Time for tea, anyone?
(What Is And What Should Never Be, Led Zeppelin)
Part III: The House With No Windows
Harlowton, Montana October 1990
William Taylor was a big kid. An imposing kind of big, and he always had been. Solid muscle, but not the kind that came from too much time in a gym full of preening mirror queens. No, his were home grown, built up over cold, hard winters working on his parent’s ranch between Harlowton and Lavina, in central Montana. He’d grown up riding horses – not because he wanted to ride or because he liked horses, but because riding fence lines on horseback was still a pretty good way to get the job done. Especially when you were just a little kid. Few people understand that riding horses is not a passive activity, and that to ride a horse well you need to be about as strong as the horse you’re riding.
The ranch had been in the family for four generations, dating back to at least the 1890s. Families had arranged marriages out on the prairie for decades, ensuring that large spreads grew larger, that dynasties were maintained and fortunes assured. Now the Taylor Ranch, or the Bar-T, as it was called, was about twenty miles by thirty five miles, so big that Dub Taylor had been flying his fence lines in a Piper Cub for twenty years. They rotated sections on the Bar-T, running cattle on large swathes and growing wheat on adjacent parcels. The land looked flat from up there in the Cub, with squared-off buttes here and there, but once you were down on the ground you soon realized the land was anything but flat. There were several tributaries of the Musselshell River running through the land and more than a few old growth forests just north of the main house, but about the only other remarkable features you’d find out there on the Bar-T those days were little fenced off enclosures that housed Minuteman III ICBMs. A bunch of them, as a matter of fact.
William’s father, William Sr but locally known as Dub, hated those goddam missiles. He hated them because ever since he’d allowed the Air Force put them in the ground life on the ranch had grown uncomfortable. Uncomfortable as in strange, or, as Dub put it: “Pretty fucking weird.”
The ‘Missileers’ – as the airmen in the silos were known – came from Malmstrom Air Force Base over in Great Falls, and they didn’t drive out to the silos in cars or trucks, they came out in dark blue Hueys. And they came out whenever they wanted, but usually in the middle of the night. And if you happened to be anywhere close to them you got out of their way, or else. Large trucks came and went in the middle of the night, too, but they came in heavily armed convoys. If you were dumb enough to ask what was in the trucks you were reminded in no uncertain terms that you really needed to mind your own business and otherwise shut the fuck up. The word over in Harlowton was that 200 megaton hydrogen warheads were in those dark blue trucks. The Air Force guys called them City-busters.
And not long after the blue trucks started coming in the night the red spheres started showing up.
The family was gathered at the dining room table one night when a bunch of Hueys came roaring in low over the house, and that kind of thing was already considered “pretty fuckin’ unusual” – so Dub grabbed his 30-30 and made for the door, not sure what to expect.
“Well, fuck me in the ass,” Dub muttered as he stuttered to a stop in the doorway.
A couple miles away, just to the north of the main house and so not all that far away from Mount Baldy, he saw a red sphere hanging in the sky – and he could tell it was close. Real close. Like right above the local silo close.
“What is it, Dad?” Junior asked as he came up beside his father.
But his father didn’t say a word – he just pointed.
And William Taylor saw his first UFO that night.
It wouldn’t be his last.
Los Angeles, California 14 September 1996
“Anything sound good to you?” William Taylor asked Debra Sorensen when he got to her dorm room.
“You like steak?” she asked.
And he winced, because he’d grown up eating hardly anything other than steak. Although beef stew was a popular option, fish was almost an unknown on the ranch.
“I’m kind of into fish,” he replied, “but so far about all I’ve found is that fish thing at MacDonald’s.”
“I think it’s called the Filet-o-fish.”
“And you like fish?”
“I think so.”
She looked at him, saw he was uncomfortable and in an instant she could feel him, feel his embarrassment, almost overwhelming shame.
“I know a great place,” she said, thinking she knew just how to handle this. “Do you have a car or can we take mine?”
He shook his head. “Nope. No car.”
Again she sensed embarrassment but she didn’t see an easy way around that right now. “Mind if I drive?” she asked – as she reached out and took his hand in hers. She felt him relax as they walked over to the parking garage…at least until they got to her car.
“Is that yours?” he asked as she walked up to her Porsche Carrera 4.
“Yup. Help me with the top, will you?”
She smiled as she unlocked the doors. “Just sit down, okay?”
She pointed at a latch and asked him to release it then she flipped a switch and the Cabriolet’s top retracted in a dance of exquisite precision, and she watched Taylor watching the movements, and he seemed totally fascinated. She backed out of her assigned space and made it up to the westbound 10 and took it all the way out to the PCH, turning north on the coast highway and heading up to The Chart House in Malibu.
There was a long wait for a table but when Deb walked up to the hostess’s stand they were seated immediately, and soon enough their waiter greeted Deb like a close friend, even giving her a little hug before he helped her take a seat.
“Trust me?” she asked Taylor, and when he shrugged she turned to Chip, their waiter, and ordered crab bisque, lobster and filet mignons before she took William up to the salad bar. When he saw piles of smoked salmon there he turned and looked at Debra, then he shrugged apologetically.
“I don’t think I can afford this place,” he whispered in her ear.
“You played so well today, maybe you ought to let me get this one, and you can get the next one.”
He nodded but once again she felt something like shame as he picked up an iced salad plate.
“Why is there fish up here?” he asked.
“Ever had a real Caesar Salad?”
“I’ve had caesar dressing before?”
“Henry?” she said to the man behind the station. “Two Caesar’s with anchovies and lox, please.”
“Yes, Miss Sorensen.”
Taylor looked at Debra then looked around the restaurant, and for the first time, really.
