Obviously this tale begins in
Mexico in 1947. That's a problem because the
setting is a place I've never been to in an era long before my birth. I'll need
to do a lot of research to make it accurate and will probably need some help
from others; in the meantime I'm flying along by guesswork and the Internet.
I've never written a historical novel before, so bear with me. As creative
writing teachers say: "Don't get it right, get it written!" Steve
calls the UFO cover-up the "truth embargo"; he has his own
terminology for most things. According to him its advent can be timed very
precisely to that day, 8th of July 1947. The Roswell Daily Record newspaper published a headline article
entitled "RAAF captures Flying Disk on Ranch in USA Region". This was based on an
official press release by the local air base, however it seems that immediately
afterwards a different decision was made higher up the chain of command and a
second press release was organized later that day by General Ramey of the
Eighth Air Force explaining that the "flying disk" was nothing more
than a weather balloon and that the local intelligence officer, Major Jesse
Marcel had made a mistake. The rest is history... real history. My job is to change that history. I'm going to have
to imagine exactly what Steve proposed, that after the initial press release
from the RAAF, the decision was made not
to cover it up. In other words we had Disclosure right then and there. What
would be different? What would be the same? It's not an easy assignment, but
I'm capable I think. What follows is the first sample chapter of the novel; I
might publish other sample passages before the book is finished. When the full
book is available the first chapter of the finished product will probably be
different to what you'll read below. This is merely to give you a taster. Hope
you enjoy it. To purchase the entire novel, see: http://hpanwo-bb.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/roswell-rising-is-here.html. Roswell
Roswell Rising- a Novel of Disclosure
(Sample First Three Chapters)
by Ben Emlyn-Jones
The desert roiled and shimmered in the raging heat. The loose scrub seemed to glow from its own internal fire. Clane Quilley tore at his collar, tugging his sweat-soaked tie loose. He dried the steering wheel with his handkerchief where sweat had beaded on the dark purple leather rim. He had no idea where he was driving; he just knew he had to get out of town. He'd only been there three months so the urge didn't bode well. He'd seen a road sign a few miles back and knew he was on Route Seventy; but west or east of his new home, he wasn't sure. The landscape was featureless, yellowy-brown and almost flat to the horizon. Blue-black translucent mountains loomed in the distance ahead. His foot fumbled as he lifted it off the accelerator and the unfamiliar engine idled. The car slowed. He pulled over to the verge and cut the ignition, unaware of why he was doing this. His heartbeat thumped in his ears from the sudden silence. Without the breeze of motion, the car's interior became stifling. He opened the door and stepped out with a snap. The glare from the sun seemed to come at him from all angles, reverberating off the ground and even from the very air. He tipped his hat down over his eyes and walked away from the road. "The heat." he muttered to himself, his eyes stinging with sweat. Salt smarted an old cold sore on his lip. "The sun came down... That's how they died." He applied his mental brakes hard. He had promised himself he wouldn't think about that. The dusty gravel beneath his feet turned his new black brogues grey; his feet baked inside like potatoes in foil. He had been walking briskly for about five minutes; nothing lay ahead or at either side except the desert. Green bushes poked up out of the monotone scrub every few hundred yards. They coalesced in the distance into a verdant speckle. He stopped and focused his irritated eyes on the view. Transient quicksilver ponds of fata morgana flicked across the landscape. He sighed and then turned round to head back to his car. He froze in alarm; it was nowhere to be seen. The vista behind him was as featureless as that ahead; there was no sign at all of the road. His stomach clenched in fear and he began running. He pounded up to the crest of a gentle rise in anticipation of relief. "I'll see it in a moment." he gasped. But as the succeeding low ground came into view the road was still not there. He turned to his right and sprinted, realizing that he'd lost his sense of direction. The sun was near the zenith. After he'd cleared the next rise and still saw no road. He sank to his knees. "It's no good." In just a few minutes he'd moved from a state of security in a car seat on a modern paved highway to a dying man in a primeval landscape which God had intended only for lizards and crickets. It wasn't the first time a wave of mortality awareness had spread over him, but it was the funniest and calmest. He almost laughed with self-deprecating irony. He reached into his pocket for his rosary and whipped off a few Hail Mary's; then he lay down on a patch of grass and waited with his hat over his face. Would thirst and heat exhaustion claim him or would he live long enough to feel the teeth of a roaming coyote tear at his thigh? It didn't really matter.
The sun went out. The sudden darkness and coolness gave him such a start that he sat up. A large cloud had just blotted out the sun. More of them gathered in a line of bruise coloured tumours across the sky. The sun fought back from behind its veil making the edge of the clouds fluoresce. Clane got to his feet, brushing the dust from his trousers. The shades of the landscape were totally transformed without the sun.
"Looks like there's some rain coming." said a voice from immediately behind him.
Clane yelped in shock and jumped round.
The man was small, barely five feet tall, and ancient. Little black dog-like eyes poked out from between the arroyos of wrinkles on his face. He wore a dirty Stetson hat and a poncho. Through the accumulated desert dust and piñon twigs stuck to its fabric, Clane could see that the poncho had an intricate coloured weave, similar to Scottish tartan.
"Where the hell did you come from?" demanded Clane as soon as he'd got his breath back.
"I might ask you the same question, Mr Quilley." His voice was as cracked, hoarse and sun-bleached as his face.
"How do you know my name? Who are you?"
"It's not safe to be out in the desert in the middle of the day. Grandfather Sun up there, he can roast you like a quail on a spit."
Clane realized that the man was an Indian, probably an Apache or
or something. He wasn't used to them; there were very few Indians in New
York. The only one Clane had known was a filing clerk
at the Times who drank Guinness and
watched the Dodgers games just like he did.
"You should never leave the road."
"Okay, well too late. I don't know where the road is now anyway."
The man slowly raised his arm and pointed without moving his head or taking his gaze off Clane's eyes.
Clane looked and saw that Route Seventy lay about a hundred yards away. His car was where he'd left it, parked on the verge. As he watched, a Shell petrol tanker lumbered past leaving a contrail of dust behind it. He scratched his head. "That's odd; a minute ago I thought it was out of sight."
"It was!" said the man emphatically, opening new creases in his face as he raised his eyebrows and smiled. "Where do you live, Mr Quilley?"
"What?" He tittered. "You know my name, but don't know where I live?"
The man remained silent.
"That way." The man jerked a thumb over his shoulder down the road. Then he abruptly turned and walked off. "You're an interesting young man, Mr Quilley." he called over his shoulder. "We'll meet again."
Clane returned to the car. When he reached it he looked back and saw the old Indian in the distance walking swiftly and purposefully away from the road and out into the depths of the desert. "Where's he going?" muttered Clane to himself. "There's nothing out there. Didn't he just tell me that wasn't safe?" He got into the car, swung it round in an arc and sped off home.
Clane was beginning to daydream slightly in the mesmerizing heat haze of the highway. Shadows of the cloud continents rolled across the landscape. The wind was rising too, heralding the approaching rain. Occasional gusts buffeted the car...
"Argh!" He exclaimed aloud as a heavy object struck the car. The windscreen was completely obscured by something large and grey. It flashed through his head that he might have crashed into a steer. Some ranchers let their cattle roam wild in that area. The car swerved from side to side as he instinctively slammed on the brakes. The tyres shrieked on the tar paving. As soon as the vehicle ground to a halt he leapt out. The front of the car was covered by a sheet of light grey textile. He grabbed it and tugged it off. He immediately recognized it. It was a weather balloon that had been deployed from the army air base south of
meteorological unit sent them up regularly and anybody who lived in Roswell
quickly got used to them coming down. In his three months in the city he had
seen several lying around. This one had no instruments attached; it was just a
torn and deflated nylon envelope with some radar targets fixed underneath by
parachute cord. These were simple cardboard placards covered with tin foil and
reinforced with balsawood frames. Its ripped ballast bag contained no sand. The
only function of this one was to monitor the wind. He'd launched a few himself
when he'd been briefly stationed at Guam. He dragged the
balloon to the side of the road and threw it onto the verge. A gust of breeze
caught the riven envelope and carried it away, rolling and tumbling across the
desert. His second-hand Chevrolet Master was not his ideal car and he still
hadn't quite got used to it. It was undamaged by the impact apart from a
slightly bent windscreen wiper. "Shit!" he cursed. He'd have to drop
into Gregg's Autos to get it fixed; luckily it was a new month and his salary
had just gone through.
Clane couldn't get over the fact that
was nominally a city when fewer people lived there than in an average Brooklyn
block. New Mexicans didn't seem to have a clue about what a real city was. Roswell
was a place that crept up on you slowly. It began with a couple of lonely ranch
huts by the side of the highway separated out of sight from each other. Then
there were a few isolated bars and diners; down-at-heel and rowdy joints;
popular with visiting oil company workers, the local Negroes and Indians. A
legend said that the fugitive gangster John Dillinger used to call at one of
them, which Clane could well believe. At night there was usually a RPD squad
car or two parked outside as the police broke up yet another drunken brawl.
Then rows of houses began on both sides of the straight flat main road; right
at the point where it became signed as West 2nd Street
instead of Route Seventy. All these buildings had the traditional well in the
side yard, as ubiquitous as doors and windows. Clane was reminded of a poem he
had learnt at school by Samuel Coleridge, The
Rime of the Ancient Mariner which contains the line: "Water, water
everywhere, nor any drop to drink!" Roswell
was the opposite. There was hardly any water in sight, but there was as much to
drink as you wanted; however it was all out of sight underground. There were no
roadside footpaths until you got close to mid-town Roswell.
This looked strange to somebody like Clane who'd lived his life in the concrete
canyons of New York City. Few
buildings were more than two storeys high and the roads were calm enough to
cross at any time of the day. Clane pulled up outside the offices of the Roswell Daily Record in dread. Sure
enough, as soon as he was up the stairs and through the door the editor, Owen
Mollett, rapped on the glass wall of his corner cubicle and beckoned him in.
The boss swivelled on his chair back and forth, occasionally stopping to stoke
his smouldering cigar with a match. The smoke in the unventilated room made
Clane cough. "Quilley, I assume you have me the scoop of the century; why
else would you be away all morning?"
"Sorry, Mr Mollett, but I don't. I was driving out of town and got lost." This wasn't a complete lie of course.
"After three months in
Roswell you got
"I was out on the Seventy, sir."
Mollett paused. "You've not much experience for a reporter your age, have you?"
"I started when I was sixteen, sir. I made the coffee and swept the floor. I worked my way up, like Tristan does here. Sure I took some time out, but that was for the war. Surely I'm not the only one, am I?"
"What service were you in?"
"Navy. I enlisted in January '41. Submarines; then I was in
Mollett signed. "Okay, Quilley, I'm going to cut you some slack; not because you were in the Pacific, but because... I know you've had some tough times since the war. I know the RDR is a bit of a comedown for a man who wrote for the New York Times, but..."
