Page 19 of Detective


Brewmaster chose not to answer. Subsequently police made inquiries at other Miami pet stores, using crime-scene photos in an attempt to find the rabbit's purchaser. But since so many rabbits were sold, sometimes in litters of seven or eight, and since few stores kept detailed records, the search proved fruitless.


Hank Brewmaster told Malcolm Ainslie about the dead rabbit and asked, "Is there something in Revelation that fits the way those other things did?"

"There's no rabbit in Revelation, or in any other part of the Bible; I'm sure of that," Ainslie said. "It could still be a symbol, though. Rabbits as a species are very old."

"Any religious connotation at all?"

"I'm not sure." Ainslie paused, recalling a lecture series Life Origins and Geologic Time that he had attended soon after his religious faith began to wane. Details came back; he sometimes surprised himself by how much his memory retained. "Rabbits are Lagomorpha that's rabbits, hares, and pikes. They originated in North Asia near the end of the Paleocene." He smiled. "Which is fifty-five million years before the Genesis version of creation."

"You think our guy an obsessed religious freak, you called him knows all that?" Brewmaster asked.

"I doubt it. But who knows what he thinks, or why?"

That night at home Ainslie went to Karen's personal computer, on which he kept a King James version of the Bible. The next day he told Brewmaster, "I did a computer search for any Bible reference to 'lagomorph,' 'hare,' or 'pika.' No lagomorphs or pikes, but 'hare' appears twice once in Leviticus, once in Deuteronomy, though not at all in Revelation."

"Do you think our rabbit could have been intended as a hare, and that way be a Bible symbol?"

"No, I don't." Ainslie hesitated, then said, "I'll tell you what I do think, after a lot of thought last night. I don't believe that rabbit is a Revelation symbol at all. It doesn't fit. I reckon it's a fake."

As Brewmaster looked at him curiously, he went on, "All those other symbols left at murder scenes fitted something specific. Like the four dead cats 'four beasts' and the red moon 'the moon became as blood' and the trumpet 'a great voice, as of a trumpet.' "

"I remember." Brewmaster nodded.

"Oh, sure, a rabbit could be a 'beast' Revelation's full of beasts.'' Ainslie shook his head. "Somehow I don't think so."

"So what are you suggesting?"

"I guess it's mostly instinct, Hank. But I think we need to keep an open mind about whether the Ernst murders were really another serial killing, or whether someone else did them and tried to make them look that way."

"Aren't you forgetting? We withheld those earlier crime-scene details."

"But some were published. Reporters have sources; always happens."

"Well, all that's startling, Malcolm, and I'll try to keep it in mind. But I have to tell you, after seeing that Ernst scene, I reckon your thoughts are way out."

They left it there.

* * *

Soon afterward, Sandra Sanchez announced her findings following the autopsies of both victims. Yes, they had been killed by a bowie knife, as her first inspection of the wounds suggested. However, the distinctive notches and serrations in the bodies differed from those at the other killings, so a different knife was used which proved nothing, because bowie knives could be purchased readily and a serial killer might easily own several.

Thus, as days went by, and despite Malcolm Ainslie's doubts, it seemed increasingly certain that the Ernst killings had been committed by the same hand as the eight preceding unsolved murders. The basic circumstances were identical, and so were the supplementals: the dead rabbit, still possibly a Revelation symbol; removal of all money; the highly visible jewelry left untouched; and the loudplaying radio. Also, as with the earlier murders, there was no fingerprint evidence.

The investigators were troubled, however, by the speed with which the Ernst killings had followed the Urbina/Pine Terrace Condo murders only three days earlier. The previous killings had been spaced two to three months apart. The media and public were curious about that fact, and asked pertinent questions: Had the killer speeded up his deadly mission, whatever it might be? Did he have a sense of invincibility, of being "on a roll"? Was there special significance in a Miami city commissioner being a victim? Were other commissioners or officials in danger? And what were the police doing, if anything, to anticipate the killer's next moves?

While the last question could not be answered publicly, the special task force surveillance of six suspects had begun, with Sergeant Ainslie in charge.

The Ernst murders, too, were quickly assigned as a task force responsibility. Sergeant Brewmaster, while continuing to lead the Ernst investigation, became a task force member, reporting to Malcolm Ainslie, as did the detectives from Brewmaster's team Dion Jacobo and Seth Wightman.

But even before all task force duties were fully in effect, a meeting took place that Ainslie knew was inevitable.

7

At 8:15 A.M., two days after the mutilated bodies of Gustav and Eleanor Ernst were discovered, Malcolm Ainslie arrived at Homicide headquarters, having already met Sergeant Brewmaster at the murder scene for an update. Disappointingly, nothing more had emerged since the day before. A canvass of the neighborhood, during which residents were asked about recent strangers in the Bay Point area, had produced, as Brewmaster said, "Nada."

In Homicide, Lieutenant Newbold was waiting alongside Ainslie's desk. He pointed and said, "Someone's waiting for you in my office, Malcolm. You'd better hustle! "

Moments later, as Ainslie stood in the Homicide commander's office doorway, he saw Cynthia Ernst, seated in Newbold's chair.

