Authors: Michael Connelly
Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Fiction, #General, #Crime, #Thrillers, #Police Procedural
“The coroner’s guy just gave me all of this,” Edgar said. “They should be done with the body in about ten minutes.”
Bosch picked up the bag containing the ID tag and angled it toward the light. It said Saint Agatha’s Clinic for Women. On it was a photograph of a man with dark hair and dark eyes. It identified him as Dr. Stanley Kent. He was smiling at the camera. Bosch noticed that the ID tag was also a swipe key that could open locked doors.
“You talk to Kiz much?” Edgar asked.
It was a reference to Bosch’s former partner, who had transferred after Echo Park to a management job in the OCP—the office of the chief of police.
“Not too much. But she’s doing fine.”
Bosch moved on to the other evidence bags and wanted to move the conversation away from Kiz Rider and onto the case at hand.
“Why don’t you run down what you’ve got for me, Jerry?” he said.
“Happy to,” Edgar said. “The stiff was found about an hour ago. As you can see from the signs out on the street, there is no parking up here and no loitering after dark. Hollywood always has a patrol swing by here a few times a night to chase lookyloos away. Keeps the rich locals up here happy. I am told that house over there is Madonna’s. Or it was.”
He pointed to a sprawling mansion about a hundred yards from the clearing. The moonlight silhouetted a tower rising from the structure. The mansion’s exterior was striped in alternating hues of rust and yellow like a Tuscan church. It was on a promontory that afforded anyone looking through its windows a magnificent, sweeping view of the city below. Bosch imagined the pop star up in the tower looking down on the city that lay at her command.
Bosch looked back at his old partner, ready for the rest of the report.
“The patrol car swings around about eleven and sees the Porsche with the hood open. Engine’s in the back of those Porsches, Harry. It means the trunk was open.”
“Okay, so you knew that already. Anyway, the patrol car pulls up, they don’t see anybody in or around the Porsche, so the two officers get out. One of them walks out into the clearing and finds our guy. He’s facedown and has two in the back of the head. An execution, clean and simple.”
Bosch nodded at the ID tag in the evidence bag.
“And this is the guy, Stanley Kent?”
“Looks that way. The tag and the wallet both say he’s Stanley Kent, forty-two years old from just around the corner on Arrowhead Drive. We ran the plate on the Porsche and it comes back to a business called K and K Medical Physicists. I just ran Kent through the box and he came up pretty clean. He’s got a few speeding tickets on the Porsche but that’s it. A straight shooter.”
Bosch nodded as he registered all the information.
“You are going to get no grief from me, taking over this case, Harry,” Edgar said. “I got one partner in court this month and I left my other one at the first scene we caught today—a three-bagger with a fourth victim on life support at Queen of Angels.”
Bosch remembered that Hollywood ran its homicide squad in three-man teams instead of the traditional partnerships.
“Any chance the three-bagger is connected to this?”
He pointed to the gathering of technicians around the body on the overlook.
“No, that’s a straight gang shoot-’em-up,” Edgar said. “I think this thing is a whole different ball game and I’m happy for you to take it.”
“Good,” Bosch said. “I’ll cut you loose as soon as I can. Anybody look in the car yet?”
“Not really. Waiting on you.”
“Okay. Anybody go to the victim’s house on Arrowhead?”
“No on that, too.”
“Anybody knock on any doors?”
“Not yet. We were working the scene first.”
Edgar obviously had decided early that the case would be passed to RHD. It bothered Bosch that nothing had been done but at the same time, he knew it would be his and Ferras’s to work fresh from the start, and that wasn’t a bad thing. There was a long history in the department of cases getting damaged or bungled while in transition from divisional to downtown detective teams.
He looked at the lighted clearing and counted a total of five men working on or near the body for the forensics and coroner’s teams.
“Well,” he said, “since you’re working the crime scene first, did anybody look for foot impressions around the body before you let the techs approach?”
Bosch couldn’t keep the tone of annoyance out of his voice.
