In Los Angeles in 1988, a 16-year-old girl disappeared from her home and was later found dead of a gunshot wound to the chest. The death appeared at first to be a suicide, but some of the evidence contradicted that scenario, and detectives came to believe this was in fact a murder. Despite a by-the-book investigation, no one was ever charged.Now Detective Harry Bosch is back with the LAPD with the sole mission of closing unsolved cases, and this girl's death is the first he's given. A DNA match makes the case very much alive again, and it turns out to be anything but cold. The ripples from this death have destroyed at least two other lives, and everywhere he probes, Bosch finds hot grief, hot rage, and a bottomless well of betrayal and malice.And it's not just the girl's family and friends whose lives Bosch is stirring up afresh. With each new development, Harry Bosch finds increasing resistance from within the police force itself. Old enemies are close at hand. Even as he pushes relentlessly to find the truth, Bosch has to wonder if this assignment was intended to be his last. Digging up the past may heal old wounds, or it may expose new, searing ones.
Release date: May 1, 2005
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Print pages: 416
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WITHIN THE PRACTICE and protocol of the Los Angeles Police Department a two-six call is the one that draws the most immediate response while striking the most fear behind the bulletproof vest. For it is a call that often has a career riding on it. The designation is derived from the combination of the Code 2 radio call out, meaning “respond as soon as possible,” and the sixth floor of Parker Center, from which the chief of police commands the department. A two-six is a forthwith from the chief’s office, and any officer who knows and enjoys his position in the department will not delay.
Detective Harry Bosch spent over twenty-five years with the department in his first tour and never once received a forthwith from the chief of police. In fact, other than receiving his badge at the academy in 1972, he never shook hands or spoke personally with a chief again. He had outlasted several of them—and, of course, seen them at police functions and funerals—but simply never met them along the way. On the morning of his return to duty after a three-year retirement he received his first two-six while knotting his tie in the bathroom mirror. It was an adjutant to the chief calling Bosch’s private cell phone. Bosch didn’t bother asking how they had come up with the number. It was simply understood that the chief’s office had the power to reach out in such a way. Bosch just said he would be there within the hour, to which the adjutant replied that he would be expected sooner. Harry finished knotting his tie in his car while driving as fast as traffic allowed on the 101 Freeway toward downtown.
It took Bosch exactly twenty-four minutes from the moment he closed the phone on the adjutant until he walked through the double doors of the chief’s suite on the sixth floor at Parker Center. He thought it had to have been some kind of record, notwithstanding the fact that he had illegally parked on Los Angeles Street in front of the police headquarters. If they knew his private cell number, then surely they knew what a feat it had been to make it from the Hollywood Hills to the chief’s office in under a half hour.
But the adjutant, a lieutenant named Hohman, stared him down with disinterested eyes and pointed to a plastic-sealed couch that already had two other people waiting on it.
“You’re late,” he said. “Take a seat.”
Bosch decided not to protest, not to make matters possibly worse. He stepped over to the couch and sat between the two men in uniform, who had staked out the armrests. They sat bolt upright and did not small-talk. He figured they had been two-sixed as well.
Ten minutes went by. The men on either side of him were called in ahead of Bosch, each dispensed with by the chief in five minutes flat. While the second man was in with the chief, Bosch thought he heard loud voices from the inner sanctum, and when the officer came out his face was ashen. He had somehow fucked up in the eyes of the chief and the word—which had even filtered to Bosch in retirement—was that this new man did not suffer fuckups lightly. Bosch had read a story in the Times about a command staffer who was demoted for failing to inform the chief that the son of a city councilman usually allied against the department had been picked up on a deuce. The chief only found out about it when the councilman called to complain about harassment, as if the department had forced his son to drink six vodka martinis at Bar Marmount and drive home via the trunk of a tree on Mulholland.
Finally Hohman put down the phone and pointed his finger at Bosch. He was up. He was quickly shuttled into a corner office with a view of Union Station and the surrounding train yards. It was a decent view but not a great one. It didn’t matter because the place was coming down soon. The department would move into temporary offices while a new and modern police headquarters was rebuilt on the same spot. The current headquarters was known as the Glass House by the rank and file, supposedly because there were no secrets kept inside. Bosch wondered what the next place would become known as.
