Main The Night Fire

The Night Fire

Harry Bosch and LAPD Detective Renee Ballard come together again on the murder case that obsessed Bosch's mentor, the man who trained him -- new from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly
Back when Harry Bosch was just a rookie homicide detective, he had an inspiring mentor who taught him to take the work personally and light the fire of relentlessness for every case. Now that mentor, John Jack Thompson, is dead, but after his funeral his widow hands Bosch a murder book that Thompson took with him when he left the LAPD 20 years before -- the unsolved killing of a troubled young man in an alley used for drug deals. Bosch brings the murder book to Renée Ballard and asks her to help him find what about the case lit Thompson's fire all those years ago. That will be their starting point. The bond between Bosch and Ballard tightens as they become a formidable investigation team. And they soon arrive at a worrying question: Did Thompson steal the murder book to work the case in retirement, or to make sure it never got solved?
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For Titus Welliver, for breathing life into Harry Bosch. Hold Fast.





Contents


Dedication

Title Page

BOSCH

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

BALLARD

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

BOSCH

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

BALLARD

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

BOSCH

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

BALLARD

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

BOSCH

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

BALLARD

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

BOSCH

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

BALLARD

Chapter 30

BOSCH

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

BALLARD

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

BOSCH

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

BALLARD

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

BOSCH

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

BALLARD

Chapter 48

BOSCH

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

BALLARD

Chapter 51

BALLARD AND BOSCH

Chapter 52

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Also by Michael Connelly

Copyright





BOSCH





1


Bosch arrived late and had to park on a cemetery lane far from the grave site. Careful not to step on anybody’s grave, he limped through two memorial sections, his cane sinking into the soft ground, until he saw the gathering for John Jack Thompson. It was standing room only around the old detective’s grave site and Bosch knew that wouldn’t work with his knee six weeks post-op. He retreated to the nearby Garden of Legends section and sat on a concrete bench that was part of Tyrone Power’s tomb. He assumed it was okay since it was clearly a bench. He remembered his mother taking him to see Power in the movies when he was a kid. Old stuff they would run in the revival theaters on Beverly. He remembered the handsome actor as Zorro and as the accused American in Witness for the Prosecution. He had died on the job, suffering a heart attack while filming a dueling scene in Spain. Bosch had always thought it wasn’t a bad way to go—doing what you loved.

The service for Thompson lasted a half hour. Bosch was too far away to hear what was said but;  he could guess. John Jack—he was always called that—was a good man who gave forty years of service to the Los Angeles Police Department in uniform and as a detective. He put many bad people away and taught generations of detectives how to do the same.

One of them was Bosch—paired with the legend as a newly minted homicide detective in Hollywood Division more than three decades earlier. Among other things, John Jack had taught Bosch how to read the tells of a liar in an interrogation room. John Jack always knew when somebody was lying. He once told Bosch it took a liar to know a liar but never explained how he had come by that piece of wisdom.

Their pairing had lasted only two years because Bosch trained well and John Jack was needed to break in the next new homicide man, but the mentor and student had stayed in touch through the years. Bosch spoke at Thompson’s retirement party, recounting the time they were working a murder case and John Jack pulled over a bakery delivery truck when he saw it turn right at a red light without first coming to a complete stop. Bosch questioned why they had interrupted their search for a murder suspect for a minor traffic infraction and John Jack said it was because he and his wife, Margaret, were having company for dinner that night and he needed to bring home a dessert. He got out of their city-ride, approached the truck, and badged the driver. He told him he had just committed a two-pie traffic offense. But being a fair man, John Jack cut a deal for one cherry pie and came back to the city car with that night’s dessert.

Those kinds of stories and the legend of John Jack Thompson had dimmed in the twenty years since his retirement, but the gathering around his grave was thick and Bosch recognized many of the men and women he had worked with during his own time with an LAPD badge. He suspected the reception at John Jack’s house after the service was going to be equally crowded and might last into the night.

Bosch had been to too many funerals of retired detectives to count. His generation was losing the war of attrition. This one was highend, though. It featured the official LAPD honor guard and pipers. That was a nod to John Jack’s former standing in the department. “Amazing Grace” echoed mournfully across the cemetery and over the wall that divided it from Paramount Studios.

After the casket was lowered and people started heading back to their cars, Bosch made his way across the lawn to where Margaret remained seated, a folded flag in her lap. She smiled at Bosch as he approached.

“Harry, you got my message,” she said. “I’m glad you came.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Bosch said.

He leaned down, kissed her cheek, and squeezed her hand.

“He was a good man, Margaret,” he said. “I learned a lot from him.”

“He was,” she said. “And you were one of his favorites. He took great pride in all of the cases you closed.”

Bosch turned and looked down into the grave. John Jack’s box appeared to have been made of stainless steel.

“He picked it,” Margaret said. “He said it looked like a bullet.”

Bosch smiled.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get over to see him,” he said. “Before the end.”

“It’s okay, Harry,” she said. “You had your knee. How is it doing?”

“Better every day. I won’t need this cane much longer.”

“When John Jack had his knees done he said it was a new lease on life. That was fifteen years ago.”

Bosch just nodded. He thought a new lease on life was a little optimistic.

“Are you coming back to the house?” Margaret asked. “There is something there for you. From him.”

Bosch looked at her.

“From him?”

“You’ll see. Something I would give only to you.”

Bosch saw members of the family gathered by a couple of stretch limos in the parking lane. It looked like two generations of children.

“Can I walk you over to the limo?” Bosch asked.

“That would be nice, Harry,” Margaret said.





2


Bosch had picked up a cherry pie that morning at Gelson’s and that was what had made him late to the funeral. He carried it into the bungalow on Orange Grove, where John Jack and Margaret Thompson had lived for more than fifty years. He put it on the dining room table with the other plates and trays of food.

The house was crowded. Bosch said hellos and shook a few hands as he pushed his way through the knots of people, looking for Margaret. He found her in the kitchen, oven mitts on and getting a hot pan out of the oven. Keeping busy.

“Harry,” she said. “Did you bring the pie?”

“Yes,” he said. “I put it on the table.”

She opened a drawer and gave Bosch a spatula and a knife.

“What were you going to give me?” Bosch asked.

“Just hold your horses,” Margaret said. “First cut the pie, then go back to John Jack’s office. Down the hall, on the left. It’s on his desk and you can’t miss it.”

Bosch went into the dining room and used the knife she had given him to cut the pie into eight slices. He then made his way again through the people crowded in the living room to the hallway that led back to John Jack’s home office. He had been there before. Years earlier, when they worked cases together, after a long shift Bosch would often end up at the Thompson house for a late meal prepared by Margaret and a strategy session with John Jack. Sometimes Bosch would take the couch in the home office and sleep a few hours before getting back to work on the case. He even kept spare clothes in the office closet. Margaret always left a fresh towel for him in the guest bathroom.

The door was closed and for some reason he knocked, even though he knew no one should be in there.

He opened the door and entered a small cluttered office with shelves on two walls and a desk pushed up against a third under a window. The couch was still there, across from the window. Sitting on a green blotter on the desk was a thick blue plastic binder with three inches of documents inside.

It was a murder book.





BALLARD





3


Ballard studied what she could see of the remains with an unflinching eye. The smell of kerosene mixed with that of burned flesh was overpowering this close, but she stood her ground. She was in charge of the scene until the fire experts arrived. The nylon tent had melted and collapsed on the victim. It tightly shrouded the body in places where the fire had not completely burned through. The body seemed to be in repose and she wondered how he could have slept through it. She also knew that toxicity tests would determine his alcohol and drug levels. Maybe he never felt a thing.

Ballard knew it would not be her case but she pulled out her phone and took photos of the body and the scene, including close-ups of the overturned camping heater, the presumed source of the blaze. She then opened the temperature app on the phone and noted that the current temperature listed for Hollywood was 52 degrees. That would go in her report and be forwarded to the Fire Department’s arson unit.

She stepped back and looked around. It was 3:15 a.m. and Cole Avenue was largely deserted, except for the homeless people who had come out of the tents and cardboard shanties that lined the sidewalk running alongside the Hollywood Recreation Center. They stared both wide-eyed and addled as the investigation into the death of one of their own proceeded.

“How’d we get this?” Ballard asked.

Stan Dvorek, the patrol sergeant who had called her out, stepped over. He had worked the late-show shift longer than anybody at Hollywood Division—more than ten years. Others on the shift called him “The Relic,” but not to his face.

“FD called us,” he said. “They got it from communications. Somebody driving by saw the flames and called it in as a fire.”

“They get a name on the PR?” Ballard asked.

“He didn’t give one. Called it in, kept driving.”

“Nice.”

Two fire trucks were still on scene, having made the journey just three blocks down from Station 27 to douse the burning tent. The crews were standing by to be questioned.

“I’m going to take the fire guys,” Ballard said. “Why don’t you have your guys talk to some of these people, see if anybody saw anything.”

“Isn’t that arson’s job?” Dvorek asked. “They’re just going to have to reinterview if we find anybody worth talking to.”

“First on scene, Devo. We need to do this right.”

Ballard walked away, ending the debate. Dvorek might be the patrol supervisor but Ballard was in charge of the crime scene. Until it was determined that the fatal fire was an accident she would treat it as a crime scene.

She walked over to the waiting firefighters and asked which of the two crews was first on scene. She then asked the six firefighters assigned to the first truck what they saw. The information she received from them was thin. The tent fire had almost burned itself out by the time the fire-rescue team arrived. Nobody saw anyone around the blaze or nearby in the park. No witnesses, no suspects. A fire extinguisher from the truck had been used to douse the remaining flames, and the victim was pronounced dead and was therefore not transported to a hospital.

From there Ballard took a walk up and down the block, looking for cameras. The homeless encampment ran along the city park’s outdoor basketball courts, where there were no security cameras. On the west side of Cole was a line of one-story warehouses inhabited by prop houses and equipment-rental houses catering to the film and television industry. Ballard saw a few cameras but suspected that they were either dummies or set at angles that would not be helpful to the investigation.

When she got back to the scene, she saw Dvorek conferring with two of his patrol officers. Ballard recognized them from the morning-watch roll call at Hollywood Division.

“Anything?” Ballard asked.

“About what you’d expect,” Dvorek said. “‘I didn’t see nothin’, I didn’t hear nothin’, I don’t know nothin’.’ Waste of time.”

Ballard nodded. “Had to be done,” she said.

“So where the fuck is arson?” Dvorek asked. “I need to get my people back out.”

“Last I heard, in transit. They don’t run twenty-four hours, so they had to roust a team from home.”

“Jesus, we’ll be waiting out here all night. Did you roll the coroner out yet?”

