Captain Sparkles pushed the swinging doors open and stepped into the cooler air of the saloon.
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness, and when they did most of the patrons were looking at him with awe and surprise. That was expected, Captain Sparkles was well known in these parts. If he was there, then some evil-dooer was there as well.
He spotted the Purple Gang in the corner of the room, huddled in a corner trying to avoid notice. Too late, Captain Sparkles thought.
“I’ll give you three minutes to come outside, Purple Mask.” Captain Sparkles announced in the silence that had descended upon the saloon. Only the jute box, playing a tinny banjo piece, could be heard after his announcement.
“And if I don’t?” Purple Mask, the leader of the Purple Gang sneered, but Captain Sparkles knew that was only to mask his fear.
“You don’t want to find out.” He turned and walked back outside, knowing the man would follow. He waited.
Purple Mask made it outside before the time was up. “Well?” he asked boldly, behind him stood his entire gang.
“I’m here to stop your tyranny.” Captain Sparkles announced. A crowd was gathering to watch. “A duel. Ten paces, when the clock next tolls, we see who still stands.”
“Agreed. Today will be the day the world sees the end of you, Captain Sparkles.”
Captain Sparkles just laughed. “No one has ever beaten me at a duel.”
The two squared off, took their ten paces, and waited for the bell. Tick. Tock. Ten, nine, eight-
“James! Time for bed!”
“James!” His mother’s voice was closer now. “You better be in bed now. I told you to go to bed ten minutes ago.”
The door opened. “James!”
“Mom! Just a little longer?”
“Now.” They stared at each other. “Three…” his mom started counting down. “Two…”
James jumped to his feet and landed in his bed before she said one.
She smiled. “Sleep well.” Then tucked him in and kissed him on the forehead. James stared at the shadowy figures below, Captain Sparkles would have to wait till tomorrow.
Captain Sparkles peered down at the building. Smoke billowed from the chimneys. The townsfolk had been right, this bunker wasn’t so abandoned anymore. He watched as one of the purple gang snuck through the brush. Ducking low, he continued watching and his patience was rewarded when the man finally decided it was safe and sprinted for the door. Bingo, clearly this was the purple gang’s hideout.
“James?” James froze, Captain Sparkles in hand. His mom’s voice drifted from the bottom of the stairs. “Are you in bed?”
“Getting into bed now,” he called back, then waited. Nothing.
Captain Sparkles raced forward towards the bunker, not bothering to hide his approach. They would know soon enough that they couldn’t hide from him. He reached the door in moments and, not bothering to pause, blew the hinges off the door with his trusty bubblegun.
“Purple Mask!” he called into the darkness. “I’ll give you to the count of ten before I come in there.” Silence answered him. “Ten! – ”
“James? Don’t make me come up there.”
“I’m almost in bed,” he called out. He hadn’t heard footsteps on the stairs, so that meant Mom was still downstairs. He was safe for the moment.
“-Nine,” Captain Sparkles called out. He peered into the gloom of the building, as the smoke settled. “Eight.” A red light blinked and…was someone moving in there?
“-Five – ” James jumped startled. That wasn’t the right number. Mom was counting from downstairs. “-Four-” he heard footsteps on the stairs. She was coming up. “-Three-” More footsteps, down the hallway getting closer. The closet behind him rattled unexpectedly. He turned to see the closet door shake. What?!
“-Two-” the closest door rattled again in time with his mothers’ footsteps.
“-One-“And was that smoke coming from the closet?!
James lept off the floor, his figurines scattering and jumped into the bed. He stared at the closet door as his mother opened his own door.
“Goodnight.” James said still staring at the closet suspiciously. What was that?
James sat in the center of his room and waited. Captain Sparkles and the Purple Gang lay nearby. They weren’t having any adventures tonight. He checked the clock again. It was almost time. Footsteps on the stairs.
“You in bed, James?” his mother called up.
“Almost,” he answered, his eyes on the closet.
“James!” His mom said exasperated. “Do we have to do this every night? You have five seconds to get your butt into bed.”
“Five.” Footsteps on the stairs. And, he stared at the closet, yes, there were footsteps coming from behind the door as well.
“Four.” Mom was almost at the top of the stairs. The footsteps from the closer were louder now too.
“Three.” The closet door trembled, reverberating with each step.
He clutched Captain Sparkles in his hand. But he was ready to run.
“One.” His heart pounded in his chest. The closet door was pulling open now. An arm, clad in purple, reaching out. Two eyes shone red in the darkness of the closet.
James was in bed under the covers as his mother opened the door.
“-ro.” She sighed heavily. “Goodnight James.”
He peaked out from the covers. The closet door was silent, the monster gone.
“Mom?” he asked as she started to close the bedroom door, “What happens if you reach zero?”
“You don’t want to know.” She smiled and glanced at the closet. “Oh,” she crossed the room and pulled the door closed.
She turned to tuck him into bed. “Sweet dreams.” James tried to hide his shaking. She knew!