“Yes, but it doesn’t matter. Sean isn’t in here!”
“He’s here somewhere,” Logan said. “Sean!”
He walked toward the bathrooms, but Madison could see that Sean wasn’t in the men’s room—the door was gaping open.
She crossed the floor, trying to study the roped-off area.
She turned around. “You found him?” she asked.
She took a step and tripped into the roped-off area.
“Madison!” Logan called again.
“I’m all right. I’m—”
She never finished her sentence.
The floor beneath her gave way, and she pitched straight down into a dark abyss.
Sean went dead still, hearing the sound of the scream.
He wasn’t sure how he recognized a scream, but he did.
He’d traveled no more than twenty feet into the crypts, straight to the rear of the structure, or so he believed. Here, marble slabs covered every entombment, except for those that had been dug into the ground and were covered with memorials, some in stone and some in brass. He hadn’t discovered where the tunnels connected with the studio, but he knew he’d eventually find what he was seeking. There was no other way for a killer to escape without leaving some clue—a drop of blood, something.
The scream! It was close, and yet he didn’t know where it had come from.
“Madison!” he shouted.
“Sean!” she cried in return.
“Sean!” He heard Logan’s shout, too.
“What happened?” he yelled.
“I went through the floor,” Madison yelled back.
“I’m trying to get down to her,” Logan said.
“Are you all right?” Sean’s voice echoed off the cold slabs of marble in the darkness around him.
“I’m…up, I’m on my feet. I’m fine, no bones broken…but it’s dark down here!”
“Keep talking. I’m trying to get to you.”
“Okay,” Madison said. “I guess I’m going to be a bit late for work. Hey, did you find out anything about our missing Helena? Oh, wait, that would mean you answer and I quit talking. Logan was great this morning and he kept trying to make me remember if there was anything else I knew. I was sure there wasn’t, but we were looking for tunnels, and information about the property, and I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me that I knew the ghost of the man who’d owned the studio before Eddie—Lucas Claymore. So we went to his tomb….”
She paused for breath.
“So did I!” Sean called. “Logan, can you see Madison?” he shouted.
“You’re so muffled I can barely hear you!” Logan shouted back. “I’m trying to give her some light…until you reach her. Then I’ll get down there, or you can get Madison back up here.”
“Madison, start talking again!” Sean said. So far, he’d been walking in one direction, which seemed to be his only choice. Except that he was moving farther away from Madison’s voice, and he needed to get closer. He retraced his steps, using his flashlight to illuminate the grave markers and the floor. Then he froze; there was blood on the ground.
Fresh blood, a trail of it.
“Madison!” He felt a prickle of fear. “Madison, keep talking!”
He followed the blood, and it seemed to lead into a wall of tombs.
“I’m here. Let me see, I’m not sure what to say. Um. It was good to be back at work yesterday. I’m looking forward to going in today. It’s—oh, God, Sean, it’s really…dark down here.”
But she kept talking. He realized that following the trail of blood had made her voice seem louder. He’d taken a slight turn to the right, and might be doubling back under the center of the church sacristy.
But there was that wall….
Puzzled, he put his hand on one of the tombs. The blood trail seemed to lead to it, and then beneath it.
He pushed on the marble slab covering the tomb. Nothing.
“Madison!” Logan called. “I’m shining the light down there. Can you see anything?”
“Yes, I can see the floor…I’m in the crypt. There are walls of graves down here, and there seem to be more tunnels, like the ones by the studio, except that these are in better shape. Well, I can really only see where your light is shining— Oh!”
Her words broke off in a horrified gasp.
“Madison!” Sean screamed, pushing at the stones. He could hear her clearly, she was so close.
“There—there’s something here…in a crypt. In a broken crypt.”
“Can you see what it is?” he shouted to her.
“Logan!” she called up. “Can you twist the light around?”
Logan must have done so.
Madison let out a long and terrified shriek.
“Madison!” He banged frantically at the slabs on the tombs.
“I’m all right,” she said, but her voice was weak.
“What? What is it?” Sean demanded. “Madison…”
He’d done something right; the slabs were false. There for show, but perfectly fitted, and probably first engineered when a young pastor and the owner of the property wanted to make sure the down-and-out among L.A.’s dead weren’t thrown into nameless pits.
The marble shifted silently, sliding open. He moved his flashlight about frantically.
