It took her a second to follow his quick change of subject, but she managed not to blink.
“To the best of my knowledge, yes,” she told him. “And there are corresponding exits upstairs, with ladders in case of fire. Eddie’s always been very careful, dealing with some of the flammable materials as we do.”
Sean nodded. “Okay, what’s going on in the shop. What are you working on right now?”
“Don’t you know?” she asked.
“No, I don’t.”
“It’s kind of ironic. We’re working on a remake of Sam Stone and the Curious Case of the Egyptian Museum. It’s updated, and it’s been retitled The Unholy. The script is really good—and different enough to make this a different movie. From what I’ve seen so far, I’d compare it to Disturbing Behavior, which was, in essence, a remake of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.”
Sean frowned. “A remake of the movie—and Jenny was killed in front of the tableau?”
“That’s not just ironic,” he told her. “That sounds intentional. And it changes everything.”
“The original movie was filmed well over half a century ago. What could this have to do with the movie we’re making now?”
“Everything,” he said curtly. “It could be a motive for murder. And lockdown—that’s incredibly important, too. Lockdown should eliminate anyone who isn’t close to the studio.”
Madison spoke through clenched jaws. She wasn’t in the FBI or the police; she wasn’t required to understand motive and investigation. “Even when we’re not in lockdown, the curious can’t just wander in. I have to have permission to bring in a guest on a regular day, and I wouldn’t have been given permission at all now.”
“Well, there’s permission, and there’s giving yourself permission by dodging the rules. On a regular day, someone could try to slip someone else in.”
“What about the security cameras, Sean? People here don’t want to risk their jobs.”
“Of course not. Still…”
He walked toward the climate-controlled room, but looked through the windows for a moment, and never tried the door. He seemed uninterested.
“Where’s your workstation?” he asked her.
Her work area was a few feet from the climate-controlled area. She pointed it out to him, and he went over to it.
It seemed bizarre that everything was just where she’d left it on Friday night. There were pieces of the leather coat she’d chosen for the costume of actor Oliver Marshall, playing antihero Sam Stone in the new movie.
“I saw the movie as a kid. But refresh me,” Sean said.
What did this have to do with the murder?
“In a nutshell? There are a series of murders—people ripped to shreds by something in the night. Then an incredibly wealthy philanthropist with a gorgeous young wife is found murdered in a similar manner in his Egyptian Museum. The cops want to arrest the wife, so she goes to Sam Stone. Various clues suggest she’s the murderer, but she denies it. The movie is great because it leaves the audience wondering—was something supernatural happening, or could it all be explained? The Egyptian mummy supposedly sent from the Department of Antiquities turns out to be a priest heading an ancient cult and in the end, needless to say, he proves to be the murderer. Sam Stone falls in love with the wife—Dianna Breen—but she dies at the hand of the priest before she’s proven innocent.”
“Who’s playing Sam Stone?” Sean asked.
“Hmm. How is he to work with?”
“He’s fine. He’s always in the tabloids for being a party boy, but he’s polite and courteous, shows up for his fittings and works well with everyone behind the scenes. He’s very pleasant and makes everyone at the studio think he’s just one of the gang. I like him.”
“Good to hear. When’s the last time he was in?”
“Friday. I was working on his costume.” She gestured at the fabric on the table. “He was in for fittings. Sam Stone carries concealed weapons, so everything about the costume has to fit perfectly.”
“Those…creatures evoked by the Egyptian priest—what’s his name?” Sean pointed to some of their newest creations, including giant fanged jackals, birds and bizarre giant snakes.
“The priest is Amun Mopat, and yes, they’re for the movie.”
“What will the priest be wearing? Same type of costume as in the film noir?” Sean asked. “And who’s playing him?”
“That role hasn’t been cast yet,” Madison told him. “There’s a mannequin over by the wall with a mock-up of the robe he’ll be wearing. It’s an homage to the original film. Almost exactly the same.”
“Where? Show me.”
Madison walked over to the mannequin that stood behind one of the jackal-like monsters created for the movie.
There was nothing but a plain brown monk’s robe on it.
She looked at Sean as shivers of fear streaked down her spine.
“The robe—it was just a mock-up. But it’s gone,” she said. “I suppose someone might have taken it…. Mike Greenwood could have shown it to someone. I’ll ask Mike and Eddie where it is.”
