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Authors: Michael Connelly

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

The Overlook (7 page)

BOOK: The Overlook
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Bosch nodded.

Ten minutes later Bosch, Brenner, Romo and the rest of the lab team all stepped out of the elevator in the medical clinic’s basement. Romo’s boss was on his way in but Brenner was not waiting. Romo used a key card to gain entrance to the oncology lab.

The lab was deserted. Brenner found an inventory sheet and a lab log on an entrance desk and started reading. There was a small video monitor on the desk that showed a camera view of a safe.

“He was here,” Brenner said.

“When?” Bosch asked.

“Seven o’clock, according to this.”

Reid pointed to the monitor.

“Does that record?” he asked Romo. “Can we see what Kent did when he was in there?”

Romo looked at the monitor as though it were the first time he had ever seen it.

“Um, no, it’s just a monitor,” he finally said. “Whoever’s on the desk is supposed to watch whatever is taken out of the safe.”

Romo pointed to the far end of the lab, where there was a large steel door. The trefoil warning symbol for radioactive materials was posted on it at eye level, along with a sign.

 

CAUTION!
RADIATION HAZARD

 

PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
MUST BE WORN

 

CUIDADO!
PELIGRO DE RADIACIÓN

 

SE DEBE USAR
EQUIPO DE PROTECCIÓN

 

Bosch noticed that the door had a push-button combination lock as well as a magnetic key-card swipe slot.

“It says here that he took one source of cesium,” Brenner said, as he continued to study the log. “One tube. It’s a transfer case. He was taking the source over to Burbank Medical Center for a procedure there. It names the case. A patient named Hanover. It says that there were thirty-one pieces of cesium left in inventory.”

“Is that all you need, then?” Romo asked.

“No,” Brenner said. “We have to physically inspect the inventory. We’ll need to enter the safe room and then open the safe. What’s the combination?”

“I don’t have it,” Romo said.

“Who does?”

“The physicists. The head of the lab. The chief of security.”

“And where is the chief of security?”

“I told you. He’s coming.”

“Get him on the speaker.”

Brenner pointed to the phone on the desk. Romo sat down. He put the phone on speaker and tapped in a number from memory. It was answered immediately.

“This is Richard Romo.”

Ed Romo leaned forward to the phone and looked as though he was embarrassed by the revelation of the obvious nepotism at play.

“Uh, yeah, Dad, this is Ed. The man from the FB—”

“Mr. Romo?” Brenner cut in. “This is Special Agent John Brenner of the FBI. I believe we met and spoke about security issues a year ago. How far away are you, sir?”

“Twenty to twenty-five minutes. I remember—”

“That’s too far, sir. We need to open the hot lab safe right now to determine its contents.”

“You can’t open that without hospital approval. I don’t care who—”

“Mr. Romo, we have reason to believe the contents of the safe were turned over to people without the interests or safety of the American people in mind. We need to open the safe so that we know exactly what is here and what is missing. And we can’t wait twenty to twenty-five minutes to do it. Now, I have properly identified myself to your
son
and I have a radiation team in the lab right now. We have to
move
, sir. Now, how do we open the safe?”

There was silence from the speakerphone for a few moments. Then Richard Romo relented.

“Ed, I take it you are calling from the desk in the lab?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, unlock it and open the bottom-left drawer.”

Ed Romo rolled his chair back and studied the desk. There was a key lock on the upper-left drawer that apparently unlocked all three drawers.

“Which key?” he asked.

“Hold on.”

Over the speakerphone there was the sound of a key ring being jingled.

“Try fourteen-fourteen.”

Ed Romo pulled a key ring off his belt and went through the keys until he found one stamped with the number 1414. He then inserted it into the lock on the desk drawer and turned it. The bottom drawer was now unlocked and he pulled it open.

“Got it.”

“Okay, there’s a binder in the drawer. Open it up and look for the page with the combination lists for the safe room. It’s changed week to week.”

Holding the binder in his hands, Romo started to open it at an angle that would allow only him to see the contents. Brenner reached across the desk and roughly took the binder from him. He opened it on the desk and started leafing through pages of safety protocols.