“On the way. You can probably clear half your guys and yourself. Just leave one car here.”

“You got it.”

Dvorek went off to issue new orders to his officers. Ballard walked back to the immediate crime scene and looked at the tent that had melted over the dead man like a shroud. She was staring down at it when peripheral movement caught her eye. She looked up to see a woman and a girl climbing out of a shelter made of a blue plastic tarp tied to the fence that surrounded the basketball court. Ballard moved quickly to them and redirected them away from the body.

“Honey, you don’t want to go over there,” she said. “Come this way.”

She walked them down the sidewalk to the end of the encampment.

“What happened?” the woman asked.

Ballard studied the girl as she answered.

“Somebody got burned,” she said. “Did you see anything? It happened about an hour ago.”

“We were sleeping,” the woman said. “She’s got school in the morning.”

The girl had still not said anything.

“Why aren’t you in a shelter?” Ballard asked. “This is dangerous out here. That fire could’ve spread.”

She looked from the mother to the daughter.

“How old are you?”

The girl had large brown eyes and brown hair and was slightly overweight. The woman stepped in front of her and answered Ballard.

“Please don’t take her from me.”

Ballard saw the pleading look in the woman’s brown eyes.

“I’m not here to do that. I just want to make sure she’s safe. You’re her mother?”

“Yes. My daughter.”

“What’s her name?”

“Amanda—Mandy.”

“How old?”

“Fourteen.”

Ballard leaned down to talk to the girl. She had her eyes cast down.

“Mandy? Are you okay?”

She nodded.

“Would you want me to try to get you and your mother into a shelter for women and children? It might be better than being out here.”

Mandy looked up at her mother when she answered.

“No. I want to stay here with my mother.”

“I’m not going to separate you. I will take you and your mother if you want.”

The girl looked up at her mother again for guidance.

“You put us in there and they will take her away,” the mother said. “I know they will.”

“No, I’ll stay here,” the girl said quickly.

“Okay,” Ballard said. “I won’t do anything, but I don’t think this is where you should be. It’s not safe out here for either of you.”

“The shelters aren’t safe either,” the mother said. “People steal all your stuff.”

Ballard pulled out a business card and handed it to her.

“Call me if you need anything,” she said. “I work the midnight shift. I’ll be around if you need me.”

The mother took the card and nodded. Ballard’s thoughts returned to the case. She turned and gestured toward the crime scene.

“Did you know him?” she asked.

“A little,” the mother said. “He minded his own business.”

“Do you know his name?”

“Uh, I think it was Ed. Eddie, he said.”

“Okay. Had he been here a long time?”

“A couple months. He said he had been over at Blessed Sacrament but it was getting too crowded for him.”

Ballard knew that Blessed Sacrament on Sunset allowed the homeless to camp on the front portico. She drove by it often and knew it to be heavily crowded at night with tents and makeshift shelters, all of which disappeared at daylight before church services began.

Hollywood was a different place in the dark hours, after the neon and glitter had dimmed. Ballard saw the change every night. It became a place of predators and prey and nothing in between, a place where the haves were comfortably and safely behind their locked doors and the have-nots freely roamed. Ballard always remembered the words of a late-show patrol poet. He called them human tumbleweeds moving with the winds of fate.

“Did he have any trouble with anybody here?” she asked.

“Not that I saw,” said the mother.

“Did you see him last night?”

“No, I don’t think so. He wasn’t around when we went to sleep.” Ballard looked at Amanda to see if she had a response but was interrupted by a voice from behind.

“Detective?”

Ballard turned around. It was one of Dvorek’s officers. His name was Rollins. He was new to the division or he wouldn’t have been so formal.

“What?”

“The guys from arson are here. They—”

“Okay. I’ll be right there.”

She turned back to the woman and her daughter.

“Thank you,” she said. “And remember, you can call me anytime.”

As Ballard headed back toward the body and the men from arson, she couldn’t help remembering again that line about tumbleweeds. Written on a field interview card by an officer Ballard later learned had seen too much of the depressing and dark hours of Hollywood and taken his own life.





4


The men from arson were named Nuccio and Spellman. Following LAFD protocol, they were wearing blue coveralls with the LAFD badge on the chest pocket and the word ARSON across the back. Nuccio was the senior investigator and he said he would be lead. Both men shook Ballard’s hand before Nuccio announced that they would take the investigation from there. Ballard explained that a cursory sweep of the homeless encampment had produced no witnesses, while a walk up and down Cole Avenue had found no cameras with an angle on the fatal fire. She also mentioned that the coroner’s office was rolling a unit to the scene and a criminalist from the LAPD lab was en route as well.

Nuccio seemed uninterested. He handed Ballard a business card with his e-mail address on it and asked that she forward the death report she would write up when she got back to Hollywood Station.

“That’s it?” Ballard asked. “That’s all you need?”

She knew that LAFD arson experts had law enforcement and detective training and were expected to conduct a thorough investigation of any fire involving a death. She also knew they were competitive with the LAPD in the way a little brother might be with his older sibling. The arson guys didn’t like being in the LAPD’s shadow.

“That’s it,” Nuccio said. “You send me your report and I’ll have your e-mail. I’ll let you know how it all shakes out.”

“You’ll have it by dawn,” Ballard said. “You want to keep the uniforms here while you work?”

“Sure. One or two of them would be nice. Just have them watch our backs.”

Ballard walked away and over to Rollins and his partner, Randolph, who were waiting by their car for instructions. She told them to stand by and keep the scene secure while the investigation proceeded.

Ballard used her cell to call the Hollywood Division watch office and report that she was about to leave the scene. The lieutenant was named Washington. He was a new transfer from Wilshire Division. Though he had previously worked Watch Three, as the midnight shift was officially called, he was still getting used to things at Hollywood Division. Most divisions went quiet after midnight but Hollywood rarely did. That was why they called it the Late Show.

“LAFD has no need for me here, L-T,” Ballard said.

“What’s it look like?” Washington asked.

“Like the guy kicked over his kerosene heater while he was sleeping. But we’ve got no wits or cameras in the area. Not that we found, and I’m not thinking the arson guys are going to look too hard beyond that.”

Washington was silent for a few moments while he came to a decision.

“All right, then come back to the house and write it up,” he finally said. “They want it all by themselves, they can have it.”

“Roger that,” Ballard said. “I’m heading in.”

She disconnected and walked over to Rollins and Randolph, telling them she was leaving the scene and that they should call her at the station if anything new came up.

The station was only five minutes away at four in the morning. The rear parking lot was quiet as Ballard headed to the back door. She used her key card to enter and took the long way to the detective bureau so that she could go through the watch office and check in with Washington. He was only in his second deployment period and still learning and feeling his way. Ballard had been purposely wandering through the watch office two or three times a shift to make herself familiar to Washington. Technically her boss was Terry McAdams, the division’s detective lieutenant, but she almost never saw him because he worked days. In reality, Washington was her boots-on-the-ground boss and she wanted to solidly establish the relationship.

Washington was behind his desk looking at his deployment screen, which showed the GPS locations of every police unit in the division. He was tall, African-American, with a shaved head.

“How’s it going?” Ballard asked.

“All quiet on the western front,” Washington said.

His eyes were squinted and holding on a particular point on the screen. Ballard pivoted around the side of his desk so she could see it too.

“What is it?” she asked.

“I’ve got three units at Seward and Santa Monica,” Washington said. “I’ve got no call there.”

Ballard pointed. The division was divided into thirty-five geographic zones called reporting districts and these were in turn covered by seven basic car areas. At any given time there was a patrol in each car area, with other cars belonging to supervisors like Sergeant Dvorek, who had division-wide patrol responsibilities.

“You’ve got three basic car areas that are contiguous there,” she said. “And that’s where an all-night mariscos truck parks. They can all code seven there without leaving their zones.”

“Got it,” Washington said. “Thanks, Ballard. Good to know.”

“No problem. I’m going to go brew a fresh pot in the break room. You want a cup?”

“Ballard, I might not know about that mariscos truck out there, but I know about you. You don’t need to be fetching coffee for me. I can get my own.”

Ballard was surprised by the answer and immediately wanted to ask what exactly Washington knew about her. But she didn’t.

“Got it,” she said instead.

She walked back down the main hall and then hooked a left down the hallway that led to the detective bureau. As expected, the squad room was deserted. Ballard checked the wall clock and saw that she had over two hours until the end of her shift. That gave her plenty of time to write up the report on the fire death. She headed to the cubicle she used in the back corner. It was a spot that gave her a full view of the room and anybody who came in.

She had left her laptop open on the desk when she got the callout on the tent fire. She stood in front of the desk for a few moments before sitting down. Someone had changed the setting on the small radio she usually set up at her station. It had been changed from the KNX 1070 news station she usually had playing to KJAZ 88.1. Someone had also moved her computer to the side, and a faded blue binder—a murder book—had been left front and center on the desk. She flipped it open and there was a Post-it on the table of contents.

Don’t say I never gave you anything.

B

PS: Jazz is better for you than news.

Ballard took the Post-it off because it was covering the name of the victim.

John Hilton—DOB 1/17/66–DOD 8/3/90

She didn’t need the table of contents to find the photo section of the book. She flipped several sections of reports over on the three steel loops and found the photos secured in plastic sleeves. The photos showed the body of the young man slumped across the front seat of a car, a bullet hole behind his right ear.

She studied the photos for a moment and then closed the binder. She pulled her phone, looked up a number, and called it, checking her watch as she waited. A man answered quickly and did not sound to Ballard as if he had been pulled from the depths of sleep.

“It’s Ballard,” she said. “You were in here at the station tonight?”

“Uh, yeah, I dropped by about an hour ago,” Bosch said. “You weren’t there.”

“I was on a call. So where’d this murder book come from?”

“I guess you could say it’s been missing in action. I went to a funeral yesterday—my first partner in homicide way back when. The guy who mentored me. He passed on and I went to the funeral, and then afterward at his house, his wife—his widow—gave me the book. She wanted me to return it. So that’s what I did. I returned it to you.”

Ballard flipped the binder open again and read the basic case information above the table of contents.

“George Hunter was your partner?” she asked.

“No,” Bosch said. “My partner was John Jack Thompson. This wasn’t his case originally.”

“It wasn’t his case, but when he retired he stole the murder book.”

“Well, I don’t know if I’d say he stole it.”

“Then what would you say?”

“I’d say he took over the investigation of a case nobody was working. Read the chrono, you’ll see it was gathering dust. The original case detective probably retired and nobody was doing anything with it.”

“When did Thompson retire?”

“January 2000.”

“Shit, and he had it all this time? Almost twenty years.”

“That’s the way it looks.”

