Page 19

Technically, Alistair was out on bail, despite the stipulation for the ankle cuff and psychiatric care. But Eddie was smart to see to it that Alistair was in a respected—if exclusive—hospital with a wing for those who might be dangerous to themselves or others.

Had he been someone else’s son, Alistair might have ended up in a hellhole.

Instead, he was in a facility where the security guards wore designer uniforms and a valet parked every car that arrived. The lobby, where Sean and Madison checked in, was marble and chrome, and even the metal detectors were high-end. Security was tight, and it took them several minutes to be allowed through and then escorted to Alistair’s wing and down a long corridor to his room.

Madison had been polite and quiet through most of the drive and Sean sensed that she was anxious. Her eyes were wide as they neared Alistair’s room.

“Looks like a spa,” she murmured. “With Uzis.”

“They’re not packing Uzis, but, yes, it’s staggeringly expensive, and while you’re awaiting trial for some terrible crime, you can have a massage,” he said, a bit cynically. “We may all be equal, but it’s true that money talks—and very loudly, too. Eddie managed to get Alistair arraigned almost immediately and his attorney offered this solution while they wait for a trial date. He could be at home, but Eddie thought this was better and safer.”

“I agree. Until it’s proven that Alistair is innocent,” she told him, bravado in her voice.

“We both agree on that.”

A guard unlocked the door for them.

The room was hardly the customary jail cell or hospital room. It was a suite. They could see the bed through an open doorway, while the main door opened into a parlor or seating area with a wide-screen TV and game station.

There was a table in the center of the room, and Alistair was seated there with his father; they both appeared calm and were engaged in a game of gin rummy.

Alistair, dressed in jeans and a rock band T-shirt, glanced up as they were ushered in. When he saw them, a look of hope and pleasure flashed across his features and he leaped to his feet. He raced over to them, throwing his arms around Madison first, holding on to her tightly, and then hugging Sean with equal enthusiasm. “I didn’t believe it!” he cried, stepping back, studying them both as if he was afraid they were a mirage. “I didn’t believe my friends could have faith in me—I mean…I know what it looks like. Oh, God, I know what it looks like. And I’m not crazy, I swear to God, I’m not crazy. I didn’t lose my mind and kill her. I was nuts about her— I…I don’t care what they keep trying to say to me, I’m not crazy and I didn’t do it.”

“Oh, Alistair!” Madison said, hugging him again. “It’ll be all right. We will find out the truth.”

He nodded, then shook his head and burst into tears. “It can’t be all right. She’s dead. Jenny is dead. Nothing can ever be okay again.”

“Alistair, I didn’t mean that,” Madison told him, sorrow in her voice. “We do believe you, and we’ll learn the truth, and we’ll make sure the whole world knows you’re innocent.”

Sean hoped she wasn’t naively giving Alistair promises they couldn’t keep. It didn’t look good at all. And yet…he did believe Alistair. Anyone might conclude that the young man didn’t even know what he’d done, that he’d had a psychotic break, killed Jenny Henderson, blacked out—with no recollection of anything. That was the logical explanation in a locked-room case in which the accused was so passionately and sincerely sure he was innocent.

But Sean reminded himself that he’d actually communicated with the victim. And Jenny Henderson might not have known who’d killed her, but she had been certain it wasn’t Alistair.

It was still going to be incredibly difficult to prove what a dead eyewitness knew.

And yet, maybe not. It hadn’t been a random murder. Had Jenny been targeted? Not likely. As he’d already observed, Eddie and Alistair were the ones who’d been targeted, and if the Krewe could delve into the situation and find a motive, they could trace a path through the maze.

Eddie had stood, as well, and watched Alistair greet Madison and Sean. He spoke up quietly. “Thank you for coming.”

Sean nodded. “I can hardly be effective if I don’t talk to Alistair.”

Eddie smiled at Madison and let out a sigh. “Sit down, please.” He collected the playing cards and set them, with the score pad, on a corner of the table. “Everyone, sit down, and then, Alistair, you tell them what happened. And remember, think hard. Tell them every little detail that comes to mind.”

Eddie sat as he spoke; Madison took a chair across from him. Sean followed her, and Alistair sat next to his father, facing Sean and Madison.

“Jenny snuck in to see you, right?” Madison said.

“Yes.” He stared down at his hands. “I told the police all of this. I told them everything.”

“That doesn’t matter, Alistair. You need to tell us,” Sean said.

