Meanwhile…

Brandon was starting to get annoyed from having two backseat drivers giving him directions. None of the teenagers stopped to consider if they were actually following Bernie or simply chasing a dust devil. It was pitch black and the ruts in the sand were becoming difficult to see over the glare of the headlights.

“Watch out for those rocks,” warned Jeremy from the passenger seat. The undercarriage scraped against the boulders.

“We’ve been out here for over an hour and still no sign of a vehicle,” complained Max.

“Wait, I see a light in the distance. Quick, turnoff your headlights,” whispered Jeremy. They moved closer to an abandoned pickup truck parked near a steep hill. “Who’s willing to look around?” Jeremy asked. No one said a word.

“Anything could be waiting for us beyond the shadows,” whispered Max, trying not to sound too much like a coward.

“We don’t even know if Bernie is here. The truck could belong to a rancher.” Sissy was the first to open her door and step into the cool night. The desert blew sand drifts in their direction. None of the boys could tolerate a girl being the bravest among them. They all nodded and left the police car at the same time.

Sissy was already at the pickup truck. Jeremy noticed she looked good, even in the dark, filling out her sweat suit in all the right places. She was at the truck, peering through the driver side door. “There’s no one here.”

“Well, someone must be nearby and planning to come back. They wouldn’t abandon their vehicle and leave the lights on,” said Max. He grabbed the door handle and wrenched it open. Steam vaporized from the cab like smoke. Peering inside, he noticed wax pooled on the driver’s seat. “It looks as if a gigantic candle melted in here. Who can make heads or tails of this?”

Jeremy looked inside, knowing something awful happened. Quick, everyone grab a flashlight and fan out. Look for anything unusual.”

Jeremy noticed steam pouring from the hillside.

Walking to the hot spot, he pressed his hand against the earth.

It didn’t feel like dirt. Instead, he grabbed a handful of tarp. It was a curtain. Ripping it aside, Jeremy entered a long corridor. It was an old mine shaft covered in movie posters. There was something flickering at the other end.

A loud speaker penetrated the silence.

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, I GIVE YOU A FILM UNEARTHED IN ANCIENT EGYPT AND DEDICATED TO THE FOUNDER OF THIS THEATER, IGNATIUS SPECTER.”

Jeremy knew he’d heard those words before, but the voice was different. It wasn’t Bernie’s. It was the voice of someone who rarely spoke. It sounded resurrected, like it had been dead for centuries.

Jeremy pulled a broken mirror out of his pocket, using it to peer around the corner.

Black and white light sprinkled the room. A semicircle of seats filled a deep amphitheater as a crackling projector played a film behind a purple curtain. A pair of uniformed trousers paced back and forth on the other side, as if they were waiting for something. 

“That must be Detective Straitface,” whispered Jeremy. “But where’s Bernie.” Everyone scanned the empty theater. Brandon counted the seats, beginning with four hundred and fifty one and working his way backward. The amphitheater sunk into shadows. 

“Something moved down there,” whispered Sissy. Max shined his flashlight into the darkness. A man was bound and gagged in Seat 13. His eyes were open, watching the show, unable to look away. 

“We must stop it before something happens.” Jeremy wondered what possessed the detective to kidnap the theater owner. “I say we rush Straitface on three. Bernie will be okay once we stop The Black and White Horror Show.”

ONE…TWO…THREE

The teenagers charged the feet behind the curtain, tackling empty space. A sinister voice taunted them.

“I’M OVER HERE.”

They looked at the movie screen as a tall shadow reached toward Seat 13, grabbing Bernie by the arm, pulling him into The Black and White Horror Show. Jeremy rushed to the chair where Bernie had sat. He noticed something stuck between the seat cushions. Reaching down, Jeremy grabbed a silver ticket. It read Eternal Strength to the Victorious. Baffled by the card, Jeremy looked for The Immortal Game, but couldn’t find it. 

 “Well, what do we do now?” asked Sissy through clenched lips. It was rare for her to ask a question. Usually she knew what to do.

Before anyone had an idea, a Ferris wheel erupted from the black and white movie screen, scooping them into its enormous bucket, and sucking them inside.

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