Mollett cut him off. "It is in the eyes of most people. We're not exactly... Bohemian here in
Roswell. Reputation carries
weight. If you want to be modest then people won't get it." He raised his
eyebrows, "But even here we all respect punctuality."
"Mr Mollett, I'm very sorry I was late. I'll make up the time I lost."
Mollett nodded slowly. His face was puffed and sallow. He seemed to live in that office and maybe suffered from sunlight deficiency. "Alright, Quilley. Go sort out your in-tray."
"Thank you, Mr Mollett." smiled Clane. He got up to go.
As he was opening the door the editor called him back. "Quilley?"
He grinned slyly. "I might still decide to give you some... er... punishment duties."
Clane felt edgy at his expression. "Sure, sir."
As Clane walked out into the office and took his place at his desk the others were all silent and looking nonchalantly in neutral directions, as they always did when somebody had just been reprimanded by the boss. As soon as he sat down, young Tristan rushed to his side eagerly as always. "Hello, Mr Quilley. How are you?"
Clane looked up and met his enthusiastic smile. "Fine thanks, Tristan. How are you?"
"I'll make you a coffee."
"No need. Have you got my files?"
"Coming right up, Mr Quilley." The clerk scampered away and came back a few minutes later with a stack of folders, envelopes and loose papers. Then Clane lit a cigarette and loaded a sheet of paper into his typewriter. He began as always with today's date: Thursday 3rd of July 1947. He typed steadily and smoothly, using all his fingers like an expert. His latest story was about a situation in City Hall that all newsmen were born for. The previous year had marked the closure of a nearby prisoner-of-war camp. The inmates, mostly Germans and Italians, had been released and repatriated. They had been popular characters around town and did a lot of civic maintenance work, including a good job reinforcing the banks of the
the only open watercourse for miles around. Even that was just a trickle until
it rained. However after they had been sent home, an aerial photograph had
revealed that they'd arranged some of the paving slabs in the shape of a
fascist cross. A parting gift of defiance for their former captors. Clane had
done some investigation at the records office and found out that one of the
mayor's staff got wind of the PoW's' plans in advance and had colluded with
them. It turns out he was a shareholder in Patten Construction, the company
brought in to concrete over the paving slabs, and in doing so made a hefty
profit off the public purse. The net was closing, and Clane was the hunter. North
The smell of cigar smoke and unwashed clothes told Clane that the editor was standing behind him before he said anything. It took a moment for Clane's eyes to refocus as he turned away from his typewriter. "Mr Mollett?"
"I have an assignment for you."
"I already have one, sir." He pointed at the typewriter.
"Put that aside and do this instead."
"Wh... What!?... But, sir! This is the Cochrane case! It's dynamite!"
The editor tossed an envelope into his lap and gave him a stern look indicating that his position was not negotiable.
Clane picked it up. It was already opened and smelled of perfume. He pulled out the letter and began reading its neat feminine handwriting: Dear Roswell Daily Record. I'm a faithful reader of yours for over twenty years... never miss and issue... delivered every day... He skipped to the next paragraph. ...was out on my porch last night and I saw a light in the sky. It got brighter and brighter until I saw that it was disk-shaped. Just like those ones we've been hearing about... The author went on to describe her experience in more detail. It was signed: Mrs Amelia Crewe. Picacho,
. Lincoln County
"Check it out, Quilley."
"But, Mr Mollett; this is a flying saucer story!"
"You can't be serious!"
He paused. "Quilley, for the next month you are RDR's official flying saucer correspondent." Somebody on a neighbouring desk giggled.
"Well, I suppose I was lucky he didn't fire me." Clane took a sip of beer.
"Hey, Clane!" Stanley, always the office joker, walked into the bar and threw something onto the table in front of him. It was a copy of a magazine called Amazing Stories, a science fiction periodical. "I thought this might help with research." Everybody around the table dissolved into merriment. Clane felt his face burn, but he forced a smile at his own expense. "If they take me to Mars I'll let you know."
They were all having an after work drink in Browny's, a bar on the corner of 5th and
Main. This "inner Roswell"
establishment was very different to the less reputable hangouts on the edge of
town. It had a polished parquet floor and velvet curtains. A radio played music
quietly in the corner. The tables were oval-shaped and the stools cushioned.
Chrome, brass and red leather lined the bar top. In the corner was a raised
dais and at the tables and
chairs would be cleared away to make it a stage for the resident Negro jazz
band who would play until late in the night and everybody would jive until
whenever their chosen bedtime was.
"Who did he give the Cochrane case to?" asked Clane dismally.
a studious young woman who shared his desk.
"From the sales column."
"Damn that old man Mollett! Ramirez is a fool! God, Mari; I was so close to publishing. I worked my ass off for that article and Mollett takes it away from me. Three weeks I've been on that story; all up in smoke. Ramirez' name will be under the title. And he'll screw it up first!"
"I'm sorry, Clane."
Marietta put a
supportive hand on his sleeve.
"I was only a little bit late for Christ's sake!"
"Four hours late."
"So what? Does it warrant turning me into the RDR's clown?"
"It's not that bad, Mr Quilley." said Tristan. He had only recently become old enough to imbibe alcoholic liquor and he sipped his beer cautiously. "And anyway, it's only for a month."
"Flying saucers!" Clane hissed. At that moment the radio began playing a song by the Buchanan Brothers: "You'd better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers..." The others chuckled at the synchronicity. "The Lord is toying with you, Clane." laughed
Clane shook his head ruefully.
"I don't get where all these flying saucer stories are coming from." said Tristan. "Everybody's talking about them, but it's all sprung up so recently."
"What's the name of that guy who kicked all this off?" asked
I think it was. Yes, Kenneth Arnold. He was flying up somewhere in the
Northwest a couple of weeks ago and he saw a group of them. And since then the
whole world and his brother is harping on about them. Nobody had heard of
flying saucers before then."
"Bah!" scoffed Clane. "It's a stupid fad. It'll die off in a week or two; I've been doing this job long enough to know that's how the news works. Then I can get back to my normal job. Either that of the old man will just fire me." He chuckled. "'Redundant flying saucer correspondent'; that'll look good on my résumé."
I don't think that's true." said Stanley.
"There was talk of strange things in the sky before all that fuss with Arnold;
it just didn't make the papers much. My brother saw one, way before the war. Of
course nobody said a word about men from Mars in those days."
"Remember the thing that flew over
piped up Tristan. "When was that? I was in high school. Only a few years
"It was just a few weeks after Pearl Harbour." said
"January '42. I remember it well. This big flying saucer arrived late at
night over LA Bay. Of course the triple-A opened up on it. Everybody was scared
it was the Japs come back for more."
"The LA Times published a photograph of it." said Clane. "It was right in the searchlights and it did look like a flying saucer."
"We might get a flying saucer over
Clane." said Stanley.
"Then the Pulitzer's yours."
"Huh!" Clane sipped his glass. "I think a report on Santa Claus would be more promising,"
"If our weapons can't hurt them..." began Tristan. "Those beasts from Mars can wipe us out real easy, like crushing a bug with your boot."
"No, Mr McWilliams. I never read things like that."
"Well, look on the bright side. If Mars attacks us we can stop worrying about the Russians."
Tristan didn't laugh.
"What do you think of this rumour that the Russians have the A-bomb?" asked
She appeared eager to change the subject, even if it meant moving on to another
almost as grim.
"Only we have the A-bomb. That's why we won the war."
"If the Russians get the bomb we better hope there's never another war or it's the death of us all on both sides." said
Tristan leaned forward and lowered his voice. "You know the guy who runs Dorsey's Grocers up on East 23rd? His kid's schoolteacher says they're doing some kind of experiment up at White Sands to check for Russian bomb tests."
"How does he know?"
"The teacher's brother's boss' barber saw this balloon. A huge one, a giant one! It has some kind of detector on it that can sense the Russian bombs being tested... And you know, I think I saw one of those balloons myself."
Clane got up and went to the toilet. Talk of war bothered him and it was his drinking round. He stood at the bar, packing his unwelcome thoughts back into the locked mental cabinet where he normally kept them. Then Jesse Marcel walked in. He was dressed in his AAF khakis and carried a briefcase in his hand. Browny's was popular with men from the base so Clane knew he was always bound to bump into Jesse here again sooner or later, but it was still a shock. The feeling seemed to be mutual. Jesse pulled up short and gaped. He blushed visibly. "Hello, Clane." he said in an expressionless voice after a pause.
"Jesse." replied Clane in kind.
Jesse looked down at Clane's tray of beers. "Er... are you here with...?"
"Some guys from the office." Clane finished his sentence.
The two men grinned nervously at each other then parted with a nod. Clane returned to the table and shared out his round. As he chatted with his colleagues he occasionally looked over his shoulder and exchanged glances with Jesse. When he left Browny's to go home he felt his spirits rise. Some of the air between them had been cleared.
As he drove home he recalled his turbulent relationship with Jesse Marcel. They had met two years earlier on
in the South Pacific. Clane's submarine, USS Tunny, had been forced to land at Tinian Island Tinian
after suffering engine failure. The huge airbase on the island could easily
accommodate the boat's crew for the ten days until the necessary spare parts
could be shipped out. Jesse and Clane had found a rapport and had exchanged a
few letters after the war; and Jesse made sure to catch up with Clane when the
latter moved to Roswell. Things had
changed though since their first meeting. Major Jesse Marcel was head of the
intelligence division for the 509th Very Heavy Bombardment Group; and Clane had
been a Navy submariner and chief torpedoman who had later been posted to Japan.
Therefore the two men had experienced the war very differently. This caused
conflict between them, and to make matters worse their dispute had reached its
endgame while Clane was a guest at Jesse's home and Jesse's wife was present.
They'd had a few glasses of wine while eating dinner, followed by a couple of
brandies which had lubricated their tongues. Jesse had been proudly regaling
them with a monologue about the 509th and their bombing missions over Japan
in the last weeks of the war, including the fire-storming of Tokyo
and the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. "...so
basically," he concluded, "the 509th are the boys who won the
"No you're not!" Clane's tone of voice came out even harsher than he intended.
Jesse sighed and rolled his eyes. He and Clane had had this debate before several times, albeit in a more light-hearted tone, and he didn't detect Clane's additional ire. Jesse's wife, Violet, was more astute; she glared nervously at the two men. "Hey, guys. Quit the inter-service rivalry clichés will you?" Clane spoke of how by 1945 the submarine war against Japanese shipping had been so successful that no vessel could stick its keel out of port without getting a torpedo in it.
was surrounded, isolated and depleted. It was moving towards a negotiated
surrender, hoping the Soviets, neutral at the time with Japan,
would broker a deal.
"Damn it, Clane," shot Jesse, "You're a real sucker if you buy that. The Jap is crafty; he was playing for time."
