An activist attorney is killed in a cute little LA trolley called Angels Flight, far from Harry Bosch’s Hollywood turf. But the case is so explosive—and the dead man’s enemies inside the LAPD are so numerous—that it falls to Harry to solve it. Now the streets are superheating. Harry’s year-old Vegas marriage is unraveling. And the hunt for a killer is leading Harry to another high-profile LA murder case, one where every cop had a motive. The question is, did any have the guts?
Release date: January 1, 2001
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Print pages: 512
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The word sounded alien in his mouth, as if spoken by someone else. There was an urgency in his own voice that Bosch didn’t recognize. The simple hello he had whispered into the telephone was full of hope, almost desperation. But the voice that came back to him was not the one he needed to hear.
For a moment Bosch felt foolish. He wondered if the caller had recognized the faltering of his voice.
“This is Lieutenant Michael Tulin. Is this Bosch?”
The name meant nothing to Bosch and his momentary concern about how he sounded was ripped away as an awful dread entered his mind.
“This is Bosch. What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Hold please for Deputy Chief Irving.”
The caller clicked off and there was only silence. Bosch now remembered who Tulin was—Irving’s adjutant. Bosch stood still and waited. He looked around the kitchen; only the dim oven light was on. With one hand he held the phone hard against his ear, the other he instinctively brought up to his stomach, where fear and dread were twisting together. He looked at the glowing numbers on the stove clock. It was almost two, five minutes past the last time he had looked at it. This isn’t right, he thought as he waited. They don’t do this by phone. They come to your door. They tell you this face-to-face.
Finally, Irving picked up on the other end of the line.
“Where is she? What happened?”
Another moment of excruciating silence went by as Bosch waited. His eyes were closed now.
“Just tell me, what happened to her? I mean… is she alive?”
“Detective, I’m not sure what it is you are talking about. I’m calling because I need to muster your team as soon as possible. I need you for a special assignment.”
Bosch opened his eyes. He looked through the kitchen window into the dark canyon below his house. His eyes followed the slope of the hill down toward the freeway and then up again to the slash of Hollywood lights he could see through the cut of the Cahuenga Pass. He wondered if each light meant someone awake and waiting for someone who wasn’t going to come. Bosch saw his own reflection in the window. He looked weary. He could make out the deep circles etched beneath his eyes, even in the dark glass.
“I have an assignment, Detective,” Irving repeated impatiently. “Are you able to work or are you—”
“I can work. I just was mixed up there for a moment.”
“Well, I’m sorry if I woke you. But you should be used to it.”
“Yes. It’s no problem.”
Bosch didn’t tell him that he hadn’t been awakened by the call. That he had been roaming around in his dark house waiting.
“Then get it going, Detective. We’ll have coffee down here at the scene.”
“We’ll talk about it when you get here. I don’t want to delay this any further. Call your team. Have them come to Grand Street between Third and Fourth. The top of Angels Flight. Do you know where I’m talking about?”
“Bunker Hill? I don’t—”
“It will be explained when you get here. Seek me out when you are here. If I am at the bottom come down to me before you speak with anyone.”
“What about Lieutenant Billets? She should—”
“She will be informed about what is happening. We’re wasting time. This is not a request. It is a command. Get your people together and get down here. Am I making myself clear to you?”
“Then I will be expecting you.”
Irving hung up without waiting for a reply. Bosch stood with the phone still at his ear for a few moments, wondering what
was going on. Angels Flight was the short inclined railroad that carried people up Bunker Hill in downtown—far outside the boundaries of the Hollywood Division homicide table. If Irving had a body down there at Angels Flight the investigation would fall under the jurisdiction of Central Division. If Central detectives couldn’t handle it because of caseload or personnel problems, or if the case was deemed too important or media sensitive for them, then it would be bumped to the bulls, the Robbery-Homicide Division. The fact that a deputy chief of police was involved in the case before dawn on a Saturday suggested the latter possibility. The fact that he was calling Bosch and his team in instead of the RHD bulls was the puzzle. Whatever it was that Irving had working at Angels Flight didn’t make sense.
Bosch glanced once more down into the dark canyon, pulled the phone away from his ear and clicked it off. He wished he had a cigarette but he had made it this far through the night without one. He wouldn’t break now.
He turned his back and leaned on the counter. He looked down at the phone in his hand, turned it back on and hit the speed dial button that would connect him with Kizmin Rider’s apartment. He would call Jerry Edgar after he talked to her. Bosch felt a sense of relief come over him that he was reluctant to acknowledge. He might not yet know what awaited him at Angels Flight, but it would certainly take his thoughts away from Eleanor Wish.