He saw Madison, white-faced, as she backed away from the wall of crypts.
Sean cast the light in that direction.
“We’ve found Helena LaRoux,” she said, her voice a raspy whisper.
His light fell on the body that dangled from a rope attached to a metal hook on one of the crypts. The hook had been intended to hold flower arrangements and had nearly bent with the woman’s weight.
The other end of the rope was attached to the handles on a vault. The blood he’d seen had apparently dripped from the slashes on her wrists. It appeared that Helena had come here, tried to slash her wrists but failed to do so deeply enough and then hanged herself instead.
But there was something really wrong with this picture, no matter how it appeared….
He walked to the body, reaching up to place two fingers against her throat, but he knew before he touched her that Helena was gone, cold as ice in the underground crypt. He moved away from her, not wanting to destroy any evidence.
She looked like a prop, like “Matilda” back in the conference room—victim number one or any of a number of rubber, latex and wax deceased that they’d made over the years at the studio. Except that she was real. She’d been Helena, flesh and blood, but now, she was no more alive than a mannequin in the studio.
“Logan?” he shouted up. “It’s Helena. I’m going to get Madison out of here. Can you step outside and call Knox? Tell him he’s going to need the M.E.”
* * *
An hour later, Madison was sitting at the rear of an emergency vehicle, a cup of coffee in her hand, a blanket around her shoulders. She was dirty but not hurt. It was difficult to convince them all that although she’d taken a bad fall, she must have landed right. She hadn’t broken anything. She hadn’t even cracked anything. She’d probably be sore the next day, but she was fine—just anxious to leave.
She couldn’t forget what she’d seen. When Logan’s light had first fallen on the crypts, she’d noticed the shadow, more darkness in the darkness. And then the light had focused more directly on what was there in the crypt.
Helena, dangling from the rope, her eyes open, her skin white, just hanging there, the red around her wrists, blood congealing where it had dripped down the marble of the tombs behind her, and onto the marble slab she’d used to jump off in order to take her own life.
Madison wondered if she’d ever forget the sight of her open eyes.
Sean was in deep conversation with Knox and Logan as more and more techs arrived, suited up and looking as if they’d come to contain a biohazard. The manager of the cemetery had joined them with members of his staff, and they seemed to be in shock.
Sean broke away from the group and came over to her.
“Does Eddie know yet?” Madison asked.
“Mike Greenwood is on his way to Eddie’s. He’s going to give him the news.”
“Was she guilty, Sean?” Madison whispered. “Is that why she killed herself? We saw Lucas Claymore. He said she’d been in the cemetery, talking on the phone, waiting—as if she was going to meet someone here.”
“Logan told me. And that adds to my feeling—I just don’t believe she killed herself. It doesn’t seem like Helena. But her car is parked outside the wall, so she did drive herself here.”
“We were sure she wasn’t bright enough to carry this off,” Madison said.
“I still don’t think she was bright enough to carry any of this off,” Sean remarked. “But the forensic experts will know more than I do. First, I don’t see Helena crawling down into a basement tomb to kill herself. She’d do it dramatically—if she was going to do it at all. Secondly, I don’t see her slashing her wrists or hanging herself. She would’ve arranged a grand finale, beautifully decked out, and she would’ve taken some kind of overdose. I don’t believe this at all.”
“You think her conspirator killed her?” Madison asked. “And that she was in on Jenny’s murder?”
“Oh, she was in on it—that’s how she came to be here,” Sean replied. “I’m sure she’s the one who knew that Alistair would be here watching the movie, and that she’s the one who knew Jenny was coming. I think she stole Eddie’s elevator key and had a copy made. I don’t think she committed the murder.”
“You mean, she was in on Jenny’s murder, but then her partner…decided she was a liability?”
Sean nodded. “Maybe she was getting nervous because she found out we were going to question her down at the station, and she met with her partner to find out what to say. Or maybe her partner was nervous about her—that’s easy to believe. I don’t think she was intended to be a victim at the beginning. Or maybe the killer figured he’d get her, too, when he was ready. I can’t help feeling she was involved. Why else do you drive to a cemetery and sneak in? But who knows—we’re still missing a piece of the puzzle. When this began, I suspect the intent was just to make Alistair go to prison for the rest of his life. But I think we’re close to the truth now.”