"Not a chance, Jesse." retorted Clane. "You need to realize something!" He jabbed a finger aggressively at Jesse with the word You. "The Jap needs to eat like everybody else! Downfall would never have happened anyway!" Operation Downfall was the proposed amphibious invasion of
home islands. "One more month! That's all we needed!"
Jesse slammed his fist down on the table. "And how many Jap civilians would have to die to give you squid bubbleheads your month!? More than we killed with our bombs! Hirohito and his henchmen weren't starving; they had larders full of food and they made the decisions! Ordinary people suffered in that war, Clane, not the leaders! The Japs were too goddamn gutsy for their own good! They'd have fought on to the last man like they did at
Iwo Jima, at Truk,
at Okinawa! How much death do you want, Clane!?"
Clane cracked; Jesse had just tipped his trigger. Clane jumped to his feet and yelled: "You don't know what fucking death is!"
Violet flushed at the sound of the profanity.
Jesse gaped. "How dare you, Quilley!" In his rage he lapsed into the military style of an officer addressing an enlisted man by his surname alone, as he had done when the two had first met. "Get out of my house now!"
But as Jesse was speaking, Clane was already storming towards the front door. He slammed it so hard behind him that one of the viewing panes shattered. He calmed down somewhat as he drove home. Despite the antagonism that he still felt for Jesse, he chided himself over Violet. He felt guilty for using a cuss-word in front of a lady, as if he were dived at a hundred and fifty feet with his pals in Tunny. It wasn't a slight to the submarine branch by a fly-boy that bothered him; that was just the camouflage for a much deeper conflict. He had last spoken to and seen Maj. Jesse Marcel on that night a few weeks before, but the memory, the guilt, the resentment, the embarrassment ate into him like acid. Greeting Jesse in the bar today had neutralized some of that.
Clane parked his car outside his home, a motel at the northern end of town. He had toyed with the idea of renting somewhere more settled, but hadn't got round to it yet. He was still not sure how long he'd be living in
but he sensed intuitively that it wouldn't be too long. He walked along the
footpath under the awning that led to the row of rooms. His neighbour, Mrs Ray,
was standing in front of her door. She grinned as she saw him approach, holding
up her ubiquitous camera. She levelled it at him. "Smile, Mr
Quilley." Clane obliged as she clicked the shutter. "Lovely
"Another photograph, Mrs Ray? I swear I could sign you on part time with RDR."
"If I wasn't already a lawyer and pilot I think photojournalism would be my third choice of career. As it is I'm an enthusiastic amateur. I've got a darkroom set up in the bathroom; give me half an hour and I'll develop this for you. It's Kodachrome so it'll be in full colour. I can even make it into a slide if you prefer."
"Where do you get the money for colour film from, Mrs Ray?"
"Well, Bernard and I are hardly destitute."
"How is Bernard? Enjoying the oil business still?"
"Oh, he's camping out somewhere near
Four Corners. He should be
back on Monday."
"Good, well I'll see you both soon, Mrs Ray."
"Call me Hilda. We are neighbours after all."
Before he entered his room, Clane looked up at the sky. A B-29 Superfortress was passing overhead at about three thousand feet; its engine noise was an omnipresent roar of energy. Aircraft were a very common sight in the sky above
because of the airbase, but for some reason he felt compelled to stare at this
bomber as it banked over Roswell
and shrank to a speck against the burgeoning cloud cover.
Clane felt very lethargic when he entered his room. He dropped his hat on the sideboard and collapsed onto his bed feeling hungry, but too tired to get up and make any food. At least it was July the fourth tomorrow. He might not get the whole day off, but he should at least get a lie in before taking a cruise downtown to watch the parade. He reached under his bed and his hand brushed against his suitcase. He sat up and pulled it out. It still contained a lot of his belongings. He had never completely unpacked since he had moved to
sign that he subconsciously did not intend to settle there. He opened it up,
reached under his folded trousers and retrieved the leather satchel of his war
memorabilia. Inside were photographs of him and his crewmates from Tunny, his honourable discharge papers
and his silver submariners' dolphins; a badge that resembled a pilot's wings at
first glance, but were actually made up of two piscine creatures facing inward
towards a submarine's bow. Instinctively and without premeditation, Clane
picked up the telephone. "Operator, I'd like to put a call through to New
York please." He gave the number.
Two thousand miles away a phone rang. "Hello?"
"Good evening, Gina."
There was a pause and she caught her breath. "Clane." Her tone was shocked, accusatory, exasperated.
"Could I speak to Siobhan please?"
Gina tutted. "She's sewing her costume."
"I only want a moment."
Gina sighed and he heard the receiver bump down and in the distance her voice shouting: "Siobhan! Your dad's on the phone!" Footsteps approached. "Hello?"
"Hi, honey." An involuntary smile split his face.
"How are you?"
Clane and his twelve year old daughter spoke on the phone for ten minutes, about her school, her being band leader in the July fourth parade the next day, her friends, life in New York. When the call ended the motel room felt cold and empty. He felt the urge to run out to his car and drive and drive until he reached her. A few days ago he had received the letter from Gina's attorney; she was filing for divorce.
Clane awoke with a jolt and sat up in shock. The basso profundo crash of thunder shook the ground like an earthquake. Lightning flickered behind the curtains. He breathed a sigh of relief and stood up. The air was stifling with humidity and he was drenched in sweat. He walked in a circle, relishing the cooling breeze as he moved. He pulled aside the curtain and looked out. Torrential rain was hosing down from the sky. The lightning strobed in the background behind the gentle wash of the forecourt floodlights. A million spattering drops frosted the inundated pathway. Rain coursed through the beams of light like a river in the air. A flying insect fluttered against the inside of the windowpane. He returned to his bed and lay back down. He had been dreaming of
again. These dreams varied in lucidity and realism; this one had been near the
top end of both scales. This was the real reason he had broken his friendship
with Jesse Marcel.
The war had ended almost two years earlier, on
fifteenth of August 1945. When the radio message arrived, the crew
of USS Tunny cheered and applauded.
They dashed up onto the bridge and casing, dancing for joy. The captain ordered
the torpedo room ceremoniously to unload the tubes. Clane had spent over three
years fighting in the Pacific theatre. Tunny
had been depth charged while preying on ferryboats and coasters in the Bungo Channel.
They'd been dived-bombed off the coast of Taiwan
and two of Clane's pals had been killed by shrapnel. They'd also sunk a spying
trawler with deck gun shells while patrolling the Aleutian Islands
off Alaska. The moment the war
ended, all these experiences crashed through him and evaporated into a cloud of
the harmless past. It was like getting out of jail or drinking a glass of water
after a long period of intense thirst. Clane genuinely believed that it was all
over. He and his pals could immediately set course for and have a beer; then home
Harbour New York for apple pie and
Guinness... The truth could not have been more different.
USS Tunny was directed to join "Operation Blacklist", something none of the crew had ever heard of before. The boat was ordered to set sail directly for
on the Japanese mainland of Honshu. When the submarine
had docked the entire compliment were lined up on the wharf and handed a
package of new orders and kit. Clane and his pals were to be seconded to the US
Military Police. The crew were split up and he never saw some of his pals
again. The next few weeks involved the hardest work he had ever done. From dawn
till dusk, and sometimes long after, Clane was put in command of a team whose
job it was to unload cargo from ships. Boxes of canned food, bags of rice,
clothing, medical supplies, water stills, sacks of coal, barrels of oil, wheat,
powdered milk, powdered cement and every other commodity imaginable. Once these
items were ashore they had to be carefully registered in an inventory and then
piled up in warehouses ready to be moved onwards. Ship after ship pulled in,
one after the other, and was emptied of its freight. Rows and rows of lorries
queued up, driven by other MP's, and Clane's team would have to help stack the
goods in the back of the lorries. "You'd think the Japs didn't have any of
their own shit." Clane quipped to one of the lorry drivers.
"They don't." replied the man with a grave stare.
A month later Clane's team was ordered to stand down for a weekend off, much to their relief. They were all exhausted; their limbs aching, their hands covered in calluses and blisters. On Monday Clane joined the transport driving corps and found himself behind the steering wheel instead of loading boxes into the back. It was the first time he had stepped outside the boundaries of
harbour since his arrival in Japan.
He guided his vehicle down the cracked road into the city centre. The autumn
rain battled with the windscreen wipers and the wheels jolted in and out of
potholes. Very little of the city was left. Crumbling scorched masonry poked
out of the ground like rotten teeth. In the suburbs nothing stood at all.
Japanese architecture favoured wood as the principle construction material and
between the frameworks they used panels of solidified wood pulp, literally paper.
This made the buildings very vulnerable to fire. The incendiary bombing by the US
air forces had therefore been extremely effective. The surviving residents of Osaka
were now living in tents that they had thrown together from any textile they
could find; drapes, bed sheets, clothes. Clane had been told to drop his wares
off at a distribution point; this was easy to find because a huge crowd of
people were milling around it. The point was surrounded by a barbed wire fence
and guarded by armed MP's. As Clane broke to a halt the people began chattering
with excitement and surging forward. "Get back!" yelled an MP.
"Stay back, all of you! There'll be enough for everybody. Wait your
turn." Clane and the MP's unloaded the cargo from the back of the lorry
and the citizens lined up eagerly, holding up their ration books. As soon as
they had them, they gratefully ran off with their precious groceries, rushing
to get them home to their families. Clane had never seen people like these
before. They were all emaciated; many didn't have adequate clothing and he
could see their ribs protruding. They shivered in the chilly rain. What would
happen to them when winter came? They were unwashed; their hair was overgrown
and unkempt. The infants sat passively in their mothers' arms, tearstains
running down their cheeks. The adults stared with their small black eyes, their
faces expressionless and attentive in that unique Japanese way. They maintained
their national obsession with honour and dignity, even as their bones pressed
against the drum-tight skin of their empty bodies. When he was a small child
Clane's grandmother had horrified him with her tales of the Irish famine, but
none of her descriptions came close to this modern reality in Japan.
However, the worst was yet to come. Clane's supply missions into Osaka
eventually progressed to longer distance journeys. He was transferred to a
fleet of big haulage trucks and sent out to other cities several hours away.
One day he went to Hiroshima.
It took him all morning to get there. Many of the freeways had been bombed to gravel so he had to use smaller roads which themselves were sometimes reduced to mud tracks and his rig got stuck a few times. He entered the city of
without even knowing it because there was little left of it to see. He found
himself driving along a straight road between what he thought were disused
dried-up rice paddies. Then he saw some human figures wearing white overalls
with a hood and gasmasks over their faces. They were scanning the ground with
Geiger tubes. One of the men raised his mask to call out: "Hey buddy!
Don't stop; it ain't safe to hang round in this area too long." Sure
enough, nobody lived here. The tent cities that he'd seen in Osaka
and other places were absent in Hiroshima.
No further destruction was possible here. Even the cinders of old buildings had
vanished, pulverized in the nuclear fire. As he approached the river he saw a
single building, a rotunda with a domed roof. Its walls were cracked and
warped, its dome reduced to a frame; but it still stood, defiantly, against all
odds and adversity.
