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When Graciella Rivers steps onto his boat, ex-FBI agent Terrell McCaleb has no idea he’s about to come out of retirement. He’s recuperating from a heart transplant and avoiding anything stressful. But when Graciella tells him the way her sister, Gloria, was murdered, Terry realizes he has no choice. Now the man with the new heart vows to take down a predator without a soul. For Gloria’s killer shatters every rule that McCaleb ever learned in his years with the Bureau-as McCaleb gets no more second chances at life…and just one shot at the truth.
*Winner of the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière- International Category
*Winner of the Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel
*Winner of the Anthony Award for Best Novel
Table of Contents
A Preview of The Black Echo
A Preview of The Crossing
About the Author
Books by Michael Connelly
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BUDDY LOCKRIDGE PULLED the Taurus into an open spot in the parking lot of Video GraFX Consultants on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood. Lockridge was not dressed Hollywood-cool for his second day as McCaleb's driver. This time he was wearing boat shorts and a Hawaiian shirt with ukuleles and hula girls floating on an ocean blue background. McCaleb told him he didn't think he would be long and got out.
VGC was a business used mostly by the entertainment industry. It rented professional video equipment as well as video editing and dubbing studios. Adult filmmakers, whose product was almost exclusively shot on video, were its main clients but VGC also provided one of the best video-effects and image-enhancing labs in Hollywood.
McCaleb had been inside VGC once before, working on loan to the field office's bank unit. It was the downside of his being transferred from Quantico to the FO outpost; technically he was under the command of the FO's special agent in charge. And whenever the SAC thought things were slow—if they ever were—in the serials unit, he would yank McCaleb out and put him on something else, usually something McCaleb considered menial.
When he had walked into VGC the previous time, he had a videotape from the ceiling camera of a Wells Fargo Bank in Beverly Hills. The bank had been robbed by several masked gunmen who had escaped with $363,000 in cash. It was the group's fourth bank robbery in twelve days. The one lead agents had was on the video. When one of the robbers had reached his arm across the teller's counter to grab the bag she had just stuffed her cash into, his sleeve had caught on the edge of the marble counter and was pulled back. The robber quickly pulled the sleeve forward again but for a split second the form of a tattoo was seen on the inside of his forearm. The image was grainy and had been shot by a camera thirty feet away. After a tech in the field office lab said he could do nothing with it, it was decided not to send the tape to Washington HQ because it would take more than a month to have it analyzed. The robbers were hitting every three days. They seemed agitated in the videos, on the verge of violence. Speed was a necessity.
McCaleb took the tape to Video GraFX. A VGC tech took the frame from the video and in one day enhanced it through pixel redefinition and amplification to the point that the tattoo was identifiable. It was a flying hawk clutching a rifle in one claw and a scythe in the other.
The tattoo broke the case. Its description and a photocopy were teletyped and faxed to sixty field offices across the country. A supervisor in the Butte office then retransmitted the information to the smaller Resident Agency in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, where an agent recognized the tattoo as the insignia he had seen on a flag flown outside the house of a member of a local group of anti-government extremists. The group had intermittently been under bureau observation and suspicion because of its recent purchases of huge tracts of rural land outside the city. The supervisor of the RA was able to provide the Los Angeles FO with a list of members' names and social security numbers. Agents then began checking hotels and soon found seven members of the group staying at the Airport Hilton. The group was placed under surveillance and the following day watched as they robbed a bank in Willowbrook. Thirty agents were poised in surveillance points outside and ready to go in at the first sign of violence. There wasn't any. The robbers were followed back to their hotel and systematically arrested in their rooms by agents posing as room service waiters and housekeeping staff. One of the robbers eventually cooperated with agents and admitted that the group had been robbing banks in order to raise capital to buy more land in Idaho. The group wanted the land so members could safely sit out the Armageddon their leader promised was coming to the United States.
Now McCaleb was back. As he stepped to the reception counter, he noticed that the letter of thanks under the bureau's seal that he had sent following the bank robbery investigation was framed on the wall behind the receptionist. He leaned over the counter until he could read the name of the man he had sent the letter to.