The chief of police was behind a large desk signing papers. Without looking up from this work he told Bosch to have a seat in front of the desk. Within thirty seconds the chief signed his last document and looked up at Bosch. He smiled.
“I wanted to meet you and welcome you back to the department.”
His voice was marked by an eastern accent. De-paht-ment. This was fine with Bosch. In L.A. everybody was from somewhere else. Or so it seemed. It was both the strength and the weakness of the city.
“It is good to be back,” Bosch said.
“You understand that you are here at my pleasure.”
It wasn’t a question.
“Yes sir, I do.”
“Obviously, I checked you out extensively before approving your return. I had concerns about your… shall we say style, but ultimately your talent won the day. You can also thank your partner, Kizmin Rider, for her lobbying effort. She’s a good officer and I trust her. She trusts you.”
“I have already thanked her but I will do it again.”
“I know it has been less than three years since you retired but let me assure you, Detective Bosch, that the department you have rejoined is not the department you left.”
“I understand that.”
“I hope so. You know about the consent decree?”
Just after Bosch had left the department the previous chief had been forced to agree to a series of reforms in order to head off a federal takeover of the LAPD following an FBI investigation into wholesale corruption, violence and civil rights violations within the ranks. The current chief had to carry out the agreement or he would end up taking orders from the FBI. From the chief down to the lowliest boot, nobody wanted that.
“Yes,” Bosch said. “I’ve read about it.”
“Good. I’m glad you have kept yourself informed. And I am happy to report that despite what you may read in the Times, we are making great strides and we want to keep that momentum. We are also trying to update the department in terms of technology. We are pushing forward in community policing. We are doing a lot of good things, Detective Bosch, much of which can be undone in the eyes of the community if we resort to old ways. Do you understand what I am telling you?”
“I think so.”
“Your return here is not guaranteed. You are on probation for a year. So consider yourself a rookie again. A boot—the oldest living boot at that. I approved your return—I can also wash you out without so much as a reason anytime in the course of the year. Don’t give me a reason.”
Bosch didn’t answer. He didn’t think he was supposed to.
“On Friday we graduate a new class of cadets at the academy. I would like you to be there.”
“I want you to be there. I want you to see the dedication in our young people’s faces. I want to reacquaint you with the traditions of this department. I think it could help you, help you rededicate yourself.”
“If you want me to be there I will be there.”
“Good. I will see you there. You will sit under the VIP tent as my guest.”
He made a note about the invite on a pad of paper next to the blotter. He then put the pen down and raised his hand to point a finger at Bosch. His eyes took on a fierceness.
“Listen to me, Bosch. Don’t ever break the law to enforce the law. At all times you do your job constitutionally and compassionately. I will accept it no other way. This city will accept it no other way. Are we okay on that?”
“We are okay.”
“Then we are good to go.”
Bosch took his cue and stood up. The chief surprised him by also standing and extending his hand. Bosch thought he wanted to shake hands and extended his own. The chief put something in his hand and Bosch looked down to see the gold detective’s shield. He had his old number back. It had not been given away. He almost smiled.
“Wear it well,” the police chief said. “And proudly.”
Now they shook hands, but as they did so the chief didn’t smile.
“The chorus of forgotten voices,” he said.
“Excuse me, Chief?”
“That’s what I think about when I think of the cases down there in Open-Unsolved. It’s a house of horrors. Our greatest shame. All those cases. All those voices. Every one of them is like a stone thrown into a lake. The ripples move out through time and people. Families, friends, neighbors. How can we call ourselves a city when there are so many ripples, when so many voices have been forgotten by this department?”
Bosch let go of his hand and didn’t say anything. There was no answer for the chief’s question.
“I changed the name of the unit when I came into the department. Those aren’t cold cases, Detective. They never go cold. Not for some people.”
“I understand that.”
“Then go down there and clear cases. That’s what your art is. That’s why we need you and why you are here. That’s why I am taking a chance with you. Show them we do not forget. Show them that in Los Angeles cases don’t go cold.”
