The limo driver had been considerably more co-operative with a now mysteriously not drunk Oliver than he had been with me. We arrived back at the studio just as the ambulance pulled up, wailing its plaintive cry. I felt a bit like wailing too. One body a day was quite enough, let alone two. And Jackson. Who would want to kill Jackson? That would be like killing Anne of Green Gables. Pointless, and really rather nasty.
But then again, not quite pointless. Jackson was the mastermind of a massive film company called Galaxy. Without him, production would be stalled for months on end—maybe even years. But what about Marie-Ann? Why kill her? A test, to see if it was possible? And if so, how on Earth did the murderer get through security to find and kill Jackson? It defied all belief.
“Edmund, this defies all belief.”
“That’s was I was just thinking.”
“I mean, limos usually have little snacks in the side here, but there’s nothing. Well, there’s fruit, but that doesn’t count.”
I kicked Oliver’s ankle. He winced.
“Good. Oliver, Jackson is dead.”
“Not worrying helps me not worry. But anyway, what were you thinking about that defies all belief? The length of that girl’s skirt?” I glanced out the window. Oliver kicked back at me. “You peeping tom. No, but seriously.”
I leant back against the limo door, considering. “These murders don’t make sense.”
“You mean like why kill Marie-Ann and Jackson on the same day?”
“Exactly. Jackson, I could understand, but her? And why her first? And why today? And who? And—”
“We’re here.” Oliver’s door was opened by a black-suited man in over-sized sunglasses. His red hair was catching the sun, and his tobacco stained fingers were gripping the top of the car door.
“Mr Smith, if you are here to view the crime scene, you will need official identification.”
Oliver leant out of the car and peered up at the man. “To identify me as…Mr Smith?”
“Yes, Mr Smith.”
“Uh-huh.” Oliver slumped back, disappointed. I frowned, indignant on his behalf.
“We don’t want to look at the crime scene, we’re just here to pay our respects.” I could see the man—Martin, according to his name tag—wavering. I dropped the bombshell. “It’s for religious reasons.”
We were out of the car in seconds. Martin backed away, looking slightly disgruntled, but letting us go nonetheless. Oliver grabbed my arm.
“Come on. If we go round the back we can see where he was killed.”
“What if there are more guards?”
“Oh, lighten up Edmund—where’s your sense of fun?” Oliver grinned at me, blue eyes flashing. I, weak person that I am, could never turn down those blue eyes. I would follow those eyes to Hell and back, to a Comic Con and onwards, to—
“Edmund! Hurry, they’re searching the perimeter!”
I was tempted to point out that ‘they’ were just guards scanning for paparazzi, but I followed nonetheless. Oliver had his shoulder braced against a steel door, pushing desperately. I reached round him and unlocked it. It swung open gently, admitting us like a kind elderly butler. Oliver glared at me, but at that moment two guards rounded the corner and we were forced to dive inside, landing in the darkness in a heap of limbs. I held my breath as the footsteps advanced, then receded. My sudden expulsion of air was loud in the semi-darkness. Oliver snorted and helped me to my feet.
“You sounded like…Oh Hell, what are those big things that live in the sea?”
“Yeah, one of those things.” His attention was drifting to our surroundings. We were standing in a room darkened by bad lighting—a single exposed light bulb flickered menacingly above our heads, illuminating the dust on it like a speckled egg lit from the inside. Oliver was gazing at the light bulb too.
“It’s like an egg with the Jesus chicken inside.”
“Oliver, we’re sneaking into a crime scene. Focus.” I turned my back on him and investigated further. There appeared to be no door in sight, only rows and rows of dusty shelves. I drew a Christmas tree in the dust with my finger. Oliver came up behind me and added a stick-figure Father Christmas.
“Focus, Oliver. Look for a door.”
“That is on a level of unfairness that is unthinkable to the average human.”
I blew some dust on him and made a show of searching for a way out. After all, who on Earth would want to be stuck in this dark room with Oliver Smith instead of sneaking through a crime scene looking for the dead body of a former director? Edmund, you evil person. You veritable devil, you. Now, made a show of looking for a door, and just make sure that Oliver doesn’t—
“Edmund! I’ve found something!” Damn it.
I picked my way over to Oliver, eyes already adjusting to the darkness. He was crouching in a corner of the room, a place we hadn’t investigated yet. I approached cautiously.
“If it’s a dead rat, I’m not interested.”
“Well, there is a dead rat, but there’s also a mysterious tunnel that isn’t dusty and has light at the end, but if you’re not interested—”
Oliver turned, indignant. “Why me?”
I gave him an encouraging push. “Because I care so much about your well-being that I wish you to be granted safety before me.”
“I’m not that gullible. I do have a degree, you know.” He lay on his stomach and wriggled forwards. I called after him.
