Page 76 of Detective

From the "shoot team" interrogation, Ainslie and Bowe moved onward to a private accounting in Assistant Chief Serrano's office behind closed doors, and before Serrano and Majors Figueras and Yanes. During all the questioning, Ainslie and Bowe told no lies, but nor, it seemed, were overly probing questions asked in particular, how did Ainslie and Ruby become briefly separated at City Hall? Instinct told Ainslie that, justly or otherwise, ranks were closing, with the Police Department maneuvering to protect its own. He wondered, too: Was there, among the five, an uneasy memory of Yanes's covert words concerning Cynthia, spoken in this same room barely an hour before: She could do the decent thing and swallow a bullet. Save everyone a potful of trouble. Did they now share a feeling of guilt that no one had protested? And was there an instinct that if probing became too intensive and specific, something they would prefer not to hear would be divulged?

Those were questions, Ainslie knew, that would never be answered.

In the end, what would become the essential police retelling was summarized in a handwritten note by Serrano, to be rewritten and enlarged on as an official statement:

Acting with authority derived from three grand jury indictments, two of Ricers Sergeant Malcolm Ainslie and Detective Ruby Rowe attempted to arrest Commissioner Cynthia Ernst After the prisoner was apparently disarmed, with the gun she was known to own taken from her, and before being handcuffed, she suddenly produced a small concealed pistol which she was about to fire at Sergeant Ainslie when Detective Rowe, using her own police weapon, shot and killed the prisoner.

Those facts were upheld, soon after, by the uniformed officers, Braynen and his partner, who, immediately after the shooting, responded to a radio summons from Ainslie and were on the scene in seconds.

Only in a quiet moment later did Ainslie and Ruby talk about what had happened.

"After a few minutes of waiting, I got antsy," Ruby explained. "Just as well, wasn't it?"

Ainslie grasped her shoulders with both hands and met Ruby's eyes. "I owe you my life," he told her. "Whatever you need from me, you only have to ask."

"If I think of something," she said with a half-smile, "I'll tell you. But a lot of it was self-interest. Working in Homicide wouldn't be the same without you. You've taught all of us so much, set great examples. I hope I'm not embarrassing you."

Ainslie shrugged self-consciously. "A little, I guess." Then he added carefully, "Working with you, Ruby, has been a privilege for me." This was not the moment, he decided, to reveal his decision to leave Homicide and perhaps the Police Department. For the time being he would keep that knowledge between Karen and himself.

* * *

Preparations for the news conference were made at breakneck speed as lengthy phone calls flew between the Police Department and the state attorney's office. Together they decided that all relevant facts concerning Cynthia Ernst would be disclosed: the three grand jury indictments; Eleanor Ernst's diaries; Cynthia's early abuse at the hands of her father; the pregnancy; Cynthia's plot to have her parents killed; even the fact that crucial evidence concerning another double murder that Cynthia concealed had sat unexamined for a year and a half in the police Property Department. Finally there would be Cynthia's failure to divulge her knowledge of the wheelchair murderer.

As Assistant Chief Serrano expressed it, after consulting with the chief and the Department's public information officer, Evelio Jimenez, "It's one monstrous mess, and no one will come out smelling sweet. There could be pmblems, though, if anything's held back and then ferreted out by some smart reporter."

Only certain evidence, which might be needed for the trials of Patrick Jensen and Virgilio, would remain temporarily undisclosed. Jensen's arrest, and the charges against him, had now become known.

As for Virgilio, there was doubt about whether he would ever be caught and tried. Metm-Dade Homicide, on learning of his participation in the wheelchair murder, had begun a search for him, as had Miami Homicide, because of his reported slayings of the Ernsts. But Virgilio had fled to his native Colombia, from where extradition was unlikely because of the mutual hostility between that country and the United States.

* * *

The news conference was held in the lobby of Police Headquarters, entry being controlled by several police officers near the main doorway, where credentials were examined. A podium and microphones were set up near the main-floor elevators. There, Evelio Jimenez, the public information officer a former newspaper reporter with a frank, no-nonsense attitude would be in charge.

Only minutes before the crowded conference began, city commission members, all of whom had already spoken with the chief, filed into the lobby, their expressions ranging from shock to grief. The media closed in on them, but no one responded to questions. When a microphone was thrust in the face of the mayor, he snapped uncharacteristically, "Take that away! Just listen to what they'll tell you."

TV cameras were rolling, microphones lined up like bean sprouts, and pencils and laptop computers were poised as the PIO announced, "Chief Farrell Ketledge."

The chief of police stepped forward. He spoke solemnly, though he wasted no time in coming to the point.

"Without any doubt, this is the saddest day in my entire police career. I considered Cynthia Ernst to be a loyal colleague and good friend, and shall remember her, in part, that way, despite the crimes and horror that are now exposed. For as you will shortly hear in detail, Miss Ernst was a criminal, guilty, among other things, of the terrible murders of her parents. . ."