Bosch left him there, still standing and maybe a little haunted by the voices. Like himself. Bosch thought that maybe for the first time he had actually connected on some level with the man at the top. In the military it is said that you go into battle and fight and are willing to die for the men who sent you. Bosch never felt that when he was moving through the darkness of the tunnels in Vietnam. He had felt alone and that he was fighting for himself, fighting to stay alive. That had carried with him into the department and he had at times adopted the view that he was fighting in spite of the men at the top. Now maybe things would be different.
In the hallway he punched the elevator button harder than he needed to. He had too much excitement and energy and he understood this. The chorus of forgotten voices. The chief seemed to know the song they were singing. And Bosch certainly did, too. Most of his life had been spent listening to that song.
BOSCH RODE THE ELEVATOR just one flight down to five. This, too, was new territory for him. Five had always been a civilian floor. It primarily housed many of the department’s mid- and low-level administrative offices, most of them filled with nonsworn employees, budgeters, analysts, pencil pushers. Civilians. Before now there had been no reason to come to the fifth.
There were no placards in the elevator lobby that pointed the way to specific offices. It was the kind of floor where you knew where you were going before you stepped off the elevator. But not Bosch. The hallways on the floor formed the letter H and he went the wrong way twice before finally finding the door marked 503. There was nothing else on the door. He paused before opening it and thought about what he was doing and what he was starting. He knew it was the right thing. It was almost as if he could hear the voices coming through the door. All eight thousand of them.
Kiz Rider was sitting on a desk just inside, sipping a cup of steaming coffee. The desk looked like a place for a receptionist but Bosch knew from his frequent calls in the prior weeks that there was no receptionist in this squad. There was no money for such a luxury. Rider raised her wrist and shook her head as she checked her watch.
“I thought we agreed on eight o’clock,” she said. “Is that how it’s going to be, partner? You waltzing in every morning whenever you feel like it?”
Bosch looked at his watch. It was five minutes after eight. He looked back at her and smiled. Rider smiled and said, “We’re over here.”
Rider was a short woman who carried a few extra pounds. Her hair was short and now had some gray in it. She was very dark complected, which made her smile all the more brilliant. She slipped off the desk, and from behind where she had perched she raised a second cup of coffee to him.
“See if I remembered that right.”
He checked and nodded.
“Black, just like I like my partners.”
“Funny. I’ll have to write you up for that.”
She led the way. The office seemed to be empty. It was large, even for a squad room serving nine investigators—four teams and an OIC. The walls were painted a light shade of blue, like Bosch often saw on the screens of computers. It was carpeted in gray. There were no windows. At the positions on the walls where there should have been windows there were bulletin boards or nicely framed crime scene photos from many years back. Bosch could tell that in these black and whites the photographers had often put their artistic skills ahead of their clinical duties. The shots were heavy on mood and shadows. Not many of the crime scene details were apparent.
Rider must have known he was looking at the photos.
“They told me that writer James Ellroy picked these out and had them framed for the office,” she said.
She led him around a partial wall that broke the room in two and into an alcove where two gray steel desks were pushed together so the detectives who sat at them would face each other. Rider put her coffee down on one. There were already files stacked on it and personal things like a coffee mug full of pens and a picture frame at an angle that hid the photo it held. A laptop computer was open and humming on the desk. She had moved into the squad the week before while Bosch was still clearing customs—customs being the medical exam and final paperwork that brought him back onto the job.
The other desk was clean, empty and waiting for him. He moved behind it and put his coffee down. He suppressed a smile as well as he could.
“Welcome back, Roy,” Rider said.
That made the smile break through. It made Bosch feel good to be called Roy again. It was a tradition carried by many of the city’s homicide detectives. There was a legendary homicide man named Russell Kuster who had worked out of Hollywood Division many years back. He was the ultimate professional, and many of the detectives working murders in the city today had come under his tutelage at one point or another. He was killed in an off-duty shootout in 1990. But his habit of calling people Roy—no matter their real name—was carried on. Its origin had become obscure. Some said it was because Kuster once had a partner who loved Roy Acuff and it had started with him. Others said it was because Kuster liked the idea of the homicide cop being the Roy Rogers type, wearing the white hat and riding to the rescue, making things right. It didn’t matter anymore. Bosch knew it was an honor just to be called Roy again.