“That’s really bullshit.”

“Look, I’m not trying to defend John Jack, but the case probably got more attention from him than it ever would’ve in the Open-Unsolved Unit. They mainly just work DNA cases over there and there’s no DNA in this one. It would have been passed over and left to gather dust if John Jack hadn’t taken it with him.”

“So you know there’s no DNA? And you checked the chrono?”

“Yeah. I read through it. I started when I got home from the funeral, then took it to you as soon as I finished.”

“And why did you bring it here?”

“Because we had a deal, remember? We’d work cases together.”

“So you want to work this together?”

“Well, sort of.”

“What’s that mean?”

“I’ve got some stuff going on. Medical stuff. And I don’t know how much—”

“What medical stuff?”

“I just got a new knee and, you know, I have rehab and there might be a complication. So I’m not sure how much I can be involved.”

“You’re dumping this case on me. You changed my radio station and dumped the case on me.”

“No, I want to help and I will help. John Jack mentored me. He taught me the rule, you know?”

“What rule?”

“To take every case personally.”

“What?”

“Take every case personally and you get angry. It builds a fire. It gives you the edge you need to go the distance every time out.”

Ballard thought about that. She understood what he was saying but knew it was a dangerous way to live and work.

“He said ‘every case’?” she asked.

“‘Every case,’” Bosch said.

“So you just read this cover to cover?”

“Yes. Took me about six hours. I had a few interruptions. I need to walk and work my knee.”

“What’s the part in it that made it personal for John Jack?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t see it. But I know he found a way to make every case personal. If you find that, you might be able to close it out.”

“If I find it?”

“Okay, if we find it. But like I said, I already looked.”

Ballard flipped the sections over until she once again came to the photos held in plastic sleeves.

“I don’t know,” she said. “This feels like a long shot. If George Hunter couldn’t clear it and then John Jack Thompson couldn’t clear it, what makes you think we can?”

“Because you have that thing,” Bosch said. “That fire. We can do this and bring that boy some justice.”

“Don’t start with the ‘justice’ thing. Don’t bullshit me, Bosch.”

“Okay, I won’t. But will you at least read the chrono and look through the book before deciding? If you do that and don’t want to continue, that’s fine. Turn the book in or give it back to me. I’ll work it alone. When I get the time.”

Ballard didn’t answer at first. She had to think. She knew that the proper procedure would be to turn the murder book in to the Open-Unsolved Unit, explain how it had been found after Thompson’s death, and leave it at that. But as Bosch had said, that move would probably result in the case being put on a shelf to gather dust.

She looked at the photos again. It appeared to her on initial read that it was a drug rip-off. The victim pulls up, offers the cash, gets a bullet instead of a balloon of heroin or whatever his drug of choice was.

“There’s one thing,” Bosch said.

“What’s that?” Ballard asked.

“The bullet. If it’s still in evidence. You need to run it through NIBIN, see what comes up. That database wasn’t around back in 1990.”

“Still, what’s that, a one-in-ten shot? No pun intended.”

She knew that the national database held the unique ballistic details of bullets and cartridge casings found at crime scenes, but it was far from a complete archive. Data on a bullet had to be entered for that bullet to become part of any comparison process, and most police departments, including the LAPD, were behind in the entering process. Still, the bullet archive had been around since the start of the century and the data grew larger every year.

“It’s better than no shot,” Bosch said.

Ballard didn’t reply. She looked at the murder book and ran a fingernail up the side of the thick sheaf of documents it contained, creating a ripping sound.

“Okay,” she finally said. “I’ll read it.”

“Good,” Bosch said. “Let me know what you think.”





BOSCH





5


Bosch quietly slipped into the back row of the Department 106 courtroom, drawing the attention of the judge only, who made a slight nod in recognition. It had been years, but Bosch had had several cases before Judge Paul Falcone in the past. He had also woken the judge up on more than one occasion while seeking approval for a search warrant in the middle of the night.

Bosch saw his half brother, Mickey Haller, at the lectern located to the side of the defense and prosecution tables. He was questioning his own witness. Bosch knew this because he had been tracking the case online and in the newspaper and this day was the start of the defense’s seemingly impossible case. Haller was defending a man accused of murdering a superior-court judge named Walter Montgomery in a city park less than a block from the courthouse that now held the trial. The defendant, Jeffrey Herstadt, not only was linked to the crime by DNA evidence but had helpfully confessed to the murder on video as well.

“Doctor, let me get this straight,” Haller said to the witness seated to the left of the judge. “Are you saying that Jeffrey’s mental issues put him in a state of paranoia where he feared physical harm might come to him if he did not confess to this crime?”

The man in the witness box was in his sixties and had white hair and a full beard that was oddly darker. Bosch had missed his swearing-in and did not know his name. His physical appearance and professorial manner conjured the name Freud in Harry’s mind.

“That is what you get with schizoaffective disorder,” Freud responded. “You have all the symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations, as well as of mood disorders like mania, depression, and paranoia. The latter leads to the psyche taking on protective measures such as the nodding and agreement you see in the video of the confession.”

“So, when Jeffrey was nodding and agreeing with Detective Gustafson throughout that interview, he was what—just trying to avoid being hurt?” Haller asked.

Bosch noticed his repeated use of the defendant’s first name, a move calculated to humanize him in front of the jury.

“Exactly,” Freud said. “He wanted to survive the interview unscathed. Detective Gustafson was an authority figure who held Jeffrey’s well-being in his hands. Jeffrey knew this and I could see his fear on the video. In his mind he was in danger and he just wanted to survive it.”

“Which would lead him to say whatever Detective Gustafson wanted him to say?” Haller asked, though it was more statement than question.

“That is correct,” Freud responded. “It started small with questions of seemingly no consequence: ‘Were you familiar with the park?’ ‘Were you in the park?’ And then of course it moved to questions of a more serious nature: ‘Did you kill Judge Montgomery?’ Jeffrey was down the path at that point and he willingly said, ‘Yes, I did it.’ But it is not what could be classified as a voluntary confession. Because of the situation, the confession was not freely, voluntarily, nor intelligently given. It was coerced.”

Haller let that hang in the air for a few moments while he pretended to check the notes on his legal pad. He then went off in a different direction.

“Doctor, what is catatonic schizophrenia?” he asked.

“It is a subtype of schizophrenia in which the affected person can appear during stressful situations to go into seizure or what is called negativism or rigidity,” Freud said. “This is marked by resistance to instructions or attempts to be physically moved.”

“When does this happen, Doctor?”

“During periods of high stress.”

“Is that what you see at the end of the interview with Detective Gustafson?”

“Yes, it is my professional opinion that he went into seizure unbeknownst at first to the detective.”

Haller asked Judge Falcone if he could replay this part of the taped interview conducted with Herstadt. Bosch had already seen the tape in its entirety because it had become public record after the prosecution introduced it in court and it was subsequently posted on the Internet.

Haller played the part beginning at the twenty-minute mark, where Herstadt seemed to shut down physically and mentally. He sat frozen, catatonic, staring down at the table. He didn’t respond to multiple questions from Gustafson, and the detective soon realized that something was wrong.

Gustafson called EMTs, who arrived quickly. They checked Herstadt’s pulse, blood pressure, and blood-oxygen levels and determined he was in seizure. He was transported to the County–USC Medical Center, where he was treated and held in the jail ward. The interview was never continued. Gustafson already had what he needed: Herstadt on video, saying, “I did it.” The confession was backed a week later when Herstadt’s DNA was matched to genetic material scraped from under one of Judge Montgomery’s fingernails.

Haller continued his questioning of his psychiatric expert after the video ended.

“What did you see there, Doctor?”

“I saw a man in catatonic seizure.”

“Triggered by what?”

“It’s pretty clear it was triggered by stress. He was being questioned about a murder that he had admitted to but in my opinion didn’t commit. That would build stress in anyone, but acutely so in a paranoid schizophrenic.”

“And, Doctor, did you learn during your review of the case file that Jeffrey had suffered a seizure just hours before the murder of Judge Montgomery?”

“I did. I reviewed the reports of an incident that occurred about ninety minutes before the murder, in which Jeffrey was treated for seizure at a coffee shop.”

“And do you know the details of that incident, Doctor?”

“Yes. Jeffrey apparently walked into a Starbucks and ordered a coffee drink and then had no money to pay for it. He had left his money and wallet at the group home. When confronted by the cashier about this, he became threatened and went into seizure. EMTs arrived and determined he was in seizure.”

“Was he taken to a hospital?”

“No, he came out of seizure and refused further treatment. He walked away.”

“So, we have these occurrences of seizure on both sides of the murder we’re talking about here. Ninety minutes before and about two hours after, both of which you say were brought about by stress. Correct?”

“That is correct.”

“Doctor, would it be your opinion that committing a murder in which you use a knife to stab a victim three times in the upper body would be a stressful event?”

“Very stressful.”

“More stressful than attempting to buy a cup of coffee with no money in your pocket?”

“Yes, much more stressful.”

“In your opinion, is committing a violent murder more stressful than being questioned about a violent murder?”

The prosecutor objected, arguing that Haller was taking the doctor beyond the bounds of his expertise with his far-reaching hypotheticals. The judge agreed and struck the question, but Haller’s point had already been made.

“Okay, Doctor, we’ll move on,” Haller said. “Let me ask you this: At any time during your involvement in this case, have you seen any report indicating that Jeffrey Herstadt had any seizure during the commission of this violent murder?”

“No, I have not.”

“To your knowledge, when he was stopped by police in Grand Park near the crime scene and taken in for questioning, was he in seizure?”

“No, not to my knowledge.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

Haller advised the judge that he reserved the right to recall the doctor as a witness, then turned over the witness to the prosecution. Judge Falcone was going to break for lunch before cross-examination began, but the prosecutor, whom Bosch recognized as Deputy District Attorney Susan Saldano, promised to spend no more than ten minutes questioning the doctor. The judge allowed her to proceed.

“Good morning, Dr. Stein,” she said, providing Bosch with at least part of the psychiatrist’s name.

“Good morning,” Stein replied warily. “Let’s now talk about something else regarding the defendant. Do you know whether upon his arrest and subsequent treatment at County-USC a blood sample was taken from him and scanned for drugs and alcohol?”

“Yes, it was. That would’ve been routine.”

“And when you reviewed this case for the defense, did you review the results of the blood test?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Can you tell the jury what, if anything, the scan revealed?”

“It showed low levels of a drug called paliperidone.”

“Are you familiar with paliperidone?”

“Yes, I prescribed it for Mr. Herstadt.”

“What is paliperidone?”

“It is a dopamine antagonist. A psychotropic used to treat schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. In many cases, if administered properly, it allows those afflicted with the disorder to lead normal lives.”