The only undamaged hospital in
Hiroshima was the Red
Cross infirmary at the edge of town. It was here that Clane was heading to drop
off medical supplies. It had been greatly expanded to cope with the extra
workload; its grounds and carpark now lay beneath rows of tents and Quonset
huts. While he was helping the hospital staff unload and store the goods, he
got talking to an elderly English doctor. The doctor offered Clane a cup of tea
after the job was done and showed him round the hospital. Clane met some of the
patients, the residents of Hiroshima.
They were mostly women, children and old people who were packed into beds side
by side while doctors and nurses, faces tight with stress and exhaustion,
attended diligently to them. It was now two months since the bomb had been
dropped and many of the victims were still bedridden with third degree burns.
Clane saw a man whose left eye had been melted in its socket. "We have a
reflex that shuts our eyelids tight when our eyes are exposed to very bright
light." explained the doctor. "But that reflex only worked quickly
enough in this chap's right eye." Another young woman had a burn right
along the top of her forearm and the back of her hand; it had caused her wrist
to curl back and lock, and her fingers could hardly move. Some of the patients
had come down with what the doctor called "Curie fever". It caused
nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea; and it made their hair fall out and their gums
bleed. They developed burn-like lesions on their skin and eyes. "Most of
these people will recover," said the doctor, "but for how long? In a
few years they'll come down with cancers and that'll finish 'em off."
"What causes it?" asked Clane.
"Exposure to particulates made radioactive by the bomb. Grains of dust, ash, cinders. It's everywhere; in the air, the water, the soil. It'll be a good couple of years before anybody can live healthily downtown again. It's become known as 'fallout'. Good job the Gerries never managed to build the bomb!"
Clane sighed. "How could just a single bomb do so much damage?"
"Nuclear fission. That Albert Einstein has a lot to answer for!"
"How many people were killed altogether?"
"Oh, well over a hundred thousand. We're not sure exactly because some of the bodies will never be found..." He looked sadly into Clane's eyes. "Some of them don't even exist. You must understand that the temperature close to the epicentre of the explosion was millions of degrees, comparable with the interior of the sun. Human bodies exposed to that would have just instantly vapourized. Think how hot it feels when you walk outdoors on a warm summer's day... well that sun is over ninety million miles above your head. For these poor folk it descended to two thousand feet!"
was a miserable affair. Some building work had been completed and some of the
people rehoused, but for others it was too late. On the morning before
Christmas Eve, Clane and a few other MP's had to assist a medical team in
digging a row of tents out from under a snowdrift. Four of the people were
dead; two old men, a young woman and her baby son. Twelve others had to be
rushed to the Red Cross and were given treatment for hypothermia and frostbite.
At the harbour Clane and his colleagues set up a makeshift ballroom in an empty
warehouse. They strung up some decorations and brought in some tables and
chairs. A wireless and gramophone provided music and there was even a delivery
of liquor from Pacific Fleet Command. A bar was quickly constructed out of
planks of wood and sandbags. A troopship put in from Okinawa
and on board were several battalions of the US Marine Corps. The men were
hungry for a run ashore and wasted no time in seeking out the ballroom. There
they quickly ate into the supply of beers, wines and spirits. The atmosphere of
the party became boisterous then rowdy. Singing, laughing and altercations
blended into a single raucous din. "Hey, Navy-boy!" asked a drunk
corporal who was propping up the bar. "You ever been to Okinawa?"
"No." replied Clane.
"It's quite an island." he slurred and took a gulp from his bottle. "Dames, dames, dames, everywhere! And they're all looking for a fuck!"
"Sounds great." responded Clane, wondering how he could politely extricate himself from this conversation.
The marine grabbed his arm and leaned forward. He lowered his voice; his breath was soured by Budweiser. "I dated some of them, a couple of dozen in fact." He leered and giggled.
Something in his tone alarmed Clane.
"One thing you mainland GI's need to realize about Jap girls... When they say 'no', it usually means 'yes'... You get me? Even if at first they don't like it; afterwards, on reflection, I think they feel grateful... We marines are very persuasive. And command is very keen for us to... fraternize with the natives. Oh yeah, they don't mind one bit... And they've got no time for silly groundless complaints from them."
Clane backed away from him in disgust. Rape. It was as if he'd shouted the word at the top of his lungs.
The day after Christmas, Clane put in a request for demobilization. It was turned down. He was livid. He felt an unquenchable burning lust to get out of
and home. During the whole five years he'd been in the war he'd naturally
missed his home, his wife Gina and their daughter Siobhan; but now this
homesickness rose to a shrieking pain. One day he drew his sidearm and
considered shooting his own foot in order to get a medical discharge, but his
courage failed him. He prayed every day for anything that would take him home;
then a few days after New Year, his prayers were answered. ComSubPac decreed
that the USS Tunny had to be returned
for a refit so some of her old crew had to be rounded up, and Clane was amongst
them. He was ordered to stand down from all duties in the Military Police and
return to the boat. In his anguish Clane had completely forgotten about his old
submarine tied up at the end of the quay where they'd left it four months
earlier. After this mission was complete all the Tunny's personnel were to be sent stateside. What followed was a
gentle fortnight's surface cruise across the smooth blue Pearl Harbour Pacific
Ocean and then a plane ride to San Diego,
and for Clane another to New York.
His elation at coming home was short-lived. As soon as the hugging and weeping was over Clane found it impossible to settle back in with his family. Something had changed between them and he couldn't work out exactly what. One day in May, Siobhan came to him crying. Her mother had asked her to keep a secret and she couldn't. Clane demanded more information and, over the next hour, she revealed all she knew about "
Norman". Clane was
numbly calm as he comforted his eleven year old, but as soon as his feelings
came back he was struck down by an emotional hijack. The fact that Gina had
begun her relationship with "Norman" just two months before Clane's
heartfelt and sacred return home doubled his torment. It was also no
consolation that " Norman"
lived in a plush Long Island beach mansion and drove a
Maserati. Clane sped as quickly as he could to " Norman's"
villa in Amityville and rang the doorbell. As soon as the door opened Clane
landed his fist squarely on the man's top lip and walked away. As a final
gesture of outrage and contempt, he took a half-dollar piece from his pocket
and scratched it along the bonnet of the Maserati parked in the driveway,
leaving a long straight gash of clean steel through the immaculate black
paintwork. Clane was arrested later in the evening and the police informed him
that he had not even assaulted " Norman"
at all. The man Clane had punched in the face was actually the butler; luckily
his mistaken target chose not to press charges.
1946 was the worst year of Clane's life. Gina ended her affair with "Norman" and she and Clane made a half-hearted and futile attempt to reconcile, but before long he had been forced to move into his own apartment near the docks and became a visiting father to Siobhan. In October his discharge papers came through and his daily commute to the naval yard changed to one at the New York Times. He had returned to his old employer; however he was not welcomed back in with open arms. It was abundantly clear that the boss only took him back at all because Clane's war contract forced him to. The source of this hostility was soon revealed, predictably in retrospect. "
was a major shareholder in the paper and had had a word in the boss' ear about
a certain ex-Navy Irish pleb-scrawler who could perhaps be dropped as part of a
"streamlining exercise". The boss liked Clane and didn't want to do
it, but the purse strings had spoken. He did all he could for Clane in transferring
him to alternative work, but the best he could offer was a seat on a local rag
in a dusty little stop-out in New Mexico called Roswell.
"It was like a wheeling whirring saucepan lid. And shiny and steely. It must have been a hundred feet across!"
"How high up was it, Mrs
Crewe?" Clane scribbled shorthand in
his notebook as she spoke.
"I don't know, Mr Quilley. It's hard to tell when something's in the sky, like an aeroplane or something that looks real small."
Clane sighed inwardly. "Then how do you know how big it was, Mrs Crewe?" He was sitting on the verandah drinking iced tea in the shade of the house. Amelia Crewe had turned out to be a far less competent witness than she was a letter writer. Her house was on the limits of Picacho, a barren and remote tumbleweed-rolling truck stop on the Seventy, just over the border into
. After the interview Clane
went to his car to fetch the camera. Roswell
Daily Record had a dedicated full-time photographer, a man called Tom, but
Owen Mollett didn't waste him on flying saucer stories. Clane fiddled with the
unfamiliar instrument as he set up the tripod and loaded a magnesium bulb into
the flashgun. "Mrs Crewe, could you point at the place where you saw the
flying saucer in the sky please?" Clane took the photograph that he knew
would never be published, even if somehow his article was. He wasted no time in
driving back to Lincoln
County Roswell before his
July the 4th was completely ruined by extra work. He entered the RDR building, dropped the photo slide
into an envelope and left it in the pigeonhole outside the darkroom for Tom.
Then he headed back out to enjoy the parade. However, while Clane was standing
on the pavement outside the RDR
office with his cotton flag, waving it as the parade went past, he heard a
voice from the window above. "Quilley! Get up here!" Clane felt no
surprise; he knew that Mollett would be in his office as usual. There was not a
lot he could say in protest without losing his job. He climbed the stairs and
got to work typing up his interview with Amelia Crewe. He was one of only a
handful of journalists in the office which normally housed fifty. The room was
stiflingly hot and Clane had not yet got used to the New
Mexico climate. Amazingly, nowhere in Roswell
had air conditioning despite the endless months of heat. The offices at the New York Times were all air conditioned
even though the appliances were only needed for a couple of weeks a year.
The doorbell rang in the lobby and Clane ignored it. It always rang every hour or so with a delivery or pickup or something; Julia the receptionist handled those. When the phone rang on his desk Clane was surprised to hear her say: "Hey, Clane. I think this is one for you."
"Excuse me, Julia?"
"There's a gentleman here with a...um..." She lowered her voice, "flying saucer-related matter to discuss."
Clane rolled his eyes. Mollett had trained them all concerning Clane's new speciality. "Okay, Julia; send him up."
The visitor was a sturdy pastoral cowboy type of young man that one rarely saw in town. "Pardon me for dropping by, sir." he drawled. "We got no phone out at home and I was here in
watching the parade anyhow."
"That's no problem, Mr..."
"Brazel, Mac Brazel."
"So what can I do for you, Mr Brazel?"
"Well, I'd be much obliged if you'd keep this confidential like; my boss didn't want me to talk to you guys."
Brazel lowered his voice in the same way Julia had and took a step closer. "Well, I've been hearing all about these flying saucers like everybody else and... well, I think I saw one the other night. It was this weird moving light in the sky anyhow and... Well, yesterday I found something a bit strange."
"What kind of thing?"
Brazel looked down and shifted his feet. "I'd have to show you to explain. I can take you there right now if you like."
"Where is this thing?"
"On the Foster Ranch, just south of
"What!? That's thirty miles away! Mr Brazel, I don't have time..."
"Ahem!" Owen Mollett cleared his throat. Clane turned round to see his boss standing behind him.
