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Bogie shook his head sadly. “Sometimes I think it might have been better back in the bad old days when we were contract players for the major studios. Now, the young and the beautiful come out here willing to do anything for stardom. Anything. Can’t help wondering what Jenny Henderson did—or was willing to do. Or maybe her dreams had nothing to do with her death. Maybe she was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The wrong place at the wrong time. How could that be possible? The studio was in lockdown. There should have been no one with access to the museum—other than Alistair, Eddie and some of the department heads.

She winced inwardly.

It didn’t look good for Eddie Archer. And it sure didn’t look good for Alistair.

“Sam Stone and the Curious Case of the Egyptian Museum,” Bogie said. “You know, the costuming and effects for that movie were done where you work. The place was Claymore Illusions back then.”

“I know,” Madison told him. “That’s why it seemed so perfect that the studio was hired for the remake. I think the fact that the place was used for creating props, costumes, illusions and whatever was needed for film noir is half the reason Eddie Archer loves it so much.”

“Eddie appears to be a talented man with a real appreciation for the past,” Bogie said, not for the first time.

Madison let out a little cry, startled as something pounced onto the sofa beside her. She laughed at herself.

As if he knew she was upset and needed some warmth, Ichabod meowed and settled his furry body next to hers.

“Hey!” Bogie said softly. “It’s going to be all right. Don’t go getting all jumpy on me now.”

Madison forced a smile despite feeling a sense of dread.

It wasn’t going to be all right.

* * *

Sean Cameron arrived in L.A. in the afternoon, when the sun seemed to spray down light like a fountain, and the bustle of the city was as frantic as ever. This might be Tinseltown, and massive movie deals might be taking place in any coffee shop, but it was also where he’d learned that it was often the B-lister who had to put on pretensions, and where the working moguls could be as down-to-earth as their gardeners.

Such was the case with Eddie Archer.

Sean had spent five formative years working under Archer. The man was a genius when it came to creating creatures and special effects. To this day, Eddie loathed straight CGI or computer-generated imagery. Of course, effects were effects, but in Eddie’s view, to create what looked real, you had to start with something real. Thanks to Archer, Sean had learned a great deal about physical illusion as well as computer-generated magic. He’d worked with Eddie in many capacities, learning to create costumes and attachments, build creatures, as well as work with computers.

Archer certainly enjoyed his income and the fact that he was customarily sought out by the most important and influential names in the business. But above all, he still loved his art, and he loved sharing that excitement and enthusiasm with promising young artists, wide-eyed and in awe of the chance to work for him.

Sean had gotten a frantic call from Archer an hour before he’d gotten the call from Logan Raintree, head of their Krewe of Hunters unit, telling him he’d received an official request that they be brought in. He assumed that Eddie Archer had used his influence with someone above the local police and even the state police, because just when he’d been about to tell Logan Raintree that he had to go to L.A. one way or another, Raintree had asked him to head out on the first flight and look into the situation.

“Remember, if something’s impossible—then it’s impossible,” Logan had said. “I know this man is an old friend of yours, a mentor. And I know you don’t want his son to be guilty of murder. But our job isn’t to hide things, fix things or help with creative defense mechanisms. Our job is to discover the truth.”

“I’m aware of that, Logan,” Sean had been quick to reply. He hadn’t taken offense. Whenever a team member had any personal involvement in a case, it was important to note what priorities had to be maintained. He’d gone on to say, “But I knew Alistair when he was a kid. Nice boy. He’s trying to figure out how to be his father’s son and his own man. And no, murder wouldn’t be how he’d plan to make his name. From what I understand from Eddie so far, the kid loved this girl. She used him, but he was crazy about her. And he’s a basket case now. He was immediately arraigned, and he’s out on bail—Archer money and pull, I imagine—but he’s basically locked up, anyway. He’s wearing an ankle monitor and he’s at a mental hospital that deals with dangerous and suicidal clients. A posh place, I understand. Apparently it’s where the A-listers go when there’s some kind of serious question about rehab, sanity…or possibility of a criminal offense.”

“I’m sure this place is the best money can buy,” Logan had said.

“Yeah. Archer loves his kid,” Sean had told him.