“And does it have any side effects?”

“A variety of side effects can occur. Each case is different, and we come up with drug therapies that fit individual patients while taking into account any side effects that are exhibited.”

“Do you know that the manufacturer of paliperidone warns users that side effects can include agitation and aggression?”

“Well, yes, but in Jeffrey’s—”

“Just a yes or no answer, Doctor. Are you aware of those side effects, yes or no?”

“Yes.”

“Thank you, Doctor. And just a moment ago, when you described the drug paliperidone, you used the phrase ‘if administered properly.’ Do you remember saying that?”

“Yes.”

“Now at the time of this crime, do you know where Jeffrey Herstadt was living?”

“Yes, in a group home in Angelino Heights.”

“And he had a prescription from you for paliperidone, correct?”

“Yes.”

“And who was in charge of properly administering the drug to him in that group home?”

“There is a social worker assigned to the home who administers the prescriptions.”

“So, do you have firsthand knowledge that this drug was properly administered to Mr. Herstadt?”

“I don’t really understand the question. I saw the blood scans after he was arrested and they showed the proper levels of paliperidone, so one can assume he was being given and was taking his dosage.”

“Can you tell this jury for a fact that he did not take his dosage after the murder but before his blood was drawn at the hospital?”

“Well, no, but—”

“Can you tell this jury that he didn’t hoard his pills and take several at once before the murder?”

“Again, no, but you are getting into—”

“No further questions.”

Saldano moved to the prosecution table and sat down. Bosch watched Haller stand up immediately and tell the judge he would be quick with redirect. The judge nodded his approval.

“Doctor, would you like to finish your answer to Ms. Saldano’s last question?” Haller asked.

“I would, yes,” Stein said. “I was just going to say that the blood scan from the hospital showed a proper level of the drug in his bloodstream. Any scenario other than proper administration doesn’t add up. Whether he was hoarding and then overmedicating, or not medicating and took a pill after the crime, it would have been apparent in the levels on the scan.”

“Thank you, Doctor. How long had you been treating Jeffrey before this incident occurred?”

“Four years.”

“When did you put him on paliperidone?”

“Four years ago.”

“Did you ever see him act aggressively toward anyone?”

“No, I did not.”

“Did you ever hear of him acting aggressively toward anyone?”

“Before this … incident, no, I did not.”

“Did you get regular reports on his behavior from the group home where he lived?”

“I did, yes.”

“Was there ever a report from the group home about Jeffrey being violent?”

“No, never.”

“Were you ever concerned that he might be violent toward you or any member of the public?”

“No. If that had been the case, I would have prescribed a different drug therapy.”

“Now, as a psychiatrist you are also a medical doctor, is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“And when you reviewed this case did you also look at the autopsy records on Judge Montgomery?”

“I did, yes.”

“You saw that he was stabbed three times in close proximity under the right armpit, correct?”

“Yes, I did.”

Saldano stood and objected.

“Your Honor, where is he going with this?” she asked. “This is beyond the scope of my cross-examination.”

Falcone looked at Haller.

“I was wondering the same thing, Mr. Haller.”

“Judge, it is somewhat new territory but I did reserve the right to recall Dr. Stein. If the prosecution wants, we can go to lunch and I will recall him right afterward, or we can just take care of this right here. I’ll be quick.”

“The objection is overruled,” the judge said. “Proceed, Mr. Haller.”

“Thank you, Judge,” Haller said.

He turned his attention back to the witness.

“Doctor, there are vital blood vessels in the area of the body where Judge Montgomery was stabbed, are there not?”

“Yes, blood vessels leading directly to and from the heart.”

“Do you have Mr. Herstadt’s personal files?”

“I do.”

“Did he ever serve in the military?”

“No, he did not.”

“Any medical training?”

“None that I am aware of.”

“How could he have known to stab the judge in the very specifically vulnerable spot under the judge’s—”

“Objection!”

Saldano was back on her feet.

“Judge, this witness has no expertise that would allow him to hazard even a guess at what counsel was about to ask him.”

The judge agreed.

“If you want to pursue that, Mr. Haller, bring in a wound expert,” Falcone said. “This witness is not that.”

“Your Honor,” Haller said. “You sustained the objection without giving me a chance to argue the point.”

“I did and I’d do it again, Mr. Haller. Do you have any other questions for the witness?”

“I don’t.”

“Ms. Saldano?”

Saldano thought for a moment but then said she had no further questions. Before the judge could tell the jury to take a lunch break, Haller addressed the court.

“Your Honor,” he said, “I expected Ms. Saldano to spend most of the afternoon on cross-examination of Dr. Stein. And I thought I would take up the rest of it on redirect. This is quite a surprise.”

“What are you telling me, Mr. Haller?” the judge asked, his tone already tinged with consternation.

“My next witness is my DNA expert coming in from New York. She doesn’t land until four o’clock.”

“Do you have a witness you can take out of order and bring in after lunch?”

“No, Your Honor, I don’t.”

“Very well.”

The judge was clearly unhappy. He turned and addressed the jury, telling its members they were finished for the day. He told them to go home and avoid any media coverage of the trial and to be back in the morning at nine. Throwing a glare at Haller, the judge explained to the jurors that they would begin hearing testimony before the usual ten o’clock start in order to make up lost time.

Everyone waited until the jurors had filed into the assembly room and then the judge turned more of his frustration on Haller.

“Mr. Haller, I think you know I don’t like working half days when I have scheduled full days of court.”

“Yes, Your Honor. Neither do I.”

“You should have brought your witness in yesterday so that she would be available no matter how things progressed in the case.”

“Yes, Your Honor. But that would have meant paying for another night in a hotel and, as the court knows, my client is indigent and I was appointed to the case by the court at significantly reduced fees. My request to the court administrator to bring my expert in a day earlier was denied for financial reasons.”

“Mr. Haller, that’s all well and good, but there are highly qualified DNA experts right here in Los Angeles. Why is it necessary to fly your expert in from New York?”

That was the first question that had come to Bosch’s mind as well.

“Well, Judge, I don’t really think it would be fair for me to have to reveal defense strategy to the prosecution,” Haller said. “But I can say that my expert is at the top of the game in her specialty field of DNA analysis and that this will become apparent when she testifies tomorrow.”

The judge studied Haller for a long moment, seemingly trying to decide whether to continue the argument. Finally he relented.

“Very well,” he said. “Court is adjourned until nine o’clock tomorrow. Have your witness ready at that time, Mr. Haller, or there will be consequences.”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

The judge got up and left the bench.





6


Where do you want to go?”

They were in the back of Haller’s Lincoln.

“Doesn’t matter,” Bosch said. “Somewhere private. Quiet.”

“You hear that Traxx closed down?” Haller asked. “Really? I loved that place. Loved going to Union Station.”

“I already miss it. It was my go-to place during trial. It was there twenty years—in this town that says something.”

Haller leaned forward and spoke to his driver.

“Stace, take us over to Chinatown,” he said. “The Little Jewel.”

“You got it,” the driver said.

Haller’s driver was a woman and Bosch had never seen that before. Haller had always used former clients to drive the Lincoln. Men paying off their legal fees. He wondered what Stace was paying off. She was mid-forties, black, and looked like a schoolteacher, not someone drawn from the streets, as Haller’s drivers usually were.

“So what did you think?” Haller asked. “About the trial?” Bosch replied. “You scored your points about the confession. Is your DNA expert going to be that good? Her ‘specialty field of DNA analysis’—how much of that was bullshit?”

“None of it. But we’ll see. She’s good but I don’t know if she’s good enough.”

“And she’s really coming in from New York?”

“I told you, none of it was bullshit.”

“So what’s she going to do? Attack the lab? Say they blew it?”

Bosch was tired of that defense. It may have worked for O. J. Simpson but that was a long time ago and there were so many other factors involved in that case. Big factors. The science of DNA was too good. A match was a match. If you wanted to knock it down you needed something other than to attack the science.

“I don’t know what she’s going to say,” Haller said. “That’s our deal. She’ll never shill. She calls them like she sees them.”

“Well, like I told you, I’ve been following the case,” Bosch said. “Knocking down the confession is one thing. But DNA’s another. You need to do something. You have the case file with you?”

“Most of it—all the trial prep. It’s in the trunk. Why?”

“I was thinking I could take a look at it for you. If you want, I mean. No promises. Just that something didn’t seem right in there when I was watching. Something was poking at me.”

“With the testimony? What?”

“I don’t know. Something that doesn’t add up.”

“Well, I’ve got tomorrow and then that’s it. No other witnesses. If you’re going to look, I need it today.”

“No problem. Right after lunch.”

“Fine. Knock yourself out. How’s the knee, by the way?”

“Good. Better every day.”

“Pain?”

“No pain.”

“You didn’t call because you’ve got a malpractice case, did you?”

“No, not that.”

“Then what?”

Bosch looked at the driver’s eyes in the rearview. She couldn’t help overhearing things. He didn’t want to talk in front of her.

“Wait till we sit down,” he said.

“Sure,” Haller said.

The Little Jewel was in Chinatown but it didn’t serve Chinese food. It was pure Cajun. They ordered at the counter and then got a table in a reasonably quiet corner. Bosch had gone with a shrimp po’boy sandwich. Haller had ordered the fried oyster po’boy and paid for both.

“So, new driver?” Bosch asked.

“Been with me three months,” Haller said. “No, four. She’s good.”

“She a client?”

“Actually, the mother of a client. Her son’s in county for a year on possession. We beat an intent-to-sell package, which wasn’t bad at all on my part. Mom said she’d work off the fees driving.”

“You’re all heart.”

“Man’s gotta pay the bills. We’re not all happy-go-lucky pensioners like you.”

“Yeah, that’s me all right.”

Haller smiled. He had successfully represented Bosch a few years earlier when the city tried to pull his pension.

“And this case,” Bosch said. “Herstadt. How’d you end up being appointed? I thought you didn’t handle murder cases anymore.”

“I don’t but the judge assigned it to me,” Haller said. “One day I was in his courtroom minding my own business on another case and he tags me with it. I’m like, ‘I don’t do murder cases, Judge, especially high-profile cases like this,’ and he’s, ‘You do now, Mr. Haller.’ So here I am with a fucking unwinnable case and getting paid hamburger when I usually get steak.”

“How come the PD didn’t take it?”

“Conflict of interest. The victim, Judge Montgomery, was formerly the Public Defender, remember?”

“Right, right. I forgot.”

Their numbers were called and Bosch went up to the counter to get their sandwiches and drinks. After he delivered the food to the table, Haller got down to the business of their meeting.

