"Kaprum and Thorne both got death sentences. They're on death row, going through appeals."
Everything else left Ainslie's mind. He could think only of Cynthia, receiving a form letter . . . Cynthia was sharp, she followed cases, would connect the name at once and put everything else in place, including the current interest of the police . . . A form letter to let her know that her only child, the child she never knew, would soon be executed. He thought despairingly, Was there no end to the unfair, dreadful hand that life had dealt to Cynthia? Compassion and the profoundest pity for her overwhelmed him, momentarily eclipsing all else. In the front seat Malcolm leaned forward, putting his head in his hands. His body shook convulsively. He wept.
* * *
"I'm sorry," Ainslie said to Ruby. "There are times when you lose a sense of proportion." He was remembering the protesters outside Raiford Prison, who appeared to have forgotten a murderer's victims. "It all got to me at once."
"I cried last night. This job sometimes..." Ruby's voice trailed off.
"When we go in," he told her, "I'd like to go to Cynthia first alone."
"You can't. It's against "
"I know, I know! It's against regulations, but Cynthia would never pull sexual harassment stuff; she's too proud for that. Look, you said the letter to her was mailed Friday to the old Bay Point address; she may not have it yet. If she doesn't, I can break the news more gently, and even if she does "
"Malcolm, I have to remind you of something." Ruby's voice was low and caring. "You're not a priest anymore."
"But I'm a human being. And I'm the one who'll be going against orders, though I need your okay."
She protested, "I have a duty; too." Both of them knew that if something went wrong, Ruby could pay a penalty with her career.
"Look, I'll cover you whatever happens, say I made it an order. Please."
They were at the Dinner Key waterfront and had arrived at City Hall. Ruby stopped their car at the main doorway. The blue-and-white was immediately behind.
She hesitated, still uncertain. "I don't know, Malcolm." Then, "Will you tell Sergeant Braynen?"
"No. The uniforms'll remain outside anyway. You come inside with me, but wait in the auditorium while I go to Cynthia's office. Give me fifteen minutes."
Ruby shook her head. "Ten. Max."
They entered the main door of Miami's unique and anachronistic City Hall.
* * *
In an age when government opulence was the norm and cathedral-style official buildings proclaimed politicians' self-importance, the City Hall of Miami one of America's major cities expressed the reverse. Located on a promontory and with Biscayne Bay on two sides, it was a relatively small two-story building painted white, with its name and some minor art deco relief in bright blue. People were often surprised at the overall simplicity, even though the building housed Miami's elected mayor, vicemayor, three commissioners, and an appointed city manager. Others, usually old-timers, often said the building looked more like a seaplane base not surprisingly, since it had been a Pan American Airways base from 1934 through 1951, built to serve Clipper flying boats that carried passengers from Miami to thirty-two countries. Then, when flying boats went the way of dinosaurs, Pan Am closed the base and it became Miami City Hall in 1954.
History had been made here. Perhaps more history, Ainslie thought, would be made today.
In the main lobby, Ainslie and Bowe walked to a desk where they showed their police badges to an elderly security guard. The man waved them past. Knowing the location of Cynthia's office on the main floor, Ainslie turned left and gestured to Ruby to take an interior corridor to the right, which led to the auditorium where she would wait. Reluctantly, Ruby left him, pointedly checking her watch.
Before entering the building, Ainslie had instructed Braynen and his partner to hold their present position outside, listen to their radios, and respond immediately if called.
Ainslie continued down the hall until a door confronted him:
OFFICE OF THE
A young male aide sat at a desk in a windowless room immediately inside. In a separate small office a woman secretary was working at a computer. Between the two was a substantial door, dark green, and closed.
Again, Ainslie showed his badge. "I'm here to see the commissioner on police business. Don't announce me."
"Wouldn't anyway." The young man gestured to the green door. "Go right in." Ainslie opened the door and entered, closing it behind him.
Cynthia faced him. She was seated at an ornate desk, her face expressionless. The of lice was spacious and pleasantly functional, though not luxurious. A window in the rear wall provided a view of the harbor and moored pleasure boats. A plain door to the right probably opened to a cupboard or a small powder room.
A silence hung between them. After several seconds he began, "I wanted to say "
"Save it!" Cynthia's lips scarcely moved. Her eyes were cold.
She knew. No explanations, he realized, were required on either side. Cynthia would have many contacts; a city commissioner could bestow favors and was owed them in return. Undoubtedly someone in her debt perhaps in the grand jury office, even, or the Police Department had quietly picked up a phone and made a call.
"You may not believe this, Cynthia," Ainslie said, "but I wish there were something, anything, I could do."
"Well, let's think about that." Her face and voice were icy, devoid of all empathy. "I know you like executions, so maybe you could attend my daughter's make sure everything goes off the way it should. Mine, too, perhaps. Now, wouldn't you enjoy that."
He pleaded, "I beg of you, don't do this."
"What would you prefer remorse and tears, some sleazy piety from your old game?"