The restaurant was not next to the beach but cantilevered on rocks and almost perched out over the breaking surf and there was a huge open fireplace in the center of the dining area roaring away – and about this time a real honest-to-Pete movie star came up to Deb and gave her a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek…and then she introduced William to Robert Redford.
“William plays for USC,” she added.
“Oh?” Redford said. “Were you out there today?”
“Yessir. Middle linebacker.”
“Oh yeah? Number 56, right? Helluva game, and call me Bob, please.”
And that was all it took. Half the people in the restaurant came up after that and wanted to shake his hand, wanted to congratulate him on a game well played, and Debra leaned back and grinned as her plan unfolded. William was an accepted part of the scene now, and she was his date now, and not the other way around.
By the time they got up from their table at the Chart House – about three hours later – he realized this was exactly why he’d come to USC, and he understood that Debra was the key to the future he’d always dreamed of.
But she wasn’t through with him just yet. Not in the least.
Instead of walking out to the valet stand she led him through the rocks and down to the breaking waves beneath the restaurant, and when she took his hands this time he knew exactly what to do.
It was simply a coincidence that Ted Sorensen was at The Chart House that evening – unless of course it wasn’t.
He was meeting with one of his special effects teams that afternoon anyway, so when the meeting ran over he suggested they continue out in Malibu over dinner. No big deal. But by then the studio’s head of security had briefed him in on Debra’s activities at the Coliseum that day, and that one of the linebackers had asked her out to dinner. It didn’t take too long to learn that the kid didn’t have a pot to piss in and that Deb would be picking up the tab – and besides, where else could she go to impress a jock from East Bumfuck, Montana…on her hundred bucks a week allowance? She still had charging privileges at The Chart House, so that question was conveniently answered. People were so predictable, so easy to manipulate. Even his daughter…
But his FX team had scored a new hire, a real gunslinger who’d been working for Aldus and Adobe and who just might be able to take the studio’s special effects efforts to the next level. His name was Henry Taggart and while he’d played ball down in Newport Beach he was also supposed to be big in the local sailing scene, and that made him of sudden interest to Sorensen. Because Ted wanted to get into sailing right now, tonight. It might prove useful, if only because he’d grown to detest golf and he needed a hobby. Maybe this Taggart kid would know the score, at least well enough to be worth talking to this evening.
He’d made sure to have Taggart sit next to him that evening, though he’d had to ignore him for the first ten or so minutes – the time it took him to read through his security chief’s work-up on the Taylor kid, anyway – then he’d started talking about boats.
“Say,” he began, “you know anything about sailboats?”
“A little,” Taggart sighed. “Why? Got one, or want one?”
“I’m interested in getting one but have no idea where to start.”
“Why do you want a boat? Got a trip in mind, or just looking for another mindless status symbol?”
Ted laughed at that, but the guy’s flippant tone was aggravating. “Mindless. I like that. Is that what boats are for?”
“Around here that’s usually the score,” Taggart said, grinning a little. “Either that or they’re just elaborate compensation mechanisms.”
“Compensation?” Sorensen asked.
“Yup. The smaller the pecker the bigger the boat.”
“Ah.” Sorensen leaned back and smiled. “And you’re a real expert in these matters, I assume?”
“You live and learn, Mr. Sorensen.”
“Okay, Ted. Look, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone who asks about boats. Go charter one for a week or two and see if the whole thing works for you. That’s usually enough to either catch the bug…or to come to your senses.”
“Charter? Like what? Charter a sailboat? You can do that?”
“Don’t play dumb, Ted. Why don’t you tell me what’s really on your mind?”
Now Sorensen didn’t know what to think of this kid. He was bright, maybe too bright for his own good, but already he was beginning to like him. “See that kid up there with Redford?”
“He’s with my daughter, Debra. That’s her, with the brown hair and glasses.”
“I want to get to know him, maybe over Christmas. She’s been making noises about wanting to learn how to sail, and…”
“Two birds, one stone?”
“You probably want to head south. I’m thinking Tahiti, Moorea, someplace like that.”
“So, Mr. Taggart,” Sorensen said, grinning as the contours of a plan began taking shape in his mind, “got any plans this Christmas?”
Harlowton, Montana December 1990
Ten Hueys roared past, seemingly inches over the roof of the main house, and Dub grabbed his 30-30 again and ran for the door, really mad now. William Junior pushed himself back from the dinner table and followed his dad out the door, hoping this one wouldn’t be as bad as the last two.
The wind was howling and the snow was already too deep for their Honda trail bikes so they made for the barn, never taking their eyes off the red sphere in the brush beyond the missile silo. The Hueys circled the sphere and door gunners leaned out and opened fire, tracers arcing into the blazing red sphere but with no obvious effect. Just like last time, and the time before that.
“You saddle up Tad; I’ll take Biscuit,” his father said as they jogged into the barn.
A minute later they were riding north towards Mount Baldy, a huge full moon just rising through the trees to the east, and plumes of warm vapor arced out of their horses’ nostrils into the arctic air. A half mile ahead several Hueys settled onto the snow and at least fifty troops jumped out of the helicopters and sprinted for the sphere; even from here their M-16s made a hideously loud roar, and even from here William could see the sphere was completely disinterested in what was now unfolding around the helicopters.
Then in the next instant the sphere disappeared.
Just as several large transport helicopters approached from the northwest.
By the time he and his father approached the scene at least twenty heavily armed airmen had positioned themselves between the Taylors and where, up until a few minutes ago, a huge Minuteman missile silo had been.
Now there was nothing to be seen but a smooth bowl seemingly carved right out of the earth.
And in the blink of an eye four more missiles had simply disappeared. And so had one hundred and twelve 200 megaton nuclear warheads.
© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.