Lights in the Night

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Chapter 21: Barney Comes to Town

Trevor headed home that night a happy man. He slumbered away the remaining hours of the night in bliss.

The next few days flew by, Billy became silent around Trevor, giving him the stink eye at every chance. Not wanting to push the issue, he decided to let things cool. Not wanting to scare her off, but at the same time not being able to stop dreaming about her.

The painting finished, Trevor decided to keep Ellie and Billy on as help because things started getting chaotic.

The song kept playing over in his head. Almost like a soundtrack to his life. Ignoring it now, he would catch himself humming it when alone. A constant reminder of the disturbing visions he witnessed with Sergei’s tea.

The front offices became very busy. People bustled in and out asking about property for rent. The original plan was to become substantial property owners in the town and sell for a higher price. The plan was not to become property managers. Seeing a need. He decided to fill it. Most of the storefronts in town had offers in the works. People were flowing into town. Not just the overabundance of VW vans with tie-dye clad modern version of hippies, but a more mainstream visitor was arriving.

Trevor, Cuff, and Link were solely to blame for the increase in traffic. Not that they would admit it. Besides Trevor held an iron-clad alibi, having dinner with Shannon, the night all the fuss stirred up. Funny thing, it was happenchance the whole event even took place. While Trevor enjoyed the first best date of his life, Cuff and Link went out into the country to begin the second phase of the operation.

Trevor had been convinced the original light show was real. While not willing to admit to himself what might be the origin of the first light show, over the years he’d seen enough to understand the power of belief. It fell to Cuff and Link, to raise the attention level of the event. The apparatus for that had been stored in the back room, marked private, and locked with an impressive padlock. A twenty-foot diameter, remote control helium balloon with attached lasers and LED color changing lights. Perfect for UFO sighting special effects for film.

While Trevor entertained Shannon, Cuff and Link scouted for locations to launch the modern-day dirigible. Ten miles outside of town there lay a dangerous intersection. The night in question a cattle hauler lost its trailer, allowing the cattle to run free. In most areas that would not warrant a news crew, but one happened upon the crash, returning from a Thursday Night Football shoot for a local 1A school. The visuals of the local police, cowboys, and motorists trying to round up the cattle, were too tremendous for the news crew to pass up. They just started filming the mayhem when Cuff and Link gave them a performance worthy of an Emmy. All broadcast live, the mysterious lights sparked debate on air and received one-hundred-thousand hits an hour the first night on the internet. Social media blew up fighting whether it was a hoax or not. Marysfield being the nearby town was listed as the location during live newscast of the mysterious event. Overnight Marysfield popped on search engines for national and international news. First day the curious came in merely a trickle, but more people arrived the second day. Always the VW vans leading the charge.

With Trevor’s help, the story gained steam. When revealed there was an earlier event and that his favorite rag in London possessed stills and film of the lights, the story trended heavy. Using his limited computer skills, and VPN to impersonate different people in various countries, he used his past experiences on various paranormal websites to spread false news stories. Soon the Eastern European fake news sites smelled money to be made with clickbait stories. Most people with an internet connection expressed an opinion or theory. Like the (white/gold or blue/black) dress controversy from twenty-fifteen, the internet didn’t stop arguing about the Marysfield lights. They were on everyone’s lips, or more precisely their fingertips.

Smelling money, short term brick and mortar retailers wanted in on the action. Because Marysfield had such a limited supply of storefronts, they came searching for space. Those that couldn’t find room, rented vacant lots from their owners, or simply brought in push carts, full of all sorts of tourist crap.

There were numerous groups competing to define the cause of the ‘lights’ as they came to be known. Trevor’s naming. Some more belligerent than others.

First, the most popular theory, alien visitation. If Trevor could’ve stomached an accurate cattle mutilation, that theory would’ve been sold. Like Gypsy Rose Lee once said, ‘Always leave them wanting more.’ In the case of an effective UFO story, too much information could be a bad thing, what facts are not given will be made-up. In Trevor’s experience, most of the best UFO stories were all in the imagination of one huckster selling his ‘truth’ about an event. Witness the two guys and a board convincing people aliens were making crop circles.

The second competing theory, spirits or some other supernatural entity emanating from the Lay Lines. A map circulated the internet, showing five Lay Lines converging right under or over Marysfield. Of course, Trevor took an old map showing the crisscrossing ‘magic’ lines with the dot for Marysfield, to the north of the intersection. A little cut and paste and Marysfield became the new magnet, for many new age wantabes.