Ainslie sighed. Unsure of what he had hoped for, he knew whatever it was had failed. He knew, too, that Ruby should be with him. He had made a mistake in persuading her to stay behind.
"There's no easy way to do this," he said, placing the arrest warrant on the desk. "I'm afraid you're under arrest. I have to caution you "
Cynthia smiled sardonically. "I'll accept Miranda as read."
"I need your gun. Where is it?" Ainslie's right hand had moved and was holding his own Glock 9mrn automatic, though he did not produce it. Cynthia, he knew, had a Glock also; like all sworn personnel who retired, she had received her gun on leaving as a gift from the city.
"In the desk." She had risen and pointed to a drawer.
Not taking his eyes from her, he reached down with his left hand, opened the drawer, and felt inside. The gun was under a cloth. Lifting it out, he put it in a pocket.
"Turn around, please." He had handcuffs ready.
"Not yet." Her voice had become near normal. "I have to go to the toilet first. There are certain functions you can't do with your hands fixed behind your back."
"No. Stand where you are."
Unheeding, Cynthia turned and walked toward the interior door he had noted. Over her shoulder she taunted, "If you don't like it, go ahead shoot me."
Two fleeting thoughts crossed Ainslie's mind, but he banished them.
As the door opened, he saw it was a toilet inside. Equally obvious, there was no other way out. The door closed swiftly. Removing his right hand from his gun, he strode forward, intending to open it by force if needed. For whatever reason, he suddenly knew he had moved too slowly.
Before he could reach the door, and only seconds after it had closed, it was flung open from inside. Cynthia stood in the doorway, eyes blazing, face tightly set a mask of hate. Her voice was a snarl as she commanded,
"Freeze!" In her hand was a tiny gun.
Knowing he had been outwitted, that the gun had probably been stored inside, he began, "Cyn, look . . . we can . . .',
"Shut up." Her face was working. "You knew I had this. Didn't you?"
Ainslie nodded slowly. He hadn't known, but barely a minute earlier the possibility had occurred to him; it was one of the thoughts he had dismissed. The gun Cynthia held was the tiny, chrome-plated Smith & Wesson fiveshot pistol the "throw-down" she had used so effectively during the bank holdup into which she and Ainslie once walked together.
"And you thought maybe I'd use it on myself! To save me and everybody else a lot of trouble. Answer me!"
It was a moment for truth. Ainslie admitted, "Yes, I did." That had been his second thought.
"Well, I will use it. But I'll take you with me, you bastard!" She was bracing herself, he could tell, for a marksman's shot. Possibilities, like summer lightning, flashed through his mind. Reaching for his Glock was one; but Cynthia would fire the instant he moved, and he had seen the bank robber with a hole precisely central in his forehead. As for Ruby, barely five minutes had passed. With Cynthia there was no more reasoning. Was there anything he could do? No, nothing. And so . . . the end came to everyone in time. Accept it. One final thought: He had sometimes wondered would he, in the last seconds of his life, return to a belief, even a hope, in God and some future life? He knew the answer now. And it was no.
Cynthia was ready to fire. He closed his eyes and then heard the shot . . . Oddly, he felt nothing . . . He opened them.
Cynthia had fallen to the floor; her eyes closed, the tiny gun clutched in her hand. On the left side of her chest, blood was oozing from an open wound.
Against the outside door, rising from the half-crouched stance from which she had fired her 9mm automatic, was Ruby Bowel
News of Cynthia Ernst's violent death swept through Miami like a tidal wave.
And the news media exploded.
So did surviving city commission members, infused with white-hot anger at what they saw as the wanton slaying of one of their own.
Even before the body of Cynthia Ernst could be removed, her death having been certified by paramedics, two mobile television crews were at City Hall, filming and posing questions to which no one had coherent answers. They had been alerted by police radio exchanges, as had other reporters and photographers who quickly joined them.
Sergeant Braynen and his partner, aided by hastily summoned reinforcements, attempted to maintain order.
For Malcolm Ainslie and Ruby Bowe, the postconf~ntation events became a mercurial montage. After hasty calls to and from Assistant Chief Serrano's office, they were ordered to remain in place and talk to no one until a "shoot team" from Internal Affairs arrived standard procedure when death or serious injury was caused by an officer on duty. The team, appearing moments later, comprised a sergeant and detective who questioned Ainslie and Bowe carefully, though without hostility, it becoming quickly evident that Internal Affairs had been informed, before the of ricers' departure, of the grand jury indictments and arrest warrant for Cynthia Ernst.
The Police Department, itself scrambling for information, declined immediate comment on the shooting death of City Commissioner Ernst, but promised total disclosure at a news conference at 6:00 P.M. that day, which the chief of police would attend.
Meanwhile the chief sent messages to the mayor and city commissioners that he would telephone each of them personally during the hour before the news conference, to report the latest information. It would have been more convenient to have a special briefing in his office, but under Florida's "sunshine law," commission members could not meet together in any place without the media or public being informed and admitted.