Page 74 of Detective

Occasionally, Ainslie knew, too, there had been difficulties between the city commission and the Police Department the commission highly protective of its authority, and touchy when it was infringed. All of which was why, five days ago, Lieutenant Newbold had brought the startling developments to the attention of his superiors, Majors Figueras and Yanes. They, in turn, had passed the information higher, and those at top command, once concerned, had stayed involved.

As the elevator doors closed, Knowles mouthed from outside, "Good luck."

Good luck with what? Ainslie wondered as the elevator descended. His concept of luck right now would be to have his role in this drama end when he delivered the indictments to the assistant chief. But he suspected it would not.

His own deep depression of the previous Friday had continued over the weekend and through yesterday, as the net of retribution tightened around Cynthia.

In his own personal domain there had been some change. Late Friday night he had told Karen of his decision to quit Homicide when this present duty was done, and the Police Department completely, though he wasn't sure about that. At the news, Karen had put her arms around him and, close to tears, assured him, "Darling, I'm so relieved. I've seen what these awful things do to you. You can't take any more, and you should get out altogether. Don't worry about the future; we'll manage! You're more important than anything else to me, to Jason, and" she touched her rounded stomach, now showing four months of pregnancy "and whoever."

That night with Karen he had spoken of Cynthia; he'd cited her childhood tragedies, described the woman filled with hate that those tragedies created, then told of Cynthia's crimes a fierce transfer of her hatred, with an impost under law now coming due.

Karen had listened, then reacted with some of her plain reasoning, which, through their nine years of marriage, he had come to know and value. "Of course I'm sorry for her; anyone would be, especially another woman. But the fact is, there's nothing either done to her or by her that can be undone now; it's all too late. So whatever happens, other people you and I especially don't have to share Cynthia's despair or guilt, and have our lives wrecked, too. So yes, Malcolm, do what you have to this very last time, and then get out!"

As Karen spoke Cynthia's name, Ainslie wondered, as he had before, if she was aware of his and Cynthia's longpast affair. But apart from all else, the objective was to get this present mission definitely his last over as fast as possible.

The elevator door opened at the courthouse main floor.

* * *

Exercising police privilege, Ainslie had left his unmarked car parked outside, and the journey to Police Headquarters - three blocks north and two west -  was brief.

When he entered the office suite of Assistant Chief Otero Serrano, head of all police investigations, a secretary said, "Good afternoon, Sergeant Ainslie. They're waiting for you." She rose and opened a door to an interior office.

Inside, a conversation was in progress among Serrano, Mark Figueras, Manolo Yanes, and Leo Newbold. As Ainslie entered, voices quieted, heads turned toward him.

"Are those the indictments, Sergeant?" Chief Serrano, tall and athletically built, was behind his desk. A former detective, he had a distinguished record.

"Yes, sir." Ainslie handed over the plastic cover he was carrying, and Serrano removed the two copies of each indictment, passing the extra set to the other three.

While all four were reading, Ruby Bowe was ushered in quietly. She moved close to Ainslie and whispered, "We have to talk. I've found her child."

"Cynthia's?" Startled, he glanced around. "Do we . . ."

She whispered back, "I don't think so. Not yet."

As those in the room continued reading, low groans were audible, then Figueras breathed, "Christ! It couldn't be worse."

"Things happen," Serrano said resignedly, "that you think never would."

A door from outside opened, and Chief of Police Farrell Ketledge came in. A hush fell over the room as everyone straightened up. The chief said quietly, "Carry on." Moving to a window, standing alone, he told Serrano, "This is your show, Otero."

The reading resumed.

"Cynthia screwed us well and truly," said Figueras.

"Got herself promoted after she hid that killing of Jensen's wife and friend."

"Goddam media will have a field day," Manolo Yanes predicted.

Despite the more significant murder-one indictment, Ainslie realized, it was the second and third indictments Cynthia's participation in murders while a Homicide detective, and her concealing knowledge of another that hurt them most.

"If this goes to trial, it could take years," Leo Newbold said. "We'll be under the gun the whole time."

The others nodded gloomily.

"That's all, then," Serrano intervened. "I wanted to share what's happening because we'll all be involved. But we must move."

"Might not be so bad if Ernst did hear before we got to her." It was Manolo Yanes's voice. "Then she could do the decent thing and swallow a bullet. Save everyone a potful of trouble."

Ainslie expected Yanes's words to produce a sharp rebuke. To his surprise, there was none; only a silence followed, during which not even the chief spoke. Was a subtle message being conveyed ? As he dismissed the thought as unworthy, Serrano turned toward him.

"You may not like this, Sergeant Ainslie, but you're the one we've chosen to make the arrest." He paused, his tone becoming considerate. "Does this give you any kind of problem?"

So he knew. Ainslie supposed they all knew about him and Cynthia. He recalled Ruby's words: We're detectives, aren't we?

