“How much longer now, Dad?” Timmy pulled at his father’s hand.
Ralph looked at his watch. “Oh, about ten seconds less than the last time you asked.” He grinned, always happy for the chance to tease his son.
“Don’t worry, Timmy,” his mother said, elbowing her husband in the ribs and stepping between him and the boy. “We’re almost there. Why, just look how far we’ve come already!”
She waved a hand over Timmy’s head, and he turned to look behind him. It was true — the velvet rope extended all the way down the block and disappeared around the corner. People were crammed against each other, elbow-to-elbow, all along the sidewalk.
Seemed everyone in the whole city had lined up for the premiere of Midnight in the Desert, starring Chad Bowers as Sheriff Blake Stone. That’s the sort of thing that was bound to happen when Hollywood cast its biggest star in its biggest movie.
And a western no less!
Timmy adjusted the cowboy hat on his head and pulled the string tight under his chin.
“I guess you’re right, Mom. I just don’t want to miss anything!”
Just then the front door of the theater opened, and the crowd moved forward again — there were four screens, and one must have opened up! Timmy chattered joyfully as the three Petersons shuffled along, but when they got to the front, the ticket-taker put his hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“We’re full. You’ll have to wait for the next showing.”
“Oh, c’mon!” Timmy wined. He looked over his shoulder at Ralph. “Dad, do something!”
Ralph held his hands wide and shrugged. He was just about to speak when the theater door opened again.
“We have room for one more.”
Timmy turned to face the ticket-taker. “Just one?” He knew he parents wouldn’t let him go in without them.
Before the doorman could answer, someone pushed Timmy from behind, and he stumbled into the lobby of the theater. The door slammed behind him, and blackness swallowed the lights.
“Are you ready, son?” a man whispered in his ear.
Timmy wheeled toward the voice, and squinted to see who was there. After a few seconds, soft pale light illuminated a familiar face. It was Chad Bowers!
“Ready for what, Mr. Bowers?” Timmy was confused and starstruck.
Bowers looked confused, too. “Name’s Stone. Sheriff Blake Stone.” He held out a hand, and Timmy shook it.
“I’m Timmy — uh, Tim Peterson.”
“Pleased to meet you, Tim. Now, are you ready to help me nab that Franklin gang? They headed out through the desert there.” He pointed over Timmy’s head. “If we ride through the night, we just might catch up to them.”
Timmy followed Stone’s extended hand to two magnificent horses shining black in the moonlight. An endless desert stretched out in front of them, pockmarked by hoof prints.