Mr. Smith - Part One
By: Tom Fowler

Sometime in the 1990s …

1.

The doorbell rang and Danny cursed silently to himself. He hated to be disturbed during Monday Night Football, but this was not the first time. Reluctantly, he rose from his favorite chair and headed towards the front door. No mean effort for the portly Danny Mann.

Opening the door, Danny saw a distinguished, well–dressed man standing on the other side of the bullet proof storm door. Not the kind of character that usually shows up here unannounced, he thought.

"Mr. Mann?" The man spoke before Danny could address him first.

"Yes."

"My name is Tom Smith. I have something to tell you that you will be most interested in. May I enter?" Mr. Smith was exceedingly polite.

As an investigative reporter with over 40 years experience, Danny Mann could size up people quickly and accurately. Something about Mr. Smith rang an alarm bell in his head, his demeanor not withstanding. Still, his instincts seldom lied and this time they told him to let Mr. Smith in. After only a moment's hesitation, Danny offered, "Please come in."

"Thank you," Mr. Smith replied, "I know you hate to be bothered during evening football telecasts, particularly when your beloved Chiefs are playing. Were they playing tonight, I would have come some other time."

Danny didn't know what to think of this man. Tom Smith was tall and slender, sporting a deep suntan and expensive clothes. He looked to be around 60 years of age, but gave the appearance of youth and vigor. His brown hair was well manicured and highlighted a slight graying around the temples. He wore a neatly trimmed moustache, which complemented blue eyes and bushy eyebrows. Whatever else this guy turns out to be, Danny concluded, he certainly is a cut above most people I meet in this business. But, how does he know so much about me? Though a famous man, Danny always kept his private life to himself.

Danny was in a state of mild bewilderment as he escorted his guest into the study. Rubbing his hand through thinning hair, he led the way through the short, dark hallway. Danny Mann was a lifelong bachelor and lived in a modest, but well kept, condo. The study was the biggest and best room in his home. It was where he spent most of his time. Though well kept, one noticed immediately upon entering the faint smell of whiskey and cheap cigars. Danny's housekeeper fought the valiant battle.

"Please sit, Mr. Smith," Danny said as he motioned to the large leather chair on the other side of his desk. Danny was very proud of the twin leather chairs in his office. Persons that visited appreciated sitting in as nice a chair as his. It made them feel good and, when they felt good, they talked. It occurred to Danny that he had not yet uttered half a dozen sentences to his new acquaintance, but felt he knew him well.

"Thank you," the visitor replied as he took his seat. "I know that you, as I, do not appreciate small talk, so I will get to the point. My name is not really Tom Smith and I am not from here."

Danny nodded. He didn't think "Tom Smith" fit a man such as this, nor was he surprised that he was not from Kansas City. Many people in this world are not from Kansas City, he thought wryly. Politely, he answered, "So?"

"Mr. Mann, I have visited you because you are well known to your people and have a generally positive influence upon them. When I say I am not from here, I mean that I am what you would call an alien." "Tom Smith" spoke without emotion.

"Where are you from?" He asked, in his raspy voice. Danny guessed Europe: Spain, maybe.

"I am not an alien from another country. I am from another time and space."

Danny dealt with many head cases through the years. He had tossed guys out on their ears for less than this, but, again, his instincts told him to keep listening.

As if reading his host's mind, the man said, "You are wise not to dismiss these seemingly absurd remarks out of hand. I will show you proof of everything I say."

"Continue," Danny replied, patiently.

"When I told you I am from another time and space, that is only half true. My civilization occupies the same space as yours, but on a different… channel, or frequency." The man seemed to search for words. "Think of the football game on the television that you are missing because of me. It is broadcast on one. Think of another program being broadcast on another network. This is the best correlation that I can offer."

"You mentioned space and time." Danny was riding with this, for now.

"Imagine the second program being run 600,000 years in the future. Same medium. Different avenues at far different times."

"Are you saying that you are from a time 600,000 years ahead of us?"

"We are 596,348 years and 21 days behind you. Our civilization took far less time to advance than yours," Tom answered, dryly.

Danny had no idea where this conversation was going. He needed to keep Mr. Smith talking. "This is very interesting, but you're right. All of this does sound absurd, and why do you need to speak with an influential citizen?

"Our culture wishes to introduce itself to yours. You are probably not aware that yours and mine are the only two civilizations in existence."

