Read V - The Original Miniseries Online

Authors: Kenneth Johnson

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V - The Original Miniseries (10 page)

BOOK: V - The Original Miniseries
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He straightened, half opening his mouth to speak to Martin, tell the pilot what he'd found-then found himself, instead, putting it in his pocket. Sean, he thought. I don't have anything for him-this will knock him for a loop.

"Where does your son live?" asked Martin. "In a small town just ouside of L.A.," Donovan answered. "Is that your home, also?"

Mike found his mouth tightening, but realized Martin's question was merely polite conversation. "Not anymore," he said, trying not to sound too abrupt. "My wife and I are divorced. My son lives with his mother."

"Where is your home, then, Mike?" Martin asked.

Donovan looked out the window-at his request, Martin had un-opaqued the viewports. "I don't really have a permanent base. I follow the stories, I guess you could say. I was staying in downtown L.A. with a ... friend."

"I see. I have our heading coordinates in view. Where would you like to be set down? At your son's house?"

"No, I want to rent a car. I'm taking Sean camping for a couple of days, and I'll need something to drive." He peered out. "That looks like a car lot down there-" He pointed. "Can you set down in that parking lot?"

"Of course." Donovan watched closely as the pilot maneuvered the craft in for a landing. Compared to a plane, these things are a snap, he thought.

They set down with nary a jar. "Thanks a lot, Martin. I appreciate the lift." Donovan hastily gathered up his gear. Martin helped him carry it out, looking curiously at the backpack, the sleeping bag in its nylon covering.

"I was glad to do it, Mike. I wanted to meet you." They shook hands. Donovan was used to the coolness of Visitor flesh now-it barely registered in his mind.

He watched the vehicle lift silently away, before turning around to find the owner of the rental car lot standing behind him, his mouth open. That's right, Donovan reminded himself, most people still haven't seen one this close up. Bet he doesn't have many customers who drop in out of alien spacecraft.

A few minutes later Donovan turned the little yellow sports car onto a tree-shaded avenue. Even as he swung the wheel he heard excited shouts. "Dad! Hey, Dad! Dad!"

Donovan grinned, waving. "Hiya, Sean!" Two boys stood waiting for him, and Mike recognized Josh Brooks, Sean's best friend. "Hi, Josh!" He swung into the curb and parked. He'd barely opened the door when Sean swarmed into his arms. Donovan hugged his son, realizing only when he held him in his arms just how much he'd missed him. He hugged Sean tightly, fiercely, and knew from the boy's grasp that Sean was equally glad to see him.

After long moments he straightened, grinning, to tug at the boy's Dodger cap. "Hiya, kiddo. Who are you today? Fernando Valenzuela or Steve Garvey?"

Sean straightened proudly. "Just Sean Donovan." Then, remembering, he caught his father's arm, pulling him toward the lawn. "Come see what Josh's got!" With barely a break, he demanded, "Hey, did you know how many Visitors it takes to change a lightbulb?"

"No, how many?" "None. They like the lights out." Donovan grimaced, then laughed. "Right. How are you doing, Josh?" "Hello, Mr. Donovan."

Josh was about thirteen, a year older than Sean, and half a head taller. They were often mistaken for brothers-both had dark hair and freckles. Sean waved a proud hand at a model of a Visitor shuttle. "See, Dad?" Sean said excitedly. "Check it out! The squad vehicle ... and the action figures." He picked up two tiny red-garbed and capped figures. "Here's the admiral, and Diana-"

Mike shook his head, grinning ruefully. "Wonder if they get a royalty?" Sean carefully tucked the little action figures into the pilot's seats in the squad vehicle. "He's got a Mother Ship at home!"

Josh sounded a bit smug. "I got 'em all." Sean looked up. "Can I get 'em, Dad? Mom said we didn't have the money ..."

Donovan tried to keep his face from hardening. He hadn't contested his child support or alimony payments, and he'd never been even a day overdue. And any time he'd known that Sean wanted something extra, he'd always seen that the money was there. Damn Marge, he thought. She could have told me-I'd have brought him a set. He forced a smile. "Well, I'll talk to her about it. But in the meantime," he pulled the little crystal and gold key from his pocket, "this is for you."

Sean took the implement, turning it over wonderingly. "What is it, Dad?"