“Harry,” Edgar said, his tone now showing annoyance with Bosch’s annoyance, “a couple hundred people stand around on this overlook every damn day. We coulda been looking at footprints till Christmas if we’d wanted to take the time. I didn’t think we did. We had a body lying out here in a public place and needed to get to it. Besides that, it looks like a professional hit. That means the shoes, the gun, the car, everything’s already long gone by now.”
Bosch nodded. He wanted to dismiss this and move on.
“Okay,” he said evenly, “then I guess you’re clear.”
Edgar nodded and Bosch thought he might be embarrassed.
“Like I said, Harry, I didn’t expect it to be you.”
Meaning he would not have dogged it for Harry, only for somebody else from RHD.
“Sure,” Bosch said. “I understand.”
After Edgar left, Bosch went back to his car and got the Maglite out of the trunk. He walked back to the Porsche, put on gloves and opened the driver-side door. He leaned into the car and looked around. On the passenger seat was a briefcase. It was unlocked and when he popped the snaps it opened to reveal several files, a calculator and various pads, pens and papers. He closed it and left it in its place. Its position on the seat told him that the victim had likely arrived at the overlook by himself. He had met his killer here. He had not brought his killer with him. This, Bosch thought, might be significant.
He opened the glove box next and several more clip-on IDs like the one found on the body fell to the floorboard. He picked them up one by one and saw that each access badge had been issued by a different local hospital. But the swipe cards all bore the same name and photo. Stanley Kent, the man (Bosch presumed) who was lying dead in the clearing.
He noticed that on the back of several of the tags there were handwritten notations. He looked at these for a long moment. Most were numbers with the letters
at the end and he concluded that they were lock combinations.
Bosch looked farther into the glove box and found even more IDs and access key cards. As far as he could tell, the dead man—if he was Stanley Kent—had clearance access to just about every hospital in Los Angeles County. He also had the combinations to security locks at almost every one of the hospitals. Bosch briefly considered that the IDs and key cards might be counterfeits used by the victim in some sort of hospital scam.
Bosch returned everything to the glove box and closed it. He then looked under and between the seats and found nothing of interest. He backed out of the car and went to the open trunk.
The trunk was small and empty. But in the beam of his flashlight he noted that there were four indentations in the carpet lining the bottom. It was clear that something square and heavy with four legs or wheels had been carried in the trunk. Because the trunk was found in the open position it was likely that the object—whatever it was—had been taken during the killing.
Bosch turned and put the beam of his light into the face of a patrolman. It was the officer who had taken his name and badge number at the perimeter. He lowered the light.
“What is it?”
“There’s an FBI agent here. She’s asking permission to enter the crime scene.”
“Where is she?”
The officer led the way back to the yellow tape. As Bosch got close he saw a woman standing next to the open door of a car. She was alone and she wasn’t smiling. Bosch felt the thud of uneasy recognition hit his chest.
“Hello, Harry,” she said when she saw him.
“Hello, Rachel,” he said.
IT HAD BEEN ALMOST SIX MONTHS since he had seen Special Agent Rachel Walling of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As he approached her at the tape, Bosch was sure that not a day had gone by in that time when he hadn’t thought about her. He had never imagined, however, that they would be reunited—if they ever were reunited—in the middle of the night at a murder scene. She was dressed in jeans, an oxford shirt and a dark blue blazer. Her dark hair was unkempt but she still looked beautiful. She obviously had been called in from home, just as Bosch had. She wasn’t smiling and Bosch was reminded of how badly things had ended the last time.
“Look,” he said, “I know I’ve been ignoring you but you didn’t have to go to all the trouble of tracking me down at a crime scene just to—”
“It’s not really a time for humor,” she said, cutting him off. “If this is what I think it might be.”
They’d last had contact on the Echo Park case. He had found her at the time working for a shadowy FBI unit called Tactical Intelligence. She had never explained what exactly the unit did and Bosch had never pushed it, since it wasn’t important to the Echo Park investigation. He had reached out to her because of her past tenure as a profiler—and their past personal history. The Echo Park case had gone sideways and so had any chance for another romance. As Bosch looked at her now, he knew she was all business and he had a feeling he was about to find out what the Tactical Intelligence Unit was all about.
