“Right. Like I’ll be able to go back to sleep now,” Kat muttered.
“Later on, you’re going to wish you got more sleep,” Will warned. Kat noted that the clerk was staring over at them. She was barefoot, and her T-shirt only made it halfway down to her knees. She smiled and waved at him.
“You guys okay?” he called over to them. He had to be in his early twenties. Crew cut, wearing a suit, he still had the voice of a young man. “You want me to call the police or anything?” he asked worriedly.
“No, no, we’re fine,” Kat assured him. She held her Glock behind her back and realized that Will had already moved his from sight. She wondered how he’d managed to hide it while talking to the clerk—a half-naked man with a gun approaching him at five in the morning would surely have upset the young man.
Will bent down and scooped something from a large ornamental planter. Ah, that explained it.
He hit the elevator button. Waving to the clerk, they both backed in.
“Maybe we should have contacted the local police,” Kat said. “They could have done a more thorough search.”
“No. Whoever it was is gone or back in a room somewhere in the hotel. I’ll make sure the elevator cameras are working by tomorrow night. I don’t like to bring the police in unless we really need them. If they don’t find anything, we become the boy who cried wolf and I don’t want to create that impression.”
He was right, Kat decided. Again.
“But it’s your call, of course,” Will said.
“Quit that,” she told him.
“Quit…deferring to you?” he asked.
She scowled at him. “You seem to defer to me only when you want to annoy me.”
“That’s not my intent.”
“Then quit it!”
“What? You are the lead investigator. You’ve stated as much.”
Kat wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be angry. She let out a sigh of exasperation. “You hit on it today. We’re here to work. And we work as a team,” she said. “Logan isn’t here, and Jackson isn’t here. That makes us the only Krewe members present right now. That means we need to cooperate.”
“Makes sense,” he said.
“Does the clerk know we’re FBI?” she asked him.
“I don’t know,” Will said, shrugging. “The manager does, since this is Adam Harrison’s hangout when he’s in Chicago. But as for the night clerk, I have no idea.”
Back on their own floor, he was alert as they walked down the hall. “Until tomorrow, we’re supposed to be the only people on this floor.”
“So someone wasn’t just at the wrong room.”
“Rooms,” Will said. “I heard a key card slide into my door, too. There are eight rooms on each floor. It’s a ‘boutique’ hotel, remember?”
“But sometimes people do get off on the wrong floor.”
“They do—but not after they’ve slipped invisibly past a night clerk.”
“What if the clerk had earphones on and was listening to AC/DC?” she asked.
“What about the security guard?”
“Maybe he was listening to another heavy-metal band,” Kat said.
He grinned, then paused, staring at the wall by her room, frowning.
“What…” she began to ask.
“The wall. There’s something on the wall.”
She stood close to him, examining the wall, which looked as if someone had stuck a yellowed and dirty old bandage against it.
“This looks like…”
“Mummy wrapping,” Kat said. Her dream rushed back to her. “Except it’s not. Mummies are treated after they’re wrapped, and this just seems like someone’s idea of a Halloween prank.” Her tone was harsh. Despite her training, common sense and logic, it was unnerving to see that someone had been outside both of their rooms, either out to do actual harm or trying to…unnerve them.
“Mummies aren’t always treated,” Will said quietly. “There are a number at various museums around the world that haven’t been soaked in any kind of resin. The reign of the pharaohs went on for thousands of years, and I don’t know about all their interment rites, but I’ve seen mummies that were buried only in wrapping. I agree with you, though. I don’t think this is real. I think it’s something bought from a Halloween shop. But I’m going to get an evidence bag and see what we can find out.”
She waited, her fingers tight around the grip of her Glock, while he went to his room for an evidence bag. He returned in a matter of seconds. He’d relinquished his gun—because he felt there was no more danger or because he had faith in her, she didn’t know—and had brought a knife and the bag. She noticed then that his chest and arms were lean, sleek and well-muscled, and that he could move with the silence and agility of a cat, despite his height and build.
He scraped the fragment of slimy gauze from the light gray wall into the bag.
“What now?” she asked.
“You’re not going back to sleep?”
