Leo Newbold detected it. And understood. From the head of the table, his eyes met Ainslie's. "What matters most, Malcolm," the lieutenant said smoothly, "is that you've given us our first break, and it's an important one. I'd like to hear how you interpret it."
Ainslie nodded and said, "First, it's narrowed the field of investigation. Second, we know roughly the type of person we're looking for."
"Which is?" Yanes asked.
"An obsessed religious freak, Major. Among other things, he sees himself as an avenger from God."
"Is that the 'message' you spoke of, Sergeant? Is that the meaning of those symbols?"
"Yes, it is, keeping in mind that each symbol has been accompanied by two violent deaths. Most likely, as the killer sees it, he's delivering God's message, and at the same time fulfilling God's vengeance."
"Vengeance for what?''
''We'll know that better, Major, when we have a suspect and can question him."
Yanes nodded approvingly. "It looks like you've given us something to work with. Nice going, Sergeant!"
Assistant Chief Serrano added, "I'll second that."
Newbold resumed control. "Malcolm, you know more than the rest of us about this stuff from Revelation. Can you brief us on what else we ought to know?"
Ainslie considered before speaking, aware that he must draw on an amalgam of knowledge and ideas his priestly past, his mindset since, his current role as a Homicide detective. Rarely, if ever, had all three overlapped as now.
He tried to keep his explanation simple.
"Revelation was originally in Greek, and is apocalyptic, which means it was written in code, with many symbolic words, so that only biblical scholars understand them. To many people it's a crazy hodgepodge of visions, symbols, allegory, prophecy mostly incoherent."
Ainslie paused, then went on. "At times it makes some Christians, who don't understand it, uncomfortable. And the fact that Revelation can be used to prove or argue anything is why it's always attracted lunatics and fanatics. As those people view it, there's a ready-made prescription for any evil they choose. So what we need to know is how the guy we're looking for got to Revelation and adapted it to suit himself. When we have that answer, we'll go get him."
Lieutenant Newbold surveyed the conference table. "Anyone have anything to add?''
Julio Verona raised a hand. Perhaps to offset his small stature, the ID lead technician sat stiffly upright in his chair. At a nod from Newbold he said, "The fact that we know the kind of person who is committing these crimes is good, and my compliments to Malcolm. But I should remind you that even if you find a suspect, we have very little evidence right now certainly not enough to convict." He glanced toward the assistant state attorney, Curzon Knowles.
"Mr. Verona's right," Knowles said. "So we need to recheck every item collected at the murder scenes to be sure nothing has been overlooked or misinterpreted. Obviously we are dealing with a psychotic killer, and the smallest minute detail left behind could be the factor we need."
"We do have a partial palm print from the Frost murders," Sylvia Walden pointed out.
Knowles nodded. "But as I understand it, there's not enough of the palm for positive identification."
"We could match six points on the print we have. For positive ID we need nine at least. Ten is better."
"So the partial would be only circumstantial evidence, Sylvia."
Walden conceded, "Yes."
Dr. Sanchez intervened. As usual, she was wearing one of her dark brown suits, and her graying hair was fastened back into a ponytail. "As reported earlier, the knife cuts on four bodies the Frosts and Urbinas are identifiable," she stated. "They were made by the same bowie knife, ten inches long, with distinctive notches and serrations. I have photos of the wounds, showing in detail the notches on bones and cartilage."
Everyone in the meeting knew about a bowie knife, sometimes called an "Arkansas toothpick." The hunting knife, invented in the mid-nineteenth century by one of two Texas brothers, either James or Rezin Bowie, has been used widely ever since for hunting both animals and humans. The knife, distinctive and deadly, has a wooden handle and a strong, single-edge blade, the back of the blade straight for most of its ten-to-fifteen-inch length, then curving concavely to join the cutting edge at a single sharp point. For a century and a half the bowie knife has inflicted vicious wounds, often as an instrument of death.
"Dr. Sanchez," Knowles asked, "could you match those wounds to a particular bowie knife?"
"If someone produced the right knife, yes."
"And you'd testify to that?"
"If I'm telling you now, of course I'd testify." Sanchez added sharply, "That kind of evidence has been accepted before."
"Yes, I know. Just the same . . ." Knowles seemed indecisive. To those at the conference table who knew him well, he had slipped into the hesitant, unsure role he adopted so often in court. "Assume I'm a defense attorney and I ask you this question: 'Doctor, I have testimony certifying that knives of this type are manufactured in batches of several hundred at a time. Can you be absolutely sure that this one knife, among hundreds perhaps thousands of its kind, produced the wounds you are describing? And when you answer the question, Doctor, please remember that a man's life is at stake here.' "
Deliberately, Knowles turned away as Sanchez hesitated.
She began, "Well . . ."
The attorney turned back toward her. He shook his head. "Never mind."
