The sixth Charlotte Diamond mystery finds the retired FBI agent and her significant other, movie star Brenda Brandon, on the edge of the Florida Everglades to film a movie within a movie about an old movie. Brenda has taken a cameo role in the reprise of her first film experience, a Vietnam air war film of forty years earlier that was closed down by a brush with espionage, a murder, and the disappearance of the movie’s star, White Orchid, factors that combined to pique the interest of the FBI. Charlotte has been hired as a technical consultant to help weave a blockbuster movie script out of the earlier, failed filming.
When the mysteries of the earlier film come back to haunt the new film crew and cast after the crash of a company plane in the Everglades, Charlotte finds herself deputized by the FBI to figure out not only what happened then, but what is happening now—and why. In this, she receives the help of another technical expert on the film, Ed Winslow, who always seems to know more than he is revealing and who takes an interest in Charlotte that equals that of Charlotte’s former lover and FBI contact, Evan Worthington, who wants Charlotte back in his life.
As badly as Charlotte wants to unravel the mysteries of the lost White Orchid, an unknown someone seems even more determined to keep the past buried—even if it means that Charlotte needs to be buried as well.
He had waited, hidden, in the closet of the suite’s living room for what seemed to be hours, waiting for her to settle in the other room—the bedroom. This would bring unwanted attention, but it was too late for that already. The place already was crawling with cops. But it had to be done.
He listened for signs that she was still stirring, but he heard nothing. He opened the closet door a crack. The door into the bedroom was in his line of sight. It was ajar. No light was showing through from the other room. He crept out of the closet and up to the door, listening intently. He could hear her breathing. It seemed to sound regular enough to signify that she was asleep already. Still he stood there, waiting.
It was perhaps a good twenty minutes later before he slid into thebedroom. He knew where everything was because he had checked the room out earlier. He’d left the drapes on the window slightly open so that there would be enough light in the room for him to maneuver. She hadn’t pulled them to. Shortly after she’d come into the suite—in the living room, where he was hiding in the closet—a knock on the door had announced the appearance of the man. They’d argued briefly. Although the voices were muffled enough that he couldn’t follow the conversion, she’d sounded like a real bitch, although he never lifted his voice. It was strange that the woman could act that way. It certainly wasn’t how she came across in public. As soon as she was alone again she’d gone into the bedroom—and then the bath, where she’d spent a god awful lot of time primping herself. Then straight to bed . . . and, it appeared into a sound sleep.
This would be easier than he’d thought. He’d thought the bitch would read for hours and then be a light sleeper. It was her vigilance he was worried about. But she’d gone right off to sleep. He moved as noiselessly as he could toward the bed. He was holding the sofa pillow he’d brought from the sofa in the small living room in a tight grip with both of his gloved hands.
He was standing over her now, looking down at her in the dimness created by what little light was coming through the slightly open drapes. He heard the sound of an airplane overhead. Flying low, flying close. He was afraid that it might startle her awake. But no bother if it did. He already was here, in place. In fact, she had an arm slung across her face that would need to move for him to get this pillow firmly over her face.
“Hey, bitch.” he said, none too softly.
The arm moved away, and her eyes popped open in a jarring look of surprise and fear.