“Thank you,” Logan said on behalf of the group.
“I have to go and supervise some hangings,” Cherry said. “Of paintings and art pieces!” she added quickly. “Oh, of course, the gallery owner hangs the painting, but I need to be there to see that everything’s just right.”
That drew smiles. Cherry seemed glad.
“I could stay now if you wanted,” Sarah told Allison.
Tyler answered for her. “We were about to go out for a late breakfast. But if you’re worried about any of the papers or materials that are out of order or might have been compromised, please feel free to come back.”
“I’ll do that,” Sarah said. “I’ll help you, Allison. You and I are both so careful about our research. I’d really like to find out if anything was taken.”
“Of course, Sarah,” Allison said.
“Well, then, we’re out of here.” Nathan paused and smiled at Allison again. “Thank you, Allison. Thanks for all you’re doing for the house.”
“It’s my pleasure,” she responded. “I love the house and the history.”
“Of course you do, dear,” Cherry said, but somehow she made it sound like a reproach.
Tyler walked them all to the door. After another chorus of goodbyes, they were gone.
“They can enter this house at any time,” he said as he returned.
“We could have asked for their keys,” Allison told him.
“No, we don’t want them thinking they’re under suspicion. What we do need is an alarm system that’ll alert us if anyone tries to enter with a key. Can you work on that, Sean?”
Logan turned to Allison. “On the day Julian died, did you see them all leave?”
“Yes, as my last tour was coming in.”
“But Julian came into the house, and you didn’t see him. So one of them could have doubled back,” Tyler said. “Annette was at the dentist, but where were you when Jason left? The house couldn’t have been locked until he was out and you closed up, right?”
“Did you see Jason leave the house?” Logan asked her.
“I heard Jason shut the door, but I didn’t actually see him go. I did notice the board leaving, but…”
“One of them could’ve come back in, and you wouldn’t have known it.”
“That can’t be,” she said, and she knew her tone sounded desperate. “Annette, Jason and I all got mad at Julian, but none of us would have killed him. And I can’t think of any reason that a member of the board would have killed Julian. They could simply have fired him!”
“They could fire him—but that wouldn’t help if he knew something he shouldn’t,” Kelsey said.
“Breakfast,” Logan announced. “Or nearly lunch if you prefer. Hungry investigators don’t concentrate well. Let’s get something to eat and stoke up for the day. Then we’ll get started in earnest here.”
“Let’s just walk to your friend’s restaurant,” Tyler suggested. “What time does it open?”
“You mean Evan’s place? McDooley’s? He opens at eleven,” she said. “You don’t suspect Evan in this, do you?” she asked, her tone wry.
“No, I suspect a board member, Jason or Annette, and I’m sorry, because I know that hurts you. And after the way she just insisted on going into the office with you, I want to know more about Sarah Vining.”
“Sarah? But she’s…” Allison began, not sure how to say what she meant.
“Because she looks fragile, sweet, eternally nervous and innocent?” Kelsey asked. “Never trust appearances.”
“We’re all speculating right now,” Logan said. “Sean, can you quickly rig up an alarm for us?”
“Yep, got the camera aimed at the door and a zip connection to my phone.”
“Then let’s go,” Tyler said. “McDooley’s was a great place and I’m hungry.”
They all agreed. Still shaking inwardly, Allison wondered how they could forget what they’d seen and think about something as mundane as food. But they were obviously used to bizarre occurrences….
Evan beamed delightedly when Allison walked in with Tyler, Kelsey, Logan and Sean.
“Hey, thanks! You did come back with friends,” he said to Tyler.
“We need a hangout.” Tyler grinned. “Allison, introduce Evan around, will you?”
She did so, and then her eyes widened as she saw Jason walking up to her. He was wearing a McDooley’s polo shirt and jeans.
“Hey, Ally, oh, Lord! How are you? You poor girl, finding Julian like that… And I’d just been bitching about him. I wish I’d at least been with you when you found him.”
“It’s horrible, yes, and we’re all devastated, but…” She tried to smile. “But you’re working. Evan told me to get in touch with you and Annette. I just hadn’t had a chance.”
