“Vincent Price was cremated,” Madison said, “and his ashes were scattered over Point Dume in Southern California.” She flushed. “I was a huge fan,” she explained. “According to his reputation, he was one of the nicest men, as well as being brilliant on film.”
“And he’s upstairs—a likeness of him, anyway—in the tableau of a scene from Laura,” Sean said absently, taking a step into the tunnel. “If he was here I’m willing to bet he’d give us a hand.” He wished then that Bogie was still with them. He might have known more about the cemetery and the original owner of the studio and property.
“Wait!” Madison said. “You’re not going in there now, are you?”
He stepped back, looking at her. “Yes.”
“We could get help,” she said.
“I don’t want help right now, Madison,” he said slowly. “Until we’ve got the whole team back, I don’t want to tell anyone we’ve discovered the door. I’d like to check out the place and see what we can find first.” He hesitated. “Tyler can take you back up, if you want, and arrange for one of the policemen out there to get you to the station.”
She shook her head vehemently. “No…Tyler’s not taking me anywhere and leaving you down here alone!”
“Only the living can hurt me, Madison. And I’m armed,” he said. “FBI agent, remember?”
“Anyone can be in danger—especially alone,” Madison argued stubbornly.
“Madison, I’m a really good shot.”
“You don’t have eyes in the back of your head.”
“I have Tyler.”
“I don’t want to go up. I’m less afraid these days when I’m with you and your team,” she said.
“I’m just waiting for direction,” Tyler said quietly.
“Madison, you don’t have to do this.”
Madison kept staring at Sean. She shook her head. “If you’re going, so am I. In between the two of you, of course.”
Sean breathed a sigh of exasperation. “All right! If I can’t get rid of you—”
“You can’t get rid of me.”
It wasn’t proper procedure to involve a civilian to this extent. But, then again, there wasn’t anything that smacked of the ordinary or “proper” about their team.
The three of them began the trek down the tunnel, moving slowly. Sean shifted his light, studying the wall, the crypts and the floor, searching for any sign of blood.
He nearly stepped on a femur that had fallen from one of the decayed crypts.
“Some of these must have been illegal burials, even in the late 1800s,” Madison whispered, her hand curling around his arm as she came up close behind him. Her voice sounded eerie in the close and fetid air beneath the ground.
“Possibly. And maybe not for a bad reason. Maybe their loved ones didn’t have the money for a legitimate burial,” Sean said.
“Maybe,” Tyler said. He pointed at a simple brass plaque on one of the memorials. “Juan Diaz, born 1891. Beloved. Maybe some of these folks were illegal immigrants, and whoever allowed them to be buried here was doing their families a favor.”
“That would make sense,” Madison said. “I, um, I know the previous owner.” She winced. “He haunts the cemetery sometimes. I think he would’ve condoned something like this out of kindness.”
Sean was only half listening. They’d reached the first fork in the underground labyrinth and his light had picked up something on the floor.
He bent low and touched the stain, then examined it carefully. Tyler and Madison hovered over him. “Blood,” he said.
He threw his light to the left. There were more droplets and one larger stain.
“He came this way,” he said. “The killer came this way.”
“And the tunnel leads back to the northwest,” Tyler added.
“Back…to the Black Box Cinema?” Madison asked.
Sean nodded. He started to follow the blood trail, walking faster. The tunnels must have contained several hundred burials, and there had to be an exit somewhere that led up to a mausoleum or memorial aboveground, unless it had been destroyed sometime in the past century. But he was pretty sure he knew how the killer had gotten in and out.
He hadn’t realized how quickly he was moving until he stopped and Madison crashed hard into his back. At that moment he recognized that he liked the way she clung to him. He liked the softness of her body against his, the sweet scent of her hair and perfume that was a buffer against the scent of death. He wanted to hold her, tell her they were all right, but this wasn’t the time—and certainly not the place.
“We’re here” was all he said.
“Where?” she asked.
He pointed to the wall before them. It was cleaner than the rest of the walls had been, as if someone had discovered it some time ago and taken pains to figure out how it worked.