“So, you call me up in the middle of a trial and say you need to talk. So talk. Are you in some kind of trouble?”

“No, nothing like that.”

Bosch thought a moment before continuing. He had set up the meeting and now he wasn’t sure how to proceed. He decided to start at the beginning.

“About twelve years ago I caught a case,” he said. “A guy up on the overlook above the Mulholland Dam. Two in the back of the head, execution style. Turned out he was a doctor. A medical physicist. He specialized in gynecological cancers. And it turned out that he had gone up to St. Agatha’s in the Valley and cleared out all the cesium they use for treatment from a lead safe. It was missing.”

“I remember something about this,” Haller said. “The FBI jumped all over it, thinking it was a terrorist thing. Maybe a dirty bomb or something.”

“Right. But it wasn’t. It was something else. I worked it and we got the cesium back, but not before I got dosed pretty good with it. I was treated and then had five years of checkups—chest X-rays, the whole thing. I was clean every time and after the five years they said I was in the clear.”

Haller nodded in a way that seemed to indicate he knew which way this was going.

“So, all is well and I go in last month to get my knee done and they take blood,” Bosch said. “Routine stuff, except tests on it come back and I have something called CML—chronic myeloid leukemia.”

“Shit,” Haller said.

“Not as bad as it sounds. I’m being treated but—”

“What treatment?”

“Chemo. The modern kind of chemo. I basically take a pill every day and that’s it. In six months they see where it’s at and if they need to get more serious about treatment.”

“Shit.”

“You said that. There are some side effects but it’s not bad. I just get tired easily. What I wanted to see you about is whether I would have any kind of case here. I’m thinking about my daughter. If this chemo stuff doesn’t work, I want to make sure she’s set up, you know what I mean? Taken care of.”

“Have you talked to her about this?”

“No. You’re the only one I’ve talked to.”

“Shit.”

“You keep saying that. But what do you think? Is there a workman’s comp thing I can go back to the LAPD with? What about the hospital? This guy just waltzed in there in his white doctor’s coat and name tag and then waltzed out with thirty-two pieces of cesium in a lead bucket. The whole incident exposed the lax security in the oncology lab and they made big changes afterward.”

“But too late for you. So, forget workman’s comp. We’re talking about a major claim here.”

“What about the statute of limitations? The exposure was twelve years ago.”

“The clock on something like this doesn’t start ticking until you’re diagnosed. So you’re all right there. The deal we made when you exited the police department gave you a million-dollar health-insurance cap.”

“Yeah, and if I get sick from this—I mean like really sick—I’ll burn through that in a year. I’m not going to tap into my 401K. That’s going to Maddie.”

“Right, I know. With the department, we’ll have to go through arbitration and most likely we’ll get a settlement. The hospital will be the way to go. Poor security led to this scheme, which led to your exposure. That’s our A game.”

They started eating and Haller continued with his mouth full.

“All right, so I wrap up this trial—we’ll go to the jury in another day, two at the max—and then we file a notice. I’ll need to take a video deposition from you. We schedule that, then I think we’ll have everything we need to move on.”

“Why the video—in case I die or something?”

“There’s that. But it’s mostly because I want them to see you telling the story. They hear the story from you, instead of read it in a pleading or a depo transcript, and they’ll shit their pants. They’ll know they’re on the losing end of this thing.”

“Okay, and you’ll set it up?”

“Yes. I’ve got people who do these all the time.”

Bosch had barely gotten one bite of his sandwich but Haller was halfway finished. Bosch guessed that a morning in trial made him hungry.

“I don’t want this to get out,” Bosch said. “You know what I mean? No media on it.”

“I can’t make that promise,” Haller said. “Sometimes the media can be used to apply pressure. You’re the one who got dosed with this stuff while carrying out your job. Believe me, public sympathy will be with you ten to one easy. And that can be a powerful tool.”

“Okay, then look—I need to know ahead of time if this is going to break in the media, so I can talk to Maddie first.”

“That I can promise. Now, did you keep any records from that case? Is there anything I can look at?”

“Give me a ride back to my car after this. I have the chrono and most of the important reports. I made copies back then just in case. I brought it all in my car.”

“Okay, we go back and trade files. You give me that stuff, I’ll give you what I have on Herstadt. Deal?”

“Deal.”

“You just gotta be quick with Herstadt. I’m almost out of time.”





BALLARD





7


The tent was warm and cozy and she felt safe. But then the fumes of kerosene invaded her mouth and nose and lungs and it suddenly grew hot and then it was melting around her and burning.

Ballard sat up with a start. Her hair was still damp and she checked her watch. She had only slept three hours. She thought about going back down but the edges of the dream were still with her, the smell of kerosene. She pulled a length of hair across her face and under her nose. She smelled the apple in the shampoo she had used after paddling.

“Lola.”

Her dog shot through the tent’s opening and to her side. Lola was half boxer and half pit. Ballard rubbed her wide, hard head and felt the horror of the dream receding. She wondered if the man in the tent the night before had woken at the end. She hoped not. She hoped he was so doped up or alcohol addled that he never felt pain or knew he was dying.

She ran her hand along the side of her tent. It was nylon and she imagined heat from a fire collapsing it on her like a shroud. Awake or not, the man had died a horrible death.

She pulled her phone out of her backpack and checked for messages. No calls or texts, just an e-mail from Nuccio, the arson investigator, saying he had received her report and he would send her his reports in turn when completed. He said that he and his partner had determined the death was accidental and that the victim remained unidentified because whatever ID he had with him in the tent had burned.

Ballard put the phone away.

“Let’s take a walk, girl.”

Ballard climbed out of the tent with her backpack and looked around. She was thirty yards from the Rose Avenue lifeguard stand but it looked empty. There was nobody in the water. It was too cold for that.

“Aaron?” she called.

The lifeguard poked his curly-haired head up over the sill of the stand and she wondered whether he had been up there sleeping on the bench. She pointed to her tent and the paddleboard on the sand next to it.

“You watch my stuff? I’m going to get coffee.”

Aaron gave her the thumbs-up.

“You want anything?”

Aaron turned his thumb down. Ballard pulled a leash out of one of the zippered pockets on the backpack and snapped it onto Lola’s collar, then headed toward the line of restaurants and tourist stores that lined the beach walk a hundred yards from the ocean. She carried the backpack over one shoulder.

She went to Groundwork on Westminster, got a latte, and grabbed a table in the back corner where she could work without drawing attention from other patrons. Lola slid under the table and found a comfortable spot to lie down. Ballard opened the backpack and pulled out her laptop and the murder book Bosch had left for her.

This time she decided not to jump around in the book. The first section was most important anyway. It was the chronological record. It was basically a case diary, where the detectives assigned to the case described all their moves and the steps taken during the investigation.

Before starting her read she opened the laptop and ran the names George Hunter and his partner, Maxwell Talis, through the LAPD personnel computer and determined that both detectives were long retired, Hunter in 1996 and Talis the year after. It appeared that Hunter had since died but Talis was still receiving a pension. This was valuable information because if she decided to do a thorough reexamination of the Hilton murder, she should try to talk to him about what he remembered of the case.

She closed the laptop and opened up the murder book. She started reading the chrono from the first entry—the callout. Hunter and Talis were at their desks at Hollywood Detectives on a Friday morning when alerted that patrol officers had come upon a car parked in an alley behind a row of shops off Melrose Avenue and the 101 freeway overpass. The detectives responded along with teams from the crime scene unit and the coroner’s office.

The victim was a white male tentatively identified as John Hilton, twenty-four years old, by the driver’s license found in the wallet on the floor of the 1988 Toyota Corolla. The photo on the license appeared to match the face of the man lying on his right side across the front seats and center console of the car.

A computer check of the name and birth date on the DL determined that this Hilton was not the scion of a hotel family but an ex-con who had been released a year earlier from a state prison after serving thirty months for drug possession and burglary convictions.

As lead detective, George Hunter had composed all of the early entries of the chrono, signing each one with his initials. These gave Ballard a good insight into how the investigation was initially focused. As she had surmised on her first quick overview of the book, the investigation took its cue from the victim’s prior history of drug abuse and petty crime. Hunter and Talis clearly believed that this had been a drug rip-off and that Hilton had been murdered for as little as the price of a single hit of heroin.

Ballard now handled all calls for a detective on the midnight shift, but her previous posting had been as a homicide detective working specialty cases out of the downtown police headquarters. While the department’s look-the-other-way sexual politics and systemic misogyny had caused her transfer to the lesser assignment, her skills as a homicide investigator had not deteriorated. Bosch had recognized this and tapped into it when they had crossed paths on a case the previous year. They had agreed to work cases together in the future, even if off the record and below department radar. Bosch was retired and an outsider, no longer encumbered by LAPD rules and procedure. Ballard was not retired but she was certainly out of sight and out of mind on the midnight shift. That made her both an insider and an outsider. All of her homicide skills now told her this was most likely an impossible case: an eighty-dollar drug rip-off that had ended with a bullet nearly thirty years before. There might have been something here that stuck in John Jack Thompson’s craw and lit his fire, but whatever that was would be long gone now.

She first began to suspect that Hilton was a snitch. Perhaps a snitch for Thompson, which was why the detective took an active interest in the case, even though he was not assigned to it. She took a notebook out of her backpack. The first thing she wrote down was a question for Bosch.

How many other murder books did JJT steal?

It was an important question because it went to the level of dedication to this case. Bosch was right. If she could figure out why Thompson took this particular murder book, she might be able to zero in on a motive and then a suspect. But as described in the early entries of the chronology, this was a pedestrian murder—if there was such a thing—that would have been nearly impossible to solve at the time, let alone twenty-nine years later.

“Shit,” Ballard whispered.

Lola alerted, raised her head, and looked up at her. Ballard rubbed the dog’s head.

“It’s okay, girl,” she said.

She went back to the chrono and continued to read and take notes.

The manual transmission of Hilton’s car had been in neutral but the key was in the ignition and in the on position. The engine was dead because the gas tank was empty. It was assumed that Hilton had cruised into the alley to make a drive-through drug purchase and had been shot after stopping and putting the transmission in neutral. It could not be determined how much gas had been in the tank when Hilton entered the alley, but the coroner’s investigators estimated that time of death had been between midnight and four a.m., which was four to eight hours before the body was discovered by one of the shop owners arriving for work and parking behind his business.

Both front windows of the car were open. Hilton had been shot point-blank behind the right ear. This led the detectives to surmise that they were possibly looking for two suspects: one who came to the driver’s door and drew Hilton’s attention and another—the true killer—who came to the passenger door, reached through the window with a gun, and executed Hilton as he was turned and looking out the window. This theory was supported by the location of the shell casing ejected from the murder weapon. It was found on the passenger floor mat, an indication that the gun had been fired from that side of the car. Hilton then most likely slumped against the driver’s door but was pushed back over the center console when his pockets were searched. In the crime scene photos, both front pockets of his pants had been pulled inside out.

