Page 43 of Detective

Though no weapon was visible, all signs pointed to death by gunshot.

"Since you arrived," Rodriguez asked Navarro, "has anything been touched or changed?"

The young of fleer shook his head. "Nothing. I know the drill." A thought struck him. "The dead man's wife was in the room when I got here. She could have moved something. You'll have to ask her."

"We will," Jorge said. "But let me ask you this for the record. There's no weapon in sight. Have you seen one here or anywhere else?"

"I've been looking since I got here, but haven't seen one yet.''

Ainslie asked, "When you found Mrs. Maddox-Davanal here, how did she seem?"

Navarro hesitated, then gestured to the body. "Considering the way everything was, and this being her husband and all, she seemed pretty calm; you could even say poised. I wondered about it. The other thing . . ."

Ainslie prompted, "Go ahead."

"She told me there was a TV crew coming from WBEQ. That's the "

"Yes, the Davanals' station. What about it?"

"She wanted me pretty much ordered me to make sure they were let in. I told her she'd have to wait for Homicide. She didn't like that." The young policeman hesitated again. "If there's something else on your mind, let's hear it," Jorge said.

"Well, it's only an impression, but I think the lady's used to being in control of everything and everybody and she doesn't like things any other way."

Ainslie asked, "And all that was happening while her husband was lying there" he pointed to the body "like that?"

"Just like that." Navarro shrugged. "I guess the rest is for you guys to figure out."

"We'll try," Jorge said, scribbling notes. "Always helps, though, when we draw an observant cop."

Jorge then made the routine calls on his portable radio, summoning an ID crew, a medical examiner, and a state attorney. Soon this room and other parts of the house would be crowded and busy.

"I'll take a look around," Ainslie said. Stepping carefully, he approached the open French doors. He had already noticed that one door seemed to be out of line with the other; inspecting closely, he observed what looked like fresh pry marks on the outside of both doors, around the knobs and lock. Outside he saw several brown footprints on the patio, as if someone had stepped in loose dirt or mud. Beyond the footprints he saw a flower bed fronting a four-foot wall, with more prints in the soil, as if the same person had come over the wall, then approached the house. The prints appeared to be from some kind of athletic shoes.

Within the past few minutes the earlier sunshine had given way to darkening clouds, and now rain seemed likely. Ainslie hurried back inside and instructed Officer Navarro to cordon off the rear of the house and have another uniform officer guard the area.

"As soon as the ID crew gets here," he told Jorge, "have them photograph those footprints before the rain washes them out, and get plaster casts of the ones in the soil. Looks as if someone broke in," Ainslie continued. "In which case it would be before the victim came to this room."

Jorge considered. "Even so, Maddox-Davanal would have seen an intruder remember, he has a contact wound, so they'd be close. Judging by those exercise gizmos, the guy must have been fit, so you'd expect him to put up a fight, but there's no sign of one."

"He could have been taken by surprise. Whoever fired the shot could have hidden, then come up behind him."

"Hidden where?"

Together they looked around the spacious room. It was Jorge who pointed to a pair of green velvet curtains on either side of the French doors. The curtain on the right was held back by a looped sash, but on the left side the sash was hanging downward and the curtain was loose. Ainslie crossed to the left curtain, drew it toward him carefully, and looked behind it. On the rug were traces of mud.

"I'll get ID onto that, too," Jorge said. "What we need now are some times. Of death, of discovery of the body . . ."

The butler, Holdsworth, appeared and addressed Ainslie. "Mrs. Maddox-Davanal will see you now. Please follow me."

Ainslie hesitated. In a Homicide inquiry it was the investigating detective who sent for those to be questioned, not the other way around. Yet it was not unreasonable, he thought, that a wife would prefer to stay away from the room where her husband's dead body still lay. Ainslie had the right, if he chose, to take anyone, including Davanal family members and staff, to Police Headquarters for questioning, but what, at this point, would that gain?

"All right, lead on," he told Holdsworth, and to Jorge: "I'll come back with some answers about times."

* * *

The drawing room to which Malcolm Ainslie was escorted matched the rest of the house in spaciousness, style, and signs of obvious wealth. Felicia Maddox-Davanal sat on a large wing chair, upholstered in a handsome silk brocade. She was a beautiful woman of about forty, with a classic aristocratic face, straight nose, high cheekbones, smooth brow and jaw the last hinting at an early face-lift. Her light brown hair, thick and shining, with blond highlights, fell loosely to her shoulders. She wore a short cream colored skirt that showed her well-shaped legs, and a matching silk blouse with a wide, gold-trimmed belt. She was perfectly groomed in every way face, hair, nails, and clothes and knew it, Ainslie thought.