She was dressed smartly in police uniform and looked stunning. How ironic, Ainslie thought, that severely cut masculine clothes could become so sexy on the body of a woman. The tailored, square-shouldered jacket bearing her gold oak leaves of major's rank only emphasized the perfect proportions of her figure. Dark brown hair, trimmed to the regulation inch and a half above the collar line, framed her pale, creamy skin and penetrating green eyes. Ainslie caught the scent of a familiar perfume and was suddenly overwhelmed by memories.

Behind the desk, Cynthia had been perusing a single sheet of paper and now glanced up, her face expressionless.

"Come in,' she said. "Close the door."

. Ainslie did so, noticing that her eyes were red, presumably from crying.

Standing before the desk he began, "I'd like to say how truly sorry I am "

"Thank you," Major Ernst said quickly, then continued, in a businesslike manner, "I'm here because I have some questions for you, Sergeant."

He matched her tone. "I'll try to answer them."

Even now, despite her coolness toward him, the sight and sound of Cynthia Ernst excited him, as it had so often when they were lovers. That erotic, arousing, provocative interlude now seemed long ago.

Their affair had begun five years earlier, while they were both Homicide detectives. Cynthia had been beautiful and desirable then, at thirty-three three years younger than Malcolm. Now, he decided, she was even more alluring. AISO7 in a strange way, her unyielding coldness since their breakup, a year after the affair began, made her seem even more tempting and exciting than before. Cynthia transmitted her sexuality like a beacon always had and to Ainslie's embarrassment he felt, even in this unromantic setting, an erection stirring.

She motioned to a chair that faced the desk and said, unsmiling, "You may sit down."

Ainslie allowed himself the slightest smile. "Thank you, Major."

He sat, realizing that already with their brief exchange, Cynthia had made their relationship clear a matter of relative ranks, with hers now much senior to his own. Well, fair enough. There was nothing wrong with knowing where you stood. He wished, though, that she would allow him to express his genuine sympathy over her parents' ghastly deaths. But Cynthia returned her gaze to the paper she had been reading, then, taking her time, she put it down and faced him.

"I understand you are in charge of the investigation of my parents' murder."

"Yes, I am." He began explaining the special task force and its reasons, but she cut him off.

"I know all that."

Ainslie stopped and waited, wondering what Cynthia was after. One thing he was sure of: she was deeply and genuinely grieving. Her red eyes proclaimed it and, to his personal knowledge, the relationship between Gustav and Eleanor Ernst and Cynthia, their only child, had been exceptionally close.

In different circumstances he would have reached out and put his arms around her, or simply touched her hand, but knew better than to do so now. Apart from their having gone their separate ways for four years, he knew Cynthia would instantly raise the inviolable, protective barrier she used so often, eliminating the personal while she became the impatient, hard-driving professional he had known so well.

Cynthia had also exhibited some less admirable traits while Ainslie was working with her. Her hard-line directness made her reject subtlety, even though subtlety could sometimes be a useful investigative tool. She favored shortcuts in police inquiries, even if it meant crossing a line to illegality making deals with criminals outside of official plea bargaining, or planting evidence to "prove" some known offense. While he was her Homicide supervisor, Ainslie occasionally questioned Cynthia's methods, though no one could quarrel with her results, which, at the time, reflected favorably on him as well.

Then there was the wholly unprofessional, intimate, abandoned, wildly sensual Cynthia the side of her he would not see today, or ever again. He pushed the thought away.

She leaned forward on the desk and faith "Get to the point. I want to hear what you're really doing, and don't hold anything back."

This scene, Ainslie thought, was a replay of so much that had gone before.

* * *

Cynthia Ernst had joined the Miami Police Force when she was twenty-seven, one year before Malcolm Ainslie. She had progressed rapidly some said because her father was a city commissioner, and certainly that connection did her no harm, nor did the fact that minorities' and women's rights were creating new priorities and opportunities. But the real reasons for Cynthia's success, as all who knew her well conceded, were her innate abilities and drive, coupled with hard work for as long as needed.

Right from the beginning, during the obligatory tenweek police academy course, Cynthia excelled, demonstrating a retentive memory and a quick mind when confronting problems. She was outstanding at weapons performance, described by the course firearms instructor as "remarkable." After four weeks, during which she fired with the proficiency of a marksman and was able to strip and reassemble her weapon at lightning speed, her score was never below 298 out of a possible 300.

Following the academy course, Cynthia proved herself a highly competent police officer, becoming valued by superiors for her initiative and ingenuity, and for her speed in making decisions the last an essential talent when enforcing law, and notable especially in a woman. All of those talents, plus a flair for getting noticed, prompted Cynthia's transfer to Homicide after only two years on uniform patrol.

In Homicide her record of success continued, and it was there she encountered Malcolm Ainslie, also a detective, with a growing reputation as an outstanding investigator.

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