Authors: Michael Connelly
Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Fiction, #General, #Crime, #Thrillers, #Police Procedural
Bosch nodded. Mitford had passed the first test.
“Okay, good point. Now let’s talk about what you heard. You said you heard somebody yell right before the shots, right?”
“Okay, what did that person yell?”
The young man thought for a moment and then shook his head.
“I’m not sure.”
“Okay, that’s all right. We don’t want to say anything we’re not sure about. Let’s try an exercise and see if that helps. Close your eyes.”
“Just close your eyes,” Bosch said. “Think about what you saw. Try to bring up the visual memory and the audio will follow. You are looking at the three cars and then a voice pulls your attention toward the overlook. What did the voice say?”
Bosch spoke calmly and soothingly. Mitford followed his instructions and closed his eyes. Bosch waited.
“I’m not sure,” the young man finally said. “I can’t get it all. I think he was saying something about Allah and then he shot the guy.”
Bosch held perfectly still for a moment before responding.
“Allah? You mean the Arabic word
“I’m not sure. I think so.”
“What else did you hear?”
“Nothing else. The shots cut it off, you know? He started yelling about Allah and then the shots drowned the rest out.”
“You mean like
, is that what he yelled?”
“I don’t know. I just heard the
“Could you tell if he had an accent?”
“An accent? I couldn’t tell. I only heard the one thing.”
“I really couldn’t tell. I was too far away and I only heard the one word.”
Bosch thought about this for a few moments. He remembered what he had read about the cockpit recordings from the 9/11 attacks. The terrorists called out
—“God is greatest”—at the last moment. Did one of Stanley Kent’s killers do the same?
Again, he knew he had to be careful and thorough. Much of the investigation could hinge on the one word Mitford thought he had heard from the overlook.
“Jesse, what did Detective Ferras tell you about this case before he put you in this room?”
The witness shrugged.
“He didn’t tell me anything, really.”
“He didn’t tell you what we think we’re looking at here or what direction the case may be going?”
“No, none of that.”
Bosch looked at him for a few moments.
“Okay, Jesse,” he finally said. “What happened next?”
“After the shots somebody ran from the clearing to the cars. There was a streetlight out there and I saw him. He got into one of the cars and he backed it up close to the Porsche. Then he popped the trunk and got out. The Porsche’s trunk was already open.”
“Where was the other man while he did this?”
Mitford looked confused.
“I guess he was dead.”
“No, I mean the second bad guy. There were two bad guys and one victim, Jesse. Three cars, remember?”
Bosch held up three fingers as a visual aid.
“I only saw one bad guy,” Mitford said. “The shooter. Somebody else stayed in the car that was behind the Porsche. But he never got out.”
“He just stayed in that other car the whole time?”
“That’s right. In fact, right after the shooting, that car made a U-turn and drove away.”
“And the driver never got out the whole time he was at the overlook.”
“Not while I was looking.”
Bosch thought about this for a moment. What Mitford had described indicated a real division of labor between the two suspects. This mirrored the description of events that Alicia Kent had given earlier; one man questioning her and then translating and giving orders to the second. Bosch assumed it was the English speaker who had remained in the car at the overlook.
“Okay,” he finally said, “go back to the story, Jesse. You said that right after the shooting one guy drives away while the other backs up closer to the Porsche and pops the trunk. Then what happened?”
“He got out and took something from the Porsche and put it in the other car’s trunk. It was really heavy and he had a hard time with it. It looked like it had handles on the sides because of the way he was holding it.”
Bosch knew that he was describing the pig used to transport radioactive materials.
“He just got back in the car and drove off. He left the trunk open on the Porsche.”
“And you saw nobody else?”
“Nobody else. I swear.”
“Describe the man you did see.”
“I can’t really describe him. He was wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up. I never really saw his face or anything. I think that under the hood he was wearing a ski mask, too.”
“Why do you think that?”
Mitford shrugged again.
