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“Alistair, it’s—” Madison held his hands hard, clutched in her own. Her eyes were locked on Alistair in searing empathy and sorrow; she’d been about to say, It’s all right, Alistair.

But it wasn’t.

“Alistair, we’re here with you. We’ll find the truth,” she vowed softly.

“Son…” Eddie said miserably.

“Alistair.” Sean kept his voice hard and flat. “Go on. I need everything. Every last detail. You saw him slit Jenny’s throat. You saw her eyes—what about his eyes? What about the killer in the robes?”

Alistair seemed to stare past him. For a moment, Sean feared that he’d lost him, that Alistair had slipped into some blank realm in his mind.

Alistair finally spoke. “His eyes? He had no eyes. He had no face. It was—the whole area where the face should have been…it was just black. He had no face at all. He had no eyes…no eyes… How… Yes, I’m remembering this right! He had no eyes!”

He paused, concentrating. He lowered his head, and then peered up at Sean again.

“He had no face, and he had no eyes. But he was looking at me. I knew it. I knew he was looking at me. And…”

“And?” Sean asked.

He shook his head. “I—I knew he was laughing. There was no sound. He was laughing, and he was evil. Triumphant. Staring at me with nothing, no eyes…just evil.”

* * *


Madison started. She hadn’t been listening. She couldn’t forget Alistair’s face as he’d spoken about the murderer.

She turned toward Sean Cameron, who was driving. California roads were insane, and if you were smart, you were defensive. But Sean knew that; he’d lived here. Once upon a time, he’d been employed in the very same place where she was now employed. He had done the same things she did.

He was an expert California driver—a specialty in itself—and was able to glance over at her as he said her name in a questioning tone.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I said, food, lunch. I’m suggesting we go to lunch before our next stop.”

“Which is?”

“The morgue,” he told her.

“The morgue?” she asked, hoping she didn’t sound like the coward she was.

“Yeah, let’s eat first. Where do you want to go?”

“Ah, anywhere. Anyplace along the way, I guess.”

He nodded; he seemed to like the fact that she was up for whatever. And he seemed to know that while he was an FBI agent and probably accustomed to morgues, she was not. Yes, definitely, food before the morgue. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to eat afterward….

They wound up stopping at a Buca di Beppo. Homestyle Italian food. It was en route and a national chain that was pretty damned good—a plus, since neither of them cared much about what they were eating; they just needed to eat.

The menu was set up for sharing. They opted for a salad and lasagna. When their friendly waiter was gone, Madison said, “I’m…I’m grateful that you’re here. I know you worked for Eddie, and I know you’re FBI. I don’t understand all the dynamics, but it doesn’t matter. You’re here and you believe in Alistair.” She hesitated. “And I believe in Alistair. I work in special effects, so I’m aware of what’s possible, but…I’m also aware that mannequins don’t come to life.”

“No,” he agreed, “mannequins don’t come to life. Unless they’re rigged to do so. Or digitized in a movie. So, we know a mannequin didn’t kill Jenny Henderson.”

“The alternative is almost as bizarre. There were security cameras. From what you’ve told me, no one came in, and no one went out. You haven’t seen the footage yet, have you?” He shook his head. “I’m sure the police have, though. And if anyone had gone in or out, the police—as in Detective Knox—would have told you, and that person would be questioned.”

He was thoughtful, spearing a leaf of lettuce. “Yes. As standoffish and pedantic as Knox appears to be, I think he’s a good cop. And I think he’d pull me in on anything he considered out of the ordinary.”

“So, nothing on the tapes. We have an empty studio and an empty cinema. Except for our security guard, Colin Bailey. And while we can’t rule Bailey out, he’s a totally unlikely suspect—not to mention that the police interviewed him immediately and looked into his background. I love Colin. He’s such a reassuring presence. And he’s been loyal to Eddie for twenty years and so fierce when it comes to the studio. So that leaves Jenny Henderson and Alistair—and the mannequins,” Madison said, feeling bleak.

“Just because a studio is in lockdown doesn’t mean it was locked down,” Sean reminded her.

