Read The Overlook Online

Authors: Michael Connelly

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

The Overlook (8 page)

BOOK: The Overlook
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The music helped Bosch smooth out his thoughts. He realized the case was shifting. The feds, at least, were chasing the missing cesium instead of the killers. There was a subtle difference there that Bosch thought was important. He knew that he needed to keep his focus on the overlook and not lose sight at any time of the fact that this was a murder investigation.

“Find the killers, you find the cesium,” he said out loud.

When he got downtown he took the Los Angeles Street exit and parked in the front lot at police headquarters. At this hour nobody would care that he wasn’t a VIP or a member of command staff.

Parker Center was on its last legs. For nearly a decade a new police headquarters had been approved for construction but because of repeated budgetary and political delays the project had only inched toward realization. In the meantime, little had been done to keep the current headquarters from sliding into decrepitude. Now the new building was under way but it was an estimated four years from completion. Many who worked in Parker Center wondered if it could last that long.

The RHD squad room on the third floor was deserted when Bosch got there. He opened his cell phone and called his partner.

“Where are you?”

“Hey, Harry. I’m at SID. I’m getting what I can so I can start putting the murder book together. Are you in the office?”

“I just got here. Where’d you put the wit?”

“I’ve got him cooking in room two. You want to start with him?”

“Might be good to hit him with somebody he hasn’t seen before. Somebody older.”

It was a delicate suggestion. The potential witness was Ferras’s find. Bosch wouldn’t move in on him without his partner’s at least tacit approval. But the situation dictated that someone with Bosch’s experience would be better conducting such an important interview.

“Have at him, Harry. When I get back I’ll watch in the media room. If you need me to come in, just give me the signal.”

“Right.”

“I made fresh coffee in the captain’s office if you want it.”

“Good. I need it. But first tell me about the witness.”

“His name is Jesse Mitford. From Halifax. He’s kind of a drifter. He told me he hitchhiked down here and has been staying in shelters and sometimes up in the hills—when it’s warm enough. That’s about it.”

It was pretty thin but it was a start.

“Maybe he was going to sleep up there in Madonna’s courtyard. That’s why he didn’t split.”

“I didn’t think about that, Harry. You might be right.”

“I’ll be sure to ask him.”

Bosch ended the call, got his coffee mug out of his desk drawer and headed to the RHD captain’s office. There was an anteroom where the secretary’s desk was located as well as a table with a coffeemaker. The smell of fresh-brewed coffee hit Bosch as he entered and that alone almost gave him the caffeine charge he needed. He poured a cup, dropped a buck in the basket and then headed back to his desk.

The squad room was designed with long rows of facing desks so that partners sat across from each other. The design afforded no personal or professional privacy. Most of the other detective bureaus in the city had gone to cubicles with sound and privacy walls but at Parker Center no money was spent on improvements because of the impending demolition.

Since Bosch and Ferras were the newest additions to the squad their desk tandem was located at the end of a line in a windowless corner where the air circulation was bad and they would be furthest from the exit in the case of an emergency like an earthquake.

Bosch’s work space was neat and clean, just as he had left it. He noticed a backpack and a plastic evidence bag on his partner’s desk across from him. He reached over and grabbed the backpack first. He opened it and found it contained mostly clothing and other personal items belonging to the potential witness. There was a book called
The Stand
by Stephen King and a bag with toothpaste and a toothbrush in it. It all amounted to the meager belongings of a meager existence.

He returned the backpack and reached across for the evidence bag next. It contained a small amount of U.S. currency, a set of keys, a thin wallet and a Canadian passport. It also contained a folded “Homes of the Stars” map that Bosch knew was the kind sold on street corners all around Hollywood. He unfolded it and located the overlook off Mulholland Drive above Lake Hollywood. Just to the left of the location there was a black star with the number 23 in it. It had been circled with an ink pen. He checked the map’s index, and star number 23 said,
Madonna’s Hollywood Home
.

The map had obviously not been updated with Madonna’s movements and Bosch suspected that few of the star locations and their attendant celebrity listings were accurate. This explained why Jesse Mitford had been stalking a house where Madonna no longer lived.