Clane wondered if his car would make it. The road was nothing more than a dirt track running along a shallow canyon and the suspension and tyres of his Chevrolet strained at every rock and pothole. He was following Mac Brazel's rusty old pick-up truck. The Foster Ranch was an isolated patchwork of prairie and thin dry trees where sheep and cattle roamed in loose clusters. There was a wind-pump and well with a water channel; and a few sheds for storing the animals' grain feed. Brazel pulled up beside one of them. The sun was dropping towards the mountainous western horizon and the daytime heat had eased. Brazel informed him that there was still a moderate walk ahead so Clane brought a torch with him. The night falls quickly out in the desert. Brazel led him up a path between some parched piñon trees until they came across an object lying in their way. It took a moment for Clane to recognize it as the body of a cow. He turned to his guide perplexed. "Is this it?"
Brazel looked down at the corpse and nodded grimly. "A prize
Do you know how much these cost?" He caught Clane's nonplussed gaze.
"Look." He crouched down and pointed.
Clane noticed that one of the beast's eyes was missing; also its lower jaw had been stripped of all its flesh, leaving behind clean dry white bone. He sighed. "What am I supposed to be looking at, Mr Brazel?"
"Look how it's been done." replied the ranch hand. "The edges of the wounds are clean and smooth, like it's been operated on by a veterinarian. Look, no blood. In fact I can't see any blood anywhere... And check this; half her tongue is gone. Cut lengthwise right down the middle; straight as a butcher's cleaver... What's more it gets worse." Brazel lifted one of the cow's back legs. "Get a load of this!"
Clane grimaced. "I'd rather not."
Brazel ignored him. "This is really twisted. Look, one teat's gone from her udder; just one. The others are untouched... And come round here and look at her from behind. Her asshole is gone, and so has her... um... ladypart."
"Is that the medical term for it?"
"Mr Quilley, we lose a few animals to natural causes and I see their carcasses real regular. By the time we get to them they're usually half-scavenged. I found this cow yesterday; how come she's still here intact? The hawks and coyotes have left her alone." He leaned down close to the cadaver. "Can't even see any ants crawling on her, and ants ain't normally fussy eaters... It was somewhere in this direction I saw that strange light in the sky." He gestured at the corpse again. "I've heard of this kind of thing on other ranches, but I've never seen it on Foster... What do you think, Mr Quilley?"
Clane gritted his teeth; he had been keeping his temper with difficultly since they'd arrived at the scene of death. "Mr Brazel, it's July the fourth and you've dragged me thirty miles out into the middle of nowhere to show me a dead cow!" He turned around and stormed back down the path.
"Mr Quilley..." Brazel protested.
"I'm a Goddamn news reporter!" he shouted over his shoulder. "And a dead cow is not news!"
Clane drove home though the dusk hissing and muttering to himself. "Mollett, you shit! I'm sick to death of flying saucers!... Get me off this piss-ass assignment or I'll quit. I swear I could care less! I'm off the paper!" When Clane entered
he stopped at a petrol station and filled up his tank on the RDR's expenses coupon, the closest he
could get to revenge.
Over the weekend most of the Roswell Daily Record's staff had at least one day off. The paper only produced a twelve-page Sunday weekly, so they had two days to get their work done for Monday's edition. The exception was of course Owen Mollett who so rarely left his glass-walled cigar-stained haven that it was almost impossible to imagine him outside it. Clane spent an easy Saturday afternoon at the Prairie Movie Theatre where Black Narcissus was showing. The film was a new release and all the critics were raving about it. It was a stunning Technicolor epic with vertiginous camerawork. The story was a fascinating one about sexually compromised nuns in
The star was Deborah Kerr and she lacked none of her usual good looks despite
being in a habit. Clane left the cinema feeling a bit dizzy and dislocated. The
familiar dusty streets of Roswell
were temporarily alien after almost two hours of being immersed in the big
screen realism of a mountaintop convent in the Himalayas.
On Sunday morning he went straight into work from church. As he sat down Marietta
was just leaving. "I've got a weird lead." she said. "A phone
call from a policeman's wife in Corona.
Apparently the army is out there right now. They've closed a couple of roads leading
off the 247 highway. Armed roadblocks and everything."
Clane chuckled. "Germans or Russians?"
She frowned in mock reproach. "Clane, this is not the National Enquirer!"
He laughed. "Alright, Mari, take care out there."
Two hours later she called Clane's desk. "Clane? It's
I'm at a box in Corona. I can't get
any goodies; the lead was real though. The Gallo
Canyon Road and Duchness
Road are both sealed off by army checkpoints. I
spoke to the soldiers minding them and they aren't saying a word. I got the
feeling they don't know either."
"I'm going to knock on a few doors and see if anybody's talking. Could you tell the old man for me? I tried to call him direct, but he's on the line."
called in again, this time from Carizozo. "I've driven all the way south
on the Fifty-Four and all the roads to the left are closed too. The same kinds
of military cordons at every intersection. In fact it looks like all of western
is off limits." Lincoln County
"That's strange, Mari. Something must be going on."
"Yeah; dunno what. Nobody round here seems to know."
"Alright. I'll give the boss your latest."
"I'm coming home now along the Three-Eighty so I'll be able to see how far south the sealed-off zone extends. I did speak to somebody who says they live in Arabela and everything's normal there, so it can't be any further east than that."
"Could this be a plane crash or something?"
"No idea. If it was though, somebody from the base would have given us a call."
"Unless it was something hush-hush."
"If so we'd be told to keep shtumm... Oops, there goes my dime. See you soon."
When Clane gave the news to Owen Mollett the latter pondered for a moment and said: "Take a drive down to the base and sniff around."
"Me, Mr Mollett? Why? I'm your flying saucer correspondent, remember?" He couldn't keep the sarcastic jeer out of his voice.
The RDR's editor glared at him. His cheeks flushed; for a moment he looked as if he would explode, but then the fire died down. He puffed on his cigar and mopped his brow with a handkerchief. "Quilley, if I had anybody better than you available I'd send them instead. Show's how busy we are because that includes almost everybody."
Roswell Army Air Field lay to the south of the city at the end of a long straight road that was just a continuation of the
It led past a number of arable farms and the waterworks. Unspeakable thoughts
of his boss ran through Clane's head; he bashed the steering wheel in fury. The
base was bordered by a high barbed wire fence and the gate included a barrier
across both lanes of the road. A squad of MP sentries manned the gate. Their
white infantry helmets reflected the sunlight; their headgear looking incongruous
above their starched working khakis. Clane felt a shiver of familiarity; he had
worn uniforms like this. He noticed from the colour of the status board that
the base was not in a state of alert. He drove up to the barrier and flashed
his press card at the MP. "Clane Quilley, Daily Record." Roswell
"Good morning, sir. I'm afraid I can't let you in today."
"What? I'm a reporter."
"I can't let you in, sir."
Clane pointed at the status board. "But you're on normal operations. I'm ex-Navy; I know what that means."
"I can't let you in, sir." the man repeated like a stuck gramophone.
"Why? What's going on?"
"No comment, sir."
"Perhaps you could tell me what the army is currently doing up near
"No comment, sir."
"Do you know yourself?"
"No comment, sir."
Clane paused. "Could you pass a message from me to Lieutenant Haut?"
"No comment... Sir, could you move along please?" The sentry pointed behind Clane's car at a personnel transport truck that was waiting to enter the gate. Clane reversed out into the road and headed back into town. Within minutes of him sitting back down at his desk, the phone rang. "Good afternoon, Roswell Daily Record, Clane Quilley speaking."
"Hi, Mr Quilley; this is Mac Brazel. Man, you wouldn't believe..."
Clane slammed down the receiver. He did it instinctively before he could stop himself. He stared at the phone for a few moments, daring and dreading the sound of the bell; but Brazel did not ring back.
It was almost . Clane was sitting in his armchair, reading and thinking about going to bed when the doorbell rang. He frowned curiously. His meagre social life in
meant that he very rarely got callers. Hilda Ray was the last person who rung
his bell; she had dropped off his photo on Thursday, but she was never up this
late. Clane got up and went to the door. In New York
he would have peeped through the viewer or used the door chain, but the crime
rates in Roswell were much lower so
he just flung the door wide. Jesse Marcel stood before him. He smiled.
"H... hello, Jesse." Clane stammered.
"Can I come in?" Marcel was wearing his khakis; they were crumpled and sweat-stained. His face was reddened by the sun as if he'd had a hard day's work outdoors. He was carrying a small cardboard box, and he held it in front of him in his arms as if it were a present. Clane stood aside to let Jesse walk into the motel room. The AAF officer had a peculiar expression on his tanned face; a wistful smile, but also a shocked stunned mien, a thousand yard stare. Marcel placed the box on the table then turned to face him. "I felt compelled to come and see you, Clane. I had to tell you."
"Tell me what?"
There was a long silence. Jesse stared down at the box and tapped it gently, almost affectionately, as if it contained a beloved pet rabbit.
"Can I get you a drink?" asked Clane to break the silence. "A coffee?"
He shook his head. "You know, Clane; I really should have apologized for our argument."
"Me too." Clane felt no relief this time.
"I know you were in
Jesse looked up at him. "What did you see that I didn't?"
"People starving, freezing, dying... Also dying from the after-effects of the A-bombs... Marines boasting about how they raped girls on
"You're right, Clane. I don't know what that looks like. I should have realized that and handled you more gently."
"I stand by what I said though. Those bombs saved a million lives, both Japanese and American."
"It would have saved even more if we'd brought in the Russians and let the Japs back down while saving face."
"No, it had to be unconditional surrender." There was no ire in Jesse's tone this time. "If we'd left Hirohito on his throne, by now he'd be reconquering everything we shed so much blood to liberate. We had to destroy the empire, Clane. If we hadn't we'd be counting down to a new
There was a long pause. Clane shrugged. "Who knows what would have happened."
Marcel nodded. "Maybe there are multiple different worlds out there where each and every outcome gets played out. Some scientists are saying that nowadays. Maybe there's a world where the Japs were left in place. We don't live in that world."
"You know, I thought I was going to die on Thursday, Jesse. I thought I was finished. Then I took a second look and saw that I was completely safe. Did I die in another world?... And there was this old Indian..." he trailed off.
"You know something, Clane?" Marcel spoke slowly for emphasis. "I think we might be at one of those great turning points in history, right here and right now. What world we'll be living in, what outcome you and I will play out, I don't know yet."
"What do you mean, Jesse?"
"Something's happened, Clane... Something which means the world will never be the same again." He stood back and pointed at the cardboard box on the table. "Take a look inside the box, Clane."
Clane stepped forward. The expression on Marcel's face and the timbre of his voice unnerved him. He picked up the box. It was the weight he would expect it to be if it were empty. He shook it lightly and heard something very light rattling inside, like pieces of screwed-up paper. The box was not sealed and only the unfastened flaps concealed what lay within. He grasped the edge of one of the flaps to lift it. Then he stopped; a subconscious dread filled him. "What's inside?"