Mike shrugged. "Just a little something I picked up in a squad vehicle." Behind him he heard the front door open and close, and out of the corner of his eye was aware that Marjorie stood on the steps, watching them. He didn't have to turn to guess her expression-it was always the same.

Sean's eyes widened. "In a real squad vehicle?" "Yeah." "You mean it came from the Visitors themselves?" Donovan couldn't help sounding a little smug himself. "That's right." "Hey! Check it out!" Sean held the implement up reverently. Josh leaned forward avidly. "Wow! Lemme see it, Sean!" Sean pushed his hand away. "In a minute, Josh." Donovan heard Marjorie's voice behind them, tight, angry. "Boys, your pizza's ready. Come on in." Sean stood up. "You coming in, Dad? I've still got some stuff to pack ..."

"In a second, kiddo. You fellows go ahead." Donovan followed the boys as they raced up to Marjorie. She was looking good, he thought, seeing that she'd shed a few pounds. Her blonde hair was a little longer than the last time he'd seen her, curling softly about her jaw and neck.

Sean held out the Visitor key to her. "Look, Mom! It's from a squad-" Her voice splintered like a fallen icicle. "Your dinner's getting cold."

Sean's animation dimmed. He turned and trudged up the steps, looking back once at his father. Mike winked and nodded at him encouragingly.

Marjorie barred his way, and even from the sidewalk Donovan could feel the tightness of her body. He was angry at the way she'd treated Sean. All he'd done was bring his son a little present-you'd think he'd stabbed her, the way she was acting. He tried to control his voice. They couldn't keep tearing at each other like this-it was hell on Sean. "Hi," he said.

She didn't answer, only stood there, arms folded over her breasts. Donovan had a sudden, vivid memory of touching those same breasts but repressed it savagely. It's over. Over.


He sighed. "So what's wrong now?" She gestured helplessly, her voice breaking. "Oh, nothing. It's just that it's a little tough competing with someone who flies around in spaceships."


Donovan felt equally helpless. "Margie, what am I supposed to do? Give up my work?" Tears glimmered. "And what am I supposed to do? Sprout wings and fly him off to never-never land? How else can I compete? With pizza, for God's sake?"

. Mike was exasperated. The old, old problem-would they ever get past it? "Why compete, Margie?" He'd asked her this same question so many times. He realized he was feeling guilty again, and his anger flared. "It's insane! Why do you always feel diminished if l do something successfully? Why not do something of your own? Something you can feel proud of, someplace where nobody has ever heard of me. What about your college plans? You know I'll lend you the money-hell, I'll give it to you! What about"

She held up her hand, cutting him off. She sounded as weary as Mike felt. "Please. Don't start. Okay? "


Donovan stared at her, words jumbling in his throat. He realized that there was nothing left to say, and that was the most painful thing of all.

JULIET PARRISH GUIDED HER WHITE VOLKSWAGEN CONVERTIBLE TO a halt in front of Ruth Barnes's brownstone. Overhead both women could hear the faint whispering passage of a squad vehicle. Juliet set the parking brake with an excited jerk. "You're kidding! You really got a Visitor skin sample? How?"

Ruth smiled at her eagerness. "When they brought Ben's father in, there were some whitish particles clinging to his shirt and jacket. I just picked them off."


"Did you get a chance to look at them?" "For just a minute, then Doctor Metz came in with some cultures he wanted mounted on slides immediately. I had a lot of extra work today, since two people didn't show up at the lab." "Well?" "They didn't look like skin, Julie. Not human skin, anyway. There didn't seem to be any cells-it was all smooth. Too smooth."

"Damn!" Juliet thumped her fist softly against the steering wheel. "Wish I'd known earlier, then I could have had a look! Now I'll have to wait till tomorrow!" She looked over at Ruth and smiled. "Doctor Metz will love you for this, you know."

Ruth's expression froze. "I'd better go. Thanks so much for the ride, Julie."

Juliet put out her hand, catching the older woman's arm. "Ruth ... what's wrong? It was something I said, wasn't it?" Ruth shook her head, turning her face away. Juliet remembered her words, and a sudden flash of insight surfaced. Why hadn't she ever noticed before? "Ruth, it's Doctor Metz, isn't it? You ... really love him, don't you?"