"Can I help you?" the receptionist asked.
McCaleb pointed at the letter and said, "I'd like to talk to Tony Banks."
She asked McCaleb his name, didn't seem to recognize it though it was on the letter that hung on the wall above her, and then put in a call. Shortly after, a man McCaleb recognized as Tony Banks came out to greet him. He didn't recognize McCaleb until he started recounting the bank video story.
"Right, right, I remember. You sent the letter."
He pointed to the framed letter.
"So what can I do for you? Another bank job?"
He was eyeing the videotape McCaleb had in his hand.
"Well, I've got another case here. I'm wondering if you could take a look at this tape. There's something on it I want to see if I can get a better look at."
"Well, let's take a look. Always glad to help out."
He led McCaleb down a hallway of gray carpet past several doors that he knew from his previous visit were editing booths. Business was good. There were Occupied signs on all of the doors. From behind one of them McCaleb heard muffled cries of passion. Banks looked over his shoulder at him and rolled his eyes.
"It's not real," he said. "They're editing a tape."
McCaleb nodded. Banks had explained the same thing to him when he had been there before.
Banks opened the last door in the hallway. He ducked his head inside to make sure the room was empty, then stepped back and signaled McCaleb inside. There were two chairs set in front of a video editing machine with twin thirty-inch monitors above it. Banks turned on the equipment, pushed a button and the left side cassette cradle opened.
"Now this is going to be pretty graphic," McCaleb said. "Somebody gets shot. If you want, you can go outside and I'll just move it to the frame I want you to look at."
Banks took a moment to think about the offer. He was a thin man of about thirty, with limp hair dyed so blond it was almost white. It was long on the top and shaved around the sides. A Hollywood haircut.
"I've seen graphic," he said. "Put it in."
"None like this, I don't think. There's a difference between graphic real life and the stuff they put in movies."
"Put it in."
McCaleb put the tape in the slot and Banks began to play it. McCaleb heard the younger man's breath catch as he watched Gloria Torres get grabbed from behind and the gun placed against her head and fired. McCaleb reached over and put his hand on the pause button. At the right moment, after Chan Ho Kang had been shot and his body had fallen across the counter and then slid back, he pushed the button and froze the frame. Then, by using a dial, he could move the picture backward and forward slowly until he had exactly the image he wanted. He looked at Banks. The man looked as though all of the evil of humanity had just been revealed to him.
"Yes. It is."
"How can I help you?"
Taking a pen from his shirt pocket, McCaleb pointed at the screen and tapped it on the watch on Kang's wrist.
"Yes. I want to know if it is possible to blow this frame up or do something that would let me read the watch. I want to know what time it was at this point of the video."
"Time? What about this?"
He pointed to the timeline running along the bottom of the screen.
"I can't trust that time. That's why I need the watch."
Banks leaned forward and began fiddling with the dials on the console that controlled the focus and image amplification.
"This is not the original," he said.
"The tape? No, why?"
"I'm not getting much amplification. Can you get the original?"
"I don't think so."
McCaleb looked at the screen. Banks had made the image clearer and larger. The screen was filled with Kang's upper body and outstretched arm. But the face of the watch was still a blurred gray.
"Well, then what I can do, if you want to leave it with me, is work with it a little bit, take it to one of the guys in the lab. Maybe bring it up a little, clarify it a bit more with some pixel redefinition. But this is the best I can do with it on this equipment."
"You think it's worth doing, even without the original? Will we get anything?"
"I don't know but it's worth a try. They can do some wild stuff back there. You're after him, right? This man on the video?"
He gestured toward the screen, though at the moment the shooter wasn't on it.
"Yeah, I'm after him."
"Then we'll see what we can do. Can you leave this?"
"Yeah. I mean… uh, can you dub off a copy for me so I can have it with me? I might need to show it to somebody else."
"Sure. Let me go get a tape."
Banks got up and left the booth. McCaleb sat there staring at the screen. He had watched how Banks had used the equipment. He backed the tape up and amplified a frame showing the masked shooter. It didn't help much. He hit the fast forward for a bit and stopped it on a close-up of Gloria's face. It felt intrusive to be so close at such a moment, to be staring at a woman who had just had her life taken. Her face was in left profile and the one eye that he could see was still open.
