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“Hey, you doing okay?” Simons asked Eddie.

Madison didn’t know him half as well as she knew Eddie; Simons was money, Eddie was art. But the two were longtime friends and Simons—like everyone else associated with the studio—would stand by Eddie to the very end. Eddie and Andy were complete opposites in more ways than one. Eddie was slim and athletic, an attractive middle-aged man, casual and easy in his manner and dress. Andy was muscular and his clothing—even his jogging attire, as she’d seen once—was pure designer quality. He had a head of light blond hair that he kept artfully colored and his nails were manicured. He’d always been nice when Madison encountered him, he just didn’t have Eddie’s natural ease with the artisans and employees of the studio. However, that didn’t matter much, since he was seldom around.

“Thanks, Andy,” Eddie said huskily. “I’m doing all right.”

“And Alistair?”

“The best he can be—under the circumstances.” Eddie gestured at Sean. “Andy, you remember Sean Cameron—”

“Of course I do,” Andy said, looking into the backseat and smiling. “Nice to see you, Sean. We missed you—and your talent—when you left. Odd timing, though,” he added.

“He’s not here for his old job,” Eddie said. “Sean is with the FBI. His unit is going to take the lead on the investigation. I told you I was going to call in some favors to see that Alistair got a fair shake, that I wanted to bring in an FBI unit.”

“Yeah, I know. But, Sean—you’re FBI?” Simons asked.

“Career change,” Sean said with a shrug. “Life takes us to some strange places.”

“That’s a major change.” Simons looked at Eddie, frowning. “I knew you wanted the FBI involved, but I wasn’t sure you could pull it off. But then, you’ve always been able to create magic.”

“Never hurts to have two law enforcement agencies working together—we can bring different specialties to the table,” Sean explained.

“But from fabricator…to FBI?” Simons said, grinning.

“You never know,” Sean Cameron said.

There was an air of expectancy in the silence that followed, but Cameron didn’t say anything else and Eddie spoke up.

“Madison is going to show him around the studio. It’s been a while.”

Simons nodded. “Great.” He smiled at Eddie and tried to sound cheerful. “No one works harder than Madison, and I’d say she’s definitely a good choice for bringing Sean up-to-date. And we can’t ask for anything better than the FBI,” he said. He bent lower and grinned at her. “You’re the best, too, Madison. We all appreciate what you’re doing, but I have to ask—you okay with this? You don’t have to be here, you know. We can only ask so much of you.”

“I’m just fine. I’ll do anything to help Alistair,” she said.

“Anything,” Simons repeated. His comment seemed odd to Madison, or maybe not. To the outside world, there was no way that Alistair hadn’t committed the murder. Maybe he was really asking if she’d be willing to lie, if necessary. Was he? she wondered. Andy Simons’s fortune was tied to Eddie’s, and while he might have had the seed money, it was Eddie’s talent that had kept them both going.

The one aspect of the business Andy didn’t have anything to do with was the Black Box Cinema. That was strictly Eddie’s.

“Agent Cameron, welcome, and thank you,” Simons was saying. He straightened a bit. “Glad you’re with us. I’ve been standing in the parking lot for hours—don’t know why, except that I want the police to realize that all of us at the studio believe in Alistair, and we’ll be watching them.”

“I know why you’re here. You’re my friend,” Eddie said. “And I’m grateful for the support.”

“Sure. With Sean on the case now, I’ll head home. But, Eddie, if you need me—for anything, anything at all—just call.”

“Thanks, Andy,” Eddie said.

“Thank you. And I will be calling on you.” Sean Cameron reached through an open window to shake the man’s hand.

“I’ll talk to you later, then.” Simons gave them all a grave nod and walked to his car.

“Thank God I do have friends on board, and we’re not just throwing Alistair to the wolves,” Eddie said.

“Character can mean everything, Eddie. And a vicious murder isn’t in Alistair’s character.” Sean Cameron opened his door to exit the car and Madison did the same.

“Keep the faith, Eddie,” Sean said, ducking his head down to the window.

“I will.” Eddie nodded, and eased the car toward the road.

One of the police officers on guard duty approached Madison and Sean. Madison felt awkward about this; Sean Cameron did not. He smoothly produced his credentials and they were ushered through the massive gates. They were stopped once again, at the entrance to the cinema.

