Authors: Michael Connelly
“Then I guess we both made good jumps tonight.”
“What a team. High five.”
Ballard put up her hand.
“We’re not supposed to be doing that during Covid,” Bosch said.
“Come on, Harry,” Ballard urged. “You can do it.”
Bosch reached up and half-heartedly slapped her hand.
“We’ll have to work on that,” Ballard said.
After checking in at the watch office with Lieutenant Rivera, Ballard went to the detective bureau to attempt to identify Bonner. The department’s active roster was easily accessible through their internal website. There were two Bonners currently on the job but one was a female, Anne-Marie, and the male, Horatio Jr., had not been in the department at the time Javier Raffa bought his way out of the Las Palmas 13. At best, these two could be legacies of the Bonner she was looking for. But asking them was not an option. Their loyalties would be with their father or uncle or whoever it was. They’d alert the Bonner that Ballard was looking for before she could get to him.
Every division had what was called a pension book. It was a binder updated annually with the roster of retired officers receiving pensions — meaning they were still alive. Dead officers were the hardest of all to trace. The listings in the pension book included the ex-officer’s contact details as well as badge number, serial number, beginning- and end-of-watch dates, and final division assignment before retirement. The book was used to reach out to former officers in the course of investigations that touched on their activities while on the job. It was particularly handy in cold cases.
Hollywood Division’s copy of the pension book was kept
in the detective lieutenant’s office, which was locked at the moment because Robinson-Reynolds was off on a Sunday night. Undaunted, Ballard used a set of lockpicks she kept in her file cabinet to work the simple knob lock open. The white binder she was looking for was on a shelf with an assortment of department manuals behind the lieutenant’s desk. Knowing she was trespassing, she made it an in-and-out operation. She opened the book on the lieutenant’s desk and quickly looked through the alphabetical listings for a Bonner.
She found two: Horatio Bonner, who retired in 2002, so could not be the one Ballard was looking for but presumably was the father of at least one of the Bonners currently employed by the department; and a Christopher Bonner, who had retired seven years earlier after twenty years on the job. His rank and last assignment were listed as detective first grade in Hollywood detectives. This was curious to Ballard. She had never heard of Christopher Bonner. She had arrived in the division two years after he had left but, still, she could not recall ever seeing or hearing about a case that had his name attached to it. What added to the puzzle was that Bosch had not reacted to the name, and it seemed as though their time working in Hollywood might have overlapped, though she was not sure what year Bosch left Hollywood Division for the Open-Unsolved Unit downtown.
After laying the binder open on the desk, she pulled out her phone and took a photo of the entry for Christopher Bonner. As she did so, she noticed a yellow Post-it pad to the side of the desk’s center work area. Robinson-Reynolds had written “Ballard” on the top sheet and nothing else. It was obviously a note written to remind him to tell Ballard something or get something from her. Or possibly to talk to someone else about her. Ballard could not think of what that might be, since the
last time Robinson-Reynolds was in his office to write the note was during the day shift on New Year’s Eve. Nothing she was involved in now had even occurred by then, except for the ongoing investigation of the first two Midnight Men assaults.
She pushed the question aside for the moment, put her phone in her pocket, and then returned the pension book to its spot on the shelf. She left the office as she had found it and locked the door behind her.
At her borrowed desk, Ballard transferred the info on Bonner from her photo to her computer screen. Bonner lived in Simi Valley — at least that was where his pension checks were sent — which was a cop haven outside L.A. in Ventura County. It was close enough that he could have lived there while he was with the LAPD. Many cops did. It also put him close to the San Fernando Valley, where the nexus of the four dentists was centered at Crown Labs Incorporated.
Ballard got up and walked back to the watch office, where Lieutenant Rivera was at his desk, holding a cupcake. There was a tray of cupcakes on a counter nearby. As Ballard approached, he pointed at the tray with the cupcake in his hand.
“Citizen appreciation,” he said. “Help yourself.”
“These days you should have those checked by the lab first,” Ballard said. “Senna glycoside, you know?”
“What the hell is that?”
