By five o’clock Jason was ready to commit a murder of his own.
He had now been imprisoned for over four hours, and he was just about ready to try shooting the lock off the gate. Just about. He still vividly recalled what it felt like to be shot, and that was a real disincentive. A ricochet in a small enclosed stone space was a high possibility, and even if he was ready to gamble on his own safety, he couldn’t risk that Tiffany window.
Repeated efforts to use his phone had failed.
The good news was the fog had dissipated. The bad news was it had started to rain.
It was dark, it was cold and damp, he was tired, hungry, and starting to get a little freaked out.
He needed to pee. Which shouldn’t technically be a problem, but the presence of the sarcophagus had an inhibiting effect.
What the hell was the plan here?
Was there a plan?
Had he been locked in by accident? Not likely, but not impossible either.
The whole situation was fucking ridiculous.
He stopped pacing at a faint jingling sound and drew his weapon.
No. Dog tags. Ambrose was back, sniffing loudly, frantically at the bronze gate and then proceeding to bark at Jason.
“Good dog,” Jason muttered. “Hey,” he yelled. “Who’s out there?”
Barnaby’s voice muttered, “What on earth?”
A high-powered flashlight beam spotlighted him, momentarily blinding him.
If Barnaby noticed Jason was holding a pistol, he didn’t comment on it. “Agent West, what do you think you’re doing in there?”
The irate tone was almost funny, given the circumstances. Almost.
Jason holstered his weapon, saying crisply, “Waiting for whoever locked me in to let me out.”
It seemed Barnaby was ready for this because he charged instantly to the defense. “Locked you in! What nonsense is this? No one locked you in. Who was around to lock you in?” His keys jingled as he unlocked the ornate heavy gate and dragged it open.
“You triggered the mechanism yourself—while trespassing on private property. You’re just lucky Ambrose wanted a second walk. You could have been stuck in there until tomorrow.”
Don’t think I don’t know it. Jason didn’t say it aloud. He was convinced Barnaby had come looking for him, had known he was locked in that crypt, and had shown up simply and solely to release him. Who the hell walked their dog in a graveyard at night?
But that was just a gut feeling. He had no proof. What was the point of doing such a thing anyway? To punish him for forcing an interview? To irritate him? Because if the idea had been to scare or intimidate, Barnaby had missed by a mile and merely succeeded in aggravating the shit out of him.
Besides, he was pretty sure Barnaby hadn’t—couldn’t have—locked him in, and sneaking through the woods didn’t really seem like Mrs. Merriam’s style.
Which left two questions: who had locked him in, and why?
“That was lucky all right. For all of us,” Jason said.
Barnaby’s stiff figure seemed to grow more rigid. “I don’t think I like your tone, Agent West.”
“I’m not crazy about yours. No way did I accidentally lock myself in there, but if that’s what you want to believe…” Jason shrugged.
This was not the time or place to make a federal case out of something. He was on his own out here, standing in the glare of Barnaby’s flashlight, surrounded by the deep and silent woods, Jason was acutely aware of just how alone he was. Someone on this island had no problem tackling an FBI agent—had been willing to risk whatever the consequences to put Jason out of action for a while. What were the odds that person might be willing to put Jason out of action permanently? Not something he wanted to find out.
If Shipka was right, other people had disappeared for good on this island. Maybe the only reason Jason was still standing here talking to Barnaby was Barnaby.
Shipka. For the first time Jason considered the possibility that Shipka had followed him and then locked him in the crypt.
Why would he? What could he hope to gain?
But why would anyone lock Jason in? Looking at it from that angle, Shipka was as likely a suspect as anyone.
Barnaby was speaking in a nervous, huffy voice—as though he feared they were being overheard? “This kind of intrusion is absolutely intolerable. My lawyers will be contacting your supervisor in Los Angeles.”
“That’s certainly your prerogative.” Jason added a belated, “Sir.”
Barnaby had turned away, but the flashlight beam pinned Jason once more. “Furthermore, I’d suggest you don’t continue to wander around this island in the dark, young man. This can be a very dangerous place.”
Without further comment, he strode off through the gravestones. The dog, Ambrose, abandoned whatever he was grubbing for in the stand of nearby bushes to streak after him.
Watching the pale blur of the dog, the hair on the back of Jason’s neck rose. Ambrose had been snuffling around the bushes earlier that afternoon. Had someone hidden out there spying on Jason? Someone familiar to Ambrose and Barnaby?
Was that person watching him now?
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