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He shrugged his broad shoulders. “Sure. The situation is bad. Whatever it takes. Need a hand with your bag?”

She shook her head. “I’m fine. We can just head on in.”

He hadn’t exactly been warm and cuddly, but he wasn’t being rude, and he seemed to be sincere. Other agencies sometimes resented FBI involvement in a case—they weren’t always fond of the fact that someone over them had invited the feds in.

She’d never exactly intended to work for the federal government, but she didn’t mind. As long as they were left to work alone, it just didn’t matter. And since the head of their unit, Jackson Crow, had established himself as an agent with an exemplary record before he’d been given his current team, she was more than willing to accept the occasional snickers that came their way. Jackson could stare down any man and silence him within a matter of seconds.

“I believe they had a cleaning crew come in already—a good thing, since I don’t imagine that you and your team would want a lot of people around.” Jude Crosby told her. “Also, if I know my superiors, they had staples brought in, so you should have essentials.”


He studied her for a minute; his face gave nothing away. “Well, I guess we should get you settled.” He actually grinned. “You know it’s a haunted house, right?”

“What self-respecting house this old isn’t haunted?” she asked.

He was still sizing her up, of course, given the team’s reputation. She smiled, not saying anything. They were all welcome to wonder. Detective Crosby would meet Jackson Crow soon enough. Jackson had a tenet he lived by, and the team followed its simple sentiment—use logic, and then feelings.

“The rest of your team isn’t arriving until tomorrow?” he asked her. “That’s right.”

“So you’re staying here alone tonight?”

“Yes, and I’ll be fine. Let me take a quick look around, drop my bag and we can go to the autopsy.”

He pointed to the area next door. “That’s where they were filming the movie and that’s where the victim came from when she was leaving. I’m surprised that they sent you in alone.”

“You shouldn’t be. I went through a lot of sessions at the shooting range. I passed,” Whitney told him.

“Can you shoot a ghost?” he asked. The question seemed pleasant enough, but she realized she was being mocked. She wondered if he was more concerned that she was a ghost-hunting special agent, or that she was a small woman.

“I’m quite competent, thank you,” she assured him.

“All right, your call… Just remember, please, it’s an NYC case with NYC police heading the investigation. I’m impressed that a unit was asked in immediately. Somebody thinks that your ghost hunting—that your team—is top-notch. Thing is, there’s nothing really around you at night, unless you want to count the dead in Trinity’s and St. Paul’s graveyards. Last night, that crew working this area so late was unusual. But that’s film for you.”

He didn’t wait for her reply; he started up the walk.

Whitney stepped into the main hallway, which was long and extremely broad. A slim curving staircase against the western wall led to the floor above, and she could see down the hallway to the door that opened to the back. She wanted to stop, to try to sense the place, but she didn’t; not with Jude Crosby watching.

“They say the foundations of this old place date back to the last decades of the eighteenth century. There were lots of fires back then, though, and not a lot of control. I think the current structure is from 1810. I have to say, I’m glad they’re preserving it, too. Wonder what it was like back in the day. I mean, New York moves like a bullet. I love the city.”

“It’s a great city,” Whitney murmured.

Whitney noted that the hallway had probably been the grand meeting room of the house; parties had probably been held right there with indentured servants or slaves walking the room at times with silver trays. A grand piano sat against the wall at the rear; she wondered just how old it might be.

But she’d have to explore later.

Whatever happened with the New York City police, she wanted to make sure that she was there from the get-go, and that her prep work had been done. They were there to assist the police, not to take over an investigation, no matter how much pull they might have with different power structures. She’d spent the trip reading email on the current murder—preliminary notes only—and, since the cry was out that the murder seemed to be mimicking that of a long-ago Ripper victim, she had spent most of the time during her flight on her iPad, downloading the best books she could find on the elusive killer from the past.

“I’ve only been in this house a few times,” Jude told her. “When I was a kid on school tours, before it was closed down for renovations. I’m going to suggest you snag the first room up the stairs on your left. The last owners—who gave it to the government about twenty years ago—had a nice bathroom installed up there.”

“Thanks,” she told him.

“Go on, take a peek. I’ll carry your bag on up, and then I’ll get you down to the morgue.”

