Lights in the Night

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Chapter 16: Getting Down to Work

After breakfast with Ellie and Grace, Trevor exchanged numbers with Ellie just in case she experienced any delays. He told her to show up at ten o’clock, wanting an early start. Letting her know how much he liked her first piece, he explained he wanted something like it on his front window. He asked her to design something like that and it would be perfect.

The women decided at breakfast, Trevor needed some sleep. Leaving Ellie to run home for a few hours. He crept into the room. Not waking Cuff and Link, who still shared the same bed, slipped into his bed for a few hours’ sleep.

Nothing. Until three hours later when Cuff gave him a nudge. Odd, no dreams, no nightmares, no nothing, just sleep. A sleep like he’d not enjoyed in decades. He found it odd to feel refreshed in the morning, it’d been so long since he experienced that feeling.

Cuff and Link already showered and ready for the day, Trevor shooed them off to breakfast and got ready himself. Jeans, an old Grateful Dead tee, his new Tony Lamas and his laptop bag. He acted like a new man as he clopped down the stairs, finding Link and Cuff eating at the kitchen table, “I’ll see you two at the shop. I got some help coming in soon,” he stressed in passing.

February in West Texas can still be cool, this morning turned cooler than normal. Leaving his jacket behind, he wished he wore longer sleeves.

Finding the cool air refreshing, some would call it bracing, he hurried into the storefront next door to Eddington’s. Taking inventory of the space, he envisioned what he would put where, and how much extra help he would need. Cuff and Link would be his legs and muscles. He would direct operations from the small office space in back. Clenched fists on his hips he tried to strike an imposing stance. There were no witnesses to his attempt. That is probably for the better.

Ten rolled around and Ellie came knocking at the back door. Opening the door for her, “Good morning, you ready to go to work?” Trevor asked as she walked in.

“I got three rough sketches, I want you to check out, but I wasn’t sure of the size you wanted,” she explained as they walked through the spaces.

Arms wide stretched in front of the twenty wide by twelve tall window, “I want this painted from the inside but I want it to look like...”

Pausing as he scanned the three sketches, “...this one. I want to see it like this but from inside and out,” placing the paper on the window to help explain what he wanted.

“I’ll need some supplies, I don’t have that much paint. Can I get a ride into the city to pick it up?”.

About that time, Cuff and Link came through the door. Compared to Ellie’s five-foot-tall frame the two men dwarfed her like giants, at well over six foot. Trevor played the host, “Cuff, Link, this is Ellie, she will be doing some decorating for me. Ellie, these two don’t say much but they are the best mates a man can have. They will take care of you,” shocked at the complement, Cuff and Link exchanged glances before wrapping their ham hands around Ellie’s petite hand in greeting.

“Ellie make a list for Cuff, he will be running to town in an hour. Cuff, I will make a list for you as well. We need some gear. Ellie, you have three friends that need some work?”

“Mister Trevor, you bet I do!” already on her phone ready to make the calls.

“Wait a second, your parents all right with you working here?”

“Mister Trevor. I am eighteen, I’m an adult. Besides, it is just me and my dad, and he don’t care.”

“Ellie, please call me Trevor. Mister Trevor, just sounds... strange.”

“Sure thing, Mi... Trevor; I will make the list first then get the others over here to help... um Trevor, the hundred dollars?”

“Right here,” he handed over five new twenties.

“I’ll pay you ten dollars an hour while you paint, plus pay for your supplies. Tell your friends I will pay them ten dollars an hour as well. I have...” looking around the rooms, “at least two days’ work for them.”

Shifting his attention to Cuff and Link, “Listen, we will set up an office in here.”

He led them into the back office area and closed the door, “Instead of trying to bribe the sheriff, all we need to do is make this look like a legit business. We will hire a few kids, clean up the place and make it look like we are here to stay.”

Motioning to the one desk and map of the area Link hung, “We will keep this office locked, so we don’t get too many questions. We’ll use our cells, no land lines. The gear... we will keep the kids away from and set up in the loading dock area. I want some night-vision cameras and security for the place, I don’t want any more snoopers.”