Rider’s alert voice answered after two rings.
“Kiz, it’s Harry,” he said. “We’ve got work.”
Bosch agreed to meet his two partners at the Hollywood Division station to pick up cars before they headed downtown to Angels Flight. On the way down the hill to the station he had punched in KFWB on his Jeep’s radio and picked up a breaking news report on a homicide investigation under way at the site of the historic inclined railroad. The newsman on the scene reported that two bodies had been found inside one of the train cars and that several members of the Robbery-Homicide squad were on the scene. But that was the extent of the reporter’s information, as he also noted that the police had placed an unusually wide cordon of yellow tape around the crime scene, prohibiting him from getting a closer look. At the station Bosch communicated
this thin bit of information to Edgar and Rider while they signed three slickbacks out of the motor pool.
“So it looks like we’re gonna be playing sloppy seconds to RHD,” Edgar concluded, showing his annoyance at being rousted from sleep to spend probably the whole weekend doing gofer work for the RHD bulls. “Our guts, their glory. And we aren’t even on call this weekend. Why didn’t Irving call out Rice’s got-damned team if he needed
a Hollywood team?”
Edgar had a point. Team One—Bosch, Edgar and Rider—wasn’t even up on call rotation this weekend. If Irving had followed proper call-out procedure he would have called Terry Rice, who headed up Team Three, which was currently on top of the rotation. But Bosch had already figured that Irving wasn’t following any procedures, not if the deputy chief had called him directly before checking with his supervisor, Lieutenant Grace Billets.
“Well, Jerry,” Bosch said, more than used to his partner’s whining, “you’ll get the chance to ask the deputy chief personally in a little while.”
“Yeah, right, I do that and I’ll find my ass down in Harbor the next ten years. Fuck that.”
“Hey, Harbor Division’s an easy gig,” Rider said, just to rag Edgar a bit. She knew Edgar lived in the Valley and that a transfer to Harbor Division would mean a miserable ninety-minute commute each way—the pure definition of freeway therapy, the brass’s method of unofficially punishing malcontents and problem cops. “They only pull six, seven homicides a year down there.”
“That’s nice but count me the fuck out.”
“Okay, okay,” Bosch said. “Let’s just get going and we’ll worry about all of that stuff later. Don’t get lost.”
Bosch took Hollywood Boulevard to the 101 and coasted down the freeway in minimal traffic to downtown. Halfway there he checked the mirror and saw his partners cruising in the lanes behind him. Even in the dark and with other traffic he could pick them out. He hated the new detective cars. They were painted black and white and looked exactly like patrol cruisers with the exception that they did not carry emergency lights across the roof. It had been
the former chief’s idea to replace unmarked detective cars with the so-called slickbacks. The whole thing had been a scam perpetrated to fulfill his promises to put more cops on the street. By changing unmarked cars into clearly marked cars, he was giving the public the erroneous impression that there were more cops patrolling the streets. He also counted the detectives using slickbacks when he addressed community groups and proudly reported that he had increased the number of cops on the street by hundreds.
Meantime, detectives trying to do their jobs drove around like targets. More than once Bosch and his team had sought to serve an arrest warrant or had attempted to come into a neighborhood quietly in the course of an investigation only to have their presence signaled by their own cars. It was stupid and dangerous but it was the chief’s edict and it was carried out throughout the department’s divisional detective bureaus, even after the chief was not asked back for a second five-year term. Bosch, like many of the department’s detectives, hoped the new chief would soon order the detective cars back to normal. Meanwhile, he no longer drove the car assigned to him home from work. It had been a nice detective supervisor’s perk having a take-home car but he didn’t want the marked car sitting in front of his house. Not in L.A. You never knew what menace that could bring to your door.
They got to Grand Street by two forty-five. As Bosch pulled to a stop he saw an unusually large number of police-related vehicles parked along the curb at California Plaza. He noted the crime scene and coroner’s vans, several patrol cars and several more detective sedans—not the slickbacks, but the unmarked cars still used by the RHD bulls. While he waited for Rider and Edgar to pull up he opened his briefcase, took out the cellular phone and called his home. After five rings the machine picked up the call and he heard his own voice telling him to leave a message. He was about to click off but decided to leave a message.
“Eleanor, it’s me. I’ve got a call out… but page me or call me on the cell phone when you get in so I know you’re okay… Um, okay, that’s it. Bye—oh, it’s about two forty-five right now. Saturday morning. Bye.”
