Page 22 of Detective



All of this brought her to the attention of Police Chief Farrell Ketledge, and when Cynthia's department head died unexpectedly, the chief appointed her to take over. At the same time, because of the prominence and increasing importance of Community Relations, Chief Ketledge decided it should be headed by a police major. Thus Cynthia attained that senior rank without ever having been a captain.

Meanwhile, Ainslie was still a sergeant, to some extent penalized by the fact that he was a white male at a time when affirmative-action promotions of minorities and women were disproportionately and many thought unfairly large. However, he had passed the examination for lieutenant with distinction and expected to move up soon. From a practical point of view, a promotion would increase his annual sergeant's salary of $52,000 by a welcome $10,400.

With financial pressures eased, he and Karen would be able to travel more, go to more concerts they loved jazz and chamber music dine out more often, and generally improve the quality of their lives. Since he'd ended his affair with Cynthia a belated sense of guilt had grown, making Ainslie more determined then ever to be a loyal, devoted husband.

Then he received a call from Captain Ralph Leon, who was in Personnel Management. Ainslie and Leon had been recruits together, and in the same police academy class, where they became friends, frequently studied in tandem, and otherwise helped each other. Leon was black and well qualified and therefore affirmative action had not delayed his upward progress.

On the phone Leon merely said, "Malcolm, meet me for coffee." He named a day and time and a small cafe in Little Havana a long way from Police Headquarters.


Outside the restaurant they smiled at the sight of each other and shook hands warmly. Leon, who wore a sports jacket and slacks instead of his uniform, opened the door and led the way to a quiet booth. He was a trimly built man, studious and methodical, and becoming serious, he weighed his words before speaking. "Malcolm, this conversation is not taking place."

His eyes posed a question, to which Ainslie nodded. "Okay. I understand."

"There are things I hear in Personnel..." Leon stopped. "Oh, hell, Malcolm. Here it is. If you stay a Miami cop, you're never going anywhere. You'll never make lieutenant or any rank higher than you have now. It isn't fair, I hate it, but out of friendship I had to let you know."

Ainslie, stunned by what he had heard, sat in silence.

Leon's voice became more emotional. "It's Major Ernst. She's bad-mouthing you everywhere, blocking your promotion. I don't know why, Malcolm; maybe you do. But if you do know, don't tell me."

"Blocking it on what grounds, Ralph? My record's clean and officially . . . well, outstanding."

'`The grounds are trivial, and everybody knows it. But a major that one especially has a lot of influence, and in our shop, if you have a powerful enemy, you usually can't win. You know how it is."

Ainslie did know. But curiosity made him ask, "What am I accused of?"

"Neglect of duty, laziness, careless work habits."

In other circumstances, Ainslie might have laughed.

Leon said, "She must have searched through every goddam file." He spelled out some details. There was an occasion, for example, when Ainslie had failed to make a scheduled court appearance.

"I remember that. I was on the way to court when I got a radio call a freeway killing. There was a chase, we got the guy, and afterward a conviction. Later that day I saw the judge, explained, and apologized. He was fine about it and rescheduled."

"Unfortunately the court documents just show your absence. I checked." Leon pulled a folded paper from his pocket. "Several times you were late for work, missed meetings."

"Jesus! that happens to everybody. There isn't anyone in the Department who doesn't get that kind of stuff emergency calls, so you respond and let the office wait. I don't even remember."

"Ernst remembered and found the records." Leon looked at his paper. "I said it was trivia. Want more?"

Ainslie shook his head. Quick changes of plan, fast decisions, dealing with the unexpected, were a normal part of police work, especially in Homicide. Sometimes, administratively, the results were messy; it was part of the job. Everyone, including Cynthia, knew it. But he knew the answer, too; there was nothing he could do. Cynthia had the rank and the influence, and held all the cards. He remembered her threatening words to him. Well, she had kept her promise in spades.

"Damn it," Ainslie muttered, staring through a window at the street outside.

"I'm sorry, Malcolm. It's really a bum rap."

Ainslie nodded. "I appreciate your telling me, Ralph. And no one will ever know we talked."

Leon looked down at the table in front of him. "That doesn't seem so important now." He raised his eyes. "Will you stay on?"

"I think so." Mainly, he reasoned, because there were few alternatives.

And in the end he did.

* * *

Following the exchange with Ralph Leon, one other thought came back to Malcolm: the memory of a brief, unexpected conversation several months earlier with Mrs. Eleanor Ernst, Cynthia's mother.

Police sergeants normally do not meet city leaders or their spouses socially, but this happened at a small retirement dinner given for a senior officer with whom Ainslie had worked, and Commissioner and Mrs. Ernst attended. Ainslie knew Mrs. Ernst by sight; she had always seemed a demure woman, expensively dressed but slightly shy. Therefore he was surprised when, holding a wineglass, she approached him during the reception preceding the dinner.

Speaking softly, she asked, "You're Sergeant Ainslie, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am."