He sat down. The chair was old and lumpy, guaranteed to give him a backache if he spent too much time in it. But he hoped that would not be the case. In his first run as a homicide detective he had lived by the adage Get off your ass and knock on doors. He didn’t see any reason that should change this time around.
“Where is everybody?” he asked.
“Having breakfast. I forgot. They told me last week that the routine is that on Monday mornings everybody meets early for breakfast. They usually go over to the Pacific. I didn’t remember until I got in here this morning and found the place dead, but they should be back here soon.”
Bosch knew the Pacific Dining Car was a longtime favorite with LAPD brass and the Robbery-Homicide Division. He also knew something else.
“Twelve bucks for a plate of eggs. I guess that means this is an overtime-approved squad.”
Rider smiled in confirmation.
“You got that right. But you wouldn’t have been able to finish your fancy eggs anyway, once you got the forthwith from the chief.”
“You heard about that, huh?”
“I still have an ear out on six. Did you get your badge?”
“Yeah, he gave it to me.”
“I told him what number you’d want. Did you get it?”
“Yeah, Kiz, thanks. Thanks for everything.”
“You already told me that, partner. You don’t need to keep saying that.”
He nodded and looked around their space. He noticed that on the wall behind Rider was a photo of two detectives huddled beside a body lying in the dry concrete bed of the Los Angeles River. It looked like a shot from the early fifties, judging by the hats the detectives wore.
“So, where do we start?” he asked.
“The squad breaks the cases up in three-year increments. It provides some continuity. They say you get to know the era and some of the players in the department. It overlaps. It also helps with identifying serials. In two years they’ve already come up with four serials nobody ever knew about.”
Bosch nodded. He was impressed.
“What years did we get?” he asked.
“Each team has four or five blocks. Since we’re the new team we got four.”
She opened the middle drawer of her desk, took out a piece of paper and handed it across to him.
1966 1972 1987 1996
1967 1973 1988 1997
1968 1974 1989 1998
Bosch studied the listing of years for which they would be responsible. He had been out of the city and in Vietnam for most of the first block.
“The summer of love,” he said. “I missed it. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me.”
He said it just to be saying something. He noticed that the second block included 1972, the year he had come onto the force. He remembered a call out to a house off of Vermont on his second day on the job in patrol. A woman back east asked police to check on her mother, who was not answering the phone. Bosch found her drowned in a bathtub, her hands and feet bound with dog leashes. Her dead dog was in the tub with her. Bosch wondered if the old woman’s murder was one of the open cases he would now be charged with solving.
“How was this arrived at? I mean, why did we get these years?”
“They came from the other teams. We lightened their caseload. In fact, they already started the ball rolling on cases from a lot of those years. And I heard on Friday that a cold hit came in from ’eighty-eight. We’re supposed to run with it starting today. I guess you could say it’s your welcome-back present.”
“What’s a cold hit?”
“When a DNA stamp or a latent we send through the computers or the DOJ makes a blind match.”
“I think it’s a DNA match. We’ll find out this morning.”
“They didn’t tell you anything last week? I could have come in over the weekend, you know.”
“I know that, Harry. But this is an old case. There was no need to start running the minute a piece of paper came in the mail. Working Open-Unsolved is different.”
“Yeah? How come?”
Rider looked exasperated, but before she could answer they heard the door open and the squad room started filling with voices. Rider stepped out of the alcove and Bosch followed. She introduced Bosch to the other members of the squad. Two of the detectives, Tim Marcia and Rick Jackson, Bosch knew well from previous cases. The other two pairs of partners were Robert Renner and Victor Robleto, and Kevin Robinson and Jean Nord. Bosch knew them, as well as Abel Pratt, the officer in charge of the unit, by reputation. Every one of them was a top-notch homicide investigator.
