Page 70 of Detective


He looked out the window. "There's one thing you should come to terms with, Patrick. Even if you avoid the death penalty, there's no way you can escape prison time probably a lot of time. It's unlikely, I think, that you and I will ever play racquetball again."

Jensen grimaced. "Now that you know the kind of person I am, I doubt you'd want to."

Cruz waved the remark away. "I leave judgments like that to the judges and juries. But while I'm your attorney and by the way, sometime soon you and I have to talk money, and I warn you I'm not cheap anyway, as an attorney, whether I like or dislike my clients and I've had some of each they all get the utmost I can give, and the fact is I'm good!"

"I accept all that," Jensen said. "But I have another question."

Cruz resumed his seat. "Ask it."

"What is Cynthia's legal position? First, because of failing to report what she knew about Naomi's and Holmes's killing, and then concealing the evidence the gun, clothing, audiotape, all the rest?"

"She'll almost certainly be charged with obstruction of justice, which is a felony, and in a homicide case extremely serious; also conspiracy after the fact, and for all of that there'd likely be a prison term of five years, even ten. On the other hand, if she had a top-notch lawyer she might get away with two years, or even though not too likely probation. Either way, her civic career is over."

"What you're saying is, she'd make out much better than me."

"Of course. You admitted you did that killing. She didn't know about it in advance, and whatever she did was after the fact."

"But in the case of the Ernsts Cynthia's parents she knew in advance. She planned it all."

"So you say. And I'm inclined to believe you. But in my opinion Cynthia Ernst will deny it all, and how could you prove otherwise? Tell me did she meet this Virgilio, who you say did the actual killing?"

"No."

"Did she put anything in writing to you, ever?"

"No." He stopped. "But, say . . . there is something. It's not much, but..." Jensen described the real-estate brochure with the layout of streets in Bay Point, on which Cynthia had marked the Ernst house with an X, then in Jensen's presence had written words showing the maid's working hours and the nighttime absence every Thursday of the butler Palacio and his wife.

"How many words?"

"Probably a dozen; some abbreviations. But it's Cynthia's handwriting."

"As you said, it isn't much. Anything else?" As they talked, Cruz was making notes.

"Well, we were in the Cayman Islands together, for three days at Grand Cayman. That's when Cynthia first told me about wanting to kill her parents."

"Without a witness, I presume?"

"Okay, so I couldn't prove it. But wait." Cruz listened while Jensen described the separate travel and hotel arrangements. "I flew Cayman Airways; saved my ticket, still have it. She was on American Airlines and used the name Hilda Shaw; I saw her ticket."

"Would you know the American flight number?"

"It was the morning flight; there's only one. Shaw would be on the manifest."

"Which still proves nothing."

"It shows a connection because later on Cynthia must have drawn that four-hundred-thousand-Doilar payment from her account at a Cayman bank."

Cruz threw up his hands. "Have you any idea how impossible it would be to get a Cayman bank to testify about a client's account?"

"Of course. But suppose the whole thing details of the Cayman account was on record with the IRS?"

"Why would it be?"

"Because it damn well is." Jensen described how, during the time in the Caymans, he had looked covertly into Cynthia's briefcase and, after discovering the account's existence, had made quick notes of important points. "I have the bank's name, account number, the balance then, and the guy who put money there as a gift an 'Uncle Zack.'

I checked later; Gustav Ernst had a brother, Zachary, who lives in the Caymans."

"I can see how you wrote books," Cruz said. "So how'd the IRS get in?"

"Cynthia did it. Seems she didn't want to break U.S. laws, so she got a tax adviser in fact, I have his name and a Lauderdale address who told her it was all okay providing she declared the interest and paid tax, which she did. There was a letter from the IRS."

"Of which you have details, no doubt."

"Yes."

"Remind me," Cruz said, "never to put my briefcase down when you're around." His face twitched with a halfsmile. "There isn't much that's funny in all this, except Cynthia Ernst was such a smartass about being legal, she created evidence that could work against her. On the other hand, having all that money doesn't prove a goddam thing, unless . . ."

"Unless what?"

"Unless that smirk on your face which I don't much like means there's something else you haven't told me. So if there is, let's hear."

"Okay," Jensen said. "There's a tape recording I have, another tape. It's in a safe-deposit box to which I have the only key, and on that tape is proof of everything I've told you. And, oh yes, those other papers the one with Cynthia's handwriting about the Palacios, my notes from the Caymans, and the airline ticket they're in the box, too."

"Cut the smart talk." Cruz moved within inches of Jensen's face and whispered menacingly, "This is not some fucking game, Jensen. You could be on your way to the electric chair, so if you've an important tape recording, you'd damn well better tell me everything about it rzow."

Jensen nodded compliantly, then went on to describe the recording he had made secretly a year and nine months earlier, during a lunch in Boca Raton. It was the tape on which Cynthia had approved hiring Virgilio to murder her parents; agreed she would pay two hundred thousand Dollars each to Virgilio and Jensen; explained her own plan to make the murders look like other serial killings; and was told by Jensen that Virgilio had committed the wheelchair murder, knowledge she had subsequently kept to herself.