“But…you’ve seen the security system. You’ve worked at the studio. And we both know, we all know, that if you want to keep your job, you really don’t mess around, sneaking people in during lockdown,” Madison said. “But, of course, you don’t commit murder if you want to keep your job, either. Not if you’re…normal. But the killer isn’t really normal, is he?”

“I’ve never figured out ‘normal,’ to tell you the truth,” Sean said. “Whoever is doing this is organized. He—or she—has a plan and is thinking it through. And he knows something we don’t, because I don’t believe in a locked-room mystery. There’s a crack in the door somewhere, and we have to find it. Right now, the studio contains secrets that the killer knows, and we don’t. Back when I worked for Archer—”

“Why did you leave?” Madison asked, and then regretted it. His face changed; he’d become guarded.

“Texas is home,” he said simply. “I was needed at home.” He changed the subject. “To return to the concept of normal—the average employee wouldn’t know enough about the studio to carry this off.”

“You think someone was in the studio. That this person was hiding out somehow, somewhere, someway, and knew that Alistair would be there, and that he’d come through the tunnel,” Madison said.


Madison frowned. “First, you have to get in—without the security cameras picking it up. Then you have to hide. Then you have to find the right costume to become the mannequin. And, after committing the murder, you’d have to get rid of the bloody garments you were wearing and get out of the tunnel and the studio without anyone seeing you and without leaving any kind of trace.” She lifted her hands. “That’s where I’m lost. Suppose the killer did somehow hide overnight and wait and wait—how did he escape without being on the security cameras?”

“Because a locked room with any kind of access or egress is never really a locked room,” Sean said.

Madison shook her head. “If Knox is the detective you seem to think he is, and if he respects the FBI, he’ll make sure you know what he knows.”

“Forensic materials aren’t analyzed instantly,” Sean said. He shrugged. “And sometimes it’s not the forensic evidence that matters most—it’s the logic.”

“As in, it had to be an inside job?”

“Absolutely. You have to know about Colin Bailey and the other guards—and all about their schedules. You have to know about the locks and the keys and the security system—actually, it’s not much of a security system. Eddie is a trusting guy.”

“He’s not so technologically inclined,” Madison agreed. “We’re always explaining some feature on his cell phone to him.”

“And you know that about Eddie because you work for him, and because he likes you and respects your work. You’re close,” Sean said.

“Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was all that respected and liked until I received the call yesterday morning,” Madison said. “Don’t get me wrong. Eddie is a great boss. He loves his artisans. I just didn’t realize I’d been singled out.”

“But Alistair is crazy about you, too,” Sean pointed out.

“I felt like a very naive kid when I started with Eddie. And now, Alistair is a naive kid. He’s a lot like Eddie—he has a big heart. I owe them both. And I like Alistair. He’s never been—well, for lack of a better term—a spoiled jerk. He blends right in. The only time I ever heard Alistair say anything that made him sound like a rich kid was when he said I didn’t need to hurry, that the plane would leave when I told it to. I had to tell him that in the real world, planes left on schedules, and only private planes left on the owner’s schedule.”

Sean laughed. “Yep, that sounds like Alistair. And you’re right. He’s never been an affected rich kid. And, through three marriages, he remains Eddie’s only child. So, what would that mean to you—as a sleuth?”

“That he’s a rich kid…and…”

Sean pushed his plate aside. “Which means that Alistair stands to inherit his father’s fortune and the studio and the cinema. So, first suspect? We know that Alistair’s mother died a long time ago.”

“First suspect—Eddie’s wife,” Madison said.

“That’s right.”

“Oh, please.”

“Yes, we decided last night that she doesn’t seem bright enough to pull off something like this. But appearances can be deceptive. Or…she might have been working with someone else,” Sean said. “I know we already dismissed that idea. However, I’m not a hundred percent convinced.”

“Trust me—I work about eighty hours a week. The only time I have ever seen Helena at that studio is when one of the directors, set designers, or casting agents comes through. I honestly don’t think she knows enough about the studio to have done any of this.”

“You think,” he said.

“I thought you agreed with me on that?”