Danny now decided, instincts or no instincts, to rid himself of the polite Mr. Smith as quickly as possible. However, the man did mention that he could prove himself. He would ask for proof, then toss him out. "You said that you could prove yourself. I think now is a good time for you to do so."

Tom Smith grinned. "Can you hear me now?" He asked, only he didn't move his lips.

"Yes, but a good ventriloquist can do that," Danny answered.

"Can a good ventriloquist do this?" As he spoke, he disappeared from sight. "I am now invisible to you. People of my entity can travel across great distances in time and physical measure effortlessly. This, plus our ability to assume any shape and mass we find convenient, is the chief difference between we and you." Tom Smith became visible again. Still sitting in the big leather chair, he said, "Touch my arm. Do you feel it?"

Danny, a man used to having curves thrown to him by unusual people, still suspected an illusion of some kind. Tom Smith may be a pro. Maybe he was sent here to discredit me. More than one person walking around today would love to do that, he well knew. Cautiously, he touched Tom's elbow. "Yes, I feel your arm."

"Very well. Remove it and when you do, I will be standing by the window."

Danny looked right into his guests eyes as he removed his hand. Tom's eyes disappeared. As Danny blinked, Tom was already standing by the window. Tom said, "Now, I do not want to scare you. I would like to hold your hand with mine and, as I do, cause my hand to disappear. We will speak to one another and look at each other and you will be holding air where you were grasping my hand. Can you do this?"

Danny was frightened, and somewhat bewildered, but he was a salty old veteran who didn't rattle easily. He rose from his chair and met Tom at the window. Hell, he reasoned, if Nixon couldn't get the best of me, Tom Smith certainly will not. Looking Tom in the eye, he answered, "Okay, let's do it."

Tom smiled. "Very good, Danny, and I agree with you about Nixon. If you held your own with him, you have nothing to fear from me.

"I didn't think that out loud!," Danny almost shouted.

"No, you didn't. You thought it. I can cause you to hear my thoughts and I can hear yours. Tom's lips did not move as he "said" this.

Ever the pro, a very rattled Danny said, "Well, let's shake hands."

Tom used a very soothing voice and told him, "Okay. Just remember that you will be holding air where you were holding my hand."

The men took each others hand. Danny, a man's man who had shook many a hand, considered Tom Smith's handshake a good one. Firm, but not too firm, and friendly. Tom smiled at Danny and gripped his hand tightly before it disappeared altogether. Danny looked down and Tom's right hand was missing. This time, Danny had a difficult time keeping his nerve. Having a man in his home whom could read thoughts, cause all or part of himself to disappear, and who claimed to be from 596,348 years and 21 days in the past on another TV station bothered him a great deal.

"One more thing, Danny. I'm going to put my right arm in front of you. Please touch my wrist." Danny did. There was no hand there, just a stub at the end of his wrist. "Thank you. Keep looking and don't blink. My hand will reappear––now!" As he said this, his hand reappeared and he gave Danny an affectionate pat on the shoulder.

Danny Mann had not, in his 64 years of existence, 44 of those going head to head with vicious criminals, psychopaths, crooked politicians and unusual, unpredictable people of all kinds (great newsmakers all), been unnerved as he now was. It had taken Tom Smith less than a half hour to do this to him. He had one thing on his mind now.

"Your thought concerning the bottle of bourbon is a good one," Tom Smith said, using spoken words so as not to agitate his host further. "May I join you?"

2.

Danny was feeling better after two stiff bourbon and sevens. The color returned to his cheeks and he was thinking clearly once again.

"May I call you Tom?

"I wish you would. I'm sorry that I had to do what I did, but you have to understand that I am who I say I am."

"So I'm in the presence of an alien who can cross time and space with ease. Now what?"

The men had retired to the living room. Though slightly smaller than the study, the decor was done in lighter colors and the ceiling was higher, giving it an airiness and brightness that the dark paneled study lacked. Danny was much in need of airiness and brightness right now.

"As I said earlier, we wish to introduce ourselves to your people."

"You think I can help with this? How? Wouldn't it be better to contact government officials?"

Tom laughed. "Take me to your leader! You must be and old film aficionado."