The third competing theory, one Trevor didn’t even think about, he should read the Bible more. There were several Christian sects which believed a literal interpretation of the Bible. They viewed the lights as fulfilling several end-of-the-world prophecies, from Matthew, Mark, and Revelations. Trevor never planned to confirm doomsday cults and their end of the world beliefs.

A small group tried hard to convince the internet, the Native American spirit of Coyote returned, to trick the white man. Repayment for what they inflicted on their people over the centuries. That became Trevor’s favorite. He liked being cast as the Trickster.

Lastly, government conspiracy. People’s trust in the government eroded to the point where any crackpot theory had a chance to gain a following. The doomsday preppers were in their element. Unfortunately, many of them picked West Texas to hide their bunkers, because nothing happened there. They were not happy when West Texas became ground zero, epicenter and focal point for some of the more eccentric inhabitants of the country.

Lessons that should have been learned from the twenty-sixteen Presidential elections never sank in. Nothing sells better than an impassioned fake story.

The world became caught up in the craving of the story. A perfect storm of fake news sites, alternate facts, and twenty-four-hour news cycles developed. Meshing with a population’s desire for there to be a bigger story than their mundane everyday existence. This created a group of people following the news like an addict seeking their next hit of crack. When there was nothing new, there was always someone eager to manufacture the news.

This made up the wave of humanity that came crashing into the unexpecting little town of two thousand. What started with an influx of those blasted VW vans, each carrying between four and six passengers, of all ages and races, but the common theme of the occupants, was the tie-dye clothes. They were the vanguard, and their base of operations was Crystal’s shop. They rented a few houses on one street and seemed to be creating a sort of commune like a sixties love in. The kind Grace probably tried in a former life.

After a few days, the infrastructure of the small town became tested. Sheriff Rodriguez needed to bring on a few deputies. Water kept up, but power was being consumed at a much higher rate than the lines to the town were meant to carry. The small intersection took on the appearance of a carnival midway. Churches sprang up. Filling three homes, one storefront, and two tents a week after the news broke. People couldn’t find enough places to sleep. They did what they needed to do, they camped out.

Residents of Marysfield rented out their front yards as camp sites for fifty dollars a night, three to four deep. Grace’s sold out of everything, daily. Before the event, she would receive one delivery a week. That became one a day. The gas station was in more dire straits. Being so far to the next gas, many of the people did not understand how to travel in the wide-open spaces. More and more cars would show up to town, tanks reading empty. They were forced to fill up. Locals knew to never let your tank fall below half, so you could make it out of town if you had too.

Stranger things happened still, there were reports, even photos of other phenomena happening outside town limits. How much of it real and how much fake Trevor had no clue. He started this shit storm, but he was no way in control. Best news for Trevor, the property he’d been able to secure was going to be worth millions before everything was all said and done.

His plans were surpassing even his wildest dreams. His only regret, he had not made the time to visit Crystal or Shannon over the past few days. Things had become that hectic. Trevor mentally compared it to a Comic Convention on steroids. Of course, being Texas, everyone knows things are bigger in Texas.

This was the state of affairs when Barney rolled into town. He procured a Black Escalade, no Lime Green Chevy Spark for him. Working his way through the back streets, he pulled up to the back door of the shop. The front street being jammed with people. Getting out and appraising Ellie’s partially finished graffiti, he waited on the loading dock. Three bodyguards accompanied him.

Watching the monitors, in the office. Trevor’s heart jumped out of his chest when he saw the black SUV pull up into the loading area. Sergei’s warning about the black SUVs connections to the Black Sites kept running through his mind. A cold chill raced down his back. It took all of his willpower to keep from running from the Men in Black SUVs. Relief flowing over him when he saw Barney sliding out of the back seat, with a couple of his boys. Trevor thought this couldn’t be good. He came unannounced and brought friends. At that point, Trevor couldn’t be sure who he feared more, Barney or the government men the SUV might contain.

Chasing Ellie and Billy out the front door, he locked it behind them. He couldn’t escape the incessant ringing of the doorbell at the back. Cuff and Link were out taking care of some renters’ issues, which might be better, not sure of their loyalties. They were, after all, Barney’s men.

Opening the back door for Barney, he held his arms wide going for a hug. Truly happy to see his brother, even if he didn’t understand his impromptu visit, “Barnabas, I didn’t expect you. Did you see the traffic, can I cook or what?”