"Pieces of a flying saucer."
Clane wondered if he'd misheard. "Did you say 'pieces of a flying saucer'?"
Marcel nodded. "A rancher found them on his land yesterday. Take a look."
"A rancher?... Was his name Mac Brazel by any chance?"
"Yes. How did you know?"
"Holy shit!" Clane tossed the box back down onto the table. "Mac Brazel is a time-waster! He's a fantasist! He's taken you for a ride too, Jesse!"
"Clane." Marcel pointed again. "Take a look in the box."
"Are you kidding!? No way! I've had my career jeopardized enough for one week by this horsepucky!... I was a respectable journalist! Sure, Jesse, I know that the war has fucked me up; hasn't it fucked us all up? But I've been trying to pull myself back up. I've been trying. I've lost everything! My job, my home, my family! I came to
for a new start, a blank slate! And what do I find? I'm being kicked while I'm
on the fucking deck!... And now you're doing it to me as well!"
Marcel paused sadly. Then he stepped forward and picked up the box. "Very well, Clane. I shall take this home to show Vy and Jesse Junior." He tucked the box under his arm and walked out of the motel room.
The heat in the wheat field was intense. Crickets chirruped intrusively as the farmer led him along one of the tramlines, a furrow where the wheels of the tractors ran as they dusted and harvested the crop. Clane took off his hat and mopped his brow.
"We're almost there." the farmer called over his shoulder. This was not a quiet country field; to his left Clane could see the main road between
Roswell and the
airbase. The noise of the traffic competed with that of the cricket noise in
his ears. There was a clear space ahead in the thigh-high tightly-planted crop
and Clane suddenly found himself in a wide-open area where no crop stood. The
circular lagoon in the field had been created by the crop being flattened to
the ground. The farmer tutted and spat out a wad of chewed tobacco onto the
horizontal stalks. "Never seen nuttin' like it in all my born
naturals!" he muttered. "Look how sharp it is, like a cookie
cutter." Sure enough the edge of the circle was clearly defined; the
normal standing crop immediately gave way to the completely flattened lay. The
farmer frowned and puffed on his corncob pipe. "I reckon one of them there
flyin' saucers done it!"
Clane crouched down. "Looks more like somebody's pushed it to the ground, with a lawn roller perhaps. Mr Lamont, have you seen any strangers hanging around?"
"Nope. Nobody. They just appeared overnight."
"Could be some kids did it?"
"Why in God's name would they do that?"
"You know? Kids larking around."
"Where are their footprints then?"
Clane stood on tiptoes to try and see the other structures. "How many of these circles are there?"
"Five. This big guy and four little bitty ones around it, all evenly spaced. One of the smaller ones has no tramline access so how did they get to it with them their lawn rollers without leavin' a trail through the crop?"
"I think we'll only be able to see this properly from the air."
"Well, Mr Quilley; we should ask the pilots down on the base if they've noticed it. Maybe they'd be obligin' and get us a photograph."
"I think they have higher priorities then to take snapshots for us, Mr Lamont."
"Sheesh!" Lamont shook his head. "It's mighty weird. Yes, siree! These here stalks don't look like they've been trampled. They're bent real neat-like at the growth nodes."
"You still insist flying saucers did this?"
"Darn right! Who else could? Who else would?"
"I could ask you the same question. Why would whoever is inside the flying saucers come here all the way from Mars or Venus or wherever, make these circles in the crop and then fly all the way back home without stopping to say hello?"
"I dunno, dammit! I ain't one o' them!"
"I don't think flying saucers did this." said Clane. "There are no flying saucers; they're as real as Santa Claus."
"They are real, Mr Quilley. Ain't you heard? One even crashed up near
few days ago."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Well, you know how the army has been shuttin' off a load o' roads around
"Where did you hear about that?"
"That guy Mac Brazel."
Clane groaned. "Not him again! He's been bullshitting to you too now has he?"
"No, he's been on the radio."
"He was interviewed by Frank Joyce on KGFL. He was on just before you showed up."
"What was he saying?"
"That a flyin' saucer came down on the Foster Ranch and he found the debris; it was all in little bitty pieces in one o' the fields."
Clane took a few photographs and then returned to the car. He decided to nip back down to the base again to see if he could confirm or deny what Brazel said on the radio show. He approached the MP's at the gate, but just as he was about to pull up at the barrier he had to brake hard to avoid colliding with a large black vehicle that emerged from the exit lane at high speed. He watched in his rear-view mirror as it screeched onto the
and accelerated in the direction of Roswell.
Clane turned the car around and followed. He had to speed up considerably to
catch the black vehicle, driving much faster than he felt comfortable doing. He
hoped he wouldn't meet a policeman. His reporter instinct told him that his
quarry held a clue. Eventually he caught up with the black vehicle and
recognized it as a hearse. On the back was stencilled the words Ballard Funeral Home- Roswell NM. When
the hearse reached central Roswell
it pulled up outside Browny's; the
driver got out and paced angrily into the bar. By the time Clane joined him he
had already polished off his first Bourbon. He turned on his stool as he heard
Clane's approach and they recognized each other. "Glenn."
"Mr Quilley." His youthful face smiled awkwardly.
"What was that all about?"
"What do you mean?"
"You've just been driving like there was a hungry bear behind you."
Glenn ground his teeth. "I've just been thrown off the base!"
"I thought you worked there."
"So did I!"
"I dunno!" He glanced at Clane suspiciously. "Mr Quilley, is this on the record?"
Clane chuckled. "I'm a reporter, but I'm also a human being."
The younger man relaxed somewhat. "You know Ballard has the mortician contract for the RAAF?"
"Well I got a call from Lieutenant Jimmy Burton; you know, my pal who I brought in here last week and who always drinks wine?"
"He asked me if I had any child-sized caskets. I mean, that's weird. How many kids are there on the base? Anyway, Jimmy wanted three of them and they needed to be hermetically sealed. He also asked me about how to preserve bodies that had been lying in the desert... Well, I'm totally curious. I've heard these rumours that the army is up to no good on that ranch near
I guessed it must be a plane crash which the government don't want anybody to
know about. I asked Jimmy about that, but he wasn't keen to tell me. We only
had one of the caskets he wanted in stock so he told me to bring it in; and I
called our supplier in Texas to
order some more. Then I took the one we did have on our shelves up to the base.
I dropped the four-foot coffin off at the infirmary and then went to the mess
to get a coke. Anyway, this nurse came in, one I've been dating. She ran over
and she said: 'Glenn, get out of here! Please! Get out now before you get into
trouble!' Next thing I know there's this officer breathing down my neck,
telling me to get out.... Telling me to get out of the place where I
work!" Glenn's face screwed up. "I've as much right to be there as
anybody else! So what if I'm not military? I serve as well!... Besides, I've
never seen this guy before. He's not in the 509th, that's for sure. So he
escorts me back to my car with this black sergeant major. I say 'escort', but
they kept pushing me and cussing at me. Threatening me like I was a piece of
"What's a Negro doing assisting that officer?" asked Clane. "There are no black units based at RAAF and if there were, they wouldn't be mixing with the white guys."
"There's a lot going on the base right now that ain't normal."
Clane drove back to the office to drop off the slides for Tom the photographer, and then he had an idea. He headed next to the Roswell County Courthouse and, as good fortune would have it, caught Hilda Blair Ray at lunch.
"Hi, Clane." She waved at him as she walked down the steps and saw him parked and waiting. She was dressed smartly for the courtroom.
"Hi there, Hilda. Are you busy this afternoon?"
"No, the judge has just adjourned until tomorrow morning."
"I wonder if you'd be able to do me a big favour."
Clane had never been in a light aircraft before. He buckled his seatbelt according to Hilda Blair Ray's instructions and she started the engine. It was loud and vibrating; far more obtrusive than a car's engine. Hilda lifted the radio microphone to her lips and spoke to air traffic control. The plane started bumping along the grassy surface of the airfield until it reached the runway. Clane subconsciously grasped the sides of his seat as Hilda opened the throttle and the aircraft leapt forwards. The bumping stopped and the land dropped away beneath their feet. The rooftops of
scrolled below, getting smaller and smaller. "Where is this place?"
Hilda had to raise her voice above the engine noise. The propeller was a
semicircular blur in the windscreen.
"Just north of the base, a farmer's field."
"Okay, I'm going to have to be careful not to fly over the base itself. Get your camera ready; it won't take long to get there." She shifted the yoke a few times and the aircraft banked like a fairground ride. The formation of flattened crop in the farmer's field was very prominent and easy to see. It was a quintuplet of five circles; a central large one and four smaller satellites, perfectly aligned and symmetrical. Hilda began circling and Clane slid back the Perspex side window. The roar of the wind and engine made conversation impossible as Clane trained and focused the camera as well as he could; holding it tightly to avoid dropping it. He flicked the shutter and then closed the window.
"What is that?" asked Hilda.
"The farmer thinks it was done by flying saucers."
She chuckled. "Reminds me of when I went to a museum a couple of years ago. I took a photo of an original Mesa Verde mummy. When I developed it into a slide and showed a friend she thought it was a man from Mars!" She laughed heartily.
"You'd better label that slide carefully, Hilda. Years from now, long after we're dead, somebody might come across your slide and get the wrong idea... Hilda?" He'd had an idea, but wondered if it was fair to ask more of her.
"How long can we stay up here?"
"We've got enough fuel for a whole hour."
"I was wondering if you could fly me someplace else."
The square grid of the city gave way to the open, pockmarked yellow ochre desert. The highway was a black thread running through it, and the cars and trucks glinted in the sunlight like beads of silver. Hilda consulted her map that was mounted above the instrument panel on a stand. "Where exactly are we going, Clane?"
"I'm not sure. Keep heading towards
You've heard of these rumours about a flying saucer crashing?"
"Yeah, Bernard was telling me it's been all over the radio."
"I just want to have a look."
"You don't believe it do you?" she scoffed.
"No." replied Clane after some hesitation. "But I just want to be sure."
She gave him a quizzical sideways glance. A few minutes later the sun was suddenly darkened as a black shadow loomed over them. Hilda and Clane jolted in shock. "Unidentified light aircraft!" a voice on the radio barked. "Identify yourself! You are entering restricted airspace!" Another aircraft appeared about two hundred feet their left, matching their speed and course precisely. Clane recognized it as a P51 Mustang of the Army Air Force, probably one from the resident
Hilda coolly picked up the microphone. "AAF aircraft, this is KJTFY out of Roswell Civic Airfield. Negative, this is not restricted airspace. We are on a public airway designated by VOR's victor-29478 to 37646. Over."
"Negative, KJTFY. This area is now restricted airspace. You must turn immediately onto a reciprocal course. If you do not comply within two minutes I shall open fire."