McCaleb noticed the three earrings on her left ear. One was a stud, a small silver crescent moon. Next, going down the curve of the ear, was a small hoop that he guessed was silver and last, dangling below the lobe, was a cross. He knew it was the style among young women to have multiple earrings on at least one ear.
While he continued to wait for Banks, he played with the dials once more and backed the tape up until there was a view of Gloria's right side, just as she entered the frame. He could see only one earring on her right ear, another crescent moon.
Banks came back in with a tape and quickly inserted it into the second cassette cradle while he finished rewinding the first tape. It took him about thirty seconds to make a high-speed dub copy. He ejected it, slid it into a box and handed it to McCaleb.
"Thanks," McCaleb said. "How long you think before somebody gets a chance to work on it?"
"We're kind of busy. But I'll go look at the job board and see if we can't get someone on it as soon as possible. Maybe by tomorrow or Saturday. Is that okay?"
"It's okay. Thanks, Tony, I appreciate it."
"No problem. I don't know if I still have your card. You want me to call you?"
In that moment McCaleb decided to continue the deception. He didn't tell Banks that he was no longer an FBI agent. He thought Banks might push the project a little harder if he thought that the job was being done for the bureau.
"Tell you what, let me give you a private number. If you call and I don't pick up, just leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can."
"Sounds good. I hope we can help."
"Me too. And Tony? Do me a favor and don't show the tape to anybody who doesn't need to see it."
"I won't," Banks said, his face reddening a bit. McCaleb realized either he had needlessly embarrassed Banks with a request that did not need to be spoken or he had made the request just as Banks was thinking about whom he could show the tape to. McCaleb thought it was the latter.
McCaleb gave him his number, they shook hands and McCaleb went back down the hall on his own. As he passed the door from which he had heard the feigned sounds of passion, he noticed there was only silence now.
As McCaleb opened the door of the Taurus, he heard the radio playing and noticed Lockridge had a harmonica on his thigh, ready to be played if the right tune came along. Buddy closed a book called Death of a Tenor Man. He had marked a spot about halfway through.
"What happened to Inspector Fujigama?"
"The book you had yesterday."
"Inspector Imanishi Investigates. I finished it."
"Imanishi then. You're a fast reader."
"Good books read fast. You read crime novels?"
"Why would I want to read made-up stuff when I've seen the real stuff and can't stand it?"
Buddy started the car. He had to turn the ignition twice before it kicked over.
"It's a much different world. Everything is ordered, good and bad clearly defined, the bad guy always gets what he deserves, the hero shines, no loose ends. It's a refreshing antidote to the real world."
"No, it's reassuring. Where to now?"
AFTER EATING LUNCH at Musso and Frank's, a place McCaleb loved but hadn't been back to in two years, they drove over the hill from Hollywood to the Valley and got to the building that housed Deltona Clocks at quarter to two. McCaleb had called the business before they set out that morning from the marina and learned that Mikail Bolotov was still working a two-to-ten shift.
Deltona Clocks was a large warehouse structure located behind a small street-front showroom and retail shop. After Lockridge parked the Taurus in front of the retail store, McCaleb reached down to the leather bag on the floor in front of him and removed his gun. It was already snugly held in a canvas holster which he then clipped onto his belt.
"Hey, what are you expecting in there?" Lockridge said after he saw the weapon.
"Nothing. It's more a prop than anything else."
McCaleb next pulled out an inch-thick sheaf of the sheriff's investigative records and made sure the report on the interview with Bolotov and his employer, a man identified as Arnold Toliver, was on top. He was ready. He looked over at Lockridge.
"Okay, sit tight."
He noted as he got out of the Taurus that this time Buddy hadn't offered to come in with him. He thought maybe he should carry the gun more often.
Inside the retail shop there were no customers. Cheap clocks of almost every size were on display. Most had an industrial look, as though they were more likely to be found in a classroom or an auto supply store than in somebody's home. On the wall behind the counter at the rear of the space was a display of eight matching clocks showing the time in eight cities around the world. There was a young woman sitting on a folding chair behind the counter. McCaleb thought about how slowly time must pass for her with no customers and all of those clocks.