To Ballard, the theory of two killers and how they carried out the crime veered slightly from the idea of it being a robbery. It was colder, more calculated. It felt planned to her. A drug rip-off would have also been planned to some extent but usually not with this kind of precision. She began to wonder whether the original detectives had zeroed in on the wrong motive from the start. This could have led to tunnel vision on the investigation, with Hunter and Talis ignoring any clue that didn’t fit their premise.

She also discounted the theory by the original investigators that two killers were involved—one to distract Hilton from the left, one to reach into the car from the right to shoot. She knew that a solo gunman could have easily carried out the killing. Hilton’s attention to his left could have been drawn by any number of things in the alley.

She wrote another note, wanting to remind herself to bring all of this up with Bosch, and then went back to the chrono.

Hunter and Talis focused their search for suspects on the immediate neighborhood and among the dealers known to sell in the alley. They checked with the sergeant in charge of a street-level narcotics unit assigned to Hollywood Division who said his team had intermittently worked undercover buy-bust operations in the area, as it was a known drug market because of its proximity to the 101 freeway. Customers came to Hollywood, jumped off the freeway at Melrose, and made drug purchases before jumping back on the freeway and getting far away from the transaction. Additionally, the location was close to several movie studios, and employees picked up drugs on their way to or from work, unless they were upper-level creatives who had their purchases delivered directly to them.

The chrono noted that the drug clientele in the area was mostly white, while the dealers were exclusively black males who were supplied product by a street gang from South L.A. The Rolling 60s Crips gang had laid claim to this section of Hollywood and enforced its grip with violence. The murder of John Hilton was not good for business because it flooded the area with police activity and shut things down. One note on the chrono stated that a street informant had told a gang officer that members of the Rolling 60s were attempting to identify the killer themselves to eliminate and make an example of him. Business came first, gang loyalty second.

That note froze Ballard and made her wonder whether she was chasing a ghost. The Rolling 60s could have caught and executed the killer or killers of John Hilton decades earlier without the LAPD making the connection between the two cases.

Apparently undaunted by the same question, Hunter and Talis put together a list of known drug dealers who worked in the area and began bringing them in for questioning. None of the interviews produced suspects or leads on the case, but Ballard noticed that the roster was incomplete. A few people on the list were never found or questioned. Among them was a man named Elvin Kidd, a Rolling 60s Crips gang member who was at a street-boss level and ran the territory where the Hilton murder took place.

They steered completely clear of another dealer, Dennard Dorsey, when they were told he was on keep-away status because he was a valuable informant. The snitch’s handler—a Major Narcotics unit detective named Brendan Sloan—did the interview and reported back that his man knew nothing of value in regard to the Hilton murder.

Ballard wrote all of the names down. She was bothered that the homicide detectives didn’t interview all the dealers and had left questioning the snitch to his department handler. To her it meant that this angle of the investigation was incomplete. She didn’t know whether laziness or something else had gotten in the way. The murder counts in the city back in the late ’80s and early ’90s were the highest in the city’s history. It was likely that Hunter and Talis had other cases at the time, with new ones constantly coming in.

She finished going through the chronology an hour and one more latte later. The thing that struck her was that the document ended with an entry from Talis on the one-year anniversary of the murder:

No new leads or suspects at this time. Case remains open and active.

And that was it. No explanation as to how it was still actively being pursued.

Ballard knew it was bullshit. The case had ground to a halt for lack of leads and viable angles of investigation. The detectives were waiting for what in homicide was called a “miracle cure” in the form of someone coming forward with the killer’s name. This would most likely have to be someone from the underworld—someone arrested and facing charges, looking to deal their way out of a jam. Only then would they get a name they could run with. So it was kept “open and active,” but Hunter and Talis were on to other things.

What also struck Ballard as missing was the work of John Jack Thompson. During the years he had held the murder book, he had apparently added nothing to it. There was nothing from him in the chronology that indicated he had made any moves, conducted any interviews, or broken any new ground on the case. Ballard wondered whether he had kept notes of his private investigation separate so as not to change or taint the record of the original investigation. She knew she would have to talk to Bosch about it and possibly go back to Thompson’s house and home office to see whether there was a second murder book or any record of Thompson’s work on the case.

She moved on from the chronology to fuller reports filed by the investigators based on the evidence collected and witness interviews. In the victim section of the murder book she read a bio authored by Talis and drawn from interviews and official documents. The victim’s mother and stepfather were still alive at the time of the killing. According to the written account, Sandra Hilton expressed no surprise at her son’s demise and said he had come back from his stint at Corcoran State Prison a different person. She said he seemed broken from the experience and wanted nothing more than to get high all the time. She admitted that she and her husband kicked John out of the house shortly after he returned from prison and appeared to be making no effort to integrate into society. He said he wanted to be an artist but did nothing to pursue it as a career. He was stealing from them in order to support his drug habit.

Donald Hilton stood by his decision to evict John from the family home in the Toluca Lake area. He was quick to note that John was his adopted son but was already eleven when Donald met Sandra and the two got married. His biological father had not been a part of John’s life for those first eleven years, and Donald said that behavioral problems were already deeply set in the boy. Lacking a blood relation to the young man he raised apparently allowed him to kick him out of the house later on without a guilty conscience.

A section of the report had been redacted with a black marker. Two lines in the middle of the interview summary were completely blacked out. This seemed odd to Ballard because a murder book was already a confidential document. The exception to this was when a case was filed and murder book documents became part of discovery and turned over to the defense. On some occasions redacting occurred to protect the names of informants and others. But this case had never resulted in charges, and it seemed odd to Ballard that an interview with the parents of a victim would contain any information that would need to be kept hidden or secret. She opened the binder’s rings and removed the page, studying the back to see if any of the redacted words could be read. Unable to make anything out, she put the page at the front of the binder to remind herself of the anomaly every time she opened the book: What information had been redacted from the case file? And who did it?

Ballard’s review of the other witness summaries produced only one notable question. Hilton had shared an apartment in North Hollywood with a man named Nathan Brazil, who was described as a production assistant at Archway Studios in Hollywood. Ballard knew the studio was on Melrose Avenue near Paramount—and near where Hilton was murdered. Brazil told the investigators that he was working the night of the murder on a film production and Hilton had dropped by the guarded entrance to the studio and asked for him. Brazil did not get the message until hours later and by then Hilton was gone. Presumably he left the studio and proceeded down Melrose to the alley where he was shot and killed. Brazil told investigators that it was unusual for Hilton to come to his workplace. It had never happened before and he didn’t know why Hilton did so or what he wanted.

It was another mystery within the mystery that Hunter and Talis had not solved.

Ballard looked at her notes. She had written down the names of several people she would have to run down and interview, if they were still alive.

Maxwell Talis

Donald Hilton

Sandra Hilton

Thompson widow

Vincent Pilkey, dealer

Dennard Dorsey, dealer/snitch—protected

Brendan Sloan, narcotics

Elvin Kidd

Nathan Brazil, roommate

Ballard knew that John Jack Thompson’s widow was alive, as well as presumably Maxwell Talis. Brendan Sloan was still around as well. Sloan, in fact, was well known to her. He had risen from narcotics detective to deputy chief in the twenty-nine years since the Hilton murder. He was in charge of West Bureau. Ballard had never met him but since Hollywood Division fell under West Bureau’s command, Sloan was technically her boss.

Ballard’s back was stiffening. It was a combination of a tough morning paddle into strong headwinds, a lack of sleep, and the hard wooden chair she had been sitting on for two hours. She closed the murder book, deciding to leave the remaining pages and reports for later. She reached down to ruffle Lola’s scruff.

“Let’s go see Double, girl!”

The dog’s tail wagged violently. Double was her friend, a French bulldog being boarded at the day-care center where Lola spent most nights and some days when Ballard worked.

Ballard needed to drop Lola off so she could continue to work the case.





8


Ballard’s first stop was Property Division, where she checked out the sealed evidence box marked with the John Hilton murder case number. She could tell right away that it was not a twenty-nine-year-old box and the sealing tape was not yellowed as would have been expected. The box had obviously been repacked, which was not unusual. The Property Division was a massive warehouse but still too small for all the evidence stored there. Consolidation was an ongoing project and old, dusty evidence boxes were often opened and repacked in smaller boxes to save room. Ballard had the evidence list from the murder book that she could use to make sure everything was intact—the victim’s clothes, personal belongings, etc. She was primarily looking for two things: the expended bullet retrieved from Hilton’s body during autopsy and the casing retrieved from the floor of his car.

She checked the sign-out sheet on the box and saw that, other than the repackaging that had taken place six years earlier, the box had apparently not been opened since it was placed in Property by the original two detectives—Hunter and Talis—nearly three decades before. This would generally not be unusual because no suspects had ever been developed, so there was no reason to analyze collected evidence in regard to a potential killer. Hunter and Talis had collected the evidence and had a list of the box’s contents in the murder book. They knew firsthand what they had. They had seen it and held it.

However, what Ballard did find curious was that John Jack Thompson, when he took possession of the murder book and apparently started working the case, had never gone to Property and pulled the box. He had never checked out the physical evidence.

It was literally the first move Ballard had made. Yes, she had the property list from the murder book, but she still wanted to see the evidence. It was a visceral thing, like an extension of the crime scene photos. It brought her close to the case, closer to the victim, and she could not see pulling and working a case without this necessary step. Yet Thompson, the mentor to two generations of detectives, had apparently chosen not to.

Ballard put the question aside and started going through the contents of the box, checking them off against the list from the murder book and studying each piece of clothing and every item gathered from the Corolla. She had seen something in the crime scene photos that she wanted to find: a small notebook that was in the console between the front seats of the car. An entry on the property list said simply notebook, with no description of its contents or any detail about why Hilton kept a notebook by his side in his car.

She found it in a brown paper bag with other items from the console. These included a lighter, a drug pipe, spare change amounting to eighty-seven cents, a pen, and a parking ticket issued six weeks before Hilton’s death. The parking ticket had been explored by the original investigators and there was a report in the murder book on their efforts. The ticket appeared to be a dead end. It had been issued on a street in Los Feliz where a friend of Hilton’s lived. The friend recalled that Hilton had visited to sell the friend a clock radio he said his stepfather had given him. But he ended up staying at the apartment for several hours when the friend shared a hit of heroin with him. While Hilton was nodding off in his friend’s apartment, his car was being ticketed. Hunter and Talis deemed the ticket irrelevant to the investigation and Ballard saw nothing that made her think otherwise.

