Authors: Michael Connelly
Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Fiction, #General, #Crime, #Thrillers, #Police Procedural
“Let me tell you something,” he said. “You know what you find out on this job?”
“That there are no good ways to go.”
BOSCH WENT TO THE CAPTAIN’S OFFICE to refill his coffee mug. When he reached into his pocket for another buck for the basket, he came out with Brenner’s card and it reminded him of Brenner’s request to be updated on the possibility of a witness. But Bosch had just finished updating Lieutenant Gandle on what the young Canadian said he had seen and heard at the overlook and together they had decided to keep Mitford under wraps for the time being. Until at least the 9 a.m. meeting, when it would be put-up or shut-up time with the feds. If the federal powers that be were going to keep the LAPD involved in the investigation, it would become clear at that meeting. Then it would be quid pro quo time. Bosch would share the witness’s story in exchange for a share of the investigation.
Meantime, Gandle said he would send another update through the department’s chain of command. With the latest revelation of the word
cropping up in the investigation, it was incumbent upon him to make sure the growing gravity of the case was communicated upward.
With his mug full he went back to his desk and started going through the evidence collected from the murder scene and the house where Alicia Kent had been held while her husband did the bidding of her captors.
He was already aware of most of what had been found at the murder scene. He started removing Stanley Kent’s personal belongings from the evidence bags and examining them. At this stage they had been processed by Forensics and it was okay to handle them.
The first item was the physicist’s BlackBerry. Bosch was not adept in a digital world and readily acknowledged this. He had mastered his own cell phone but it was a basic model that made and received calls, stored numbers in a directory, and did nothing else—as far as he knew. This meant that he was quite lost as he tried to manipulate the higher-evolution device.
“Harry, you need help with that?”
Bosch looked up and saw Ferras smiling at him. Bosch was embarrassed by his lack of technological skill but not to the point where he wouldn’t accept help. That would turn his personal flaw into something worse.
“You know how to work this?”
“It has e-mail, right?”
Bosch had to get up to hand the phone across both of their desks.
“About six o’clock yesterday Kent was sent an e-mail that was marked urgent from his wife. It had the photo in it of her tied up on their bed. I want you to find it and see if there is a way you can somehow print it out with the photo. I want to look at the photo again but bigger than on that little screen.”
As Bosch had been speaking, Ferras had already been working the BlackBerry.
“No problem,” he said. “What I can do is just forward the e-mail to my own e-mail account here. Then I’ll open it up and print it out.”
Ferras started using his thumbs to type on the phone’s tiny keyboard. It looked like some sort of child’s toy to Bosch. Like the ones he had seen kids use on planes. He didn’t understand why people were always typing feverishly on their phones. He was sure it was some sort of warning, a sign of the decline of civilization or humanity but he couldn’t put his finger on the right explanation for what he felt. The digital world was always billed as a great advancement but he remained skeptical.
“Okay, I found it and sent it,” Ferras said. “It’ll probably come through in a couple minutes and I will print it. What else?”
“Does that show what calls he made and what calls came in?”
Ferras didn’t answer. He manipulated the controls on the phone.
“How far back do you want to go?” he asked.
“For now, how about going back till about noon yesterday,” Bosch replied.
“Okay, I’m on the screen. You want me to show you how to use this thing or do you want me to just give you the numbers?”
Bosch got up and came around the row of desks so he could look over his partner’s shoulder at the phone’s small screen.
“Just give me an overview for now and we’ll run the whole picture down later,” he said. “If you tried to teach me we’d be here forever.”
Ferras nodded and smiled.
“Well,” he said, “if he made or received a call to or from a number that was in his address book it is listed by the name associated with the number in the address book.”
“It shows a lot of calls to and from the office and various hospitals and address book names—probably doctors he worked with—all through the afternoon. Three calls are marked ‘Barry’ and I am assuming that was his partner. I looked up the state corporate records online, and K and K Medical Physicists is owned by Kent and someone named Barry Kelber.”