Without speaking, she motioned him to an armless French antique chair facing her a somewhat rickety gem and decidedly uncomfortable, he noted with amusement. If it was an attempt to make him feel servile, it wouldn't happen.

As he usually did in circumstances of bereavement, Ainslie began, "I'd like to say I'm sorry about your husband's death "

"That is not required." Davanal's voice was firmly composed. "I will deal myself with personal matters. Let us confine ourselves to official business. You are a sergeant, I believe."

"Detective-Sergeant Ainslie." He was on the point of adding "ma'am" but didn't. Two could play the dominance game.

"Well, before anything else, I wish to know why a crew from my own television station entirelyDavanal-owned has been prevented from coming to this house, which is also Davanal property."

"Mrs. Maddox-Davanal," Ainslie said quietly but firmly, "as a courtesy I will answer that question, even though I think you already know the answer. But when I have finished I will take over this interview." He was conscious, as he spoke, of the woman's cool gray eyes focused unwaveringly on him. He met her gaze with equal aplomb.

"About the TV crew," he said. "A so-far unexplained death has occurred here, and for the time being, no matter who owns this house, the police are in charge. And not allowing the media any media person into a homicide investigation is standard and lawful police procedure. Now, having dealt with that, I would like to hear, please, all that you know about your husband's death."

"Just a moment!" An elegant forefinger was pointed toward him. "Who is your superior officer?"

"Detective-Lieutenant Leo Newbold."

"Only a lieutenant? In light of your attitude, Sergeant, and before going any further, I shall speak to the chief of police."

Unexpectedly and out of nowhere, Ainslie realized, a confrontation had occurred. Still, it was not unprecedented; sudden stress, especially a violent death, sometimes had that effect on people. Then he remembered Officer Navarro's comment: The lady's used to being in control. . . she doesn't like things any other way.

"Madam,'' Ainslie said, "I will accompany you to a telephone right now, where you may, by all means, call Chief Ketledge." He let his voice become steely. "But while you are talking, inform him that when your conversation is over, I am taking you into custody and that means restrained in handcuffs to Homicide headquarters because of your refusal to cooperate in the investigation of your husband's shooting death."

They faced each other, Davanal breathing heavily, her lips tightly set, her eyes reflecting hatred. At length she looked away, then, turning back, said in a lowered voice, "Ask your questions."

Ainslie took no pleasure in his dialectical victory, and in a normal tone he asked, "When and how did you first learn of your husband's death?"

"Shortly before seven-thirty this morning. I went to my husband's bedroom, which is on the same floor as mine, wanting to ask him a question. When I saw he wasn't there, I went to his study on this floor he often gets up early and goes there. I found his body as you saw it. Immediately I called the police."

"What was the question you wanted to ask your husband?"

"What?" Davanal appeared startled by Ainslie's unexpected query, and he repeated it.

"It was . . ." She seemed at a loss for words. "I really don't remember."

"Is there a connecting door between your bedroom and your husband's?"

"Well . . . no.'' An awkward pause. "These are strange questions."

Not so strange, Ainslie thought. First, there was no ready explanation for Davanal going to her husband. Second, the absence of a connecting bedroom door said something about the pair's relationship. "Your husband appears to have received a gunshot wound. Did you hear a shot being fired, or any other noise that could have been a shot?"

"NO, I did not."

"Then it's possible your husband could have been killed quite some time before you found him?"

"I suppose so.''

"Did your husband have any great problems or enemies? Can you think of anyone who might have wanted to kill him?"

"No." Mrs. Maddox-Davanal had recovered her composure, and went on, "You will learn this sooner or later, so I may as well say it now. In certain ways my husband and I were not close; he had his interests, I have mine, they did not overlap."

"Had this arrangement been going on a long time?"

"For about six years; we were married for nine."

"Did you argue a lot?"

"No." She corrected herself. "Well, we quarreled occasionally about trivial things, but in important ways, hardly at all.''

"Were either of you considering a divorce?"

"No. The arrangement we had suited us both. For me there were certain advantages in being married; in a way, it provided a kind of freedom. As for Byron, the plain fact is, he was on to a pretty good thing."

"Will you explain that?"

"When we were married, Byron was a very attractive and popular man, but he didn't have much money and no great job prospects. After our marriage, both of those things were taken care of."

"Could you be specific?"

"He was given two important management posts first in Davanal's department stores, then at WBEQ."

"Was he still doing either of those jobs?" Ainslie asked.

"No." Felicia hesitated, then went on, "The truth is, Byron didn't measure up. He was lazy and lacked ability. In the end we had to remove him from our business scene entirely. "

"And after that?"

"The family simply gave Byron an allowance. That's why I said he was on to a pretty good thing."

"Would you be willing to say how much the allowance was?"