“Of course not,” Jane assured her. “Why did the producer of the ghost show run out in the middle of the night?”
“He said she was standing over his bed, that she touched him, that—”
“She? You mean Sage McCormick?”
“But what made him think she wanted to hurt him?”
“What?” Elsie was obviously mystified.
Jane smiled. “I thought ghost shows tried to prove that places were haunted.”
“This whole town is haunted. Bad things, really bad things, have happened over the years. The ghost-show people got all kinds of readings on their instruments. And the Old Jail next door! People leave there, too, even though they don’t get their money back if they do. This place is...it’s scary, Agent Everett. Very scary.”
“But you live and work here,” Jane said gently.
“I’m from here, and I don’t tease the ghosts. I respect them. They’re on Main Street, and they’re all around. I keep my eyes glued to where I’m going, and that’s it. I do my work and I go home, and if I hear a noise, I go the other way.” She rubbed her hands on her apron. “Well, a pleasure to meet you. And we’re glad you’re here.”
“Me, too. And don’t worry about cleaning the room—no one has to clean it while I’m here. I’ll just ask you to bring me fresh towels every couple of days. How’s that?”
Elsie looked as if she might kiss her.
She nodded vigorously. “Thank you, miss. Thank you. I mean, thank you, Agent Everett.”
“Jane is fine.”
Flushing, Elsie said, “Jane.” She turned and disappeared down the hall, heading for the stairs. Jane closed her door, locking it behind her as she’d been told to do.
* * *
When Sloan arrived at the Gilded Lily, the servers had yet to come in for the night. He had to knock on the doors—the solid doors behind the latticed ones that had been preserved to give the place its old-time appearance—to gain entry. The bar didn’t open until five.
Jennie let him in, smiling as she did. Jennie was always in a good mood. “Sloan, hi. You’re here for Jane?”
So...Agent Everett was already on a first-name basis with people at the Gilded Lily. But then again, was she like most agents, or was she an artist—with the credentials to work on FBI cases? He gave himself a mental kick; even though he’d made the call to Logan that had brought her to town, Sloan wasn’t pleased about her being here, but he wasn’t sure why.
Yes, he needed to find out who the skull belonged to. But logically, in his opinion at least, the skull should have been sent off to a lab where such things were done or to the experts at a museum. In the end—after arguing with Henri Coque about procedure—Sloan had been the one to call Logan to ask for a forensic artist and Logan had sent her. He’d trusted Logan to send him a good artist, but he was also aware that Logan was a different kind of lawman.
Sloan was, too.
He and Logan had shared secrets that they hadn’t let on to others. Working cases together, they’d both had occasion to follow leads because they’d spoken to the dead.
Sloan didn’t walk around interacting with spirits all the time. But there’d been occasions... He and Logan had recognized the ability in each other. And they’d been good partners.
True, he sometimes argued that the dead he saw were his particular form of talking to himself. And while it might seem that talking to the dead should solve everything, it didn’t work that way. But now Logan wasn’t a Ranger anymore; he was a fed. And he was the head of a unit. A special unit that was informally called the Texas Krewe.
Jane Everett was part of that Krewe. Did that mean she shared Logan’s secrets? Or that she knew about Sloan? He doubted it. Logan never spoke to anyone about anyone else’s business. But, somehow, Jane Everett made him uneasy.
Was he worried that she was only an artist—and not really much of a law enforcement agent?
Or was he worried that she was an artist and an agent and might find him incompetent?
He’d just had an odd feeling that they needed to get the skull out of Lily. It was almost as if the skull could be a catalyst for bad things to come.
Ridiculous, he told himself. Still, he didn’t like it.
But he’d been the one to call Logan Raintree.
In keeping with what Sloan knew about his old friend, he wasn’t surprised, when he’d looked up his recent work, that Logan’s Krewe worked with strange, supernatural cases.
In fact, it was one reason he’d decided to approach him.
Because there’s more to this than meets the eye and it may be important—but do I really want to know? he asked himself. He’d called Logan because he wondered if they might need help from the dead while not wanting it to be true.
“Yes, I’m here for Agent Everett,” he told Jennie.
“Come in,” she said. “The cast is down by the stage apron. She’s been meeting them all.”
“Sure.” Thankfully, there weren’t any other pressing issues in Lily at the moment.
He followed Jennie into the theater.
The group had gathered around the stage. Valerie Mystro, who had found the skull, was leaning casually against the show’s hero, Cy Tyburn, a tall, blond, all-American-looking actor from Kansas. Alice Horton, dark-haired, dark-eyed, sultry and buxom, the show’s vamp, was seated on the stage next to Brian Highsmith. Brian was dark-haired, as well; his green eyes bright against the near-black of his hair. Smiling, he appeared to be totally nonevil, although he played the show’s villain. Henri looked happy, standing in front of the newcomer, Jane Everett, who was seated next to Alice.
Even in the group of beautiful twenty-to-thirty-year-old actors, Jane Everett stood out. She was seated, so he couldn’t judge her height, and she was wearing a typical pantsuit—one he might expect to see on a working federal agent. The slight bulge was apparent at her rib cage; she was wearing a shoulder holster and carrying her weapon, which was probably just as regulation as her black pantsuit and white shirt. But she wore her hair loose and it was a striking shade, the deepest auburn he’d ever seen. And when she looked up at his arrival, he saw that she had the most unusual eyes he had ever seen, as well. They were amber. Not brown. Not hazel. Amber.
As he entered, she stood. Whatever they’d been discussing, they’d all gone quiet as he walked in.
“Sloan! We’ve just met Jane,” Valerie said happily. She giggled. “I told her how terrified I was when I found the skull, but then, she’s an FBI agent—I’m sure she would have behaved perfectly normally.”
“Maybe not. A skull can startle anyone,” Jane Everett said.
“Oh, you haven’t met yet!” Valerie said. “I’ll introduce you. Agent Jane Everett, meet our town’s sheriff, Sloan Trent. Sloan, this is Agent Everett.”
“It’s Jane, please,” Jane said, standing to shake his hand. She was on the tall side, he noted. Probably about five-nine, since she was wearing neat low pumps and seemed about five-ten or so against his six-three frame. She had a beautiful face, absolutely elegant and classical. He imagined that once they were gone, the show’s leading ladies would be discussing her...assets. She appeared to be lean and trim, but even in her regulation attire, she seemed to have the curves to suggest a well-honed body.
So this was the artist Logan had sent to sketch his skull?
It wasn’t his skull, he reminded himself. But the skull had belonged to a living,