"Okay, listen carefully. Follow Sequiera closely. You're already cleared through our outer gate, the main gate, and two checkpoints after that. The tower will spotlight you, but keep moving. Stop at the front entrance to Administration. I'll be waiting. Got all that?"
"I presume you're armed, Sergeant."
"Yes, I am."
"We'll immediately enter the control room, where you'll hand over all weapons, ammunition, and police ID. Be ready. Who's driving you?"
"Detective Jorge Rodriguez. Plainclothes."
"We'll give him separate instructions when you get here. Listen, Sergeant. You've got to move fast, okay?"
"I'll be ready, Lieutenant. Thank you."
Ainslie turned to Jorge and asked, "Could you hear all that?"
''Got it all, Sergeant."
The traffic light ahead turned red, but Jorge ignored it. Barely slowing, he entered the four-way intersection and swung right. Directly ahead, a Highway Patrol black-and yellow Mercury Marquis, bristling with roof antennae and flashing emergency lights, was already moving. The Miami blue-and-white fell in behind, and within seconds the two were a single eye-catching coruscation hurtling headlong through the night.
Later, when Ainslie attempted to recall that final portion of the four-hundred-mile journey, he found that all he could remember was a vague flashing montage. As best he could calculate later, they covered the last twenty-two miles of minor, twisting roads in less than fourteen minutes. Once, he noticed, their speed reached ninety-two miles per hour.
Some checkpoints were known to Ainslie from previous journeys. First the small town of Waldo, then Gainesville Airport to the right; they must have passed both so fast that neither registered. Then Starke, the dismal dormitory town of Raiford; he knew there were modest houses, prosaic stores, cheap motels, cluttered gas stations, but he saw none of them. Beyond Starke was an interval of gloom . . . an impression of trees . . . all lost in a miasma of haste.
"We're here," Jorge said. "There's Raiford, up ahead."
Florida State Prison looked like a mammoth fortress, and it was. So were two other prisons immediately beyond.
Paradoxically, the State Prison was of ficially in the town of Starke, not Raiford. The other two, which were in Raiford, were Raiford Prison and the Union Correctional Institute. But it was Florida State Prison that contained Death Row, and it was here that all executions took place.
Looming ahead of Ainslie and Jorge was an immense succession of high, grimly austere concrete structures, a mile-long complex punctuated by row after row of narrow and stoutly barred cellblock windows. A functional onestory building, jutting forward, housed the State Prison Administration. Another concrete mass to one side, three stories high and windowless, contained the prison workshops.
Three heavy-duty chain-link fences enclosed it all, each fence thirty feet high and topped with rolls of concertina barbed wire and a series of live electrical wires. At intervals along the fences, tall concrete towers, nine in all, were manned by guards armed with rifles, machine guns, tear gas, and searchlights. From there they could view the entire prison. The three fences created parallel twin enclosures. Within the enclosures, trained attack dogs roamed, among them German shepherds and pit bulls.
Approaching the State Prison, both the Highway Patrol and Miami Police cars slowed, and Jorge, who was seeing the complex for the first time, whistled softly.
"It's hard to believe," Ainslie said, "but a few guys have actually escaped from here. Most of them didn't get very far, though." He glanced at the dashboard clock 6:02 A.M. and was reminded that Elroy Doil would be escaping in less than an hour, in the grimmest way of all.
Jorge shook his head. "If this were my home, I'd sure as hell try to escape."
The State Prison's outer gate and a large parking lot beyond were bathed in lights. The parking area was bustling unusual for this time of day, but public interest in the Doil execution had lured many reporters to the scene, and at least a hundred others now milled around, hoping for a hint of the latest developments. Several TV mobile trucks were parked nearby.
As usual, demonstrators stood in small groups, chanting slogans. Some bore signs denouncing today's execution and capital punishment in general; others held lighted candles.
A new breed of protesters held placards reading YOUR TAXES ARE PAYING FOR THIS SUICIDE and STOP STATESPONSORED SUICIDE. These were mainly young lawyers or their supporters who objected to condemned murderers like Elroy Doil being allowed to decide against the prolonged process of appeal.
After every death sentence, one appeal went automatically to the Florida Supreme Court, but if that was rejected, as most were, further appeals could take ten years or more of legal effort. Now, instead, some prisoners accepted the death penalty for their crimes and let it happen. The state governor had wisely ruled that if a condemned prisoner made that decision, it was part of his or her freedom of choice and not "suicide." As to the objecting lawyers, the governor commented acidly, "They are less concerned about condemned prisoners having another day in court than about having their own day in court."
Ainslie wondered how much thought, if any, the demonstrators gave to the silent: a murderer's victims.
