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“What’s happened?” Was he calling because Guy had told him about his questioning?

“Oh, God,” Pete said.

David felt a quickening of dread; he’d made sure that the museum was locked, but he still had a sinking feeling.

“What’s happened?”

“I’m down off Front Street at the new oddities museum,” Pete said.

Thank God, a different museum, thank God…

But he knew, he knew something terrible had happened, and he had a feeling that it didn’t matter much where the body had been discovered, just that one had been.

“I found my missing stripper,” Pete said. “And God knows, maybe something is going on again, maybe your mumbo jumbo about an agenda is right. So I’m trying to unofficially let you in on this. Come on down, and I’ll do what I can.”

David was frankly surprised that he was permitted to pass by the yellow tape with Liam.

There was already a good crowd on the sidewalk as they made their way through the outer doors to the tourist attractions. People were whispering, pointing, speculating.

The museum was a medium-size place, much as the Beckett family had operated, but it was new since he’d been gone. One-storied, it occupied an old warehouse building that was just about ten thousand feet square. It was called the Eccentricities Museum, a good enough name for the exhibits it boasted on the posters flanking the doorway.

See Carl Tanzler and his Elena! Get to know Robert the Doll! Become a member of the Conch Republic-yes, it was real, for just a few hours. Find out about the secession! Meet Samuel Mudd, take a virtual tour out to the Dry Tortugas and learn what it was like when yellow fever struck.

Just as in most other museums, other exhibits came first.

There was a young woman talking to an officer at the entry, sobbing as she did so. She had been the cashier, he realized. There weren’t tours here-visitors walked through at their own pace, he saw.

Liam was moving quickly, and David followed at the same speed. He almost bumped into a model of Hemingway-in death, the man was everywhere.

Pete was already at the crime scene. He was hunkered down by the body, speaking with the M.E., who had already been working on the corpse.

The exhibit displayed Elena in wedding gown, with Carl Tanzler standing by her side. A plaque announced that they were Tanzler and his bride-he had married her in a private ceremony officiated by himself, in his airplane on the beach. One day, he had believed, he and his bride would sail away to the heavens in his airplane.

David’s muscles seemed to knot and contort; no model of Elena lay on the bed.

This time, the girl had dark hair. Long, dark, slightly kinky hair.

There was a photographer on hand, but Pete seemed to be impatient with him. “Angles-I need the angles. Come on, you should have a couple dozen shots by now.”

David shot wildlife. Nature. He wasn’t experienced with crime-scene photography. Luckily, there had been a few classes at college on the techniques. But they weren’t much to help him as he tried to use his small digital camera discreetly to get a few snaps.

The woman’s eyes were open wide. She stared in distorted horror into the air.

Déjà vu.

Pete, the M.E. and the police photographer-who mumbled something about the real guy being on vacation-stepped back.

Flash, flash, flash, flash, flash. The bruises on her neck. Flash, flash, flash…the way her body was situated on the bed. Flash, flash, flash, her eyes, her eyes, her eyes, just like Tanya’s.

“This one has been dead for twenty-four hours,” the M.E. told Pete, pointing his gloved hands at the body. “She was held somewhere else while lividity set in…note the blood and the coloration on her arms.”

“The museum had just opened. Liam, you might go and interview the first group through here today, the ones who found her.” He gave directions to other officers and techs, staring at the body and shaking his head. “Hell. I wanted to throw her in jail for a night or two, but this…”

“She was strangled?” David asked the M.E. It seemed obvious, but nothing could be taken for granted.

The man looked up at him curiously. “Same as before.”

Flash, flash, flash. A sheet had been pulled up, but it seemed to have been done hastily. She wasn’t pretty, as Pete had said. In life, she’d had a hard look about her, David thought. There was none of the innocence and youth that had made Tanya so stunning, even as a corpse in a tableau. The woman wasn’t unattractive; she just wasn’t beautiful. Nor had she been laid out with care. There was something off about the scene, something discordant with the last.

And the last he could remember as if it had been yesterday.

Pete looked over at him. “This one isn’t as pretty, maybe it’s a copycat. Or maybe…”

“Maybe what?”

“Maybe, just maybe, you’re right. Someone has an agenda. And…”

Pete’s voice failed. David knew what he meant to say.

And look who is back on the island after ten years?

It was Pete. Because of Pete, he could be here, he was sure Pete’s superiors would see that he was ejected from the scene soon.

