Eddie looked at him, frowning. “Sean, I…I know that. I don’t believe a ghost killed anyone, either. Can ghosts kill someone? Or if a ghost ever did kill anyone, wouldn’t it be that guilt or fear or terror simply overwhelmed that person? Sean, trust me, I don’t think a ghost killed Jenny Henderson. But someone did,” he said grimly. “Someone who knows the studio. Whether it’s someone working there now or not, I have no idea. The police checked out the security footage and said, Hey, cut and dried, no one in there that night except for the security guard—who never moved. The guy didn’t even take a piss until Alistair came running in to get him. Someone else was in that studio, Sean, and you know as well as anyone that what we see isn’t always real, and that what looks real can be illusion.”
“Of course, Eddie,” Sean said, feeling a little foolish. Was he a bit testy about being part of a unit that many questioned? The Ghostbusters of the FBI? They were still a new unit, and they’d met all the members of the original Krewe, so they knew what they were up against. He’d been involved in the case that had put this second group together, and it had been unusual, to say the least. But like most evil, it had come down to human greed and the horrible twists and turns the mind could take.
He’d also learned that there were others like himself and his cousin Kelsey. Those who could hear voices and see visions of people who’d departed the physical realm.
He’d also gone through rigorous training. He was an excellent shot, should the need occur, even if he’d always planned on living his life creating fantasy for entertainment purposes.
On both fronts, he’d learned that perception was everything. They were dealing with a locked-room mystery, he thought. A classic puzzle, and every puzzle had a solution.
And Eddie had seen this, the key to vindicating his son.
“I haven’t been in the studio in years, Eddie,” Sean reminded him.
“Yeah, I figured that, and some things have changed. Some storage has been moved around, but most of the structure is the same. Climate control or cold room, sewing section, construction—those areas are all the same. Anyway, I’ve asked one of my top young protégées to be your guide. She’ll take you through the studio, answer any of your questions. She’s the perfect assistant for you right now.”
“Oh? Why is she so perfect?”
Eddie glanced his way before looking back at the road, somber and thoughtful.
“Because she’s a lot like you. She’s quiet, doesn’t say much about anything that affects her, but…well, she’s either certifiable, crazy as a loon, or just like you. She talks to the dead.”
Los Angeles County was known for its smog, but this afternoon was worse than usual. When Madison stepped outside to wait for Eddie Archer, she felt as though the day itself was in mourning for Jenny Henderson and the Archer family.
It was just the beginning of summer, and in the past few days the sky had been powder-blue with wonderful puffs of snow-white clouds; today, a fog had rolled in from somewhere and joined with the pollution of the massively populated area. She almost expected to hear crows caw in warning while bats took flight across a darkening sky. Like something of a ’50s horror movie…
Eddie Archer’s little hybrid car pulling up in front of her place brought her back to reality.
Eddie pulled to the curb. A man slid out of the passenger seat watching her as she approached. He seemed to fit right in to the California scene. He was tall, wearing dark glasses, and appeared to be fit and athletic, with a lean muscled frame. She slipped her own sunglasses on; sunglasses camouflaged a multitude of sins, or so they said—and allowed one to hide one’s emotions.
As she reached the car, he extended a hand. “Sean Cameron, Ms. Darvil. Please, take the front. I’ll get in behind you.” He had a low, smooth, throaty voice that suited his physique. Bogie, she thought, would label him “a man’s man.” There was a quality about him that conveyed an inner easy confidence. She sensed his compelling masculinity and realized that meeting him, just feeling his handshake, made her want to know him. She lowered her head for a swift moment, willing herself not to flush.
Why on earth was she instantly attracted to a man she’d barely met?
She steeled herself mentally, disturbed and annoyed with her own thoughts. Eddie was troubled. Alistair was in a grave situation. A beautiful young woman had been murdered. She was here to escort this man around the studio today, and that was it.
“After you,” he said.
She wasn’t short, but neither was she exceptionally tall, at five-eight.
“No, no—you take the front.” She managed a casual grimace. “Since I’m staring up at you, it’s obvious you have much longer legs.” He had to be six-three or six-four, she estimated. She felt she should tell him it was a pleasure to meet him, except that seemed kind of ridiculous at the moment. “I’m glad you’re here for Eddie,” she said instead.
