Authors: Michael Connelly
Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Fiction, #General, #Crime, #Thrillers, #Police Procedural
Bosch dropped the transmission into reverse and pulled quickly out of the driveway.
“Why didn’t you just tell me this up front?”
In the street the car jerked forward as Bosch threw it into drive.
“Because nobody got killed in Greensboro,” Walling said defiantly. “This whole thing could be something different. I was told to approach with caution and discretion. I’m sorry I lied to you.”
“A little late for that, Rachel. Did your people get the cesium back in Greensboro?”
She didn’t answer.
“No, not yet. The word is that it was sold on the black market. The material itself is quite valuable on a monetary basis, even if used in the proper medical context. That’s why we are not sure what we’ve got here. That’s why I was sent.”
In ten more seconds they were at the correct block of Arrowhead Drive and Bosch started looking at address numbers again. But Walling directed him.
“That one up on the left, I think. With the black shutters. It’s hard to tell in the dark.”
Bosch pulled in and chunked the transmission into park before the car had stopped. He jumped out and headed to the front door. The house was dark. Not even the light over the door was lit. But as Bosch approached the front door he saw that it had been left ajar.
“It’s open,” he said.
Bosch and Walling drew their weapons. Bosch placed his hand on the door and slowly pushed it open. With guns up they entered the dark and quiet house and Bosch quickly swept the wall with his hand until he found a light switch.
The lights came on, revealing a living room that was neat but empty, with no sign of trouble.
“Mrs. Kent?” Walling called out loudly. Then to Bosch in a lower voice she said, “There’s just his wife, no children.”
Walling called out once more but the house remained silent. There was a hallway to the right and Bosch moved toward it. He found another light switch and illuminated a passageway with four closed doors and an alcove.
The alcove was a home office that was empty. He saw a blue reflection on the window that was cast by a computer screen. They passed by the alcove and went door by door clearing what looked like a guest bedroom and then a home gym with cardio machines and with workout mats hanging on the wall. The third door was to a guest bathroom that was empty and the fourth led to the master bedroom.
They entered the master and Bosch once more flicked up a wall switch. They found Mrs. Kent.
She was on the bed naked, gagged and hog-tied with her hands behind her back. Her eyes were closed. Walling rushed to the bed to see if she was alive while Bosch moved through the bedroom to clear the bathroom and a walk-in closet. There was no one.
When he got back to the bed he saw that Walling had removed the gag and used a pocketknife to slice through the black plastic snap ties that had been used to bind the woman’s wrists and ankles together behind her back. Rachel was pulling the bedspread over the unmoving woman’s naked body. There was a distinct odor of urine in the room.
“Is she alive?” Bosch asked.
“She’s alive. I think she’s just passed out. She was left here like this.”
Walling started rubbing the woman’s wrists and hands. They had turned dark and almost purple from lack of blood circulation.
“Get help,” she told him.
Annoyed with himself for not reacting until ordered, Bosch pulled out his phone and walked out into the hallway while he called the central communications center to get paramedics rolling.
“Ten minutes,” he said after hanging up and coming back into the bedroom.
Bosch felt a wave of excitement go through him. They now had a live witness. The woman on the bed would be able to tell them at least something about what had happened. He knew that it would be vitally important to get her talking as soon as possible.
There was a loud groan as the woman regained consciousness.
“Mrs. Kent, it’s okay,” Walling said. “It’s okay. You’re safe now.”
The woman tensed and her eyes widened when she saw the two strangers in front of her. Walling held up her credentials.
“FBI, Mrs. Kent. Do you remember me?”
“What? What is—where’s my husband?”
She started to get up but then realized she was naked beneath the bedcovers and tried to pull them tightly around herself. Her fingers were apparently still numb and couldn’t find purchase. Walling helped pull the spread around her.
“Where is Stanley?”
Walling knelt at the bottom of the bed so that she was on an equal level with her. She looked up at Bosch as if seeking direction on how to handle the woman’s question.
“Mrs. Kent, your husband is not here,” Bosch said. “I am Detective Bosch with the LAPD and this is Agent Walling with the FBI. We’re trying to find out what happened to your husband.”