David stared at the dead girl, trying to take in every detail that he could. Bruises rounded her throat. The petechia in her eyes was pronounced. She wore lipstick, but it was smudged. Her blouse had been buttoned out of whack.

Had she done it herself?

There was the sheet that had been tossed over her-it almost looked as if the murderer had been forced to hurry. Where Tanya had been laid out to appear perfectly beautiful, it seemed that this girl had been quickly dumped.


One of Dryer’s top men came in and whispered to him. Pete glanced at David, sighed and nodded. He came to David and whispered, “Well, my men are beginning to comment on the fact that I’ve got a civilian in here. This is it-time for you to go.”

David lifted a hand. “Thanks for calling me, Pete,” he said.

Pete inhaled. “You were so adamant about not reopening the Beckett museum. But…hell, where there’s a psycho… I’m afraid that it’s not just you, David, who needs to worry about their displays. Now we know that. Any museum is up for grabs, so it seems. And Fantasy Fest is nearly here. Good God. We’ve got a murderer, and the streets are about to become wall-to-wall people. Heaven help us.”

“People may start canceling.”

“Hell, no. Okay, maybe. Some will. But a little thing like the murder of a prostitute isn’t going to stop anyone from partying. Lord, I hope the crime-scene folk can get something!” Pete said with disgust. “Why can’t we have a few more normal bar fights?”

“What about security cameras here?” David asked.

Pete gave him a dry look. “Ah, come on, David. This is your home-we’re not the damned backwoods. We checked that out first. Tape is gone. They’re dusting all over for prints, but…”

One of the techs finished for him. “The guy wore gloves. Seems like he knew just what we’d be looking for.”

“Footprints?” David asked.

The man shook his head. “He might even have worn some kind of bootie. Umm, not that we know if we’re dealing with a he,” he added, and looked away, busying himself with his work. He was a tech-the detectives were supposed to be doing the thinking.

David thanked Pete again.

He took shots as he left, shots of the entry, shots of ground. Shots of the locks, which seemed to have been undisturbed. He did so carefully, and still, he was surprised that none of the officers seemed to notice or stop him; maybe they were all in a bit of shock.

David left then, afraid that he’d be shown out soon. Just outside, he saw Liam questioning the people who had been the first through. They were two young girls and an elderly couple. He nodded to his cousin, who realized why he was leaving. Liam nodded in acknowledgment.

The crowd was growing. News stations were setting up, and several reporters were already on air.

As he walked out, he thought about Katie. He called her quickly to tell her about what had happened.

“I already saw the news,” she said.

Katie stared at the television.

The dead woman was Stella Martin. She had worked at a strip club on Duval, and most of the locals on the street who didn’t know her well still knew her. The club owner denied that any of his girls engaged in any illicit activity. Stella had been a good girl.

But the next person the reporter talked to was a pretty young girl from the Czech Republic. She worked in the bikini shop downstairs and next door.

“Stella…well, it is sad, so sad. But Stella…left with men often. She-she could not come in my shop anymore, the manager said. She propositioned men here, and my manager, he would not have it happening in here. A stripper is one thing…well, it is illegal here to charge for sex.”

A stripper.

A minute later, Lieutenant Pete Dryer was introduced by an anchor. “Lieutenant! Isn’t this a copy of one of the last unsolved murders to take place in Key West?” the reporter asked.

“A copy, just that,” Pete said.

“How do you know? The previous killer was never arrested, or known,” the reporter said.

“There are differences.” A barrage of questions started coming his way and he lifted his hand. “Naturally, we don’t want to give out details. We need to keep some information quiet so that we can investigate this killing and solve it. We have a lot more scientific investigative techniques now, and we’ll find out the truth this time, I swear.”

“But isn’t it true that the last murder involved the Beckett family-and isn’t it true that David Beckett has just returned home?” a reporter asked.

Pete was silent a second. Just a second too long.

“No further comment,” he said.

“Hey, what about Beckett? Supposedly, all those years ago, he had an airtight alibi, didn’t he?” someone else asked. “Airtight-through Grandpa!”

Liam must have been nearby. She heard an explosive sound, and the camera angle jiggled for a moment before it settled on Liam Beckett. “Trust me-David had an airtight alibi, and he’ll have one now. Watch it, unless you want to find yourself in court!” Liam said angrily.