Now she opened the notebook and found Hilton’s name and a number she assumed was his prisoner number at Corcoran written on the inside flap. The pages of the notebook were largely filled with pencil studies and full sketches of hard-looking men, many with tattoos on their faces and necks. Other prisoners, Ballard surmised. The finished drawings were quite good and Ballard thought Hilton had some artistic talent. Knowing that he had this other dimension beyond drug addict and petty thief humanized him to her. Nobody deserved to be shot to death in a car, no matter what they were doing, but it was helpful to get a human connection. It added fuel to the fire that the detective needed to somehow keep burning. She wondered if Hunter or Talis or Thompson had made a connection to Hilton through this notebook. She doubted it. If they had, it would have been kept in the murder book so that the detective could see it and open it when he needed to stoke the fire.

Ballard finished flipping through the pages. One sketch caught her eye and she held on it. It was of a black man with a shaved head. He was turned away from the artist and on his neck was a six-pointed star with the number 60 in its center. Ballard knew that all Crips gangs or sets shared the symbol of the six-pointed star, its points symbolizing the early altruistic goals of the gang: love, life, loyalty, understanding, knowledge, and wisdom. The 60 in the middle of the star was what caught Ballard’s eye. It meant that the subject of the sketch was a Rolling 60s Crip, a member of the same set of the notoriously violent gang that controlled drug sales in the alley where Hilton was murdered. Was that a coincidence? It appeared that Hilton had sketched this man while in prison; less than two years after his release, he was killed on Rolling 60s turf.

None of this had been in any reports in the murder book that Ballard had read. She made a mental note to check again. It might be a significant clue or it might be purely coincidental.

She flipped farther into the notebook and saw another drawing, which she thought might be the same man with the Rolling 60s tattoo. But his face was turned away and shadowed. She couldn’t be sure. Then she found what she believed was a self-portrait. It looked like the face of the man she had seen in the crime scene photos. In the drawing, the man had haunted eyes with deep circles beneath them. He looked scared, and something about the drawing punched Ballard in the chest.

Ballard decided to add the notebook to the items she checked out of Property. The drawings reminded her of a case that was cracked by the cold case unit a few years earlier, when Ballard had been assigned to the Robbery-Homicide Division. Detective Mitzi Roberts had connected three murders of prostitutes to a drifter named Sam Little. Little was caught and convicted, then from prison started confessing to dozens of murders committed over four decades and all over the country. They were all “throwaway” victims—drug addicts and prostitutes—whom society, and police departments, had marginalized and given little notice to. Little was an artist and he sketched pictures of his victims to help visiting investigators identify the women and the cases. He held their images in his head, but not so often their names. He was given a full set of artist supplies and his drawings were in color and very realistic, eventually matching up to victims in multiple states and helping to clear cases. But they didn’t serve to humanize Sam Little, only his victims. Little was seen as a psychopath who showed no mercy to his victims and deserved no mercy in return.

Ballard signed out the bullet evidence and the notebook and left the Property Division. She called Bosch when she got outside.

“What’s up?”

“I just came out of Property. I pulled the bullet and casing. Tomorrow is Walk-In Wednesday at ballistics. I’ll go right after my shift.”

“Sounds good. Anything else in the box?”

“Hilton was a sketch artist. He had a notebook in his car that had drawings from prison. I checked it out.”

“How come?”

“Because I thought he was good at it. There are a few other things from my review that I want to go over. You want to meet?”

“I’m sort of in the middle of something today but I could meet for a few minutes. I’m close by.”

“Really? Where?”

“The Nickel Diner, you know it?”

“Of course. I’ll be there in ten.”





9


Ballard found Bosch in the back with his laptop open and several documents spread on a four-top table. It was apparently late enough in the day for the management to allow him to monopolize the spot. A plate with half a chocolate-frosted donut was on the table, assuring Ballard that Bosch was a paying customer rather than a freeloader who bought nothing but coffee and monopolized a table for hours.

She noticed the cane hooked over one of the empty chairs as she sat down. Assessing the documents that Bosch had started stacking when he noticed her approach, Ballard raised her hands palms up in a What gives? gesture.

“You’re the busiest retired guy I think I’ve ever seen.”

“Not really. I just said I’d take a quick look at this and then that would be it.”

Putting her backpack on the empty chair to her right, she caught a glimpse of the letterhead on one of the documents Bosch was clearing. It said “Michael Haller, Attorney-At-Law.”

“Oh, shit, you’re working for that guy?”

“What guy?”

“Haller. You work for him, you work for the devil.”

“Really? Why do you say that?”

“He’s a defense attorney. Not only that, but a good one. He gets people off that shouldn’t get off. Undoes what we do. How do you even know him?”

“Last thirty years, I’ve spent a lot of time in courthouses. So has he.”

“Is that the Judge Montgomery case?”

“How do you know about that?”

“Who doesn’t? Judge murdered in front of the courthouse—that’ll get some attention. Besides, I liked Judge Montgomery. When he was on a criminal bench I hit him up for warrants every now and then. He was a real stickler for the law. I remember this one time, the clerk let me go back to chambers to get a warrant signed and I go in there and look around and there’s no judge. Then I hear him say, ‘Out here.’ He had opened his window and climbed out onto the ledge to smoke a cigarette. Fourteen floors up. He said he didn’t want to break the rule about smoking in the building.”

Bosch put his stack of files on the empty chair to his right. But that wasn’t the end of it.

“I don’t know,” Ballard said. “I may have to reassess our … thing. I mean, if you’re going to be working for the other side.”

“I don’t work for the other side or the dark side or whatever you want to call it,” Bosch said. “This is a one-day thing and I actually volunteered for it. I was in court today and something didn’t add up right. I asked to look at the files and, as a matter of fact, did just find something before you walked in.”

“Something that helps the defense?”

“Something that I think the jury should know. Doesn’t matter who it helps.”

“Whoa, that’s the dark side talking right there. You’ve crossed over.”

“Look, did you come here to talk about the Montgomery case or the Hilton case?”

“Take it easy, Harry. I’m just busting your balls.”

She pulled her backpack over, unzipped it, and pulled out the Hilton murder book.

“Now, you went through this, right?” she asked.

“Yes, before giving it to you,” Bosch said.

“Well, a couple things.”

She reached into the backpack for the envelopes containing the ballistic evidence.

“I pulled the box at Property and checked out the bullet and the casing. As you said before, maybe we get lucky.”

“Good.”

“I also found this in the box.”

She went into the backpack again and came up with the notebook she had found in the property box. She handed it to Bosch.

“In the crime scene photos this was in the center console of the car. I think it was important to him.”

Bosch started flipping through the pages and looking at the sketches.

“Okay,” he said. “What else?”

“Well, that’s it from Property,” Ballard said. “But I think what I didn’t find there is worth noting, and it’s where you come into the picture.”

“You want to explain that?”

“John Jack Thompson never pulled the evidence in the case,” she said.

She read Bosch’s reaction as the same as hers. If Thompson was working the case, he would have pulled the box at Property and seen what he had.

“You sure?” Bosch asked.

“He’s not on the checkout list,” Ballard said. “I’m not sure he ever investigated this case—unless there’s more at his house.”

“Like what?”

“Like anything that shows he was investigating. Notes, recordings, maybe a second murder book. There’s no indication at all—not one added word—that indicates John Jack pulled this case to work it. It’s almost like he took the book so no one else would work it. So, you need to go back to his widow and see if there’s anything else. Anything that shows what he was doing with this.”

“I can go see Margaret tonight. But remember, we don’t know exactly when he took the murder book. Maybe he took it on his way out the door when he retired and then it was too late to get into Property. He had no badge.”

“But if you were going to take a book so you could work on it, wouldn’t you plan it so you could get to Property before you walked out the door?”

Bosch nodded.

“I guess so,” he said.

“Okay, so you go to Margaret and see about that,” Ballard said. “I made up a list of names from the book. People I want to talk to. I’m going to start running them down as soon as we’re finished here.”

“Can I see the list?”

“’Course.”

For the fourth time Ballard went into the backpack and this time pulled out her own notebook. She opened it and turned it around on the table so Bosch could read the list.

Maxwell Talis

Donald Hilton

Sandra Hilton

Thompson widow

Vincent Pilkey, dealer

Dennard Dorsey, dealer/snitch—protected

Brendan Sloan, narcotics

Elvin Kidd

Nathan Brazil, roommate

Bosch nodded as he looked at the names. Ballard took this to mean he was in agreement.

“Hopefully some of them are still alive. Sloan is still in the department, right?”

“Runs West Bureau. My boss, technically.”

“Then all you have to do is get around his adjutant.”

“That won’t be a problem. Are you going to eat the rest of that donut?”

“No. It’s all yours.”

Ballard grabbed the donut and took a bite. Bosch lifted his cane from the back of the other chair.

“I gotta get back to the courthouse,” he said. “Anything else?”

“Yes,” Ballard said, her mouth full. “Did you see this?”

She put the rest of the donut back on the plate, then opened the binder, unsnapped the rings, and handed Bosch the document she had moved to the front of the murder book.

“It’s redacted,” she said. “Who would black out lines in the statement from the parents?”

“I saw that too,” Bosch said. “It’s weird.”

“The whole book is confidential, why black anything out?”

“I know. I don’t get it.”

“And we don’t know who did it—whether it was Thompson or the original investigators. When you look at those two lines in context—the stepfather talking about adopting the boy—you have to wonder if they were protecting somebody. I’m going to try to run down Hilton’s birth certificate through Sacramento, but that will take forever because I don’t have his original name. That was probably redacted too.”

“I could try to run it down at Norwalk. Next time I go to see Maddie on a weekday.”

Norwalk was the site of Los Angeles County’s record archives. It was at the far south end of the county and with traffic could take an hour each way. Birth records were not accessible by computer to the public or law enforcement. Proper ID had to be shown to pull a birth certificate, especially one guarded by adoption rules.

“That’ll only work if Hilton was born in the county. But worth a try, I guess.”

“Well, one way or another we’ll figure it out. It’s a mystery for now.”

“What’s at the courthouse?”

“I want to see if I can get a subpoena. I want to get there before the judges all split.”

“Okay, I’ll let you go. So, you’ll go see Margaret Thompson later and I’ll run down these names. The ones that are still alive.”

Bosch stood up, holding the docs and his laptop under his arm. He didn’t have a briefcase. He hooked his cane back on the chair so he could reach into his pocket with his free hand.

“So, did you sleep yet today or just go right into this?”

“Yes, Dad, I slept.”

“Don’t call me that. Only one person can call me that and she never does.”

He pulled out some cash and left a twenty on the table, tipping as though there had been four people after all.