The woman looked up at Bosch and then at Walling and her eyes held on the federal agent.
“I remember you,” she said. “You came to the house to warn us. Is that what is happening? Do the men who were here have Stanley?”
Rachel leaned in close and spoke in a calming voice.
“Mrs. Kent, we—it’s Alicia, right? Alicia, we need for you to calm down a little bit so that we can talk and possibly help you. Would you like to get dressed?”
Alicia Kent nodded.
“Okay, we’ll give you some space here,” Walling said. “You get dressed and we’ll wait for you in the living room. First let me ask, have you been injured in any way?”
The woman shook her head.
“Are you sure . . . ?”
Walling didn’t finish, as though she were intimidated by her own question. Bosch wasn’t. He knew they needed to know precisely what had happened here.
“Mrs. Kent, were you sexually assaulted here tonight?”
The woman shook her head again.
“They made me take off my clothes. That was all they did.”
Bosch studied her eyes, hoping to read them and be able to tell if she was telling a lie.
“Okay,” Walling said, interrupting the moment. “We’ll leave you to get dressed. When the paramedics arrive we will still want them to check you for injuries.”
“I’ll be fine,” Alicia Kent said. “What happened to my husband?”
“We’re not sure what’s happened,” Bosch said. “You get dressed and come out to the living room, then we’ll tell you what we know.”
Clutching the bedspread around herself, she tentatively stood up from the bed. Bosch saw the stain on the mattress and knew that Alicia Kent had either been so scared during her ordeal that she had urinated or the wait for rescue had been too long.
She took one step toward the closet and appeared to be falling over. Bosch moved in and grabbed her before she fell.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. I think I’m just a little dizzy. What time is it?”
Bosch looked at the digital clock on the right-side bed table but its screen was blank. It was turned off or unplugged. He turned his right wrist without letting go of her and looked at his watch.
“It’s almost one in the morning.”
Her body seemed to tighten in his grasp.
“Oh, my God!” she cried. “It’s been hours—where is Stanley?”
Bosch moved his hands to her shoulders and helped her stand up straight.
“You get dressed and we’ll talk about it,” he said.
She walked unsteadily to the closet and opened the door. A full-length mirror was attached to the outside of the door. Her opening it swung Bosch’s reflection back at him. In the moment, he thought that maybe he saw something new in his eyes. Something not there when he had checked himself in the mirror before leaving his house. A look of discomfort, perhaps even a fear of the unknown. It was understandable, he decided. He had worked a thousand murder cases in his time, but never one that had taken him in the direction he was now traveling. Maybe fear was appropriate.
Alicia Kent took a white terry-cloth robe off a hook on a wall inside the closet and carried it with her to the bathroom. She left the closet door open and Bosch had to look away from his own reflection.
Walling headed out of the bedroom and Bosch followed.
“What do you think?” she asked as she moved down the hall.
“I think we’re lucky to have a witness,” Bosch replied. “She’ll be able to tell us what happened.”
Bosch decided to make another survey of the house while waiting for Alicia Kent to get dressed. This time he checked the backyard and the garage as well as every room again. He found nothing amiss, though he did note that the two-car garage was empty. If the Kents had another car in addition to the Porsche, then it wasn’t on the premises.
Following the walk-through he stood in the backyard looking up at the Hollywood sign and calling central communications again to ask that a second forensics team be dispatched to process the Kent house. He also checked on the ETA of the paramedics coming to examine Alicia Kent and was told that they were still five minutes away. This was ten minutes after he had been told that they were ten minutes away.
Next he called Lieutenant Gandle, waking him at his home. His supervisor listened quietly as Bosch updated him. The federal involvement and the rising possibility of a terrorism angle to the investigation gave Gandle pause.
“Well . . . ,” he said when Bosch was finished. “It looks like I will have to wake some people up.”