“Drama does not count as a degree.”
His voice drifted back to me, strained from inhaling so much dust. “Not in drama. Now come on! I can see light.”
I crouched down and lay gingerly on my stomach. Ew. There is a dead rat. That is disgusting. I wriggled forwards half-heartedly.
“Come on, Edmund!”
All right, keep your expensive tailored socks on. I’m coming. Gosh darn this is tight. Perhaps I shouldn’t eat quite so many biscuits. Right, that’s it, Edmund. No more biscuits. Well, not so many anyway.
“Can you see me yet?”
I strained my neck up. “I can see this most horrible smudge with sunglasses on it—oh wait, that’s you.”
“Look how much I’m laughing at your blatant sarcasm. Which of us is a model, remind me?” He reached down from whatever he was sitting on and grasped my arm, pulling me up.
“Someone should draw on your face with a permanent marker.”
“Someone should lay off the biscuits.”
With a final yank on my arm, Oliver pulled me free of the tunnel and into the light. I moved away from my landing position on him, dusting myself off superciliously.
“Firstly, that was rude. Secondly, where are we, and thirdly, what do you have a degree in?” We appeared to be in another tunnel, albeit better lit and with suitable crouching space.
“Firstly, you can hardly talk. Secondly, ventilation shaft, and thirdly, English.”
He ignored me. “Look, someone left their cigarette.” He plucked it from the floor and held it between two fingers, nose wrinkling in distaste. I batted it out of his hand. It fell down the shaft we’d just crawled up and disintegrated into a pile of ashes at the bottom.
“Come on, Oliver. Let’s go and find this crime scene.” I steeled myself for indignity and crawled off.
I steeled myself for indignity, turned around, and crawled after Oliver.
There was a companionable silence for a few minutes, punctuated only by quiet creaks and groans from the shaft. Oliver twisted around after a while and grinned at me.
I wrinkled my nose it him. My glasses shifted down a bit. “You sat on a dead fly somewhere.”
“Hey, that’s George. I was wondering where he went.”
“I doubt George would want his last resting place to be your derriere.”
“I disagree. My derriere is the perfect resting place—wait a second.” He stopped suddenly, almost causing me to barrel into him.
Voices were drifting through the shaft, echoing wordlessly around us.
“Do you think we’ve reached the crime scene?”
Oliver produced a pen knife from his front pocket and sawed a small hole in the thin tin of the shaft. I decided not to question why he had a knife and instead took it from him, making myself a hole too. Oliver was already peering through his.
“Judging by all the blood and the forensic officers, I’d say yes. Crime scene.”
There was, indeed, a lot of blood. White-suited people swarmed around it, looking like pieces of plastic flitting in a gutter. Two suited men stood below us, discussing the incident. They had clipboards, so were obviously important. Their words were clearer now.
“Jackson Tyler had one relative, a brother, who is flying over from New Zealand as we speak. He has inquired how his brother was killed, but I withheld the details.”
“Good idea. Have you identified whether our two deaths had the same MO yet?”
“Yes. The wounds were identical in angle, shape, and size, though the victims were stabbed in different places as though to make it appear random. An amateur, possibly a slighted former employee.”
“Begin compiling a list of suspects. Have you identified the murder weapon yet?”
“The forensics lab created a quick 3D replica after the last murder, and it fits exactly to this one too.”
“Do you have it?”
“Here.” The second officer dug in his briefcase, eventually producing a plastic bagged item that he drew out gingerly. “It’s an unusual shape—conical, possibly a trophy of some sort. The forensics lab also say there were shards of green glass left in the wound, so we’re looking for a conical, green, glass object.”
Oliver’s hand was pressed to his mouth. I made to nudge him, but he flapped his other at me. The officers were still talking.
“Do we have any idea how the perp entered the scene?”
“Our most likely guess is that he or she works or worked for Jackson and was able to get in and out of a room openly without rousing suspicions.”
“There are no other places they could have entered from?”
“Not to our knowledge, although we’ll keep searching.”
“And there’s no security footage?”
“No. Jackson had the cameras removed in case they were hacked and the footage was posted on the internet.”
“Very well. Keep me posted.”
The two officers departed, serious clipboards clutched to their chests. I looked over at Oliver. His face was pale, eyes wider than usual. I kept my voice to a whisper, creating an eerie echo in the otherwise silent shaft.
“That object he was describing…a green glass trophy?”
“What about it?”
Oliver sat back against one of the walls of the tube looking slightly ill. “It’s the BAY award. Best Actor of the Year.” He glanced at me. “I was the last recipient.”
I had a sudden mental image of Oliver stabbing Jackson with a trophy but dispelled it quickly. “You were with me when they died. It wasn’t you, I can vouch for you—”
“Edmund, that trophy was stolen three weeks ago.”