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Authors: Michael Connelly

Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Fiction, #General, #Crime, #Thrillers, #Police Procedural

The Overlook (19 page)

BOOK: The Overlook
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“What?”
Walling replied, coming out of her own thoughts.

“Moby and El-Fayed. How’d they zero in on Stanley Kent?”

“I don’t know. Maybe if this is one of them at the hospital, we’ll get to ask.”

Bosch let some time go by. He was tired of yelling. But then he called over another question.

“Doesn’t it bother you that everything came out of that house?”

“What are you talking about?”

“The gun, the camera, the computer they used. Everything. There’s Coke in liter bottles in the pantry and they tied Alicia Kent up with the same snap ties she uses to hold her roses up in the backyard. Doesn’t that bother you? They had nothing but a knife and ski masks when they went through that door. Doesn’t that bother you at all about this case?”

“You have to remember, these people are resourceful. They teach them that in the camps. El-Fayed was trained in an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. He in turn taught Nassar. They make do with what’s available. You could say that they took down the World Trade Center with a couple of airliners or a couple of box cutters. It’s all in how you look at it. More important than what tools they have is their relentlessness—something I am sure you can appreciate.”

Bosch was about to respond but they came up on the exit and he had to concentrate on weaving around the traffic on surface streets. In two minutes he finally killed the siren and pulled into the ambulance run at Queen of Angels.

Felton met them in the crowded emergency room and led the way to the treatment area, where there were six ER bays. A private security cop stood outside one of the curtained spaces and Bosch moved forward, showing his badge. After barely acknowledging the rent-a-cop he split the curtain and moved into the treatment bay.

Alone in the curtained space was the patient, a small, dark-haired man with brown skin lying beneath a spider web of tubes and wires extending from overhead medical machinery to his limbs, chest, mouth and nose. The hospital bed was encased in a clear, plastic tent. The man barely took up half the bed and somehow looked like a victim under attack by the apparatus around him.

His eyes were half-lidded and unmoving. Most of his body was exposed. Some sort of modesty towel had been taped over his genitals but his legs and torso were visible. The right side of his stomach and right hip were covered with blooms of thermal burns. His right hand exhibited the same burns—painful-looking red rings surrounding purplish wet eruptions in the skin. A clear gel had been spread over the burns but it didn’t look like it was helping.

“Where is everybody?” Bosch asked.

“Harry, don’t get close,” Walling warned. “He’s not conscious so let’s just back out and talk to the doctor before we do anything.”

Bosch pointed to the patient’s burns.

“Could this be from the cesium?” Bosch asked. “It can happen that fast?”

“From direct exposure in a concentrated amount, yeah. It depends on how long the exposure was. It looks like this guy was carrying the stuff in his pocket.”

“Does he look like Moby or El-Fayed?”

“No, he doesn’t look like either one of them. Come on.”

She stepped back through the curtain and Bosch followed. She ordered the security man to get the ER doctor who was treating the man. She flipped open her phone and pushed a single button. Her call was answered quickly.

“This is legit,” she said. “We have a direct exposure. We need to set up a command post and a containment protocol here.”

She listened and then answered a question.

“No, neither one. I don’t have an ID yet. I’ll call it in as soon as I do.”

She closed the phone and looked at Bosch.

“The radiation team will be here inside of ten minutes,” she said. “I’ll be directing the command post.”

A woman in hospital blues walked up to them, carrying a clipboard.

“I’m Dr. Garner. You need to stay away from that patient until we know more about what happened to him.”

Walling and Bosch showed her their credentials.

“What can you tell us?” Walling asked.

“Not much at this time. He’s in full prodromal syndrome—the first symptoms of exposure. The trouble is, we don’t know what he was exposed to or for how long. That gives us no gray count and without that we don’t have a specific treatment protocol. We’re winging it.”

“What are the symptoms?” Walling asked.

“Well, you see the burns. Those are the least of our problems. The most serious damage is internal. His immune system is shutting down and he’s aspirated most of the lining of his stomach. His GI tract is shot. We stabilized him but I’m not holding out a great deal of hope. The stress on the body pushed him into cardiac arrest. We just had the blue team in here fifteen minutes ago.”