A collective gasp filled the hall. Simultaneously, several reporters rose hastily and left, heading for TV vans outside; others spoke into cellular phones.

The chief continued, mentioning the two murders Cynthia had helped to conceal while a Homicide detective. He then stated, "Earlier today, three grand jury indictments were issued for her arrest. It was during that arrest that Miss Ernst suddenly produced a concealed weapon, which she clearly intended to use on one of the arresting officers. The other officer fired a single shot, instantly killing Miss Ernst.

"We will, if you wish, talk more about that later, but for now I want to deal with today's events, beginning with the grand jury indictments directed at Cynthia Ernst. So I will ask Mr. Curzon Knowles, head of the state attorney's Homicide division, to describe those indictments and the evidence behind them."

Knowles, dressed more formally than usual in a blue pinstriped suit, moved to the podium and spoke authoritatively for ten minutes, relating most of the facts presented to the grand jury. Many in the audience looked up from their notes and listened intently as he described Eleanor Ernst's diaries and the details of child abuse. "I understand," Knowles continued, "that significant pages of those diaries are being copied now and will be available soon." A few questions were asked of Knowles, but none were aggressive. Most of the reporters seemed stunned at what was being revealed; there was a sense that plain words and frankness were the order of the day.

When Knowles concluded, Serrano took over. The assistant chief introduced Leo Newbold, who spoke briefly, then Malcolm Ainslie, who described the murders of Gustav and Eleanor Ernst and the attempt to make them look like earlier serial killings. It quickly became evident that Ainslie had a grasp of the entire complex scene, and for a half hour he responded clearly and confidently to reporters' quenes.

He was tiring, though, when a woman TV reporter asked, "We were told earlier . . ." She paused, consulting her notes. ". . . told by Lieutenant Newbold that you were the first one who believed the Ernst murders were nor part of those earlier serials. Why did you have that first impression?"

He responded impulsively, "Because there's no rabbit in Revelation," then regretted the words the moment they were out.

After a puzzled silence the same woman asked, "Will you explain that?"

Ainslie glanced at Deputy Chief Serrano, who shrugged and told the journalists, "We have talented people here who sometimes solve crimes in unusual ways." Then, to Ainslie: "Go ahead, tell them."

Reluctantly, Ainslie began, "It goes back to symbols left by a perpetrator at four murder scenes and eventually recognized as-religious symbols inspired by the Book of Revelation in the Bible. At the Ernst murders a rabbit was left. It didn't fit the pattern."

While continuing to describe the earlier symbols, Ainslie remembered that all of that information had been held back from the media at the time, and never released later because there had been no need. In the end Elroy Doil was tried, sentenced, and executed for the Tempones' murder only, where no symbol was involved.

Thus, this information was new, and also fascinating, judging by the number of reporters who, with heads down, were scribbling notes or typing on laptops. As Ainslie concluded, a male voice asked, "Who figured out what those symbols meant?"

"I'll answer that," Serrano said. "It was Sergeant Ainslie who made the connection, and it led to several suspects, one of whom was Elroy Doil."

A veteran print reporter asked, "Is it true, Sergeant Ainslie, that you were once a priest? Is that how you know your way around the Bible?"

It was a subject Ainslie had hoped would not come up. While he had made no great secret of his past, few outside the Department knew of it. Anyway, he answered, "Yes, I was, so in that regard it helped."

Next a woman's voice. "Why did you stop being a priest and become a cop?"

"Leaving the priesthood was my personal choice, freely made. The reasons were private and not relevant here, so I won't discuss them." He smiled. "For the record, I left behind no misbehavior; my acceptance as a police officer should vouch for that." Despite the overlay of seriousness, there was some good-natured laughter.

Soon after, with many reporters eager to get going, the formal news conference broke up, though some reporters and TV crews stayed on, doing one-on-one interviews in both English and Spanish. Ainslie especially was in demand and remained an extra forty minutes. Even then, reporters followed him to his car, still filming and asking questions.

* * *

That same evening, and during the days that followed, Malcolm Ainslie was a prominent figure on television as his statements were featured, then repeated, interlaced with new developments. National network news reports carried the Cynthia Ernst story, with most depicting Ainslie as police spokesman. ABC's "Nightline" reported at length the mysterious murder-scene symbols and their biblical interpretation, once more with Ainslie as the star.

The print press covered the Ernst stories, too, showing interest in Ainslie's former priesthood. One probing reporter found a record of his doctoral degree and reputation as a scholar, mentioning Ainslie's joint authorship of Civilization's Evolving Beliefs, and that, too, was repeated around the country. His name appeared prominently in Newsweek and Time reports, and the national Sunday newspaper magazine, Parade, ran a cover story with the headline SCHOLARLY EX-PRIEST DETECTIVE LAUDED AS CRIME-SOLVING STAR.

The switchboard at Miami Police Headquarters received many calls from inquiring film and TV producers, all of it defying Assistant Chief Serrano's prediction that no one would emerge from the Ernst debacle smelling sweet. Quite clearly, Ainslie did.