“Yeah, it’s possible,” Sean said.
“Yes, and it would make sense.” Kat seemed relieved.
Sean went to stand by the elevator entrance and surveyed the room. Yes, the basement was larger than the structure above. It stretched beneath the property border, he thought.
“I—I’ll need to get someone down here to shore up the walls, make repairs.” Eddie sighed. “Oh, Lord, we may have to—to get real structural changes made. I don’t think this can be legal. Or up to code. I didn’t realize how far the basement juts out. I never spent enough time down here.”
“Well, we might have the mystery of the bone solved,” Sean said. “But I still think there has to be another tunnel—leading to the Black Box Cinema.”
He paused for a minute, getting his bearings, and then walked in the direction of the cinema. He felt a presence right behind him and swung around; it was Madison.
She stopped. There was a smudge of dirt on her nose and he smiled. “You’re afraid of the dark?” he asked her.
“I just like to see where I’m going,” she said. “And you have the light.”
Actually, he saw that the whole group was behind him. He looked back at them all. “This isn’t going to work. We need more light,” he said.
“I’ll go up and see what Colin Bailey can rig up for us,” Eddie announced.
“I’ll go with you,” Jane volunteered.
“I guess I’m not really trusted, am I?” Eddie said. “Everyone’s under suspicion, right?”
Jane laughed. “Well, that’s true—until we have an answer, we can’t really trust anyone. But it’s not that, Eddie. I just happen to prefer the light.”
“An FBI agent who doesn’t like the dark,” Eddie said, managing a smile.
“Hey! We’re human, too. Let’s go get some light,” Jane encouraged him.
“We have to report the bone to the proper authorities,” Kat said. “Even if it is an old bone. For one thing, there are health issues at stake. Not to mention the dignity of human remains.”
“Yes, we will report it. But not yet,” Sean told her.
“No, not yet,” Kat agreed. “We’re supposed to start meeting with the employees in another forty-five minutes, Logan,” she reminded him, touching the illuminator on her watch.
“We’ll help Sean get some lighting rigged up and then we’ll head out,” Logan said.
Sean kept feeling along the walls. The place had been built properly, but some of the concrete had been weakened. So far, he hadn’t come across anything suspicious. Madison was testing the walls, too—close behind him.
They heard the elevator’s soft whisper as it rose again with Eddie and Jane on board. The silence in the darkened basement was eerie as the rest of them continued to walk along the walls, tapping here and there.
“Let’s divide and conquer,” Sean suggested.
They did so. Sean knew that a few of his team might think he was looking for something that didn’t exist. But the rule was that if one of them had a hunch, they all cooperated in seeking the truth behind that person’s suspicion or theory.
It wasn’t long before the elevator returned to the basement, bearing Eddie and Colin Bailey. Colin had brought not just more flashlights, but cord and nails so they could rig the lights around the basement.
“Agent Everett is acting as security while I’m down here,” Bailey told Sean earnestly. “I thought that was all right, seeing as how she’s an agent and all.”
“That’s fine, Colin,” Sean said, taking the cord. “Let’s see if we can get the angles and corners covered, and position the lights to help us see around the support beams, as well.”
They set to work; when they were done with the rigging, Logan spoke to Sean. “Sean, we’ll leave you and Madison here, working on whatever you can find. We have appointments to start interviewing employees down at the station, plus the friend Jenny talked to before going to the studio. I could put it off, I suppose, but I don’t want to. If each of us takes on a few more people to question, I can have Tyler stay with you two down here. Safety in numbers.”
“That sounds fair,” Tyler said. “And I agree. It was arranged that we’d do the interviews this afternoon. All those people will be showing up, so we need to go ahead with it.”
“But if the three of you stay here, you might discover something. And remember, we’re a team. If you find anything, we can all spread out tomorrow. And it’s not that we won’t share our information with the police, but I’d rather we got first crack.”
“Amen,” Sean murmured.
“We should take the initiative,” Tyler agreed.
“Works for me,” Sean said, grinning at his old friend. He’d known both Logan and Tyler Montague before their team was formed. They’d been Rangers in Texas, and he’d been on call with various law enforcement agencies in San Antonio and other areas of Texas, especially when the police were baffled by security footage. Tyler was a good man who always had his back. He glanced at Madison to see if she seemed frightened or ill at ease. She didn’t; she looked as if she was anxious to continue their search.
