Page 28

A chorus of “Hi, Madison,” sounded. Madison waved a hand and said hello in greeting. She was trying to act cool and dignified; she looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a massive semi.

“I see you have a suitcase,” Logan said.

“That’s good. You shouldn’t stay at your own place now,” Kelsey told her.

“Yes, definitely, if you were threatened in any way, you need to keep close to us, for the time being at least,” Logan agreed.

“Thank you,” Madison said.

Sean cleared his throat. “I forgot to tell you that as well as being a special-effects wizard and a friend to Eddie and Alistair, she’s a great deal like us. She speaks with ghosts. She actually has a close relationship with one in particular, who spends a lot of time with her.”

“Oh?” Logan still looked severe. He tended to be mistrustful of others who claimed to be mediums or capable of “reaching the other side.” They were all careful with whom they spoke, and careful of what they said. Despite rumors that they were the “ghost busters” of the FBI.

Madison nodded, looking no less mistrustfully at the crowd she’d just met.

She finally answered.

“Yes, sometimes I can speak with the dead. Not always.”

“Well, that would be the same of all of us,” Kelsey said, smiling. “Sometimes—most often, really—the dead are gone. And even when they stay, some don’t care to talk. But…you have a ghost who visits you?”

Sean flinched, not sure if the others would doubt the possibility of Bogie, or if they’d be awed and envious.

It was the latter.

After a few minutes of excited questions, things seemed to settle down. They moved into the central area between the two rooms, and were soon seated around the table.

Bogie had proven to be quite a help in many ways; here, he was an icebreaker.

And questions about him naturally segued into more serious conversation regarding the murder. Madison described the different personalities involved with the studio and Eddie Archer’s life, and Sean put forth his theory that it wasn’t a random murder, but one that had been carefully thought out—and thought out to hurt Eddie Archer by making Alistair appear guilty.

Logan asked them gravely if they believed there was any possibility that Alistair had committed the murder.

Madison said no—even the victim had told them that. And she seemed gratified when Logan accepted her words without ridicule.

Sean informed them that the clock in the security footage had lost time, while the recording itself had not. “Two minutes. Two minutes are missing from the clock,” he said.

“Not a lot of time,” Kelsey remarked. “And that isn’t when the murder occurred. It’s before the murder.”

“So what does it mean? Think about it. Say you’re underwater, holding your breath. Two minutes can be very long. And if you’ve plotted something out, two minutes might be all that’s needed,” Sean said.

“What do you think, Madison? You know the studio. What could you do with two minutes?” Logan asked.

“Well…the costume was on the mannequin, and I know that Knox believes we’ll find it. The evil priest, Amun Mopat—who could wake the dead and make the mummy rise—came down from the tableau and killed Jenny. According to Alistair. So, if someone had been dressed as the priest and was waiting somewhere in the studio, it’s possible that this person—dressed as Amun Mopat—did it. And I suppose you’d look more like Amun Mopat if you stole the robe. And if you could lose two minutes, you might have time to steal the costume you needed…. Could the video have been altered? Colin Bailey was out of the security area when he went to the Black Box with Alistair.”

“There is no video of what happened in the tunnel,” Sean said.

“Why?” Logan asked.

“There’s never been a camera down there, I guess because there’s a camera that catches anyone going into the Black Box Cinema, and there are several security cameras in the studio,” Madison explained. “The museum is more like Eddie’s private place. He loves it. And it isn’t open much of the time…. There are security cameras at the studio because people do try to get hold of movie images before the movies are released. Piracy is pretty lucrative. But as for the museum…it’s just tableaux.”

“I think there was a security camera down there at one time, but as Madison said, it wasn’t an area that anyone worried about,” Sean added.

“If there’s still an old camera—and if it was used—it probably wouldn’t have been active on a Sunday night, anyway. The cinema’s closed then. The cameras we do have aren’t there because we expect anyone to be murdered. They’re there to protect the studio. I assume it’s kind of general knowledge that the museum isn’t open on Sundays, because the Black Box Cinema isn’t open. And, I admit, you can’t discredit the police for their assumptions. To believe that Alistair didn’t do it is almost like believing the impossible. As Sean’s pointed out to me, you’d really have to be familiar with the studio and the cinema to carry off such a feat. Then, you’d have to know Alistair. And you’d have to know that Jenny was coming—and if you knew that, you’d realize she came to coerce Alistair into showing her the main studio.”

