“It wasn’t stupid. Helena was an idiot. As long as everything went smoothly, she was fine. But in an interrogation room? She’d have spilled everything, would’ve lied and said it was all my idea, and she’d have walked—and I would’ve gone to prison for the rest of my life. No, Madison. I’m sorry you were so instrumental in my downfall. You’re a decent kid. But I should have guessed. You know things you’re not supposed to know. You…well, it’s your fault. Yours and that fed’s. Who the hell knew Eddie wouldn’t believe the cops, that he wouldn’t accept what was obvious? Involving you and the damned feds, finding the tunnels—” He broke off, chuckling. “Finding the dead.”
“That’s right, Bailey. I talk to the dead,” she told him.
“Good. You’ll have friends to talk to.”
“Why did you do this?” she asked him.
“Vengeance,” Bailey said. “I am Vengeance! They seem to think the new Sam Stone movie, The Unholy they named it, is going to be such a brilliant piece of work! They don’t care—just like they didn’t care back then!—that a man died. Murdered. I heard the rumors. Pete Krakowski was murdered. No one sought justice. So, when you can’t get justice, you’ve got to get something else. Vengeance—and I am Vengeance. You still don’t understand? I was pretty sure your G-man was getting close to the truth. Pete Krakowski. Yeah, he was killed on the set. I knew the truth, you see. The wiring was faulty because of the effects they were using—they’d wired the mummy, and it came to life. But they screwed it up—the wiring was loose, and the power shot through Krakowski. I call that murder!” Bailey’s eyes never left her. “He was in love with my grandmother. They should’ve been married, and if they had been, she would’ve seen that his death was avenged. This place should’ve been mine. The widow got all the money—and my grandmother got nothing but directions to the soup kitchen. People whispered about it being murder, and that it was Claymore’s fault. They didn’t let Pete live to divorce his wretched, whining wife and marry the woman who loved him, who would have avenged him. She would’ve taken the studio for all it was worth. And it should’ve been mine, and I shouldn’t have been sitting at a guard desk all these years—yes, sir, no, sir, can I help you, sir—no, I shouldn’t have been. Alistair needed to go to jail, because Eddie needed to know what it was to lose everything.”
“Bailey, that is the most messed-up thinking I’ve ever heard!” Madison said. “Alistair is just an honestly nice young man. Jenny didn’t do anything to anyone. And Eddie was loyal to you.” She stared at him, knowing that she shouldn’t be making him angry. “Eddie isn’t a Claymore—”
“Not a Claymore, no. But you know who would’ve been next? When Alistair was on his way to jail? Oliver Marshall, that bastard. I would have gotten to him. And Eddie’s whore of an ex-wife. Benita Lowe—the bitch who badmouths her own blood.”
Madison suddenly realized that he’d planned more, so much more….
“I don’t understand how you did all this. You were on duty. But you—not Helena—killed Jenny. Helena met you in the tunnel, right? You weren’t on camera because you’re the one who was trusted to watch the cameras. There was a time discrepancy on the video. Two minutes were missing from the clock in the workroom because you had to stop the camera to steal the Egyptian priest’s cape. Helena had gotten you the key to the basement and she was keeping you informed of Alistair’s schedule. She listened to gossip, and she knew that Jenny was coming to see him. Then she met you at the site to hide the robe. She escaped through the tunnels—into the cemetery. Meanwhile, you’d taken care of the murder weapon, hiding it in the canopic jar.” Madison took a deep breath. “You know the system so well, you could freeze all the tapes at exactly the same time—so perfectly that not even a forensic expert could tell what you’d done—and back them up so no one ever knew you’d left your position. You did that in the video room behind the desk, then ran around to the front—and there you were, Alistair’s sympathetic savior when he regained consciousness and came looking for you.”
“It was still a locked-room mystery, Madison. It should have stayed that way,” Bailey said.
She was startled when she heard another voice, one she hadn’t expected.
“Keep him talking, kid. We’re here. We’ll help you when we can—when we figure out how we can.”
“Thanks, Bogie,” she whispered. He was there; her resident ghost had made it here to help her. Jenny Henderson, as nervous-looking as a toy poodle, was standing slightly behind him. They were in the Casablanca exhibit.
“What?” Bailey said.
She’d unnerved him, and she hadn’t even done it intentionally. Maybe he was feeling the cold some people felt when a spirit was around…or the creeping sensation of another presence that seemed to raise the hair on a person’s neck.
Bailey turned. It wasn’t enough for her to make an escape, but he turned.