Alistair released a long breath. “Everything. Okay. I went to the Black Box Cinema. I waved in the direction of the camera when I arrived, trying to let Colin Bailey know I was there. I went in.”

“You were at home before you went to the cinema?” Sean asked.

Alistair nodded. “Home, and then straight to the cinema. I went and got the reels for Sam Stone and the Curious Case of the Egyptian Museum. I love that movie. It’s not as well-known as some film noir, but I love that movie—and I’m thrilled we’re doing the special effects for the remake. I was just watching the part where Dianna Breen comes to Sam Stone’s office to tell him how she couldn’t possibly have killed her husband when Jenny snuck in on me.”

“How’d she get in?” Sean asked.

Alistair looked troubled. “She said I left the door open.”

“Did you?”

Seconds ticked by as Alistair’s frown deepened. “Well, she said I did. That surprised me.” He glanced at his father. “I realize I’m privileged. I try to be super careful to follow all my dad’s rules. But…honestly, I just don’t know. I thought I’d locked it. Maybe I didn’t. I don’t know.”

“Okay, Alistair, that’s fine for now. Thanks. So, Jenny came in and startled you. And she wanted to get into the studio,” Sean said.

“She…” he started to say, but he paused again, turning to his father. “She really wanted one of the bit parts that still had to be cast for The Unholy. And she believed that if she could just see some of what was being done—you know how the props and effects can affect the whole mood of a movie—she’d have a better chance of being cast. Oh, God, Dad, I’m so, so sorry,” Alistair said, and it looked as if he’d burst into tears a second time. The moment was both ironic and poignant. Alistair was truly devastated over Jenny Henderson’s death; he was also heartsick and grieving about the fact that he’d betrayed his father’s confidence.

He was in a bad way, Sean thought.

Madison reached out, her hand covering Alistair’s. “Hey, come on, now. Your dad’s worried about you. He’s not angry.”

Eddie grimaced. “Right now, that’s the least of our worries, son. It’s not like I’ve never been twisted around by a woman. You’re young. I understand, but don’t let it happen again,” he added lightly.

Alistair tried to smile.

They all knew there might not be an again.

“So, Jenny talked you into taking her through the tunnel to the studio,” Sean said.

Alistair nodded. “And at first, it was fine. Oh, my God! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked through that tunnel. I can describe every tableau down there with my eyes closed.”

“Did anything appear different about any of the tableaux?” Sean asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Alistair said.

“Even the Sam Stone tableau?”

“I…I remember looking at it and thinking how much I love the movie,” Alistair said. “And, of course, that was the movie I’d been watching.”

“But you watch that movie a lot, don’t you?” Madison asked. She smiled. “You’ve talked to me about it. We discussed the special effects. Digital is fantastic—but only when it’s really right and when the script and everything else is just as strong. If you look back at film history, some images seem amazing because the costuming was so good—and because the actors were so good. Like Lon Chaney, Jr., who could turn himself into anyone and anything. The effects that were created for the Sam Stone movie were excellent. Nothing fancy, certainly not by today’s standards, and yet genuinely frightening.”

Alistair nodded, staring at her, troubled again. “Yes, I do watch the movie a lot. Most people know it’s my favorite film noir. Does that…does the movie I was watching matter?”

“Anything can matter, Alistair,” Sean told him. “In this case? Yes, I think so. Now, you went through the tunnel, and the tableaux were just as they always were. Then…”

“Well, then we were at the door to the studio. And I saw that it was ajar.”

“So the door to the studio was open,” Sean repeated.

A slight look of annoyance crossed Alistair’s face. “I’ve told that to everyone. Over and over. Yes, the door to the studio was open. Slightly ajar. And it should’ve been locked. So I walked up to it and that’s when I heard Jenny scream.”

His voice quavered on the last few words.

Sean leaned forward. “Alistair, tell me exactly what you saw then. Try to remember every detail.”

Alistair’s hands were trembling. He tried to still them where they lay on the table, then gave up the effort. He swallowed hard. “He—he was there. He’d stepped down from the tableau. He had Jenny. And…I saw. I saw him slit her throat. I tried to stop him. I cried out. I wanted to think it was make-believe—I mean, we’re all about make-believe, right? I wanted it to be make-believe, my dad pulling a stunt on me to teach me a lesson. Or some jerk from the studio playing a game. But…but…it was real. Oh, God, it was real, and blood sprayed everywhere and I could see Jenny’s eyes. Oh, Lord, I could see her eyes….”