“How long is it between exposure and the start of this produro-whatever syndrome?” Bosch asked.

“Prodromal. It can happen within an hour of first exposure.”

Bosch looked at the man beneath the plastic canopy enclosing the bed. He remembered the phrase Captain Hadley had used when Samir was dying on the floor of his prayer room.
He’s circling the drain
. He knew the man on the hospital bed was circling it as well.

“What can you tell us about who he is and where he was found?” Bosch asked the doctor.

“You’ll have to talk to the paramedics about where he was found,” Garner answered. “I didn’t have time to get into that. And all I heard was that he was found in the street. He had collapsed. And as far as who he is . . .”

She raised the clipboard and read from the top sheet.

“He’s listed as Digoberto Gonzalves, age forty-one. There’s no address here. That’s all I know right now.”

Walling stepped away, pulling her phone out again. Bosch knew she was going to call in the name, have it run through the terrorism databases.

“Where are his clothes?” he asked the doctor. “Where’s his wallet?”

“His clothing and all his possessions were removed from the ER because of exposure concerns.”

“Did anybody look through them?”

“No, sir, nobody was going to risk it.”

“Where was it all taken?”

“You’ll have to get that information from the nursing staff.”

She pointed to a nursing station in the center of the treatment area. Bosch headed that way. The nurse at the desk told Bosch that everything from the patient was placed in a medical waste container that was then taken to the hospital’s incinerator. It was not clear whether this was done in accordance with the hospital’s protocol for dealing with contamination cases or out of utter fear of the unknown factors involved with Gonzalves.

“Where’s the incinerator?”

Rather than give him directions, the nurse called over the security guard and told him to take Bosch to the incinerator room. Before Bosch could go, Walling called to him.

“Take this,” she said, holding out the radiation-alert monitor she had taken off her belt. “And remember, we have a radiation team coming. Don’t risk yourself. If that goes off, you back away. I mean it.
You back away
.”

“Got it.”

Bosch put the alert monitor in his pocket. He and the guard quickly headed down a hallway and then took a stairway to the basement. They then took another hallway that seemed to run at least a block in length to the far side of the building.

When they got to the incinerator room the space was empty and there appeared to be no active burning of medical waste occurring. There was a three-foot canister on the floor. Its top was sealed with tape that said CAUTION: HAZARDOUS WASTE.

Bosch took out his key chain which had a small penknife on it. He squatted down next to the canister and cut the security tape. In his peripheral vision he noticed the security guard step back.

“Maybe you should wait outside,” Bosch said. “There’s no need for both of us to—”

He heard the door close behind him before he finished the sentence.

He looked down at the canister, took a breath and removed the top. Digoberto Gonzalves’s clothes had been haphazardly dropped into the container.

Bosch took the monitor Walling had given him out of his pocket and waved it over the open canister like a magic wand. The monitor remained silent. He let his breath out. Then, as smoothly as emptying a wastepaper basket at home, he turned the canister upside down and dumped its contents onto the concrete floor. He rolled the canister aside and once again moved the monitor in a circular pattern over the clothes. There was no alarm.

Gonzalves’s clothes had been cut off his body with scissors. There were a pair of dirty blue jeans, a work shirt, T-shirt, underwear and socks. There was a pair of work boots with the laces cut by the scissors as well. Lying loose on the floor in the middle of the clothing was a small, black leather wallet.

Bosch started with the clothing. In the pocket of the work shirt were a pen and a tire pressure gauge. He found work gloves sticking out of one of the rear pockets of the jeans and then removed a set of keys and a cell phone from the left front pocket. He thought about the burns he had seen on Gonzalves’s right hip and hand. But when he opened the right front pocket of the jeans there was no cesium. The pocket was empty.

Bosch put the cell phone and keys down next to the wallet and studied what he had. On one of the keys Bosch saw a Toyota insignia. Now he knew that a vehicle was part of the equation. He opened the phone and tried to find the call directory but couldn’t figure it out. He put it aside and opened the wallet.