In fact, she said a quick goodbye to the others and returned to examining the walls, running her hands over them, heedless of lichen or mold.
“Hey!” Sean called to Logan as he stepped into the elevator.
“Set the elevator to rise and then toss me the key—we’ll want to get out of here at some point!”
Logan nodded and did as Sean had asked. When he threw the key, Sean caught it smoothly and pocketed it. He didn’t relish the idea of discovering that they were stuck in the basement, calling for help. So far, his phone service had worked down here, but he didn’t have much power left.
Again, they heard the soft whir of the elevator as the others left, Colin Bailey going back with them to take over his post so Jane could accompany Logan and Kat to the police station.
Sean wondered how useful it would be to question all the employees, many of whom were relatively recent. The more he delved into the situation, the more he became convinced that the murderer was someone who knew the studio extremely well.
Except…who knew this building, especially this basement, as well as Eddie Archer?
They began again, working in silence, each on a different side, leaving only the area around the elevator unexamined. As time passed, Sean began to feel that maybe he’d been mistaken. Maybe the basement was just a basement—and the fact that it extended into the cemetery had been kept quiet to avoid problems and complications with property ownership, the cemetery, health codes.
Suddenly Madison let out a whoop of triumph. “There’s something here—it’s a door!”
He hurried over to her. All the basement walls seemed to be damp and covered in a thin patina of lichen. But, as Madison had done, Sean ran his fingers over that section of wall. And he felt what she’d felt. There was a break, a thin line that indicated the wall wasn’t solid concrete.
But the almost imperceptible groove was going in the wrong direction. It was far from the wall that should lead to the cinema, if such a wall, such a doorway, existed.
“It seems wedged,” he said. He set his strength against it, and the door started to give.
“Hey, Tyler, come and help!” he called.
Tyler stooped low to put pressure on the bottom while Sean did the same at the top.
“There must be some mechanism holding it in place,” Tyler said.
As Madison watched them struggle, she squinted, studying the wall. A moment later, she stepped between them and ran her hands down the opposite side, across from the slit that had shown them there was an opening. She saw what Sean hadn’t. There was an actual lever. The discoloration caused by the dampness had hidden it, and made it look like part of the wall.
When she pulled the lever down, the door slid open with only a slight creaking sound. It was a narrow door, with just enough space for one person to slip through.
Sean raised his lantern as Tyler and Madison stood behind him.
For a moment, they were silent.
“Oh,” Madison said weakly.
“Well, there is another tunnel,” Tyler said.
And there was. It led through what appeared to be an underground labyrinth of catacombs. They could see where the walls ahead of them broke and the light diffused, leading to other tunnels. On either side of the tunnel before them there were shelves; some had slabs, the kind found in mausoleums around the world. Some of the slabs were broken, while some had completely fallen away. A few still retained very old plaques, announcing the names of the deceased who lay within the tombs. Some remains were in shabby coffins, old wood that was deteriorating. A few of the deceased were in shrouds, and spiderwebs rather than plaster or stone were their only cover.
“Oh,” Madison said again.
“Wow.” Tyler looked at Madison. “Those aren’t, uh, any kind of special effects, are they?”
Her eyes were huge and bright in the eerie lantern light. “No. No, I don’t think so,” she told him. “The cemetery was actually the first thing on these grounds, so I believe that…I believe these are very old underground vaults.”
Sean touched the Glock .22 he wore at almost all times, just for reassurance that it was there. He wasn’t expecting trouble from the dead; he was sure someone living had recently traveled through the tunnel. But he didn’t intend to be caught down there and surprised by a killer.
“I feel like we’ve just stepped into a Hammer film—and that we’ll find Vincent Price at the end of the walkway, guarding a tomb,” Tyler murmured.
Sean grinned. He hadn’t expected such a comment from Tyler. He was glad to see that Madison was smiling, too. She might deal in special effects, but it was truly unsettling to be down here, as if they were entombed in the dank, dark, coffinlike interior of the basement, especially now with scores of buried dead stretching before them.