Page 50 of Detective

''Fifty thousand a year. But that's before we knew about her twins."

"Even for one child, it isn't enough."

"That's what I thought. It's why I need your advice. Beth said you'd been around the family and you'd know where we should aim."

Serafine had been listening intently. Ainslie asked her, "How do you feel about the sperm-bank thing?"

She shrugged. "All I care is that my children get to live someplace better than this and have the best education. If I have to sign a piece of paper to do it, even if it's not true, okay. And I don't care about the Davanal name. Mine's just as good maybe better."

"What is your last name?"

"Evers. You know it?"

"Yes, I do." Ainslie remembered Medgar Evers, the civil rights activist of the 1960s, a World War II U.S.

Army veteran who was shot and killed by a renegade white segregationist, now serving a life sentence for his crime.

"Are you related?" he asked.

"Distantly, I think. Anyway, if one of my children is a boy, I've decided to call him Medgar."

"And if there's a girl, you could call her Myrlie." Ainslie had once met the former wife of Evers, now as Myrlie Evers-Williams chairperson of the NAACP board of directors.

"I hadn't thought of that." Serafine smiled again. "Maybe I will."

Ainslie thought back to his conversation with Felicia Davanal, in which she had revealed that Byron received a quarter of a million Dollars annually, plus a luxurious life, for, in effect, doing nothing. And then her impatient words: For this family, that kind of money's petty cash.

He told Lisa, "Here's my advice. Ask for two hundred thousand Dollars a year until the twins are twenty, half to be paid to Serafine for living expenses, the rest to be in trust for the children's education, and her present son . . ."

"Dana."

"There should be room for Dana's education in there, too. Stay with that figure, and if Haversham's which really means the Davanals refuses or tries to bargain, tell them to forget the oath and the sperm bank, and you'll take the case to court, Davanal name and all."

"I like the way your mind works," Lisa said. Then, doubtfully, "Though it's a long way from what was offered."

"Do it," Ainslie said. "Oh, and if you want, try to convey to Mrs. Davanal that the settlement idea came from me. It might help."

Lisa regarded him steadily, but merely nodded and said, "Thank you."

* * *

Forty-eight hours later, Ainslie was at home when Lisa Kane telephoned. Her voice was breathless. "I can hardly believe it! I'm with Serafine, and I've just had word from Haversham's. They've accepted everything: no changes, no argument, just the way I no! . . . just the way you proposed."

"I'm sure the way you handled it "

Lisa wasn't listening. "Serafine told me to say she thinks you're wonderful. So do I!"

"Do you know, by chance, if Mrs. Davanal "

"Mike Jaffrus at Haversham's phoned her with your message, and she sent one back. She wants to see you. Said you should call her house to fix a meeting." Lisa's voice changed, her curiosity too much to contain. "Is there some thing going on between you two?"

Ainslie laughed. "Beyond a little cat-and-mouse game nothing."

"One thing I've learned from this experience," Felicia Davanal said, "is not to be indiscreet when talking with a savvy detective, especially if he was once a priest. It can really cost you."

She was with Malcolm Leslie in the same drawing room where they had met originally. This time, though, he was in a comfortable armchair that matched the one in which Felicia sat, only a few feet away. She was as lovely as before, though more relaxed, obviously because Byron's death was no longer a mystery with unanswered questions hanging between them.

"It sounds as if you've done some digging,'' Ainslie said.

"My TV station has an efficient research department." "Well, I hope they made sure there's enough petty cash to handle the settlement."

"Touche!" She leaned back and laughed. "Malcolm if I may call you that I'm getting to like you more and more." She paused, then went on, "The report I read about you was highly complimentary. It made me wonder."

"Wonder what, Mrs. Davanal?"

"Felicia please! "

He inclined his head in acknowledgment. Instinct told him where this conversation was going, and he was uncertain how to handle it.

"I wonder why you're still a policeman when you're so clearly qualified to be something more."

"I like being a cop." Then, after a moment's hesitation, "Felicia."

"That's absurd! You're highly educated, a scholar with a doctorate. You wrote a book on comparative religions that is still a standard reference . . ."

"I was coauthor, and it's a long time ago."

Felicia waved a hand dismissively and continued, "Everything shows you're a thinking person. Anyway, I have a suggestion. Why don't you join the Davanal organization?"

He was startled. "In what capacity?"

"Oh, I don't know exactly; I haven't consulted anyone yet. But we always have a need for outstanding people, and if you chose to join us, something matching your abilities could be found." A soft smile accompanied the words, then Felicia reached forward, putting her fingertips on Ainslie's hands. As she moved them slightly, her touch was like gossamer, subtly conveying a promise. "I'm sure that whatever was worked out, it would bring you and me closer." She moistened her lips with her tongue. "If that would interest you."