“Even though you’re FBI, are you sure they’re going to let us in here?” Madison asked.

“Yes, they’re required to. The agencies will be working in tandem. I want to see the studio today. The crime scene experts are probably still in there—looking for anything and everything. But it’s important that I meet the LAPD detective in charge,” he told her. “How do you feel about Andy Simons?” he asked, looking at her closely.

“Andy? Honestly, I don’t see him that often. Neither Eddie nor Andy comes to the studio daily, although Eddie’s in far more often and is usually with us when we go on location,” Madison said. “When Andy does come in—maybe once every couple of weeks—he’s cordial, interested and decent to everyone.”

“How do you feel about him?” Sean persisted.

She smiled suddenly. “Well, I guess Eddie’s a man of the people. Andy is more like royalty condescending from on high. But like I said, he’s always been decent, and, odd couple though they are, he and Eddie have been friends for years. You don’t think Andy—”

“I don’t think anything yet. We’ve got a long way to go, Madison.”

He’d paused to look at her and she was startled by the little tremor that rippled down her spine. She’d just met him, and she was alarmed by her strange and instant admiration for him. She liked the steady gravity in his eyes as he spoke, and still felt touched by the sound of his voice and the honesty and sincerity with which he seemed to speak. He wasn’t muscle-bound like a prizefighter, but she had the feeling he was all lean strength.

“Yes, of course,” she said quickly, stepping back. She was making far too much of a simple moment they were sharing in the pursuit of justice.

They were approached by another officer and stood at the door, waiting, while he went into the building.

“We will get in there,” Sean muttered.

The officer returned, leading a tall, bald-headed man of about forty. The newcomer eyed Sean suspiciously, but had apparently expected him. He was Detective Benny Knox, and he was polite enough, although he glanced at Madison as if he wasn’t impressed and was, in fact, indifferent to her presence. She wasn’t sure how he’d figured out that she didn’t know a thing about crime scenes. Sean, however, introduced her as “Eddie Archer’s most trusted studio artist,” and the detective assessed her again and nodded grimly.

“I heard you worked here once, Cameron,” Knox said.

“I did.”

“I assumed they brought you in because you know the place yourself.”

Sean gave a slight shrug. “But things change over time. Madison has the position I had years ago, so she’ll know what I’m talking about when I ask a question.”

“And she’s Eddie’s girl,” Knox said.

Madison frowned. “I’m not anyone’s ‘girl,’ Detective. I’m here to make sure Agent Cameron has knowledgeable updates on any changes in the studio.”

Knox raised his eyebrows, then nodded.

It was fine for them to be in the studio, Knox assured them. Fingerprints had been taken from the door that connected the tunnel to the studio, and the rooms had been searched. Knox actually managed something of a smile when he told her that some of his most seasoned people had been startled more than once, running into the creatures in production and in storage. She forced a weak smile in return.

The police were finishing up in the cinema and the tunnel, he went on to say, and, as law enforcement, Sean would understand that they didn’t want tainted evidence. But before the biohazard teams were called in to clean up, Sean would have access to everything.

“Notes from the first officer on the scene?”

“Yes—and my own. Officer Braden was pretty thorough, and he knew the drill. He didn’t touch anything until I was called. Of course, there’s no such thing as a pristine crime scene in a situation like this—Alistair Archer had been slipping around in the blood, the guard rushed in and he had blood on him. But after that, the scene was contained. Let me know what you want when, and I’ll see that you get it.”

Once Knox had finished speaking, he studied Sean carefully. “What I hear—and this comes straight from the governor’s office—is that you’re lead investigator on this, along with your team. It’s your ball game,” he said.

“Not all—we need and appreciate you and your men, Knox. I’d like you to keep the lead until we’re completely established. I want to get the lay of the land again, so to speak. Raintree is due tonight or tomorrow morning with the rest of the team. I’m not sure what plans they’ve made as yet. Now…we’ll go through the parking lot to the studio, staying out of the way of the forensic experts.”

Knox seemed mollified. He kept nodding.

Madison and Sean started across to the main studio entrance.

As they walked, Madison asked, “Is it always like that? I mean, it felt like he was throwing massive webs of power and testosterone there. Aren’t you both working toward the same goal, as in the truth of what happened?”