He meant he was going to have to send word up the department ladder of the case and the larger dimensions it was taking on. The last thing an RHD lieutenant would want or need would be to get called into the OCP in the morning and asked why he hadn’t alerted command staff earlier to the case and its growing implications. Bosch knew that Gandle would now act to protect himself as well as to seek direction from above. This was fine with Bosch and expected. But it gave him pause as well. The LAPD had its own Office of Homeland Security. It was commanded by a man most people in the department viewed as a loose cannon who was unqualified and unsuited for the job.
“Is one of those wake-ups going to Captain Hadley?” Bosch asked.
Captain Don Hadley was the twin brother of James Hadley, who happened to be a member of the Police Commission, the politically appointed panel with LAPD oversight and the authority to appoint and retain the chief of police. Less than a year after James Hadley was placed on the commission by mayoral appointment and the approval of the city council, his twin brother jumped from being second in command of the Valley Traffic Division to being commander of the newly formed Office of Homeland Security. This was seen at the time as a political move by the then–chief of police, who was desperately trying to keep his job. It didn’t work. He was fired and a new chief appointed. But in the transition Hadley kept his job commanding the OHS.
The mission of the OHS was to interface with federal agencies and maintain a flow of intelligence data. In the last six years Los Angeles had been targeted by terrorists at least two times that were known. In each incident the LAPD found out about the threat after it had been foiled by the feds. This was embarrassing to the department, and the OHS had been formed so that the LAPD could make intelligence inroads and eventually know what the federal government knew about its own backyard.
The problem was that in practice it was largely suspected that the LAPD remained shut out by the feds. And in order to hide this failing and to justify his position and unit, Captain Hadley had taken to holding grandstanding press conferences and showing up with his black-clad OHS unit at any crime scene where there was a remote possibility of terrorist involvement. An overturned tanker truck on the Hollywood Freeway brought the OHS out in force until it was determined that the tanker was carrying milk. A shooting of a rabbi at a temple in Westwood brought the same response until the incident was determined to have been the product of a love triangle.
And so it went. After about the fourth misfire, the commander of the OHS was baptized with a new name among the rank and file. Captain Don Hadley became known as Captain Done Badly. But he remained in his position, thanks to the thin veil of politics that hung over his appointment. The last Bosch had heard about Hadley through the department grapevine was that he had put his entire squad back into the academy for training in urban assault tactics.
“I don’t know about Hadley,” Gandle said in response to Bosch. “He’ll probably be looped in. I’ll start with my captain and he’ll make the call on who gets the word from there. But that’s not your concern, Harry. You do your job and don’t worry about Hadley. The people you have to watch your back with are the feds.”
“Remember, with the feds it’s always time to worry when they start telling you just what you want to hear.”
Bosch nodded. The advice followed a time-honored LAPD tradition of distrusting the FBI. And, of course, it was a tradition honored for just as long by the FBI in terms of distrusting the LAPD right back. It was the reason the OHS was born.
When Bosch came back into the house he found Walling on her cell phone and a man he had never seen before standing in the living room. He was tall, midforties and he exuded that undeniable FBI confidence Bosch had seen many times before. The man put out his hand.
“You must be Detective Bosch,” he said. “Jack Brenner. Rachel’s my partner.”
Bosch shook his hand. The way he said Rachel was his partner was a small thing but it told Bosch a lot. There was something proprietary about it. Brenner was telling him that the senior partner was now on the job, whether that would be Rachel’s view of it or not.
“So, you two have met.”
Bosch turned. Walling was off the phone now.
“Sorry,” she said. “I was filling in the special agent in charge. He’s decided to devote all of Tactical to this. He’s running out three teams to start hitting the hospitals to see if Kent has been in any of the hot labs today.”
“The hot lab is where they keep the radioactive stuff?” Bosch asked.
“Yes. Kent had access through security to just about all of them in the county. We have to figure out if he was inside any of them today.”
Bosch knew that he could probably narrow the search down to one medical facility. Saint Agatha’s Clinic for Women. Kent was wearing an ID tag from the hospital when he was murdered. Walling and Brenner didn’t know that but Bosch decided not to tell them yet. He sensed the investigation was moving away from him and he wanted to hold on to what might be the one piece of inside information he still had.