Jeremy spoke to Bernie with his best poker face. “I just realized it might save us some time if my friends could help us. I’ll call Brandon and Max; perhaps Sissy can come too.”

Bernie looked at Jeremy suspiciously, but consented. “We’ll need to fix the frayed curtain cord next to the stage. I’d like to pull the curtains in the same way Ignatius did in the old days.”

Jeremy walked outside to call his friends on his cell phone. “Hey Brandon, can you give Max a ride to The Pharaoh?”

“No problem man. What’s up?”

“Bernie’s been acting strange lately. He disappeared one of his creditors inside The Black and White Horror Show and plans to open his theater to another audience this evening. We need to stop him.”

“I’m with you Jeremy. That movie gave me nightmares last night. Are you going to call Sissy?”

“She’s the next one on my list. Can you give Max a ride?”

“We’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

After making his calls, Jeremy walked inside the theater to give Bernie a hand with a ladder. He climbed each step hoping it wouldn’t break. Reaching the twelfth rung, he looked back at the old man, nearly losing his balance.

“I think one more step should do it,” encouraged Bernie.

Jeremy stood on top where the sign read, Do Not Stand!

“Wait for me to get a replacement cord. You’ll need to unhook the old one from the curtain,” directed Bernie from below.

Jeremy reached for the frayed cord. On his third try, the rusted hook released from the curtain and fell to the floor. “It sounds hollow under there,” Jeremy commented.

“Don’t forget this place wasn’t always a movie theater.”

The new cord weighed at least fifteen pounds, making it difficult to hoist. It was even more difficult to hook. “Got it!” Jeremy gasped.

Brandon and Max entered the theater, walking down the aisle to the stage. Jeremy couldn’t resist showing off. He grabbed the cord, swinging down to the floor. As the curtains cleared, something opened and slammed shut.

CREAK…THUMP

“What was that?” asked Brandon.

“I don’t know, but it came from behind the curtains.” Jeremy answered. “Let’s take a look.”

Brandon and Max walked down the center aisle to the stage.

“Let’s fan out and examine the floor. It might be a trapdoor.” Bernie gazed at the floorboards thick with dust.

“Hello, I think I’ve found something,” shouted Max. He was at center stage.

“What’s up? I don’t see anything.” replied Brandon.

Max stared at the floor, almost hypnotized.

“What’s wrong Max?” Jeremy asked. Then he noticed what his friend was looking at; a square outline in the floor where the dust had been disturbed.

 “I think we found our trapdoor,” whispered Max.

“But how do we open it?” complained Brandon. “We can’t pull the cord again; the curtains are drawn.”

“I see your point, but there must be something that opens it.”

“What about the curtain cord at stage right?” directed a voice behind them? Sissy walked down the aisle in a pink sweat suit. 

“We’re glad you’re here Sissy. Let’s give it a try.” Jeremy pulled the other cord. A gap in the floor opened and closed like an eyelid.

“Damned inventive!” whispered Bernie, astonished. “Who wants to go down first?”

No one volunteered. “Who knows what’s down there. It’s dark; Ignatius could’ve left booby traps for curious spectators. He strikes me as a man who valued secrets more than his own life,” Jeremy whispered. 

Sissy walked to the corner and picked up the frayed curtain cord. “Would this work?”

“But of course!” shouted Bernie. “It even has a hook on one end.” Picking up the thick cord, he dragged it to the trapdoor, and coiled it. “Now Jeremy, if you will pull the other one, we’ll let the rope fall into the hole and block the trapdoor.”

Jeremy pulled the curtain cord on stage left.

CREAK…THUD

“Just as I thought, the rope jammed the hatch!” shouted Bernie. “Who will help me pry it back? Brandon gave the old man a hand. “Two…Six…Heave!” they chanted in unison.

CREAK

It slid open. The bottom was impossible to see. “Who wants to go down first?” laughed Bernie. No one volunteered. “If only we could see the bottom. I wish we had a flashlight. It’s always difficult to find one when you need it. Wait, I have an idea.” The old man fumbled with his jacket pocket, looking for something. Then he pulled out a gold cigarette lighter.

Jeremy felt queasy when he saw it because it looked too much like the one Ignatius used to burn photographs in The Black and White Horror Show. Something strange was going to happen; he just knew it.

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