“Where is it?” he said impatiently to the speakerphone.

“It should be in the final section. It will be clearly marked as hot lab combinations. There is one catch, though. We use the previous week. The combination for the current week is wrong. Use last week’s combo.”

Brenner found the page and drew his finger down the listing until he found the combination for the previous week.

“Okay, got it. What about the safe inside?”

Richard Romo answered from his car.

“You will use the key card again and another combination. That one I know. It doesn’t change. It is six-six-six.”

“Original.”

Brenner held his hand out to Ed Romo.

“Give me your key card.”

Romo complied and Brenner then handed the card to Reid.

“Okay, Kyle, go,” Brenner ordered. “The door combo is five-six-one-eight-four and you heard the rest.”

Reid turned and pointed to one of the others in hazmat suits.

“It’ll be tight in there. Just Miller and I go in.”

The leader and his chosen second snapped on their face guards and used the key card and combination to open the safe room door. Miller carried the radiation monitor and they entered the safe room, pulling the door closed behind them.

“You know, people go in there all the time and they don’t wear space suits,” Ed Romo said.

“I’m happy for them,” Brenner said. “This situation is a little different, don’t you think? We don’t know what may or may not have been let loose in that environment.”

“I was just saying,” Romo said defensively.

“Then do me a favor and don’t say anything, son. Let us do our job.”

Bosch watched on the monitor and soon saw a glitch in the security system. The camera was mounted overhead, but as soon as Reid bent down to type the combination into the materials safe, he blocked the camera’s view of what he was doing. Bosch knew that even if someone had watched Kent when he went into the safe at 7 p.m. the evening before, he could easily have hidden what he was taking.

Less than a minute after going into the safe room the two men in hazmat suits stepped out. Brenner stood up. The men unsnapped their face guards and Reid looked at Brenner. He shook his head.

“The safe’s empty,” he said.

Brenner pulled his phone from his pocket. But before he could punch in a number, Reid stepped forward, holding out a piece of paper torn from a spiral notebook.

“This was all that was left,” he said.

Bosch looked over Brenner’s shoulder at the note. It was scribbled in ink and difficult to decipher. Brenner read it out loud.

“‘I am being watched. If I don’t do this they’ll kill my wife. Thirty-two sources, cesium. God forgive me. No choice.’”

 

SEVEN

 

BOSCH AND THE FEDERAL AGENTS stood silently. There was an almost palpable sense of dread hanging in the air in the oncology lab. They had just confirmed that Stanley Kent took thirty-two capsules of cesium from the safe at Saint Agatha’s and then most likely turned them over to persons unknown. Those persons unknown had then executed him up on the Mulholland overlook.

“Thirty-two capsules of cesium,” Bosch said. “How much damage could that do?”

Brenner looked at him somberly.

“We would have to ask the science people but my guess is that it could get the job done,” he said. “If somebody out there wants to send a message, it would be heard loud and clear.”

Bosch suddenly thought of something that didn’t fit with the known set of facts.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “Stanley Kent’s radiation rings showed no exposure. How could he have taken all the cesium out of here and not lit up those warning devices like a Christmas tree?”

Brenner shook his head dismissively.

“He obviously used a pig.”

“A what?”

“The pig is what they call the transfer device. It basically looks like a lead mop bucket on wheels. With a secured top, of course. It’s heavy and built low to the ground—like a pig. So they call it a pig.”

“And he could just waltz right in and out of here with something like that?”

Brenner pointed at the clipboard on the desk.

“Inter-hospital transfers of radioactive sources for cancer treatment are not unusual,” he said. “He signed out one source but then took them all. That’s what was unusual, but who was going to open up the pig and check?”

Bosch thought about the indentations he had seen in the floor of the Porsche’s trunk. Something heavy had been carried in the car and was then removed. Now Bosch knew what it was and it was just one more indication of the worst-case scenario.

Bosch shook his head and Brenner thought it was because he was making a judgment about security in the lab.

“Let me tell you something,” the agent said. “Before we came in last year and revamped their security, anybody wearing a doctor’s white coat could have walked right in here and gotten whatever he wanted out of the safe. Security was nothing.”

