“The studio just went dark.”
“Screw traffic. I’ll be there in five minutes,” Sean said.
He hit the gas pedal, moving illegally onto the shoulder. If the cops wanted to come after him, they could chase him to the studio.
Manipulating the wheel, he tried Madison’s number.
There was no answer. He flattened his foot on the gas pedal. His phone rang. He answered it, praying that Madison was returning his call, that there’d been a power short, that she was with one of the cops and whoever had called Bailey pretending to be him had been caught.
The call wasn’t from Madison. It was Logan.
“You were right, Sean,” Logan said. “I found a reference in an old magazine—or Jane did, I should say. Krakowski had an affair that hit the tabloids in the late 1930s. He was seeing a woman named Elissa Sinclair. And you’ll never guess who she married or the name of her grandson.”
“Tell me!” Sean screamed. “And get the police over to the studio. Now!”
* * *
Madison was on the floor, slithering over to the curtained area, when she heard her phone ring.
She’d left it back on the sewing machine.
Cursing her luck—and trying to tell herself that it was just a power failure—she kept slithering across the floor. Someone could be watching them from any of the cameras, so she didn’t dare go back for her phone.
Where was Sean?
Alfie was ahead of her. “Keep going!” she told him.
He did. He was ready to do anything she said.
She froze when she heard a voice coming over the speaker system. She didn’t recognize it. The sound was distorted, low-pitched and seemed to be male.
“Madison, yes, it’s me, and I’ve been watching you, and you’ve ruined everything. I haven’t got much time, so don’t make things any more difficult. Come out…come out…and your little friend might live.”
Alfie kept going. She paused. Was he going to die because of her?
But Alfie looked back, his eyes glittering with fear—and courage. “Come! Come, now!” he urged her.
She caught up with him. They made it behind the curtain, where she found the rest of Oliver’s Sam Stone costume. If she could get Alfie dressed and standing completely still, she could distract the killer.
And then what?
Hide, get away. The person who wanted to kill her knew the studio well—but she knew it just as well. And she had an advantage.
She was desperate to save her life.
“Alfie!” A chuckle followed the calling of his name. “Come on, Alfie! Do you want to die for her—Eddie’s favorite? You know, you could be the favorite. It will be all over tonight. It’s Madison. She ruins everything. Don’t die for her.”
Behind the curtain, a terrified Alfie pinched her, and she wondered at the courage that was making him stay silent, even in the midst of his fear. “You keep quiet! He’s not going to get us both!” Alfie whispered. “Sean’s on the way. Keep quiet.”
“Get dressed,” Madison hissed. “Please, Alfie.”
“Don’t believe a word he says—he’s killed twice already. He’ll kill me, too. You have to save yourself, Madison,” Alfie said. There were tears glistening in his eyes. It was dark behind the curtain, but she could tell that he was nearly crippled by fear.
“Get into this.”
“I gotta get the jeans off,” he said.
She helped him tug down his jeans while he ripped off his T-shirt. In the meantime, she dug through the costumes left piled on the floor, offcasts from various other projects. She found some kind of material, thought it might be the widow’s costume from the Western they’d done the scaffolding for. It was. Her fingers fumbled with the fasteners but she managed to get into it. She felt something silky—a wig. She crammed it on her head as Alfie reached for a hat.
She nodded, gesturing with her chin to indicate that he should slide against the wall and freeze. He looked at her, shook his head and tried to fix her wig. It was a long black one. After a moment, he seemed satisfied.
“Madison, Alfie, come out to play….”
The disembodied voice wasn’t coming over the loudspeaker anymore. It was in the room with them.
And it was very close.
* * *
Tires squealing, Sean drove into the parking lot, cursing that they’d missed the obvious from the start.
He got out of the car and looked at the studio. The auxiliary lights had come on, making the place appear ghostly and indistinct. He hurried to the door; when he couldn’t open it, he threw his shoulder against it without success.
He peered through the window at the entry, trying to figure out why he couldn’t budge the door.
And then he knew.
A man lay blocking the way. A man in uniform. One of the cops.
Blood was trailing over the floor and a knife protruded from his back.
* * *
He was coming nearer and nearer. In a minute, he’d find the two of them cowering behind the curtain. Madison groped on the floor for the scissors she’d brought with her. She hardly dared breathe.