Driving past the parking lot, Ainslie and Jorge neared the main gate, a two-lane entranceway with uniformed figures standing guard. Normally at this point all arrivals were asked for identification documents and questioned about their business at the prison. Instead, uniformed guards in distinctive kelly green pants and white shirts waved both police cars through. At the same time a tower searchlight encompassed the two cars and tracked them toward the prison buildings. Ainslie and Jorge put up hands to shield their eyes.
They were similarly cleared through two other checkpoints and, within seconds, were approaching the Administration building. Ainslie had visited the prison several times before, usually to interview crime suspects, and once to arrest an inmate on new charges, but never had he reached the interior so quickly.
The Highway Patrol car stopped at the Administration entrance, and Jorge maneuvered the Miami blue-and-white alongside.
As Ainslie stepped out, he saw a tall, slender black man, wearing a prison guard's uniform with a lieutenant's rank badges, move forward. Probably in his mid-forties, he had a trim mustache and wore half-glasses over penetrating eyes. On one cheek was a long scar. His speech was brisk and confident as he put out his hand. "Sergeant Ainslie, I'm Hambrick."
"Good morning, Lieutenant. Thanks for the arrangements."
"No problem; let's just keep moving." The lieutenant led the way inside, walking quickly down a brightly lit hallway a tightly controlled linkage between the strict security outside and the formidable cellblocks ahead. The two paused briefly for clearance through two separate sets of electrically operated steel gates, then a thick steel door opening to a main cellblock corridor, as wide as a fourlane highway and running the length of the prison's seven cellblocks.
Hambrick and Ainslie stopped outside a secure control room enclosed by steel and bulletproof glass. Inside were two male guards and a female lieutenant. The lieutenant approached the two men standing outside and slid a metal drawer outward; Ainslie inserted his Glock 9mm automatic pistol, a fifteen-round ammunition clip, and his police ID. The items were drawn inside the control room, where they would be placed in a safe until retrieved. No one had asked him about the recording device under his coat, which he had strapped on in the car. He decided not to volunteer the information.
"Let's move it," Hambrick said, but at the same moment a group of about twenty people emerged from the hallway behind and blocked their way. The newcomers were well-dressed visitors; all appeared intent and serious as prison guards hustled them through the corridor. Glancing at Ainslie, Hambrick mouthed the word "Witnesses."
Ainslie realized the group was headed for the execution chamber "twelve respectable citizens" as required by law, plus others whose presence the prison governor had approved, though there were always more applicants for execution viewing than available seats. The limit was twenty-four. The witnesses would have been assembled not far away and brought to the prison by bus. It was a sign that events were moving on schedule as 7:00 A.M. approached.
Scanning the group of faces, Ainslie recognized a woman state senator and two men who were members of the state House of Representatives. Politicians were competitive about attending executions, hoping their presence at such weighty law-and-order scenes would garner votes. Then he was startled to see one face: Miami City Commissioner Cynthia Ernst, who had once been important in his life, but he realized why she would want to watch Animal Doil's execution.
For a moment their eyes met, and Ainslie felt a sharp intake of breath, the effect she invariably had on him. He sensed, too, that she was aware of his presence, though made no acknowledgment and, as she moved by, her expression remained cool.
Moments later the witnesses were gone and Lieutenant Hambrick and Ainslie moved on.
"The superintendent is letting you use his Death Facility of lice to talk with Doil," Hambrick said. "We'll bring him to you there. He's already been through preparation." The lieutenant glanced at his watch. "You'll have about half an hour, not much more. By the way, have you ever watched an execution?"
"Yes, once." It had been three years ago. At the request of a bereaved family, Ainslie had accompanied a young husband and wife who chose to witness the death of a habitual criminal who had raped, then killed their eightyear-old daughter. Ainslie, who had solved the case, had gone as a duty, but had found the experience unsettling.
"You're going to see another," Hambrick said. "Doil asked for you to be a witness, and it's been approved."
"No one asked me,'' Ainslie rejoined. "But I suppose that's not relevant."
Hambrick shrugged, then said, "I've talked to Doil. He seems to have some special feeling about you. I'm not sure admiration is right; respect maybe. Did you get close to him in some way?"
"Never!" Ainslie was emphatic. "I arrested the son of a bitch for murder, and that's all. Besides, he hates me. At his trial he attacked me, called me 'perjurer,' 'crooked cop,' stuff like that."
"Nuts like Doil change moods like you and I shift gears. He doesn't feel that way now."
"Makes no difference. I'm only here to get some answers before he dies. Apart from that, my feelings for the guy are zero."
They continued walking while Hambrick digested what had been said. Then he asked, "Is it true you were once a priest?"
"Yes. Did Doil tell you?"
Hambrick nodded. "As far as he's concerned, you still are. I was there last night when he asked for you to come. He was spouting something from the Bible; about vengeance and repaying."
Ainslie nodded. "Yeah, it's from Romans: 'Give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.' "
"That's it. Then Doil called you 'God's avenging angel,' and the message I got was that you meant more to him than a priest. Did the Father tell you all that when he phoned?"