Edgar and Rider had walked up to his door. He put the phone away and got out with his briefcase. Edgar, the tallest, held up the yellow crime scene tape and they crossed under, gave their names and badge numbers to a uniform officer with the crime scene attendance list, and then walked across California Plaza.
The plaza was the centerpiece of Bunker Hill, a stone courtyard formed by the conjoining of two marble office towers, a high-rise apartment building and the Museum of Contemporary Art. There was a huge fountain and reflecting pool at its center, though the pumps and lights were off at this hour, leaving the water still and black.
Past the fountain was the beaux arts revival–styled station and wheelhouse at the top of Angels Flight. It was next to this small structure that most of the investigators and patrol officers milled about as if waiting for something. Bosch looked for the gleaming shaven skull that belonged to Deputy Chief Irvin Irving but didn’t see it. He and his partners stepped into the crowd and moved toward the lone rail car sitting at the top of the tracks. Along the way he recognized many faces of Robbery-Homicide detectives. They were men he had worked with years earlier when he had been part of the elite squad. A few of them nodded to him or called him by name. Bosch saw Francis Sheehan, his former partner, standing off by himself smoking a cigarette. Bosch broke from his partners and stepped over.
“Frankie,” he said. “What’s going on?”
“Harry, what are you doing here?”
“Got called out. Irving called us out.”
“Shit. Sorry, partner, I wouldn’t wish this one on my enemy.”
“Why, what’s going—”
“You better talk to the man first. He’s putting the big blanket on this one.”
Bosch hesitated. Sheehan looked worn down but Bosch hadn’t seen him in months. He had no idea what had put the dark circles under his hound dog eyes or when they had been cut into his face. For a moment Bosch remembered the reflection of his own face that he had seen earlier.
“You okay, Francis?”
“Okay, I’ll talk to you.”
Bosch rejoined Edgar and Rider, who were standing near the rail car. Edgar nodded slightly to Bosch’s left.
“Hey, Harry, you see that?” he said in a low voice. “That’s Sustain Chastain and that bunch over there. What are those pricks doin’ here?”
Bosch turned and saw the grouping of men from Internal Affairs.
“Got no idea,” he said.
Chastain and Bosch locked eyes for a moment but Bosch didn’t hold it. It wasn’t worth the waste of energy to get worked up over just seeing the IAD man. Instead, he focused on trying to put the whole scene together. His curiosity level was at maximum. The number of RHD bulls hanging around, the IAD shines, a deputy chief on the scene—he had to find out what was going on.
With Edgar and Rider behind him in single file, Bosch worked his way to the rail car. Portable lights had been set up inside
and the car was lit up like somebody’s living room. Inside, two crime scene techs were at work. This told Bosch that he was quite late arriving at the scene. The crime scene techs didn’t move in until after the coroner’s techs had completed their initial procedures—declaring victims dead, photographing the bodies in situ, searching them for wounds, weapons and identification.
Bosch stepped to the rear of the car and looked through the open door. The technicians were at work around two bodies. A woman was sprawled on one of the stepped seats about midway through the car. She was wearing gray leggings and a white thigh-length T-shirt. A large flower of blood had blossomed on her chest where she had been hit dead center with a single bullet. Her head was snapped back against the sill of the window behind her seat. She had dark hair and features, her lineage obviously stretching somewhere south of the border. On the seat next to her body was a plastic bag filled with many items Bosch couldn’t see. A folded newspaper protruded from the top of it.
On the steps near the rear door to the car was the facedown body of a black man wearing a dark gray suit. From his viewpoint Bosch could not see the man’s face and only one wound was visible—a through-and-through gunshot wound at the center of the victim’s right hand. Bosch knew it was what would later be called a defensive wound in the autopsy report. The man had held his hand up in a futile attempt to ward off gunfire. Bosch had seen it often enough over the years and it always made him think about the desperate actions people take at the end. Putting a hand up to stop a bullet was one of the most desperate.
Though the techs were stepping in and out of his line of sight, Bosch could look straight down through the inclined train car and down the track to Hill Street about three hundred feet below. A duplicate train car was down there at the bottom of the hill and Bosch could see more detectives milling about by the turnstiles and the closed doors of the Grand Central Market across the street.
Bosch had ridden the inclined railroad as a kid and had studied how it worked. He still remembered. The two matching cars were counterbalanced. When one went up the side-by-side tracks the other went down, and vice versa. They passed each other at the midpoint. He remembered riding on Angels Flight long before Bunker Hill had been reborn as a slick business center of glass and marble towers, classy condominiums and apartments, museums, and fountains referred to as water gardens. Back then the hill had been a place of once-grand Victorian homes turned into tired-looking rooming houses. Harry and his mother had taken Angels Flight up the hill to look for a place to live.