“I wasn’t making a comment on security. I was—”

“I have to make a call,” Brenner said.

He moved away from the others and pulled out his cell phone. Bosch decided to make his own call. He pulled out his phone, found a corner for privacy and called his partner.

“Ignacio, it’s me. I’m just checking in.”

“Call me Iggy, Harry. What’s happening with you?”

“Nothing good. Kent emptied the safe. All the cesium is gone.”

“Are you kidding me? That’s the stuff you said could be used to make a dirty bomb?”

“That’s the stuff and it looks like he turned over enough of it to do the job. Are you still at the scene?”

“Yeah, and listen, I’ve got a kid here who might’ve been a witness.”

“What do you mean, ‘might’ve’ been a witness? Who is it, a neighbor?”

“No, it’s sort of a screwy story. You know that house that was supposedly Madonna’s?”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, well, she used to own it but doesn’t anymore. I go up there to knock on the door and the guy who lives there now says he didn’t see or hear anything—I’m getting the same thing at every door I knock on. So anyway, I’m leaving when I spot this guy hiding behind these big potted trees in the courtyard. I draw down on him and call backup, you know, thinking maybe he’s our shooter from the overlook. But that’s not what it is. Turns out it’s a kid—twenty years old and just off the bus from Canada—and he thinks Madonna’s still living in the house. He’s got a star map that still lists her as living there and he’s trying to see her or something—like a stalker. He climbed over a wall to get into the courtyard.”

“Did he see the shooting?”

“He claims he didn’t see or hear anything, but I don’t know, Harry. I’m thinking he might’ve been stalking Madonna’s place when the thing went down on the overlook. He then hides and tries to wait it out. Only I find him first.”

Bosch was missing something in the story.

“Why would he hide? Why wouldn’t he just get the hell out of there? We didn’t find the body till three hours after the shooting.”

“Yeah, I know. That part doesn’t make sense. Maybe he was just scared or thought that if he was seen in the vicinity of the body he might get tagged as a suspect or something.”

Bosch nodded. It was a possibility.

“You holding him on the trespass?” he asked.

“Yeah. I talked to the guy who bought the place from Madonna and he’ll work with us. He’ll press charges if we need him to. So don’t worry, we can hold him and work him with it.”

“Good. Take him downtown, put him in a room and warm him up.”

“You got it, Harry.”

“And Ignacio, don’t tell anybody about the cesium.”

“Right. I won’t.”

Bosch closed the phone before Ferras could tell him to call him Iggy again. He listened to the end of Brenner’s conversation. It was obvious that he wasn’t talking to Walling. His manner and tone of voice was deferential. He was talking to a boss.

“According to the log here, seven o’clock,” he said. “That puts the transfer at the overlook at around eight, so we’re talking about a six-and-a-half-hour lead at this point.”

Brenner listened some and then started to speak several times but was repeatedly cut off by the person on the other end of the line.

“Yes, sir,” he finally said. “Yes, sir. We’re on our way back in now.”

He closed the phone and looked at Bosch.

“I’m going back in on the chopper. I have to lead a teleconference debriefing with Washington. I’d take you with me but I think you’d be better off on the ground, chasing the case. I’ll have someone pick up my car later.”

“No problem.”

“Did your partner come up with a witness? Is that what I heard?”

Bosch had to wonder how Brenner had picked that up while conducting his own phone conversation.

“Maybe, but it sounds like a long shot. I’m going downtown to see about that right now.”

Brenner nodded solemnly, then handed Bosch a business card.

“If you get anything, give me a call. All my information is on that. Anything at all, call.”

Bosch took the card and put it in his pocket. He and the agents then left the lab and a few minutes later he watched the federal chopper take off into the black sky. He got in his car and pulled out of the clinic’s parking lot to head south. Before hitting the freeway he gassed up at a station on San Fernando Road.

Traffic coming down into the center of the city was light and he cruised at a steady eighty. He turned the stereo on and picked a CD from the center console without looking at what it was. Five notes into the first song he knew it was a Japanese import from bassist Ron Carter. It was good driving music and he turned it up.

BOOK: The Overlook
6.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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