“What is it you think it might be?” he asked.
“I’ll tell you when I can tell you. Can I please see the scene?”
Reluctantly, Bosch lifted the crime scene tape and returned her perfunctory attitude with his standard sarcasm.
“Come on in, then, Agent Walling,” he said. “Why don’t you just make yourself at home?”
She stepped under and stopped, at least respecting his right to lead her to his crime scene.
“I actually might be able to help you here,” she said. “If I can see the body I might be able to make a formal identification for you.”
She held up a file that she had been carrying down at her side.
“This way, then,” Bosch said.
He led her to the clearing, where the victim was cast in the sterilizing fluorescent light from the mobile units. The dead man was lying on the orange dirt about five feet from the drop-off at the edge of the overlook. Beyond the body and over the edge the moonlight reflected off the reservoir below. Past the dam the city spread out in a blanket of a million lights. The cool evening air made the lights shimmer like floating dreams.
Bosch put out his arm to stop Walling at the edge of the light circle. The victim had been rolled over by the medical examiner and was now faceup. There were abrasions on the dead man’s face and forehead but Bosch thought he could recognize the man in the photos on the hospital tags in the glove box. Stanley Kent. His shirt was open, exposing a hairless chest of pale white skin. There was an incision mark on one side of the torso where the medical examiner had pushed a temperature probe into the liver.
“Evening, Harry,” said Joe Felton, the medical examiner. “Or I guess I should say, good morning. Who’s your friend there? I thought they teamed you with Iggy Ferras.”
“I am with Ferras,” Bosch responded. “This is Special Agent Walling from the FBI’s Tactical Intelligence Unit.”
“Tactical Intelligence? What will they think of next?”
“I think it’s one of those Homeland Security–type operations. You know, don’t ask, don’t tell, that sort of thing. She says she might be able to confirm an ID for us.”
Walling gave Bosch a look that told him he was being juvenile.
“All right if we come in, Doc?” Bosch asked.
“Sure, Harry, we’re pretty much squared away here.”
Bosch started to step forward but Walling moved quickly in front of him and walked into the harsh light. Without hesitation she took a position over the body. She opened the file and took out a color 8 × 10 face shot. She bent down and held it next to the dead man’s face. Bosch stepped in close at her side to make a comparison himself.
“It’s him,” she said. “Stanley Kent.”
Bosch nodded his agreement and then offered his hand to her so that she could step back over the body. She ignored it and did it without help. Bosch looked down at Felton, who was squatting next to the body.
“So, Doc, you want to tell us what we’ve got here?”
Bosch stooped down on the other side of the body to get a better look.
“We’ve got a man who was brought here or came here for whatever reason and was made to get down on his knees.”
Felton pointed to the victim’s pants. There were smudges of orange dirt on both knees.
“Then somebody shot him twice in the back of the head and he went down face first. The facial injuries you see came when he hit the ground. He was already dead by then.”
“No exit wounds,” Felton added. “Probably something small like a twenty-two with the ricochet effect inside the skull. Very efficient.”
Bosch realized now that Lieutenant Gandle had been speaking figuratively when he mentioned that the victim’s brains had been blown across the view from the overlook. He would have to remember Gandle’s tendency toward hyperbole in the future.
“Time of death?” he asked Felton.
“Going by the liver temp I would say four or five hours,” the medical examiner replied. “Eight o’clock, give or take.”
That last part troubled Bosch. He knew that by eight it would have been dark and all the sunset worshippers would have been long gone. But the two shots would have echoed from the overlook and into the houses on the nearby bluffs. Yet no one had made a call to the police, and the body wasn’t found until a patrol car happened by three hours later.
“I know what you are thinking,” Felton said. “What about the sound? There is a possible explanation. Guys, let’s roll him back over.”
Bosch stood up and stepped out of the way while Felton and one of his assistants turned the body over. Bosch glanced at Walling and for a moment their eyes locked, until she looked back down at the body.