“Finally, Detective Bosch.”
Bosch turned around. Deputy Chief Irving stood in the open door of the little station house.
“All of you,” he said, signaling Bosch and his team inside.
They entered a cramped room dominated by the large old cable wheels that once moved the train cars up and down the incline. Bosch remembered reading that when Angels Flight was rehabilitated a few years earlier after a quarter century of disuse, the cables and wheels had been replaced with an electric system monitored by computer.
On one side of the wheel display was just enough room for a small lunch table with two folding chairs. On the other side wasthe computer for operating the trains, a stool for the operator and a stack of cardboard boxes, the top one open and showing stacks of pamphlets on the history of Angels Flight.
Standing against the far wall, in the shadow behind the old iron wheels, his arms folded and his craggy, sun-reddened face looking down at the floor, was a man Bosch recognized. Bosch had once worked for Captain John Garwood, commander of the Robbery-Homicide Division. He knew by the look on his face that he was very put out about something. Garwood didn’t look up at them and the
three detectives said nothing.
Irving went to a telephone on the lunch table and picked up the loose handset. As he began talking he motioned to Bosch to close the door.
“Excuse me, sir,” Irving said. “It was the team from Hollywood. They are all here and we are ready to proceed.”
He listened for a few moments, said good-bye and hung up the phone. The reverence in his voice and his use of the word sir told Bosch that Irving had been talking to the chief of police. It was one more curiosity about the case.
“All right, then,” Irving said, turning around and facing the three detectives. “I am sorry to roust you people, especially
out of rotation. However, I have spoken with Lieutenant Billets and as of now you have been cut free of the Hollywood rotation until we get this handled.”
“What exactly is this that we are handling?” Bosch asked.
“A delicate situation. The homicides of two citizens.”
Bosch wished he would get to the point.
“Chief, I see enough RHD people around here to investigate the Bobby Kennedy case all over again,” he said, glancing at Garwood.“And that’s not to mention the IAD shines hovering around the edges. What exactly are we doing here? What do you want?”
“Simple,” Irving said. “I am turning the investigation over to you. It is your case now, Detective Bosch. The Robbery-Homicide detectives will be withdrawing as soon as you people are brought up to speed. As you can see, you are coming in late. That’s unfortunate but I think you will be able to overcome it. I know what you can do.”
Bosch stared at him blankly for a long moment, then glanced at Garwood again. The captain had not moved and continued to stare at the floor. Bosch asked the only question that could bring understanding to this strange situation.
“That man and woman on the train car, who are they?”
“Were is probably the more correct word. Were. The woman’s name was Catalina Perez. Who exactly she was and what she was doing on Angels Flight we do not know yet. It probablydoes not matter. It appears that she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that will be for you to officially determine. Anyway, the man in there, he is different. That was Howard Elias.”
Irving nodded. Bosch heard Edgar draw in a breath and hold it.
“This is for real?”
Bosch looked past Irving and through the ticket window. He could see into the train car. The techs were still at work, getting ready to shut off the lights so they could laser the inside of the car to look for fingerprints. His eyes fell to the hand with the bullet wound through it. Howard Elias. Bosch thought about all the suspects there would be, many of them standing around outside at that very moment, watching.
“Shit,” Edgar said. “Don’t suppose we could take a pass on this one, could we, Chief?”
“Watch your language, Detective,” Irving snapped, the muscles of his jaw bulging as he grew angry. “That is not acceptable here.”
“Look, Chief, all I’m sayin’ is if you’re looking for somebody to play department Uncle Tom, it ain’t going to be—”
“That has nothing to do with this,” Irving said, cutting him off. “Whether you like it or not, you have been assigned to this
case. I expect each of you to do it professionally and thoroughly. Most of all, I expect results, as does the chief of police. Other matters mean nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
After a brief silence, during which Irving’s eyes went from Edgar to Rider and then to Bosch, the deputy chief continued.
“In this department there is only one race,” he said. “Not black or white. Just the blue race.”
Howard Elias’s notoriety as a civil rights attorney did not come to him because of the clients he served—they could best be described as ne’er-do-wells if not outright criminals. What had made Elias’s face and name so well known to the masses of Los Angeles was his use of the media, his skill at probing the inflamed nerve of racism in the city, and the fact that his law practice was built entirely around one particular expertise: suing the Los Angeles Police Department.
