He flashed a smile. “Interesting was exactly the right word. And we were doing both of those things. In this kind of situation, you do try to draw out everyone who’s close to the victims—and I’m considering Eddie and Alistair victims, too.”
She looked down at her phone and then at him as he continued. “I haven’t been here in a while,” he said, “and it’s been several years since I worked for Eddie. I’ve met Helena before, but I can’t say I really know her. Still, they haven’t been married that long.”
She looked away from him then, and Sean thought she’d pursed her lips, trying to keep certain opinions to herself.
Then, apparently, she couldn’t. “But it doesn’t sound as if they’re sharing a room.”
“What makes you say that?”
She grinned, lifting her phone. “Just got a text from Pierce. I quote, ‘Not trying to cause trouble, but FYI Helena and Eddie in different rooms. Eddie wouldn’t know if she was there or not.’”
“Good old Pierce! Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean the marriage is rotten—some people snore, or toss and turn, and if you’re rich enough and have enough rooms, you can afford to sleep separately if you choose. But most people married a little more than a year are still enamored of being married and happy to sleep together regardless of the snoring, tossing, morning breath—whatever.”
“I get the feeling that Helena likes her personal world to be ruled by her own desires,” Madison said.
“Yes, and I’ll bet she has Eddie believing that they’re happiest having their own private domains. I think Eddie’s still committed to his marriage. And who am I to judge? Maybe they do love each other.”
“She won’t treat us the way she’d like to in front of him, that’s for sure. Well, me especially. I’m definitely servant status. But she’s smart enough not to let Eddie know that,” Madison said.
“Exactly.” Sean chuckled. “Ah, come on, spit it out. You don’t like her.”
“And you do?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“I never had much to do with her,” Madison explained. “I was at the wedding, and all she did was sweep by the tables as a beautiful bride on Eddie’s arm. They filmed the wedding and reception, so she was all smiles. She comes through the studio now and then, and never acknowledges any of us. I didn’t think anything of it—I was always working. Today is probably the most I’ve ever spoken with her,” Madison said. She was quiet for a minute. “No, I can’t say I like Helena.”
“Good instincts,” he said.
“Eddie loves her. He must love her, right? He married her.”
“She doesn’t love Alistair. It’s funny, I always thought she at least liked him and cared about him, but today I realized that her affection for Alistair is really just a show for Eddie.”
“I agree, because I think Helena loves Helena too much to be interested in someone else’s child. But to be fair, she’s hearing what everyone’s heard so far—that Alistair was the only person with a young woman when she was brutally murdered,” Sean said.
Sean turned down her street, noting that Madison remained pensive. When he pulled into her driveway, she took a deep breath. “Mrs. Archer is superficial, she’s a caricature and she gives dozens of really great actresses a bad name. She’s indifferent to Alistair at best, and I’m not convinced she loves Eddie for anything other than what she figures he can do for her. But I don’t believe she murdered anyone.”
“As far as I can tell, she’s not bright enough to have done it, and no person with the ability to pull off that kind of stunt would have her as a conspirator.”
He had to grin at that.
“And,” Madison continued, “why would she kill a budding actress who’d never be up for the same roles, not to mention the fact that Jenny was just breaking in, trying for bit parts?”
“I don’t think it mattered that it was Jenny. I think the killer knew Alistair liked to go and watch movies alone on Sunday nights. And that Jenny planned to slip in and try to get Alistair to take her into the studio to learn what she could about The Unholy. That’s what I’m saying. It’s someone close to Eddie, someone who wants to hurt him.”
“Alistair’s the one being accused.”
“Alistair being accused is important. But Eddie’s had more time to make enemies.”
“Everyone loves Eddie.”
“Obviously, someone does not,” he said. He saw her lips tighten and discovered that he liked her more and more. She was a loyal friend—and, of course, he shared her admiration for and love of Eddie Archer.
She stepped out of the car and peered at him through the window. “Thanks for the ride, Agent.” She gave him a smile. “And the burger.”
“Thank you for the escort,” he told her.