“A laxative. The active ingredient in Ex-Lax.”
Rivera stared down at the chocolate-frosted cake in his hand, visions of cupcake eaters lining up at the restroom likely playing in his head. He had already peeled off the paper baking cup. Hesitantly, he put it down on a napkin on his desk.
“Thanks a lot, Ballard,” he said.
“Just watching out for you, L-T,” she said. “Want me to call the lab?”
“Why are you here, Ballard? It’s all quiet on the western front.”
“I know. I wanted to ask you about Christopher Bonner.”
“Bonner? What about him?”
“You know him?”
“Of course. He worked here.”
“He supposedly worked here as a detective.”
“Yeah, he had your job.”
“Worked the late show right up until the day he pulled the pin.”
Ballard was shocked by the coincidence but it helped explain why his name was unfamiliar to her. Midnight-shift detectives usually turned their cases over to dayside detectives. As a result, they weren’t formally listed as leads on many cases. This could also help explain why Bosch didn’t recognize the name.
“So, you must have known him pretty well then,” she said.
“Yeah, I guess,” Rivera said. “Just like you, he worked for me.” Ballard didn’t bother correcting him about who she actually reported to.
“You said ‘the day he pulled the pin,’ ” she said. “Did something happen with him that made him quit?”
“I don’t know, Ballard,” Rivera said. “He just quit. Maybe he got fed up with all the shit out there. I don’t need to tell you what you see out there on the night shift.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Why are you asking about Chris?”
“Oh, his name came up in the homicide from Thursday night. He knew the family from back in the day. I was just curious about him, is all.”
Ballard hoped her answer would satisfy Rivera without
suspicion. As a distraction, she bent down over the tray of cupcakes, holding her hair back so it didn’t flop onto the icing.
“You know,” she said. “I think these look all right. Mind if I take one?”
“Knock yourself out,” Rivera said.
She picked one with vanilla cake and icing.
“Thanks,” she said. “Hard to hide something in vanilla.”
She headed to the door.
“I’m around if you need me,” she said.
“I’ll call you,” Rivera said.
When she got back to the detective bureau, she dumped the cupcake in the trash can under the desk she was borrowing. She then pulled her phone and called Bosch, hoping he had not already gone to bed.
“You find him?” he asked.
“I think so,” she said. “And get this — he had my job here at Hollywood.”
“What do you mean? Late-show detective?”
“That’s right. He retired two years before I got here, and I think he might have been here when you were.”
“I must be losing it. I don’t remember that name.”
“You probably never came across him. Out of sight, out of mind.”
“Is he still local?”
“Well, that puts him in our frame of reference. Looks like he’s the money man. Is he also the man with the P-twenty-two?”
“We’re not there yet.”
“How are you going to work it?”
“Not much I can do with it till tomorrow. But I can go through records, see if there’s anything that connects the dots.”
“Yeah, so let me do that, you get some sleep, and I’ll let you know if I get anything in the morning after shift. By then I’ll also probably know if I still have the case.”
This was the homicide detective’s sign-off. It was a show of respect, and Ballard thought there was no one in the entire department whose respect she would take over Harry Bosch’s.
Before going to work on the department database, she pulled her phone, checked her email, and learned that a woman named Daisy from Wags and Walks had responded to her request to meet the Chihuahua mix named Pinto. The message was that Pinto was still available for adoption and would be happy to meet Ballard.
Ballard, not knowing what the day ahead would bring, responded with a request to see the dog on Tuesday. Since Tuesday was one of Ballard’s regular days off, she said in the email that Daisy could name the time of the appointment and she would make it work. She added that she was very excited to meet Pinto.
Ballard put the phone aside and used the desk terminal to enter the department database. She started with the biggest net that she could throw: all cases with Bonner’s name and serial number in the reports.
The department was digitized going back to the mid ’90s, so Bonner’s entire career was covered. The search engine took more than a minute to come back with over 14,000 hits. Ballard thought that was actually low considering that Bonner had put in twenty years. She guessed that by the time she hit her twenty years, she would have more than double that number of engagements in the database.