Hilda gasped. Clane looked across at the fighter aircraft. The pilot's helmeted head was visible inside the bubble cockpit of his aircraft. His goggled face was turned to look at them. "Hilda, you'd better do what he says." Her knuckles trembled as she rotated the yoke and banked the aircraft. The Mustang escorted them for a few more minutes to make sure they were departing the area; then it soared into the air and zoomed off without another word. "Hilda, I'm so sorry." said Clane. "I'd never have asked you to fly out here if I'd known it would put you in danger."
"It's alright, Clane; it was quite exciting actually; beats Roswell County Court." she giggled.
"Clearly whatever's going on out at
the government are totally bent on keeping it secret."
She paused. "Do you still think it's not a crashed flying saucer?"
Clane didn't respond.
The motel room phone rang within ten minutes of Clane getting home. It was and he was just boiling the kettle for coffee. "Hello, Clane Quilley?"
"Mr Quilley? It's Glenn Dennis." His voice was low and tremulous.
"Glenn? Are you okay?"
"I've been calling you all evening. I need to see you now, Clane. It's really important."
"Sure, at Browny's?"
"No. Let's go to the old Harold Saloon. We need to be alone."
There was something in Glenn's voice that alerted him. The way he suddenly switched to calling Clane by his Christian name was uncharacteristic. Clane drove to the location, one of the less upmarket establishments to the west of the city. When he first walked in he couldn't see Glenn anywhere until the undertaker called his name. He was tucked away in a dark corner booth hunched over a half-full beer. Clane ordered a drink and then went over to join him.
"Clane, I need you to be a human being and not a reporter again."
"Glenn, you know I never write anything unless a subject gives me permission."
"My girlfriend at the base; did I tell you her name this morning?"
Clane shook his head.
"Good... I've just been to meet her. She called me and told me to meet her at... It doesn't matter where." His hand trembled as he picked up his glass and he gulped nervously. "She wanted to give me an explanation for what happened earlier. Before she agreed to tell me though, she made me swear on the bible never to tell anybody her name."
"Fair enough, Glenn. Tell you what?"
"She told me..." He shivered and looked around the bar to check that nobody was eavesdropping. "She told me that they did an... autopsy."
"Autopsy? On whom?"
"Not whom... what! She drew me a picture. She wouldn't let me keep it, but I've done my own copy." Glenn produced a notepad page folded in two.
Clane took it from him and opened it up. On it Glenn had drawn a pencil outline of a thin humanoid shape with an outsized head. It had large eyes, a slit mouth and a bald scalp.
"She had to make notes for the doctors." continued Glenn. "She said the smell was repulsive. And she's been a nurse for four years so she doesn't gross out easily. Their skin was blackened, as if they'd been burnt; or maybe it was the sun."
"They'd been lying on the ground out in the desert."
Glenn ignored him. "They were about three and a half feet tall; the size of a little kid. They only had four fingers on each hand, and they had these pads on the fingertips, like suction cups. One of them was dismembered, ripped up like the coyotes got to it; or maybe it was the crash... She was nearly hysterical as she was talking to me. What she was saying was for real, I tell you."
Clane shook his head and blew out his cheeks. "What are they?"
"Men from Mars, Clane." He shrugged. "Those rumours are true. There really has been a flying saucer crash. An aircraft from another world; it's come down just a few miles from where we're sitting. There's life out there, and we've lived to see it." He grinned through his nervousness.
"I'm not sure we will, Glenn."
"What do you mean?"
"The government are keeping it secret at the moment." he gave Glenn a summary of his own experience at the base and his plane flight with Hilda Ray. "Maybe they'll just decide to keep it that way indefinitely."
"They can't for long." retorted Glenn. "Not something like this."
"I'm not so sure."
Glenn turned pale; beads of sweat budded on his forehead. "Clane, you don't suppose this isn't really a man from Mars? What if it's something from Satan?"
Clane chuckled. "Not with the amount I've been praying. If Satan comes near me, I'll rip his balls off!"
Glenn relaxed somewhat in the glow of the older man's confidence. The atmosphere eased. "And why would Satan appear as strange bodies in the desert? You know, it makes sense. Why would God fill the universe with planets and then only put life on Earth?"
"Yeah, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there was life on Mars, Venus and probably all the other planets. Maybe they're reaching out to us because they know deep down that they need the word of Jesus Christ."
The two men ordered another round and talked for a while longer about the theological implications of extraterrestrial life. On the way home Clane pondered about his own thoughts. A part of him still didn't believe it, and that this was all a huge series of coincidences for which there was, literally, a down-to-Earth explanation. However, something strange was definitely going on; nobody doubted it. Everybody in town could feel it. Was it really a flying saucer crash? Was it possible? If so then it wouldn't matter because the government would soon cover it up and everything would go back to normal. Unlike Glenn, Clane had been in the war and had seen many newsworthy things which had never appeared anywhere in the media. The noisy public characters who didn't believe in flying saucers would go on being noisy and their retractors would riposte with equal vehemence; but with the truth denied, what difference did it really make?
Clane awoke early the following morning. That was unusual for him. On weekdays he almost always rose groggily to his alarm clock rubbing his eyes and cursing the obligation to end his sleep. Today it was still twilight when he opened his eyes. He sat up and looked at his clock: . He groaned and rolled over onto his side. He closed his eyes, but sleep had slipped from his fingers. After half an hour of fruitless effort he surrendered to wakefulness and got out of bed. The morning sunlight was sifting through the curtains. He drew them back. The sky was vanilla blue with white flecks of herringbone cloud in random patches across the zenith. The sun had yet to clear the buildings on the opposite side of the carpark and the light had that unique shady quality which added brightness to the sky. Clane opened the window and took a deep breath of clean dry air. It smelled of dew and flowers. Birds crossed from one side of the yard to the other like shuttlecocks. He turned back indoors and looked at the calendar on the wall. It was
Tuesday the 8th of July 1947.
Clane had a leisurely shower and breakfast, listening to the music stations on the radio; then he drove to work through the usual morning traffic. He arrived dead on time, the same time as everybody else, and chatted to
and Stanley as they ascended the
stairs to the office. They formed an orderly queue at the coffee pot and then
sat down at their desks, lit up cigarettes and got to work. The office rang
with the raindrop staccato of typewriter keys. It took them a few minutes to
notice something was wrong. "Hey, guys." piped up Tristan. "The
boss isn't in." They all stood up and looked. Owen Mollett was not sitting
in his glass alcove. They all stared at each other with bemused expressions.
This was the first time ever that any of them had seen the editor's cubicle
empty. Stanley phoned his home to
see if he were alright; and when it had rung twenty times he hung up and called
the hospital to check Mollett hadn't been admitted. He hadn't. There was
nothing more they could do except carry on with their work. Mollett appeared
suddenly at . Everybody
stopped and stared at him as he entered the office door. His face was a mask,
revealing nothing. "Tristan!" he barked urgently.
"Sir!" responded the junior, standing up straight like a solider.
"Is the telex switched on?"
"Yes it is, sir."
"Good. Everybody, hold all pages!... Quilley!" Mollett didn't wait for him to affirm and just strode over to his cubicle. As Clane entered after him the editor was feverishly lighting a cigar.
"Mr Mollett, where were you this morning?" asked Clane.
"At the base."
"Yes, I had a meeting with Lieutenant Walter Haut; you know him?"
"Of course, sir. He's their press officer."
Mollett managed to get his cigar alight and he puffed it a few times until it was burning properly. "I know you resent me, Quilley." He spoke without looking at Clane. "You think I'm putting you down by giving you this flying saucer assignment."
"Don't expect me to deny it!" Clane glared at the boss' sweaty nape.
Mollett turned and met his gaze as pokerfaced as ever. "You might feel differently by the end of today... Go watch the telex; there's something coming through for you. When you get it, do me something for page one, two hundred words or so. We'll go to press as soon as you're through."
"You heard me correctly. Get to the telex."
Clane went to the corner of the main office where the telex machine stood. Within a minute or two the light on it blinked to indicate it was receiving a message and the keys began clacking. Line by line, a block of text appeared on a sheet of paper that emerged from the slot. When it was finished the light blinked again and Clane tore the sheet off the roll. He read it, stopped, and read it again. "Wh... what!?" he guffawed to himself. He knocked on the editor's door.
"Mr Mollett." He held up the telex printout. "Excuse me, but... what the hell is this!?"
"It's your story; now get to work."
Clane did his job like a good newsman; his fingers and eyes adapting the press release into coherent journalistic prose. His mind was split and the conflicting sides yelled at him through his numbness. By the time Clane had finished, Tristan had already delivered everybody else's copy sheets to the typesetters and so Clane had to take his down himself. He descended the stairs and entered the print shop. The dark, oily room was as hot and noisy as always, and Clane put on a pair of earmuffs at the door. He handed his own sheet to the printing supervisor, a man called Enoch who was clad in filthy overalls. Enoch went over to the typesetter's desk and they conversed in their sign language, the only way possible in the print shop. The gargantuan steel dragons of the presses began rolling and the hot wet sheets of newsprint began piling up as the machine spat out ream after ream of them. The collators separated out the sheets and neatly folded them together, and eventually the finished copies of the Roswell Daily Record for
July the 8th 1947 filed out along the
conveyor. Enoch picked out one of them and handed it to Clane who nodded and
smiled in thanks. He took a few more of them with him up to the office, still
warm and smelling of ink. He dropped one off in Mollett's cubicle and then
walked around the office placing them on people's desks. He saved the last one
for himself. He sat back in his chair and studied the smooth new copy of the
familiar newspaper. Its banner was in elaborate Gothic typeface, the name of
the paper in the middle and its phone numbers at the side. Below that was a bar
with the date, place of publishing and price, eight cents. Then beneath that
was his front page article. Its headline was simple, factual and unimaginative:
"RAAF Captures Flying Saucer On Ranch in Roswell Region", subtitled:
"No Details of Flying Disk Are Revealed."
"So what kind of place is
asked the man on the other end of the phone in his polished English accent.
"Well..." a dozen things Clane could say flashed through his head. He gave the British journalist a brief, yet accurate and representative description.
"Hmm, sounds like an out-of-the way sort of place, a bit like Devizes." His voice crackled on the transatlantic cable. "Right, Mr Quilley. That's all we need for tomorrow's edition. You must excuse me, it's almost over here and I'm going to retire for the night." The moment he put down the phone it started ringing again.
"Who was that?" asked
"Somebody from The Times in
"Good heavens! I've just had a guy from
He picked up the phone. "Good afternoon, Roswell Daily Record." The office was a mill race of activity. The phones rang and rang like insatiable baby birds. Calls had not only come in from the entire United States, but also Mexico, Europe, Canada, Panama, Australia, Brazil and several other places. The telex rattled with continuous written requests for information. The RDR staff had been plundered for their rusty and amateurish language skills. Fortunately a few could speak Spanish and were put on all the calls from central and
America. Somebody was found who could speak French and dealt with Le Monde in Paris.