For nearly two decades he had made a more than comfortable living filing lawsuit after lawsuit in federal court on behalf of citizens who had collided in some way with the police department. Elias sued patrol officers, detectives, the chief of police, the institution itself. When he filed, he used the shotgun approach, naming as defendants anyone remotely connected with the incident at the heart of the matter. After a fleeing burglary suspect was chewed up by a police dog, Elias had sued on the injured man’s behalf, naming the dog, its handler and the line of supervision from the handler up to the chief of police. For good measure, he had sued the handler’s academy instructors and the dog’s breeder as well.
In his late-night television “infomercials” and frequent “impromptu” but cleverly orchestrated press conferences on the steps of the U.S. District Courthouse, Elias always cast himself as a watchdog, a lone voice crying out against the abuses of a fascist and racist paramilitary organization known as the LAPD. To his critics—and they ran from the rank and file of the LAPD to the offices of the city and district attorneys—Elias was a racist himself, a loose cannon who helped widen the fractures in an already divided city. To these detractors he was the scum of the legal system, a courtroom magician who could reach into the deck at any place and still pull out the race card.
Most often Elias’s clients were black or brown. His skills as a public speaker and his selective use of facts while employing
those skills often turned his clients into community heroes, emblematic victims of a police department out of control. Many in the city’s south neighborhoods credited Elias with single-handedly keeping the LAPD from behaving as an occupying army. Howard Elias was one of the few people in the city who could be absolutely hated and fervently celebrated in different quarters at the same time.
Few who revered Elias understood that his entire practice was built around one simple piece of the law. He filed lawsuits only in federal court and under provisions of the U.S. civil rights codes that allowed him to bill the city of Los Angeles for his fees in any case in which he was victorious in court.
The Rodney King beating, the Christopher Commission report excoriating the department in the wake of the King trial and subsequent civil unrest, and the racially divisive O. J. Simpson case created a shadow that stretched over every case Elias filed. And so it was not particularly difficult for the lawyer to win cases against the department, convincing juries to award at least token damages to plaintiffs. Those juries never realized that such verdicts opened the door for Elias to bill the city and its taxpayers, themselves included, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees.
In the dog bite lawsuit, which became Elias’s signature case, the jury found that the rights of the plaintiff had been violated.
But since that plaintiff was a burglar with a long track record of prior arrests and convictions, the jury awarded him only
one dollar in damages. Their intent was clear, to send a message to the police department rather than to make a criminal wealthy. But that didn’t matter to Elias. A win was a win. Under the federal guidelines he then submitted a bill to the city for $340,000 in legal fees. The city screamed and audited it, but still ended up paying more than half. In effect, the jury—and the many before and since—believed they were delivering a rebuke to the LAPD, but they were also paying for Elias’s half-hour late-night infomercials on Channel 9, his Porsche and his Italian courtroom suits, his opulent home up in Baldwin Hills.
Elias, of course, was not alone. There were dozens of attorneys in the city who specialized in police and civil rights cases and mined the same federal provision allowing them to extract fees far in excess of the damages awarded their clients. Not all were cynical and motivated by money. Lawsuits by Elias and others had brought about positive change in the department. Even their enemies—the cops—could not begrudge them that. Civil rights cases brought about the end of the department-approved use of the choke hold while subduing suspects—after an inordinately high number of minority deaths. Lawsuits had also improved conditions and protections in local jails. Other cases opened and streamlined means for citizens to file complaints against abusive police officers.
But Elias stood head and shoulders above them all. He had media charm and the speaking skills of an actor. He also seemed to lack any criteria when it came to choosing his clients. He represented drug dealers who claimed to have been abused by their interrogators, burglars who stole from the poor but objected to being beaten by the police who chased them down, robbers who shot their victims but then cried foul when they in turn were shot by police. Elias’s favorite line—used as a tagline on his commercials and whenever cameras were pointed at his face—was to say that abuse of power was abuse of power, regardless of whether the victim was a criminal. He was always quick to look into the camera and declare that if such abuse was tolerated when it was aimed at the guilty, it wouldn’t be long before the innocent were targeted.
Elias was a sole practitioner. In the last decade he had sued the department more than a hundred times and won jury verdicts in more than half of the cases. His was a name that could freeze a cop’s brain when he heard it. In the department, you knew that if Elias sued you, it would not be a small case that would be cleaned up and swept away. Elias didn’t settle cases out of court—nothing in the civil rights codes gave an incentive to settle cases. No, you would be dragged through a public spectacle if Elias aimed a lawsuit at you. There would be press releases, press conferences, newspaper headlines, television stories. You’d be lucky to come out of it in one piece, let alone with your badge.
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