The greeting was cordial and subdued, a bit overly formal. Bosch knew that his posting in the unit was probably viewed with suspicion. An assignment on the squad would have been highly coveted by detectives throughout the department. The fact that he had gotten the posting after nearly three years in retirement raised questions. Bosch knew, as the chief of police had reminded him, that he had Rider to thank for the job. Her last posting had been in the chief’s office as a policy analyst. She had cashed in whatever markers she had accrued with the chief in order to get Bosch back inside the department and working open-unsolved cases with her.
After all the handshakes, Pratt invited Bosch and Rider back into his office for a private welcome-aboard speech. He sat behind his desk and they took the side-by-side chairs in front of it. There was no room in the closet-sized space for other furnishings.
Pratt was a few years younger than Bosch, on the south side of fifty. He kept himself in shape and carried the esprit de corps of the vaunted Robbery-Homicide Division, of which the Open-Unsolved Unit was just one branch. Pratt appeared confident in his skills and his command of the unit. He had to be. The RHD took on the city’s most difficult cases. Bosch knew that if you did not believe you were smarter, tougher and more cunning than the people you were after then you didn’t belong.
“What I really should do is split you two up,” he began. “Make you work with guys already established here in the unit because this is different from what you’ve done in the past. But I got the word from six and I don’t mess with that. Besides, I understand you two have a prior chemistry that worked. So forget what I should do and let me tell you a little bit about working open-unsolveds. Kiz, I know you already got this speech last week but you’ll just have to suffer along, okay?”
“Of course,” Rider said.
“First of all, forget closure. Closure is bullshit. Closure is a media term, something they put in newspaper articles about cold cases. Closure is a joke. It’s a fucking lie. All we do here is provide answers. Answers have to be enough. So don’t mislead yourself about what you are doing here. Don’t mislead the family members you deal with on these cases and don’t be misled by them.”
He paused for reaction, got none and moved on. Bosch noticed that the crime scene photo framed on the wall was of a man collapsed in a bullet-riddled phone booth. It was the kind of phone booth you only saw in old movies and at the Farmers Market or over at Phillippe’s.
“Without a doubt,” Pratt said, “this squad is the most noble place in the building. A city that forgets its murder victims is a city lost. This is where we don’t forget. We’re like the guys they bring in in the bottom of the ninth inning to win or lose the game. The closers. If we can’t do it, nobody can. If we blow it, the game is over because we’re the last resort. Yes, we’re outnumbered. We’ve got eight thousand open-unsolveds since nineteen sixty. But we are undaunted. Even if this whole unit clears only one case a month—just twelve a year—we are doing something. We’re the closers, baby. If you’re in homicide, this is the place to be.”
Bosch was impressed by his fervor. He could see sincerity and even pain in his eyes. He nodded. He immediately knew that he wanted to work for this man, a rarity in his experience in the department.
“Just don’t forget that closure isn’t the same as being a closer,” Pratt added.
“Got it,” Bosch said.
“Now, I know you both have long experience working homicides. What you are going to find different here is your relationship with the cases.”
“Relationship?” Bosch asked.
“Yes, relationship. What I mean is that working fresh kills is a completely different animal. You have the body, you have the autopsy, you carry the news to the family. Here you are dealing with victims long dead. There are no autopsies, no physical crime scenes. You deal with the murder books—if you can find them—and the records. When you go to the family—and believe me you don’t go until you are good and ready—you find people who have already suffered the shock and found or not found ways to get past it. It wears on you. I hope you are prepared for that.”
“Thanks for the warning,” Bosch said.
“With fresh kills it is clinical because things move fast. With old cases it is emotional. You are going to see the toll of violence over time. Be prepared for it.”
Pratt pulled a thick blue binder from the side of his desk to the center of his calendar blotter. He started to push it across to them then stopped.
“Another thing to be prepared for is the department. Count on files being incomplete or even missing. Count on physical evidence being destroyed or disappeared. Count on starting from scratch with some of these. This unit was put together two years ago. We spent the first eight months just going through the case logs and pulling out open-unsolveds. We fed what we could into the forensics pipelines, but even when we’ve gotten a hit we have been handicapped by the lack of case integrity. It has been abysmal. It has been frustrating. Even though there is no statute of limitations on murder we are finding that evidence and even files were routinely disposed of during at least one administration.