Ruth bit her lip, managed a wan smile. "Does he know?" Juliet asked. The lab assistant shook her head. "No, honey. I'm just another piece of lab equipment to him."

Juliet patted her sleeve, then slid her hand over the older woman's gently. "Well, starting tomorrow morning, we're going to go to work on him. We'll make him realize that 'Nobel' isn't the only prize he's got."

Ruth smiled gently. It's been a lot of years since things looked that simple to me, Julie, she thought, but the younger woman's words awakened a bittersweet optimism nevertheless. She patted the young woman's cheek, remembering when her own skin had felt that smooth, that soft. "You're a darling, Julie. Thanks. Thanks for everything."

Ruth got out of the car, waved Juliet a quick good-bye, heard the VW accelerate away. Fumbling for her keys, she walked slowly up the steps to her home, thinking what a long day it had been. She wished suddenly that she'd remembered to tell Juliet where the skin sample was hidden ...

The door clicked open beneath her fingers. Ruth Barnes stepped inside, turning to close the door behind her. Her motion brought her face-to-face with the man who had been standing, hidden, behind the door.

Ruth had barely a moment to take in the fact that he wore a Visitor uniform and cap before her horrified eyes focused on the weapon in his hand. It didn't look much like any gun she'd ever seen before-but she knew, from the way it swung to follow her, what it was.

All the breath seemed to have deserted her lungs. It was like one of those hideous childhood nightmares where you try to scream and can't. Ruth gasped, seeing his finger moveThere was a muffled pulse of high-pitched sound, and a blue light. For a moment Ruth thought he'd missed, for she felt no pain. Then she realized she was falling, falling, twisting in midair, uncontrollablyThere came a burst of red-tinged blackness, then nothing. She never felt the impact of her body on the floor.


CALEB TAYLOR HISSED WITH PAIN AS HE CROSSED THE THRESHOLD of his apartment door and one of his bandaged hands brushed the jamb. "You okay, Pop? A little shaky?" Ben Taylor reached out to steady his father.

Caleb shrugged off his son's ministrations impatiently. "I'll be okay. You let me do it by myself."

Ben Taylor grinned wryly as he watched his father walk carefully into his bedroom. He may be one terrific father, he thought, but he's sure as hell one lousy patient. From the rustling sounds in the bedroom, he realized Caleb was obeying orders and resting. Ben turned to straighten up the small apartment. Usually his father kept it neat as a pin-a holdover from his dead wife's training-but it was a mess at the moment. That meant Elias had been here. Ben made a face as he tugged a pair of dirty sweat socks from between the couch cushions.

A second later he heard a key in the lock, turned to see his brother bounce into the room, a wide grin on his face. "Say, man! What it is, Ben?"


Ben shook his head. "'What it is' is bad grammar, brother. Elias, when are you going to quit this poor man's Richard Pryor act?"


Elias stared for a second, his smile hardening into a fixed grin. "What you talkin', man? This here ain't no act. This here is pure-D Elias."


Ben was disgusted and showed it. "It's pure-D something, that's for sure. Pure-D shit, if you ask me." Elias did a mock shuffle, his hard, cocky grin never dimming. "Look here, man, can't all of us be Doctor Kildare, dig?" His voice hardened. "Or Uncle Tom."


"Oh, drop that sixties jive, Elias! You can be anything you want, but first you've got to dump that tap dance and two-bit crook routine, and grow up."

Ben could tell he'd scored. Elias laughed, a short, forced explosion of sound that sounded anything but amused. "Well, once again we thank you, Mr. Sidney Poitier." He turned away angrily. "Hey, Pop!" He headed for the bedroom, his strut plainly put on now. "How you doing?"

Ben watched him go, then resumed his cleaning. He was tired, tired of Elias, tired of work-tired of worrying. His eyes felt as though they were bulging out of his head from eyestrain-he'd had to work on the microscope nearly all day, except when he'd made his rounds. All of them were doing double duty on lab work ever since Ruth had disappeared.

He felt a heaviness inside, remembering that it was now a full three days since anyone had seen her. Doctor Metz was inconsolable, shutting himself up in his office for hours and chain-smoking (he hadn't had a cigarette, Doctor Larraby had told them, since he'd quit in 1963), staring stonily off into space.

BOOK: V - The Original Miniseries
12.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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