And Eddie Archer did love his one and only son. Married three times, Eddie Archie had just the one child. Alistair was the son of his first marriage, to Annie Smith, with whom he’d grown up in Valencia, California. Annie had been a fledgling actress, but her first love had been her family. She’d died when a vicious flu strain had swept through the world, shocking everyone with the deaths it had caused. Eddie had been absolutely bereft.

And then lonely. And Alistair had been left without the mother who’d adored him. Eddie made up for that the best he could; he was always there for his son.

But although Annie had been as sweet and dedicated to a man as a woman could be, Eddie hadn’t had much luck with women since her death five and a half years ago. When he’d married Benita Lowe two years after Annie’s death, Sean had come to the wedding. He could have said right then that it wouldn’t last. Benita had practically snatched the bill from the caterer’s hand and had a few things to say about the cost of the reception. Turned out she wanted Eddie to save his money—for her. That marriage had ended in a matter of months. A year ago, Eddie had given marriage another try, again with an actress, Helena LaRoux. Sean knew Helena; she’d attended Eddie’s second wedding with her third husband. Sean hadn’t gone to that wedding. He’d sent his best wishes to Eddie, hoping he was wrong in his judgment of Helena. They’d had a few minutes to talk at Eddie’s wedding to Benita, and he’d discovered that Helena apparently thought Benita’s then-husband was superior to her own, as far as contacts and possibilities went.

Sean heard a horn beep and when he saw Eddie’s car across the divider realized he’d been waiting in the wrong place, pretty sad considering the fact that he’d lived in L.A. for five years and visited frequently ever since. He threw his garment bag over his shoulder and hurried over to slide into the passenger seat of Eddie’s sporty little Ford hybrid.

“Hey, old friend,” Eddie greeted him. “I’d give you a big man-hug, but they don’t let you sit here long these days!”

“Just drive, my friend, drive,” Sean said.

Eddie nodded and focused his gaze on the road ahead and the insanity of LAX. “Thank you for coming,” he said.

“Ah, Eddie, you knew I’d come if you called me.”

Sean glanced at Eddie, who looked drawn and haggard, a lot older than his years. That was natural under the circumstances.

“You’re sure you’re okay, Eddie? Okay to be driving around?”

Eddie nodded gravely. “I wouldn’t risk your life—or my own. Alistair needs me. I’m strong. I know my son is innocent, and it has to be proven.”

Eddie did seem rational and in control, driving like an expert as he maneuvered the complicated airport exit and the California highway system.

“From special effects to the FBI?” Eddie asked. He tried to smile. “I still marvel at that. I was in shock when you told me. Guess it must be your ability to create giant man-eating rats against a green background.”

“Hey, now,” Sean said, trying to speak lightly. “They didn’t just pluck me out of the studio, you know. All right, well, they did at first, but you remember I’d done some work with Texas law enforcement groups. And now we’ve gone through the training system at Quantico. My team and I, that is,” he added. “None of us was FBI when we formed. But you must know something about my team, Eddie—besides the little we’ve exchanged in phone conversations. Because I got the call from our team leader not long after I talked to you.”

Eddie nodded. “Ever since I was informed that my son was in a jail cell, covered in blood, I’ve done nothing except rack my brains to figure out how we can prove that Alistair didn’t do this—that he couldn’t have done it. I thought about you instantly, and the fact that you’ve become part of an elite unit.”

“I’m not so sure they call us elite,” Sean murmured.

“Sean, the cops have gone through the security tapes. There was no one in or out of the cinema or the studio, other than Alistair and Jenny Henderson. There were no cameras running in the museum. It was closed. The whole thing is impossible. I know Alistair didn’t do it. My attorney is suggesting we consider an insanity plea…but Alistair isn’t crazy. He didn’t do it.”

Sean studied Eddie as he drove. The man was a father, desperate to save his son. Sean groaned inwardly; he hoped Eddie hadn’t wanted the Krewe involved because he believed he had an old protégé working with a group that was part of the federal government. Did he figure Sean might help with an insanity plea? It seemed to him that a good defense attorney could get a person off on insanity in a dozen different ways. The television made me do it. The voices in my head made me do it. A video game made me do it, a book made me do it. The ghosts living in the old Black Box Cinema did it, not me. And if you imagined that a ghost did it—or made you do it—was that as good as actual insanity?

“Eddie, a ghost—or a creature—didn’t kill the girl. I mean, if you’re hoping we can come up with the spirit of a dead noir actor, it’s not going to fly.”