Bosch refolded the map, put all the property back in the evidence bag and returned it to his partner’s desk. He then got a legal pad and a rights waiver out of a drawer and stood up to go to interview room 2, which was located in a hallway off the back of the squad room.

Jesse Mitford looked younger than his years. He had curly, dark hair and ivory-white skin. He had a stubble of chin hair that looked like it might have taken him his whole life to grow. He had silver rings piercing one nostril and one eyebrow. He looked alert and scared. He was seated at a small table in the small interview room. The room smelled of body odor. Mitford was sweating, which of course was the object. Bosch had checked the thermostat in the hallway before coming in. Ferras had set the temperature in the interview room to eighty-two.

“Jesse, how are you doing?” Bosch asked as he took the empty seat across from him.

“Uh, not so good. It’s hot in here.”

“Really?”

“Are you my lawyer?”

“No, Jesse, I’m your detective. My name’s Harry Bosch. I’m a homicide detective and I am working the overlook case.”

Bosch put both his legal pad and his coffee mug down on the table. He noticed that Mitford still had handcuffs on. It was a nice touch by Ferras to keep the kid confused, scared and worried.

“I told the Mexican detective I didn’t want to talk anymore. I want a lawyer.”

Bosch nodded.

“He’s Cuban American, Jesse,” he said. “And you don’t get a lawyer. Lawyers are for U.S. citizens only.”

This was a lie but Bosch was banking on the twenty-year-old’s not knowing this.

“You’re in trouble, kid,” he continued. “It’s one thing to be stalking an old girlfriend or boyfriend. It’s something else with a celebrity. This is a celebrity town in a celebrity country, Jesse, and we take care of our own. I don’t know what you’ve got up there in Canada but the penalties here for what you were doing tonight are pretty stiff.”

Mitford shook his head as if he could ward off his problems that way.

“But I was told that she doesn’t even live there anymore. Madonna, I mean. So I wasn’t really stalking her, then. It would just be trespassing.”

Now Bosch shook his head.

“It’s about intent, Jesse. You thought she might be there. You had a map that said she
was
there. You even circled the spot. So as far as the law goes, that constitutes stalking a celebrity.”

“Then why do they sell maps to stars’ homes?”

“And why do bars have parking lots when drunk driving is illegal? We’re not going to play that game, Jesse. The point is, there’s nothing on the map that says anything about it being okay to jump over a wall and trespass, you know what I mean?”

Mitford dropped his eyes to his manacled wrists and sadly nodded.

“Tell you what, though,” Bosch said. “You can cheer up because things aren’t as bad as they seem. You’ve got stalking and trespassing charges here, but I think we can probably get this all fixed up and taken care of if you agree to cooperate with me.”

Mitford leaned forward.

“But like I told that Mexi—that Cuban detective, I didn’t see anything.”

Bosch waited a long moment before responding.

“I don’t care what you told him. You’re dealing with me now, son. And I think you’re holding back on me.”

“No, I’m not. I swear to God.”

He held his hands open and as wide as the cuffs allowed in a pleading gesture. But Bosch wasn’t buying it. The kid was too young to be a liar capable of convincing Bosch. He decided to go right at him.

“Let me tell you something, Jesse. My partner is good and he’s going places in the department. No doubt about that. But right now he’s a baby. He’s been a detective for about as long as you’ve been growing that peach fuzz on your chin. Me, I’ve been around and that means I’ve been around a lot of liars. Sometimes I think all I know are liars. And, Jesse, I can tell. You’re lying to me and nobody lies to me.”

“No! I—”

“And so, what you’ve got here is about thirty seconds to start talking to me or I’m just going to take you down and book you into county lockup. I’m sure there’s going to be somebody waiting in there who will have a guy like you singing
O Canada
! into the mike before sunup. You see, that’s what I meant about there being stiff penalties for stalking.”

Mitford stared down at his hands on the table. Bosch waited and twenty seconds slowly went by. Finally, Bosch stood up.

“Okay, Jesse, stand up. We’re going.”

“Wait, wait, wait!”

“For what? I said stand up! Let’s go. This is a murder investigation and I’m not wasting time on—”

“All right, all right, I’ll tell you. I saw the whole thing, okay? I saw everything.”