“I had my alarm set for six-thirty. Not much point now, even if I felt I could fall asleep.”
He shrugged. “Then we’ll be good and early. I’m going to shower and dress. I’ll meet you downstairs at six. That’s when they have the coffee ready so we should get the first cups.”
She nodded, wondering if she should say what was on her mind—that she didn’t like the idea of people crawling around the hall.
He seemed to read her thoughts. “You know what? I’m going to do a setup. It won’t take long and it’ll help put you at ease.”
“I have been trained. I’m not a coward,” Kat said.
“There’s a major difference between being wary and being a coward,” he said. “Give me a minute, and you’ll see what I’m up to.”
The man seemed to be prepared for anything. He disappeared into his room and reappeared with a small camera, a thick wad of duct tape and a desk chair. He used the chair to stand on while he attached the camera just above her door. It was wireless and she thought it was small enough to go unnoticed, especially with the ornate trim over the lintel.
“You’ve got a laptop, right?” he asked her.
“The camera works on a frequency. It’ll come in on a screen in my room, but I can have it zapped on to your computer. Then you can see what’s going on in the hall, and so will I. Any problems with that?”
“Not at all. In fact, I really like it,” Kat said.
“I have to grab a bit of software.” He disappeared into his own room again, then followed Kat into hers. She showed him where she’d set up her computer on the desk and he went to work. As he did, she noticed the door to the adjoining room—his.
He’d been concentrating on the task at hand, and when he finished, he turned to her. “There’s your icon. Hit it, and you’ll see whatever is going on in the hall.”
“Thanks. I wonder if we should unbolt the connecting doors, too.”
He grinned. “Not a bad idea. Hey, knowing someone might be in the hallway is creepy, no matter how well-armed you are,” he said. “And it’s hard to take your gun in the shower, especially when you’re washing your hair.”
She laughed. “Which is exactly what I want to do.” She walked over and unbolted her side.
“I’ll do the same from my room,” he told her. “Though I’m not expecting anything else for now.”
“You think it was done to warn us?” Kat asked.
“There’s nothing in the local news about us,” he said, “but I’m sure that word gets around and those who need to worry about us are aware. But, yeah, I think it was done for effect. Okay, meet you downstairs at six.”
He strode to the door and opened it.
“Thanks again,” she called after him.
“It’s what I do,” he said. “See you soon.”
A moment later, she heard the bolt slide open on the other side of the connecting door. The sound made her smile. With the camera in place and the connecting door unlocked, she felt safe enough to take a shower.
The first day manager came on at 6:00 a.m. He arrived a little early and was surprised to find that Will was waiting for him the minute he stepped into the lobby. But apparently he’d been informed that he was getting an FBI crew as clientele. He didn’t blink an eye when Will asked if he’d allow him to look through their security footage. If the technical crew who handled their video surveillance didn’t show up that afternoon, Will went on, would the manager let him check out the elevator cameras that evening?
The manager, Jonah Rumble, didn’t mind. Will ran through the tapes from the night before and decided that nothing had been altered. Whoever had come to their door had clearly returned to a room in the hotel. Knowing that, he thanked the security man on duty, and the manager, then discreetly made a call to the office in Virginia.
Afterward, he found Kat waiting for him. She was talking with the manager and had obviously charmed him. But then, it seemed that his diminutive blonde counterpart had a way of charming everyone she met.
Maybe he should leave her to it. He should’ve been a lot more patient with Dr. McFarland but he wasn’t a medical examiner; he’d just been around enough corpses now to know a few things. It frustrated him that he could make a few observations and discern that Brady had taken a beating, yet the expert missed what had been apparent to Will. That seemed inexcusable to him. And hiding his feelings was not Will’s strong point.
“Anything?” Kat asked politely as he joined them.
He shook his head.
Jonah, the manager, turned to him to apologize. “I’m so sorry. I can only imagine that another guest was lost or disoriented, realized the mistake and moved on to his or her own room. In this day and age, we should probably have more security, but…we’re a small hotel. We specialize in a business clientele and we seldom have even a minor disturbance. Mr. Harrison’s been coming here for years, and truly, he’s never had a problem. I understand that his office made your travel arrangements.”