Gathering the list of needed items for Cuff to buy became his priority. He needed to make it seem like they were opening shop for good. That should throw off that nosy sheriff.

Halfway through the list, he was interrupted by an awful commotion in the front area. Trevor left the office to investigate, and found Cuff standing between Ellie and the new landlord. Link, coming from the loading dock with a twenty-four-inch spanner ready to part someone’s hair.

“What’s going on out here?” Trevor questioned the group as he entered the room.

“I caught this ragamuffin defacing my property. I was about to stop her when this... gentleman intervened,” the newcomer quipped.

“Ah, Mister Green. I can assure you, Miss Ellie was following my directions. You have a complaint, it would be with me,” Trevor corrected the landlord.

“Look, you rented the place. I didn’t say you could paint, or deface my property. You must take care of it so I can rent it out when you leave.”

“Your right. How much?” Trevor didn’t mince words with this intruder.

“For the window,” Mister Green, doing a quick calculation, “two-hundred, should cover it.”

“Not for the window, for the building,” correcting him.

“The building? You can’t be serious.”

“Of course, I’m serious. I’ve work to do, I need this building to do my work. I can’t be worrying about upsetting you every time I want to do something. Name your price.”

Running some numbers in his head, the owner tried to play Trevor, “I own both units. This one and the one next door. I could let you take them both for five-hundred-thousand... each.”

“Interesting. Guys pack up we are going to the second location,” playing brinkmanship. Cuff and Link did as they were told.

“Sorry for the inconvenience,” pulling out his wallet, he offered Mister Green two hundred dollars.

Flabbergasted, “What are you doing?”

“You don’t think you are the only person ready to sell, do you? I happen to know three other people on this street ready to sell. You come in here and jerk me off, trying to play me for some newbie, I don’t like to be played. I know this property is appraised at three hundred for the both; I know it has set empty for the past two years. It can set empty till the second coming for all I care.”

“Wait please let’s not get hasty, I’ll take five-hundred for both,” trying to save the deal.

Incredulity sweeping over his face, “Did you not just hear what I said? I will give you three hundred for both. You produce your deed here in thirty minutes. A cashier’s check will be waiting. You’re not back in that time limit, I will only give two hundred dollars for the window, and we will find a place elsewhere. Only offer. You try to haggle I will drop the offer to two-seventy-five. Think of it like a pizza, thirty minutes or less, and go!” Trevor made to begin the stopwatch on his wrist.

Mister Green scrambled out of the door. Trevor turned to Ellie, “Did he hurt you? Are you alright?”

“Na, Mister Cuff was right there. Green is such a prick, thinks he owns the town. Man, you really put him in his place,” enthralled with Trevor.

“I hate bullies, he didn’t need to come in here and treat you like he did. He will be back, I would guess in about fifteen minutes. Go start on your work.”

He motioned Cuff and Link to follow, “Good work you two. That story will circulate around hopefully it will not make our business too hard. Cuff pickup your list from Ellie, I am almost done. Link go get a check; I am betting Mister Green will be back early.”

Green came back in twenty minutes. Twenty minutes after that Swindle Productions owned a duplex storefront in Marysfield Texas, with Ellie named the decorator.

By mid-day, Trevor had three more teens working for him; he was confident Ellie had somehow seen or came in contact with the lights. Her images evoked the sensation of an eyewitness account of the event. Trevor decided not to push the questioning. He would delay until earning her trust.

Cuff returned from the city, the car loaded down with Ellie’s cans of paint, office supplies and a few small pieces of knock down furniture. The rest would be delivered the next day. The teens cleaned the rooms of the old appliance store top to bottom. If you walked in now it would be hard to tell the place sat vacant for so long.

In his office, relaxing. Chair propped against the wall behind him, the building was silent. Darker than evening.

Trying to rock forward, he found himself stuck against the wall. Looking over his shoulder he could see hands formed out of the wall and had latched onto his clothing, holding him in place.

Freaking out he tried to scream but he had no voice. Struggling to escape. A spotlight illuminated Grace’s disembodied head, it was forming three dimensionally out of the map across from his desk. The lines, and colors of the map giving her face a comical patchwork look, roads meshing with her wrinkles.

