Ah! There was a vital question: Would she have been different, could she have been, if it were not for the rage and hatred instilled in her by her father's perverted abuse and her mother's hypocritical inaction . . . those all-consuming hatreds that had never gone away? Of course!. . . Yes! . . . She would have been a different person . . . less strong, perhaps . . . kinder, maybe. Who knew? But in any case, the question was irrelevant half a lifetime too late! The mold that shaped Cynthia was broken long ago. She was what she was now, and would not could not change...
Her eyes were still closed when Paige's soft voice filtered through her ruminations. "Cyn, everything's taken care of. We leave for the airport in a few hours. Maybe for a while you should go back to bed and sleep."
Gratefully she did. Later, the eastward journey thanks to Paige passed uneventfully.
* * *
Before arriving in Miami, Cynthia discreetly rubbed a few grains of salt into her eyes. It was a subterfuge she had learned years ago during the same school dramatics she had spoken of to Max Cormick, and the effect was to produce tears and red-rimmed eyes. During the days that followed Cynthia shed no genuine tears, but more salt and residual red eyes helped.
Apart from that pretense of grief, from her moment of arrival onward, Cynthia let it be known that her strength and composure had returned, and set out to learn whatever was known about her parents' murders. Her own police status, providing immediate access to all units of the Police Department, made that simple.
On her second day back, Cynthia visited her parents' mansion in Bay Point, now encircled by yellow police tape. Inside a main-floor drawing room she talked with Sergeant Brewmaster, in charge of the Homicide investigation.
His first words on seeing her were, "Major, I want to say how terrible we all feel . . ." but she stopped him with a gesture.
"Hank, I appreciate that, and I'm grateful. But if I hear too much of it, especially from an old friend like you, I might break down. Please understand."
Brewmaster said, "Yes, I do, ma'am. And I promise we'll do every last thing we can to nail the bastard who . . ." His own voice, choking too, trailed off.
"I want to hear everything you know," Cynthia told him. "From what I've heard already, I gather you see my parents' deaths as some kind of serial killings."
Brewmaster nodded. "It does look that way, a definite pattern, though there are slight differences." That jackass Patrick, she thought. "First, though, have you heard about the Homicide conference two days ago just before your parents' deaths when Malcolm Ainslie linked four earlier double murders with the Bible and the book of Revelation?"
She shook her head, a slight anxiety stirring.
"When we started looking at those four cases," Brewmaster continued, "laying the details out, there were what you'd call symbols left at each scene. It was Malcolm because he knows about that stuff from being a priest who recognized what they meant."
Cynthia looked confused. "You keep saying four double murders. I thought there were only two previous ones that seemed to match."
"Well, there was another one the Urbinas in Pine Terrace also like those others, and only three days before your parents' deaths. And even before that, there turned out to be one more we hadn't heard about." Brewmaster described Ruby Bowe's revelation, at the Homicide conference, of the overlooked BOLO from Clearwater and the similar slayings there of Hal and Mabel Larsen. "Those Clearwater killings happened about midway between the Frost and Hennenfeld cases."
Alarm bells rang in Cynthia's head. Clearly, in the short time she had been away a great deal had changed changes unforeseen. Her mind was in turmoil. She had to update quickly.
"You said there were differences about my parents' murders. What did you mean?"
"First thing, whoever the perp was, he left a dead rabbit behind. Malcolm thinks it doesn't fit, though I'm not sure I agree."
Brewmaster continued, "At those other crime scenes, everything fitted in with Revelation and the theory that the killer is some kind of religious freak. But according to Malcolm, the rabbit isn't specific, the way the other symbols were. But as I said, I'm not so sure."
Leaving a rabbit, Cynthia thought bleakly, had been her own idea. At the time no one, even in Homicide, had the slightest notion what any of those earlier symbols meant, and it was still that way when she left for Los Angeles.
"Something else really different is the time frame," Brewmaster went on. "Between each of the other serial killings there was a gap of about two months never less than two. But between the Urbinas and the Ernsts sorry, your folks just three days." He shrugged. "Of course, it may mean nothing. Serial killers don't operate on logic."
No. Cynthia thought, but even serial killers had to plan, and as little as three days from one double killing to the next was not convincing . . . Goddam! Of all the wrong timing and bad luck! Her careful calculations had been totally thrown off by the extra Clearwater case. She remembered Patrick's words at Homestead: Cyn, I think we're trying to be too clever.
"Those fourth killings," she asked Brewmaster. "What did you say the names were?"
"Did the case get much attention?''
"The usual. Front pages of the newspapers, plenty on TV.'7 It was Brewmaster's turn to be curious. "What makes you ask?"
"Oh, I didn't hear anything in L.A. Guess I was too busy." It was a weak response, Cynthia knew, and realized she must be wary when dealing with super-sharp Homicide detectives. Brewmaster's answer, though, suggested Patrick must have known about the Urbina murders; therefore, somehow, he ought to have postponed the Ernst killings. But most likely Patrick had no way to get in touch with the Colombian, and the die was cast. . .