Sean shook his head. “They won’t know—and the robe isn’t coming back. It’s been used,” he said grimly, “by the killer.” He turned to look at her. “Find that robe, and we’ll be on our way to finding a killer.”
“Hey!” Sean touched her cheek. “This is a good thing. Seeing that the robe is gone actually helps. I’m almost astounded that everyone assumes it was Alistair, to tell you the truth. The girl was killed in front of the Sam Stone tableau, the studio is doing a remake, the robe is gone. To me, all of that points to someone with an agenda against the studio or the movie.”
Madison nodded. But she didn’t agree that the robe’s disappearance was a good thing! A killer had been here, where she worked. A killer had used the robe she’d made to sneak onto a tableau or into the tunnel and slice open a young woman’s throat.
Sean turned her to face the construction area. “What are they working on here?” he asked.
“An old Western scaffold.”
“For The Unholy?”
“No, that’s the tail end of our last project—Ways of the West.” She gave herself a mental shake and turned toward the sewing machines and a rack of clothing. “Projects overlap, but you know that. Or sometimes we work on several at the same time. Right now, though, as soon as the scaffolding’s out of here, we’ll be doing nothing but The Unholy. Or…I assume we’ll still be working on it.”
“The world goes on, despite murder,” Sean said. He motioned to the far wall of the construction area. “And there’s the door that leads from the tunnel.”
It wasn’t really a question. She said, “Yes,” anyway.
He walked over but didn’t touch it. Madison followed him and saw powder all over the whitewashed floor nearby. Black powder.
“The police dusted here,” he said.
Madison felt a moment’s discomfort. Her prints were on that door.
“They’ll get a lot of prints,” she said. “Including mine.”
He looked at her, the curl of his lips gentle, slightly amused. “Elimination,” he told her. “They’ll take everyone’s prints for the purposes of comparison.”
“Elimination? But…you believe the killer works here, or is close to someone here? That means we’ve all known him or her…. Actually, any of us might have been killed.”
“No, I don’t think any of you could have been killed. The killer didn’t want the police running around looking for a murderer. The killer wanted them to arrest Alistair. His habits were known—he was being watched way ahead of time.”
“Are we going through there?” she asked, nodding at the door.
“No, we’ll let the police find everything they can with their forensic units. I’ll go into the tunnel soon. You don’t have to come with me.”
An uncomfortable sensation crept over her. A horrible murder had just taken place there, in the tunnel. She’d only seen crime scenes on television or at the movies. She didn’t want to see the real thing.
But she was here to help. Help save Alistair. He couldn’t be guilty—and Eddie had called her to assist this man who was somehow going to prove it.
She had to go to the site. If what she’d experienced during her life, the ordeals that had made it so painful, were worth anything at all, the one benefit might be that she could reach the dead girl. Did Jenny’s spirit somehow remain, although her mortal life had been stolen? If so, wasn’t she obliged to try to speak to the girl, to connect with her?
She shook her head, responding to Sean’s comment. “No…if I’m going to help you, I should go all the way.”
He didn’t reply. He was staring at the area around the door. Close to it on the left was another rack of costuming, while a supply of wood had been stacked up on the right. She began to wonder if anyone could have hidden behind the racks of clothing or the wood, staying out of sight of the video cameras. But if someone had been there, waiting, how had that person gotten into the building? Some of the construction crew had been working Saturday; she’d been off herself, as had most of the shop. Sunday, as far as she knew, no one had planned on coming in. So that would’ve meant the person had hidden behind the rack of clothing overnight, with the intent of killing someone who might or might not have been in the tunnel on a night when no one should have been there?
Or did she know the killer? Was it someone who walked among them, someone she saw on a day-to-day basis, worked with, laughed with?
“Let’s take a walk through the rest of the place,” he said.
Madison turned and headed back to the hallway, then passed by the reception area and went on to the offices. There were two on the ground floor, both conference rooms more than offices but supplied with computers, printers, screens and other work equipment. The walls were lined with movie posters; the hallway had two circular areas decorated with mannequins, all from different movies. There was an adolescent werewolf, a beautiful evil witch, a torn-up robotic trooper, a vampire complete with cape and golden eyes that seemed to follow you and a zombie, a poor girl from one of those “park by the lake and make out even though a dozen couples have already been killed there” movies. This girl had not done so well; she was missing most of her face, and the one blue eye that stared out at them was pretty gruesome.