Danny laughed also. That remark was a bit ridiculous. He, more than anyone else, should understand the futility of dealing with the government. The laugh eased his mood but he knew he shouldn't let his guard down too much. He allowed himself a generous portion of bourbon only because he could handle it well. "Yeah, I guess that's not a good idea, but what's the purpose of wanting to meet us? You are far advanced. We are not. What do you want? You seem to know all about us anyway." It took no small amount of courage to ask that question.

"We don't want to overtake you, so you can rest easy about that." Danny didn't know why, but he believed him. "We want to study the human race. You have something in your character that we lack."

"What?"

"Unpredictability."

"Unpredictability!" Danny was dumbfounded. In the movies, Man's evil nature was usually the culprit. "What do you want to know about unpredictability?"

"Please remember I come from a species that can move about freely through both time and distance. We have no need for food, shelter, or creature comforts. Our existence is far different from yours. In my world, there are no questions about anything because we literally know all of the answers. By being able to go anywhere and do anything, there are no mysteries in our experience. The confusion and chaos of your world fascinates us. It is true we know a great deal about you; indeed, in most respects, we know you better than you know yourselves. Still, we would like to intermingle with you, not only observe you from afar. We feel we will never understand your irrational behavior until we do so."

If nothing else, Mr. Tom Smith was one hell of a talker. Danny was beginning to feel disoriented again and wondered aloud if Tom Smith could be trusted.

"Again, if we wanted to destroy you, we would have done so long ago. Given the fact that you do not possess the powers our people do, your caution is wise and justified.

Understand also that we can be of great assistance to mankind. For example, we can easily correct the myriad of inconsistencies in your recorded history."

Tom Smith's soothing demeanor again calmed his host and this last statement interested Danny Mann, ever the accurate newsman, greatly. "How can you do that? Can you teach us to time travel?"

"No. It is not possible for your species to ever do that. But, your researchers should, by all means, keep working on it. They will learn many useful things by accident while doing so."

"So how can you assist us?"

The television was still on in the living room with the sound turned down. Tom asked, "May I borrow your television for a moment?"

"Of course," a perplexed Danny replied.

Out of consideration for Danny's frayed nerves, Tom walked normally to the TV set. "I believe you have a blank tape in your video recorder, placed there by you the day before yesterday. May I use it?"

Danny didn't bother to wonder how he knew this. He simply nodded his head.

"Thank you." Danny continued to be impressed by Tom Smith's comfortable formality.

"I'm going to record something that you will be most interested in." As he said this, Tom took the VCR antenna lead in his right hand, the one that he had caused to disappear and reappear at will, and turned on the VCR to RECORD. What Danny saw appear on his TV screen was the most amazing thing yet in a night of amazing experiences.

Tom Smith knew Danny was a student of the American Civil War, fought some 130 years ago, and was considered an expert on the subject. (He had written professionally about it). What he was recording for his host was General Lee's surrender to General Grant. It was just as if a reporter with a mini–cam was standing in the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865. Tom knew that Danny, though impressed, was still skeptical.

Tom finished the taping. Danny viewed the whole thing without looking up once. "I'm going to show you something else, Danny. After this, we will continue tomorrow. I think you have enough to go to bed with tonight. Do you remember your ninth birthday party?"

Did he ever. He remembered it because it was the last birthday of his that his mother, Virginia Mann, was there for. In fact, it was just about the last occasion of any kind that Virginia Mann was able to enjoy. Three days after her son's birthday, she lay dead of a massive stroke. What Danny now saw on his TV screen was almost too much for him to bear. He saw himself as a pudgy nine year old standing over the big chocolate birthday cake his mother had baked for him, preparing to blow out the candles after his friends got through singing Happy Birthday. No pictures remained of that long ago day, celebrated over 55 years ago, certainly no videotape of the occasion. The sights and sounds coming from the screen overtook him. He began to weep, something Danny Mann rarely did.

Tom quietly quit recording and turned off the VCR and TV set. Gently, he said, "Until now, there was doubt in your mind. You are now convinced that I am legitimate." This was a statement, not a question. "Danny, I will leave now and see you when I am sure you are ready to visit some more. Will you be OK?" Tom knew he would be, but wanted to show his concern.

"Yes," Danny replied, somewhat shakily.

Tom smiled, "See you later, then."

"Yeah, later." With that, Tom Smith walked to the front door and exited, the normal, human way by opening the door and walking through it.

To be continued…

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