Brewmaster broke in on her thoughts. "There were other things right in line with the serial killings, ma'am." His tone was respectful, as if half apologizing for his query moments ago. "All of your father's cash was taken, but your mother's jewelry was untouched; I checked that carefully. And something else, though I don't like mentioning this . . ."
"Go on," Cynthia said. "I think I know what's coming."
"Well, the wounds inflicted were pretty much like the ones in the earlier cases . . . are you sure you want to hear this?"
"I have to know sometime. It might as well be now."
"The wounds were real bad; the MO says a bowie knife was used again. And the victims. . ." Again Brewmaster hesitated. "They were bound and gagged and facing each other."
Cynthia turned away and applied a handkerchief to her eyes. On it were still a few grains of salt from a previous application; she used them before turning back, coughing slightly.
"One more thing that was like those other cases," Brewmaster added, "is that a radio was left on loud."
Cynthia nodded. "I remember that. At those two first scenes, wasn't it rock?"
"Yes." Brewmaster consulted a notebook. "This time it was WTMI classical and show-biz music. The butler said it was your mother's favorite station."
"Yes, it was." Silently, Cynthia cursed. Despite her precise instructions to Patrick, his Colombian killer had turned the radio on, but failed to change the station to rock music. Maybe he didn't get the full instructions; either way, it was too late. At this moment, Brewmaster didn't seem to think the difference was important, though others in Homicide might when making a thorough study; Cynthia knew how the system worked.
Goddam! Suddenly, unexpectedly, she felt a shiver of fear run through her.
Cynthia did not sleep well during her third night back in Miami, still nervous after learning of developments unexpected yet significant during her brief absence. Now, she wondered, what else could go wrong?
Also on her mind was the fact that she needed to meet with Malcolm Ainslie especially since Ainslie was head of a special task force set up to deal with the current series of serial murders, in which her parents' deaths were included. Thus, while Hank Brewmaster remained in immediate charge of the Ernst investigation, the overall responsibility was Ainslie's.
Though uneasy about a meeting with Ainslie at this point, she knew it had to happen. Otherwise it might appear as if she was avoiding him, leaving her motives open to question, particularly by Ainslie himself.
What it came down to, Cynthia realized in a moment of private honesty, was that Ainslie was the Homicide investigator she feared the most. Despite her bitter anger when he broke off their affair, and her determination to keep the promise she had made You'll regret this, Malcolm, for the rest of your miserable life she had never for one moment changed her view that, of all the detectives she had known, Ainslie was the best. She was never sure exactly why. Somehow, though, Malcolm had an ability to look beyond the immediate aspects of any investigation and put his own mind inside the minds of both the victims and suspects. The result was and Cynthia had seen it happen he often reached the right conclusions about Homicide cases, either alone or ahead of everyone else.
The other detectives in Homicide, particularly the younger ones, had sometimes looked on Malcolm as an oracle and sought his advice, not only about crimes but about their own personal lives. Detective Bernard Quinn, now retired, had made a collection of what he called "Ainslie Aphorisms" and tacked them up on a notice board. Cynthia remembered a few. One or two seemed appropriate now:
We catch people because no one is ever as clever as he or she thinks.
Mostly, small mistakes don't matter. But with murder, it only takes a tiny mistake to leave a hole for someone to peer through and learn the truth.
Educated people think they have an edge in cleverness, but sometimes that extra education makes them overreach and get caught.
All of us do foolish things sometimes the most obvious and we wonder later how we could have been so stupid
The most skillful liars sometimes say too much.
Criminals seldom remember Murphy's Law: If something can go wrong, it wilL Which is a big help to detectives.
Ainslie's background, Cynthia supposed - the priesthood and his erudition - contributed to all that, and clearly, from what Hank Brewmaster had described, that same facility solved the linkage between those bizarre objects left at the serial crime scenes.
Cynthia pushed the memories away. Until the present she had never thought of Malcolm's intellect as affecting her personally. Now she did.
She decided not to delay a meeting, but to stage it immediately, on her own terms. Early in the morning after her restless night, Cynthia arrived at Homicide, where she commandeered Lieutenant Newbold's office and left word that Sergeant Ainslie should report to her as soon as possible. He arrived soon after, having stopped at the Ernst house on his way.
Having made clear the difference in authority between them a major was three ranks higher than a sergeant and that no shred of a personal relationship remained, Cynthia had posed sharp questions about her parents' murders.
Even while probing and listening to answers, she was aware of Malcolm's appraisal and welcomed it. From the way he looked at her, she knew he had noticed her especially red-rimmed eyes. His facial expression reflected sympathy. Good! So her grief at her parents' deaths was evident, and Malcolm did not doubt it; therefore objective number one had been achieved.