He watched her as she walked up the pathway to her house and he found himself noting the way that she moved—the lift of her head and the sway of dark hair down her back. She turned and waved. He raised a hand in return. He liked her, he recognized again.
She was the real deal.
Sometimes that was hard to find in Hollywood—or anywhere.
She paused at the door, saw that he was still there and returned to the car, coming around to the driver’s side. He lowered the window.
“Just curious—but are you this honest with everyone? I mean, should I be quiet about what you’ve told me?” she asked him worriedly.
“In my book, practically everyone is a suspect, Madison,” he said. “But Eddie trusts you, and wants you to be my right hand. So, I may say things that really are just between us—or you, me and the team.”
She nodded. “Okay. Thanks. I guess I’m not a suspect, then.”
“Where were you last night?” he asked her.
She laughed. “Here. Except that I’m not so sure I do have an alibi. I was with a friend at a coffee shop until about five, and that I can prove.”
“You’re not a suspect.”
“Gut instinct. It’s never failed me yet,” he said.
“Glad to hear it, Agent. Well, good night.”
“You’re not driving away,” she said, eyebrows raised.
“I will when you’re inside.”
“I’m fine here—”
“It’s a Texas thing,” he told her, grinning.
“All right. Good night again.”
“I’ll pick you up at eight.”
“To see Alistair?”
“I’ll be ready.”
He waited until she’d unlocked her door, pulling out his cell phone as he did, then watched her door close.
He sat another minute, gazing thoughtfully at her house. The last half year had been hectic; he’d made an enormous change in his life. And before that…
Before that, for a long time, he’d been going through the motions. He still loved film and effects—he always would—and in his new capacity on the team, film was his specialty. Work was the great panacea. It was odd to feel that he already knew Madison Darvil better than half the friends he had back in Texas, although the team had become his family. Of course, one member of the team actually was his family. Kelsey O’Brien was his cousin, and maybe it wasn’t so unusual that they’d come to the same place at the same time, since they shared their strange talent. But before they’d been brought together to solve the bizarre murders in San Antonio…
He’d been going through the motions. Today…today had felt real. Something about Madison Darvil had gotten to him. She was smart, and she was beautiful in a completely natural way. But it was more than that.
He hit the cell number for LAPD’s lead detective on the case. A weary-sounding Benny Knox answered and gave his grudging promise to meet Sean at the morgue in twenty minutes.
* * *
Bogie was watching reruns of I Love Lucy.
When she walked in, however, he immediately turned his full attention to her. The way he looked at her, with such concern, was moving. She thought that his ability to focus totally must have been part of what had made him such a great actor—and screen icon.
“You look worn-out,” he said.
Madison shrugged. “I showed the FBI guy around the studio. We went down to the tunnel, and I saw all the blood, but that was nothing compared to seeing Mrs. Archer and then Eddie. My heart is breaking for him, Bogie.”
“So, you still think the kid didn’t do it?”
She nodded, crashing down on the sofa beside him. “This guy I took around today used to work at the studio before he moved back to Texas. How he went from film to the FBI, I don’t know. But he believes in Alistair and Eddie, and he must be with some really special unit because they’re being given the lead on the investigation. It probably helps that Eddie called the governor to get his way—the first time I’ve ever seen him throw his weight around. But I understand Eddie’s logic. You almost have to understand the business to really grasp that someone could have gotten away with doing this and leaving no trace.”
“Isn’t there always a trace these days? At least, that’s what I see on the forensic shows.”
Madison waved a hand. “So they say. You take something and you leave something behind—the law of science. But…it does look bad. Of course, I haven’t spoken with Alistair yet. And until I do tomorrow, I won’t know exactly what he saw and what he thought he saw. But I have to say, I have hope.”
“Well, that’s good, kid, that’s good.”
He leaned over and patted her on the knee. She didn’t feel his touch, but she felt something. Maybe it was movement in the air. Maybe it was some awareness deep inside her. “You’re going to do all right, kid. You’re going to do all right. Remember, if you need me—”