Soon after Malcolm's arrival he met Karen, a Canadian on vacation.
They were in line at Stan's Dry Cleaners. Malcolm, leaving some shirts for laundering, had been asked by a clerk if he wanted them folded or on hangers. He was hesitating when a voice behind him prompted, "If you travel a lot folded. If you don't, have hangers."
"I'm all through with traveling," he said, turning to face the attractive young woman who had spoken. Then to the clerk, "So make it hangers."
After Karen had left a dress for cleaning, she found Ainslie waiting at the doorway. "Just wanted to say thanks for your help."
"Why are you through with traveling?" she asked.
"Not the best place to tell you. How about over lunch?"
Karen paused for only a moment, then answered cheerfully, "Sure. Why not?"
Thus their romance began, and they quickly fell in love, leading to Ainslie's proposal of marriage two weeks later.
At about the same time, Malcolm read in the Miami Herald that the city police force was recruiting. Spurred by the memory of Russell's father, Detective Kermit Sheldon, who had befriended the Ainslie family, Malcolm applied. He was accepted, and enrolled in the Police Department Academy's ten-week course, emerging with distinction.
Karen not only had no objection to living in Florida instead of Toronto, but loved the idea. And having by now learned about his past, she was perceptive concerning Malcolm's work choice. "In a way you'll be doing the kind of thing you did before keeping humanity on the straight and narrow."
He had laughed. "It will be a lot more gritty, but a hell of a lot more practical."
In the end, it turned out to be both.
* * *
After a gap of several months, Malcolm learned that Russell Sheldon, too, had left the official Catholic Church. Russell's first objective was simple: he wanted to marry and have children. He wrote in a letter to Malcolm:
Did you know there are seventeen thousand of us, more or less, in the United States priests who left the Church by their own decision, and most in their thirties? That's a Catholic figure, by the way.
Russell, however, neither lost his beliefs nor abandoned religion, and joined an independent Catholic group in Chicago, where he was accepted as a priest, his unfrocking ignored. In the same letter Russell wrote:
We worship God and Jesus, but regard the Vatican and Curia as power-obsessed, inward-looking pachyderms which eventually will self-destruct.
And we are not alone. All over America are about three hundred parishes of Catholics who 've cut their ties to Rome. There are more here in Illinois, five we know of in South Florida, others in California. Don't have a full list because there's no central authority and may never be. Our feeling is that some "infallible" HQ, staffed by deputy-gods, is the last thing we need.
Oh yes, we do certain things Rome wouldn't like. We let all who wish take Communion, believing we don't have to protect God from anyone. We'll marry divorced Catholics, and those of the same sex if that's their choice. We do our utmost to persuade against abortion; on the other hand, we believe in a woman's right to choose.
We've no elaborate church, no fancy robes, statuary, stained glass, or gold ornaments, and won't be buying any. Whatever spare money there is we use to feed the homeless.
From time to time we're attacked by the Roman Catholic Church, and as our numbers grow, it happens more often. They're increasingly nervous, we thing An RC archbishop told a newspaper reporter that nothing whatever that we do has God's blessing. Can you believe that! Rome has the holy ointment; no one else.
Malcolm still heard from Russell occasionally. He continued to be an independent priest, happily married to a former Catholic nun; at last report they had two children.
* * *
The Delta flight touched down smoothly at Atlanta and taxied in. All that remained now was the two-hour flight to Toronto.
Gratefully, Malcolm turned his mind from the past to pleasant thoughts of the next few days ahead.
Outside immigration and customs at Toronto airport Malcolm was confronted by a raised card reading ANSLIE, held by a uniformed limousine driver.
"Mr. Ainslie from Miami?" the young man inquired pleasantly as Malcolm stopped.
"Yes, but I wasn't expecting "
"I have a car here with the compliments of General Grundy. It's right outside. May I take your bag, sir?"
Karen's parents, George and Violet Grundy, lived in Scarborough Township, near the eastern limits of Metro Toronto. The journey there took an hour and a quarter longer than usual because of a heavy snowfall the previous night, only partially cleared from the transprovince Highway 401. The sky was gloomily gray and the temperature near freezing. Like many Floridians heading north during the winter months, Malcolm realized he was dressed far too lightly, and if Karen had not brought him some warm clothes, he would have to buy or borrow some.
His reception at the Grundys' modest suburban home, however, was exceedingly warm. The moment the limousine stopped outside, the front door flew open and a flock of family members streamed out to greet him Karen in front, Jason close behind. Karen kissed and hugged him tightly, whispering, "It's so good to have you," which was unexpected and reassuring. Jason was tugging at his coat, shouting, "Daddy! Daddy!" Ainslie lifted him with a joyous "Happy birthday!" and the three were locked together in each other's arms.