Yes, it interested him; he was human, Ainslie thought. He felt a mental and physical stirring as temptation beckoned. Then pragmatism prodded. He recalled Beth Embry's words: Felicia eats men. . . If she fancies the taste of you, she'll try again. . . a queen bee with a sting.

Sting or not, it would be exciting to be devoured by Felicia, and drown in her honey perhaps worth whatever outcome followed. Ainslie had had one affair that he did not regret even now, despite the penalties of Cynthia's malice. Where passion was involved, conventional morality often took second place; his hours of listening in the confessional had demonstrated that. In his own case, though, he reasoned, the episode with Cynthia had been enough. With Karen now pregnant with their second child, this was no time to start dancing to Felicia's wild tune.

He reached out, touching her hand, as she had his. "Thank you, and I may regret this. But I'll let things stay the way they are."

Felicia had style. She stood, still smiling, and put out her hand formally. "Who knows?" she said. "Some other time our paths may cross."

* * *

Driving back to Homicide, Ainslie reminded himself that the atfaire-Davanal, apart from postscripts, had lasted only seven days. It seemed much longer. He was impatient now to hear Ruby Bowe's report.

11

It took Bowe exactly eleven days to determine whether or not Elroy Doil had been telling the truth during his "confession" to Malcolm Ainslie. Until that eleventh day, the crucial questions remained: Had Doil murdered the Esperanzas in the way he claimed? And had he murdered the Ikeis?

Even if the answers to both questions were yes, there would, of course, still persist the most critical question: If everything Doil had said about the Esperanzas and Ikeis was true, had he also been truthful in his vehement assertion that he did not murder Miami City Commissioner Gustav Ernst and his wife, Eleanor? And if Doil was eventually believed about that, was there another murderer a copycat killer still at large?

* * *

Bowe had begun her search at the Metro-Dade Police Department Miami's neighboring force in their imposing building on Northwest 25th Street. She asked if the investigator who had handled the Esperanza double murder case seventeen years earlier was still available.

"Before my time here," a lieutenant in Homicide told her. He reached behind his desk to a shelf of indexed volumes. "Let's see what we have." Then, after turning pages, "Yep, here it is. Esperanza, Clarence and Florentina, case unsolved, still officially open. Are you guys going to close it for us, Detective?"

"Looks like we might, sir. But first I'd like to talk with whoever was in charge."

The lieutenant referred to the page in front of him. "Was Archie Lewis, retired six years ago, lives in Georgia somewhere. It's a Cold Case Squad affair now you people have one of those, right?"

"Yes, we do."

The Cold Case Squad dealt with old, unsolved serious crimes, especially homicides, which nowadays were being reinvestigated with the aid of new technologies used to review bygone records and evidence. Police departments with such squads were surprisingly successful in solving crimes that their perpetrators hoped had been forgotten long ago.

"We rotate those cold cases around the squad members," the lieutenant said. "Right now the Esperanzas belong to Vic Crowley."

Detective Crowley, who appeared soon after, was balding and amiable. "I went through that old file," he told Ruby. "Figured there was nothing we could work on. Dead as the Esperanzas."

"It may still be." Bowe explained how Elroy Doil had confessed to the Esperanza killings before his execution, though the truth was still in doubt. "I'd like to look at the reports in your file and see if there's anything to support Doil's story."

"Then what? You gonna disinter the guy and charge him? Oh well, I guess you got reasons. Let's do some digging ourselves."

Crowley led the way to a storeroom where the Esperanza file, faded with age and bulging, was in the second cabinet he tried. Returning to his desk, the detective spread out the file's contents and after a few minutes announced, "Here's what you want, I think." He passed over an official Offense-Incident Report form, which Bowe studied, turning pages.

On the third page she found it a property department receipt for evidence collected at the double-homicide scene, which included "Money clip, gold color, initials HB." An investigator's report on a subsequent page recorded that the clip had probably been dropped by the murderer, since the initials did not match those of either victim, and the next of kin a nephew told police he had not seen the money clip before.

"That has to be the one," she informed Crowley. "Doil told Sergeant Ainslie that he got it in another robbery, then Missed it after he ran from the Esperanzas'."

"You wanna see the real thing? I guess it's still in Property."

"I guess I'd better. If I don't, somebody's sure to ask why I didn't."

"Don't they always?"

Crowley made a copy of the property report for Ruby, then led the way out of doors to a large separate building the Property Department, where a crowded series of vaults and secure rooms contained the detritus of countless crimes.

With surprising speed, two dusty boxes of evidence in the seventeen-year-old murder case were located, and when the first box was unsealed, a gleaming money clip was visible inside a plastic bag. Examining it more closely, Ruby saw the engraved monogram HB. "Hasn't tarnished, so haste be real gold," Crowley said. "Wonder who the 'HB' guy was."

"That," Ruby said, "is what I need to find out next."

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