So, at the end of Part 3, we had the body snatchers in place, the whole town somehow knowing all the Collins family’s dirty secrets, Marjorie not getting that Jim is Quentin, and Julia on her way.
As the Velva plot continues on its merry way towards ruining any chances of the human race ever reaching their planet, we finally get Barnabas and Quentin! This is something Ross consistently does well and the interaction between them is always fun to read. It’s a mystery why there’s so much animosity between them, but their barbed conversations are a joy, so it doesn’t matter.
“Your attack on [my landlady] nearly sent me to jail.”
Barnabas met his gaze directly. “It was not meant that you should be blamed.”
“But that was what happened. Fortunately Ms. Vale recovered quickly and made it clear to the sheriff I was innocent.”
“Had she not done so I would have found some way to clear you.”
“How generous of you!” (Ross, 116)
Did Barnabas attack her just to mess with him? I feel like he did.
But then they talk about the real problems at hand and Barnabas reveals that he found the alien spaceship out in the swamp and knows that Roger and Murdoch are alive in a cave. Quentin logically asks why he hasn’t done something with this information, but apparently Barnabas has a realistic assessment of his ability to act alone. Now he (reluctantly) is joining forces with Quentin and they’re heading off to check out that swamp, so you know it’s on.
Back at Collinwood, Carolyn has noticed that Don is different in a bad way, but since everyone thinks he survived a very near death experience, she’s trying to be understanding and let it go. Their relationship was already doomed, though, because out of nowhere we get a twist.
“You think Don is too reckless and headstrong for me?”
“I do,” Barnabas said. “You deserve much better.”
“I know,” she said earnestly, staring up at him. “Barnabas, when this is settled, please take me away with you. Marry me and take me away!” (Ross, 128)
Carolyn. Look at your life. Look at your choices.
But for a change, Barnabas is not down with ill-advised and creepy romance and gently tells her it’s not going to happen. So at least he has that going for him. It’s not a good night for romance, though, because at the same time Quentin is breaking Marjorie’s heart with the revelation that, yes, he really is Quentin. He distracts her from that bit of bad news with the even worse news that her father, Roger, and Don are aliens. Well played, sir.
As it turns out, everyone is having a bad night at the Collins estate because off in the swamp the aliens are struggling with Murdoch’s science notebooks (not feeling so advanced now, are you?) and Murdoch lets them in on a secret he should have told them days ago: that whole mission to Velva? Yeah, it’s not actually possible. Why that wasn’t the first thing he told them, I don’t know, but he waited so long that the aliens don’t totally buy it.
Fortunately for poor Marjorie, who’s about to be kidnapped, Barnabas has a plan: dinner by torchlight. No, really, that’s the plan. And Julia has arrived just in time for Barnabas to reject her, too. Love is just not in the cards in this book.
“I’ve been hoping you’d come to Wyncliffe. I’ve been doing some interesting work at the clinic.”
Barnabas showed a look of melancholy amusement. “Perhaps I’ll do that one day.”
“You don’t even try to sound convincing, do you?” (Ross, 147)
Hearts suitably broken, it’s time for that bit of fiery foreshadowing to come into play, as Barnabas and Quentin terrorize Roger and Murdoch with torches and accuse the body snatchers of being body snatchers. Roger tries to bluster his way out of it, but this is Collinsport where people are willing to believe crazy stuff, so Barnabas just goes for it and kills him. As one does.
Marjorie still gets kidnapped, though (of course she does), so the chase is on! This is the inevitable point in a Ross novel where everything happens very quickly. The books are never more than 160 pages and every time the whole thing wraps up in about five. Barnabas rescues Roger and Murdoch, the remaining alien uses Marjorie as a human shield so he can get back in his ship and take off, and there’s a moment when it seems like maybe Quentin is dead, but of course he lives on to break hearts another day.
“Take me with you,” [Marjorie] said, staring up at him.
“Not this time,” he said. “Maybe later. I’ll phone you when I reach New York.” (Ross, 155)
Translation: you will literally never hear from him again.
But hey, with the exception of Don and the three aliens, everybody lives! I was originally planning to finish this edition of Marilyn Ross Theatre with four parts, but I’m actually going to come back with one more to do a wrap-up. I have thoughts on the book as a whole and a rating to put down (although you all know I love it), so check back in for the real conclusion to this adventure. It’s been a trip.