She disappeared into the kitchen and then popped her head back out, continuing with “…a questionable red wine and an Irish beer in bottles.”
“Sounds like a pretty good bar to me,” he said. “I’ll take an Irish beer.”
He heard her in the kitchen, despite the fact that the television was on.
“Have a seat,” she called to him.
He did. The second he was seated, a ball of fur leaped up beside him and gazed at him with mammoth cat eyes. “Hey, it’s cool, I like cats,” he said in a low voice.
“Don’t mind Ichabod!” she called.
“I like animals!” he assured her, speaking more loudly.
But as he stroked the cat, he felt an odd presence. He turned and realized he was right.
Madison was not residing in the bungalow by herself—and it wasn’t just the cat who was residing with her.
There was a man seated at the far end of the sofa, watching him gravely.
“I Love Lucy,” the man said. “Love that show. The physical comedy is exceptional. Ah, Lucille! She had some major talent.”
Sean just nodded, incredulous. “Bogie?” he whispered.
* * *
She wasn’t alone. He hadn’t merely dropped her off—he was inside the house with her!
Vengeance was irritated. Sean Cameron. Everyone hero-worshipped the bastard.
Could have been a movie star, excellent leader and team player, brilliant, artistic, talented…
Vengeance was thoughtful; it was said that Cameron had left because a friend was dying. A woman. Although they’d been apart, she’d been the love of his life. So he’d gone home to Texas. Texas. Cowboys and guns and ranches…
Then he’d joined the FBI. But he was back.
Panic set in. No, just stick to the plan—with Madison now part of the scenario. It was very film noir. She wasn’t the love of Cameron’s life, but…
It made vengeance all the sweeter.
Let him know….
Let him know that another woman, Madison Darvil, had died.
A woman he’d brought in on the case. Or, better still…one Eddie Archer had brought in.
Yes, she must die.
Vengeance wasn’t sure that vengeance could wait.
Why hadn’t she said NO? One gigantic NO, that would’ve done it. She could have explained that she didn’t bring people to her house, that work was separate from her private life, even when it came to saving Alistair Archer and finding a murderer. They could have gone somewhere else.
Anywhere else! She wasn’t against being with him—not at all. Under other circumstances, she would’ve loved to have had him in her house. Every moment she spent with Sean seemed to draw her closer to him, draw her further into the web of fascination he created for her. She liked being next to him, feeling the warmth he seemed to exude, feeling she wanted to come closer and closer….
They were just working together; she was a studio guide for him, and a guide into the lives of those around Eddie, the people she might know better than he did.
And she really didn’t need him here! Not when Bogie was bound to tease her and cause trouble. It was going to be hard to behave normally, to pretend that the ghost of a classic film star wasn’t sitting on her sofa or leaning nonchalantly against a wall.
But she’d tried to remain casual. She’d been nonchalant. Sure, what the hell, let’s go to my house.
Bogie would behave. Bogie knew that a murder had taken place. This wasn’t like trying to destroy an evening because she was dating someone he considered a jerk. This was different. Sure, the television was on. Lots of people left their TVs on. No big deal. It was all going to be fine.
Madison dug around in her refrigerator and produced a beer for Agent Cameron. Luckily, she was so close to the studio that she brought her coworkers home for weekend evenings fairly often—and Bogie always behaved then. She was well-supplied with snack food and a decent selections of drinks—alcoholic and non. Beer. Beer was easy. She had a case of Guinness her assistant had brought last Friday. Nice cold Irish beer in bottles. What about her? Hmm. Maybe she’d have something a bit harder. Like Scotch or whiskey. She looked around on the counter. She had both. A whiskey and ginger ale. Yeah.
She poured whiskey into a glass with ice.
She didn’t add the ginger ale. She knocked the drink back in a swallow, felt the burn and coughed. That was good. Okay, no problem. She poured herself another shot and added the ginger ale. She shook back her hair and managed to call out calmly, “It’s Guinness. You want a glass?”
She picked up her glass and his beer and tried to sail smoothly back into the living room. Agent Cameron was seated on the couch, left side.
Bogie was on the right side.
Bogie offered her his charming half smile. She returned it with a warning frown.
“Here you go.” She handed Sean the beer, and took a seat in the large upholstered chair.
