Detective Riley glided the fluorescent purple marker from site to site, circling the areas where suspected cultists had been spotted, and checking off the spots where Barneyian articles had been left behind. As Malson watched on, sipping a steaming cup of Kona, the younger detective connected the sites and pressed his hands over the region he had just discovered.
“They’re not just using the old railways for routes, I think they’ve got a compound down there. But the circumference they cover must be close to thirty miles wide.”
“That’s a pretty big bite to chew,” said Malson, reviewing Riley’s map. “Where to next?”
Before Riley could answer, the dispatcher strode in, holding a transcript. “This just came in, guys. Head on to the wharf off of Admiral Way and I-77. Bring someone in from forensics.”
In seconds, a small convoy of patrol cars raced out of the precinct towards the waterfront, sirens screaming in the wake of the new day.
* * * *
Barry Clements looked about in astonishment. Dozens of people danced in mindless abandon, circling the statue that peaked near the ceiling. The idol bore an amazing resemblance to the one known as Barney, its arms raised in an invitating gesture to hug while its mouth hung open in an idiotic grin. Loved One musicians piped along in merriment, as the congregation of the Church of Purple Love giggled and pranced, clutching moth-eaten Barney and Baby Bop dolls. All Barry could do was stare, entranced.
Dr. Copernicus sensed the young teacher's surprise. He leant over and whispered in his ear. "You should see them when they get excited," he said with a wry smile.
"After the so-called Purple Holocaust I didn't think there'd be this many people worshipping Barney," said Barry. "I'm honored that you want to make me into his semblance."
Dr. Copernicus laughed out loud, causing Barry to jump. A hearty laugh seemed the last thing the mealy-faced scientist could produce. "I'm not going to make you into the semblance of Barney," he said, chuckling, " I'm literally going to make you Barney!"
Suddenly a gong broke the revelry, and the worshippers hurriedly returned to the pews. At the front of the idol stood Merrick, Head Priest of the Royal Order of Purple Passion. He was immaculately dressed in a purple and green robe, lined with gold fringe. On his head was a purple tiara with a gold figurine of Barney. He held a few withered books in his hands and rested them on the podium.
"Dear Special Friends, in the name of all that is Purple, I love you," smiled the priest. "Won't you say you love me too?"
"We love you!" echoed the audience. Barry looked and saw almost an even number of adults to children.
"Well, that's super-deeeee-duper!" replied Merrick, who began flipping through one of the books. "Today's lesson comes from one of my favorite books, titled 'Baby Bop's Favorite Toys', and not only does Baby Bop want to show you her favorite toys, she wants you to know, that she loves you. As do I. Won't you say you love me too?"
"We love you!" screamed the audience again.
Content, Merrick began reading from the book while the audience looked on enraptured. “Baby Bop looked outside. It was a sunny day, and she wanted to play. What toy would she bring to share?”
Dr. Copernicus took Barry by the arm and led him out of the shrine. "You'll have time for this later, Barry," he said. "Now did you cancel your mail and put yourself on leave?"
"Yes, I did everything you told me to," replied the young teacher. "all this trouble just to don a Barney costume?"
Dr. Copernicus stopped in his tracks. He scowled at Barry.
"We're not talking costumes, Mr. Clements. We're not even talking about plastic surgery. We’re talking about a permanent transformation that will bring you such power and the world such love that you cannot even begin to fathom its implications. Costume indeed, we're making you into a god!!"
The retort stunned the young teacher into a shameful silence. Copernicus grunted contentedly, and continued leading Barry further down the stairs, towards the central chamber. What the embittered scientist had failed to mention was that after Barry had given his leave and locked up his house, a mysterious explosion had erupted in the basement, reducing his home to cinders. Later that same evening, a fire had consumed his former classroom back at Brookburg Elementary, destroying many of his records and projects.
* * * * * * *
“Oh Jesus, I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Take a deep breath, Gadfly--this stiff has been baking in the sun and muck for a few days,” assured Malson.
Detective Riley looked again at the corpse. Fat, bloated, purplish, thick-veined, and horribly grotesque. A scavenging flock of crows had been picking away at it, which didn’t help. He knelt down for a closer look and clasped a handkerchief to his mouth and nose. He was mortified, yet fascinated at the grisly body before him.
"What do you see, Riley?" asked Sergeant Graham.
"Same as the first two," replied the detective. "Perfect teeth, big dead eyes, thick blubbery tail, shortened arms. Some sort of perverse cross between man and dinosaur. Haven't seen anything like this since..... the Barney the Dinosaur scare some years ago. Apparently this is some twisted attempt at a remake, a clone."
“Forensics say that it could’ve originally died from some shock to the limbic system,” added Malson, “I’m no scientist, but it looks like our Barney-wannabes had some kinda head trauma.”
"We need to set up more search teams in this area," said Detective Riley, perusing the region. Check the local reservoirs and see if it’s possible he floated through one of them. “
Riley watched on as a forensics photographer began snapping pictures of the purplish corpse, then made his way back to the car. Malson stood alone by the body as the rest made their way back to the vehicles, and couldn’t help feeling a gut-level hatred for the Beast of Purple and his minions. His mind raced back to the days of the Purple Holocaust, of running, hiding, and waiting for the killing to stop. He gazed into the dead, rolling eyes of the dead monster and thought of eternal darkness.
* * * *
In the basement, Barry shifted uneasily. He felt his arms. Since the injections began four days ago, he saw his skin getting plump, plush, and an off-shade of violet. Dr. Copernicus didn't explain the procedure in great detail, yet seemed sure of its imminent success. But within a week, the doctor warned, the major operations would ensue. Barry would have to be at his physical and mental peak for the procedure to be a success.
Barry picked up a video and slid it into the VCR. Soon “Barney and Friends” blipped onto the screen. In this particular episode, Tina had just sprained her wrist and was worried about going to the doctor. Barney reassured her that all would be well, and sang many songs and skits about visiting the doctor. Within moments Barry found himself singing along and giggling. I love this show, he thought to himself. He quickly found himself dancing and laughing to the Purple Dinosaur’s antics too.
From a hidden alcove, Dr. Krupper eyed Barry with a fiendish glare. He was angered that Dr. Copernicus had assumed control of the Barney Project, and wanted to see it fail. When night had fallen upon the secret compound, he would sneak into Copernicus' laboratory and see for himself what designs were necessary for success. All he needed was for Copernicus’ effort to fail. Disastrously.
Dr. Krupper's eyes fell to a thin bottle of red liquid in his pocket. It was labeled FORMULA 7966-D, and a sinister, glistening hypodermic lay beside it. Maybe it was time to "help" Dr. Copernicus in his project.....