Page 48 of Detective


There followed sounds of a bolt being withdrawn, and one of the double doors opened a few inches, restrained by a security chain. The gap revealed the face of the butler, Holdsworth.


Rodriguez announced, ''Police officers. Take the chain off, please."

Metallic sounds followed, then the door opened fully, revealing that Holdsworth had dressed hurriedly; his shirt was partially open, and he was pulling on a jacket. When he saw the group outside he protested, "For goodness' sake! What's so urgent?"

Jorge moved closer. Speaking clearly, he declared, "Humphrey Holdsworth, I have a warrant for your arrest on a charge of murdering Byron Maddox-Davanal. I caution you that you have the right to remain silent . . . You need not talk to me or answer any questions . . ."

Holdsworth's jaw dropped, his face displaying shock and disbelief. "Please! Wait!" he implored breathlessly. "This has to be a mistake! It can't be me . . ."

Unheeding, Jorge continued, "You have the right to an attorney . . . If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be supplied . . ."

"No! No! No!" Holdsworth shouted, reaching out for the document Rodriguez was holding. But Ainslie was faster. Moving forward, he seized Holdsworth's arm and ordered, "Be quiet and listen! There's no mistake."

As Rodriguez concluded, he told Holdsworth, "Put your hands behind you."

Before Holdsworth realized what was happening, he was handcuffed. Ainslie signaled the uniform officers. "You can take him now."

"Oh, do listen!" Holdsworth pleaded. "This is not fair, not right! Besides, I must tell Mrs. Davanal! She'll know what "

But the uniform officers were propelling him toward their patrol car. Opening the rear door, they thrust Holdsworth inside, pushing down his head to clear the doorway. Then, with the prisoner in the rear cage, struggling and shouting, the blue-and-white moved out.

* * *

The uniform officers delivered Holdsworth to Homicide headquarters, where he was placed in an interrogation room and handcuffed to a chair. Ainslie and Rodriguez, who arrived soon after, left him alone for half an hour, then entered the interrogation room together. They sat down, facing the prisoner over a large metal table.

Holdsworth glared at them, but when he spoke he was calmer than he had been at the house. "I want a lawyer immediately, and I demand that you tell me "

"Stop!" Ainslie raised a hand. "You want a lawyer and you'll have one. But until your lawyer gets here, we can't question you or answer your questions. First, though, there's some minor paperwork." Ainslie motioned to Rodriguez, who opened a folder, producing a notepad and a form. ..

Rodriguez asked, "Your full name, please."

"You know it perfectly well," Holdsworth snapped.

Ainslie leaned forward and said calmly, "If you cooperate, this will go much faster."

A pause. Then: "Humphrey Howard Holdsworth."

"Date of birth?"

When the routine information was complete, Rodriguez handed him the form. "Please sign this. It says you've been informed of your rights and have chosen not to answer questions until your lawyer is present."

"How can I sign it?" With his left hand Holdsworth gestured to his right, still handcuffed to his chair.

Rodriguez removed the handcuffs.

While Holdsworth rubbed his right wrist and peered Distrustingly at the printed form in front of him, Ainslie rose from his seat. "I'll just be a minute," he told Jorge, and crossed to the door. Opening it, he put his head outside and shouted to no one, "Hey, don't bother bringing those old fingerprints from England yet. We're waiting for a lawyer, so I'll have them later."

Holdsworth turned his head sharply. "What's that about fingerprints from England?"

"Sorry." Returning, Ainslie shook his head. "We can't talk until your lawyer's here."

"Wait a second," Holdsworth said impatiently. "How long will that take?"

Rodriguez shrugged. "It's your lawyer."

Holdsworth was indignant. "I want to know about the fingerprints now!"

Rodriguez inquired, "Do you mean you want to talk, and not wait for a lawyer?"

"Yes, yes!"

"Then don't sign that form I gave you. Here's another, which says you've been advised of your rights and have chosen "

"Never mind!" Holdsworth picked up a ballpoint pen and scribbled a signature. He turned to Ainslie. "Now tell me.''

"The fingerprints are yours. They were taken thirty-six years ago." Ainslie's voice was quiet and unhurried. "We had them sent from England, and they match those on a desk clock found at the murder scene. It had the victim's blood on it."

A silence followed, lasting several seconds. Then Holdsworth said gloomily, "Yes, I remember picking up that damn clock and putting it on the desk. I wasn't thinking."

Ainslie asked, "Why did you kill Byron MaddoxDavanal, Mr. Holdsworth?"

The butler's face twisted with emotion, then he blurted out, "I didn't kill him! There was no murder! It was suicide that idiot killed himself!"

With the words, Holdsworth's composure broke. Holding his head in his hands, he moved it dejectedly from side to side and spoke haltingly. "I told Mrs. Davanal it wouldn't work, that the police are clever and it would all come out. But no! she wouldn't listen to me, she knew best, knew it all! But she was wrong. And now this!" When Holdsworth looked up his eyes were brimming with tears.

"That old business in England," he said. "The reason for the fingerprints. I declared it "

"We know about that," Rodriguez told him. "It's trivia, doesn't count."

"I've lived in America fifteen years." Holdsworth was sobbing now. "I've never been in any trouble, and now a murder charge . . ."