“There’s got to be another lever to open this wall,” Sean said. “And I can guarantee you—it’s going to open straight into the tableau of Sam Stone and the Curious Case of the Egyptian Museum.”
Tyler stepped forward as Sean held up the light. Madison remained between the two of them, but closer to Sean. He had to concentrate on what he was doing. He suddenly wished he’d insisted she go to the police station. He tried to separate his physical reactions and emotions toward Madison from the work at hand. He was skilled at total concentration—usually. And yet it was good to smell her hair and wash away the scent of the bodies surrounding him, if only for a few sweet breaths.
“Got it!” Tyler shouted.
He pulled the lever, and a small section slid back. There was a whisper of metal against metal.
They found themselves staring at the backs of the mannequins—the slightly off-kilter exhibit of Sam Stone, his heroine Dianna Breen and the killer Egyptian priest, Amun Mopat.
“You were right!” Madison said softly.
“Um, should we go out this way?” she asked.
He smiled and set his hand on her shoulder. “No, we’re closing the door, and we’re going back the way we came. I want to keep it quiet for now that we’ve discovered the killer’s mode of entry and exit. We still have to figure out exactly what he did and gather some of the forensic evidence from the tunnels. Tomorrow, we’ll bring in the rest of the team—and more light. We know the how. We still need to figure out the who.”
She released a shaky breath. “But…Eddie and Colin Bailey know we’ve been in the basement.”
“And we’ll come up frustrated, pretending we made a mistake—that I made a mistake. There’s a lot more research we have to do before we make any of our findings known.”
“Okay,” she said. “But shouldn’t we tell Alistair?”
“We will in time,” Sean said.
Tyler’s deep voice was reassuring. “He’ll learn soon enough. We’re moving fast on this, Madison.”
“It’s so sad to think of him sitting there in a mental hospital. He wasn’t crazy at all—isn’t crazy at all. Everything happened just as he said,” she murmured.
“We’ve got to close this up and get back now,” Sean ordered.
She nodded and stiffened her shoulders. “Let’s do it!”
She started back through the tunnel, taking the lead. Tyler grinned at Sean, who shook his head and passed her. “Stay in the middle, Madison. Remember, a killer used these tunnels. Keep an armed man in front of you and one behind you.”
“Good plan,” she said. Her hand fell on his waist as she positioned herself at his back.
He groaned inwardly when she touched him, gritting his teeth. His thoughts weren’t appropriate for this place.
But maybe they were. Maybe human warmth and basic human desires were important. No one was immortal. Living life to its fullest extent was what they were supposed to do while they spent their time on this…plane of existence.
She was close behind him all the way, although he didn’t move as quickly now. He kept eyeing the crypts and making mental notes to himself.
The robe. The costume robe the killer had used might well be hidden here somewhere. Tomorrow they’d search; they had enough people and enough time to do it properly.
They walked through the corridors of bones, shrouds, decaying coffins, and vaults where the slabs remained in place. He wondered about Claymore—the elder Claymore. Had the man actually been doing a kindness to illegal immigrants and the destitute, or had he been making a small fortune on the side?
At last they emerged into the basement again. Lights still shone over the walls.
Sean frowned, hoping no one had been there after them.
The studio remained in lockdown. Colin Bailey was standing watch, and there were police cars guarding the area.
And yet, he had to wonder if there wasn’t a way to the surface, steps somewhere that led to a vault aboveground in the cemetery. He shouldn’t have let Logan and the others leave; someone should have stood guard. But they hadn’t known that they’d find what they were looking for. It had been important, as well, that they follow procedure, questioning everyone who might have been involved.
Madison glanced at him as they walked toward the elevator. She laughed suddenly, and her laugh was real, if a bit shaky.
“Well, I don’t know what I look like, but you resemble one of our zombies,” she said.
He noticed then that she was covered in spiderwebs and dirt. He smoothed a tangle of webbing from her hair, then inspected Tyler, who was also white and smudged.
“We’d better clean ourselves up a bit,” he agreed ruefully.
“Here,” she said, reaching over and pulling webs from him. She rubbed away a smudge on his cheek. “A bit of an improvement, anyway,” she said, and turned to Tyler.
“We must look like a tribe of monkeys,” Tyler said.