“I don’t know. It just seemed that way to me. I might be wrong.”
“Was he big? Was he small?”
“I think he was average. Maybe a little short.”
“What did he look like?”
Bosch had to try again. It was important. But Mitford shook his head.
“I couldn’t see him,” he insisted. “I’m pretty sure he had a mask.”
Bosch didn’t give up.
“White, black, Middle Eastern?”
“I couldn’t tell. He had the hood and the mask and I was so far away.”
“Think about the hands, Jesse. You said there were handles on the thing he transferred from one car to the other. Could you see his hands? What color were his hands?”
Mitford thought for a moment and his eyes brightened.
“No, he wore gloves. I remember the gloves because they were those real big kind like the guys wear who work on the trains back in Halifax. Heavy-duty with the big cuffs so they don’t get burned.”
Bosch nodded. He had been fishing for one thing but got something else. Protective gloves. He wondered if they were gloves specifically designed for handling radioactive material. He realized that he had forgotten to ask Alicia Kent if the men who entered her house had worn gloves. He hoped that Rachel Walling had covered all the details again when she was left with her.
Bosch paused there. Sometimes the silences are the most uneasy moments for a witness. They start to fill in the blanks.
But Mitford said nothing. After a long moment Bosch continued.
“Okay, we had two cars up there besides the Porsche. Describe the car that backed up to the Porsche.”
“I can’t, really. I know what Porsches look like, but I couldn’t tell about the other cars. Both were a lot bigger, like with four doors.”
“Let’s talk about the one in front of the Porsche. Was it a sedan?”
“I don’t know the brand.”
“No, a sedan is a type of car, not a brand. Four doors, trunk—like a police car.”
“Yes, like that.”
Bosch thought about Alicia Kent’s description of her missing car.
“Do you know what a Chrysler Three Hundred looks like?”
“What color was the car you saw?”
“I don’t know for sure but it was dark. Black or dark blue.”
“What about the other car? The one that was behind the Porsche.”
“Same thing. A dark sedan. It was different from the one in front—maybe a little bit smaller, eh—but I don’t know what kind it was. Sorry.”
The boy frowned, as though it was a personal failing that he didn’t know the makes and models of cars.
“It’s all right, Jesse, you’re doing fine,” Bosch said. “You’ve been very helpful. Do you think if I showed you photos of various sedans you could pick out the cars?”
“No, I didn’t see them enough. The lighting on the street wasn’t good and I was too far away.”
Bosch nodded but was disappointed. He considered things for a moment. Mitford’s story matched up with information provided by Alicia Kent. The two intruders to the Kent house had to have had transportation to get there. One would have taken the original vehicle, while the other took Alicia Kent’s Chrysler to transport the cesium with. It seemed like the obvious thing.
His thoughts prompted a new question for Mitford.
“Which way did the second car go when he drove off?”
“He also made a U-turn and drove down the hill.”
“And that was it?”
“That was it.”
“What did you do then?”
“Me? Nothing. I just stayed where I was.”
“I was scared. I was pretty sure I had just seen some guy get murdered.”
“You didn’t go check on him to see if he was alive and needed help?”
Mitford looked away from Bosch and shook his head.
“No, I was afraid. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, Jesse. You don’t have to worry about that. He was already dead. He was dead before he hit the ground. But what I’m curious about is why you stayed in hiding for so long. Why didn’t you go down the hill? Why didn’t you call nine-one-one?”
Mitford raised his hands and dropped them on the table.
“I don’t know. I was afraid, I guess. I followed the map up the hill, so that was the only way I knew back. I would have had to walk right by there and I thought, what if the cops come while I’m walking right there? I could get blamed. And I thought, if it was like the mafia or something that did it and they found out I had seen everything, then I’d be killed or something.”
“I think you watch too much American TV up there in Canada. You don’t have to worry. We’ll take care of you. How old are you, Jesse?”
“So, what were you doing at Madonna’s house? Isn’t she a little old for you?”