“How is Maddie?” Ballard asked.

“A little freaked out at the moment,” Bosch said.

“Why, what happened?”

“She’s got one semester to go down at Chapman and then she graduates. Three weeks ago some creep broke into the house she shares near the school with three other girls. It was a hot prowl. Two of the girls were there asleep.”

“Maddie?”

“No, she was up here with me because of my knee. Helping out, you know? But that doesn’t matter. They’re all freaked out. This guy, he wasn’t there to steal shit, you know, no money or anything taken. He left his semen on one of the girls’ laptops that was on the kitchen table. He was probably looking at photos of her on it when he did his thing. He’s obviously bent.”

“Oh, shit. Did they get a profile off it?”

“Yeah, a case-to-case hit. Same thing four months before. Hot prowl, girls from Chapman, and he left his DNA on a photo that was on the refrigerator. But no match to anybody in the database.”

“So did Maddie and the girls move out?”

“No, they’re all two months from graduation and don’t want to deal with moving. We put on extra locks, cameras inside and out. Alarm system. The local cops put the street on twice-by a shift. But they won’t move out.”

“So that freaks you the fuck out.”

“Exactly. Both hot prowls were on Saturday nights, so I’m thinking that’s this guy’s night out and maybe he’s going to come back. So I’ve been going down and sitting on the place the last two Saturday nights. Me and this knee. I sit in the back seat with my leg up across the seat. I don’t know what I’d do if I saw something but I’m there.”

“Hey, if you want company, I’m there too.”

“Thanks, that means a lot, but that’s my point. Don’t miss your sleep. I remember last year…”

“What about last year? You mean the case we worked?”

“Yeah. We both had sleep deprivation and it … affected things. Decisions.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Look, I don’t want to get into it. You can blame it on me. My decisions were affected, okay? Let’s just make sure we get sleep this time.”

“You worry about you and I’ll worry about me.”

“Got it. Sorry I even brought it up.”

He picked up his cane off the chair and headed toward the door. He was moving slow. Ballard realized she would look like an ass if she walked quickly ahead of him and then out.

“Hey, I’m going to hit the restroom,” she said. “Talk later?”

“Sure,” Bosch said.

“And I really mean that about your daughter. You need me, I’m there.”

“I know you mean it. Thanks.”





10


Ballard walked to the Police Administration Building so she could use a computer to run down some of the names on her list. This would be a routine stop for most detectives from the outer geographic stations. There were even desks and computers reserved for “visiting” detectives. But Ballard had to tread lightly. She had previously worked in the Robbery-Homicide Division located in the PAB and had left for the midnight shift at Hollywood Station under a cloud of suspicion and scandal. A complaint to Internal Affairs about her supervisor sexually harassing her led to an investigation that turned the Homicide Special unit upside down until the complaint was deemed unfounded and Ballard was sent off to Hollywood. There were those still in the PAB who did not believe her story, and those who viewed the infraction, even if true, as unworthy of an investigation that threatened a man’s career. There were enemies in the building, even four years later, and she tried to maintain her job without stepping through its glass doors. But to drive all the way from downtown to Hollywood just to use the department’s database would be a significant waste of time. If she wanted to keep momentum, she had to enter the PAB and find a computer she could use for a half hour.

She made it through the lobby and onto the elevator unscathed. On the fifth floor she avoided the vast homicide squad room and entered the much smaller Special Assault Section, where she knew a detective who had backed her through all the controversy and scandal. Amy Dodd was at her desk and smiled when she saw Ballard enter.

“Balls! What are you doing down here?”

Amy used a private nickname derived from the stand Ballard had made during the past troubles in RHD.

“Hey, Doddy. How’s it hanging? I’m looking for a computer to run names on.”

“I hear there are plenty of open desks in homicide since they trimmed the fat over there.”

“Last thing I want to do is set up in there. Might get stabbed in the back again.”

Amy pointed to the workstation next to hers.

“That one’s empty.”

Ballard hesitated and Amy read her.

“Don’t worry, I won’t talk your ear off. Do your work. I have court calls to make anyway.”

Ballard sat down and went to work, putting her password into the department database and then opening her notebook to the list of names from the Hilton case. She quickly located a driver’s license for Maxwell Talis in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which was not a welcome piece of information. Yes, Talis was still alive, but Ballard was working this case on her own and with Bosch, not as an official LAPD investigation. An out-of-town trip was not in the equation. It meant she would have to reach Talis by phone. This was disappointing because face-to-face interviews were always preferable. Better tells and better reads came out of in-person sit-downs.

The news did not get any better as she moved down her list. She determined that both Sandra and Donald Hilton were dead. They had passed—Donald in 2007 and Sandra in 2016—without knowing who had killed their son or why, without any justice for his life and their loss. To Ballard it didn’t matter that John Hilton had been a drug addict and criminal. He had talent and with that he had to have had dreams. Dreams of a way out of the life he was trapped in. It made Ballard feel that if she didn’t find justice for him, no one ever would.

Next on the list was Margaret Thompson and Bosch was handling that. Vincent Pilkey was the next name and it was another dead end. Pilkey was one of the dealers whom Hunter and Talis never connected with to interview, and now she never would either: Pilkey was listed as deceased in 2008. He was only forty-one at the time and Ballard assumed he met an untimely death by violence or overdose, but she could not determine it from the records she was accessing.

Ballard’s luck changed with the next name down: Dennard Dorsey, the dealer Hunter and Talis did not talk to because he was also a snitch for Major Narcotics. Ballard ran his name on the computer and felt a jolt of adrenaline kick in as she learned that not only had the snitch somehow survived the last thirty years, but he was literally two blocks away from her at that very moment: Dorsey was being held in the county jail on a parole violation. She checked his criminal history and saw that the last decade was replete with drug and assault arrests, the accumulation eventually landing him in prison for a five-year term. It seemed pretty clear from the history that Dorsey’s usefulness as a snitch had long since ended and he was without the protection of his handlers at Major Narcotics.

“Hot damn!” she said.

Amy Dodd leaned back in her chair so she could see around the partition between their work spaces.

“Something good, I take it?” she asked.

“Better than good,” Ballard said. “I found a guy and I don’t even have to get in my car.”

“Where?”

“Men’s Central—and he’s not going anywhere.”

“Lucky you.”

Ballard went back to the computer, wondering if the dice would keep tumbling her way. She pulled up the hold for parole violation and got a second jolt of adrenaline when she saw the name of the PO who had filed the violation and pickup order on Dorsey. She pulled her phone out of her back pocket and called Rob Compton on speed dial.

“You,” Compton answered. “What do you want?”

It was clear from his brusqueness that Compton still hadn’t gotten past their last interaction. They’d had a casual off-duty relationship that blew up on-duty when Compton and Ballard disagreed on strategy regarding a case they were working. Compton bailed out of the car they were arguing in and then bailed out of the relationship they’d had.

“I want you to meet me at Men’s Central,” Ballard said. “Dennard Dorsey, I want to talk to him and I might need you for leverage.”

“Never heard of him,” Compton said.

“Come on, Rob, your name’s on the VOP order.”

“I’ll have to look him up.”

“Go ahead. I’ll wait.”

Ballard heard typing and realized she had reached Compton at his desk.

“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” he said. “I seem to recall being left high and dry by you the last time I did you a favor.”

“Oh, come on,” Ballard said. “I seem to recall you pussied out on me and I got mad. You got out of the car and walked away. But you can make up for it now with Dorsey.”

“I have to make up for it? You’ve got balls, Ballard. That’s all I can say about it.”

Ballard heard a peal of laughter from the other side of the partition. She knew Amy had heard Compton’s comment. She held the phone against her chest so Compton would not hear, then turned the volume down before bringing it back to her mouth.

“You got him or not?” she asked.

“Yeah, I got him,” Compton said. “No wonder I didn’t remember him. I never met him. He never reported. Got out of Wasco nine months ago, came back down here, and never showed up. I put in the VOP and he got picked up.”

“Well, now’s a good time to meet him.”

“I can’t, Renée. I got paper to do today.”

“Paperwork? Come on, Robby. I’m working a murder and this guy may have been a key witness.”

“Doesn’t look like the type who’s going to talk. He’s got a gang jacket. Rolling 60s going back to the eighties. He’s hard-core. Or was.”

“Not really. Back in the day he was a snitch. A protected snitch. Look, I’m going over there. You can help me if you want. Maybe give him some incentive to talk.”

“What incentive would that be?”

“I figure you might give him a second chance.”

“Nah, nah, nah, I’m not letting the guy out. He’ll just shit all over me again. I can’t do that, Ballard.”

Compton going to her last name told her he was set on this.

“Okay, I tried,” she said. “I’ll try something else. See ya around, Robby. Or actually, I probably won’t.”

She disconnected and dropped her phone on the desk. Amy spoke teasingly from the other side of the partition.

“Bitch.”

“Hey, he deserved it. I’m working a murder here.”

“Roger that.”

“Roger the fuck that.”

Ballard’s plan was to go over to Men’s Central, but first she finished the rundown on the names on her list. After Brendan Sloan, whose whereabouts she already knew, came Elvin Kidd, the Rolling 60s street boss at the time of the murder, and Nathan Brazil, John Hilton’s roommate. Both were still alive and Ballard got addresses for them from the DMV computer. Kidd lived out in Rialto in San Bernardino County and Brazil was in West Hollywood.

Ballard was curious about Kidd. Now nearly sixty years old, he had moved far away from Rolling 60s Crips turf, and his interactions with the justice system seemed to have stopped almost twenty years before. There had been arrests and convictions and prison time, but then it appeared that Kidd either started to fly below the radar with his continuing illegal pursuits or found the straight-and-narrow life. The latter possibility would not have been all that unusual. There were not that many old gangsters on the street. Many never got out of their twenties alive, many were incarcerated with life sentences, and many simply grew out of gang life after realizing only the first two alternatives awaited them.

In checking Kidd’s record she came across a possible connection to Hilton. Both had spent time at Corcoran State Prison, with what looked like a sixteen-month overlap in the late 1980s when they were both there. Hilton was finishing his sentence while Kidd was starting his. His term ended thirteen months after Hilton was released.

The overlap meant they could have known each other, though one was white and one was black and groups in state prison tended to self-segregate.

Ballard went onto the California Department of Corrections database and downloaded photos of Kidd taken each year at the prisons where he was incarcerated. She was immediately hit with a charge of recognition when the photos from Corcoran came up. Kidd had shaved his head since his previous prison stint. And now she recognized him.

She quickly opened her backpack and pulled out John Hilton’s notebook. She flipped through the pages until she came to the drawing of the black man with the shaved head. She comp