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The same report noted "indifference" from Doil's mother when confronted with the problem.

Ainslie was especially interested in an episode in which Doil, then thirteen, was caught torturing a cat to death. He had cut off the cat's legs one by one, then its tail, using a knife that, according to the report, he habitually carried. He was caught watching the cat writhe in agony as it died. This produced a charge of "cruelty to an animal," resulting in a fine of a hundred Dollars. The record did not say who paid it.

Another "Information Report Only," also by Elders, referred to Elroy's involvement at age twelve in Operation Guidance, a city-sponsored program for underprivileged kids. Father Kevin O'Brien directed the program at Miami's Gesu Church; it included meals, sports, and Bible study every Sunday in the church's fenced-in grounds. Elders referred hopefully to Elroy's "awakening interest in religion and the Bible."

However, another report a year and a half later recorded dismally that religion had not curbed Doil's misdemeanors, nor had his religious-biblical fervor, which, according to Father O'Brien, was "erroneous and incoherent."

Ainslie scribbled down Father O'Brien's phone number and address.

Across the remaining years until Doil reached eighteen, the record showed an orgy of offenses, none of which had ever required Doil to be fingerprinted. A juvenile's fingerprints could only be taken after an arrest for a felony or with a parent's permission, which, according to the file, Beulah Doil consistently refused to give.

It was that absence of fingerprints that left Homicide hamstrung in the final report in the file, where Doil was a strong suspect in the murders of Clarence and Florentina Esperanza. But without prints or other supporting evidence, no charge was laid.

The Homicide detectives' frustration at that time was easy to envisage, Ainslie thought, as he closed the file and headed for a copy machine.

* * *

Using a phone at Metro-Dade headquarters, Ainslie called the number he had written down, and Father O'Brien answered personally. Yes, he told Ainslie, he remembered Elroy well, and would be willing to talk about him. In fact, if the sergeant wished to drive to Gesu Church now, the priest was in his office and available.

* * *

Father Kevin O'Brien, a bright-eyed Irishman, now middle-aged and balding, gestured to the wooden chair facing his desk.

Ainslie sat down, thanked the priest for seeing him, then briefly described his interest in Doil, adding, "I'm not here for evidence, Father. I simply wonder if you could tell me a bit about him."

O'Brien nodded thoughtfully. "I remember Elroy as if I'd seen him yesterday. I think, initially, he enrolled in our program because he needed the meals, but after a few weeks he seemed to become mesmerized by the Bible much more than any of the other kids."

"Was he intelligent?"

"Extremely. But in his own way. And a voracious reader, which surprised me, given his marginal education. Now that I think about it, I remember he had a fascination with crime and violence first in the newspapers, then later in the Bible." O'Brien smiled. "It was the Old Testament that absorbed him, with all its 'holy wars' and God's wrath, pursuit, revenge, and killing. Are you familiar with all that, Detective?"

Ainslie nodded. "Yes, I am." In fact, from memory, he thought, he could have put together the kind of passages that would have attracted Doil.

"I saw great possibilities in young Doil," O'Brien said, "and for a while I thought we had real communication, but in the end we didn't. We talked about the Bible, but he twisted words, including mine, to mean whatever he wanted. He lusted to be an avenger for God, though redressing, I suspect, what he saw as life's offenses against himself. I tried reasoning, pointing out God's love and forgiveness. He didn't listen; more and more he became incoherent. I wish I'd done better."

"I think you did all you could, Father," Ainslie said. "Do you think Doil has some mental disorder? Is insanity too strong a word?"

"Probably." The priest considered. "We all have aberrations; they come in differing packages, and experts decide where aberrations end and madness begins. Thinking back, one thing I'm sure of is that Elroy was a pathological liar. He lied when he didn't have to. He'd tell lies to me, for example, even when he knew I was aware of the truth. It's as if he had an aversion to the truth about anything, no matter how benign."

O'Brien concluded, "I'm not sure I can give you much more. He was simply a boy on the wrong track, and I gather, from the fact that you're here, he hasn't changed course."

"I'm not sure," Ainslie answered. "Father, I have one more question. Did you ever have reason to believe Doil carried a gun? Or any other weapon?"

"Yes," O'Brien said at once. "I remember that very well. Most of the boys in my program talked constantly about guns, though I forbade them to bring any here. But Doil disdained guns and said so. I don't know why, though I was told he did carry a knife something big, I believe, which he boasted about to his friends."

"Did you ever see the knife?"

"Of course not. I would have confiscated it if I had.''

Shaking hands with Father O'Brien as he left, Ainslie said, "Thank you for your help. Elroy Doil is an enigma, but you've helped put a few pieces in place."

* * *

Ainslie returned to Homicide headquarters in the early afternoon, having driven some thirty miles to various ports of call in his quest for information. He immediately summoned a meeting of selected members of the special task force for 4:00 P.M. that day. The list, which he handed to a secretary, comprised Sergeants Pablo Greene and Hank Brewmaster, as well as Detectives Bernard Quinn, Ruby Bowe, Esteban Kralik, Jose Garcia, Dion Jacobo, Charlie Thurston, Seth Wightman, Gus Janek, and Luis Linares. Each of them had been involved in the surveillance duty.

