"I will later," Ainslie said, confident of Ruby's judgment.
She looked over at the exercise-book diary and added thoughtfully, "I think Mrs. Ernst knew, perhaps even hoped, that what she was writing would be read someday."
"Have you come across any reference to " Ainslie stopped, realizing the question was unneeded. If the answer was yes, Ruby would have told him.
"You're wondering about Cynthia, aren't you?"
He nodded without speaking.
"I'm wondering, too, but there hasn't been anything yet. The books I've had are from the Ernsts' early marriage years; so far, Cynthia isn't born. When she is, she'll be in there as '3.' "
Their eyes met directly.
"Keep going," Ainslie said. "Take whatever time you need, and call me when there's something I should see." He tried to dismiss that gnawing apprehension, but did not succeed.
It was almost two more weeks before Ruby Bowe telephoned again. "Can you come down? I have some things to show you."
* * *
"What I've found," Ruby said, "changes a lot of things, though I'm not sure how."
Once more they were in the tiny, windowless room, still crammed with papers. Ruby sat at her small table.
"Let's get on with it," he said, aware of having waited long enough.
"Cynthia has come on the scene, and within a week of her being born, Mrs. Ernst found her husband playing with the baby sexually. Here's what she wrote." Ruby pushed an open exercise book across the table and pointed partially down a page. Peering closely, Ainslie saw:
Fnd 7 tdy tchng 3, cd only b sxl. He had rmvd hr diapr & ws peerng at hr. Thn nt knwng I hd sn hm, he bnt dwn & dd smthng unspkbl. Ws so dsgstd & fraid for 3. Is ths prvt, hr fthr, wht sh mst fce thru chldhd ? Tld hm ddnt cre whtvr he dz to me, bt mst nvr do tht agn to 3, & if he dd wd cll chid prtctn ppl nd he wd go to jl. He ddnt sm shmd bt prmsd nt to do it ny mre. Nt sre if blv hm, knw hs dpravd. Cn I prtct 3? Agn nt sre.
"Read it to me," he said. "I get the idea, but you'll be faster."
Ruby read aloud:
" 'Found Gustav today touching Cynthia, it could only be sexually. He had removed her diaper and was peering at her. Then, not knowing I had seen him, he bent down and did something unspeakable. Was so disgusted and afraid for Cynthia. Is this pervert, her father, what she must face through childhood? Told him I didn't care whatever he does to me, but he must never do that again to Cynthia, and if he did would call child protection people and he would go to jail. He didn't seem ashamed but promised not to do it any more. Not sure if believe him, know he's depraved. Can I protect Cynthia? Again not sure.' "
Without waiting for a reaction, Ruby said. "There are bits and pieces like that over the next two years, and despite Mrs. Ernst's threat, it's clear she did nothing. Then after a year and a half, there's this." Reaching for another exercise book, she pointed to a passage:
Hv wrnd 7 so mny tms bt sill he gs on, smtms hrtng 3 so sh crs out. Whn I trd to rgu wth hm he sd, "Its nthng.Jst a Ittl fectshn frm hr dad. " Tld him . . .
With a gesture, Ainslie indicated that Ruby should read it. She did so.
" 'Have warned Gustav so many times but still he goes on, sometimes hurting Cynthia so she cries out. When I tried to argue with him he said, "It's nothing. Just a little affection from her dad." Told him, "No, it's sick. She hates it and she hates you. She's afraid." Now every time Gustav comes near Cynthia she cries and curls up defensively, shrinking away. I keep threatening to call someone, child welfare people or police or even our own Dr. W., and Gustav laughs, knowing when it comes right down to it I can't, and that's the truth. The shame and disgrace would be too awful. How could I face people afterward? Can't even speak of this to anyone, not even for Cynthia's sake. I have had to bear this burden alone and so will Cynthia.' "
"Does this shock you?" Ruby asked.
"After nine years in Homicide nothing shocks me, but I'm worried about what's to come. There is more right?"
"Lots. Too much to cover now, so I'll skip ahead and we can come back to the other stuff later." She consulted notes. "Cruelty came next. When Cynthia was three, Gustav began beating her 'slapping her hard for trivial reasons or sometimes for no reason at all,' the diary says. He hated her crying, and once, as 'punishment,' put her legs in steaming hot water. Mrs. Ernst took Cynthia to a hospital, reporting the burn as an accident. She says in her notes that she knows she was not believed, but nothing happened.
"Then, when Cynthia was eight, Gustav had sex with her for the first of many times. After that, Cynthia shrank from anyone who tried to touch her, including her mother, showing terror at the idea of being touched." Ruby's voice faltered. She drank water from a glass and pointed to a pile of exercise books. "It's all in there."
Ainslie asked, "Do you want a break?"
"I think so, yes." Ruby went to the door, murmuring as she left, "I'll be back soon."
Left alone, Ainslie found his thoughts were in tumult. He had not erased from memory the fervent excitement of his affair with Cynthia, nor ever would. Despite her bitterness at his decision to end it, and afterward her deliberate sabotage of his own career, he still cared about Cynthia and would never wish to harm her in return. But now, with this new knowledge, his thoughts and pity went out to her in waves. How could supposedly civilized parents abuse and violate their own child the father with degraded lust, the mother so spineless that she took no action whatever to aid her daughter?