She heard the footsteps of their stalker approaching. He was just beyond the curtain. She rose slowly to her feet, ready to pounce, hoping to wrap the curtain around him, at least blind him with it, and then slam the scissors into his back.
Her phone started to ring a second time, and their stalker paused.
He was just standing there, listening. But then she heard him laugh. He was on the move again.
“Madison, Madison…come out to play!”
She wrenched at the drapery, ripping it downward and throwing it at him. She slashed with the scissors and he fell back, the drapery falling on top of him. Her scissors caught in the fabric and fell on him, too.
She started to leap forward, ready to attack. But their stalker was almost up. Alfie grabbed her, pulling her back. “No, run! Run now! He’s got a knife!”
She ran with Alfie. The man was still down, only his large hand, the knife clearly visible, emerging from the fabric.
“Out the front, out the front!” Alfie shrieked.
They ran along the hallway, headed for the front door.
Madison saw the dead cop blocking the door. “No!” she cried. “We don’t have time to move him.”
They tore down the hallway; he’d be there any minute. He was still coming toward them. They could hear his harsh breath, his heavy footsteps. She shoved Alfie into the first conference room.
“Stand there! Just stand!”
“Madison, no! Don’t do it!”
But she was already moving, making sure she was heard. She stopped at the second circular display, slid in between a robotic cop and a vampire. She breathed slowly and shallowly, looking behind her.
He came…walking slowly. He didn’t know where they were. He paused, staring into the first conference room. Madison stood very still. If he saw Alfie…
He peered inside, and then came back into the hallway.
“Ah, Madison…you’re here…somewhere!” he said.
She saw him. Saw him in the yellow glow of the auxiliary lights, and he was more frightening that anything the mind could create. He wasn’t transformed by makeup; no latex could ever change a man from a calm and friendly demeanor into such a demented monster.
It was so hard to believe.
He paused. “Madison!” he said. “I know you’re there!”
He went into the second conference room.
Madison turned and ran. There was only one escape. She ran to the elevator. For a moment, she panicked; she needed the key!
But the key was in the lock. She twisted it, and the elevator brought her down to the tunnel.
Heedless of the dead, she raced through it.
* * *
Sean tried to stay calm, running to the car for a tire iron, and then back to the door, swinging as he approached it. The window shattered; he reached in and broke the lock, and shoved with all his might. As he did so, Tyler came pelting down the road. They didn’t try to talk—they burst through the doorway, pushing the body of the dead man out of the way.
“Madison!” Sean shouted her name loudly.
There was no answer.
“I’ll take the main work area,” Tyler said.
“I’m going to the conference rooms.”
As he sprinted down the hallway, he suddenly heard a shout. A man in costume came bursting out of one of the conference rooms. Sean reached for his Glock.
“No!” came a screech. “Sean, it’s me, Alfie—we dressed up and went in different directions. He—he walked right by me. He kept going…he tried the next room. Then he heard the elevator. Madison would’ve taken the key…wouldn’t she? He couldn’t…he couldn’t have gotten to her…he couldn’t have.”
“He has his own key!”
“I’ll come, I’ll come…I’ll help you—”
“Alfie, go wait by the entrance. Find the other guard. He must be patrolling the perimeter. Go on, find anyone! Tell the cops and everyone else where we’ve gone—into the tunnel. Get them down there fast!”
Alfie, a comic book hero for real, dashed toward the studio’s front door.
Sean tore past him, out of the entry and to the Black Box.
* * *
Madison charged through the museum to the rear of the Sam Stone exhibit. She nearly tripped over a cobra as she made her way through the mannequins. She was just about to rush down the hallway to the cinema when he burst in behind her, leaping over the jackal and landing a few feet away.
For a moment, she was frozen, staring at him in horror. He carried a knife, but he had a gun, as well.
He smiled at her.
She shook her head. “Bailey, what are you doing? It’s over! I don’t know what kind of agreement you had with Helena, but you were stupid to kill her and rig it as a suicide.”
He frowned, angry, still a few feet in front of her. All she had to do was stay alive, she told herself. Help would be coming. All she had to do was stay alive until it did.