He gave her a tight-lipped smile and a nod. “I’ll say the same,” he told her huskily. “Please, take the seat next to Eddie. There’s plenty of legroom in the back. Humor me—it’s a Texas thing.”
Madison decided she wasn’t going to wage a war over a car seat and got in.
When she was seated, Eddie turned to her. “Thanks, Maddie,” he said quietly. “Thank you, sincerely.”
“You’re welcome, Eddie.”
“So, the police still have the museum area—the tunnel—cordoned off. Naturally, Sean has jurisdiction anywhere, but I’d like you to show him the studio. You can answer any questions he might have.” Eddie’s voice grew emotional as he added, “I’m going to abandon you two and get back to the hospital to see Alistair. I don’t like leaving him alone. I don’t mean alone—I mean, without seeing me as much as possible.”
“I understand, Eddie,” Madison said quietly. Alistair—assuming he was innocent—definitely needed family support at a time like this.
But he had a stepmother, too, although it was true that Alistair had never called his father’s wives “Mother.” But he seemed to have a friendly relationship with Helena LaRoux, and as far as she could tell, Helena liked Alistair. Alistair was happy if his father was happy, and he found it amusing that Helena had made no bones about the fact that she’d loved Eddie and wanted to be Mrs. Eddie Archer. She claimed to love Eddie and maybe she did. It was a nice bonus that he was as powerful as he was—and Helena never pretended that she wasn’t eager to be rich and famous on her own. It seemed, however, that she was happy to share her journey with Eddie’s son.
Appearances, Madison thought. Hollywood was all smoke and mirrors.
“He’s got family there now,” Eddie told her. “Helena is with him. But we’ve only been married a year, and although she and Alistair get along fine, she’s not his real mom, and certainly not his dad, you know?” he ended hoarsely.
“No one else is you, Eddie.”
She noticed that Sean Cameron reached over from the backseat, placed a hand on Eddie’s shoulder and squeezed.
She’d heard about Cameron before; she knew his name, and that he’d worked at the studio. Now that she was with him, she realized she’d even seen pictures of him with past creatures created at the studio and at industry parties. Once she’d actually wondered about him and joked with Carla, a seamstress, about him. Why didn’t he still work there, huh? she’d asked. She often worked a double shift, seventy to eighty hours, with a group that was seventy to eighty percent male. All those hours and all those men, and they were like fathers, uncles, little brothers or obnoxious cousins. Or uninterested in the opposite sex.
Carla had reminded her that she dressed some of the hottest actors in the business, and she’d been asked out often enough.
It wasn’t as if she was totally averse to a whirlwind romance—here today, gone tomorrow—it was just that the right opportunity hadn’t come along. She preferred to remain friends with men she might work with again, and she didn’t want the girlfriends, wives and lovers of actors or colleagues not wanting her to be part of future projects. So she kept her distance. Sometimes the actors she worked with could be cold and full of themselves, but luckily, that was seldom the case. And when she kept her distance, she earned their respect. Maybe men always admired and longed for what they couldn’t have. Maybe women, too.
And maybe she was just damaged. Maybe a friend like Bogie was a reward for the strange and painful things that had happened to her.
Right now, she needed to concentrate and focus on the moment—and not on Sean Cameron. She didn’t know the man. Not at all. She’d seen him standing outside a car. She’d heard his voice and shaken his hand. Watched how he’d silently laid his hand on Eddie’s shoulder, a true sign of friendship and support. There was something about his voice, though. It seemed to enclose her and make her feel his words were sincere, that he was some kind of secure bastion against the world. Eddie had called on him in a time of need.
As they pulled up in front of the cinema and studio, Madison saw that there were four police cars guarding the entrance. She looked past the cars and the crime scene tape to the beautiful Art Deco–style Black Box Cinema with its terra-cotta sunburst facade, and the elegantly crafted sign. The building itself was a handsome and historic structure; it appeared sad, though, wrapped in crime scene tape as it was.
When she looked to the side she saw the parking lot, empty now of cars. During lockdown it was usually crowded even at night—all hands on deck.
She noted a vintage Cadillac that was out of place among the clearly marked patrol cars. It was parked at the far end; there was a man standing outside the car, staring at the buildings, as if he was carefully watching the police and every move they made.
He turned as they drove up. Before they could exit, he walked over to the car, and Eddie rolled down the driver’s-seat window. From the passenger seat, Madison leaned over and saw that it was Andy Simons, Eddie’s partner.