Bosch studied him for a moment.

“You’re talking about the overlook?” he asked. “You saw the shooting on the overlook?”

“I saw everything, man.”

Bosch pulled his chair out and sat back down.

 

EIGHT

 

BOSCH STOPPED JESSE MITFORD FROM SPEAKING until he signed a rights waiver. It didn’t matter that he was now considered a witness to the murder that took place on the Mulholland overlook. Whatever it was that he witnessed he saw because he was in the act of committing his own crime—-trespassing and stalking. Bosch had to make sure there were no mistakes on the case. No fruit-of-the-poison-tree appeal. No blowback. The stakes were high, the feds were classic second-guessers and he knew he had to do this right.

“Okay, Jesse,” he said when the waiver form was signed. “You are going to tell me what you saw and heard up on the overlook. If you are truthful and helpful I am going to drop all charges and let you walk out of here a free man.”

Technically, Bosch was overstating his hand. He had no authority to drop charges or make deals with criminal suspects. But he didn’t need it in this case because Mitford had not yet been formally charged with anything. Therein lay Bosch’s leverage. It came down to semantics. What Bosch was really offering was to not proceed with charging Mitford in exchange for the young Canadian’s honest cooperation.

“I understand,” Mitford said.

“Just remember, only the truth. Only what you saw and heard. Nothing else.”

“I understand.”

“Hold up your hands.”

Mitford raised his wrists and Bosch used his own key to remove his partner’s handcuffs. Mitford immediately began to rub them to get circulation going again. It reminded Bosch of seeing Rachel rub Alicia Kent’s wrists earlier.

“Feel better?” he asked.

“Yeah, good,” Mitford replied.

“Okay, then let’s start from the top. Tell me where you came from, where you were going and exactly what you saw up on the overlook.”

Mitford nodded and then took Bosch through a twenty-minute story that began on Hollywood Boulevard with the purchase of the star map from a curbside vendor and his long trek on foot up into the hills. His journey took nearly three hours and probably accounted most for the odor emanating from his body. He told Bosch that by the time he got up to Mulholland Drive it was getting dark and he was tired. The house where the map said Madonna lived was dark inside. No one appeared to be home. Disappointed, he decided to rest from his long journey and to wait and see if the pop singer he wanted to meet would arrive home later. He found a spot behind some bushes where he could lean back against the exterior of the wall that surrounded the home of his quarry—he didn’t use that word—and wait. Mitford said he fell asleep there until something woke him up.

“What woke you up?” Bosch asked.

“Voices. I heard voices.”

“What was said?”

“I don’t know. It was just what woke me up.”

“How far were you from the overlook?”

“I don’t know. Like fifty meters, I think. I was pretty far away.”

“What was said after you were awake and could hear?”

“Nothing. They stopped.”

“All right, then what did you see when you woke up?”

“I saw three cars parked by the clearing. One was a Porsche and the other two were bigger. I don’t know the kind but they were sort of the same.”

“Did you see the men on the overlook?”

“No, I didn’t see anybody. It was too dark out there. But then I heard a voice again and it was coming from over there. In the dark. It was like a yell. Right at the moment I looked, there were two quick flashes and shots. Like muffled shots. I could see somebody in the clearing on his knees. You know, in the flash of light. But it was so quick that was all I saw.”

Bosch nodded.

“This is good, Jesse. You’re doing good. Let’s just go over this part again so we have it right. You were asleep and then voices woke you up and you looked out and saw the three cars. Do I have that right?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, good. Then you heard a voice again and you looked toward the overlook. Just then the shots were fired. Is all of that right?”

“Right.”

Bosch nodded. But he knew that Mitford might be simply telling Bosch what he wanted to hear. He had to test the kid to make sure that wasn’t happening.

“Now, you said that in the flash from the gun you saw the victim drop to his knees, is that right?”

“No, not exactly.”

“Then tell me exactly what you saw.”

“I think he was on his knees already. It was so fast I wouldn’t have seen him drop to his knees like you said. I think he was already kneeling.”

BOOK: The Overlook
7.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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