"How do I find Mr. Toliver?" he asked as he came up to the counter.
"Arnold or Randy?"
"I have to call back. Who are you with?"
"I'm not here to buy clocks. I'm conducting a follow-up on a Sheriff's Department inquiry of February third."
He dropped the stack of paperwork on the counter so she could see that they were official forms. He then raised his hands and put them on his hips, carefully allowing his sports coat to open and expose the gun. He watched her eyes as she noticed it. She picked up a telephone that was on the counter and dialed three numbers.
"Arnie, it's Wendy. There's a man from the Sheriff's Department here about an investigation or something."
McCaleb didn't correct her. He hadn't lied to her and he wouldn't lie to her about who he was and whom he was with. But if she wanted to make incorrect assumptions, then he wasn't going to correct her. After listening to the phone for a few moments, Wendy looked up at McCaleb.
McCaleb nodded toward the phone and held his hand out. The young woman hesitated but then handed the phone receiver to him.
"Mr. Toliver?" he said into the phone. "Terry McCaleb. A couple months ago you talked to a couple of sheriff's detectives named Ritenbaugh and Aguilar about an employee named Mikail Bolotov. You remember?"
After a long hesitation Toliver agreed that he had.
"Well, I'm investigating that case now. Ritenbaugh and Aguilar are onto other things. I need to ask you some additional questions about that. Can I come back?"
Again a hesitation.
"Well… we are awfully busy back here. I—"
"I won't take long, sir. Remember, it's a murder investigation and I'm hoping you'll continue to help us out."
"Well, I suppose…"
"You suppose what?"
"Uh, just come on back. The girl will tell you where I'm at."
Three minutes later McCaleb had walked the length of the building, past several rows of assembly and packaging benches, to an office at the rear next to a loading dock. There was a short flight of stairs up into the office. Next to the door was a window that allowed Toliver to look out across the workbenches as well as the shipping and receiving dock. As he had walked past the benches toward the office, McCaleb had overheard the conversations of the employees. Three different times he heard a language he believed was Russian.
As McCaleb opened the office door, the man he assumed was Toliver hung up the phone and waved him in. He was a skinny man in his sixties, with brown, leathery skin and white hair fringed around the sides of his head. He had a plastic pocket guard in his shirt pocket, jammed with an assortment of pens.
"I've gotta make this quick," he said. "I have to check the lading on a truck going out."
"Fine." McCaleb looked down at the report on top of the stack he carried. "Two months ago you told detectives Ritenbaugh and Aguilar that Mikail Bolotov was working the night of January twenty-second."
"That's right. I remember. Hasn't changed."
"Are you sure, Mr. Toliver?"
"What do you mean, am I sure? Yeah, I'm sure. I looked it up for those two guys. It was in the books. I pulled the time card."
"Are you saying you based it on what you saw in the pay records or did you actually see Bolotov working that night?"
"He was here. I remembered that. Mikail never missed a day."
"And you remember him working all the way until ten."
"His time card showed he—"
"I'm not talking about the time card. I'm talking about you remembering he stayed until ten."
Toliver didn't answer. McCaleb glanced out the window at the rows of workbenches.
"You've got a lot of people working for you, Mr. Toliver. How many work the two-to-ten shift?"
"Eighty-eight at the moment."
"About the same. What's the point?"
"The point is you gave the man an alibi based on a time card. Do you think it could have been possible that Bolotov left early without being noticed, then had a friend punch him out on the clock?"
Toliver didn't respond.
"Forgetting about Bolotov for a moment, have you ever had that problem before? You know, somebody punching out for somebody else, scamming the company that way?"
"We've been in business here sixteen years, it's happened."
"Okay." McCaleb nodded. "Now, could it have happened with Bolotov? Or do you stand at the time clock every night and make sure nobody punches two cards."
"Anything's possible. We don't stand at the clock. Most nights my son closes up. I'm already home. He keeps an eye on things."