The door opened quietly and Ruby slipped in. He asked, "Do you feel like going on?"
"Yes, I want to finish, then maybe I'll go and get drunk tonight and put this out of mind."
But she wouldn't, he knew. Ruby, because of her father's tragic shooting death by a fifteen-year-old junkie, strictly abstained from all drugs and alcohol. This experience would not change that.
"The inevitable happened when Cynthia was twelve," she continued, returning to her notes. "She got pregnant by her father. Let me read you what Mrs. Ernst wrote."
This time Ruby did not show the diary version in code, but read directly from her transcribed notes.
" 'In this terrible, shameful situation, arrangements have been made. With the help of Gustav's lawyer, L.M., Cynthia was spirited out of town to Pensacola under another name and to a discreet hospital where L.M. has connections. Medical advice is she must have the child, pregnancy too far advanced for anything else. She will stay in Pensacola until it happens. L.M. also arranging to have baby immediately adopted; I told him we don't care how, where, or to whom, as long as all is kept quiet and never traceable. Cynthia will not see the child or hear of it again, and neither will we. Thank goodness!
" 'Something good may even come out of this. Before L.M. agreed to handle the case, he gave the biggest dressing-down to Gustav I ever heard. He said Gustav sickened him and used words I won't repeat. Also he gave an ultimatum: Unless Gustav gives up for all time his abuse of Cynthia, L.M. will inform the authorities of his actions and Gustav will go to prison for a long time. L.M. said he really meant it and, if he had to do it, "the hell with client privilege." Gustav was truly frightened.'
"Some time after that there's a reference to Cynthia's baby being born," Ruby said. "No other information, not even the child's sex. Then Cynthia came home and, soon after, there was this in the diary:
"'Despite all our precautions, somehow something must have leaked. A child welfare person came to see me. From her questions I could tell she didn't know everything, but did have information that Cynthia had a child at age twelve. Was no point in denying that, so I said yes she had, but about the rest I lied. I said we had no idea who the father was, though Gustav and I had been concerned for some time about Cynthia mixing with undesirable boys. From now on we would be more strict. Am not sure she believed me altogether, but there's nothing she can do to disprove what I said. Those people are such busybodies!
" 'Just as the woman left, I discovered Cynthia had been listening. We didn't say anything to each other, but Cynthia had a fierce look. I think she hates me.' "
Ainslie said nothing, his thoughts too complex to express. His disgust was overwhelming, particularly that neither Gustav nor Eleanor Ernst had given the slightest thought to the welfare of the newborn child her grandson or granddaughter, his son or daughter; apparently neither had cared which.
"I skipped ahead," Ruby continued, "reading just parts of the diary in the years when Cynthia was growing up. There's been no time to read it all; maybe no one ever will. But the picture is that Gustav Ernst stopped molesting Cynthia and began trying to help her, hoping according to the diary she'd 'forgive and forget.' He gave her lots of money and he had plenty. It was all still happening when he was a city commissioner and Cynthia joined the Miami Police. He used his influence to put pressure on the PD, first to get her into Homicide, then to have her promoted fast."
"Cynthia was good at her job," Ainslie said. She's probably have gone ahead anyway."
Ruby shrugged. "Mrs. Ernst thought it helped. though she didn't believe Cynthia would ever be gratef' l for anything she and Gustav did. Here's something Mrs. Ernst wrote four years ago:
" 'Gustav is living in a fool's world. He thinks that all is well between the two of us and Cynthia, that the past has been put behind and left there, and that Cynthia cares about us now. What nonsense! Cynthia doesn't love us. Why should she? We never gave her reason to. Now, looking back, I wish I had done some things differently. But it's too late. All too late.'
"I have one more diary piece to read, and maybe it's the most important," Ruby said. "This is Mrs. Ernst four months before she and Gustav were killed:
" 'I've caught Cynthia looking at us sometimes. I believe a fierce hatred for us both is there. It's part of Cynthia's nature that she never forgives. Never! She doesn't forgive anyone for even the smallest offense against her. She gets back at them somehow, makes them pay. I'm sure we made her that way. Sometimes I think she's planning something for us, some kind of revenge, and I'm afraid. Cynthia is very clever, more clever than us both.' "
Ruby put her notepad down. "I've done what you asked me to. There's just one thing left." She saw Ainslie's troubled face, and her expression softened. "This must have been hard for you, Sergeant."
He said uncertainly, "What do you mean?"
"Malcolm, we all know why you were never made lieutenant. By now you should probably be a captain."
He sighed. "So you know about Cynthia and me. . ." He let his words tail off.
"Of course. We all knew it while it was happening. We're detectives, aren't we?"
In other circumstances Ainslie might have laughed. But something dark and unspoken was hanging in the air. "So what's left?" he asked. "You said there was one thing. What?"
"There's a sealed box in Property that was brought in with the others from the Ernst crime scene, but has Cynthia's name on it. It looks as if she stored it in her parents' house and it got caught up with all the rest."
"Did you check who signed the box in?"