“What I am saying is that you are going to find that your biggest obstacle on some of these cases may very well be the department itself.”
“Somebody said we have a cold hit that came out of one of our time blocks,” Bosch said.
He’d heard enough. He just wanted to get moving on something.
“Yes, you do,” Pratt said. “We’ll get to that in a second. Let me just finish up with my little speech. After all, I don’t get to make it that often. In a nutshell, what we try to do here is apply new technology and techniques to old cases. The technology is essentially threefold. You have DNA, fingerprints, and ballistics. In all three areas the advancements in comparative analysis have been phenomenal in the last ten years. The problem with this department is that it never took any of these advances and looked backward at old cases. Consequently, we have an estimated two thousand cases in which there is DNA evidence that has never been typed and compared. Since nineteen sixty we have four thousand cases with fingerprints that have never been run through a computer. Ours, the FBI’s, DOJ’s, anybody’s computer. It’s almost laughable but it’s too fucking sad to laugh about. Same with ballistics. We are finding the evidence is still there in most of these cases but it has been ignored.”
Bosch shook his head, already feeling the frustration of all the families of the victims, the cases swept away by time, indifference and incompetence.
“You will also find that techniques are different. Today’s homicide copper is just plain better than one from, say, nineteen sixty or seventy. Even nineteen eighty. So even before you get to the physical evidence and you review these cases you are going to see things that seem obvious to you now, but that weren’t obvious to anyone back at the time of the kill.”
Pratt nodded. His speech was finished.
“Now, the cold hit,” he said, pushing the faded blue murder book across the desk. “Run with that baby. It’s all yours. Close it down and put somebody in jail.”
AFTER LEAVING PRATT’S office they decided that Bosch would go get the next round of coffee while Rider started in on the murder book. They knew from prior experience that she was the faster reader and it didn’t make sense to split the book up. They both needed to read it front to back, to have the investigation presented to them in the linear fashion in which it occurred and was documented.
Bosch said he would give her a good head start. He told her he might drink a cup in the cafeteria just because he missed the place. The place, not the coffee.
“Then I guess that gives me a few minutes to go down the hall,” she said.
After she left the office for the restroom Bosch took the page listing the years that were assigned to them and put it into the inside pocket of his jacket. He left 503 and took the elevator down to the third floor. He then walked through the main RHD squad room to the captain’s office.
The captain’s office suite was broken into two rooms. One room was his actual office and the other was called the murder room. It was furnished with a long meeting table where murder investigations were discussed, and its walls on two sides were lined with shelves containing legal books and the city’s murder logs. Every homicide that had occurred in Los Angeles, going back more than one hundred years, had a listing in these leather-bound journals. The routine over the decades was to update the journals every time one of the murders was cleared. It was the easy reference in the department for determining what cases were still open or had been closed.
Bosch ran his finger along the cracked spines of the books. Each one simply said HOMICIDES followed by the listing of the years the book recorded. Several years fit into each of the early books. But by the 1980s there were so many murders committed in the city that each book contained the accounts of only one year. He then noted that the year 1988 was reported in two books, and he suddenly had a very good idea why that year had been assigned to him and Rider as the new members of the Open-Unsolved Unit. The high point for murders in the city would certainly also mean the high point for unsolved cases.
When his finger found the book containing cases from 1972 he pulled the tome out and sat down with it at the table. He leafed through it, skimming the stories, hearing the voices. He found the old lady who was drowned in her bathtub. It was never solved. He moved on, through 1973 and 1974, then he went through the book containing 1966, ’67 and ’68. He read about Charles Manson and Robert Kennedy. He read about people whose names he had never heard or known. Names that were taken away from them along with everything else they’d had or would ever have.
As he read through the catalogs of the city’s horrors, Bosch felt a familiar power begin to take hold of him and move in his veins again. Only an hour back on the job and he was already chasing a killer. It didn’t matter how long ago the blood had fallen. There was a kille
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