By Milton T. Burton © 2009
Even though I've been a Baptist all my life, I've always viewed it as a blessing that Father Cozart was at the theater that night. The rest of us were just average Joes, people with no special credibility. But Cozart was a theologian and philosopher with an international reputation who had been associated with one of the most prestigious Catholic universities in the country for three decades. He was also a kind, unpretentious man with a gentle demeanor that inspired trust. The two of us happened to have adjoining seats at the Jane Street Theater one evening, and we struck up a conversation before the performance started.
It was my first trip to New York City where my daughter had been living for three years. She and her fiancé cooked up the idea of taking me to the play. The theater was a respectable establishment, but one that was in a section of Greenwich Village that was almost deserted in the evenings. Perfect for an after hours robbery. After the final curtain, we were all walking toward the nearest cab stand when the four young thugs slipped out of an alleyway. I won't waste a lot of time describing them. Gangbanger clothes and smirky, feral expressions. It didn't take an Einstein to figure out what they were after. We froze and they smirked, their bright, gleeful eyes drinking in our fear. Then two of them pulled knives. Large knives. I put my arm around my daughter and drew her close. Cozart was calm beside me but I could hear him whispering a prayer in what sounded like Latin. Old habits die hard, I guess.
What happened next happened exactly as Father Cozart and I told the world on Larry King Live and a half dozen other shows. The iconic little man just appeared out of nowhere, standing between us and the muggers. One second he wasn't there, and the next second he was. You've seen his picture, I know: the silvery coveralls, the slanted, oval eyes, the tiny, almost lipless mouth. That face is found in magazines and books and on internet websites by the score. It's also prominently displayed on roadside signs outside Roswell, New Mexico. I later learned that UFO researchers refer to his type as "The Grays." Only this one was a little different. Besides his shiny coveralls he was wearing a low-slung Colt Frontier .45, a fine western hat and a pair of cowboy boots.
"Huh!?" exclaimed the biggest mugger.
"I didn't say nothing, pardner," the little man said, his voice soft and metallic. "But I was about to point out that you hombres can't expect me to just stand here and let you rob these fine folks. Now can you?"
"Huh?" the big thug asked again.
The little man turned his head toward us. "Redundant, ain't he?" he asked. He turned back to the muggers and leaned forward to point at two of them. "You two need to get while the gettin's good. I'm lettin' you boys live to see another sunrise. You ain't done murder yet, so you can still get your houses in order if you're of a mind to."
The frontier brogue coming in that machine-like alien voice was eerie and sent chills down my spine. We all stood motionless for a few seconds. "Git!" the little man barked. The two thugs he'd pointed to began to back away. He gave his attention to the remaining pair. "But you rascals," he said. "You're already killers, so. . ."
The big Colt seemed to leapt into his hand as if by magic. It roared twice, and the remaining two muggers fell to the ground, a small neat hole in the forehead of each.
There came a long, stunned silence. Then the shiny little man turned to us, blew an imaginary puff of smoke from the muzzle of his gun, twirled it expertly back into its holster, and said, "As you folks get to know us better you'll come to understand that we've got real firm ideas about what's right and what's wrong." He winked one of his big, almond-shaped eyes at us and then vanished so quickly that the air made an audible "pop" as it rushed in to fill the void where he'd been standing.
My daughter and her fiancé refused to talk to the press. Thus Father Cozart and I became the two-week wonder. We had the fifteen minutes of fame neither of us wanted, and after that the whole incident dropped from the world's radar screen. I am convinced that since the coming of television people rarely believe or disbelieve anything. They merely watch. Four reputable people, one of whom was a famous theologian, had seen an alien, and the whole thing was allowed to drift onto the back page. No mater. Cozart and I talked it over, and we agreed that we'd done our duty and tried to alert mankind. If mankind refused to take heed, then so be it.
There was a little ribbing when I went back to work, and the company president called me in and pointed out that the firm offered to pay for "counseling" for long-time employees. I demurred. After a few days even the sidelong glances ceased and things returned to normal. Father Cozart and I had our vindication, though. It came some six weeks after the incident when a dozen of the little men appeared out of nowhere in the House chamber during the president's state of the union message. The one with the Colt and the cowboy hat was there, and two were dressed as Knights Templar. One wore a Roman toga and a laurel crown while three were decked out as Robin Hood and a pair of his merry men. But their costumes didn't really matter because that's the night the hangings began.
Milton T. Burton was born and raised in East Texas. He has been variously, a college history teacher, a political consultant, and a cattleman. He have published two crime novels with St. Martin's Press, NY titled "The Rogues' Game" and "The Sweet and The Dead."
July 18, 2009
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