Map of Grace chanted to him, “Do it, Do it, Do it.”

Not having the slightest clue what he was supposed to do. He glanced down and there was Sergei’s 9MM sitting on his desk in front of him, grip towards him.

Shortly after three in the afternoon, the front door cracked opened. The noise waking him with a start. Trevor overheard the conversation from the office. Looking he had no gun in his hand, or on his desk.

“Grace hath murdered sleep,” Muttering to himself.

He heard sounds as the others worked.

It started, “Oh. Hi, Ellie”.

Then, “Oh, Hi Shannon. I think he is in the back, putting furniture together.”

Rising to check who’d dropped by to visit, he bumped into her as she came to the wrong door.

“Oh, excuse me,” both shocked and embarrassed blurted out in unison.

Extending his hand to her, “Hello, I am Trevor. How can I help you?”

Trevor felt a goddess stood before him, late thirties, copper skin, high cheekbones, almond-shaped doe eyes, and a long ebony braid with a slight trace of silver draped over her right shoulder. Instead it was Billy’s mother, Shannon Yazzie.

Shaking Trevor’s hand with the firm grip of someone who had worked with their hands, “Hello, my name is Shannon. I was looking for my son.”

At the end of her sentence, Billy came in from the back room. Annoyed, “Mom? What are you doing here?”

Raising an eyebrow to his tone, “You’d been gone all day, I wanted to make sure you weren’t dead in a ditch.”

“I am alive and well, now I have work to do, I am heading to the back,” with that Billy left to continue his work.

“I am sorry. They hit eighteen and they think mothers no longer care.”

“No, he is lucky to have a mother around to worry about him. He will understand as he gets older,” sympathizing with Shannon. He still held her hand or did she still hold his? Mutually they let their grip go.

“You aren’t from around here are you,” she joked.

“Did my accent give me away?” smiling back, flirting.

“I should be going. I heard you had a few of the kids here working; I wanted to check on things. Teens around here can be creative getting into trouble,” she started for the door.

“I will keep them busy, and away from the devil,” Trevor tried to joke.

Surprised, “I beg your pardon?” Shannon reacted.

“Idle hands and the devil’s playground... I was trying to be funny.”

Shannon gave him a courtesy laugh. “Ah, I get it now. Cute,” she attempted to cushion his ego.

He recognized Ellie letting out a soft groan as if his epic fail caused her extraordinary pain.

Opening the door for her, “Stop by anytime. Parents are always welcome. I think I will only need all of them for one more day. Ellie has a few more days’ work, painting, then we’ll see how things go after that.”

Outside they stood facing the storefront admiring Ellie’s abstract design, “It is kind of peaceful and frightening at the same time, isn’t it?” Shannon stood appraising the artwork.

“I like it, I think Ellie has a real talent for observation,” Trevor added.

“Might not want to let her dad hear you say that, he wants Ellie to find a job. Not be an artist. He can be... a real asshole at times,” Shannon judged.

Trevor walked Shannon the few steps to her pickup, parked wrong side of the street, in front of the shop. “Nice truck” Trevor admired the pearl white F150 as Shannon got in.

“Thanks. Billy drives it most of the time, but I needed to run into the city, his is more reliable,” she explained.

Shannon closed the door and put the truck into gear, pulling away from the curb. Trevor managed a thought, how many white trucks are there really in Texas?

Glancing at his watch, it was approaching five and his date with Crystal. Walking back inside the store with hands in his front pockets he watched Ellie continue painting, focusing as if possessed. Hands moving almost involuntary, “Ellie, about time to go home for the night, Ellie.”

Glazed-eyed Ellie looked back to Trevor, “Sorry I was focused, what did you say?”

“About time to call it quits.”

“Can’t I stay a little longer. I want to get these lines better,” pointing to a section she was working on.

“I’ll have Link stay for one more hour, then you need to rest. It will be here tomorrow, waiting for you.”

Straight back painting, Ellie nodded agreement.

“Cuff, Link chase them out in an hour,” Trevor directed.

“I’ve something to take care of,” with that, he headed out of the store going for a shower, and his appointment with Crystal.

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