There wasn’t much. The wallet contained a Mexican driver’s license with the name and photo of Digoberto Gonzalves. He was from Oaxaca. In one of the slots he found photos of a woman and three young children—shots that Bosch guessed were taken back in Mexico. There was no green card or citizenship document. There were no credit cards and in the billfold section there were only six dollar bills along with several tickets from pawnshops located in the Valley.

Bosch put the wallet down next to the phone, stood up and got out his own phone. He scrolled the directory until he found Walling’s cell number.

She answered his call immediately.

“I checked his clothes. No cesium.”

There was no response.

“Rachel, did you—”

“Yes, I heard. I just wish you had found it, Harry. I just wish this could be over.”

“Me, too. Did anything come through on the name?”

“What name?”

“Gonzalves. You called it in, right?”

“Oh, right, yeah. No, nothing. And I mean nothing, not even a driver’s license. I think it must be an alias.”

“I’ve got a Mexican driver’s license here. I think the guy’s an illegal.”

She gave that some thought before responding.

“Well, it’s believed that Nassar and El-Fayed came in across the Mexican border. Maybe that’s the connection. Maybe this guy was working with them.”

“I don’t know, Rachel. I’ve got work clothes here. Work boots. I think this guy—”

“Harry, I’ve gotta go. My team is here.”

“All right. I’m heading back up.”

Bosch pocketed his phone, then gathered the clothing and boots and put them all back in the canister. He put the wallet, keys and cell phone on top of the clothing and took the canister with him. On the long walk back down the hallway to the stairs he pulled out his phone again and called the city’s communications center. He asked the dispatcher to dig out the details on the paramedic call that had brought Gonzalves to Queen of Angels and was put on hold.

He got all the way up the steps and back to the ER before the dispatcher came back on the line.

“The call you asked about came in at ten-oh-five from a phone registered to Easy Print at nine-thirty Cahuenga Boulevard. Man down in the parking lot. Fire department paramedics responded from station fifty-four. Response time six minutes, nineteen seconds. Anything else?”

“What’s the nearest cross at that location?”

After a moment the dispatcher told him the cross street was Lankershim Boulevard. Bosch thanked her and disconnected.

The address where Gonzalves collapsed was not far from the Mulholland overlook. Bosch realized that almost every location associated with the case so far—from the murder site to the victim’s house to Ramin Samir’s house and now to the spot where Gonzalves collapsed—could fit on one page of a Thomas Brothers map book. Murder cases in L.A. usually dragged him all over the map book. But this one wasn’t roaming. It was staying close.

Bosch looked around the ER. He noticed that all the people who had been crowding the waiting room before were now gone. There had been an evacuation and agents in protective gear were moving about the area with radiation monitors. He spotted Rachel Walling by the nursing station and walked over to her. He held out the canister.

“Here’s the guy’s stuff.”

She took the canister and put it down on the floor, then called over to one of the men in protection gear. She told him to take charge of the canister. She then looked back at Bosch.

“There’s a cell phone in there,” he told her. “They might be able to get something out of that.”

“I’ll tell them.”

“How’s the victim doing?”

“Victim?”

“Whether he’s involved in this or not he is still a victim.”

“If you say so. He’s still out of it. I don’t know if we’ll ever get the chance to talk to him.”

“Then I’m leaving.”

“What? Where? I’m going with you.”

“I thought you had to run the CP.”

“I passed it off. If there’s no cesium here I’m not staying. I’ll stick with you. Let me just tell some people I’m leaving to follow a lead.”

Bosch hesitated. But deep down he knew he wanted her with him.

“I’ll be out front in the car.”

“Where are we going?”

“I don’t know if Digoberto Gonzalves is a terrorist or just a victim, but I do know one thing. He drives a Toyota. And I think I know where we’ll find it.”

 

SEVENTEEN

 

HARRY BOSCH KNEW that the physics of traffic would not work for him in the Cahuenga Pass. The Hollywood Freeway always moved slowly in both directions through the bottleneck created by the cut in the mountain chain. He decided to stay on surface streets and take Highland Avenue past the Hollywood Bowl and up into the pass. He filled Rachel Walling in along the way.

BOOK: The Overlook
10.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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