“Yeah,” he said, “that reminds me that we have to talk to the partner first thing this morning.”
Bosch leaned across Ferras’s desk to reach the notepad on his own desk. He then wrote the name Barry Kelber down while Ferras was continuing to scroll through the cell phone’s call log.
“Now, here we are after six and he starts alternately calling his home and his wife’s cell phone. I get the feeling that these weren’t answered because he’s got ten calls logged in three minutes. He was calling and calling. And these were all made after he received that urgent e-mail from his wife’s account.”
Bosch saw the picture beginning to fill in a little bit. Kent had a routine day on the job, handled a lot of calls to and from people and places familiar to him and then got the e-mail from his wife’s account. He saw the photo attached and started calling home. She didn’t answer, which only alarmed him further. Finally, he went out and did what the e-mail instructed him to do. But for all his efforts and following of orders, they still killed him on the overlook.
“So, what went wrong?” he asked out loud.
“What do you mean, Harry?”
“Up at the overlook. I still don’t understand why they killed him. He did what they wanted. He turned over the stuff. What went wrong?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they killed him because he saw one of their faces.”
“The witness says the shooter was wearing a mask.”
“Well, then maybe nothing went wrong. Maybe the plan was to kill him all along. They made that silencer, remember? And the way the guy yells out
doesn’t make it sound like something went wrong. Makes it sound like part of a plan.”
“Then if that was the plan, why kill him and not her? Why leave a witness?”
“I don’t know, Harry. But don’t those hardcore Muslims have a rule about hurting women? Like it keeps them out of nirvana or heaven or whatever they call it?”
Bosch didn’t answer the question because he didn’t know about the cultural practices his partner had crudely referred to. But the question underlined for him how out of his element he was on the case. He was used to chasing killers motivated by greed or lust or any one of the big seven sins. Religious extremism wasn’t often on the list.
Ferras put the BlackBerry down and turned back to his computer. Like many detectives he preferred to use his own laptop because the computers provided by the department were old and slow and most of them carried more viruses than a Hollywood Boulevard hooker.
He saved what he had been working on and opened up his e-mail screen. The e-mail forwarded from Kent’s account was there. Ferras opened the e-mail and whistled when he saw the embedded photograph of Alicia Kent naked and tied up on the bed.
“Yeah, that would do it,” he said.
Meaning that he understood why Kent had turned over the cesium. Ferras had been married for less than a year and had a baby on the way. Bosch was just starting to get to know his young partner but knew already that he was deeply in love with his wife. Under the glass top of his desk Ferras had a collage of photos of his bride. Under the glass on his side of the work-station Bosch had photos of murder victims whose killers he was still looking for.
“Make me a printout of that,” Bosch said. “Blow it up if you can. And go ahead and keep playing with that phone. See what else you can find.”
Bosch went back to his side of the workstation and sat down. Ferras enlarged and printed out the e-mail and photo on a color printer located at the back of the squad room. He went over and retrieved it and then brought it to Bosch.
Bosch already had his reading glasses on but from a desk drawer he pulled a rectangular magnifying glass he’d bought when he noticed that his prescription was no longer strong enough for the close-up work. He never used the magnifying glass when the squad room was crowded with detectives. He didn’t want to give the others something to ridicule him with—either in jest or not.
He put the printout down on his desk and leaned over it with the magnifier. He first studied the bindings that held the woman’s limbs behind her torso. The intruders had used six snap ties, placing one loop around each wrist and ankle, then one to link the ankles and the last one to link the wrist loops to the loop connecting the ankles.
It seemed like an overly complicated way to bind the woman’s extremities. It was not the way Bosch would have done it if he were trying to quickly hog-tie a perhaps struggling woman. He would have used fewer bindings and made the work easier and quicker.
He wasn’t sure what this meant or if it meant anything at all. Perhaps Alicia Kent hadn’t struggled at all and in return for her cooperation her captors used the extra links in order to make the time she was left bound on the bed less difficult. It seemed to Bosch that the way she had been bound meant that her arms and legs were not pulled behind her as far as they could have been.