Checking through that many reports, even those easily dismissed, could take days. Ballard needed to cut it down to
hours — at least initially. She pulled up her chrono on her laptop and checked the date of the intel report that Javier Raffa had bought his way out of the Las Palmas gang. It was dated October 25, 2006, meaning that Bonner was already associated in some way with shot caller Humberto Viera at that time. Ballard resubmitted her search for reports with Bonner’s name on them, chopping the net down to three years on either side of the date of the report.
This time the search took less time and the computer coughed up 5,403 hits. She then cut this down to 3,544 by searching only two years on either side of the 2006 marker.
Ballard looked up at the clock and saw that it was nearly three. Her shift ended at six but she was going to wait until Robinson-Reynolds came in to work, and that would be between seven and eight, and more likely later than earlier. After that, she planned to meet with Matt Neumayer, head of the Sex Assault team, whether or not Lisa Moore was back from her sojourn in Santa Barbara.
Ballard decided that if she got lucky and there were no callouts, and if she kept herself from going computer blind, she could get through all the reports by the time of her meetings the next morning.
She set to work with a quick protocol for reviewing the reports. She would scan only the front sheet, which contained the name of the victim, suspect — if there was one — and type of crime or callout. This would allow her to quickly move past trivial reports of minor crimes and citizen interactions. If something intrigued her, she would open the full report to read further, looking for connections to Humberto Viera or anyone else whose name had come up so far in the Raffa investigation.
It was Sunday night and calm out on the streets. No calls came in to interrupt Ballard. She got up once an hour for a few
minutes to take her eyes off the computer screen and to get coffee or walk up and down the aisles of the detective bureau. At one point a patrol officer came in to find a desk to type up a report, and Ballard sent him to use a terminal on the other side of the room because he wasn’t wearing a mask.
Two hours into the search, she had reached the date of October 25, 2006, in the reports and had nothing to show for it. There had been no report with reference to Bonner that involved an arrest, investigation, or interaction with a member of the Las Palmas 13 gang. That in itself was a revelation, because it was hard for Ballard to believe that one could go a solid two years as a midnight-shift detective without a single interaction with a Las Palmas gangster in some form. It told her that Bonner had avoided gang cases, if not overtly looked the other way when it came to gang crimes.
It also told her that she needed to reframe her search. She didn’t see going through the next two years of records as the best use of her time. Instead she went back to the search engine and asked for records from 2000 to 2004, producing 3,113 reports with Bonner’s name on them.
These reports began with Bonner as a patrol officer in Hollywood Division. He then got a promotion to detective in early 2002 and was assigned to the third watch, which was considered an entry detective position at the time. It still was, but it had not been an entry position for Ballard. Her assignment to the dark hours had come as punishment for pushing back against one of the many ills of the department: sexual harassment. She had lost a departmental skirmish with her boss at the Robbery-Homicide Division and was banished to the night shift in Hollywood.
An hour later, Ballard found the needle in the digital haystack of reports: a report dated October 5, 2004, in which Bonner was listed as the late-show detective who responded to
a call about a shooting into an occupied dwelling. The incident occurred at 3:20 a.m. at a home on Lemon Grove Avenue near Western Avenue. The summary stated that the occupants of the home were asleep when a drive-by shooting occurred, a gunman spraying automatic fire from a passing car. No one was hurt and the occupants might not have even called the police, but several neighbors did.
The report listed the occupants of the house as Humberto Viera and his girlfriend, Sofia Navarro. Ballard believed she now knew Darla’s real name.
A follow-up report written by Bonner, who at this point had been a detective for less than a year, described Viera and Navarro as uncooperative. The summary described Viera as a high-ranking member of the Las Palmas 13 street gang.
The summary also stated that information from GED indicated that Viera was suspected of having been involved in an abduction attempt of a rival gang member named Julio Sanz. According to the intel, Sanz was a member of the White Fence street gang, which operated out of Boyle Heights but was encroaching on Las Palmas turf. The abduction was an attempt to gain leverage in brokering an agreement between the gangs on the turf border.