He had begun speaking of lights that came down and melted the asphalt when, on the other side of the room at the Innova Center, another man reached into his coat pocket and lifted into the air a blue-velvet box. It was the chief abductions investigator with his little box of treasures. His jaw was set and his eyes were darting, and Derrel Sims looked important, in an FBI kind of way. He held a magnifying glass over the box; the members of the Houston UFO Network shuffled forward.
"This is one a lady sent me," Sims began. "Said she found it in her bed after an abduction."
He moved his hands beneath their eyes.
"These are little tiny nasal implants we found from a little girl," he continued.
"Those little stringy things?" a woman asked, scrunching up her nose.
Yes, Sims answered. They're .21 micrometers, which is about the size he would expect a nasal implant to be. He had instructed the girl's mother to collect her mucus the morning after each abduction. He found the implants by poking through the Kleenex.
"You have to know what to look for," he explained.
Sims showed them the "ocular implant" that stood as proof of the mass abduction of 1992, and he showed them a "high-tech ceramic" that he said was found at the site of a UFO crash. But there were specimens in that case more difficult to recover, and one by one, the chief investigator held the magnifying glass over them -- the little black bits that had been cut, he said, from a lady's foot, a man's hand and another woman's neck.
"If abductions are real, there should be evidence," he said gravely. "We think we're finding that evidence."
His display was filmed in April by a news crew from Channel 13. The pretty blond reporter had very few questions. She declined to sit through the lecture on dead cows, but on the way out, she thanked the chief investigator and told him this was all very fascinating, and she would think so even if she weren't working.
Sims was gracious and courtly. He seemed reluctant to let her go, which only made his rejection of the Houston Press sting all the more. No, he would not sit for a portrait.
"It's not about me. It's about what's happening to these people," he said. "And I don't need a critic to evaluate what I'm doing."
In the field they call ufology, Derrel Sims is becoming a shining star. In late March, he and his implant surgeries were the subject of an entire episode of the UPN series Paranormal Borderline. In Houston alone, some 50,000 households tuned in, and now a producer for Fox is considering another show like it. The chief investigator and his work are also on the current cover story of UFO Magazine. He has videos on sale, a 900 number offering alien updates, a World Wide Web page called "Alien Hunter" and an autobiography in the works, which he intends to call Confessions of an Alien Hunter.
It was my honor several years ago to be among the first reporters to speak with Mr. Sims. Just so I would know, he began by saying he could kill me in an instant, and there would be nothing I could do. Then he went on to describe his intergalactic battle with the alien leader Mondoz, and I went on to recount the tale in the Houston Post.
It wasn't my fault it didn't make the front page, and I am only partly responsible for the fact that it looked, there in Section D, kind of like a joke. But the hard-core members of HUFON were not amused, and when I returned recently to investigate the growing fame of the chief investigator, many of them declined to talk with me. One said afterward that she had been scolded for doing so. Another suggested that I was gullible for doubting alien abduction and that I had been brainwashed by the government. Anyway, a warning to the editor finally arrived from Derrel Sims' second-in-command. Cooperation from HUFON members has been understandably lacking, wrote Senior Investigator Dale C. Musser.
"While I do not know what Mr. Patterson's personal reasons are for his dislike of Mr. Sims, it is clear that he is on a vendetta .... [Reports from people he has questioned] seem to indicate that much of what Mr. Patterson plans to write is very close to, if not, liable."