“I called him right away. I figured he’d lend a hand. I desperately need to work, since I still have to pay for school.” Jason kissed her cheek. “Thankfully, Evan said he could use the help.” He stood back, smiling curiously and waiting to meet the others. “I’m really pleased you’re here,” he told the Krewe. “I admit…I was mad as hell at Julian. He seemed to believe he was a star and that our little lives didn’t matter next to his. But you couldn’t help liking him. We’re all reeling after his death.” He looked at Allison. “You holding up okay? The police came and gave me the third degree, but I heard you were at the station all night.”
“I’m glad they grilled us. We owe it to Julian to figure out exactly what happened,” she said.
Jason frowned. “What do you mean? Julian was messing around the way he always did, right?”
“Probably,” she lied. She assumed the Krewe didn’t want others knowing about their suspicions. “These people are going to find out what—if anything—is going on at the house.”
He still seemed surprised. “I heard about your unit coming in. I’m just not sure what this can do for Julian. Well, nothing can be done for Julian now, of course. But, anyway, sit. I’ll get your orders and you can tell me anything else you think I need to know. Or ask me anything you want,” he told the Krewe members.
Jason escorted them over to one of his booths. He made suggestions, and they ordered their meals and five glasses of iced tea.
“So that’s Jason,” Tyler said as he watched him leave.
“He’s a good kid. And it wouldn’t have made any sense for him to do anything to Julian,” Allison said earnestly. She was seated next to Tyler. Kelsey was between Logan and Sean on the other side of the booth. “Jason wants to keep going to school. You heard him. He needs an income.”
Kelsey reached across the table and squeezed her hand. She said, “I admire your loyalty to your friends. During a case in San Antonio, I learned the hard way that we never know another person as well as we think we do.”
“Yeah, but you got me out of the deal, right?” Logan teased.
Allison was touched by the closeness between them, and yet when they worked together, you wouldn’t know they were a couple.
Everyone in the Krewe seemed close to and dependent on one another. Their easy manner didn’t interfere with their professionalism and only seemed to enhance it.
“So, you all met on a case?” she asked them.
Logan said, “Yes, we did. Kelsey was the outsider.”
“The rest of us are from Texas,” Sean explained.
“But you work out of Virginia?” Allison asked.
Sean nodded. “Now we do. And the way we work…works, somehow. Will Chan, one of the original Krewe members, was involved in our last case. He’s back with his crew while Kat, who was lead on that investigation, is back with us. They’re fortunate, though. They became a couple and found a great place in Arlington to call home when we’re on base.”
“Sean isn’t so lucky,” Kelsey said, punching his shoulder lightly. “The love of his life actually has his old job in California. She’s with one of the premier special effects studios in Hollywood. So they have to get together when they can.”
Sean looked at her with a grimace and lifted his glass of iced tea. “It can work—if you want it to. We do.”
“My poor cousin!”
“I’d forgotten you’re cousins,” Allison said.
“You don’t see a family resemblance?” Kelsey asked.
“I wasn’t really looking for one, but yeah…the eyes.”
“Genetics can be unpredictable. Certain characteristics can skip generations and reappear. Luckily, sometimes that happens with inherited diseases, too. Sometimes they’ll skip enough generations for cures to be discovered,” Logan said.
Allison realized that Tyler was studying her. She felt a rush of warmth; he was probably thinking about the image of the wraithlike Lucy Tarleton—and just how much she and Allison resembled each other.
She also realized she liked being where she was. There was something about Tyler that evoked trust. The man was six-four-plus and built of steel, and that surely led to a feeling of safety. But she liked the feel of him, the clean scent of him, his deep voice....
She didn’t want to think about him in any kind of physical way. She was a tool for him and his team, and they were providing her with a safe haven. To suddenly enjoy the presence of this particular man was not wise. Especially since her taste in men hadn’t proven to be at all that reliable in the past.
Apparently, his thoughts didn’t quite match hers because he asked, “Can you trace your ancestry back to the Revolution? You’re a historian, so I imagine you know your own family history.”
Allison nodded. “My dad’s family, yes. They’ve been in Philly since the 1700s. I lose count of the greats, but I have family buried at Christ Church graveyard—not all that far from Benjamin Franklin. In fact, I think the monument is close enough for pennies to fall on great-great-great-whatever granddad.”