything about . . . horses?”
No. Why?” He stiffened, as if almost afraid to hear what she'd say next.
Earlier today, I had a vision of some horses in trouble.” She pressed both hands over her eyes for a second easing her pounding headache. “Maybe, it was nothing.”
I’m sure it means something.” He sighed. “It always does. I'll let you know if anything comes up.” He took a deep breath. “Thanks for telling me. That means a lot.”
Sure, anytime I think it's important, I'll let you know.” She squared her shoulders, knowing how he felt about her psychic abilities. They hadn't exactly seen eye to eye on that sort of thing.
His intercom buzzed and Sherry’s voice crackled into the room
. “Sheriff, there's an urgent call for you on line one.”
Thanks, Sherry, I'll take it.” He looked tired, but he nodded toward Elle. “You girls go on home. There's nothing going on around here except a bunch of scared locals.” He picked up the phone getting ready to take the call. “I wish I could tell you more, but you know as much as I do . . . maybe more.”
Okay, Dad.” She kissed his cheek with much love in her heart for him and went out the door with Sara.
Do you think he believed us?” Elle asked, getting in the car.
Oh, yes. You saw his face. He believed us, but it’s real obvious he's worried about you. We're going to have to play this low key.”
That's the plan, you know, but what if an alien shows up? Then what do I do?” Elle sighed in exasperation. “Do I call Dad for the cavalry? Or do I handle it? And how? Hit the nice alien over the head or use my womanly charms and tell him he has nice eyes and buy him a latte?”
* * *
Two nights later, Elle sat in the living room of Yesterday's Rose sipping coffee with her father, Rose and Kole. “Thanks for having me over, the dinner was delicious,” she said to Rose, still miffed that her dad had pressured her into coming along and didn't bother to let her know that Kole was a part of the evening.
The back of her neck prickled
. She couldn’t help herself she wanted to gaze and stare at Kole with his chocolate hair and sky blue eyes and burnished cinnamon skin. He had been friendly, but after the episode in the salon, she had decided to keep her distance and impressions to herself.
Oh honey, you're welcome. I love having you and your Dad come for dinner,” Rose said.
You know that.”
So Kole, what's Denver like these days?” Henry asked.
A lot different from here. Much more hectic.”
Elle sat back against the cushions and let the conversation flow around her
. At least after coffee, I can excuse myself with a headache and go home.
Kole stirred his coffee and smiled at Elle
. “What's all the noise about aliens in these parts? That's all the folks here at the B and B want to talk about.”
Snared by his very, very blue eyes, fixed with that intensity she almost missed what he had said
What is that about? Did Rose say something about my childhood to him? It isn’t any
of his business
. She gathered her thoughts before answering. “Talk is all over town, but I don't know much about it,” she answered and glared at him, but he didn't seem to mind.
I have to tell you, I could use some help in that area,” Henry spoke up. “Between you and me, there are some unusual things going on around Sweetwater. Several of our reliable citizens have seen what they think is an unidentified spacecraft in the night sky.”
Could it be some kind of aircraft from one of the military bases?” Kole spoke to her father, but maintained eye contact with Elle.
. “That's what I thought at first. I checked with the bases in the area and they didn't have anything in the air the night of the sightings.”
Several of my friends in the sewing circle have seen these things,” Rose said and plucked at her sweater. “I know those ladies wouldn't fib about a thing like that. There's something out there.” She shivered.
Interesting,” Kole said and sipped his coffee. “Wonder what it was?” He exchanged a subtle look of amusement with Elle.
She stared at his hands holding the coffee cup, those hands that could explore every inch of her skin that could uncover secrets she’d never known about her body
. The man made her think the strangest things. She had never reacted to anyone the way she reacted to him and it made her angry. “Don't look at me like that.” She could feel color burning beneath her pale cheeks. “Shouldn’t you be somewhere taking pictures?”
Not amused, but still an odd tenderness toward the man’s sense of humor burst in Elle’s chest
. The feeling was out of proportion to the moment and their acquaintance.
For heaven’s sakes, what’s wrong with me? This man is driving me crazy.
I'm stumped.” Henry's mouth twisted wryly and he shook his head. “Because I don’t have any other reasonable explanation, I’m about ready to believe it was a UFO.”
I don’t think so,” Kole said, giving Elle one of his piercing stares. “There's got to be something else behind this.”
Think what you want.” Elle wondered how Kole would react if he had seen something like she and Sara had experienced.
Now, you're thinking like an investigative reporter.” Henry laughed. “Sure, you don't want a job here in Sweetwater? I know the paper could use an extra hand with pictures and the story for this situation.”
No, thanks. I like to move around.” Kole clamped his jaw tight and stared into the fireplace. “However, this kind of thing does fascinate me.” He turned to Henry. “As a friend, I wouldn't mind looking into it.”
Elle bit her tongue
. Apparently, Kole was big on the friendship thing with everybody. However, no matter what, she didn't want him involved in any way, shape or form.