Cindy's ex-husband had suggested she stay at his house for a few nights. That way, she would be at Smith Field the next time the lights appeared.
Chelsea had endorsed the idea, as long as she was included. She didn't want to stay home by herself with Fort Wayne in a frenzy over UFOs.
Cindy was tempted to accept Jake's offer, but she declined. Her decision had little to do with what was left of their relationship, which she had to acknowledge was surprisingly friendly, even a tad flirtatious, in the past few days. Cindy had seen the side of Jake that had attracted her to him in the first place.
She was convinced nothing would show up again at Smith Field – all those spectators who by now were hauling their lawn chairs and binoculars to Ludwig Road every evening would surely scare away any intelligent life form, her own family excluded, of course.
She planned to scout a spot along U.S. 24 that had produced a couple of reported sightings. Jake thought Fox Island offered more promise, but Cindy said she had a sense about the site east of town.
Cindy hadn't told Jake and Chelsea that she had been at Fox Island the morning after the red lights zoomed into the wing of the F-16 fighter jet. Homeland Security called her and other investigators to examine an object that had been found in a wooded area by a police patrol.
The saucer was crumpled on one side where it had hit the plane. No lights were shining or blinking or spinning.
Bomb-sniffing dogs detected nothing suspicious, but people on Cindy's team worried about the possibility of hazardous or explosive materials. Cindy knew better. She recognized thruster devices on the saucer; they appeared to match something she had in her own home.
Cindy called for fingerprints to be gathered.
"This is no alien craft," she announced, "and it's not a spy drone." She instructed team members to take it to ITT.
And so while Jake was in church and Chelsea was stuck at home, Cindy and her lab partners took apart the saucer. It quickly yielded answers – unlike the shiny, slimy chunks of silver a farmer had pulled out of his soybean field north of Van Wert, Ohio, the day after the meteor shower. Cindy's lab team had yet to determine their composition.
Much of Cindy's job as an ITT systems engineer was confidential before the UFO sightings, and her work had only become more covert since. As long as her daughter and ex-husband were keeping their wits about them, Cindy was confident her own knowledge of the lights could remain a secret, providing the mystery was solved soon.
Cindy didn't tell Jake that she'd been to a barn off U.S. 24 once today already. She returned there before nightfall, her team keeping watch on the place from two vans parked nearby.
They waited and watched for two hours. Then, just before midnight, Cindy received a phone call from the Homeland Security director. Her mad scientist wouldn't be coming home after all. Investigative teams at Fox Island and a half-dozen other sites heard similar news.
As soon as lights had appeared over Smith Field – much higher and brighter than before and a long white spray this time, not a ring of blue or red – roadblocks went up along Cook, Coldwater, Ludwig and Lima roads. A fighter jet zoomed overhead. National Guard troops combed the airfield.
A figure was spotted sprinting through the darkness on the north side of the airstrip, near Cook Road. Troops quickly circled it, their rifles drawn.
The figure stopped and fell to the ground.
"Don't shoot! Don't shoot!" a man's voice begged. "I give up!"