“But it is general knowledge that Alistair had a crush on Jenny, right?” Jane asked. “And that Jenny was an actress, that she could manipulate Alistair—and that Alistair often went to the Black Box by himself, on Sunday nights?”

Sean looked over at Jane, a slim, very pretty brunette. Of everyone on their team, he’d wondered if Jane would make it. She was an artist, although it was true that she’d worked with human skulls. And, of course, he’d been an artist of sorts himself. Surprisingly, perhaps, they’d all done well on their first assignment in Texas, considering that only three of them had come from a background in law enforcement. Jane had excelled at their courses at Quantico; she was a dead-on shot and would have made an excellent sniper.

“Yes, pretty general,” Madison was saying. “I mean, people joked about it at the studio. No one disliked Jenny that I know of,” she said. “And I don’t think anyone disliked Alistair. He’s a sweet kid without a chip on his shoulder at all. The jokes were the usual stuff, like how ‘whipped’ Alistair was. Some of the guys can be jaded. Jenny was amusing to them, and watching Alistair’s reactions to her even more so.” She turned to Sean. “And the priest’s robe is gone. I know it was there, Sean.”

Sean nodded, smiling at her. “I watched the security footage. The mannequin gets pushed back, pretty innocently, I suspect—at first. Then, there’s the two-minute gap, the time discrepancy—that’s when you can no longer see the mannequin in the dressing room area. I have the tech man at the station, Fontini, doing whatever he can to figure it out, and I’m going to talk to Bailey again. He might be the guard, but he’s no tech wizard.”

“Yes, but he was there, wasn’t he?” Logan asked. “Except when he left the security station to go to the Black Box Cinema with Alistair. Have I got that right?”

Sean nodded.

“Okay, then,” Logan said decisively. “Tomorrow we’ll see the studio, and go to the morgue. Sean, you’ll try to find out how the security footage was changed…and by whom.”

“It’s not a difficult trick, not in Hollywood. I’m good, but the kid at the police station is better. Fontini is doing his best, but whoever did it knew what he—or she—was doing.”

“There’s just one more question I have to ask,” Logan said. “You’re sure—really convinced—that Alistair Archer didn’t kill Jenny? I know you ‘spoke’ with Jenny. Could she have been mistaken?”

“No,” Sean said. “There’s no discrepancy between her story and Alistair’s. Someone came down from that tableau dressed as the priest, Amun Mopat, killed Jenny and managed to disappear without a trace. What we have to figure out is the how, and if we get that far, we can begin to figure out the who.”

Madison bit her lip. “Sean’s right. Their stories were exactly the same.” She hesitated only a moment, surveying those around the table as if she couldn’t believe she was with an entire group who might believe her words. “Jenny was certain that Alistair is innocent. She said he was coming back, trying to help her, and that he shouted at the man. She doesn’t know who killed her. She does know that Alistair didn’t.”

“Then that’s that,” Logan said. He looked exhausted. “It’s about four in the morning for us, coming in from Virginia. Right now we need some sleep. We’ll get organized in the morning. Sean, take Katya and go to the morgue first thing. I’ll head down to the police station and get the team set up there and meet with Knox. And we’ll have the cops check out the vacant house across from Madison’s. We’ll gather at the studio around one. By late afternoon, Sean, the rest of us will go over the police notes, reinterview all the employees and scour the security logs for anyone else who’s been in the studio recently. That’ll leave you free to question those closest to the Archer family. Agreed?”

Nods went around the table. Kelsey stood. “Come on, Madison, we’ll put you across the hall in 302. Tyler is in 301, and Kat and Jane will take 303. This side is 304, 305 and 306. You’ll be safe here. I sincerely doubt this person is courageous enough—or foolish enough—to attack you between six FBI agents.”

Madison rose uncertainly. “I’m not putting anyone out—”

“We’ve got the whole floor,” Jane said.

Sean glanced at her, grateful for his team members. Jane and Kat had actually had their own rooms, but were quick to accept the new arrangements. They really were a team, a family.

“Well, then, thank you,” Madison said.