“Thanks,” she told him again.

He was an imposing presence. His features were as rugged as his muscled form—handsome, masculine, strong, with the right amount of rough around the edges.

Not a good thought, she told herself. She had to be blunt and strong herself; in fact, she was going to have to make sure that she remained smoothly professional in every way. They needed his respect. In her case, at five-three, she was fighting physical odds right from the start.

“I can really carry my own bag—”

“Simple courtesy, Agent Tremont. We’re not without it,” he said.

The bedroom was nice. She glanced in the doorway as Jude Crosby set her travel bag on the footrest at the end of the bed. She took a minute to dig into her overnight bag for her better camera to be added to the shoulder bag.

“You’re a photographer?”

“Film is the best record of what we see, isn’t it?” she asked.

The room smelled sweetly and lightly of lavender cleaning solution. It was a beautiful room, and she was convinced that it did have a feel for the past, just as venerated old churches and other historic buildings often seemed to have.

Would it be more than just the sacred feel of history? she wondered.

“Great,” she said. “Let’s go.”

Jude arched a brow. “That’s it? You don’t want to look around longer? Settle in?”

“Nope.” She was grateful that she’d been able to come so quickly; they’d received the call almost immediately after they saw on the news that a gruesome murder had taken place in New York. While Jackson had calmly spoken about travel arrangements and equipment, explaining the circumstances in which they’d be working, she’d been online and discovered that if she left within the next ten minutes, she could be on a plane to LaGuardia that was scheduled for departure at ten, and would have her on the ground in New York by one. She’d jumped at the chance, although not without a few minutes of stern warnings from her associates. They mostly consisted of: Be careful. We’ll be right behind you. You know not to take chances. Remember that we work best when we can earn the cooperation of the local police.

“Okay,” Jude said. “You need anything else?”

She tapped her shoulder bag, a big soft leather sling she hadn’t released since she’d gone through the security lines at the airport.

“I’m good. I have everything I need for the moment.”

He gave her a crooked smile. “You travel light for a woman.”

She felt her own smile tighten just a bit. Was he mocking her? She was fairly small and slim, she knew. Her appearance and gender often worked in her favor. She wasn’t threatening in size and, sometimes, that was good.

Get along with the locals, she reminded herself.

“Don’t think of me as a woman, Detective. Think of me as an agent,” she said. “And I won’t think of you as a boy or a man—I’ll think of you as a top-notch NYPD detective.”

He laughed. Apparently, he did have a sense of humor. And he could laugh at himself.

As they left Blair House, Whitney found herself pausing to look at the large construction site next door.

“I’m assuming whatever was there wasn’t protected by any historical society,” she said.

“No, there had been an ugly building there from the 1920s, or something like that,” Jude said. “Before that, it had been some kind of society building—not like high society. I mean…I don’t know. Some people claimed that it was a spiritualist house, or a place for Satanists, or something like that. Odd, though. Construction there has had to halt several times. A few workers were injured. I think one was killed. And then, of course, last night happened. The film company had acquired permits to use the area. They bought mega-insurance for the shoot, but I don’t think it helps, because the murder was off-site.”

“And the woman who was murdered had been working there,” Whitney said.

“Yep, playing a gaslight prostitute, I believe. Honestly, it’s really no wonder that folks are crying ‘Jack’s back.’ Poor girl. There’s been some insinuation in early news reports that our victim didn’t always get along with the other actresses. But maybe that’s not a fair assessment—we haven’t even really begun the investigation. From what I’ve learned, the old Jack the Ripper found victims who were used up, missing teeth, old and ugly, but I guess none of his victims had a reputation for not being nice. Now, that’s an interesting question. Does being nice or not nice have much to do with being a victim?”

Whitney glanced at him. He was thoughtful, really thoughtful. She decided that he might have made a decent behaviorial scientist himself. “That is an interesting question,” Whitney said, still looking at the cheap mesh fencing and the occasional ugly green plastic sheets that surrounded the construction site. It appeared that the majority of the old structure had been demolished; there were planks over what looked like foundations that were still in the process of being dug out and cleared. There were also piles of new timber lying about—remnants, she presumed—of the sets that had been hastily constructed for the on-location shooting that had been done the day before.