“Thanks,” he told her.
She nodded. “So when does your crew get in?” she asked.
“The rest of my unit arrives tonight.”
Why did casual conversation have to be so damned hard?
Because she’d brought him to her house. After a trip to the morgue.
She was insane. Totally insane.
And it was all worse than she’d imagined. He was staring at her. Just watching her. As if he knew something she didn’t know…
She gave him her best effort at an expectant smile, as if she was waiting for him to tell her where they were going from here.
But, at first, he didn’t speak.
And she was completely unnerved.
She looked at her glass. She didn’t remember having gulped down the second drink.
“Wow,” she murmured.
“First trip to a morgue isn’t easy,” he said.
“No. I mean, people don’t usually drop in on the morgue,” she said.
“Of course not,” he agreed.
“Excuse me,” Madison said, standing again and hurrying back to the kitchen. She really had to stop. She didn’t normally slurp down three shots in ten minutes. But one more…
She made herself another drink. She would sip it, she promised herself.
Once again, she sat in the big chair diagonally across from him. Bogie was shaking his head in some kind of warning.
She ignored him, looking at Sean Cameron.
And he looked back at her.
“So, about Texas,” she said. She felt as if she was awkwardly trying to speed-date. They weren’t at a speed-dating event. They were working on a murder case. She was an artist. She could create wonderful special effects and work on her own designs and the designs of others; she was a fabricator, accustomed to fabric and foam and latex and other materials with which marvelous things could be fashioned. She knew nothing about morgues and murders.
“Texas, yes,” he said pleasantly.
“Nice state. Big state. Lots of horses, cowboys…all that.” Oh, God, she sounded like she was doing horrendously at a very bad speed-dating event.
“Yes, Texas is a big state,” he said. He seemed amused, even charmed, by her desperate rambling.
But before she could make some other inane remark, he asked, “What did you get from the morgue? Really. Seriously.”
Madison frowned. “I got the same thing you got. Exactly what the medical examiner said. Her killer caught up with her from behind. Held her tight and slit her throat, the stroke going from left to right.”
“And?” he persisted.
She forced herself to meet his eyes. “If he had any other facts, I didn’t hear him say so,” she said primly.
He smiled, then looked at her again. “I want to know what Jenny Henderson said to you. If there was something I didn’t hear. She did see you, and she did speak to you. I want to know if I missed anything she said, anything at all. You never know what can help until you weigh the words of the deceased.”
Her jaw must have dropped to her feet.
He actually reached over to tap it shut with his hand.
“Madison!” He said her name softly but firmly. “Madison, this isn’t the time to be shy about your abilities. We’ve got to get this all out in the open, now, here—and make use of everything we can throughout this case. We need whatever help there is. All the help we can get—from the living…and the dead.”
She was still staring at him. At least her mouth was no longer gaping. But she couldn’t seem to speak.
“Please,” he said. “Eddie told me you speak with the dead. And Bogie told me he hangs around here because he loved the time he lived here—and because you’re the only one he’s come across who sees him and responds to him. He really likes you, too. But he’d haunt those he loved during his lifetime if he could.”
Her jaw dropped again. And once more, he gently tapped it shut.
She glanced at Bogie, who was watching her gravely, and then turned back to Sean Cameron with total shock.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said harshly.
“It’s all right, kid,” Bogie said. “He sees me.”
In torment, Madison looked from her ghost to Sean Cameron. He was studying her with his deep green eyes. Eyes that seemed to accept nothing but the truth. Challenging eyes, defying her to contradict him.
Madison couldn’t help herself; she sat rigidly silent. She didn’t want to hurt other people with what she saw, nor did she relish being ridiculed. In her entire life, she’d never come across anyone else who admitted to seeing the dead.
“You can’t begin to know how lucky you are,” Sean said, looking at Bogie with awe. “Sir, you were magic on the screen. Magic. And from everything I’ve read, you were an all-right guy, as well.”
“I had my spats with a few folks.” Bogie shrugged in that characteristic Bogie way.
“We all do,” Sean said. “Every life includes some dark spots and hard times. But, sir, the totality of your life, on-screen and off…it’s fantastic.” He suddenly turned to Madison. “Really! You can’t imagine how lucky you are to be haunted by such a legend!”