Clane's story was flashing all over the world on various newswires. His arm
ached from taking notes and his voice was hoarse from shouting on the phone
down low-gain connections on the intercontinental cables. Tristan and his
trolley had been commandeered full-time to the task of delivering coffee to the
people at their desks. Roswell was
transformed in the space of a few hours. Everybody was out on the streets, the
blocks were gridlocked right up to 9th Street
and the police were out in force. A large crowd had gathered outside RDR's offices; their inquisitive and
worried voices rose as high as the office windows. Stanley
came back from the base; he had tried to call in but the phone lines were
continuously engaged. There were more onlookers outside the gates, but the RAAF
was admitting nobody and the sentries were mute.
"Quilley!" Mollett beckoned Clane over to his cubicle again.
smiled gratefully when Clane left the phone off the hook as he got up. The RDR editor handed him a folder.
"Quilley, the Eighth Army Air Force is holding a press conference this
evening. I want you and Tom to attend. You're to report to Gen. Roger
"Sure, Mr Mollett."
"It's not at the RAAF though; it's at
Take Tom's van and claim everything you want or need on expenses; food, drink,
"Yes, Fort Worth,
"Sir, do you know how far away
Fort Worth is?
It's half a day's drive."
Mollett reached into his desk and pulled out an atlas. He flicked through it until he found the right page. "Damn! You're right... We're too late; you'll never get there in time."
"Mr Mollett... Wait a minute! I've got an idea." Clane made a quick phone call and then came back with good news.
Mollett smiled more broadly than Clane had ever seen him do before. "Mr Flying Saucer Correspondent, your time is come."
The light aircraft bumped down onto the runway and Hilda Blair Ray eased back on the throttle. Tom breathed again. The RDR's photographer had been manifestly uncomfortable for the entire hour-long flight. He had quietly informed Clane that he disliked flying on the drive to Roswell Civic Airfield. Hilda taxied the plane away from the main terminal at
because it only handled large long-distance airliners. They pulled up beside a
small hangar and she cut the engine. They climbed out and Tom unloaded his
equipment from the luggage compartment. "Thank you, Hilda!" gushed
Clane. "If I win the Pulitzer for this then you'll get a share of the cash
"You're welcome, Clane." She smiled behind her pilots' sunglasses. "I just wish I could wait and fly you back afterwards, but I've got to get home. I'm in court tomorrow first thing."
"That's alright, Hilda. We'll stay overnight and come home tomorrow morning on the Greyhound." They helped Hilda wheel over a bowser so she could refuel the aircraft, then they headed for the hangar. Clane helped by carrying Tom's tripod. He had several cases of his equipment; not only two different cameras, but slides, flashbulbs, tools, cleaning wipes, bottles of chemicals, lenses and everything else he might need. Tom was a demure mole-like man who never socialized with the other RDR staff. His skin was pallid from spending long hours in his darkroom. He was a bachelor and seemed to care about nothing except photography. His only reading material were books and magazines on the subject. Because they were not at a passenger terminal there were no facilities for onward journeys. There was just a gate at the back of the hangar leading onto an empty road bordering the airport. Clane and Tom walked along the road, the afternoon heat weighing heavily on their bodies. Sweat soaked into Clane's trilby hat, and he loosened his collar and tie. The tripod slipped back and forth in his slimy hands. None of the passing drivers stopped to give them a lift. Eventually they came upon a cafe with a payphone and a list of numbers for taxi firms. Ten minutes later they were heading for Fort Worth AAF in a cab.
The taxi dropped them off at the base's main gate. It was very similar to the one at
and they were questioned thoroughly by the sentries. They had their press cards
taken away and examined for a few minutes. Then a pair of MP's escorted them
inside the compound. They were shown over to a building and their escorts
wordlessly held the door open for them. Clane found the cool air-conditioned
interior luxurious after the flare of the outdoors. They were given
refreshments and then asked to go and sit in a large conference room with
wooden chairs around the wall. In the corner there was a steel radiator, off at
this time of year of course, beneath a curtained window. The curtain had
flowery prints on it and there was a black cloth sash lying loosely on top of
the radiator. There was a thin stringy carpet that left the parquet floor at
the walls clear. More people joined them, fellow newsmen from other papers.
Clane recognized some of them and they chatted, catching up on old times. A
door opened at the far end of the room and a high-ranking AAF officer walked
in. He was a Brigadier General with a row of shoulder stars and a Persian rug
of medal ribbons on the breast of his jacket. His face was severe and
moustachioed; in Clane's eyes he resembled the actor Clark Gable. "Good
afternoon, ladies and gentlemen." he began in a deadpan and official tone.
"My name is General Roger Ramey of the Eighth Army Air Force. We will be
starting the press conference in twenty minutes. Please take that time to make
your preparations." Without another word he returned through the door. Tom
got to work. He unfolded his tripod and opened his cases of equipment. With the
ease of a complete expert he assembled his camera and flashguns. In the corner
of the room an airman emerged from the same door Gen. Ramey had just exited; he
was carrying a large cardboard box. He tipped the box upside down and emptied
its contents onto the floor in the corner. He returned to the adjacent room
without acknowledging the reporters and shut the door. Clane moved closer and
saw that the material from the box, now strewn across the parquet floor, was a
pile of broken wooden struts, and crumpled and torn metallic foil. He turned to
Tom and frowned. "What's going on?"
Tom was all set up in good time before the office door opened and five men marched formally out into the room, led by Gen. Ramey. "Jesse!" Clane gasped aloud.
One of the men was Jesse Marcel. The Major looked up at his name being called and briefly met his friend's eyes before snapping back into professional catalepsy. Behind his military poise, Clane could see that Marcel was in mental turmoil. His eyes were blanks and his cheeks flushed. The row of men were stood at ease and Gen. Ramey stepped forward. "Ladies and gentlemen of the press." he said. "I've invited you here today to give you the real story behind what happened yesterday in relation to the claim that the Roswell Army Air Force had salvaged the remains of a flying saucer. I'm afraid the truth is far more mundane. Maj. Jesse Marcel here," He pointed at Jesse, "made a mistake. What he thought were fragments of a shipwreck from the stars were actually just a high altitude weather balloon. What you see before you," He pointed at the debris on the floor. "are the shattered pieces of just one such balloon. These are the very fragments that Maj. Marcel found. The foil pieces are part of a radar reflector. Warrant Officer Newton will explain."
Another man advanced a pace and addressed the audience. "The General is correct; this is definitely a broken weather balloon. I'm part of the meteorological team here at Fort Worth AAF and we send these up all the time, maybe a few every day. The radar targets are attached because the balloons float very high; too high to see. They tell us wind speeds and directions which is very important for flight operations. This balloon may well be one of ours; it drifted westwards and came down in
where it was found by the rancher Mac Brazel..." He rambled on for a few
more minutes giving technical details. Then it was time for the photo shoot.
Ramey directed it. "Maj. Marcel, could you hold the material for the
cameras please? You'll need to crouch down to be in their frames... Is the
light in here alright for you folks?" Tom clicked away; his flashgun
thumped over and over, joined by those of the other photographers until they
blended into a flickering drum roll. The stench of burnt magnesium filled the
air. Maj. Jesse Marcel squatted down in front of the radiator and the wooden
chairs, holding one of the largest pieces of weather balloon in his hands. He
managed to force a thin smile as he gazed up at the press gang.
Clane entered Mollett's cubicle and handed him his draft. The editor put on his spectacles and read. "Hmm, the article is okay... But 'Roswell Flying Disk turns out to be Army Weather Balloon'? Not a very good title, Quilley. Can you come up with something punchier? With more style? Use a pun or metaphor of some kind." Clane returned to his desk and loaded his typewriter. As always he began with today's date: Wednesday 9th of July 1947. After some deliberation he came up with "Gen. Ramey Empties Roswell Saucer." He grinned sardonically at his own wit. "You don't look very happy, Clane."
smiled at him sympathetically.
Clane smiled back and shrugged. "It's just been a very strange week, Mari."
"It has too!"
"I started out totally skeptical. When all this talk of flying saucers began I just wanted it to end. Now it's over I feel almost nostalgic; I miss it."
"Me too. It was certainly exciting."
"Even before the press release from the base yesterday I'd begun to believe that flying saucers might be real and we do share this universe with other beings like us. But it was all a huge mountain made out of a tiny molehill... And it went to my head, Mari; being the RDR's official flying saucer correspondent on the day flying saucers were proven real, in
of all places. I was the man on the spot. I was talking to people from all over
the world, right here in Roswell!"
His voice faded wistfully.
"And now everything's back to normal." she said. "And it feels so boring! I've faced normality my whole life; why does it seem so unbearable all of a sudden?"
"It could be worse I suppose." Clane was thinking of Jesse Marcel; his heart ached for his friend. The prints of Tom's photographs were lying in a folder on his desk. He picked them up and took them over to the telex. He looked at each one of them at a time as he scanned them in. He hesitated and then pressed the SEND button. He had just added the visual record of Marcel's humiliation to the Associated Press wire. Within a second those photographs could be printed off in every newspaper office in the country. Within a minute they'd be copied to the international wires; then anybody anywhere in the world could press a button on a machine and see a picture of Maj. Jesse Marcel prostrating himself amid the debris of his blunder.
By mid-morning all the day's copy was ready. Tristan was off sick so once again it was Clane who carried the sheaf of typewritten articles down to the printers. He manoeuvred the earmuffs on with one hand as he grasped the papers close to his chest. Enoch made the gesture that meant "hello"; the only part of the print shop's mysterious sign language that Clane had learnt. Clane watched with interest as Enoch and his team got to work, transforming the typewriter text into blocks on the lithographic plates. These were then loaded into the huge machines which began churning like rock-crushers. Chains relayed, rollers rotated and the mechanical behemoths steadily digested their instructions before neatly excreting newspapers.
"STOP!" The voice was audible even above the din of the machines. They all turned and stared. The sight that met their eyes was the last they expected. Owen Mollett, the editor of the Roswell Daily Record, stood in the open doorway. He was waving a sheet of paper in his hand. Enoch recovered from his surprise and turned to his team. He drew his hand flat and horizontally beneath his chin and the men fiddled with levers and buttons. The printing machines ground to a halt. The following silence was the deepest and most uncanny Clane Quilley had ever heard. Slowly, one by one, the printers removed their earmuffs. Their faces were grey and ashen in the garish light.
Mollett, not the fittest man in the world, was out of breath from his run downstairs. "Stop the press! Scratch the entire issue!" he puffed. "Quilley! This is just in on the AP wire." He waved the chit. "We're to withdraw the entire story from the
"Who says?" asked Clane. "Gen. Ramey?"
"No!" Mollett grinned with excitement. "
Enoch and the other printers muttered with surprise too.
"This is direct from the White House." confirmed Mollett. "The President is going to address the nation at ."
"But... Mr Mollett. This can only mean..."
"That's right, Quilley. The
saucer is real."