Barnabas embraced Trevor, even if, stiff as a board, “Let’s go inside out of the public. We need to talk in private,” cryptic as ever.

“Sure thing.”

“You three stay out here,” Barney ordered his traveling companions.

Trevor led him into the office.

Barney closed the door, inspecting all Trevor had accomplished, the map on the wall an outstanding indication of the progress. Sitting down in the chair across from Trevor’s chair, Barney put his head in his hands.

Unsettled, Trevor couldn’t remember seeing his brother like this, “Everything alright?”

Trevor pulled some papers from a file on his desk, “Look at our projections. We should double our investment in a month.”

Barney shook his head, “Trevor. Cuff and Link have been keeping me informed. At first, they didn’t trust your choices, but your numbers don’t lie. You’ve done a bang-up job here. Your numbers are outpacing my highest expectations for this investment,” There came a long pause. Always fear the pause before the but. The longer the pause the worse the news, “But I need you to liquidate everything. We are broke.”

Trevor sat down in his chair, shocked. “How?”

Barney started to explain, “That tosser Nigel...”

“The bookkeeper?” Trevor couldn’t bring himself to call him an accountant.

Correcting him Barney continued, “That twit, accountant. I never thought he would show the ballocks to do it but he ripped us off. Embezzled just about everything, last I... we tracked him to Venezuela.”

“What about the Thames River project? That was going to be your crown jewel,” Trevor trying to gather in everything he missed since being in Texas.

“Bloody smegin Nigel, didn’t pay the deposit, stole it all. All that money is gone,” Trevor did not understand how Barney could’ve given so much power to one man.

“Can we get it back? Can we get him back?” Trevor had never been the type to seek revenge, but right now he would gladly make an exception.

“Got some associates with certain contacts in South America investigating, but I doubt there will be much we can do, short of revenge,” shaking his head.

“Trevor, the only reason we’ve the money you have is because I did your business off the books, for your little exercise here. Twat Nigel never knew about this venture.”

“Listen, Barney, we’ve had nothing before, we can start over if we have to,” trying to console him.

“We? I paid for you to wander around the world and find yourself, I made that money. I took what little we had and made it into something,” visibly shaken, “Sorry Trevor, I didn’t mean that. I’ve never felt this much pain. I’ve failed you. I am sorry.”

Moving to his brother side, he knelt and put his forehead, to the crown of Barney’s head, “Bro, you have given me everything. Give me a few days to see what I can do. Hang in there.”

They were interrupted by a knock at the front door, “Crap who can that be?” Trevor got up to check the door.

“Trevor, the guys don’t know. I got enough to pay them for a few weeks. After that, they have to go as well. You’ve got Cuff and Link paid for the rest of the year. Don’t tell anybody, you understand. The sharks will attack if they sense weakness.”

“Don’t make any rash decisions. Let me see what I can do,” there came another knock at the door.

“Christ, let me see to that.”

Recognizing Crystals silhouette as he approached the door. He hadn’t seen her in days, opening the door, “Crystal? How are you doing?”

“I had the strangest feeling you were in pain. I closed my shop to come check on you. Is everything alright?” she peered around Trevor, eyeing Barney standing in the office doorway.

“Your brother,” not a question but a statement.

“Yes, he came to visit--” she cut Trevor off before he could explain. She walked towards Barney.

“Has anyone ever told you, you have the most interesting aura,” right hand reaching out to almost touch Barney’s cheek.

“Such great pain. I could help with that if you like,” Barney leaned into her cupped hand. Closed his eyes and the tension flowed out of him.

“Trevor, you’ve a week,” dreamlike, Barney’s eyes closed.

“Crystal what are you doing to my brother?” Trevor’s biggest concern.

“He will be safe with me. Have I ever given you a reason to not trust me?” Crystal questioned him.

“Well no...” Visions of the horse being controlled and spinal fluid sucking aliens burst into his mind.

Barney cut in, “Trevor, I will be fine; I need a break, I will take the guys with me, I will leave you Cuff and Link.”

Crystal took Barney’s arm and led him out the back door. Trevor was happy Cuff and Link removed the incriminating evidence long ago, but still hated Crystal walking through the back room. Leaving the way Barney came in, but Trevor had the impression, Crystal controlled all four of them, Barney and his three guards.

Closing the door, and leaning against it, that damned song played in his head.

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