He stared back at her. “What are you up to?”
“Bogie is here. You know—Humphrey Bogart. I told you I talk to the dead. And Jenny’s here. Jenny Henderson. The girl you killed.”
“That’s not true! It’s time for you to die. The cops will be here soon. I may go down, but you’re going down with me.”
He took a step toward her. She jumped back into the exhibit, standing behind the mannequin of Sam Stone. When Bailey tried to reach her, she thrust the mannequin toward him. He tripped backward, but righted himself. She looked at the sarcophagus, ready to shove that in his direction next.
But before she could do so, the mannequin of Humphrey Bogart came flying out of the Casablanca exhibit. It didn’t go far, but it hit the ground, surprising Bailey. He drew his gun and shot at it. She counted the shots. She didn’t know anything about guns. How many bullets did he have?
“What the hell? Who’s there?” he demanded, searching the exhibit.
Another mannequin came flying toward him—Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund.
Bailey started shooting again.
And then he turned the gun on Madison. She screamed and leaped behind the sarcophagus, her heart thundering.
A bullet…a clean kill…better than a knife across her throat?
But then she heard a shout from the living. Sean had arrived.
“Bailey! Drop the weapon now!”
He was racing in from the Black Box, Glock in hand, aimed at Bailey.
Bailey whirled around, gun raised.
“Drop it!” Sean yelled.
Bailey fell back, a spill of blood spreading on his shirt.
She wasn’t a coward…. But her knees were so weak.
She was barely standing by the time Sean stepped over Bailey and the fallen mannequins, pushed aside the sarcophagus and drew her into his arms.
That was when her knees failed completely. He swept her up and carried her from the tableau, and as she fell against his chest, she was exhausted and safe and…in love.
It was just like a movie.
Madison awoke feeling a sense of luxury and comfort that was wonderful.
The sheets were an incredible blend of silk and cotton, cool to the touch, sensuous against her skin. The drapes at the large lanai windows were moving with the slight breeze, and the sound of the waves and the ocean were just beyond them.
Best of all, of course, was the man beside her. Sean, naked and strong, his arms creating a haven, a sanctuary. It felt so right. In the long run, of course, she couldn’t live in a Hawaiian paradise; Ichabod was at home. Alistair was taking care of him, and when she returned, she was also taking Helena’s little designer lapdog—mutt, as Sean called him—and she loved having her pets.
But for now…
She opened her eyes, trying to see if he’d awakened. He had. He was watching her with amusement, lips curved in a smile.
“Good morning,” he said.
“Yes, it is.” She sighed luxuriously and smiled up at the ceiling fan.
Eddie Archer really was a great friend.
With the studio closed while the tunnels were cleaned out and sealed and the dead within them reinterred in peace, her work was on hold. Next week, she’d be heading out to the desert on the outskirts of Las Vegas, and Sean would follow the members of his team to Chicago. Something strange was going on in Lake Michigan; people Sean had worked with in Texas had begun a documentary on shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, and in the midst of their work, a diver had mysteriously died.
She bit her lip, worried about him, and then realized it was what he did, and if she wanted them to fashion a life together, she’d have to accept that, just as he understood her love for her own work.
His mind was apparently moving in the same direction. “You really think you’ll be able to take a three-day weekend after the action sequences are filmed on location?”
She nodded. “But you’re taking a few days first to meet me in Vegas.”
His eyes were brilliant as he looked at her and smoothed back a lock of her hair. “I learned once upon a time that we all need a focus in life, but that focus has no meaning if we can’t remember that life is really about people, the people who are most important to us. People we might come across only once in a lifetime. Twice if we’re lucky. And when you get a second chance, you don’t blow it.”
“I would go anywhere for you,” she told him.
“You’re with me now.” He smiled and kissed her, and the fan continued to whir and the breeze to wash over them. His kiss deepened and he moved against her, his body as sleek as the sheets, and the kiss naturally segued into much, much more….
Later, they went to lie on the beach. They’d already spent long hours with the team and with each other, retracing every moment of the case, trying to understand how a person’s mind could seize on injuries of the past, even the distant past, and become crazed by them. “Hatred is so often taught,” Sean had said. “Be it against an individual or a group.” And she thought he was wise in that assessment. They’d talked about the fact that when they were ready, when they had a family, they would take the greatest care to see that their children learned tolerance instead of hatred. That had been an especially nice conversation, because they were still shy with each other. They didn’t bandy the word love about easily, so when he’d first whispered, “I love you,” she knew it was real, and that it was for a lifetime.