McCaleb held his breath for a beat and felt the excitement he had been containing build. Toliver's answer, if it were given in court, would be enough to shred Bolotov's alibi.
"Your son, is that Randy?"
"Can I talk to him?"
"He's in Mexico. We've got another plant in Mexicali. He spends one week a month down there. He'll be back next week."
"Maybe we can call him?"
"I can try but he's probably out on the floor. That's why he goes down there. To make sure the line is running. Besides, how is he going to remember one night three months ago? We make clocks here, Detective. Every night we make the same clocks. Every day we ship them out. One night is no different from the other."
McCaleb turned away from him and looked out the window again. He noticed that several of the workers were leaving their posts as new workers were taking their places. He watched the shift change until he picked out the man he believed was Bolotov. There had been no photo in the records and only a spare description. But the man McCaleb was now watching wore a black T-shirt with sleeves stretched tightly around his powerful and tattoo-laced arms. The tattoos were all of one ink—jailhouse blue. It had to be Bolotov.
"That's him, right?"
He nodded in the direction of the man who had taken a seat at a workbench. It appeared to McCaleb that it was Bolotov's job to place the plastic casings around completed clock mechanisms and then stack them in a four-wheeled cart.
Toliver had come up next to McCaleb at the window.
"With the tattoos."
McCaleb nodded and thought for a moment.
"Did you tell Ritenbaugh and Aguilar that the alibi you were giving that man was based on what you saw in the pay records and time cards and not what you or your son actually saw on that night?"
"Yeah, I told them. They said fine. They left and that was that. Now, here you are with these new questions. Why don't you guys get your shit together? It would have been a lot easier for my boy to remember after two or three weeks instead of three months."
McCaleb was silent as he thought about Ritenbaugh and Aguilar. They had probably had a list of twenty-five names they had to cover in the week they were assigned to the case. It was sloppy work but he understood how it could happen.
"Listen, I've got to go out to the dock," Toliver said. "You want to wait until I come back or what?"
"Tell you what, why don't you send Bolotov in here on your way out. I need to talk to him."
"If you don't mind, Mr. Toliver. I am sure you want to help us out and continue to cooperate, don't you?"
He stared at Toliver as a final means of ending his unspoken objection.
"Whatever," Toliver said as he threw his hands up in a gesture of annoyance and headed toward the door. "Just don't take all day."
"Oh, Mr. Toliver?"
Toliver stopped at the door and looked back at him.
"I heard a lot of Russian being spoken out there. Where do you get the Russians?"
"They're good workers and they don't complain. They don't mind being paid shit, either. When we advertise for help, we do it in the local Russian paper."
He went through the door then, leaving it open behind him. McCaleb pulled the two chairs in front of the desk away and turned them so they faced each other from about five feet apart. He sat down on the one closest to the door and waited. He quickly thought about how he would handle the interview and decided to come at Bolotov strong. He wanted to engender a response, get some kind of reaction to which he could register his own feel for the man.
He felt a presence in the room and looked at the door. The man he had guessed was Bolotov stood there. He was about five ten, with black hair and pale white skin. But the bulging arm muscles and tattoos—a snake wrapped around one arm, a spider's web covering the other—made his arms the focal point of his image. McCaleb pointed to the empty chair.
"Have a seat."
Bolotov moved to the chair and sat down without hesitation. McCaleb saw that the spider web apparently continued under the shirt and then came up both sides of the Russian's neck. A black spider sat in the web just below his right ear.
"What is this?"
"Same as before, Bolotov. My name's McCaleb. The night of January twenty-second. Tell me about it."
"I told them before. I work here that night. It was not me you look for."
"So you said. But things are different now. We know things we didn't know then."
"Connelly is so good... How beautifully he strews the faulty suppositions, the flawed conclusions, the false bottoms."
—New York Daily News
"Michael Connelly writes with a seamless unity of tone and pace that makes reading his crime novels absolutely effortless and totally engaging"
"It is impossible for Connelly to tell a bad story."
—The Arizona Republic
- On Sale
- Mar 26, 2019
- Page Count
- 480 pages
- Grand Central Publishing