Sanchez flushed, her lips tightening as she realized precisely the point that Knowles had skillfully made. Instead of answering with her usual confidence, she had hesitated, acknowledging there might be a doubt something that a jury would note and that a defense attorney would make the most of with succeeding questions.
Sanchez glowered at Knowles, who smiled. "Sorry, Doctor. Only a practice run, but better here than on the witness stand." "For a moment," she said ruefully, "I thought that's where I was."
The attorney turned to Julio Verona. "None of that means we won't make the most of the knife evidence if the opportunity arises. There could be a limit, though, as to how far I'd take it."
"We don't have the knife, of course," the ID lead technician said, "and whether or not we get it will depend on you guys." He motioned to the Homicide detectives, including Newbold. "And now that Sylvia and I know that two of the cases are connected, we'll go over every bit of evidence for similarities."
Dr. Sanchez said, "And I'll do the same with the medical records; maybe I can find an unsolved murder with similar wound patterns or some kind of religious connotation." She added thoughtfully, "There's always a possibility that what we're looking at now is a repeat of something in the past that's been overlooked. I heard once of a serial killer who waited fifteen years beforeoresuming his killing spree."
"All of that's good," Newbold said. "Now..." He glanced toward his superior, Manolo Yanes, commander of the Crimes Against Persons Unit. ''Major, would you like to add anything?"
"Yes." Typically, Yanes wasted no time with preamble. Steely-eyed and speaking with his usual sharp-edged voice, he declared, "Everyone here needs to make a much bigger effort an all-out effort. We've simply got to stop these killings before any more occur."
Yanes's eyes swung to Newbold. "For the record, Lieutenant, you and your people now have carte Blanche to take whatever measures are necessary, including creating a special task force. When you decide exactly what you need and what kind of task force, I'll get you extra detectives from Robbery. As to costs, you have my approval to charge whatever's needed, including overtime."
Yanes glanced around the room, then added, "So now, with those logistics in place, the objective of all of you is clear find this guy! I want results. And keep me informed."
"All of that noted, sir. As everyone heard, we will form a task force right now to work solely on these cases. Task force members will be relieved of other duties. I've already asked Sergeant Ainslie to head the team."
Heads turned toward Ainslie as Newbold told him, "Sergeant, you'll work with two teams of six detectives. I leave it to you to name another sergeant to head the second team."
"Sergeant Greene, " Ainslie said. "Assuming he's agreeable."
Pablo Greene waved a hand airily. "You betcha!"
Newbold told Greene, "You'll report through Sergeant Ainslie. That's understood?"
Ainslie added, "For my team I'll definitely want Detectives Quinn, Bowe, Kralik, and Garcia. Pablo and I will decide on the rest later today." Ainslie faced Major Yanes. "We have a lot of ground to cover, sir, and a great deal of detail work. So we'll need at least two extra detectives from Robbery, probably four."
Yanes nodded. "Tell Lieutenant Newbold when you know exactly, and you'll have them."
Curzon Knowles intervened. "If that isn't enough, I can arrange for a couple of state attorney investigators. Either way, we'd like to stay in the picture."
"We want that too, Counselor," Ainslie said.
Newbold reminded everyone, "The task force, of course, will work closely with Fort Lauderdale and Clearwater; I want those detectives kept informed."
The talk continued for a few minutes more, after which Newbold turned to Assistant Chief Serrano. "Chief, anything you wish to add?"
Serrano, formerly a detective himself, and with a distinguished record on the Miami force, spoke clearly but quietly. "Only to say that all of you have the support of the entire Police Department in this matter. Obviously, as these serial killings become widely known, there will be tremendous publicity, which will generate a lot of public and political pressures. We'll try to protect you from that so you can continue doing whatever is needed to bring this maniac in. At the same time, work fast. And never stop thinking. Good luck to us all!"
As the Homicide conference broke up, the newly formed task force gathered around Ainslie, along with the assistant state attorney, Curzon Knowles. Twenty years earlier Knowles had been a police officer himself the youngest sergeant on the New York City force. Later he had become a lieutenant, then resigned to study law in Florida. Knowles felt comfortable with detectives and they with him.
Now he asked Ainslie, "Since we'll be working together, Sergeant, do you mind telling me your first move?"
"A short one, Counselor to the computer. You're welcome to join me." Ainslie looked around him. "Where's Ruby?"
"Wherever you need her." Detective Bowe's bright voice emerged from a group.
"I need your dancing fingers." Ainslie motioned to the computer she had just used. "Let's search some records."
Seating herself, Ruby switched on and typed LOGON.
A query appeared: GIVE IDENTIFICATION.
Ruby asked Ainslie, "Yours or mine?"
He told her, "Eight-four-three-nine."
The screen responded: ENTER YOUR CODE.
Ainslie reached over and tapped in CUPCAKE, an affectionate name he sometimes used for Karen. The code name did not appear on the screen, but chicabbreviation for Criminal Investigation Center did.