"Jesus Christ!" Cruz paused, considering. "Add that all up and it could change everything . . . Well, not everything. But quite a lot."

* * *

"My client is willing to cooperate in return for certain considerations," Stephen Cruz informed Knowles when the session in the Homicide interview room resumed.

"Cooperate in what way?" Curzon Knowles asked. "Because we certainly have all the evidence we need to convict Mr. Jensen for the murders of Naomi Jensen and Kilburn Holmes. Also, by the way things look, we can probably get the death penalty."

Jensen paled. Involuntarily, he reached out and touched Cruz's arm. "Go on, tell him.''

Cruz swung toward Jensen and glared.

With a slight smile, Knowles asked, "Tell me what?"

Cruz recovered his composure. "Looking at it all from here, it appears you have a good deal less evidence with which to confront Commissioner Cynthia Ernst."

"I don't see why that concerns you, Steve, but since you mention it, there is enough. At the time she was a sworn police officer, and criminally delinquent by aiding, abetting, and concealing a crime. We would probably ask for twenty years in prison."

"And probably find a judge who'll give her five, or maybe two. She might even walk."

"Walking's impossible, though I still don't see "

"You will in a moment," Cruz assured him. "Please listen to this: With the state's cooperation, he can give you a much bigger prize Cynthia Ernst on a platter as the hidden-hand murderer of her parents, Gustav and Eleanor Ernst." In the interview room there was a sudden stillness and the sound of indrawn breath. All eyes were on Cruz. "Whatever penalty you sought in that event, Curzon, would be yours and Adele's decision but obviously there you could go the limit."

Part of an attorney's training was never to show surprise, and Knowles did not. Just the same, he hesitated perceptibly before asking, "And by what piece of wizardry could your client do that?"

"He has, safely hidden away where even a search warrant won't reach, two documents that incriminate Ms. Ernst, but also more important a tape recording. Unedited. On that recording is every bit of evidence you'd need to convict, spoken in Cynthia Ernst's own voice and words.''

Cruz went on to describe, from notes made earlier, a broad outline of what the tape contained concerning Cynthia, though he omitted any direct reference to Patrick Jensen or to the wheelchair murder. Instead, Cruz said, "There is also on the tape, and I suppose you could consider it a bonus, the name of another individual who is guilty of another, entirely different murder, so far unsolved."

"Is your client involved in both of those additional crimes?"

Cruz smiled. "That is information which, in my client's interest, I must withhold for the time being."

"Have you listened to this alleged tape recording yourself, counselor? Or seen the documents, whatever they are?"

"No, I haven't." Cruz had anticipated the question. "But I have confidence in the accuracy of what has been described to me, and I remind you that my client is well versed in words and language. Furthermore, if you and I reached an agreement and the evidence fell short of what was promised, anything we had arranged would be renegotiable."

"It would be null and void," Knowles said.

Cruz shrugged. "I suppose so."

"But if everything did work out the way you say, what would you want in return?"

"For my client? Taking everything into account allowing him to plead manslaughter."

Knowles threw back his head and laughed. "Steve, I really have to hand it to you! You have the most incredible balls. How you can ask for a slap on the wrist in these circumstances, and do it with a straight face, I really don't know."

Cruz shrugged. "Sounded reasonable to me. But if you don't like the idea, what's your counteroffer?"

"I don't have one, because at this point you and I have gone as far as we can," Knowles told him. "Any decisions from here on must be Adele Montesino's, and she may want to see us together, probably today." The attorney turned to Ainslie. "Malcolm, let's break this up. I need to use a phone."

* * *

Knowles had left for the state attorney's headquarters, while Stephen Cruz returned to his downtown office, agreeing to be available when needed. Meanwhile, Newbold, aware that the Police Department's role was becoming more complex, had advised his superior, Major Manolo Yanes, commander of the Crimes Against Persons Unit, of the broad issues pending. Yanes, in turn, had spoken with Major Mark Figueras, who, as head of Criminal Investigations, summoned an immediate conference in his office.

Newbold arrived, along with Ainslie and Ruby Bowe, to find Figueras and Yanes waiting. Seated around a rectangular conference table with Figueras at the head, he began vigorously, "Let's go over everything that's known. Everything. "

Normally, while general Homicide activity was reported to superiors, specific case details seldom were on the principle that the fewer people who knew the secrets of investigations, the more likely they would stay secret. But now, at Newbold's prompting, Ainslie described his early doubts about the Ernst case, followed by Elroy Doil's confession to fourteen killings but his vehement denial of having killed the Ernsts. "Of course we knew Doil was a congenital liar, but with the lieutenant's approval, I did more digging." Ainslie explained his search through records, the inconsistencies with the Ernst murders, and Bowe's research at Metro-Dade and Tampa.

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