“No, it wasn’t like that. It was for my mother.”
“You were stalking her for your mother?”
“I’m not a stalker. I just wanted to get my mother her autograph or see if she had a picture or something I could have. I wanted to send something back to my mom and I don’t have anything. You know, just to show her I’m okay. I thought if I told her I had met Madonna, then I wouldn’t feel like such a . . . you know. I grew up listening to Madonna because my mom listens to her stuff. I just thought it would be kind of cool to send her something. Her birthday’s coming up and I didn’t have anything.”
“Why’d you come to L.A., Jesse?”
“I don’t know. It just seemed like the place to go. I was hoping I could get in a band or something. But it’s looking like most people come here with their band already. I don’t have one.”
Bosch thought Mitford had adopted the pose of the wandering troubadour but there had been no guitar or other mobile instrument with his backpack in the squad room.
“Are you a musician or a singer?”
“I play the guitar but I had to pawn it a few days ago. I’ll get it back.”
“Where are you staying?”
“I don’t really have a place right now. I was going to sleep up in the hills last night. I guess it’s the real answer to why I didn’t leave after I saw what happened to that guy up there. I really didn’t have anyplace to go.”
Bosch understood. Jesse Mitford was no different from a thousand others who got off the bus every month or thumbed it into town. More dreams than plans or currency. More hope than cunning, skill or intelligence. Not all of those who fail to make it stalk those who do. But the one thing they all share is that desperate edge. And some never lose it, even after their names are put up in lights and they buy houses on top of the hills.
“Let’s take a break here, Jesse,” Bosch said. “I need to make a few phone calls and then we’ll probably need to go over it all again. You cool with that? I’ll also see about maybe getting you a hotel room or something.”
“Think about the cars and the guy you saw, Jesse. We need you to remember more details.”
“I’m trying but I . . .”
He didn’t finish and Bosch left him there.
In the hallway Bosch switched on the air conditioning in the interview room and set it at sixty-four. It would soon cool off in the room and instead of sweating, Mitford would start to get cold—though coming from Canada, maybe not. After he chilled for a while Bosch would take another run at him and see if anything new came out. He checked his watch. It was almost 5 a.m. and the case meeting the feds were organizing was not for another four hours. There was a lot to do but he still had some time to work with Mitford. The first round had been productive. There was no reason for him not to think there was more to be gained by a second go at it.
Out in the squad room Bosch found Ignacio Ferras working at his desk. He was turned in his seat and was typing on his laptop on a slide-out table. Bosch noticed that Mitford’s property had been replaced on the desk by other evidence bags and file folders. It was everything from SID that the case had spawned so far on the two crime scenes.
“Harry, sorry I didn’t get back in there to watch,” Ferras said. “Anything new from the kid?”
“We’re getting there. I’m just taking a break.”
Ferras was thirty years old and had an athlete’s body. On his desk was the trophy awarded him for being his academy class’s top achiever in physical conditioning and testing. He was also handsome, with mocha skin and short-cropped hair. He had piercing green eyes.
Bosch stepped over to his own desk to use the phone. He was going to wake up Lieutenant Gandle one more time to give him another update.
“You track the vic’s gun yet?” he asked Ferras.
“Yeah, I got it off the ATF computer. He bought a twenty-two-caliber belly gun six months ago. Smith and Wesson.”
“A twenty-two fits,” he said. “No exit wounds.”
“Bullets check in but they don’t check out.”
Ferras delivered the line like a television commercial huckster and laughed at his own joke. Bosch thought about what was lying beneath the humor. Stanley Kent had been warned that his profession made him vulnerable. His response was to purchase a gun for protection.
And now Bosch was betting that the gun he’d bought had been used against him, had been used to kill him by a terrorist who called out the name of Allah as he pulled the trigger. What a world it was, Bosch thought, when someone could draw the courage to pull the trigger on another man by calling out to his God.
“Not a good way to go,” Ferras said.
Bosch looked across the two desks at him.