Dan Zagaki, another Homicide detective who had been part of the surveillance, was not included on the list. When Zagaki showed up in Homicide during the afternoon, Ainslie took the young detective to an empty office for a private talk. Zagaki was clearly uneasy as he sat down.

A comparative newcomer, Zagaki had been promoted to detective and assigned to Homicide two months earlier, moving up from uniform patrol duty, where his two-year record since recruitment had been excellent. He was from a distinguished military family, his father a U.S. Army general, an older brother a Marine lieutenant colonel. Since his Homicide arrival, Zagaki had demonstrated eagerness and energy perhaps too much of both, Ainslie reflected now.

"When we were doing our surveillance," Ainslie said, "you reported to me that Elroy Doil was probably not our killer. You recommended we eliminate him as a suspect and discontinue surveillance. Is that correct?"

"Well, yes, Sergeant. But my partner, Luis Linares, felt the same way."

"Not entirely. When I talked with Linares he said he agreed with you that Doil was an unlikely candidate, but he wasn't in favor of ending his surveillance. His words were, 'I wouldn't go that far.' "

Zagaki looked crestfallen. "I was wrong, wasn't I? I guess you're about to tell me that."

Ainslie's voice sharpened. "Yes, very wrong dangerously wrong, in fact. Recommendations by detectives are taken seriously here, though fortunately I didn't act on yours. Now I want you to read these." He handed Zagaki a sheaf of papers. They included the Form 301 from Sandra Sanchez, a report from the seventeen-year-old Homicide file on the Esperanza murders, with Doil named as the principal suspect, and three copied pages from Doil's juvenile file.

At length Zagaki looked up, his expression anguished. "Oh boy, how wrong can you get! What will you do, Sergeant have me thrown out of Homicide?"

Ainslie shook his head. "This is between us; it goes no further. But if you want to stay in Homicide, you'd better learn from what's happened. You've got to take your time making these kind of judgments; you can't come to conclusions solely on appearances. Be a skeptic always. Remember that most of the time, everywhere in life, things are seldom the way they seem."

"I sure will remember, Sergeant. And thanks for not taking this further.''

Ainslie nodded. "One other thing you should know: I've called a meeting this afternoon to revive the surveillance on Elroy Doil. You will probably hear about it, but I've taken you off the list."

Zagaki looked pained. "Sergeant, I may be out of line, because I know I'm getting what I deserve. But is there any way I could persuade you to give me another chance? I won't screw up this time, I promise."

Ainslie hesitated. His judgment told him to stay with his decision. He still had doubts about Zagaki. Then Ainslie remembered his own early days in the force when he had made mistakes, and he supposed there was a forgiveness factor a canon from his past that had never entirely left him.

"All right," he conceded. "Be here at four o'clock."


"I take it we all agree on our prime suspect," Ainslie said. There was a murmured chorus of assent from the twelve other members of the special task force crowded into Newbold's office. The lieutenant stood against the back wall, having told Ainslie to take over his desk and chair.

The task force of three sergeants, including Ainslie, and ten detectives sat in chairs or perched on window ledges and tabletops, or simply leaned against the wall. As the meeting progressed, Ainslie sensed the team's excitement, revived by the crucial information revealed through Sandra Sanchez and Elroy Doil's now-exposed juvenile crime record.

On hearing of Doil's criminal past, Sergeant Greene had exploded. "That goddam system! It's insane, a public menace "

Ainslie cut him off. "The lieutenant and I have been over that, Pablo. We agree with you; a lot of people do, and we hope to see some changes. But for the time being, we have to work with the system as it is. In any case, we have Doil's record now."

Greene, though still simmering, muttered, "Okay."

"The first thing," Ainslie informed the group, "is to resume the surveillance of Doil immediately. So I'd like you, Pablo, and Hank to make up a duty schedule. I suggest you work out the next forty-eight hours right here, so you can tell us before we leave. I'll take my turn with the rest of you. Pair me with Zagaki."

Brewmaster nodded. "Got it, Malcolm."

"We need to remember two things about the surveillance," Ainslie continued. "One is to be damn careful Doil doesn't catch on to us. At the same time, we have to stay close enough that we don't lose him. It'll be a balancing act, but we all know what's at stake here.

"Oh, one other thing," Ainslie instructed the sergeants. "Don't put Detective Bowe on the duty schedule. I have some other work for her."

He turned to Ruby Bowe, who was standing near the door. "I want you to check on Elroy Doil's employment record, Ruby. We know he's a truck driver and works for different companies. We want to know which ones. Also, who was employing him, where was he, and what was he doing during the days of each serial killing? You'll have to be low-key because we don't want anyone telling him we're asking questions."

"It will help," Ruby said, "if I can get all the information we have on Doil, including the surveillance reports so far."