But not for long. Karen's younger sister, Sofia, tall, slim, and sexy, eased herself in to give Malcolm an affectionate kiss, followed by her husband, Gary Moxie, a Winnipeg stockbroker who gripped Malcolm's hand, assuring him, "The whole family's proud of what you do, Malc. Want to hear a lot about it while you're with us." The Moxies' two daughters, Myra, twelve, and Susan, ten, joined the noisy, fond welcome.
Violet Grundy, elegant and motherly, with large eyes and a sweet smile, was next, embracing her son-in-law. "We're all so happy you could come. A little delay doesn't matter; what's important is you're here."
As the others turned back toward the house, George Grundy, white-haired, erect, and not an ounce overweight at seventy-five, put an arm around Malcolm's shoulders. "Gary's right, we're proud of you. Sometimes people forget how important it is to put duty first; nowadays so many don't." George lowered his voice. "I gave them all especially Karen a little lecture on the subject."
Ainslie smiled; the brief confidence explained a lot. Karen adored her father, and whatever he had said clearly had a strong effect. "Thank you," he said appreciatively. "And a very happy birthday."
Brigadier General George Grundy, an active-duty soldier for most of his life, had served in the Canadian Army in Europe through World War II, where he was commissioned from the ranks, survived some of the heaviest fighting, and received the Military Cross. Later he'd fought in the Korean War. Since retiring at age fifty-five he had been a college lecturer, specializing in international affairs.
"Let's get inside before you turn into a pillar of ice," George Grundy said. "They've planned a full program for both of us."
* * *
The welcoming continued through the day. The doublebirthday dinner for George and Jason included an additional twelve people, a total of twenty, crammed into the Grundys' modest house. The newcomers included Karen's older brother, Lindsay, from Montreal, who, like Malcolm, had been delayed by his work. With him was his wife, Isabel, their grown son, Owen, and Owen's wife, Yvonne. The other seven guests were longtime friends, mainly exmilitary, of George and Violet.
Amid it all, Malcolm found himself the center of attention. "It's like having a real detective from TV," twelve-year-old Myra said after plying him with questions.
Jason sat up, suddenly alert. "My dad's a lot neater than those guys on TV."
Others wanted to hear a description of the execution Malcolm had just attended, of the murders that preceded it, and how they were unraveled. Malcolm answered as honestly as he could, though he left out his final confrontation with Elroy Doil.
"One reason for our interest," George Grundy said, "is the big increase of violent crime in Canada. Time was when you could walk out of your house and feel safe, but not anymore. Now we're almost as gun-crazy here as you are in the States." There were murmurs of agreement.
During a discussion about homicides, Malcolm explained that most murderers were caught either because they did stupid things or failed to realize the forces they were up against.
"You'd think," Sofia Moxie said, "that with so much information in newspapers and novels, and on TV about crime and punishment, they'd know the odds are against them."
"You would," Malcolm acknowledged. "But the murderers out there are often young and not well informed."
"Maybe they're not informed because they don't read much," Owen Grundy said. He was thin and wiry, an architect with a passion for oil painting.
Malcolm nodded. "Lots of them don't read at all. Some probably can't read."
"But they must watch television," Myra said. "And TV criminals get caught."
"Sure they do," Malcolm agreed: "But the crooks on TV seem like big shots. They get noticed, and that's what kids especially deprived kids want. The consequences come later, when it's usually too late."
To Malcolm's surprise, most of the group favored the death penalty for murder, even crimes of passion. It was an opinion-swing evident in the United States, and now perhaps in Canada, where capital punishment had been abolished nationally in 1976. Isabel Grundy, a homemaker and physics teacher, with a brusque no-nonsense manner, was vehement. "We should bring back capital punishment. Some people say it isn't a deterrent, but common sense says it has to be. Besides, those who get executed are usually the scum of the earth. I know that's not fashionable to say, but it's true!"
Out of curiosity, Malcolm asked, "What kind of death penalty would you favor?"
"Hanging, electrocution, injection I don't care which, as long as we're rid of those people." There was an awkward silence, because Isabel had spoken heatedly. Just the same, Malcolm noted, no one contradicted her.
* * *
For the birthday dinner, a partition between the living and dining rooms had been opened to accommodate a fifteen-foot table with colorful streamers and party hats. While caterers prepared to serve a four-course meal, George and Jason took their places of honor, side by side.
George looked around and commented, "I have a feeling something should be said . . ."
Karen told her father, "Let Malcolm!"
Heads turned toward him. Gary Moxie said, "Ball's in your court, Malc."
Raising his head, Malcolm said, smiling, "A few unrehearsed thoughts for this historic occasion. . ."
He continued, looking around and speaking clearly, "At this table, where we join for food and fellowship, we reaffirm our belief in ethics, truth, love, and especially today the best ideals of family life. We celebrate this family's unity, its achievements, good fortune, and for our youngest clan here their promise, dreams, and hopes. On this sunny occasion for George and Jason we pledge our mutual loyalty, promising to support each other in difficult times, however and wherever these occur. And as well as family, we welcome those treasured friends who share our celebration and affections."