Sheriff Valenti pulls an unmarked car behind a boulder so that it cannot be seen from Atherton’s house. He sees only Max’s jeep, which is what he expected. He has no reason to think anyone’s in the house but Max, Michael, Izzie, Liz and Maria.
He walks unhurriedly thru the open front door and scans for anything that might be important, even though he has no idea what that might be. The five kids are cowering in the basement and they dont know who has just walked in.
The next thing Valenti sees is a flash of blonde hair before he is knocked cold with a baulk of timber. There’s the sound of a smack and then something heavy hitting the floor, like a body. Topolsky was clever enough to park her government sedan completely out of sight in a dense area of chaparral.
We are scared shitless because we have no way of knowing who’s upstairs and dont know whether to flee or stay put. The next sound is Michael rustling thru some of Atherton’s papers.
Quiet! I hiss at him.
Hey, Michael says, Whoever’s up there looking for us isnt going to stop until they find us. I’m gonna try to find out everything i can before they do.
Liz notices a tarp that moves just enough to suggest a wind and a way out. She pulls the tarp up and sees a tunnel that is just big enough for them all if they go single file. There’s no time to study anything, only to grab things that look important and get out. Just before she leaves Izzie notices some kind of necklace made of rawhide attached to a carved stone and takes it.
I’m glad i parked close to where the hidden tunnel comes out. When we’re in the jeep and moving i see the blonde head of Topolsky emerging from the hole in the ground and glaring at us.
After getting Maria’s car fixed Michael and Maria ride together and follow the rest of us in the jeep. I tell everybody to stay close because of the papers we’re carrying and because we may still be being followed although i cant see any sign of it.
MICHAEL AND MARIA
Maria laughs a real laugh, not a nervous chuckle which seems as close to a real laugh as she ever gets. And she really smiles at him. He is irritated at himself for liking the sound of the laugh and the niceness of the smile.
What? He says.
It’s funny how surprising things can get, Maria says. Ever since i’ve known you i’ve thought that you were like, this guy, you know?
No, Michael says. I dont know. Sometimes you talk almost an vague as Liz. Whatever it is just say it.
Well, like a weird guy from the other side of the tracks, going nowhere in life. And you still are that…
You mean you think i’m a meatball, he says.
Maria ignores this and goes on, What i didnt realize about you was that you have this whole other side.
You mean that i’m not of this world.
No, something else. But under that poorly bathed exterior there’s like this whole other guy. Deeply wounded and vulnerable.
Listen, Michael says. In terms of what happened last night between us, that was just because we were on the road together, alright? We talked, that’s all. And it’s all over.
Of course, Maria says, stung. You think something happened between us? Nothing happened between us!
Izzie walks into my room like she has something to tell me. What is it? I say.
Remember when mom and dad took us to Florida that summer?
Sure, i say. You had heat exhaustion all of August and i sprained my ankle playing shuffle board. We were what, eight?
Ten, she says. We were on the beach one day and just drew this thing in the sand. This symbol. We drew it together. Remember that?
Think, Max. We’d never seen it before but somehow we drew it together like we somehow both knew it. Why did we both know that symbol?
Izzie, what is this about?
She reaches for a spiral notebook on the bed beside me and opens it to a blank page and hands it to me with a pen and says, Draw it.
Close your eyes and draw it.
But i dont remember it.
Just draw it please.
I close my eyes and try to draw something so she’ll shut up. But when i start drawing some vague but charged recollection takes over and i draw something. A design, not just a doodle, but it doesnt mean anything.
That’s it! Izzie cries. Look!
She shows me a picture of us in childhood on a Florida beach, having just drawn a bigger version of what i have just rendered on paper.
This is really unsettling, i say. What made U think of this?
She shows me a necklace of rawhide with a flat, carved stone. The stone carving is the same swirling design in the photo that i just drew.
I found this hanging on a nail in Atherton’s house, she says, putting the necklace on. What do U think it is?
Well, i say, The way the lines swirl around suggest a lateral view of a whale and the dot in the middle looks like the whale’s eye but i dont think it’s supposed to be a whale. Hey. Tell me what’s the shape of the Milky Way galaxy.
What? Well, uh…it’s an o…ovoid, like the shape of some of the flying saucers some people see. A plate shape that bulges in the middle where the black hole’s supposed to be.
No, it’s not an ovoid. It’s a double spiral with a black hole in the middle. The dot could be the black hole and the double spiral could all be a view from above the galactic plane. But i still dont know what it means.
Later at school. On break i’ve been listening to Bach and of course that draws Alex like a magnet.
Poisoning your mind again, Max? Alex says as i take off the headphones.
I say, Second movement of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor. Does that make you want to puke?
Alex gets the strangest look on his face. Oddly subdued, he says, No, not that one. That one is so beautiful it makes me want to cry. I got to go.
Wait, Alex. Tell me something. I know you’re a musical genius and all that. But i wonder if you have some other virtuosity besides music.
Computers, of course, he bristles. Everybody knows that.
Well, now so do i.
Everybody knows that, Max. Get your head out of your ass.
But what if i like the view? I say.