"If all you've told us checks out, the murder charge will probably be dropped," Ainslie said. "You're still in serious trouble, though, and what we want from you is complete cooperation answers to all our questions, nothing held back."

"Ask what you want." Holdsworth straightened, and lifted his head. ''I'll tell you everything."

* * *

The facts, as they emerged, were simple.

Four days earlier, at 5:30 A.M., both Holdsworth and Felicia Maddox-Davanal were awakened by the loud sound of a shot. Still in their nightclothes, they met in the main floor corridor and entered Byron's study-cumexercise room to find him dead, his head blown partially away. A gun was in his right hand.

"I just felt sick; I didn't know what to do," Holdsworth told Ainslie and Rodriguez. "But Mrs. Davanal was calm. She's always been strong. She took over and began giving orders, both of us believing we were the only ones in the house awake."

According to Holdsworth, Felicia declared, "No one must know my husband killed himself." She went on to say it would mean a terrible disgrace for the family, and Mr. Theodore would never forgive her if she let it become public, so it had to be made to look like murder.

Holdsworth said, "I tried to tell her it wouldn't work. That's when I warned her about the police being smart, and that it would all come out, but she wouldn't listen. She said she'd been with TV reporters at crime scenes and knew just what to do to make things look the way she wanted. She also demanded my loyalty, said I owed a lot to the Davanals, which was true, but now I wish "

"Let's stay with the facts," Ainslie interrupted. "What happened to the gun?"

"Mrs. Davanal took it out of Mr. Byron's hand. It was one of those he kept in his cabinet."

Ainslie recalled Felicia's reply when asked if she had touched or moved anything while alone in the room with her husband's body: I couldn't, simply couldn't, bear to go close to Byron or that desk.

"Where is the gun now?"

Holdsworth hesitated. "I don't know."

Rodriguez looked up from notes he had been making. "Yes, you do. Or you have a pretty fair idea."

"What happened is that Mrs. Davanal asked me how to get rid of the gun so it would never be found. I advised her to throw it down a storm drain; there's one a block away."

"And did she do that?"

"I don't know. I didn't want to know. And that's the truth."

Rodriguez pressed on. "And that business outside the forced French door, footprints. Who did that?"

"I'm afraid I did. I used a big screwdriver on the door and, for the footprints, wore a pair of my own Nike shoes."

"Was that Mrs. Davanal's idea?"

Holdsworth looked shamefaced. "No, it was mine."

"Where are the screwdriver and shoes now?"

"That same morning, before the police arrived, I walked down the street and threw them in a Dumpster. It was cleared the next day. I checked."

"Is that everything?" Ainslie asked.

"I think so . . . Oh, there was one other thing. Mrs. Davanal got some soap and warm water and washed Mr. Byron's hand, the one that held the gun. She said it was to get rid of a powder burn she'd learned about that with the TV people, too."

"Have you learned anything from all this?" Rodriguez asked.

For the first time, Holdsworth smiled. "Only that I was right about the police being smart."

Suppressing a smile himself, Ainslie said, "Don't get too confident; you've still got things to answer for. You've impeded a police investigation with lies, you helped conceal evidence, and planted false evidence. So for the time being we're going to hold you here."

Soon after, a uniform officer escorted Holdsworth to a holding cell.

When they were alone, Jorge asked Ainslie, "So what comes next?"

"Time to pay our respects to Felicia Davanal."

10

Felicia Davanal was not at home. It was 7:50 A.M. No one knew where she had gone.

Karina Vazquez, standing in the front hall with the two detectives, explained, "All I know is that Mrs. Davanal went out of here in a tremendous rush and seemed to be upset. Then I heard her go tearing down the driveway in her car." In the absence of a butler, Wilhelm Davanal's nurse appeared to have taken charge of the lower portion of the house. She added, "It may have had to do with Mr. Holdsworth.'' Mrs. Vazquez looked from one detective to the other. ''You've taken him away, haven't you? Arrested him? His wife is frantic. She's on the phone, trying to get a lawyer."

"A lot of things are happening," Ainslie said noncommittally. "There's been perjury and deceit around here, as you probably know."

"I figured as much," Vazquez conceded. Then a sudden thought: "Maybe Mrs. Davanal went looking for you."

"It's possible," Rodriguez acknowledged. He called Homicide headquarters by radio, then told Ainslie, "No, she hasn't been there."

From behind, they heard hurried footsteps as Francesco Vazquez appeared. He announced breathlessly, "Mrs. Davanal's in the TV studios WBEQ! They just announced she'll go on the air at eight o'clock to talk about her husband's death."

"That's in three minutes," Ainslie said. "Where can we watch?"

"Follow me," Mrs. Vazquez instructed, and the others fell in behind as she led the way along a corridor and into a home theater, elaborately equipped. A giant television screen covered most of one wall. Francesco Vazquez moved to a control panel, which he manipulated, and a picture appeared the conclusion of a commercial accompanied by striking surround sound. A graphic followed WBEQ The Morning News then a woman news reader at a desk, who announced, "Exclusive to WBEQ an important revelation about the death, believed to have been murder, of Byron Maddox-Davanal. Here is Mrs. Felicia Maddox-Davanal, managing director of this station."

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