"I believe that you and my daughter are no longer how shall I put it? meeting each other. Is that correct?"

Seeing Ainslie hesitate, she added, "Oh, don't worry, I won't tell anyone. But sometimes Cynthia isn't the most discreet person."

He answered uncertainly. "I rarely see Cynthia at all these days."

"This may seem strange, coming from a mother, Sergeant, but I was sorry to hear that. I think you were a good influence on her. Tell me, was the ending friendly or otherwise?"

"Otherwise."

"A pity." Mrs. Ernst lowered her voice still more. "I shouldn't do this, I suppose, but I want to tell you something, Sergeant Ainslie. If Cynthia thinks she's been wronged, she never forgets, never forgives. Just a warning you should bear in mind. Good evening.''

Still holding her wineglass, Mrs. Ernst melted away.

Thus, in due course, the predictive words of Eleanor Ernst were confirmed. Captain Ralph Leon had become the messenger, and Ainslie permanently it seemed had paid Cynthia's price.

* * *

Now, long after so many events, so much maneuvering, and so many changes for them both, Malcolm Ainslie and Cynthia Ernst faced each other in Leo Newbold's office.

"Get to the point," Cynthia had said about her parents' murders. "I want to hear what you're really doing, and don't hold anything back."

"We've compiled a list of suspects for surveillance. I'll have a copy sent "

"I already have it." Cynthia touched a file folder in front of her. "Is there anyone on that list who's number one?''

"Robinson seems a probability. Several things fit, but it's too early to tell. Surveillance should give us more information."

"Are you convinced the same person did all of the murders?"

"Just about everybody is." His own doubts, Ainslie thought, were unimportant.

More questions followed, and as far as he could, Ainslie tried to convey sympathy with his answers, despite Cynthia's coldness. At the same time he was very much on guard. Cynthia had that effect on him, knowing from experience that she would make use of any information in any way she chose.

Toward the end she said, "I understand you associated some things found at the murder scenes with Biblical references."

"Yes, mostly Revelation."

"Mostly?"

"Nothing is exact. As you know, it's impossible to be sure of a source, or of a criminal's reasoning, which can be inconsistent. What those references did was point us toward the group of people we're now watching."

"I want you to inform me of every new development. Daily reports by phone."

"Excuse me, Major, but you should clear that with Lieutenant Newbold."

"I already have. He has my instructions. Now I'm giving them to you. Please see that you follow them."

Well, he thought, Major Cynthia Ernst had the rank to get away with such instructions, even though, strictly speaking, they were outside her own departmental field. It didn't follow, though, that she should receive every last scrap of information, even about her parents' murders.

Standing, Ainslie moved closer to the desk and looked down at Cynthia. "Major, I will do my best to keep you informed, but as head of this task force my first duty is to solve the case." He waited until she looked up, then continued. "Nothing will come before that."

She seemed about to say something, then evidently thought better of it. Ainslie moved back, his gaze fixed on hers. Yes, she outranked him and could order him to do virtually anything in the line of duty. But on a personal level, he decided, he would not be pushed around by her. Ever.

The plain fact was, he didn't trust Cynthia and scarcely liked her anymore. He knew there were things she was not revealing, though what they were and how they might relate to the serial murder investigations, he had no idea. What he did know from his own sources in the Department was that Cynthia Ernst continued to cut corners, and to keep dubious company, especially with the author Patrick Jensen.

Jensen was still being watched by Miami police. There had been rumors of a connection between Jensen and a drug distribution gang, the same gang that was suspect in a Homicide investigation by Metro-Dade Police into what had become known as the Wheelchair Murder. The victim, a paraplegic and a valued police informant, had been wheeled at night, bound and gagged, into tidewater in a remote area south of Homestead. His wheelchair had been secured by a chain and weights to a lonely offshore islet, and the man left to drown as the tide rose.

Of course, it was all a long way from Major Cynthia Ernst . . .

She nodded slightly. "That will be all, Sergeant. You may go."

8

"Of all the jobs cops are asked to do," Detective Charlie Thurston said, "surveillance has to be the shittiest."

"It sure ain't my favorite," Bradford Andrews acknowledged. "And this damn rain's not helping, either."

Thurston from Homicide and Andrews from Robbery were sitting in a Florida Power & Light van, their temporary undercover vehicle. They were assigned to keep track of Carlos Quinones, one of the six computer generated suspects in the serial killings.

The Police Department owned a variety of vehicles for surveillance use. They included taxis, phone, gas, and electrical service trucks, store delivery vehicles, and even postal vans. Some were given or sold to police by the organizations that owned them. Others, confiscated during drug raids, were awarded through the courts. The type of vehicle used to watch any particular subject, such as Quinones, was changed from day to day.

The two detectives, both in their early thirties, had been parked for nearly two hours outside Quinones's apartment one of a series of squalid residences in the unofficially named Liberty City area.

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