KYLE AND LIZ
At school Liz goes over to Kyle and says, Hi.
Little Miss Texas, he says, nodding stiffly.
Could i have a word?
I cant imagine what you’d want to say to me.
In private, Liz says.
They go to the eraser room and Liz locks the door.
Oh this is strange, Kyle says. After all that’s happened, being here with U in a janitor’s closet. How ironic. Our first kiss was in here. Have you forgotten already?
Oh, she says with a nervous giggle.
Last day of school, last year, he says.
That was a great day, she says.
Liz, dont even try, he says bitterly.
Kyle, i just wanted to be sure you’re okay.
That you didnt get your feelings hurt too bad last night.
I see. So that’s all you hauled me in here to say?
Well, Liz i’m okay. I’m so happy i could just shit.
As Kyle makes for the door Liz says, No, Kyle, um…I wanted to make sure you’re not planning on telling anyone about…about where we were…
Oh, i see. And here you had me thinking you were just concerned about about me. Liz, WTF were you doing last night?
I cant talk about it, she says.
Then just gimme a hint. Is it dope? Is it some cult you’re a part of? Or is it just sex?
Dont worry. I wont tell anyone.
Not until i have something on Evans that will destroy him.
Kyle, you’re not mad at Max, you’re mad at me. Why not take it out on me? Destroy me?
You know i wont do that, he says. But Max is the next best thing so he’ll have to do.
Kyle, i’m not even sure he likes me any more. He called me a two faced, manipulative bitch.
Well, he got that right. UR one nasty, common little bitch. So you two deserve each other.
At the UFO center Valenti talks to Milton Ross.
How may i help you, sheriff? Milton says.
Do you know a guy named James Atherton? Wrote about aliens?
I didnt know him personally. He was one of the first to write about the ’47 crash. He authored several books, most notably Among Us, published in ’55.
You wouldnt happen to know if he’s still alive?
That’s anyone’s guess. Disappeared.
Vanished off the face of the earth. He was supposed to have been into some amazing discoveries right before he vanished. Direct contact, that sort of thing. Legend has it he was abducted by aliens, but people would say that. He was last seen in late 1959.
Fifty nine, Valenti says. Wasnt there a picture of him on the fly leaf of Among Us? Could you make me a copy of the picture?
Sure, Milton says. Might i ask why…
Police business, Valenti says archly.
Back in his office Valenti roots in secret places until he finds one of the pictures he’d managed to keep the FEDS from taking. It’s a close up of the face of the corpse that died in 1959, the one with the alien handprint on the shoulder. Then he gets the picture from the flyleaf of Atherton standing in front of his house.
When he juxtaposes the two there is no doubt. The corpse from 1959 was that of James Atherton.
Alone in her office Topolsky does Tai Chi while she talks on speaker phone to her boss.
Things are very much under control, sir, she says.
Agent Topolsky, do you understand the assignment that was given you?
Yes, she says, You big, bald beautiful man. I do. Sir.
Repeat it then, he says, nonplussed.
The assignment is to observe the subjects and determine whether the theories about them are substantiated.
You forgot something, agent, he says coldly. The word ‘covertly.’ To covertly observe the subjects. To determine whether or not the conjecture about them is true. Covertly.
I’ve been acting covertly, she says angrily.
Hitting the sheriff of Chaves County over the head with a board. How is that covert?
The sheriff was compromising my investigation, she says primly.
Our investigation, she sighs.
My investigation, he shouts. New orders, Agent Topolsky. See if you can follow them this time. Whatever those kids took from that house, i want it. Get it! Whatever those kids are doing right now i want to know about it. Do you understand?
I understand, sir.
By any means necessary, he says.
Dont waste my time.
I’m all over it, sir.
Driving home from school with Izzie and Michael in the jeep on this nervous day. Michael says, So there’s kinda a lot of stuff to go thru, huh? The files.
We’ll go over them piece by piece, i say.
The three of us?
That’s right, Michael.
‘Cause there’s too many other people out there who want to see those files, Michael says.
Other people? Izzie says acidly.
Yeah, you know. That Maria girl, Michael says.
That Maria girl? Izzie says, smirking. I cant suppress a smile. And i think Michael has a gf on his hands whether he knows it or not and whether he wants one or not.
It should just be the three of us, i say.
That’s what i thought, Michael nods. Er…actually i sort of told her that i…that we were gonna pick her up.
Michael, goddamnit it, Izzie says.
Well, she pushed it and i had a weak moment.
Michael, i say. She cant come look at them. That’s final.
I know, i know, he says. I’ll call her. Isabel, do you have your phone?
Fine but dont let her blather on for too long. I’m desperately low on minutes.
After i turn onto my street i see at least three police cars parked in front of my house.
What is this? Michael says.
IDK but we better go find out. Michael, take a hike. No sense in you getting involved in this and drawing more attention to yourself.
Wait, Izzie says. Maybe we shouldnt go in there.
It’s where we live, Isabel, i say irritably. We dont have any choice.
No, Michael says, shaking his head. I dont like this.
Then get outta here, Michael, i say, pulling over. We’ll meet at the Crashdown later.