Still, remembering the bruising on Alicia Kent’s wrists, he realized that no matter what, the time she had spent hog-tied naked on the bed had not been easy. He decided that the only thing he knew for sure from studying the photo was that he needed to talk with Alicia Kent again and go over what had happened in more exacting detail.
On a fresh page of his notebook he wrote down his questions about the bindings. He planned to use the rest of the page to add more questions in preparation for an eventual follow-up interview with her.
Nothing else came to mind during his study of the photograph. When he was finished he put the magnifier aside and started skimming through the forensics reports from the murder scene. Nothing grabbed his attention there either and he quickly moved on to the reports and evidence from the Kent house. Because he and Brenner had quickly left the house for Saint Agatha’s, Bosch had not been there when the SID techs searched for evidence left behind by the intruders. He was anxious to see what, if anything, had been found.
But there was only one evidence bag and it contained the black plastic snap ties that had been used to bind Alicia Kent’s wrists and ankles and that Rachel Walling had cut in order to free her.
“Wait a minute,” Bosch said, holding up the clear plastic bag. “Is this the only evidence they bagged at the Kent house?”
Ferras looked up.
“It’s the only bag they gave me. Did you check the evidence log? It should be in there. Maybe they’re still processing some stuff.”
Bosch looked through the documents Ferras had obtained until he found the forensic evidence log. Every item removed from a crime scene by the technicians was always entered on the log. It helped track the chain of evidence.
He found the log and noticed that it included several items removed by technicians from the Kent house, most of them tiny hair and fiber specimens. This was to be expected, though there was no telling if any of the specimens was related to the suspects. But in all his years working cases Bosch had yet to come across the immaculate crime scene. Plain and simple, it was a basic law of nature that when a crime takes place it always leaves its mark—no matter how small—on the environment. There is always a transfer. It is just a matter of finding it.
On the list each snap tie had been individually entered and these were followed by numerous hair and fiber specimens extracted from locations ranging from the master bedroom carpet to the sink trap in the guest bathroom. The mouse pad from the office computer was on the list as well as a Nikon camera’s lens cap which had been found beneath the bed in the master bedroom. The last entry on the list was the most interesting to Bosch. The evidence was simply described as a cigarette ash.
Bosch could not think what value as evidence a cigarette ash could be.
“Is anybody still up there in SID from the Kent house search?” he asked Ferras.
“There was a half hour ago,” Ferras answered. “Buzz Yates and the latents woman whose name I always forget.”
Bosch picked up the phone and called the SID office.
“Scientific Investigation Division, Yates.”
“Buzz, just the guy I wanted to talk to.”
“Harry Bosch. On the search of the Kent house, tell me about this cigarette ash you collected.”
“Oh, yeah, that was a cigarette that had burned down to just the ash. The FBI agent who was there asked me to collect it.”
“Where was it?”
“She found it on top of the toilet tank in the guest bedroom. Like somebody had put their smoke down while they took a leak and then forgot about it. It burned all the way through and then out.”
“So it was just ashes when she found it?”
“Right. A gray caterpillar. But she wanted us to collect it for her. She said their lab might be able to do something with—”
“Wait a minute, Buzz. You gave her the evidence?”
“Well, sort of. Yeah. She—”
“What do you mean ‘sort of’? You either did or you didn’t. Did you give Agent Walling the cigarette ashes you collected from my crime scene?”
“Yes,” Yates conceded. “But not without a lot of discussion and assurances, Harry. She said the bureau’s science lab could analyze the ashes and determine the type of tobacco, which would then allow them to determine country of origin. We can’t do anything like that, Harry. We can’t even touch that. She said it would be important to the investigation because they might be dealing with terrorists from outside the country. So I went along with it. She told me that once she worked an arson case where they found a single ash from the cigarette that lit the fire. They were able to tell what brand and that tied it to a specific suspect.”