"I won't enjoy it, sir. Who would? But I'll do what's necessary." In a peculiar way, he felt he owed it to Cynthia to see this through. Serrano nodded approvingly. "Because it's a city commissioner, everything from this moment on will be under the closest public scrutiny. You have an outstanding reputation, and I'm confident there'll be no fumbling, no mistakes."

Ainslie was conscious of all eyes on him, and, just as during the session with Figueras and Yanes five days earlier, a note of respect seemed evident that transcended rank.

Serrano consulted a paper brought in by his secretary moments earlier. "We've kept tabs on Ernst since early this morning. Half an hour ago she went to her City Hall office. She's there now." He looked up at Ainslie. "You must have a woman officer with you. It will be Detective Bowel"

Ainslie nodded. Nowadays a woman suspect was almost never arrested by a male officer alone; it made sexual harassment claims too easy.

Serrano continued, "I've ordered a uniform backup. They're already below, waiting for your orders. And you'll need this." He passed over an arrest warrant, prepared in anticipation of the indictments. "Go do it!"

* * *

Ruby glanced at Ainslie in the crowded elevator. He murmured, "Save it. Tell me on the way." Then, as they left the elevator, "You get us a car. I'll talk to our backup."

Two uniform officers, Sergeant Ben Braynen, whom Ainslie knew well, and his partner, were beside a Miami Police blue-and-white at the building's staff-restricted exit. "We're your strong right arm," Braynen said, greeting him. "Orders came from the top. You must be mighty important."

"If I am, it's temporary," Ainslie told him. "And I'll get the usual check on payday."

"So what's the mission?"

"We go to City Hall in the Grove, the commissioners' offices. I'm doing an arrest with Bowe, and you're our backup." He produced the arrest warrant, pointing to the principal name.

"Holy shit!" Braynen said incredulously. "This for real?"

Ruby Bowe, in an unmarked police car, pulled ahead of the blue-and-white and stopped.

"As real as sin," Ainslie said, "so follow us. We may not need you, but it'll be good to know you're there."

When Ruby and Ainslie were clear of the police compound, he said, "Okay, let's hear."

"What's important," Ruby said, "is that Cynthia may be expecting us. Because of what I discovered late last night."

''We don't have much time. Better talk fast."

* * *

As Ruby told it.. .

Ever since learning from Eleanor Ernst's diaries that Cynthia had given birth to her father's child, Rubyhad tried to find out what had happened to the baby a child whom no one cared about, except to dispose of, its sex not even mentioned in Eleanor's notes.

"It was a girl," Ruby said. "I found that out early, at the adoption center." But the center had not been helpful beyond that, denying access to old records, claiming that confidentiality barred the way. Ruby had not persisted, she explained, because the information was not crucial. The child's existence was already known, and finding out more would not aid the investigation into the Ernsts' deaths.

"I wanted to know, though," Ruby said. "A couple of times I dropped in at the center, and there was an older social worker who I thought might bend the rules and help, but she was scared. Two days ago she phoned. She's retiring in a week. I went to her home last night and she gave me a paper."

The paper, as described by Ruby, showed that the adoption of Cynthia's child had lasted less than two years. The adoptive parents were convicted of abuse and neglect, and the child was taken away. There followed a long series of foster homes until the girl was thirteen, when the record stopped. "It's a sad story of indifference and cruelty," Ruby said, adding, "I was going to check with the last home listed, then didn't need to, when I saw the name the baby was given. And still uses."

"Which is?"

"Maggie Thorne."

It was familiar, Ainslie thought. He just couldn't place it.

Ruby prompted, "It was Jorge Rodriguez's case the German tourist, Nichaus, shot and killed. I think you were . . ."

"Yes . . . I was."

It sprang back in memory: the wanton, needless killing . . . an international furor and the hapless guilty pair a young black male, Kermit Kaprum; a white female, Maggie Thorne . . . tests showed shots were fired by both accused, two fatal shots by Thorne . . . under questioning, both confessed.

At the time, Ainslie recalled, there had been something familiar about the young woman's face. He had tried using flash recognition, but it hadn't worked. Now he knew why. It wasn't the accused girl whom he had seen before, but her mother, Cynthia. Even now, in memory, Thorne's resemblance to her was uncanny.

"There's something else," Ruby said as she turned the car onto Bayshore Drive. "The woman from the adoption center who gave me the report tried to cover herself. If they break confidentiality for any reason, they're supposed to notify the child's original parent, and my woman did. She sent a form letter addressed to Cynthia about her daughter, Maggie Thorne Cynthia probably never knew that name before saying the police had asked for the information and been given it. The letter was mailed on Friday and went to the Ernsts' old home address in Bay Point. Cynthia may have it now."

"The Niehaus case." Ainslie's mind was swirling, his voice barely under control. "In the end, what happened?" There were so many cases. He half remembered, but wanted to be sure.